Best backfields in SEC history
Choosing the best backfields in SEC history is a little like having your pick of a date from Miss Universe pageant contestants — there are a lot of right answers.
There have been a multitude of superlative running backs in the conference, and many went on to become all-time greats in the NFL as well.
But we were looking for groups of running backs that presented different looks for opposing coordinators. It made for some tough choices, but here is our top five:
Honorable mention: Tennessee 1998 (Jamal Lewis, Travis Henry and Travis Stephens); Tennessee 2004 (Gerald Riggs, Cedric Houston); Auburn 1979 (Joe Cribbs and James Brooks); Georgia Tech 1952 (Bill Teas, Leon Hardeman and Glenn Turner).
5. ALABAMA 2015
Derrick Henry, Jr.: 2,219 yards, 28 TD
Kenyan Drake, Sr.: 408 yards, 1 TD
2015 totals: 2,627 yards, 29 TD (Heisman Trophy winner, two future NFL Draft picks).
It might be a tad early to include this group on this list, and whether it stays here depends on what Drake can achieve at the next level. Still, Henry smashed the SEC record for rushing yards in a season, and his workhorse efforts late in the season, while Drake was recovering from a broken forearm, against Auburn and Florida propelled the Tide to the national championship. In that title game, Henry ran for 158 yards and three scores while Drake returned a kickoff for a touchdown to push Alabama past Clemson, 45-40.
4. ALABAMA 2010
Mark Ingram, Jr.: 875 yards, 13 TD
Trent Richardson, Soph.: 700 yards, 6 TD
Eddie Lacy, RS Fr.: 406 yards, 6 TD
2010 totals: 1,981 yards, 25 TD (former Heisman Trophy winner, future Doak Walker Trophy winner and three eventual draft picks).
Ingram won the Heisman Trophy the year before, and Richardson and Lacy would have better seasons later, but this was the season that three future NFL starters shared the same backfield for the Crimson Tide. In 2011, Richardson rushed for nearly 1,700 yards en route to the Doak Walker Trophy and a BCS title. Lacy’s turn to shine came in 2012 where he ran for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns as Alabama won its second consecutive national title.
3. AUBURN 2004
Cadillac Williams, Sr.: 1,165 yards, 12 TD
Ronnie Brown, RS Sr.: 913 yards, 8 TD
2004 totals: 2,078 yards, 20 TD (Both were top-five picks in the 2005 NFL Draft).
Getting left out of the national championship picture was a bitter pill for the 2004 Tigers, but they were still fun to watch on offense. “Thunder and Lightning” took turns shredding defenses that season, and both were high draft picks that went on to have successful careers at the next level.
2. GEORGIA 1942
Frank Sinkwich, Sr.: 828 yards, 17 TD
Charley Trippi, Soph.: 787 yards, 6 TD
1942 totals: 1,615 yards rushing, 23 TD; 2,058 yards passing, 15 TD (2 eventual No. 1 picks)
Two future No. 1 picks, Sinkwich and Trippi led the Bulldogs to the national championship in 1942. Sinkwich won the Heisman in his senior season (the SEC’s first) with 17 rushing touchdowns while Trippi was also named as an All-American. The two players also combined for more than 2,000 passing yards that season. Trippi, who missed the 1943 and 1944 seasons while fighting in World War II, remains the only player enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame with at least 1,000 yards receiving, passing and rushing to his credit.
1. ARKANSAS 2007
Darren McFadden, Jr.: 1,830 yards, 16 TD
Felix Jones, Jr.: 1,162 yards, 11 TD
Peyton Hills, Sr.: 347 yards, 2 TD
2007 stats: 3,339 yards, 29 TD (3 eventual draft picks, multiple individual honors).
Statistically, it’s hard to argue that the 2007 Razorbacks had the best group of running backs in league history. McFadden and Jones went on to be first-round picks while their fullback Hillis, who led the team in receptions, was later featured on the cover of Madden ’12 as a Cleveland Brown.
McFadden finished second to Tim Tebow in Heisman voting that season, but beat Tebow for the SEC’s offensive player of the year award.