Jack Follman’s 2023 Pac-12 Running Back Rankings

Talented sophomores Damien Martinez and Jaydn Ott will battle Bucky Irving for the top spot

Posted on May 23, 2023

  By Jack Follman, SuperWest Sports

The Pac-12 top running back group is young and reloading, but talented.

Pac-12Damien Martinez and Jaydn Ott had two of the best freshman seasons you will ever see in the Conference and will battle it out with Bucky Irving from Oregon for the top spot.

The rest of the group is deep but lacks stars and is chock full of transfers who could make big impacts.

1. Damien Martinez, Sophomore, Oregon State
Karl Maasdam/Oregon State Athletics
He almost got to 1,000 yards in the first year of his career.

No doubt he’s the next big-time running back in Corvallis and my pick to be the best back in the Pac-12.

2. Bucky Irving, Junior, Oregon
Oregon RB Bucky Irving | Tom Hauck/Getty Images
Irving cracked the 1,000-yard mark and was a good receiver, grabbing nearly 300 yards and three touchdowns.

He might have had his best game in the Holiday Bowl.

3. Jaydn Ott, Sophomore, Cal
Cal RB Jaydn Ott | Young Kwak/AP
He was everything for Cal’s offense in 2022.

He had almost 900 yards rushing and eight touchdowns and was great catching the ball too with 46 receptions for 300-plus yards and three TDs.

4. Michael Wiley, Senior, Arizona
Arizona RB Michael Wiley | Arizona Athletics
An underrated talent who combined for more than 1,000 yards rushing and receiving and scored 11 touchdowns.

He’s closer to the top three than it might seem.

5. MarShawn Lloyd, Junior, USC
Transfer RB MarShawn Lloyd | Icon Sportswire/Getty Images via On3
The South Carolina transfer should slide in well for the departing Travis Dye and maybe be more dangerous.

He had more than 700 yards rushing and receiving and 11 touchdowns last year.

6. Nakia Watson, Junior, Washington State
WSU RB Nakia Watson | Whitney Thornton/CougFan.com
Watson was quietly really good in 2022.

He had more than 700 yards rushing, nine touchdowns, and was a good receiver with almost 300 yards and four touchdowns.

7. Ja’Quinden Jackson, Sophomore, Utah
Utah RB Ja’Quinden Jackson | Christian Petersen/Getty Images
He looks like the next big-time running back at Utah.

He’s 6’2 227 and ran for nearly seven yards per carry and nine touchdowns in 2022.

8. Carson Steele, Junior, UCLA
Transfer RB Carson Steele | David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News
Moving up levels doesn’t always work but Steele had more than 1,500 yards last year and scored 15 touchdowns.

It feels like he could be a great weapon for the Bruins even if he isn’t quite as dangerous as he was in the MAC.

9. Dillon Johnson, Junior, Washington
Transfer RB Dillon Johnson | Stephen Lew/USA TODAY Sports
The Mississippi State transfer is a great fit for Washington’s passing offense.

He’s a great running threat and maybe an even better receiving threat, having played in Mike Leach’s offense.

10. Noah Whittington, Junior, Oregon
Oregon RB Noah Whittington | Oregon Athletics
Whittington was outstanding when he came in for Irving, rushing for almost 800 yards and scoring six touchdowns.

He’s a small slippery back with great quickness.

11. Austin Jones, Senior, USC
USC running back Austin Jones | Keith Birmingham/Pasadena Star-News
He’s been in the Pac-12 for quite some time and did well in his first season at USC after playing at Stanford.

He had almost 800 combined yards and scored seven touchdowns last year.

12. Cameron Davis, Junior, Washington
Washington RB Cameron Davis | Kim Grinolds/Dawgman
Davis was great in the red zone last year, scoring 13 touchdowns.

He might get even more carries and score more touchdowns for Washington in 2023.

—More from Jack Follman—