Greatest College Running Backs

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The Top Ten

Barry Sanders
Remember him backing up Thurman Thomas as a freshman and soph and playing Nebraska... Thurman was a spectacular back but was completely shut down against the Cornhuskers (had almost as many carries as he had amassed yards) then they would put that back-up in and he tore the huskers up. When Thomas graduated and Sanders had center stage to himself his junior year he had what has to be the best season in the history of ncaa football. He was a home run hitter extradonaire if you thot the best way of achieving a big play was throwing deep you may have a better chance flipping the ball to #21 who could take it the distance at any given time. I know there are others with better bodies of work... Walker was a phenomenal athlete with integrity and heart but besides his frosh season was never a take it the distance back even with all that speed and ability (go figure? ) and is fortunate to have a heisman on his mantel... Dickerson was arguably more impressive and would've been unlikely to beat Rozier if he returned his senior season. Bo was a better back than Walker but not the overall body of work as Hersh. Archie Griffin deserves more consideration... He was the "it" factor during his day and Dorsett and Billy Sims are Top 10. Dupree was all about potential and also bad attitude and poor conditioning. Had Sanders big play ability but felt he played very soft if could not find daylight and was lazy. Loaded with ability and potential which was wasted unfortunately. Ricky Williams was a beast definitely top 10 I've seen at the collegiate level. R Bush also top shelf.
By far the best college back! He broke records in all categories and never complained about playing time or boast about his accomplishments. He ran better than any other back, but his composure and patience are what put him over the top!
Dude... Really, broke all those records in 88... And most of them still stand...25 years after! Most 200 yard games in a season, most 300 yard games in a season, most tds in a season, only really played one year of college... That was just a preview of the greatest running back in the nfl... That whole 88 season was nothing but a highlight reel!
[Newest]He was good at detroit

2Herschel Walker
Just look at his aggregrate Heisman trophy votes during his entire career. He came in third his firts year, second his second year and won it his third year. Over three years I'm not sure you can say that about the other leaders. Barry Sanders had one great year and was a backup his Fresh and Soph years. Marcus DuPree had talent no doubt, but to put him over Herschel.. Come on man.. This is not a vote on potential but actual accomplishments. Bo gets compared to Hershel all the time because they both played similar, wore #34 and in the SEC. The truth is Bo may have been the overall better athlete with consideration to his baseball accomplishments.. But those shouldn't weigh in on the RB arguement. "oh you Herschel Walker! "
Herschel walker not only had the skills to run people over but he had the speed power acceleration and explosiveness and those five skill define a great running back in college football he might have not had the best stats but had the best class skills and most importantly confidence
It's easy. No one has or will ever be able to top the one and only Herschel walker. He was just to good of a running back. And if all you haters out ther think there is someone better than quit talking. He is just simply the best. End of story.
[Newest]The man was a machine, best to ever play the game.

3Marcus DuPree
The greatest combo of strength, size, speed, awareness ever.. He didn't play as long as these others, but what he did when he played at full health was the best ever. Bo, Barry, Ron, Herschel had better stories, careers, etc. , but this boy topped them all and doing it behind a weak offense, He is all they had that freshman year of 1982. And of course a still standing for decades fiesta bowl record for rushing. And he played in only half the game. Go see the highlights on the net. He was only at 50 percent with that hamstring problem. These other running backs below couldn't do half that with Marcus's injuries. These other RBs had good QBs and WRs. OU didn't. So boo yah to all the haters with this argument. Cased closed. Smoke em if you got em.
I saw Herschel. I saw Barry. I saw Bo. All GREAT RBs. But when I saw Marcus in 1982, I must say I never saw another like him. He had Strength and Speed that both Bo and Herschel had. The difference is he had running ability, not quite Barry's instincts and moves but this dude could cut, make you miss and frankly he was "The Total Package. " NO ONE else has ever done it as well.
even out of shape and slow he set a record at the fiesta bowl which still stands today. and in only one half playing... these others below go 20 plus pounds overweight and no good line like marcus did, they will suck... I know.. cause I've watched all your top ten backs when they played...
[Newest]No doubt the best college running back of all time he put up video game numbers and was unstoppable

4Bo Jackson
Bo n Mr. Dupree, man among men, neither really trained, just god given mixes of size, strength, speed and smarts... Bo ran a 4.1 40 yard dash at a NFL combine, still a record to this day. Bo's entrance into the NFL was a "hobby" to keep him from getting bored in the MLB off-season... Not enough can be said about him in his college days, his stories are bunyonesque...
Bo should be #1 and here is why: the defenses he played against were infinitely better than the ones Barry or DuPree played. and he ran a 4.12 not a 4.31 for those of you who hate Bo's swag.
Saw AU play UGA when Bo was a freshman and Herschel a Junior. What a heavyweight fight! No doubt the best two to ever be on the field together.

5Archie Griffin
Dude he won the Heisman 2 times he should be #1 or 2 at least
I think he is the best player who ever played the Game.
Two heismans. Need I say more?
[Newest]You can't tackle him he's a beast

6Reggie Bush
Every time he touched the ball he made at least one guy miss... He was never tackled by the first guy... And if he gets into the open field it's an automatic 6
Reggie bush best player in college history never seen a player more feared
Was great to see on T.V. always electrifying

7O.J. Simpson
Too bad everyone gets to vote on these things. You should have to take an IQ Test or something. This is horrible. I think O.J. was the best COLLEGE back of all-time, but even if he wasn't the best, there is no way he should be this low.


2 yrs at SC... Everyone at the game, the defense, those watching on T.V. knew who was going to get the ball...30-40 carries a game averaging 4 yds per carry... The best ever
He should be number 1 what he did in 2yr it take most 4 yr
[Newest]Should be higher on this list.

8Ricky Williams
Should be top 3 at least, maybe best ever (modern era).
Yes he's a trouble but look at the guys talent!

9Earl Campbell
"No question one of the greatest running backs of all time... He was big and fast, WOW... That's all you can say about this guy.
Enjoyed watching this big running back - one of a kind.

10Tony Dorsett
The most underrated GREAT running back in history. You NEVER hear his name mentioned in the discussions of the best all time runners and that is a crime. People dismiss the fact that he was the all time leading rusher when he left college and 2nd all time leading rusher when he left the NFL. They also overlook the fact that he had incredible toughness and durability for a 180 lbs running back - kickers are bigger than that these days.
Agree with everything said about Tony "D". My favorite RB of all time by far. Watching the 1976 season was really my first infatuation with football whereas TD broke a long run every game. Sitting and waiting to see it to happen was just as much of a thrill as it was watching it happen!
He held the NCAA rushing record for 20 years. First guy to win a national title, heisman and be super bowl champion. Is in the college and NFL hall of fames. Great speed and burst and his ability to cut at full speed was 2nd to none.

The Contenders

11LaDanian Tomlinson
It's no dout he is the best. Reggie Bush is nothing like this guy.

12Mike Rozier
One of the best running backs ever!
Take his Heisman season and put it against ANY of these running backs. Rozier was the best!

13Eric Dickerson
Playing half the snaps his senior over 1600 yards enough said
This man has speed he is strong he should be crown #1

14Emmitt Smith
Hello has any one ever watched football

15Darren McFadden
Pure power when he runs, he hits the hole as he was being timed in the 40 dash.
Power, strength, agile. The hardest hole hitter ever.
Strong, fast, throws the ball well also

16Billy Sims
Was appalled that no one has tossed him into the mix earlier... Heisman year followed by a season as runner up...7.4 + 6.7 yds per carry... One helluva back
Really, number 43... Really. Your list is suspect. DuPree at 3? He is a "what if" story. I don't care what he did in high school. If that counts check up on Sims stats from Hooks Tx.

17Jim Brown
College or pro, Brown is the best. I am a "Long Time" Browns fan (1950) Saw Brown play last pro game!
Bill Menz
Top 3 -- minimum,

18Red Grange
Should be number 1

19Marshall Faulk
He compiled one of the greatest freshman seasons in NCAA history, gaining 1,429 yards rushing, with 23 total touchdowns (21 rushing), and 140 points scored. In one game he rushed for 386 yards and 7 TD's

20Marcus Allen
Marcus was the business! 200 yard games, 300 yard games, and mostly played as a back up his first two years.

21Adrian Peterson
His freshman year, 2004, was greatest any freshman has produced. His power, speed, and phenomenal vision were as good as the game's ever seen! Peterson has been great at every level since he first picked up a football.
Why is he so low he was great in college numbers don't lie
If he wasn't injured he'd be top 5

22Larry Johnson

23Ron Dayne
He's the all-time NCAA leading rusher.
I saw the Great Dane not even play in the fourth qtr of a lot of his games,... And he still has the most yes of ALL TIME...

24Ernie Davis
Would have been in the top 3 as a pro. Being this far down on this list only reflects the lack of recognition that has followed the man that quietly outran Jim Brown. My next door neighbor played on his high school team, and used to tell us how during practice for kick offs they would kick it to Ernie, and without any blockers he'd return it for a TD almost every time. If he had lived and continued to play with 32 at Cleveland, an argument could be made against any Packer dynasty in the 60's. View some highlights of the man who really set the mark for the perfect blend of speed and power. As football fans we were robbed of his brilliance. RIP 44.
I am from USC and have followed running backs for fifty five years. Though I never saw Ernie David run, his legend began when he was alive playing in college and was considered far greater than Jim Brown. I would like to hear Jim Browns take on this, or would I. Also Ricky Bell from USC should be here, another lost to soon in life.
Only people over 55 mostly only Syracuse or Cleveland Browns fans, a few Washington Redskins fans will have knowledge of Ernie Davis. So, let us get Jim Brown to answer and any remaining Syracuse coach that worked with both. I would accept their replies,

25Bronko Nagurski

26Anthony Davis

27Charles White

28Doc Blanchard

29Glenn Davis

30Ki-Jana Carter
KI-Jana Carter deserve's too be on this list. Carter was as good as any RB in college. Would have easily went over 2,000 yds. In 1994, if he didn't sit out almost the whole second half like every game. He was faster and bigger then Reggie Bush. That is a proven fact. Just look at his highlights and all his long breakaway runs. Bush being from Southern Cal was highlighted like a Hollywood star. If Carter played at Southern Cal at the same time, and instead of Reggie Bush he would be very high on this list. You put Larry Johnson on this list, because he had one huge season. Carter had quite a few big seasons and was simply better, trust me I followed both of them closely. Carter averaged 8 yards a carry!
Most underrated on this list! Ki-Jana was a threat to score every play. Powered the 94 Penn State offense with over 1700 rushing yards and 26 TDs and the dude only played in the first half of all but 3 games cause PSU was usually up 45 at the half!

31John Cappelletti

32Donald Brown

33Walter Payton
I can't believe no one has mentioned Walter Payton nor Gayle Sayers, next to Barry Sanders, the best ever! Gayle Sayers total yrds in one game, one season, and the most TD's in one season (36) and the most TD's in one game (6) still stand to this day!
One of the Best

34Gale Sayers
Gale Sayers was best ever and not even listed! Probably because most of people reading these lists are too young to remember him.

35Mark Ingram

36DeAngelo Williams
Top five in all time rushing yards and all purpose yards all time

37Todd Gurley
He's great at the university of Georgia!
Best in the world and quick

38Matt Jones
If he had a good line. Enough said

39T.J Yeldon

40Melvin Gordon

41Mike Garrett

42Keith Byars

43Eddie Lacy

44Edgerrin James

45Mike Gillislee

46Kelvin Taylor

47Jim Thorpe
The best "all-around" athlete in the history of the planet; if he was alive today he would be a bigger celeb than Michael Jordan and LeBron James combined..

48Eddie George
Archie was definitely better but if you have a top 50 and Eddie George isn't on it, you're crazy.

49 Charles Robert (Charlie) Brown

50Johnny Rodgers
He had the cuts and the speed as a WR/RB he had fingers made of maple syrup... Should I go on

51Shaun Alexander

52Willis McGahee
Best single season in the history of the University of Miami...1,700 yds. 28 TDs. Boo yah!!!

53Trent Richardson

54Luke Staley
He's a true Ute at heart!

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This list was created 7 years, 224 days ago and has been voted on over 1,000 times. This top ten list has been remixed 7 times and has been blogged about 1 times.

Updated Thursday, April 23, 2015

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