2022 Recruiting Class RBs Who Could Make TreVeyon Henderson-Level Impact
If you don't follow recruiting closely, you probably hadn't heard much about Ohio State freshman running back TreVeyon Henderson until recently. But after his 277-yard explosion against Tulsa, most college football fans know his name.
While it's asking a ton for anybody in the 2022 class to perform like Henderson right away, several can make a similar impact.
All they need is an opening. And in some cases, even though entrenched runners stand in their way, it won't stop them from flashing their ability to impact a win-loss record.
Still, though Texas commit Jaydon Blue probably belongs on the list, Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson are too much to overcome. So, he narrowly missed because opportunity won't exist without roster defections. The same goes for Georgia commit Branson Robinson.
But whether it's sheer ability, an open door to playing time due to departing talent, or a combination of both, several 2022 runners can become household names before you can blink.
Raleek Brown, Oklahoma Sooners
Since the NFL shelf life of running backs is relatively short, it's possible this is the final season for Oklahoma upperclassmen Kennedy Brooks and Eric Gray, despite their additional eligibility.
Even if they remain, Raleek Brown will be too explosive to keep off the field.
The 5'8", 185-pound game-breaker can do a lot of things and is the perfect fit for Lincoln Riley's spread offense. Whether it's receiving handoffs, splitting out and catching the ball in space or taking end-arounds, Brown is a threat to score on any touch.
His pedigree at an elite prep program like Mater Dei High School in California will only help his transition.
The Sooners will never be short of offensive weaponry, but Brown possesses the type of skill set they don't have in the running back room.
Emmanuel Henderson, Alabama Crimson Tide
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has shown time and again he's not afraid to play a freshman. And in light of the early-season ups and downs from the Crimson Tide's running backs, opportunity could be available next year.
Emmanuel Henderson is good enough to seize it.
The 6'1", 185-pound Hartford, Alabama native won't have to travel far to play for the nation's top program. Though his film shows he has the propensity to tiptoe sometimes, Henderson can do it all. Yes, he is playing small-school competition this year, but Saban can get him on track early.
With Brian Robinson Jr. leaving after this season and Trey Sanders yet to live up to his potential, Henderson has a chance to turn heads. Other former high-end prospects Jase McClellan, Roydell Williams and Camar Wheaton are just waiting their turn, but Henderson, a 5-star prospect and the No. 1 running back in his class, is different.
He is a cut-back runner who can catch passes and accelerate when he gets past the line of scrimmage, much like former 'Bama star Najee Harris.
Tavorus Jones, Missouri Tigers
One of the top playmakers for second-year coach Eliah Drinkwitz's Missouri Tigers program is senior running back Tyler Badie, a 5'8", 194-pound jitterbug who gets the ball in a lot of different ways.
With his potential departure after this year, the Tigers will need to replace his production. Drinkwitz has just the guy to do it too.
El Paso, Texas, 4-star prospect Tavorus Jones is heading north after surprisingly choosing Mizzou and its stellar recruiting class over offers from Alabama, Penn State, Florida, Texas, Arizona State, Arkansas and others.
Basically, the teams that offered him are the ones churning out quality running backs. That should tell you something about his potential: He is a prototypical every-down SEC back.
He'll have a veteran quarterback in Connor Bazelak alongside him and could be an explosive player as opponents key on the pass.
Le'Veon Moss, Undecided
Including an uncommitted player like Le'Veon Moss is tough because it's hard factoring in opportunity.
There's no question he's got the talent to be an immediate game-breaker, though.
After decommitting from Alabama in August, the 6'0", 190-pound running back has a list of suitors to rival that of any prospect. If he does what is expected and stays in his hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to play for the LSU Tigers, he will be a local hero.
He'll also be an instant-impact star for a Bayou Bengals team needing a difference-maker behind the quarterback. This year's squad has endured a dreadful rushing "attack," as it sits 120th out of 130 FBS teams.
Moss might also see the field right away at Ole Miss, Florida, TCU and Texas A&M, other programs that appear to be high on his list. If he goes to Georgia or a team similarly stacked at running back, all bets are off, but he is still good enough to get on the field.
Few players at any position have Moss' high ceiling. As he gets in stride, the big-bodied back becomes faster on the second level and simply runs away from defenders.
George Pettaway, Uncommitted
The 5'11", 190-pound runner's list is down to North Carolina, Oregon, Penn State and Florida, and all of his 247Sports Crystal Ball projections have the 4-star recruit heading to play for coach Mack Brown and the Tar Heels.
That would be a massive pull for a UNC team that felt the early-season effects of losing a ton of offensive talent and could have to replace star signal-caller Sam Howell after this season. The way Brown has convinced athletes to join him in Chapel Hill is impressive, though, and if Pettaway goes there, he'll be greeted with opportunity.
The Tar Heels have Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler leading the charge, but this is his final year of eligibility. Youngster Caleb Hood is a 230-pound force who should become a great player at UNC, but he needs help.
Pettaway is fantastic in the open field and would be a perfect complement back, adding the lightning to Hood's thunder. Other finalists such as the Gators and Ducks could find a way to work him into the rotation, too. All it will take is a few touches to prove what he can do.
Nicholas Singleton, Penn State Nittany Lions
Sometimes, a player and system match perfectly, and a young star is born.
That feels like it will be the case as Nicholas Singleton heads to Penn State. With new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich bringing more play-calling creativity, he needs guys who can add explosiveness, and while there are faster runners in the '22 class, there may not be a more complete one than Singleton.
The 6'0", 210-pound Reading, Pennsylvania, native is the nation's top-ranked running back, according to 247Sports (No. 6 on the composite rankings), and he belongs among the top players in the class. He is strong, fast and fluid, and has a college-ready body.
Though Noah Cain is the featured back for a Top 10 PSU team, he is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry and doesn't have game-breaking ability. Head coach James Franklin has some other guys who do, but Cain is his best overall back for now.
Singleton will be better, though, so he'll get reps right away. The Big Ten may just have its next great runner.
Gi'Bran Payne, Indiana Hoosiers
Incoming Indiana back Gi'Bran Payne might not jump out as an instant-impact player.
The nation's No. 23-ranked running back is from powerhouse La Salle High School in Cincinnati and had a ton of high-caliber offers but surprisingly chose the Hoosiers.
But he probably sees the opportunity to be an immediate playmaker for a team that isn't far removed from being the up-and-comer in the Big Ten despite a 1-2 start.
The 5'10", 190-pounder is explosive in a lot of facets. Not only is he a great pass-catcher, but he's also a one-cut runner who can turn on the afterburners when he gets to the second level. Simply put, he can do it all.
"If there's a better running back in the country, I'd like to see him," La Salle coach Pat McLaughlin told SI.com's Tom Brew. "We've never had a single problem with him at all, not one discipline issue, never late for practice or meetings or classes, always the hardest worker in the weight room. He's just that good of a kid."
USC transfer Stephen Carr is carrying the load for the Hoosiers this year, but he won't be in Bloomington for long. Head coach Tom Allen needed to restock the shelf, and Payne's got the talent to change the trajectory of a program. He could team with quarterback Michael Penix Jr. next year for a terrific one-two punch.
Tevin White, Arizona State Sun Devils
Few programs run the ball as efficiently and come at you with more bodies than Herm Edwards' Arizona State Sun Devils. They churn out yards with Rachaad White, Daniyel Ngata, DeaMonte Trayanum and even quarterback Jayden Daniels.
But Tevin White isn't heading across the country from Virginia simply to watch.
The 6'1", 200-pound runner has a similar build to the 6'2", 210-pound Rachaad White, and the incoming freshman could fill a comparable role if Rachaad heads to the pros after this season. Heck, they even have the same last name.
Tevin is a tackle-breaking phenom and stands out with his ability to initiate contact.
"As soon as I come out of the hole and see a one-on-one with a safety, I have so many more tools in the toolbox to win," he told the Free Lance-Star's Joey LoMonaco. "I won't just be able to make a stiff cut, try and beat him with speed. I have so many more options."
That's a big deal for a team with this much emphasis on its running backs. Though Ngata and Trayanum will be around, Edwards has three runners with at least 173 yards on the ground this year, so the younger White will have a chance to shine.
Follow Brad Shepard on Twitter, @Brad_Shepard.