On Wednesday, we offered our prediction for which Big Ten quarterbacks will throw for 3,000 yards next season. On Thursday, we are predicting the running backs who will reach the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season.
Nine Big Ten rushers eclipsed 1,000 yards in 2016, and quite a few of them should reach that milestone in 2017, but some new names could make the list as well.
Here is a look at the Big Ten running backs who will likely reach 1,000 yards rushing next season.
2016 1,000-yard rushers in the Big Ten
RB Justin Jackson, Northwestern -- 1,524
RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State -- 1,496
RB Corey Clement, Wisconsin -- 1,375
RB Rodney Smith, Minnesota -- 1,158
RB Devine Redding, Indiana -- 1,122
RB Mike Weber, Ohio State -- 1,096
RB Akrum Wadley, Iowa -- 1,081
RB LeShun Daniels, Iowa -- 1,058
RB Ty Johnson, Maryland -- 1,004
Guys who could make a run at 1,000 yards this season:
1. Justin Jackson, Northwestern: Jackson is back for Northwestern and is roughly 1,500 yards from becoming No. 2 all time in career rushing yards for the Big Ten. That would put him ahead of Ohio State’s Archie Griffin and behind Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne. Another 1,000-yard season would give Jackson four seasons with at least 1,000 yards rushing. It seems likely that will happen, and Jackson could be well on his way to No. 2.
2. Saquon Barkley, Penn State: Barkley was second in the conference in rushing yards last season, just 28 yards behind Jackson, and should be near the top again next season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Barkley move past Jackson as the league's leading rusher; Penn State’s offense is in Year 2 with offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead, who has a more experienced offensive line and returning quarterback Trace McSorley. Barkley's name is starting to pop up on the Heisman Trophy watch, so it should be an exciting season for the electric back.
3. Mike Weber, Ohio State: Weber was just behind Indiana’s Devine Redding and Minnesota’s Rodney Smith in yards last season, but Weber had 66 fewer carries than Smith and 71 less than Redding. Weber’s new offensive coordinator, Kevin Wilson, called the plays for Redding last season, so it’s easy to see why Weber’s production could be close to last season's tally, if not better. Ohio State’s offense has more playmakers than Indiana’s, but Weber still will get plenty of reps in his quest for 1,000 yards.
4. Akrum Wadley, Iowa: Wadley reached 1,000 yards last season despite sharing carries with LeShun Daniels. He won’t be sharing with Daniels next season and also has a new offensive coordinator in Brian Ferentz. Wadley will be called upon to help carry a Hawkeyes offense that will have a new starting quarterback, new receiver and tight end. The stage is set for Wadley to have an explosive season.
5. Ty Johnson, Maryland: Johnson has proved that he is the guy for Maryland after averaging 9.1 yards per carry in 2016. He rushed for 1,004 yards on 110 carries and should have more opportunities in 2017. This will be his third season, and for the most part, he will have a more experienced offensive line in front of him. Johnson was part of a crowded backfield that included Wes Brown and Kenneth Goins, but those two have graduated, giving Johnson a chance at the spotlight.
6. LJ Scott, Michigan State: Scott missed out on 1,000 yards by six yards last season. Nothing went right for the Spartans, so maybe there will be a little more consistency next season. Scott will be asked to help a struggling offense that no longer has last season's top four receivers. He will need to come up with big plays and shoulder most of the load if the Spartans are to have any success, so he'll have a good shot at 1,000 yards.
7. Bradrick Shaw, Wisconsin: The Badgers’ top two rushers in Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale have both graduated, which leaves Shaw next in line to carry the torch of outstanding running backs at Wisconsin. Given the Badgers' success at running back in recent years, it's almost a given that a Wisconsin back will run for over 1,000 yards. Quite a few players will return on offense, and Shaw will be joined by Taiwan Deal and Chris James in the backfield, so he won’t have to carry the load alone. If Shaw can take over as the lead back, he'll have plenty of opportunities to hit at least 1,000 yards.
8. Rodney Smith, Minnesota: Smith ran for 1,158 yards in 2016 and will likely have an important role for new coach P.J. Fleck. Minnesota will be breaking in a new quarterback, who will need some help. Smith and Shannon Brooks, who ran for 650 yards last season, could be a good two-headed monster in the backfield, but Smith likely will get the bulk of the carries. Fleck brought offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca with him from Western Michigan, and the Broncos almost had two 1,000-yard rushers last season: Jarvion Franklin collected 1,353 yards and Jamauri Bogan notched 923. If the Golden Gophers can get similar production from their two backs, it will be a huge boost to the offense.
9. Chris Evans, Michigan: Evans burst on the scene as a freshman last season, running for 614 yards on 88 carries. Starter De'Veon Smith has moved on, and the opportunity for Evans to get more reps will be there. He still will have plenty of competition with Ty Isaac, Karan Higdon and Kareem Walker on the roster, plus O’Maury Samuels and Kurt Taylor from the 2017 recruiting class. Evans has bulked up this offseason and focused on improving his game, so despite the number of backs on the roster, he still has a chance for 1,000 yards.