Whole Nine Sports

Big XII Running Backs

Mark Heaney
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Six months ago, Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard announced he would return to school. His decision did boost the overall talent in the Big XII this season but more specifically, it made the Big XII one of the most stacked conferences in the country at the running back position. From the seniors to the freshman, there is serious RB talent on almost every depth chart on almost every team. Today I’ll be highlighting four guys that in my opinion are the top running backs in their class in the conference. Let’s get into it!

Chuba Hubbard, Oklahoma State (Senior)

2019 Stats: 328 Carries, 2,094 Rushing Yards, 21 Rushing TD’s, 6.4 YPA.

It’s pretty obvious that the top back in the conference this year is Hubbard. The guy could have been a first-round pick back in April if he declared, he had the third most rushing yards in a season by any Big XII running back ever, and he is at the top of every early Heisman list for this coming season. The 6’ 200 lbs. workhorse is set up perfectly for another huge season after losing just two of his 2019 starting offensive lineman. It also helps that starting QB Spencer Sanders is a big running threat, it eases some of the pressure of a stacked box off Hubbard because they have to keep their eyes on Sanders at the same time. Star wide-out Tylan Wallace’s presence adds another component that forces the defense out of only focusing on stopping Chuba. I really don’t see any scenario where Hubbard doesn’t ball out again this season and with the potential of a conference only schedule, we could see him put up even bigger single-game numbers this year. His patience and vision are some of the best in college football and the top-level speed he possesses is a huge part of what makes him so good. I think he has huge potential in the power part of his game as well if he puts on some more lower body muscle. With the potential of less games this year I doubt we see him surpass his 2019 yardage totals but regardless of the amount of games he plays, I think it’s really a guarantee that Chuba plays great once again.

Pooka Williams Jr, Kansas (Junior)

2019 Stats: 203 Carries, 1,042 Rushing Yards, 3 Rushing TD’s, 5.1 YPA.

Pooka Williams Jr has had quite the bumpy road in his now three years in college football. An explosive freshman year that saw him surpass 1k rushing yards and pick up the Offensive Freshman of the Year award ended with a domestic battery arrest. Before last season started, he was reinstated and served a one game suspension before getting his sophomore year rolling. Williams took off from the jump last year with a combined 220 rushing yards over his first two games. His sophomore year was filled with 100+ yard games, a couple dud games, and a whole lot of losses. The Jayhawks have unfortunately made losing a tradition in recent years but the potential of an even bigger junior year by Pooka might just catapult them to a successful year for the first time in a while. The problem for Williams is definitely not raw talent but more so with consistency. As I mentioned there were games last year where he struggled, more specifically, he had 5 games under 80 rushing yards. That isn’t something that the top backs in the country do. His potential is what makes me a huge fan of his and gives me the thought that he is the best Junior RB in the conference. At 5’ 10” 170 lbs. Williams has the potential to add a lot to this game if he adds some weight to his frame. His big play ability is some of the best in college football, he is really similar to Clemson RB Travis Etienne in some ways. He has elite speed, agility, and versatility. With another year under his belt and a very important season ahead for his NFL future, Pooka could be on his way to a breakout year.

Breece Hall, Iowa State (Sophmore)

2019 Stats: 186 Carries, 897 Rushing Yards, 9 Rushing TD’s, 4.8 YPA, 23 Catches

I talk about Hall quite frequently but it’s for good reason. I think this guy has the potential to be a top running back in all of college football very soon and that sort of talk could start this season. He showed the ability of a football veteran last year as a true freshman and I see him taking on an even bigger role this coming year. His freshman year showed the start of good things to come for ISU with the emergence of Brock Purdy, Charlie Kolar, and Hall. The Cyclones have seen three straight seasons with a winning record after a seven-year streak without one and that stat has a lot to do with head coach Matt Campbell. The likely future NFL coach has built a winning culture in Ames. These pieces that are around Hall are a huge part as to why I think he’ll be so successful this year. The passing game is expected to improve this year and I think that will include Hall as he showed a natural catching ability last year. His strength and power combination are rare for his age, the kid is simply hard to bring down and gets extra yards consistently after contact. He’s already a very mature running back and shows the patience and sense of the game that is rare for underclassmen. He’s already got the build side of the game down at 6’ 1” 215 lbs., all he really needs is the experience and natural progression that happens over a college career. I see a really big year ahead for Hall and Iowa State in general.

Darwin Barlow, TCU (Redshirt Freshman)

2019 Stats: 22 Carries, 99 Rushing Yards, 1 Rushing TD, 4.5 YPA.

There is no guy on this list with a better opportunity to put his name on the map than Darwin Barlow. The redshirt freshman preserved his freshman year of eligibility by playing just three games in early 2019. The reason behind Barlow having such a great opportunity is that he’s moved from the RB3 on the depth chart to the clear-cut starter after Darius Anderson and Sewo Olonilua moved up to the NFL. Barlow has prototypical size at 5’ 11” 195 lbs., he has ridiculous strength for a guy his size and age and has been recorded doing a 600-pound deadlift. He’s largely an unknown commodity considering his lack of playing experience but in the 22 carries he did have last year the strength, change of direction ability, and agility were on display. He’s an impressive kid that gets praised for his character and has become a horn frog fan favorite very quickly. With the loss of Jalen Reagor, it seems very possible that TCU leans heavy on the run game this year, which could equal into a big breakout year for Darwin Barlow.

Honorable Mentions

Kennedy Brooks, Oklahoma. Roschon Johnson, Texas. Keaontay Ingram, Texas. Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma. Leddie Brown, West Virginia. Harry Trotter, Kansas State.