Arkansas Boasts Long Tradition Of Producing Quality Running Backs

by Evin Demirel  on Monday, Jul. 16, 2012 12:00 am  

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By now, the accolades are nearly lore: 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 college seasons.

Nearly a third of McFadden's school-record 1,830 rushing yards during his junior season came after initial contact. He never stopped showing the same desire to punish he’d flashed as a hard-hitting safety at Pulaski Oak Grove.

McFadden’s senior team lost 31-7 to Alma in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A state playoffs.

Peyton Hillis (6-2, 250)
Conway High School, Class of 2004
High school highlights: 2003 — 2,631 yards, 29 touchdowns, 10.1 yards 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. Then he posted a senior season that included nine carries of 55 yards or more and a run to the state 5A semifinals, where Conway lost 28-27 to West Memphis.

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 still ranks sixth among the best individual seasons in state history. That year, Greenwood beat Little Rock Christian 27-6 in the 5A state final.

At Auburn, Dyer set a freshman rushing mark with 950 yards and an MVP award in the national title game. He was a two-time all-SEC pick with the Tigers.

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 Arkansas State history. He led Osceola to three consecutive title games with his most gutsy effort coming last. On a sore right ankle, Adams ran for 131 yards in a 28-27 victory against McGehee for the 2A state championship.

By winter 1997, many major programs including Alabama and Arkansas wanted Adams, then the state’s all-time leading rusher. But ASU was only an hour drive away from home and was easier to get into than some of Adams’ other options.

Adams was never as dominant in college as he was in high school, but averaged 4.5 yards per carry while scoring 17 touchdowns in four seasons. His 3,005 career rushing yards rank fourth in Arkansas State history.



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