Back SoCon Preseason Position Rankings: Running Back

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SoCon Preseason Position Rankings: Running Back

By Jim Johnson
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Ranking the top five SoCon teams by position group.

As the beginning of the SoCon season edges ever closer, these are the top teams at each position group. While, in some cases, the starter at a given spot may be enough to carry one team over a stable of talent, largely these rankings will reward depth at each spot.

At the running back position, while there is certainly something to be said for a lone workhorse, committees of ball carriers are increasingly becoming the new normal. With that in mind here are the best teams in the SoCon, at the running back position:

5. Chattanooga

Despite losing its leading rusher from a year ago, Chattanooga will be just fine with Richardre Bagley leading the way. It’s yet to be seen how heavy a load he can carry on his own, but he offers a solid option as a receiver out of the backfield, with five rushing touchdowns and four receiving touchdowns, in 2016. Joining him will be graduate transfer Darrell Bridges. Coming from Presbyterian, Bridges left the Blue Hose as the program’s second all-time leading rusher. Alex Trotter and sophomore Chris Miller provide serviceable options off the bench.

4. Mercer

Given quarterback John Russ’ departure, Alex Lakes should be poised to get back to or even improve upon the production from his redshirt freshman campaign. The addition of former Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket C.J. Leggett will do wonders to bolster the Bears’ ground game. Leggett is a bruising runner who, alongside Lakes, helps to compose one of the most physically imposing backfields in the country. With Tee Mitchell back in the fold, Bobby Lamb has the perfect complement to the aforementioned backs.

3. Wofford

It’s never easy replacing both leading rushers from a year prior, especially when one of them is a player of Lorenzo Long’s caliber, but if any team is equipped to do so, it’s the 2017 Wofford Terriers. By now, Mike Ayers and company have established the infrastructural continuity to have earned the benefit of the doubt for their offensive system. Between Ellis Pace, Blake Morgan, Lennox McAfee, Andre Stoddard, and Chase Nelson, whether or not one or two establish themselves as the go-to guy, the overall production should be more of the same -- amongst the best in FCS.

2. Western Carolina

Detrez Newsome is not only the most dynamic, versatile weapon in the SoCon, but arguably the entirety of the FCS. He led the entire nation in all-purpose yards last season. In the most traditional sense of the position, Newsome is the conference’s best running back. However he is also a viable receiver out of the backfield and an ever present threat on special teams. With another productive season, Newsome should have an opportunity to pursue his NFL aspirations.

1. The Citadel

The Citadel led the country with 348.2 yards per game during its 2016 run to a conference title. Cam Jackson will be the headliner this season after the Bulldogs lost leading rusher Tyler Renew. He compiled just shy of 700 yards as a junior and averaged an incredible 7.3 yards per carry. He will enter 2017 as the program’s all-time leader for career yards per carry with an 8.2 average. Rod Johnson proved to have a nose for the end zone and should play an even larger role in the offense going forward. Keep an eye out for juniors Grant Drakeford and Evan McField, as well.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP