We’ve written about Leonard Fournette and Nick Chubb. They are No. 1 and No. 2 on the Heisman Trophy watch this week. In fact, you might know every starting running back in the SEC by now. But what about their backups? What about the guys behind them on the depth chart?
If a starting running back were to miss any time, which team would be in the best shape?
1. Georgia: The Bulldogs are in a pretty good spot. Not only do they have one of the league’s top backs. They also have one of the league’s top backups in Sony Michel. As David Ching wrote Friday, Michel is more than just a backup; he’s a potential star. Through the first three games he has 148 yards and two touchdowns and he’s averaging 5.7 yards per carry. And don’t forget about Keith Marshall, another very capable player in that backfield.
2. Tennessee: The Vols are a close second. Jalen Hurd burst onto the scene last year as a freshman, claiming the starting job, but junior college transfer Alvin Kamara has proven to be the perfect complement. Kamara, who originally signed with Alabama, has 26 carries for 195 yards and three touchdowns. He would be the starter for more than a few teams.
3. Alabama: This was an issue coming into the season. Would the Crimson Tide have enough depth in the backfield behind Derrick Henry? But Kenyan Drake has shown he’s healthy, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and true freshman Damien Harris has looked impressive when he’s gotten to play. Plus there’s talk that Bo Scarbrough will be healthy soon, adding yet another weapon to the group.
4. Auburn: The talk was all about Roc Thomas and Jovon Robinson before the season, but Peyton Barber grabbed the starting job at Auburn. However, Thomas is still a more than capable runner and Robinson, the top-ranked junior college player, has been slowed by injuries early in the season. Keep an eye on freshman Kerryon Johnson. He, too, was banged up early, but he looked healthy against LSU.
5. LSU: It’s hard to quantify the backups at LSU when Fournette has half of the team’s carries through the first two games. But Darrell Williams is another solid, bruising back that opposing teams don’t want to see late in games, and freshman Derrius Guice ran six times for 55 yards (9.2 per carry) in Saturday’s win over Auburn. Throw in fellow freshman Nick Brossette and the Tigers have a deep and talented backfield.
6. Kentucky: Running back is arguably Kentucky’s strongest position. Stanley “Boom” Williams has emerged as one of the SEC’s better backs, and behind him is Jojo Kemp, a former starter, and Mikel Horton, a bigger, more powerful back who scored the game-winning touchdown in Week 1. All three are averaging more than 4 yards per carry.
7. South Carolina: This had the potential to be one of the better backfields in the SEC, and it might have been if not for inconsistent play at quarterback. Still, Shon Carson has played well behind starter Brandon Wilds, averaging 7.4 yards per carry, and the coaching staff remains high on sophomore David Williams.
8. Florida: There’s a lot of youth all over on Florida’s offense, and that's especially the case at running back where a pair of true freshmen – Jordan Cronkrite and Jordan Scarlett – are the backups to Kelvin Taylor. Through the first three games, both backups are averaging more than 4 yards per carry, and both have a touchdown.
9. Ole Miss: We really don’t know much about the Ole Miss rushing attack yet. Against UT-Martin and Fresno State, the Rebels looked dominant. But against Alabama they struggled, as you might expect. Backup Jordan Wilkins has looked solid, though, and he probably was the team’s best back in the Alabama game.
10. Arkansas: Oh, what could’ve been had Jonathan Williams not gotten injured. The Razorbacks would be close to the top of his list. Instead, they’ve had to rely on true freshman Rawleigh Williams to back up Alex Collins. Through three games, Williams has 25 carries for 80 yards.
11. Missouri: We’ve seen what it would look like if the Missouri starter went down, and it hasn’t been pretty. Without Russell Hansbrough, the offense has sputtered. Ish Witter has shown flashes as Hansbrough’s replacement, but he’s been inconsistent.
12. Mississippi State: If you count Dak Prescott as the No. 2 running back, this team would be much higher. But that’s not how it works. The diminutive Brandon Holloway has been a spark plug for this offense, rushing for 92 yards on 13 carries behind starter Ashton Shumpert.
13. Texas A&M: The Aggies' normal No. 2 running back, James White, is injured, leaving Brice Dolezal and Kwame Etwi – two former walk-ons – as the primary backups to starter Tra Carson. In a pinch the team could use cornerback Brandon Williams, a converted running back.
14. Vanderbilt: When we’re talking about starting running backs, Vanderbilt has a good one in Ralph Webb. But there’s not much behind him. Backup Dallas Rivers has had a lot of carries (27), but only 58 yards to show for it.