10 most underrated running backs in SEC history
The SEC has been the home of a ton of legendary running backs — Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, Emmitt Smith, literally a ton of Alabama stars, even recent stars like Leonard Fournette and Nick Chubb. That said, there have been so many great backs that some legends have slipped under the radar — some guys missed parts of their careers due to injuries, some were stuck playing for multiple coaches or in down cycles for their programs, and some just were unlucky. But we’re calling out 10 of the most underrated SEC running backs in history. Feel free to chip in with your thoughts on who we missed — or who really WASN’T underrated. Here are the picks:
Kenneth Darby, Alabama
Alabama has had such an amazing stable of running backs that a guy like Darby, who would have been an all-time legend for many teams, is somewhat forgotten. Darby’s career took place under the guidance of Mike Shula. He somehow racked up 3,324 rushing yards under the most underwhelming Alabama coach of modern times. His numbers have been eclipsed by backs like Richardson and Henry — backs who played for superior coaches. Darby was still a tough runner who carried some poor Tide squads.
Anthony Dixon, Mississippi State
Dixon ended up his State career (2006-2009) with 3,994 rushing yards and 42 rushing scores. He still ranks eighth in SEC history in rushing yardage, which has to make him the most anonymous guy on the league’s list of top 10 rushers. State made only one bowl game in his four seasons, which is part of the reason for his lack of historical stature.
Kevin Faulk, LSU
His 4,557 rushing yards and 46 rushing touchdowns are both third-best in SEC history. Faulk was stuck playing for some underachieving Tigers teams from 1995 to 1998, but he still racked up three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. His 6,833 all-purpose yards was an SEC record when he finished up at LSU.
Arian Foster, Tennessee
Anybody who knows Foster from his NFL glory days would struggle to believe that he was underrated, but he was. Foster finished second in Tennessee history with 2,964 rushing yards. But after a dominating junior season when he rushed for 1,193 yards and 12 touchdowns, Foster had a disappointing senior year in 2008 as UT missed a bowl, Phil Fulmer was fired, and Foster rushed for just 570 yards and one touchdown. His best moments as a Vol are frequently overlooked.
Felix Jones, Arkansas
Jones’s biggest mistake was going to Arkansas at the same time as Darren McFadden. Despite never averaging more than 11 carries a game in his three seasons, Jones ran for 2,956 yards and 20 touchdowns. Jones also was an electrifying kick returner, averaging over 28 yards per return and scoring four touchdowns. Jones may have been overshadowed, but he was a very special player.
Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina
In 2010, as a true freshman, he rushed for 1,197 yards and 17 touchdowns. If he even approached that level of productivity for two or three more seasons, he would be at or near the top of the SEC stat lists. But instead, he fought serious injuries which kept him from ever playing in the NFL. Lattimore still totaled 2,677 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns on the ground. If only he could have stayed healthy.
Tre Mason, Auburn
Mason was the star back on the 2013 Auburn team that just missed a second national title in four years. In that remarkable season, he rushed for 1,816 yards and 12 touchdowns. He had broken the 1,000-yard mark in 2012 as well. How spectacular Mason was in 2013 is forgotten in part because he came soon after the sensation that was Cam Newton and in part because he just missed a title while Newton just nabbed one. Tough luck!
Errict Rhett, Florida
Rhett had just four carries in 1989, and then missed the rest of the season with an injury. He later obtained a redshirt, and his new coach was a fellow named Spurrier. Four years later, Rhett had racked up 4,163 rushing yards and 34 touchdowns. Some of his thunder was stolen by Spurrier’s Fun And Gun attack, but Rhett also caught 153 passes. Rhett wasn’t Emmitt Smith (who came before) or a champion like some of the backs who came later (like Fred Taylor). But he was a fine football player.
Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt
Wait, he’s a current guy. Well, he enters his senior season as the league’s 20th leading rusher with 3,347 yards. He needs less than 500 more to enter the top 10, and if he replicates his junior season totals, he’ll be the league’s second leading rusher of all time. But partially because Vandy has been mediocre and partially because he’s not the flashiest guy around (not a Fournette or Chubb type), Webb sneaks up on people. We’ll see if he can do so in 2017.
Moe Williams, Kentucky
He was a fine back anyway, but Williams is here because of his 1995 season. In just 11 games, he rushed for 1,600 yards for a 4-7 Kentucky team that was devoid of any meaningful passing game. Williams’s 1995 numbers are the 14th highest rushing yardage accumulated in any SEC season. Projecting his stats for 11 games out to 13 (a 12th game plus a possible bowl), Williams would have the third most yards in any single season.