Blue White Roundtable: Alabama Week Edition
September 7, 2011 – | 1 Comment

Once again, it’s Adam Collyer over at BlackShoeDiaries providing the questions, and we, your humble bloggers, providing the answers. Mine are below, and you can venture off to the remote areas of the blogosphere that …

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The Penn State All-Decade Team: Running Backs

Submitted by on December 30, 2009No Comment

To celebrate the upcoming new year, and new decade, we’ll be offering a retrospective here at quebecpenspinning. Over the next two weeks, we’ll reveal all the members of quebecpenspinning’s All-Decade team, comprising of the best Penn Staters from 2000-2009. Don’t agree with our picks? Let your voice be heard in the comments! We continue today with a look back at Penn State’s best running backs of the past decade.

Penn State is known as Linebacker U, but the school has produced almost as many standout running backs as it has linebackers.  From its lone Heisman Trophy winner John Cappelletti, and Franco Harris and Lydell Mitchell in the 1970s, to Booker Moore, Curt Warner, D.J. Dozier, and Blair Thomas in the 1980s, and Curtis Enis and Ki-Jana Carter in the 1990s, it’s been rare for the Nittany Lions to not feature a standout running back, or even to have more than one in the backfield at the same time.  In the past decade, this was no different.  Penn State has had four different backs with 1000-yard season in the past 10 years, and to whittle the list down to two for this team was difficult.  However, the tandem we here at quebecpenspinning have created combined the best qualities of these backs, from electric home-run-threat speed to game-after-game dependability, and it’s why the following backs have been selected from a group of deserving candidates for the All-Decade team.

Larry Johnson (1999-2002) followed his father to Penn State, who was at the time Penn State’s special teams coach.  At the time, it seemed like a major recruiting coup for the Lions, as Johnson had just capped off a remarkable senior season for the Little Lions of State College Area High School, a 2200-yard, 29-touchdown campaign that made him a nationally sought after recruit.  But despite the hype, Johnson struggled early in his Penn State career.  As a freshman, Johnson struggled to find carries in a running back tandem that featured Eric McCoo and Aaron Harris, getting just 41 touches and accummulating 171 yards, along with 1 touchdown. In 2000, Johnson became the secondary member of the group, taking 75 handoffs for 358 yards, with a career best 10-carry, 94-yard performance against Michigan State.  Penn State struggled mightily in 2001, and Johnson had difficulty building off his sophomore season, as he managed just 71 carries for the same 358 yards, and his touchdown total diminished from 3 to 2.  However, it was his senior season that earned Johnson a place on this team, one season so remarkable–it may be the best any running back has ever had in the NCAA–that it outweighs anything else one could say about Johnson.  In 2002, Johnson, almost singlehandedly, carried this team out of the dark years, setting all sorts of records in the process.  In fact, throughout the season Johnson set, and then broke, his own record for rushing yards in a game on three separate occasions, rushing for 257, 279, and then 327 yards in three different games.  Johnson broke the 2000-yard mark in the first half against Michigan State, a game in which he ran wild, with 279 yards on just 19 carries, to go along with 4 of his 20 touchdowns.  Johnson set a new record for the fewest carries to reach 2000 yards, and his 8.0 yards per carry average set an NCAA record.  Though snubbed for the Heisman in favor of USC’s Carson Palmer, Johnson received the Doak Walker award as the best running back in the NCAA, and the Maxwell and Walter Camp awards as the best player in college football.  A first round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs, Johnson has twice been voted to the Pro Bowl, though has had some off-field issues in the past few years. Hunt (2003-2006) came to Penn State instead of Southern Cal, after learning of the commitment by Reggie Bush to USC, and it’s a move that, in retrospect, turn out beautifully for both parties.  Rather than be stuck behind the phenomenal tandem of Bush and Lendale White at USC, Hunt was able to become “the man” throughout his Penn State career, and forge his name into Penn State history.  Though he came to Penn State with considerable hype, he still struggled to find carries, especially behind Austin Scott, who, before the whole rape thing, seemed to have a promising future.  As a freshman, Hunt received just 34 carries, on which he managed just 110 yards, though he did score a touchdown.  However, going into his sophomore campaign, Hunt overtook Scott and became the Lions’ starter, and finished that year, for a team that struggled mightily on offense, with a very solid 777 yards and 7 touchdowns on 169 carries.  An excellent receiving back, Hunt was also the leading receiver for the Lions with 39 catches.  With Penn State breaking through the dark years in 2005, Hunt was the center of the Nittany Lions’ rebirth, rushing for 1080 yards and 6 touchdowns, averaging 6 yards per carry, though he wasn’t asked to do as much heavy lifting in the receiving game, with the trio of young receivers taking that responsibility.  After Michael Robinson graduated, Hunt took an even more prominent role in the offense to take some of the burden off Anthony Morelli, and Hunt had his best year in 2006, rushing for almost 1400 yards and 11 touchdowns, and hauling in 27 catches for 3 touchdowns.  A second-team All-Big Ten selection, Tony Hunt was the Outback Bowl MVP after the 2006 season and was named the Senior Bowl MVP.  Drafted in the 3rd round by Philadelphia, the big, bruising Hunt was transitioned to the fullback position, though he has struggled to catch on in the NFL.

Honorable Mentions: Evan Royster, Rodney Kinlaw

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