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The Georgia Bulldogs have been playing football since 1892, which means there have been a lot of players that have worn the red jersey and sliver britches (or white britches, depending on the coach). So a list of the 10 best Bulldogs of all time would be difficult to produce, right?
It’s not an easy task, but fans love to debate who the best players in the history of college football programs are. And when coming up with a list like this, there are many factors to consider, such as on-field production, team success during a player's tenure and how much of a lasting impact they made. There are more than 20 Bulldogs notable for all three of those things, but 10 stood out more than the rest.
So here’s a look at the 10 best players in the history of Georgia Bulldogs football. And if the list is not in your favor, please don’t kill the messenger.
The Heisman Trophy was a running back trophy by design.
It's true in a literal sense. Former New York University running back Ed Smith struck the famous pose for trophy sculptor and childhood friend Frank Eliscu in 1935.
It's also true in a historical sense. The award was mostly given to running backs during its first half-century. From 1973 to 1983, only running backs received the trophy.
But the Heisman's status as mainly a running back trophy started to fade, and then the 21st century completely wiped out that notion.
Since Ron Dayne won the award in 1999, only one running back has won the Heisman Trophy—Mark Ingram, the offensive star of Alabama's 2009 national championship season.
With the exception of that year, every other Heisman Trophy in the 2000s and 2010s has gone to a quarterback. Thanks to efficient pro-style passers and dual-threat scoring machines, the game and its most famous individual prize have transitioned to a quarterbacks club.
But as college football heads into a campaign following the offseason departures of the last two Heisman winners—Florida State's Jameis Winston and Oregon's Marcus Mariota—is this the year a running back loosens the quarterbacks' grip on the Heisman?
Since Ingram won the award in 2009, 10 of the 50 top-10 finishes in Heisman voting have gone to running backs.
But how close were these backs to knocking the quarterback off the top of the vote? Here are the best finishes by running backs in the last five years.
By comparison, 29 of the 50 top-10 finishes of those Heisman votes have gone to quarterbacks.
So running backs are in an uphill battle to not just win the Heisman Trophy, but to get a high finish in the voting for it.
The five top-five finishers in that list—Melvin Gordon, Trent Richardson, LaMichael James, Montee Ball and Andre Williams—all finished in the top five nationally in rushing yards per game for their respective seasons. Each of them played for a Power Five team and also had at least 18 touchdowns.
The running back who has come the "closest" to winning the Heisman in terms of place is Gordon, who just missed out on breaking Barry Sanders' all-time record for rushing yards in a single season last year.
And, even with that historic accomplishment, Gordon had 751 fewer first-place votes than Mariota.
Simply put, this century hasn't been kind at all to running backs in the Heisman race.
While none of the three finalists for last year's Heisman Trophy are back for 2015, the quarterbacks still have a built-in head start over the running backs in college football.
Four of the top-10 Heisman vote-getters from last year—three quarterbacks and one linebacker—will play this season. TCU's Trevone Boykin (fourth in 2014), Ohio State's J.T. Barrett (fifth) and Mississippi State's Dak Prescott (eighth) are all back on campus.
Boykin is the early 2015 favorite by a landslide, and Prescott has been mentioned by many as a potential contender. If Barrett returns from injury and becomes Ohio State's No. 1 quarterback again, he has a great chance to be firmly in the Heisman race all this fall. If not, Cardale Jones or Braxton Miller will take his seat on the hype train.
And one can't forget about the other quarterback candidates on many Heisman lists such as USC's Cody Kessler, Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Michigan State's Connor Cook, Florida State's Everett Golson and even Auburn's Jeremy Johnson, who hasn't been a full-time starter yet in his college career.
But one of the most intriguing aspects of the early Heisman buzz is the amount of running backs making their way onto lists, despite the quarterbacks' dominance of the award.
According to Odds Shark, the top 10 Heisman contenders in Las Vegas this month are split evenly between quarterbacks and running backs—and Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott has even better odds from Vegas than Boykin:
Each of these five running backs brings strong cases to the table for 2015.
Elliott exploded toward the end of the 2014 season and for more than 200 yards in each of Ohio State's three postseason wins. Leonard Fournette had a breakout true freshman year with more than 1,000 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Nick Chubb joined elite company last season and averaged more than seven yards per carry while backing up Todd Gurley.
Down the list, Derrick Henry is a physical freak and should be the No. 1 running back for national title contender Alabama this fall. And then there's Paul Perkins, who was the Pac-12's leading rusher in 2014.
Then there's still plenty of room for Oklahoma's Samaje Perine, Wisconsin's Corey Clement or a wild-card running back to break into the race. But remember—it's a lot easier for a quarterback to do the exact same thing.
Although several of the best running backs from 2014 are gone, this upcoming season seems to have more intriguing non-quarterback candidates than in years past.
However, history is going to be hard to shake for many of the backs, especially the ones who haven't gone through a whole season of being in the spotlight.
As Bleacher Report's Ben Kercheval wrote last month, running backs have the extra burden to do more than their quarterback brethren—and that might not even be enough:
Unless there's a down year for quarterbacks, they'll have to get more involved somehow. Last season, Elliott caught 28 passes for zero touchdowns, and Chubb recorded only two receiving touchdowns.
Those two players might be elite every-down backs who will go on to have lengthy pro careers, but their Heisman chances (and the chances of all the players like them) realistically go up in one of two ways:
They do more, or quarterbacks do less. Perhaps a little bit of both doesn't hurt.
The Heisman potential of an Elliott or a Chubb is intriguing, but they both have huge mountains to climb compared to players such as Boykin, who has already stood out in the media as "the guy to beat" and is also on a strong national title contender.
This could be the year a running back turns back the clock and joins Ingram in the Heisman fraternity.
But the forerunners and the field say the much safer pick is still going to line up at signal-caller.
Justin Ferguson is an on-call college football writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @JFergusonBR.
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Over the weekend, that crop of freshmen reported to campus for the official start of their collegiate careers.
With summer conditioning and fall camp fast approaching, these first-year players will have a limited opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff.
Who will step up and prove they're ready to make an instant impact this fall?
Mike Weber Will Beat Out Bri'onte Dunn for the Backup RB Spot
Ezekiel Elliott will need the occasional breather this fall.
After closing out the 2014 season by amassing 696 rushing yards and eight touchdowns during Ohio State's three postseason victories, Elliott established himself as the country's most explosive returning running back and a Heisman Trophy candidate for 2015.
The Buckeyes will need a reliable backup for Elliott, though, after moving last year's secondary ball-handler (Curtis Samuel) to wide receiver.
Bri'onte Dunn emerged as a candidate to fill that role this spring, receiving a bulk of the carries in spring practice while Elliott recovered from minor wrist surgery.
But by the midway point of the season, Mike Weber will surpass Dunn on the depth chart.
The 5'9.5", 219-pound wrecking ball of a runner was rated as a 4-star prospect and the No. 9 running back in the 2015 class. He has the vision to navigate through traffic, the strength to break through arm tackles and the speed to run away when he hits the second level. Those are all assets that will help him thrive in Ohio State's offense this fall and beyond.
Nick Conner Will Earn More Playing Time than Justin Hilliard and Jerome Baker
Five-star linebacker Justin Hilliard and 4-star athlete/linebacker Jerome Baker were the highest-rated prospects in Ohio State's 2015 class, but they're already a step behind fellow freshmen Nick Conner.
The crown jewels of the Buckeyes' class reported to campus last weekend, but Conner has been at Ohio State since January after enrolling early. He took part in the Buckeyes' spring camp, and that time proved to be pivotal as he emerged as a legitimate playmaker on defense.
That much became clear during Ohio State's spring game. Conner was one of the bright spots defensively, registering a game-high seven tackles (four of which were solo) to complement a forced fumble, an interception and a pass breakup.
"[Conner]’s going to be good,” offensive lineman Billy Price said after the spring game, according to Tim May of The Columbus Dispatch. “He’s tough … he’s raw, and to have the kind of guys he has in his unit (to bring him along), things are going to get good for him.”
Conner's head start should get him on the field before Hilliard and Baker, but Meyer set realistic expectations for the spring game star.
“We had high expectations for him," Meyer said, via May. "Hope he doesn’t redshirt and gets involved in the kicking game. He had a very good day (in the spring game). He’s a tough guy who plays hard; good qualities to have.”
K.J. Hill Will Contribute at Wide Receiver
Even though the Buckeyes lost two key contributors to their wide receiver corps with the departures of Devin Smith and Evan Spencer, Meyer will have plenty of talent on the perimeter this fall.
Ohio State returns key wideouts Michael Thomas, Jalin Marshall, Dontre Wilson and Corey Smith, and young guys such as Johnnie Dixon, Parris Campbell and Samuel should factor in as well.
But that bevy of talent won't keep K.J. Hill off the field.
Rated as the No. 152 prospect overall for the '15 class, Hill was a signing-day surprise for Ohio State. He brought his 6'0", 188-pound frame and elite playmaking ability to Columbus last weekend, and it won't take him long to make an impression on the coaching staff.
He won't be a starter, and it may take him a while to find his footing, but Hill will be making plays for the Buckeyes offense by season's end.
Two Offensive Linemen Will Crack the Two-Deep Rotation
Ohio State's biggest priority for the 2015 recruiting cycle was to secure as many offensive linemen as possible.
Meyer came through, getting six linemen to join the ranks in Columbus on signing day. And by the end of the season, two of those freshmen will be listed on the two-deep depth chart.
After giving the current backups a long look this spring, Meyer came out of spring camp disappointed with his depth up front.
“The area (of worry) is the offensive line. That’s the problem,” Meyer said, according to Ryan Cooper of The Lantern. “And once again, not the starters, because I feel good (about them) … I’m very alarmed by the second group of offensive linemen right now.”
His incoming freshmen will provide instant depth. Four-star standout Isaiah Prince will be backing up Chase Farris at right tackle, and 4-star guard Matthew Burrell will be right behind Pat Elflein at right guard.
Robert Landers Will Emerge as a Budding Star at Defensive Tackle
The Buckeyes have had steady play at the defensive tackle position over the last few years with the likes of Johnathan Hankins and Michael Bennett clogging the middle.
Both are suiting up in the NFL, and now, Ohio State is looking for their next star defensive tackle.
The Buckeyes may already have that in Robert Landers.
The 6'2", 295-pound run-stuffer was only rated a 3-star prospect and the No. 476 prospect overall for the class of 2015. But the Buckeyes have made a habit of finding diamonds in the rough over the last few recruiting cycles—Darron Lee in 2013 and Elflein in 2012—and Landers could be next in line.
Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt will start and play a majority of the snaps inside, but Landers will factor into the rotation.
All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.
David Regimbal covers Ohio State football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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One of the biggest catch phrases Tennessee football coach Butch Jones loves to use over and over again when talking to his team and to the media is "consistency of performance."
It's something every coach harps on, but Jones dissects it so much during film study that he points out breakdowns in mechanics repetition from play to play.
It's a cornerstone of playing winning football, he believes.
Considering how young the Vols have been (and still are) over the course of Jones' three years in Knoxville, it hasn't always been an easy aspect to teach. But entering a season where UT is expected to at least compete and possibly contend, it'll be scrutinized even more closely.
So, who on Tennessee's roster has proved to be consistent forces for the Vols? There are several, and it's no surprise that the vast majority of those deserving to be on this list are upperclassmen.
One factor that was weighed heavily in devising this list was proving consistency over the course of time. Most players on this list have done it for years, and they are just perfecting their crafts as they mature. The one underclassman who made the list belongs because of his uncanny consistency of excellence.
These guys may not always get the headlines as being the biggest stars on the team, but Tennessee can count on them every time they step on the field.
You may not always hear safety Brian Randolph's name, but at times when he hasn't been on the field, the Vols have missed him desperately. Also, you don't hear Cameron Sutton's name a lot because of the position he plays.
Let's take a look at the five most consistent players on Tennessee's roster.
It's been a tough few years, but Texas football has no shortage of candidates for the top-10 players of its long history.
The Longhorns have come a long way since their first team played four games in 1893. They've won four national championships with 32 conference titles and had two players hoist the Heisman Trophy.
The road to those accomplishments were paved by a long line of great football players, starting with Bobby Layne in the 1940s, then extending all the way to Vince Young and Colt McCoy in the 2000s.
Some of them won national awards and shattered school records, others displayed amazing consistency in helping their teams achieve greatness as a whole. But they all made their mark on the history of the program and set the standard for every future player who wants to enjoy similar success.
Someone has to get production from the Michigan Wolverines’ wide receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks. Evidently, one offensive coordinator—Tim Drevno—wasn’t enough, so head coach Jim Harbaugh decided to bring along Jedd Fisch to handle the finer points of the aerial game.
Tabbing Fisch as the passing game coordinator was the correct move.
With collegiate experience dating back to 1999, Fisch has accumulated quite the resume while working with some of the game’s most respected coaches and coordinators.
Prior to joining Harbaugh in Ann Arbor, Fisch handled offensive coordinator duties with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite the team’s struggles, he found ways to improve quarterbacks Blake Bortles, Chad Henne and Denard Robinson.
And, really, he didn’t only “improve” Robinson—he flipped “Shoelace” from a quarterback into a running back/receiver. That proved to be another correct move. Robinson, who missed three games due to injury in 2014, rushed for 582 yards and two scores. He also caught 23 of 31 intended passes for 124 yards.
Small adjustments can make a difference.
Fisch's resume could stand up to any comparable coach's track record in the game.
And, yes, he’s done great things on both sides of the ball with a few players, teams and high-profile coaches, such as Seattle's Pete Carroll (QB), then-Houston's Dom Capers (assistant to the coach) and then-Denver's Mike Shanahan (WR). His knowledge of offense and defense has been enriched at every stop of his career.
Part of having success is knowing and exploiting the opponents' weakness(es). It's safe to say that Fisch is well-versed in that regard.
But none of that will matter if he can’t squeeze every ounce of potential from—and form genuine relationships with—Jake Rudock, the assumed starting quarterback, and a stable of pass-catching options which include but aren’t limited to receivers Amara Darboh, Jehu Chesson, Freddy Canteen, Brian Cole and Maurice Ways, and tight ends Jake Butt, Ian Bunting and A.J. Williams.
Cruise with Rudock
As the situation stands today, Rudock seems to be Michigan’s most obvious game-ready option for Sept. 3 against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
Of course, the circumstances could change during camp, but Rudock has certainly cemented himself as the Wolverines’ mid- to late-June starter.
In 2010 and 2011, Fisch, then the Miami Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator, recruited Rudock, who was then a star at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
A wise man would assume that Fisch and Harbaugh surveyed the situation at hand—the lack of a seasoned signal-caller—and viewed Rudock as the ideal game manager, prompting them to lure the graduated senior from Iowa to Ann Arbor this past spring.
As a guy who does a lot of things at a satisfactory level but not many in exemplary fashion, the 25-game starter has enough poise to serve as a base for Fisch.
Although most Michigan fans probably want to see Fisch air out the ball each Saturday, keeping things simple with Rudock and the receivers may be the best call.
For example, remember the game plan devised by Al Borges for Shane Morris during the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: It was the one that allowed Morris, then a freshman, to play at a relatively comfortable pace without having to do too much.
It may sound odd to cite Borges at this time, but there is a method to the madness.
In terms of how to insert a quarterback into a shaky situation, Borges nailed it. While different at its core, this year’s quarterback situation is also shaky.
With that said, using a slightly revised, more energetic approach based on the same principles may do the trick with Rudock, who would rely on pass-catchers to make plays rather than playing the role of hero.
Again, the term “game manager” certainly applies. Just check out the supporting numbers provided by Chad Leistikow of Hawk Central:
Rudock leaves Iowa as its No. 8 all-time passer with 4,819 yards in 25 career games, all as a starter while compiling a 14-11 record. He was intercepted just 18 times, or on 2.6 percent of his 691 career attempts—a ball-security stat that Harbaugh was known for as a player and now as a coach.
Rudock's five interceptions last fall (on 345 attempts) were the fewest by any Big Ten starter.
Should Michigan's No. 1-ranked experience, per Phil Steele, show up on the offensive line, Rudock could end up having a career year with Fisch.
For the sake of space, the following is a breakdown of situations in which Rudock thrives, per his ESPN.com splits from the 2014 season:
- Manageable third/fourth downs: He threw seven of 16 touchdowns when the Hawkeyes needed three to eight yards to move the sticks.
- Playing vs. the Big Ten: He threw 11 touchdowns with just three picks and completed 60 percent of his passes against conference foes.
- The second half: Although his yards per attempt was nearly two yards lower than in the first half, he threw 10 touchdowns during the third and fourth quarters this past season.
- Get going in the first: Rudock completed 66.3 percent of his passes in the first half (8.06 YPA).
- Goal-line stands: He was sacked zero times and rushed for three touchdowns in goal-to-go situations, demonstrating the ability to remain cool during crunch time. He also threw eight touchdowns compared to one interception (costly red-zone pick in loss to Nebraska).
Now to balance the equation, the following is a list of what stalled Rudock in 2014:
- Red zone: He threw 12 touchdowns while inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, but he also completed just 51 percent of his passes.
- On 3rd-and-long (8-10 yards): Rudock completed just 48.3 percent of his passes and had zero touchdown passes.
- Third-down picks: Rudock threw three of five interceptions on third downs.
As always, stats are open to interpretation and can be skewed to make a point. What happened with Rudock at Iowa won’t necessarily transpire in Ann Arbor.
Meanwhile, Fisch likely knows all about Rudock’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as when and how to utilize him. It’s also likely that some of these examples have been discussed between them.
If all goes well, Butt could end up having a monstrous junior year. That'd be one way to kick the passing game into gear right from the start.
Previously hampered by a pair of ACL injuries, the 6'6", 248-pounder is Michigan's largest target. And since Rudock is decent in goal-to-go situations, Butt could become a powerful force with the game on the line.
Whether as the red-zone safety net or the go-to option on third downs, Butt could become Rudock's Michigan version of Jake Duzey, a similarly sized tight end who caught 36 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns for Iowa in 2014 (10.9 yards per catch).
Together, Darboh and Chesson have made 46 appearances for the Wolverines. There's no need to do the math—that's a lot more than anyone else on the roster, times two or three.
Due to their experience, they need to be main features of the offense. At 6'2" and 216 pounds, a chiseled Darboh is designed for securing the deep ball, but he's a reliable inside option, too. At 6'3" and 207 pounds, Chesson works best while flashing inside and outside. During spring availability, he said that the receivers were picking up on Fisch's teachings and getting comfortable with quarterbacks.
That was said prior to Rudock's arrival, so it'd be fair to assume that the addition of a more experienced arm would help expedite the learning process.
With guidance from Fisch, Darboh and Chesson could avoid fizzling out in the second half. Per ESPN.com, Darboh caught 18 passes in each half this past season. However, he averaged 16.9 YPC prior to halftime and just 9.3 afterward. Chesson caught 10 passes in the first half compared to four in the second.
In the not-so-distant past, Michigan actually had a viable one-two punch. That was Devin Funchess, the big-play guy, and Jeremy Gallon, the speedy slasher.
Butt looks like the big-play guy, but the Wolverines remain in search of a slot threat. Developing Canteen, Cole or even Drake Harris for the job is imperative.
Things don't have to be perfect for Fisch, but he needs at least one serviceable athlete at each position in order to implement his system. A coach can't install it if he doesn't have the players.
On the Same Page
As mentioned above, relationships will be for Fisch, the staff and the players. It's a buzz-phrase, sure, but "getting on the same page" pretty much covers the bases, which in turn should tie together the loose ends.
For the past three years, Michigan's offensive line has been one of the worst in all of college football. Considering the levels of perceived talent and experience, that shouldn't have been the case.
Drevno is known for crafting O-lines. His 11-year relationship with Harbaugh should pay dividends this season. Harbaugh likes power football, and power football needs an O-line. Fisch needs an O-line to set the course for Rudock and beyond.
The sooner Fisch and Drevno become buddy-buddy, the better for the program. It's all about continuity, and establishing an open line of communication with Jay Harbaugh wouldn't hurt, either.
Transitions don't happen overnight. Typically, they don't happen within a year, either. But just like he did in Jacksonville, per John Oehser of Jaguars.com, Fisch is constantly assessing the who, what, when, where and why with his personnel in Ann Arbor.
The who, when, where and why will fall together in time. But as of now, Fisch absolutely knows what he must do, and that's rekindle the fire of a passing offense that finished No. 14 in the Big Ten and No. 112 among FBS programs.
"It's not the easiest thing in the world, obviously, it's something you have to work at," Fisch told MGoBlue.com (h/t MLive.com's Nick Baumgardner). "It starts with the quarterback, and then pass protection. We'll constantly emphasize precision, that's where it starts and stops.
"Everyone has to be on the same page, and we'll be very detailed."
Follow Bleacher Report’s Michigan Wolverines football writer Adam Biggers on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes and references were obtained firsthand by the writer via press conference, press release or other media availability.
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