Auburn Football: The 10 Best Running Backs in Tigers History

Dan GruczaContributor IMarch 29, 2011

Auburn Football: The 10 Best Running Backs in Tigers History

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    Auburn running back Michael DyerKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Auburn is referred to as "Running Back U" and Michael Dyer broke Bo Jackson's freshman record this year and is the latest in a long list of great running backs.

    Many great running backs have come through Auburn and gone on to great years in the National Football League.

    Who are the ten best Auburn running backs of all time?  It is not easy to narrow down just to ten. Not only was it difficult to pick the best, as I generated the list I was shocked at some of the names that I had to leave off the list.

    Anyway, here is a countdown of the top ten running backs to ever play at Auburn.

10. Ben Tate

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    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    As the feature back in Gus Malzahn's spread offense, Tate shined in his final college season. He gained 1,362 yards on 263 carries with 10 touchdowns. His top performance came against Arkansas, rushing for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Tate also earned AP second-team All-SEC honors, as well as being voted both the Team and Offense MVP award. Tate was also a semi-finalist for the Doak Walker Award.

    Tate finished at Auburn 5th on the career rushing list with 3321 yards on 678 carries, scoring 24 touchdowns.

9. Rudi Johnson

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    Johnson only played one year with the Tigers leading them to the SEC West title. Johnson finished his career with 324 rushing attempts for 1567 yards (4.84 yards per rush average). His 324 rushing attempts was a school single season record and his 1567 rushing yards were the second-most in the school's history. He had ten games where he rushed for 100 yards or more. He was named SEC player of the year and nominated for the Doak Walker award.

8. Tucker Frederickson

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    Tucker Frederickson was not only a great running back but also played safety on defense. In 1964, he won the Jacobs Award as the best blocking back in the SEC and was a runner up in the Heisman Trophy voting. Coach Shug Jordan called him "the most complete football player I've ever seen". He was an All-American in 1964. Frederickson was the first overall pick in the NFL Draft having been selected by the New York Giants. Frederickson was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994.

7. Brent Fullwood

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    In 1986, Brent Fullwood was an All-American, All-SEC first team, rushed for 1391 yards and ten touchdowns.  Fullwood finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting and won the Wally Butts Memorial Award for best running back in the Southeast.  If not for having played in the shadow of Bo Jackson, Fullwood may have put up even more impressive statistics as a Tiger.

6. Ronnie Brown

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Ronnie Brown enjoyed his best season in 2002 when he gained a career-high 1,008 yards on 175 carries with 13 touchdowns while subbing for the injured  Carnell Williams. In 2004, Brown shared running back duties with Williams and he totaled 913 yards on 153 carries and scored eight times. He also displayed his receiving capabilities as he ranked second on the team with 34 catches for 313 yards and a touchdown.

    Although he started only 21 of 47 games he finished his career ranked seventh in school history with 2,707 yards rushing on 513 carries while ranking fifth with 28 rushing touchdowns. Brown also had 58 receptions for 668 yards and two touchdowns.

5. Joe Cribbs

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    George Rose/Getty Images

    Joe Cribbs rushed for 3368 yards in his four year career at Auburn sharing running back duties with James Brooks. He surpassed the 1000 yard mark in his junior and senior seasons rushing for 1120 and 1205 yards respectively and 30 touchdowns. He also averaged over 100 yards per game both seasons at 110 and 102 yards per game. Cribbs was drafted in the second round by the Buffalo Bills and rushed for over 1000 yards in 3 of his seasons with the Bills.

4. Stephen Davis

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Stephen Davis played three years (1993, 1994, 1995) for Auburn starting in his sophomore year. He made the All-SEC team his last two seasons and graduated as the team's fourth all-time leading rusher although playing for Terry Bowdens pass oriented offense. Davis was a big back with speed and was recruited by Pat Dye out of Spartanburg, South Carolina.

    Davis was drafted in the fourth round by the Washington Redskins and had a breakout season in 1999 rushing for 1405 yards. Davis signed with the Carolina Panthers in 2003 and had a career best 1444 rushing yards in leading the Panthers to the Super Bowl.

3. James Brooks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    James Brooks played at Auburn from 1977-1980 and was an All-American.  He shared the backfield with Joe Cribbs and James Andrews. A dynamic runner, he set school records for kickoff return yards yards  with 1726 yards and with 5596 all-purpose yards and scored 30 touchdowns. Brooks was a top recruit out of Warner Robins, Georgia.

    Brooks played with the Chargers, Bengals, Browns, and Buccaneers and was a four time pro bowler.  His most successful seasons were with the Bengals where he retired as the all time Bengals leading rusher.

2. Carnell Williams

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    In 2003, Williams had sensational season setting an Auburn single-season record with 17 touchdowns, and gaining a career high 1,307 yards on 241 attempts after injury plagued freshman and sophomore seasons.

    In the undefeated 2004 season, Williams decided along with Ronnie Brown to return for his senior year at Auburn and helped lead the Tigers to the SEC championship and Sugar Bowl victory over Virginia Tech.  Williams went on to earn All-American honors and was named to the All-SEC first team as both a running back and return specialist. He led the team in rushing with 1,165 yards on 239 carries and scored 12 touchdowns. He also finished the season with 1,718 all-purpose yards, the third highest single-season output in  school history. Williams also threw one touchdown pass as a senior, against Georgia.

    Williams finished his collegiate career with 3,831 yards on 741 attempts and 45 touchdowns, breaking the all-time Auburn career records of most rushing attempts by Joe Cribbs and most touchdowns by Bo Jackson.

    Williams also has the distinction of earning nine SEC Player of the Week honors in his career, the most in conference history.

    Williams was drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and rushed for over 1000 yards in his rookie season.

1. Bo Jackson

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    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    During his time playing for Auburn, he ran for 4303 yards and averaged 6.6. yards per carry.

    In 1982, Jackson's freshman year,  he went over the top to beat Alabama and end a 9 game losing streak to the Tide and then made a one-handed grab off an option pitch as Auburn went on to defeat Doug Flutie and Boston College in the Tangerine Bowl, 33–26.

    In 1983, as a sophomore, Jackson rushed for 1,213 yards on 158 carries, for an average of 7.7 yards carry. Against Alabama, Jackson rushed for 256 yards on 20 carries. Auburn finished the season by winning the Sugar Bowl where Jackson was named the Most Valuable Player. In 1984, Jackson's junior year (he missed most of the year due to injury but was still MVP of the Liberty Bowl.

    In 1985, Jackson rushed for 1,786 yards and an average of 6.4 yards per rush. He won the Heisman Trophy award that year in a close vote over Iowa Quarterback Chuck Long.

    Jackson's football number 34 was officially retired at Auburn in a halftime ceremony on October 31, 1992.

    Jackson went on to star with the Oakland Raiders in the NFL and the Kansas City Royals and Chicago White Sox in Major League Baseball. He was an-all star in both leagues. His career in both sports was cut short by a hip injury. Despite the injury, Bo is considered by many as the greatest two sport athlete in the history of sports.