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Top 10 Best Running Backs in College Football for 2013 Season

Tyler BrookeSenior Analyst IIJanuary 14, 2017

Top 10 Best Running Backs in College Football for 2013 Season

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    It's true that football has become a pass-heavy game at both the college and NFL levels, but a good running back is still essential to having a strong offense as well.

    A number of big college names from last season have been drafted into the NFL, including Montee Ball, Eddie Lacy and Kenjon Barner, but that just means that there will be new faces to emerge this fall and take college football by storm.

    The following rankings of college running backs are not only based on their production from the 2012 season, but from the potential they showed for 2013 as well.  

    It's not easy picking just 10 running backs for this list.  Guys like John Hubert and Jeremy Hill certainly could have earned spots, but there were simply other running backs who have the potential to be bigger assets to their teams.

    Here then are the top 10 running backs heading into the 2013 college football season.

10. Dri Archer, Kent State

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    Kent State may not be the biggest football program in the NCAA, but boy, does it have one fast player lined up behind the quarterback.

    The Golden Flashes are happy to have Dri Archer back this season after a fantastic performance during his junior year.  He put up a 1,429 yards rushing in just 159 carries to go with 16 touchdowns last season.

    For those wondering, that's 9.0 yards per carry.

    Archer was also a reliable receiver out of the backfield.  He had 39 catches for 561 yards and four scores last year, and he's looking to be even more of a dual-threat back in 2013.

    Had Archer been putting up these numbers against tougher competition, he would be a sure-fire first-rounder in next year's NFL draft.  Even if the competition isn't stellar in the Mid-American Conference, his incredible production earns him a spot on this list.

9. Marion Grice, Arizona State

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    Not a lot of people know about senior Marion Grace out of Houston for the Sun Devils, but his story is pretty remarkable.

    Grice was having a solid season in 2012, getting a number of carries each game.  However, disaster struck him when he found out just days before the Sun Devils' Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl game against Navy that his brother had been murdered on Dec. 21.  

    Grice left the team for a time, but came back to play the Midshipmen on Dec. 29 and delivered a truly inspirational performance.  Grice rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 carries in an absolutely emotional game for him and Arizona State, which came away with an incredible 62-28 victory.

    The numbers for Grice last season were solid.  He only had 103 carries, but he made the most of them, recording 679 yards and 11 touchdowns while averaging 6.6 yards per carry.  He also finished with 425 receiving yards and eight reception scores.

    Although he wasn't on the radar much last season, people will make note of him in his final season at college, and there's little doubt that people around the country will be rooting for this kid.

8. Bishop Sankey, Washington

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    Our first workhorse back on this list, Bishop Sankey had a strong sophomore campaign while playing with the Huskies, yet he remains one of the lesser-known studs at the position.

    It was a consistent year for Sankey, who averaged 5.0 yards on 289 attempts, finishing the season with 1,439 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns.

    This is a guy that can regularly put up big numbers, running for over 100 yards in seven games and scoring two touchdowns in another six games last season.  He put up 205 yards and a touchdown in the Huskies' final game against Boise State.

    The Huskies will have four starting offensive linemen returning this season, so those numbers could certainly go up.  Expect big things from Sankey this year, and for him to pick up yards in bunches.


7. James White, Wisconsin

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    While Montee Ball has been stealing the show in Wisconsin, James White has consistently been a strong backup for the Badgers for the past three seasons.

    Now that Ball is gone, it's finally White's time to shine.

    Last season, White put up 806 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on only 125 carries.  His freshman season in 2010 was his best on the ground at Wisconsin, as he amassed 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns.

    The Badgers started using White a bit more toward the end of the season, and he was able to torch defenses.  He had 109 yards rushing and four touchdowns against Nebraska in the Big Ten Championship Game to turning plenty of heads.

    An increased workload will likely mean even bigger numbers for White in his final college season.  If those numbers are anywhere close to what he has already put up, White has a good chance at being a Doak Walker Award candidate.

6. De'Anthony Thomas, Oregon

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    He's athletic, he's shifty and, most importantly, De'Anthony Thomas is fast.

    The Oregon offense may miss former head coach Chip Kelly and running back Kenjon Barner this year, but there's still a very good chance that the Ducks' offense will be just as productive as it usually is.

    It feels like Thomas is a threat to score almost every time he touches the ball, even in his limited touches over the past two seasons.  He has come up with 2,346 yards in rushing and receiving to go along with 32 touchdowns over the past two years.

    While Thomas was only able to have 92 carries last season, there's plenty of reason to believe that number could increase to 150 carries this season, perhaps even closer to 200.

    He's one of the most exciting players in college football, but the fact that he plays in the Oregon offense presents the argument that he's only putting up his numbers because of the system. 

    While that may be true to a degree, it doesn't keep Thomas from finding a very solid spot on this list.

5. Duke Johnson, Miami

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    He may have only been a freshman at Miami last season, but Duke Johnson is looking like one of the top running backs in 2013.

    Johnson came close to breaking 1,000 yards rushing last season on only 139 carries while scoring 10 rushing touchdowns.  He had 14 total touchdowns for the season, with one coming on a reception, two on kickoff returns and even throwing for a touchdown on a halfback pass.

    Despite being just a sophomore, Johnson has all of the things you want to see from a young running back.  He was excellent speed, terrific vision and an ability to change direction with ease.

    With Mike James gone, the Hurricanes will be using Johnson a lot more, and based off of what he saw in his first season, Johnson is bound to make more than a few plays for Miami.

4. Lache Seastrunk, Baylor

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    Already being heralded as one of the best running back prospects in the 2014 NFL draft, Lache Seastrunk quickly made a name for himself in his first season with the Baylor Bears.

    Seastrunk broke 1,000 yards rushing with seven touchdowns on 131 carries last season, as he recorded 843 yards in the team's final six games.  The junior had 10 runs of over 25 yards and averaged 7.7 yards for the season.

    If he gets a full workload in 2013, Seastrunk has a very good chance of leading the nation in rushing.  Although he may not be the fastest running back in college football, he has excellent breakaway speed when in the open field.  

    It will be interesting to see what Seastrunk can do this season.  If he continues to impress like he did last season, he could very well be the first running back taken in next year's NFL draft.

3. Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona

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    When a running back leads the FBS in rushing yards and finishes third in rushing touchdowns, he is going to end up pretty high on any list of running backs.

    Arizona's Ka'Deem Carey exploded onto the scene last season after becoming the workhorse for the Wildcats.  He had 1,929 yards and 23 touchdowns on the ground on 303 carries.  His best game, hands down, came against Colorado, where he put up a ridiculous 366 yards rushing and scored five touchdowns.

    He is another favorite to watch for when it comes to the Doak Walker Award finalists this season.  He is able to accelerate through holes and keep his legs moving to either fight for extra yards or shake off defenders.

    Some critics may not think that Carey can repeat his incredible 2012 season, but there are plenty of fans who think otherwise.

    It's tempting to rank Carey as the top back in the nation this season, but with the level of competition coming out of the SEC, he will have to be satisfied as the No. 3 best back for this list.

2. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama

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    The final two spots on this list were by far the hardest to decide upon, but at the end of the day, T.J. Yeldon is the runner-up.

    It seems like Alabama continues to crank out incredible running backs one after another, with recent standouts like Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy becoming top NFL prospects by the end of their college careers.

    While splitting carries with Lacy, Yeldon was still able to put up 1,108 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on the ground.  He also put up 108 yards and a touchdown against a Notre Dame defense that was touted as one of the best in the nation.

    It was hard to not put Yeldon at the top of the list.  He showed everything you want to see from a young back, but he had the advantage last season of playing behind one of the best offensive lines in the nation.  

    With a number of those Alabama linemen gone this year, there is no certainty that the line will give Yeldon the same holes he had last year, although it's pretty likely it still will.

    The level of competition that Yeldon faced last season was impressive, and the fact that he put up his big numbers is a great sign of things to come from the sophomore.


1. Todd Gurley, Georgia

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    When it comes to the nation's best running back in college football this season, it's almost impossible to not select Todd Gurley.

    At 6'1'' and 232 pounds, you would expect Gurley to simply be a short-yardage running back, but he's really just the opposite.  He has some excellent speed for his size that gives him plenty of momentum to break away from would-be tacklers and make big plays.

    Last season looked like just the beginning for Gurley.  He finished with 1,385 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns while splitting carries with Keith Marshall, another top-tier running back.  

    While Gurley will still have Marshall behind him, there's no reason to think that he can't put up even bigger numbers in 2013.  He's still developing as a runner, and another season of seasoning will give him plenty of time to become an even more frightening player coming out of the backfield.

    When Gurley is finally ready to move on to the NFL, he will certainly be a first-round pick.  In the meantime, Gurley can enjoy being the best running back in college football.

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