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The Best Running Back in the Big 12

2022 Had A Lot Of NFL Talent

Last season, the Big 12 might have had one of the most impressive running back classes. The top four rushers made College Football news by being NFL draft picks, with many others also taking the step up.

Bijan Robinson, Deuce Vaughn, Kendre Miller, and Eric Gray all had over 1,300 rushing yards. The absence of these four players alone will open up NCAA football odds for someone to become the best running back in the Big 12.

The Best Running Back in the Big 12
Devin Neal #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks leaps over Dwight McGlothern #3 of the Arkansas Razorbacks | Justin Ford/Getty Images/AFP

What makes College Football predictions a little more challenging is that even some backups moved on to the NFL. Roschon Johnson, the backup for Robinson at Texas, and Emari Demercado, who was behind Miller at TCU, also moved on to the NFL. That takes two running backs that might have had solid NCAA odds to be the best in the Big 12 for 2023 out of the equation.

Honorable Mentions

Despite some backups going to the NFL, some did stay in college and will have a chance to get a lot more touches in 2023. Those could be the front runners in College Football odds.

Jovantae Barnes from Oklahoma and Texas Tech’s Tahj Brooks, are running backs in that situation. Barnes spent all of 2022 behind Grey but still managed to put up solid numbers, rushing for 519 yards and five touchdowns. He might not get the 213 attempts that Grey got in his final season with the Sooners, but Barnes will surely exceed his 116 carries from 2022.

In 2022, Brooks shared the backfield with SaRodorick Thompson, who left for the NFL. Brooks did lead the Red Raiders in carries with 147, eight more than Thompson. However, in 2023, Brooks has a chance to be a true lead back and expand on his 691 yards and seven touchdowns from last season.

Baylor’s Richard Reese is a clear candidate to lead the Big 12 in rushing yards, being one of the returning starters, leading to sportsbooks possibly favoring him. He was sixth in rushing last season in the Big 12, with 972 yards and 14 touchdowns. Reese struggled in the season’s final five games, which were the Bears’ toughest opponents.

CJ Donaldson from West Virginia is another name to keep an eye on. He was injured after seven games for the Mountaineers last season. Donaldson rushed for at least 100 yards in four of those games and had eight touchdowns. If he can stay healthy, Donaldson has a lot of promise to make an impact in 2023.

Finally, Texas is still one of the most talented schools in the Big 12, and running back Jonathon Brooks should take advantage of that. Last season he was behind two NFL-level running backs, but Brooks is projected to be the starter for the Longhorns in 2023. He only got 30 attempts in 2022 for 197 yards, but his five touchdowns and 6.6 yards per carry could make things interesting.

Best Returning Back

There were five 1,000-yard rushers in the Big 12, with only one returning. That is Devin Neal from Kansas. He played a massive role in the Jayhawks’ success last season, rushing for 1,090 yards and nine touchdowns.

A large chunk of Neal’s yards did come in three games, the only ones in which he was over 100. However, he averaged 6.1 yards per carry on 180 attempts. There is room for him to get the ball a little more, and he might get that opportunity in 2023.

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