Ranking the best running backs in University of Utah history

The running back position has been a spot of strength for the Utes for a long time. Even when the team struggled, Utah normally had a reliable back to shoulder the load on the offensive side of the ball. Some were hard-nose between-the-tackles runners while others could get to the edge and beat the defense with a burst of speed. Others could not only do damage in the running game, but also provided another weapon in the passing game.

It’s hard to do an all-time list about Utah running backs without first talking about the greats from the early years of the program. They received all-Skyline conference honors on a regular basis starting with the likes of Paul Snow, Izzy Spector, Dewey Nelson, Frank Nelson, Bob Summerhays, George Bean, Don Peterson, Louis Mele and Herb Nakkan.

There where also a pair of All-Americans during those early days, including Earl Pomeroy in 1929 and Frank Christensen who earned the honor three straight years from different groups. While all of these great backs made significant contributions to Utah football, there isn’t enough information available to accurately rank them on this list.

Here is my list of the best running backs from the University of Utah.

It is important to note that only what each player did during his time at the University of Utah was taken into consideration for these rankings.

All stats as well as conference and national placement from Sports-reference.com. All-conference and All-American honors from UtahUtes.com.

H.M. Marty Johnson (2001-04)

Johnson had one really solid season for the Utes during his three years on the hill. That came in 2004 when he finished third in the MWC with 802 yards rushing while leading the conference with 14 touchdowns.

For his Utah career, he had 229 carries for 1,302 yards and 18 touchdowns to go along with 11 receptions for 103 yards and two more scores.

H.M. Charlie Brown (1990-94)

Brown had one really impressive season during his time with the Utes. That year was in 1994 when he led the team with 839 yards and 10 touchdowns on 144 carries to go along with 15 catches for 211 yards and three more scores. His 5.8 yards-per-carry was good for second in the conference while his 13 touchdowns from scrimmage was good for third.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 252 times for 1,357 yards and 15 touchdowns. He added 23 receptions for 258 yards and three scores.

H.M. Adam Tate (2000-01)

Tate spend two seasons on the field with the Utes and did some really nice things. Even though he led the team in rushing in 2000, his best year came in 2001. That season he carried the ball 160 times for 819 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with 11 catches for 158 yards and another score.

For his Utah career, he had 320 carries for 1,479 yards and 19 touchdowns. He added 16 receptions for 212 yards and one more score.

H.M. Hilria Johnson (1980-83)

While he was never the main back during his four years at Utah, he made solid contributions every year. His best season came as a junior in 1982 when he finished sixth in the WAC with 718 yards rushing and fourth in the conference with seven touchdowns.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 312 times for 1,718 yards and 16 touchdowns to go along with 27 catches for 205 yards and three more scores.

H.M. Lewis Walker (1978-79)

Walker played just two seasons for the Utes and was never the No.1 guy, but when he got his hands on the football he could make plays. His best season came in 1979 when he earned first-team all-WAC after he rushed for 714 yards and seven touchdowns on just 93 carries. His 7.7 yards per carry led the WAC and was good for second in the nation.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 114 times for 837 yards and seven touchdowns to go along with five catches for 27 yards.

H.M. Gene Belczyk (1970-72)

While his numbers aren’t eye-popping, Belczyk led the Utes in rushing during two of the three seasons he was on the field. His best season came as senior when he carried the ball 140 times for 777 yards and six touchdowns. He added 16 catches for 191 yards and another score.

For his Utah career, he had 284 carries for 1,577 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with 49 receptions for 495 yards and two scores.

25. Ike Spencer (1972-74)

Spencer had three productive seasons during his time as a Ute. He led the team in rushing in back-to-back years and was always a threat to catch passes out of the backfield. His best season came in 1973 when he had 761 yards and eight touchdowns on 179 carries to go along with 13 catches for 164 yards and another score.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 395 times for 1,856 yards and 15 touchdowns. He added 34 receptions for 448 yards and two scores.

24. Matt Asiata (2007-2010)

Even though injuries extended his time at Utah for a couple of seasons, when he was on the field he was very productive. His best season came as a junior in 2008 when he led the team with 707 yards and 12 touchdowns.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 379 times for 1,748 yard and 24 touchdowns to go along with 54 receptions for 394 yards and two scores.

23. Darrell Mack (2005-2008)

Mack put up some very solid numbers during his time at Utah. His best season came as a junior in 2007 when he had 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns on 253 carries to go along with 21 receptions for 144 yards and three scores.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball times for 2,065 yards and 16 touchdowns. He also added 40 catches for 250 yards and three scores.

22. Eddie Wide (2007-2010)

Even though wide spent four seasons on the hill, it wasn’t until his last two years that he put up numbers. His best season came as a junior when he had 203 carries for 1,069 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with 17 receptions for 154 yards and another score.

For his Utah career, he registered 2,013 yards and 23 touchdowns on 401 carries. He added 51 receptions for 425 yards and three more scores.

21. Keith Williams (1991-93)

Williams was one of the best dual-threat backs that the Utes have ever had. His best season came in 1991 when he carried the ball 207 times for 1,076 yards and six touchdowns. He added 24 receptions for 252 yards and one more score.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 396 times for 2,002 yards and 15 touchdowns to go along with 72 receptions for 726 yards and a score.

20. Brandon Warfield (2002-03)

Warfield spent two years in the backfield for the Utes and put up solid numbers both seasons. In each year he finished in the top five in the WAC in both rushing yards and rushing touchdowns. His most productive season came as in 2003 when he rushed for 976 yards and 11 touchdowns on 237 carries.

For his Utah career, he had 438 carries for 1,895 yards and 20 touchdowns to go along with 12 receptions for 69 yards.

19. Juan Johnson (1994-97)

While he never had the opportunity to carry the full workload for the Utes, Johnson put up some big numbers during his four seasons at Utah. His most productive campaign came as a senior in 1997 when he carried the ball 181 times for 838 yards and seven touchdowns.

For his Utah career, he had 582 carries for 2,601 yards and 22 touchdowns to go along with 22 receptions for 167 yards and two more scores.

18. Monk Bailey (1957-59)

Even though he had to split carries with Larry Wilson, Bailey led the team in rushing each of his last two seasons. His best season came in 1959 when he earned all-conference recognition after he carried the ball 138 times for 640 yards and five touchdowns.

For his Utah career, he had 252 carries for 1,204 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with four catches for 53 yards.

17. Allen Jacobs (1963-64)

Even though Jacobs shared carries with Ron Coleman during both his seasons, he was still a key contributor to one of the best teams in school history. His most productive season came in 1964 when he carried the ball 175 times for 752 yards and a team-leading eight touchdowns to earn all-conference recognition.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 299 times for 1,316 yards and 16 touchdowns.

16. Ron Coleman (1963-64)

Even though Coleman was second on the team in carries during both of his seasons, he still put up some impressive numbers. His best season came in 1964 when he carried the ball 123 times for 750 yards and six touchdowns to earn all-WAC. His 6.1 yards per carry was fourth best in the country.

For his Utah career, he had 209 carries for 1,143 yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with 13 receptions for 87 yards.

15. Tony Lindsay (1977-1980)

Lindsay had four really productive seasons during his time with the Utes under coach Wayne Howard. Even though he was an all-WAC performer in 1979, his best statistical season came in 1980 when he had 190 carries for 909 yards and eight touchdowns to go along with 25 receptions for 215 yards and another score.

For his Utah career, he had 648 carries for 2,995 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also had 42 catches for 347 yards and three more scores.

14. Quinton Ganther (2004-05)

Ganther had two really solid seasons with the Utes on the ground and in the passing game. His best year came in 2005 when he with 1,120 yards and seven touchdowns on 5.5 yards per carry to go along with 25 catches for 314 yards and another score.

For his Utah career, he had 314 carries for 1,774 yards and nine touchdowns. He added 32 catches for 363 yards and two more scores. His 5.6 yards per carry is the seventh highest in MWC history.

13. Eddie Lewis (1982-85)

Lewis played four seasons for the Utes and was very productive when he had the ball in his hands. His best year came as a senior in 1985 when he carried the ball 195 times for 1,018 yards and eight touchdowns. He added 22 catches for 198 yards and four scores.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 379 times for 2,179 yards and 18 touchdowns to go along with 29 receptions for 280 and four more scores.

12. Jamal Anderson (1992-93)

Anderson spent two years with the Utes under Ron McBride where he was a very powerful runner. His best season came in 1993 when he 168 carries for 958 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with 17 receptions for 183 yards and three scores. Those numbers would good enough to place in the top five in the WAC in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns.

For his Utah career, he carries the ball 223 times for 1,275 yards and 14 touchdowns. He added 35 catches for 342 yards and four scores.

11. Del Rodgers (1978-1981)

Rodgers was productive from the moment he got on the field with the Utes. His best season came as a senior in 1981 when he carried the ball 170 times for 1,127 yards and 13 touchdowns to go along with 17 catches for 156 yards and another score. Those numbers were good enough to lead the WAC in rushing yards, yards per carry while finished second in touchdowns to earn first-team all-conference.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 494 times for 2,616 times and 31 touchdowns. He also had 34 catches for 338 yards and one more score.

10. Dameon Hunter (2000-01)

Hunter played for two seasons with the Utes and put together one of the top rushing seasons in school history. That season came in 2001 when he carried the ball 257 times for 1,396 yards and nine touchdowns with six catches for 70 yards. Those numbers were good enough to finish in the top three in the WAC in rushing yards and yards per carry.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 346 times for 1,735 yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with seven receptions for 66 yards.

9. Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala (1995-97)

Fuamatu-Ma’afala spent three seasons carrying the ball for the Utes before he left for the NFL following his junior season. His best year came as a sophomore in 1996 when he carried the ball 168 times for 982 yards and nine touchdowns to go along with 10 catches for 80 yards to earn first-team all-WAC.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 463 times for 2,630 yards ans 22 touchdowns. He added 15 receptions for 125 yards and another score.

8. Merrill Douglas (1955-57)

Douglas had some really impressive seasons during his time with the Utes. He finished one yard off the team leading in rushing in 1956 and then led the team in rushing and touchdowns a year later. His best season came in 1957 when he carried the ball 97 times for 646 yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with seven receptions for 84 yards to earn first-team all-conference fullback. His 6.7 yards-per-carry was good enough for fourth in the nation while his 10 touchdowns placed him seventh.

7. Stuart Vaughan (1955-57)

Even though his rushing totals are the lowest on this list, Vaughan deserves plenty of recognition for what he did under coach Jack Curtice. His best season came in 1957 when earned first-team all-Skyline half back when he carried the ball just 28 times for 117 yards. He added 53 receptions for 756 yards and five touchdowns. Those receiving numbers placed him first in the country in catches and yards and sixth in receiving touchdowns.

6. Mike Anderson (1998-99)

Anderson was with the Utes for two seasons and was dominant both years. As a junior, he rushed for 1,173 yards and 12 touchdowns on 244 carries to earn first-team all-WAC. A year later he earned first-team All-MWC after finishing second in the conference in rushing yards and touchdowns.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 439 times for 2,150 yards and 22 touchdowns to go along with five catches for 51 yards and two more scores.

5. Devontae Booker (2014-current)

Even though he has played just one season with the Utes to this point in his career, Booker is one of the best backs the school has ever seen. As a junior, he carried the ball 292 times for 1,512 yards and 10 touchdowns to go along with 43 receptions for 306 yards and two more scores. Those numbers were good enough to place second in the Pac-12 in rushing yards and fifth in touchdowns from scrimmage.

4. Carl Monroe (1981-82)

After a solid junior campaign, Monroe took over the reins from the departed Del Rodgers and provided one of the best rushing seasons in school history. That year, he earned first-team all-WAC after he carried the ball 309 times for 1,507 yards and four touchdowns to go along with 16 catches for 108 yards and another score. Those numbers were good enough to finish seventh in the nation in rushing yards.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 408 times for 2,029 yards and nine touchdowns. He added 30 receptions for 249 yards and one more score.

3. John White IV (2011-2012)

White eased the Utes difficult transition from the Mountain West into the Pac-12 with two huge rushing seasons. His best year came as a junior in 2011 when he carried the ball 316 times for 1,519 yards and 15 touchdowns to go along with 13 catches for 44 yards and two more scores. Those numbers were good enough to finish second in the Pac-12 and 10th in the nation in rushing yards.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 534 times for 2,560 yards and 23 touchdowns. He added 23 catches for 167 yards and three additional scores.

2. Eddie Johnson (1984-88)

Johnson did some very special things during his time as a Ute. He finished top seven in the nation in yards per carry two different seasons while crossing the 1,000 yard mark to earn first-team all-WAC. He added a third impressive season as a senior when he had 748 yards and 12 touchdowns on 157 carries to go along with 32 catches for 319 yards and three more scores.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 564 times for 3,219 yards and 26 touchdowns to go along with 95 catches for 839 yards and nine more scores.

1. Larry Wilson (1957-59)

While his name doesn’t land very high on Utah’s list of most rushing yards, Wilson was the only back in the last 80 years to earn All-American honors. That fact alone is good enough to earn him the top stop. His best season came in 1959 when he was third-team Williamson All-America and first-team all-conference after he carried the ball 98 times for 559 yards and eight touchdowns. He added 21 receptions for 215 yards and four more scores. His 12 touchdowns from scrimmage was fourth most in the nation.

For his Utah career, he carried the ball 230 times for 1,220 yards and 11 touchdowns to go along with 43 receptions for 593 yards and eight more scores.

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