America's Best Backfield
I won't lie. I didn't come up with the title, which I found on a YouTube video about Wisconsin's 2012 team, one that scored 38 touchdowns on the ground and rushed for over 3,300 yards. And, it seemed like a statement that bore a little more fruit. Who's produced the best backfields? Who's established a reputation for being elite?
If we look at the best three-headed rushing attacks over the last five years, it's no surprise that Wisconsin is in the running every year. They don't always win it, but good luck finding another rushing attack that's been better than theirs any of the last three years.
|Cam Newton, 1473
|Michael Dyer, 1093
|Ontario McCalebb, 810
|LaMichael James, 1805
|Kenjon Barner, 939
|De'Anthony Thomas, 595
|Montee Ball, 1830
|James White, 806
|Melvin Gordon, 621
|Melvin Gordon, 1609
|James White, 1444
|Corey Clement, 547
|Melvin Gordon, 2587
|Corey Clement, 949
|Tanner McEvoy, 574
In 2012, Montee Ball scored 22 times, put up 1,902 total yards, and yet it was a slump of a season after his record-breaking campaign of 2011 (40, and 2,286). But in 2011, three Oregon Ducks averaged 7.4 yards a carry with another 999 yards in the passing game and 49 scores.
In 2013, Auburn came really close again, with Tre Mason setting a school record (1,816), Nick Marshall (1,086), and Corey Grant (547) as well. Grant, who's been rumored to run some absurd 40 times, ran an unofficial 4.25 40-yard dash at the team's pro day this month.
For 2014, it was really hard saying someone other than Nick Chubb (1547), Todd Gurley (911), and Sony Michel (410) deserved being called the best backfield in the country. The stats aren't as high, but each of them enjoyed a 150-yard game at some point despite limited touches. Gurley had 773 yards in the first five games, on pace for 2,000 yards. Nick Chubb had 1,323 over the last eight games, on pace for 2,150. Both of them posted per-carry averages that would rank them in the top five in SEC history over a career. And, Chubb will now get to try and chase Herschel Walker's conference record of 1,891 yards.
But there was no denying Melvin Gordon. The redshirt junior took off large parts of the second half throughout the season, and Corey Clement got almost 1,000 yards despite getting 17 carries only once, and double-digit carries only seven times.
So, who are the best candidates for next year? Wisconsin is a little more unproven than in years past, and Auburn's losing its top three rushers as well. Georgia loses Todd Gurley, with a lot of question marks after Chubb and Michel. Still, all these teams have great track records of replacing stars.
Oklahoma is a leading candidate. Samaje Perine broke records last year in front of a deep backfield, but this spring all the talk has been about Joe Mixon, a top-ten player in the 2014 class who was suspended all of last year. Oregon also has a young and talented group, with two more four-star backs coming in 2015. And Alabama has practically been hoarding gold-chip running backs, between Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, and Derrick Henry.
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Issues about proper compensation aside, this is an incredibly stupid thing to do. For some reason, this feels a bit more serious than signing autographs, but the NCAA has never made sense in their decisions.
A great idea to stay present in the South and find more under-the-radar talent.
Meyer talked up the void at middle linebacker, but five-star Raekwon McMillan was already stealing the majority of snaps late last year and he is a terror of an athlete.
Meyer built his reputation on offense as well as on special teams, and for a while it was possible to argue that he needed an elite defensive coordinator to really compete. I don't think that's true anymore, though it certainly helps that he has one of the best top-to-bottom coaching staffs in the nation.
Bell has been called one of the better defensive backs in the nation, and he may be gone after this season. Then again, Urban Meyer's done a pretty good job of convincing talent to stay.
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With the departure of Nick Fairley, an empty cupboard from 2011.
The defense looks to be fine, but the problem is on offense, where multiple guys who should have redshirted were forced into action. In James Franklin's favor is one of the more aggressive, transformational strength and conditioning programs in the Big Ten.
Nebraska is unnervingly thin at linebacker. There are only three players with any real amount of experience, and two of them are recovering from serious knee injuries.
It felt like yesterday that Montez Sweat was a two-star tight end out of Georgia. He's already getting mentioned as competition for a defensive end spot.
While Jake Rudock was a mid-range guy, Beathard has a much better arm and looks downfield. Combined with his running ability, Iowa will look better at that position with Beathard in there.
LSU is one of the most flawed contenders, with question marks all over. Kevin Steele said in spring practice that the Tigers would switch between 4-3 and 3-4 looks.
More fans, better game day experience, better recruits, more wins, more fans.
I'm looking forward to highlights of the 410-pound McGowan serving up pancakes to safeties.
Penn State's coaches have bought in along with the players. That's a good sign heading into a season where Penn State will fight passionately for another bowl appearance and continue developing a bond as a team.
Mark Richt's team led the SEC in scoring behind Gurley and Chubb, and they'll try to keep that title without a lot of last year's top performers.
A pretty good shot of an angry Pat Narduzzi in the booth.
Wilson has really embraced being in Bloomington, trying to find all sorts of ways to get people excited and present to root for the Hoosiers.