The best OSU running backs

Published: September 30, 2014

Almost from the beginning, The Ohio State University is forever known as Tailback U. The history of the Buckeyes have been paved by elite running backs. This list will highlight what I think are the best Buckeye tailbacks from the last 40 years plus that I have been alive. This list is not all inclusive, this is just my opinion. All lists are subject to debate, mine included. Have fun with it; who knows, maybe you have one that I may have forgotten! From Archie to El Guapo, they have excited Buckeye fans all over with their exploits.

  1. Archie Griffin

                                                                   Two-time Heisman trophy winner...started as a true freshman...gained 867 yards as a fresman, 1,428 as a sophomore, 1,620 as a junior and 1,357 as a senior. His total of 5,589 yards set a then NCAA record... still holds the NCAA for 100 yard games with 33, and consecutive games with his first game as a starter, he rushed for 239 yards...averaged 6.0 yards per carry for his college career...was the first Buckeye to start all four games in the Rose Bowl...had his best games against Michigan...inducted in to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1986, and the OSU Hall of Fame in 1981...led OSU in rushing all four years he was there, the only OSU running back to do so. His number was retired in 1999, the first one to do have done so.

  2. Eddie George

    Won the Heisman in 1995...rushed for s school-record 1,925 yards and 24 TDs as a senior...set a then OSU record 314 yards  against Illinois in 1995...finished his career with 3,768 rushing yards, second only to Archie Griffin...averaged 5.5 yards per carry for his college career...his 61 yard scamper against Notre Dame (above) in 1995 was many a poster. Was inducted in the College Hall of Fame in 2011, and his number was retired in 2001.

  3. Keith Byars

    Finished second in the Heisman trophy voting, behind Doug Flutie (and his Hail Mary) in 1984...rushed for 1,764 yards and 22 TDs in that year, second only to Eddie George in both categories...finished his college career with 3,200 rushing yards and 50 TDs...averaged 5.2 yards per carry. His fourth TdD run against Illinois in 1984 was a thing of beauty, running the last forty yards with one shoe, never breaking his stride.

  4. Robert Smith

    In my honest opinion, the best stride of a OSU running back, ever...ran for a total of 1,925 yards in his OSU career, including 1,126 yards in 1990, a personal best...average 6.0 yards per carry...missed one season due to conflict with Assistant Coach, otherwise he would have been a lot higher in the my opinion the best freshman OSU running back I've seen.

  5. Tim Spencer

    First of my power backs....rushed for 3,553 yards and 37 TDs in his college career, trailing only Archie and Eddie...ran for 1,538 yards and 14 TDs his senior season, his best year...averaged 19.4 yards per kick return...very rarely saw him go down on the first hit.

  6. Chris "Beanie" Wells

    Best stiff arm I have ever seen. Don't believe me? Check out his runs against Wisconsin and Northwestern in 2008, and LSU in the 2007 championship game...hard to believe, but he rushed for 3,382 yards and 30 TDs in his OSU career...check out his touchdown run against Northwestern in 2008 and against Michigan for all three years he played to see pure running power...the reason I have him ranked higher than Carlos Hyde was his breakaway speed. Once he saw daylight, NOBODY caught him.

  7. Carlos Hyde

    Could've  flip flopped him with Beanie Wells stats are eerily similar... rushed for 3,198 yards and 37 TDs...however, didn't show his breakaway speed until his senior year, when he rushed for 1,521 yards and 15 TDs...might have been invited to New York if hadn't missed the first two games due to an off-campus infraction...his TD run against Iowa in 2013 ranks up there with Beanie's TD run against Northwestern.

  8. Michael Wiley

    Another running back who crushed it when he saw daylight; ask Michigan in 1998...gained 2,951 yards and 27 TDs in his OSU career...underrated receiver as well, averaging 11.3 yards per catch...averaged an unreal 21.9 yards per kick and punt return...made his debut against Rice, where he scored touchdowns the first three times he touched the ball...probably should have played some quarterback as well. He was 10-11 for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns...averaged 7.7 yards (!) per carry as a freshman...

  9. Antonio Pittman

    Another underrated back, he was often overshadowed by Troy Smith, Beanie Wells and Teddy Ginn...rushed for 2,945 yards and 22 TDs before leaving as a junior in 2006...had the only other touchdown in the 2007 National Championship Game against the Florida Gators (the other one was the kickoff return by Teddy Ginn) one of only four OSU running backs to have at least 1,000 rushing yards in his sophomore season...

  10. Raymont Harris

    Another underrated back, rushed for 2,649 yards and 27 TDs (somehow I felt he had more)...was overshadowed by Robert Smith and Terry Glenn for most of his college career...the 1993 season (his only one as a starter) he rushed for 1,344 yards and 12 TDs...has the OSU record for the most yards in a bowl game (235) against BYU.


No Maurice Clarrett, huh? My answer is no, despite his exploits in 2002. Troubles notwithstanding, he could never stay on the field. One wonders if Ohio State would have had back-to back championships if things wouldn't have fallen apart.

Pepe Pearson? I reall thought he was underutilized by Joh Cooper, that and the fact he had no breakaway speed. If he had shown some in the Michigan game in 1996,  the Buckeyes wouldn't have had to settle for three field goals and would have been in the championship game that year.

Carlos Snow? Liked him a lot, but too many injuries. Vince Workman?  Another underused running back.

Pete Johnson? His 2,308 yards were outstanding. But a lot of his 57 touchdowns were from 5 yards in, and he has the misfortune of being overshadowed by Archie. By the way, how in the world did two running backs combine for 107 towchdowns on the ground for the same period on the same team and not win a national championship? One of life's great mysteries, I guess.

For now enjoy and debate the list. For the record, I believe either Curtis Samuel or Ezekiel Elliot will add their names to the list. Maybe both them will! Go Bucks!