Top 21 Best College Football Running Backs of All Time |  Ranking

Running backs is one of the most important positions in college football. They are part of the offensive backfield, but they do more than just run with the ball.

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of great backs who have wowed us with their moves. They impressed us with their strength or shocked us with their career achievements.

This article has details about the best college football running backs of all time. We also included the top 21 best college running backs of all time. Let’s dive right in. 

Check out!: Best Football Prep Schools in the USA | 2022 Rankings

How Does A Running Back Help A Team?

The running back’s main job is to help the offense move the ball as quickly as possible. When the quarterback hands him the ball, it is his job to run through the middle of the defense to gain yards. (Zolpidem) While doing a good job of protecting the ball.

The best running backs have a wide range of skills. They try to make defenders miss by using a mix of speed, quickness, and strength.

The running back lines up with the quarterback in the backfield. He or she needs to be able to block passes and catch them.

Both of these jobs are important, which is one reason running backs who can do a lot are so valuable in today’s game.

You should read it!: The 50 Best College Football Coaches of All Time | 2022 Ranking

What does “Running Back” mean?

As you might guess from the name, the running back’s main job is to run with the football. Even though they have other jobs, they have to find yards by running the ball is important to the success of all football teams.

The word “back” comes from the fact that they line up behind the offensive line. In the “backfield,” either behind or next to the quarterback, depending on the formation.

What’s So Important About The Running Back?

Most coaches will say that their players, not the plays they call, are what makes a team successful throughout a season.

This is also true for running backs. The difference between average and great running backs is their ability to turn a bad play into a 50-yard run.

A successful football play involves breaking tackles, making people miss, and running faster than defenders.

Good running backs do a mix of all of these things. Offenses are productive and stand out when they have elite playmakers.

The running back is a big part of a football team’s success. In modern offenses, it’s very helpful for a team to have a smart, reliable running back who can run, block, and catch.

Have you seen: 15 Best High School Football Teams In Florida | 2022

What Skills And Body Type Do You Need To Be A Running Back?

Body Type (General Estimate)

  • Height: (5’9-6’2)
  • Weight – 190-235
  • Build: Athletic and full

Running backs can have different body types. At the highest levels, they are always physically fit enough to do the job. Most running backs aren’t as tall as the rest of their teammates and are usually shorter.


A good running back will have a mix of speed, agility, vision, toughness, and the ability to catch passes well. They must be able to find open spaces to run the ball.

Running backs are, in a word, great athletes. Their job is very hard on the body, and they also have to be able to make people miss and make big plays. Depending on which team you’re watching, the position will have a different set of skills.

Read also: 7 Best Football Scholarships in the USA

How were the Top College Running Back of All-Time Ranked?

The features we saw (asides from the amazing wins), to rank these running backs are-


You won’t be a good running back if you don’t have at least a little bit of speed. The best college running back ever should at least be the fastest kid on his high school team.

As you move from high school to college, the game moves much faster and your opponents are much tougher. College football needs a back who can hit the edge quickly. Or get through a hole in the second level before the safeties close in on him.

Don’t Fail to Also Check: The 25 Best College Football Teams of All-Time | 2022 Rankings


Not every good back can see. The kicker is that all great running backs can see where they are going. Vision is what separates 4-star running backs from the best college running backs ever.

Whether it’s the ability to see running lanes or predict how the defense will move to find a cutback lane.

Even if a play is to run through the A-gap, it’s not always the best choice depending on how the defense is playing.

The best college running backs ever have the natural vision to take a run up the middle.

Check Also: What are the Best College Football Mascots in 2022?


We’ve never heard a good running back say that they were afraid of getting hit. Most great running backs can’t wait to get hit by the defender.

The best college running back ever isn’t afraid to drop his shoulders and hit the defender. Instead of running out of bounce at the edge, he turns the ball upfield and runs five yards past the corner.

Those five yards could be the difference between winning and losing. The best college running bacs ever knows how important that is.

Read Also: 15 Best Websites To Watch College Football Online Free


Athleticism is a mix of speed, vision, and strength. Many backs have one or two of these skills, but only the best 5-star backs can combine and use all of them in every game.

Some running backs are just called “speed backs,” while others are “power backs.” The best college running backs ever can gain two yards by running up the middle on 4th-and-1. They can score from 50 yards away by making a linebacker miss and outrunning the safety and the corner. The back is great because it has all of these skills.


This is a very underrated skill, and you won’t see many backs blocking in highlight reels on YouTube. But if a running back can block, coaches and scouts will notice.

Since blitzes and defenses are getting faster and more aggressive, the running back can be the quarterback’s best asset. The best college running backs ever have a good center of balance and shows toughness. They show this when facing an A-gap blitz head-on.


This is the last intangible quality that all best college running backs ever have. It may be the biggest difference between good and great backs.

The game of football has changed so much that the power running game can sometimes feel out of date.

But a 5-star running back can be dangerous in the passing game when he is out of the backfield. He needs to have good hands, see well, and be able to make defenders miss in the flats when he comes out of the backfield.

Check Out!: 15 Largest College Football Stadiums in USA | 2022

21 Best College Running Backs Ever

#1. Cedric Benson

Cedric Benson went to the University of Texas for four years and was a great back there. Even though Ricky Williams was often used as a comparison, Benson did enough on the field to stand out on his own.

During his four years at Texas, he ran for 5,540 yards and scored 67 touchdowns. In 2004, Benson won the Doak Walker award and got named to the All-Big-12 Team. Cedric Benson is one of the top college running backs of all time.

#2. DeAngelo Williams

DeAngelo Williams played for the Memphis Tigers from 2002 to 2005. Williams used his time well and became a threat everywhere on the field. He is one of the top college running backs of all time.

Williams ran for 6,026 yards and scored 60 touchdowns in his career. He also has 7,573 all-purpose yards, which is an NCAA record.

You Should Read It!: 15 Best Football Academies In The World | 2022

#3. Doak Walker

Doak Walker played football at SMU and won the Heisman Trophy in 1948. During his time in college, people wondered if Walker could not play any position.

During his Heisman season, Walker ran for 532 yards and eight touchdowns. The award for the best running back in the country is still named after him. Walker was a great back in his time, and no one has forgotten about him. He is one of the top college running backs of all time.

#4. Adrian Peterson

Adrian Peterson is one of the top college running backs of all time. It didn’t take long for people to notice Adrian Peterson.

Peterson ran for 1,925 yards as a freshman, which was more than any other freshman had ever done before.

He was also a candidate for the Heisman Trophy, but he ended up coming in second. Peterson kept doing well during his second and third seasons.

He finished with 4,045 yards rushing and 41 touchdowns, and he is now a powerful back in the NFL.

Read Also: Top 10 Football Clubs in Nigeria | 2022

#5. Reggie Bush

Things have come out about Reggie Bush since he was in college. You have to look at what he did on the field to judge him. During his time at USC, Bush did a lot of interesting things. He won the Doak Walker, Walter Camp, and Heisman trophies and was an All-American twice.

Bush was a great athlete who was on highlight reels all over the country. He is one of the top college running backs of all time.

#6. Doc Blanchard

Doc Blanchard was part of what might have been the best backfield duo in college football history when he played for the Army. Blanchard never lost at West Point, and in 1945, he added a Heisman Trophy to his list of accomplishments.

The next year, Glenn Davis, the other half of this backfield, would win the Heisman Trophy. He is one of the top college running backs of all time.

Check out!: Major Football Injuries And How To Prevent Them

#7. Glenn Davis

Glenn Davis would be that other back. Davis was popular as “Mr. Outside,” while Doc Blanchard was popular as “Mr. Inside.” When Blanchard got hurt in 1946 and had to miss some games, Davis stepped up and won the Heisman Trophy.

Glenn Da is one of the top college running backs of all time.

#8. Charles White

Charles White is another great running back for the USC Trojans on this list. White had a great time at USC, but 1979 was by far his best year.

White is the second running back from USC to win the Heisman Trophy, and rightly so. He rushed for 2,050 yards and 19 touchdowns in 1979.

White did well for himself, and he also helped the Trojans go the whole season without a loss. He is one of the top college running backs of all time.

Have you seen: Complete Guide on How to Join a Football Club in England

#9. Eddie George

Eddie George is one of the top college running backs of all time. George is proud to have graduated from Ohio State, where he did a great job.

In 1995, George was a big reason why Ohio State went 10-2 and won the Heisman Trophy. George ran for 1,927 yards and 24 touchdowns on the ground. He did this by using both speed and strength.

George’s time in college came full circle when he got inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

Have you seen: Top 10 Football Clubs in Canada

#10. Tony Dorsett

Tony Dorsett had a great college football career at Pittsburgh. He is one of the top five all-time leaders in rushing in college football history. As such, it is no surprise that he is one of the top college running backs of all time.

The best year for Dorsett and Pittsburgh was 1976. Not only did Dorsett win the Heisman, but Pittsburgh also won the national championship. Dorsett ran for 1,948 yards and 23 touchdowns during the 1976 season.

Check out!: The Pros and Cons of VAR in the Football Match decision.

#11. Billy Sims

Billy Sims was another great running back for Oklahoma. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1978, capping off a great career with the program.

In 1978, Sims determined that injuries would not be the highlight of his career. During his first two years, Sims had trouble staying healthy. But it was well worth the wait because during his junior year Sims ran for 1,762 yards and scored 20 times.

Have you seen: Officials in a Football Game and their Roles

#12. Ricky Williams

Ricky Williams was the NCAA’s top rusher at the end of his college career. Even though his career rushing record was eventually broken. Ricky Williams is one of the top college running backs of all time.

Williams won the Heisman Trophy in 1998 after running for 2,427 yards and 30 touchdowns. Williams was one of the best backs in college football history. He was very strong and could see the field well.

#13. Ron Dayne

Ron Dayne had a great first year at Wisconsin, and as a senior, he was able to break the 2,000-yard mark again. Dayne ran for 2,034 yards and 20 touchdowns in his last season.

When Dayne’s career was over, he had broken Ricky Williams’ record for most yards rushed in a career with 7,125 yards. He now holds the record. Ron is one of the top college running backs of all time.

You should read!: 10 Best Streaming Channels for Football in 2022

#14. Jim Brown

Jim Brown was a great football player, but he was also a great running back. Brown was one of the African American football players who helped pave the way for others.

Brown went to college at Syracuse and played football there. There were a couple of years when he should have won the Heisman but didn’t.

In the end, Ernie Davis was able to win the award because of how well he did. Jim Brown is one of the top college running backs of all time.

#15. Earl Campbell.

Earl Campbell’s college career was great, and he was a great back at the University of Texas. He is currently one of the top college running backs of all time. Earl Campbell had a very good year in 1977.

He won the Heisman Trophy and led the country in rushing with 1,744 yards and 18 touchdowns. Campell has also been voted the best player in the Southwest Conference. He got named a consensus All-American.

Check Out!: Quick Guide on How to Become a Ball Boy in a Football Club | 2022

#16. Bo Jackson

Bo Jackson was an amazing athlete, but his story will always make people wonder, “What if?” Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 1985, even though he had to miss a few games. He ran for 1,786 yards and 17 touchdowns on the ground.

Jackson had a promising pro football career, but in 1990, he hurt his hip, which put an end to it. He is one of the top college running backs of all time.

#17. Archie Griffin

Only one player, Archie Griffin of Ohio State, has won the Heisman Trophy more than once. Griffin won the award in both 1974 and 1975, but his best year was 1974. He ran for 1,695 yards and 12 touchdowns. In every regular season game, he ran for more than 100 yards.

He finished with 5,177 yards, which puts him in the top 10 for most yards gained by running. Archie Griffin is one of the top college running backs of all time.

Have you seen: Major Football Trophies and How much they worth in 2022

#18. O.J. Simpson

O.J Simpson is one of the best college running backs ever. Even though he had a lot of problems away from the field, O.J.Simpson was a great player. Simpson had a great season in 1968 when he ran for USC.

Simpson not only won the Heisman Trophy, but he won by a huge margin of 1,750 points. He had 1,880 yards and 23 touchdowns.

#19. The Red Grange

During his time, Red Grange was definitely in a class by himself. Grange used to play at the University of Illinois, where he got the nickname “The Galloping Ghost.” During his time with the team, Grange would regularly have big days on the ground and find his way into the end zone. Red Grange is one of the best college running backs ever

Read Also:10 Best Football Clubs in South Africa, their Stadium and Sponsors

#20. Barry Sanders

Barry Sanders was a great college running back, and his 1988 season was one of the best. He is one of the best college running backs ever

Sanders ran for 2,628 yards in a single season, which was a record. He also had 3,248 yards, 234 points, and 39 touchdowns for the season. Sanders averaged over 200 yards per game and ran for 300 yards in four games during the season.

It’s hard to say that Sanders didn’t have one of the best college football seasons ever in 1988. It’s also hard to say that Sanders wasn’t one of the best college football players ever.

#21. Herschel Walker

Herschel Walker was a great athlete his whole life, but it was at the University of Georgia where he shone. It made him one of the best college running backs ever

After a great season in 1981, in which he had the most yards and touchdowns of his career, Walker had high hopes for 1982. He didn’t let anyone down. He ran for 1,752 yards and 17 touchdowns, and he won the Heisman Trophy at the end of the year.

Walker ran for 5,259 yards throughout his career, which put him in the top 10 of all college football rushers.

Have you seen: Football in Ghana: History, Team, Organisation

How To Become One Of The Is One Of The Best College Running Backs Ever

Do your research and find out more

The team you want to play for has some specific features they are looking out for. Ensure to do your research. See that the team is a good fit for you.

See videos of running backs

Running backs can learn a lot from watching movies. You should watch videos of yourself and your opponents and judge them. When you watch a video of yourself, look for holes, cuts, and blocks where you could have done better.

Young running backs often make the mistake of dancing or running east and west instead of north and south. This is a mistake because the end zones are never on the sidelines. Studying films will help you figure out if you’re good at this task and where else you need to improve. By watching a video of your opponent’s defense, you can learn how they tend to play.

Remember the goal is to be great

Good running backs know where the holes are and know how to get through them. Great running backs can predict where the holes will open and have the vision to make holes where there weren’t any.

Good running backs run toward their opponents, but great running backs run through their opponents and away from them. Sometimes greatness comes from instinct, while for others it takes hard work and dedication. No matter what you do, if you want to play college football, you should aim to be great.

Work on skills like high knees, a low center of gravity, quick feet, bursts of speed, and agility. Practice your hand-eye coordination. A running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield is a rare and valuable commodity.

Work on your speed and nimbleness

For them to take you seriously as a college recruit, a running back needs to be fast, agile, and able to hide. Your speed depends a lot on how big of a running back your genes let you be. If you’re 6 feet tall and weigh 220 pounds, you’re probably not as fast or agile as a 5 feet 10-inch, 180-pound back.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard to get as fast as your body will let you. Sprints one after the other will help you get faster and last longer. During your offseason training, you should run 400s, 200s, 100s, and 40s.

Check Out!: Soccer Vs Football: Striking Differences and Similarities

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is the best running back in college football history?

ESPN says that Barry Sanders’ 1988 season at Oklahoma State made him the best running back in college football. Sanders ran for 3,556 yards and 49 touchdowns over the course of his career.

Which school has the best running backs?

Alabama, Georgia, and Ohio State have the best running backs and most powerful football teams. This group of three football factories turns out real thoroughbreds. These are the guys who dominate in college and continue to do so in the pros.

Who is the best running back in history, based on stats?

Walter Payton. Walter Payton, who was popular as “Sweetness,” ranks as  the best all-around running back of all time. He ran for 16,726 yards, which was the NFL record until Emmitt Smith beat it in 2002.

Who are the top five running backs ever?

Smith, Emmitt.
Adrian Peterson
LaDainian Tomlinson
Eric Dickerson, and
Gale Sayers

Who in NCAA history has run for the most yards?

Time record is by Donnel Pumphrey of San Diego State. He ran for more than 6,400 yards in college, which ended in 2016.

What college has sent the most running backs to the Hall of Fame?

Notre Dame 44, 2.
Southern California 30, 3.
Michigan 25, 4.
Ohio State 23

Do college football teams have any white running backs?

Yes, Christian McCaffrey is a good white running back for the Panthers.

You should read it!: 15 Most Watched Football Leagues


No matter what your team’s offense looks like, the running back is a very important position. The running back’s job hasn’t changed much over the years, even though he or she is often one of the most athletic players on the team.

The running back position is important to any football team because it has a lot of important jobs in the offense. You can watch videos of the best college running backs ever to help you become better.

Read also:10 Biggest Sports Sponsorship Deals in Football 2019



You May Also Like