Despite the havoc that COVID-19 has wreaked on college football throughout the 2020 season, there are several true freshman running backs that have made significant contribution to their teams. When it comes to production by running backs in their true freshman year, it's important remember that nowadays a lot of teams uses a running back-by-committee approach. It will be a long time, maybe never, before you see anyone break former Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne’s true freshman year yards-from-scrimmage record of 2,732 yards (2,109 of those were rushing yards). Dayne set that record back in 1996.
In other words, it’s hard for true freshman running backs to make a significant impact on their teams due to several factors. For any high school athlete being told that they will get a ton of carries as true freshman at the FBS level, just know that the odds of that happening are slim. True freshman have to adjust to the speed of the college game, bigger defensive players on the field, learning a much more complicated playing back……… and that’s just for starters.
Now, there are true freshman getting a lot of carries this season due to depth chart issues caused by injury, COVID-19, and other reasons. For the purposes of this article, we will be taking a look at running backs that have carried the football at least 75 times for their team this season. Also, this only includes running backs at the FBS level of college football.
Ulysses Bentley IV/ Southern Methodist University (SMU)
Bentley has been the most productive true freshman running back in college football from a rushing yardage standpoint. He’s rushed 170 times for 913 yards (5.4 yards per carry) and 11 rushing touchdowns. Bentley also has 28 runs of 10-plus yards or more. He certainly moves the sticks.
Deuce Vaughn/Kansas State
Vaughn’s versatility has been on display all season for Kansas State. Whether it’s running the football (111 carries for 517 yards and five touchdowns, 4.7 ypc.) or catching the football (21 catches for 388 yards and two touchdowns), he’s been Kansas State’s most productive player on offense.
Jahmyr Gibbs/Georgia Tech
Speaking of versatile backs, Gibbs has been one of the few bright spots for Georgia Tech this season. He has rushed 89 times for 467 yards (5.2 ypc.), and four touchdowns and has caught 23 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
Rahjai Harris/East Carolina
Harris has carried the football 128 times for 623 yards (4.9 ypc.) and four touchdowns. What’s even more impressive is the fact that he shares carries with another true freshman (more on that later). Harris has gained 10-plus yards a total of 17 times this season.
Frank Gore Jr./Southern Miss
Yes, he is the son of THAT Frank Gore, Miami Hurricanes legend and current NFL running back. Gore has carried the football 113 times for 598 yards (5.3 ypc.) and one touchdown. His impressive freshman season has included 18 running plays of ten or more yards.
Bigsby has carried the football 103 times for 566 yards (5.5 ypc.) and five touchdowns.
Despite the fact Syracuse is having a rough season, Tucker has gained 525 yards on 114 carries (4.6 ypc) and three touchdowns.
Calvin Hill/Texas St
Hill has carried the football 101 times for 536 yards (5.3 ypc.) and five touchdowns. Twenty of his rushing attempts this season have gone for 10 or more yards.
Keaton Mitchell/East Carolina
Despite sharing carries with Rahjai Harris (see above), Mitchell has managed to gain 439 yards on 88 carries (5.0 ypc.) and two touchdowns.
Chris Tyree/Notre Dame
Ok, so I went against the criteria on this one. However, Tyree is currently playing for a Top-5 team in the nation. He’s carried the football 61 times for 350 yards (5.7 ypc) and two touchdowns.