But Tucker was a God…


[Edit 2013-01-13: See the updated list including Ben Tate, Onterio McCalebb, Cam Newton, and more accurate stats.]

So Phillip Marshall tallied his votes for greatest running back not named Bo Jackson. I would say that there were surprises, but I watched the voting and was expecting some of these results. It does tell me one thing, fondness grows with time. Without further ado, here is his list compiled from the masses top three. To stay consistent with my previous list, I only listed the top nine after Bo.

Name Years Votes
Carnell Williams 2001-2004 130.5
James Brooks 1977-1980 113.5
Brent Fullwood 1983-1986 90.5
Tucker Frederickson 1962-1964 86.5
Joe Cribbs 1976-1979 73.5
Ronnie Brown 2001-2004 50.5
Rudi Johnson 2000 44
Stephen Davis 1993-1995 27
James Bostic 1992-1993 10

Tucker Frederickson, the Elephant in the Room

Reading the comments during the voting, I was surprised at the repeated appearance of Tucker Frederickson. I had to look for information on him. He had one season as the primary running back and his stats weren’t spectacular. Here are the team rushing leaders before and after Tucker and the stats that I could find.

Year Name Attempts Yards Avg TD
1963 Jimmy Sidle 185 1006 5.4 10
1964 Tucker Frederickson 129 571 4.4 5
1965 Tom Bryan 133 561 4.2 5

Hey, if Tucker is on the list, where the heck is Jimmy Sidle? He led the SEC in rushing in 1963. Of course, he also was the QB and led the team in passing as well with 706 yards.

I kept looking and got to receiving stats. In addition to leading the team in rushing, Tucker was the leading receiver with 14 receptions and 101 yards. Auburn’s QB, Joseph Campbell only threw for 422 yards that year, so Tucker’s contributions look even larger.

Did I mention that in 1963 Tucker led the team with 4 interceptions. Auburn had no interceptions in 1964, but Tucker was still playing safety. Tucker basically did it all. For that, he was the number one pick in the 1965 NFL draft.

Tucker was a football player. Maybe the best at Auburn in decades. Was he one of the top running backs? Debatable. With better players around him, maybe he performs better. However, anyone that watched Auburn football in those years remembers him clearly.

Oh My God! They Killed Kenny!

Kenny Irons, number 9 on my list got no votes. There are eleven more players listed after Bostic on his list. He is only a year removed and didn’t feel great. I was a little surprised how high he was on my list. He didn’t make anyone’s top three. It doesn’t mean that he isn’t on people’s top four or five.

After all, he is number two in career yards per game at 95. Number one? Bo at 113.2.

When Kenny played, the Auburn nation was still hung-over from Ronnie and Cadillac. I suspect in ten years, or more, Kenny will move up as memories grow fonder.

All Yards are not Created Equal

Brent Fullwood vaulted from 5th to 3rd. That isn’t a massive difference until you realize that he jumped both Stephen Davis and Joe Cribbs. Fullwood was great, and he was over-shadowed by Bo until his senior season. That season, 1986, he only had 10 touchdowns though he led the SEC in rushing with 1391. Brooks is higher and only had 10 at his peak, but he also had 1800 all-purpose yards, second only to Bo, in one season.

As for Stephen Davis, I’m wasn’t sure at first why he dropped so low. You would think someone tied for the all-time rushing touchdown record, 17, would do better. Maybe it is because his all-purpose yards aren’t that much higher than his career rushing. Let’s look at my original list, sorted by Career Non-Rushing Yards (NRY).

Name Career NRY Season NRY
James Brooks 2073 486
Carnell Williams 1253 411
Joe Cribbs 1193 131
Brent Fullwood 969 121
Ronnie Brown 683 181
Bo Jackson 589 73
Stephen Davis 367 92
Kenny Irons 244 166
James Bostic 170 40
Rudi Johnson 70 70

Brooks was a beast in this category. Fullwood does well on this list and is pretty close to Cribbs, helping to explain his bump. Meanwhile, Stephen Davis falls down here. Bo also is a good ways down the list. However, when you were as good as Bo was, you don’t need passes to the outside to get running room.

The non-rushing yards appear to be the key to the discrepancies. Everyone expects the running backs to do well on the ground. It is the unexpected plays that we remember. Today, more and more running backs catch passes, at least at Auburn. Back then, it was much rarer. We expect our backs to catch them at Auburn now. When it started with Al Borges, I was excited. Now I get upset when they don’t use our backs more.

This is just an extension of the Tucker phenomenon. When you make more types of plays, you are viewed as better than pure-play running backs.

So advice to our current crop of running backs. If you want to make the list, be sure you learn how to catch the ball. That will go a long way to making people remember you fondly.

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3 thoughts on “But Tucker was a God…

  1. Our son was born in 1980 and we named him Tucker for, as my husband said, “The best damn running back there ever was.” We were not Auburn fans or Giants fans but my husand was impressed enough with Tucker Frederickson to give our son his name.

  2. Pingback: Top Auburn Running Backs, 2012 Edition | Pie on Sports

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