Richards’ Leshon Williams leads list of the Chicago area’s 10 best running backs


Six of the area’s top 10 running backs are from two conferences: the Catholic League/East Suburban Catholic and the South Suburban. There are two Big Ten recruits, including the No. 1 back, and multiple state champs in both football and track.

1. Leshon Williams, Richards, Sr. (5-10, 208)

The Bulldogs rode Williams to the Class 6A semifinals last season, when he averaged 9.7 yards per carry and finished with 2,115 yards and 23 touchdowns. The three-star recruit is a top-60 running back in the nation and committed to Iowa.

2. Marcellus Moore, Plainfield North, Sr. (5-8, 165)

For sheer speed, no one compares to Moore. A six-time state champion and nine-time medalist in track, Moore owns the state-meet record in the 100 meters (10.31) and was part of an under-20 world record in the 800 relay this summer. He’s committed to Purdue, where he intends to compete in both sports.

3. Mar’Keise Irving, Hillcrest, Jr. (5-10, 175)

Also a basketball standout for the Hawks, Irving plans to play football in college. The top-30 back nationally in the Class of 2021 had 1,230 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. He has 12 offers from the likes of Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Duke.

4. Quadre Nicholson, Evanston, Sr. (6-0, 185)

Playing in an offense that was geared more to the pass last season, Nicholson still ran for 972 yards and 12 touchdowns. The top-80 back nationally in the Class of 2020 has 12 offers, including Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State and Minnesota in the Big Ten, plus Kentucky of the SEC.

5. Willie Shaw, Brother Rice, Jr. (5-11, 180)

The Crusaders plan to be more run-oriented this fall, and Shaw is a big reason for the change. A top-50 back nationally in his class despite a lack of varsity playing time, he has offers from Illinois, Iowa and Virginia.

6. Kaleb Brown, St. Rita, So. (5-11, 183)

He didn’t make his varsity debut till the Prep Bowl playoffs last season, but the buzz is real for Brown. A track state medalist in the sprints this spring, he has gamebreaking speed that already has netted offers from Illinois and Iowa.

IC Catholic’s Kyle Franklin (20) runs in the Class 4A state title game.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

7. Kenyetta Williams, Joliet Catholic, Sr. (5-10, 188)

Williams suffered a season-ending injury in Week 1 last season, but has an offer from Cincinnati and figures to get more. Now that he’s healthy, he’ll be the centerpiece of the defending Class 5A champs’ offense.

8. Kyle Franklin, IC Catholic, Jr. (5-9, 175)

When it comes to stats, Franklin is in a class by himself. He averaged 9.3 yards per carry last season for the Class 4A champs, rushing for 2,378 yards and 39 TDs. For his career, he 3,305 yards and 50 TDs on the ground.

Cary-Grove’s Blake Skol (20) steps into the end zone against Crete-Monee in the Class 6A state championship game.

Cary-Grove’s Blake Skol (20) steps into the end zone against Crete-Monee in the Class 6A state championship game.
Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times

9. Blake Skol, Cary-Grove, Sr. (5-10, 180)

The fullback ran for 1,640 yards and 21 touchdowns for the unbeaten Class 6A champs last season. With the graduation of some other key pieces on offense, he’ll play an even bigger role this fall.

10. Kendi Young, TF North, Sr. (5-11, 185)

Kansas is among the schools to offer Young, who likely will be extending a family tradition — his father and three brothers all played college football. He was a 1,000-yard rusher with 10 TDs last season.

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