2023 Running Back Unit Rankings: Michigan, Alabama headline the Top 10 RB rooms this fall

On3 imageby:Jesse Simonton05/02/23



With spring practice in the books and the second transfer portal window closing, it’s the perfect time to evaluate some pre-summer 2023 positional unit rankings. 

We kickstarted the series with quarterbacks, examining the Top 10 QB rooms in the country in the fall.

The key delineation here being rooms.  

These rankings are not individual talents, although that is a component, but a school’s entire depth chart at the position. 

With that, the Top 10 running back units in 2023…

1. Michigan 

The Wolverines should be the favorites in the Big Ten in 2023, and they’re likely to be led by a pair of potential 1,000-yard rushers. Heisman Trophy contender (nearly 1,500 yards with 18 touchdowns) Blake Corum opted to return to school after tearing his knee late last season. 

Meanwhile, Donovan Edwards would start for most other programs and is the best No. 2 tailback in the country. The junior led all Power 5 tailbacks averaging 7.1 yards per carry in 2022. 

2. Alabama 

The Crimson Tide might have the deepest RB room in the country, with a stable of former stud recruits stacked on top of one another. Nick Saban wants Alabama to start punishing teams on the ground again, and he has the ‘backs to do it in  Jace McClellan, Justice Haynes, Roydell Williams and Jam Miller. In the summer, another blue-chipper joins the group in Richard Young. 

Haynes, a 5-star freshman, could emerge as the bellcow for the Tide by midseason, but McClellan & Co., are not going to cede snaps with little resistance. 

3. Penn State 

Like their Big Ten rival Michigan, the Nittany Lions could also have two rushers go over 1,000-yards apiece in 2023. 

Nick Singleton was a 5-star freshman who more than lived up to the hype last season, as the home-run hitter averaged 6.8 yards per carry and had multiple 50-yard+ touchdown runs. No. 2 tailback Kaytron Allen also had a strong debut season in Happy Valley, as the sophomore scored 10 touchdowns with close to 900 yards. 

4. Ohio State

The Buckeyes return their Top 3 rushers from last season in Miyan Williams, TreVeyon Henderson and Dallan Hayden. Ohio State also has some deep insurance, as senior Chip Trayanum had a big spring and is pushing for a real role come the fall. 

Henderson burst onto the scene as a freshman (1,200 yards and 15 touchdowns) but was hobbled for much of last season, opening the door for Williams to become the top tailback for OSU. They project as a 1A, 1B tandem this fall, with Hayden and Trayanum solid backup options. 

5. Ole Miss

Quinshon Judkins is arguably one of the best two or three tailbacks in America, and the Rebels did a nice job this offseason keeping the sophomore in Oxford. 

Judkins had more than 1,500 yards last season and forced more missed tackles in 2022 than tailback in the country not named Bijan Robinson, per PFF. While the Rebels did lose Zach Evans, former SMU standout Ulysses Bentley is healthy after battling injuries throughout much of his first season at Ole Miss. 

6. Arkansas 

Raheim ‘Rocket’ Sanders is a Top 5 tailback in all of college football, zooming for more than 1,400 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. Sanders had 16 runs over 20 yards, and headlines a solid backfield trio for the ‘Hogs with AJ Green and Rashod Dubinion

It doesn’t count for these individual unit rankings, but with quarterback KJ Jefferson’s dual-threat abilities, Arkansas could once again have one of the best-rushing attacks in the nation in 2023. 

7. Georgia 

Georgia lost Kenny McIntosh to the NFL, but Kendall Milton has 5-star talent, Daijun Edwards is an underrated workhorse, while former top recruit Branson Robinson, a sophomore, is a major breakout candidate.

Freshman Roderick Robinson and redshirt freshman Andrew Paul are both vying for mop-up carries, too.

8. Florida State

The Seminoles have a pair of talented juniors who they’ll lean on heavily in 2023, as Trey Benson is a tackle-breaking machine and has the potential to be a Top 10 tailback in the country this fall. 

Lawrance Toafili will have a bigger role in the fall with Treshaun Ward transferring to Kansas State, while FSU hopes Rodney Hill can contribute more as a sophomore, too. 

9. Oregon

The Ducks return the top tailback in the Pac-12 this season in Bucky Irving, the former Minnesota transfer who had over 1,000 yards and five touchdowns on 6.78 yards per carry in 2022. Backup Noah Whittingham is no slouch, either, chipping in close to 800 yards with five scores.

Former 4-star recruit Jordan James is eying more carries in his sophomore season, too.

10. Auburn

Hugh Freeze isn’t sure who Auburn’s QB will be this fall, but the Tigers, which will have a much improved OL this season, has three tailbacks who all averaged over 6.0 yards per carry in 2022 in Jarquez Hunter, Damari Alston and South Florida transfer Brian Battie, who very quietly had close to 1,200 yards last season. 

Honorable Mention: Wisconsin, Tennessee, Florida