From Derrick Henry to Bo Jackson to Herschel Walker and many more, the Southeastern Conference has been graced with some of the greatest running backs the collegiate ranks have ever seen.
Despite a collegiate game that evolves more towards a happy passing game, the best running backs in the country still remain in the South. There are plenty of guys out there ready to leave their mark and mark their legacy as an all-time great, like returning Auburn star Tank Bigsby or Alabama phenom transfer Jahmyr Gibbs.
But who are the best in class before the 2022 season?
14 Marshawn Lloyd, South Carolina
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After a slow campaign in 2021 due to a torn ACL in 2020, Lloyd looks to be having a massive rebound year as he is now further along in his recovery process. Replacing Kevin Harris who left in the NFL will not be an easy task for the Gamecocks. In 2021, Lloyd carried the ball 64 times for 228 yards and a score. He also caught three balls for 44 yards.
13 Re’mahn Davis, Vanderbilt
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Davis was the Commodores’ point guard last season after being traded from Temple, before finally suffering a toe injury in Week 3 against Stanford that ended his season early. While some think Rocko Griffin might start, when Davis was on the court he was Vanderbilt’s best player. In those three weeks alone, Davis made 44 carries for 211 yards and a score. Also tacking on five catches for 27 yards.
12 Nathaniel Peat, Mo. (transfer from Stanford)
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Peat will make his first appearance in the Southeastern Conference after competing with Stanford in the PAC-12 for the past three seasons. Missouri will also have its fair share of struggles trying to replace All-American running back Tyler Badie, but it looks like Peat is the answer. With the Cardinal in 2021, Peat had 79 carries for 404 yards and three rushing touchdowns while racking up 11 receptions for 63 yards.
11 John Emory, LSU
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After missing the 2021 season due to academic ineligibility, Emory is back as a feature film for the tigers. Under the new regime of Brian Kelly and transferred quarterback Jayden Daniels, we can expect a strong dose of Emory – especially early in the season. During Emory’s 2020 campaign, he completed 75 carries for 378 yards and three touchdowns. While also having 14 receptions for 73 yards.
10Dominique Johnson, Arkansas
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With KJ Jefferson under center who carried the ball for 664 yards last season, it’s safe to expect the Razorbacks will attack on the ground again. Head coach Sam Pittman was formerly Georgia’s offensive line coach, so he knows the value of having a good line and the importance of being able to establish a ground game. Johnson has been very effective in 2021 and that’s why he earned the starting role. He was good for 97 carries for 575 yards and seven touchdowns as well as seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown.
9 Jo’quavious Marks, Mississippi State
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While Mike Leach will always be a passing heavy, Marks has been very productive despite limited opportunities in 2021. With the return of Will Rogers to quarterback, teams will need to respect the pass, which should leave plenty of room for Marks to have its impact. On the ground, Marks made 106 carries, 416 yards, six touchdowns while posting 83 receptions for 502 yards, three scores.
8 Montrell Johnson, Florida (transfer to Louisiana)
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Despite the return of Nay’quan Wright as a starter in Gainsville and the alligators, incoming transfer Montrell Johnson had been very productive with Louisiana before entering the portal. The Gators have one of the deepest running rooms in the country with four-star prospect Trevor Etienne, brother of Travis, waiting his turn. Johnson is a guy to watch ahead of the season, as last year he had 162 carries for 838 yards and 12 touchdowns. However, he’s hardly a receiving threat with just six receptions for 53 yards.
7 Kenny McIntosh, Georgia
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The bulldogs need to replace their power duo of Zamir White and James Cook who both left to play on Sunday, and McIntosh is next in line. Georgia doesn’t rebuild at running back, they reload, so whoever ends up being the feature guy will be an important name to remember. In limited action in 2021, McIntosh has been good for 58 carries, 328 yards, three scores. he completed that well with 22 receptions for 242 yards and two scores.
6 Little Jabari, Tennessee
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Small is one of the most proven defensemen in the conference and aims to be a 1,000-yard player this fall. The Volunteers the lost backup Tiyon Evans in Louisville in the portal, which will only put more responsibility on Small’s shoulders. Last year, Small had 792 yards on 140 carries and nine touchdowns. While not a massive receiving threat, he still had nine receptions and 77 yards.
5 Zach Evans, Ole Miss (TCU Transfer)
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Evans is perhaps the most interesting player on this list after being transferred from TCU as a former five-star fullback. While Lane Kiffin hasn’t had a ton of success using running backs in the past, Evans is by far the most talented he’s ever worked with. In 2021, Evans ran for 648 yards on 92 carries and five touchdowns. He will also likely be heavily used in the passing game as he is an efficient receiver with 10 receptions for 130 yards and a score.
4 Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama (Georgia Tech transfer)
(AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Gibbs isn’t your typical workhorse the Crimson Tide has had over the years, he’s much sneakier and will be used heavily in the passing game. After finding resounding success with Georgia Tech, Gibbs entered portla in an attempt to get more exposure to a bigger program. With the Yellow Jackets, Gibbs had 143 carries for 746 yards and four touchdowns. He also posted 36 receptions for 470 yards and two scores, however, with Heisman’s winner on his sidelines, we can expect to see those numbers climb.
3 Devon Achane, Texas A&M
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The Aggies lost one of the best guards in the country to Isaiah Spiller in the NFL Draft, however, they have the most effective back in the SEC to fill his role. Last season, Achane averaged seven yards per carry, which led the conference. Achane had 130 carries, 910 yards and nine scores. He was also a valuable receiver with 24 receptions, 261 yards and a touchdown.
2 Bigsby Reservoir, Auburn
(AP Photo/Dill Butch)
To the surprise of many, Bigsby returned to Auburn after listing his name on the transfer portal this off-season. Keeping Bigsby at Auburn was a massive win for Harsin and company that can’t be understated as he’s probably their best player regardless of position. Bigsby was a monster in 2021 with 223 carries for 1,099 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also averages nearly eight yards per reception with 21 grabs for 184 yards.
1 Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky
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With potentially the best running back in the conference as well as a quarterback that generates a lot of draft, Kentucky’s offense could be one to watch in 2022. Kentucky is coming off a ten-win season and looking to continue to build on that success and compete for an SEC East title. Rodriguez had a stellar 2021 with 225 carries for 1,379 yards and nine touchdowns. He also caught 13 balls for 61 yards and three scores.