Ranking SEC running backs after Week 2
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 2.
10. Stanley “Boom” Williams, Kentucky: Williams didn’t wow with Herculean numbers this week, but I can respect 5.5 yards per carry against a defense as stout as Florida’s. An early deficit and a truly anemic passing game limited his carries as well, which might be a trend that keeps him buried toward the bottom of these rankings throughout the season. The junior even caught one of Kentucky’s three completed passes (perhaps “anemic” was too kind of a word) in the Wildcats’ 45-7 loss against the Gators. If Kentucky ever has the wherewithal to feed Williams early or the opportunity to lean on him late, I’m confident he’ll surpass that 100-yard mark sooner or later.
This week: 12 carries, 66 yards; 1 reception, 7 yards
Season: 25 carries, 160 yards; 3 receptions, 23 yards
9. Derrius Guice, LSU: Guice would be the starting running back at 80 other FBS schools, and he again showed why against Jacksonville State in Leonard Fournette’s stead. He possesses all the qualities Fournette boasts, just to one degree lower. Guice is still the same human pinball he proved to be against South Carolina last year, bouncing off several JSU defenders as he rumbled to 155 yards at a rate of more than eight yards per carry in the No. 21 Tigers’ 34-13 victory. He had three runs of 29 yards or more and even caught a pass for 18 yards. Once Fournette moves on to the NFL, Guice will have a comfortable spot near the top of these rankings.
This week: 19 carries, 155 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 18 yards
Season: 21 carries, 158 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 18 yards
8. Damien Harris, Alabama: It was a quiet week for Harris and No. 1 Alabama’s running game in general, but the sophomore is still rushing at 9.2 yards per carry. He even got involved in the passing game, which is always a plus in these rankings. Coach Nick Saban spread the carries around in the Crimson Tide’s 38-10 win against Western Kentucky, but I’m confident Harris will see a hefty portion of the relevant carries in SEC play.
This week: 11 rushes, 45 yards; 2 receptions, 14 yards
Season: 20 rushes, 183 yards; 2 receptions, 14 yards
7. Keith Ford, Texas A&M: Ford barely missed the cut for last week’s rankings because teammate Trayveon Williams outgained him, caught a pass and had an explosive 42-yard run. But I can no longer ignore the fact that Ford turns carries into scores more often than his counterpart. The Oklahoma transfer has three of Texas A&M’s four touchdowns scored by running backs, and though it appears coach Kevin Sumlin is sticking to a running-back-by-committee approach, that statistic is quite telling. Ford also threw a couple nice blocks and hauled in a 40-yard pass in No. 17 Texas A&M’s 67-0 demolition of Prairie View A&M, showing he has the tools to be a do-it-all running back. I know his performance came against an FCS school, but the junior is currently producing plenty on just a scant few touches.
This week: 8 carries, 62 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 reception, 40 yards
Season: 22 carries, 127 yards, 3 touchdowns; 1 reception, 40 yards
6. Leonard Fournette, LSU: Before you guys jump my case on this one, please revisit the top of this post and understand the recent week’s performance is only one of several factors in these rankings. Fournette was wisely held out of LSU’s contest against Jacksonville State for good reasons, reasons that help him preserve a spot on this list even when he doesn’t play. The junior is a once-in-a-generation talent who possesses a mix of size and speed that had many NFL scouts touting him as the No. 1 NFL Draft pick before he was even eligible to go pro. Once he gets back on the field and is fully healthy, he’s bound to return to Heisman-contending form.
This week: Did not play (ankle)
Season: 23 carries, 138 yards; 3 receptions, 38 yards
5. Jalen Hurd, Tennessee: In the midst of the biggest spectacle college football has ever produced, Hurd had another unceremonious outing as No. 15 Tennessee raced past Virginia Tech 45-24. He came up just short of topping 100 yards and remained an efficient power back at 4.5 yards per carry. But with his breakout sophomore season in mind, I keep expecting more from Hurd. An inconsistent offensive line and passing game are undoubtedly keeping him down (isn’t this just part of being an SEC running back?), but Hurd has yet to wow me. An encouraging thing for Hurd going forward is that he continues to dwarf backup Alvin Kamara in number of carries.
This week: 22 carries, 99 yards; 1 reception, 1 yard
Season: 50 carries, 209 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 receptions, 7 yards
4. Kerryon Johnson, Auburn: What’s the button for a spin move? Never mind, I’ll just ask Johnson. The sophomore provided one of the highlights of the day by corralling quarterback Sean White’s pitch, shaking off a defender with a nasty spin move and reversing field for a career-long 47-yard touchdown. Did we mention he hurdled a defender on that play, too? Auburn piled up more than 700 yards in its 51-14 throttling of Arkansas State, and backup running back Kamryn Pettway actually outgained Robinson on three fewer carries, but I can’t help but be dazzled by Robinson’s playmaking abilities. Those will come in handy against the tougher SEC defenses that await the Tigers down the road.
This week: 18 carries, 124 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 reception, 7 yards
Season: 41 carries, 218 yards, 3 touchdowns; 2 receptions, 4 yards
3. Rawleigh Williams III, Arkansas: You can exhale now, Arkansas fans. Two bits of good news for you: The Razorbacks stunned No. 15 TCU 41-38 in double overtime, and their running back is playing like one of the best in the SEC. Williams had a career-high performance with 137 yards, which will surely be overshadowed by the game’s wild finish. The sophomore also showed week-to-week improvement against what will be a better defense by season’s end, and he’s Arkansas’ unquestioned workhorse. If quarterback Austin Allen can keep playing efficient football, Williams will emerge as one of the most fearsome rushers in the SEC.
This week: 28 carries, 137 yards
Season: 52 carries, 233 yards, 1 touchdown; 3 receptions, 15 yards
2. Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt: Who thought Webb would be the SEC’s leading rusher after Week 2? Webb did most of the heavy lifting in Vanderbilt’s 47-24 win against Middle Tennessee State, gaining almost two-thirds of the team’s offensive yards. He had better get used to that, and the Commodores had better stick to that formula if they want to win games. Webb was excellent against the Blue Raiders, rushing for a career-high 211 yards while keeping their high-powered offense off the field. He had a highlight-reel play hurdling a defender on a 16-yard run, and the junior even forced a fumble on a punt return that led to a safety. Webb won’t have many 200-yard days against SEC opponents, but he’s a reliable back around whom Vanderbilt can build its offensive identity.
This week: 29 carries, 211 yards, 2 touchdowns; 1 reception, -5 yards
Season: 49 carries, 308 yards, 2 touchdowns; 4 receptions, 23 yards
1. Nick Chubb, Georgia: What a sobering day it must have been for No. 16 Georgia, and Chubb in particular. A week after the junior shredded a ranked North Carolina defense for 222 yards, he found FCS bottom-dweller Nicholls State (I’m from Thibodaux, so I can say that) a much more difficult opponent. A large portion of the blame surely lies with the Bulldogs’ offensive line, which somehow failed to generate any push against the Colonels in Georgia’s narrow 26-24 win. But Chubb is a Heisman contender, and those kinds of players are supposed to assert themselves against inferior talent. He even had a costly fumble that allowed Nicholls State to score a touchdown and grab valuable momentum seconds before halftime. We’ll chalk this up as an aberration for Chubb, but if his offensive line can’t get its act together, he’ll probably slip in the rankings once the SEC schedule rolls around.
This week: 20 carries, 80 yards, 1 touchdown; 1 reception, 12 yards
Season: 52 carries, 302 yards, 3 touchdowns; 1 reception, 12 yards