It doesn’t really come as any sports news that, as offensive strategies have transitioned to a pass-happy approach, the running back position has become less of a priority than ever. Look no further than the fact that only one tailback — the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley — has gone in the top 10 of the NFL Draft since 2018.
The lessened value of rushers has seeped into the college game, as well. We now know the Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry as his franchise’s most recognizable talent and arguably the NFL’s best at his craft.
Since he lifted the Heisman Trophy after a historic season for the University of Alabama in 2015, though, no other running back has won the stiff-arming statue. It’s mostly been passers who claim the award, with the lone exception of receiver DeVonta Smith in 2020.
Here are a handful of names who could beat out the likes of signal-callers Bryce Young (Alabama) and CJ Stroud (Ohio State) and break that drought this season.
A first-team All-Big 12 honoree a year ago, Bijan Robinson led the University of Texas with 1,127 yards on the ground. Many consider him a presumptive first-round selection next spring, in large part because of his electric abilities.
Robinson became the second Longhorn to surpass 1,000 rushing yards in a season since 2004, joining D’Onta Foreman as the only other player to do so. He had a dozen plays of 20 yards or more during the campaign.
After a one-year sabbatical at Ohio State, highly-touted Quinn Ewers returns to the Lone Star State to operate the team’s attack and take a share of opponents’ attention. That being said, things should open up for Robinson to have a fantastic showing in his third go-round in Austin.
Blake Corum shared the backfield with Hassan Haskins at Michigan during the Wolverine’s College Football Playoff run in 2021. He was able to flash his speed and turn in impressive numbers in the timeshare.
Corum began last season’s schedule with three consecutive 100-yard performances. He totaled 952 yards and notched 11 touchdowns on the way to an all-conference selection. Not to mention, his average tote was good for over six yards.
Carries of 55 and 67 yards in back-to-back weeks in two of his crew’s most important games were only a glimpse of the big-play ability that his program will need to make it back where they were.
Haskins has climbed to the next level, leaving Corum to take charge in Jim Harbaugh’s backfield. Get ready to hear announcer Gus Johnson’s voice get louder while watching the junior tailback rumble.
All eyes have been on Alabama’s Jahmyr Gibbs since he left Georgia Tech for Tuscaloosa earlier this offseason.
His statistics weren’t particularly shocking, being that he ran for 746 yards and four scores in 2021. But, he should be a very useful weapon alongside Young — last year’s Heisman winner — and the bevy of elite talent in the Crimson Tide’s attack.
Most notably with Jameson Williams, Nick Saban has shown that he can help transfers shine in a flashy offense. Ditching an average Yellowjackets squad for one of the game’s factories will show to be the best decision for Gibbs, who is also an adept pass-catcher.
When temperatures drop, hits start to sting, and games become a little more important, Wisconsin will be able to count on Braelon Allen this fall.
Heading into his second year at Wisconsin, Allen is a force to be reckoned with. With a 6’2”, 238-pound frame, he was among the country’s hardest to bring down last year — going for an average of 4.5 yards after contact.
He began third on the depth chart but found himself taking meaningful gives not long into the schedule. He made the most of the opportunity, putting up over 100 yards per contest. His 6.8 yards per carry were the second-most in the nation.
With former stars such as Melvin Gordon and Montee Ball, Wisconsin has been known for its rushing game. It’s possible that Allen adds his name to a lengthy list of Badger greats and helps his group back to Big 10 West prominence.