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Four-Star Checkup: RBs climbing higher in record books

Each week during the college football season we use Tuesdays as a chance to look back at four four-star prospects that shined during the previous week’s college football action. Today we will focus on a quartet of four-star running backs who just missed five-star status as recruits and are now climbing their way up the record books.

RELATED: Checking up on five-star LBs from the 2016 and 2017 classes

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Nick Chubb
AP Images

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As a recruit: Chubb emerged later than some of the big names at running back in the 2014 class and chose Georgia after extended flirtations with a few other programs. Chubb rose in the rankings every cycle during his senior year and finished two spots from a five-star ranking.

What he did this week: Chubb has done it all at Georgia, from starring as a freshman to recovering from a major knee injury only to return to his excellent form. With such a long and illustrious career, it seems as if Chubb has been in school for much longer than his four years of eligibility. Because of his staying power on the national stage, Chubb has moved up several notches in both the SEC, Georgia and national record books. In Saturday’s win over Kentucky he ran for 151 yards, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark for the third time in his career. With the accomplishment, Chubb tied Hershel Walker as the only Georgia back to run for at least 1,000 yards in three different seasons. By the time the 2017 season wraps up, Chubb will likely be among the top 50 in total rushing yards in college football history.

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Royce Freeman
AP Images

As a recruit: It’s not often that USC loses an elite California recruit but that’s exactly what happened when Freeman committed to Oregon in the summer of 2013. Other programs such as Alabama and Florida were in the picture but the chance to play alongside then-quarterback Marcus Mariota was too much for Freeman to pass up. Freeman also moved up late in the rankings, but finished 19 spots short of five-star status.

What he did this week: Much like Chubb, Freeman stepped into a backfield loaded with talent and still found a way to be a major contributor as a freshman, helping the Ducks to the national championship game. The only thing that has slowed Freeman since is a few minor injuries. Despite the Ducks' struggles the past two seasons he has continued to put up big numbers, including on Saturday when he rushed for 135 yards and four touchdowns on just 19 carries. The yards helped Freeman move into the top 10 all-time in total rushing yards (5,499), passing Hall of Fame running back Ladanian Tomlinson. If he can run for another 100 yards this season he will finish sixth all-time in rushing yards, an impressive accomplishment.

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Ronald Jones II
AP Images

As a recruit: Jones made an early commitment to Oklahoma State but as he saw his stock rise during his senior season he started to look around at other options. Eventually he backed off his commitment to the ‘Pokes, with USC and Notre Dame emerging as finalists. He waited until the Under Armour All-America Game to make his announcement, when he chose the Trojans in a decision broadcast live on ESPN. Jones was a mainstay in the Rivals100 and finished 29 spots from five-star status in 2015.

What he did this week: Jones has been a force since arriving at USC, immediately pushing for playing time as a true freshman and never looking back. His production has increased in each of his three years with the Trojans and in 2017 he’s having quite the season. In Saturday’s win over UCLA he rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns to run his season totals to 1,346 yards and 16 touchdowns. Obviously, it’s harder to crack the record books at USC, but Jones is just nine yards away from passing O.J. Simpson for fifth all-time in rushing yards for a Trojan.

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Kerryon Johnson
AP Images

As a recruit: Despite his accomplishments as a running back at the high school level some college coaches thought Johnson would be a better fit on defense. But the coaches at Auburn smartly promised him the opportunity to be an offensive star and landed his commitment in April of 2014, 10 months prior to National Signing Day. Despite interest from several other programs, including Alabama, Florida State and Clemson, Johnson never wavered on his pledge to the Tigers. Johnson finished 13 spots from five-star status in 2015.

What he did this week: Johnson played mostly as a reserve during his freshman year but has stepped things up quite a bit over the last two seasons. Over the second half of the 2017 season he has found another gear and is even beginning to garner discussion about his Heisman hopes. In Saturday’s win over ULM, Johnson rushed for 137 yards and one touchdown, marking his seventh 100-yard game of the season. On the year Johnson now has 1,172 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns despite missing two games with injury. Johnson needs just 122 yards this season to move into the top 10 in Auburn history for rushing yards in a season and is also just 312 yards away from moving into the top 10 in Auburn history for career rushing yards.

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