Top running backs on the Florida schedule

While there aren't many returning quarterbacks on the Florida schedule, it is stacked with returning, talented running backs this season. The Gators struggled to stop the run throughout most of last season, and the run defense will be put to the test in many games this year.

5. Florida State running back Karlos Williams: He could end the season higher on this list. After losing Devonta Freeman and James Wilder, Williams will be thrown into the mix and expected to shine behind a veteran offensive line. Williams rushed for 730 yards and 11 touchdowns last season.

The big help for Williams is that this was his first offseason working exclusively at running back. He showed up at Florida State as a highly-recruited safety, but it didn't work out for him on the defensive side of the ball. The coaches wanted to use his explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball, and the move looks like it has worked.

4. LSU running back Leonard Fournette: The Tigers snagged the instate star as the crown jewel for their 2014 recruiting class. The departure of Jeremy Hill to the NFL opened plenty of carries, and it wouldn't be a surprise if Fournette was leading the charge at running back by the time LSU makes the trip to Gainesville on October 11. It wouldn't be surprising if it happened before that.

The expectations have gotten out of control for Fournette. The Adrian Peterson comparisons were made because of the size and speed combination, but it seems unfair to expect a freshman to make that kind of impact. To be an elite team this year, that's what LSU needs. The Tigers have to find a running back to step up and take the heat off whichever young quarterback wins the job.

3. Alabama running back duo: The Crimson Tide have the benefit of keeping their running backs healthy and feeding them through a timeshare. T.J. Yeldon led the team with 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Heading into his junior year, he is expected to lead the team in carries again this year. However, Derrick Henry's breakout late in the season and in the Sugar Bowl has earned him a shot to get in the mix.

Henry touched the ball nine times for a total of 161 yards and two touchdowns against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl. The 6-3, 235-pound back showcased his size and speed on the national level that night, spring boarding him into the offseason. It wouldn't be smart to take Yeldon out of the mix, but the two backs will both be heavily involved around a first-year starter at quarterback.

2. South Carolina running back Mike Davis: The former Florida commitment took off for the Gamecocks last season, even while battling multiple injuries during the second half of the season. He rushed for 1,183 yards last season with 11 touchdowns, adding 352 yards through the air. He's a bulldozer that can run through arm tackles and still use his speed in the open field to run away from people.

Davis' importance grows this season for South Carolina. After quarterback Connor Shaw graduated, senior Dylan Thompson will take over this season. Thompson has started games when Shaw was injured and has experience, but his new starting job would be made much easier if Davis can stay healthy and put up big numbers again this fall.

1.Georgia running back Todd Gurley: After battling injures during his career, Gurley heads into fall camp healthy and ready for his draft-eligible season. He averaged six yards per carry last season, totaling 989 yards and 10 touchdowns with 441 receiving yards and six touchdowns. He did it all for the Bulldogs when on the field last season, and just like Davis, Gurley's health and production would go a long way in taking the pressure off first-year starting quarterback Hutson Mason.

The good news for Gurley's health is that Keith Marshall is also ready to go this season. After tearing his ACL last year, Marshall missed the second half of the year and forced Gurley on the field most of the time. There's a chance Gurley will be the top running back taken in next year's NFL Draft, and he's set up to dominate again this season.


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