June 16, 2024

Ranking the SEC’s best running backs of 2024

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SEC's best running backs of 2024

Tennessee running back Dylan Sampson runs for a first down during the second quarter of the Cheez-It/Citrus Bowl against Iowa Monday January 1, 2024 at Camping World Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

The Almighty SEC will take center stage with addition of Oklahoma and Texas this July, and running backs will need to keep their heads on a swivel in a conference where everything means more.

The loss of Ray Davis, Quinshon Judkins and Cody Schrader doesn’t mean the league lacks star power at the position. There are plenty of rushers ready to make a name for themselves this fall, including these 16 individuals. Now that the stakes are higher in a deeper SEC, there’ll be a slim margin for error in every backfield.

16. Sedrick Alexander, Vanderbilt: The Texas native led the Commodores in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground as a true freshman in 2023. Not only did Alexander earn Freshman All-SEC, but he also put in major work in the classroom to make the Honor Roll. He rushed for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Alabama A&M, which were both season-highs. Not to mention Alexander rushed for a touchdown against Georgia. The former three-star prospect recorded 46 yards on the ground at Tennessee, and 40 against Auburn. As promising as Alexander is looking up to this point, he’s only going to make strides this fall if the big boys up front can block better.

15. Kaleb Jackson, LSU: The Bayou Bengals took a hit in the backfield with the loss of Noah Cain and John Emery Jr. Not to mention LSU will have a new play-caller in Joe Sloan. Despite the fact that much of last season’s rushing production is gone, Jackson appears ready to fill the void following spring ball. After all, he put together a promising campaign as a true freshman. Jackson carried the ball 11 times for 62 yards and two touchdowns against Grambling State. The six-foot, 225-pounder also found the end zone in victories over Florida and Wisconsin. Jackson led all running backs with 59 yards on 14 carries in the spring game. He even had a 32-yard touchdown run in the event.

14. Chip Trayanum, Kentucky: The former four-star prospect finished second on the team in carries and rushing yards at Ohio State last season. Trayanum backed up TreVeyon Henderson, but made the most out of his opportunities. He rushed for 57 yards in the opener at Indiana. Trayanum posted 56 yards on the ground, and a score against Western Kentucky. The Ohio native also rushed for a score in the victory at Notre Dame. Trayanum rushed for a season-high, 62 yards and a touchdown in the win over Maryland. Now he’s in position to replace Ray Davis and be the Wildcats’ top workhorse. No doubt Trayanum has some big shoes to fill. After all, Ray rushed for 1,129 yards and 14 touchdowns.

13. Davon Booth, Mississippi State: The Bulldogs lost Woody Marks to the transfer portal, who was their leading rusher for the past four seasons. However, Jeff Lebby’s rushing attack appears to be in good hands with Booth in the backfield. After all, he led Utah State in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground last season. The Californian rushed for 83 yards and two touchdowns at Idaho. Booth posted 103 yards on the ground against James Madison, and 77 in the win at San Diego State. The former three-star prospect rushed for a season-high 141 yards, and two scores in the victory over Colorado State. Booth also eclipsed the century mark in rushing against Boise State.

12. Amari Daniels, Texas A&M: The Miami native led the Aggies in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground last year. Daniels accomplished that feat despite sharing the load with L’Veon Moss and Rueben Owens. He rushed for 51 yards in the opener against New Mexico. Daniels returned to his hometown and posted 62 yards on the ground, to go along with a rushing score at Miami. The former four-star prospect rushed for 85 yards in the victory over Auburn. Daniels finished with 68 rushing yards and a touchdown in the win over South Carolina. The five-foot-nine, 205-pounder also found the end zone in the bowl game. Texas A&M will likely rotate the three backs again.

11. Ulysses Bentley, Ole Miss: The former three-star prospect rushed for 1,528 yards, and 15 touchdowns in his final two seasons at SMU. Bentley backed up Quinshon Jenkins in 2023, and finished second on the Rebels in rush yards. He rushed for 61 yards, and a touchdown against Georgia Tech. Bentley hauled in a six-yard touchdown catch against Mercer. The Houston native recorded 90 yards on the ground, and a score in the victory over LSU. Bentley rushed for a season-high, 94 yards, and a touchdown in the win over Arkansas. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder also found the end zone against Louisiana-Monroe. Logan Daniels will be in the mix too, but is recovering from knee surgery.

10. Oscar Adaway III, South Carolina: The Arkansas native rushed for 1,321 yards, and 11 touchdowns over the past two seasons at North Texas. Last year, Adaway tied for first on the Mean Green in rushing touchdowns. He finished with 57 yards on the ground, and a score at Florida-International. Adaway rushed for 94, yards and a touchdown against Temple. The former three-star prospect rushed for a season-high, 126 yards, and a score in the victory at Tulsa. Adaway also found the end zone against UTSA, SMU and Tulane. The 5-foot-10, 220-pounder left a lasting impression when he steamrolled for 113 yards on the ground in the season finale win over UAB.

9. Jam Miller, Alabama: The former four-star prospect delivered when his number was called in a crowded backfield last season. Miller made the most out of his touches though, and scored two total touchdowns. He rushed for 40 yards against Arkansas. Miller posted a touchdown on the ground in the victory at Kentucky. His 77 rushing yards against Chattanooga were a season-high. Miller hauled in a 28-yard touchdown pass in the win over Georgia in the SEC Championship Game. The Texas native was the MVP of Alabama’s spring game, after he finished with 83 yards on the ground and two scores. Miller will share the load with Justice Haynes, who also rushed for a touchdown in the event.

8. Ja’Quinden Jackson, Arkansas: The Texas native has rushed for 1,328 yards, and 13 touchdowns over the past two seasons at Utah. Jackson led the Utes in carries, and yards on the ground in 2023. He rushed for 117 yards on a season-high, 26 carries in the victory at USC. Jackson found the end zone, and eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards against Arizona State. His 129 yards on the ground in the win at Baylor were a season-high. Not to mention Jackson rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown against California. The former four-star prospect finished with two rushing scores at Washington. Jackson caught a 15-yard touchdown pass, and rushed for two scores in the spring game.

7. Nate Noel, Missouri: The Miami native has rushed for 3,074 yards, and 18 touchdowns over the past four seasons at Appalachian State. Noel led the Mountaineers in carries, and rushing yards last year. He got off to a hot start, and rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown in the opener against Gardner-Webb. The following week Noel posted 127 yards on the ground, and two scores at North Carolina. His 193 rushing yards in the win over East Carolina were a season-high. Noel eclipsed the century mark in rushing in each of Appalachian State’s first five games. Noel left the program ranked No. 8 in career rushing yards. He’s the ideal replacement for Cody Schrader, who led the SEC in rushing yards.

6. CJ Baxter, Texas: The former five-star prospect started six games for the Longhorns as a true freshman last season. Baxter stepped his game up after Jonathon Brooks suffered a season-ending injury, and finished second on the team in carries, and yards on the ground. He rushed for 90 yards and a score in the victory over Kansas State. His 117 rushing yards in the win at Iowa State were a season-high. Baxter found the end zone against Baylor, Houston, Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game, and Washington in the Playoff Semifinals. He’ll share the load with speedster Jaydon Blue, who rushed for 121 yards against Texas Tech, and scored in each of the final three games.

5. Dylan Sampson, Tennessee: The Louisiana native has rushed for 1,001 yards, and 13 touchdowns over the past two years with the Volunteers. Although Sampson shared the load with Jaylen Wright and Jabari Small last season, he finished second on the team in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground. He hauled in a nine-yard touchdown pass, and rushed for three scores in the opener against Virginia. Sampson rushed for a season-high, 139 yards, and two touchdowns in the win over UTSA. The former four-star prospect also found the end zone against South Carolina and Kentucky. Sampson left a lasting impression with 133 yards on the ground in the bowl victory over Iowa.

4. Trevor Etienne, Georgia: The 19-year old has rushed for 1,472 yards, and 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons at Florida. Last year Etienne led the Gators in touchdowns on the ground, despite splitting carries with Montrell Johnson. Etienne rushed for a season-high, 172 yards, and a touchdown in the victory over Tennessee. The former four-star prospect finished with 99 yards on the ground, and a season-high, three touchdowns at LSU. Etienne rushed for 82 yards and a score, and hauled in a 37-yard touchdown pass at Missouri. The five-foot-nine, 205-pounder also scored against McNeese State, South Carolina and Arkansas. He’ll share the load with bruiser Roderick Robinson.

3. Montrell Johnson, Florida: The former three-star prospect rushed for 838 yards and 12 touchdowns as a true freshman at Louisiana in 2021. Johnson followed Coach Billy Napier to Florida, and has rushed for 1,658 yards and 15 touchdowns over the past two seasons. He has led the Gators in carries, and yards on the ground during that span, despite sharing the load with Trevor Etienne. Johnson rushed for 119 yard and two touchdowns against McNeese State. The New Orleans native rushed for a score, and caught an 18-yard touchdown pass against Tennessee. His 135 yards on the ground in the win over Vanderbilt were a season-high. Johnson even rushed for 107 yards against Florida State.

2. Gavin Sawchuk, Oklahoma: Although he shared the load with Tawee Walker last season, he led the Sooners in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground. Sawchuk even earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 for his heroics on the gridiron. After all, he dominated down the stretch, and eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards in each of Oklahoma’s final five games. Sawchuk rushed for 111 yards and a score at Oklahoma State. His 135 yards on the ground against West Virginia were a season-high. The Colorado native posted 130 rushing yards and three scores in the win over TCU. Sawchuk also found the end zone against Tulsa, UCF, Kansas, BYU and Arizona in the Alamo Bowl.

1. Jarquez Hunter, Auburn: The 21-year old has rushed for 1,577 yards and 14 touchdowns over the past two seasons. Hunter led the Tigers in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground in 2023. He also earned second-team, All-SEC honors for his heroics. Hunter rushed for a season-high, 183 yards and two touchdown in the victory at Vanderbilt. The Mississippi native also posted two rushing scores against Ole Miss. Hunter steamrolled for 109 yards on the ground in the win at Arkansas. Not to mention he rushed for 144 yards against Mississippi State. Hunter scored against Samford, Georgia and LSU, and rushed for 620 of his 909 yards over the final five SEC games.

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