Big Ten's Best: RBs of 2000-2010

From Archie Griffin to Eddie George to Ron Dayne to many others, the Big Ten always seems to boast its share of nationally acclaimed running backs. While no Big Ten back took home the Heisman Trophy during the 2000s, there were worthy candidates. For example, Mike Hart, who finished fifth in 2006, after rushing for 1,562 yards and 14 touchdowns, or Larry Johnson, who in 2002 became the first back to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season (2,087) and not bring home the trophy. Throughout the decade, Big Ten backfields had great talents, and that’s clear when one takes a look at our top 10 list. Watch a clip from Tuesday’s show and see the complete list in this post.

Mike Hart, MICHIGAN
-For his career, rushed 1,015 times for 5,040 yards, both Michigan records, and 41 TD
-Set a Michigan record for most rushing yards in a season by a freshman with 1,455
-Rushed for 1,562 yards, the fifth-best season total in Michigan history, and 14 touchdowns in 2006
-Placed fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 2006
-Ran for at least 100 yards 28 times and 200 yards five times, both Michigan records

Larry Johnson, PENN STATE
-417 rushes, 2,782 yards, 25 TD
-First player to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season (2002) and not win the Heisman Trophy
-As a senior  won the Doak Walker Award (top running back), the Maxwell Award (top college player), and the Walter Camp Award (top college player)
-Broke the Penn State record for rushing yards in a game three times in 2002 (257 vs. Northwestern, 279 vs. Illinois, 327 vs. Indiana)
-Ran for 279 yards in the first half against Michigan State in 2002 before spending the rest of the game on the bench

Laurence Maroney, MINNESOTA
-Started only 14 of 36 games, but still became first Golden Gopher and third in Big Ten history to rush for 1,000 yards in first three seasons
-Gained a total of 3,933 yards and scored 32 TD
-Two time All-Big Ten First Team selection (2004–2005)

Chris “Beanie” Wells, OHIO STATE
-Ran for  3,382 yards and 30 TD in his career
-Totaled a career-best 1,609 yards and 15 TDs as a sophomore
-Racked up 222 rushing yards against Michigan as a sophomore, the most by any Ohio State RB against Michigan

Chris Perry, MICHIGAN
-Finished career at Michigan fifth on the school’s career rushing list with 3,696 yards and third in rushing touchdowns with 39
-As a senior, rushed for 1,674 yards and 18 TDs to win Doak Walker Award (top running back) and finish fourth in Heisman Trophy voting
-Set a Michigan game record with 51 carries in a 27–20 win over Michigan State on November 1, 2003

Rashard Mendenhall, ILLINOIS
-Finished career ranked seventh on the Illinois all-time rushing list (2,539 yards)
-Rushed for a then-school record 1,681 yards and 17 touchdowns en route to leading Illini to 2008 Rose Bowl
-Added 318 receiving yards on 34 receptions in Rose Bowl season
-Ran for 155 yards against the fourth-ranked defense in the country, USC, in the Rose Bowl
-Had six games with two or more touchdowns (MIZZ, @SYR, WIS, BSU, @MINN, NW) in 2007

Javon Ringer, MICHIGAN STATE
-Rushed for 4398 yards in his career, averaging  4.1 yards per carry, and scored 34 TD
-As a freshman, finished with 122 carries for 817 yards, the second-best single-season rushing total by a true freshman in school history
-Ran for 1,447 yards as a junior, becoming the first Spartan to eclipse the 1,000-yard barrier since 2001 (T.J. Duckett)
-As a senior, became the first player to win Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week three consecutive weeks

Shonn Greene, IOWA
-Ran for 1,850 yards and 20 touchdowns in his lone season
-Won the 2008 Doak Walker Award (top running back) and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year
-Only player in FBS to eclipse 100-yard mark in every game during 2008 season
-Won 2009 Outback Bowl Most Valuable Player

John Clay, WISCONSIN
-629 rushes, 3,412 yards, 41 TD
-Ran for 884 yards on 155 carries and nine touchdowns as a freshman
-Led the Big Ten and ranked eighth in the country with 1,517 rushing yards as a sophomore. His 18 rushing touchdowns also led the Big Ten and tied for seventh in the nation
-Won the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week
-Ran for a career-high 184 rushing yards and scored three TDs against rival Minnesota as a sophomore
-Battled injuries as a junior, but ran for 1,012 yards and 14 touchdowns

Evan Royster, PENN STATE
-686 rushes, 3,932 yards, 29 TD
-Completed career as Penn State’s all-time leading rusher, passing Curt Warner’s nearly 30 year- old record
-Ran for a career-high 174 yards, on just 18 carries, in the 2008 victory over Michigan
-Scored the game-winning touchdown in the third quarter of the 2007 Alamo Bowl against Texas A&M

5 Comments

Your Opinion?
Show Comments (5 Comments)
tj on 8/16/2012 @ 2:33pm EDT Said:

LJ wasn’t the first back to rush for 2000 and not get the heisman. Troy Davis Iowa State ran over 2K back to back years and didn’t win.

Andrew Calhoun on 9/14/2012 @ 1:10am EDT Said:

You left out one of the greatest single season players, Brian Calhoun, WI.after transfering from Colorado, he played the 2005 season, scored 5 TD twice. Calhoun enjoyed a fantastic 2005 with the Wisconsin Badgers by leading the nation with 348 rushing touches for 1,636 yards and 53 receiving touches for 571 yards. He finished with 22 rushing and 2 receiving touchdowns. His 22 rushing touchdowns were a school record. In addition, his 2,207 all purpose yards, ranks 2nd in school history. Became the 2nd player in Big Ten history with 1000 rushing and 500 receiving yards in one season. Became the 2nd player in NCAA history with 1500 yards rushing and 500 receiving yards in one a season [first done in 1991]. Was named to the Big Ten First Team, 2nd Team All-American by the Associated PressSports Illustrated. Named as a semifinalist for the Maxwell Trophy, Doak Walker Award and blossomed into a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate. Calhoun was named the MVP of the 2006 Capital One Bowl, after gaining 213 yards and scoring a touchdown in the Wisconsin Badgers victory over the Auburn Tigers.

Reggie woods on 5/30/2013 @ 9:20pm EDT Said:

I would like to see the Big 10 best Fullbacks of the 1990’s or of all time. The RB’s couldn’t do it without the fullbacks they basically get no respect…

Reggie woods on 5/30/2013 @ 9:24pm EDT Said:

Can you do a segment on the top fullbacks of all time

HudiBlitz on 7/22/2014 @ 5:42pm EDT Said:

@ tj – You are correct, sir. And the Big Ten’s own Damien Anderson also had a non-Heisman 2,000-yard season in 2000.

As always, the players *not* from Delany and the BTN’s four favored schools (Mich, Ohio St, Neb, and Penn St) are underrated. Hart’s selection as #1 is laughable, as evidenced by his utter lack of success at the next level. I’ll agree that he was an *important* player to Michigan and certainly a *popular* player with Michigan fans, but c’mon. Better than a Mendenhall or a Barber or a Greene? Absolutely not.

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