If 2013 was the year of the quarterback in the Southeastern Conference, 2014 is shaping up to be the year of the running back.
Some all-star backs return to the SEC and will be joined by a wealth of lightning-fast ball-carriers. With half of the conference's quarterbacks lost to graduation or the NFL, these running backs will be relied on heavily to bang in big yards and big scores.
Not necessarily a judgment on the conference's best running backs, this list is an attempt to rank the league's most elite speed. Some of them haven't seen the field much, and others are returning starters.
Click forward, my dear reader, to discover the fastest of them all.
2013 Yards: 647
2013 Yards Per Carry: 10.1
2013 Touchdowns: Six
Likely stepping into the starting role after Tre Mason's departure to the NFL, Grant will almost certainly become a known entity if only for the run-heavy style of head coach Gus Malzahn's offenses.
Built tall and lean, Grant is elusive and deceptively fast. Ranking among the conference's elite with 10.1 yards per carry, the Opelika, Ala., native has what it takes to be an elite SEC running back. Grant is projected at a 4.54 40-yard dash and will play a major role in the 2014 successes of Auburn's 2014 campaign.
2013 Yards: 989
2013 Yards Per Carry: 6.1
2013 Touchdowns: 10
Make no mistake: If and when Todd Gurley fully recovers from his ankle injury and can play at 100 percent, there is no tailback in the country who is faster or more talented.
As it stands, Gurley returns as a dark-horse Heisman candidate and the nation's top projected running back in the 2016 draft. The Tarboro, N.C., native is massive yet agile, quick yet powerful, and the nation has caught on. The Associated Press placed him on its All-SEC second team despite his injury, and that's likely just the beginning of his achievements.
Projected at a 4.54 40-yard dash, his numbers are likely deceptively low due to his injury-plagued career. When healthy, Gurley is unstoppable and should be a force in the SEC for 2014.
2013 Yards: 1,183
2013 Yards Per Carry: 6.0
2013 Touchdowns: 11
An easy choice as a dark horse for 2014's SEC Player of the Year, Davis was the Gamecocks' go-to man as a sophomore and delivered big numbers. A projected 4.52 40-yard dash time helps this hulking 215-pound bruiser burst through the line of scrimmage. Standing 5'9", the Lithonia, Ga., native has a low center of gravity and has some of the most powerful legs of any SEC running back.
Davis was chosen to the All-SEC Second Team in 2013, is currently ranked as 2016's fourth-best running back and should be one of the nation's most elite in 2014.
2013 Yards: 601
2013 Yards Per Carry: 6.6
2013 Touchdowns: Nine
Due for a breakout season, Murphy will compete for Missouri's starting role at the running back position after the early declaration to the NFL by Henry Josey. Short and stout, standing 5'9" and weighing in at 195 pounds, the DeSoto, Texas, native is a reigning All-SEC Second Team selection by the league's coaches.
Handling the Tigers' punt returns, Murphy averaged 22.1 yards per kickoff and 5.6 yards per punt return. The rising senior is ranked the 13th-best running back for the 2014 draft and, at a projected 4.49 40-yard dash time, should be a name to watch this coming season.
2013 Yards: 1,235
2013 Yards Per Carry: 6.2
2013 Touchdowns: 14
The sheer talent and potential of T.J. Yeldon needs no introduction. An All-SEC First Team selection by the league's coaches, Yeldon descends from a long line of elite Tide running backs that has now become a tradition among college football fans.
Quite tall with quick, elusive legs, the Daphne, Ala., native is projected as the second-best running back in the 2016 draft at a 4.46 40-yard dash. Yeldon's skills revolve predominantly around his superior field vision and intelligence, but his speed is something every opposing defender will fear in 2014.
2013 Yards: 543
2013 Yards Per Carry: 3.9
2013 Touchdowns: Four
Brown had the misfortune of playing for one of the most inept offenses the SEC has seen in a very, very long time in 2013. With his level of talent and sheer speed, there's nowhere for his productivity to go but up in 2014.
Hailing from Lithonia, Ga., Brown is relatively tall for the position and ultra-athletic. Though his escapability could improve, his projected 4.42 40-yard dash makes him one of the fastest and most dangerous backs in the conference. If the Gators can return to competitiveness and Brown retains the starting role, look for his name to be in the Heisman discussion.
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