A good football team is nothing without a solid ground attack, plain and simple. While an aerial assault can spread defenders thin, a dangerous running game can allow a team to control the pacing of the game. Sometimes managing the clock is more important than the number of deep balls your quarterback can throw.
That's why we feel it's important to introduce our top 10 college football running backs who can make an immediate impact for their schools and possibly even change the college football landscape in the 2022 NCAA season. These guys are human highlight reels and are absolutely deserving of your attention before the college football season starts, and they help their team climb the national rankings.
Through the heat and humidity of the long summer months, you can almost hear the notes of the marching bands tuning up for Saturday game days in the fall. We'll get there soon enough. But until then, here's a dose of some college football analysis.
Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
We start our list with former Michigan transfer turned UCLA Bruin, Zach Charbonnet. By the numbers last season, Charbonnet was one of the best backs in the country. He was one of just four running backs in the Power Five conferences that finished the year with over 200 carriers and no fumbles. In 2019, he set records as a true freshman in Michigan, but a crowded and talented backfield saw him put in for a transfer to warmer climates. He started off his Bruins career with 1,137 yards, 13 TDs, an average of 5.6 YPC, and he shows no signs of slowing down in 2022. Look for him to turn on the jets against Oregon and Utah, as this may be one of the last times UCLA and USC get to beat up on the rest of the Pac-12.
Zach Evans, Ole Miss
Ole Miss had an explosive ground game last season. Snoop Conner, Jerrion Ealy, and Henry Parrish Jr came close to topping a combined 2000 yards. In addition to the 614 yards on the ground from quarterback Matt Corral, Zach Evans has his work cut out for him in 2022. While he didn't see a ton of touches at TCU, Lane Kiffin has seen enough from the former five-star recruit to make him the top ball-handler at Ole Miss. If he excels in his role, All-SEC honors will be the beginning for Evans. He may hear his name called as high as Round 1 at next year's NFL Draft in April.
Tank Bigsby, Auburn
Tank Bigsby probably had one of the more disappointing seasons in 2021. While his numbers improved from his freshman year, they didn't meet the high expectations many had for him. There was even talk of Bigsby entering the transfer portal in the wake of changing the Tigers' offensive philosophy under head coach Bryan Harsin. But Tank Bigsby is set to stick it out down on The Plains, and we think he could end up being a top back to watch in 2022. In fact, he is currently ranked as one of the top 12 players in the SEC. Auburn's offense will revolve around him, giving him one more chance to meet and exceed those high expectations.
Braelon Allen, Wisconsin
If you're not familiar with Braelon Allen, stop everything and get familiar with him. The former four-star recruit is just 18 years of age. That's right, 18. And this is not his first year suiting up for the Badgers after reclassifying to the 2021 recruiting class to enroll in college early. From early October until late November at just 17 Braelon Allen rattled off seven straight 100+ yard performances, and he would later go on to win MVP of the Las Vegas Bowl later that year. Built like a linebacker, don't sleep on Braelon Allen in 2022 and 2023. And don't be surprised if Wisconsin has another future NFL running back on their hands.
Devon Achane, Texas A&M
What might you expect from a college track star who is also the star running back at an SEC school? Speed, speed, speed. And that is just what you are getting with Devon Achane. He converted 20.8% of his runs into 10-plus-yard gains and 37.7% into a first down or touchdown in 2021, according to ProFootball Focus. He also has a 100-meter personal record of 10.12 seconds. The guy is human lightning. And he is looking to light up SEC defenses in 2022. So if you want to see a human highlight reel, tune into a few A&M games and watch Devon Achane.
Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Jahmyr Gibbs was a 2021 standout at Georgia Tech. In fact, he was one of the best pass-catching running backs in the nation, and now he'll take his talents to Tuscaloosa in 2022. With 2,773 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns in two years at Georgia Tech. Now, Gibbs will line up for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide as they look to avenge their national championship loss to conference rival Georgia.
Blake Corum, Michigan
The Wolverine offense is going to revolve around Blake Corum this season. According to PFF's advanced stats, Corum registered 553 yards after contact last season, putting him near the top of all FBS running backs in college football. He topped 100 carries and averaged at least 6.5 YPC. Making him just one of four Power Five running backs to achieve those numbers. With Hasan Haskins in the NFL, Michigan's two-headed attack from last year comes down to just Blake Corum. Don't be surprised if we are talking Heisman consideration as the season rolls on.
Treveyon Henderson, Ohio State
Treveyon Henderson was a five-star recruit who broke out last year, scoring a whopping 19 touchdowns as a true freshman. But even a freshman who finds the endzone 19 times can be easily overlooked in the Buckeyes' high-powered offense. We don't suspect that will be the case for Henderson this year. Opposing defenses will take notice, and Henderson will still continue to put up next-level numbers in 2022. You can bank on that.
Bijan Robinson, Texas
Bijan Robinson is a sure-fire first-round draft pick and could be the best back in the nation when the season ends. This guy is most likely to break a lot of tackles if he doesn't make you miss outright. He was Longhorns' leading rusher with 1,127 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns in just 10 games last year after a 2020 season that saw him break out with 8.2 yards per carry. Along with Treveyon Henderson, the pair should garner the most Heisman chatter for running backs in 2022. They are on almost everyone's preseason Heisman lists.
Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State
Deuce Vaughn is the reason you are going to watch K-State games this season. I promise you. He is one of, if not, the most exciting backs in the nation heading into 2022. Vaughn put up 1404 yards on the ground last year and 22 all-purpose touchdowns. He averages nearly 6 yards per carry for his career. Now, the Wildcats would probably have to rattle off 10+ wins for Vaughn to get any kind of Heisman consideration. But with a similar performance to the one he had in 2021, Vaughn may move into the first-round conversation. According to PFF's Wins Above Average metric, Deuce Vaughn was the most valuable running back in the country last season. And thus, the running back we think any and all college football fans should have their eyes on this season.
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