Way-too-early ranking of the Big Ten running back rooms before the 2024 season

Where do the Oregon running backs stack up against their Big Ten opponents and how well will the Ducks fair in 2024?
Oregon running back Noah Whittington carries the ball for the Ducks.
Oregon running back Noah Whittington carries the ball for the Ducks. / Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard / USA

Running backs can, and frequently, carry their teams to victory, literally.

The Big Ten has repeatedly seen historic backs including stars like Saquon Barkley and Blake Corum.

As of late, the Oregon Ducks have relied heavily on running backs to take down Big Ten opponents. C.J. Stroud led the Ducks’ charge to take down Ohio State in 2021 and Jonathan Stewart helped Oregon demolish  Michigan in 2007.

As the Ducks prepare to join the perennial conference, which teams will have the toughest running back rooms to tackle, and how does Oregon’s running back room stack up?

Note that all top running backs listed are simply projections ahead of the 2024 season.

. . . . . team. northwestern. . 18. 489

  • Top running backs: Cam Porter, Joseph Himon II

Cam Porter saw an explosion in his skills in 2023, earning 618 yards in his third year with the Wildcats. However, he still only averaged 4.0 yards per carry.

In Joseph Himon's second season with the Wildcats, he had an 85-yard rushing touchdown that was the peak of his season. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry for just 127 yards all season.

. . . 481. illinois. . . 17. .

  • Top running backs: Kaden Feagin, Josh McCray

Josh McCray is set to become the top running back for Illinois after the departure of Reggie Love III. In 2023, McCray had 438 yards on the ground with an additional 116 receiving yards. He scored 3 touchdowns whlie backing up Love.

Kaden Feagin saw a drop in his production levels over the past two years after an incredible freshman season with the Fighting Illini. Feagin should make a solid RB2 for the team in 2024.

. . . . 16. nebraska. . . . 488

  • Top running backs: Gabe Ervin Jr.

While the Cornhuskers should utilize their air game in 2024, their ground game shouldn't be completely ignored.

Before suffering a season ending injury, Gabe Ervin had 196 yards on the ground last season. He is set to return as the starting back for Nebraska and should have a decent year in the Big Ten.

team. . . . . 15. 492. purdue. .

  • Top running backs: Devin Mockobee, Reggie Love III

Reggie Love III was a massive pick up for the Boilermakers in the transfer portal this offseason. In 2023, Love had 116 carries for 567 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Devin Mockobee had 807 yards for Purdue last season and 6 touchdowns, an impressive stat line but a decrease from the 2022 season. Two years ago, Mockobee had nearly 1,000 yards and 9 touchdowns for the Boilermakers.

. . . indiana. . . . 14. 482.

  • Top running backs: Kaelon Black

Kaelon Black was a large part of why the James Madison Dukes were a national name in the 2023 season. He ran for 637 yards and had 5 total touchdowns last season. Black will be a great addition to the Hoosiers' roster as former Indiana running back Trent Howland has re-entered the transfer portal.

. . 824. . . 13. . . . maryland

  • Top running backs: Roman Hemby, Nolan Ray

Roman Hemby had a relatively successful year last season but he struggled to consistently find the end zone. After scoring 10 rushing touchdowns in 2022, expectations for Hemby were extremely high but he only scored 4 touchdowns on the ground in 2023.

. . . . . 12. 493. wisconsin. .

  • Top running backs: Chez Mellusi, Tawee Walker

Chez Mellusi is set to be an offensive juggernaut for the Wisconsin Badgers in 2024 but beyond Mellusi's powerful legs, the team lacks depth at the position. He has had 1,595 career rushing yards for 11 touchdowns on the ground.

11. . 518. . . . . ucla. .

  • Top running backs: T.J. Harden, Anthony Adkins

UCLA is going to have to heavily rely on their running backs after losing quarterback Dante Moore to the Oregon Ducks.

Without head coach Chip Kelly leading the offense, T.J. Harden may be an offensive production leader for the Bruins in 2024. In 2023, Harden had 156 carries for 827 yards and 8 touchdowns.

. . 521. . . . . washington. . 10

  • Top running backs: Cameron Davis

Even though the Huskies lost their rushing leader from last season, Dillon Johnson, they should be in good hands with Cameron Davis.

Davis missed the 2023 season due to injury but in 2022, he had 522 yards and a jaw-dropping 13 touchdowns on the ground.

9. . . . 519. . . . usc.

  • Top running backs: Woody Marks, Quinten Joyner

Transfer running back Woody Marks is capping off his collegiate career with the Trojans after an impressive four-year stint with Mississippi State. Marks had 573 yards for 4 touchdowns in 2023.

Quinten Joyner, a backup running back from USC last year, had 125 yards and 1 touchdown during his freshman season.

. 486. . michigan state. . . . . 8.

  • Top running backs: Nate Carter, Jaren Mangham 

Under new head coach Jonathan Smith, the Spartans' offense will most likely look very different than it has in recent years.

Returner Nate Carter had 798 yards and 4 touchdowns for Michigan State last year. Jaren Mangham is set to be in his sixth year of college football and his experience will be vital to the Spartan's roster in 2024.

7. . iowa. . . . . . . 483

  • Top running backs: Leshon Williams, Kaleb Johnson

Leshon Williams was a highlight of the low-scoring Iowa Hawkeyes offense last season. Williams had an impressive 821 yards on the ground and 2 total touchdowns in 2023.

Kaleb Johnson was a solid RB2 for the Hawkeyes last year with 463 yards and 3 touchdowns. The two should make a solid combination for Iowa in the coming season.

. . . 515. . . . 6. . oregon

  • Top running backs: Jordan James, Noah Whittington

Sadly the Ducks aren't the top dogs in the Big Ten conference this season. Jordan James and Noah Whittington were solid backups behind legendary Bucky Irving last season and should be solid backs for the Ducks in 2024.

James had 759 yards and 11 touchdowns for Oregon in 2023. Whittington, who is entering his fifth year of college ball, had 146 yards and 2 touchdowns for the Ducks last year.

. . . . . 5. 491. penn state. .

  • Top running backs: Nick Singleton, Kaytron Allen

Over two seasons for Penn State, Nick Singleton has averaged 906.5 yards and 10 touchdowns. In 2023, he had an additional 308 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air.

Kaytron Allen is arguably one of the best RB2s in the nation. In 2023, he had 902 yards for 6 touchdowns and even threw a 4-yard pass on a trick play.

. 487. . . . 4. minnesota. . .

  • Top running backs: Darius Taylor

Coming in at the No. 72 player on CBS' Top 100 Players of 2024, Darius Taylor is going to be an anchor for the Golden Gophers' offense.

In 2023, Taylor had a highly productive 799 yards for 5 touchdowns. He averaged 133.2 yards on the ground per game. He also had 92 yards on 11 receptions last season.

452. . . . . rutgers. . . 3.

  • Top running backs: Kyle Monangai

Just ahead of Darius Taylor is running back Kyle Monangai for the Scarlet Knights. Sitting at No. 41 overall on the list of top 100 players, Monangai is expected to have an elite season for Rutgers.

Monangai had a stunning 1,262 rushing yards last season for 8 touchdowns. He had an additional 177 yards through the air last year and should be a stud for Rutgers in 2024.

. . . 2. . . . 485. michigan.

  • Top running backs: Donovan Edwards

While the Wolverines won't have MVP Blake Corum on their roster, Donovan Edwards is expected to be one of the best backs in the nation this season.

Edwards currently sits at No. 7 on ESPN's ranking of the top-10 running backs in the nation. Last season, playing behind Corum, Edwards had 497 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns for Michigan.

ohio state. . . . . 490. . . . 1

  • Top running backs: TreVeyon Henderson, Quinshon Judkins – No. 2 and 3 on the ESPN top 10 RB list

The Ohio State Buckeyes are set to have the best running back room in the nation much less in the Big Ten. TreVeyon Henderson and Quinshon Judkins are No. 2 and 3, respectively, on ESPN's running back rankings and will be extremely difficult for opponents to tackle.

Henderson had 926 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground in 2023. He also had 19 receptions for 229 yards throughout the season.

Judkins, a tranfer from Ole Miss, had 1,158 rushing yards for 15 touchdowns last season. He caught 22 balls for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air.

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