Post spring edition: Ranking the Big Ten’s running backs

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·7 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Continuing with our post-rankings — our first ranked the starting quarterbacks in the Big Ten — we move on to the running backs in the Big Ten.

While some teams have a No. 1 running back that receives the bulk of the carries, such as Northwestern’s Evan Hull or Illinois’ Chase Brown, many teams use two or three running backs to get their run games going. Last year, Michigan had one of the best one-two punches in the nation: Hassan Haskins and Blake Corum. Wisconsin had Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi.

We are ranking each team based on the projected top two backs on the depth chart at the end of the spring ball. Teams may be ranked a little higher based on the two backs they have, but sometimes that lead back is just too good — where the backup doesn’t mean as much.

List

Post spring edition: Ranking the Big Ten's starting quarterbacks

Indiana: Shaun Shivers and Josh Henderson

Nov. 13, 2021; Auburn, Alabama; Mississippi State Bulldogs linebacker Tyrus Wheat (2) dives to tackle Auburn Tigers running back Shaun Shivers (8) during the second quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

The Hoosiers lose their top back from last year with Stephen Carr gone, and Indiana will lean on two transfer backs who have not shown much at their previous stops. Shaun Shivers (Auburn) and Josh Henderson (North Carolina) will try to show they belong in the Big Ten after minimal production last season.

Rutgers: Kyle Monangai and Aaron Young

Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Jamier Wright-Collins (8) a touchdown scored by running back Aaron Young (4) during the first quarter Friday, Dec. 31, 2021 at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville. The Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights faced each other in the 2021 TaxSlayer Gator Bowl. Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union

Isaih Pacheco is now with the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs franchise, so the Scarlet Knights are looking for their next starter. Rutgers is hoping that Kyle Monangai and Aaron Young can provide instant production once the season begins. Both backs rushed for a little over 200 yards last season.

Purdue: King Doerue and Sampson James

Dec. 30, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee; Purdue Boilermakers running back King Doerue (22) runs the ball against the Tennessee Volunteers during the first half at Nissan Stadium. Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

Zander Horvath is hoping to make the Los Angeles Chargers roster on Sundays this year, so the Boilermakers will need a new starting back to emerge on Saturdays. King Doerue has the inside track to get the job after rushing for 533 yards last season. Purdue hopes Indiana transfer Sampson James can provide a spark as well.

Maryland: Challen Faamatau and Colby McDonald

Ohio State Buckeyes safety Ronnie Hickman (14) tackles Maryland Terrapins running back Challen Faamatau (29) during the second quarter of a NCAA Division I football game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Maryland Terrapins on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.

Maryland is a full-on passing team, but the Terps have a couple of capable running backs to help Taulia Tagovailoa: Chellen Faamatau and Colby McDonald. Faamatau rushed for 253 yards last season, and McDonald ran for 325 yards.

Nebraska: Gabe Ervin Jr. and Rahmir Johnson

Oct. 9, 2021; Lincoln; Nebraska Cornhuskers running back Rahmir Johnson (14) runs the ball against the Michigan Wolverines during the fourth quarter at Memorial Stadium. Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

The Huskers have a new signal-caller in town after Casey Thompson transferred from Texas, so the offense is bound to look a little different. Nebraska has Rahmir Johnson, who rushed for 495 yards last season, and Gabe Ervin Jr., who should carry the load.

Iowa: Gavin Williams and Leshon Williams

Iowa running backs Leshon Williams, left, and Gavin Williams talk during a spring NCAA college football practice, Tuesday, March 29, 2022, at the University of Iowa indoor practice facility in Iowa City, Iowa.

Long time Hawkeye, Tyler Goodson is off to the NFL, so Iowa will need a pair of Williams to lead the Hawkeyes this year. Gavin Williams rushed for 305 yards last season in backup duty, and Leshon Williams should be Gavin’s backup. Iowa has been known for its steady rushing attack for a while now, so this pair will probably get the job done.

Penn State: Keyvone Lee and Devyn Ford

Penn State running back Keyvone Lee (24) runs against Michigan defensive back Makari Paige (7) during the first half at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Saturday, Nov. 28, 2020. Photo: Junfu Han

While Noah Cain never truly lived up to the hype, he is gone, and Penn State will need Keyvone Lee to continue to shoulder the load if the Nittany Lions are to get back to their winning ways. Sean Clifford is back again at quarterback, but it’s been a few years since Penn State has had a really good rushing attack. Devyn Ford will look to lock the backup job down this fall.

Northwestern: Evan Hull and Andrew Clair

Oct. 23, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Northwestern Wildcats running back Evan Hull (26) rushes for a touchdown in the first half against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

While the Wildcats had an anemic offense this past season, it wasn’t due to their running game. Evan Hull was one of the top running backs in the Big Ten last year after he rushed for 1,009 yards and seven touchdowns. Northwestern is going to rely on Andrew Clair, who is a Bowling Green transfer, to help Hull out in the backfield.

Michigan State: Jalen Berger and Jarek Broussard

Dec. 29, 2020; San Antonio, Texas; Colorado Buffaloes running back Jarek Broussard (23) carries the ball against the Texas Longhorns during the first half at Alamodome. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Spartans lost their top player this past year when Kenneth Walker was drafted by the Seahawks in Round 2 of the NFL draft. Michigan State, once again, dipped its hand into the transfer portal and acquired Jarek Broussard from Colorado — Mel Tucker’s former school. Broussard rushed for 661 yards last year for the Buffaloes, and former Wisconsin running back, Jalen Berger, should help Michigan State have a solid rushing attack once again this year.

Illinois: Chase Brown and Josh McCray

Wisconsin’s C.J. Goetz stops Illinois running back Chase Brown for a short gain during the second quarter Friday.

The Fighting Illini have a pair of backs that can move the ball. Chase Brown rushed for 1,005 yards this past year, and his backup Josh McCray ran for 549. While Illinois has struggled to score in recent years, the Fighting Illini could have a top-five rushing attack this season.

Minnesota: Mohamed Ibrahim and Trey Potts

Sept. 2, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Minnesota Gophers running back Mohamed Ibrahim (24) runs the ball as Ohio State Buckeyes cornerback Ryan Watts (16) attempts to tackle him during the second quarter at Huntington Bank Stadium. Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Mohamed Ibrahim has an injury-riddled season last year, but the Gophers return Ibrahim who has surpassed 1,000 yards twice in his career. Minnesota has another capable back in Trey Potts who ran for 552 yards and six touchdowns in 2021.

Wisconsin: Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi

(AP Photo/Morry Gash)

Wisconsin has a really, really good rushing attack — what’s new. The Badgers return sensation Braelon Allen, who ran for 1,268 yards and 12 touchdowns last year, and Chez Mellusi who ran for 815 yards in 2021. Even though Graham Mertz has been up-and-down, Wisconsin will be able to score with these two.

Michigan: Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards

Photo: Isaiah Hole

Michigan lost Hassan Haskins after an outstanding season, but the Wolverines return Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Corum ran for 952 yards last season, but he missed a couple of games due to an injury. Michigan would’ve had two backs over 1,000 yards if it weren’t for injury. Donovan Edwards is ready for a bigger role at Michigan after seeing the field sparingly as a freshman, and Michigan should have another top-rushing attack next season.

Ohio State: TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams

AP Photo/AJ Mast

While I think Michigan has the better duo at running back, Ohio State has the best back in the Big Ten, TreVeyon Henderson. As a freshman last year, Henderson ran for 1,248 yards and 15 touchdowns. Miyan Williams is no slouch either, he rushed for 507 yards for the Buckeyes in 2021.

1

1

1

1

1

1