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.
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.
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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.
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