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Around the Big 12: Ranking the conference’s running backs

Two Sooner State running backs headline a strong Big 12 position group

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

In last week’s “Around the Big 12” segment we took a look at the starting quarterbacks in the conference. This week we will analyze the starting running backs for every team in the same fashion. At the end I will provide my ranking for the starters for each school.

The Big 12 has a ton of talent at the position this year, with seven teams returning their leading rusher from last season. Many teams are confident in their backs, and the conference boasts one of the deepest pools of talent at the position.

Baylor: John Lovett

After leading the team in rushing as a freshman with 445 yards and five touchdowns, Lovett will have to win the battle for starting position with junior JaMycal Hasty and fellow sophomore Trestan Ebner. Hasty showcased his power in spurts last year while rushing for 314 yards, while Ebner can provide some needed versatility with his ability to catch out of the backfield. Expect all three to compete for the starting role, with Lovett getting the nod and getting the most playing time.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Baylor Ray Carlin-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa State: David Montgomery

A large reason for Iowa State’s breakthrough season came from the running of David Montgomery. Despite shaky offensive line play, Montgomery managed to tally 1,146 yards and eleven touchdowns. With improved offensive line play, Montgomery could add to his impressive totals from last year, and potentially put himself in the discussion for Big 12 Player of the Year. Look for Sheldon Croney Jr. to back him up, as his promising game when Montgomery went down against Kansas State showed off his versatility in both the running and passing game.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Iowa State Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas: Khalil Herbert

One of the few bright spots for Kansas last year came when Khalil Herbert ran for 291 yards against West Virginia. While his season totals were not great (663 yards, 4 touchdowns), his speed and elusiveness makes him as much of an offensive threat as anyone in the conference. He was hampered by poor offensive line play and a hamstring injury, however Herbert will definitely be the vocal point of the Jayhawk offense.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Kansas Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas State: Alex Barnes

Alex Barnes had an impressive year last year, rushing for 819 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He topped 100 yards three times and was a workhorse down the stretch. Look for Barnes to be the main piece of the Kansas State offense, as they will be working with two run-first quarterbacks.

NCAA Football: Kansas State at Oklahoma State Rob Ferguson-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma: Rodney Anderson

Oklahoma relied on a three running back system early in the season last year with Abdul Adams, Trey Sermon, and Rodney Anderson all splitting carries. Late in the season Anderson took over the bulk of the carries, rushing for over 100 yards in six out of the last eight games, capped off with a 200 yard performance in the Rose Bowl. Anderson ended with over 1,100 yards rushing, and will likely have an even bigger role with Baker Mayfield gone. Adams and Sermon will still get touches, but Anderson will likely be the man for Oklahoma in 2018.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Oklahoma vs Georgia Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Oklahoma State: Justice Hill

Last year’s leading rusher in the Big 12 was Justice Hill, who ran for 1,457 yards and 15 touchdowns, despite playing with one of the best quarterbacks in the country in Mason Rudolph with a pass heavy offense. This year, Hill will likely shoulder more of the load with Rudolph gone, along with both dynamic receivers Marcel Ateman and James Washington. Hill has all the tools to put up a monster season, and will be fun to watch no matter what the Oklahoma State quarterback situation looks like.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Oklahoma State Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

TCU: Darius Anderson

Darius Anderson was on track to break 1,000 yards last year before a broken ankle suffered against Oklahoma sidelined him for the final four games of the season. Anderson still ran for 798 yards as a junior backing up Kyle Hicks, and will be fun to watch as an explosive lead back. Behind him, career short yardage back Sewo Olonilua and true freshman Fabian Franklin will both get some touches to spell Anderson.

NCAA Football: Kansas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Texas: Daniel Young

Daniel Young had a promising end to his freshman year in Austin, however he will have to fight off Cal grad transfer Tre Watson, along with returning backs Toneil Carter and Kyle Porter. Young’s best game came against West Virginia, where he ran for 85 yards and one touchdown. Texas will need a back to step up in order to improve much on offense, and as of right now Young seems most likely to do so.

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Christian Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

Texas Tech: Da’Leon Ward

Da’Leon Ward had a promising end to his freshman year alongside Patrick Mahomes in 2016, however academic troubles ended his 2017 season before it started. Ward looked promising in the spring game, and will look to make up for missing the 2017 season by having a strong sophomore campaign. In 2016, he ran for 428 yards and three touchdowns in only six games. Tre King will also see significant time as a senior, as his first season at Tech saw him run for 623 yards despite only seeing significant playing time in nine games. Demarcus Felton flirted with the idea of transferring, however the small, shifty back has decided to stay with the Red Raiders and should provide the team with a dynamic runner.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

West Virginia: Kennedy McKoy

Kennedy McKoy had a solid year in 2017 backing up the now departed Justin Crawford, as he ran for 596 yards and seven touchdowns. McKoy will be the main back in 2018 as a junior, and will be looking to balance out the strong West Virginia passing attack led by Will Grier. I expect McKoy to have a strong year as he finally takes over as starting running back, with junior Martell Pettaway spelling him.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Kansas Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Rankings

  1. Justice Hill (OSU)
  2. Rodney Anderson (OU)
  3. David Montgomery (ISU)
  4. Darius Anderson (TCU)
  5. Alex Barnes (KSU)
  6. Khalil Herbert (KU)
  7. Da’Leon Ward (TTU)
  8. Kennedy McKoy (WVU)
  9. John Lovett (Baylor)
  10. Daniel Young (Texas)