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After a year off, there are elite running back recruits again

Welcome to The Crootletter (sign up to get this in your inbox every morning!). I'm Bud Elliott, SB Nation's National Recruiting Analyst, and in this space I'll be sharing news, rumors and musings on the world of college football recruiting.

A few years ago, we pondered whether the running back position was going away due to prospects seeing the extremely short careers of professionals and the shift to the running back by committee approach. Star running backs would start to play safety or linebacker instead. Then the 2014 recruiting class brought us Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook, Nick Chubb, Royce Freeman, Joe Mixon, Jalen Hurd, Elijah Hood, Sony Michel, and Samaje Perine. It's the best year for running backs I've ever seen.

2015 regressed to about normal levels of talent, but 2016 was a terrible recruiting cycle for running backs. There were no consensus five-star prospects, only a few for which a reasonable five-star argument could be sustained, and some of the most talented prospects had academic or other off-field concerns. It was underwhelming.

But fear not, 2017 is here to save the running back position yet again. Whereas 2016 had just six backs rated in the top 100, and zero no-doubt five stars, 2017 already has 12 already rated in the top 100 of the 247Sports Composite. That includes Najee Harris, a 220-pound superstar Alabama commitment from California who could turn out to be the top player in the country. The current No. 1 player, Dylan Moses, is listed as a linebacker but is also a talented running back.

This group doesn't look 2014 good, but maybe it can make a run at 2005, the year which brought Jonathan Stewart, Jamaal Charles, James Davis, Andre Brown, Beanie Wells, Felix Jones, Rashard Mendenhall and Ray Rice.


The SEC is looking to block Jim Harbaugh from holding spring practices at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Michigan wants to do this because IMG is the most talented high school in America by a huge margin. I'd be against doing this if I played for Michigan because it's using up a portion of my spring break.

I joined Spencer Hall, Jason Kirk and Ryan Nanni on the Shutdown Fullcast to discuss National Signing Day and python hunting. Really.

Why did former five-star QB Kyle Allen transfer from Texas A&M?

Ohio State landed a four-star defensive lineman from Las Vegas Tuesday. The Buckeyes are assembling a ridiculous early class.

Know what really helps teams recruit? Sustaining a winning product on the field. Warning: Math.

Notre Dame recruits nationally, but its base is the Midwest. One Foot Down scouts who could join the Irish.