The top 9 returning rushers for the 2021 college football season

With the graduation of Buffalo’s Jaret Patterson, who led the FBS with 178.7 rushing yards per game during the 2020 season, Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim (153.7 yards/game) enters the 2021 season as the nation’s leading returning rusher. Ibrahim, a senior, has rushed for 2,840 yards in his career, with a pair of 1,000-yard seasons. He could potentially crack the 4,000-yard mark with another big season.

Here are the top nine returning rushers in the FBS, based on rushing yards per game in 2020, since the number of games played varied significantly between teams last season.

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1. Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota

Rushing yards per game in 2020: 153.7 yards/gameRushing yards: 1,076 yardsRushing touchdowns: 15 touchdowns

Despite Minnesota playing just seven games last season, Ibrahim still rushed for more than 1,000 yards, which ranked 11th nationally. The 10 running backs ahead of him each played in at least 10 games and Alabama’s Najee Harris (1,467 yards) played in 13 games while helping the Crimson Tide win the SEC championship and the College Football Playoff national championship.

Ibrahim also ranked fifth nationally in rushing touchdowns with 15 on the season.

As a junior, Ibrahim rushed for at least 100 yards in every game, including back-to-back 200-yard games on the road against Maryland (207 yards) and Illinois (224 yards), with four rushing touchdowns in each game. He has proven that he can be a workhorse running back, given that he had a combined 71 carries in those two games and an average of nearly 29 per game last season, which sets him up to have the opportunity for another productive season in 2021.

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2. Jarek Broussard, Colorado

Rushing yards per game in 2020: 149.2 yards/gameRushing yards: 895 rushing yardsRushing touchdowns: 5 touchdowns

In Broussard’s first season in Boulder, he helped the Buffaloes go 3-1 in Pac-12 play as the team’s leading rusher. He finished with 895 rushing yards, leaving him potentially just one game shy of a 1,000-yard season, despite Colorado playing only six games.

His high-water mark came against Arizona, when he rushed for 301 yards on just 25 carries — an average of roughly 12 yards per carry — which was his fourth consecutive game with at least 120 rushing yards.

Ohio Athletics

3. De’Montre Tuggle, Ohio

Rushing yards per game in 2020: 134.3 yards/gameRushing yards: 403 rushing yardsRushing touchdowns: 6 touchdowns

Ohio played just three games last season but De’Montre Tuggle made the most of them, compiling 403 rushing yards (which ranked tied for 163rd nationally, and only one player ranked ahead of him also played in only three games). He improved upon his already impressive yards-per-carry average from his freshman season (6.4 yards/carry) by rushing for 7.6 yards per attempt last season.

Tuggle’s production improved week over week:

at Central Michigan: 16 attempts for 79 yards and one rushing touchdown
versus Akron: 22 attempts for 139 yards and two rushing touchdowns
versus Bowling Green: 15 yards for 185 yards and three rushing touchdowns

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4. Sincere McCormick, UTSA

Rushing yards per game in 2020: 133.4 yards/gameRushing yards: 1,467 rushing yardsRushing touchdowns: 11 touchdowns

McCormick ranked second nationally in rushing yards last season with 1,467 yards, behind only Iowa State’s All-American running back Breece Hall (1,572 yards). The player who finished one spot behind McCormick? Alabama’s Najee Harris, and both Hall and Harris played more games than McCormick.

McCormick rushed for at least 120 yards in seven of UTSA’s 11 games, highlighted by a 251-yard performance against North Texas, when he averaged 10.9 yards per carry and scored twice on the ground. Over his final three games last season, McCormick totaled 546 rushing yards.

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5. Breece Hall, Iowa State

Rushing yards per game in 2020: 131.0 yards/gameRushing yards: 1,572 yardsRushing touchdowns: 21 touchdowns

Last season, Hall ranked first nationally in rushing yards, second in rushing touchdowns and seventh in rushing yards per game, which earned him consensus First Team All-American honors for an Iowa State team that played for the Big 12 championship. He finished with 1,752 yards from scrimmage and 23 total touchdowns with an average of 5.8 yards per touch.

Hall started the season with eight consecutive 100-yard rushing games, including back-to-back 185-yard games on the road against Oklahoma State and Kansas, where he averaged more than eight yards per carry in each game. He also proved to be effective without needing a heavy workload. He had 20 carries or fewer in five games last season with only two games with 30 or more carries.

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6. D’vonte Price, Florida International

Rushing yards per game in 2020: 116.2 yards/gameRushing yards: 581 yardsRushing touchdowns: 4 touchdowns

Price’s Florida International team played in just five games last season but he finished 79th nationally in rushing yards and only one player ranked ahead of him also played in only five games. His 581 rushing yards was a career high in a season, and his rushing average (6.8 yards/attempt) and rushing touchdown total (four) both rank as the second-best of his career.

The 6-2, 194-pound back had four 100-yard games last season, including 148 yards and two rushing touchdowns in Florida International’s season opener against Liberty, while averaging 11.4 yards per attempt, and he had 178 rushing yards against Florida Atlantic.

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7.  Kevin Harris, South Carolina

Rushing yards per game in 2020: 113.8 yards/gameRushing yards: 1,138 yardsRushing touchdowns: 15 touchdowns

Harris, a 5-10, 225-pound running back, had a breakout sophomore season in which he ranked seven nationally in rushing yards, tied for 17th in rushing touchdowns and 23rd in yards per carry after rushing for just 179 yards on 21 attempts as a freshman.

Harris’ performances were often boom or bust; he had four games with 60 or fewer rushing yards and five games with at least 100, including 243 rushing yards and five touchdowns against Ole Miss and 210 yards against Kentucky.

Jeff Lange | USA TODAY Sports Images

8. Teon Dollard, Akron

Rushing yards per game in 2020: 111.0 yards/gameRushing yards: 666 yardsRushing touchdowns: 6 touchdowns

In Dollard’s first season at Akron, he ran for 165 rushing yards at Ohio, 202 yards at Kent State and 185 yards against Bowling Green, giving him 552 of his 666 rushing yards on the season in just three games. He had four rushing touchdowns against Kent State and two against Bowling Green.

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9. Xazavian Valladay, Wyoming

Rushing yards per game in 2020: 110.0 yards/gameRushing yards: 550 yardsRushing touchdowns: 4 touchdowns

As a junior, Valladay tied his career-best yards-per-carry average with 5.6 yards per attempt, while compiling 550 yards in just five games. In back-to-back games against Hawai’i and Colorado State, Valladay rushed for a combined 310 yards and three touchdowns.


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