Celebrating 5 years: Top 5 running backs of BTN era

It’s been a fast handful of years, and on Aug. 30, BTN will officially celebrate its fifth anniversary. Crazy to think, huh? To celebrate – not to mention kill time before the season kicks off – I’m spotlighting some of the great football careers during our existence. I’ll do it in the mold of “Big Ten’s Best,” our popular countdown show that returns this fall for another season of ranking the best in Big Ten history. My second list ranks the top five running backs of the last five seasons, aka the BTN era.

Editor’s note: This list only includes players who competed during the 2007-2011 seasons, and it ranks the best careers. As for players who only played one or two seasons during the five-year period (i.e. Mike Hart), their career totals are considered but don’t always carry as much weight as guys who amassed all of their numbers during the era. NFL success and pro potential have no impact.

[BTN.com: Big Ten’s top 5 WRs of BTN era]

1. Montee Ball, Wisconsin – Put it this way: Remember all those touchdowns former Wisconsin running back John Clay scored during his career? You should, because there were 41 of them. Well, Ball scored 39 times last season, tying Barry Sanders’ single-season record, on his way to becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist. The senior star has scored multiple touchdowns in 17 of the last 19 games, a ridiculous span that includes SIX four-touchdown performances. Ball’s also coming off a season in which he averaged 137.4 rushing yards per game.
BTN era stats: 3,310 yards, 5.8 y/c, 55 TDs; 49 rec., 526 yards, 6 TDs; 2-2, 57 yards, 2 TDs

2. Mike Hart, Michigan – Though much of Hart’s damage was done before the 2007 season, his final in Ann Arbor, the Wolverine back compiled one of the better careers in recent Big Ten history. Hart eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in three of his four seasons, the lone exception being an injury-plagued eight-game sophomore season, and finished his career with a school-record 5,040 rushing yards and 43 touchdowns – an average of one score per game.
BTN era stats: 1,419 yards, 5.1 y/c, 14 TDs; 8 rec., 50 yards (2004-07 career stats: 5,040 yards, 5 y/c, 41 TDs; 67 rec., 566 yards, 2 TDs)

3. John Clay, Wisconsin – If it wasn’t one thing (weight issues), it was another thing (fumble-itis) that plagued Clay during his Wisconsin career. But the bruising back produced through it all, and that’s something no one can argue. Clay averaged 1,137 rushing yards and 13.7 touchdowns in three strong seasons, his finest coming in 2009 (1,517 yards, 18 TDs). While Clay fell out of favor late in his final season (2010), partly due to James White and Montee Ball’s emergence, he and his huge frame were as money as it gets near the goal line.
BTN era stats: 3,413 yards, 5.4 y/c, 41 TDs; 11 rec., 72 yards

4. Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois – Mendenhall’s 2007 season in Champaign was one for the record books. The dual-threat running back totaled 1,999 yards and 19 touchdowns en route to leading Illinois to its first Rose Bowl since the 1983 season. The breakout campaign included a then-school-record 1,681 rushing yards – a record that would be topped by Mikel Leshoure three seasons later – and an incredible 6.4 yards per carry.
BTN era stats: 1,681 yards, 6.4 y/c, 17 TDs; 34 rec., 318 yards, 2 TDs (2005-07 career stats: 2,539 yards, 6.5 y/c, 22 TDs; 59 rec., 564 yards, 5 TDs)

5. Beanie Wells, Ohio State – Blessed with size and speed, Wells inflicted his share of pain and embarrassment on Big Ten foes during his three-year stay in Columbus. Amazingly, seeing as how Wells was behind Antonio Pittman as a freshman and suffered a lingering foot injury that forced him to miss three games as a junior, he only had one-plus season as the everydown back. Wells’ 2007 season, one that included 1,609 yards and 15 scores, was one of the biggest reasons Ohio State made the national championship game.
BTN era stats: 2,806 yards, 5.8 y/c, 23 TDs; 13 rec., 68 yards; (2006-08 career stats: 3,382 yards, 5.8 y/c, 30 TDs; 15 rec., 84 yards)

Next five (in alphabetical order of school): Mikel Leshoure, Illinois; Shonn Greene, Iowa; Javon Ringer, Michigan State; Roy Helu, Nebraska; Evan Royster, Penn State.

Who did I miss? Who would you have No. 1? Tweet me your thoughts (@BTNBrentYarina) or leave it as a comment below.

Brent Yarina is a web editor and blogger for BTN.com. Find all of his work here and follow him on twitter at @BTNBrentYarina.


Your Opinion?
Show Comments (96 Comments)
iavogter27 on 8/15/2012 @ 12:34pm EDT Said:

Shonn Greene should be on the list. IDK how you leave of the Doak Walker Award winner??? The usual excuse is because he only put those numbers up one year. So what? He was so dominate that one year makes up for 3.

BigTen1860 on 8/15/2012 @ 12:45pm EDT Said:

Shonn Greene… How could you forget someone who was so dominate? Doak Walker Award Winner as well, Should easily be in your top 5 if not top 2

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/15/2012 @ 12:48pm EDT Said:

    Greene had an unreal season. Thing is, there were a lot of great backs in the Big Ten over the last five seasons, and many of them did it for more than one season. Greene’s one year was as good as any, but there were simply too many candidates. If it’s any consolation, I have Greene listed in the “Next five” part of the story.

Larry on 8/15/2012 @ 12:47pm EDT Said:

I dont think its correct to use an active player. Of the next 5 who would you add to the list if you had to drop Ball?

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/15/2012 @ 12:49pm EDT Said:

    Not sure why it isn’t fair to use an active player, but if I had to replace one of the top 5, it would be between Greene and Ringer.

Jim Luzadder on 8/15/2012 @ 12:50pm EDT Said:

The Purdue football coaches and players would choose Shonn Greene as the best running back they’ve faced the past ten years. The others were good, but… Greene did it without the enormous O-lines of OSU and Wisky. The Iowa line was pretty good, no doubt about that, but Greene was the only player that Boilermakers didn’t want to tackle because he hit so hard and fast.

Jeff on 8/15/2012 @ 2:42pm EDT Said:

Sorry but Greene’s numbers weren’t just “as good as any”, none of the backs listed accomplished what he did. How many of these ran for over 100 yds in every game? In two of those games that was accomplished by the second quarter. His performance against a tough Wisconsin team was unbelievable. No way does Mendenhall or Wells come close.

iavogter27 on 8/15/2012 @ 3:36pm EDT Said:


Greene should be on this list flat out. Look at NFL careers – who is the one back that you can actually count on? Greene.

Rex Ryan on 8/15/2012 @ 3:51pm EDT Said:

Who put this list together? The Wisconsin coaching staff? (BTW, even the Wisconsin coaching staff would not omit Shonn Greene, because most of the Wisconsin coaching staff was poached from Iowa’s coaching staff).

OU812 on 8/15/2012 @ 3:57pm EDT Said:

Shonn Greene being left off the Top 5 is a terrible omission. He was a Top 3 back in the BTN era… this isn’t even an argument. Doak Walker winner. Enough said.

Stephen on 8/15/2012 @ 4:03pm EDT Said:

Interesting that Mendenhall makes it in on one great year and a mediocre years before the BTN. While his one great year wasn’t nearly as good as Greene’s. Also, Mendenhall didn’t lead that team to the Rose, Juice in the 4th quarter at the ‘Shoe and the Rose Bowl’s addiction to barely BCS eligible Big Ten fodder led them to the Rose.

Dave on 8/15/2012 @ 4:18pm EDT Said:

As much as I love the BTN, leaving Shonn Greene off the top 5 is an absolute crime. I’ve been a Michigan fan my whole life, and can confidently say that whoever compiled this list did not thoroughly watch enough B1G games. He’s not up there with Hart or Ball but putting Wells and Mendenhall on the list instead of Greene? Doesn’t matter if it only happened in one year. That single year puts him well above your 4 and 5 guys. That’s laughable.

JT on 8/15/2012 @ 4:40pm EDT Said:

I agree, Shonn Greene needs to be on this list. Terrible oversight.

VintageHawkeye on 8/15/2012 @ 4:44pm EDT Said:

Insert “not sure if serious” meme here. By omitting Shonn Greene, you’ve abdicated any credibility you may have had as a sports writer covering the B1G.

dkenkel on 8/15/2012 @ 5:02pm EDT Said:

Shonn Greene and it isn’t even close. Only one year right? Well every defense knew that year if we stop number 23 were going to win and none of them held him under 100 yards. Why in the heck is Helu included in this list? That right there takes away any credit this list might have had. He didn’t take 1 snap against a Big 10 defense, and that does matter or at least it should.

Jeff Hassel on 8/15/2012 @ 5:08pm EDT Said:

How in the heck do you include Mike Hart and Mendenhall and no Greene? Both only had one season during BTN era. This poll is terrible.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/15/2012 @ 5:15pm EDT Said:

    Jeff – Yes, they all played one year during the span of 2007-11, but Hart and Mendenhall also had previous stats that were taken into consideration. On top of that, Hart is Michigan’s all-time leading rusher and Mendenhall led the Illini to the Rose Bowl.

      BigTen1860 on 8/15/2012 @ 5:20pm EDT Said:

      Last time I checked Shonn Greene is Iowa’s Single Season All time leading rusher and set the school record with 20 rushing TD’s in a season. Not to mention rushed for over 100 yards in all 13 games, the only Division I player to do so. I can see a valid point for not putting him at the top, but to leave him out of the top 5 is wrong

Mark on 8/15/2012 @ 5:16pm EDT Said:

Shonn Greene won the Doak Walker and the Silver Football. Only Montee Ball and Rashard Mendenhall have an argument for being a better running back in the Big Ten. To say Greene had a good year as any is simply a false statement.

magbill on 8/15/2012 @ 5:26pm EDT Said:

Obviously this is a comedy blog. Gosh, who did you miss who was Consensus All-American and the BIG’s only Doak Walker award winner over this span… and absolutely freaking physically destroyed defenders?

Can’t remember… can’t remember… oh well let’s list a guy who couldn’t even hold his starting job.

Matt Fielder on 8/15/2012 @ 5:30pm EDT Said:

Shonn Greene was a man amongst boys compared to those other backs and it isnt even close. Who made this list…Ray Charles?

rodg12 on 8/15/2012 @ 5:31pm EDT Said:

Omitting Greene makes this list completely worthless.

John on 8/15/2012 @ 5:34pm EDT Said:

Shonn Greene was the best back in the country in 2008. Can’t take away from what your current top 5 have accomplished, but leaving off Greene takes away its credibility.

Jayhawki on 8/15/2012 @ 5:47pm EDT Said:

I bet Frank Duong would have listed Greene in the top 5. AMIRITE?!?

Pete on 8/15/2012 @ 5:49pm EDT Said:

Greene did most of his damage in game ON BTN – within the BTN era Mike Hart played one season and his numbers were subpar of Greene’s numbers. Also, the fact that any Nebraska player is included in these lists or the Top 10 list tv shows is ridiculous. Nebraska JUST joined the league and therefore the players should only be counted from that point moving forward. Suh is not one of the best defensive players of the 2000s for the B1G…..just dumb

Adam on 8/15/2012 @ 5:54pm EDT Said:

Not having Greene makes the list lose all credibility. Doak Walker winner. 100 yards in EVERY game. 2nd best season by a RB in the BTN era.

Tommy on 8/15/2012 @ 5:57pm EDT Said:

I get it. Shonn Green should have stayed around for his senior season and fell out of favor to Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher. Then, he’d be on the top five. Because someone who falls out of favor is clearly superior.

Zak on 8/15/2012 @ 6:01pm EDT Said:

No Greene?…..Epic fail……

Jmack028 on 8/15/2012 @ 6:04pm EDT Said:

Maybe the stipulation to make the list was to have at least one RB finish with Iowa since….. Does Iowa have anyone in the backfield at all this year??? Maybe pantherhawk’s 400lb momma will let him out of the basement and try out; he can run with football in one hand, lightsaber in other.

Leif Gordon on 8/15/2012 @ 6:05pm EDT Said:

John Clay on here and no Shonn Greene? C’mon Man!

magbill on 8/15/2012 @ 6:10pm EDT Said:

In fairness to Brent, I’ve re-read the article again along with his tortured selection logic and unpersuasive defenses of the Greene omission. In the spirit of generosity, I’d like to respectfully suggest Brent’s problem can be addressed merely by changing the article’s headline to: “B1G’s Top 5 RBs Who Played More Than 1 Season, Of Which at Least One Was Within The BTN Era”

Or just bump Clay for Greene. Your call, no demands here, I’m a get-along guy.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/15/2012 @ 6:26pm EDT Said:

    It’s quite simple, really: “This list only includes players who competed during the 2007-2011 seasons, and it ranks the best careers.” No one is saying Greene didn’t have an unreal season, but in a conference that was loaded with running backs who had multiple really good seasons during this five-year period, someone is going to be left out. Michigan State fans probably think Ringer got the shaft, and Penn State fans probably feel the same about Royster.

fennside-hawks on 8/15/2012 @ 6:15pm EDT Said:

Hurry and make a WR list so you can hate on McNutt too!!!!!
I’m sure his stats aren’t good enough tooo.

Johnnyhawkeye on 8/15/2012 @ 6:26pm EDT Said:

Remove Hula from this list and but a rb who actually played against B1G competition in this five year span. Hula played in a conference geared toward the passing game, not run stuffing B1G defenses. What a joke, not one of these backs on this list can hold a candle to the season Greene had in 2008. I’m also going to add that the Doak Walker award is awarded to the best running back in the country.

Stephen on 8/15/2012 @ 6:40pm EDT Said:

For once, I have absolutely nothing to disagree with here.
I like your list.
Good job.

Pete on 8/15/2012 @ 6:43pm EDT Said:

How many of the other backs won the Doak?

aroznowski on 8/15/2012 @ 6:51pm EDT Said:

The answer to that poll question is Beanie Wells without a doubt.

Jarrod on 8/15/2012 @ 7:03pm EDT Said:

Leaving out Greene is like leaving out Cam Newton out of best SEC qbs the last 5 years. Just because Greene only had one year (like Newton ‘only had one good year’), it still was one of the best years a B1G running back has ever had! Clearly, Greene is one of the top 5 if not top 2.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/15/2012 @ 7:06pm EDT Said:

    Jarrod – That’s a crazy comparison! Newton won the Heisman and led his team to the national title.

Matt on 8/15/2012 @ 7:16pm EDT Said:

Brent, there’s been 1 person in the comments section who has agreed with you. You made a mistake by omitting Greene, just admit it.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/15/2012 @ 7:25pm EDT Said:

    Matt – I don’t think I made a mistake, because I’m ranking the best careers. I’ve admitted Greene’s season was second only to Ball’s 2011 campaign, and there’s no arguing it. Thing is, as I’ve said a number of times, the running back position was so loaded with guys who compiled multiple very good seasons. As for the comments, I have a very good feeling almost all of them are from Iowa fans. Look at Twitter, they are the ones who linked to it and are filling my timeline.

magbill on 8/15/2012 @ 7:23pm EDT Said:

Why is Jarrod’s comparison ‘crazy’, Brent? Greene won the Doak Walker, Cam won the Heisman. Both played just one year. Both were spectacular – not just “really good”. I haven’t heard anyone argue Shonn should be #1 on your list, but to omit from the Top 5??? Behind two other guys that also played just one year in the BTN era??? And a guy who lost his job??? Insane.

A wise man once said, if you’ve dug yourself a hole, stop digging.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/15/2012 @ 7:33pm EDT Said:

    I’m not going to hold it against guy if he “lost” his job after averaging 1,137 rushing yards and 13.7 touchdowns in three seasons. And he didn’t lose the job as much as he got injured. Remember, he sprained his knee late in the 2010 season, giving Ball and White an opportunity. There are worse guys to lose touches to than Ball. Am I right?

pez on 8/15/2012 @ 8:04pm EDT Said:

Ranking careers in a 5 year window is a silly premise to begin with when you factor in it takes 4-5 years for most players to get through school. Why not rename this the “5 best RB’s that graduated in 2011 or 2012, rounded out by others who I use sketchy criteria to justify leaving out the conferences only Doak Award winning running back in the same 5 year window list.”

TW on 8/15/2012 @ 8:35pm EDT Said:

You say you are ranking the best careers. Greene’s career included a very distinguished accomplishment of being named the Doak Walker Award winner as the BEST RUNNING BACK IN THE NATION in 2008!!! That is a CAREER accomplishment that none of the other running backs on your list have to their credit. You got it wrong, and are too proud to admit it.

Luxation on 8/15/2012 @ 8:46pm EDT Said:

Let’s not forget that Greene sat a lot of 4th quarters when Iowa had the game in hand. Had he played for Wisconsin think how gaudy his statistics would have been while they were running it up in late 2010 which oh by the way is when Ball started to crack the line up. I agree with 99% of the other posters. You completely missed the mark. If Iowa wins 10 regular season games in ’08 Greene wins the Heisman.

Frank on 8/15/2012 @ 9:30pm EDT Said:

MSU’s Ringer said Greene was the best running back in the nation that year. Just admit you made a mistake, we all do it. Greene may have even won the Heisman if he didn’t come out of no where.

David Williams (@ATXRealMaKoi) on 8/15/2012 @ 9:50pm EDT Said:

“Michigan State fans probably think Ringer got the shaft”
Huh. That’s strange. You even asked the fans to tell you who you missed and I STILL don’t see any comments about any other RB getting the shaft. Also, based on the comments, not all of the people saying Greene should be on the list are Iowa fans, although Rex Ryan is probably just a Greene fan in general.

Why not ask one of your coworkers about your list? Guessing they’ll tell you that you got this one wrong.

On a completely unrelated topic, why aren’t you listed on the btn “Talent” page?

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/15/2012 @ 10:20pm EDT Said:

    David – I don’t think I have heard a peep from anyone but Iowa fans. If so, you’re right, maybe they don’t feel Ringer or Royster deserved to make the list. That’s possible. As far as coworkers, I have asked them. But with these kind of things, everyone sees things differently – the exact reason lists are fun and popular. If everyone saw everything the same way and felt the same way, there would be no reason for lists. They aren’t science, and I never front like my rankings are. To answer your last question, no, I’m not considered BTN “Talent.” And I have no problem with you deciding whether that’s by the very definition of the word or the fact I’m not on TV.

BOB on 8/15/2012 @ 11:23pm EDT Said:

Put Shonn Greene on your poll question and let the people decide.

Ls on 8/15/2012 @ 11:28pm EDT Said:

Nothing new to see here BTN gives Iowa the least credit and exposure of all the colleges, I expected nothing less when I came here

Sparky on 8/16/2012 @ 12:08am EDT Said:

I’m not an Iowa fan and I think you’ve made a HUGE mistake by leaving Green off of the list. During that time frame no other running back made the impact for his team that Green did. Only one other guy on the list came anywhere near his stats for one year.

If you want to get technical and talk about “careers”. Green’s career only lasted for one year. Using this logic he had BY FAR the best career out of anyone on your list.

Wayms on 8/16/2012 @ 12:13am EDT Said:

Brent, I respect your decision to leave Shonn Greene out of the list as I am biased being an Iowa fan. However, would you change your mind if he had the same stat line and we won every game that year going into the bowl season? We lost our games by a combined 12 points that year with the biggest loss being 5 points to Northwestern so it’s a feasible assumption. The Cam Newton comparison and ensuing talks got me thinking about that and I just wanted to know your thoughts.

EAdams on 8/16/2012 @ 6:50am EDT Said:

I guess I don’t understand. If Greene would’ve come back for his SR year, what kind of stats would he have needed for you to put him on the list? Like others have pointed out, you would’ve had no problem putting Cam Newton on the list, but seem adamant that Greene (who didn’t quite have a Heisman year, but was the best RB in the country that year, not close) doesn’t deserve on the list.

floydfan on 8/16/2012 @ 8:42am EDT Said:

This must be some sort of shortcut to thinking.

jeremy on 8/16/2012 @ 9:15am EDT Said:


Mochila on 8/16/2012 @ 10:12am EDT Said:

Shonn Greene was no doubt spectacular in his last season, and he probably should have made this list.

But, as a Michigan State fan, I’m very surprised to see Wells and Mendenhall ahead of Ringer. More career yards than all but Hart in this list. He ran for an almost unheard of 390 carries his senior season too. Only Kevin Smith had more carries in a single season in the last nine years. That takes an incredible amount of resiliency.

Career: 4398 rushing yards, 5.4 ypc, 34 rushing TDs

Definitely more impressive than Wells. (His best season also happened to be better than Wells’ best, and there’s no doubt Wells had a better offensive line up front.)

Patrick on 8/16/2012 @ 10:18am EDT Said:

Putting Greene on the poll would make it very interesting. Best RB doesnt indicate a length of time.If you were to draft a fantasy team from the last 5 years, wouldn’t Greene be one of the 1st 3 RBs taken.

It has been known for a while the Iowa staff struggles to play guys while their starters are heathy, and I’d 1 gets hurt the 1st place the look is at the upper class(sr, jr). Greene was hurt by lack of opportunity the staff gave him. You could see the potential he had early, in his limited carries but b/c Young and Simms we’re better pass catching so Greene was stuck at 3 dispite him having such an upside. And because of this they tried to get him to switch to defense.

Chuck on 8/16/2012 @ 10:23am EDT Said:

Poll results based on comments:

Montee Ball, Wisconsin 2%

Mike Hart, Michigan 0%

John Clay, Wisconsin 0%

Rashard Mendenhall, Illinois 0%

Beanie Wells, Ohio State 0%

Shonn Greene, Iowa 98%

justinvanlaere on 8/16/2012 @ 11:49am EDT Said:

Brent – if you ask yourself, which backs (at the end of their college careers) would you want on your NFL team, you are likely going to find the “Top RB”.

Be honest, you’d put Greene in there.
In fact, you had Greene in there before you let stats try to dictate your opinion.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/16/2012 @ 11:54am EDT Said:

    Justin – I’m well aware of the tweet. But as the tweet said that was before I did an ounce of research. I feel I have a pretty good memory, but going back through all of the stats and considering what some players helped their teams accomplish (Wells/national title game, etc.), I adjusted accordingly. If I’m ranking best seasons, yes, that is No. 2 of all players, regardless of position. Finally, in the description of how I came up with the lists I say that NFL success or pro prospects have no impact.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/16/2012 @ 11:58am EDT Said:

    I’m well aware of that tweet. And as I said in it, it was before I did an ounce of research. I feel I have a pretty good memory, but once I looked over all the stats and considered what some players helped their teams accomplish (Wells/national title game, etc.), I adjusted. Greene had the No. 2 season of any player, regardless of position, during the BTN era. Finally, the last sentence of how I came up with these lists reads that NFL success of pro prospects have no impact, so it doesn’t matter which backs I want on my NFL team.

Jim on 8/16/2012 @ 12:00pm EDT Said:

Typical BTN being a joke as normal…having Greene not on that list is just as dumb as can be and your comments as to why you left him off makes you look even dumber…

J.P. Scott on 8/16/2012 @ 12:26pm EDT Said:

I’m still waiting for an answer as to how Roy Helu (and I am a Nebraska fan) gets an honorable mention without ever having played a single snap in a Big Ten football game.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/16/2012 @ 12:29pm EDT Said:

    J.P. – We, as a network, treat all former Nebraska players as Big Ten players. It might not seem right, but it’s the way it is. Sorry.

B T on 8/16/2012 @ 12:33pm EDT Said:

Basically the author used a fundamentally flawed premise to write the article. He has stated repeatedly that the article is almost 100% career statistics-based. It is not really a list of the 5 best RBs, it is a list of the 5 best RB CAREER statistics. So, there isn’t a lot (really any) analysis to be seen here. Not the best effort, but we all have days that are worse than others.

Jim on 8/16/2012 @ 12:36pm EDT Said:

Wow really…exactly how many games did Helu play in the Big Ten? You are really showing how clueless you are you know that.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/16/2012 @ 12:41pm EDT Said:

    Jim – Do you really think I don’t know that Helu never played a single down in the Big Ten?

J.P. Scott on 8/16/2012 @ 12:37pm EDT Said:

I understand it’s not your call, but having set that precedent, I feel bad for the dude who does a similar list in regard to defensive tackles and puts anyone ahead of Ndamukong Suh, who also never played in the Big Ten.
Not that any of these comments really mean anything. I’m sure as a journalist, you have seen your share of keyboard scorn.
I too thought the omission of Greene was a mistake, but I won’t sit here and call you an idiot for it. It is just your opinion and at the end of the day carries no more weight than that of any of these people bad mouthing you.
Decent list, I just would have had Green over Hart.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/16/2012 @ 12:39pm EDT Said:

    Exactly! “I too thought the omission of Greene was a mistake, but I won’t sit here and call you an idiot for it. It is just your opinion and at the end of the day carries no more weight than that of any of these people bad mouthing you.”

Sam on 8/16/2012 @ 1:00pm EDT Said:

No Shonn Greene(spelled with an ‘e’, dummy) on your list tells me that Yarina is an idiot and the BTN is really all about Michigan & Ohio State. Beanie Wells couldn’t carry Shonn Greene’s jock

HolyBGezus on 8/16/2012 @ 1:18pm EDT Said:

Ha ha ha. What a joke! No Shonn Greene? He was the single most dominate RB in the BTN Era. And he’s not even ON the list. The guy wins the award for the best RB in the entire nation and can’t even crack Brent’s Top 5 list over the last 5 years. Irrefutably incompetent. Yeah, every team probably thinks their top RB got the shaft, except, none of those fans can claim the DOAK WALKER AWARD WINNER WAS LEFT OFF!!!!

justinvanlaere on 8/16/2012 @ 1:23pm EDT Said:

Brent, you probably should have gone off memory, you were closer with those! 🙂

Always enjoy your work and debating via Twitter with you, this subject is no different.

Some of the comments on here are out of hand, it’s one guy’s opinion. “Right” or “wrong”, there is no need for calling someone names or personally attacking someone. We all make mistakes or offer up info that not everyone agrees with.

But, seriously, Greene did more in that one year career than some of the others on that Top 5 list. No homer.

Dana Scott on 8/16/2012 @ 1:25pm EDT Said:

If you are looking at best career’s as you point out, how do you leave off Javon Ringer then? His career stats are clearly better than 3 through 5 on your list. And if you apply your what did their team accomplish logic – what exactly did Mendenhall and Clay accomplish? This is especially true of Mendenhall – when you note that years before don’t count as much. There’s nothing consistent about your list, the Greene snub is obvious and Ringer being left off is proof.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/16/2012 @ 1:31pm EDT Said:

    Mendenhall helped lead Illinois to the Rose Bowl, the program’s first since the mid 80s. He also was a beast on the ground, averaging 6.4! yards per carry, in addition to being one of the better receiving threats of all the candidates. That’s a heck of a season. Also, he ran 653 yards (8.2!!!!!! yards per carry) and had six touchdowns as a sophomore, bolstering his overall stats.

    Ringer was great. He did so much for the Spartans and sacrificed his body in the process. But a lot of his production was the result of carrying the ball SO much.

John on 8/16/2012 @ 2:37pm EDT Said:

Things that make this list a joke.
1.) Monte Ball hasn’t even finished his career. (He will be number one when he finishes it.)
2.) To leave off Javon Ringer and Shonn Greene. Makes me believe there really wasn’t to much thought put into this.
3.) Name one BIG10 team Roy Helu played against?….. Yea I can’t either.Please stop including Nebraska. We’re all happy their in the BIG10, but man give it a rest already.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/16/2012 @ 2:44pm EDT Said:

    John – 1.) Why should Montee Ball’s career have to be over for him to qualify for this list? He’s No. 1, even if he doesn’t carry the ball once this year. His 2010 (final handful of games) and 2011 seasons were good enough to trump everyone else during the era. 2.) It’s my list with my thoughts – in no way, am I saying this is the official list or it should be treated as such. 3.) I’ll do what my company tells me, and if they want us to include Nebraska’s history, so be it.

jonathan wolfe on 8/16/2012 @ 2:42pm EDT Said:

Did you consider the carries Greene got in 2005 and 2006? His total of 2228 career yards and a Doak Walker award do seem to make a pretty fair argument. 34 games, 376 carries, 2228 yards, 5.9 yards/carry and 22 touchdowns. Those seems to be good enough. Throw in 13 straight 100 yards games in 2008 and i think that is quite a nice career. Ringer and Greene should both be included on this list. Ringer did a great deal for his school during his career too. I don’t really get the Mike Hart thing when you say “their career totals are considered but don’t always carry as much weight as guys who amassed all of their numbers during the era.” As for the Mendenhall was a beast idea, Greene averaged 6.0 yard per carry and 1850 yards and 20 TDs in 2008. I am unsure that only 1 year should count against one person and not be a factor for another. Just two cents and great debate.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/16/2012 @ 3:02pm EDT Said:

    “Their career totals are considered but don’t always carry as much weight as guys who amassed all of their numbers during the era.” Perhaps it’s confusing, but it provides flexibility. In cases like Hart and Hardy, their careers leading up to their final seasons (2007) were excellent. Hart is Michigan’s all-time leading rusher. Michigan’s. That’s a program rich in running back history. He also scored 43 career touchdowns – not bad. Hardy, a receiver, never scored fewer than 10 touchdowns, and finished with 36!! in three seasons.

    Since they played in the era, even though it was only for one year, they’re a part of said era. Just as people say this list is a joke because it doesn’t include Greene, it would be a joke without Hart. Again, he played in the era. If I left him off, Michigan fans would be hounding me. So, to answer your question about the confusing criteria, I needed to put something like that in place to make room for the Harts and Hardys of the world.

    As for the “don’t always carry as much weight” part, that’s in place for qualified players whose last season was 2007 but who didn’t have the same kind of pre-2007 stats as the Harts and Hardys. In other words, they were contributors, but not some huge stud. Someone like Kellen Davis.

    So, yes, it’s confusing. But it’s hard to avoid confusion and please everyone with lists like this. There needs to be parameters, and I tried to cast as wide a net as possible.

Mochila on 8/16/2012 @ 2:53pm EDT Said:

Brent, while it’s true that Ringer’s career stats are largely due to the fact that he had so many carries, I would argue that being able to carry the ball 390 times in a season is pretty impressive in its own right. And it’s not as if 5.2 ypc over a career with that many carries is anything to sneer at.

1016 more rushing yards, 81 more receptions, and 635* more receiving yards than Beanie Wells in his career. Ringer’s exclusion based on the criteria you have set out is incomprehensible. And to give Wells the nod because his team, which included a suffocating defense, made the NCG is silly, in my opinion.

*Ringer had 96 career receptions for 719 yards.

jonathan wolfe on 8/16/2012 @ 2:56pm EDT Said:

I agree that Nebraska can be included but I don’t really understand Helu being considered as one of the next 5. He is a fine running back but I don’t think he belongs with Greene or Ringer. This is hard to do, I know but I would have left him out of the discussion.

jonathan wolfe on 8/16/2012 @ 3:19pm EDT Said:

I wasn’t saying Mike Hart’s inclusion was a joke at all. I just think there are two guys missing.

tj on 8/16/2012 @ 4:53pm EDT Said:

The first time someone calls you a horse you punch him in the nose, the second time someone calls you a horse you call him a jerk, but the third time someone calls you a horse, well then perhaps it’s time to go shopping for a saddle.

jonathan wolfe on 8/17/2012 @ 12:38pm EDT Said:

What is most interesting to me is that when reviewing the Big Ten’s Best Running Backs of the 2000’s, Shonn Greene is 8th on that list ahead of John Clay. Why the change? I realize that this doesn’t account for 2011, but of those in the top 5, only Ball played in 2011. So taking away players like Larry Johnson, Chris Perry and Lawrence Maroney, you are left with this list of RBs as the tops in the Big Ten for your timeframe- 1- Mike Hart, 2- Beanie Wells, 3- Rashard Mendenhall, 4- Javon Ringer, 5- Shonn Greene, 6- John Clay , and 7-Evan Royster. If I include Ball, as your number 1, it leaves Javon Ringer on the list of top 5. John Clay was ranked lower than Greene and Ringer by your own network so this feels a bit wrong to me.
And I have no problem with Ringer or Greene being on the list, but John Clay? Fun to look at.

Nathan on 8/17/2012 @ 4:29pm EDT Said:

Here’s the problem. You make whatever criteria for whatever you want to say, to defend what stupid suggestion you made on your stupid list. Seriously man. You lose all credibility the second Shonn Greene isn’t on this list. Then when its pointed out to you, your argument is that guys had overall better careers, but then, two of the guys who had better careers, their stats aren’t even in the BTN era. You add career stats not in the era to compare three guys in the era, so that you don’t have to count the best running back in the era. You make my head hurt. Dumbest list ever.

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/17/2012 @ 5:15pm EDT Said:

    Nathan – That’s the nature of lists. And I made these rankings so that they were as inclusive as possible. The Harts and Hardys of the world shouldn’t be ignored because they only played one year of their brilliant careers during this era. You play during the era, even if it’s for one year, you’re a member of the era. How can you argue that? If I didn’t put in specific guidelines, it would have resulted in even more headaches. When you’re dealing with something as arbitrary as a five-year period, there is going to be confusion and disagreement.

Nathan on 8/17/2012 @ 5:22pm EDT Said:

Then compare their careers within the era. If they played 4 years but only one year was in this era only one year of their career should be compared to one year of Shonn Greene’s for example. Don’t float your criteria to argue whatever front-runner team you want to.

jonathan wolfe on 8/18/2012 @ 11:38am EDT Said:

Nathan’s comment is exactly right on. Maike Hart’s one season in the BTN timeframe is not a very good compared to pretty much anyone else on the list. I don’t think Michigan fans would be hounding you in the way Iowa and pretty much everyone is hounding you about Shonn Greene. He is just better than John Clay and even your own network has said as much. This is the issue.

Todd on 8/20/2012 @ 11:00am EDT Said:

Leaving Shonn Greene off this list is a ridiculous thing to do Brent and you know it.

Then again, that’s typical of how Iowa is treated as an afterthought and then when Iowa performs well..the media types are all “where did Iowa come from?”

Perhaps if you started out showing some basic respect for one of the best run football programs in the country–lead by the dean of B1G coaches in Kirk Ferentz…you’d understand why leaving Shonn Greene off this list is a big deal, Brent.

Blake on 8/20/2012 @ 2:27pm EDT Said:

Shonn Greene is probably the most dominant running back who has played college football in the last 5 years. This is just mind-boggling.

Blake on 8/20/2012 @ 2:32pm EDT Said:


Joe R. on 8/22/2012 @ 2:59pm EDT Said:

How is it that Rex Burkhead gets left off the list and Roy Helu gets an honorable mention?

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/22/2012 @ 3:35pm EDT Said:

    Joe – It was a tough decision, that’s for sure. In the end, Helu’s career includes 800-plus more total yards, and on only 41 more carries. Helu averaged 5.9 yards per carry, too, compared to Burkhead’s 4.9. It’s a list that ranks careers, not the best season. I understand the argument if you’re asking because Burkhead actually played in the Big Ten, but that’s not an issue. Hope that helps.

ethan on 8/22/2012 @ 8:37pm EDT Said:

This list is a complete joke without shonn greene. And you put Russel Wilson a #2 QB, he only played one year!

BrentYarinaIsATroll on 8/23/2012 @ 4:39pm EDT Said:

Brent Yarina is trolling these top 5s lolololololol

    Brent Yarina, BTN.com on 8/23/2012 @ 5:22pm EDT Said:

    Nope, not at all. Why would I want to open myself up to more complaining?