Greg McElroy ranks the top ten running backs in college football for 2024

Greg McElroy ranks the top ten running backs in college football for 2024

The passing game may be rising in prominence across all levels of football. But there’s no doubt that at the college level running back is still one of the most important and impactful positions week in and week out on Saturdays.

The running back position is consistently loaded with talent and this upcoming college football season is no different. Featuring plenty of rushers with proven production and some that have decided to take their skills to new and exciting destinations through the transfer portal this offseason.

With that in mind, college football analyst Greg McElroy ranked his top 10 running backs across college football ahead of the 2024 season. Check out McElroy’s rankings below and how he stacks up that nation’s top ball carriers ahead of one of college football’s most highly anticipated seasons to date.

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Leading off McElroy’s list is college football’s reigning rushing leader Ollie Gordon, who led the nation with 1,732 yards and ranked second with 21 rushing touchdowns last season. Named college football’s most outstanding running back last season and also earning a unanimous All-American selection, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year Award, and a seventh-place finish in last year’s Heisman Trophy voting.

“He’s going to try to join Jonathan Taylor, Darren McFadden, and Ricky Williams as the only running backs to ever win the Doak Walker Award twice,” McElroy said. “And he was the obvious choice last year when looking at what he accomplished.”

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Omarion Hampton occupies the number two spot following a breakout season with the Tar Heels last year. Rushing for 1,504 yards and 15 touchdowns last season which included seven games with 100+ rushing yards. Also providing to the potential to improve even more this offseason given North Carolina’s personnel.

“Huge breakout year last year, led the country with over 1,000 yards after contact and like our number one back, it came behind an offensive line that really wasn’t great. If you look at the running backs and the benefit they get from an elite offensive line, North Carolina was not that,” McElroy explained.

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One of the biggest transfer portal moves of the offseason was Quinshon Judkins parting ways with Ole Miss and joining Ohio State. Joining the Buckeyes following two straight 1,000+ yard rushing seasons in the SEC and joining forces with another running back on McElroy’s list.

“If you look at what Quinshon Judkins has done dating back to 2022, only five running backs can even come close to the production that Quinshon has had since 2022,” McElroy said. “2,700 yards and 1,800 yards after contact. Think about that, that is absolutely absurd to think about the idea he did what he did as a true freshman then followed it up with a sophomore campaign.”

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McElroy views Judkins and Henderson interchangeably on his rankings, with Henderson also having a 1,000-yard rushing season to his name as a true freshman. But there’s no denying that together they are the best running back duo in the country ahead of the season, especially with new offensive coordinator Chip Kelly calling the plays.

“The only reason why I gave a slight advantage to Quinshon Judkins is because of more availability,” McElroy said. “Because if you look at TreVeyon Henderson, there have been some injury issues, he’s had some things that really not have been great as far as consistency because he’s just been banged up from time to time.”

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Tahj Brooks was the centerpiece of Texas Tech’s offense last year and will be again this upcoming season with a chance to build on his breakout senior season. Ranking fourth in the nation last year 1,541 rushing yards along with 10 touchdowns for the Red Raiders.

“He’s a bowling ball man,” McElroy said. “5-foot-10, 230 pounds, the guy is so difficult to bring down. That’s why very few players in the sport forced more missed tackles than Tahj Brooks.”

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When it comes to versatility, not many rushers can quite do it like Ashton Jeanty. Who not only led the Broncos with 1,347 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns in his sophomore season, but also was the team’s second-leading receiver with 43 receptions for 569 and five touchdown catches to tie the team lead.

“Now not a lot of people are probably super familiar with what he’s capable of doing, but when you look at what he did in the Frisco Bowl in 2022 it was pretty dang impressive. 178 yards and a touchdown in their win over North Texas,” McElroy said.

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Damien Martinez is the second big-time transfer running back to make the list after transferring to Miami this offseason following a 1,185-yard and nine-touchdown year for Oregon State last season. Joining forces with quarterback Cam Ward in Coral Gables in what could be the Hurricanes’ most explosive offensive attack in years.

“He’s a punishing running back, just an extremely punishing running back and had 1,300-plus yards after contact in 2022 and 2023. He also has a bunch of big carries as well, only Quinshon Judkins has more 10-yard plus carries in the sport these last couple years,” McElroy added.

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Rounding out the transfers on McElory’s list is Trevor Etienne, who transferred from Florida to rival Georgia this offseason in one of the biggest transfer moves within the SEC. Who may be exactly what Georgia needs after racking up 2,381 yards of total offense and 15 total touchdowns during his two seasons in The Swamp.

“If you just look at how he played these last couple of years, man he’s going to be awesome,” McElroy predicted. “And I feel like the sky’s the limit now with some of the pieces that they have around him, and if you look last year, if Georgia had one Achilles heel it was the lack of a truly dynamic back in the backfield. Which is rare for the Georgia Bulldogs.”

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Consistency has been the key for Devin Neal who has steadily improved his production year after year with the Jayhawks after rushing for 707 yards and eight touchdowns as a true freshman in 2021. Also having a great chance at becoming the program’s all-time leading rusher this upcoming season and Kansas’ rushing touchdowns leader.

“Extremely productive the last couple years, the guy has unbelievable speed,” McElroy said. “Think about this, since 2022 he’s rushed for 2,373 rushing yards. That trails only Quinshon Judkins and Blake Corum among Power Five running backs.”

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Rounding out the top 10 is Cal running back Jaydn Ott, one of the most underrated running backs in the nation. But as the Golden Bears join the ACC this upcoming season, more people across the country may know his name and be familiar with his game.

“He was by far Cal’s best player, actually four of Cal’s wins came when Ott went over 150 rushing yards and he did it five times last year. Remember, Cal just went 6-7. So I think Jaydn Ott is a really really talent player and could have a massive year this year,” McElroy said.

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