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You’re Nuts: Who is the best returning non-OSU RB in the Big Ten?

Which running backs should you be on the lookout for in 2021?

Wisconsin v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

This week’s topic: Who is the best returning non-OSU RB in the Big Ten?

Josh’s Take: Tyler Goodson, Iowa

When Gene and I started this specific You’re Nuts series, I chose a Minnesota Golden Gopher as the best non-Buckeye quarterback. Tanner Morgan is a solid player, and his “battery mate” in the backfield is arguably a notch above that. Mohamed Ibrahim was the best running back in the Big Ten last season, and he has a chance to repeat as an All-American.

However, I cannot in good conscience choose two Minnesota players in a row. Since Ohio State opens their season in Minneapolis, I feel like I would be bringing on some bad vibes. Fortunately, I do not have to look outside of the West division for my answer.

Not only do Big Ten West division teams have to try and stop Mohamed this season, they will also go up against the actual best non-Buckeye at the running back position — and that is Tyler Goodson of Iowa. Goodson joined Ibrahim on the 2020 All-Big Ten first team, and is poised for a breakout in his junior year. If Ohio State rotates at the position, or falls victim to injury like they did last season, I believe Iowa could have the best running back in the conference. They might have him anyway, regardless of who OSU or anybody else trots out there.

Tyler Goodson was named Georgia Player of the Year as a high school senior, but only earned three stars during the recruiting process. Despite this accomplishment in such a football-rich state, Georgia and other SEC schools largely ignored Goodson, leaving him to choose from several schools in the midwest. He landed at Iowa and had an immediate impact. As a true freshman in 2019, he rushed for 638 yards in part-time duty. He continued to share the load with Mekhi Sargent in 2020, but has established himself as the lead back for Kirk Ferentz in 2021.

Goodson rushed for 762 yards in eight games last season, all while giving up almost 80 carries to Sargent. He racked up at least 77 yards in all but one contest — a defensive battle against Northwestern in week two. Sargent is now trying to earn a roster spot with the Tennessee Titans, leaving more opportunity for Goodson to shine. If the Hawkeyes feature him exclusively, we could be looking at a 1,500-yard rusher.

What makes Goodson special is his combination of big play ability and receiving skills. Iowa running backs have a reputation for being downhill, between-the-tackle types. Goodson is not a plodder. He is more of a home run threat because he possesses quickness and great balance with excellent change of direction. Wisconsin can attest to that, as Goodson burned them for an 80-yard touchdown run last December.

His ability to catch the ball gives him a potential edge over other established Big Ten backs like Ibrahim or Master Teague. He has 39 catches over the last two years. Those lead backs for Minnesota and OSU have totaled 24 — in six combined seasons. Additionally, Iowa brought in Ladell Betts to coach running backs this year, and he knows a thing or two about versatile running backs. He was a dual-threat himself, and parlayed that skill set into a nine-year NFL career. He will undoubtedly impart some of the wisdom he has learned over the years, and help Goodson become more dangerous for the Hawkeyes.

Tyler Goodson could follow in the footsteps of Shonn Greene, Iowa’s Doak Walker Award-winning running back from the late 2000’s. He is that talented. Ohio State fans may remember Greene, who took home the award in back-to-back seasons (2008, 2009). While not a bruiser like Greene, Goodson is arguably more versatile. He can run, cut, and catch like no other established back in the Big Ten. That versatility is what makes him my choice for best non-Buckeye running back in the league. He might make me remove “non-Buckeye” by the end of the 2021 season.

Gene’s Take: Mohamed Ibrahim

I understand Josh not wanting to take Ibrahim after selecting Tanner Morgan in our best returning non-OSU QB debate. Ohio State kicks off the season against Minnesota, and saying they have two of the best non-Buckeyes in the conference at two of the most important positions on offense makes the Gophers seem like a really scary Week 1 opponent. Luckily for me, I chose Michael Penix last time around, so I will gladly take the layup here at running back, and that is Mohamed Ibrahim.

The 2020 season was a weird one for everyone, and almost especially so for Minnesota. It was not a good year by any stretch for P.J. Fleck’s squad, finishing the shortened campaign 3-4 with blowout losses at the hands of Michigan and Iowa. The team averaged 27.3 points per game (71st in FBS) while allowing 30.1 points per game (70th in FBS). They were ranked as high as 19th in the preseason AP Poll, and did not come close to meeting those expectations. However, none of this stopped Ibrahim from putting on a show.

Despite the rest of his team’s struggles, the redshirt junior ran for over 1,000 yards with 15 touchdowns in just seven games, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. Ibrahim racked up the accolades in 2020, earning Big Ten Running Back of the Year while being named to the All-Big Ten First Team and getting selected as an AP Third-Team All American. On top of the awards, Ibrahim broke multiple Minnesota school records in 2020, including rushing yards per game (153.7), most rushing touchdowns in a game (four, record shared with others) and most touchdowns in consecutive games (eight total against Maryland and Illinois).

Ibrahim wasn't just a one-hit wonder in a weird 2020 season. He has been balling out pretty much ever since he stepped foot on campus in Minneapolis. As a freshman in 2018, Ibrahim posted another 1,000-yard season, totaling a career high 1,160 yards with nine TDs on 5.7 yards per carry. Despite playing in only 28 games in his collegiate career thus far, Ibrahim ranks ninth on Minnesota’s career rushing list with 2,840 yards, and is tied for sixth in school history with 31 rushing touchdowns.

Wildly underrated as a prospect, Ibrahim was just a three-star recruit coming out of high school. The No. 62 running back in the 2017 class and the No. 19 player in Maryland, the 5-foot-9 Olney, MD native came in as the No. 1125 player in the country. Crazy enough, he received only five total offers during the recruiting process — and those did not even include the in-state Terrapins. A shorter back whose high school numbers don't exactly jump off the page, Ibrahim would wind up choosing between Kentucky and Minnesota, and he clearly made the correct choice as he has quickly blossomed into a star with the Golden Gophers.

Heading into 2021, Ibrahim will truly have a chance to shine as a senior. Named to the Walter Camp pre-season All-America First Team, the running back could easily prove to be not only one of the best in the Big Ten, but in the entire nation. Ibrahim rules his backfield, and will not be expected to share the load with anyone. Minnesota is actually one of the few Big Ten teams that likes to throw the ball quite a bit, but whenever they keep it on the ground, you can be assured the ball will be in Mo’s hands more often than not. Ohio State will be breaking in a new trio of linebackers this season, and we will learn a lot about them in the very first game as they take on the Big Ten’s best non-OSU running back.


Who’s right?

This poll is closed

  • 27%
    Josh: Tyler Goodson
    (14 votes)
  • 66%
    Gene: Mohamed Ibrahim
    (34 votes)
  • 5%
    Other: Let us know in the comments!
    (3 votes)
51 votes total Vote Now