Ranking SEC running backs after Week 13
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 13.
10. Damien Harris, Alabama: The Crimson Tide’s backfield is too crowded for Harris to truly shine, but he has been one of the most efficient SEC running backs all season. His 7.2 yards per carry is second-best in the conference among players who have at least 50 carries, even while splitting time with Bo Scarbrough and Josh Jacobs and giving way to quarterback Jalen Hurts as Alabama’s primary rushing threat.
Harris was a small but key part of the No. 1 Crimson Tide’s four-headed rushing attack in a 30-12 win against Auburn. The sophomore also hauled in a receiving touchdown, reinforcing his status as one of the league’s most effective backs in the passing game. Despite having to scrap for touches in Alabama’s reformed offense, Harris still has the 10th-most rushing yards among SEC running backs. The only thing holding him back is that he’ll probably never be a feature back in Tuscaloosa.
Week 13: 9 carries, 47 yards; 3 receptions, 22 yards, 1 touchdown
Season: 124 carries, 897 yards, 2 touchdowns; 13 receptions, 105 yards, 2 touchdowns
9. Nick Chubb, Georgia: Talented backup Sony Michel (19 carries, 170 yards, one touchdown) stole the show in Georgia’s 28-27 loss to Georgia Tech, but Chubb keeps this spot for his overall body of work this season.
It’s surely not what the junior envisioned entering the season as a Heisman Trophy contender, but he notched nearly 1,000 yards in a season plagued by injuries, shoddy offensive line play and the installation of a new coaching regime coupled with a true freshman quarterback.
Chubb will more than likely surpass that mark in Georgia’s bowl game, which is a fine achievement for a player coming off major knee surgery.
Week 13: 22 carries, 88 yards, 1 touchdown
Season: 207 carries, 988 yards, 7 touchdowns; 5 receptions, 86 yards, 1 touchdown
8. Alvin Kamara, Tennessee: Kamara’s numbers don’t look like the others in these rankings, but that’s because he spent the first half of the season buried behind Jalen Hurd and then missed some time with a knee injury.
The junior showed what he can do when he ran wild against Texas A&M back in early October, and he displayed those same skills down the stretch after finally getting healthy.
Kamara took on the starting role during the final three weeks of the season, accumulating 338 total yards and seven total touchdowns. His final act of 2016 was an impressive one despite No. 17 Tennessee’s stunning 45-34 loss at Vanderbilt. He piled up three touchdowns and was especially effective in the passing game — a facet in which he has excelled more than any other SEC running back. If given a starter’s worth of touches, Kamara could have put up ridiculous numbers. The Volunteers’ whirlwind season just never afforded him such an opportunity.
Week 13: 10 carries, 69 yards, 2 touchdowns; 8 receptions, 72 yards, 1 touchdown
Season: 96 carries, 565 yards, 9 touchdowns; 33 receptions, 346 yards, 4 touchdowns
7. Trayveon Williams, Texas A&M: This spot belonged to Missouri’s Damarea Crockett, but the final week of his sensational debut season went up in smoke (pun intended). That opened the door for Williams, another dynamic and explosive true freshman, to return to the top 10 after spending most of the season here.
His fortune faded alongside his team’s as he failed to gain 100 yards once during Texas A&M’s 2-4 skid down the stretch. But he still racked up the eighth-most rushing yards among SEC running backs while rushing for a healthy 7 yards per carry and eight touchdowns.
Junior Keith Ford limited his touches late in the year, but Williams still ran for 6.8 yards a pop and scored against LSU’s dominant defense in a 54-39 loss on Thanksgiving night. With the fifth-best yards-per-carry mark of any SEC running back as a true freshman, Williams has a promising future in College Station.
Week 13: 10 carries, 68 yards, 1 touchdown
Season: 147 carries, 1,024 yards, 8 touchdowns; 18 receptions, 81 yards
6. Kamryn Pettway, Auburn: Pettway picked a poor time to return from his quad injury. After missing the past two games, the sophomore was as good as out in Auburn’s loss at No. 1 Alabama.
The bruiser managed just 1.4 yards per carry against the Crimson Tide’s top-ranked rushing defense, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary considering the opposition.
Pettway was well on his way to the SEC’s rushing title before a disastrous November that has precipitated his drop in these rankings. He still the leads the conference with 124.8 rushing yards per game, but that quad injury derailed his chance to wrap up the regular season as the SEC’s best running back.
Despite missing four games this season, Pettway still finished with the fifth-most rushing yards among SEC running backs, speaking to his brutal efficiency when healthy.
Week 13: 12 carries, 17 yards
Season: 185 carries, 1,123 yards, 7 touchdowns; 2 receptions, 14 yards
5. Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky: Snell did his thing in the Kentucky’s massive 41-38 upset at No. 11 Louisville, picking up 4.6 yards per carry and eventually scoring out of the Wildcat formation.
The true freshman was one of four Wildcats to record eight or more carries, minimizing his chances to close out the regular season with a huge performance like those that have helped him ascend these rankings in the past month. Snell even notched his first career reception, turning a swing pass into a 28-yard gain to set up a first-quarter touchdown.
After not playing in the first two games of the year, Snell came out of nowhere to finish eighth in SEC rushing yards even as part of a crowded backfield.
Week 13: 11 carries, 51 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 28 yards
Season: 179 carries, 1,057 yards, 13 touchdowns; 1 reception, 28 yards
4. Stanley “Boom” Williams, Kentucky: Williams finished the regular season as the Wildcats’ rushing leader for the third time in as many seasons, a testament to his consistency in Lexington. But this year was his best one yet, and he capped it with a nice outing against a Louisville rush defense giving up less than 100 yards per game entering last weekend.
Williams found the end zone early in Kentucky’s stunning win, helping the Wildcats secure the Governor’s Cup for the first time since 2010. Even while rushing 19 fewer times than bruising freshman Benny Snell Jr. this season, Williams finished with the fourth-most rushing yards among SEC running backs. The junior’s 7.1 yards per carry (fourth in the SEC) attests that his consistency is on a carry-to-carry basis, not just a year-to-year one.
Week 13: 14 carries, 63 yards, 1 touchdown
Season: 160 carries, 1,135 yards, 7 touchdowns; 7 receptions, 48 yards, 1 touchdown
3. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt: It was a historic night for Webb as Vanderbilt toppled No. 17 Tennessee 45-34 in Nashville. The junior became the program’s all-time leading rusher, breaking Zac Stacy’s mark of 3,143 yards set in 2012.
His final touchdown of the night, a 28-yard scamper with four minutes to play, locked up the Commodores’ first trip to a bowl since 2013.
Webb was mired in a late-season slide before piling up 237 yards and five touchdowns over the final two games. He now ends the regular season with the third-most yards for an SEC running back, having eclipsed 100 yards in half of Vanderbilt’s games in 2016.
He needs just 22 yards in Vanderbilt’s bowl game to break Stacy’s single-season mark (1,193 in 2011).
Week 13: 21 carries, 114 yards, 2 touchdowns; 2 receptions, 21 yards
Season: 229 carries, 1,172 yards, 12 touchdowns; 19 receptions, 153 yards
2. Rawleigh Williams III, Arkansas: Don’t ask me to explain Arkansas’ come-from-ahead, 28-24 loss to Missouri, because I can’t. What I can tell you is Williams should have run the ball 50 times in this game.
That’s a bit of hyperbole, but the Razorbacks probably would have avoided this embarrassing loss if they would have just fed the SEC’s leader in rushing yards a bit more. He even gave his team a great chance to reclaim the lead midway through the fourth quarter, taking a screen pass 52 yards into the red zone (Arkansas promptly threw a pick on fourth down).
That kind of involvement in the passing game, in which Williams has excelled relative to most of his fellow SEC backs all season, is a fantastic complement to his production on the ground. Williams leads the SEC in rushing yards, which is nothing to downplay, but that’s to be expected when he has more carries than any of his peers.
Week 13: 25 carries, 117 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 52 yards
Season: 233 carries, 1,326 yards, 12 touchdowns; 14 receptions, 227 yards, 1 touchdown
1. Derrius Guice, LSU: A Thanksgiving family get-together set the stage for this debate with my dad and younger brother: Is Guice better than Leonard Fournette?
Faithful readers know I feel a healthy Fournette is the best running back at LSU — and in the country — but my lovely family begs to differ (in fairness to other backs who have been consistently playing, I left Fournette off this list).
Guice provided loads of ammunition for the latter argument in the Tigers’ 54-39 win at Texas A&M, breaking Fournette’s single-game rushing record by 1 yard. He needed 21 more carries than Fournette to do it, but I’m not here to rain on Guice’s parade. In fact, I’m here to sing his praises for what he did last Thursday and what he has done all season.
The sophomore has the second-most rushing yards in the SEC despite starting just five games and receiving a little more than a third of his team’s carries. His 14 touchdowns and 8.0 yards per rush are both tops in the conference, displaying the undeniable truth that Guice is by far the most efficient and explosive back of the bunch. Guice should be an early Heisman favorite next year and would be among them in 2016 if he had been given a season’s worth of work.
Week 13: 37 carries, 285 yards, 4 touchdowns;
Season: 157 carries, 1,249 yards, 14 touchdowns; 6 receptions, 95 yards