Ranking SEC running backs after Week 11
In order to measure the SEC’s best running backs in 2016, SDS updates a fresh top 10 each Monday. The criteria involves a mix of talent, recent past performance, 2016 production and outlook.
Here’s how the Top 10 looks after Week 11.
10. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt: This may be Webb’s last week in these rankings. His rushing totals have gotten progressively worse in each of the last four SEC games, hitting rock bottom in Vanderbilt’s 26-17 loss at Missouri. Webb’s 11 rushes for just 34 yards were particularly disturbing given the Tigers entered the weekend ranked 112th nationally in rushing defense, giving up 232.7 yards per game. Sophomore backup Khari Blasingame received more touches than him against an FBS opponent for the for first time this season, while receiver Darrius Sims was more of a rushing threat than either of them on just seven carries. Webb is still fourth in rushing yards in the SEC, which speaks to his overall body of work this season. But that’s the only reason he’s clinging to a spot in the top 10 ahead of several backs up for consideration after big weekends.
This week: 11 carries, 34 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 6 yards
Season: 188 carries, 935 yards, 7 touchdowns; 17 receptions, 132 yards
9. Damarea Crockett, Missouri: This spot came down to a pair of true freshman running backs — Crockett and Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams. Missouri’s young running back got the nod for doubling Williams’ rushing total on just three more carries against a far superior defense (sorry, Ole Miss) during the Tigers’ win against Vanderbilt. Williams has the edge in overall statistics this season, but the last month of action paints a different picture. Over the last four games, Crockett has 447 yards and six touchdowns to Williams’ 172 yards and one touchdown, a late-season slide that has bumped the latter from these rankings altogether. Crockett, meanwhile, has slowly distanced himself from junior Ish Witter in terms of workload and quietly climbed to eighth among conference running backs in rushing. A 3-star recruit per 247Sports’ composite ratings, Crockett has far outperformed expectations as a true freshman.
This week: 20 carries, 154 yards, 1 touchdown
Season: 129 carries, 837 yards, 9 touchdowns; 4 receptions, 14 yards
8. Nick Chubb, Georgia: Again, nothing superhuman from Chubb this week, but he was notably efficient against a stout defensive front in Georgia’s 13-7 upset of No. 9 Auburn. The Bulldogs held the ball for 39 minutes in that contest, and Chubb’s 4.4 yards per carry played a big role in that skewed statistic. He topped 100 yards for the first time in a month while ceding 10 carries to talented backup Sony Michel, who tallied 55 yards of his own versus the nation’s 30th-ranked rushing defense. It has been a down season by Chubb’s standards, one marred by injuries and shoddy offensive line play. But he should keep climbing in these rankings with games against Louisiana-Lafayette and Georgia Tech remaining.
This week: 23 carries, 101 yards; 1 reception, 3 yards
Season: 169 carries, 792 yards, 5 touchdowns; 4 receptions, 37 yards
7. Damien Harris, Alabama: Harris’ last touch of the day was his best — a dump-off pass he turned into an 11-yard first down. That came with five minutes left in No. 1 Alabama’s 51-3 throttling of Mississippi State, a game in which the sophomore understandably saw few touches. True freshman Joshua Jacobs led the way among Crimson Tide running backs with nine carries for 98 yards, but even little-used backups Ronnie Clark and Derrick Gore received more touches than Harris. But he’s still the most complete running back and leading rusher in a loaded Alabama backfield, and his 7.4 yards per carry rank second in the SEC. If Harris was a feature back, he’d have a shot to be No. 1 on this list.
This week: 3 carries, 9 yards; 1 reception ,11 yards
Season: 102 carries, 759 yards, 1 touchdown; 10 receptions, 83 yards, 1 touchdown
6. Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky: The true freshman played his role in Kentucky’s 49-36 loss at Tennessee, averaging 5.3 yards on 15 carries. But that role was somewhat reduced as five Wildcats received six or more rushes. That strategy resulted in a monster day for Kentucky on the ground, but it also contributed to Snell’s lowest rushing total since Oct. 1 against top-ranked Alabama. He was also held out of the end zone for the first time in a month and had a costly fumble inside the Volunteers’ 5-yard line as the Wildcats were marching to cut into a 28-16 deficit. It was an off game by his standards after taking the SEC by storm over the past month, but Snell is still in line to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark as a true freshman despite not playing in the first two games of the year.
This week: 15 carries, 79 yards
Season: 154 carries, 854 yards, 10 touchdowns
5. Rawleigh Williams, Arkansas: After running all over Florida’s dominating defensive front last week, Williams and Arkansas couldn’t turn out a repeat performance. The No. 25 Razorbacks didn’t get much of anything going offensively in a 38-10 thumping at the hands of No. 24 LSU, which entered the weekend with the nation’s 18th-ranked rushing defense. That was evident as the Tigers held Williams to 3.8 yards per carry, tied for his second-worst outing this season. True freshman backup Devwah Whaley managed 52 yards on seven carries, meaning he could continue to see an uptick in carries going forward. Williams stayed involved in the passing game with a 54-yard screen pass, which is a plus, and the sophomore is still one of just three SEC running backs to top 1,000 yards this year. But his inconsistency on the ground over the past month is worrisome.
This week: 13 carries, 49 yards; 1 reception, 54 yards
Season: 192 carries, 1,004 yards, 7 touchdowns; 13 receptions, 175 yards, 1 touchdown
4. Stanley “Boom” Williams, Kentucky: Williams led the way in Kentucky’s 443-yard rushing performance against Tennessee, though it came in a losing effort. The junior probably would have set a school record if given more than 16 of his team’s 55 carries, but the Wildcats’ offense has flourished behind its committee approach at running back. Williams, however, is the most complete player of them all, presenting a threat both on the ground with 7.4 yards per carry (No. 2 in the SEC) and as a receiver out of the backfield. Benny Snell Jr. has been his complementary workhorse over the past five weeks, though Jojo Kemp and Sihiem King got more carries than usual against the Volunteers. But Williams still has the second-most rushing yards in the SEC and should be in line to pad that stat even more again Austin Peay next week.
This week: 16 carries, 127 yards, 1 touchdown;
Season: 139 carries, 1,025 yards, 5 touchdowns; 7 receptions, 48 yards, 1 touchdown
3. Leonard Fournette, LSU: Fournette was surely happy to play someone besides Alabama. The junior returned to his usual form, pounding Arkansas for 5.8 yards per carry and three touchdowns during LSU’s win in Fayetteville. He was involved in the passing game as well, turning a third-down swing pass into a 38-gain that set up his first touchdown. It was a nice bounce-back game for Fournette after a frustrating 35-yard outing last week, though he appeared to once again aggravate the high ankle sprain that has hampered him all season. That contributed to ultra-talented backup Derrius Guice getting the bulk of the carries late and ultimately overshadowing Fournette. Though his health will remain a concern going forward, Fournette is still one of the most dangerous players in the nation.
This week: 17 carries, 98 yards, 3 touchdowns; 2 receptions, 44 yards
Season: 117 carries, 803 yards, 8 touchdowns; 15 receptions, 146 yards
2. Kamryn Pettway, Auburn: When it comes to these rankings, Pettway gained more by not playing in No. 9 Auburn’s stunning loss at Georgia than he could have by suiting up. After four straight games of 169 or more rushing yards, his absence proved just how much the Tigers rely on his strong between-the-tackles running to keep their offense rolling. The nation’s third-best rushing offense gained just 127 yards on 32 carries, which shifted the pressure to quarterback Sean White, who was clearly not up for the moment. Pettway is still the SEC’s leading rusher by a wide margin, and his season-long body of work is undeniably more impressive than other conference running backs. But it’s Auburn’s complete helplessness on offense without him that justifies the sophomore’s spot in the top two.
This week: Did not play (injury)
Season: 173 carries, 1,106 yards, 7 touchdowns; 2 receptions, 14 yards
1. Derrius Guice, LSU: Is there any backup running back out there better than Guice? Scratch that — is there any running back, period, out there better than Guice? That’s a legitimate question after his 252-yard outing in LSU’s domination of Arkansas, the second-best single-game performance in school history. Leonard Fournette set the high mark just three weeks ago, in case you weren’t aware of the Tigers’ embarrassment of riches at the position. Fournette’s re-injury against the Razorbacks allowed Guice to take over late in the game, and his ridiculous 96-yard touchdown gallop to close the scoring was the longest rush from scrimmage in LSU history. The sophomore’s 8.7 yards per carry leads the SEC by a huge margin, indicating explosiveness you wouldn’t expect from a 5-foot-11, 212-pound back. Guice is playing better than Fournette (granted, a banged-up Fournette) while showcasing an eerily similar skill set to one of the preseason Heisman favorites. A running back can’t get much better than that.
This week: 21 carries, 252 yards, 2 touchdowns
Season: 101 carries, 881 yards, 9 touchdowns; 5 receptions, 66 yards