While the quality of quarterbacks in the SEC has fans excited about this upcoming season, it’s important to remember that 2017 has a chance to be the year of the running back in this conference.

Eight running backs who gained 1,000 yards return, including last season’s leading rusher, LSU’s Derrius Guice, who was a backup when the 2016 season began. In addition, seven running backs who scored at least 10 touchdowns on the ground also are back.

In terms of quality and depth, this might be as good of a running back class since 2007. That season, there was a Heisman Trophy runner-up (Darren McFadden) and a future NFL rushing leader (Arian Foster). One school had two 1,000-yard rushers (Arkansas – McFadden, Felix Jones) and a freshman (Knowshon Moreno) topped the 1,300-yard mark, something only one other Georgia freshman had ever done at that time. His name was Herschel Walker.

So, will the 2017 lineup of running backs make people remember the group from 10 years ago? Here are some predictions for this season at the RB position.

2007: Eight RBs had 1,000 rushing yards
2017 will have: More

As mentioned earlier, eight returning running backs – Guice, Ralph Webb, Kamryn Pettway, Nick Chubb, Benny Snell, Damarea Crockett, Trayveon Williams and Damien Harris — rushed for 1,000 yards last season.

Whether all eight can repeat remains to be seen; it’s possible they won’t. However, among those who were just shy of 1,000 yards who are returning in 2017 are Kerryon Johnson (895 yards), Sony Michel (840) and Bo Scarbrough (812).

There are enough running backs who appear to have a chance to reach 1,000 yards. It’s also entirely possible that, like Kentucky last season with Boom Williams and Snell, one or more schools produce two 1,000-yard rushers.

2007: Seven RBs had 10 rushing TDs
2017 will have: Fewer

This is where the argument gets interesting. Seven returning running backs had 10 touchdown runs last season – Guice, Webb, Snell (below, scoring against Louisville), Johnson, Scarbrough, Crockett and Khari Blasingame.

Credit: Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

So, all that’s needed to top the 2007 group is one more 10-TD running back, right? Well, keep in mind that many teams that deep, talented running back rotations — such as Auburn, Alabama, Georgia — and those teams could see the touchdown runs split up over two, maybe three, players.

Also remember that dual-threat quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Nick Fitzgerald return. Those two combined for 29 rushing TD last season, and more will be expected of each this season.

While we are likely to see a lot of yards compiled by running backs, it’s possible that the quality depth, along with dual-threat quarterbacks, could split up the touchdowns.

2007: 11 running backs averaged 5.0 yards per carry
2017 will have: More

Thanks in part to the quality quarterbacks returning, it stands to reason the passing threat will open up the running game in the SEC this season.

This season, 15 returning running backs who had at least 80 carries last season averaged at least 5 yards a carry. It’s difficult to imagine the number of running backs averaging 5 yards a carry decreasing that dramatically, if at all, in 2017.