StatTiger: The SEC's Offensive "Triplets"

Columnist Stuart Carter writes about productive quarterback, runner and receiver combos on Southeastern Conference football teams.

When it comes to football, the word "triplets" is commonly associated with the Hall of Fame careers of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. During their professional careers with the Dallas Cowboys, their offensive skills were the focus point of three Super Bowl victories.

Though all three of those players are retired, the word "triplets" is still being used in the football world. It has become a catch phrase for the combination of a quarterback, running back and wide receiver within the same offense.

During a recent feature on the NFL Network, there was an interesting discussion related to the best "triplets" available for the 2012 season. With that in mind here is a look back at some of the best "triplets" who competed in the Southeastern Conference during the past 20 years.

It should be noted there have only been 11 SEC triplets to combine a 2,000-yard passing season, a 1,000-yard rushing season and a 1,000-yard receiving season during the same year. This equates to 11 out of 240 teams during the past 20 seasons, or 4.5 percent, making it a rare occurrence.

Here is the Elite Eleven…

1997 Tennessee with Peyton Manning (QB), Jamal Lewis (RB) and Marcus Nash (WR)
2010 South Carolina with Stephen Garcia (QB), Marcus Lattimore (RB) and Alshon Jeffery (WR)
1995 Tennessee with Peyton Manning (QB), Jay Graham (RB) and Joey Kent (WR)
2001 Tennessee with Casey Clausen (QB), Travis Stephens (RB) and Kelly Washington (WR)
2002 Florida with Rex Grossman (QB), Earnest Graham (RB) and Taylor Jacobs (WR)
2007 Kentucky with Andre Washington (QB), Rafael Little (RB) and Steve Johnson (WR)
2009 Ole Miss with Jevan Snead (QB), Dexter McCluster (RB) and Shay Hodge (WR)
2007 Tennessee with Erik Ainge (QB), Arian Foster (RB) and Lucas Taylor (WR)
2002 Georgia with David Greene (QB), Musa Smith (RB) and Terrence Edwards (WR)
1997 Florida with Doug Johnson (QB), Fred Taylor (RB) and Jacquez Green (WR)
2003 LSU with Matt Mauck (QB), Justin Vincent (RB) and Michael Clayton (WR)
Those triplets were listed in order based on the yardage gained from each position, making the 1997 Tennessee trio the most productive in the Southeastern Conference since 1992. Tennessee accounted for four of the 11 triplet combinations.

There were eight other teams from the conference which came very close to making the elite triplet list. The following eight possessed a combination of a 2,000-yard passer along with a running back and wide receiver who gained at least 900 yards at their positions:

*2008 Georgia with Matthew Stafford (QB), Knowshon Moreno (RB) and A.J. Green (WR)
*2009 Auburn with Chris Todd (QB), Ben Tate (RB) and Darvin Adams (WR)
*2001 LSU with Rohan Davey (QB), LaBrandon Toefield (RB) and Josh Reed (WR)
*1998 Tennessee with Tee Martin (QB), Travis Henry (RB) and Peerless Price (WR)
*2010 Auburn with Cam Newton (QB), Michael Dyer (RB) and Darvin Adams (WR)

Darvin Adams was a productive wide receiver for the Tigers, who played on the 2010 national championship team.

*2008 Alabama with John P. Wilson (QB), Glen Coffee (RB) and Julio Jones (WR)
*1993 Florida with Danny Wuerffel (QB), Errict Rhett (RB) and Jack Jackson (WR)
1994 Auburn with Patrick Nix (QB), Stephen Davis (RB) and Frank Sanders (WR)
Again, the above list is based on the yardage gained from each position. Auburn's 2009 trio was three yards short at wide receiver from making the triplet list.

The 2001 LSU combination was eight yards short at the running back position and the 1998 Tennessee trio was two yards short at the running back position of making the triplet list. If you put both lists together, the 19 teams combined for an average ranking of No. 27 nationally in total offense. They also had a combined winning percentage of .803. Of those 19 teams 12 of them made it to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.

Individual "Triplet" Games since 2000…

During the 1,785 games played within the Southeastern Conference since 2000, there have been 110 teams that were able to field a 200-yard passer, 100-yard rusher and 100-yard receiver in the same game.

Once again, reaching the "triplet" level is rare, occurring in only 6.2 percent of the SEC games played from 2000-2011. Arkansas and Tennessee were tied for the most "triplet" games with 14 each followed by LSU with 13, Georgia 12, Kentucky 11, Florida 10, Alabama and South Carolina nine, Auburn, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt five and Mississippi State three.

No offense in the Southeastern Conference had the combination of a 2,000-yard passer, 900-yard rusher and 900-yard receiver during the 2011 season. This was primarily because there were only four quarterbacks to pass for more than 2,000 yards in last year compared to eight who did it during the 2010 season.

There have been only four triplets over the last five seasons so which offense has the best opportunity of becoming the 12th triplet since 1992? It might be wise to look at the top two returning starters at the quarterback position. Tyler Wilson of Arkansas and Aaron Murray of Georgia are the first two to focus on, but will they have the supporting cast in 2012?

Wilson lost three of his top wide receivers to the NFL Draft, but Cobi Hamilton returns after hauling in 34 passes for 542 yards in 2011. The key for the Razorback offense will be the return of Knile Davis at running back. Davis sat out the entire 2011 season with a major knee injury after blistering the SEC with more than 1,300 yards rushing in 2010.

Aaron Murray returns at quarterback for the Georgia Bulldogs.

Murray could become the first quarterback in SEC history to pass for more 3,000 yards three times. He was expected to team up with Isaiah Crowell, who rushed for 850 yards, and Tavarres King, who caught 47 passes for 705 yards in 2011. However, Crowell has been dismissed from the UGA squad. Murray will also have Malcolm Mitchell, who caught 45 passes for 665 yards as a freshman. The Bulldogs have another friendly schedule, which could tip the scales in their favor of fielding a triplet on offense in 2012.

Don't be surprised if Vanderbilt comes close to fielding an offensive triplet in 2012. Jordan Rodgers passed for more than 1,500 yards during 2011 after becoming the full-time starter in week five. Running back Zac Stacy rushed for 1,193 yards in 2011 as a junior and Jordan Matthews caught 41 passes for 778 yards last season. Matthews averaged more than 100 yards receiving during in each of his last six games of the season. If Vanderbilt's trio can come close to their offensive averages during the last six games of the 2011 season, they will easily reach the triplet standard.

A.J. McCarron of Alabama will team up with Eddie Lacy, but a go-to receiver must be established. Tyler Bray and Da'Rick Rogers of Tennessee should be a lethal passing duo, but the Volunteers must find the running back to round out their offensive trio.

South Carolina's Marcus Lattimore is expected to challenge for the SEC rushing lead this year.

If Marcus Lattimore of South Carolina can bounce back from his knee injury, the junior running back, along with quarterback Conner Shaw, should give the Gamecocks a good start on having a triplet season. The Gamecocks need to find a receiver who can replace the production of Alshon Jeffery. Some believe Steve Spurrier's signee, Kwinton Smith, can fill the void left by the departing Jeffery as the Gamecocks' next big and physical wide receiver.

At the national level 14 teams from the FBS (Division I) fielded a combination of a 2,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver last season. Those teams combined to win 62 percent of their games while having an average national ranking of 34 in total offense.

Baylor's triplet combination of Robert Griffin III (QB), Terrance Ganaway (RB) and Kendall Wright (WR) was perhaps the most impressive triplet combination of 2011. Griffin passed for 4,293 yards, Ganaway rushed for 1,547 yards and Wright caught 1,663 yards worth of passes. Baylor finished No. 2 in total offense and No. 4 in scoring offense while compiling a 10-3 record.

Watch out for Southern Cal's combination of Matt Barkley (QB), Curtis McNeal (RB) and Robert Woods (WR) in 2012, who made the list of the nation's 14 triplet combinations in 2011. The Trojans also had an additional 1,000-yard receiver in Marqise Lee to go along with Robert Woods' 1,000-yard season.

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