Ranking SEC football’s top 10 running backs entering 2021 season: Is Auburn’s Tank Bigsby the best? – Tuscaloosa Magazine

USA TODAY Sports Network  |  The Tuscaloosa News

Auburn football enters the 2021 season with a tank in its arsenal.

Tank Bigsby is the best running back in the SEC going into the fall, according to a poll of sports journalists who cover the league for the USA TODAY Sports Network.

The Tigers’ top rusher garnered eight of a possible 17 first-place votes to head a list of the top 10 SEC running backs. Texas A&M placed two running backs on the top 10 list in Isaiah Spiller and Ainias Smith.

A total of 21 running backs from 13 schools received votes in the poll: Mississippi State was the only school without a running back to get at least one vote. Ten points were awarded for a first-place vote down to one point for a 10th-place vote. Three rushers received at least one first-place vote.

The USA TODAY Sports Network is counting down to SEC Media Days, scheduled for July 19-22 in Hoover, Alabama, by revealing its top players at each position grouping.

Here is a look at the top 10 running backs:

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What to expect:4 experts project Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss football in their 2021 preseason Top 25 rankings

1. Tank Bigsby

Auburn, sophomore (148 points, 8 first-place votes)

The reigning SEC Freshman of the Year, Bigsby rushed for more yards (834) than Bo Jackson did during his debut season in 1982. Pro Football Focus believes he could be the top running back in the country.

Josh Vitale

2. Isaiah Spiller

Texas A&M, junior (139 points, 4 first-place votes)

Spiller is one of the most versatile running backs in the conference. He finished 2020 with 1,229 total yards and nine touchdowns.

James Fletcher

3. Kevin Harris

South Carolina, junior (137 points, 5 first-place votes)

A physical runner who was one of the league’s biggest surprises last season, Harris registered the fifth-highest rushing total in school history with 1,138 yards and was fifth nationally with 15 rushing touchdowns. 

Eric Boynton

4. Zamir White

Georgia, junior (109 points)

The top back for another deep Bulldogs running back corps, White powered his way to 779 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns last season. 

Marc Weiszer

5. Chris Rodriguez

Kentucky, junior (87 points)

Rodriguez ranked fifth in the SEC in rushing yards per game in 2020 despite splitting carries. He is expected to take on an even larger role in 2021.

Jon Hale

6. Brian Robinson Jr. 

Alabama, senior (79 points)

Robinson brings experience, size and an ability to run through defenders as Alabama’s new lead back. He rushed for six touchdowns while playing alongside Najee Harris in 2020.

Nick Kelly

7. Jerrion Ealy

Ole Miss, junior (58 points)

Ealy scored 11 touchdowns last season, nine rushing, one receiving and one as a kick returner. The former five-star recruit has averaged 5.84 yards per carry across his two seasons at Ole Miss.

Nick Suss

8. Ainias Smith

Texas A&M, junior (36 points)

Smith is a gadget guy who can line up anywhere on the field. He had 857 total yards and eight touchdowns, adding 75 yards on punt returns.

James Fletcher

9. Trelon Smith

Arkansas, junior (24)

Smith led the Razorbacks in rushing with 710 yards and five touchdowns. He also flashed some versatility, placing third on the team with 22 receptions and an average of 7.2 yards per catch. 

Will Backus

10. Dameon Pierce

Florida, senior (23)

Pierce ranked 12th in yards (503) last season among SEC backs, three of whom are gone. He’s expected to be featured more this year in Florida’s offense.

Zach Abolverdi

Voting panel: Zach Abolverdi, Gainesville Sun; John Adams, Knoxville News Sentinel; Will Backus, Knoxville News Sentinel; Eric Blum, Columbia Daily Tribune; James Fletcher, The Tuscaloosa News; Gentry Estes, The Tennessean; Aria Gerson, The Tennessean; Glenn Guilbeau, The Daily Advertiser; Jon Hale, The Courier Journal; Cecil Hurt, The Tuscaloosa News; Nick Kelly, The Tuscaloosa News; Adam Sparks, The Tennessean; Nick Suss, The Clarion-Ledger; Blake Toppmeyer, Knoxville News Sentinel; Josh Vitale, Montgomery Advertiser; Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald; Mike Wilson, Knoxville News Sentinel.