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What School Is Tailback U.?

Welcome to the seventh installment in our series to determine which schools have done the best job in recent years of producing top NFL draft picks.

Auburn (repped by Ronnie Brown) and Miami (repped by Edgerrin James) top the Tailback U. rankings. Alabama (repped by Trent Richardson) was next

You can check out the links below for our look at the schools who have done the best job of producing quarterbacks, defensive linemen, wide receivers, defensive backs, offensive linemen and linebackers. Today, we take a look at the schools who have done the best job of preparing and producing running backs for the NFL.

For our analysis, we used the last 15 years of the NFL draft. In each draft, we looked for running backs who were drafted in the first three rounds.

Below the school rankings we also have more data on schools and conferences that have produced running backs at football’s highest level. Plus, we have more interesting information on the running back position group.

Tailback U. Ratings

Using the last 15 years of the NFL draft (top three rounds) as a barometer, here is a look at which schools have excelled at producing running backs for the NFL (Note: We used first-round picks to break any ties):

1. (tie) Miami (Fla.)

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 5; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Miami becomes the only program to lead these rankings at three different positions. Miami also topped our analysis at the defensive back and linebacker positions. Miami was also fifth with wide receivers, sixth on the defensive line and 10th on the offensive line.

The ‘Canes have produced a number of top draftees, although none since 2005. The group here includes Edgerrin James (first round, 1999), James Jackson (third round, 2001), Clinton Portis (second round, 2002), Willis McGahee (first round, 2003) and Frank Gore (third round, 2005).

1. (tie) Auburn

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 5; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Auburn hit the daily double in 2005, when Ronnie Brown and Cadillac Williams were taken second and fifth overall, respectively. Other top picks from Auburn include Heath Evans (third round, 2001), Kenny Irons (second round, 2009) and Ben Tate (second round, 2010).

3. Alabama

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 4 First-Round Picks: 3.

* The Skinny: Alabama is the only school with three first-round picks at running back in the last 15 years. That group includes Shaun Alexander (2000), Mark Ingram (2011) and Trent Richardson (2012). Glen Coffee was a third-round pick in 2009. Eddie Lacy could be a first-round pick this year.

Alabama was also fourth in defensive backs, fifth in offensive linemen and 10th in linebackers.

4. California

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 4; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Cal had two first-round picks at running back in the last 15 years. They were Marshawn Lynch (2007) and Jahvid Best (2010).

5. (tie) Michigan

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 4; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Chris Perry was a first-round pick in 2004. Other UM backs drafted in the top three rounds since 1998 included Chris Floyd (third round, 1998), Anthony Thomas (second round, 2001) and B.J. Askew (third round, 2003).

5. (tie) Tennessee

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 4; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Jamal Lewis was a first-round pick for the Vols in 2000. Other top-three round draft picks at running back for UT since 1998 include Shawn Bryson (third round, 1999), Travis Henry (second round, 2001) and Montario Hardesty (second round, 2010). Rajion Neal could be a top pick from Tennessee in 2014.

5. (tie) Oregon

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 4; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Jonathan Stewart was a first-round pick from Oregon in 2008. Others drafted in the first three rounds from Oregon since 1998 included Reuben Droughns (third round, 2000), Maurice Morris (second round, 2002) and LaMichael James (second round, 2012).

5. (tie) LSU

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 4; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Joseph Addai was a first-round pick from LSU in 2006. Others drafted in the top three rounds in the last 15 years included Kevin Faulk (second round, 1999), Jacob Hester (third round, 2008) and Stevan Ridley (third round, 2011). Alfred Blue could be a top pick in 2014.

9. (tie) Georgia

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 3; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Robert Edwards (1998) and Knowshon Moreno (2009) were first-round picks out of Georgia. Georgia was also in the top 10 in our rankings of quarterbacks (fourth) and wide receivers and offensive line (both ninth).

9. (tie) Penn State

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 3; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Curtis Enis (1998) and Larry Johnson (2003) were first-round running backs from Penn State in the last 15 years.

9. (tie) Wisconsin

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 3; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Ron Dayne (2000) and Michael Bennett (2001) were first-round backs from Wisconsin in the last 15 years. Montee Ball could be a top pick this year and James White could also add to this legacy next year.

9. (tie) Texas

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 3; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Ricky Williams (1999) and Cedric Benson (2005) were taken in the first round as running backs from Texas in the last 15 years. Jamaal Charles was a third-round pick in 2008.

9. (tie) Virginia Tech

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 3; First-Round Picks: 2.

* The Skinny: Kevin Jones (2004) and David Wilson (2012) were first-round picks at running back from Virginia Tech in the last 15 years.

14. (tie) Southern California

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 3; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: USC has long been known as Tailback U because of Heisman winners like Mike Garrett, O.J. Simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen. The Trojans had one first-round running back in the last 15 years with Reggie Bush in 2006. LenDale White was a second-round pick in 2006 and Justin Fargas was a third-rounder in 2003. Silas Redd, who transferred in from Penn State in 2012, could be the next in this line in 2014.

USC is the only school that was mentioned in all seven of our position analyses. The Trojans were first in quarterbacks, second in offensive linemen, fourth in linebackers, sixth in wide receivers and seventh in defensive backs and defensive linemen.

14. (tie) Ohio State

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 3; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Beanie Wells was a first-round pick from OSU in 2009. Other top-three round running backs from OSU since 1998 include Joe Montgomery (second round, 1999) and Maurice Clarett (third round, 2005). Carlos Hyde could be a top pick in 2014.

14. (tie) Oklahoma

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 3; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Adrian Peterson was a first-round pick from OU in 2007. DeMarco Murray was a third-round pick in 2011. Damien Williams could be a top pick from Oklahoma in 2014.

14. (tie) Illinois

* The Data: Top-Three Round Picks: 3; First-Round Picks: 1.

* The Skinny: Rashard Mendenhall was a first-round pick from Illinois in 2008. Mikel Leshoure was a second-rounder in 2011.

More Comparisons

As we compiled the data, here were some more interesting comparisons:

* Honorable Mentions – Two more schools had three running backs drafted in the first three rounds of the draft in Florida State and UCLA, but neither of them had a first-round pick at that position in the last 15 years.

* Heisman Trophy Winners – Four of the last 15 Heisman Trophy winners (since 1998) were running backs. The rest were all quarterbacks. Heisman-winning running backs in that stretch include Texas’ Ricky Williams in 1998, Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in 1999, USC’s Reggie Bush in 2005 and Alabama’s Mark Ingram in 2009.

Bush’s Heisman win was later vacated because of alleged NCAA rules violations.

* First-Round Picks -- Alabama leads the way with three running backs taken in the first round in the last 15 years.

Schools with two first-round running backs since 1998 include Arkansas, Auburn, Georgia, Miami (Fla.), Ole Miss, Penn State, Texas, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin.

* Top-Five Picks – In the last 15 years, 11 running backs have been taken in the top five picks of the NFL draft.

Topping that list were Auburn’s Ronnie Brown, taken second by Miami in 2005, and USC’s Bush, taken second by New Orleans in 2006. Alabama’s Trent Richardson was taken third overall by Cleveland in 2012.

Three backs were taken with the fourth overall pick: Miami’s Edgerrin James in 1999, Texas’ Cedric Benson in 2005 and Arkansas’ Darren McFadden in 2008. Five more backs were taken fifth overall in this same stretch: Penn State’s Curtis Enis (1998), Texas’ Ricky Williams (1999), Tennessee's Jamal Lewis (2000), TCU’s LaDainian Tomlinson (2001) and Auburn’s Cadillac Williams (2005).

* All-Pro Picks – Over the last 15 years, several schools have excelled in producing NFL All-Pro picks at running back.

In that period, that top All-Pro producer in terms of selections was Texas. The Longhorns had three backs (Williams, Priest Holmes and Jamaal Charles) combine for four All-Pro appearances since 1998. TCU’s Tomlinson and Miami’s James also made four All-Pro appearances.

Tennessee with Lewis and Arian Foster and Pittsburgh with Curtis Martin and LaSean McCoy each had players combine for three All-Pro appearances. Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson, San Diego State’s Marshall Faulk and Virginia’s Tiki Barber each made three All-Pro appearances in that stretch.

* This Year’s Class – Running backs projected by some as first-, second- or third-round picks in this year’s draft include Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, UCLA’s Johnathan Franklin, Wisconsin’s Montee Ball, Michigan State’s Le’Veon Bell, North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard, Clemson’s Andre Ellington, Texas A&M’s Christine Michael and Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor.

* Next Year’s Class – Some of the top running back names mentioned for the 2014 NFL draft include USC’s Silas Redd, Oklahoma’s Damien Williams, Mississippi State’s LaDarius Perkins, Ohio State’s Carlos Hyde, Houston’s Charles Sims, Wisconsin’s James White, Tennessee’s Rajion Neal and LSU’s Alfred Blue.

Previous Installments

Here are links to the previous installments in this series:

Quarterback U.

Defensive Line U.

Wide Receiver U.

Defensive Back U.

Offensive Line U.

Linebacker U.

Prior to next week’s NFL draft, we’ll wrap up the series with a look at the top schools producing high draft picks in the last 15 years.

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