Creating the perfect SEC running back for 2019
The SEC lost a ton of talent at the running back position this offseason, with guys like Benny Snell, Damien Harris, Josh Jacobs, Trayveon Williams, Damarea Crockett and Jordan Scarlett moving on to the NFL ranks.
However, that doesn’t mean the cupboard is bare heading into the 2019 season. Instead, it just means a new wave of stars will emerge.
Georgia’s D’Andre Swift will get a lot of headlines, and deservedly so, but there are plenty of other talented runners in the SEC. So, who has the best attributes that we can piece together to make a superstar?
Here’s how I’d assemble the perfect SEC running back for the 2019 season:
Toughness: Larry Rountree III, Mizzou
No returning SEC running back had more carries in 2018 than Rountree, who ran the ball 225 times for 1,216 yards and 11 touchdowns. He could end up getting even more touches this fall now that Damarea Crockett is off to the NFL.
It’s not just the number of carries he gets, though — he’s also a handful to bring down. Just ask the Oklahoma State defense:
— Andrew Kauffman (@AndrewABC17) January 1, 2019
Rountree is strong and durable, and that’s the way a star runner has to play in today’s game.
Vision: Najee Harris, Alabama
This could be a big year for Harris, a former 5-star recruit. He’ll be the top dog in the Crimson Tide backfield, and his vision will be a big reason for his success.
Check out this drive against Tennessee last season. Harris shows incredible vision in terms of knowing when to cut it back and also seeing when to simply go over a defender:
Najee Harris looked fantastic on this drive. Displays vision, power and athleticism. He’s going to be special. pic.twitter.com/LvaDpsKCe2
— Clint Lamb (@ClintRLamb) October 20, 2018
He got 117 carries in 2018 and should get even more in 2019, and that’s a scary thought for Alabama opponents.
Speed: Lamical Perine, Florida
No one is better at turning a short gain into a huge touchdown run than Perine, and his speed has a lot to do with it. Once he gets in the open field, he’s tough to catch.
Watch him here against Florida State, breaking through the defense and then turning on the afterburners for a 74-yard touchdown:
"THERE GOES PERINE!"
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 24, 2018
Then there’s this run against Michigan, in which he manages to outrun two defensive backs after nearly getting tripped up:
— TRSN (@TRSNHub) December 29, 2018
With speed like that, he’ll continue to turn what should be short gains into touchdowns for the Gators this fall.
Versatility: D’Andre Swift, Georgia
Swift got 195 total touches in 2018 — 163 as a rusher and 32 as a receiver. He totaled 1,049 yards on the ground and 297 through the air, accounting for 13 touchdowns.
He’s dynamic as a runner, but not many SEC backs can do what he does in the passing game. His 32 catches were the most for any returning SEC runner, as were his 297 receiving yards. Here’s a look at the touchdown catch he had against Alabama in the 2018 SEC Championship Game:
WHEEEEEEEEEEL ROUTE, TOUCHDOWN !
— #MidMajors (@MidnightCampus) December 1, 2018
He has a new offensive coordinator in James Coley this fall, so we’ll see how much he’s used in the passing game. Any way he gets the ball, he’s a threat to score.
Efficiency: Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt
No one did more with fewer carries than Vaughn, who ran for an impressive 1,244 yards and 12 touchdowns on only 157 touches. That’s an average of 7.92 yards per carry.
Yes, he had some help by amassing some big runs, like this one against Arkansas:
SEE YA 👋
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 27, 2018
He also absolutely destroyed Baylor in Vanderbilt’s bowl-game loss, running for 243 yards and averaging an incredible 18.2 yards per touch:
With QB Kyle Shurmur off to the NFL, the Commodores’ offense will rely more on Vaughn’s legs this fall. He might not be able to repeat his 7.9 yards-per-carry average, but he’s talented enough to make the most of the times the ball is in his hands.