SEC running back tandems to watch in 2014

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Several SEC coaches and teams have the luxury of not having just one back to carry the rock but two…or three.

A running backs league is exactly what the conference looks like for 2014, and spreading around carries is what helps players stay healthy for the longevity of a grueling season. Teams try to recruit and lean on multiple backs, and some have formidable duos and trios that complement one another.

It’s true; one could go through and dissect every SEC team and talk about running back tandems to watch, but let’s stick to these five exiting spring practice. We’ll talk about the potential for all tandems closer to the season.

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Alabama: TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry

Nick Saban has the luxury of having about four- to five-deep in his backfield, and TJ Yeldon and Derrick Henry are the two who should receive the most carries. Yeldon is the total package, having rushed for 2,343 yards and 27 touchdowns in two seasons, while Henry wowed us in the Sugar Bowl with his 161 total yards and two touchdowns. Certainly don’t forget about Kenyan Drake, but he’s sitting behind both Yeldon and Henry.

Arkansas: Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams

If the Hogs get any type of passing game at all, it will make their running back duo even better. Even when teams knew Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams were getting the football last year, they were still tough to stop. Collins became the SEC’s Freshman of the Year, rushing for 1,026 yards, while Williams has combined for 1,131 yards and eight touchdowns in two seasons. Don’t get caught up in Arkansas’ lack of wins last season; Collins and Williams is a top tandem to watch.

RELATED: Top returning running backs for 2014

Auburn: Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant

If we know one thing it’s that Gus Malzahn is going to find teams’ weaknesses and exploit them. Last year, it was running the football down teams’ throats with Tre Mason. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant both rushed for more than 600 yards in 2013, and they complement each other so well. Artis-Payne has nice vision, speed and cutback ability between the tackles, while Grant looks like he’s shot out of a cannon on the edge and will burn teams’ linebackers and secondary.

Georgia: Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall

Georgia is the wildcard of the five, because we’re still not sure whether Keith Marshall will be ready to go this year or not. All indications point toward Marshall being ready for the start of the season. So, UGA’s thunder and lightning combo is back for another season. Gurley leads all conference players in career rushing yards with 2,374 yards and 33 touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Marshall has mounted 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns in basically a year and a half worth of playing time. If Marshall is ready to rock, Georgia could have the best backfield tandem.

LSU: Terrance Magee, Kenny Hilliard and Leonard Fournette

There’s room for a trio on the list, right? Returners Terrance Magee and Kenny Hilliard and the No. 1 high school player in the country in Leonard Fournette make a nice trio. That’s two wily veterans and one newby who could reel off a 1,000-yard freshman season. Hilliard has the most career rushing yards with 1,110 and 22 touchdowns, while Magee has rushed for 759 yards and nine touchdowns. Fournette is the wild card, but it’s safe to say, assuming he stays healthy, he’s going to make an impact. We’re just not sure yet which of the three will arise and become the tandem LSU covets.

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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COMMENTS

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  • Chubb & Michel wouldn’t be too bad either…

    • Might want to wait until they actually play a game. Until then just hope Gurley doesn’t get a paper cut and miss 5 games.

      • Seriously? Have you ever experienced a high ankle sprain? They’re far from a paper cut. Gurley remained in for the entire season, running at about 70-80%…….and there’s still not another back in the conference who could separate themselves from him. At 90-100%, no other back sniffs his jock strap.

        • Yeah, I’ve had a high ankle sprain before and a torn ACL to boot. The ankle sprain is overstated and the ACL didn’t hurt at all. Gurley certainly did not play the entire season. Everything being equal I’d gladly take Davis, Yeldon, Henry or Collins(great player wrong team) over him

        • I’ll even add this. If Gurley leads the SEC in rushing this year I’ll donate 5k to the charity of your choice…If he’s in the top 3 I’ll do 3K. If I’m right how about you donate $10.00 to your local Boys and Girls Club.

        • Evidently you didn’t have a high ankle sprain Truevol, you must of had a charlie horse. I heard charlie horses are pretty common when Tennessee fans play Hacky Sack and Ultimate Frisbee. Until your playing on Saturdays, or have a tenth of the talent that Gurley has, then you can talk about injuries and playing time. Gurley toughed it out the last games, and I think he is the best back in the nation. Davis is twice as good as Yeldon, and we haven’t seen enough of Henry yet. There is a reason everyone talks about Gurley! S1C EM, you know this guy aint going to donate crap, he is all talk.

        • Ha…dude I ran track at UGA. Spent my student hrs in LeConte, graduated with a History degree. I assure you I’m a beast of an athlete. Before anyone comments I attended UT for my J.D. Like most UGA fans you probably attended Athens Tech. How’s the food at The Grill these days…still crappy.

        • Oh sorry everyone, didn’t know I was talking to a beast of an athlete LOL! No Athens Tech in my resume, only Georgia Southern! Also per the Bleacherreport.com, high ankle sprain are the three most revered words in the NFL. The shortest recover time is around 4 weeks and can take up to 6 months to fully recover. Gurley missed half a game against LSU and then missed against Vandy, Missouri, and Tennessee. He missed those games and still had 989 yards. Davis only finished with 1183, Yeldon 1235, Henry 382, and Collins 1026. A healthy Gurley would stomp all of them easily. Maybe you should of took Math instead of history, then you would be able to figure all of this out.

        • Athens Tech/Southern same dang thing….It’s like saying I got my degree at Walmart. If you can fill out the application and your check doesn’t bounce you get in. Congrats on being able to read though. I know that’s hard for you Southern guys. To you points…I’ll take my personal experiences over an opinion piece in the Bleacher Report. In terms of yards, aside from the fact that you are just guessing. I know logic escapes you but you have to also consider the team each player plays on. Exp: what would Collins do on Georgia’s team?

        • That should have said “To YOUR points” …but while I’m at it…Why would a huge Georgia fan chose Southern over UGA. You’re from GA so they are both free. Oh, I know it’s because you are too dumb to get in. Which explains your opinions.

  • No love for Tra Carson & Trey Williams?

    • Love them both. They combined for 736 yards and 13 TDs last season. Think Carson is due for a big year, and just waiting for Williams to blow up. Also think Brandon Williams and James White will also take carries from each.

  • Mike Davis and Brandon Wilds may be better than ANY of the 5 duos you have listed.
    But SC, which finished @ No. 4, is always as under-rated as Ga. is over-rated, pre-season…

    • This has no reflection on how teams are ranked or how they’ll finish. You know this. Love Mike Davis, but he’s going to take 65 percent of the carries…or maybe more. I don’t even think Brandon Wilds is the second best back on the team, and he’s struggled to stay healthy in recent years. I do think David Williams is a hawse, and he could create a nice duo with Davis.

  • no love for Peyton Barber and Roc Thomas? shame.

  • I hope we’ll see Jalen Hurd and Marlin Lane on here before the season ends, but without an O-line, it will be tough for them to have big years.

  • i think Missouri will go back to a triple running back threat. The new third wheel is going to be a league shocker.

  • Korliss Marshall is going to be the third back for Arkansas. With his blazing speed (4.36), look for him to touch the ball at least 7-10 times a game between the tackles, around the end, sweeps, wheel routes, and at receiver.

  • No love for Chauncey Quaker and Maurice Sendak?

  • I wish Saban would utilize Kenyan Drake more often. Every time he’s on the field I find myself thinking “Why is Yeldon better than this guy?” The guy just makes plays.

    • Not a Bama fan but agreed man! Kenyan has better speed and vision than all the other backs. Maybe it’s because he isn’t “built” like a Bama back perhaps?

      • If he could get more carries, I’d argue he’s way more useful than Yeldon. He’s got better hands for screens, and he adjusts to passes a whole lot better. He can just hurt you more different ways.

        • You are right about Drake. He is more explosive than all the backs but needs to stay out of the doghouse and work on his ball security.

        • Agreed. Man the kid is just a natural. I’m very iffy about Henry though, no denying he’s an athlete, perhaps he’ll switch positions, I certainly see that kind of transition for him in the pros. Yeldon is Peterson-esque, but HE’S the one that’s gotta work on his ball security, much more so than any Bama back in years. Kenyan Drake is the best. SEC is loaded this year though, Roc Thomas, and Fournette are gonna be mesmorizing.

  • Where’s Walton and Mathers? That tandem will be good this year in Oxford

  • no love for jojo kemp and josh clemons and newcomer mikel horton

  • Bama’s problem on the losses last year is no blocking!!! no QTRback you can have the best running backs in the world!!! we lost the crystal 3 times why!!! lack of blocking! no depth! lard ass out of shape ! no play calling qb and coach!! wtf play calling last year!!! glad he’s gone

  • Fournette is going to be exciting to watch. Especially with the returning veteran OL. Hopefully Magee and Hilliard can get some snaps while LF is resting between touchdowns. Geaux Tigers!

  • Let’s just clear this out of the way. Todd Gurley is the best runningback in the country, and it’s not debateable we’ve all seen what he can do. In terms of tandems however, I’m honestly gonna have to say it’s gonna TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, yes.. Drake. Even as an Auburn fan I have to say Drake is most underrated back in the SEC. Dude has some wheels, and impeccable vision, and did you watch the A day game? talk about break tackle ability! How are people automattically assuming Derrick Henry will be a monster from ONE single game? Drake is consistent and overlooked. Now on to my tigers, CAP, and Roc Thomas will make a splash, even while Thomas will be a true freshmen, his name will be remembered weekly, and he’ll make an immediate impact. Imho he’s the best class coming off the 14′ class, even better than fournette. Bama 6a football isn’t a joke, and the numbers he put spoke for themselves. WDE

  • Bama has a triple threat in Drake and should have been mentioned just like you did with LSU instead of as an afterthought Drake is a home-run hitter and can take it to the house anytime he touches the ball and actually had the best Aday game I thought.

  • Texas A&M’s Tra Carson, Trey Williams (5 star), and Brandon Williams (5 star)
    Trey Williams (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uicc56tcYbs)
    Tra Carson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2CIkQ839Shk)

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