It was a solid week for running backs in the SEC, particularly for those whose last name was Williams. Rawleigh (Arkansas), Boom (Kentucky) and Trayveon (Texas A&M) all crested the 100-yard plateau.
There’s a new No. 1 atop our running list of the best tailbacks in the conference, as Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb continues to battle Nick Chubb for the top spot. Otherwise, several new faces have crept into the rankings while others have fallen outside of the top 10.
A look at the best running backs in the SEC through the first three weeks:
10. TRAYVEON WILLIAMS, Texas A&M
Last week: 127 yards, TD, 8 ATT, 15.9 YPC
Season: 236 yards, TD, 28 ATT, 8.4 YPC, 78.7 YPG
Last week’s rank: Unranked
Why he’s here: Williams is making his limited touches count in a major way, as the freshman ranks No. 10 in the SEC in total rushing yards. Chubb and Rawleigh Williams III, by comparison, lead the conference in attempts with 71. Williams’ 127 yards on 8 carries in Week 3 against Auburn — including his first career touchdown — vaulted him to No. 10 on the list, ousting teammate Keith Ford, who made the cut the first two weeks of the season.
9. JALEN HURD, Tennessee
Last week: 61 yards, TD, 15 ATT, 4.1 YPC
Season: 270 yards, 2 TDs, 65 ATT, 4.2 YPC, 90.0 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 5 (-4)
Why he’s here: Hurd has quietly posted a solid season, but we’re still awaiting the breakout game for the junior who had aspirations of challenging for the SEC rushing title entering 2016. Hurd has witnessed his numbers decrease steadily each week, with his carries going from 28 in the opening game to just 15 attempts last week, while his rushing totals have gone from 110 to 99 to just 61 in Week 3.
8. KAMRYN PETTWAY, Auburn
Last week: 123 yards, TD, 20 ATT, 6.2 YPC
Season: 275 yards, TD, 35 ATT, 7.9 YPC, 91.7 YPG
Last week’s rank: Unranked
Why he’s here: Don’t be surprised if Pettway ranks above teammate Kerryon Johnson next week after Auburn squares up against LSU. The power duo has similar numbers through three weeks, with Johnson getting the higher nod due to his 4 touchdowns to Pettway’s 1 score. Pettway’s 91.7 YPG is exactly 1 yard shy of Johnson’s season average, and comes courtesy of 21 fewer carries. The result is the highest debut among new running backs on this week’s list.
7. KERRYON JOHNSON, Auburn
Last week: 60 yards, TD, 15 ATT, 4.0 YPC
Season: 278 yards, 4 TDs, 56 ATT, 5.0 YPC, 92.7 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 3 (-4)
Why he’s here: If it wasn’t for the 4 touchdowns scored by Benny Snell in Week 3 against New Mexico State, Johnson would own the SEC lead for scores. Instead, the Auburn sophomore has to share top honors in the conference with the Kentucky freshman. Johnson’s numbers potentially could be higher if he didn’t split carries with Pettway. Still, he’s a threat for a Tigers offense that ranks No. 1 in the SEC and No. 15 nationally.
6. LEONARD FOURNETTE, LSU
Last week: 147 yards, 2 TDs, 28 ATT, 5.3 YPC
Season: 285 yards, 2 TDs, 51 ATT, 5.6 YPC, 142.5 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 10 (+4)
Why he’s here: Fournette’s return in Week 3 against Mississippi State was a welcome sight in Baton Rouge, as the Tigers fended off the Bulldogs under the lights in Death Valley. Fournette ranks No. 6 in total rushing yards in the SEC, despite missing a game while nursing an ankle sprain. Despite the decent stats, the 2016 season has felt a bit underwhelming for a man who was thought to contend for the Heisman. His 2 touchdowns, the first of the season for him, are a sign that his health woes might be a thing of the past. That would be bad news for opposing rush defenses.
5. DAMIEN HARRIS, Alabama
Last week: 144 yards, TD, 16 ATT, 9.1 YPC
Season: 327 yards, TD, 36 ATT, 9.8 YPC, 109.0 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 7 (+2)
Why he’s here: If we’re ranking players by average yards per carry, Harris is the SEC’s leading running back. The first-year starter is garnering 9.1 yards per carry every time he touches the ball this season. Teammate Bo Scarbrough has more touchdowns (3 to 1), but it’s Harris who is eating up the yards, including 144 against Ole Miss in Week 3. As a result, the sophomore is one of five SEC running backs to average more than 100 yards per contest through the season’s first three games.
4. STANLEY “BOOM” WILLIAMS, Kentucky
Last week: 181 yards, TD, 18 ATT, 10.1 YPC
Season: 341 yards, TD, 43 ATT, 7.9 YPC, 113.7 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 9 (+5)
Why he’s here: Kentucky might be 1-2 on the year, but the Wildcats are putting up big numbers on offense. Williams is a big reason for that success. The junior is averaging the most yards (7.9 YPG) among SEC running backs with a minimum of 40 carries on the season. As a result, Williams is our biggest riser in the rankings, jumping five spots to No. 4 — the same slot he occupies in the conference in total rushing yards on the year after a 181-yard performance against New Mexico State in Week 3.
3. RAWLEIGH WILLIAMS III, Arkansas
Last week: 121 yards, 2 TDs, 19 ATT, 6.4 YPC
Season: 354 yards, 3 TDs, 71 ATT, 5.0 YPC, 118.0 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 4 (+1)
Why he’s here: Williams’ hot start feels more legitimate every week, particularly after the sophomore’s second 100-yard performance this season in Week 3 against North Texas (he rushed for 96 yards in the season opener). Williams has firmly wrested Arkansas’ starting role away from a slew of veteran and freshman suitors with his output vs. the Bobcats, which included the multi-touchdown game of his 10-game career.
2. NICK CHUBB, Georgia
Last week: 63 yards, 19 ATT, 3.3 YPC
Season: 365 yards, 3 TDs, 71 ATT, 5.14 YPC, 121.7 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 1 (-1)
Why he’s here: Chubb has come back to Earth some after his 222-yard performance in Week 1, rushing for less than 100 yards in consecutive games for the first time since his freshman year in Athens. Still, an “off” night for Chubb is better than the majority of running backs in the nation, as the junior maintains a 121.7 YPG average, facing arguably tougher defenses (North Carolina, Nicholls State and Missouri) than Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb (South Carolina, Middle Tennessee State and Georgia Tech) has thus far.
1. RALPH WEBB, Vanderbilt
Last week: 69 yards, 18 ATT, 3.8 YPG
Season: 377 yards, 2 TDs, 67 ATT, 5.6 YPC, 125.7 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 2 (+1)
Why he’s here: Webb has overtaken Chubb after neither featured back had a particularly great game in Week 3. The Vanderbilt running back leads the SEC with 125.7 YPG, maintaining his ever-so-slight lead over Chubb.
Dropped off the list: Keith Ford, Texas A&M and Derrius Guice, LSU
Knocking on the door (the next 10): Derrius Guice, LSU; Jordan Scarlett, Florida; Ish Witter, Missouri; Mark Thompson, Florida; Lamical Perine, Florida; Keith Ford, Texas A&M; Akeem Judd, Ole Miss; Benny Snell Jr., Kentucky; A.J. Turner, South Carolina; and Brandon Holloway, Mississippi State