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Top 3 Running Back producing Big Ten teams since 2000

by alexander.barnhart
Mar 24, 2014 7:06 PM EDT



So the Big Ten is know for smash mouth football and there have been a number of great running backs come out of the Big Ten since 2000. The conference has a long history of great running backs and it hasn't changed in recent years. The list is solely based on their college credentials regardless of their NFL success. Only players who actually played in the Big Ten are considered so Nebraska players would have played in the Big 12 and therefore will not be counted. Running quarterbacks also will not count so Terrelle Pryor, Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller will not be taken into the equation. So let's look at the top Big Ten running back producing teams since 2000. Any player that played in 2000 or beyond is eligible for this list.


#3 Michigan Michigan had 2 players that contributed over several seasons and had numerous Big Ten and National accolades. While 3 players isn't as much as some other teams may have been able to produce, the quality of the players pushed them into my top three.

Anthony Thomas So Michigan had a small run of fantastic running backs dating back to the mid 90's. Anthony Thomas aka the "A-Train" finished his career with the Wolverines in 2000 and barely makes this list. He was a wrecking back back and was extremely consistent for Michigan. He had multiple 1000 yard seasons and in 2000 he rushed for over 1700 yards and had 18 TDs.
Chris Perry
Perry came along shortly after Thomas and just kept eating up yards. In a two year span Perry would rush for over 2700 yards and 32 TDs. As a senior in 2003 Perry would be named an All American as well as win the Doak Walker Award as the nations best running back. He would finish 4th in the Heisman race and was named Big Ten player of the year.
Mike HartSo you graduate a Heisman finalist in Perry you have to assume a drop off in production right? Well nobody told freshman Mike Hart. As a freshman he ran for over 1400 yards and 9 TDs. He was freshman of the year in the Big Ten as well as All Big Ten 1st team running back. He would go on to rewrite the record books in Ann Arbor. He would be a Doak Walker Award finalist twice and finished 5th in the Heisman voting as a junior. He became the leading rusher in Michigan history with over 5000 yards and 41 TDs.
#2 Michigan StateFour quality players make up the Michigan State case. This is a combination of quality and production over star power.
T.J. Duckett
Duckett was a highly rated linebacker coming out of high school but wanted to have the ball in his hands. Coach Nick Saban offered him that chance. Duckett was a load of a running back and punished the defense late in games when they were worn out. As a junior he rushed for over 1350 yards and 7 TDs while earning 2nd team All Big Ten. His best performance was against Iowa as he run wild for over 240 yards. As a senior he performed even better, rushing for over 1400 yards and scoring 12 TDs on the ground.
Javon RingerRinger was a different type of back than Duckett. Ringer was much smaller and faster. As a freshman he earned freshman All American honorable mention while rushing for over 800 yards. Injuries would rob him of much of his sophomore campaign but he exploded as a junior like many others on these lists. As a junior he rushed for over 1400 yards and 6 TDs. As a senior he continued to improve as he rushed for over 1600 yards and 22 TDs. In his four years he rushed for over 4300 yards and 34 TDs. As a senior he was an AP 1st team All American.
Edwin Baker Baker was not the star that Ringer and Duckett were but he contributed over 3 seasons as a part and full time starter. He overlapped with the next person on this list which hurt his ability to contribute. In his second season he rushed for over 1200 yards and 13 TDs. While making considerable contributions during 2 other seasons he finished his career with over 2200 yards and 19 TDs and averaged 5.0 yards per carry.
Le'Veon BellBell is most remembered for being a 240lb. back who would hurdle oncoming defenders. He shared time with Baker over his first few seasons. During those two seasons he amassed over 1500 yards as part of a committee. In his lone season as the feature back he exploded for almost 1800 yards and 12 TDs. For his career he finished with over 3300 yards and 33 TDs.

#1 Wisconsin
As I gathered information for this article I did not realize just how many running backs have come out of Wisconsin. Granted part of it is the way they play ball control but the quality and production is undeniable. This list does not include James White as he was never the primary ball carrier. The most amazing thing about this is that Ron Dayne was not eligible for this list by only a year and yet they still finished #1.
Michael Bennett
Bennett had to back up Ron Dayne, the NCAA's All Time Leading Rusher for two years. As a junior he showed just what he could do as he rushed for almost 1600 yards and 10 TDs before heading off to the NFL.
Anthony Davis
So as Bennett leaves Davis steps in and rushes for over 3000 yards and 24 TDs.......in his first two years. Injuries cost him parts of his junior and senior season but he would finish his career second only to Ron Dayne in rushing yards. (He was later passed by Montee Ball) Davis would finish his career with over 4600 yards and 42 TDs. He would average 116 yards per game over his career including his two partial seasons.
Brian Calhoun
So Davis started for 4 years and now it's Brian Calhoun's time. A transfer from Colorado, Calhoun would have one great year with the Badgers. He would rush for over 1600 yards and 22 TDs while averaging over 125 yards per game.
P.J. Hill
Hill would mark Wisconsin's return to the big bruising back it was accustomed to having. Hill would put people in mind of Dayne with his powerful runs as well as the fact he started as a freshman. Hill would rush for over 1000 yards each of his three years in Madison. He would finish his career averaging 105 yards per game. He rushed for over 3900 yards and 42 TDs in his three years. He would eclipse the 100 yard mark 19 times during his career.
John Clay
Clay would get caught in the running back by committee most of his time in Madison. As a freshman he rushed for over 800 yards while splitting time with Hill. At 255lbs. Clay was a load. As a sophomore he was the primary focus of the offense and responded with numbers that matched his size...huge. He rushed for over 1500 yards and 18 TD's and was named Big Ten Player of the Year. As a junior he again would split time with a back, this time Montee Ball. He would end up just shy of 1000 yards as he was injuried in the second half of the season. He would finish his career just shy of 3400 yards and 41 TDs.
Montee BallAs mention above Ball split time with Clay in 2010. He backed up Clay in 2009 while rushing for over 300 yards. In 2010 Ball rushed for over 900 yards and 18 TDs while averaging over 6 yards per carry. As a junior Ball took over the bulk of the carries and responded by having a video game like season. He rushed for over 1900 yards and 33 rushing TDs. He would be name an All American and would tie Barry Sanders record for total touchdowns with 39. Instead of heading off to the NFL Ball came back for his senior season. He had a slow start to the season which may many suspect he made a mistake by not leaving. However Ball responded by rushing for over 1800 yards and 22 TDs to finish the season. He would win the Doak Walker Award and set the career total touchdown record with 83 TDs. Ball would finish his career with over 5100 yards and averaged over 130 yards per game his final two seasons.
Melvin Gordon IIIGordon would back up Ball during Ball's senior season. Gordon averaged a ridiculous 10 yards per carry while rushing for over 600 yards that year to go along with 3 TDs. After Ball left Gordon took over as the feature back and made his own mark by rushing for over 1600 yards and 12 TDs while still averaging a crazy 7.8 yards per carry. Going into this season Gordon has over 2300 yards and 16 TDs.

Honorable mentions:
Ohio State
Maurice Clarrett
Beanie Wells
Carlos Hyde

Penn State
Larry Johnson
Tony Hunt
Evan Royster