The running back is one of the most important positions for the offense. If you have a great one it makes life easier and takes a weight off of the quarterback. Have a less than stellar runner back there and your QB could be in for a long season. The evolution of the game has caused the tailback position to evolve and requires players to be extremely versatile. All that being said, let’s take a look at the young men who will be shaking and baking defenses out of their shoes.
Travis Etienne– Clemson :
Joining his Tiger teammate as the top guy at his position in the conference, Travis could very well be the best in the nation! Allow me to back this statement with hard facts. He racked up over 1600 yards on the ground with 204 carries and found pay dirt 24 times. He carried the ball over 15 times in only 3 games all season and had 8 in which he broke the century mark. Coming into the 2019 campaign with fresh legs will pay dividends for the Clemson offense and Coach Dabo Swinney. During the spring game, Swinney told ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit, “There are not many guys who like to tackle Travis.” This speaks volumes to the angry running style and physical nature of Etienne’s game. Look for Clemson to again have one of the most potent offensive groups in the nation in 2019.
Jonathon Taylor– Wisconsin :
This kid may be one of my favorite tailbacks in all of football. He has 8 games with over 200 yards rushing in his first two campaigns as a Badger. He tuned up conference foe Purdue last fall for a mind-blowing 321 yards! The only fault so far in his game is ball security. That’s a pretty major flaw for a running back at this level, unfortunately. 10 times in two years has Taylor fumbled the ball. Hopefully, he is able to work on his carrying technique this offseason and shore up these issues. As an early front runner for Heisman votes this year, Taylor should be the bulk of the Badger offense.
In 2018 he toted the rock over 300 times, eclipsed the 2,000-yard mark and took it to the house 16 times. It will be difficult to top those numbers in 2019 as defenses cue on him in game planning. But he should still find himself to be one the premier backs in the NCAA.
Kennedy Brooks– Oklahoma :
I was so close to featuring Brooks teammate Trey Sermon here that it was literally decided by a coin toss. The freshman didn’t make his mark until later in the 2018 season after injuries plagued the Sooner backfield. Averaging an incredible 8.9 yards per carry on 119 touches, adding a team-leading 12 scores he established himself as RB1 for Oklahoma. Looking forward to the sophomore campaign he will be splitting carries with Sermon but will remain a constant threat to take one to the house at any time. With Brooks, Sermon and transfer QB Jalen Hurts, head coach Lincoln Riley should carry a scary squad to another BIG 12 title.
D’Andre Swift- Georgia
Late into the 2018 season the Bulldogs and coach Kirby Smart began to feature Swift more and more as the number one option behind sophomore QB Jake Fromm. Swift tallied 155 carries for just over 1000 yards and 10 TDs. As a receiver, he added 2 more scores and 267 yards on 27 catches out of the backfield. Swift is arguably one of the most dynamic backs in the SEC and new UGA OC James Coley loves to use his tailbacks as receiving options. After a dismal end to the season in which D’Andre coughed up the ball twice and gained only twelve yards against Texas in the Sugar Bowl, look for a deeply determined Bulldog backfield this fall.
Eno Benjamin– Arizona State :
This kid could very well be the best in the nation. He steamrolled Oregon State to the tune of 312 yards last September. Established as the go-to guy in Herm Edwards offense Benjamin could very well top last years mind-boggling numbers. With 300 carries and 1,642 yards to go with 16 scores, he has a mountain to climb. Arizona State may not be featured often on major networks, but anytime you have a chance to watch this kid work suggests you take it. Watch for him to climb draft boards over the course of the season as an all-purpose back.