Oklahoma Sooners, Oklahoma State Cowboys

2021 Big 12 Football Position Rankings | Running Backs

M. Hofeld

matthofeld

It’s that time again! As we try to navigate through the next two months that lead up to the start of the college football season we’ll be looking through the various Big 12 position rankings and discussing which teams have advantages and which teams have a lot of work to do. As always we’ll start with the big money position and discuss the signal callers.

Today the Heartland Sports writers give their take on the quarterbacks across the conference, ranking them from first to worst. Then they are asked to defend their top three and bottom two rankings.

The consensus rankings below come from a points system. A first place selection is worth 10 points, second place is 9 points, and they continue in descending order with tenth place equaling 1 point.

Heartland Sports Consensus Running Back Rankings
RankingPoints
1. Iowa State40
2. Oklahoma 33
2. Texas33
4. Kansas State26
5. West Virginia24
6. Oklahoma State21
7. Texas Tech19
8. TCU12
9. Kansas7
10. Baylor5

Unanimity – We equally agreed that Iowa State takes the top spot in the conference (although some believe it’s razor thin between the Cyclones and Oklahoma). We’re also in agreement with TCU at #8.

Almost Agreed – We were really close with agreeing across the board with Baylor and Kansas at #9 and #10.

All Over The Place – There are several quarterback battles across the conference that will go through the summer so that left us a bit scattershot with Texas but inexplicably we collectively couldn’t get a bearing on TCU, Kansas State, and West Virginia either.

Individual Thoughts And Rankings

Craig 

1. Iowa State | There might not be many other running backs better than Breece Hall in the country, let alone in the Big 12. This reason alone puts the Cyclones at the top of my list. Hall rushed for 1,572 yards and 21 touchdowns as a sophomore. Iowa State fans should enjoy Hall this season, because he’s going to be NFL bound after this one. 

2. Oklahoma | The Sooners land at number two on my list because of the return of Kennedy Brooks. Brooks opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID, but has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of the two seasons he has played at Oklahoma. 

3. Texas | The Longhorns have great potential in Bijan Robinson. He was a highly ranked recruit in the 2020 class and had a very good second half of the season last year. Based on his production as a freshman, I believe Robinson is set for a breakout season in 2021. 

4. West Virginia 

5. Kansas State 

6. Texas Tech 

7. Oklahoma State 

8. TCU 

9. Kansas | Per usual, the bottom of most of these rankings will look very similar. The Jayhawks will look to Velton Gardner to lead the way on the ground. His numbers in 2020 aren’t going to blow anyone away, but he did record 325 yards and a couple of touchdowns.  

10. Baylor | Baylor had very little consistency last season at the running back position. Due to injuries and other issues, the Bears had to start four different running backs in the 2020 season. If Baylor plans on having any success this year they will need a big year from 5th year senior Trestan Ebner. 

Rich 

1. Iowa State – The most proven back in the conference is undoubtedly Breece Hall. A staple of the offense that takes much of the pressure off the quarterback, the back will once again be featured at ISU. With 935 yards after contact, Hall will likely be one of the most electric ball carriers in the county.

2. Texas – There are a lot of questions surrounding the new offense in Austin. But those questions won’t squander the hype around Bijan Robinson. Expected to get more usage under Sarkisian, the back should easily eclipse the 1,000 yard mark. The sky is truly the limit with this kid.

3. Oklahoma – The Sooners take the number three spot despite the talent on the roster. What kind of shape will Kennedy Brooks be in come fall? As one of the expected starters, the previous numbers are off the charts. Yet he’ll be sharing the backfield this year with another talented runner.

4. Kansas State

5. Texas Tech

6. West Virginia

7. Oklahoma State

8. TCU

9. Kansas – A year ago, Velton Gardner wasn’t the most impressive player on the field. Trying to replace Pooka Williams is a tall task for sure. But Gardner could easily find himself surprising people. The lack of talent around him will ultimately be the demise. I’m simply not buying what Kansas is selling.

10. Baylor – Health is a major concern here. Not having a clear number one is a second knock against the program. Without these two things on lock, the Bears sit at the bottom until they improve dramatically!

Zack 

1. Iowa State | The Cyclones have the top running back in the conference, if not the entire nation, in Breece Hall. Hall led the nation in rushing with 1,572 yards on his way to racking up 23 touchdowns. He finished 6th in Heisman voting, and he was only a sophomore. Iowa State’s success this season will rest in good part on Breece Hall’s shoulders. 

2. Texas | As a freshman, Bijan Robinson played in just 9 games, but he amassed 703 yards on just 86 carries for a ridiculous 8.2 yards per carry average. Roschon Johnson played in 10 games and managed 418 yards on 80 attempts. As a duo, Robinson and Johnson accounted for more than half of the Longhorns’ rushing yardage, and they are sure to be featured even more this season. 

3. Oklahoma State | The Cowboys dealt with a lot of identity crisis at the running back position last season. Chuba Hubbard entered the year as a Heisman dark horse, but injury kept him from accomplishing much. Still, LD Brown and Dezmon Jackson combined for over a thousand yards rushing, and they will be the featured backs as seniors this season. Don’t sleep on sophomore Dominic Richardson, though. He looked solid in the 8 games in which he made appearances.

4. Oklahoma

5. West Virginia

6. Kansas State

7. Texas Tech

8. TCU

9. Kansas | The Jayhawks finally finished not last in some rankings, but it’s not by much. Velton Gardner is a talented rusher, but even a great player struggles to accomplish much on such a poor team like Kansas. 

10. Baylor | The Bears were the only team in the entire conference to average under 100 rushing yards per game last season. Their expected starting running back entering this season is Trestan Ebner, who is a return specialist who recorded more receiving yards (299) than rushing yards (107) a season ago. 

Matt 

1. Iowa State | You can’t deny the talent of Breece Hall. Iowa State is hoping to ride him to another conference championship berth as he’s obviously the most polished and accomplished running back the Big 12 has to offer heading into the season. The problem here for the Cyclones is depth though. 

2. Oklahoma | I truly believe the Cyclones and Sooners should be 1a and 1b on this list. They’re really close to each other and that’s part of the reason why they are the preseason favorites to play in Arlington on December 4th. The return of Kennedy Brooks, the addition of Eric Gray, and the rise of Marcus Major is going to cause a lot of problems for opponents in 2021. 

3. Kansas State | I’m out on a limb here but Deuce Vaughn was spectacular before Skyler Thompson was injured, allowing defenses to focus fully on him. This could be a huge bust for me, considering the talent across the conference, but I’m a big fan of Vaughn finishing the season well north of the 1,000 yard mark by season’s end. 

4. Texas 

5. West Virginia 

6. Oklahoma State 

7. Texas Tech 

8. TCU 

9. Baylor | The big question here is the health of Craig Williams after suffering a knee injury last November. Trestan Ebner is a solid back but has yet to thrive, especially in the role of the feature back. 

10. Kansas | I’m not changing my stance on the Jayhawks until they can prove it to me on the field. Doesn’t matter what the talent level is, until I see results I’ll rank them last.  

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