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Andy JohnstonAndy Johnston

Alabama has great group, but Gurley best back in SEC

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When healthy, Todd Gurley is the best running back in the SEC. Bob Andres/AJC

When healthy, Todd Gurley is the best running back in the SEC. Bob Andres/AJC

Lane Kiffin recently lauded Alabama’s group of running backs, and as a whole, they are exceptional.

But the SEC’s best back resides at Georgia.

Not a shock.

Todd Gurley repeatedly has proven that he has the tools — receiving to blocking to hitting the holes to breakaway speed — and as long as he’s healthy, is the best in the SEC.

Some thought LSU’s Jeremy Hill his equal last year, but Hill is now with the Cincinnati Bengals, and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon might not be the best RB on his own team (see Derrick Henry). And Hillgrove’s Kenyan Drake also excelled last season.

Let’s take a look at the top RBs in the SEC heading into this season. ESPN has ranked SEC teams by RB strength, as a group.

1. Todd Gurley, Georgia: Might be the best RB in the country, and if he goes pro, the first back taken in the 2015 NFL Draft.

2. Mike Davis, South Carolina: He has amazing breakaway ability to go with strength and a low center of gravity.

3. T.J. Yeldon, Alabama: Likely will be the Tide’s feature back, but Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake will receive plenty of carries.

4. Derrick Henry, Alabama: Multi-talented with speed, Henry was the highlight for the Tide in their Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma.

5. Keith Marshall, Georgia: He must return from a severe knee injury, but has proven to be a great compliment to Gurley.

6. Alex Collins, Arkansas: Strong start to his freshman season, but struggled down the stretch, along with the rest of the offense.

7. Terrence Magee, LSU: Took carries from Jeremy Hill last year and will be featured this season after rushing for 626 and eight TDs in 2013.

8. Cameron Artis-Payne, Auburn: Might not be able to do what Tre Mason did last year, but will receive plenty of opportunities in Auburn’s offense.

9. Russell Hansbrough, Missouri: Consistent when called upon as Henry Josey’s backup last year,  he will receive his chance this fall.

10. Jonathan Williams, Arkansas: Another strong back in Arkansas’ offense and will look to improve on his 900 yards rushing in 2013.

With several SEC teams going with new QBs this fall, these backs, and others, might need to carry their offenses for a while.

 

 

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