Previously, I listed my must-watch college quarterbacks for the 2023 season. Next up, I wanted to take a look at the running backs to keep an eye on. In such a vital position, teams add value with the right person in the backfield either by running the ball or running passing routes. But, who are those guys that can put a team on their shoulders and break a defense? Let’s take a look.
Will Shipley, Clemson
The utility knife of Clemson’s offense. He’s shifty and quick, with an estimated 4.46 40-yard time. He’s been the go-to player when Coach Dabo Sweeny and company have needed yards, a catch, or a score. Although he has a lean build, he’s not one to shy away from contact and does well with his footwork to make people miss. He had a career season in ’22 when he ran for 1,182 yards and 15 scores.
Trey Benson, Florida State
The Seminoles have deployed a running back by committee under Coach Norvell and Benson has benefitted since transferring from Oregon. Benson will continue to benefit from shared duties in the backfield, with track star speed (4.38 40-yard estimated), he will shine and provide homerun potential when he’s called to carry the ball. Benson also has a good combination of a bigger back (6’0″ and 221 pounds) that runs with power or speed. He’s going to be a great weapon for Jordan Travis and the Seminoles offense to have in their arsenal.
Jaylen Wright, Tennessee
The Tennessee offense will have a different look this season without Hendon Hooker, Jalin Hyatt, and Cedric Tillman departing for the NFL. Enter Joe Milton at quarterback and a returning Jaylen Wright. After leading the team in rushing in 2022. Wright shows above-average speed (4.37e 40-yard time). He is extremely shifty and uses his footwork to make defenders miss in close quarters.
Ulysses Bentley, Ole Miss
Transferring from SMU, Bentley was limited to six games due to a wrist injury. In his final season at SMU, he showcased his rushing ability with 610 yards and four scores. He also showed his ability to be a receiver with 19 receptions in 2021. He’s shown a good ability to make people miss and has a good playing speed. He will be one to keep an eye on in Lane Kiffin’s offense.
Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss
He is his father’s son, he carried the Southern Miss offense a great deal in 2022 and that shouldn’t change in 2023. He is undersized (5’08”) but he is a physical runner that runs towards and through contact. He’s shown good vision in his runs and a solid ability to run between the tackles or to the outside.
TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State
Similarly to Bentley, Henderson was limited during the 2022 campaign with injuries (played in eight games). He did enjoy a breakout freshman campaign in 2021 running for 1200 yards and 19 total touchdowns. He is back and healthy and should provide new quarterback Kyle McCord and the Buckeyes offense a leader in the running game as well as a viable option as a receiver in the backfield.