Discussion: Best Michigan RBs since 1969

Submitted by Magnus on June 15th, 2018 at 2:01 PM

This isn't my list, but over on Rivals, a well regarded poster named Jim_S put up his list of the best running backs at Michigan since 1969. I'm not old enough to remember a bunch of these guys, so I can't really say whether he's right or wrong with a lot of them. But I think it's an interesting list nonetheless. Take a look and see what you think.

BTW, he said this is not "who had the best career at Michigan" or "who had the best NFL career." He seems to basically be talking about the most talented running backs if you were trying to build a team.

Tshimanga Biakabutuka
Tyrone Wheatley
Tony Boles
Rob Lytle
Butch Woolfolk
Mike Hart
Anthony Thomas
Chris Perry
Billy Taylor
Jamie Morris
Russell Davis
Glenn Doughty
Leroy Hoard
Gordon Bell
Jon Vaughn
Harlan Huckleby
Jarrod Bunch
Lawrence Ricks
Ricky Powers
Stan Edwards
Ed Shuttlesworth
Chuck Heater
Justin Fargas
Bob Perryman
Gil Chapman
Jesse Johnson
Karan Higdon
Rick Rogers
Fitzgerald Toussaint
Chris Howard
De’Veon Smith
Chris Floyd
Clarence Williams
Brandon Minor
B.J. Askew
Thomas Rawls
Gerald White
Lawrence Reid
Carlos Brown
Chris Evans
Alan Walker
Khalid Hill
Ben Mason
Thomas Wilcher
Garvie Craw
Allen Jefferson
Joey Kerridge
Sione Houma
Ty Isaac
Kevin Grady
Ed Davis
Derrick Green
Drake Johnson
Michael Cox
Che Foster
Ian Gold
John Anes
Vincent Smith
Mike Cade
Roosevelt Smith
Jon Ritchie
Tracy Williams
Sam McGuffie
David Underwood
Jerome Jackson
Burnie Legette
Bob Thornbladh
Dan Rice
Fritz Seyferth
Kerry Smith
Michael Shaw
Greg McThomas
Walter Cross
Harry Banks
Eddie Garrett
Max Martin
Preston Henry
Ray Jackson
Kareem Walker
Charles Drake
Ryan Beard
Demetrius Smith
Kevin Dudley
Henry Poggi
Chris Horn
Scott Corbin
Tim Bracken
Lance Scheffler
Steohen Hopkins
O’Maury Samuels
Dennis Norfleet
Evan Coleman
Max Richardson
Jerald Ingram
Tom Hassel
Pierre Rembert
Justice Hayes
Brian Mercer
Patrick McCall
Darnell Hood
Phil Webb
Mark Moundros
Kirk Moundros
Ben Logue
Greg Armstrong
Tony Leoni
Wyatt Shallman
Kingston Davis
Phil Andrews
Mike Nadlicki
Ernie Holloway
Mister Simpson
Alijah Bradley
Ross Douglas
Kevin King
Dennis Washington
Steve Johnson
Mike Smith
Livetius Johnson
J.R. Ford
Bobby Henderson
Teric Jones

Here's a link to the thread on Rivals (LINK).



June 15th, 2018 at 2:07 PM ^

Denard Robinson? I know he primarily played QB, but he played snaps at RB and played RB in the NFL. If we're caveating best RB and not best career I think you have to consider him.


June 15th, 2018 at 2:14 PM ^

Without going back to read what he said, he did mention Denard Robinson but said he wasn't counting him because it was such a sample size that he played RB. (Or something like that.) Playing RB in the NFL wasn't relevant to his list, though Robinson did play a few games at RB at the end of his career.


June 15th, 2018 at 4:18 PM ^

Agreed NFL is only relevant to extrapolating back a little bit to how he would have been as a dedicated college runner, but the question in my mind is who is the best in terms of overall ability/quality/skill, not who had the best statistics throughout his career, so I'd say anyone who took snaps at RB and we have some ability to extrapolate their skill at RB even if they didn't play there primarily, should qualify.


June 15th, 2018 at 2:14 PM ^

I'm not familiar enough with the work of RBs pre-Jamie Morris to give a fully informed opinion on them. I know stats and some highlights, obviously, but I'm just going to abstain from that end of the conversation rather than pretend to be an expert when I don't know what I'm talking about.

In my life of watching Michigan football, which basically encompasses 1985-present, the best RBs we've had are:

Jamie Morris
Tyrone Wheatley
Tim Biakabatuka
Anthony Thomas
Mike Hart

There have been other good ones, of course, including a Doak Walker winner, but that's my list. I'm hopeful that Karan Higdon can be added to that list after this season, but we'll see. 

Who's the guy I would pick out of all of these? Tyrone Wheatley. 


June 15th, 2018 at 4:25 PM ^

My fandom also started with Jamie Morris in the backfield (and Gerald White and Robert Perryman).  I would agree on that top 5, my order would be:

1. Tyrone Wheatley

2. Tim Biakabauka

3. Mike Hart

4. Jamie Morris

5. Anthony Thomas

I'd go with Chris Perry as #6

I've been to my fair share of Michigan games, but I'll never forget the exhilaration in the Big House when Biakabatuka ripped off that first big run against OSU in 95...and then continued to shred them for 300+.  Watching all the Buckeyes file out of the stadium with their withered roses was bliss.



June 15th, 2018 at 2:15 PM ^

Great List. Love the idea and obviously extremely hard to differentiate different backs over this time period/playing styles. 

Quick thoughts:

I would switch 1 and 2

Norfleet should be slightly higher

Walker should be lower (Time will tell on this one)

I really wish Sam McGuffie would have made something of himself at Michigan.  He was personally responsible for my love of recruiting.



June 15th, 2018 at 3:45 PM ^

I'm not going to stan hard for it but I feel like McGuffie could easily be higher on the talent list. I know he was never going to be Mixtape McGuffie in college but think in the right running/receiving role with health on his side he's an alternate dimension all-conference player.

The guy turned himself into an Olympian in a new sport. That's an ath-a-lete right there. 

The Fan in Fargo

June 16th, 2018 at 12:48 AM ^

Well it's a good thing you aren't the world's expert to judge an athlete. Charles Woodson...that's an athlete. Bo Jackson...that's an athlete. Dion, Wheatley and Barry Sanders to name a few more. These cats had thoroughbred pedigree inked right on their DNA. That's a fact. Sam McGuffie? Not so much there champ. Better luck next time though. 

I Like Burgers

June 15th, 2018 at 3:27 PM ^

Who gives a shit? 

There's plenty of Michigan players that have done similar after they left school.  Point is they've had a hell of a string of RBs during a time Michigan has struggled to find a guy that can rush for 1000 yards.  Unless you want to get cute and count Denard as a RB, they've haven't had anyone rush for more than 1000 since Fitz Toussaint in 2011.  Last one before that was Hart in 2008.  In comparison, Ohio State has only had three seasons WITHOUT a 1k rusher since 2008.

TMS-Mr. Ace

June 15th, 2018 at 2:55 PM ^

My main takeaway here is that Brandon Minor should be about 10 spots higher. I also think Rawls should be lower if NFL contributions really aren't a factor.


June 15th, 2018 at 9:06 PM ^

De'Veon Smith was very average. He averaged 4.5 yards/carry for his career with a low of 4.2 and a high of 4.8. Even in 2015 when Michigan had an effective passing game for much of the year, he averaged just 4.2 yards/carry. 


June 15th, 2018 at 7:17 PM ^

Agreed about Wheatley being #1.  He was better than Biakabutuka.  It was his injuries that really impacted his stats.  He was bigger, faster and more athletic.


June 15th, 2018 at 7:35 PM ^

Michigan RB who had over 1500 yards in career and averaged over 5 yards per carry:


Tyrone Wheatley: 6.1

T. Biakabatuka: 6.0

Rob Lytle: 5.9

Tony Boles: 5.7

Leroy Hoard: 5.4

Jamie Morris: 5.4

Butch Woolfolk: 5.4

Gordon Bell: 5.4

Steve Smith: 5.3

Billy Taylor: 5.2

Harlan Huckleby: 5.2

Lawrence Ricks: 5.1





Hail Harbo

June 15th, 2018 at 9:13 PM ^

Thing to keep in mind when discussing RBs over different eras in this context, is that ball carriers in the 1970s were not only splitting carries but were on the field for all the snaps and when not carrying the ball were expected to block for the ball carrier.  In that context TBs, WBs, and FBs such as Billy Taylor, Rob Lytle, Gordon Bell, Harlan Huckleby, Russel Davis, Ralph Clayton, and Butch Wolfolk should be given a second look, not only for kicking ass when carrying the ball, but getting their asses kicked when not.

Given that, Rob Lytle tops my list for his productivity, durability, and leadership followed by Biakabatuka because OSU.  Sorry Ty Wheatley, while you ran great, it was as a China doll.


June 15th, 2018 at 9:13 PM ^

I saw them all and Tony Boles was the most electrifying. I would move Harlem Huckleby up into the the 5-10 range and dropped Tshimanga to that range (too inconsistent). Jon Vaughn would have also moved up