Tim or Danny? That is the recent debate when folks talk about the best quarterbacks to ever play in the SEC. How about running backs? Herschel or Bo? That’s been the debate since the 1980s and it shows no signs of letting up.
Here are my choices for the ten best running backs to ever play in the SEC:
1. Herschel Walker, Georgia: This is the ultimate no-brainer since he’s also the best player in the history of the college game. He was the Georgia offense for three straight years. Everybody knew it was Herschel left, Herschel right and Herschel up the middle. Nobody stopped him. Georgia was 33-3 in his three years and won the 1980 national championship. In three years he gained 5,259 and scored 52 touchdowns. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
2. Bo Jackson, Auburn: Maybe the greatest line ever written about Bo was by Pro Football Hall of Famer and Oakland Raiders teammate Howie Long who penned, “Bo Jackson is Secretariat. I am Mr. Ed.” While Herschel might be the greatest running back and player of all time, Bo might be the greatest athlete. He was an All-American in football, baseball and track. As a running back he gained 4,303 yards and scored 45 touchdowns. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
3. Emmitt Smith, Florida: When he signed with Florida, recruiting “guru” Max Emfinger laughed and said Florida was stuck with a “plugger” who would be the ultimate college disappointment. The only thing disappointing about Emmitt in college was the fact he was saddled with three of the least imaginative and innovate offensive coordinators in the history of the game including “The Amedee-ville Horror,” Lynn Amedee who really did tell the late, great Jack Hairston that Emmitt was (a) not as good as Willie “Fumbles” McClendon and (b) would be best used as a decoy. Even with that he gained 3,928 yards and scored 37 touchdowns in three years. He went on to become the leading rusher in the history of the NFL. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
4. Kevin Faulk, LSU: All he did in four years at LSU is account for 6.860 yards. He ran for 4,557 and 46 touchdowns, caught 53 passes for 600 yards and 4 TDs, ran back punts for 832 yards and 2 TDs, ran back kickoffs 844 yards and 1 TD, and completed 2 passes for 27 yards and 1 more TD. Other than that, he didn’t do much.
5. Darren McFadden, Arkansas: He was the Heisman runner-up twice (2006-07) and finished his career with 4,590 rushing yards (second best all-time in the SEC) for 41 touchdowns, caught passes for 365 yards and 2 touchdowns, ran back kickoffs for 926 yards and 1 TD, and completed 14-22 passing for 205 yards and 7 TDs.
6. Charles Alexander, LSU: Alexander the Great, as he was called, was a first team All-America selection in 1977-78 when he combined for 2,858 yards and 31 touchdowns while catching 40 passes for 343 yards and 2 more TDs. His career totals were 4,035 rushing yards for 40 TDs and 49 receptions for 431 yards and 2 TDs. He is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
7. Sonny Collins, Kentucky: This is a guy most of you have never heard about, but trust me when I tell you how great he was. He played on BAD Kentucky teams (only one winning season), yet he gained 3,835 yards and scored 26 touchdowns. Injuries in 1974 kept him from making three straight 1,000-yard seasons. Some of his highlight reel runs were simply getting back to the line of scrimmage. Every coach in the SEC wondered what he could have and would have done if he played on good teams.
8. Derrick Henry, Alabama: He’s here because he won the Heisman Trophy and led Alabama to a national championship in a remarkable 2015 when he ran for 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns. His 3-year Bama career totals are 3,591 yards and 42 touchdowns. He really had only one great season, but what a great season it was.
9. Errict Rhett, Florida: I’m not sure I can recall more than one or two times in his career that Rhett got stuffed on third or fourth and short. I also don’t recall another SEC back who was as productive as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. He ran for 4,163 yards, still the fifth best career total in SEC history, and caught 153 passes for 1,230 yards. Not bad for a guy who cried because Florida State didn’t offer him.
10. Mark Ingram, Alabama: Ingram’s Heisman Trophy season of 2009 (1,658 rushing yards for 17 TDs, 32-334 receiving for 3 TDs) was sandwiched between two seasons that he combined for 1,603 yards and 25 TDs. He helped Alabama go unbeaten and win the 2009 national title so he gets the nod for 10th place just ahead of Todd Gurley (Georgia) and Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina) who would easily be top ten if not for careers marred by injuries.
Some Dis-Honorable Mentions:
It’s Only Money Award: The winner of this award goes to 1958 Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon, who led LSU to the national championship as a stud running back, kick/punt returner and middle linebacker (was also SEC sprint champion in track). In 1983, he was sent to Club Fed for his participation in a counterfeiting scheme. Member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
George Washington Award: This goes to former Tennessee running back Travis Henry (3,078 rushing yards, 26 TDs from 1997-2000). George Washington was known as the “Father of Our Country.” Henry, whose lawyer at one time said he owed at least $170,000 a year in child support payments, has fathered at least 11 children by 10 different women.
Honest Abe Award: That goes to former Auburn running back James Brooks, a two-time All-American who gained 5,468 yards rushing, receiving and running back kickoffs from Auburn. Arrested in 1999 for non-support totaling more than $110,000, Brooks was asked by the judge how he ever got through college at Auburn. Brooks replied “I didn’t have to go to class.”
DEVO DEFINITELY NEEDS A CHANGE OF SCENERY
DeVon Walker is one of the most personable and caring kids you would ever wish to meet. He’s everything good about college basketball in the way he comports himself on and off the floor, but he’s never come around since tearing his ACL in the summer of 2014. After he played so well coming off the bench for UF’s 2014 Final Four team everyone had high hopes that he would be a big contributor in 2014-15 before the ACL. After sitting out last year, Devo had a horrible season in Mike White’s first year as UF’s HBC. His last made shot from the field was against Richmond on December 1 and he last scored a point against Georgia on January 2. He will graduate in May so he will be immediately eligible wherever he goes. He needs a change of scenery and to somehow regain his confidence. He could be a nice addition at USF and UCF where they are struggling while playing in the American Athletic Conference.
FOOTBALL/BASKETBALL NEWS FROM AROUND THE SEC
Alabama: Point guard Justin Coleman (7.8 points, 3.3 assists per game) and power forward Michael Kessens are transferring out. Coleman will have to sit a year but will have two years of eligibility remaining. Kessens has graduated and will be eligible immediately wherever he goes.
Arkansas: Running back Rawleigh Williams III, who gained 254 yards in 2015 before suffering a neck injury that required surgery, retuned to practice Tuesday. He’s cleared for contact but will not take any hits until August … Shooting guard Jimmy Whitt (6.1 ppg as a freshman) is transferring out.
Auburn: At last Saturday’s scrimmage, juco transfer QB John Franklin III broke off a 70-yard TD run while last year’s starting QB Jeremy Johnson threw a 75-yard TDP on a wheel route to RB Roc Thomas. If you have been known to wager, put your hard earned cash on Franklin. The Gus Malzahn offense is letha with a running QB.
FLORIDA: Wednesday’s first five OL were tackles David Sharpe and Fred Johnson, guards Tyler Jordan and Antonio Riles and center T.J. McCoy. The DL was Bryan Cox Jr., Taven Bryan, Joey Ivey and Jordan Sherit.
Georgia: Averaging nearly 10 wins a season couldn’t save football coach Mark Richt’s job, but a 126-103 record in seven years by hoops coach Mark Fox is no cause for alarm for UGa AD Greg Magarity, who says “everybody felt a different vibe this year than in the past.” Georgia finished 20-14 and lost in the second round of the Nobody’s Interested Tournament.
Kentucky: De’Aaron Fox has never played a game of collegiate basketball but the Kentucky PG recruit says he and Malik Monk will be the best backcourt in the country.
LSU: Although he insists he will be returning to LSU, shooting guard Antonio Blakeney’s name continues to surface as a mid-to-late first round selection when the NBA drafts.
Mississippi State: SEC Network analyst Anthony “Booger” McFarland told Head-to-Head Radio that former Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott will be the Russell Wislson of this year’s NFL Draft.
Missouri: Offensive lineman Malik Cuellar has decided to quit football altogether. As a backup last year, he played in eight games. That leaves Mizzou with only eight scholarship players on the OL.
Ole Miss: During last week’s spring break, starting QB Chad Kelly was among four Ole Miss players who went to Haiti to do mission work. Special teams coordinator Corey Batoon and TE coach Maurice Harris made the trip along with Kelly, Talbot Buys, Sean Rawlings and Armani Linton.
South Carolina: Will Muschamp says senior Perry Orth and freshman Brandon McIlwain have “distanced” themselves from the other three QBs during spring practice. McIlwain will have the rest of the spring to take control of the situation since Orth is out with a broken collarbone.
Tennessee: The Title IX lawsuit against the UT athletic department probably got a bit stickier for HBC Butch Jones. Check this report by the Knoxville News-Sentinel:
Texas A&M: HBC Kevin Sumlin says former Aggie QB and Heisman winner Johnny Manziel has to clean up his act if he intends to stay in the NFL. Really? And it took you how long to figure this out?
Vanderbilt: The search to replace Kevin Stallings as the new Vandy hoops coach is probably going to center around former UNC point guard King Rice, a Vandy assistant from 2006-11 who turned perpetual loser Monmouth into a 28-8 team. Some wishful thinkers would like to see Vandy go after Nashville native Will Wade, but VCU just gave him a big raise and an 8-year contract extension.
Former Gator great Percy Harvin is looking for a new NFL team. New England and Carolina are the favored landing spots. If he takes his meds and keeps his head right, Percy could still be someone’s difference maker.
Los Angeles Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell leaked a video of teammate Nick Young’s romantic indiscretions. He says he will “work hard to earn back the trust of my teammates.” Sounds like someone who’s worn out his welcome but where can he go that anyone will trust him now?
Fired Okie State basketball coach Travis Ford has been hired by Saint Louis.
Valparaiso and George Washington will face off for the NIT title. Now do you understand why folks call it the Nobody’s Interested Tournament. Here’s a great idea. Eliminate the NIT altogether and expand the NCAA Tournament to 96 teams.
Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield is the CBS Sports National Player of the Year. The CBS All-America first team is made up of Hield, Tyler Ulis (Kentucky), Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Denzil Valentine (Michigan State) and Brice Johnson (North Carolina). The second team is Kris Dunn (Providence), Grayson Allen (Duke), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Perry Ellis (Kansas) and Jakob Poeltl (Utah). Third team consists of Yogi Ferrell (Indiana), Jamal Murray (Kentucky), Brandon Ingram (Duke), Ben Simmons (LSU) and Domantis Sabonis (Gonzaga).
QUESTION OF THE DAY
Best running back ever in the SEC: Herschel or Bo?
MUSIC FOR TODAY
Wednesday was Eric Clapton’s 71st birthday, so that decides today’s music. I found a concert he did in Tokyo in 2001 and picked it because it’s two full hours of music that includes “Badge” and both an acoustic and electric version of “Layla.”