Right now in college football there are many great talents across the nation, but it seems like in 2016 the college running back is coming back on the scene. They can run through the tackle, they can break the run for a long gain, and they can even catch the ball out of the backfield. This year there are premiere running backs everywhere, but I will only focus on my top 5 running backs.
#5 University of Tennessee’s Jalen Hurd
Jalen Hurd has been the centerfold for the Vols since his freshman year. Throughout Tennessee’s struggle to find a consistent quarterback in Joshua Dobbs, Jalen Hurd has always had constant play. In his sophomore season in 2015, he rushed for 1,288 yards and scored 12 rushing touchdowns. And he is also a great option out of the backfield for the Vols. He had 190 receiving yards on 22 catches. Hurd has been great for Tennessee’s offense and I expect him to have another great season. I would love to see him have a little more yards as a receiver. He sometimes gets lost in the running back discussion, but really is one of the standout backs in the college game. Hurd is essential to Tennessee’s offense and will be a key element to the Vols’ success this season.
#4 Clemson University’s Wayne Gallman
Right now in Clemson there has to be something in the water. They have one of the best quarterbacks, some of the best receivers in the nation, and one of the best backs in college football. Wayne Gallman really came to the national scene late in the 2015 season, but he was one of the Tigers’ best offensive weapons. He rushed for over 100 yards nine times in his 14 games in 2015. Gallman rushed for 1,527 yards and had 13 touchdowns on the ground. He also added 213 receiving yards on 21 catches averaging over 10 yards per catch. A key to Clemson offense is that they keep the opponent on its toes and without production from Gallman the Tigers will not have that balance. In Gallman’s worst rushing performance last year, the Tigers survived their only loss of the year. Clemson has high hopes this year and talents like Wayne Gallman are one of the big reasons why.
#3 Florida State University’s Dalvin Cook
Solely on the offensive side, Cook could be the best back in this draft class, if he choose to forgo his senior season. He is a master of back, but can also turn the jets on and take it to the house. Last year in FSU’s first season without Heisman winner Jameis Winston, the offense seemed to run through Cook and he did a great job. He rushed for over 1,600 yards and ran the ball into the end zone 19 times. In 2015, Cook only failed to rush for 100 yards in four games. And one of the those four games was a two carry, 94 yard game against Wake Forest, a game in which Cook did not finish. He also only had one game under 50 yards last year. Cook is great running the ball and is also a great option for his quarterback. He had 244 yards receiving on 10.2 yards per catch. Dalvin Cook has never rushed for under 1,000 yards in his collegiate career and the Seminoles would love for him to make it a third season over 1,000. The fans might even want 2,000 yards and Cook is a good enough back that it is very possible.
#2 Stanford University’s Christian McCaffrey
Christian McCaffrey is the most electrifying back in the nation. In 2015, he only failed to rush for 100 yards in three games but he never rushed for under 50. Three is the also the number of 200 yard games he had in 2015. He was a Heisman finalist last year and surprisingly enough he finished third. But another special number for McCaffrey is the number 5. It is not just his jersey number but it is the number for how many kinds of touchdowns he can get. In 2015, McCaffrey rushed for eight touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns, two return touchdowns (one for both kick and punt return), and two passing touchdowns. But when I see McCaffrey wear the number five and I see the way he can affect the game, I can not help but think of a former
Heisman winning Pac 12 running back that played for USC and also wore 5, Reggie Bush. Stanford would definitely love for McCaffrey to have another Heisman-winning worthy season.
#1 LSU’s Leonard Fournette
He is the most complete running back I have seen in a while. He could definitely be one of the best backs in college football. In my mind he was the best running back in the nation and definitely better than Derrik Henry. He has the power of Herschel Walker, but still has great breakaway speed. He has been a monster of running back since his days in St. Augustine High School, but we all waited to see how he would do in the college rank and he has not missed a beat. In 2015, it was a simple equation to see if LSU won the game. If Fournette had more than 108 rushing yards, LSU won the game. Fournette had more games over 200 yards rushing (4) than games under 100 rushing yards (2). Last year he rushed for over 100 yards 10 times in 13 games. He also added over 250 receiving yards. Leonard Fournette has never rushed for under 1,000 years at LSU and next year he and the LSU faithful expect nothing more than that from him.
Now what do all of these teams have in common? They all have real aspirations to win their conference and get to the College Football Playoff and it is in large part because of their great running backs.