Best Big 12 Running Backs Returning For 2024

Big 12 Running Backs

Editor’s note: We continue our series looking at the Best Returning players in the Big 12, by position.

Welcome to the 2024 Big 12, where nothing is for certain except that there is a lot of talent. With no true frontrunner, the Big 12 should be very competitive and it’s going to take some star power to make it to the newly expanded College Football Playoffs. One group that is stacked is the running back position. Last year, we saw established players cement their position, and some break out onto the national scene. With all this talent in the backfield, who are the top running backs returning for the 2024 season? The caveat is that the player had to have played on a Big 12 roster in 2023.

Best Big 12 Running Backs Returning for 2024

Recapping Realignment

In 2023, the Big 12 welcomed four new members in BYU, Cincinnati, Houston, and UCF. This year, there are more membership changes to note. Oklahoma and Texas have left the conference for the SEC. The new members of the conference are the four corner schools: Arizona, Arizona State, Colorado, and Utah. All four are moving over from the PAC-12, which fell apart after their media renewal went sour. For the first time, the Big 12 will operate as a 16-team conference.

Third Best: R.J. Harvey, UCF Knights

The rawest of the top three, R.J. Harvey started his collegiate career as a quarterback at Virginia. He switched to running back after transferring to UCF. UCF head coach Gus Malzahn relied heavily on the running game despite the inconsistencies with the offensive line. Harvey was third in the conference with 1,416 rushing yards and third in rushing attempts with 226. Harvey is used to running in a committee and will be even more jammed with the additions of transfer Peny Boone, who ran for 1400 yards for Toldeo last year, and Myles Montgomery from Cincinnati.

Second Best: Tahj Brooks, Texas Tech Red Raiders

The most college game-experienced of the three is Texas Tech’s Tahj Books. Brooks is taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility from Covid to pad the stats some more before going to the NFL. Brooks has appeared in 45 games and has run for over 3,000 career yards. He led the conference with 290 carries and was second with 1,538 yards. His 319 plays from scrimmage were second in the FBS behind another member of this list. He did lead the conference with 290 rushing attempts. Brooks is the least-used receiver out of the top three, which pushed his overall yards from scrimmage down to third on the list.

The Best Big 12 Running Back: Ollie Gordon II, Oklahoma State Cowboys

The reigning 2023 Doak Walker Award winner, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, and Consensus All-American is back for another round. Ollie Gordon II tore up the conference last season, leading the nation with 1,732 rushing yards and the conference with 22 total touchdowns(21 rushing). Gordon also led the country with 324 plays from scrimmage and his 285 rush attempts were second in the Big 12 to Brooks. Along with leading the conference is rushing yards, he was the most active receiver of the three, catching 39 passes for 330 yards and a touchdown.

Gordon started 2023 slowly. It was not until the fourth game of the season that he had more than ten carries in a single game. During that game he hit the races, eclipsing 100 yards in nine of the next eleven games. His best performances were running for 282 yards, four touchdowns at West Virginia, 271 yards, and two touchdowns the next week versus Cincinnati. Luckily for Gordon, the two teams that shut him down, UCF and Texas, are not on the 2024 schedule. Mike Gundy‘s staff has to be excited as the Cowboys return ten starters on offense. Last year, Gordon finished seventh in the Heisman voting, so the expectation is high for Gordon to do it again and then some.

Big 12 Running Backs
Photo courtesy:  Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports


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