Utah Football: Ranking Opposing Running Backs Ahead Of 2021 Season

May 30, 2021, 3:10 PM | Updated: 5:26 pm
Jarek Broussard, CJ Verdell and Max Borghi...
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utah football usually has one of the best running back groups in the Pac-12 but the conference is filled with talent in 2021.

Normally the Pac-12 is known for quarterback play but the running back talent in the conference is stacked and will surely get Utah’s attention this season.

Here is the Crimson Corner’s rankings of the opposing running backs the Utes will face this season.

12. B.J. Baylor, Oregon State

2020 lead back Jermar Jefferson decided to not utilize his free year of eligibility and entered the 2021 NFL Draft after rushing for 858 yards and 7 TD’s. The next option at running back is B.J. Baylor, who played in all 7 games last season, racking up 124 yards and one touchdown. The rest of the group doesn’t have a ton of experience, which leaves Oregon State with a lot of questions at that position.

11. Michael Wiley, Arizona

Much like the entire roster in Tucson, the Wildcats have some questions that will need to be answered at running back. Gary Brightwell is off to the NFL, leaving Jedd Fisch with Michael Wiley as one of two running backs with college experience. Wiley rushed for 222 yards and 3 touchdowns last season in five games.

Another player who could contribute that has experience is Northwestern transfer Drake Anderson, who rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in three seasons in the Big Ten.

10. Josh Davis, Weber State

Davis is a two-time All-American that is filled with talent. During the 2021 spring season, Davis played five games and ran for 386 yards and one touchdown but dealt with some injuries.

In 2019, Davis rushed for 1,136 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Wildcats have an entire running back room filled with talented players that can come in and contribute right away. That is mainly due to the recruiting job that former Utah RB Quinton Ganther did when he was the position coach for Weber State. Jay Hill has plenty of talented guys like Dontae McMillan, Daniel Wright Jr., and Kris Jackson.

9. Greg Bell, San Diego State

Bell joined San Diego State in 2019 as a transfer from Nebraska. After not playing in the 2019 season, Bell rushed for 674 yards and six touchdowns in seven games during the 2020 campaign.

The Aztecs also have Chance Bell, who rushed for 273 yards and three touchdowns in seven games last season. Also, Kaegun Williams and Jordan Byrd are options for SDSU.

8. Austin Jones, Nathaniel Peat and E.J. Smith, Stanford

David Shaw has plenty of options in his backfield this season. During the 2020 season, Austin Jones was the leading rusher with 550 yards and 9 touchdowns. Nathaniel Peat was second on the team with 204 yards and one TD. Another name to watch for is E.J. Smith, the son of NFL legend Emmitt Smith. He has the potential to be special but needs to develop and will thrive in Stanford’s offense.

7. Rachaad White and Chip Trayanum, Arizona State

Arizona State didn’t play very many games last season, just 4 in 2020. Rachaad White was the leading rusher with 420 yards and 5 touchdowns. It was also a chance to check out former Ohio State commit Chip Trayanum and he didn’t disappoint, rushing for 290 yards and 4 touchdowns.

Another back that ASU will utilize is Daniyel Ngata after rushing for 108 yards and one touchdown in 2020.

6. Brittain Brown, UCLA

Demetric Felton decided to head to the NFL, leaving the starting job to Duke transfer back Brittain Brown. He compiled 543 rushing yards and four touchdowns in seven games played last season. That gives Chip Kelly a chance to use a veteran leader as his running back, while molding the younger players.

5. Tyler Allgeier, BYU

Allgeier had a breakout season in 2020 with 1,130 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Much could be said about the offensive line last season that was filled with talent and most of that unit returns in 2021. It will also be interesting to see how Allgeier performs against a more difficult schedule that is filled with power five opponents.

The Cougars also have Lopini Katoa as a veteran option for Aaron Roderick’s offense in their backfield.

4. Keaontay Ingram and Vavae Malepeai , USC

The Trojans lost two running backs to the transfer portal with Markese Stepp going to Nebraska and Stephen Carr to Indiana. But Clay Helton’s staff picked up a major talent in Texas transfer Keaontay Ingram, who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in his three-year career with the Longhorns.

The veteran piece coming back to the men of Troy is Vavae Malepeai, who racked up 238 yards and three touchdowns in an air raid offense.

3. Max Borghi, Washington State

Borghi was injured for most of the 2020 season and was missed dearly by Nick Rolovich and Washington State. The star running back played in one game last season and that was in the season finale against Utah, racking up 95 yards and one touchdown. Deon McIntosh was the leading rusher with 323 yards and three TD’s.

Borghi is a player that can do it all in the backfield and has the size mixed with speed to do it at a high level. In 2019, he was an all-conference honorable mention after rushing for 817 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 86 receptions for 597 yards and five TD’s in an air raid offense under Mike Leach.

2. C.J. Verdell, Oregon

Verdell dealt with some injuries during the 2020 season which led to a down year of 285 yards and three touchdowns. If Verdell can stay healthy in 2021, he will be extremely dangerous for opposing defenses. Travis Dye is another option after leading the team with 443 yards last year, along with a rushing TD.

Cyrus Habibi-Likio left the program and transferred to Boise State.

1. Jarek Broussard, Colorado

After suffering a season-ending injury in September of 2019, he came back in 2020 with a chip on his shoulder. He racked up 813 yards and three touchdowns in five games last season and was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.

Another great option for Karl Dorrell is Alex Fontenot when he is healthy.

Trevor Allen is a Utah Utes Insider for and host of the Crimson Corner podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @TrevorASportsYou can download and listen to the podcast, here.

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