Darren McFadden was the Doak Walker award winner and a consensus all-American in 2006 and 2007. (Associated Press)
Alabama has had Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson, Mark Ingram, Kenneth Darby and T.J. Yeldon. Auburn has produced Rudi Johnson, Cadillac Williams, Ronnie Brown, Ben Tate and Tre Mason.
Which one was Running Back U. in the 2000s? Neither, according to ESPN.
Utilizing a point system that rewards schools for running backs in the decade that were award-winners, all-Americans, all-conference or NFL draft picks, ESPN crowned Arkansas as the nation’s Running Back U. for the 2000s.
ESPN’s David Ching explains:
Certainly Darren McFadden played the biggest role in the Razorbacks’ claim, but he got an assist from Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis. Those former backfield mates are among six Arkansas running backs who have been drafted since 2001, helping the Hogs barely edge Oklahoma for the top spot.
Along with first-rounders McFadden and Jones and seventh-round find Hillis,m Arkansas’ other draftees from the 2000s were Cedric Cobbs, Knile Davis and Kiero Small. Cobbs and Fred Talley joined McFadden, the Doak Walker award winner and a consensus All-American in 2006 and 2007, as all-SEC selections.
Led by Adrian Peterson and DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma claimed second place, while Alabama was third and Auburn tied for fourth with Wisconsin.
Of Alabama, Ching wrote:
Arkansas’ Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams had better pick it up this season, or the Alabama train is going to roll to the top spot. The Crimson Tide once again has one of the nation’s most talented backfields with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry set to join the likes of Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy as top point producers from Alabama.
Other Alabama backs drafted in the 2000s were LeRon McClain, Glen Coffee, Ahmaad Galloway and Brad Smelley, who as an H-back was considered a fullback by ESPN.
And of Auburn:
Auburn hasn’t been as flashy as its in-state rival — the Tigers don’t have a single award winner or consensus All-American in the 2000s — but few schools have been as consistent at developing solid tailbacks. Perhaps the most memorable names are the stars from the undefeated 2004 team — Ronnie Brown and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams — but Rudi Johnson, Kenny Irons, Ben Tate and Tre Mason all made big impacts at Auburn, as well.
Also drafted from Auburn during the 2000s were fullbacks Heath Evans and Jay Prosch.
Rounding out the top 10 were Oregon, USC, Penn State, Oklahoma State, Cal and Virginia Tech, with the Golden Bears and Hokies tied for 10th.
In an ESPN poll of college football prospects, however, most listed Alabama as having best developed the position in the past 10 years.