Less than two weeks till the season starts and its time cover one of the most important spots on the field: running back. This position was marked by key losses, elite returning talent, and a lot of potential from newcomers and returning veterans.
Who did we lose?
Isaiah Spiller, now with the Los Angeles Chargers, was the workhorse of this team, racking up just over a thousand yards rushing and 200 yards receiving in a solid 2021 season. Spiller was your prototypical NFL back—elite at picking holes and getting 3-5 yards out of, seemingly, nothing. His talent and production will definitely be missed.
Beyond that, we lost a couple of guys to transfer:
Deondre Jackson, a former 3-star recruit out of Georgia transferred to Oklahoma State, and Darvon Hubbard, a 3-star back from Surprise!, AZ (that’s the name of the city, I couldn't help myself on the exclamation mark) transferred to Temple.
Who do we bring back?
- Devon Achane (JR): Elite and electric talent who led the SEC in yards per attempt at 7.0. Achane rushed for 910 on the year, and quite frankly should have had more yards in a few games had we committed to giving him the ball. Achane will also be on special teams returning kicks as he did last year (we all remember the Alabama game). If there’s a crease, he’ll find it and his sprinter speed is impossible to stop. Only question is whether he can be an every down back.
- Amari Daniels (SO): Daniels is a former 4-star player out of Miami who, like Achane, was a track runner with a verified 4.5 40. Daniels saw limited action last year behind Spiller and Achane but flashed when he did. He and Achane alone increase the potential for explosive plays out of a Fisher offense that has struggled to hit those marks.
- LJ Johnson (RS FR): Another 4-star player out of Cypress, Texas, Johnson is the thunder to the lightning of Daniels and Achane. A bigger back at 6’0 215, he’ll provide a good change of pace to pick up tough yards.
- Earnest Crownover (JR): I love this kid. Crownover is the perfect compliment to this RB crew. At 6’3, 230 he can get short yardage, he can play fullback when we need him to, he can do a lot of stuff to help this team out.
What other names should we know?
Le’Veon Moss was the only RB A&M took in its star-studded 2022 recruiting class, for good reason. Moss, a 4-star player out of Baton Rouge, was originally committed to Alabama but committed to A&M in November. Moss will absolutely compete for time at that RB2 spot behind Achane. Should be fun to watch.
Overall Grade: B+
I struggled with this one because I genuinely believe that Achane is one of the best running backs in the country—and if you’re asking me to just grade him as an RB he gets a resounding A+...but the lack of proven players behind him or alongside him keeps this from being an A. Daniels, Johnson, Moss—all of those guys are incredibly talented and I think this grade could be an A even just three games in, but for right now we’ve got a ton of promise, but only have one guy who’s actually proven it on the field.
As mentioned earlier, this group is going to provide a different type of talent/performance than we’ve had in the past in Jimbo’s offense. Explosive plays occur by design, sure, but they also rely on explosive players and this is the first year under Jimbo where we’ve got a couple of guys who can be explosive out of the RB position.