A 1,000-yard season is an extraordinary feat in the SEC, and we’ve seen some great runners eclipse that mark over the course of history.
Seven from the SEC did in fact notch the mark, when only four surpassed 1,000 yards in 2011.
Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M (FR): Manziel disrupted the SEC regular season much like Cam Newton and Tim Tebow did…but only better. His 1,181 rushing yards led all rushers in the SEC, and his 19 touchdowns on the ground also led the SEC. He averaged 6.42 yards per carry and only averaged 15.33 attempts per game to go along with averaging nearly 100 yards on the ground per game. The way he churns out yardage and knifes through defenses in his own slippery way is amazing. He did have some designed runs, but the majority of his big running plays were on creative scrambles and broken plays. What a feat and what a player!
Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia (FR): The best running back in the SEC belongs to Todd Gurley. He’s the second coming of Trent Richardson, but only slightly taller than Richardson. Gurley is built like a linebacker, and he possesses a power running game but combines speed, agility and vision into the equation. He is the total package as a running back in the SEC. His 1,138 yards led all running backs in the SEC, and he averaged 6.47 yards per carry, which also led the SEC. He tied for second with Eddie Lacy with 14 rushing touchdowns. What a freshman and what a ceiling this young man has. And we have him for at least two more years in the SEC!
Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida (SR): For the first time in his career, Mike Gillislee was finally the feature back for the Gators. And thanks to Will Muschamp and Brent Pease, Gilly is the first Gator to surpass the 1,000-yard mark in seven years in Gainesville with 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns. Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin nor anyone else ran for 1,000 yards in any one season under Urban Meyer. Gillislee was a huge reason the Gators finished 11-1, beating defenses such as Texas A&M, LSU, Florida State and South Carolina. Gilly was the lifeblood of the Florida power running game. Congrats to Gillislee on a breakout season that actually gave him an opportunity to succeed. One thing is for certain – he’ll be fresh for the NFL and not beat up like other backs because of only one season’s workload.
Zac Stacy, RB, Vanderbilt (SR): Zac Stacy has been so instrumental for James Franklin and his cultural change at Vanderbilt. Stacy notched back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Can you imagine if the human bowling ball got to run behind Alabama or LSU’s offensive line each and every week? This is an underrated player, and he should make an impact in the NFL because of his toughness and athleticism. Stacy is a great looking player, and he’s meant the world to Vandy these last couple of years. He carried for 1,034 yards and nine touchdowns, and he leaves his stamp on the program as the school’s all-time leading rusher.
Kendial Lawrence, RB, Missouri (SR): Kendial Lawrence was one of the few bright spots for a struggling Missouri offense in its inaugural season in the SEC. Lawrence rushed for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging 5.13 yards per carry. He had the second most carries in the SEC with 200, and he was a workhorse for an offense that saw a ton of attrition on the offensive line and a quarterback who was injured for most of the season. Hats off to Lawrence in his senior season.
Tre Mason, RB, Auburn (SO): You want to talk about THE only bright spot for a program? That would be Auburn’s Tre Mason. Amidst a 3-9 season and rushing for 1,002 yards, the Tigers athletic department should give him a say who will be the next coach. He may be undersized, but he runs hard between the tackles and has the speed to house it at any given moment. Mason will be a staple on the offense for at least another season on The Plains. Great season for him, and it was an accomplishment to be literally the only bright spot of 2012 for Auburn.
Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (JR): We knew Eddie Lacy would anchor the rushing attack, and he was Bama’s most important back down the stretch, despite the flashes shown by freshman TJ Yeldon at times. Lacy just did pass the 1,000-yard mark with 1,001 yards and 14 touchdowns, while averaging a nasty 6.10 yards per carry. It will be interesting to see his draft evaluation, because he is a tough runner and will be a load at the next level. I just don’t know if he’s an impact player in the NFL. Nonetheless, congrats to Lacy for achieving the mark in his junior season. He’s been in the shadow of Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram for the last couple of years.
Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins should pass the mark in the bowl game, as he has 940 yards rushing. Ole Miss actually held MSU to 30 yards rushing Saturday night, and it’s a big reason Perkins didn’t get to 1,000, lacking only 60 yards.
Photo Credit: Thomas Campbell