Last season there seemed to be a surplus of true freshman running backs from the 2014 class that made huge impacts at their respective programs. Those guys are all now sophomore and have been running wild the first two weeks of the college season.
Nick Chubb (Georgia)
It was supposed to be the Todd Gurley show one year ago in Athens. But it was all about Nick Chubb, as he quickly established himself and put together an epic true freshman season for Mark Richt and Georgia. With Gurley gone to the NFL, he’s now the featured guy and Chubb looks tremendous after two weeks of action. He’s the total package. Chubb is currently fourth in the country in rushing yards (309) and has scored two times.
Dalvin Cook (Florida State)
Cook had a terrific freshman season one year ago. In fact, I doubt FSU makes the playoffs without his efforts. This season Cook looks even better. Sure, it’s only been two weeks and against sub-par competition (Texas State and USF) but Cook looks better – bigger, stronger and even more explosive. Put him on Heisman watch, as he should run right through and around most of the ACC defenses on the Seminole schedule. Through two games Cook is second in the nation in rushing with 422 yards and has five touchdowns.
Leonard Fournette (LSU)
There should be an asterisk next to Fournette’s name because he’s only going to get 11 games this regular season with the opener cancelled because of the weather in Baton Rouge in week one. Fournette was the nation’s top prospect when he came out in this class and showed out in a big way in last weekend’s road win at Mississippi State. This big back finished with 159 yards and a trio of touchdown runs. He has a chance to really be something special. Fournette was good as a freshman. Now it’s time for him to be great, especially after his terrific off-season.
Royce Freeman (Oregon)
Although he didn’t break looses in last week’s Michigan State loss, Oregon’s Royce Freeman is a dominant back. Through the first two weeks he’s 10th in rushing yards with 272 and has scored four times. Freeman has great size/speed combination and is perfect for that high flying Ducks offense.
Justin Jackson (Northwestern)
Yeah, he made this first team list. Jackson dazzled in 2014 and he and his Wildcat teammates are off to a nice start in 2015. Jackson has rushed for 212 yards and one touchdown. More importantly, Northwestern is 2-0. This running back has to be one of the most underrated offensive players in the nation.
Nick Wilson (Arizona)
Wilson made a huge impact in both the run and passing game at Arizona one year ago and was one of the best freshman in America. Like the others mentioned here, he’s picked up right where he left off for Rich Rodriguez and the Wildcats offense. Through two games Wilson has rushed for 291 yards and three touchdowns. That rushing total is sixth in the country.
THE NEXT GROUP
Elijah Hood (North Carolina)
This is a young man that needs the rock more. In Larry Fedora’s spread he could be a killer for the Tar Heels. He’s had a nice start so far in ’15, rushing for 194 yards and two scores.
Jalen Hurd (Tennessee)
It’s a shame that Hurd gets overlooked. He just plays in the SEC and there are some other elite runners mentioned above and others. Hurd had a big year in 2014 and looks to be picking up right where he left off. Through two games Hurd has 229 yards and four scores. This is a huge back... I mean a monster at 240-pounds.
Marlon Mack (USF)
Mack is a really good player on a pretty bad offense at USF. He had a nice first season in Tampa and has looked strong in two games this season. He has rushed for 214 yards and a touchdown. Mack is a guy that should have a great season in 2015. This kid has a lot of talent.
Samaje Perine (Oklahoma)
Perine was one of the big true freshman surprises one year ago with his awesome 2014 campaign he put together. With red-shirt freshman Joe Mixon now in the lineup it should spell trouble for the OU opposition, especially once this offense gets settled with a new coordinator and new starting quarterback.
Demario Richard (Arizona State)
Richard had a solid season in 2014 and looks to really build off his nearly 500 rushing yards last fall. This is a big back at 220-pounds or so. In the Sun Devils first two games Richard has 204 yards and a pair of scores. He will also be involved in the passing game. Richard has all the tools - size, speed and can run with power.
Stanley Williams (Kentucky)
They call him Boom, as this back from Georgia can really scoot. He’s now Kentucky’s big play guy. Williams was good one season ago and he has had a fast start so far through two games. Williams has rushed for 242 yards and a touchdown. He's averaging a robust 10.1 yards per carry and now has three consectutive 100 games (dating back to '14). He also has a 75-yard TD run on Kentucky's first snap of the season. In 11 games played over his career that's four touchdown runs of 50 plus yards. Did I mention this cat is a big play guy?
Joseph Yearby (Miami)
I loved Yearby in high school. It’s hard to imagine that he and Dalvin Cook were teammates at Miami Central. He’s starting to find his groove in Coral Gables and was instrumental in their win last Friday. Yearby has 186 yards rushing and two touchdowns in 2015. Yearby runs with outstanding instincts. He's not the biggest. He's not the fastest. But Yearby gets the job done.
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Ray Lawry (Old Dominion)
Lawry leads the NCAA in rushing with 438 yards and six touchdowns through two games. This former two-star prospect from Swedeboro (N.J.) Kingsway Regional had a good freshman season one year ago, rushing for 947 yards and 16 touchdowns. He earned Conference USA Freshman Player of the Year honors. Scout recruiting analyst Brian Dohn saw Lawry in action several times in the fall of 2013 when he was tearing things up in New Jersey.
"Lawry was a guy on the radar of a lot of schools in the northeast and mid-Atlantic during his senior season," Dohn said. "He always showed good vision to find the hole, and he was patient in waiting for plays to develop. He understood how to set up blocks, and he was not easy to bring down on first contact. The Power 5 schools wanted to see a little more burst and top-end speed on the field, but he always produced."
I'll say. And Old Dominion is quite happy they landed him.