Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Lane Kiffin Claims ‘Bama Has More Talented Running Backs Than All NFL Teams; Fine… But What About Wisconsin?

New offensive coordinator of the Alabama Crimson Tide, Lane Kiffin, made a pretty interesting claim yesterday. Check it out for yourself, thanks to Mike Herndon of

Quite a bold statement to make. Especially considering that he’s essentially saying that ‘Bama has the best collection of three running backs, on a single roster, in all of college football by default. I’m not going to say that he’s right or wrong. But I will say that he might have overlooked another NCAA team as he set his eyes on the NFL — the Wisconsin Badgers.

I am not claiming that the Badgers boast a running back stable better than any NFL team. I’m also not claiming that the Badgers definitively have the best group of backs in the NCAA; even over ‘Bama. But I am saying that this statement is arrogant and deserves a more detailed look. Let’s compare ‘Bama and Wisconsin’s running backs.

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Comparing Each Team’s Number One Running Backs:

Alabama: Last year T.J. Yeldon scored 14 touchdowns while racking up 1235 yards on the ground. Yeldon averaged 6.0 yards-per-carry. Those statistics cannot be ignored.

Wisconsin: Last year Melvin Gordon III put up 12 touchdowns and ran for 1609 yards. MGIII averaged 7.8 yards-per-carry. Those statistics are simply eye-popping. And what’s more impressive is that, technically, James White (who ran for 1,444 yards) was the starter.

Both are juniors and both are early favorites for the Heisman Trophy. For the sake of being unbiased, I’ll give them a wash. Even though most scouts consider MGIII to be the top running back prospect of the 2015 NFL Draft.

Comparing Each Team’s Sophomore Running Backs:

Alabama: Derrick Henry, as a freshman, scored four total touchdowns and ran for 382 yards. He averaged 10.6 yards-per-carry. He didn’t touch the ball in four games last year. Those are respectable stats for a first year player.

Wisconsin: Corey Clement, as a freshman, scored seven total touchdowns and ran for 547 yards. He averaged 8.2 yards-per-carry. He didn’t touch the ball in five games last year. For a player that had limited opportunities, he certainly made the most.

I have to give Wisconsin the edge between these two players. Both are explosive and both were 4-star recruits coming out of high school. But simply, one made more plays last year. That is the information that we have to go on. This year will show which player is truly the better running back but as of right now, Clement gets my vote.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Comparing Alabama’s Other Junior Running Back To Wisconsin’s Other Backs:

Alabama: Kenyan Drake had a really good year last year. He ran for 694 yards and scored 9 total touchdowns. He is proof that ‘Bama has insane depth at the running back position.  He was a four-star talent coming out of high school.

Wisconsin: The Badgers do not have a guaranteed third running back in their rotation — yet. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have exciting talent. The Badgers have two freshmen, in Taiwan Deal and Caleb Kinlaw, looking to make huge impacts in Madison. It should be noted that Deal was a four-star running back just like ‘Bama’s Drake was. Teams that heavily recruited and offered these two backs include; South Carolina, Michigan State, Virgina Tech, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, West Virginia, Iowa and Georgia Tech.

Obviously I have to say Alabama wins this category hands down. But, we will see if one of these two backs steps up and challenges ‘Bama’s “third-string” back. It could happen. Remember, James White ran for 1,000 yards as a freshmen only a few years ago.

So … Alabama’s Backs Vs. Wisconsin’s Backs?:

After comparing these two team’s backs into three categories we got some interesting results. ‘Bama took one category, Wisconsin took another and then the two programs tied in another. That’s not exactly the overwhelming dominance at the running back position that Lane Kiffin implied with his statement yesterday. The two teams are closer at the running back position than many people may think. Not only that, Melvin Gordon III, if healthy, very well may win the Heisman Trophy. Would ‘Bama’s running backs be considered better then?

Time will tell which squad will have the better three backs. Running backs have made major impacts as freshmen at Wisconsin for the last 20 years. But one thing I can confidently say is that, no ‘Bama does not have three running backs that are better than all NFL teams’ rosters. This is especially true since it isn’t even obvious that ‘Bama has better backs than Wisconsin.

Either way, one thing is certain. These are two of the premier “Running Back Universities” in the country every year. And that will continue in the 2014 season.

What are your thoughts?




Tags: Alabama Crimson Tide College Football Melvin Gordon III Wisconsin Badgers

  • deibama .

    I would look at the opposing defense comparison first. Badgers lost to Penn State? Gee. Penn St. lost to Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana,and Central Fla. They were embarrassed by th’ Buckeyes. Oh, I forgot about th’ gamecocks. RTR

    • Daniel D. Zillmer

      Valid points here. But I would say that a ‘power 5′ conference schedule, no matter how suspect, is a valid enough of a sample size to be impresses by the stats. And they were not embarrassed by the Buckeyes… They lost by one score on the road in primetime. And remember the Buckeyes caught a hail mary type touchdown at the end of the first half, too.

      • deibama .

        You are correct. My mistake.

    • rollbama17

      Exactly. I’d have to see Wisconsin’s backs against 8 SEC defenses in a season. Until that happens I don’t think we should even be having this conversation. RTR

  • disapointdvet

    it may have been bold, but he said three on a single roster, not three in the entire NFL. I had to read it a few times to make sure I read it right.

  • disapointdvet

    Didn’t see clements play, but Henry didn’t see the field as much until he learned to block. I think his 2 yds per carry average would put him over the top. and if you didn’t see his performance in the loss to OK in the bowl game, check it out. In addition to over 100 yds on like 6 carries, he had a 60+ yard TD catch for 161 all purpose yds and 2 td’s. Think I’d give the edge to Henry. but again, I didn’t see clements play. I do know Henry was the all time HS leading rusher for the nation. that’s pretty good too.

    Wisky does have a great track record of RB’s though, have to give you that.

    • Daniel D. Zillmer

      I believe after this season Clement will be a household name around college football. His power style running will reach new heights this year with an expanded role. Look out for him as a possible 2015 Heisman candidate as the Badgers’ top dog when they ‘Bama to kick off the 2015 season! Excited. But yeah, Henry is a great talent, too. No question at all.

      • disapointdvet

        That will be a good game, looking forward to it! let’s get past this year first though!! If we can get a QB to manage the game and distribute the ball our offense will be dangerous. The three RB’s discussed above, a 6’6 255LB TE, and our returning crew of WR’s (cooper, white, and foster) it will be a pick your poison offense.

        • Daniel D. Zillmer

          Yeah, for sure. That offense will be quite daunting but will certainly be a great way to kick off the year. But hey we have a whole season to get through. The playoffs will be exciting!

  • ndotken

    Kiffin was exaggerating to make a point. The statement wasn’t meant to be taken literally. Bama’s three backs MAY be NFL caliber, but it’s an absolute certainty that every RB on an NFL roster has NFL level talent.

  • disapointdvet

    here’s a little gem for you. looks like someone else agrees with me!! :)