In the Southeastern Conference, a major key to winning championships is being able to run the football. The Georgia Bulldogs used that and great defense as their formula to win the crown last season. The conference just churns out star after star at the running back position. Despite losing great players like Tyler Badie (Missouri) and Brian Robinson (Alabama), the conference features plenty of talented backs. Here at Last Word on College Football, we are looking at the best returning players for the 2022 season. Today we look at the best returning SEC running backs.
Best Returning SEC Running Backs
#3: Devon Achane, Texas A&M
Sophomore Devon Achane will have some major shoes to fill with the departure of Isaiah Spiller. The three-year starter left College Station with 2,993 yards and 25 touchdowns over his time in college. Achane has the talent to fill those shoes. In his second year, he rushed for 910 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He finished seventh in the SEC in yardage and had more touchdowns than Spiller who only had six. Achane is also a threat out of the backfield catching 24 passes in 2021, and had a kickoff return for a touchdown as well. The Aggies also have bigger questions on offense surrounding the running game in who will be handing the ball off. Will it be Haynes King or LSU transfer Max Johnson? Plus, clearing up some spots on the offensive line. The Aggies expect to contend for the College Football Playoffs this upcoming season, and Achane will be key to that happening.
#2: Christopher Rodriguez, Kentucky
One of the more underrated players in all of college football is Kentucky Wildcat running back Christopher Rodriguez. He was second in the SEC last season with 1,378 yards behind Missouri’s Tyler Badie. That makes Rodriguez the SEC’s leading returning rusher this season. Speaking of Missouri, the best performance of 2021 came against the Tigers. Rodriguez rushed for 207 yards and two touchdowns as the Wildcats won 35-28 in an early-season showdown. That was one of nine games of 100 yards or more during the season. His consistency as a runner was key for Kentucky winning ten games for the second time under head coach Mark Stoops. It is not all on Rodriguez with the Wildcat rushing attack though. He is paired with the talented Kavosiey Smoke to make one of the most dangerous duos in college football. The rushing numbers may go down in 2022 with the emergence of quarterback Will Levis, but the effectiveness should get better.
#1: Tank Bigsby, Auburn
The best recruiting job done by Bryan Harsin and staff was making sure Tank Bigsby stayed on the plains. There was a lot of talk about the uncertainty after the 2021 season that Bigsby was being pursued by the staff in Athens, Georgia. For Auburn, it is about the only positive when looking at the offense for 2022. The rest of the unit has tons of uncertainty with a quarterback competition and questions around the receivers and offensive line. Bigsby will need to be the catalyst for the offense. Last season he rushed for 1,099 yards and ten touchdowns but showed some inconsistencies. He opened the season with three consecutive games of 100 yards or more but hit a mid-season slump. He got back over the century mark in games against Ole Miss and South Carolina late in the year. Bigsby will need his backfield partner Jarquez Hunter to help keep him fresh as well, so Auburn can keep their star on the field and away from injuries.