The 10 Best RBs in College Football of This Decade

Husker FanCorrespondent IAugust 19, 2009

JACKSONVILLE, FL - NOVEMBER 23:  Adrian Peterson #28 of the Minnesota Vikings runs for yardage against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the game at Jacksonville Municipal stadium on November 23, 2008 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Just finished reading the great article written by Mitch regarding the most punishing running backs that he has seen in his lifetime. 

Definitely worth a read. 


After this great read, it got me to thinking.  Who are the best running backs thus far in the 2000s? 

Well, here is my simple crack at this list that is sure to be wrong.

10.  Steven JacksonOregon State:  This big and bruising running backrushed his way towards All-American status in 2003.  He ran for 3,625 yards as a collegian and became the overall 24th pick in the 2004 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams.  Since his days at Oregon State, he went on to become one of the toughest RBs in the NFL.  

9. Willis McGaheeMiami:  Size, speed, and the ability to make people miss.  Those are the qualities that put Mr. McGahee on this list.  Likely I have him a bit low, but Willis was a stud in college.  In his 2002 All-American season, Willis ran for 1,753 yards and 28 TDs.  Since his departure from college, he has gone on to be one of the NFL's very best.

8.  Carnell "Cadillac" WilliamsAuburn:  It was a hard choice between Cadillac and Ronnie Brown, but it was Cadillac that made the engine hum in Auburn during his college days.  But I had to lean towards the Caddy since he was the starter, and he earned 3,831 yards rushing during his career at Auburn. 

Taken with the fifth overall selection in the 2005 draft (behind running mate Ronnie), he earned All-American status while Ronnie has gone on to become the better NFL player...thus far.

7. Jonathan StewartOregon:  The highest ranked running back coming out of high school did not disappoint in Oregon.  During his three years in Eugene, Stewart rushed for a 'mere' 2,311 yards.  But it wasn't simply his rushing that made this guy special.  During his three-year career at Oregon he also had nearly another 2,000 all-purpose yards to prove his very worth.  Selected with the 13th pick overall in last year's NFL draft, Mr. Stewart joins another running back on this very list as a teammate for the Carolina Panthers.

6. Larry JohnsonPenn State:  Hard to put a guy who ran for over 2,000 yards in a season this far down on the list; but that is how special the top five truly are.  His 2,087 yard season in 2002 can be judged as one of the elite running back seasons in all of college football.  Why he drops to this number is his lack of contribution to Penn State's success until his senior season. 

This is a post about collegiate production, and for me to put Larry this high speaks more about respect that season more than anything.  His first round selection in the 2003 NFL draft, and his subsequent solid years for the Chiefs backs up his one year of fame at Penn State.

5.  DeAngelo WilliamsMemphis:  The 5'9", 220 pound balderdash of talent enters this list at No. 5.  And why not? 

During his collegiate career at Memphis he rushed for 6,026 yards and at one time was on pace to eclipse Ron Dayne's rushing record set during the 1999 season.  Selected with the 27th overall pick by the Carolina Panthers, DeAngelo has proven his mettle at the highest of levels teaming with his partner in crime on my list (Jonathan Stewart) as the toughest running back duo in the entire NFL.  With that said, DeAngelo does hold the career all-purpose yards in NCAA football history. 

4.  LaDanian TomilinsonTCU:  He led the nation in rushing his final two years of college football.  In his senior season in 2000, he ran for 2,185 yards and finished his Horned Frog career with 5,263 rushing yards.  The Doak Walker award winner was also a finalist for the Heisman in 2000 even though he played at TCU.  In the 2001 NFL draft, LaDanian was selected as the fifth overall pick.  A shocking pick by many, he has gone on to be the most respected runing backs in the entire NFL over the last eight seasons.

3.  Reggie BushUSC:  His NFL career hasn't been splendid.  But his collegiate career is very well known.  Being the main man at "Student Body Right" has its advantages. 

Over the past decade there may not have been a more electric player in all of college football.  With 433 career carries at USC, Reggie averaged 7.3 ypc.  He also amassed 6,451 all-purpose yards at USC despite only starting 14 of 39 games at USC. 

Even with his limited amount of starts and carries, Reggie toted the rock for 1,740 yards during his Heisman season at USC.  Along with his Heisman came so many awards that I defer to mention.  Face it.  This guy was special.  VERY special.

2. Darren McFaddenArkansas:  The scariest thing about this guy is that he is still only 21 years old.  The phenom from Little Rock is the much-ado beginner of all the 'Wildcat" formations we see in college and pro football. 

Finishing with 4,589 yards rushing in only three years, Mr. McFadden's legacy is very much burned upon college football fans.  His pure blazing speed and overall affect on any given game jumps him up as No. 2 on this storied list of great RBs.  His 206 yards rushing with 3 TDs and his 3-of-6 passing for a one TD, in a victory over the National Champions from LSU puts this guy over the rest.

His selection as the fourth overall selection in the 2008 NFL draft also lends credit to this guy's immense amount of talent.  The entire SEC sighed a collective breath of relief when Darren opted for the NFL draft after his Junior season.   

1.  Adrian PetersonOklahoma:  One of the most highly sought after recruits in the history of college football didn't disappoint in his first year in college.  In his true freshman season, Adrian rushed for a freshman record of 1,925 yards in leading, yes leading, his team to a National Championship berth in the 2004 season. 

Despite a plethora of injuries during his days at Oklahoma, he finished with 4,045 yards rushing and short only 73 yards shy of Billy Sims all-time Oklahoma record.  Adrian is the only freshman player to ever finish as a runner-up in Heisman Trophy history. Adrian went on to be the seventh selection in the 2007 NFL draft.  In his two short years in the NFL he has become the most feared running back in the NFL. 

To my belief, there has been nobody better, or more dominating, or as much of a force in college football than Adrian Peterson.  Well, at least at the running back position.  

Others considered:  Steve Slaton, Cedric Benson, Kevin Jones, Darren Sproles, William Green, Rashard Mendenhall, Ray Rice, Knowshon Moreno.   


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