Historic run: Arkansas boasts long tradition of producing quality running backs.
Consider that in 1925, Pine Bluff High School churned out 3,588 yards, a single-season national record that lasted for 73 years. More than 8,000 of those yards were on the ground.
In more recent decades, individuals have also stood out. In 1964, Parade magazine selected running back Bobby Kinkaid of Little Rock Hall to its All-American team. Of the next 30 Arkansans selected to the same team, 11 played running back.
Try North Little Rock senior Altee Tenpenny (page 78), who missed last season with an ankle injury, but has already been touted as the next in a line of great tailbacks from central Arkansas. Tenpenny was committed to defending BCS champion Alabama as of press time.
We don't know if Tenpenny will put up good enough numbers to stamp himself as an all-time great. But, for consideration, we do know who he's competing with:
Top 10 running backs in Arkansas prep history:
DeAngelo Williams (5-foot-10, 217 pounds)
Wynne, Class of 2002
High school highlights: 2001--2,204 yards, 34 touchdowns, 10.4 yards per carry; 2000--1,044 yards,14 touchdowns.
College Choice: University of Memphis
Williams' greatest asset was his shiftiness. His sophomore year was derailed by a severe foot injury, but by playoff time of his senior season Williams was never better. He racked up 939 yards and 14 touchdowns in four games while helping deliver a state title to Wynne.
In 2002, Williams chose nearby Memphis over the likes of Arkansas and Ole Miss. He left four years later with 6,026 rushing yards, fourth all-time in NCAA history. In six years with the Carolina Panthers, Williams has put together the most successful NFL rushing career of any running back who graduated from an Arkansas high school. With four more carries, he'll join Jim Brown as the only NFL players to average at least 5 yards per carry on 1,000 career attempts.
Darren McFadden (6-2, 210) Pulaski Oak Grove, Class of 2005
High school highlights: 2003--2,027 yards, 19 touchdowns, 9.9 yards per carry; career--4,871 yards, 59 touchdowns, 9.8 yards per carry.
College Choice: Arkansas
With a few healthy seasons, McFadden could also etch his name in the NFL record books. Despite his lack of durability for the Oakland Raiders, many still consider him the greatest running back in Arkansas history.
McFadden is a two-time Heisman Trophy runner-up, two-time Doak Walker Award winner and one of only two SEC running backs to run for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.
Nearly a third of McFadden's school-record 1,830 rushing yards during his junior season came after contact. He never stopped showing the same desire to punish that he'd flashed as a hard-hitting safety at Pulaski Oak Grove.
Peyton Hillis (6-2, 250) Conway
High School, Class of 2004 High school highlights: 2003--2,631 yards, 29 touchdowns,10.1yards per carry
College Choice: Arkansas
Hillis had a more dominant prep career on offense than McFadden. As a junior, the future sixth round draft pick racked up 1,427 yards and 17 touchdowns. His senior season included nine carries of 55 yards or more and a run to the 5A semifinals.
In college, Hillis took a backseat to McFadden and Felix Jones in terms of rush attempts. Although his contributions didn't headline the box scores, they were no less important. His 52 knockdown blocks in 2007, for instance, paved the way for a school record 3,725 rushing yards. Hillis' versatility was showcased with 151 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns in a 2007 upset of eventual national champion LSU.
Michael Dyer (5-9, 215) Little Rock Christian, Class of 2009
High school highlights: 2007--2,710 yards, 28 touchdowns, 9.7 yards per carry; career - 8,097 yards, 84 touchdowns, 8.4 yards per carry.
College Choice: Auburn/Arkansas State
The numbers speak for themselves. Dyer stands No. 1 in career rushing yards in the Arkansas Activities Association record book. His sophomore season ranks sixth in state history.
At Auburn, Dyer set a freshman rushing mark with 950 yards and an MVP award in the national title game. It's been rough waters since then, with Dyer suspended for Auburn's last bowl game and revelations that he smoked synthetic marijuana in college. He transferred to Arkansas State, where his future appears to be at a crossroads.
A more mature Dyer could help lift the Red Wolves to unprecedented heights.
Jonathan Adams (6-0, 219) Osceola, Class of 1998
High school highlights: 1997--2,227 yards, 38 touchdowns; career--6,714 yards, 88 touchdowns, 9.2 yards per carry.
College Choice: Arkansas State
Before Dyer, Adams was the most heralded running back in ASU history. He led Osceola to three consecutive title games. On a sore ankle, Adams ran for 131 yards in a 28-27 victory against McGehee for the 2A title as a senior.
Many major programs, including Alabama and Arkansas, wanted Adams, then the state's all-time leading rusher. Proximity and academics worked in ASU's favor.
Adams wasn't as dominant in college, but averaged 4.5 yards per carry with 17 touchdowns in four seasons. His 3,005 career rushing yards rank fourth in school history.
Basil Shabazz (5-11,190) Pine Bluff, Class of 1991
High school highlights: 1990--1,596 yards, 28 touchdowns, 7.6 yards per carry.
College Choice: Played professional baseball, then UAPB
These days, the question "What if?" seems to be entangled in so much of Shabazz's legacy. Instead of dwelling on what Shabazz wasn't, let's look at what he was: the greatest athlete in Arkansas prep history. And, of the four sports he seemed to effortlessly dominate, football was where his potential most tantalized.
A year after rushing for 782 yards, all the pieces seemed to come together in Shabazz's senior season. He blended record-shattering track speed, field awareness and power, saving his best for the 4A state final against Texarkana. Shabazz rushed for 171 yards and four touchdowns on 20 carries and also had a 77-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against a defense that entered allowing 4.2 points per game. Wadie Moore, who covered prep sports for decades for the Arkansas Gazette, said Shabazz's elusiveness made him the best running back he covered.
Jerry Eckwood (6-0, 200 pounds) Brinkley, Class of 1974
High school highlights: 1973--2,616 yards, 33 touchdowns, 10 yards per carry; career--5,215 yards and 67 touchdowns.
College choice: Arkansas
Eckwood was likely the first blue-chip recruit to command the attention of the entire state. Moore, the longtime Gazette sportswriter, said Eckwood was the second-best Arkansas prep running back he covered.
Part of Eckwood's success came from his love of lifting weights, a far cry from Shabazz, who relied on natural strength, Moore said. Eckwood led his senior team to a runner-up finish in 2A.
Injuries hurt Eckwood's career at Arkansas, but for a six-game stretch of his sophomore season, Eckwood ran for 727 yards and averaged 9.2 yards per carry. A knee injury soon after robbed him of his elite speed again as a Razorback.
Cedric Cobbs (6-0, 225 pounds) Little Rock Fair, Class of 1999
High school highlights: 1998--2,043 yards,15 touchdowns,13 yards per carry; career--4,631 yards, 43 touchdowns, 10.5 yards per carry
College Choice: Arkansas
Cobbs set a record for per-carry average at the state's highest classification that may never fall. He also helped Fair beat Cabot 41-0 for the state title.
At Arkansas, Cobbs set a freshman single-season rushing record and was described by ESPN: The Magazine as "the most dynamic running back to hit the SEC since Bo Jackson." But, similar to Eckwood, injuries derailed things: a shoulder separation in 2000, a pulled hamstring and strained back in 2001 and a sprained toe a year later.
Cobbs finished his college career with an All-SEC performance and stands as the Hogs' fourth all-time leading rusher.
Jim Pace (6-0,194 pounds) Dunbar High, Class of 1954
High school highlights: Comprehensive statistics, if recorded, have been lost for many all-black schools of the pre-integration era.
College choice: Michigan
Cobbs first made a name for himself at Dunbar Junior High, where 40 years earlier Jim Pace became one of the most celebrated black athletes of the pre-integration era.
Pace scored 17 touchdowns as a sophomore halfback, 20 as a junior and 25 as a senior. Although he wanted to be a Razorback, he knew joining an all-white Southern team was out of the question. So he opted for Michigan, where he lived a couple years while in junior high, and Little Rock public schools athletic director Earl Quigley got the Wolverines in touch with him.
Pace led Michigan in rushing his final two seasons, won a Big Ten sprint title and was as an All-American. Pace became a hero in Little Rock's black community and in December 1957 was greeted at Little Rock's Adams Field by 1,500 supporters.
Bruce Fullerton (6-1,185 pounds) Little Rock Central, Class of 1958
High school highlights: 1957 -over 1,000 yards, 27 touchdowns.
College choice: Arkansas
Fullerton was the most decorated player during the most dominant stretch of pre-integration prep Arkansas football. His senior year capped a run of six straight seasons in which the Tigers didn't lose to an in-state opponent.
As a junior and senior, Fullerton's Tigers went undefeated, beating top teams from Tennessee, Louisiana and Texas. The National Sports News Service voted Central as the nation's No. 1 team, and The Sporting News named Fullerton its national player of the year.
Fullerton's combination of size, strength and speed was rare. He weighed as much as the average starting Central offensive lineman.
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|Date:||Jul 16, 2012|
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