Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
We’ve seen some excellent running back play in the SEC through the first five games, but not necessarily from the guys we thought might be leading the way at that position.
Here are the five best running backs I’ve seen to this point in the SEC based solely on what they’ve done this season:
1. Mark Ingram, Alabama: He’s the most complete back in the league and as tough as they come. The 212-pound sophomore is what you call a football player, because he can run, catch and block. He leads the running backs with 147 receiving yards and leads all players with nine touchdowns, six rushing and three receiving. He’s averaging 5.9 yards per carry and has lost just 8 yards all season in 83 attempts.
2. Montario Hardesty, Tennessee: Battling Auburn quarterback Chris Todd for comeback player of the year honors in the league, Hardesty has been terrific for the Vols. He’s running with a vengeance and leads the SEC in rushing with 575 yards. He’s also carried it a league-high 105 times, shooting down the theory that he can’t stay healthy.
3. Ben Tate, Auburn: Gus Malzahn’s offense has given new life to Tate, who’s been the best downhill, power runner in the league this season. Even though he’s sharing time with freshman Onterio McCalebb, Tate has rushed for 540 yards and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
4. Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State: After sitting out the first game because of a suspension, Dixon has been his usual steady self for the Bulldogs. He’s in the best shape we’ve seen him in a while and is averaging 106.8 yards per game. He’s well on his way to the second 1,000-yard season of his career.
5. Onterio McCalebb, Auburn: He’s been Mr. Versatility for the Tigers and is third in the league in all-purpose yards. The 165-pound freshman is an explosive breakaway threat and gives Auburn a lot of speed on the perimeter. He’s averaging 6.2 yards per carry and has also been a weapon in the return game.
Making a push: