Starter: Chase Brown
Illinois football has one of the most dynamic one-two punches at running back in college football. I think Chase Brown has a chance to lead the Big Ten in yards per carry, and he could be the lead horse on an Illinois team that will shock some people.
With Bret Bielema at the helm, Brown received the most carries of his career in 2021. He had 170 attempts for 1,005 yards and five touchdowns. His 5.9 yards per carry were the most of Brown’s career when he had at least 10 attempts in a year. I look for Brown to have another 1,000+ yard season in 2022 as well.
Backup: Josh McCray
Brown is going to be the lightning in Illinois’ backfield in 2022. The thunder will come from Josh McCray. As a freshman, McCray bulldozed onto the scene compiling 112 attempts for 549 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. He was the bruiser that this Illini backfield desperately needed.
It would honestly shock me if Brown and McCray didn’t eclipse a combined 2,000 yards rushing on the ground. Last season, they had a total of 1,554 yards. I expect that number to jump greatly. While I have McCray as a backup, these two will split carries.
Backup: Chase Hayden & Reggie Love III & Jordan Anderson
The third-string running back is an interesting position to watch for in 2022. I think time will be split between Reggie Love III and Chase Hayden. Both are good ball carriers, but there is just so much talent with Brown and McCray that I don’t see these two getting a ton of snaps.
I think it will be interesting to see where freshman Jordan Anderson fits in as well. He should probably take a redshirt, but what I saw out of him in the spring game was impressive. Look for Anderson to maybe make some noise, but I ultimately expect him to redshirt.