All-Time Big 12 Team: Running Backs

Taking a look at the top running backs in the Big 12 era, with three football powers represented on the first team.

When the Big 12 was founded, it was a merging of several of the country's top rushing teams historically. And so it shouldn't be shocking in that the All-Time All-Big 12 team is stacked with home-run hitting runners and the guys who earned a college degree opening holes for them.

Every team is made up of two running backs and a fullback, and every player who carried the ball in the Big 12 — even just for a season like Troy Davis and Byron Hanspard — were eligible.

Without further delay, here are the picks:

First Team: Ricky Williams, Texas; Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma; Joel Makovicka, Nebraska

Williams is the no-brainer choice on this list as the league's only Heisman Trophy-winning running back. He left college as the FBS all-time career rushing leader, and ran for 2,124 yards and 27 touchdowns as senior despite everyone in the stadium knowing that he was getting the ball. He has the most rushing yards of any non-four year back (remember his first year was outside of the Big 12, so it doesn't count in Big 12 career standings) in league history as well. Why is Peterson this high? Because if you asked any coach which running back kept them up nights, they would have pointed to the Oklahoma standout. He had one truly elite year, as a freshman, when he rushed for 1,925 yards at 5.7 yards per carry and scored 15 touchdowns while finishing second in the Heisman voting. He never topped those numbers again, rushing for 1,108 yards as a sophomore and 1,012 yards as a junior despite fighting through injuries. At fullback, Makovicka was arguably the focal point of some great Nebraska offenses … everything stemmed off of teams having to respect his dive off the triple option plays, and when he did get the ball, he powered for 1,143 yards and 11 touchdowns at 5.7 yards per pop (on mostly fullback dives, are you kidding me?).

Second Team: Darren Sproles, Kansas State; Troy Davis, Iowa State; Brandon McAnderson, Kansas

Davis is a bit of a tougher choice because he only spent one year in the Big 12. But his 2,185 yards were the most ever put up by a Big 12 runner, and though he played in the Big Eight the year before, it was actually his second-consecutive year over 2,000 yards. When you played Iowa State, you knew Davis was getting the ball. Sproles was the just shy of the 2,000 yard mark, finishing just 14 yards away in 2003 (averaging 6.5 yards per tote) while finishing fifth in the Heisman voting. He came back to earth a bit on a worse 2004 team, but still rushed for 1,318 yards at 5.4 yards per carry. McAnderson is the fullback here. He was arguably the most versatile fullback in Big 12 history, earning All-Big 12 honors as a blocking fullback in 2006, then again in 2007 as the Jayhawks' single back after rushing for more than 1,100 yards, leading the Orange Bowl team in the category.

Third Team: Byron Hanspard, Texas Tech; Cedric Benson, Texas; Brandon Drumm, Colorado

Hanspard had that one great season, like Troy Davis, in 1996. He rushed for 2,084 yards that same 1996 season, and actually took home the Doak Walker Award over Davis. Benson is the exact opposite, the Big 12's best example of durability and consistency, ranking as the Big 12's all-time leader in rushing attempts, rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. Benson's 1,834 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2004 was his best season-long effort, and he achieved those marks through an outstanding blend of size, vision and quick feet. Drumm is probably the best blocking fullback the league has seen, blowing open holes for a dominant Colorado rushing offense. Colorado had a number of good backs at that time, and all of them credited the powerful Drumm with opening things up in the running game.

Honorable Mention: Ahman Green, Nebraska; Chris Brown, Colorado; J.D. Runnels, Oklahoma

First, I want to list the first backs off this list. DeMarco Murray is the top scorer in Oklahoma history, and one of the league's best pass-catchers at the position. Taurean Henderson of Texas Tech was the top pass-catcher at the position and scored 50 rushing touchdowns, same as Murray, though he wasn't the runner Murray was. All Oklahoma State's Kendall Hunter did was top the 1,500-yard mark twice, once before injury and again afterward. He fits the description of every spread scat back that is so popular today. And Lawrence Vickers took the torch from Drumm in a way that saw very little, if any, dropoff. But they weren't good enough to top the trio of Benson, Brown and Runnels. Green is the lone Nebraska I-back to make the team. A big back with speed, Green finished his career as the second-leading rusher in Nebraska history despite playing just thee years, rushing for nearly 1,900 yards and 22 touchdowns at 6.8 yards per clip as a junior. His 6.5 yards per carry in his two Big 12 seasons still stands as a Big 12 record for running backs with at least 200 carries over two different seasons. From the time he took the starting job during the 2001 season through the end of the 2002 year, Chris Brown was one of the league's elite backs, shredding teams with his vision and cutback ability. He rushed for 1,841 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 6.1 yards per carry in 2002, his best season. And Runnels was the lead blocker for Peterson's Oklahoma teams, always doing an excellent job of clearing out potential tacklers.

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