Ohio State Football: Mount Rushmore of Running Backs

Ohio State Football: Mount Rushmore of Running Backs

Mark Russell

Ohio State Football: Mount Rushmore of Running Backs


We’re going through a series of identifying the best of the best in history of each position group for Ohio State football. We are four position groups in, still going on the offensive side of the ball. Today, BuckeyeWire‘s Mark Russell takes a look at which Ohio State running backs would belong on the Buckeyes’ Mount Rushmore.


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Ohio State Mount Rushmore Of: Wide Receivers | Offensive Linemen | QuarterbacksTight Ends |

Next up on our Mount Rushmore series, I try to narrow down the great Buckeye running backs. So many years of three yards and a cloud of dust produced some great ones, but there can only be four on this list.

Archie Griffin (1972-1975)

“He’s a better young man than he is a football player.  And he’s the best football player I’ve ever seen.” – Woody Hayes

The only two-time Heisman Trophy winner is an easy pick to have his lamb chop sideburns chiseled in stone on the Mt. Rushmore of OSU running backs.

At the time, Archie was the first true freshman to ever start at running back for the Buckeyes. Sure, it was the first year freshmen were eligible to play, but he blew the doors off the myth that freshmen weren’t ready for that level.  He finished his career with 5,589 rushing yards, the most in Ohio State history and a record that will likely never be broken with most skilled runners being drawn to NFL millions. Archie also boasts a 3-0-1 record against TTUN.

Griffin had a less than stellar NFL career after being drafted in the first round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 1976. He played seven seasons with 2,808 rushing yards and only seven TDs. But hey, this is the Mount Rushmore of Ohio State running backs and Archie is royalty.

Eddie George (1992-1995)

Who could forget the chants… Ed-die, Ed-die while sitting in the shoe or in front of your TV? The first time I witnessed Eddie George run the ball, he fumbled on the 2-yard line and it was returned for a touchdown. I wasn’t sure he would amount to much after that. Instead, he ended up being one of my all time favorite Buckeyes.

George was just plain fun to watch. Those long strides made it look like he was moving in slow motion, until you realized he was leaving everyone else in the dust. Eddie still holds the single season rushing record with 1,927 yards and a whopping 148 yards per game average, along with the single game rushing record of 314 yards against Illinois in his 1995 Heisman winning season.

Eddie had an impressive NFL career rushing for 10,441 yards and 68 touchdowns, especially considering the short shelf life of most professional running backs.

Ezekiel Elliott (2013-2015)

85 yards through the heart of the south – might be every Buckeye fan’s favorite memory. If not, it has to be pretty high on the list.

Elliott burst onto the scene as a sophomore, but he became a Buckeye legend in the post-season of 2014-2015. Zeke carried OSU with 696 rushing yards in wins over Wisky in the Big Ten Championship, ‘Bama in the Sugar Bowl, and the Ducks for the National Championship.

Zeke has the No.’s 2 and 3 best rushing seasons by a Buckeye, gaining over 1,800 yards, and a combined 41 rushing touchdowns in each season as a starter. He also has five of the top 20 rushing performances in OSU history.  Statistically speaking, it might be the best 2 year run of any OSU back ever.

Zeke had it all – speed, vision, hands and was great in pass protection.

It’s still too early to tell what Elliott’s NFL career will become, but it’s definitely off to an outstanding start. Here’s to hoping Zeke’s off field issues are behind him.

Keith Byars (1982-1985)

Keith Byars was a rare combination of size and speed.  He was a bruising back who could cut on a dime, run by or through you — even while wearing just one shoe.

After an incredible ’84 season, Byars came into the next season as the Heisman favorite. Unfortunately, a foot injury kept us from knowing if he could live up to the hype in 1985. He ended his career with 3,200 yards on the ground. Byars also had 46 rushing TD’s good for No. 2 all time among OSU running backs, trailing only fullback Pete Johnson.

Byars enjoyed a 13 year NFL career, but was better known for his pass catching than his running as a professional. He finished his career with 3,109 yards rushing and 5,661 yards receiving. He also threw six touchdown passes, which is the 3rd highest by any running back in NFL history.

That’s my Mount Rushmore of Buckeye running backs. Who’s yours?

 

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