All I can say is: it’s tough to be a running back nowadays. The market seems to get uglier each year for running backs with no real good solution in sight. The only option most star running backs have is to sign their franchise tender, play on essentially a one-year deal, and hope to earn a multi-year contract the following season. It’s the unfortunate reality of the life of a running back in today’s NFL.
However, part two of the Devy Summer Scouting series for running backs is here and will introduce you to the rest of the college field this upcoming season. If you missed part one, you can find it here.
After my evaluation of this class, two things are clear to me: 1) There is a lot of depth. 2) This class is loaded with power backs.
Here they are.
Trey Benson, Florida State – 601 223; R-Jr
Benson was the number six ranked prospect out of the state of Mississippi in the class of 2020. Initially committing to Oregon, he spent 2020 and 2021 in Eugene before transferring to the Seminoles during the 2022 winter transfer period.
Benson found immediate success last season, rushing for nearly 1,000 yards and continuing to get better with each game. If you have not watched Benson’s performance last season versus Florida, you should go back and watch it. Everything to like about him is displayed in one single game.
He runs with very good patience and control at the line of scrimmage and protects the ball through traffic. He is big-bodied at a listed 6’1” and 223 pounds with the frame to carry multiple defenders and push the pile forward for tough yards. His best trait may be his nasty stiff arm that is physical and slams defenders into the dirt. Benson also displayed bend and loose hips in his lateral movement with the suddenness to stop/start in tight spaces. He excels in attacking play-side gaps and is patient with his blockers up front to make the correct read and explodes to the second level with a burst and precise cuts. In the open field, he is powerful and wants to punish defenders with his physicality, but can also rack up extra yards with his contact balance and juice.
Benson will play another big role for the Seminoles this year as they make a potential push for a playoff berth and ACC title contenders. He will be an exciting day two prospect next spring, with an early/mid-second-round projection if he takes another step.
If he gets that projected draft capital, he will be an option in the back half of round one in rookie drafts next spring, with a potential ceiling as a mid-1st if he lands in an ideal situation.
TreVeyon Henderson, Ohio State – 510 214; Jr
Henderson was a high-level recruit out of Virginia, ranked as the number one running back in the class of 2021. He made his presence known as a true freshman that year and was expected to take a big jump in 2022 that never truly materialized. Part of that could have been due to the injuries he dealt with, as he only played in eight games last year. It could have also been due to the level of expectations playing at a powerhouse program like Ohio State. A bounce back in 2023 is expected.
However, when I studied Henderson, I left wanting more.
Like it or not, I think he still needs some development in his game. The first thing that stood out to me was the lack of juice in his game. He appeared to be stiff and lacked the bend/loose hips in making lateral cuts, instead choosing to slow down and run around tacklers in space. He appeared to lack the instincts to see a play developing and also a desire to finish his runs. In the games I studied, it appeared Ohio State preferred to give the ball to his running mate, Miyan Williams (more on him later), instead of him. This will be something to watch throughout the course of this season.
Despite those flaws, there are certain things to like about Henderson. He has a big frame that absorbs contact and can power through arm tackles. He also displayed a strong stiff arm to avoid second and third-level defenders and has a good burst once he finds daylight to the second level. He will need to continue to improve upon these strengths if he is unable to strengthen the weaknesses in his game and make up for his lack of instincts.
Heading into the preseason, Henderson is a trendy 2024 top-five running back and consensus first-round rookie pick. I may find myself being lower than consensus on Henderson if he doesn’t take the step he is expected to this season. He has shown enough for me to be a mid day two selection in the 2024 NFL Draft and an early second-round pick in rookie drafts.
Miyan Williams, Ohio State – 509 225; Sr
Williams is the other half of this Buckeye backfield and had his moments where he looked like the better back. I really liked watching Williams’ 2022 tape. The first thing that stands out is how compact he is – he is built like a brick at 5’9” and 225 pounds. He is a violent, physical runner and can bounce off defenders with his power and runs with a low center of gravity. He can absorb contact and is fearless in taking hits, and runs angry. He has a solid, strong lower body and leg drive to break tackles at the second level.
Williams displayed exceptional instincts and vision at every level, anticipating the angle of blockers and making sharp, precise cuts upfield in rhythm. Almost every run was physical, but he also flashed contact balance/agility and underrated twitchy short-area quickness. That physicality also showed in his willingness in pass protection, not afraid to take on blitzing linebackers and meeting them in the interior gaps. Lastly, Williams flashed some pass-catching skills, and did not look uncomfortable in being used as a receiver.
Williams was productive in 2022 and both he and Henderson will be key to the success of the Buckeyes offense. Williams has day two talent at the next level and is a potential top-100 prospect. I think he ranges in the early- to mid-second round of rookie drafts next year.
Will Shipley, Clemson – 511 205; Jr
Shipley broke out for the Tigers and was the centerpiece of their offense last season. With the team lacking star power on the outside, Shipley was extremely productive thanks to his talent. He was ranked as a four-star prospect in the 2021 class and number four running back in the country.
Shipley looked like a clone of Chargers’ running back Austin Ekeler when I turned on his tape. He is arguably the best receiving running back in this class and can be used in multiple ways out of the backfield in running routes. He is a dynamic threat in space and can provide explosive plays in the quick game. He is also patient and under control as a ball carrier. His vision and instincts are superb and has a good burst to the second level.
Shipley also has the suddenness and flexibility to clear the interior clutter and bounce runs to the edge with short-area speed to get to the edge. He’s listed at 5’11” and 205, but runs hard and consistently finishes his runs through the whistle. He does not possess a big frame, nor has the burner wheels when he finds daylight, but he is instinctive, athletic, and a dynamic receiver out of the backfield. With the current landscape of the running back position in the NFL, Shipley’s receiving skills will help him stick around a little longer at the next level.
I watched him quite often last season and had him graded as a top-50 prospect in 2024 and that projection has not changed. I believe he possesses day-two talent, and should he land in an ideal situation, his profile projects as a mid- to late-first-round pick in rookie drafts.
Isaiah Davis, South Dakota State – 601 220; Sr
Davis is a fourth-year senior coming off a productive 2022 season for the defending FCS National Champion Jackrabbits.
He is built like a brick house at a listed 6’1 and 220 and adds to the depth of this class of power backs. He is a physical downhill runner with instincts and vision to anticipate running lanes and a good burst to power to the second level. He displayed twitchy, fluid hips working laterally to find space and has the short-area speed to turn the corner around the edge. His flexibility also gives him the ability to sink/bend his hips and slip through tight creases. He can absorb contact with his size and uses his physicality and power in the open field to break tackles and run through arm tackles.
Despite the heavy ground work for Davis, he was also involved in the Jackrabbits passing game but not used often. He flashed versatility as a receiver with good hands, but primarily saw his targets in the quick game or a check-down option. There appears to be untapped upside there for Davis. That will be something to keep an eye on this season. If he displays development there, I think he will help himself quite a bit heading into draft season next year.
As of right now though, Davis is a day two talent in the late second/early third round range with mid-second round upside. I think he will be a solid target and good value in the second round of rookie drafts in 2024.
OTHER NOTABLE PROSPECTS/NAMES TO WATCH
Carson Steele, UCLA – Ball State transfer. Downhill thumper who gets north to south and bullies over defenders. Size, power, and physicality. He replaces Zach Charbonnet as the power back in Chip Kelly’s offense.
Ja’Quinden Jackson, Utah – Former four-star recruit at Texas in the class of 2020 and number-two-ranked prospect in the state. Transferred to Utah in 2021 and played in three games as a reserve quarterback. Got on the field and found his role as a power back for the Utes, rushing for nine scores on only 78 carries. Big, hulking frame at a listed 6’2” and 228. Quite the story.
Roman Hemby, Maryland – Redshirt freshman in 2022. Had double-digit touchdowns and nearly 1000 yards on the ground, and caught 31 receptions. Good size at a listed 6’2” and 202 and is twitchy yet also physical. Returns to the Terrapins as a draft-eligible redshirt sophomore that garnered Honorable Mention All-Big Ten and third-team Freshman All-American (College Football News) accolades.
Montrell Johnson Jr, Florida – Louisiana transfer who followed head coach Billy Napier to Florida. Has good size as he’s listed at 5’11” and 217 and is explosive at the point of attack and physical in the open field. Selected as the Sun-Belt Offensive Player of the Year in 2021 as a true freshman and will share the backfield again with true sophomore Trevor Etienne.
Final Preseason Rankings
- Donovan Edwards
- Blake Corum
- Trey Benson
- Braelon Allen
- Raheim Sanders
- Will Shipley
- Miyan Williams
- TreVeyon Henderson
- Isaiah Davis
- Roman Hemby
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