Top Ten SEC Running Backs: Where Do Artis-Payne and Grant Rank?

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Jan 2, 2014; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Team Highlight running back Leonard Fournette (5) runs with the ball against Team Nitro during the second half at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

5. Leonard Fournette, LSU

Wait a minute – first we put a guy on the list that had one good game, and now we’ve got one that hasn’t even played? Leonard Fournette is that good. Heck, we’re not the only ones that are this high on the kid – the Worldwide Leader put him on their national top 100 list.

There is a reason that Fournette is so highly touted. He ran for 1,792 yards and 16 scores in eleven games as a high school senior, capping off a career in which he had 88 touchdowns and 7,619 rushing yards. Fournette was a near unanimous selection as the top recruit in the nation, and has drawn many comparisons to Adrian Peterson. Do you remember what he did as a true freshman?

There is a bit of a perfect storm for Fournette at LSU. The Tigers did not sign a running back in their 2013 recruiting class, and Jeremy Hill left for the NFL after his sophomore season. While Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard are two talented backs that return to the roster, it is only a matter of time before Fournette becomes option number one for the Tigers on offense.

Running behind a solid offensive line, and with another true freshman likely to start at quarterback, 1,000 yards seems like a given.

6.  Keith Marshall, Georgia

Aug 31, 2013; Clemson, SC, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Keith Marshall (4) carries the ball during the fourth quarter against the Clemson Tigers at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Tigers won 38-35. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Some people forget that Keith Marshall was more highly recruited than Todd Gurley, and that when the Georgia Bulldogs kicked off the 2012 season, Marshall was the starting running back. And, while Gurley has grown into a beast of an SEC running back (when healthy, of course) Marshall has become a bit of an afterthought.

It is important to remember, however, that Keith Marshall is really, really good. It even appeared that Marshall would have an opportunity to shine last season with Gurley on the shelf. Against Tennessee, the now junior got his first career start since his first career game, only to be carted off the field with a torn ACL.

To that point, Marshall had run for 246 yards on 56 carries in 2013 – pushing him just north of 1,000 yards for his career. At 5-foot-11 and 219 pounds, he is still one of the fastest players on the roster and would start almost anywhere in the conference – if not the nation. Expected to be fully recovered by the season opener, Marshall should rebound well in 2014.