June 16, 2024

Ranking the Big 12’s best running backs of 2024

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Big 12's best running backs of 2024

Kansas running back Devin Neal carries the ball during the second quarter against Oklahoma Saturday October 28, 2023 at Memorial Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

The conference is filled with elite players at the skill positions, including six 1,000-yard returning rushers and the reigning Doak Walker Award winner.

That means the Big 12 is going to display some of the country’s best rushing attacks this upcoming season. These 16 rushers are looking to make their mark in the expanded league, and build on their legacies, which should make for some entertaining football on the gridiron.

16. Rayshon Luke, Arizona: The former four-star prospect has carried the ball 52 times for 258 yards over the past two seasons for the Wildcats. Although Luke has received limited action in the backfield, he has averaged five yards per carry in his career. Last year he appeared in all 13 games. Luke had five carries for 22 yards in the opener against Northern Arizona. The Californian carried the ball 10 times for 71 yards and a touchdown, which were all season-highs in the win at Washington State. Luke also hauled in a 17-yard reception against the Cougars. Not to mention he posted a 15-yard catch against UTEP. However, Luke’s 66-yard reception in the victory over UCLA was also a season-high.

15. Dominic Richardson, Baylor: The Oklahoma native is part of a three-headed monster in the Bears’ backfield. Richardson started four games last season, and led Baylor in carries and rushing yards. He got off to a solid start with 79 yards on the ground in the opener against Texas State. The following game against Utah, Richardson had 14 carries for 77 yards. The former three-star prospect posted 17 carries for 89 yards at Kansas State, which were all season-highs. Richardson will be sharing the load with Dawson Pendergrass and Richard Reese this fall. Pendergrass rushed for 111 yards and a score in the win over LIU. Reese posted a season-high, 100 yards on the ground in the victory at UCF.

14. Jaylon Glover, Utah: The former four-star prospect finished second on the Utes in carries and rushing yards last season. Glover posted a rushing score in the win at Baylor. He also found the endzone against Weber State. The Florida native carried the ball 25 times for 86 yards against UCLA. The following week Glover posted 58 yards on the ground at Oregon State. Not to mention he rushed for 64 yards against Arizona State. Glover rushed for a season-high, 107 yards in the victory over Colorado. The five-foot-eight, 202-pounder left a lasting impression with 49 yards on the ground in the Las Vegas Bowl against Northwestern. Glover even hauled in an 18-yard reception against the Wildcats.

13. LJ Martin, BYU: The Texas native is a big bruiser, who led the Cougars in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground last season. Martin got off to a hot start, with 91 rushing yards in the opener against Sam Houston. He carried the 23 times for 77 yards and two touchdowns in the victory at Arkansas. Martin also rushed for two scores, to go along with 66 yards on the ground against Cincinnati. The six-foot-two, 205-pounder hauled in a 10-yard touchdown pass at Kansas. Martin rushed for a season-high, 93 yards against Texas Tech. Not to mention he averaged seven yards on eight carries against Iowa State. BYU hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since 2021, and Martin is due.

12. Parker Jenkins, Houston: The hometown kid led the Cougars in rushing yards, and caught 15 passes out of the backfield as a true freshman in 2023. Jenkins rushed for 105 yards, and three touchdowns against Sam Houston, which were all season-highs. The following week he generated 71 yards on the ground at Texas Tech. Jenkins carried the ball 12 times for 55 yards in the shutout loss at Kansas State. The former four-star prospect averaged 6.2 yards on eight carries against Cincinnati. The next game Jenkins posted eight carries for 56 yards against Oklahoma State. Now that Houston has a new coach in Willie Frtiz, Jenkins will be a key piece to build the offense around in the expanded Big 12.

11. Trey Sanders, TCU: The former five-star prospect was recruited by Nick Saban, and was regarded as the top running back out of the 2019 class. Sanders spent his first four seasons at Alabama, where he rushed for 528 yards, and three touchdowns during that span. The Texas native had a promising campaign in limited action with the Horned Frogs in 2023. He backed up Emani Bailey, but finished second on the team in carries and rushing touchdowns. Sanders posted a season-high, three rushing scores in the opener against Colorado. Not to mention he also rushed for a touchdown against Houston, Texas Tech and Baylor. Sanders will be competing with Cam Cook and Trent Battle.

10. Dallan Hayden, Colorado: The Memphis native rushed for 663 yards, and six touchdowns over the past two seasons at Ohio State. Hayden committed to Colorado last month, and should make an instant impact in the backfield. Most of his production came from the Buckeyes’ 2022 campaign. That season Hayden rushed for 108 yards against Toledo, 146 against Maryland and 43 against Georgia in the Playoffs. Last year he had 11 carries for 76 yards, and a touchdown in the victory at Purdue. Hayden rushed for 34 yards in the win over Minnesota. With Dylan Edwards no longer on the roster, look for Hayden to lead the Buffaloes’ backfield in the expanded Big 12 this upcoming season.

9. Abu Sama, Iowa State: The Des Moines native led the Cyclones in rushing yards, and touchdowns on the ground as a true freshman last season. Sama accomplished that feat, despite having 18 fewer carries than Eli Sanders. He started to get into a groove in Big 12 play. Sama rushed for 67 yards at Oklahoma. The former three-star prospect posted 59 yards on the ground, and a rushing score against TCU. Not to mention Sama rushed for 110 yards and two touchdowns in the victory at BYU. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder rushed for a jaw-dropping, 276 yards and three scores in the regular season finale at Kansas State. His 276 yards ranked fourth all-time in a single game for a Cyclone rusher.

8. Cameron Skattebo, Arizona State: The Californian started out at the FCS level, and was the Big Sky’s Offensive Player of the Year at Sacramento State in 2022. Skattebo made an instant impact in the Pac-12 last season, and led the Sun Devils in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground. He eclipsed the century mark in rushing, and scored twice, including a 52-yard touchdown catch against USC. His 121 yards on the ground in the victory over Washington State were a season-high. Skattebo found the end zone, and went over 100 yards rushing against Arizona. The 5-foot-10, 225-pounder used his massive frame to score against Oklahoma State, Colorado, Washington and UCLA.

7. Jaheim White, West Virginia: The former three-star prospect led the Mountaineers in rushing yards as a true freshman last season, despite having 42 less carries than CJ Donaldson. White rushed for 110 yards, and a touchdown in the home opener against Duquesne. He caught fire down the stretch in Big 12 play. White rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown at UCF. The following week he posted 146 yards on the ground against BYU. His 204 rushing yards in the victory over Cincinnati were a season-high. White also eclipsed the century mark in rushing in the win at Baylor. The Pennsylvania native found the endzone in the bowl against North Carolina. Donaldson had 11 rushing scores in 2023.

6. Corey Kiner, Cincinnati: The former four-star prospect rushed for 324 yards at LSU in 2021. Kiner returned to his hometown, and rushed for 362 yard and five touchdowns for the Bearcats in 2022. However, he had a breakout campaign last season, and 1,047 yards and five scores. Kiner got off to a hot start with 105 yards on the ground in the opener against Eastern Kentucky. His 153 rushing yards the following game at Pittsburgh, were a season-high. Kiner caught fire down the stretch. The Cincinnati native eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards against Baylor, UCF, Houston and Kansas State. Kiner also earned the Bearcat Award for his hard work in the weight room this offseason.

5. DJ Giddens, Kansas State: Although the 20-year old shared the load with Treshaun Ward last season, he led the Wildcats in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground. Giddens was arguably the most explosive running back in the Big 12, and averaged 94.3 rushing yards per game. Not to mention he finished second on the team in receptions. Giddens ranked fifth in the conference, and 19th in the FBS with 1,226 rushing yards. The former two-star prospect finished 26th nationally in all-purpose yards per game. His 30 carries for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the win over UCF were all season-highs. He’ll be backed up by Dylan Edwards, but expect Giddens to dominate again.

4. RJ Harvey, UCF: The former three-star prospect took the Big 12 by storm last season. Harvey’s 16 rushing scores were the second-most in a single-season by a Knight, and his 1,416 yards on the ground ranked third in the program. Harvey averaged 108.9 rushing yards per game, which was third-best in the Big 12, and 10th nationally. The Orlando native tied for second in the league in scoring among running backs, and finished third in yards per carry. Harvey’s 206 rushing yards, and three touchdowns against Oklahoma State were season-highs. Not to mention he eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards six times in Big 12 play. Harvey rushed for 100-plus yards in seven of UCF’s final eight contests.

3. Tahj Brooks, Texas Tech: The Texas native is one of the best workhorse rushers in the country. Brooks uses his 5-foot-10, 230-pound frame to bulldoze over defenders, and is load to bring down. He has rushed for 3,055 yards in his career. His 1,541 yards on the ground in 2023 were the fourth-most in a single-season by a Red Raider. Brooks averaged 118.3 rushing yards per game, which ranked second in the Big 12, and fourth in the FBS. The former three-star prospect went over 100 yards rushing in six league games, and capped off his stellar campaign with first-team, All-Big 12 honors. Now he needs 1,165 yards this fall to surpass Byron Hanspard and become Texas Tech’s all-time leader.

2. Devin Neal, Kansas: The 20-year old is the only returning two-time, 1,000-yard rusher in the Big 12. Neal is coming off a stellar campaign, in which he finished second in the conference, and tied for sixth nationally in rushing touchdowns. His 16 rushing scores was the third-most in a single-season for a Jayhawk. Neal tied for second in the conference among running backs in scoring. Not to mention he ranked second in the league, and 15th in the FBS in yards per carry. Although he shared the workload with Daniel Hishaw, Neal earned second-team, All-Big 12 honors. Now he needs 765 rushing yards, and nine touchdowns on the ground this fall to become Kansas’ all-time career leader.

1. Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State: The Texas native put together a campaign for the ages in 2023. Gordon led the entire FBS in rushing yards. His 1,732 yards on the ground were sixth-most in a single-season by a Cowboy rusher. Gordon led the Big 12 with a jaw-dropping, 21 rushing touchdowns, and 123.7 yards per game. He has the power to steamroll would-be tacklers, the speed to outrun defensive backs and soft hands to catch passes out of the backfield. The 20-year old rushed for 200-plus yards against West Virginia and Cincinnati. Gordon helped the Cowboys reach the Big 12 Championship Game, earned first-team, AP All-America honors, and became their first Doak Walker Award winner.

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