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 al.com:
Lane Kiffin on Yeldon/Henry/Drake: “There probably aren’t three more talented tailbacks in the NFL on a roster”
— Mike Herndon (@TheMikeHerndon) May 30, 2014
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.
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.
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?