Enough with the appetizers, let’s get to the main f’n course. It’s running backs time.
1. LSU: We don’t have a superhero or even a super villain in our backfield, but an elemental force of nature. Galactus is coming to devour your world. Fournette was the nation’s leading rusher last year, and he didn’t even lead his own team in yards/attempt thanks to Guice’s insane 8.55 average. No one is even close, and there are some stout backfields in the SEC.
2. Georgia: If Nick Chubb fully recovers from injury, they might be in the same class as LSU. However, that was a horrific knee injury and there’s back to being able to play and back to being Nick Chubb. Sony Michel filled in admirably, and is maybe a top 5 back in this league in his own right.
3. Tennessee: Jalen Hurd isn’t quite on that elite tier, but he’s nothing to sneeze at. He’s the best back in the conference among the mere mortals, and he can catch a little bit out of the backfield as well. Alvin Kamara adds about 700 yards of offense, giving Tennessee a deep, productive backfield.
4. Kentucky: With Boom Williams and Jojo Kemp, the Cats at least win the competition for the best names. They also have complimentary skills with the bruising Boom and the scatback-ish Jojo. There’s actual talent here, evidenced by both of their gaudy yards/carry averages.
5. Alabama: Bama loses their top two runners, and return well under ten percent of last year’s production. Bo Scarbrough is a much lauded talent who didn’t get much chance to make an impression last season, and of course more five-star talent is on the way. It’s all unproven, but this is about as low as one could reasonably put Bama, even if they are breaking in an entirely new backfield.
6. Vanderbilt: I’m being kind the Commodores, primarily because it gets real dismal, real quick after this. Ralph Webb averaged 96 yards/game, mainly because they kept feeding him the rock. He’s solid, but nothing special.
7. Florida: Jordan Scarlett showed some flashes a freshman, but there’s a reason the Gators are going the JUCO route. Mark Thompson was the top JUCO RB in the country, so Florida being ranked 7th pretty much shows how bad the rest of the SEC is at this position right now.
8. Arkansas: Similar losses to Alabama, though not quite as extreme. Rawleigh Williams III ranked third on the team in total yards, but he was almost as productive as Kody Walker on a per carry basis. And I still love the offense, so they will likely produce.
9. Ole Miss: They’ve got some guys who can keep the lights on. The lack of a top tier runner, or even an SEC average one, has been a sore point for the offense. Akeem Judd and Jordan Wilkins were decent, but they have no one who scares you.
10. Auburn: Well, at least Roc Thomas is still there. Oh, wait. No, he isn’t. The Jovon Robinson defection is huge and turns a strength into a negative. Things keep getting worse on the Plains.
11. Mississippi St.: Brandon Holloway isn’t entirely awful. I’m running out of nice things to say.
12. Texas A&M: The leading rusher in their spring game was a walk on. Let that be a warning sign.
13. Mizzou: The good news is they return their leading rusher. The mad news is that Ish Witter rushed for 518 yards, and all of the depth left th program. So the EC’s worst rushing offense may have gotten worse.
14. South Carolina: They graduate their leading rusher, who wasn’t all that productive, and the cupboard is bare. Just imagine Mizzou without Ish Witter. It’s that bad.
This one's easy.
1. LSU: Let Leonard be Leonard. Guice is a monster who might be overall more explosive than Leonard. Brossette and Willliams would probably be the 6th best RB duo in the conference if they played for anyone else. This group is talented AND deep. The stuff that dreams are made of.
2. Georgia: A violent 1-2 punch. Then you got Holyfield's kid coming in to spell them? That's a 1-2-3 punch.
3. Kentucky: Boom Williams is better than Jalen Hurd. He may not be an every down back, but he's that type of dynamic playmaker Randall Cobb was at Kentucky. Jojo Kemp is a fine back in his own right, so this is a pretty good duo in Lexington.
4. Alabama: Bama's RB depth chart is so deep they shuffled off one of their many 4-stars to their locked cross division rival and he's a major contributor there and they don't miss him at all. Scarborough looks like the Incredible Hulk while Damien Williams is a former 5-star and oh yeah, BJ Emmons was a top 40 player as well. Could be as good as 2 overall if their QBs are as bad as they were last year.
5. Tennessee: Yeah, boo you Jalen Hurd. When you are 6'4", 240 pounds and can't average 5 YPC, I have to side with Tee Martin calling you so "soft and terrible." All that size and you run like Prancer? Alvin Kamara is the better back. Hell, Josh Dobbs is the better back.
6. Vanderbilt: Ralph Webb basically only ranks for getting the ball enough times to amass some stats. His rate stats suck.
7. Arkansas: I could go as high as 5 with this group. Walker and Williams are just okay, but the guy to watch is Devwah Whaley, who I think will be an SEC breakout player.
8. Ole Miss: I guess. Judd and Wilkins split the other 150ish carries in the Ole Miss run game last year and now move up to the front of the pack.
9. Mississippi St.: Kinda like Vanderbilt with less production.
10. Florida: They need Mark Thompson to be special. Because Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkite are not.
11. Auburn: AU is a running back school. What the hell happened? Roc Thomas transferred. Jovon Robinson got booted. And last year's leading rusher bolted for the NFL after a meager season. Gus better have some tricks.
12. Texas A&M: It seems like just a couple seasons ago A&M had this dazzling array of skill players poised to dominate the conference. Almost none of them have panned out. James White and Kendall Bussey appear to be the top options...
13. Missouri: Missouri lost their entire putrid OL, a horrendous QB and their offense may get worse still. Yikes.
14: South Carolina: Muschamp is going to have such a difficult time living down his reputation in his first year in Columbia.
1. LSU: There's no debating this. Please don't even try. Fournette is the best back in the country and the best since Peterson or McFadden. And Guice, a former blue chip, averaged 8.5 yards per carry as a freshman. Everyone's chasing them.
2. Georgia: If Nick Chubb was fully healthy, maybe I could talk myself into ranking them #1 because of how good Sony Michel is. But Chubb's health is just too big a question to put them at #2, because even getting back to "Top 5 back" level isn't being Fournette. They're great, though.
3. Tennessee: Hurd and Kamara may not be elite backs, but they might be the best proven one-two punch considering Chubb's injury, both ranking Top 13 in the SEC in rushing yards and Top 11 in rushing touchdowns.
4. Kentucky: One of only 3 teams to return two running backs who were Top 20 in rushing yards in Boom Williams and Jojo Kemp and Williams averaged 7 yards per carry. Whether either can become a real 3 down threat is the question, but they're both very explosive.
5. Alabama:Here because they have a bunch of freaks who were 5 star recruits, led by Bo Scarbrough who's as big as a house. But they're not any higher because it's all just hype and talent and nothing proven. Chances are one of them will break through and be great because it's Alabama. We'll see.
6. Vanderbilt: Ralph Webb is the epitome of Vandy. He's solid, he tries really hard, but nothing special. However, he's a returning back who ran for over 1,000 yards and that's enough to get the 'Dores in this spot.
7. Ole Miss: Judd and Wilkins have been okay and have been around the block for a while, which in the back half of RB's in the SEC is impressive.
8. Mississippi St.: Brandon Holloway is solid catching passes and has shown decent explosiveness at times. He's useful.
9. Arkansas: Sort of similar to Ole Miss. Walker and Williams have downs experience in the SEC and exist.
10. Auburn: Peyton Barber was their best back last season and rushed for barely over 4 yards a pop. He left. Jovon Robinson was supposed to be the next guy. He left. Roc Thomas was a big time recruit not too long ago. He left. Good luck.
11. Florida: They always seem to find one guy who can contribute and eat up some carries and run hard but I'm not really sure who it is on the roster,
12. Texas A&M: Tra Carson was actually good last season. He's gone. Sumlin probably will be too.
13. Missouri: Some sort of warning for cruel and unusual punishment should come onto the TV before Missouri plays offense this year.
14. South Carolina: Will Muschamp may have figured some things out (had to get that in there) since leaving Florida, but we're not going to see it in Year 1. It'll be rough.
1. LSU: Fournette is great. Guice is great. Williams is a grown man that can help in short-yardage. And the fullbacks get the job done.
2. Georgia: If NIck Chubb is health, this group has a claim on the No. 1 spot, but we don't have the answer to that question yet. Michel is the perfect compliment to a big back like Chubb as well.
3. Alabama: It's intersting that they were so dependent on Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake and didn't really make efforts to involve any of these other guys, but it's Bama. They're all five-stars, and until we see them fail to put a great running game out on the field, there's no reason to believe that will change.
4. Tennessee: I agree with Dan regarding Jalen Hurd -- he's a good back, but he's not a great one and he'd be better in a complimentary role. Alvin Kamara, however, is very explosive and versatile. Together, that's still a great tandem, even if most people misunderstand which half of it is better.
5. Kentucky: They kind of get this spot by default. Boom Williams is well...for lack of a better term...explosive, but not all that reliable. And JoJo Kemp can make some plays themselves. These guys have been working with really shoddy blocking for years now though.
6. Vanderbilt: Ralph Webb found a way to get to 1,000 yards with no passing help.
7. Arkansas: I've brought it up before, but this year is, with a new offensive line and backs, is going to be very telling about what Bret Bielema has built in Fayetteville. The backs on hand have been in the program, ditto the blockers. Again, this is how he wants to build his program, and if that's going to be the case, there shouldn't be much of a step back here.
8. Florida: We've kind of reached the delineation point here for the league. Florida doesn't have much back, but they do have some veterans and one of the top JUCO transfers in Mark Thompson. That should be enough to cobble together a running game.
9. Ole Miss: Very odd to me that the Rebels haven't been able to find a marquee back with all of their recruiting successes.
10. Mississippi St.: Desperate for a marquee runner, even more so now without Dak. Don't think this plan will work, though, Dan.
11. Texas A&M: Same deal as Ole Miss. So many studs outside, so little help for the quarterback in the backfield.
12. Auburn: Well, losing Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson would seem like a killer, but hey, Gus Malzahn always finds a way to put together a great running game, right? Just like he always has a good quarterback, too.
13. Missouri: Barry Odom has a helluva rebuild on his hands here. We'll find out just how SEC Mizzou is by their patience level.
14. South Carolina: Prayin' for ya, Will.
Very clear stratification. LSU and Georgia are 1-2, and in that order on every ballot. Then we have the Bama/Tenn/Kentucky tier. There’s some disagreement on how much to rate production versus potential, as per usual, but it shakes out that all three are razor close. You could put them in any order.
We then have an anonymous middle tier down to about Mississippi St, before we get into the real dregs of the SEC. the surprising thing is how bad the middle of the conference looks. The top teams are great, but it gets pretty ugly, pretty fast.
8. Ole Miss
10. Miss State
12. Texas A&M
14. South Carolina