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SEC Football: Top 5 running backs in 2015

The Southeastern Conference returns play making quarterbacks in Brandon Allen, Joshua Dobbs, Patrick Towles, Kyle Allen and Maty Mauk this fall, but Mississippi’s State Dak Prescott enters as the most experienced of the group. 2015 could see the conference rely more on a balanced run game with new face been acclimated under center.

The SEC is littered with talented running backs, but there are five that stand out amongst the rest. Yours truly of Touchdown Alabama Magazine has compiled a list of the top five returning ball carries in the SEC this fall.

 

5. Roc Thomas

  • Team: Auburn Tigers
  • Size: 5-foot-10, 203 pounds
  • Classification: Sophomore

Summary: Running backs Tre Mason and Cameron Artis-Payne are hard acts to follow, but its Roc Thomas’s time to shine at Auburn. He enrolled in 2013 as the nation’s most dynamic runner. Thomas totaled 2,211 rushing yards with 32 touchdowns on 9.8 yards per carry in his senior year at Oxford High School in Oxford, Ala.

He saw action in 12 games last season, including two starts against Georgia and Alabama. Thomas accounted for 214 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries. He displays quickness and vision in the hole. He runs well behind his pads, and looks to take some pressure off first-year starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson this fall.

 

4. Leonard Fournette

  • Team: LSU Tigers
  • Size: 6-foot-1, 230 pounds
  • Classification: Sophomore

Summary: Leonard Fournette broke out as a freshman in 2014. He pounded his way to 1,034 rushing yards with 10 touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry. Fournette put in five 100-yard rushing performances, three of which came against SEC schools (Florida, Ole Miss, Texas A&M). He shared LSU’s backfield with Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard last season, but 2015 will unveil Fournette as the team’s featured back. Fournette is a tough, downhill runner. He excels at generating yards after contact, but does have speed to bounce plays outside.

 

3. Derrick Henry

  • Team: Alabama Crimson Tide
  • Size: 6-foot-3, 242 pounds
  • Classification: Junior

Summary: Derrick Henry came 10 yards shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season in 2014. He was an important contributor for Alabama, during its final stretch of the season. Henry appeared in 14 games (two starts), and recorded 990 yards with 11 touchdowns on 5.8 yards per carry. He displayed versatility as a pass catcher, totaling five receptions for 133 yards and two scores.

Henry chimed in with three 100-yard rushing performances against West Virginia, Florida and Missouri. His 141 yards and two touchdowns against Missouri helped Alabama win the 2014 SEC Championship Game 42-13. With T.J. Yeldon gone, Henry looks to be Alabama’s featured back in 2015. He’s taken on a leadership role, and has excelled in the team’s offseason program.

 

2. Alex Collins

  • Team: Arkansas Razorbacks
  • Size: 5-foot-11, 215 pounds
  • Classification: Junior

Summary: He shares Arkansas’s backfield with Jonathan Williams, but Alex Collins is a talented player. He rushed for 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns on 5.4 yards per carry in 13 games last season. Collins joins former Razorbacks’ running back Darren McFadden as the only players with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.

Collins totaled 1,026 yards and four touchdowns as a freshman in 2013. Williams and Collins are both game changers, but Collins is more of a power back. He is exceptional running in between the tackles, and uses his vision set up his cutbacks. It will be imperative for Collins to help Arkansas’s quarterback Brandon Allen establish an early rhythm.

 

1. Nick Chubb

  • Team: Georgia Bulldogs
  • Size: 5-foot-10, 220 pounds
  • Classification: Sophomore

Summary: Nick Chubb was sensational as a freshman in 2014. Georgia’s running back Todd Gurley battled injuries and was suspended four games for accepting pay for memorabilia. Chubb shined in Gurley’s absence. He played in 13 games (eight starts), and tallied 1,547 rushing yards with 14 touchdowns on 7.1 yards per carry. Chubb averaged 119.0 yards per game, good for second in the Southeastern Conference.

His 1,547 rushing yards tied him for fourth-most in a single season in school history. Chubb ended the 2014 season with numerous awards, including SEC Freshman of the Year (Associated Press) and freshman All-American by the Football Writers of America Association. Georgia returns a stable full of backs this fall, but Chubb will be the main guy.

 

Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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