2018 Pre-Spring Top Ten Running Backs in College Football
Once again, FirstAndMonday is bringing you college football all year round, whether you like it or not. We are kicking it off with our Pre-Spring positional breakdowns, in which we name the top ten returning players at each position. We began with the quarterbacks, and now move to the running backs. You can see our RB list from last season here. These are not rankings, but the ten best listed alphabetically.
Rodney Anderson — Oklahoma Sooners — The junior pairs with Tre Sermon as a vicious 1-2 combo for the likely ground-prone Sooners, who must replace Baker Mayfield and several other key offensive players. However the 6-2 218 pound Anderson is a red-zone monster with a big play burst as well. He found the end-zone with regularity, scoring 18 times via run or reception, and also proved to be a very efficient option in the Sooner ground attack. He’ll split carries, but also perhaps rush for 25 scores…
JK Dobbins — Ohio State Buckeyes — The only reason Mike Weber is snubbed on this list is because the sophomore Dobbins dashed into the lead role for the Buckeyes and proved one of the most dynamic runners in the country. While Weber is the more proven hammer, Dobbins is a pneumatic wonder that bursts through holes and dazzles defenders. Expect more of him this season as a runner and receiver, excelling once again as the Big Ten’s most explosive, young, big-play back.
Myles Gaskin — Washington Huskies — Despite the fewest carries in his prolific three year career, Gaskin put up his best season in terms of rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per carry, and advanced stats showed he reached a high in terms of combining consistency of positive plays and the magnitude of the bigger plays. Alongside Jake Browning, and behind a pretty stacked line, expect a massive year from Gaskin before he hits the NFL as a passing down or spread specialist.
Damien Harris — Alabama Crimson Tide — His totals were not overwhelming, as he managed just 71 yards per game, and 1000 yards and 11 scores in all on the ground over his 14 game season. However he also ran for those 1000 yards in a shared role, at a cool 7.4 yards, and on a national title winning team. He’s run for 1K the past two seasons actually (averaging 7.2 in 2016), and this is his year as the top dog. Sure, the Tide roll with several runners each year, but we think Harris is going to get the lion’s share of carries due to his sheer explosive ability.
David Montgomery — Iowa State Cyclones — Nobody in college football made people miss like Montgomery, whose 108 forced missed tackles were not only tops last season per Pro Football Focus College, but also the best since they started recording the stat in 2014. While his 4.4 yards per carry left much to be desired, he operated behind a terrible offensive line and was playing beside four quarterbacks throughout the season. He once again will deal with uncertainty at QB, youth up front, and the focus of the defense, but hey, he’s pretty good at making people miss, and likely to repeat All-Big 12 honors.
What a season it was for David Montgomery pic.twitter.com/I27NMthfj9
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) February 12, 2018
Bryce Love — Stanford Cardinal — The only returning member of the 2K club, he reached the number despite missing a game with injury and dealing with the hindrance thereafter. At 5-10 200 he’s not a huge back, but he’s compact, keeps his legs moving, and bursts away from tacklers with his other-worldly agility. His junior year is surely his last, and potentially a Heisman campaign.
Devin Singletary — FAU Owls — Arguably the nation’s best back, with Love as his challenger, the FAU superstar followed a sneaky good freshman season with an absurd sophomore campaign that saw him amass 1920 yards on the ground and a ridiculous 32 rushing scores. We aren’t sure if “Motor” bests 32 scores per se, as that’s a huge total already (third most ever), but he’s a shoe-in for 2000 yards in 2018.
Benny Snell Jr. — Kentucky Wildcats — Benny “Snell Ya Later” is possibly the country’s toughest runner, a 5-11 225-pound battering ram who punishes defenders and shows good burst into the open field where he’s capable of belittling third level defenders. He rushed for 1333 yards, at 5.1 per pop, but his 19 scores (many in which he dragged defenders) highlight his prowess near the goal-line. The booming runner’s 2017 ended with a bust versus Northwestern, but look for that to motivate him for a huge 2018 and then he’ll follow his father into the NFL.
Jonathan Taylor — Wisconsin Badgers — Few people saw the 5-11 215-pounder producing quite like he did as a true freshman in 2017, rushing for nearly 2000 yards with 13 scores and a 6.6 yard average. Yes, he benefited from a superb offensive line, however his counterparts on the Badgers could not match his consistent, explosive production. He returns the entirety of his line, including two All-American candidates at tackle and another at guard, his QB, and he’s no longer a freshman. Not much should change, except hopefully his eight fumbles (six lost).
Lexington Thomas — UNLV Rebels — At 5-9 175 he’s not an NFL prospect, and as a UNLV Rebel he’s also not on the radar of most college fans. However he’s blossomed in the desert within UNLV’s spread-out running attack, and once again pairs with the big, mobile Armani Rogers. We expect the jitterbug Thomas to finish out his career in huge fashion. He ran for 1336 yards and 17 scores on just 211 carries — losing nary a ball — and given development along his line from several promising players he might push 2K in 2018.
— Jack McGuire (@JackMacCFB) October 8, 2017
Snubs: Cam Akers, Florida State Seminoles; Spencer Brown, UAB Blazers; AJ Dillon, Boston College Eagles; Darrell Henderson, Memphis Tigers; Justice Hill, Oklahoma State Cowboys; Travis Homer, Miami Hurricanes; Xavier Jones, SMU Mustangs; Alexander Mattison, Boise State Broncos; Jalin Moore, Appalachian State Mountaineers; A.J. Ouellette, Ohio Bobcats; Jacques Patrick, Florida State Seminoles; LJ Scott, Michigan State Spartans; Jonathan Ward, Central Michigan Chippewas; Mike Weber, Ohio State Buckeyes