Tuesday, January 8, 2008

2000 Yards And Running

It's an amazing single season accomplishment to surpass the 2000 yard rushing mark, especially when you take into consideration that you're given only 12 or 13 games to do it at the collegiate level. Even with all the publicity and trophies on his shelf, Darren McFadden has never rushed for over 2000 in a single season. Taking a look back on the Career of Heisman winner Reggie Bush, he also failed to reach this mark. Even with all the greatness of Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson, who carried the load for the Sooners, he also never rushed for 2000. And if you want to gain an understanding of just how remarkable of a college career Barry Sanders had, 20 years later, his 2,628 yards remains the record, and he achieved the yardage in only 11 games.

In 2007, a pair of Junior runners carried their teams on their backs, with each running for over 2000 yards. Each quickly followed up the accomplishment by making a dash for the NFL. With Ray Rice of Rutgers and Kevin Smith of Central Florida, the NFL will now have two workhorse backs on the board. To put their achievements in perspective, Smith's 2,567 rushing yards, and Rice's 2,012 rushing yards are greater than the total yards gained on the ground by 66 division 1-A teams. And though it may not be surprising that each rushed for more yards than a struggling Notre Dame offense, it's an eye opener when you consider their yardage was greater than the total rushing yardage for programs like Alabama, Florida State, Miami, and Nebraska.

Kevin Smith's 2,567 yards left him just 61 shy of breaking the single season mark set by Barry Sanders. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry, leading to an astronomical 183per game. Smith was the Central Florida offense, also accounting for 29 touchdowns. It didn't take long for Smith to retract his original statement about returning for his senior year at UCF. Representing a Mid Major program that exists outside the public eye, rushing for 2000 yards becomes the bold lettering of your pro resume, and anything less than equalling that performance would only decrease his stock. The time is right, and that time is now for Smith.

Ray Rice is the more recognizable of the two, considering he gets the national coverage of playing in a BCS conference. Rice isn't the surprise that Smith has come to be, as he has spent the last two seasons chewing up big numbers on the turf. In his final season, Rice averaged 159 yards a game. His 280 yards in his last game, against Ball State in the International Bowl, pushed him over the 2000 yard mark for the season. Rice is one of the most underappreciated backs in college football, with less productive runners often creating bigger headlines.

In all, 13 backs have rushed for over 2000 yards in the history of division 1-A. And if you add Tulane's Matt Forte, 3 running backs reached that mark during the 2007 season. Of the 10 to record 2000 plus yards before 2007, seven were chosen in the first round of the NFL draft, with none picked as the No. 1 overall. Iowa State's Troy Davis is the only player to rush for 2000 yards in two separate seasons, yet he was picked in the 3rd round. Texas Tech's Byron Hanspard and Cal's J.J Arrington both went on to become second round draft picks.

Without the Heisman invitations and many of the other collegiate accolades, the number 2000 can act as the stepping stone to launch both Rice and Smith into first day selections in the 2008 NFL draft.

2000 yard single season rushing performances in Div. 1-A

1988 Barry Sanders, Okla St.- 2,628
2007 Kevin Smith, UCF- 2,567
1981 Marcus Allen, So. Cal.- 2,342
1996 Troy Davis, Iowa St.- 2,185
2000 LaDainian Tomlinson, TCU- 2,158
1983 Mike Rozier, Neb.- 2,148
2007 Matt Forte, Tulane- 2,127
1998 Ricky Williams, Texas- 2,124
2002 Larry Johnson, Penn St.- 2,087
1996 Byron Hanspard, Texas Tech- 2,084
1994 Rashaan Salaam, Col.- 2,055
2004 J.J. Arrington, California- 2,018
1995 Troy Davis, Iowa St. 11-2,010

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