The SEC has been known for having elite talent at running back and last year definitely did not disappoint. Seven of the ten running backs who ran for 1,000 yards last year are no longer on an SEC roster, leaving the door open for the next wave of stars to make a name for themselves. With the stable being unloaded, who should you expect to break away and becoming the face of this season’s SEC tail backs?
Damien Harris, Alabama
When a running back rushes for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons, it’s rare to see them returning for their senior season; the same can’t be said for Damien Harris. Harris has been Mr. Consistency for Alabama for the last two seasons and looks to continue his 1,000-yard rushing streak to a third. Playing behind an offensive line stacked with four and five-star players, it’s easy to see why he is successful. However, Harris deserves his own credit as well, as he was the second best running back prospect coming out of high school according to ESPN. A one-cut back, Harris possesses the speed and strength to be a home-run threat every time he touches the ball. His first carry last season, against a healthy Florida State defense, proved that as he rushed for almost 40 yards, breaking tackles, before spinning himself out of bounds. The best thing about him is that he does not need a lot of touches to have a big game; making it easier for the Tide to bring along another promising young talent in Najee Harris. Another year in the Alabama strength and conditioning program will only help him become more dominant. Expect Harris to finish in the top three rushers in Alabama’s history when it is all said and done.
Benny Snell Jr, Kentucky
Benny Snell may be one of the best backs in the SEC that no one talks about; playing for Kentucky may be the reason for that. Kentucky has not finished at the top of the SEC East since 1977, making them an after thought almost every year. Snell is a Wildcat that deserves to be recognized. No running back returning to the SEC rushed for more yards than he did last year. In a season in which Kentucky went 7-6, Snell finished the year with 1,333 yards rushing and 19 rushing touchdowns as well. He doesn’t possess elite speed, but he is a strong runner who is not afraid to go up the middle and fight for extra yards. With little to no experience behind him, he’ll be expected to lead the Wildcats offense to an improved season and contend for the SEC East.
What D’Andre Swift was able to accomplish last year was nothing short of amazing. Looked to as the third option at tail back, Swift finished the season with 618 yards and three touchdowns. The entire Georgia rushing attack was a well-oiled machine as the top two options ran for a combined for 2,572 yards; that’s well over 3,000 yards amongst the three backs combined. With Swift shooting up the chart to the top back now, he should easily eclipse 1,000 yards and possibly find himself amongst the conversation for the Heisman. Too soon to give him Heisman hype? Possibly, but his speed is unmatched and his 7.6 yards per carry average as a true freshman bodes well for him at least being mentioned in the preseason.