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Top 5 Running Back Units in the Country

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Which teams have an abundance of riches at the running back position?

Notre Dame v Stanford Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Last week we took a look at the Top 5 QB rooms in the country. This week we break down the Top RB 5 rooms in the country for this upcoming 2018 season. You might notice some overlap... in the world of college football, it often seems that the rich get richer.

5. Ohio State Buckeyes

Illinois v Ohio State
J.K. Dobbins
Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

Starter: J.K. Dobbins (sophomore)

Backups: Mike Weber (redshirt junior), Demario McCall (redshirt sophomore), Master Teague (freshman)

The skinny: No team in the country is as creative as Ohio State is when it comes to running the football out of the spread. J.K. Dobbins is back after a sensational freshman season where he ran for 1400 yards and seven touchdowns, beating out the more experienced Mike Weber for a majority of the carries in the backfield in 2017.

Demario McCall missed most of last season and is the ultimate change-of-pace back and should see most of his time at receiver and kick/punt returner in 2018. True freshman and 4-star running back Master Teague showed a ton of potential in Ohio State’s Spring Game. It will be nearly impossible for Teague, an early enrollee, to see much of the field in 2018, but the Buckeyes are in great hands at the running back position — just how Urban Meyer likes it.

Correction: A previous version of this article listed Antonio Williams as a running back for the Buckeyes, but Williams has transferred from Ohio State to North Carolina. We apologize for the error.

4. Stanford Cardinal

California v Stanford
Bryce Love
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Starter: Bryce Love (senior)

Backup: Cameron Scarlett (senior), Trevor Speights (junior), Dorian Maddox (junior)

The skinny: A not-so-bold statement: Bryce Love is the best player in college football.

Love finished the 2017 season with 2118 yards on the ground, second most in the country behind San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny. Love scored 19 rushing touchdowns and was the focal point of Stanford’s offense for the entirety of the season. Even though Bryce Love was never completely healthy, Stanford continued to put the ball in his hands as the Cardinal finished the season 9-5 with a loss to TCU in the Alamo Bowl. To tout Bryce Love even more, Stanford was dealing with bad quarterback play all of last season — making Love’s job that much harder game in and game out.

Backing up Love is a trio of experienced, reliable backs. Cameron Scarlett had 91 carries for 389 yards and eight touchdowns in 2017. Scarlett has soft hands and is a really good receiver out of the backfield. Trevor Speights is also in the mix and was an important player in Stanford’s win over Oregon last season. Junior Dorian Maddox is a smaller back to keep an eye on in 2018.

3. Florida State Seminoles

Miami v Florida State
Cam Akers
Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

Starter: Cam Akers (sophomore)

Backups: Jacques Patrick (senior), Amir Rasul (junior)

The skinny: The duo and split carry situation of Cam Akers and Jacques Patrick could really be considered an RB1-A and RB1-B conundrum. Both players are big-time college running backs and both put up some pretty gaudy stats during Florida State’s largely disappointing 2017 season. Both players were consensus 5-star running backs out of high school.

Jacques Patrick is freakishly big and moves really well for someone his size. The senior is 6-foot-3 and weighs over 230 pounds. He scored seven touchdowns on 748 yards rushing last season. Cam Akers is more of an upright runner with a ton of power running the ball. He’s a freight train with breakaway speed down the sideline and he ran for seven touchdowns on 1,025 yards. Amir Rasul is a smaller back and will see more time if Patrick and/or Akers suffers an injury in 2018 — entirely possible considering both Patrick and Akers have had trouble staying healthy in the past.

2. Georgia Bulldogs

Georgia v Notre Dame
D’Andre Swift
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Starter: D’Andre Swift (sophomore)

Backups: Brian Herrien (junior), Elijah Holyfield (junior), Zamir White (freshman), James Cook (freshman)

The Skinny: It’s crazy to think that Georgia could lose two, 1200-yard rushers in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and still boast the second best running backfield in the nation a year later. Returnee De’Andre Swift had a significant role in Georgia’s College Football Playoff campaign in 2017, scoring three touchdowns on 618 yards rushing.

Backing up Swift is Brian Herrien who managed a touchdown and 265 yards rushing on 61 attempts. Elijah Holyfield put up nearly identical similar stats as Herrien a season ago and he’ll be in the mix once again.

Keep an eye on incoming freshmen James Cook — brother of former Florida State Heisman Trophy candidate Dalvin Cook — and Zamir White. Both Cook and White were 5-star running backs in Georgia’s No. 1 rated recruiting class. Zamir White tore his ACL back in January and even though most recruiting services had him as a top-15 player nationally, he could end up redshirting this upcoming season because of his injury and because of Georgia’s depth at the position.

1. Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama v Mississippi State
Damien Harris
Photo by Butch Dill/Getty Images

Starter: Damien Harris (senior)

Backups: Najee Harris (sophomore), Josh Jacobs (junior), Brian Robinson (sophomore)

The skinny: Alabama remains the ultimate destination and recruiting spot for high school running backs. Why? Bama Offensive coordinators come and go, but the system more-or-less remains constant: Alabama will run the football first and try to control the game by pounding the rock. There’s nothing flashy about it, and for workhorse backs like Damien Harris and Najee Harris (and Mark Ingram, Eddie Lacy, Derrick Henry in the past), the system wins games and puts players in the NFL.

Damien Harris and the departed Bo Scarbrough split carries pretty evenly in 2017; 135 carries for Harris, 124 for Scarborough. Harris though ran for 400 more yards and three more touchdowns than Scarbrough on just those 11 more carries. Bottom line: Damien Harris is a much better running back than Scarbrough and should easily topple his personal-best 1,000-yard season from a year ago. Expect Damien Harris to be squarely in the Heisman Trophy race all season long.

Backup Najee Harris is a bit bigger than Damien Harris and is every bit as explosive between the tackles. Both Harris’ were 5-star backs coming out of high school. Brian Robinson is a local kid from Tuscaloosa and he’ll get his fair share of garbage-time carries. Junior Josh Jacobs is a reliable back too and can step up when called upon.