Five thoughts on the 2023 RB class
Rivals national recruiting director Adam Gorney continues his position-by-position glance of the 2023 recruiting scene with five thoughts on the running back position.
RELATED: Five thoughts on the 2023 QB class
NO FIVE-STAR RUNNING BACK - YET
The running back position has been largely devalued in the first round of the NFL Draft and so the Rivals rankings have to reflect that as well since they’re based off expected college performance and NFL draft positioning.
There are a lot of talented high school running backs but it’s difficult to make them five-star prospects if it’s nearly impossible for them to be taken among the first 32 picks.
In the 2022 NFL Draft, no running backs were first-round selections. Najee Harris and Travis Etienne went in the first round in 2021, Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the last pick of Round 1 in 2020 and Josh Jacobs was the lone first-rounder in 2019.
We’re not against five-star running backs if it makes sense but to be completely transparent: We haven’t been great at picking five-star backs in recent recruiting cycles.
Bijan Robinson in the 2020 class has the best chance of going in the first round and it would be a major surprise right now if that didn’t happen.
But Camar Wheaton as a five-star in the 2021 class is to be determined but not looking so great right now. In 2020, Zachary Evans, Demarkcus Bowman, Kendall Milton and MarShawn Lloyd were five-stars and none look like surefire first-round locks.
HAYNES WAS IMPRESSIVE LAST MONTH
I pulled up to Justice Haynes’ gym last month for an interview while I was in town for the Rivals Underclassmen Challenge and out walked a running back I didn’t expect to see.
The No. 1 running back in the 2023 class was at the Underclassmen Challenge the summer before but now the new Buford, Ga., standout was way more physically mature, rocked up and looked like a college running back already.
Georgia is still considered the favorite for Haynes and it makes sense since he’s a legacy and the Bulldogs have recruited him so hard. But Alabama, Ohio State, Florida and others aren’t giving up yet.
TAKING A SHOT ON LOVE
After Justice Haynes and Richard Young in the running back rankings, things could go in a variety of directions. We’ve chosen St. Louis (Mo.) Christian Brothers’ standout Jeremiyah Love in the third spot, which might be a little high but we think he’s undervalued elsewhere because he split carries last season.
That’s actually a benefit in our eyes as he enters his senior season because he has more tread on the tires and hasn’t taken as many hits and can still be utilized in a variety of ways. More important than anything is that Love averages 10.1 yards per carry as Michigan and Notre Dame battle it out for his services with some SEC programs in the mix as well.
“I could easily rush for over 2,000 yards but I got to let my dogs eat, too,” Love said. “Whenever I touch the ball I expect to score.”
DOES OWENS REALLY GO TO LOUISVILLE?
When word started leaking out that Rueben Owens II could commit to Louisville at any time there were people who just didn’t believe it. Certainly it made sense to be skeptical since the high four-star prospect – who could be considered for a five-star ranking down the line – had Texas, Texas A&M and others in hot pursuit.
But in the NIL era, anything can happen and it did when the El Campo, Texas, standout committed to the Cardinals. Credit is also due to the Louisville coaching staff and other commits that got him locked in but one wonders whether his pledge sticks until National Signing Day.
There were some close to him that said Owens wouldn’t pick Louisville but he did. The Longhorns, Aggies and others are not giving up. If he ends up at Louisville he could have an immediate impact. But call me skeptical with months to go before it becomes official.
EDWARDS COULD BE DEUCE VAUGHN 2.0
Deuce Vaughn was a low three-star prospect in the 2020 class, someone who was very impressive at Round Rock (Texas) Cedar Ridge but also very small and so we didn’t go too high with our ranking. That was clearly the wrong decision since Vaughn has emerged as one of the most lethal all-purpose backs in college football.
Could the same thing be happening with Dylan Edwards? The Derby, Kan., standout committed to Kansas State in late June. He’s also undersized. He’s also versatile. And it’s clear the Wildcats’ coaching staff sold the Vaughn role on Edwards as well.
Right now, Edwards is ranked as a high three-star prospect but I do wonder if we’re missing the boat a little bit especially since Kansas State has perfected Vaughn in his role and someone with similar abilities in Edwards could be stepping in next.