There’s no denying that the value of the running backs position has declined in recent years, both in college football and in the NFL.
As the game adopts a more open, pass-oriented strategy, it may tempt coaches to disregard the position.
That was certainly the case in this year’s NFL Draft, as they selected the first running back on the second day.
With a decent bunch of skilled ball carriers coming up in the college levels for the 2022 season, this year’s crop of backs might make the NFL reconsider.
In this article, we have put together the top 15 best running backs in college football with few stat details to help you know what to expect in the coming season.
So, let’s get straight into it.
How Does A Running Back Help A Team?
The primary responsibility of the running backs are to assist the offense in moving the ball as rapidly as feasible. When the quarterback passes the ball to him, it is his responsibility to sprint through the middle of the defense to gain yards. While performing an excellent job at ball protection.
The top running backs have a wide variety of skills. They use a combination of speed, agility, and strength to try to make opponents miss.
In the backfield, the running back aligns with the quarterback. He or she must be able to both block and catch passes.
Both of these duties are crucial, which is why versatile running backs are so valued in today’s game.
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What exactly does “Running Back” mean?
The main task of a running back, as the name suggests, is to run with the football. Even though players have other tasks, finding yards by rushing the ball is critical to the success of all football teams.
The term “back” refers to how they line up behind the offensive line. Depending on the formation, the “backfield” is either behind or adjacent to the quarterback.
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What Is the Role of the Running Back?
Most coaches will tell you that the players, not the plays they call, make the team successful throughout a season.
This also applies to running backs. The ability to transform a negative play into a 50-yard run distinguishes mediocre and excellent running backs.
Breaking tackles, making people miss, and racing quicker than defenders are all part of a great football play.
An excellent running back does a combination of all of these things. An offense with great playmakers is more productive and stands out.
Running backs play an essential role in a football team’s success. In today’s offensive, having a wise, trustworthy running back who can run, block, and the catch is really beneficial.
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Top 15 Best Running Backs (RB) in College Football
1. Bijan Robinson
- Where he plays: Texas
- 2021 stats: 195 rush, 1,127 yds, 11 TD
Robinson led Texas in running with over 1,100 yards despite only appearing in 10 games for the Longhorns. He also finished third on the team in receiving yards with 295 and four touchdowns while averaging more than 11 yards per reception. He is one of the best running backs in college football.
And while leading college football in yards after the catch with 10.7 yards per reception. Robinson was the nation’s breakout performer at the position as a freshman in 2020, averaging more than 8 yards per carry.
2. TreVeyon Henderson
- Where he plays: Ohio State
- 2021 stats: 183 rush, 1,248 yards, 15 TD
Given the other talented players on the field last season, Henderson could have been overlooked as one of the best running backs in college football.
Look closely, and you’ll find one of the best athletes in the country: Henderson, a former No. 1 rated back in last year’s class and a near consensus 5-star, blasted past Big Ten defenders with ease, averaging almost 7 yards per carry and over 12 yards per reception.
And he can go the distance on any play, averaging 10-plus yards on nearly 19 percent of his carries and ranking second in NCAA football with five 20-plus yard touchdown runs.
3. Jahmyr Gibbs
- Where he plays: Alabama
- 2021 stats: 143 rush, 746 yards, 4 TD
Gibbs, a second-team All-American and first-team All-ACC performer a year ago, is a three-dimensional danger who can hurt a defense by rushing, receiving, or returning.
He has 1,206 yards and eight touchdowns in two seasons, 768 receiving yards with five scores, and 794 return yards with a 25.6 average and another score.
Gibbs, who is physical, versatile, and dynamic, has already made an impact on the Crimson Tide before ever seeing game action and is one of the best running backs in college football.
4. Devon Achane
- Where he plays: Texas A&M
- 2021 stats: 130 rush, 910 yards, 9 TD
Achane, an athletic, dynamic athlete with home run potential on every play, will take on a larger role for the Aggies now that Isaiah Spiller has gone for the NFL.
Achane, who is already a track star in his own right, has a unique blend of straight line speed and agility. According to PFF, he ran for 10-plus yards on about 21% of his rushes last year and nearly 38% of them for a first down or touchdown.
These stats place them second and fourth overall among Power 5 college football ball carriers and one of the best running backs in college football.
5. Deuce Vaughn
- Where he plays: Kansas State
- 2021 stats: 235 rush, 1,404 yards, 18 TD
Every week, the 5-foot-6, 170-pound cannonball slips through and rushes past defenders in the Big 12 and beyond. Vaughn has 1,872 total yards from scrimmage and 22 total touchdowns last season.
He gained over 100 yards in nine games and over 120 yards in eight, and he led Power 5 college football backs with 59 plays that gained over 10 yards from scrimmage. Vaughn is one of the most exciting players in the game at any position and is one of the best running backs in college football. He is elusive, consistent, and determined.
6. Braelon Allen
- Where he plays: Wisconsin
- 2021 stats: 186 rush, 1,268 yards, 12 TD
Another notable mention of the best running backs in college football is Braelon Allen. A solid, old-fashioned tailback came to Wisconsin a year early intending to play defense. Ultimately, the 4-star prospect picked running back, which is a positive thing for the Badgers.
An injury to Chez Mellusi and the departure of Jalen Berger, coupled with three transfers, created an opening for Allen. He established a Wisconsin record with seven straight 100-yard running games at the age of 17 and led the Big Ten with 6.8 yards per carry. UW won every game in which Allen rushed for more than 100 yards and lost the two in which he did not.
7. Blake Corum
- Where he plays: Michigan
- 2021 stats: 144 rush, 952 yards, 11 TD
Corum has emerged as one of the most significant players and best running backs in college football still on this squad, despite all of the blue-chip talent who departed Michigan via the draft in the winter.
He was one of just four backs with at least 100 runs who averaged at least 6.5 yards per attempt last season, and one of only six who rushed for 50 yards or more at least four times.
According to Pro Football Focus, Corum accounted for 553 total yards after contact, ranking in the top 20 among backs in that statistic, with 47 percent of his yardage coming on planned runs of 15 yards or more.
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8. Zach Charbonnet
- Where he plays: UCLA
- 2021 stats: 202 rush, 1,137 yards, 13 TD
Transferring out of Michigan and traveling west in preparation for the 2021 college football season was a smart professional decision for the California native.
He had an early impact for the Bruins, despite just running six times in his debut game, scoring three times and reaching 100 yards. Zach is currently one of the best running backs in college football.
UCLA won every game in which Charbonnet rushed for more than 100 yards and lost two of the three games in which he did not. He’s a muscular ball carrier who can generate yards after contact, but he’s also one of the most secure: Charbonnet was one of just four Power 5 backs last season to carry at least 200 times without fumbling.
9. Zach Evans
- Where he plays: Ole Miss
- 2021 stats: 92 rush, 648 yards, 5 TD
Last year, Ole Miss ranked in the top ten in total offense in college football, but it lost a lot of that productivity to the NFL Draft. However, including Evans in the TCU portal goes a long way toward recouping lost productivity.
Evans established himself as a future star as a freshman, running for 415 yards and four touchdowns on 54 attempts, and he led TCU in rushing last season. Evans, who is now the primary back in Lane Kiffin’s fast-paced scheme, has nothing stopping him from being a thousand-yard rusher in 2022 and is one of the best running backs in college football.
10. Tank Bigsby
- Where he plays: Auburn
- 2021 stats: 223 rush, 1,099 yards, 10 TD
The tank appeared to be another transfer departure from Auburn earlier this summer, but he was persuaded to stay. Good news for Auburn, who desperately needs a difference-maker in the backfield to help this offense.
Following a great 2020 season, many observers predicted Bigsby would be the top running back in college football. Auburn’s shoddy protection dashed such aspirations, as the offense failed to provide him with enough rushing lanes to work with.
Despite this, he gained over 1,000 yards on the run and scored 10 times, although four touchdowns came in two ancient games and did not score in the last six games. He is also one of the best running backs in college football.
Bigsby, a muscular, athletic ball carrier with a lot of untapped talent, has All-American potential if Auburn puts him in a position to prove it.
11. Chris Rodriguez
- Where he plays: Kentucky
- 2021 stats: 225 rush, 1,379 yards, 9 TD
Rodriguez is often a lock for the top 10 in this area, but off-field troubles may prevent him from playing this season.
Nonetheless, he’s one of the best players in the SEC at any position, coming off a strong sophomore season in 2020 in which he finished sixth in the SEC with 6.6 yards per attempt. Despite missing two games, he has a winning record.
The Associated Press selected him first-team All-SEC for his 2021 season, which included nine 100-yard running games, including five consecutive at the finish. UK won all but one of the games in which Rodriguez gained more than 100 yards on the ground.
Rodriguez, the SEC running leader entering this season, looks to play a key part in Kentucky’s fall attack, assuming he can stay healthy.
12. Zamir White
- Where he plays: Georgia Bulldogs
- 2021 stats: 159 rush, 408 yards, 3 TD
Those who followed Zamir White’s recruiting should not be surprised. The North Carolina product was a 5-star prospect, and despite a ruptured knee ligament in high school and another when he arrived at Athens, his skill is only now beginning to be seen.
With D’Andre Swift out of the way, this is the red shirt sophomore’s squad, and the Bulldogs are better for it, even if he has to share carries with James Cook and others. White is the offense’s workhorse, and with the Dawgs bringing in a new starting quarterback, they’ll need him even more.
That is working well for the 6’0″ 215-pound runner, one of the best running backs in college football.
White is off to a solid start this season after accumulating 408 yards and three touchdowns in limited play last year, culminating with a 92-yard game and a score in a Sugar Bowl thrashing of Baylor.
In the slow opening against Arkansas, Georgia switched from D’Wan Mathis to Stetson Bennett, and White got a lot of run and showed up despite the Razorbacks filling the box. He scored once against Arkansas before going on to score twice against Auburn.
White has already established himself as a game-moving, between-the-tackles runner capable of playing every down and being consistent. He has also shown that he could be a force on the open field once he reaches the second level.
White has 159 running yards and three touchdowns in two games, averaging 5.0 yards per carrying.
That type of performance against a strict, SEC-only schedule might place you on this list. He’ll only get better, and watching how he fares against Tennessee next week will be intriguing.
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13. Journey Brown
- Where he plays: Penn State Nittany Lions
- 2021 stats: 890 rush, 408 yards, 12 TD
With the ball in his hands, he’s a big-time home-run hitter.
Last season, the Lions depended on freshman Noah Cain to be a consistent between-the-tackles presence, but this is now Brown’s offensive backfield. Not only can he get the tough yards, but he is also very good in the open field.
Brown had a spectacular Cotton Bowl performance in the win over Memphis, raising the stakes for this season. He is also currently one of the best running backs in college football
Last season, the 5’11”, 215-pound back had 890 running yards and 12 touchdowns with 134 catching yards and another score. Perhaps this season, he will be able to demonstrate that he is more of a receiving threat out of the backfield under new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca’s playbook.
“I’ve probably caught so many jugs that my hands are going to hurt,” Brown told Shannon Soboslay of OnwardState. “I’ve been working on my hands, getting with Pat Freiermuth and Jahan [Dotson], learning how to do routes different and break defenders down.” If he polishes that part of his game, it will only help his NFL draft stock, and Brown should be one of the top backs in the country if he chooses to enter the draft.
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14. Michael Carter
- Where he plays: North Carolina Tar Heels
- 2021 stats: 114 rush, 639 yards, 4 TD
The senior has 199 running yards and an 8.7 yard per carry average in the two games. He’s marginally ahead of teammate Javonte Williams, who is just outside the top ten in the country. On the ground, Williams has 114 yards and four touchdowns.
This slide may be titled “The Carter and Williams Two-Headed UNC Monster.” It’s difficult to pick only one, so we’ll go with the one who has accumulated the most yards on the ground. But the truth is that the Heels require both of them, and they are both enjoying outstanding seasons.
How can Brown distribute the carries between his two stars while keeping them happy? He did that last year, and they’re still here, so there’s clearly plenty for everyone. Though Williams was considered to be the stronger runner (and has received the points), Carter adds flare.
According to 247Sports’ Ross Brewer, the tandem is the offensive’s strength this year, and in coordinator Phil Longo’s playbook, they’re both receiving opportunities to grab passes out of the backfield.
North Carolina’s opponents have retreated defensively, preferring to limit Howell’s ability to pass. Though the Tar Heels have gained some yards through the air, the rushing game has propelled them to victory thus far.
Carter is demonstrating to NFL scouts what he can accomplish as an explosive, all-around back.
15. Javian Hawkins
- Where he plays: Louisville Cardinals
- 2021 stats: 264 rush, 1,525 yards, 9 TD
If there was a breakout star in Scott Satterfield’s first year as head coach at Louisville, it was redshirt freshman running back Javian Hawkins, who demonstrated that the Cardinals’ pipeline into Florida was still active.
The game-breaking speed back demonstrated he is an every-down runner and packed a lot of punch in a tiny package to help quarterback Malik Cunningham equip the offense. In 2019, he rushed for 1,525 yards, the most by a running back in program history.
His outstanding debut earned him second-team All-ACC honors, trailing only Clemson’s Travis Etienne.
Louisville is 1-2 this season, with a win over Western Kentucky, defeats to the rising Miami Hurricanes, and a Pittsburgh Panthers club that was ranked until succumbing to North Carolina State this weekend.
Hawkins is off to a tremendous start despite the team’s overall performance. He has 313 running yards and averages 5.7 yards per carrying after three games. His best performance came against the Hurricanes when he rushed for 164 yards and scored.
“Hawk had a tremendous night,” Satterfield told reporters following Miami’s prime-time loss, according to SI.com. “It’s bad we didn’t win because he worked hard tonight, and it was nice to see him with the football.”
Even though he only had 78 yards running against Pitt, he was still one of the most dangerous offensive weapons on the field, and teams must plan for him every time they line up against Satterfield’s group. He is one of the best playmakers in the country.
Hawkins, who stands 5’9″ and weighs 196 pounds, is dangerous to take the ball to the house at any time.
Frequently Asked Questions
He received an 80.7 rating from PFF despite seeing just minimal action in the previous season, but the Panthers need him to be healthy enough to participate in 2022.
Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings.
New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara
Joe Mixon, running back for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Josh Jacobs.
Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Denver Broncos running back Javonte Williams
1. USC. Notable running backs include Marcus Allen, Ricky Bell, Reggie Bush, Sam Cunningham, Mike Hull, Charles White, O.J. Simpson, and Mike Garrett.
Jacobs stood at a height of 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 meters) and weighed 264 pounds, making him bigger and heavier than the typical running back in the National Football League (120 kg). In addition, he completed the 100-meter dash in 10.82 seconds and the 200-meter dash in 21.59 seconds.
In the National Football League (NFL) history, Sligh is the tallest player ever to compete. Richard Sligh, a defensive tackle, stands at 7 feet, making him the tallest guy on our list. He played college football for North Carolina Central University and was a rookie with the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League for the entirety of one season.
Trent Brown holds the record for being the heaviest player in NFL history. After the trade-in March, he was given the responsibility of playing offensive tackle for the New England Patriots. The enormous Brown weights in about 380 pounds.
This concludes our list of the top 15 best running backs in college football. These boys have been making waves in their teams and should be on your watch list.
- saturdaydownsouth.com/ – Ranking top 25 running backs in college football 2022
- si.com/fannation/ – College football rankings 10 best running backs 2022 season
- bleacherreport.com/ – 10 best running backs in college football
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