Which Dark-Horse SEC Running Backs Have Best Chance to Win 2016 Heisman Trophy?

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 28, 2016

Auburn RB Jovon Robinson
Auburn RB Jovon RobinsonRVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama running back Derrick Henry broke through that glass ceiling in 2015, rushing for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns en route to becoming the third running back this century to win the Heisman Trophy.

There will be several SEC running backs looking to catch on to that draft and attain that Heisman glory in 2016.

Of course, superstars like LSU stud Leonard Fournette, Georgia's Nick Chubb and Tennessee's Jalen Hurd will be mentioned prominently in the mix for the most prestigious individual award in American sports.

Fournette chimed in tied with Stanford's Christian McCaffrey for second in early Heisman odds, via OddsShark.com, at 5-1, and Chubb—off that brutal knee injury—is tied for sixth with Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and Florida State running back Dalvin Cook at 12-1.

But where's the fun in choosing the obvious running backs?

Let's go off the board with some dark-horse running back candidates in the SEC who could make a push for Heisman glory in 2016.


Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough

Alabama RB Bo Scarbrough
Alabama RB Bo ScarbroughKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Was Henry frightening in Tuscaloosa? Yep, and his clone is coming at opposing defenses in 2016.

Bo Scarbrough tore his ACL last offseason and had a suspension to deal with early in the 2015 campaign. Those two issues made him a non-factor for the majority of the season. He only gained nine yards through the first nine games of the season but had a breakout game where he rushed 10 times for 69 yards and a score and added 17 in mop-up work against Michigan State.

That's not a stat line that jumps off the page, I know.

But when you have a Mack truck like Henry rolling in the fourth quarter, you ride him. ESPN CollegeFootball is confident Henry is ready to fill Henry's "workhorse" role:

Scarbrough, a 6'2", 240-pound rising sophomore, is similar to Henry with his size and speed and is stepping into a situation where he might be counted on to do exactly what Henry did.

In addition to Henry's departure, Alabama loses quarterback Jake Coker, as well as center Ryan Kelly, and will usher in a new right tackle. Sure, Scarbrough has to contend with sophomore Damien Harris for No. 1 carries. But a full season of work while healthy in the strength and conditioning program should transform Scarbrough into a monster in 2016. 

He's going to get a chance to win the job. When he does, he won't let it go.


Florida RB Jordan Scarlett

Florida RB Jordan Scarlett
Florida RB Jordan ScarlettSam Greenwood/Getty Images

It was an up-and-down year for Jordan Scarlett as a freshman for the 2015 Florida Gators. The Fort Lauderdale native had 34 carries for 181 yards and one touchdown behind starter Kelvin Taylor, but was suspended for the Citrus Bowl against Michigan after being cited for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

He'll be a star in 2016.

With Taylor gone and dual-threat quarterback Treon Harris likely taking a back seat to a starting quarterback who's a better fit to head coach Jim McElwain's pro-style system (Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby or Feleipe Franks), somebody needs to step up and be the workhorse in the Gator offense.

Scarlett can be that guy.

The 5'10", 198-pounder has breakaway speed, is big enough to take the pounding between the tackles and should have a better offensive line than the Gators had last season. 

While McElwain is known for his ability to develop quarterbacks, he turned Alabama castoff Dee Hart into a 1,200-yard rusher in 2014 and helped Kapri Bibbs top the 1,700-yard mark in 2013 while the head coach of the Colorado State Rams.

Scarlett will follow in their footsteps, become a star in 2016 and, if his team can remain in the national conversation into November, could jump into the Heisman conversation.


Auburn RB Jovon Robinson

Auburn RB Jovon Robinson
Auburn RB Jovon RobinsonJoe Robbins/Getty Images

For the first two months of the season, Auburn running Jovon Robinson was like Sasquatch. A mythical creature you heard about through word of mouth but never really saw in real life.

That changed in November, when he rushed for 402 yards and two touchdowns in four games and finished the season with a 126-yard performance against Memphis in December in the Birmingham Bowl.

With fellow running back Peyton Barber off to the NFL, the path is clear for Robinson to become a bona fide superstar. Head coach Gus Malzahn has produced 13 1,000-yard rushers in 10 seasons as a college head or assistant coach, including Barber last year, and should take some pressure off Robinson in 2016 with either the addition of a running threat at quarterback or an improved downfield passing attack.

As Allie Davison of Rivals.com noted on Twitter, the better Auburn running back from 2015 might be the one still playing college football in 2016:

The 6'1", 230-pounder is perfect for Malzahn's offense. He's patient, strong between the tackles, deceptively elusive in space and can be a force either in a more traditional offense with a pro-style quarterback or in a multi-dimensional system that utilizes the quarterback as the edge threat.

If Auburn is going to return to glory, it will be because of Robinson's success. Malzahn already sent one running back to New York as a Heisman finalist when Tre Mason made it in 2013 and don't count out Robinson following in his footsteps.


Texas A&M RB Keith Ford

Texas A&M RB Keith Ford
Texas A&M RB Keith FordWesley Hitt/Getty Images

Wait, who?

It seems like Keith Ford is the forgotten man at running back in the SEC, but the former Oklahoma running back is eligible at Texas A&M in 2016 after sitting out his transfer year in 2015.

Ford ran for 194 yards and five touchdowns on 34 carries through three games in 2014 but missed the next five games with a foot injury. That opened the door for Samaje Perine to burst onto the scene for the Sooners, which relegated Ford to a backup role.

The 5'11", 215-pound former 5-star prospect from Cypress, Texas, has the speed of a home run hitter, the size to take the pounding in space and is in a situation with new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone where the running game will take more of a precedent in College Station for the first time under head coach Kevin Sumlin.

Mazzone helped Paul Perkins top the 1,300-yard mark twice at UCLA, and Johnathan Franklin rushed for 1,734 yards in Mazzone's first season in Westwood in 2012.

He will split carries with James White early in his career, but Mazzone's presence coupled with quarterback questions with either Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight or the relatively inexperienced Jake Hubenak should make the running game the Aggies' focal point in 2016.


Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com, and recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.