Continuing our series of highlighting some of the top returning HBCU players at each position that fans should watch out for in the upcoming year, we focus on running backs. (Take a moment to review our list of quarterbacks.)
Year after year, running backs have been the most exciting position in HBCU football, with several players turning in historic, electric performances.
This year will be no different, with opportunities for some breakout seasons and legacies being cemented in the 2023 season.
Here are the five running backs to watch in the 2023 season.
Ahmad Antoine, Prairie View A&M
While Mississippi Valley State transfer Caleb Johnson will be an exciting player to watch for Prairie View A&M, one can’t help but wonder where Ahmad Antoine will fit in the mix this season.
Antoine was the second-leading running back behind Jaden Stewart last year, putting up 627 rushing yards and scoring six touchdowns.
He had more rushing yards than the Delta Devils’ back despite being his team’s starter and having more attempts than the Panthers’ back.
Although Johnson’s resume as a former two-time All-SWAC selection would warrant him being the team’s starter, an argument could be made that Antoine should be the starter as he is more familiar with the system.
No matter who gets the nod, Prairie View will undeniably be an offense to be reckoned with this upcoming year.
Andre Brandon Jr., Shaw
Even though Andre Brandon Jr. started just one game for Shaw last season, he left a lasting impact with a historic performance.
In a matchup against Livingstone, relieving starter Sidney Gibbs, who was out due to injury, Brandon finished with a school-record 306 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns.
Elsewhere, the young running back put up 350 rushing yards in nine games as the second-string option behind Gibbs.
If Brandon can consistently produce alongside Gibbs in the backfield, the Bears offense could be in for an electric season.
Jada Byers, Virginia Union
In his sophomore season with Virginia Union, Jada Byers had a historic season staking his claim as the top running back in Division II football.
Byers led the country with 1,920 rushing yards (also a CIAA single-season record), scoring 19 touchdowns while adding 19 receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
In his second game against Division II powerhouse Valdosta State, the Panthers back set the tone for his breakout season, recording 319 rushing yards and scoring three touchdowns leading his team to victory.
He went on to rush for over 100 yards for nine straight games scoring a touchdown in all but two games. He was named the CIAA Offensive Player of the Year and a top-four finalist for the Harlon Hill trophy.
As he enters his junior season, Byers will look to further cement his legacy as one of the best running back in HBCU football.
Donovan Eaglin, Alabama A&M
In his first season with Alabama A&M, transferring from Michigan State, Eaglin had a huge impact leaving much to be desired going forward.
In the Bulldogs’ four wins last season, the former Spartan averaged 140.5 rushing yards per game and scored four touchdowns.
He was the key to success for Alabama A&M, only putting up 44.4 rushing yards per game in the Bulldogs’ seven losses.
Eaglin will need to increase his production in the 2023 season if Alabama A&M wants any chance of returning to SWAC championship contention.
Daquon Kincey, Clark Atlanta
Daquon Kincey is an under-the-radar player that has a chance to have a breakout performance in the 2023 season.
Last season, Kincey was the shining star for Clark Atlanta, finishing second in rushing in the SIAC, posting 824 rushing yards.
The biggest question for Kincey is how well his offensive line will be able to protect him. During the 2022 season, Clark Atlanta surrendered 25 sacks ranking toward the bottom in the conference.
If so, the Panthers running back could become a candidate for an All-SIAC team selection and maybe even the SIAC Offensive Player of the Year award.