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Ranking the Best Seasons by a Running Back in Alabama History

Derrick Henry

Derrick Henry

There’s a new favorite number around Tuscaloosa these days. It’s 16. As in 16 national championships won by the Alabama Crimson Tide following their Jan. 11 victory over the Clemson Tigers to claim the second College Football Playoff.

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Yes, it was a memorable 2015 season for Alabama. And it was a memorable 2015 season for record-setting and Heisman Trophy-winning running back Derrick Henry. In fact, based on his numbers and the team’s success, no Alabama back has ever had a finer season than the one Henry just completed.

Wondering, though, how the seasons of other Crimson Tide ball carriers might stack up behind Henry’s? Well, wonder no more.

In keeping with Alabama’s new favorite number, here are the 16 best seasons by a running back in program history.

1. Derrick Henry, 2015

The best season ever by an Alabama running back? It just happened. Henry ran for an SEC-record 2,219 yards and 28 touchdowns to bring the Crimson Tide not only their second Heisman Trophy but also a 16th national championship. The defensive end-sized running back with defensive back-caliber speed tied Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson with four 200-yard rushing efforts in one season.

2. Trent Richardson, 2011

Richardson’s final college campaign wasn’t topped off with a Heisman, but it came close. The Florida native finished third in Heisman balloting after rushing for a then school-record 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns. Alabama won its 14th national title that season, thanks in large part to its workhorse.

3. Mark Ingram, 2009

Ingram produced a breakout sophomore season in 2009 to become Alabama’s first Heisman winner. The punishing ball carrier rushed for a then school-record 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns, as he helped power the Crimson Tide to its 13th national championship.

4. Shaun Alexander, 1999

Alexander may well have been Alabama’s first Heisman winner in 1999 had it not been for an ankle injury that slowed the eye-opening season he was having. Alexander did come back after the injury and finished with an impressive 1,383 yards rushing and a then school-record 19 touchdowns (in 11 games), as he helped carry the Tide to an SEC title and an Orange Bowl berth.

5. Bobby Humphrey, 1986

Humphrey turned out to be the best player on a star-studded 1986 Alabama team that was ranked No. 2 in the preseason. The Tide failed to live up to expectations, dropping three games along the way, but Humphrey did his part, rushing for a then school-record 1,471 yards and 15 touchdowns.

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6. Eddie Lacy, 2012

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After taking a backseat to Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson early in this career, Lacy finally got to show what he could do as the lead back for Alabama in 2012. And he showed plenty. The bruising (6-0, 220) back rushed for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns in helping lead the Tide to their 15th national championship.

7. Siran Stacy, 1989

Alabama came out of nowhere in 1989 to capture a share of the SEC title and earn a Sugar Bowl berth, and a big reason why was the play of Stacy. The transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College was a touchdown machine for the Tide in ’89, crossing the goal line 17 times. He rushed for 1,079 yards.

8. Glen Coffee, 2008

Coffee helped jumpstart the Nick Saban Alabama dynasty in 2008 by rushing for 1,383 yards and 10 touchdowns. Coffee was one of the keys as the Crimson Tide went from a 7-6 team the year before to undefeated entering the SEC Championship Game, which they lost to eventual national champion Florida.

9. Shaud Williams, 2003

Williams turned out to be a huge bright spot on an otherwise disappointing 2003 Alabama team that won just four games. Williams, a senior who transferred from Texas Tech a year earlier, broke out in a big way in his second season in Tuscaloosa, rushing for 1,367 yards and 14 touchdowns.

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10. T.J. Yeldon, 2013

After steamrolling through the regular season in quest of a third straight national title, Alabama stumbled down the stretch. The disappointing finish, however, couldn’t take away from the season Yeldon had in his first opportunity as Alabama’s feature back. The sophomore rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns.

11. Johnny Musso, 1971

Musso helped set the foundation for Alabama becoming the team of the 1970s with a memorable ’71 campaign. The Italian Stallion rushed for 1,088 yards and 16 touchdowns in Bear Bryant’s first wishbone offense, as the Tide finished 11-1 and won the SEC.

12. Sherman Williams, 1994

Alabama was seeking its second national title in three years and nearly got it, finishing 12-1 with its lone loss, a one-point defeat, coming to Florida in the SEC title game. Williams paced Bama’s ground attack, rushing for 1,341 yards and eight touchdowns.

13. Bobby Humphrey, 1987

This wasn’t close to being one of Alabama’s better teams, but Humphrey gave Tide fans plenty to cheer about in 1987. He rushed for 1,255 yards and 11 touchdowns and starred in the upset of defending national champ Penn State.

14. Dennis Riddle, 1996

He wasn’t flashy, but Riddle definitely produced when toting the pigskin. He rushed for 1,079 yards and 11 touchdowns in helping lead the ‘96 team to a Western Division crown and a spot in the SEC Championship Game for the fourth time in five years.

15. Derrick Lassic, 1992

The No. 1-ranked defense is what people remember most about Alabama’s 1992 national title team, but the ground-oriented offense wasn’t too shabby either. Lassic was the lead back, rushing for 905 yards and 10 touchdowns.

16. Ken Darby, 2005

It was a magical first two months of the season for the 2005 Crimson Tide team, which started 9-0 before dropping a couple games late. Even though he had just three rushing touchdowns, Darby paved the way, picking up 1,242 yards on the ground.

— Written by Erik Stinnett, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Stinnett is an experienced college football beat writer who has been covering Alabama since 2009.