Ralph Webb thoroughly quashed any debate this week about who is the best running back in the SEC, after yet another strong performance from the Vanderbilt junior and another question-raising effort out of Georgia’s Nick Chubb.
All told, no one fell out of our top 10, but that doesn’t mean shake-ups haven’t occurred. That includes a new, yet old, name that could eventually emerge to overtake Webb.
A look at the top 10 tailbacks in the SEC through the first four weeks of the season.
10. KAMRYN PETTWAY, Auburn
Last week: 61 yards, 17 ATT, 3.6 YPC
Season: 336 yards, TD, 52 ATT, 6.5 YPC, 84.0 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 8 (-2)
Why he’s here: Kamryn Pettway continues to be the ying to teammate Kerryon Johnson’s yang out of the Auburn backfield. Johnson might average about 6 more carries than Pettway (78 to 52 attempts on the year), but the latter gains 1.7 more yards than his fellow sophomore per rush. While that doesn’t sound like much, it adds up fast. The result is arguably one of the most dynamic one-two tailback punches in the conference.
9. DAMIEN HARRIS, Alabama
Last week: 18 yards, 4 ATT, 4.5 YPC
Season: 345 yards, TD, 40 ATT, 8.6 YPC, 86.3 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 5 (-4)
Why he’s here: Damien Harris probably deserves to be higher on this list, and could very well rise quickly in the coming weeks. The Alabama running back is second in the SEC with 8.63 YPC through the Crimson Tide’s first four games. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the sophomore left Week 4’s contest on a cart against Kent State after just 4 carries, the result of an apparent sprained ankle. His status is day to day, but that doesn’t mean much coming from a traditionally tight-lipped Alabama coaching staff. With Harris’s help, Alabama now is second in the SEC in team rushing yards with 246.3 YPG as a unit.
8. JALEN HURD, Tennessee
Last week: 95 yards, 26 ATT, 3.7 YPC
Season: 365 yards, 2 TDs, 91 ATT, 4.01 YPC, 91.3
Last week’s rank: No. 9 (+1)
Why he’s here: Touchdowns continue to elude Jalen Hurd — thank you, quarterback Josh Dobbs (4 rushing TDs). But Hurd remains one of the more consistent running backs in the SEC this season. Hurd just missed out on a 100-yard afternoon once again, this time rushing for 95 yards against Florida. It’s the second time he’s rushed for more than 90 yards in a game this season. He’s still looking for that breakout performance this year. We know he’s more than capable, having reached the century mark 11 times in his career.
7. KERRYON JOHNSON, Auburn
Last week: 93 yards, 22 ATT, 4.2 YPC
Season: 371 yards, 4 TDs, 78 ATT, 4.7 YPC, 92.8 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 7 (-)
Why he’s here: Teammate Kamryn Pettway had made up some ground on Kerryon Johnson entering Week 4 against LSU, but the sophomore pulled back ahead courtesy of a 93-yard effort against the Tigers. Thought to be the speedster of the Auburn backfield duo, Johnson took a page from Pettway’s playbook and barreled his way through the LSU defense. The Tigers lost their conference lead in rushing in Week 4, but Gus Malzahn’s power tandem remains among the best in the conference and a headache for any opponent. Just ask Les Miles; you should be able to reach him at home.
6. TRAYVEON WILLIAMS, Texas A&M
Last week: 153 yards, 2 TDs, 12 ATT, 12.75 YPC
Season: 389 yards, 3 TDs, 40 ATT, 97.3 YPC, 97.3 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 10 (+4)
Why he’s here: Along with Leonard Fournette, Texas A&M’s Trayveon Williams is our biggest jumper on the list, rising four spots after Week 4. The freshman made the most of his 12 touches against Arkansas, pounding his way for 12.75 YPC — the most of any SEC tailback last week. If he can maintain this pace, he’ll likely put himself in position to compete with Ohio State’s Mike Weber for the most rushing yards among all freshmen in the nation. Williams certainly has the Aggies heading north as Texas A&M leapfrogged Auburn and Alabama as the leading rushing offense in the SEC.
5. NICK CHUBB, Georgia
Last week: 57 yards, 12 ATT, 4.75 YPC
Season: 422 yards, 3 TDs, 83 ATT, 5.1 YPC, 105.5 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 2 (-3)
Why he’s here: Nick Chubb hasn’t looked like himself in recent weeks — rushing for a sub-100 yards for the third straight week and fueling speculation about his health. The Georgia junior sustained an ankle injury in Week 4 in the Bulldogs’ bad loss to Ole Miss, forcing him to sit during the second half of the one-sided defeat. Still, a hobbled Chubb is better than many healthy backs, keeping him within our top 5.
4. RAWLEIGH WILLIAMS III, Arkansas
Last week: 79 yards, TD, 17 ATT, 4.65 YPC
Season: 433 yards, 4 TDs, 88 ATT, 4.92 YPC, 108.3 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 3 (-1)
Why he’s here: It’s time to stop talking about the broken neck that Rawleigh Williams III suffered in 2015 and start concentrating on how the Arkansas running back might be one of the best in the SEC. The sophomore slides a spot this week, but more from the fact that Stanley “Boom” Williams is outplaying most all other tailbacks in the SEC right now. Williams (Rawleigh, not Boom) combines yardage — he’s on pace for roughly 1,400 yards — with an ability to find the end zone, as his 4 touchdowns on the year tie him for second among running backs on this list.
3. STANLEY “BOOM” WILLIAMS, Kentucky
Last week: 123 yards, TD, 15 ATT, 8.2 YPC
Season: 464 yards, 2 TDs, 58 ATT, 8.0 YPC, 116.0 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 4 (+1)
Why he’s here: Stanley “Boom” Williams made a strong case to unseat Rawleigh Williams III for No. 3 on the list this week after his second consecutive 100-yard performance. The Kentucky tailback is now just 2 yards behind Vanderbilt’s Ralph Webb in yards per game for second best in the SEC. What’s remarkable is how quickly he got there. Of the four conference running backs with at least 400 yards on the year, Williams has reached the mark in considerably less carries. His 58 attempts are far fewer than the next-closest running back in that club, Chubb, who has taken 83 handoffs. A lack of touchdowns — just 2 on the year — is what hurts Williams in the rankings.
2. LEONARD FOURNETTE, LSU
Last week: 101 yards, 16 ATT, 6.31 YPC
Season: 386 yards, 2 TDs, 67 ATT, 5.67 YPC, 128.7 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 6 (+4)
Why he’s here: Well, that didn’t take long. Leonard Fournette is back atop the SEC in rushing, leading the conference with an average of 128.7 YPG. Lost in the sophomore’s “slow” start due to an ankle injury and LSU’s Titanic opening to the season is Fournette returning to the form that allowed him to lead the nation in rushing in 2015. His touchdowns lag a bit behind with 2 on the year, both coming in Week 3 against Mississippi State.
1. RALPH WEBB, Vanderbilt
Last week: 95 yards, 3 TDs, 27 ATT, 3.53 YPC
Season: 475 yards, 5 TDs, 94 ATT, 5.02 YPC, 118.0 YPG
Last week’s rank: No. 1 (-, no change)
Why he’s here: Ralph Webb finally added the touchdowns that his 2016 resume needed, finding the end zone a career-high three times against Western Kentucky — including the game-tying score with a minute left to play to force overtime. The effort against the Hilltoppers caught him up with Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight (a quarterback) and Kentucky’s Benny Snell (4 touchdowns against a suspect New Mexico State) for a bizarre three-way tie for the most rushing touchdowns in the SEC with 5 apiece.
Dropped off the list: None
Knocking on the door (next 10): Brian Herrien, Georgia; Derrius Guice, LSU; Jordan Scarlett, Florida; Damarea Crockett, Missouri; Keith Ford, Texas A&M; Benny Snell, Kentucky; Ish Witter, Missouri; Akeem Judd, Ole Miss; Brandon Holloway, Mississippi State; and Mark Thompson, Florida