Final Week of the Best Gators: Running Backs

We are down to the final three positions on the Gator Football team. These are the guys who put up the stats, score the points and generate the headlines. Today we look at running backs. Tomorrow it will be wide receivers and Friday we finish this season with a ranking of the top quarterbacks in school history.

I knew when I started this that the final positions would be the toughest ones. Running back was probably easier than the other two, but it still required putting some fine players in the category of "honorable mention", but that's what you expect with the program of Florida's caliber, isn't it?

So here goes, but first let's remind ourselves about the top Gator at each position thus far:

Specialists: Brandon James
D Tackle: David Galloway
D End: Jack Youngblood
Outside LB: Wilber Marshall
Inside LB: Scott Brantley
Corner: Lito Sheppard
Safety: Reggie Nelson
Center: Jeff Mitchell
Guard: Burton Lawless
Tackle: Lomas Brown
Tight end: Ben Troupe
Fullback: John L Williams

#5 Larry Smith ----- The toughest call by far was over who should be No. 5 on this list. Smith was an outstanding runner who gets the nod for three All-SEC honors and his remarkable consistency. His rushing yardage in those three years varied no more than 64 yards (742, 754, 690) and he had 9, 8, and 7 TDs in those seasons. Smith also had a superb 94-yard TD run against Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.

#4 Fred Taylor ----- He led the Gators in rushing as a freshman (873) and a senior (1,292) but his middle two years resulted in less than 1,000 yards combined. Otherwise he might have been as high as No. 2 on this list. Still Taylor had the best combination of size, power and speed in school history. His '97 season was spectacular and he rebounded from two early fumbles to play the game of his life in that stirring upset of top ranked Florida State.

#3 Errict Rhett ----- No Gator runner had more personality than the effervescent Rhett. He redshirted behind Emmitt Smith in 1989 and then led the Gators in rushing for each of the next four seasons. He is the only Gator to rush for more than 4,000 yards and he added 153 receptions for another 1,230 yards making him the only non-QB to amass more than 5,000 total yards for the Gators. If you remember one game from Rhett is has to be his 41 carry, 183 yard performance against Georgia in the mud in 1993.

#2 Neal Anderson ----- He had trouble cracking the Florida lineup in his freshman season of 1982 but eventually he got his chance and produced three straight 100-yard games. He followed that up by leading the Gators in rushing the next three seasons and was the All-time leading rusher (3,234) when he left Florida after the ‘85 campaign. Anderson's numbers would have been even more impressive had he not shared the backfield with John L Williams. They also would have been more impressive if Florida had a decent offensive line his junior and senior seasons. Mature beyond his years, Anderson was the kind of young man you'd want your daughter to date.

#1 Emmitt Smith ----- If deciding on No. 5 was really tough, choosing No. 1 could not have been easier. Emmitt was the most hyped recruit ever coming out of Pensacola Escambia and he proved to be better than the hype, which almost never happens. He got only five carries in his first game, stunning those of us who went to practice and saw just how good he was. Emmitt gained more than 100 yards in his second game and became a starter in week three, running for 224 yards in a stunning win on the road against Alabama. He finished his freshman season with a school record 1,341 yards and blew that mark away with 1,599 as a junior in '89. He also led or tied for the team lead in pass receptions two of his three seasons. I will always wonder what kind of number he could have put up in 1990 with Steve Spurrier's offense and the much improved offensive line.

But I hear he did okay after leaving.

HM: Earnest Graham, Tony Green, Ciatrick Fason, Buford Long, Tommy Durrance, Elijah Williams

Tomorrow it's wide receivers where more than a dozen legitimately got serious consideration followed by the top five Florida QBs.


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