Position Ranking: FBS Runningbacks

Let's rank the Texas FBS running backs 1-12.

We're using the nerd geniuses at SBNation's Football Study Hall for a lot of the raw data. We've supplied our own lab coats and number 2 pencils.

A couple of things, first, we took quarterbacks and wide receivers out of the equation unless the receiver had 10 or more carries. Quarterbacks are excluded because they count in the quarterbacks list. Plus they score more ladies so we aren't counting them twice. Pricks.

Opportunity rate is an advanced stat that looks at the number of times the offensive line did its job and the runningback was able to carry for 5 yards or more. So this stat looks at the runningback's success rate when the line "did its job."

Let's rank'em dang it.

1. Baylor

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
206   %42.56  1326  %44.13  6.44  %38.04 
Shock Linwood

Shock Linwood

Baylor lost Lache Seastrunk and Glasco Martin and they're still ranked number 1. Why? Because Shock Linwood, Devin Chafin, and Anthony Webb all got touches last year and averaged more per carry than the two headliners.

Linwood is just a sophomore who accounted for over 800 yards as the third back. He'll feature this year and with Petty looking deep, he'll keep defenses honest. Chafin will serve as the thumper this season.

Baylor also boasts a pretty good offensive line and one of the best kept secrets in college football: the Bears are a running team. Don't let the Bryce Petty stats fool you, Baylor is a smash mouth football team at its heart. They spread you out, but the first option is always the run.

2. Texas A&M

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
185   %61.67  1084  %65.86  5.86  %45.88 
Tra Carson

Tra Carson

Texas A&M replaces its best two rushing options from 2013 after the departure of Johnny Football and Ben Molina. The cupboard is far from bare in 2014. Tra Carson has established himself at the top of the depth chart coming out of the spring.

He'll combine with the explosive Trey Williams for a nice one-two punch. Williams has always been highly regarded and seems on the verge of a breakout season. Again. Part of the issue with Williams and Carson's production has been Sumlin's platoon system. In part to keep guys fresh and in part to keep guys happy, Sumlin has been prone to moving his backs in and out of the game, at times sacrificing a back's rhythm.

That's one reason that Brandon Williams, the OU transfer, hasn't made more of an impact. He's looked great in limited duty. If any of these guys can find consistent playing time they could be impact backs on their own. Instead, as a collective, they're real good.

3. Texas

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
397   %81.02  1824  %79.72  4.59  %39.10 
Jonathan Gray

Jonathan Gray

The Bud is still waiting for this group to justify all the stars Rivals and Scout tattooed on their foreheads as high school kids but we just keep coming back. Malcolm Brown and Jonathan Gray will be cornerstones of whatever Texas does offensively this season.

The guy the Bud is really falling for is junior burner Daje Johnson. Johnson needs more touches after leading the Horns in yards per carry last season.

With only 1 offensive lineman returning ranking this group this high is a risky proposition, made riskier by the losses due to dismissal of Joe Bergeron and Jalen Overstreet. Oh well.

4. Houston

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
318   %94.08  1634  %95.44  5.14  %46.17 
Ryan Jackson

Ryan Jackson

What can we say, the Bud loves Ryan Jackson and Kenneth Farrow, the two headed beasts of 3rd Ward H-town city. The two juniors combined to form one very efficient back in 2013.

The other thing we like about Houston's running game is all the skill coming back on the outside and a year of seasoning for QB John O'Korn. The Cougs ranked 45th in rushing efficiency in 2013, that should improve this year.

Oddly Jackson, the smaller of the two runningbacks, fared better after contact than did his bigger teammate Farrow.

5. Texas Tech

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
136   %46.90  689  %50.04  5.07  %51.18 
DeAndre Washington

DeAndre Washington

Tech's best runningback is playing linebacker in 2014. Kliff Kingsbury is crazy like a fox. Kenny Williams led the Red Raiders in rushing yards in 2013, then he became more valuable as on the defensive side.

Let's be honest, Tech could use all the help they can get on the defensive side, they'll make due offensively. They'll make due with a bunch of guys who were average in 2013. Tech finished 112th in rushing yards per game last year.

DeAndre Washington and Quincy White will carry the majority of the load for Texas Tech this year. Tech will also get a boost from the occasional appearance of Jakim Grant in the backfield.

6. UTSA

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
195   %67.71  1227  %67.07  6.29  %46.90 

The Roadrunner return everyone. Again. Well almost. They'll be stung by the loss of Swiss army knife Evans Okatcha, but they have a rather large runningback-by-committee group.

David Glasco

David Glasco

The group starts with David Glasco and Brandon Armstrong. Larry Coker loves subbing his skill players and that's evidenced by the fact that 6 players had at least 20 rushing attempts in 2013. Brandon Armstrong could be poised for a breakout season, that is if he isn't sharing too much of the load.

UTSA's returning ball carriers averaged over 6 yards per carry. The only FBS group that can match that output is Baylor.

6. UTEP

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
401   %100  1850  %100  4.61  %32.50 
Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones

This is too high for the Miners, right? Right. Whatever. It might be a couple slots too low. Why? They return everyone from a decent run game in 2013 that didn't have the help of a great offensive line. The Miners offensive line was pretty average at best and yet the backs were above average. UTEP also have a coach who is, for better or worse, committed to smash mouth.

Sophomore Aaron Jones is the guy to watch in El Paso, he ran for over 800 yards last season and when he gets tired there are two viable options to spell him.

Nathan Jeffery was supposed to be the guy last year in El Paso, that was until Jones showed up. Jeffery performed well off the bench for UTEP running for over 500 yards. Autrey Golden also returns, a dynamic return man who can be a change of pace out of the backfield.

8. TCU

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
199   %78.35  888  %78.58  4.46  %33.40 

We're putting the Frog here because they can't get much worse, but they might be much better. Last season's TCU rushing attack ranked 111th in rushing yards a game. That lack of productivity can be blamed on a wide array of factors, from injuries to sporadic quarterback play, to poor line play. It can't all go wrong again. Right?

B.J. Catalon

B.J. Catalon

TCU is making a transition to a more pass centric offense which, though counter intuitive, should help the running game. There is a ton of talent in the Frogs backfield, however they've struggled with poor line play and inconsistency.

B.J. Catalon is the hope for TCU's rushing game. He improved as 2013 wore on, the same can't be said for Aaron Green, the former 4-star recruit who initially signed with Nebraska. Part of the problem was that teams tended to gang up on the run because TCU's passing game was below par last year. The Frogs are hoping that a series of improvements will lead to a more effective run game.

9. Texas State

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
302   %100  1715  %100  5.68  %41.26 

Texas State could and should make a step forward in the rushing game this season. The backs the Bobcats return averaged just under 6 yards a carry. When the line was able to do their job, the runningbacks did theirs. The 'Cats offensive line should be able to do its job more often in 2014.

Robert Lowe

Robert Lowe

TSU returns everyone, including the vast majority of the offensive line 2-deep. Robert Lowe may be an unknown in most Round-up households but he was one of the more efficient runners in the Sun Belt. Lowe averaged 5.8 yards a carry and had 954 rushing yards. He combines with Chris Nutall to form a pretty good 1-2 punch.

Dennis Franchione is a run first coach who didn't want to put too much pressure on true freshman Tyler Jones. The Bobcats were one dimensional last season. In 2012 Fran had a running quarterback in Shaun Rutherford and a running back in Marcus Curry that he rode as far as he could. If Jones continues to develop his passing game and that second offensive dimension, Lowe and Nutall will have a chance to be better in 2014.

10. Rice

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
215   %44.15  1038  %40.23  4.83  %39.67 
Jowan Davis

Jowan Davis

The Owl's graduated the rarity in college football, the thousand yard rusher. Charles Ross carried the ball 211 times in 2013 for over 1,200 yards. Good enough to lead the FBS Texas schools. Ross was third nationally in opportunity rate and led a unit that was 17th nationally in yards per game.

Ross is gone and so is Turner Peterson. Jowon Davis and Darik Dillard each had more than 80 carries in 2013. Davis is probably the most ready to step in for Ross. The Owls also return Luke Turner a multipurpose back who doesn't really have a true position but can be serviceable at any number of spots.

David Bailiff will put his offense in the best position to win, in 2014 that probably means a healthy dose of Davis, Dillard, quarterback Driphus Jackson and the rest grinding out yards.

11. North Texas

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
237   %52.09  939  %43.09  3.96  %37.38 
Antoinne Jimmerson

Antoinne Jimmerson

The Mean Green lost a lot in Brandon Byrd. Byrd was a do it all back who was a dangerous multipurpose thumper. They'll be counting on Reggie Pegram and Antoinne Jimmerson to make up for the shortfall.

UNT was middle of the road in CUSA in rushing in 2013, they'll need a better ground attack in 2014. Coach Dan McCarney has made his money rushing the ball and pounding teams. With a new quarterback, teams will be daring the Mean Green to put the ball in the air. However, UNT offensive line will be as stout as ever.

12. SMU

RETURNING CARRIES  % of Carries Returning  Yds. Returning  % of Yards Returning  Yds. Per Carry  Opportunity Rate 
141   %73.44  570  %74.32  4.04  %36.80 
Kevin Pope

Kevin Pope

When Garrett Gilbert is your best running option, you've got problems. In 2013 Texas transfer Traylon Shead didn't work out and then surprisingly declared for the NFL draft. The rest of the stable of backs for SMU didn't fare much better.

June Jones and crew are hoping for better in 2014 but they don't have a ton of options. The Mustangs ranked 117th in rushing last season and they welcome back Kevin Pope who played linebacker last season returns to running back this year. Prescott Line and K.C. Nlemchi also return, though neither was impressive in the role last year.


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