The college football season is approaching. There is always debate over ranking the best players in the sport. Here are the top 25 college football running backs heading into the 2022 season.
Note: While projection of what a player can be is taken into account, most rankings are from what has been seen on the field so far. These are not NFL Draft rankings, but rather focus on the best players in college football.
25. Kendall Milton, Georgia Bulldogs
Milton has waited patiently and received some carries in his first few seasons at Georgia. He has looked good in limited time, but now it is time for him to take over. After getting more reps this season, he can easily rise up this list. Georgia has a lot of talented running backs annually, so if he for some reason doesn’t perform, several others can step in his place.
24. Eric Gray, Oklahoma Sooners
Gray split time with Kennedy Brooks last season and played decently with the work split up. He accounted for over 600 total yards, which was less production than when he was at Tennessee the year before. The 2022 season should allow for Gray to be a workhorse back.
23. Brad Roberts, Air Force Falcons
Roberts rushed for 1,396 yards last season for Air Force. He thrives in their hybrid-offensive attack and is one of the leading rushers returning in college football. The Falcons had a big season last year and are poised for another solid one in 2022.
22. Xazavian Valladay, Arizona State Sun Devils
At Wyoming, Valladay rushed for over 1,000 yards in two different seasons. He transferred to Arizona State and will have his chance to prove himself against Pac-12 competition.
21. Keaton Mitchell, East Carolina Pirates
Mitchell had nearly 1,400 all-purpose yards last season for East Carolina. His play helped the Pirates reach a bowl game and now they will be looking for more in the AAC.
20. DeWayne McBride, UAB Blazers
McBride rushed for nearly 1,400 yards in 2021. He doesn’t add much in the receiving game, but is a great runner of the football. After going 9-4 last season, McBride will hope to lead the Blazers back to bowl eligibility.
19. Blake Corum, Michigan Wolverines
For Michigan’s College Football Playoff run in 2021, Corum was their second leading rusher and nearly reached 1,000 yards. He takes over the lead role in the backfield, but will have to compete for carries with at least one other talented running back.
18. Will Shipley, Clemson Tigers
Shipley had a great freshman season and should be healthy for 2022. He accounted for almost 900 total yards and with him back fresh, those numbers should increase. With the passing offense struggling in 2021, will be a key to moving the chains and keeping the offense effective this season.
17. Rasheen Ali, Marshall Thundering Herd
Ali rushed for 1,401 yards and also had 334 receiving yards for the Thundering Herd last season. They went 7-6, but with a new quarterback under center, the team may need Ali to do even more, as hard as that might be. He is a proven star and will be crucial as Marshall moves to the Sun Belt.
16. Zach Evans, Ole Miss Rebels
Evans had a weird recruitment, ended up at TCU then transferred to Ole Miss. He is extremely talented, but his long-term production hasn’t lived up to his talent so far. He rushed for 648 yards and five touchdowns in six games for TCU last season. There is a lot of possibility in Lane Kiffin’s offense at Ole Miss.
15. Devon Achane, Texas A&M Aggies
Sitting behind Isaiah Spiller gave him limited opportunities, but Achane still rushed for 910 yards last season. Now that he is getting more of the workload, Achane could break out even more. Texas A&M is projected to have a great season and will rely on Achane and the running game while the quarterback gets acclimated to the offense.
14. Chase Brown, Illinois Fighting Illini
After starting his career at Western Michigan, Brown transferred to Illinois and has improved every season. He rushed for over 1,000 yards last season and is the focal point of Illinois’ offense. All eyes will be on him and if Illinois has any shot of being successful in 2022, it will fall on Brown being reliable.
13. Tavion Thomas, Utah Utes
Thomas didn’t see the field much at Cincinnati in his first two years of college football. When he transferred to Utah for last season, he was utilized well and rushed for 1,108 yards. His play helped Utah make the Rose Bowl last season and now, in part thanks to Thomas, the Utes are projected to be Pac-12 contenders again.
12. Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota Golden Gophers
Ibrahim was injured last season and played in just one game. He is one of the few players on this list who have two separate season where he rushed for over 1,000 yards. While he is limited as a receiver, he runs well and deserves to be ranked in the top 15 for all the production over his career.
11. Travis Dye, USC Trojans
Dye is one of the many players who transferred to USC this offseason. He accounted for over 1,600 yards for Oregon last season, showing off his speed and quickness in the process. In Lincoln Riley’s offense, Dye can help make the quarterback more effective by keeping the defense on their toes.
10. Zach Charbonnet, UCLA Bruins
A good freshman season at Michigan was a good start to his career, but Charbonnet has since transferred to UCLA. He rushed for 1,137 yards last season and is ready for another big year for the Bruins. With him and Dorian Thompson-Robinson back, the offense is enticing for 2022.
9. Tank Bigsby, Auburn Tigers
Bigsby was a big-time recruit who has had two good seasons with Auburn. In 2021, he was able to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark, despite not having the best quarterback play to take defenders out of the box. Bigsby is one of the most gifted running backs in college football and has improved in each year so far, so it is reasonable to think he will take another step this season.
8. Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky Wildcats
Rodriguez is one of the best power-backs in college football. He rushed for 1,378 yards in 2021, helping Kentucky to win 10 games. Rodriguez won’t blow anyone away with speed, but he is effective in between the tackles. He has a possible suspension coming, which could hurt his standing on this list.
7. Lew Nichols, Central Michigan Chippewas
In Jim McElwain’s system, Nichols broke out last season. He rushed for 1,848 yards and had 338 receiving yards. Nichols is the best player in the MAC and is worth watching this season. In today’s landscape, it is a bit surprising Nichols didn’t use the transfer portal this offseason, but he is very effective for the Chippewas.
6. Braelon Allen, Wisconsin Badgers
Last season presented Wisconsin with the opportunity to find their next star at running back. Allen delivered with 1,268 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The passing offense may never be great, but Allen was productive anyways, making it look like he has a bright future.
5. Sean Tucker, Syracuse Orange
Tucker had some eye-popping stats in 2021, as he rushed for 1,496 yards and 12 touchdowns. Even when everyone knows Tucker is getting the ball, he still does well. He is Syracuse’s best player and their best hope to have a successful season in 2022.
4. Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama Crimson Tide
Gibbs has been very effective as a runner and receiver in his two seasons of college football. For Georgia Tech, he had 746 rushing yards and 465 receiving yards in 2021. This season, he joins the Crimson Tide, where he figures to improve his numbers and could help the team on their way to a championship.
3. Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State Wildcats
There aren’t many players as electrifying as Vaughn. He is short, but extremely dynamic. Vaughn had 1,404 rushing yards and 468 receiving yards for the Wildcats in 2021. The Wildcats will try to get the ball in his hands often, as he has the chance to bust big runs at any moment.
2. TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State Buckeyes
Henderson’s freshman season was reminiscent of Maurice Clarett’s lone season with the Buckeyes, albeit with different running styles. He had 1,248 rushing yards and 312 receiving yards on one of the most effective offenses in the country. While he may be a little overshadowed by some very talented teammates, Henderson is one of the best backs in America.
1. Bijan Robinson, Texas Longhorns
In 10 games played during the 2021 season, Robinson had 1,127 rushing yards and 295 receiving yards. He is the highest-ranked player who doesn’t play quarterback in Heisman odds. Steve Sarkisian takes over at Texas and Robinson will be his best player to start out. His running ability could help Texas vastly improve over their 2021 season.
Notable Running Backs Outside the Top 25
Kendre Miller, TCU Horned Frogs- Miller averaged 7.2 yards per carry in 2021. With Zach Evans transferring out, more carries will just add to his 623 rushing yards from a season ago.
SaRodorick Thompson, Texas Tech Red Raiders- Thompson rushed for 500 yards and also had 113 receiving yards last season. He has shown to do more as a pass-catcher earlier in his Texas Tech career and could tap into that again in 2022.
Jordan Mims, Fresno State Bulldogs- Mims showed he was a threat as a runner and pass-catcher in 2021 with 710 rushing yards and 324 receiving yards. He could help Fresno State make a New Year’s Six Bowl in 2022.
Dominique Johnson, Arkansas Razorbacks- Arkansas has two talented running backs who split carries. Johnson rushed for 579 yards last season and is the bigger of the two running backs.
Raheim Sanders, Arkansas Razorbacks- Sanders is nicknamed the Rocket and had some good runs in 2021. He rushed for 578 yards and with Johnson creates one of the best running back tandems in the FBS.
Jabari Small, Tennessee Volunteers- Small rushed for nearly 800 yards last season and Josh Heupel’s offense looks like they are poised to produce more in 2022. If Tennessee takes a step forward in 2022, Small could be a major reason why.
Re’Mahn Davis, Vanderbilt Commodores- Davis had a promising start to his career at Temple, but has since failed to see as much success. With just three games played last season, staying on the field is important for Davis to show off his skill.
Nate Noel, Appalachian State Mountaineers- Another team with two great running backs is Appalachian State. Noel was the leading rusher of the two with 1,128 yards. With the solid rushing attack, Appalachian State is one of the favorites to win the Sun Belt.
Camerun Peoples, Appalachian State Mountaineers- The second-leading rusher for the Mountaineers is Peoples, who had 926 yards last season. There is a possibility of two 1,000-yard rushers for Appalachian State.
Frank Gore Jr., Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles- Gore did it all for the Eagles last season, even filling in as the wildcat quarterback for some time down the stretch. He had over 1,000 total yards and could do even better if Southern Miss is able to find more of a passing game in 2022.
Donovan Edwards, Michigan Wolverines- Edwards is very talented and showed that in his limited carries during the 2021 season. He rushed for 174 yards and it looks like the only thing holding him back is that he just hasn’t had a lot of snaps. In 2022, he will battle Blake Corum for some of the workload.
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