In the last couple decades, the role of running back has changed. Whereas before the guy that ran the ball was often the forefront of every offense, they have now been asked to do more than just receive 25 handoffs a game and run and run and run. The change has certainly been more drastic in the NFL, with the college game still holding onto its ground and pound roots. Still, many college running backs are much more than guys that go from point A to point B.
For the Cincinnati Bearcats, dealing with proven rushing attacks was a bit difficult last year. The Bearcats allowed 2,309 rushing yards and ranked eighth in the American Athletic Conference against the run. Improvement will come as the years progress, but the degree of difficulty will be highest against these three players in 2018.
Ryquell Armstead, Temple
Armstead was in a similar spot on this list a year ago. He didn’t entirely live up to the ranking, as he averaged only 3.9 yards per carry and tallied 604 yards. However, he was splitting time with David Hood, which is not the case this year. While Ohio’s A.J. Ouellette rushed for 1,000 yards last year and Miami-Ohio and UCLA both have tremendous backfield tandems, Armstead has the potential and the opportunity to punish teams at an incredible rate, which would be a change from the 28 yards he had against UC last year. Of course, Hood had 108 yards on 23 carries and that workload would seemingly go to Armstead in 2018.
Adrian Killins, UCF
A first-team All-AAC rusher last year, Killins is another talented player for the people’s national champions, as if they need any more. He may have accrued just a modest 790 yards, but he was also given fewer opportunities than some of the other guys on this list. He averaged fewer than 10 rushes per game and yet still managed to score 10 times on the ground and average nearly 6.5 yards per attempt. Killins is also a solid receiver, catching 43 balls for 367 yards combined over the last two seasons.
Against UC last season, Killins wasn’t asked to do much, which isn’t all that surprising considering the final score. He ran the ball only five times... and still nearly had 50 yards.
Xavier Jones, SMU
Braeden West was supposed to be the lead back for the Mustangs last season, but Jones was the guy who took control instead. He rushed for 1,075 yards and nine touchdowns on 182 carries. He was one of only seven players in the AAC to finish with at least 1,000 yards and his 5.9 yards per carry was a top 10 mark in the league as well. West is back this year and he averaged 7.8 yards per carry and had 568 yards total. Really, SMU may have the two best running backs UC will face. The duo combined for 127 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in SMU’s 31-28 overtime win over the Bearcats last fall.