Recruiting rankings are fascinating to me, and watching the prospects live up to (or try to) is fun to watch unfold.
This year, 247Sports Composite Rankings have five five-star running backs in Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Sony Michel, Roc Thomas and Nick Chubb, along with one five-star all-purpose back in Joe Mixon.
There have been 49 running backs ranked as five-star commits over the last decade. Let’s dive in…
*All prospect rankings are determined by 247Sports’ Composite Player Rankings
2004 – 3 RBs
Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma: Peterson will go down as one of the best in the history of college and the NFL. He rushed for 4,045 yards in his career with 41 TDs. He somehow escaped college without winning a Heisman, and his 1,925 yards as a freshman is remarkable. He continues doing work in the NFL with the Vikings.
Charlie Jones, Miami: Jones was regarded as one of the finest players from Dade County in 30 years, and he didn’t even rush for 1,000 yards during his career at Miami. Jones finished his three-year Hurricane career with 738 yards and nine TDs. He lost his starting job to Javarris James and played some for the injured Tyrone Moss.
Bobby Washington, Miami Washington signed with Miami, but he failed to gain admission to the university. He re-signed with NC State only to transfer to Eastern Kentucky. He actually had a fairly decent career with the Colonels, and he rushed for 1,559 yards and15 TDs. But he was a bust compared to his five-star hype.
RBs ranked lower: Marshawn Lynch, Arian Foster, Danny Woodhead and Mike Hart
2005 – 7 RBs
Jonathan Stewart, Oregon: Stewart played three seasons for Oregon, totaling 2,891 rushing yards and 27 TDs. Stewart only notched one 1,000-yard season. He also returned kick offs for 1,664 yards and two TDs. He later went on to set the Carolina rookie rushing record with the Panthers.
Marlon Lucky, Nebraska: Lucky played all four years at Nebraska, rushing for 2,393 yards and 22 touchdowns. Lucky had one 1,000-yard season in 2007 as a junior. He later went undrafted and signed a free agent deal with the Bengals in 2009.
Jason Gwaltney, WVU: Gwaltney shunned Ohio State and USC on national TV and signed with WVU only to play one season. He rushed for only 186 yards before getting injured. He wasn’t committed to his rehab and became a bust.
Kevin Grady, Michigan: Grady entered Michigan with very high aspirations, but it was tough living up to the hype. He played four years, but he didn’t even rush for a combined 1,000 yards in his career. He finished with 783 yards and 10 TDs, with 14 of them his freshman season. He later switched to fullback.
Antone Smith, Florida State: The Pahokee, Florida, product was a huge prospect exiting high school. He had a solid career at FSU, rushing for 2,253 yards and 26 touchdowns in four years. He signed as an undrafted free agent with the Lions in 2009 and was released last year.
Darren McFadden, Arkansas: One of the more electrifying tailbacks in college football history, McFadden was on the front end of the Wildcat under Houston Nutt. Run DMC rushed for 4,590 yards and 41 touchdowns. He logged rushing touchdowns, receiving touchdowns and passing touchdowns in three years and combined for 5,160 yards and 50 touchdowns throughout his career. He currently plays for the Oakland Raiders.
Toney Baker, NC State: Baker ended up at NC State and had a solid career, but he never had a 1,000-yard season. He finished with 2,045 yards and 17 TDs, and he also caught 65 passes for 676 yards and four TDs during his career.
RBs ranked lower: Ray Rice, Felix Jones, Shonn Green, James Davis, Jamaal Charles, Roy Upchurch, Rashard Mendenhall and Glen Coffee
2006 – 9 RBs
Beanie Wells, Ohio State: Wells rushed for 3,382 yards and 30 TDs in three years at Ohio State. He logged back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons as a sophomore and junior. He played for the Cardinals and is currently a free agent.
Stafon Johnson, USC: Johnson was a stud coming out of high school, but he suffered a barbell injury in 2009 when 275 pounds came down on his throat. He had rushed for 1,395 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first three seasons. He signed a free agent deal with the Titans in 2010.
Allen Bradford, USC: Bradford played for Pete Carroll at USC, and he rushed for 1,585 yards and 16 TDs in 52 career games played. He became an All-Pac-10 honorable mention. Oddly enough, Bradford switched positions in the NFL, and he currently plays linebacker for the Giants.
CJ Spiller, Clemson: Spiller was electric with the ball in his hands, and he had a strong career at Clemson. He combined for 4,967 yards and 43 TDs rushing and receiving, as well has notching over 2,000 yards and eight TDs as a kick and punt returner. He plays for the Buffalo Bills.
Demarco Murray, Oklahoma: Murray had a fabulous career at Oklahoma, rushing for 3,685 career yards and 50 TDs. He went on to become a third-round pick with the Cowboys, where he still plays. He was selected as a Pro Bowler in 2013, and he certainly lived up to the hype.
Mike Goodson, Texas A&M: Goodson’s best season at Texas A&M was his freshman year, when he rushed for 847 yards and four TDs, making him the Big 12 Freshman of the Year. However, he rushed for just 711 yards and 406 yards respectively the next two seasons. He totaled 1,964 yards and 13 TDs in his career. He went on to become a fourth-round pick and played with the Panthers and Raiders. But did he ultimately live up to the five-star hype?
CJ Gable, USC (ATH): Gable was the No. 1 ranked athlete in 2006, according to some recruiting services, but he was destined to be a running back. Gable played five years at USC, with a season-ending injury as a sophomore. He totaled 1,549 yards rushing and 13 TDs, as well as 1,196 kick return yards for one touchdown. He signed a free agent deal with the Saints and last played for the Hamilton Tiger Cats.
James Aldridge, Notre Dame: Aldridge totaled just 979 yards rushing and three career TDs in four seasons with the Irish, and he’s one of the bigger busts in Notre Dame’s recent history.
LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh: It’s safe to say LeSean McCoy lived up to the hype. McCoy originally committed to Miami, but he changed his mind after a coaching change and ended up at Pitt. McCoy went to Milford Academy before ultimately landing at Pitt for just two seasons, where he rushed for 2,816 yards and 35 TDs. He became a second-round pick, and he’s torching teams in the NFL.
RBs ranked lower: Charles Scott, Knowshon Moreno, Javarris James, Anthony Dixon, Evan Royster and Dexter McCluster
2007 – 3 RBs, 1 ATH
Joe McKnight, USC: McKnight came to USC as the next Reggie Bush, but he wasn’t nearly as good as Bush. He combined for 2,755 yards and 15 TDs, while returning two kickoffs for TDs, too. He currently plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Marc Tyler, USC: Tyler played four years at USC, totaling 1,751 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns. He was known more for off-the-field incidents as opposed to on them. He was on the Packers’ practice squad in 2012 and was later released.
Noel Devine, WVU: Devine still has the most electrifying high school highlights of any prospect…ever. That’s why YouTube was made. He had a great career at WVU, combining for 5,027 yards and 31 touchdowns on offense, while returning kickoffs for 736 yards and no touchdowns. Although he was injury prone, Devin torched defenses. He currently plays in the CFL with the Montreal Alouettes.
RBs ranked lower: Alfred Morris, Jahvid Best, Jonathan Dwyer, Chris Rainey and Shane Vereen
2008 – 3 RBs
Darrell Scott, Colorado: Scott started his career with Colorado and later transferred to South Florida. He combined for 1,252 yards and six touchdowns in the three years he played between the two schools. He left school early and went undrafted.
Jermie Calhoun, Oklahoma: Calhoun was considered the best prospect since Adrian Peterson from Texas, but he had a minimal impact at OU. He was injured in just his second season before transferring to DII Angelo State in 2011.
Richard Samuel, Georgia: Samuel entered Georgia with high expectations, but his career was more defined by the coaches than anything he ever did. He started at running back; then he moved to linebacker, and then he moved back to running back and fullback. He combined for just 943 total offensive yards and four TDs in his career.
RBs ranked lower: Mark Ingram, Cyrus Gray, Kenjon Barner, Johnathan Franklin, Ryan Williams, Brandon Bolden, Andre Ellington, Jeff Demps and LaMichael James
2009 – 3 RBs
Bryce Brown, Tennessee: Arguably the biggest bust on the list, Brown was the top overall player in 2009. He played just one season at Tennessee, rushing for 460 yards, but transferred to Kansas State, where he only rushed for 16 yards. He’s actually had a solid NFL career with the Eagles, but he was a huge college bust.
Trent Richardson, Alabama: Unlike Brown, Richardson had a big-time college football career. He rushed for 3,130 yards and 35 TDs and went on to become a top-five pick in the NFL Draft. He won two championships with Alabama. Although the NFL career hasn’t exactly panned out (now with the Colts), Richardson was a great college back.
Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Michael had a good career with the Aggies. He combined for 2,791 yards and 34 touchdowns without ever having a 1,000-yard season and an ACL injury in 2011. He currently plays for the Seattle Seahawks.
RBs ranked lower: David Wilson, Michael Ford, Cierre Wood, Lamar Miller, Eddie Lacy, Knile Davis, Stepfan Taylor, Zac Stacy, Mike Gillislee, Tavon Austin, Stephon Jefferson and Montee Ball
2010 – 3 RBs
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina: Lattimore lived up to the hype, but he couldn’t escape injuries. After two major knee surgeries, he entered the draft and was a fourth-round pick by the 49ers. He combined for 3,444 total yards on offense with 41 touchdowns in three years. Hopefully he’ll get healthy for the 49ers.
Michael Dyer, Auburn: Dyer wasn’t a bust for Auburn, as he rushed for 2,335 yards and 15 TDs in two seasons before leaving the Auburn program in 2012. He transferred to Arkansas State and then to Arkansas Baptist College. Dyer now plays for Louisville, and he rushed for 223 yards and two TDs in 2013. He has one more year of eligibility left for the Cardinals.
Lache Seastrunk, Oregon: Seastrunk started his career at Oregon, but he transferred to Baylor. He rushed for 1,012 yards and seven TDs in 2012 and 1,177 yards and 11 TDs in 2013. Seastrunk is heading to the NFL Draft, and he’s a big-time talent.
RBs ranked lower: Silas Redd, Giovani Bernard, Ben Malena, Spencer Ware and Brennan Clay
2011 – 5 RBs, 1 ATH
Malcolm Brown, Texas: Brown has split time at the position and logged three full seasons with the Longhorns, rushing for 1,970 yards and 18 TDs. Brown had his best season yet in 2013, rushing for 904 yards and nine TDs.
Brandon Williams, Oklahoma: Williams played as a freshman, rushing for 219 yards, but he transferred to Texas A&M where he rushed for 269 yards and one TD.
Isaiah Crowell, Georgia: Crowell rushed for 850 yards and five TDs before being dismissed from the Georgia program and transferring to Alabama State. Crowell rushed for 842 yards in 2012 and 1,121 yards in 2013, combining for 30 TDs. He will enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
Savon Huggins, Rutgers: Huggins has rushed for just 842 yards and nine TDs in three years at Rutgers. He has one more year of eligibility before he finishes his career. So far, he hasn’t lived up to the hype.
DeAnthony Thomas, Oregon: One of the more electrifying backs in college football, Thomas has rushed for 1,890 yards and 26 TDs during his three-year career, while returning punts and kicks for 2,159 yards and five TDs. However, he was still underused by the Ducks’ offense. Thomas will enter the NFL Draft.
James Wilder, Florida State: Wilder was the top-rated athlete exiting high school. Several thought he’d end up at linebacker in college, but he played running back all three years at FSU. Wilder rushed for 1,363 yards and 20 TDs during his career, and he split carries during his career. He’s entering the NFL Draft.
RBs ranked lower: Kenny Hilliard, Tre Mason and Ka’Deem Carey
2012 – 6 RBs
Keith Marshall, Georgia: Marshall just suffered a season-ending injury in 2013, and he’s rushed for 1,005 yards and nine TDs in his career. He’s shown burst and speed, but ultimately he needs to stay healthy. Hopefully Marshall returns in 2014.
Johnathan Gray, Texas: Gray was having a big season at Texas before he suffered a season-ending injury, and he’s rushed for 1,481 yards and seven TDs in two seasons. Hopefully, Gray returns to full strength in 2014.
TJ Yeldon, Alabama: Yeldon was a key cog in the Tide’s championship run in 2012, and he’s rushed for 2,343 yards and 31 TDs in two seasons. He’s a premier talent, but he’s had some fumbling issues in two seasons. Still, Yeldon is one of the best running backs in college football.
Trey Williams, Texas A&M: Williams has rushed for 783 yards and 11 TDs, while returning 53 kickoffs for 1,263 yards. He’s been used as more of a special teams player than running back. Williams needs more touches.
Duke Johnson, Miami: Johnson is a special talent, and he suffered a season-ending injury in 2013. Still, Johnson has amassed 1,867 rushing yards and 16 TDs, and he’s returned 41 kickoffs for 1,288 yards and two TDs.
Rushel Shell, Pittsburgh: Shell rushed for 641 yards and four TDs in 2012 at Pitt, but he transferred to West Virginia last summer and had to sit out 2013. He’ll have three years of eligibility remaining as a Mountaineer.
RBs ranked lower: Todd Gurley, Barry Sanders and DJ Foster
2013 – 5RBs, 1 ATH
Derrick Henry, Alabama (ATH): Henry saw limited touches as a freshman, sitting behind TJ Yeldon and Kenyan Drake, but he blew up in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. All total, Henry rushed for 382 yards and three touchdowns, while catching one pass for 61 yards and a touchdown.
Thomas Tyner, Oregon: Tyner saw action as a freshman, rushing for 711 yards and nine TDs, and his role will become much bigger with DeAnthony Thomas now heading to the NFL. Tyner looks like an animal in the Ducks’ offense.
Kelvin Taylor, Florida: Taylor broke into the starting lineup later than anticipated, and he looked like the only player on Florida’s offense who could bust a grape. Taylor rushed for 508 yards and four TDs on 111 carries. He has a big future at Florida.
Keith Ford, Oklahoma: Ford saw limited action at Oklahoma last season, rushing for just 134 yards and one TD.
Derrick Green, Michigan: Derrick Green entered Michigan overweight. Green rushed for just 270 yards on 83 carries with two TDs. With Doug Nussmeier now heading up the offense, Green should become more of a factor.
RBs ranked lower: Alex Collins, Greg Bryant and Altee Tenpenny
Lived up to the hype
- Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma
- Darren McFadden, Arkansas
- Beanie Wells, Ohio State
- CJ Spiller, Clemson
- Demarco Murray, Oklahoma
- LeSean McCoy, Pittsburgh
- Noel Devine, WVU
- Trent Richardson, Alabama
- Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
- Lache Seastrunk, Oregon (Baylor)
- DeAnthony Thomas, Oregon
- TJ Yeldon, Alabama
- Duke Johnson, Miami
Good careers but mixed reviews
- Marion Lucky, Nebraska
- Jonathan Stewart, Oregon
- Antone Smith, FSU
- Toney Baker, NC State
- Stafon Johnson, USC
- Allen Bradford, USC
- Mike Goodson, Texas A&M
- CJ Gable, USC
- Joe McKnight, USC
- Christine Michael, Texas A&M
- Isaiah Crowell, Georgia (Alabama State)
- James Wilder, FSU
- Charlie Jones, Miami
- Bobby Washington, Miami (NC State, Eastern Michigan)
- Jason Gwaltney, WVU
- Kevin Grady, Michigan
- James Aldridge, Notre Dame
- Richard Samuel, Georgia
- Darrell Scott, Colorado
- Jermie Calhoun, Oklahoma
- Bryce Brown, Tennessee
- Marc Tyler, USC
- Mike Dyer, Auburn (Louisville)
- Malcolm Brown, Texas
- Brandon Williams, Texas A&M
- Savon Huggins, Rutgers
- Keith Marshall, Georgia
- Johnathan Gray, Texas
- Trey Williams, Texas A&M
- Rushel Shell, Pittsburgh (West Virginia)
- Derrick Henry, Alabama
- Thomas Tyner, Oregon
- Kelvin Taylor, Florida
- Keith Ford, Oklahoma
- Derrick Green, Michigan
Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports