We just need to get through a couple more Saturdays until we get to our first major college football Saturday. So, it’s that time of year again to begin our position group rankings in the Big 12 conference. Here are our rankings of the 2019 Big 12 running backs heading into the college football season. Since running backs have become more than about just a featured player in the backfield, these rankings are not simply done by who has the best running back, but rather the running backs on each team, as a group. So please keep that in mind before you start whining. Also, it is impossible for me to make everyone happy with these lists but whether you like or not, here it is in all its glory.
Also, if you missed it, here are the other categories we have ranked thus far:
1. Oklahoma Sooners
Over the past few seasons, Oklahoma has had the best offensive line in the conference, and you know has benefitted greatly from that? Why the running backs of course. While the Sooners lose a stud in Rodney Anderson (Who was hurt pretty much the entire 2018 season), they bring back a dynamic duo at running back with Kennedy Brooks and Trey Sermon. Kennedy ran for over a thousand yards last season while Trey Sermon rushed for 972 yards. Both guys each had at least 12 touchdowns on the ground as well. You want to talk about a one-two punch? Look no further than in the Sooners backfield. Oh yeah and don’t forget about T.J. Pledger either who was a top 100 player in the country back in the 2018 class (According to 247).
2. West Virginia Mountaineers
I know that nobody is really talking about the Mountaineers when it comes to the Big 12 title picture but when it comes to the running back position, West Virginia belongs high on this list. There aren’t many teams that have three solid backs in their backfield, but the Mountaineers do in Kennedy McKoy, Martell Pettaway and Leddie Brown. All three players rushed for 450 plus yards last season with Kennedy McKoy leading the way with 845 yards and 8 scores. All three are solid, reliable backs and I am sure new Head Coach Neal Brown will find a way to get these guys the football if he wants to win some games. Also, keep an eye on Alec Sinkfield as well.
3. Kansas Jayhawks
Much like West Virginia, there aren’t many if any lists Kansas will be high on when it comes to positive things but make no mistake, the Jayhawks have some good running backs. Of course, we all know the Pooka Williams Jr. situation, but this isn’t the time or place to talk about that. Pooka is one hell of a running back who stole the running back spotlight last season rushing for 1,125 and 7 touchdowns last season averaging a whopping 7 yards per carry. He will be suspended for the first game, but he should once again break the thousand-yard mark this year. His backup will be Khalil Herbert who ran for 499 yards and hit pay dirt five times last season. The Jayhawks also have a reliable third option in Dom Williams as well behind Pooka and Khalil.
4. Oklahoma State
This is the part of the list where things get a little tougher for me. The Cowboys don’t have a lot of experience coming back at running back with Justice Hill gone to the NFL. However, they just may have the best running back in the Big 12 in Chuba Hubbard who rushed for 740 yards and 7 touchdowns last season while filling in for Justice Hill. Justice has all the tools to be a great running back and I believe he will fully display that this season as the go to back. LD Brown will be behind him and while he only rushed for 163 yards last season, he is capable of being a good second option for the Cowboys. JD King transferred out, but Oklahoma State brought in JUCO running back Dezmon Jackson and 4-Star running back Deondrick Glass out of Katy, Texas.
5. Baylor Bears
The Bears don’t exactly have one great back but the do have three proven guys to hand the rock to. John Lovett, JaMycal Hasty and Trestan Ebner all rushed for over 420 yards last season and all three guys averaged over five yards per carry. While Baylor has had their fair share of struggles on the offensive line, it is nice to know that they have three running backs that have experience and can get the job done.
6. TCU Horned Frogs
I am not sure what to make of the TCU running backs. While the talent is there, the production hasn’t lived up. Sewo Olonilua had some great moments last season but now he has some off the field issues that still haven’t been addressed quite yet so I am not sure how much time he will miss if he misses any. Also, Darius Anderson had the injury bug last year and his inconsistencies haven’t help much either. While he can make some big plays, he hasn’t shown the consistency like good backs have. While Sewo and Anderson could be a good one-two punch, I just want and need to see more from both guys over the course of an entire season. The good news for TCU is that they have some serious talent coming in with Daimarqua Foster and Darwin Barlow who could see some meaningful snaps this season.
7. Texas Longhorns
With Tre Watson gone, it’s time for true sophomore Keaontay Ingram to carry the workload for the Longhorns. Ingram had a solid freshman campaign with 708 yards a 3 rushing touchdowns. Keaontay has the talent to be the workhorse back and he may have no choice but to be the guy because there isn’t a lot of proven talent behind him. True freshman Jordan Whittington played wide out in high school but since moving into the backfield, he has showed plenty of promise there and even had a good spring game. While talent is great, Jordan is unproven at this point. Also, senior Kirk Johnson may finally get some snaps this season after battling injuries over the past few years, but some news came out of him being banged up once again, so the third spot appears to be wide open. Maybe Daniel Young can fill in some?
8. Iowa State Cyclones
There appears to be a five-man battle for the starting running back job between Kene Nwangu, Johnnie Lang, Sheldon Cronie, Breece Hall and Jirehl Brock. Kene has the most experience but doesn’t have a ton of stats to go back to but he was the guy that everyone was expecting to taker over. Well, some people but not me. I think true freshman Breece Hall will win the job and after seeing him play in person down here in San Antonio at the All-American Bowl, I came away very impressed. In fact, I may be president of the Breece Hall fan club. Of course, replacing David Montgomery won’t be easy and maybe it turns out to be a running back by committee type of deal but again, my money is on Breece to be the guy. Not a lot of experience out of this group but there is plenty of talent and potential.
9. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Tech will have two second year players as their two top ball carriers this season in Ta’Zhawn Henry and SaRodorick Thompson. Henry had a nice freshman season with 372 yards and 8 touchdowns last season and Thompson just had 108 yards on the ground in limited time. I mentioned the youth factor because Texas Tech had two running backs transfer out in Demarcus Felton and Da’Leon Ward this past offseason. While Henry and Thompson appear to be the top two options, the Red Raiders did bring in Armad Shyne (Grad transfer) and incoming true freshman Darion Taylor. I am not sure what to make of this Texas Tech backfield right now.
10. Kansas State Wildcats
I am going to be honest with you, I have no idea what Kansas State is going to do at running back and I don’t think anyone in the local media does either for that matter. I swear I have heard almost eight different names brought up to be “The guy” at running back. Here is what I know. I know Kansas State brought in two transfer running backs in James Gilbert and Jordon Brown who have some playing time under their belt and that’s about it. Gilbert had a decent year last season at Ball State with 659 yards while Jordon Brown rushed for around a thousand yards in three seasons at North Carolina. Other names to watch are Thomas Grayson, Tyler Burns, Joe Ervin and Harry Trotter who all are either freshman or complete unknowns at this point.
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