The SEC has always been known for its relentless ground game. Transcending the latest style of up-tempo, pass-happy offense, the conference remains steadfast in its tried and true approach.

But 2017 could very well be the greatest in the storied history of outstanding ground attacks. And that’s conference-wide. The SEC returns the top five running backs from this past season and all told, 13 of the top 14 running backs will line up and go again in 2017.

That should make for some very interesting football and perhaps produce multiple tandem 1,000-yard rushers among SEC teams. Kentucky did it in 2016 with Stanley Boom Williams (1,170 rushing yards) and Benjamin Snell, Jr. (1,091).

It’s not all that uncommon for one team to accomplish the feat. Arkansas did it in 2014 with Jonathan Williams (1,190) and Alex Collins (1,100); Auburn in 2013 with Tre Mason (1,816) and QB Nick Marshall (1,068); Alabama in 2012 with Eddie Lacy (1,322) and T.J. Yeldon (1,108); and Auburn again in 2010 with QB Cam Newton (1,473) and Michael Dyer (1,093).

But there could be several teams in 2017 that produce multiple 1,000-yard rushers in the same backfield. Kentucky would have been a lock again were it not for Williams, a junior, opting early for the NFL Draft. So here are the five teams that have the best chance at producing multiple 1,000-yard rushers in 2017.

1. Georgia: This is a no-brainer, now that Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are returning for their senior seasons. Chubb rushed for 1,130 yards in 2016 and Michel added another 840 yards on the ground. Look for both to finish near the 1,000-yard mark in 2017.

2. Auburn: Like Georgia, the Tigers had one running back surpass 1,000 yards in 2016 while another landed on the doorstep. Both were sophomores and both have an excellent opportunity for stellar junior seasons. Kamryn Pettway rushed for 1,224 in just 10 games while Kerryon Johnson accounted for 895 rushing yards.

Oct 8, 2016; Starkville, MS, USA; Auburn Tigers running back Kamryn Pettway (36) runs the ball during the second quarter of the game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports


3. Alabama: The Tide narrowly missed having two players rush for 1,000 yards last season. Sophomore Damien Harris burst onto the scene and ran for 1,037 yards in 15 games. Freshman QB Jalen Hurts was magnificent in his first college season, rushing for 954 yards (most by an Alabama quarterback). The pair will look once again to reach the 1,000-yard mark in 2017. And don’t forget about what a healthy Bo Scarbrough can do.

4. Missouri: The Tigers were a middle-of-the-pack rushing team in the SEC, but two individuals shined nonetheless. Damarea Crockett (1,062) was one of three freshmen in the conference to rush for 1,000 yards in 2016 (Snell and Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams, the others). Along with Ish Witter, who rushed for 750 yards in his junior season, the Tigers could make a run at turning out two 1,000-yard rushers.

5. Mississippi State: If sophomore sensation QB Nick Fitzgerald (1,375) has anywhere near the year he had in 2016, the Bulldogs look good at the possibility of two 1,000-yard rushers in 2017. Sophomore Aeris Williams will have to step up his game a bit in order to accomplish that feat, but he’s capable. Williams rushed for 720 yards in 2016.

Either way, it shapes up to be a big year for SEC running backs in 2017.