While the tailback position has become devalued in the modern NFL, a loaded running back room remains vitally important in the college game.
Last season, Georgia rode a balanced, three-headed attack at tailback to an elite offense (led the SEC in yards per play) and a national championship. This fall, Alabama plucked Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs, looking to add a home run threat to a room already chalked with 5-stars.
What about the rest of the conference?
Here’s my Top 5 SEC running back rooms in 2022:
Jahmyr Gibbs is the headliner here as one of the biggest offseason additions for any program in the country, but he’s hardly the only gem in the room. Gibbs gives the Crimson Tide a versatile weapon to use as both a runner and receiver. He’ll share snaps with Jase McClellan, Trey Sanders and Roydell Williams, all of whom are capable of rushing for 100 yards on a single Saturday. With some questions at receiver, Alabama could lean on its running game more than it has in recent seasons.
The Bulldogs just sent two tailbacks to the NFL (James Cook and Zamir White), but the room might be more explosive in 2022. Kenny McIntosh is one of the SEC’s best combo runner/receivers, while former 5-star Kendall Milton looks primed for a breakout season, and he too is a capable rusher and receiver. Top-100 freshman prospect Branson Robinson will compete with Daijun Edwards for carries as Georgia‘s No. 3 tailback.
Kentucky has the league’s top returning rusher in Chris Rodriguez Jr. (1,379 yards and nine touchdown). The senior has a real chance to become the school’s most decorated tailback of all-time, needing just 1,100 yards to break Benny Snell’s career rushing yards. It’s not a one-man show in Lexington, either, as Kavosiey Smoke is one of the better backup tailbacks in the SEC. With some potential concerns surrounding Rodriguez’s availability this fall following an offseason arrest, Mark Stoops added more depth to the room, snatching FCS All-American Ramon Jefferson out of Sam Houston State from the transfer portal.
4. Texas A&M
Texas A&M has the perfect guy to replace the production of Isiah Spiller (1,011 yards and six touchdown), as junior Devon Achane is ready for more touches this fall. Achane is perhaps the fastest player in college football, and he averaged 7.0 yards per carry on just 10 attempts a game in 2021. He’s backed by sophomore Amari Daniels, who showed well in the spring game, and former 5-star LJ Johnson.
5. Ole Miss
Ole Miss lost its top three rushers from last season (Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and Henry Parrish) but Lane Kiffin restocked with room with a pair of transfers who combined for more than 1,300 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Former 5-star recruit Zach Evans has the talent to emerge as the best overall running back in the SEC this fall, while SMU transfer Ulysses Bentley averaged 6.4 yards per carry in 2021. Backup Kentrel Bullock is a quality tailback, too.
The best of the rest:
Arkansas might tout the best rushing attack in the nation in 2022. Quarterback KJ Jefferson is a major component to that, but Raheim ‘Rocket’ Sanders, AJ Green and Dominique Johnson are all really good ‘backs.
Likewise, both Florida and Tennessee have multiple tailbacks expected to contribute heavily in 2022. Billy Napier brought Montrell Johnson (838 yards and 12 touchdowns) with him from Louisiana, pairing the transfer with former 5-star Lorenzo Lingard and Nay’Quan Wright. At Tennessee, Josh Heupel found the perfect inside zone tailback for his system in Jabari Small (great vision, quick-twitch), with big-play threats Jaylen Wright and freshman Justin Williams-Thomas rounding out the room.