Both of these schools have fans that brag on their all time list of Running Backs, so I took their top 10 yardage producers of all time and did a little comparison.
I hope any reader will find this interesting and maybe give their opinions of which school produced the best Running Backs. Any lover of these schools, or hater of these schools, will agree that they have had some great Running Backs over the years.
1. Bo Jackson: One of the more incredible football players ever and definitely one of the top Running Backs and a Heisman Trophy winner. Bo ran for 4,313 yards and 43 Touchdowns at Auburn. Outstanding, or tremendous, or phenomenal, are not adjectives that describe Bo Jackson well enough. He was not only one of the very best football players ever, he was also an incredible baseball player.
1. Herschel Walker: One of the more highly recruited players of all time, Walker ran for 5,259 yards and like Bo won the Heisman Trophy. Walker was the guy that started the trend of leaving early for
the NFL when he signed with the USFL and the NFL decided to follow suit to not lose some of these better players to the invaders from the fledgling USFL.
Like Bo, Herschel also had outstanding track speed. Not much more needs to be said about either of these living legends.
Advantage: Even or a slight Georgia advantage. Herschel Walker only played 3 years of college football and would have destroyed every rushing record in the book if he had stayed for his senior season. However, Bo Jackson played one Halfback position in the Wishbone and was not a Tailback like Walker, or he might have had similar numbers. Most people would agree that these two were the most physically gifted Running Backs of all time and probably rank as best ever whichever way you want to rank them. This is one of those cases where you could never really be wrong picking either as the best college Running Back of all time.
2. Cadillac Williams: Proving Williams’ greatness is that he ran for 3,831 while splitting carries with the also very talented Ronnie Brown. He also had injury problems every year except his senior
season. He ran for 1,307 yards as a junior in 2003 and for 1,165 as a senior. Nobody beat the Tigers in 2004 and they finished #2 behind the USC Trojans.
Williams was drafted with the 5th pick in the NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2005. He ran for over 4,000 yards in the NFL in 7 seasons. His best NFL season was his first.
He was a highly recruited Running Back out of Attalla, Alabama.
2. Todd Gurley: Gurley was not even the highest rated Quarterback in his Georgia recruiting class. But, the star Running Back from Tarbush, North Carolina was a star from day one gaining 1,385 yards as a freshman. In 2013, as a sophomore, Gurley gained 989 yards in spite of injuries. Gurley gained 911 yards last season after missing several games due to suspension and then he tore his ACL against Auburn after coming back off of suspension.
Advantage: I’m going with Gurley, but I will admit to some bias because I am a huge Gurley fan. Cadillac had slightly more yardage, but he played 4 years to Gurley’s 3. They both returned Kickoffs and Gurley was just better.
I’d love to hear from any Auburn fan that disagrees.
3. James Brooks: Brooks was a high school football phenom from Warner Robins, Georgia and was highly sought after. At Auburn, he played behind Joe Cribbs and Williams Andrews as a freshman but still managed to run for 467 yards. As a sophomore, he again backed up Cribbs and ran for 534 yards. Brooks and Cribbs split time during Brooks’ junior year in 1979 with Brooks running for 1,208 and Cribbs for 1,120. With Cribbs finally out of the way in 1980, Brooks ran for 1,314 yards to finish his career with 3,523 total yards.
Brooks was a 1st round pick by the San Diego Chargers and he had a decent NFL career finishing up with just under 8,000 career rushing yards. His best season was in 1989 with the Cincinnati Bengals when he ran for 1,239 yards and caught 37 passes.
3. Garrison Hearst: Hearst was an All State Running Back at Lincolnton, Georgia before signing with the Bulldogs. As a true freshman, Hearst ran for 717 yards and led the Bulldogs in rushing. During his sophomore season, Hearst ran for 968 yards. Hearst just exploded in 1992 and ran for 1,547 yards and 19 Touchdowns while earning SEC player of the year awards. He was picked with the 3rd pick of the NFL Draft by the Cardinals and he had a similar type NFL career as James Brooks when he ran for just under 8,000 yards. But, he did run for over 1,000 yards in the NFL 4 times with his best season being in 1998 with the San Francisco 49ers when he ran for 1,570 yards.
Advantage: I would go with Hearst by an eyelash.
4. Joe Cribbs: In 1976, Cribbs came to Auburn and ran for just 171 yards and the Tigers were horrible that season going 3-8. The Tigers improved slightly in 1977 with a 5-6 record and Cribbs led the team in rushing with 872 yards on the ground. With Cribbs running for 1,205 yards in 1978, the Tigers improved to 6-4-1 on the season. Going 8-3 in 1979, Cribbs split time with James Brooks with each going over 1,000 yards on the season. Cribbs finished up with 3,368 total yards rushing at Auburn. Cribbs was a 2nd round pick by the Buffalo Bills. Cribbs ran for over 5,000 yards in the
NFL on various teams and made the Pro Bowl 3 times.
4. Lars Tate: The Indianapolis native came South to play for the Georgia Bulldogs and ran for 421 yards as a freshman in 1984. During his sophomore season of 1985, Tate shared carries with Tim Worley and Keith Henderson and he still ran for 626 yards. In 1986, Tate led the team in rushing with 954 yards. Tate stuck around for his senior season as leaving early was not that common back then, and it paid off with 1,016 yards on the ground. Lars Tate ran for 3,017 yards at Georgia.
Tate was a 2nd round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he only played in the NFL for 3 seasons.
5. Ben Tate: Ben Tate is not related to Lars Tate as far as I can tell. Tate was a very impressive physical specimen at 5-11, 220. He ran sprints in high school and benched around 350 pounds. At Auburn, he ran for 392 yards as a true freshman in 2006. He improved as a sophomore and ran for 903 yards. Auburn slumped to 5-7 in 2008 and Tate only had 664 yards rushing. Under new coach, Gene Chizek, Tate exploded with 1,362 yards while Auburn improved to 8-5.
Ben Tate was picked in the 2n round by the Houston Texans and has had a decent career in the NFL while rushing for over 2,000 yards so far.
5. Knowshon Moreno: Middletown, New Jersey native Moreno took his talents South to play for the Georgia Bulldogs. He was highly rated and recruited by mostly everybody. Moreno redshirted as a true freshman and then led the Bulldogs in rushing as a redshirt freshman with 1,334 yards. The following season he rushed for 1,400 yards and then announced he was making himself available for the NFL Draft. Moreno was drafted with the 12th pick of the 1st round in 2009 by the Denver Broncos. So far, Moreno has rushed for just under 4,000 yards in the NFL.
Advantage: Moreno and Georgia
6. Tre Mason: Mason was one of the main stars of the incredible Auburn turnaround in 2013 and
their SEC Championship. There was a lot of luck involved with that season with the Prayer at Jordan Hare and Kick 6, but it was still one of the better stories in recent college football history of rags to riches in just one season. Mason ran for over a 1,000 yards for two seasons capped by his 1,816 yards and 23 Touchdowns in the 2013 season. He was taken in the 3rd round by the St Louis Rams and was their leading rusher as a rookie last season.
6. Rodney Hampton: The Houston, Texas native split time with Lars Tate in 1987 and he ran for 890 yards. In 1988, he split carries with Tim Worley and he ran for 719 yards while Worley had 1,216 yards. In his last season as a Bulldog, Hampton broke the 1,000 yard barrier and he left for the NFL. The Giants picked him with their 1st round pick in 1990 and Hampton had a nice NFL career while running for nearly 7,000 yards and making 2 Pro Bowls.
7. Stephen Davis: Davis came out of Spartanburg, South Carolina as the #1 recruit in the country.
Not only was he an outstanding football player, but he was also a top sprinter in track and held the state 100 meters record for years. In 1993 on an undefeated Auburn team, he ran for 480 yards. In the following season he ran for 1,263 yards and made All SEC. In his junior season, Davis again broke 1,000 yards and then he declared for the NFL Draft. Davis was only a 4th round Draft pick, but has more NFL rushing yardage than any other Auburn graduate.
7. Thomas Brown: Brown’s best season was actually his freshman year of 2004 when he ran for 875. He followed that up with 3 fairly average seasons, but wound up with 2,646 yards at Georgia for his career. Brown went undrafted but he did play a few seasons in the NFL.
Advantage: Auburn by a landslide
8. Brent Fullwood: The Kissimee, Florida speedster came to Auburn in 1983 and was a Halfback in the Wishbone formation. His freshman year saw him rush for only 86 yards. In the 1984 football
season, he actually had more rushing yardage than Bo Jackson when he ran for 628 yards. Bo Jackson had broken his collar bone in Austin against Texas. Jackson took off in 1985 and won the Heisman Trophy while rushing for over 1,700 yards. Fullwood had 684 yards that season. Fullwood was the man in 1986 and had 1,391 yards rushing and was a Consensus All American. The Packers picked him in the 1st round of the 1987 NFL Draft but he was less than a total success in that league. He ran for about 1,700 yards in the NFL.
8. Kevin McLee: McLee is a blast from the past playing at Georgia in the mid 1970’s. Before the great Herschel Walker came along, McLee owned all of the Georgia rushing records which he had taken from former Georgia great Frank Sinkwich. McLee finished with 2,581 career yards.
Sadly, he passed away of a stroke at the age of 52. He was originally from Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
9. Ronnie Brown: A native of Cartersville, Georgia, Brown was an outstanding Running Back for the Auburn Tigers. His best season was his sophomore year in 2002 when he went over the 1,000 yard mark in rushing. Splitting time with fellow outstanding Running Back Cadillac Williams, Brown had 2,707 career rushing yardage. Brown was the 2nd player taken in the 2004 NFL Draft by the Miami Dolphins and has had a good NFL career with over 5,000 yards so far.
9. Willie McClendon: A native of Georgia, Willie McClendon played 3 years for the Bulldogs and ran for 2,228 yards in his career. After a modest start, he ran for 705 yards in 1977 and then for 1,312 in 1978. He was drafted in the 3rd round by the Chicago Bears, but did very little in four years. He is the father of Bryan McClendon the current Georgia Wide Receivers coach.
Advantage: Auburn in a dominating way.
10. Onterio McCalebb: The smallest back on this list, he played behind Ben Tate as a freshman and produced 565 rushing yards. In 2010, Auburn won the national title and McCalebb split time with incredible freshman Michael Dyer and he ran for 1,093 yards. The following season, McCalebb had 641 yards rushing while Dyer had 1,242. Auburn fell apart in 2012 but McCalebb finished his career at Auburn with 2,546 yards on the ground. He was not drafted by the NFL, but signed with Cincinnati and he is still with the team.
10. Musa Smith: The 230 pound Running Back from Perry County, Pennsylvania ran for 2,202 yards for the Georgia Bulldogs from 2000 until 2002. His best year was his junior season in which he ran for 1,324 yards. He was taken in the 3rd round by the Baltimore Ravens, but he never did that much at that level. Part of the reason was a severe injury by an illegal tackle made by the Dallas Cowboys’ Roy Williams which kept him out for two season.
Others of interest:
Michael Dyer: Tore it up for two years and was suspended and then transferred elsewhere or would have been high on this list. He broke Bo Jacckson’s freshman rushing record.
Lionel James: Speedster playing Halfback across from Bo Jackson. A star in his own right.
James Joseph: ran for 1,851 yards for the Tigers.
Tommy Agee: The Fullback between Lionel James and Bo Jackson in their Wishbone offense.
Tim Worley: Great back, just finished at 11th all time rushing at Georgia.
Glynn Harrison: Gliding Glynn Harrison was one of my favorites growing up and he ran for 2,026 yards back in the day when people didn’t put up the numbers like they do today.
A case could be made for either school having the best. In my book, Herschel Walker was probably the best all time college Running Back, but Bo Jackson was right there and I would not have a problem listing him as the best, either.
Both schools have an excellent history of outstanding players.