When Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship in 2009, he displayed amazing versatility. He averaged 6.0 yards running between the tackles and 6.3 running outside the tackles. His 31 runs of 15 or more yards led FBS, as did his 17 rushing first downs in the fourth quarter when Alabama was ahead.
He was as close to the total package as any running back, which begs the question: If you could construct the perfect running back combination, whose skills would you incorporate? Here's our take.
When asked by ESPN’s Erin Andrews about all of his weight room work, Richardson said, “It helps me a lot. I run folks over or I throw them off me.” The numbers back Richardson’s statement. Last season, he averaged 5.0 yards per carry inside the tackles and 43.0 percent of his yards came after being contacted by a defender. He was rarely stopped short. He gained 5 yards or more on 43.8 percent of his carries, third best in FBS (minimum 100 attempts). His average of 6.3 yards per carry was higher than Cam Newton’s (5.6) and Mark Ingram’s (6.1) during their Heisman Trophy winning seasons.
LaMichael James finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting last season, thanks in large part to his penchant for breaking long runs. His eight runs of 40 yards or more led the nation. In his career, the average length of his rushing touchdowns has been 18.4 yards, including 10 scoring runs of 20 or more yards and six of 50 or more. James is at his best running on the perimeter. Last season, he averaged 7.2 yards per carry outside the tackles with one of every 10 runs going for 20 yards or more.
It is a rarity for running backs to become increasingly effective as the game unfolds, but that’s exactly what Michael Dyer does. His second-half yards per carry average (6.8) last season was significantly better than his mark in the first half (4.8). He rushed for 17 fourth-quarter first downs, the most in FBS of any player with 50 such rushes, and his 7.1-yard average on fourth-quarter carries was the highest in the SEC among players with 25 or more attempts. When Auburn led in the fourth quarter, Dyer ran for at least 5 yards on 52.9 percent of his carries (fourth highest in FBS).
Marcus Lattimore has a knack for findings holes and creases. On 20.1 percent of his runs last season, first contact was not made until at least 5 yards past the line of scrimmage. That meant that on one of every five runs, Lattimore was able to navigate 5 yards past the line without being touched, let alone tackled. During SEC play season, Lattimore had 33 rushes of 10 yards or more.