Top College Running Backs Rankings 2023: Nicholas Singleton Puts Penn State in Pole Position in the Preseason

Penn State enters the 2023 college football season atop our national RB rankings as Nicholas Singleton leads the top college running backs.

No one: we need to project every starting running back in college football.

Absolutely no one: we need to rank all 133 running backs in college football.

The team at College Football Network: let’s project every starting running back for the 2023 college football season and rank them from 1-133.

Allow us to introduce to you the top college running backs in the nation.

Top College Running Backs Rankings Criteria

First things first, if your name is on our top college running backs list, that means you’re viewed as the likely starter at one of the 133 FBS college football programs. That’s not something to be sniffed at when you consider the thousands of high school players vying to make it to the pinnacle of the college game.

All RB Rankings: ACC | B1G | Big 12 | Pac-12 | SEC | AAC | C-USA | MAC | MWC | Sun Belt | FBS Ind. 

Ascertaining the starter for each program was the result of a long process throughout the spring that included monitoring the roster for every single FBS college football program, scouring the transfer portal for the latest movements, understanding which true freshmen may have a legitimate chance of opening the campaign as the RB1 for their school, and keeping abreast of spring practice to gauge who has the edge in some of the closely fought competitions ahead of the 2023 college football season.

MORE: Top College Quarterback Rankings 2023 

Our top college running backs have been determined based on several criteria. Film evaluation is key, and before the inevitable social media backlash comes from irate fanbases, it’s important to note that hours of watching college football through the spring have formed the basis for the rankings you’re about to read (or sift through to find your favorite team).

While film evaluation is the foundation of our college RB rankings, multiple data points were also considered to gain a comprehensive understanding of each player and their impact on the football field. Basic metrics such as rushing yards and career yards per carry were taken into consideration, alongside more advanced metrics such as predicted points added (PPA) and the percentage of carries that resulted in an explosive play, defined as 10 yards or more.

133) Tim Baldwin Jr. | UMass

FBS Independent Rank: 4/4

After losing their bell-cow back of the last two seasons, Ellis Merriweather, the UMass running back room faces a degree of uncertainty heading out of spring and hurtling towards the start of the 2023 college football campaign. Tim Baldwin Jr. has shown flashes of promise in limited action between stints at Indiana and UMass, averaging 4.9 yards per carry for his career while recording 9.09% of his 2022 carries for 10 yards or more. The projected starter has shown he can break tackles to move the chains.

132) Clyde Price III | Akron

MAC Rank: 12/12

The Akron Zips’ running game ranked last across a number of MAC metrics in 2022, with only a reliance on finding the end zone on the ground saving them from a clean sweep of complete calamity. Joe Moorhead’s team lost rushing yard leader Cam Wiley to the transfer portal, but they managed to snag former five-star recruit Lorenzo Lingard as his replacement. While there’s hope that Lingard can turn his career around in Ohio, Clyde Price III is our projected starter for Akron ahead of the 2023 college football season.

Price led the team in rushing touchdowns last fall in what was his first year as a significant contributor. His 3.1 yards per carry are the fewest among the top college running backs, but there’s reason to believe that he can develop his game with more experience. He’s a one-cut-and-hit-the-hole type of runner who generates some violence from his 6’0″, 214-pound frame. Additionally, he adds a receiving element that, if refined, could see a boost in his rank by the end of the year.

131) Keegan Holles | Colorado State

Mountain West Rank: 12/12

Currently, the Colorado State Rams have just three running backs on their 2023 roster. One of those is their leading rusher from 2022, Avery Morrow, who was indefinitely suspended earlier this year with a legal case hanging over his head. Although reinforcements are likely and expected via the transfer portal, it’s probable that Keegan Holles will open the year as RB1.

Having missed his senior year of high school due to injury, Holles has had just 10 carries in the last two years of his football career. The 6’1″, 190-pound RB was formerly a WR at Cherry Creek. He is a multi-phase threat who averaged 14.8 yards per return on 11 kick return attempts as a true freshman. Holles is a dynamic straight-line threat and holds the 100m record for his high school.

130) Keshawn Wicks | Old Dominion

Sun Belt Rank: 14/14

Old Dominion faces a tough challenge in replacing one of the top college running backs following Blake Watson’s transfer to Memphis ahead of the 2023 college football season. He leaves behind an inexperienced running back room that looks to be led by fourth-year player Keshawn Wicks.

The 6’1″, 193-pound rusher has just 49 college carries to his name after a productive high school career. The former two-star recruit has averaged just 3.7 yards per carry in two playing seasons with the Monarchs. In limited action, he has demonstrated good one-cut ability, some short-area burst, and a willingness to battle between the tackles in short-yardage situations.

129) Star Thomas | New Mexico State

Conference USA Rank: 9/9

If you prefer your running backs big and violent, New Mexico State is the place to come. As they transition into Conference USA play, the Aggies boast a pair of beefed-up backs who are more than capable of running over their opponents. While Jamoni Jones tied for the team lead with six touchdowns last fall, it’s Star Thomas who projects as the RB1 ahead of the 2023 season.

A former standout at the JUCO level with Coffeyville CC, Thomas has averaged 4.8 yards per carry for his career to date and recorded 11.1% of his carries for over 10 yards in 2022. Standing at 6’0″ and weighing 225 pounds, he puts the “thunder” in “thunder and lightning” in most college running back rooms. While physicality is the hallmark of his game, he is also an adept receiving option.

128) Cody Schrader | Missouri

SEC Rank: 14/14

One of the stories of the season for the Missouri Tigers, former walk-on Cody Schrader led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns last fall after spending his previous four years at the DII level with Truman State, where he racked up 2,074 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns during the 2021 season. While he’ll face competition, he will likely lead the room again this fall.

While he may not be the most explosive RB in the SEC, his 4.4 career yards per carry and 7.64% of explosive plays both rank towards the bottom end of the SEC. Hence, the lowly ranking on our list of the top college football running backs. Schrader’s ability to rumble between the tackles as a true north-south runner can power the Tigers’ offense.

127) Cam Porter | Northwestern

Big Ten Rank: 14/14

Cam Porter will be expected to shoulder the load for the Northwestern ground game. After making a splash as a freshman in 2020, Porter missed the entire 2021 season with an injury. Upon his return as a complement to Evan Hull last year, he showed flashes of why he has often been considered one of the most important offensive pieces on the Wildcats roster.

The 5’10”, 220-pound back plays the game with a ferocious physicality, lowering his shoulder into contact and barreling through defenses. He is also capable of taking advantage of the generous holes prised open by the offensive line. That said, Porter’s 6.89% of carries resulting in 10+ yard plays is the third-lowest among the top college running backs for 2023.

126) Andrew Henry | New Mexico

Mountain West Rank: 11/12

New Mexico’s leading rusher, Nate Jones, is no longer with the Lobos, so attention turns to who will replace him as the RB1 in 2023. That could potentially be irrelevant as the team had four players carry the ball over 50 times last season, and they have a voluminous roster with nine running backs. Rotation might be the name of the game, but Andrew Henry might be right at the head of it.

The former Louisiana-Monroe rusher won’t blow you away statistically – he has averaged just 3.9 yards per carry for his career, and his 8% explosive play rate last season is one of the lowest among any back in our college RB rankings. However, he offers good speed, cut-ability, and receiving upside out of the backfield.

125) Reggie Love III | Illinois

Big Ten Rank: 13/14

Don’t expect there to be a Chase Brown-esque 1,500+ rushing-yard performer for the Illinois Fighting Illini in the 2023 college football campaign. Head coach Bret Bielema spoke in the spring about maintaining offensive balance and integrity while sharing the workload at the running back position. For Illinois, it’s a strategy that reflects both the team’s identity and the need to address a comparative talent deficit.

While there might not be a back of Brown’s caliber on the roster, Reggie Love III has been a consistent playmaker for the team during his time in Champaign and projects to be the RB1 in the rotation. He actually had 10% of his carries go for over 10 yards last fall, more than some backs in the Big Ten, as a result of his relentless grinding play style fused with some subtle RB nuances.

124) Brian Snead | Arkansas State

Sun Belt Rank: 13/14

A former four-star recruit out of Armload High School, Brian Snead was once considered one of the top potential college running backs. He committed to Ohio State over several Power Five offers but only tallied 11 carries for 37 yards as a freshman for the Buckeyes. He then spent two years with Austin Peay before transferring to Arkansas State, where he’ll assume RB1 duties this fall.

The Red Wolves finished rock bottom of the Sun Belt in several metrics last fall, and Snead only had one start in eight appearances while averaging 3.7 yards per carry. That said, he found the end zone six times and had 12.34% of his carries go for over 10 yards. Snead has the long speed to rip off chunk plays, as evidenced by a recorded 21.5mph run while at Austin Peay.

123) Keyon Mozee | Miami (OH)

MAC Rank: 11/12

Miami (OH)’s rushing attack was led by quarterback Aveon Smith, which speaks volumes about the running back room that new running back coach Justin Simmons inherits ahead of the 2023 college football season. While there’s definite talent in the room – including South Carolina transfer Rashod Amos and diminutive junior Kevin Davis – they’ll need to demonstrate improvement this campaign to help the RedHawks challenge in a competitive conference.

Keyon Mozee projects as the starter for Miami (OH), returning to the team after taking 10.09% of his carries over 10 yards in 2022. The RedHawks’ rusher is a former high school 100m sprinter with a legitimate 10.5-second official time. In addition to his track-powered long speed, Mozee can be explosive out of the backfield with the ball in his hands and has showcased the ability to be effective as a route runner in the passing game.

122) Tyson Riley, Tyrell Robinson, Ay’Juan Marshall, Jakobi Buchanan | Army

FBS Independent Rank: 3/4

Triple option football will never lend itself to naming just one starter, and as such, attempting to ascertain who the Black Knights’ RB1 is would be a fool’s errand. They’ll use more ball carriers than any other team this college football season, with their roster of 20 players designated as running backs far deeper than you’ll find at an average program. The nature of their system also makes the evaluation of talent more difficult, resulting in a place near the bottom of our college football RB rankings.

However, there is talent within the group. Tyson Riley is a 6’2″, 255-pound beast who can bulldoze through defenders, while Jakobi Buchanan, with his fullback-esque frame, scored six touchdowns last season. Tyrell Robinson and Ay’Juan Marshall are both shifty and speedy backs with a multi-phase skillset. Robinson led the room with seven receptions last fall and even returned a punt for a touchdown.

121) Daba Fofana | Navy

AAC Rank: 14/14

For the difficulties accessing the Navy Midshipmen’s running back room, refer to the above description for Army. Even with a new head coach for the first time in ages, there shouldn’t be any major deviation from the tried-and-tested recipe of service academy triple-option football. We might see a tight end thrown into the mix, but Navy still has 18 fullbacks and slotbacks on their roster.

Daba Fofana is the cream of the Midshipmen crop, however. He has showcased his ability against top-tier opposition, including scoring against Notre Dame last fall. In that campaign, he tallied 769 rushing yards and six touchdowns, utilizing his speed to outrun defenses while using his 5’8″, 205-pound frame to withstand contact and keep pushing downfield.

120) Perris Jones | Virginia

ACC Rank: 14/14

Virginia’s running game finished in the bottom half of the ACC last fall across several metrics in what was a difficult season for the Cavaliers. Mike Hollins returns to the program, and nothing would make me happier than seeing a feel-good story emerge from the tragedy that struck the university last November.

While the fifth-year RB earned praise from the coaching staff last season, Virginia will likely be led by former walk-on Perris Jones. He led all Virginia RBs in yards and yards per carry last season. Additionally, his 14.81% explosive plays rank respectably in the ACC. He’s a smart and decisive runner who possesses the ability to withstand contact as he powers down the field.

119) Robert Briggs | Utah State

Mountain West Rank: 10/12

Robert Briggs, a three-star recruit with all-district honors from the talent-rich state of Texas, saw action as a true freshman for the Utah State Aggies in 2022. In the shadow of Calvin Tyler Jr., he had some modest production – 74 carries for 353 yards and one touchdown – before missing the end of the season due to injury.

On his college debut last August, Briggs showcased an explosive but patient style that could lead to a breakout campaign. The 5’6″, 175-pound back is poised for an increase in production as the potential leader of the Utah State ground game. He will face competition for carries from the duo of Cooper Jones and productive JUCO addition Davon Booth.

118) Thad Franklin Jr. | Louisiana-Monroe

Sun Belt Rank: 10/14

The running back room at Louisiana-Monroe has undergone a complete makeover, with leading rushers Malik Jackson and Andrew Henry both leaving the program. Additionally, quarterback Chandler Rogers, who led the team in carries last season, is also gone. Offensive coordinator Matt Kubik focused on bringing in bigger backs to the Bayou this fall, and Thad Franklin fits that mold.

Standing at 6’0″ and weighing 240 pounds, Franklin is a bruising downhill runner who has averaged 5.2 yards per carry and scored seven touchdowns in his two seasons with the Miami Hurricanes. He is challenging to bring down when he comes at defenders head-on, and he possesses some agility to find open lanes. Franklin is set to be the RB1 for the Warhawks, ahead of former Ole Miss RB Isaiah Woullard.

117) Marcus Carroll | Georgia State

Sun Belt Rank: 11/14

With the departure of Tucker Gregg and Jamyest Williams, Georgia State transitions from having one of the top running back combinations in the Sun Belt to having just three running backs currently listed, with limited experience among them. They added former Maine rusher Freddie Brock from the transfer portal, but Marcus Carroll appears to be the undisputed leader of the backfield.

Carroll was actually more efficient than his former teammate Gregg in 2022, averaging 4.9 yards per carry and scoring six touchdowns. The senior running back also had a 13.38% rate of carries over 10 yards last season. Carroll excels as a powerful runner between the tackles, utilizing his strength to break through tacklers.

116) Pat Garwo III | Boston College

AAC Rank: 13/14

Boston College’s struggles with the offensive line in the 2022 college football season made it challenging to effectively evaluate the talent on their roster. The return of offensive line coach Matt Applebaum and key figures like Christian Mahogany should result in a more successful ground game this fall.

Pat Garwo III is just one year removed from a 1,045-yard season where he averaged 5.1 yards per carry. He has the ability to be explosive and demonstrates good vision and patience, which should help him climb our college football RB rankings if he returns to his 2021 form this year. However, his career yards per carry (4.0) and 2022 explosive play percentage (6.81%) both rank last in the ACC.

115) Samuel Brown V | Rutgers

Big Ten Rank: 12/14

It’s a significant reflection of the Rutgers offense that Isiah Pacheco played consistently well for the program for four seasons but went under the radar in the 2022 NFL Draft before emerging as a key contributor in the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory. This illustrates the challenge of establishing oneself among the top college running backs when playing in Piscataway.

That being said, Samuel Brown V has generated excitement within the program during the spring with his tackle-breaking, downhill playing style, which suits the Big Ten. Despite an injury last fall, he is the leading returning running back and is expected to receive the majority of snaps. Keep an eye out for incoming freshman Ja’Shon Benjamin, a sub-11 second 100m runner with versatile skills.

114) Jordan Ford | Tulsa

AAC Rank: 13/14

There are many moving pieces in the Tulsa Golden Hurricane with the departure of starting quarterback Davis Brin to Georgia Southern and the loss of their two leading rushers from last fall, Deneric Prince and Steven Anderson. There is a possibility that Anthony Watkins returns after missing the entire 2022 campaign, but former JUCO standout Jordan Ford has the potential to be Tulsa’s RB1.

Interestingly, Ford shares his surname with one of the great automotive innovators, and he is a true speedster who can easily outrun defenses. During his time at Garden City CC, he reached a top speed of 21.1 mph, as recorded by Reel Analytics, which would translate to a very impressive 40-yard dash time. As a result, he has averaged 5.1 yards per carry in his Tulsa career.

113) Juma Otoviano | Rice

AAC Rank: 12/14

Entering his sixth season with the Rice Owls, Juma Otoviano has the potential to become the program’s leading rusher for the 2023 college football season following the departure of Cameron Montgomery. In his final season of eligibility, the 5’10”, 201-pound back aims to build on the momentum of a career year in the previous campaign.

Otoviano achieved career highs in rushing yards, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns last fall, all while maintaining an impressive average of 5.7 yards per carry. He is a highly experienced rusher who demonstrated his ability to create opportunities for himself, resulting in a PPA (Points Per Attempt) of 0.302, one of the highest among rushers in the AAC this season.

112) Latrele Palmer | James Madison

Sun Belt Rank: 10/14

How do you replace the loss of your top running back, who was an unstoppable force both at the FCS and FBS level? That’s the challenge the James Madison Dukes must tackle as they strive to avoid a sophomore slump in their second season in the Sun Belt. Fortunately, they have a ready-made replacement on the roster and have used the transfer portal to bolster their RB room.

Latrele Palmer is a 6’0″, 222-pound bruiser who becomes practically unstoppable when he builds up momentum. Although he averaged only 3.9 yards per carry last fall and had the second-lowest explosive play percentage in the conference, he has proven capable of delivering big plays. Palmer may face competition from FCS transfer TySon Lawton.

111) Lincoln Pare | Texas State

Sun Belt Rank: 9/14

Excitement is brewing in San Marcos as G.J. Kinne brings his up-tempo offense to the Texas State Bobcats, attracting several Power Five transfers at the quarterback position. While there might be less emphasis on the ground game this fall, don’t underestimate the running back room led by Lincoln Pare in making plays for the Bobcats in 2023.

Pare possesses impressive footwork, receiving ability, and enough speed to break off long runs for touchdowns. He is one of the few returning backs who had a rush of 60+ yards in 2022. Although he has averaged 4.8 yards per carry in his career, his explosive play percentage ranked at the bottom of the conference. He could face competition from second-year Bobcat Josh Berry, a former JUCO standout.

110) Edward Saydee | Temple

AAC Rank: 11/14

In the second year of the Stan Drayton era, the focus on the threat that quarterback E.J. Warner brings to the offense might open up the ground game for Temple. Lead RB Edward Saydee is more than capable of contributing in both aspects of the game. Having recorded 262 receiving yards last fall, he is a dangerous pass-catching threat out of the backfield.

However, it is on the ground where the 5’11”, 200-pound playmaker excels. Carrying the ball over 100 times for the first time in his career last season, he achieved career highs in rushing yards (639), yards per carry (4.3), and touchdowns (six). He is a tough runner who embraces contact and could climb the college football RB rankings if he adds an explosive element to his game.

109) Amari Daniels | Texas A&M

SEC Rank: 13/14

Despite the presence of highly rated true freshman Rueben Owens, the second-ranked back in the CFN Fusion Recruiting Rankings, Daniels seems poised to take on the lead role for the Aggies in 2023. As the primary backup to Devon Achane last season, he averaged 5.7 yards per carry in limited opportunities with just 36 carries.

A highly productive and dominant back at Miami Central, Daniels also brings special teams ability as a returner. With his speed, fluid open-field movement, and desire to utilize his 5’9″, 210-pound frame in red-zone situations, the second-year player could have a breakout season for Texas A&M, propelling him up the college football RB rankings.

108) Jaylon Armstead | San Diego State

Mountain West Rank: 9/14

Last season, the San Diego Aztecs utilized a backfield committee with five different players carrying the ball over 50 times, including quarterback Jalen Mayden. The departure of leading rusher Jordan Byrd creates an opportunity for one of the eight backs on the 2023 roster to emerge as the RB1.

After averaging 6.0 yards per carry and having over 17% of his runs go for more than 10 yards in 2022, Jaylon Armstead is in an advantageous position to seize that role. He is an explosive rusher with elusiveness, speed, and fresh legs, having accumulated just 77 carries in three years. With an increased workload, he has the chance to rise in the rankings of the top college running backs.

107) Ashton Hayes | Nevada

Mountain West Rank: 8/12

Toa Taua, a consistently productive force in the Mountain West, is no longer on the Nevada Wolfpack roster after five seasons. In an effort to replace their influential offensive leader, Ken Wilson made significant additions from the transfer portal, including two Pac-12 playmakers, Sean Dollars and Ashton Hayes.

It is Hayes who is projected as the Nevada RB1 in our ranking of the top college football running backs. The former Cal rusher, who hails from Nevada, is a 6’0″, 200-pound force with speed, agility, and the athleticism to hurdle his way down the field. He also brings value as a kick returner and has the potential to become a nationally recognized player as he continues to develop.

106) Davion Ervin-Poindexter | Western Kentucky

Conference USA Rank: 8/9

When people think of Western Kentucky Hilltoppers football, running back isn’t the first position that comes to mind. In a pass-heavy offense, gaining national attention as a rusher is not easy. However, there is talent in this running back room. Missouri transfer Elijah Young may challenge for carries this fall, and L.T. Sanders is an emerging talent.

Nonetheless, it is Davion Ervin-Poindexter who is likely to lead the team’s ground game efforts, whatever they may look like. He had 11.2% of his carries go for over 10 yards last season and has averaged 4.7 yards per carry throughout his career. Ervin-Poindexter’s tough running style makes him a threat in short-yardage and goal-line situations.

105) Nay’Quan Wright | USF

AAC Rank: 10/14

Nay’Quan Wright, the odd man out in a stacked rotation at Florida, transfers to the USF Bulls for the 2023 college football season, hoping to finally realize his potential as a highly recruited high school prospect from Carol City in the 2019 recruiting class.

Wright has never had the opportunity to showcase his talent with a full workload, resulting in a career-high of 4.3 yards per carry in a season and just two touchdowns last year. His burst and power are reminiscent of what new head coach Alex Golesh had with Jabari Small at Tennessee last season. A similar situation could help elevate Wright’s standing.

104) Marion Lukes | Central Michigan

MAC Rank: 10/12

The Central Michigan Chippewas’ running back room is part of a closely contested group of MAC teams in our college RB rankings, and a standout 2023 season could propel them higher on the list. Marion Lukes finds himself in the challenging position of replacing Lew Nichols III, who established himself as one of the top rushers in the nation before being selected in the 2023 NFL Draft. However, Chippewas coaches have expressed confidence in Lukes, and he has shown potential.

From a statistical standpoint, Lukes’ career average of 5.7 yards per carry and 17.64% explosive plays in 2022 are impressive. His ability to change direction deceives opponents and leads to his productivity. Furthermore, he demonstrates excellent body control, using it as a weapon in various phases of the game, as shown by his 100-yard kick return touchdown in 2021.

103) Keshawn King | Western Michigan

MAC Rank: 9/12

Following Sean Tyler’s departure to Minnesota, the Western Michigan Broncos are another MAC team that needs to rebuild their stable of running backs for the 2023 college football season. Their rebuilding efforts start with former Virginia Tech running back Keshawn King, who led the Hokies in rushing yards and yards per carry last year.

King has averaged 4.9 yards per carry throughout his career, and last season he had 14.86% of his carries go for over 10 yards. He brings speed and receiving ability to the Broncos’ backfield, and he has shown the ability to gain extra yardage with his quick movements and impressive contact balance. While King is projected as the lead back, keep an eye out for three-star running back talent CJ Hester in 2023.

102) Gavin Garcia, Xavier Williams, Ky Thomas | Kent State

MAC Rank: 8/12

The Kent State Golden Flashes have experienced a loss of rushing production with the departure of Marquez Cooper to a conference rival and the significant rushing contribution from quarterback Collin Schlee, who had 489 yards and four touchdowns last season, ranking second on the team. Replacing that production is a challenge for the team.

Ky Thomas, who posted 824 yards at five yards per carry for Minnesota just a year ago, and Xavier Williams, who had an impressive 6.5 yards per carry and 812 rushing yards in 2021, are potential contributors. Additionally, true sophomore Gavin Garcia, standing at 5’8″ and 187 pounds, showed promise in limited action last season and is projected to be the likely starter for the 2023 campaign.

101) Damien Moore | Fresno State

Mountain West Rank: 7/12

Damien Moore’s limited action for Cal last season, carrying the ball just 22 times, provides reason for excitement for Fresno State fans as they face life without Jordan Mims. As a sophomore, Moore led all Cal rushers in touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per carry.

If Moore can recapture his early-career form, he could lead the Bulldogs’ running back room. Standing at 5’10” and weighing 210 pounds, Moore is a dynamic combination of speed, agility, and power. Even in his freshman tape, he showcases some brutal stiff arms and is willing to grind out yards in short-yardage situations.

100) Rahjai Harris | ECU

AAC Rank: 9/14

With Keaton Mitchell heading to the 2023 NFL Draft, Rahjai Harris is poised to take over as the leader of East Carolina’s running back room. As a true freshman, Harris earned Co-Rookie of the Year honors in the AAC after rushing for 624 yards and four touchdowns.

Although Harris’ trajectory has been somewhat different since then, he managed to score five touchdowns in 2022 despite battling injuries and inconsistency. He has also had a few fumbles early in his career. However, on his best days, Harris is a hard-hitting, decisive runner who possesses excellent physicality. He has also demonstrated his ability as a pass-catcher, scoring a receiving touchdown in each season at ECU.

99) Shadrick Byrd | Charlotte

AAC Rank: 8/14

Charlotte enters a new era as they transition to the AAC after spending eight years in CUSA. The team also welcomes a new head coach, Biff Poggi, taking over from Will Healy. Amidst all the changes, the return of leading rusher Shadrick Byrd provides a sense of offensive stability for the 2023 college football season.

Byrd has surpassed 500 rushing yards in each season with the 49ers, averaging 4.3 yards per carry throughout his career. He had 10.73% of his carries go for over 10 yards last year. The former Iowa running back earns his spot in the top 100 college running backs with his power in the red zone, elusiveness in the open field, and his ability to contribute as a pass-catcher.

98) Larry McCammon III | FAU

AAC Rank: 7/14

Larry McCammon III, hailing from Conference USA, makes his way into the top 100 college football running back rankings for 2023. Last year, he led Florida Atlantic’s ground game and was the only back in the American Athletic Conference to surpass 1,000 yards in the 2022 season.

Throughout his career, McCammon has averaged 4.6 yards per carry. He is part of a group of AAC backs who had just over 10% of their carries result in gains of 10 yards or more. McCammon possesses the ability to burst through defenses, navigate the outside, and absorb contact as he powers his way downfield. He will be a crucial offensive weapon for new FAU head coach Tom Herman.

97) Zach Hrbacek | Sam Houston

Conference USA Rank: 7/9

Zach Hrbacek’s position on this list of top college running backs will likely rise as the Sam Houston Bearkats adapt to the FBS level. In a transitional year last season that saw several players redshirt for eligibility in the current campaign, Hrbacek stood out despite the challenges.

With an average of 5.75 yards per carry last year, the redshirt sophomore amassed 495 yards and three touchdowns. In three out of four games where he had a significant carry workload, he surpassed 100 yards. Hrbacek’s combination of long speed, acceleration, patience, and vision make him a dangerous threat in various aspects of the game. Keep an eye on him as he enters his first season at the FBS level.

96) Lexington Joseph | FIU

Conference USA Rank: 6/9

Despite the lackluster output of the FIU Panthers’ ground game in recent seasons, Lexington Joseph has been a bright spot. The former three-star recruit enters the 2023 campaign with four years of college experience. Last year, he recorded 536 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.96 yards per carry. He also had over 10 yards on 12.96% of his carries.

Joseph, standing at 5’9″ and weighing 205 pounds, is a powerful rusher who can plow through contact. However, he has also demonstrated speed and agility, leading the Panthers with 566 kick-return yards at an average of 21.0 yards per attempt. Joseph is a versatile offensive weapon with receiving skills.

95) Juju McDowell | South Carolina

SEC Rank: 12/14

As the leading returner from last season, JuJu McDowell is expected to be the primary running back for the South Carolina Gamecocks in the upcoming 2023 college football season. However, due to a lack of depth, the team experimented with wide receiver Dakereon Joyner in the backfield during spring practices. Additionally, Mario Anderson and Dontavius Braswell may compete with McDowell for playing time in 2023.

McDowell has averaged 4.1 yards per carry in his career, and his 9.67% of explosive plays last season ranked last among SEC players on our list of top college running backs. Nevertheless, McDowell possesses impressive speed, the ability to break tackles with his contact balance, and eye-catching lateral agility in his juke moves.

94) Tony Mathis | Houston

Big 12 Rank: 14/14

This fall, Tony Mathis will be vying for the starting running back position at Houston after spending the past four seasons at West Virginia. In 2022, he had his most significant workload, carrying the ball 135 times for 562 yards and five touchdowns. Despite his production, he tied for last among projected Big 12 starting running backs in explosive plays with an 11.11% rate.

Mathis possesses a sturdy frame that allows him to handle contact in short-yardage situations, but he truly excels when utilizing his speed and jump-cut ability to evade defenders. His film showcases numerous instances of him leaving opponents grasping at thin air. Houston’s backfield lost one of the top college running backs in Alton McCaskill IV, but Mathis brings his own playmaking ability to the team.

93) Tahj Brooks | Texas Tech

Big 12 Rank: 13/14

While the Texas Tech Red Raiders offense, led by offensive coordinator Zach Kittley, is often associated with an aerial attack, they actually averaged over 40 rushing attempts per game last season. However, they struggled in yards per carry and yards per game in the Big 12.

Despite the team’s struggles, Tahj Brooks, the returning rusher, has the talent to outperform his ranking in our list. Standing at 5’10” and weighing 230 pounds, he possesses deceptive athleticism and is capable of breaking ankles with his moves. His tape includes impressive hurdle moves that leave viewers in awe. If he can consistently produce in the upcoming season, he should gain more national attention.

92) Sedrick Alexander, Vanderbilt

SEC Rank: 11/14

It’s rare to see true freshmen included in our college football running back rankings, as it’s often challenging for them to make an immediate impact. The transition from high school to college, especially in the SEC, can be demanding. However, Sedrick Alexander is an exception as he is already projected to be the RB1 for Vanderbilt.

A three-star recruit in the 2023 class, Alexander has caught attention during Commodores spring practice, demonstrating a skill set that positions him as the lead running back for Vanderbilt’s opener against Hawai’i. Despite his young age, he possesses the necessary attributes, such as straight-line speed, agility, receiving ability, and physicality in his 5’9″, 200-pound frame, to fill the void left by the transfer of Ray Davis to Kentucky.

91) Corey Kiner | Cincinnati

Big 12 Rank: 12/14

With Cincinnati transitioning to the Big 12 for the 2023 season, Corey Kiner will likely be relied upon to shoulder the workload left by departed leading rusher Charles McClelland. The former LSU back exhibits good lateral agility, urgency in getting around the corner, and physicality, including a powerful stiff arm.

While Kiner possesses an enticing skill set, he will need to improve upon his career average of 4.3 yards per carry to establish himself among the top running backs in the Big 12 and on a national level. He also faces tough competition from Myles and Ryan Montgomery, despite sharing the same last name, as they bring different running styles to the team.

90) Bhayshul Tuten | Virginia Tech

ACC Rank: 12/14

Virginia Tech made significant additions to their pass-catching talent this offseason, but Bhayshul Tuten has the potential to make the biggest impact on their offense. As a former North Carolina A&T standout and FCS All-American, Tuten had an impressive 1,700+ total yards and 17 touchdowns last season. He is expected to take on the RB1 role for the Hokies, as the team returns just over 300 yards of production from their rushing game.

Tuten’s agility allows him to elude defenders, and he possesses explosive speed that can lead to big plays. If he can consistently replicate his 100+ yard performance against Duke from last season throughout his first full-time campaign in the FBS, Tuten could establish himself as one of the top college running backs. His initial ranking is limited by his relative lack of experience at the FBS level.

89) Anwar Lewis | Jacksonville State

Conference USA Rank: 5/9

Despite being a newcomer to the FBS, Jacksonville State has several playmakers looking to make their mark at this level. Anwar Lewis is one of those players, having been a highly effective running back throughout his football career. If he can quickly adjust to this level of play, he has the potential to climb up the list of the top college running backs.

Lewis, who had an impressive average of 7.1 yards per carry last season, previously excelled at Hutchinson CC before joining Jacksonville State. While his numbers were boosted by a standout performance against Murray State, he still had four games with over 100 rushing yards. He possesses game-changing speed in a straight line and quick feet to navigate through traffic, which should translate well to Conference USA play.

88) Quinton Cooley | Liberty

Conference USA Rank: 4/9

As Liberty transitions from being an FBS Independent to competing in Conference USA, they have added promising talent from Power Five programs, including former three-star recruit James Jointer Jr. from Arkansas.

However, it is former Wake Forest running back Quinton Cooley who is expected to lead the running back room, filling the void left by the departure of Dae Dae Hunter via the transfer portal. Defensive players will face tough decisions when encountering the 5’9″, 215-pound Cooley in the open field. Cooley is a physical force who can power through defenders but also possesses deceptive agility.

87) Terion Stewart | Bowling Green

MAC Rank: 7/12

Bowling Green’s Terion Stewart might be one of the most underrated players in college football, including in the 2023 college football RB rankings. The explosive and physical rusher has led the team in rushing yards in both the 2020 and 2021 seasons. Throughout his career with the Falcons, he has maintained an impressive average of 6.6 yards per carry.

Stewart missed the entire 2022 season, and his ranking reflects uncertainty about whether he will return to his prior form. Additionally, Bowling Green is expected to heavily rotate their running back room, with last year’s leading rusher Jaison Patterson returning, along with Ta’ron Keith and Jamal Johnson. However, Stewart is likely to be the standout among the group.

86) Al-Jay Henderson, Mike Washington, Ron Cook Jr., Dylan Kedzior | Buffalo

MAC Rank: 6/12

The Buffalo Bulls possess one of the most talented running back rooms in the MAC, and their depth rivals that of top-tier college football programs. Currently, any of the four backs could legitimately be the RB1 on opening weekend, with Mike Washington, the leading returning rusher, likely to have the edge.

Washington is a speed threat who also excels at following his blockers and finding gaps between the tackles. Standing at 6’2″ and weighing 215 pounds, Washington showcases impressive leg drive to grind out yards.

Ron Cook Jr., although older and smaller than Washington, is equally effective. He has a patient running style and, while lacking Washington’s top-end speed, he possesses short-area burst to navigate through the line of scrimmage. However, it’s the last two backs on the roster who bring the most excitement.

Al-Jay Henderson combines great speed with excellent understanding of angles, making him a dangerous threat from anywhere on the field. His success against Power Five opposition further solidifies his reputation as one of the best running backs in the MAC. On the other hand, JUCO transfer Dylan Kedzior presents an intriguing combination of speed and physicality, boasting a 6’0″, 212-pound frame ready for the challenging midweek MACtion games.

85) Michael Wiley | Arizona

Pac-12 Rank: 12/12

Michael Wiley averaged an impressive 6.8 yards per carry last season, demonstrating his ability to break off big plays with his speed, elusiveness to evade tackles, and even the physicality to push the pile as an inside rusher. Over the past two seasons, he has also been a valuable asset in Arizona’s passing game, accumulating over 600 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.

Throughout his career, Wiley has maintained an average of 5.3 yards per carry, with nearly 20% of his carries in 2022 resulting in explosive plays. However, it’s worth noting that a significant portion of his rushing production came against an Arizona State defense that struggled in terms of yards per carry and rushing touchdowns allowed during the 2022 campaign.

84) Jo’quavious Marks | Mississippi State

SEC Rank: 10/14

Despite the additions of JUCO standout Jeffery Pittman and transfer Keyvonne Lee, Jo’quavious Marks is expected to start the season as the RB1 for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Last season, he led the team in carries, accumulating 582 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

Standing at 5’10” and weighing 205 pounds, Marks possesses impressive cutting ability without sacrificing his long speed. He is also reliable in catching passes out of the backfield and stands firm as a pass protector. While his production may not be eye-popping (4.5 career yards per carry), Marks is a solid all-around running back who contributes to the offense in multiple ways.

83) Jaylin Lucas | Indiana

Big Ten Rank: 11/14

Indiana will replace Shaun Shivers for the 2023 college football season, and the general expectation is that Josh Henderson will take over as the RB1 for the Hoosiers. While Henderson’s 398 rushing yards may not catch the attention, he displayed effectiveness as both a rusher and receiving option in the Indiana offense, with 15.5% of his carries resulting in gains of over 10 yards.

However, it is Jaylin Lucas who brings the most excitement and has the potential to challenge and surpass Henderson as the RB1. Head coach Tom Allen has already expressed plans to get Lucas more involved in the offense, highlighting the sophomore’s electrifying ability. Lucas, who stands at 5’9″ and weighs 166 pounds, has averaged 5.5 yards per carry in his young career so far.

82) Nakia Watson | Washington State

Pac-12 Rank: 11/12

Nakia Watson made the move from the run-heavy offense of Wisconsin to the pass-heavy scheme of Washington State in 2021. He gained Pac-12 prominence last season, leading the Cougars with 144 carries for 769 yards and nine rushing touchdowns.

While the offense doesn’t lend itself to eye-popping production, Watson has displayed physicality and moments of finesse brilliance, such as his dazzling spin move against his former team. However, he has averaged just 4.6 yards per carry in his career, one of the lowest in the conference, and has a relatively low explosive play percentage compared to other Pac-12 running backs.

81) Jordan Houston | NC State

ACC Rank: 11/14

With the departure of Demi Sumo-Karngbaye to Kentucky, Jordan Houston is highly regarded within the NC State program. He received the Ted Brown Award as the Wolfpack’s Offensive Back of the Year. The 5’10”, 190-pound back showcases the ability to get upfield quickly and isn’t afraid of contact.

In addition to his rushing skills, Houston has shown his value as a receiver and contributes on special teams, making him a well-rounded player for NC State. He handled the majority of the carries last season, rushing 136 times for 544 yards, and added 25 receptions for 213 yards. However, his career average of 4.3 yards per carry and sub-10% explosive play rate in 2022 rank towards the bottom of the ACC.

80) RJ Harvey | UCF

Big 12 Rank: 11/14

RJ Harvey is expected to be the RB1 for UCF as they transition to the Big 12 after a successful season behind Isaiah Bowser and John Rhys Plumlee. Harvey’s patience, vision, physicality, and ability to excel between the tackles and on the outside make him a versatile weapon. He averaged an impressive 6.7 yards per carry during the 2022 season.

Standing at 5’8″ and weighing 195 pounds, the redshirt senior, who began his college career at Virginia in 2019, has maintained a career average of 6.6 yards per carry. Notably, during the 2022 season in the AAC, 19.49% of his carries resulted in gains of over 10 yards.

79) Jirehl Brock | Iowa State

Big 12 Rank: 10/14

Jirehl Brock faced high expectations as he took over as Iowa State’s RB1 following Breece Hall’s departure to the NFL. The 6’0″, 200-pounder had a strong start in 2022, rushing for over 100 yards in the first two games.

However, he struggled to maintain that level of performance due to injuries and averaged just 4.5 yards per carry, accumulating 445 rushing yards. Additionally, his explosive play percentage of 11.11% ranks towards the lower end in the Big 12. When he is at his best, Brock displays incredible stop-start and juke abilities that can leave defenders grasping at thin air. The key is to see him consistently perform at his best.

78) Jalen White | Georgia Southern

Sun Belt Rank: 8/14

Perhaps overshadowed by a record-breaking passing offense, Jalen White of Georgia Southern had a season that put him among the top college football running backs. Taking advantage of defenses focused on the aerial attack, the 6’0″, 215-pound back had 14.81% of his carries go for over 10 yards, resulting in a 915-yard, 10-touchdown season.

While the loss of Gerald Green will impact the Eagles’ offense in 2023, White has the talent to carry the load. He is a physical force at 6’0″ and 215 pounds, bouncing off contact like a pinball. He also possesses the ability to make subtle moves in the open field to deceive defenders and create big plays.

77) Deion Hankins | UTEP

Conference USA Rank: 3/9

With Ronald Awatt graduating and moving on as an undrafted free agent, Deion Hankins is set to lead a ground game that had the fourth-most rushing attempts per game in the conference last season. Hankins has consistently been an excellent producer throughout his college football career.

Despite only 9.28% of his carries going for over 10 yards, Hankins had career highs of 701 yards and 5.0 yards per carry last season. The 6’0″, 220-pound redshirt senior has the size and strength to power through tackles while also displaying the burst to make one-cut runs and elude defenders, placing him among the top 75 college football running backs.

76) Dontae Smith | Georgia Tech

ACC Rank: 10/14

After serving as interim head coach and leading Georgia Tech to a 4-4 record, Brent Key takes over the Yellow Jackets full-time in 2023. Key, formerly the run game coordinator, has a history of producing successful running backs. The question now is whether there is anyone at the level of former Georgia Tech stars like Jahmyr Gibbs.

Dontae Smith has the potential to make his mark as one of the top college running backs this season. The redshirt senior is a force to be reckoned with, possessing excellent speed, contact balance, body control, and a wide array of skill moves. His 5.6 yards per carry ranks fourth among returning ACC running backs, and he had over 17% of his carries go for gains of over 10 yards.

75) Dre’lyn Washington | Louisiana

Sun Belt Rank: 7/14

The buzz surrounding Dre’lyn Washington coming out of Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns’ spring camp suggests that he may be underrated in our list of the top college running backs. Already a key player in Michael Desormeaux’s offense, Washington’s pass protection skills and understanding of vertical pressing make him a vital component of the Louisiana offense.

Don’t be surprised to see Washington emerge as the true RB1, even with Terrence Williams on the roster. He led the team with an average of 5.5 yards per carry in 2022, and nearly 19% of his carries resulted in gains of 10 yards or more. Standing at 5’9″ and weighing 225 pounds, Washington, a former track star, generates explosive speed from his compact frame, making big plays for the team.

74) Kairee Robinson | San Jose State

Mountain West Rank: 6/12

San Jose State had initially expected Isaiah Ifanse, a former standout from Montana State, to join their running back room and compete with Kairee Robinson, the returning rushing leader. However, a change of heart led Ifanse to join the Cal running back room, and Robinson assumes his place as the Spartans’ RB1 in our college running back rankings.

Robinson accumulated 752 rushing yards while also serving as a reliable target in the passing game. Despite his smaller stature at 5’7″ and 189 pounds, he fearlessly handles the tough work between the tackles and exhibits the agility expected from a back of his size. He’s an all-around player who has shown impressive flashes in pass protection. In 2022, 14.64% of his carries resulted in gains of over 10 yards.

73) Anthony Grant | Nebraska

Big Ten Rank: 10/14

As the Matt Rhule era begins in Lincoln, Anthony Grant is once again poised to lead the Cornhuskers’ ground game in the 2023 college football season. Last fall, he came within 85 yards of becoming the program’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Devine Ozigbo. Grant possesses the talent to pose a challenge for Big Ten defenses.

Standing at 5’11” and weighing 200 pounds, Grant is a tackle-breaking machine with a compelling blend of physicality, contact balance, and elusiveness. He grinds out yardage but is also capable of showcasing flashy spin moves and jump cuts. However, with less than 10% of his carries resulting in explosive plays and an average of 4.1 yards per carry, he will likely need another heavy workload to reach the 1,000-yard mark.

72) Frank Peasant | Middle Tennessee

Conference USA Rank: 2/9

Frank Peasant has earned a spot in the top 75 of our college football RB rankings as a rising rusher who continues to improve as his career progresses. The Middle Tennessee standout had a breakthrough season last year, setting career highs with 777 rushing yards at an average of 4.3 yards per carry, pushing his career average to 4.1 yards per carry heading into the 2023 college campaign.

Peasant plays the game with impressive physicality, utilizing his 5’10”, 198-pound frame to break tackles and power through defenders. He can lower his shoulder and drive with his legs like a bulldozer, while also displaying enough speed to get around the edge. Additionally, Peasant contributes as a receiver, accumulating 286 yards and two touchdowns in the 2022 college football season.

71) Noah Cain | LSU

SEC Rank: 9/14

Former Penn State rusher Noah Cain is the early favorite to emerge as the primary RB1 in an LSU running back battle that features both talent and questions. In his first season at “Death Valley,” he achieved career highs in yards per carry (5.4) and touchdowns (10), with 11.89% of his 76 carries resulting in gains of over 10 yards.

When healthy, Cain exhibits explosive ability to hit the hole, the physicality to take on defenders, and the pass protection skills to effectively protect the quarterback. However, he needs to stay healthy and establish himself as the main ground threat in the LSU offense to ascend to the upper echelon of top college running backs. It’s worth noting that quarterback Jayden Daniels is the team’s most dynamic rushing weapon.

70) Kaleb Johnson | Iowa

Big Ten Rank: 9/14

Although Kaleb Johnson is ranked lower on our list of top college running backs than some Iowa fans might anticipate, he possesses the potential to be a special talent. It’s important to note that while he shows flashes of exceptional brilliance in his game, there are also evident areas of development that can elevate his performance to another level in 2023.

Standing at 6’0″ and weighing 212 pounds, the sophomore rushed for 779 yards last season, despite less than 10% of his carries resulting in gains of over 10 yards. Johnson combines speed and power, demonstrating the ability to burst outside and outrun defenders or overpower them by dragging them down the field. If Cade McNamara’s arrival opens up the Iowa offense, Johnson could be the primary beneficiary.

69) Rodney Hammond Jr. | Pittsburgh

ACC Rank: 9/14

With Israel Abanikanda’s departure to the NFL, taking 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns of rushing production with him, Pittsburgh’s running back situation for the upcoming season remains uncertain. However, it would be surprising not to see junior rusher Rodney Hammond Jr. receive an increased workload as the Pitt RB1.

Hammond Jr., who averaged 4.2 yards per carry and scored five touchdowns last season (including two against West Virginia), has carried the ball over 100 times in consecutive seasons, making him a reliable option to replace the lost carries. As a true power back, he possesses lower body strength to drag defenders down the field or the ability to lower his shoulder and plow through them.

68) Justice Ellison | Wake Forest

ACC Rank: 8/14

With the departure of quarterback Sam Hartman, Wake Forest may place a greater emphasis on the running game in the 2023 college football season. Fortunately, they have one of the ACC’s best in Justice Ellison. The fourth-year running back achieved a career-high 699 rushing yards last season, ranking fifth in the conference with an average of 54.38 yards per game.

Ellison’s impressive vision and elusiveness allow him to make defenders miss. He combines patience with short-area explosiveness, showcasing spin moves and jump cuts to add flair to his game. Additionally, his pass protection skills stand out, as he utilizes his lower body power and strength to anchor and protect the quarterback.

67) Ollie Gordon II | Oklahoma State

Big 12 Rank: 9/14

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy has consistently found ways to replace talented running backs such as Chuba Hubbard, Jaylen Warren, and Dominic Richardson. Now, with Richardson’s departure via the transfer portal, the Cowboys may be poised to further enhance their running back position.

Ollie Gordon II is expected to be the starting running back in August. With a high level of productivity in high school, Gordon combines speed, strength, and impressive spin moves that leave opponents bewildered. In his freshman campaign, he averaged five yards per carry, and if he continues to develop as anticipated, he could significantly climb the ranks in our 2023 college RB rankings.

66) Kimani Vidal | Troy

Sun Belt Rank: 6/14

As Troy marched to a Sun Belt title behind one of the nation’s best defenses, their offensive success was fueled by the standout performances of Kimani Vidal. In his third season as a starter for the Trojans, the 5’8″, 218-pound running back amassed a career-high 1,132 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Impressively, 16.88% of his carries resulted in gains of 10 yards or more.

Vidal is widely regarded as one of the top college running backs in the country. Despite his compact size, he possesses remarkable lower body strength, allowing him to churn out yardage with power. He also exhibits decent speed, impressive contact balance, and the ability to change direction, contributing to his big-play potential. Even with the addition of former Memphis rusher Asa Martin, Vidal remains the clear RB1 for Troy.

65) E.J. Smith | Stanford

Pac-12 Rank: 10/12

If Stanford can keep E.J. Smith healthy this season, expect him to make a significant impact as a senior running back. The son of NFL great Emmitt Smith, Smith is one of the most naturally talented playmakers in the conference. Despite limited playing time last season, he showcased his football IQ, footwork, speed, and contact balance, with 20% of his carries resulting in gains of over 10 yards.

Under the new offensive scheme implemented by Troy Taylor, the Stanford offense is expected to undergo a transformation. Taylor’s system utilizes running backs as receiving weapons, and while Smith has had limited opportunities as a pass-catcher, he has proven to be effective in that role, even scoring his first career receiving touchdown in 2022.

64) MarShawn Lloyd | USC

Pac-12 Rank: 9/12

With quarterback Caleb Williams leading the offense and a talented wide receiver corps, it may be tempting to overlook USC’s running back room. However, that would be a mistake. Head coach Lincoln Riley has praised the stable of both new and returning backs, with one transfer portal addition poised to take the lead following the departure of Travis Dye.

MarShawn Lloyd, a transfer from South Carolina, is expected to fill the void left by Dye at the top of the depth chart. With his physical rushing style between the tackles, receiving abilities, and blocking prowess, it’s an easy assumption to make. Lloyd showcased his big-play threat, with 18.01% of his carries in the SEC resulting in gains of over 10 yards.

63) Shaadie Clayton-Johnson | Tulane

AAC Rank: 6/14

Losing Tyjae Spears, the AAC’s leading rusher in yardage and touchdowns, is a blow to the reigning champion Tulane Green Wave. However, his departure presents an opportunity for the running backs behind him on the roster. Tulane’s running game is expected to remain strong, and one player to watch is Shaadie Clayton-Johnson.

Standing at 6’1″ and weighing 205 pounds, Clayton-Johnson is more than capable of bouncing outside and imposing his will on opposing defenses. Last season, he impressively gained over 10 yards on 17.54% of his carries and holds a career average of 5.8 yards per carry. While he is likely to open the season as the RB1, competition from Iverson Celestine and true freshman Arnold Barnes will keep the running back room competitive.

62) Henry Parrish Jr. | Miami

ACC Rank: 7/14

Henry Parrish Jr., a former four-star back, spent his first two seasons at Ole Miss before transferring to Miami in 2022. While his numbers from last season may not have garnered national attention, the now-senior running back set career highs in rushing yards (616), touchdowns (four), and receiving touchdowns (2), surpassing his combined total from the previous two seasons.

However, statistics alone don’t do justice to Parrish’s skills as a running back for the Hurricanes this season. He brings a dynamic presence to the field with his effortless acceleration, impressive twitch, and lateral agility, allowing him to make cuts without a noticeable drop in speed. Additionally, Parrish showcases good vision as a ball carrier.

61) Jacquez Stuart | Toledo

MAC Rank: 5/12

Despite playing in an offense that distributed triple-digit carries to four players last season, Jacquez Stuart firmly established himself as one of the top college running backs in the MAC, deserving of greater national recognition. With a career average of 5.7 yards per carry, Stuart excelled in 2022, with 17.91% of his carries resulting in gains of 10 yards or more.

Stuart’s elusive running style, characterized by his shifty moves and ability to leave defenders grasping at air, makes him extremely difficult to tackle in the open field. Combining his impressive movements with legitimate speed, Stuart effortlessly pulls away from opponents. Furthermore, his returner value adds to his portfolio as one of the best running backs in our college rankings.

60) Cameron Skattebo | Arizona State

Pac-12 Rank: 8/12

Transitioning from FCS to FBS isn’t always easy, especially when entering the competitive Pac-12 and immediately assuming a potential RB1 role on a new team. Cameron Skattebo’s adaptation to the Power Five level remains to be seen, but Arizona State may have acquired one of the top college running backs to replace the lost production of Xazavian Valladay.

As the Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, Skattebo has consistently displayed big-play potential whenever he takes the field. Accumulating over 1,700 total yards last season, he is a physical yet athletic triple-threat who can either hurdle or overpower his opponents. Additionally, Skattebo excels as a receiver and has experience contributing on special teams.

59) Roman Hemby | Maryland

Big Ten Rank: 8/14

After seeing limited action as a freshman in 2021, Roman Hemby burst onto the national stage in 2022, nearly reaching the 1,000-yard mark and recording double-digit touchdowns. “Burst” aptly describes Hemby’s rise to prominence. Few players among the top college running backs can match the redshirt sophomore’s pure straight-line speed.

During his breakout season, Hemby was clocked at over 21 mph, making him a legitimate speed threat who can also deceive defenders with his change of direction in the open field. Moreover, the 6’0″, 200-pound Maryland running back demonstrates advanced ability to control his tempo and contributes as a receiver, amassing 299 yards and a touchdown last season.

58) Sean Tyler | Minnesota

Big Ten Rank: 7/14

The first of two consecutive transfers into the Big Ten on our list of top college running backs is Sean Tyler, who was recruited by Minnesota from the transfer portal to fill the void left by the record-setting production of Mohamed Ibrahim, who departed for the NFL. Tyler will form an explosive duo with highly-rated true freshman Darius Taylor.

Tyler’s impressive résumé at Western Michigan speaks for itself. Standing at 5’8″ and weighing 185 pounds, this pocket rocket effortlessly flies past defenses. He has surpassed 1,000 yards in each of the last two seasons for the Broncos, boasting a career average of 5.7 yards per carry in the MAC. Furthermore, he has taken 11.96% of his carries for gains of over 10 yards. With his twitchy explosiveness and straight-line speed, Tyler can be a challenging player to stop downfield.

57) Nathan Carter | Michigan State

Big Ten Rank: 6/14

Nathan Carter, after making a strong impression in his limited action at UConn last fall (he played just four games), has transferred to Michigan State for the upcoming season. He is expected to establish himself as the Spartans’ RB1 even with the addition of Jaren Mangham and the return of leading rusher Jalen Berger.

Despite his season being cut short by a shoulder injury suffered against Michigan, over 20% of Carter’s carries went for gains of 10 yards or more. Known for his speed, as evidenced by his sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash in high school, Carter’s ability to change direction makes him a dangerous rusher. He also excels as an effective route-runner and receiving threat.

56) Tylan Hines | Hawaii

Mountain West Rank: 5/12

While Hawaii head coach Timmy Chang’s run-and-shoot offense at Hawaii may not emphasize gaudy rushing numbers, the talent on the roster still deserves recognition among the top college running backs. With the departure of the Rainbow Warriors’ leading rusher from 2022, Dedrick Parson, a returning RB has the potential to shine.

Tylan Hines has showcased game-changing speed and has proven his ability to grind it out between the tackles despite measuring in at 5’7″ and 175 pounds. As a true freshman last season, he averaged an impressive 7.6 yards per carry, with 21.68% of his carries resulting in gains of over 10 yards. His predicted points added per game of 0.325 ranks among the best in our college running back rankings.

55) John Lee Eldridge III | Air Force

Mountain West Rank: 4/12

While Brad Roberts dominated college football defenses last season, John Lee Eldridge III, his counterpart at slotback in the Air Force Falcons’ offense, compiled some remarkable numbers that surpass those of anyone on our list of top college running backs. Eldridge’s role within the team may be questioned, but his résumé and skill set certainly cannot be ignored.

Eldridge quietly amassed 766 yards and four touchdowns, averaging an impressive 7.7 yards per carry. Utilizing his sub-4.4-second 40-yard dash speed, he turned 26.26% of his carries into gains of 10 yards or more. Standing at 5’9″ and weighing 195 pounds, his size may prevent him from taking on the “Superback” role like Roberts, but he projects to be one of the most dangerous backs in the nation regardless.

54) Emani Bailey | TCU

Big 12 Rank: 8/12

While Trey Sanders was a significant addition from the transfer portal for TCU, his injury history raises concerns about his ability to fulfill his potential. If Sanders can stay healthy, he has the potential to compete for the RB1 spot, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Emani Bailey not only win the job but also hold onto it throughout the entire season.

Bailey possesses the talent to emerge as a true weapon for the Horned Frogs and establish himself among the top college running backs. He consistently runs hard, slicing through defenses like a knife through butter. In 2022, 22.8% of his carries resulted in gains of over 10 yards. His speed and ability to catch passes will be invaluable for TCU this season.

53) Vincent Davis | UNLV

Mountain West Rank: 3/12

Vincent Davis, formerly of the Pittsburgh Panthers, may have been overshadowed by his teammate Israel Abanikanda’s standout season last year, but he has accumulated 1,813 yards and 16 touchdowns across four seasons in the ACC. Although his total production in his final season with the program was limited, he managed to turn 15.38% of his carries into gains of over 10 yards.

Davis arrives in Las Vegas as the projected RB1 and could become UNLV’s third consecutive 1,000-yard rusher after Aidan Robbins departed for BYU. His explosive, one-cut style of play ensures success in the Mountain West, and his experience and ability as a receiving back further enhance his reputation as one of the top college running backs.

52) LeQuint Allen | Syracuse

ACC Rank: 6/14

Replacing the speedy and social media-savvy Sean Tucker is a challenging task in Syracuse. However, LeQuint Allen proved during the 2022 season that he could step up and deliver when called upon. Expect him to emerge as a big-play threat for the Orange this fall, solidifying his position among the top college running backs.

While Allen may not possess Tucker’s breakneck speed, he still has enough burst to break away for long gains. In 2022, he turned 17.07% of his carries into gains of 10 yards or more. Additionally, his physicality allows him to excel in goal-line situations, as evidenced by his ability to punch in touchdowns. It’s worth mentioning that he even threw a touchdown against Wake Forest, which may not be a significant factor from an RB standpoint but was certainly impressive to witness.

51) Elijah Green, Omarion Hampton, George Pettaway, British Brooks, Caleb Hood | North Carolina

ACC Rank: 5/14

Predicting the starting running back for the North Carolina Tar Heels is a challenging task. The team boasts a stacked running back room where any of the five playmakers could earn the RB1 designation.

British Brooks was highly anticipated last season but unfortunately suffered an injury in the spring, sidelining him for the year. He opted to return for his sixth season at Chapel Hill, where his speed and physical style of play make him a dangerous threat. Elijah Green shares a similar profile, with his ability to absorb contact and verified in-game speed of over 20 mph.

In the 2022 recruiting cycle, the Tar Heels landed two talented freshman running backs. Omarion Hampton showcased his impact by surpassing 100 yards in two of his first three games, including a debut performance of 101 yards and two touchdowns that earned him Pro Football Network Freshman Player of the Week honors.

George Pettaway displayed his skills in limited opportunities, while Caleb Hood averaged 5.8 yards per carry and demonstrated his ability as a receiving back. North Carolina’s offensive strategy involves utilizing multiple running backs, along with quarterback Drake Maye, who led the team in carries last season. The team certainly has a deep pool of running backs to establish a strong running game in 2023.

50) Victor Rosa | UConn

FBS Independent rank: 2/4

If Jim Mora’s recent assertion that he wants to lead the UConn Huskies to a national championship becomes anything more than just social media cannon fodder, it will be the ability to attract talent of the caliber of Victor Rosa that helps takes a pipe dream into a reality.

The former Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year showcased his skills by leading the Huskies in rushing yards (636) and touchdowns (11) last season. As he enters his true sophomore season, it feels like Rosa is just scratching the surface of his potential.

Rosa capitalized on his opportunity to impress in 2022, stepping in for the injured Nathan Carter and seizing the starting role. He possesses explosive speed and agility, capable of leaving opponents in his dust with quick moves and lateral shifts. Despite his compact 6’0″, 200-pound frame, Rosa also brings physicality to his game. Noteworthy matchups against high-profile opponents like Tennessee will help garner national attention.

49) Richard Reese | Baylor

Big 12 Rank: 7/14

Baylor’s running game benefits from the complementary talents of Richard Reese’s speed and Taye McWilliams’ power. Qualan Jones also proved productive last season, and the addition of Dominic Richardson from Oklahoma State adds depth to the backfield. Baylor also welcomes three-star freshman Dawson Pendergrass, who boasted nearly 7,500 rushing yards in high school.

As a freshman in 2022, Reese seized his opportunity and impressed. Standing at 5’9″ and weighing 175 pounds, Reese turned 15.65% of his carries into gains of 10 yards or more. His speed is remarkable, effortlessly leaving defenders in the dust. Last season’s performance may only scratch the surface of Reese’s true potential, and he is expected to start the season with the possibility of climbing higher in the rankings.

48) Samson Evans | Eastern Michigan

MAC Rank: 4/12

Samson Evans set the Eastern Michigan record for rushing touchdowns last season, and many expected him to enter the 2023 NFL Draft. Instead, he finds himself among the top 50 college football running backs, earning a fearsome reputation in the MAC and college football as a whole.

While his career yards per carry (4.5) and explosive play percentage (11.64% in 2022) may not be mind-blowing, Evans’ overall production, skill set, performances against Power Five opponents, and significance to his offense secure his place among the top running backs in the nation. He is one of just three returning MAC rushers who surpassed 1,000 yards last season.

47) Devin Mockobee | Purdue

Big Ten Rank: 4/14

A standout high school athlete who was an Indiana state long jump champion before arriving at Purdue, Devin Mockobee had a breakout redshirt-freshman season at Purdue. After not seeing the field in 2021, Mockobee made a significant impact in 2022, averaging five yards per carry and accumulating 968 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He turned 13.84% of his carries into gains of 10 yards or more.

Standing at 6’0″ and weighing 195 pounds, Mockobee displays incredible determination when running through contact, making him a formidable short-yardage weapon. However, it is his agility and cutting ability that truly sets him apart, earning him a spot among the top 50 college football running backs in our 2023 rankings.

46) Jaylan Knighton | SMU

AAC Rank: 5/14

With quarterback Tanner Mordecai transferring to Wisconsin, the SMU Mustangs are expected to feature a more balanced offense in the second season under head coach Rhett Lashlee. The team already had an abundance of talented running backs, but they added some Power Five experience in LJ Johnson and the potential RB1, former Miami running back Jaylan Knighton, during the offseason.

Knighton reunites with his former offensive coordinator, which should excite anyone who witnessed his versatile usage in Lashlee’s system during the 2021 season. Despite only receiving 78 carries in the 2022 campaign, The Rooster managed to turn 14.28% of them into explosive plays. Knighton combines speed and agility with surprising physicality, standing at 5’10” and weighing 190 pounds.

45) Sieh Bangura | Ohio

MAC Rank: 3/12

Sieh Bangura had an impressive freshman season, accumulating 1,078 rushing yards, averaging 4.9 yards per carry, scoring 13 touchdowns, and contributing as a receiver with 27 receptions for 226 yards and two touchdowns. He was named MAC Freshman of the Year. What’s even more terrifying for opponents in the MAC and college football is that Bangura is expected to improve with more experience.

Bangura’s place among the top college running backs is well-deserved. He excels in short-yardage situations, displays effectiveness as a receiving option, and generates enough speed from his imposing frame to produce explosive plays. While he continues to develop, Bangura is already a formidable weapon that opponents struggle to tackle in one-on-one encounters.

44) Reese White | Coastal Carolina

Sun Belt Rank: 5/14

Despite facing competition within a talented Chanticleers running back room, Reese White has established himself as a dangerous offensive weapon for Coastal Carolina, earning legitimate national attention as one of the top college running backs. He boasts a career average of 5.8 yards per carry and turned 19.19% of his carries into gains of 10 yards or more in 2022.

White possesses exceptional speed, capable of leaving defenses behind, and also demonstrates excellent vision and patience when navigating the line of scrimmage. Additionally, the 5’10”, 195-pound back exhibits physicality in goal-line and short-yardage situations, further adding to his skill set.

43) Ray Davis | Kentucky

SEC Rank: 8/14

Ray Davis remains one of the top running backs in the SEC after transferring within the conference from Vanderbilt to Kentucky. Davis is among the few returning rushers in the conference who surpassed 1,000 yards last season while also contributing as a receiver—an attribute that will benefit him with new Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary.

Davis is expected to fill the void left by the departure of Christopher Rodriguez to the NFL. He possesses a combination of physicality, quick feet, vision, and patience, which will be valuable assets if early reports of offensive line struggles continue into the 2023 season. The addition of former NC State back Demie Sumo-Karngbaye adds competition for the RB1 spot.

42) Marquis Crosby | Louisiana Tech

Conference USA Rank: 1/9

Marquis Crosby solidifies his position as one of the top college running backs as he aims to lead Louisiana Tech to success in Conference USA. Standing at 5’10” and weighing 201 pounds, the redshirt sophomore was a dominant force in 2022, accumulating 918 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Crosby had four 100+ yard performances and recorded three games with multiple touchdowns.

While he may not possess exceptional long speed, Crosby compensates with a burst at the line of scrimmage that allows him to break through gaps for significant gains. His strong rushing vision contributed to him achieving gains of over 10 yards on 12.96% of his carries last season. It is not out of the question for him to surpass 1,000 rushing yards during the 2023 college campaign.

41) Jase McClellan | Alabama

SEC Rank: 7/14

With uncertainties surrounding the quarterback situation at Alabama, there is a genuine possibility that Nick Saban’s team will return to a ground-and-pound offensive approach. They have the personnel to do so, including true freshman Justice Haynes who impressed during spring practices, along with their existing stable of running backs.

Although Haynes may see significant playing time, Jase McClellan is likely to start the season as Alabama’s RB1. The 5’11”, 212-pound rusher served as the backup to Jahmyr Gibbs last season, amassing 655 rushing yards with 17.85% of his carries resulting in gains of over 10 yards. McClellan is a versatile running back, utilizing his strength to power through tackles and also possessing the speed to work on the outside.

40) Jaylen Wright | Tennessee

SEC Rank: 6/14

The spotlight on quarterback Joe Milton has led to the talent and contributions of the Tennessee Volunteers’ running back room being overlooked. With Jabari Small and Jaylen Wright, the team has two highly talented contributors who would contend for RB1 roles at any program in the country. Currently, Wright is projected to be the starter for the Vols in 2023.

Wright, standing at 5’11” and weighing 205 pounds, brings speed to the backfield, but his game extends beyond simply outrunning defenses. He showcases excellent contact balance, allowing him to extend runs beyond their natural conclusion. Few players can match his 0.343 PPA (points per attempt) from last season, and he achieved gains of over 10 yards on 13.69% of his carries in 2022.

39) Nate Noel | Appalachian State

Sun Belt Rank: 4/14

Appalachian State has consistently produced quality running backs, and with Nate Noel deciding to return for another season, they possess a running back worthy of high placement in our college football RB rankings. Despite having fewer carries than his teammate Camerun Peoples last season, Noel led the team in rushing yards, yards per carry, and touchdowns.

Weighing 185 pounds at a height of 5’10”, Noel is a big-play threat on every carry. In 2022, he achieved gains of over 10 yards on 19.54% of his carries, while his 0.421 PPA ranks among the highest of the top college running backs. His impressive footwork, burst, speed, and ability to break tackles have been evident throughout his career with the Mountaineers.

38) Ayo Adeyi | North Texas

AAC Rank: 4/14

North Texas boasts a wealth of talent in their running back room, making it challenging to select a projected starter from their trio of formidable backs. Oscar Adawa III poses a significant challenge for defenders in the open field, while Ikaika Ragsdale led the team in carries last season.

However, as my projected RB1 for 2023, Ayo Adeyi emerges as the standout and deserves recognition as one of the top college running backs. Adeyi’s exceptional speed makes him a constant big-play threat. Standing at 5’7″ and weighing 197 pounds, he leads all projected AAC starters after achieving gains of over 10 yards on 19.64% of his carries last season, while maintaining an average of 6.6 yards per career carry.

37) Antario Brown | Northern Illinois

MAC Rank: 2/12

Antario Brown may have played second fiddle to the player just above him on our list, but he is by no means a second-rate rusher. As the new RB1 for Northern Illinois, he aims to build on a solid campaign where he averaged 6.3 yards per carry, achieved gains of over 10 yards on 12.72% of his carries, and scored seven rushing touchdowns.

Standing at 5’10” and weighing 218 pounds, the junior possesses the physicality to handle contact between the tackles, the agility to bounce outside, and the speed to break away for explosive plays. He displays decent vision when running between the tackles and the burst to hit the hole with conviction. With an anticipated increase in workload this season, Brown could deliver another 1,000-yard rushing season for the Huskies.

36) Harrison Waylee | Wyoming

Mountain West Rank: 2/12

Harrison Waylee, one of the top rushers in the MAC last season, transitions to the Mountain West with the Wyoming Cowboys as the likely replacement for the departed Titus Swen. The former Northern Illinois rusher had an impressive five-game stretch in the middle of the previous year, accumulating over 100 all-purpose yards and showcasing his versatility.

Waylee’s game is characterized by impressive speed, with a peak of 20.8 mph achieved during Northern Illinois’ win over Eastern Michigan in 2022. While he can outrun defenses, he has also demonstrated the ability to navigate through traffic with good vision and agility. His body control allows him to squeeze through tight spaces between tackles, resulting in gains of over 10 yards on 13.3% of his carries last season.

35) Blake Watson | Memphis

AAC Rank: 3/14

Blake Watson, one of the top backs in the transfer portal, brings his productivity to Memphis, where he will make an impact on the ground and as a receiving option for quarterback Seth Henigan. Watson excels in contact balance, speed, and agility, making him effective in open space. He also showcases impressive strength, grinding out yards with a powerful lower body.

As a 5’9″, 195-pound sixth-year senior, Watson surpassed 1,000 rushing yards last season, achieved gains of over 10 yards on 15.18% of his plays, and found the end zone seven times. He maintains a career average of 5.5 yards per carry and even has previous experience as a kick returner. As one of the top college running backs, Watson possesses the talent to replicate his success from 2022.

34) Carson Steele | UCLA

Pac-12 Rank: 7/12

Despite the expectation of a running back rotation in Chip Kelly’s UCLA offense following the departure of Zach Charbonnet, Ball State transfer Carson Steele is poised to establish himself as the RB1 and start the season. He has already caught the attention of head coach Kelly, who praised him as a “beast” and a “really good player.”

Steele impressed with his performance last season, rushing for 1,556 yards on nearly 300 carries and averaging 5.4 yards per carry. He recorded explosive plays on 14.87% of his touches. The long-haired, game-breaking runner led the nation in yards after contact, utilizing his physical style combined with deceptive agility and speed.

33) Dillon Johnson | Washington

Pac-12 Rank: 6/12

Dillon Johnson, a 6’0″, 216-pound running back and former Mississippi State player, was highly sought after in the transfer portal by many Power Five programs for a reason—he is a beast. Despite his modest rushing statistics, never surpassing 500 yards or four touchdowns in a season, Johnson has been limited by a pass-oriented offense during his time in Starkville, where he never had more than 90 carries in a season.

Given the opportunity, Johnson has shown the ability to make big plays on the ground, with 19.97% of his carries resulting in gains of 10+ yards last season. He is a near-unstoppable force with added receiving upside for the Huskies.

32) La’Damian Webb | South Alabama

Sun Belt Rank: 3/14

Former FSU-RB-turned-JUCO standout La’Damian Webb made his return to the FBS level look simple last year, as he cruised past 1,000 yards at the forefront of the South Alabama Jaguars’ rushing attack. The 5’7″, 208-pound back averaged 5.1 yards per carry and scored 13 touchdowns on the ground, earning first-team All-Sun Belt honors.

Webb is a physical back who excels in overpowering defensive obstacles. He possesses the contact balance to absorb hits and keep driving forward. Additionally, he demonstrates impressive vision and lateral agility to find holes and make cuts. He also contributes as a receiver out of the backfield.

31) Jaydn Ott | Cal

Pac-12 Rank: 5/12

In a disappointing season for the Cal Golden Bears, freshman running back Jaydn Ott stood out as a bright spot. The 6’0″, 200-pounder received All-Freshman honors from multiple outlets and established himself as one of the top college running backs. He rushed for 897 yards and eight touchdowns, with 17.05% of his carries resulting in explosive plays.

Ott possesses excellent long speed and can be a threat both inside the tackles and when bouncing to the outside. He exhibits great athleticism, showcasing the ability to change direction quickly with good lateral agility. Ott is also a reliable receiving option and displays physicality and determination to extend runs beyond expectations.

30) Devin Neal | Kansas

Big 12 Rank: 6/14

Devin Neal is the real deal, and it’s not just a catchy phrase. The 5’11”, 210-pound junior showcased his star talent as a true freshman, recording 700 yards in Lance Leipold’s first season at Kansas. He then exploded onto the scene last year, averaging 6.1 yards per carry and accumulating nine touchdowns and 1,090 rushing yards. A remarkable 17.22% of his carries resulted in gains of 10 yards or more.

While numbers alone don’t determine a player’s worth, Neal is not merely a product of a run-friendly scheme that inflates statistics. He possesses burst, impressive long speed, and great lateral agility, allowing him to evade defenders and also handle physical contact.

29) Trevor Etienne | Florida

SEC Rank: 5/14

Although Montrell Johnson is favored to start at running back for the Florida Gators, don’t be surprised if Trevor Etienne emerges as the RB1 and establishes himself as one of the top college running backs in 2023. As the younger brother of Jacksonville Jaguars’ running back Travis Etienne, he has the potential to surpass 1,000 rushing yards.

Despite having fewer carries than his teammate last season, Etienne averaged 6.1 yards per carry and had 17.79% of his carries result in gains of 10 or more yards. His skill set includes quick footwork, explosiveness, top-end speed, agility, and a fierce playing style. Standing at 5’9″ and weighing 207 pounds, Etienne is certainly one to watch, especially with the departure of Anthony Richardson.

28) Aidan Robbins | BYU

Big 12 Rank: 5/14

As BYU enters the Big 12, a new addition to their program is poised to be one of the top college running backs in the 2023 season. Aidan Robbins, who started his career at Louisville before transferring to UNLV, showcased his true potential while dominating defenses in the Mountain West last year.

Robbins was a physical force for the Rebels, amassing 1,009 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. With his 6’3″, 230-pound frame, he generates impressive power while also possessing unexpected speed. Additionally, Robbins demonstrates good vision and exhibited receiving skills last season, making him a dangerous weapon to watch out for at BYU.

27) Kendall Milton | Georgia

SEC Rank: 4/14

Georgia has a reputation for producing championship teams and talented running backs, and Kendall Milton is no exception. Last season, Milton joined an elite club as the fourth Georgia running back to average 6.9 yards per carry, solidifying his place among the top college running backs.

Milton’s statistical achievements, including his 0.334 rushing PPA (Points Per Attempt) and 17.44% explosive play percentage, rank among the highest of all returning running backs. Standing at 6’1″ and weighing 220 pounds, he possesses a combination of physical tools that make him nearly unstoppable. He showcases strength, contact balance, speed, quick feet, and the ability to break off big plays. Additionally, Milton is a reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield.

26) CJ Donaldson | West Virginia

Big 12 Rank: 4/14

C.J. Donaldson made a stunning impact on the West Virginia offense as a true freshman, debuting with an astonishing 17.9 yards per carry in a nationally televised game against Pittsburgh. Despite dealing with injuries, he managed to have four 100-yard games in just seven appearances, with 14.94% of his carries resulting in gains of over 10 yards. His talent is undeniable, and he is only scratching the surface of his potential.

Standing at 6’2″ and weighing 240 pounds, Donaldson’s size and speed combination is remarkable. As a former tight end, he brings a physicality that is unmatched. His pass-blocking skills are devastating, providing a significant boost to the Mountaineers’ offense when he returns to full health.

25) Damien Martinez | Oregon State

Pac-12 Rank: 4/12

Oregon State boasts a trio of talented running backs for the upcoming season, and Damien Martinez, the leading rusher in 2022, is one of the top college running backs in the Pac-12. The 6’0″, 230-pound Beavers back recorded 982 rushing yards at an impressive average of 6.1 yards per carry last year. Martinez also had 18.01% of his carries result in gains of over 10 yards, establishing himself as a force on the field.

Martinez embodies the ruggedness expected from a back of his size, but he is not devoid of finesse. He possesses smooth movement and exceptional cut-capability, making him explosively elusive. His contact balance is top-notch, and it’s worth noting that he was just a freshman last season, suggesting that he has even more room for growth.

24) Kevorian Barnes | UTSA

AAC Rank: 2/14

Stepping up to replace Sincere McCormick, Kevorian Barnes led UTSA with 845 rushing yards and an average of 6.3 yards per carry last season. Impressively, 15.5% of his carries resulted in gains of over 10 yards. As a redshirt freshman, Barnes showcased his potential as a receiving option out of the backfield for quarterback Frank Harris. It’s frightening to think that he’s only going to improve in 2023.

Barnes’s multi-sport background, including powerlifting, has shaped him into a well-rounded football player. His power and strength are evident in his bulldozing ability, while his speed allows him to effortlessly outrun defenses, as demonstrated by his state-title in the 4×200-meter relay. Barnes is poised to make an even greater impact in the upcoming season.

23) Jaquez Moore | Duke

ACC Rank: 4/14

While Jordan Waters has shown promise in the Duke ground game, Jaquez Moore has the potential to emerge as the RB1. As a junior, Moore’s talent lands him in the top 25 of our college football running back rankings. He led the Blue Devils with an impressive 6.4 yards per carry last season, ranking second among all returning ACC backs. His 20.25% rate of gains over 10 yards is the highest among projected 2023 starters in the conference.

Moore possesses impressive speed, coupled with excellent vision and patience to allow blocks to develop. His explosive acceleration and cutting ability enable him to take full advantage once the blocks are in place. Whether running between the tackles or bouncing outside, the Duke running back has the potential for a standout season.

22) Gavin Sawchuk | Oklahoma

Big 12 Rank: 3/12

Despite being one of the top running back recruits in the 2022 cycle, Gavin Sawchuk didn’t receive many opportunities to showcase his skills for the Oklahoma Sooners last season. However, with Eric Gray now in the NFL, Sawchuk is expected to have a larger role in the upcoming season, although he will compete with Jovantae Barnes and Marcus Majors for the RB1 spot in the Sooners’ final season in the Big 12.

As a 5’11”, 187-pound redshirt freshman, Sawchuk possesses game-changing speed and explosive athleticism. His combination of speed and explosiveness makes him an elusive rusher, as demonstrated by his impressive 6.2 yards per carry average on his limited 17 carries last season. He also scored his first career touchdown. Sawchuk’s talent is highly regarded, and he has already proven himself as a two-time Gatorade Colorado Player of the Year.

21) Marquez Cooper | Ball State

MAC Rank: 1/12

Although Ball State lost one of the top 50 college running backs to the transfer portal, they managed to replace him with Marquez Cooper, who rushed for only 225 fewer yards while possessing a more well-rounded skill set. Cooper not only claims the title of the best running back in the MAC but also earns a spot near the top of our college RB rankings.

Numbers don’t tell the whole story, but in addition to his 1,331 rushing yards, Cooper had an impressive 15.08% rate of carries over 10 yards last year. Despite his size at 5’6″ and 184 pounds, Cooper runs with unexpected physicality and aggression. His explosiveness, lateral agility, body control, and deceptive moves make him a difficult player for opponents to handle.

20) Jermaine Brown Jr. | UAB

AAC Rank: 1/14

While DeWayne McBride dominated defenses for UAB last season, Jermaine Brown Jr. still managed to shine. As the Blazers transition from Conference USA to the AAC, the 5’8″, 195-pound back is poised to establish himself as one of the top college running backs.

Brown had a remarkable 17.46% rate of carries over 10 yards, averaging 5.7 yards per carry and amassing 948 yards and eight touchdowns despite playing in McBride’s shadow. He demonstrates excellent vision at the line of scrimmage, possesses impressive speed, and plays with both physicality and remarkable contact balance. Additionally, Brown adds value as a pass-catcher and returner.

19) Ja’Quinden Jackson | Utah

Pac-12 Rank: 3/12

In recent years, Utah has become known for producing top-tier running back talent in the Pac-12. While they have added highly rated recruits like John Randle Jr. and Michael Mitchell in the 2023 recruiting cycle, it’s one of their returning rushers who stands out in our RB rankings.

Ja’Quinden Jackson, a 6’2″, 226-pound former Texas back, possesses star potential in Utah’s running back group. Last season, he averaged an impressive 6.8 yards per carry and found the end zone nine times on just 78 carries. Notably, 15.38% of his carries resulted in gains of over 10 yards. Jackson combines speed, physicality, and agility to make a significant impact on the field.

18) George Holani | Boise State

Mountain West Rank: 1/12

Boise State boasts a backfield filled with talent, and at the forefront is George Holani. He stands out as the lone returning 1,000+ yard rusher in the Mountain West from last season, amassing 1,157 yards at an average of 5.2 yards per carry and scoring a total of 13 touchdowns. In 2022, the redshirt senior had 11.76% of his carries go for over 10 yards.

Beyond his impressive statistics, Holani possesses remarkable skills as a running back. He is incredibly difficult to bring down, showcasing excellent contact balance and the ability to drive through tackles. While he may not possess blazing straight-line speed, his agility and fluidity of movement contribute to his elusive qualities as one of the top college running backs.

17) Jawhar Jordan | Louisville

ACC Rank: 3/14

Jawhar Jordan spent two seasons at Syracuse before transferring to Louisville prior to the 2021 season. His performances in his second year with the Cardinals garnered significant national attention for the fifth-year running back.

Jordan carries considerable momentum into the 2023 college football season. He rushed for over 100 yards in four of the final five games, making impactful plays that helped Louisville secure a victory against Cincinnati in the Fenway Bowl, including two touchdowns.

Explosive plays define Jordan’s game. He combines exceptional body control, agility, and elusiveness to confound defenders and make big plays. He converted 18.3% of his carries in 2022 into gains of over 10 yards. While his career average of 5.4 yards per carry is slightly skewed by the disrupted 2020 season, where he only averaged 2.5 yards per carry, his potential as a big-play threat is evident.

16) Treshaun Ward | Kansas State

Big 12 Rank: 2/14

In their quest for a consecutive Big 12 Championship following Deuce Vaughn’s departure, Kansas State turned to Treshaun Ward, a former Florida State rusher acquired through the transfer portal. Despite being part of a rotation at Florida State, Ward surpassed 500 yards in each of the past two seasons and has found the end zone 12 times in the last three seasons.

Ward boasts an impressive average of 6.6 yards per carry and had 20% of his carries go for over 10 yards last season, placing him among the top college running backs in both categories. His explosiveness, top-end speed, and elusiveness make him a player to watch in the Big 12, where he has the potential to shine and gain national recognition.

15) Jonathon Brooks | Texas

Big 12 Rank: 1/14

Jonathon Brooks, overshadowed by the exceptional talents of Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson last season, possesses the potential to become the next highly productive running back for the Texas Longhorns. Although he has never handled more than 30 carries in a season, Brooks has averaged an impressive 6.7 yards per carry over his two campaigns and scored six touchdowns last year.

Standing at 6’0″ and weighing 204 pounds, Brooks is a powerful runner who combines physicality with speed, agility, and excellent cutting ability. He also demonstrates patience, maximizing the impact of his runs. Remarkably, 16.66% of his limited carries in 2022 resulted in gains of over 10 yards. If you’re not familiar with his name now, you likely will be by the end of the 2023 season.

14) Audric Estime | Notre Dame

FBS Indpendent Rank: 1/4

Few running backs in our college rankings possess the well-rounded skill set of Notre Dame’s projected starter, Audric Estime. He showcases his big-play potential with an impressive career average of six yards per carry and a knack for rushing for over 10 yards on 19.87% of his carries last season. However, his value goes beyond his rushing ability, as his elite pass protection skills make him a valuable asset for quarterback Sam Hartman’s security this season.

While Chris Tyree and incoming freshman Jeremiyah Love bring speed to the offense, Estime, standing at 5’11 1/2″ and weighing 227 pounds, serves as the enforcer of the group. He relies on his physicality, employing stiff arms and lowering his shoulder into contact as his trademark moves. Despite not possessing the same long speed as his teammates, he still possesses enough agility and burst to break off significant plays. With Notre Dame lacking a 1,000-yard rusher last season, Estime appears to be a solid bet to surpass that mark.

13) Alton McCaskill IV | Colorado

Pac-12 Rank: 2/12

Alton McCaskill IV missed the entire 2022 college football season due to a torn ACL suffered during spring practice, and the absence of this former Houston running back was deeply felt in the sport. As a true freshman in 2021, he burst onto the scene with an impressive performance, accumulating 961 yards at an average of 5.1 yards per carry and scoring 18 total touchdowns. McCaskill is undoubtedly one of the nation’s most dangerous playmakers.

To the surprise of many, McCaskill entered the transfer portal after spending the spring with Houston and later committed to Colorado in mid-May. Standing at 6’1″ and weighing 215 pounds, he possesses size, contact balance, speed, and lateral agility, making him a threat to defenses from anywhere on the field. Additionally, McCaskill excels as a receiving threat, further adding to his versatility.

12) Jarquez Hunter | Auburn

SEC Rank: 3/14

At the time of writing, Jarquez Hunter’s status for the 2023 college football season is uncertain due to an alleged video leak, which led to the suspension of several Auburn players, including Hunter, pending an investigation into the incident. While we’re not a speculative website, we won’t go in on the specifics of the situation — and instead look at the on-field ability for Hunter.

From a pure football perspective, Hunter is undoubtedly one of the top college football running backs for the upcoming season. Despite playing second fiddle to Tank Bigsby last season, he stood out statistically on a team with a lackluster performance.

Hunter holds the record for the longest touchdown run in Auburn history and had the highest explosive-play percentage (22.11%) among returning players in the SEC, ranking third nationally. Despite his secondary role, Hunter averaged 6.4 yards per carry, accumulating 668 yards and finding the end zone nine times, adding 0.259 predicted points.

The numbers are impressive, but his film showcases even more of his talent. Hunter exhibits excellent vision, patience, and explosiveness, making him a threat both between the tackles and on the outside. He’s also known for his hyper-athletic hurdle move that frequently catches opponents off guard.

11) Braelon Allen | Wisconsin

Big Ten Rank: 4/14

Wisconsin has a storied tradition of producing top-tier college football running backs, and Braelon Allen is the latest addition to this legacy. In a short time, he has established himself as one of the top college running backs to watch in 2023. Allen is an imposing force on the field, standing at 6’2″ and weighing 240 pounds. Originally recruited to play defense, he has found success on the offensive side of the ball, bulldozing through opposing defenses.

Power is the defining characteristic of Allen’s game. Over the past two seasons, he has physically dominated defenders, often requiring multiple opponents to bring him down. Despite frequently facing eight-man boxes, Allen maintains an impressive career average of six yards per carry. However, he’s not just a bruising back; Allen also showcases nimble footwork, vision, and the ability to maneuver through defenses.

10) Blake Corum | Michigan

Big Ten Rank: 3/14

Blake Corum returns to the Michigan Wolverines after a season cut short by injury, eager to make another impact. His performances last year garnered Heisman Trophy consideration, as he amassed 1,463 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry, and scoring 18 touchdowns, placing him among the nation’s best.

Corum showcased his explosive playmaking ability by taking 14.57% of his carries for over 10 yards. His 0.37 predicted points added demonstrates his value as one of the top college running backs. With his burst and fluidity of movement, Corum poses a threat as an elusive runner, and although he didn’t have many opportunities as a receiver in 2022, he has shown excellent receiving capability.

However, a lingering concern is how well Corum will recover from knee surgery. His ability to make sharp cuts and change direction is a significant part of his success on the field, and any drop-off in effectiveness due to the injury could impact his performance. Additionally, he faces competition within his own offense, with teammate Donovan Edwards, known for his exceptional big-play speed, considered by some analysts to be a better back and a contender for the starting role at Michigan.

9) Frank Gore Jr. | Southern Miss

Sun Belt Rank: 2/14

If you don’t believe that some of the top college running backs outside of the Power Five, then may I point you in the direction of the Sun Belt where you’ll find two of the very best.

The Sun Belt Conference is home to some of the best backs outside of the P5, and Frank Gore Jr. is a prime example. Following in the footsteps of his father, Gore Jr. has proven to be a game-changing force at the college level. While he could have entered the NFL draft, fans are thrilled to see him back in college football.

Standing at 5’8″ and weighing 195 pounds, Gore Jr. possesses a potent combination of speed, elusiveness, change of direction ability, goal-line power, and a strong stiff arm. He excels at ripping off big plays, with over 20% of his 228 carries last season resulting in gains of over 10 yards.

With an average of 6.1 yards per carry and 1,382 yards in total, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him replicate those impressive numbers in 2023. Gore Jr. also contributes as a receiver and occasionally takes on the role of a wildcat quarterback, having thrown seven touchdowns over the past two seasons.

8) Rasheen Ali | Marshall

Sun Belt Rank: 1/14

Rasheen Ali garnered high expectations after a breakout season in 2021, but his 2022 campaign took an unexpected turn when he announced he would be away from the program indefinitely. This led his teammate, Laborn, to carry the load for Marshall.

However, Ali made a strong comeback later in the season, reaffirming his status as one of the top college running backs.

Down the stretch, Ali outperformed his teammate, turning an impressive 21.27% of his carries into explosive plays. He averaged 5.8 yards per carry and had one of the highest predicted points added in the Sun Belt Conference (0.226).

Standing at 6’0″ and weighing 200 pounds, Ali is a playmaking dynamo, armed with explosive speed, lateral agility, and quick footwork. He possesses the ability to quickly burst upfield while also displaying patience at the line of scrimmage to maximize his potential for success. Ali, now in his fourth year, is also a potent weapon in the receiving game.

7) Miyan Williams | Ohio State

Big Ten Rank: 2/14

A social media war is brewing, pitting analytics against film analysis, and fantasy football against scouting. At the center of this debate lies Ohio State’s running back room, with Miyan Williams emerging as a focal point. In my view, considering the criteria used in our college RB rankings, Williams is one of the most underrated running backs in the nation.

Let’s start with the statistics that have fueled this debate. Last season, Williams led the Buckeyes with 825 yards, averaging an impressive 6.4 yards per carry, and scoring 14 touchdowns. These are the standard metrics that highlight his production.

But there are also advanced metrics that set Williams apart. He had a remarkable 20.31% of his carries go for gains of over 10 yards, a figure that only a few running backs in the nation can match. Additionally, his 0.454 predicted points added from the 2022 campaign stands out among his peers.

Moving on to the tape, Williams, standing at 5’9″ and weighing 225 pounds, possesses the build of a bowling ball. However, physicality is just one aspect of his game. He surprises with his foot speed, enabling him to make sharp cuts and display excellent burst at the line of scrimmage. Williams also showcases outstanding vision, consistently generating big plays.

6) Trey Benson | FSU

ACC Rank: 2/14

Florida State boasts an abundance of talent at the wide receiver position, as well as CFN’s top-ranked quarterback in the ACC, Jordan Travis. However, the Seminoles’ path back to college football relevance may rely on one of the nation’s top running backs, Trey Benson.

He is the real deal.

Benson led the Seminoles last season with 990 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. His average of 6.43 yards per carry is the highest among returning running backs in the ACC.

Entering his second season in the conference after transferring from Oregon, Benson holds the second-highest rushing yards per game (76.15 yards per game) among all returning running backs. Additionally, he had one of the highest rates of carries over 10 yards in 2022, with 20.12% of his carries resulting in such gains.

Standing at 6’1″ and weighing 215 pounds, Benson possesses the size to be a powerful force in the ground game. However, what sets him apart, as noted by Pro Football Network NFL Draft Analyst Ian Cummings, is his athleticism and fleet-footed style typically associated with smaller backs.

5) Will Shipley | Clemson

ACC Rank: 1/14

There is some debate regarding the best running back on Clemson’s current roster, with Phil Mafah also being considered. However, Will Shipley, a former five-star recruit and top-ranked all-purpose back of the 2021 recruiting class, not only stands as the best Clemson back but also ranks among the top college running backs in the nation.

In his second season as Clemson’s RB1, Shipley surpassed the 1,000-yard mark, averaged a career-high 5.6 yards per carry, and recorded 15 rushing touchdowns, establishing himself as one of the most productive players in college football.

Standing at 5’11” and weighing 205 pounds, Shipley possesses the speed and vision to wreak havoc on defenses, consistently delivering big plays. He converted an impressive 18.09% of his carries into gains of 10 or more yards, placing him among the nation’s leaders.

Moreover, Shipley’s physicality, athleticism, and ability to effortlessly execute hurdles make him a versatile threat. He excels as a pass-catcher and is also involved in kick returns, accumulating an average of 124.9 all-purpose yards in 2022.

4) Raheim Sanders | Arkansas

SEC Rank: 2/14

Raheim Sanders earned the nickname “Rocket” not due to his fascination with space exploration but because of his explosive speed and ability to leave defenders in the dust. With his size, speed, contact balance, cutting ability, and explosiveness, Sanders deserves recognition as one of the top college running backs in the SEC and the nation.

After an impressive showing as an SEC All-Freshman in 2021, Sanders continued his upward trajectory last season, rushing for an impressive 1,443 yards at a remarkable average of 6.5 yards per carry. Approximately 18.01% of his carries resulted in gains of 10 or more yards, and he found the end zone 10 times on the ground. Notably, Sanders also showcased his pass-catching skills, accumulating 271 receiving yards and scoring two touchdowns.

3) Quinshon Judkins | Ole Miss

SEC Rank: 1/14

If football were solely determined by numbers, Quinshon Judkins would undeniably claim the top spot in our college football RB rankings for 2023. The Ole Miss running back emerged as a freshman phenom last season, displaying extraordinary production. No returning back can match his 1,565 rushing yards from the previous year, and only Blake Corum surpassed his 16 rushing touchdowns.

While football is not solely determined by numbers, Judkins unquestionably belongs among the very best college running backs.

Judkins is a versatile back who excels in multiple facets of the game, seamlessly transitioning between running north-south, receiving passes, and providing pass protection. As an impressive freshman, he is only expected to improve in the next two seasons.

With a height of 5’11” and weighing 210 pounds, Judkins possesses the size to be a workhorse back, as he demonstrated for Ole Miss last season. He combines long speed to break off big plays, with 15.32% of his carries in 2022 resulting in gains of 10 or more yards, and burst that allows him to burst through the line in the blink of an eye. Judkins is challenging to tackle and sets a high standard for other college running backs.

2) Bucky Irving | Oregon

Pac-12 Rank: 1/12

While Bucky Irving may not have garnered the same national attention as some other names on this list of top college football running backs, it would be unwise to underestimate him.

Irving possesses an unrivaled skill set in the Pac-12 conference, and he is poised to establish himself as a dominant force across the entire college football landscape.

In his first season as part of a talented Oregon running back room, Irving led the Ducks’ ground game. He amassed 1,058 rushing yards at an impressive average of 6.8 yards per carry, with over 21% of his carries resulting in gains of 10 or more yards. Additionally, he contributed 299 receiving yards and three touchdowns.

Having been highly sought after in the transfer portal following the 2021 season, Irving showcased why he was in such demand in his inaugural season in Eugene. He possesses speed, lateral agility, foot quickness, contact balance, body control, and exceptional receiving ability. Irving checks off every criterion for evaluating a running back, and he exceeds expectations in many aspects.

1) Nicholas Singleton | Penn State

Big Ten Rank: 1/14

Let’s quietly entertain the idea that Nicholas Singleton may one day be regarded as one of the best players ever produced by Penn State, alongside Saquon Barkley. However, we should whisper it quietly for two reasons: a) such a comparison places unnecessary pressure on a young player, and b) we still have two more years to witness the brilliance of the best running back in all of college football.

Although Singleton’s freshman season had its ups and downs, he gradually grew stronger physically as the campaign progressed. He added the ability to generate yardage between the tackles to his repertoire, complementing his speed threat when he bounces outside.

Standing at 6’0″ and weighing 228 pounds, Singleton achieved an impressive feat as a true freshman, with over 15.38% of his carries resulting in gains of 10 or more yards, surpassing some of the more celebrated Big Ten contemporaries. He holds the program freshman record with 12 touchdowns and became only the second Penn State freshman, alongside Saquon Barkley, to surpass 1,000 yards in a season.

While there are high expectations for incoming quarterback Drew Allar to enhance the passing game, Penn State can rely on Singleton to make an impact with the ball in his hands. Additionally, the presence of teammate Kaytron Allen forms a formidable “Thunder and Lightning” duo, establishing them as the best one-two punch in college football.