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PFF Declares Rutgers Star as Top Running Back Heading Into 2024

In a loaded Big 10, PFF has declared Rutgers' star Kyle Monangai as the top running back returning in 2024.
top running back

The 2025 NFL Draft class is looking to be loaded with running back talent. The Big 10 is home to a number of stars even with five stars leaving this past year. With talent brimming over in the conference, Rutgers’ top running back, Kyle Monangai stands alone as PFF’s highest-rated returner.

Rutgers Star Monangai Rated as Top Running Back by PFF

New Jersey Flair

Over the last three seasons, Monangai has been an integral part of the Scarlet Knights’ offense. As a true freshman in 2020, he did not record any rushing stats as he only appeared in five games on special teams. Then, in 2021, he made more of an impact as he appeared in 11 games. In that time, Monangai ran the ball 62 times for 235 yards and four touchdowns. He kicked off his first season in the rotation with a two-touchdown performance in the win over Temple. In the game the following week, he added his third career touchdown in the win over Syracuse.

The following season, Monangai posted his first 100+ carry season. While appearing in all 12 games with 11 starts, the Rutgers star running back tallied 445 yards and two scores off of 109 carries. His first-career 100-yard game came in the loss to Michigan State when he turned 24 carries into 168 yards.

The reason Monangai is rated so highly is because of his breakout season in 2023. He ran the ball 242 times for 1,262 yards and eight touchdowns. Monangai is coming into 2024 with eight career 100-yard games with seven occurring last year.

Big Bucky Shoes to Fill

Oregon is one of the favorites to win the Big 10 in 2024. Aside from having one of the top quarterbacks and receivers in the conference, the Ducks have Jordan James. After backing up Bucky Irving in 2023, James looks ready to be the top running back of the Ducks’ backfield.

As a true freshman, James appeared in 10 games for the Ducks and was utilized as more of a short-yardage back. In those 10 games, James accounted for 189 yards and five touchdowns off of 46 rushes. Still behind Irving, James took on a larger role with Oregon in 2023. He rushed the ball 107 times for 759 yards and 11 touchdowns while appearing in all 14 games. His 7.1 yards per carry were the best in the Pac-12 and 10th in the nation. James’ 11 touchdowns were tied with Irving for the most on the team. Additionally, he found paydirt in nine of the team’s 14 games.

If James is able to replicate his 7.1 yards per carry and runs as frequently as Irving, he’s projected to run the 2024 season to the tune of 1,320 yards. If he scores at the same rate as he did in 2023 (about once in every 10 carries), he’d end up with 19 scores.

With 1,320 yards and 19 scores in a single season, he’d end up 10th and third all-time in Oregon history, respectively.

A Pair of Buckeyes

The only team with multiple running backs on the list is Ohio State. Much has already been said about the impact of TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins sharing a backfield. Even then, the duo could be the best that the Buckeyes have put forth in quite some time.

Henderson burst onto the scene with a game-braking touchdown in his first game against Minnesota. From there, when healthy, he’s been the best option for the Buckeyes in both the rushing and receiving game. In three years, Henderson has provided the Buckeyes with 2,745 yards and 32 touchdowns. Out of the backfield, he’s added 569 yards and five touchdowns with 50 receptions.

This new running mate from Ole Miss has been one of the best running backs in the SEC over the last two years. Judkins, in his time with the Rebels, rushed for 2,731 yards and 31 touchdowns. He was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2022 and earned First-Team All-SEC honors in both seasons.

With Chip Kelly now calling plays, the Buckeyes are expected to have a bit more of a rushing attack that’s been lacking of late.

Notable Exclusion

Perhaps the most glaring omission is EA Sports College Football 25 cover athlete, Michigan’s Donovan Edwards. In his three seasons, Edwards has been second-fiddle to Blake Corum. That hasn’t stopped him from making an impact. Despite having a down year in 2023, Edwards is considered one of the top backs in the Big 10. The production hasn’t been there but he did go for 216 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State in 2022.

Given, it’s difficult to make a full impact when the starting running back goes for 1,245 yards and 27 touchdowns off of a Big 10-leading 258 rushes. 2024 should be the year of Edwards in the Michigan offense that will look vastly different than last year.

 

top running back
Photo courtesy:  Mark Smith-USA TODAY Sports

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