A decade of running backs

LenDale White #21 of the USC Trojans breaks away to score a 31 yard touchdown during the third quarter of the BCS National Championship Rose Bowl Game against the Texas Longhorns at the Rose Bowl on January 4, 2006 in Pasadena, California. - Harry How / Getty Images Sport

Looking back on the last 10 years of running backs in college football.

This post is simple, but fun. Let's look back at the last 10 years of running backs in college football and see what the stats tell us. I'm keeping the analysis fairly elementary -- I'll stick with two main categories: yards per carry and points per carry (TDs * 6) / carries.

First, let's hire a bouncer and limit the data to players with the following characteristics. You must be a running back (sorry, Manziel) and you must average 15+ carries per game. That leaves us with 584 backs to scrutinize over the last 10 seasons.

Now, let's look at the outliers.

Let's call this group the Workhorse Club. These are the 20 backs with the most carries per game over the past decade. C+ is their carries/game figure divided by the average for all 584 backs (19.2), so Kevin Smith carried ball 1.68x more than the average back in the last 10 years.

Rk Player, Team Season Carries/Game C+
1 Kevin Smith, UCF 2007 32.1 168%
2 Bobby Rainey, Western Ky. 2011 30.8 160%
3 Matt Forte, Tulane 2007 30.1 157%
4 Javon Ringer, Michigan St. 2008 30.0 156%
5 Le'Veon Bell, Michigan St. 2012 29.4 153%
6 Ray Rice, Rutgers 2007 29.2 152%
7 Stefphon Jefferson, Nevada 2012 28.8 150%
8 Jamario Thomas, North Texas 2004 28.5 149%
9 Bobby Rainey, Western Ky. 2010 28.3 148%
10 Donald Brown, Connecticut 2008 28.2 147%
11 DeAngelo Williams, Memphis 2005 28.2 147%
12 Anthony Sherrell, Eastern Mich. 2003 28.2 147%
13 Jerome Harrison, Washington St. 2005 28.0 146%
14 Patrick Cobbs, North Texas 2003 27.9 146%
15 Jordan Todman, Connecticut 2010 27.8 145%
16 Yvenson Bernard, Oregon St. 2005 27.2 142%
17 Cedric Benson, Texas 2004 27.2 142%
18 Steven Jackson, Oregon St. 2003 26.9 140%
19 Carlton Jones, Army 2005 26.9 140%
20 Garrett Wolfe, Northern Ill. 2005 26.9 140%

NCAA Average: 19.2.

Note: Kevin Smith carries the ball 450 times in 2007 for UCF, which is an NCAA record. He also rushed for 2,567 yards in the same season, also good for 1st in the last decade. He was only 62 yards away from breaking Barry Sanders' 1988 record season of 2,628 -- although that number doesn't include Barry's bowl game. The major difference -- Barry Sanders got those yards on 106 fewer carries than Kevin Smith.

Now, let's look at the Efficiency Club. These backs had the highest yards/carry average among the group of 584:

Rk Player, Team Season Yds/Rush E+
1 Reggie Bush, Southern California 2005 8.7 171%
2 Jahvid Best, California 2008 8.1 160%
3 Vai Taua, Nevada 2009 7.8 154%
4 LaMichael James, Oregon 2011 7.3 144%
5 Steve Slaton, West Virginia 2006 7.0 138%
6 J.J. Arrington, California 2004 7.0 137%
7 Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech 2008 7.0 137%
8 Kerwynn Williams, Utah St. 2012 6.9 136%
9 Lance Dunbar, North Texas 2009 6.9 135%
10 LaMichael James, Oregon 2009 6.7 132%
11 Giovani Bernard, North Carolina 2012 6.7 131%
12 LenDale White, Southern California 2005 6.6 130%
13 Ryan Mathews, Fresno St. 2009 6.6 129%
14 Ryan Moats, Louisiana Tech 2003 6.5 128%
15 Garrett Wolfe, Northern Ill. 2005 6.5 128%
16 Darren Sproles, Kansas St. 2003 6.5 128%
17 Knile Davis, Arkansas 2010 6.5 127%
18 Garrett Wolfe, Northern Ill. 2004 6.5 127%
19 Andre Hall, South Fla. 2004 6.5 127%
20 Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma St. 2008 6.5 127%

NCAA Average: 5.1.

There's our first Heisman winner. Reggie Bush averaged 8.7 yards/carry on 15.4 carries/game.

Let's not leave out the bottom 20. If you watched these guys carry the ball for your team, you probably had some long Saturday afternoons:

Rk Player, Team Season Yds/Rush C+
584 BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Indiana 2004 3.4 68%
583 Lyle McCombs, Connecticut 2012 3.5 70%
582 Dwayne Priest, Eastern Mich. 2009 3.6 71%
581 Brandon Sullivan, San Diego St. 2009 3.6 71%
580 Willie Geter, Bowling Green 2010 3.6 72%
579 Charles Pierre, Fla. Atlantic 2006 3.7 72%
578 Stevie Hicks Jr., Iowa St. 2005 3.7 72%
577 Umar Ferguson, Temple 2005 3.7 72%
576 Brian Leonard, Rutgers 2004 3.7 72%
575 Jamario Thomas, North Texas 2006 3.7 73%
574 Marcus Cross, Utah St. 2006 3.7 73%
573 Tauren Poole, Tennessee 2011 3.7 73%
572 Anthony Dixon, Mississippi St. 2007 3.7 73%
571 Branden Ore, Virginia Tech 2007 3.7 73%
570 Ibrahim Halsey, Illinois 2003 3.8 74%
569 Dwight Wright, Oregon St. 2004 3.8 74%
568 Keon Lattimore, Maryland 2007 3.8 74%
567 Phillip Tanner, Middle Tenn. St. 2008 3.8 75%
566 Carlton Jones, Army 2005 3.8 75%
565 Terrence Whitehead, Oregon 2003 3.8 75%

Law Firm! Okay, let's complete an exercise. BJGE had 794 yards on 231 carries in his sophomore season at Indiana before he transferred to Ole Miss. At Reggie Bush's 8.7 clip, he would have gained 2,010 yards in the same number of carries. Yikes.

Okay, moving on to brighter pastures. Let's call this the Touchdown Club. These guys had the most points per carry among the group of 584:

Rk Player, Team Season Pts/carry P+
1 Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech 2012 0.81 289%
2 LenDale White, Southern California 2005 0.73 261%
3 Joseph Randle, Oklahoma St. 2011 0.69 247%
4 Michael Bush, Louisville 2005 0.67 241%
5 Montee Ball, Wisconsin 2011 0.64 230%
6 Vick Ballard, Mississippi St. 2010 0.61 219%
7 Bernard Pierce, Temple 2011 0.59 212%
8 Gary Russell, Minnesota 2005 0.58 208%
9 Jehuu Caulcrick, Michigan St. 2007 0.57 203%
10 Chris Brown, Oklahoma 2008 0.55 198%
11 Ian Johnson, Boise St. 2006 0.54 194%
12 Carlos Hyde, Ohio St. 2012 0.52 185%
13 Chad Spann, Northern Ill. 2010 0.51 183%
14 Lance Dunbar, North Texas 2009 0.51 182%
15 Tyrell Fenroy, La.-Lafayette 2008 0.50 180%
16 Terrance Ganaway, Baylor 2011 0.50 180%
17 James Davis, Clemson 2006 0.50 180%
18 Charles Scott, LSU 2008 0.50 178%
19 Steve Slaton, West Virginia 2005 0.50 178%
20 Marion Barber III, Minnesota 2003 0.49 176%

NCAA Average: 0.28.

Freshman Kenneth Dixon scored 27 TDs on 200 carries last season. He set a record for most TDs scored by a freshman in a season...look out for this guy this year.

So who had the best overall season in the past decade? Well, here's one way to look at it. Let's simply average the rankings for the two categories mentioned above: yards/carry and points/carry. Best overall season:

Rk Player, Team Season Rk - Yd/Carry Rk - Pts/Carry Avg Rk
1 LenDale White, Southern California 2005 12 2 7.0
2 Lance Dunbar, North Texas 2009 9 14 11.5
3 Reggie Bush, Southern California 2005 1 26 13.5
4 Jahvid Best, California 2008 2 31 16.5
5 Montee Ball, Wisconsin 2011 34 5 19.5
6 LaMichael James, Oregon 2011 4 50 27.0
7 Ian Johnson, Boise St. 2006 44 11 27.5
8 Terrance Ganaway, Baylor 2011 45 16 30.5
9 Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona 2012 24 37 30.5
10 Kenjon Barner, Oregon 2012 26 40 33.0
11 Gary Russell, Minnesota 2005 64 8 36.0
12 Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech 2012 74 1 37.5
13 Tyrell Fenroy, La.-Lafayette 2008 60 15 37.5
14 Todd Gurley, Georgia 2012 41 34 37.5
15 Curtis Steele, Memphis 2009 37 38 37.5
16 Kerwynn Williams, Utah St. 2012 8 68 38.0
17 Garrett Wolfe, Northern Ill. 2004 18 59 38.5
18 Ryan Mathews, Fresno St. 2009 13 66 39.5
19 Carlton Jones, Army 2004 65 24 44.5
20 Ahmad Bradshaw, Marshall 2006 58 35 46.5

Wait. USC had two of the top three guys with the best overall seasons on the same team? Well, that 2005 Trojans team had NINE offensive lineman on the roster who went on to play in the NFL, so that helps. Some pretty solid names on this list.

Let's have some fun. I threw in Heisman-winning RBs since 1960 to see where they would stack up. By the same methodology I just used, here are the top 100 seasons in the past decade with the Heisman winners added to the mix:

Rk Player, Team Season Yds/carry Pts/carry Rk - Y/C Rk - Pt/C Avg Rk
1 Barry Sanders, Oklahoma State* 1988 7.6 0.71 5 3 4.0
2 Mike Rozier, Nebraska* 1983 7.8 0.63 4 7 5.5
3 LenDale White, Southern California 2005 6.6 0.73 17 2 9.5
4 Billy Sims, Oklahoma* 1978 7.4 0.52 6 15 10.5
5 Lance Dunbar, North Texas 2009 6.9 0.51 13 17 15.0
6 Reggie Bush, Southern California* 2005 8.7 0.48 1 30 15.5
7 Jahvid Best, California 2008 8.1 0.46 2 36 19.0
8 Rashaan Salaam, Colorado* 1994 6.9 0.48 12 29 20.5
9 Montee Ball, Wisconsin 2011 6.3 0.64 41 6 23.5
10 Ian Johnson, Boise St. 2006 6.2 0.54 51 13 32.0
11 LaMichael James, Oregon 2011 7.3 0.44 7 57 32.0
12 Terrance Ganaway, Baylor 2011 6.2 0.50 52 19 35.5
13 Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona 2012 6.4 0.46 31 42 36.5
14 Kenjon Barner, Oregon 2012 6.4 0.45 33 45 39.0
15 Gary Russell, Minnesota 2005 6.1 0.58 72 10 41.0
16 Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech 2012 6.0 0.81 83 1 42.0
17 Tyrell Fenroy, La.-Lafayette 2008 6.1 0.50 68 18 43.0
18 Kerwynn Williams, Utah St. 2012 6.9 0.41 11 75 43.0
19 Todd Gurley, Georgia 2012 6.2 0.46 48 39 43.5
20 Curtis Steele, Memphis 2009 6.3 0.45 44 43 43.5
21 Garrett Wolfe, Northern Ill. 2004 6.5 0.42 24 66 45.0
22 Ryan Mathews, Fresno St. 2009 6.6 0.41 18 73 45.5
23 Carlton Jones, Army 2004 6.1 0.49 73 27 50.0
24 Earl Campbell, Texas* 1977 6.5 0.40 20 83 51.5
25 Ahmad Bradshaw, Marshall 2006 6.1 0.46 66 40 53.0
26 Robert Turbin, Utah St. 2011 6.1 0.46 67 40 53.5
27 Steve Slaton, West Virginia 2006 7.0 0.39 8 100 54.0
28 Jamaal Charles, Texas 2007 6.3 0.42 39 70 54.5
29 Joseph Randle, Oklahoma St. 2011 5.8 0.69 105 4 54.5
30 Giovani Bernard, North Carolina 2012 6.7 0.39 15 94 54.5
31 Adonis Thomas, Toledo 2011 6.3 0.42 42 68 55.0
32 Garrett Wolfe, Northern Ill. 2005 6.5 0.40 21 90 55.5
33 Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma St. 2008 6.5 0.40 26 88 57.0
34 DeAngelo Williams, Memphis 2004 6.2 0.42 49 67 58.0
35 Charles Sims, Houston 2012 6.0 0.46 81 35 58.0
36 Zach Line, SMU 2011 5.9 0.49 96 24 60.0
37 Chad Hall, Air Force 2007 6.4 0.39 28 94 61.0
38 James Davis, Clemson 2006 5.8 0.50 104 20 62.0
39 Tatum Bell, Oklahoma St. 2003 6.0 0.45 76 47 61.5
40 Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois 2007 6.4 0.39 30 97 63.5
41 Donald Buckram, UTEP 2009 6.2 0.42 59 72 65.5
42 Bryce Beall, Houston 2008 6.3 0.39 38 93 65.5
43 Zurlon Tipton, Central Mich. 2012 5.9 0.45 85 46 65.5
44 Knile Davis, Arkansas 2010 6.5 0.38 23 111 67.0
45 Chris Johnson, East Caro. 2007 6.0 0.43 78 58 68.0
46 Marion Barber III, Minnesota 2003 5.8 0.49 117 23 70.0
47 Vai Taua, Nevada 2008 6.4 0.38 27 114 70.5
48 Trent Richardson, Alabama 2011 5.9 0.45 89 52 70.5
49 Adam Muema, San Diego St. 2012 6.2 0.41 60 82 71.0
50 LaMichael James, Oregon 2009 6.7 0.37 14 131 72.5
51 Ricky Williams, Texas* 1998 5.9 0.45 97 50 73.5
52 Kevin Jones, Virginia Tech 2003 5.9 0.45 101 51 76.0
53 Chris Brown, Oklahoma 2008 5.6 0.55 142 12 77.0
54 LaMichael James, Oregon 2010 5.9 0.43 94 60 77.0
55 Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech 2008 7.0 0.36 10 145 77.5
56 Eddie George, Ohio State* 1995 5.9 0.44 99 56 77.5
57 Darren McFadden, Arkansas 2005 6.3 0.38 35 122 78.5
58 Michael Bush, Louisville 2005 5.6 0.67 153 5 79.0
59 Bo Jackson, Auburn* 1985 6.4 0.37 29 128 78.5
60 Zac Stacy, Vanderbilt 2011 5.9 0.42 88 71 79.5
61 Robert Turbin, Utah St. 2009 6.3 0.38 43 118 80.5
62 Vai Taua, Nevada 2009 7.8 0.35 3 169 86.0
63 Jay Finley, Baylor 2010 6.2 0.37 46 127 86.5
64 Shonn Greene, Iowa 2008 6.0 0.39 79 96 87.5
65 Ryan Moats, Louisiana Tech 2004 6.2 0.38 58 122 90.0
66 Tyrell Fenroy, La.-Lafayette 2005 5.9 0.40 98 85 91.5
67 Mark Ingram, Alabama* 2009 6.1 0.38 65 120 92.5
68 Jamario Thomas, North Texas 2004 6.3 0.36 36 151 93.5
69 Doug Martin, Boise St. 2010 6.3 0.36 40 149 94.5
70 Steve Slaton, West Virginia 2005 5.5 0.50 169 22 95.5
71 Latavius Murray, UCF 2012 5.6 0.45 151 43 97.0
72 Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern 2005 5.9 0.38 91 106 98.5
73 Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech 2009 5.6 0.43 139 59 99.0
74 Bernard Pierce, Temple 2009 5.8 0.41 118 80 99.0
75 Bernard Pierce, Temple 2011 5.4 0.59 190 9 99.5
76 Ronnie Hillman, San Diego St. 2010 5.8 0.39 103 97 100.0
77 Ernie Davis, Syracuse* 1961 5.5 0.48 174 30 102.0
78 DeAngelo Williams, Memphis 2005 6.3 0.35 34 171 102.5
79 Matt Forte, Tulane 2007 5.9 0.38 93 112 102.5
80 Toby Gerhart, Stanford 2009 5.5 0.49 182 25 103.5
81 Jahwan Edwards, Ball St. 2012 6.1 0.36 71 140 105.5
82 Mikel Leshoure, Illinois 2010 6.0 0.36 75 137 106.0
83 Garrett Wolfe, Northern Ill. 2006 6.2 0.35 47 168 107.5
84 Charles Scott, LSU 2008 5.4 0.50 195 21 108.0
85 Chad Spann, Northern Ill. 2010 5.4 0.51 202 16 109.0
86 Vai Taua, Nevada 2010 5.7 0.40 134 86 110.0
87 Dennis Kennedy, Akron 2008 5.5 0.43 161 63 112.0
88 Bryson Sumlin, Fresno St. 2004 5.8 0.38 112 116 114.0
89 Edwin Baker, Michigan St. 2010 5.8 0.38 111 118 114.5
90 Charles White, Southern California* 1979 6.2 0.34 53 176 114.5
91 Kevin Smith, UCF 2007 5.7 0.39 126 104 115.0
92 Tarrion Adams, Tulsa 2008 6.2 0.34 56 178 117.0
93 J.J. Arrington, California 2004 7.0 0.31 9 225 117.0
94 Montel Harris, Temple 2012 5.7 0.39 136 100 118.0
95 Ron Dayne, Wisconsin* 1999 6.0 0.36 77 158 117.5
96 Laurence Maroney, Minnesota 2004 6.2 0.33 50 188 119.0
97 Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech 2009 5.9 0.36 86 152 119.0
98 LenDale White, Southern California 2004 5.4 0.44 188 55 121.5
99 John Clay, Wisconsin 2010 5.4 0.45 194 49 121.5
100 Kay-Jay Harris, West Virginia 2004 5.8 0.36 109 134 121.5

*Heisman winners

I attempted to add in the Heisman winners' bowl game stats if I could find them.

Teams with the most players on the list:

USC, Oregon, Northern Illinois - 4

Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah State, Memphis, Texas, West Virginia, Oklahoma State, Nevada, Temple - 3

Players with the most appearances:

LaMichael James, Garrett Wolfe, Vai Taua - 3

LenDale White, Tyrell Fenroy, Robert Turbin, Steve Slaton, DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Dwyer, Bernard Pierce - 2

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