Why can#039;t AU recruit better backs?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 29, 2005

When you look at the National Football League's leading rusher list, it reads like a who's who of All-Pro talent.

Then you also realize that four of the top 20 rushers in the league came from the same loveliest village on the plains. In fact former Auburn running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams is leading the league in rushing after running for his third straight 100-plus yard game this season.

There seemed to be no doubt that Williams would provide the rushing spark that John Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers needed.

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Now, No. 2 overall pick and fellow Tiger teammate Ronnie Brown has caught up with his teammate by cracking the century mark last week.

Looking further down the list you see former Auburn players Rudi Johnson and Stephen Davis leading their respective teams in Cincinnati and Carolina.

So with so many rushing talents in the NFL, it begs the question as to why Auburn isn't called Running Back U, and why has Tommy Tuberville failed to attract the best running backs in the country?

Tuberville said even before the end of the Tigers' magical 13-0 season that there would be no replacing Ronnie Brown or Carnell Williams.

That much is evident given that the Tigers' leading rusher is sixth in the conference averaging less than 75 yards a game.

That seems incredible given that Auburn just finished up wiping their feet on lowly Ball State and overmatched 1-AA power Western Kentucky.

After the rushing success Brown and Williams had at Auburn, you would think that prospective running backs would be beating down Tuberville's door wanting to play for him.

But then again, a highly-trained psychologist can't crack into a teenager's mind and figure out what they are thinking. Sometimes even a teenager will admit he doesn't know what he's thinking.

But Auburn's lure of top-flight running back talent shouldn't be just on the merits of what Brown and Williams did during their tenure on the Plains.

There's history of great backs playing at Auburn. Need I remind those of you about a guy named Bo Jackson.

Or better yet let's go a little deeper into Auburn's history book and look at former Tiger backs who went on to play in the NFL like Joe Cribbs, James Brooks and William Andrews.

That's just a taste of the running back talent that's come from Auburn.

Heath Evans was the lead blocker for the NFL's second leading rusher, Shaun Alexander, last season. Now he's Ronnie Brown's lead blocker in Miami.

Tommie Agee was a bruising fullback in the NFL for seven seasons. Fred Beasley still is rumblin, bumblin, stumblin with the San Francisco 49ers. And Tony Richardson, who also had to share the backfield with Davis, is in his 10th season with the Kansas City Chiefs.

The names go on and on.

So what's the problem on the Plains?

Or maybe there isn't a problem with getting top-flight running back talent there. Maybe Kenny Irons will be the next running back to wow NFL scouts like those I mentioned before.

Or maybe the best high school backs in the nation will stand up and take notice when Williams is named Offensive Rookie of the Year, and Brown won't be far behind in the voting.

There may be no way to replace backs like Williams and Brown, but that doesn't mean the running back pipeline at Auburn should be clamped off either.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. Call him at (334) 382-3111 ext. 122 or e-mail kevin.taylor@greenvilleadvocate.com.