Greatest College Football Running Backs

The Top Ten Greatest College Football Running Backs

1 Herschel Walker Herschel Walker is a former professional American football player, bobsledder, sprinter and mixed martial artist.

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

Herschel was a good receiver, but teams didn't throw much to backs in the pro set back then. He was tough too. Look at the Sugar bowl against and, he dislocated his shoulder the first play from scrimmage. They took him aside, popped it back in, and he returned to rush for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns against a salty and defense.

What Herschel Walker did he did SEC defenses and the other conferences had a team maybe two with defenses to match SEC but playing continuance week end week out against SEC defenses and doing what he did...there is no question best running back in History.

2 Barry Sanders Barry Sanders is a former American football running back who spent his entire professional career with the Detroit Lions of the National Football League.

Bo Jackson won the 1985 heisman with 1786 yards on 278 carries, which is a 6.4 avg. Barry won the 88 heisman with 2850 yards on 373 carries, which is a 7.6 avg. Oh and he had 42 TD's. He averaged 237.5 yards per game. And that was one season. His lowest yards per carry average was against Nebraska at 5.4. Nebraska was up 42-0 less than 19 minutes into the game and won 63-42 thanks to Barry running for 4 TD's.

In comparison, In 1981 Herschel Walker had 385 carries for 1891 yards and 18 Td's. This was his best season and he averaged 4.9 yards per carry. Barry had 18 TD's in his final 5 games of the 88 season. If you include the bowl game, he had 5 more for a total of 23 in 6 games! And for good measure he averaged 7.81 yards per carry for a total of 1694 yards. In those 6 games, he AVERAGED 282 yards per game. That's running the ball not throwing. These numbers are hard to duplicate in a video game!

To put into perspective just how good Barry was, in 2017 there was a post ...more

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!

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 ...more

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!

3 Bo Jackson Vincent Edward "Bo" Jackson is a former baseball and American football player. He is the only athlete in history to be named an All-Star in both baseball and football, and one of few to do so in two major sports.

He is the most athletic man of all time he ran a 4.12 and weighed 235 also he was 6'

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...

Had he taken the path of pure football I think he would hold every record possible. He was as strong as Earl Campbell, faster than McFadden, and had amazing stamina. It has to be either him or Herschel for #1

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.

4 Marcus 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...

Both speed and strength and after watching the espn show about Marcus there is no doubt he is at least in the top 5 but I say #1 with the rare overall ability he had.

5 Tony 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!

Tony Dorsett held the NCAA rushing record for 20 years and he is number 14, you people got to be deranged, no way Dorsett is not number 1 or number 2

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.

6 Reggie Bush Reginald Alfred "Reggie" Bush Jr. is an American football running back who is currently on the Buffalo Bills roster.

Reggie bush best player in college history never seen a player more feared

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

Was great to see on T.V. always electrifying

i think reggie bush is one of the fastest player ive ever seen to play the game hes crazy

7 Earl Campbell Earl Christian Campbell is a former American football running back who played professionally in the National Football League for the Houston Oilers and New Orleans Saints.

"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.

Besides Bo and Herschel, Earl Campbell is the next best.

Agree. He was the beast, Very powerful and quick.

8 Marcus Allen

Marcus wad a definite first fun when you need it. He was so smooth. Not considered fast and strong but heard to catch. Slashing though the defense. Did I mention he could catch and throw.

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

The Roger Maris of 2000 yard rushers not in top 10? Silly

17 really! He is one of the best ever!

9 LaDanian Tomlinson

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

He owns one of the best games in college football history. No doubt he should be on this list

TCU is awesome

Ok we are talking about College right?
This guy was electrifying in College!

10 O.J. Simpson Orenthal James "O. J." Simpson, nicknamed The Juice, is a former National Football League running back, broadcaster, actor, advertising spokesman, and convicted robber.

Yes! It is a shame that O J Simpson was allegedly accused of murder! But you can never take away something that was already accomplished! No doubt that O J was the best running back of all time! He did what he did against the best in College during his time! Period!

O.J. simpson was a great running back throughout his college and professional career, but he is an awful person. Even though he was not convicted or murder, that is still what most people attach his name to and he will never be able to shake that one off. Really a shame considering how great of a player he was

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. - ryguys9

The juice got loose it's a shame that college football was not quite as televised like it stated too in the early 80s.

The Contenders

11 Darren McFadden

Pure power when he runs, he hits the hole as he was being timed in the 40 dash.

Really? Who is this guy? What did he ever do?

Power, strength, agile. The hardest hole hitter ever.

After Barry, Darren McFadden was the best ever

12 Charles Woodson Charles Woodson is a former American football cornerback and free safety. He played college football for Michigan, where he led the Wolverines to a national championship in 1997. Woodson, a "two-way player" who played both offense and defense, won the Heisman Trophy in the same year, becoming the second, more.

He didn’t even play runnning back

13 John Cappelletti

Special back. Real tough and smart.

This guy is a top ten running back. Compared to others he is much better. I saw the others and John, what can I say he was the best. Also where is Lydell Mitchell? Where is Larry Johnson? Curtiss Enis? And of course Saquon Barkley, and

Many others

14 Emmitt Smith Emmitt James Smith III is a former college and professional American football running back who became the National Football League's all-time leading rusher during his fifteen seasons in the league during the 1990s and 2000s.

Hello has any one ever watched football

He played for best team

No one caught him 22

€Hello”, this isn’t about pro football. Emmitt was a good player at Florida, not great.

15 Archie Griffin

Dude he won the Heisman 2 times he should be #1 or 2 at least

By far the greatest running back

I think he is the best player who ever played the Game.

He is the greatest football player ever.

16 Mike Rozier

He was the greatest running back in college history he only average two and a half quarters again for all the rest of the running backs average four quarters

He was the greatest running back in college history he only averaged two and a half quarters again we're all the rest of them play for all four quarters

One of the best running backs ever!

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

17 Ricky Williams Errick Lynne "Ricky" Williams Jr. is a retired American football running back who played twelve seasons in the National Football League and one season in the Canadian Football League.

Should be top 3 at least, maybe best ever (modern era).

Goofy Good with no drive. Amazing potential never fully realized.,

Broke everyone's records above him on the list

Yes he's a trouble but look at the guys talent!

18 Billy 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

Billy Sims was a 220 pounder with Barry Sanders moves with Earl Campbell power. How could he not be top ten. Come on now!

Billy deserves to be in the Top 10. Great running back and one of the most fun to watch ever!

Sims was hands down the most electrifying runner in college history. Your list sucks!

19 Ron Dayne

He's the all-time NCAA leading rusher.

He was the best badger running back of all time. and the best freshman running back of all time( other than Jonathan Taylor)

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...

20 Desmond Howard Desmond Kevin Howard is a former National Football League player. Howard was known mostly as a return specialist but also played wide receiver.
21 Adrian Peterson Adrian Lewis Peterson is an American football running back who originally played for the Minnesota Vikings and currently plays for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League.

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.

Even though he was injured he was still undoubtedly a top ten college back of all time, go look at his highlight reel. It's better than any other player's.

Why is he so low he was great in college numbers don't lie

If he wasn't injured he'd be top 5

22 Nick Chubb

Nick Chubb is a beast he can truck like no other person.

Chubb will forever be a Georgia legend

23 Leonard Fournette

Number one leading rusher wright now

This guy needs to be in the rop ten best college runningbacks

24 Red Grange Harold Edward "Red" Grange, nicknamed "The Galloping Ghost" or "The Galloping Red Ghost", was a college and professional American football halfback for the University of Illinois, the Chicago Bears, and for the short-lived New York Yankees.

Should be number 1

25 Larry Johnson Larry Alphonso Johnson, Jr. is a former American football running back in the National Football League.
26 Ernie 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,

Agreed. Ernie Davis never ever got the recognition he deserved. Definitely a top 5 college back of all time.

27 Derrick Henry
28 Willis McGahee

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

Held back from better stats by a conservative coach. Could have easily-easily surpassed 2,000 yards and 35 TDs with an offensive minded coach. Place Urban, or Nick, or Les on that staff and he's in the conversation for greatest of all time.

29 Jim Brown James Nathaniel Brown is a former professional American football player and actor. He was a running back for the Cleveland Browns of the National Football League from 1957 through 1965.

Talking all his smack about Franco Harris and Franco shut him up as he beat him in the 100 yard dash an jimmy brown faked like he had a cramp... Whatever!

Best running back of all time hands down end of story

No way he would have started over Maarcus Allen on his comeback

Jimmy Brown was a freak of nature...the perfect back. And during this time they didn't have all of the special diets and amino acids, etc to build the body. Jim Brown was in no doubt the very best, with another Syracuse back that died of leukemia challenging him for the #1 position. Earl Cambell was a workhorse and probably should be in the top 3. Larry Szonka, another Syracuse (Jim Brown's school) should be in the mix...a power back. John Riggins is another out of Kansas.

30 Dalvin Cook

Nobody could stop Dalvin Cook, by far the best ACC rb of all time.

Movement skills without the big college name!

31 Glenn Davis

Averaged almost 10 yards per carry.

Highest yards per carry in college football history

32 Lawrence Phillips

Incredible talent. Guy made cuts and moves before the defenders even knew what was happening. Tough as they come, too. I consider him to be in the top 3 of all time, of the backs that I've seen. Billy Simms #1, Barry sanders #2, Phillips college, that is.

Dude was an incredible talent! Did not even play his senior year! Would of won heisman with ease if it were not for his off field trouble, which is main reason some people may not even know who he is! Just look him up, man was unreal! Too bad he self destructed his God given ability! Wasted talent!

Look at the film Lawrence was by far in the top ten. Watch when he ran against the U Miami.

Only thing that stopped LP was LP. Unfortunately.

33 Marshall Faulk Marshall William Faulk is a former college and professional football player who was a running back in the National Football League for twelve seasons.

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

Should be up higher

34 Shaun Alexander Shaun Edward Alexander is a former American football running back who played for the Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins of the National Football League.

Alabama Best Back Of All-time

All everything for 4 years in Tuscaloosa.

35 Ki-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!

36 Bronko Nagurski Bronislau "Bronko" Nagurski was a Canadian-born American football player, renowned for his strength and size.
37 Trent Richardson Trenton Jamond Richardson (born July 10, 1990) is an American professional football running back who is currently a member of the Alliance Birmingham of the Alliance of American Football. He played college football for the University of Alabama, was recognized as an All-American, and was a member of more.

Should be around 15

He couldn't be tackled.
475lb bench

He's beter than nick chubb

38 Eric Dickerson Eric Demetric Dickerson is a former college and professional American football player who was a running back in the National Football League for eleven seasons during the 1980s and 1990s.

2 best backs out of Texas period at all levels high school college and the pros were Earl Campbell and Marcus Dupree

Playing half the snaps his senior over 1600 yards enough said

Craig James would have had more yards if they didn't have him sharing a little time with number 19

The man carried the ball 50 times a game so he should be able to walk for all those yards

39 Anthony Davis Anthony Marshon Davis Jr. is an American professional basketball player for the New Orleans Pelicans of the National Basketball Association.

He's in the nba not nfl

40 George Rogers
41 Charles White

Awesome in College. Out did Billiy Sims and got the heismmman. Another player not used correctly. Wasted talent. It took 10 years of part time playing and his old college Coach believing in him and what does he do? He led the NFL in rushing however he was back in the powder and out of the league. Real sad!

42 DeAngelo Williams

Top five in all time rushing yards and all purpose yards all time

43 Todd Gurley Todd Gurley II is an American football running back for the Los Angeles Rams of the National Football League.

Straight monster. Could be one of the best ever. Speed power agility.

He's great at the university of Georgia!

Best in the world and quick

44 Melvin Gordon Melvin Gordon III is an American football running back for the San Diego Chargers of the National Football League.

Favorite of 2015 draft

45 Doc Blanchard

Big and strong. Could play today.

46 Donald Brown
47 Walter Payton Walter Jerry Payton was an American football running back who played for the Chicago Bears of the National Football League for thirteen seasons.

Walter Payton ( sweetness ) as we all know him if not one of the top 10. There should have been an honorable mention of him during the countdown of the top 10.

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!

Walter Payton sucks

One of the Best

48 Mark Ingram Mark Ingram, Jr. is an American football running back for the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.

Stryper Rules

49 Luke Staley

He's a true Ute at heart!

50 Jim Thorpe James Francis "Jim" Thorpe was an American athlete and Olympic gold medalist. A member of the Sac and Fox Nation, Thorpe became the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States.

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..

Amazing athletic ability.

Ran for like 2,000 yards and 25 TDs in 1912 I believe.

In 1911 He ran for 2837 Rushing Yards and 25 Touchdowns
In 1912 He ran for 3612 Rushing Yards and 41 Touchdowns
The stats don't lie

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