Defending our Selections: The All-State Running Backs…

This is the position in high school football across Kentucky that, if we are being honest, may be more important to fill well than quarterback. The power run game in Kentucky high school football still reigns. If you study the base offenses of teams who played in the recent State Championships in Kentucky you will find more run-game, pound the ground, based offenses, like the wish-bone, triple-option, power I, and wing-T as you will find spread or pro-style teams.

The committee looked for running backs who could press the outside but could also square up and plant defenders looking to get them to the ground between the tackles. The committee was more impressed with what we called one-cutters, or guys who made one cut and got through the first level into space as quickly as they could, like they were shot out of the end of a cannon. We weren’t too impressed with running backs who spent an inordinate amount of time shake-n-baking in the backfield and getting thrown for losses, or running side-to-side as opposed to getting downhill at the first opportunity. Here’s a little tip from our selection committee to aspiring high school running backs who hope to, one day, be selected to this, or any, All-State or All-American football team: The days of your being tossed a sweep and boat-racing it around end, to the end zone, are through! Those days ended in junior pro.

The committee preferred running backs who made you sorry you tackled them; not running backs who raced out of bounds like it was home base in a summer night’s game of hide and seek. The guys below had versatility, could be used effectively out of the backfield, picked up blitzes and blocked well, and ran the ball like men. That’s why they made the KPGFootball, All-State Football Team!

Class of 2021;

Photo Les Nicholson

Ethan Mills, 5-8, 170 pounds, Knox Central…Don’t let his size fool you, Mills is a young man who punishes tacklers and squeezes through any size hole at the first opening of daylight. Mills made this team last year and followed up his Freshman All-State campaign by going out, his sophomore year, and carrying it 244 times for 1,448 yards. Ethan, in leading his high school team to its first ever Regional Championship and berth in the State Semi-finals, had 16 rushing TDs. Now, there are running backs who benefit from running behind lines of scrimmage behind whom any back would gain over 1,000 yards. That is not true of Mills, and we don’t mean this as a knock on the Knox Central front, but stats are stats.

Mills gained 1,448 of the team’s 1,873, seasonal, rushing total. He gained over 77% of the entire team’s total rushing output, which means it was Mills, and not any blocking in front of him, which accounted for his production. Mills also led his team in scoring with 96 points. There are some fantastic backs which are going to be highlighted here and both Babin and Wright probably figure to be more heavily recruited than Mills for the fact Babin and Wright have better Division I frames and play in areas of Kentucky afforded more media coverage. Make no mistake about it, however; if KPGFootball could only pick one of these 2021 backs, to play in a high school game, we are picking Mills. There is no telling how many yards Mills would gain, for instance, if he had linemen the likes of John Young and Matthew Mauzy behind whom to run, just as an example.

Brandt Babin, 6-1, 185 pounds, Christian Academy-Louisville…The first thing we want to iterate is we would have loved to have seen the amount of yards this young man might have gained from scrimmage had he not missed four games with injury. CAL (Christian Academy-Louisville) went 15-0 and won the Class 2A State Championship. Babin also benefitted from running behind what was easily one of the top-two offensive lines KPGFootball watched play in 2018, if not the very best.

Babin, like Mills, made the Freshman All-State team in 2017, so he was prominently featured in opposing game plans. While his offensive line behind whom he got to run the football were outstanding; in fairness; Babin played the hardest schedule, and gained his yards against better competition, than any other running back on the 2021 list.

Babin, in 11 games, rushed it 136 times for 1,012 yards with 15 rushing TDs. Remember when we talked above about versatility? Well, Babin was also effective, if not too sparsely used, out of the backfield in the passing game. He caught 14 passes for 176 yards and a score. Brandt was also second on the team in scoring (behind Milton Wright) with 96 points (missing 4 games).

Now we have mentioned this in other defenses, but the committee weighted performances, with the season on the line, over just regular season performances. That being said, on Kentucky’s biggest stage, against one of its most storied and marquee high school programs (Mayfield), Babin carried it 23 times for 176 yards with 2 rushing TDs, paired with 3 receptions, out of the backfield, for 42 yards. Brandt Babin, had he been healthy all year, may have been a 1,600 plus yard ground gainer. I mean, one doesn’t just miss 4 games and come back right as rain. If one can come 24 yards short of 200 against the Mayfield defense, one is a threat to gain 200 yards rushing most every night. Look out for next year, his yards as a junior running back are going to be sick.

LaVell Wright, 6-0, 200 pounds, North Hardin…KPGFootball has been trying to tell LaVell Wright he should either play defensive back, outside linebacker, or receiver since he played for Team Kentucky. Well, he has doggedly insisted he’s a running back.

Before we get to whom was right, let me first say LaVell Wright is overall one of 2021’s most coveted college prospects. We have listed him toward the very top in every listing of 2021 prospects we have ever published. He was featured in our article Fantastic Four which was published, on-line, when he was only in the 8th grade. His being a superstar is no surprise to this publication.

Now, back to the positional argument. Wright insists he’s a running back. Well, the University of Tennessee has offered Wright as a running back/safety prospect and the University of Alabama-Birmingham has too. So, who’s right? Not sure the question is yet settled, but KPGFootball can tell you LaVell, who made this team as a freshman Athlete, was sufficiently productive this past year to make us put him on the Sophomore team at his preferred position.

Wright is a 200 pound kid who moves better than probably any kid with his heft in the Commonwealth. Wright has been timed in the 40 at 4.59, fully automated, and has shuttled in 4.33 seconds. When you look at what Wright does in the weight room, the speed and quickness figures are corroborated. I mean, when you are a running back in your sophomore year and you squat 435 pounds and deadlift 445, one’s being both fast and quick have some legitimate context.

Wright is listed by the NPFA as the number 5 prospect in America’s Class of 2021 on the football field. This year Wright carried it 178 times gaining 1,316 yards rushing while scoring it 17 times on the ground. Wright is the most effective receivers, from out of the backfield, on the 2021 list, collecting 26 receptions on the year for 287 receiving yards and 2 TD receptions. Wright scored 124 points for North Hardin this Fall to lead his team. KPGFootball has to seriously question the legitimacy of any All-State football team which includes sophomores and excludes LaVell Wright.

Class of 2022;

Treyveon Longmire, No. 13, Photo: Les Nicholson

RB- Treyveon Longmire, 6-2, 165 pounds, Corbin…

Funny story about running backs this year which sort of permeated throughout the 2022 selections. We just didn’t have the same type of freshman production, class-wide, out of the 2022 freshman as we had in the class of 2021. This is attributable to one of two things; either the Class of 2021 is more talented than 2022; or the teams, across Kentucky, had better stocked rosters and the real talent differential was between the senior classes of 2018 versus the 2019 guys.

We don’t know which of these it was but we, as a committee, were close to not selecting any running back for the Class of 2022. We had our standards and many committee members were pretty unyielding.

Now, we had JuWaun Wan Wan Northington as a running back for a minute, and Wan Wan had a pretty good year, though not earth shattering at that particular position (a little under 400 yards rushing). We do think, going forward, you should expect big things out of Wan Wan as a running back even though he made our freshman team at linebacker.

Then the committee started reviewing the extraordinary production of Treyveon Longmire. Longmire carried the football 69 times and gained 611 yards with 4 rushing TDs playing for a team which played for the Class 3A, State Football Championship and losing by one point to Central. Corbin beat Boyle County in the semis after Boyle had rung up 25 straight wins.

Of all the running backs we selected, Class of 2021 or 2022, Longmire was the most impressive out of the backfield in the throw and catch game. This freshman running back, on a team which favors pounding the rock much more than passing it, caught 20 balls for 534 receiving yards with 7 TD receptions. Longmire scored 72 points and played in all 15 games for a team which doesn’t usually play freshmen and is easily one of the most storied and successful in Kentucky High School football.

So Longmire accounted for 1,145 total yards on offense with 11 TDs tallied either on the ground or through the air. We may have struggled finding a freshman running back to award a slot on this team, but the one we found may have been good enough to make the 2021 team too, though just a freshman. This was a very good find and an easy All-State selection.

Well, that is the defense of our selections, for both the freshman running back, and the sophomore running backs, representing Kentucky’s classes of 2021 & 2022. KPGFootball is quite sure that, while these may not be the best running backs in the respective classes, they are, definitely, among them. All of these players have distinguished themselves both on the field of play and in the class room. It will be fun to follow these guys as they continue to develop and play football next Fall. You will continue to hear plenty from these players in 2019 and beyond. 

Reporting for KPGFootball, this is Fletcher Long reminding all of the ballers out there that #WeGotUCovered and to PLAY THROUGH THE WHISTLE.

If you enjoyed this article and wish to gain full-access to the site, then subscribe monthly to Kentucky Prep Gridiron by following the prompts!

© The information contained on this site is the copyrighted intellectual property of KPGFootball. Any unauthorized dissemination of this material without the author’s express written consent is strictly prohibited!

Leave a Reply