A History of #1 Rated Tailbacks

A History of #1 Rated Tailbacks

January 27, 2013
Is this what we should expect from Derrick Green?

Recruiting is an inexact science, and we have no idea what we’ll get in the coming years from Derrick Green (commitment post).  But Rivals is generally considered to be the best recruiting site for predicting future success, so I thought I would take a look back at their top tailbacks over the last decade or so.

Rivals: Ciatrick Fason, Florida – In three seasons at Florida, Fason had 315 carries for 1,877 yards (6.0 yards/carry) and 14 touchdowns.  Fason was drafted in the fourth round (#112 overall) by the Minnesota Vikings in 2005, for whom he played two seasons.  He had 50 career carries for 161 yards (3.2 yards/carry) and 5 touchdowns.

 Reggie Bush, USC – In three seasons at USC, Bush had 433 career carries for 3,169 yards (7.3 yards/carry) and 25 touchdowns, along with 95 career receptions for 1,301 yards and 13 touchdowns.  He won the Heisman Trophy in 2005.  He was the #2 overall pick by the New Orleans Saints in 2006.  In five seasons with the Saints and two with the Miami Dolphins, he has 967 carries for 4,162 yards (4.3 yards/carry) and 29 touchdowns.  He also has 372 receptions for 2,730 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma – In three seasons at Oklahoma, Peterson had 747 carries for 4,045 yards (5.4 yards/carry) and 41 touchdowns.  Peterson was the #7 overall pick by the Vikings in 2007.  In six seasons with the Vikings, he has 1,754 carries for 8,849 yards (5.0 yards/carry) and 76 touchdowns.  He had the second-best season rushing total in NFL history this past season with 2,097 yards.

 Jonathan Stewart, Oregon – In three seasons at Oregon, Stewart had 516 carries for 2,891 yards (5.6 yards/carry) and 27 touchdowns.  Stewart was the #13 overall pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2008.  In five seasons with the Panthers, he has 818 carries for 3,836 yards (4.7 yards/carry) and 27 touchdowns.

Chris Wells, Ohio State – In three seasons at Ohio State, Wells had 585 carries for 3,382 yards (5.8 yards/carry) and 30 touchdowns.  Wells was the #31 overall pick by the Arizona Cardinals in 2009.  In four seasons with the Cardinals, he has 625 carries for 2,471 yards (4.0 yards/carry) and 24 touchdowns.

 Joe McKnight, USC – In three seasons at USC, McKnight had 347 carries for 2,213 yards (6.2 yards/carry) and 13 touchdowns.  McKnight was drafted in the fourth round (#112 overall) by the New York Jets in 2010.  In three seasons with the Jets, he has 112 carries for 502 yards (4.5 yards/carry) and 17 catches for 177 yards; he has also averaged 29.0 yards per kickoff return with 2 return touchdowns.

Darrell Scott, Colorado – Scott spend his freshman and sophomore seasons at Colorado before transferring to South Florida.  Altogether, he had 263 carries for 1,252 yards (4.8 yards/carry) and 6 touchdowns.  He was undrafted and has not played in the NFL.

 Bryce Brown, Tennessee – Brown spent his freshman year at Tennessee before transferring to Kansas State; in his freshman and redshirt sophomore seasons, he totaled 104 carries for 476 yards (4.6 yards/carry) and 3 touchdowns.  Brown was drafted in the seventh round (#229 overall) by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2012.  As a rookie he had 115 carries for 564 yards (4.9 yards/carry) and 4 touchdowns.

 Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina – In three seasons at South Carolina, Lattimore had 555 carries for 2,675 yards (4.8 yards/carry) and 38 touchdowns.  He will skip his senior season to enter the 2013 NFL Draft.

Malcolm Brown, Texas – In two seasons at Texas, Brown has 233 carries for 1,066 yards (4.6 yards/carry) and 9 touchdowns.

 Johnathan Gray, Texas – In one season at Texas, Gray has 149 carries for 701 yards (4.7 yards/carry) and 3 touchdowns.

Ignoring Gray and Malcolm Brown altogether, and removing Lattimore from NFL Draft consideration, here’s the average production that we should expect from Rivals’ top tailback:

College career length: 3 seasons
College rushing production: 429 carries for 2,442 yards (5.7 yards/carry) and 22 touchdowns
NFL Draft slot: 2nd round, #63 overall

Where would that career rank among former Michigan players?  The 429 carries would put him at #22 in Michigan history, behind Rick Rogers and ahead of Chris Howard.  The 2,442 yards would put him at #17, behind Ron Johnson and ahead of Ed Shuttlesworth.  The 22 touchdowns would place him at #18, behind Lawrence Ricks/Tshimanga Biakabutuka and ahead of Brandon Minor.  Of players with at least 100 career carries, that 5.7 yards/carry would tie him at #7 behind Jon Vaughn, Denard Robinson, Kerry Smith, Tyrone Wheatley, Biakabutuka, and Rob Lytle.

Based on Michigan’s offensive system and Green’s skill set, if you’re looking for a comparison to another former #1 tailback, I think the best replica would be Ohio State’s Chris “Beanie” Wells.


  1. Comments: 21383
    Jan 27, 2013 at 5:02 PM

    Enjoyed this analysis. I kept myself from getting excited about Green, assuming he'd end up somewhere south in the end, but now that he's committed and I see that offer list and read the raving reviews — Man. I'm officially excited.

    Big get for Hoke and co.

  2. Comments: 21383
    Jan 27, 2013 at 5:58 PM

    Being older and remembering Jamie Morris running behind the big galoots of yesteryear, I'd really be happy with seeing Northfleet giving a chance as a change of pace back if Green does end up #1, yes I realize he's at cb now too.
    Keith Ford is a back I was really impressed with this year also.

  3. Comments: 21383
    Jan 27, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    Deveon Smith is gonna be very good

  4. Comments: 21383
    Jan 30, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    I came up with Wells as well. @Cayton people keep telling me to not count out Smith as well. If the end result is Michigan's RB depth chart is early aughts Auburn (Shallman is obviously Brandon Jacobs here). So between Green and Smith, which one is Ronnie Brown and which one is Cadillac Williams?

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