Considering the running backs who are coming back, the Group of Five is going to have some of the most exhilarating rushing attacks in all of college football.
Here’s a ranking of the best running backs in the G5 conferences.
Best G5 Running Backs, Ranked
|1||George Holani||Boise State|
|2||Frank Gore Jr.||Southern Miss|
|3||Marquez Cooper||Ball State|
|4||Jermaine Brown Jr.||UAB|
|5||Samson Evans||Eastern Michigan|
|6||La’Damian Webb||South Alabama|
|7||Larry McCammon III||FAU|
|10||Marquis Crosby||Louisiana Tech|
1. George Holani, Boise State
Holani is the only running back who made an All-Mountain West team in 2022 who will be returning to play in the conference this season. The 5-foot-11, 209-pound redshirt senior was third in the league with 1,157 rushing yards, averaging 5.2 yards per attempt, and was tied for fifth with 10 touchdowns.
Holani was also on the all-conference second team in 2019, the year he also became the Mountain West Freshman of the Year by totaling 1,014 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He’s recorded 2,848 yards and 19 touchdowns rushing and 71 receptions, 578 yards, and eight touchdowns through the air in 40 games the past four years.
Holani will surely finish his Boise State career out strong.
2. Frank Gore Jr., Southern Miss
In 2022, Gore was second in the Sun Belt and first among conference returners with 1,382 yards to go with nine touchdowns on the ground. On 228 carries, the 5-8, 195-pound upcoming junior averaged 6.1 yards per attempt. He caught 20 passes for 221 yards as well, and that’s not to mention how he threw for 191 yards and four touchdowns on 8-of-15 passing.
Gore, the son of former NFL star Frank Gore, was on the All-Conference USA second team in 2020 after rushing for 708 yards and five touchdowns on 121 attempts. He was then on the all-conference honorable mention list in 2021 after a season in which he totaled 801 yards and five touchdowns on 179 attempts. For his career, he’s caught 49 passes for 473 yards and a touchdown and has completed 18 of 31 passes for 380 yards and eight scores with one interception.
Gore was also on the first-team all-conference special teams unit in 2022. He can do it all, which is why he deserves consideration as one of the best running backs in the Group of Five.
3. Marquez Cooper, Ball State
Cooper was first in rushing yards last year among running backs returning to the MAC in 2023. But he’ll be playing for a different team this time around.
The 5-6, 184-pound upcoming redshirt junior was a first-team All-MAC pick last year while playing for Kent State. He ran for 1,331 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, to go with 13 touchdowns on the ground. He also caught eight passes for 94 yards.
Cooper ended his time at Kent State sixth all-time with 2,813 career rushing yards as he totaled 1,205 in 2021. He’s also fifth in the program record books with 29 rushing touchdowns.
4. Jermaine Brown Jr., UAB
New to the American Athletic Conference, Brown was a great running back in Conference USA a year ago.
He was on the all-conference second team as he was third in the league with 948 rushing yards and sixth with eight touchdowns on the ground. He also totaled 118.7 all-purpose yards per game after adding 475 return yards and 120 receiving yards.
The year before, the 5-8, 195-pound senior was also on the all-conference list while making eight starts after rushing for 631 yards and seven touchdowns. For his career at UAB, he’s totaled 2,077 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground and 54 catches and 373 yards through the air.
5. Samson Evans, Eastern Michigan
No running back in the MAC was better at finding the end zone than Evans in 2022.
Evans led the conference with 15 rushing touchdowns last season. The 6-foot, 218-pound graduate student was on the all-conference second team as he was third in the league with 1,166 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
The year before, Evans totaled 13 touchdowns on the ground while rushing for 316 yards on 83 carries. He also caught 40 passes for 246 yards the past three years.
6. La’Damian Webb, South Alabama
Webb needed little time to thrive in the Sun Belt.
He led the NJCAA with about 140 rushing yards per game at Jones (Mississippi) College. Then Webb went to South Alabama and made the All-Sun Belt first team in 2022.
The 5-7, 208-pound senior ran for 1,063 yards, which was fourth in the conference, and 13 touchdowns, which was second, on 209 carries for an average of 5.1 yards per attempt. He also totaled 213 yards and two touchdowns on 21 receptions and made the all-conference third team for his special teams contributions.
7. Larry McCammon III, FAU
McCammon was second in C-USA last year with 1,004 rushing yards to go with seven touchdowns while averaging 5.2 yards per attempt. He also caught 15 passes for 166 yards and a score.
The 5-11, 204-pound senior hadn’t tallied more than 91 carries in any of his previous three seasons at FAU, as he’s recorded 1,547 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground the past four years combined. But when he finally took on a leading role, he made the All-Conference USA first team.
Expect him to earn more accolades in the AAC.
8. Kimani Vidal, Troy
Vidal has put together an impressive career in the Sun Belt, and he’s not done yet.
The 5-8, 218-pound junior ran for 516 yards and four touchdowns on 101 carries in 2020 on his way to all-conference honorable mention accolades, as he ranked second nationally among freshmen with 3.83 yards after contact. He earned All-Sun Belt honorable mention honors again in 2021 as he ran for 701 yards and five touchdowns on 152 attempts.
Last season was his best by far as he recorded 1,132 yards, which was third in the conference, and 10 touchdowns, which was tied for fourth, as he averaged 4.9 yards per carry on 231 attempts. The All-Sun Belt second teamer in 2022 can also contribute in the passing game, as he’s caught 74 passes for 499 yards in the past three seasons.
9. Blake Watson, Memphis
Watson, a 5-9, 195-pound redshirt senior transferred to Memphis this offseason from Old Dominion. He’s been on the All-Sun Belt and All-Conference USA honorable mention lists after playing in 33 games and starting 24 from 2018-22.
During that time, he’s tallied 2,144 yards and 14 touchdowns on 398 carries. He’s also caught 60 passes for 448 yards and three touchdowns.
Last season, he totaled 921 yards and five scores on the ground while breaking the ODU record for running backs by catching 37 passes which went for 314 yards and two touchdowns. The year before, he was fifth in C-USA and 22nd in the nation with 101.1 yards per game. Watson has also shined as a kick returner, so he could do plenty now at Memphis.
10. Marquis Crosby, Louisiana Tech
Crosby was the leading rusher in C-USA among running backs who are back in the conference in 2023.
In 2022, Crosby was third in the league with 918 rushing yards and tied for second with nine touchdowns on the ground. He averaged 5 yards per carry on his way to making the all-conference honorable mention list. He also caught nine passes for 65 yards.
The 5-10, 201-pound redshirt sophomore will be exceptional once again in 2023.