Breaking down every team’s roster with an emphasis on experience and potential impact, here’s a team-by-team look at the SEC’s best position groups at running back heading into the 2014 season.

Note: These are based on every team’s roster at the running back position, not starting running back rankings.


14. Vanderbilt: Starting tailback Jerron Seymour is coming off a 14-touchdown season which tied a school record. Behind him though, the Commodores are pretty thin. Junior Brian Kimbrow has seen some game action and averages 5.1 yards per carry career. Redshirt freshman Ralph Webb is the future in the backfield for Derek Mason.

13. Kentucky: The Wildcats counter SEC defenses with a decent 1-2 punch in the backfield this season with Nebraska transfer Braylon Heard and incumbent Jojo Kemp battling for carries early. There’s also a couple true freshmen — Mikel Williams and Stanley Williams — who are expected to contribute provide some depth.

12. Mississippi St.: Dak Prescott may be the Bulldogs’ most impressive offensive weapon and arguably best rushing threat, but the coaching staff’s expecting a breakout season from Josh Robinson during his first full season in the starting role now that LaDarius Perkins is out of the picture. Robinson’s on the Doak Walker watch list and should get much of the load. Senior Nick Griffin returns from injury as the primary backup with former four-star now sophomore Ashton Shumpert also getting an opportunity.

11. Ole Miss: The Rebels think they have a pair of Jeff Scott clones in I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, two ballcarriers under 6-feet tall. Walton’s a shade under 170 pounds and is one of the team’s fastest players. Mathers is likely the short-yardage option while Walton, like last season, should get most of the carries. The pair combined for 1,086 rushing yards and nine scores last fall. Walton’s also one of the Rebels’ top receiving threats in the flats.

10. Mizzou: Henry Josey’s scheduled replacement, Russell Hansbrough, was the only other Tigers running back last season to have at least 100 carries. Marcus Murphy, a dynamic speedster who rushed for nine touchdowns and 601 yards as a junior, has played in the slot much of the fall, but has proven to be solid emergency option if the Tigers lack depth. Replacing Josey’s 16 rushing scores will be the offense’s biggest challenge.

9. Tennessee: Should the Vols struggle at quarterback like much of the country expects, the offense should be in good shape with senior Marlin Lane and heralded true freshman Jalen Hurd splitting the workload. It seems like Lane has been on the cusp of greatness throughout his career in Knoxville, but playing Rajion Neal and a couple nagging injuries have limited his potential. Hurd’s one of several first-year players from an incredible 2014 signing class who could make an impact as a rookie. Derrell Scott will get his time, but not this season.

8. Florida: At times last fall, the only production from any personnel group at Florida came from its running backs. Kelvin Taylor entered 2013 buried on the detph chart before an injury to Matt Jones gave him an opportunity. He hasn’t relinquished the starting role since, but the Gators are excited about what Jones and Mack Brown can bring off the bench or possibly in a two-back scenario. Jones is quite a player when healthy and rushed for 176 yards on 28 carries at Kentucky last season.

7. Texas A&M: Much of the spotlight’s been on the quarterback position coming into the Aggies’ opener at South Carolina, but Kevin Sumlin feels his backfield may have the most depth its had since he arrived in College Station. Tra Carson and Trey Williams have battled it out thus far in fall camp and it appears either could be the primary back against the Gamecocks. Williams has produced when given the chance, totaling 11 touchdowns on the ground over the last two seasons. James White and Brandon Williams will also be in the mix in a running back group that could go as many as three-deep.

6. LSU: The hype train’s been parked in Baton Rouge since the first of August, welcoming Leonard Fournette to the LSU campus. The nation’s top-rated freshman ballcarrier has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson and Michael Jordan with an insane athletic ability and quiet confidence most covet. He’ll have to make some noise quickly to get ahead of seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, but he’s too good to sit. Les Miles is working closely with offensive coordinator Cam Cameron to ensure Fournette and Magee operate much of the rushing attack.

5. Auburn: So begins an interchangeable Top 5 at arguably the SEC’s strongest position. Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant anchor college football’s top rushing offense that won’t lose much ground despite the league’s leading rusher Tre Mason departing for the NFL. Redshirt freshman Peyton Barber will see the field as well as true freshman Roc Thomas, the offense’s home run threat. Kamryn Pettway, a rookie 240-pounder from Prattville, Ala, is the likely odd man out at a crowded position.

4. South Carolina: Shuffling the starting lineup won’t be necessary for the Gamecocks this season since South Carolina has three capable ballcarriers — all of equal talent — behind Heisman candidate Mike Davis. Thin on depth during most of the Marcus Lattimore era, Davis doesn’t have to worry about games with 25 or more carries because, for the most part, they won’t happen. Junior Brandon Wilds is back to 100 percent and should be close to 2011 form when he rushed for 486 yards and three scores during Lattimore’s absence. The combination of speed threats Shon Carson and David Williams give the Gamecocks an added dimension when Davis is gassed. Carson will also contribute in the return game.

3. Arkansas: No team has a proven returning tandem in the SEC more potent than the Razorbacks’ Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams. The pair nearly eclipsed 2,000 yards last season as underclassmen. The talent doesn’t stop there. Korliss Marshall averaged a team-best 8.6 yards per carry (for running backs) in limited action as a freshman and will get more reps this season.

2. Georgia: No assistant coach in the country is more excited about six playmakers at his disposal than Georgia’s Bryan McClendon is this season. Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and true freshmen Sony Michel and Nick Chubb are each capable of 100-yard performances every time they step on the field. Gurley’s the workhorse, Marshall’s a change-of-pace lightning back and the newcomers provide immense depth. There’s sophomore Brendan Douglas and A.J. Turman, who had a tremendous spring, too. It would be in the Bulldogs’ best interest to likely redshirt Michel or Chubb depending on who separates from the other the rest of fall practice, perhaps both.

1. Alabama: You want to know the reason Alabama’s pick to win the SEC this season? It starts with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, two running backs that command the respect of every defense standing in their way. Yeldon’s posted back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons while Henry, who most believe is one of the best players at any position in the country, has waited the entire offseason post-Oklahoma to emerge as a household name. Henry’s Hercules in a football uniform. Junior Kenyan Drake’s electric and is coming a fantastic season during which he averaged 7.5 yards per carry, but there’s not enough footballs to feed his need for speed in a premium backfield in Tuscaloosa.