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Top 5 Texas Tech running backs of the decade

We’ve had some really good running backs in the 2010’s!

NCAA Football: Eastern Washington at Texas Tech Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The 2010-2019 decade was a disappointing one for Texas Tech football, but there were still quite a few great players to represent the Double T over the past ten years. To recognize this, our staff at Viva The Matadors has ranked some of the best players at each position group this decade. Today’s ranking is of the top five running backs over the last decade for the Red Raiders, including a 1,000 yard rusher, a player who had took at least one hand-off from five quarterbacks, and a player who briefly transitioned to linebacker.

5. Ta’Zhawn Henry, 2018-present

Career stats: 161 carries, 681 yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, (964 total yards)

NCAA Football: Texas Tech at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

This was easily the hardest decision I had to make on the list. Sarodorick Thompson was much more productive than Ta’Zhawn in 2019, while Tre King, Demarcus Felton, and Da’Leon Ward each had similar success to Henry at certain points in their careers as Red Raiders. Baron Batch probably had the best year of anyone not on this list, but his lack of touchdowns and inability to fight off #2 on this list hamper his resume.

Ta’Zhawn’s volume stats do not really stick out, but he’s played through injuries in each of the last two years, and arguably got held up as a freshman due to a backfield stacked with similar quality players. The biggest thing in Henry’s favor is his huge games in a starting role. Tech went 5-0 in games where Ta’Zhawn received at least nine touches, and 0-7 when he did not. In 2019? Tech went 4-0 when he had nine+ touches, and 0-8 when he did not. He also had arguably the most impressive game of a Tech running back not named Deandre Washington, as he put up over 120 yards and 4 touchdowns in a win over Houston and Ed Oliver.

Henry will have to fight to split touches with Sarodorick Thompson, and in terms of next decade will probably be in less of a position to succeed. But right now? Ta’Zhawn’s got this spot covered.

4. Kenny Williams, 2011-2014

Career stats: 322 carries, 1534 rushing yards, (2165 total yards, 20 TDs)

Oklahoma v Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Getty Images

Kenny Williams is probably the hardest individual player to evaluate in the top four. He had arguably better peak production then the second and third place backs on this list, but he also had some non-existent games and was eventually turned into a linebacker when DeAndre Washington passed him on the depth chart in 2014. Highlights of his Tech career included strong back to back games against Iowa State and West Virginia in 2013, a breakout sophomore campaign in which he came close to breaking the 1,000 yard barrier (which no other Tech running back had done in the 2000s until that point), and scoring a go-ahead touchdown against Iowa State in 2014 that held as the winning score.

Williams was overshadowed at Tech by the top two players on this list, but he still carved out quite the role for himself in Lubbock.

3. Justin Stockton, 2014-2017

Career Stats: 294 carries, 1714 yards, 14 touchdowns (2586 total yards, 24 total TDs)

Birmingham Bowl - Texas Tech v South Florida Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Justin Stockton was one of my favorite players to watch in a Texas Tech uniform this decade. He was a complete human highlight reel from the moment he stepped foot on campus, and had at least one incredible touchdown per year. Stockton burst onto the scene with over 100 yards in his second career game (against UTEP), before having another big game in a near win over West Virginia. 2015 was Stockton’s coming out party, as he combined with DeAndre Washington to form a lethal running back duo. Stockton had over 300 yards rushing (on 6.0 YPC) and 300 yards receiving (on only 22 catches) with 11 total touchdowns. Stockton’s junior year was the only blemish on his resume, as he had a disappointing year as an expected starter, as he only averaged 2.9 YPC and only reached the endzone three total times (though one was from this play). Stockton had a bounce back senior year, reaching 1,000 yards from scrimmage and putting up four 100 yard games. That season was somewhat limited for Justin due to concussions and other injuries, but he still managed to be a bright spot in a somewhat disappointing offense.

Stockton was known at Tech for his electrifying speed. Nicknamed “The Flash”, Stockton’s ability to blow by defenders in the open field was incredible, and made him a real weapon for Patrick Mahomes in his two full years of starting at Tech. The one thing that always stings with Stockton is the 2015 TCU game. He had what should have been the game winning score on a phenomenal catch-and-run play, but that play has since been rendered irrelevant due to the touchdown that followed...

2. Eric Stephens, (2009-2012)

Career Stats: 373 carries 1967 yards, 21 touchdowns (2504 yards, 25 total touchdowns)

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 15 New Mexico at Texas Tech Photo by John Weast/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s an absolute tragedy that Eric Stephens did not have a season with more than 700 rushing yards. His last three seasons of college football all featured a handful of memorable games, yet all he had nothing to show for it. Stephens is one of the most naturally talented backs we’ve seen at Tech this decade, and his combination of speed and vertical cutting allowed him to thrive in a variety of roles. He was always a solid kick returner, and his ability to catch passes out of the back field let Neal Brown run his screen and swing based offense. Stephens was an all-around excellent back, and probably would’ve been an NFL prospect if he’d put together a healthy career as a Red Raider.

Unfortunately, Stephens did not stay healthy. His junior year was cut short due to a brutal knee injury suffered on a questionable hit in the Texas A&M game. Stephens was having an incredible season up until that point, having tallied over 90 rushing yards in each of the first five games. He looked to have a 1,000 yard season well within sights, and might have been in the discussion for All Big 12 honors. After the injury Stephens was never the same, though he still put up a respectable 480 yards in his senior campaign.

1. DeAndre Washington, 2011-2015

Career stats: 605 carries, 3411 yards, 23 touchdowns (4502 yards, 27 total touchdowns)

Texas Tech v Oklahoma Photo by Jackson Laizure/Getty Images

This was the easiest back to place on this list. DeAndre Washington was by far the most productive Tech running back this decade, and essentially the only one to stick in the NFL for more than a season. Washington had the first 1,000 yard season since our version of Ricky Williams in 1998, had a 200 yard game on senior night, and had a four touchdown game against a top five team. No other running back hit any of those milestones, and that’s just the surface level of Washington’s story.

DeAndre got more snaps as a freshman due to the aforementioned knee injury to Stephens, and had pretty solid production as the lead back in Big 12 play, but unfortunately his own season came to an end early with an ACL tear in the penultimate game of the 2011 season. The injury would cost him the entire 2012 season, and in 2013 he had to split time with Kenny Williams, SaDale Foster, and Quinton White. He started the year slowly, but something clicked mid-season, as he had over 60 yards from scrimmage in six out of the final seven games.

His late season burst inspired the coaching staff to move Williams to running back, and he easily beat out the rest of the backs on the roster to become the primary back in 2014. He put up over 1,000 yards on the year, but only had two touchdowns for a 4-8 team. Despite this, Washington was still extremely efficient, averaging nearly six yards per carry. His strong junior campaign was highlighted by a trio of 120+ yard games in conference play, capped by an 186 yard performance in the win at Iowa State. Washington returned to Tech for his senior year, and that’s when his legacy truly developed.

His senior year had a variety of different highlight moments. He was a part of a QB/RB/WR trio (with Patrick Mahomes and Jakeem Grant) that led the Big 12 in each respective yardage category for most of the season, and was the bellcow for arguably the most efficient Red Raider offense of the century. Washington led the Big 12 in yardage, posted consecutive 1,000 yard seasons for the first time at Tech since Byron Hanspard was making people miss in the Jones, and finally had a season with a high amount of touchdowns (11 rushing, two receiving). DeAndre’s two biggest games in his senior year came in the confines of Jones AT&T Stadium, as he had four touchdowns in the near upset of TCU and over 230 yards and three touchdowns in his senior night game against Kansas State. Washington had a three game stretch to close the regular season with over 100 yards in every game, a feat that has not been replicated by any Tech back since.

Ultimately, DeAndre Washington was the only truly great Tech running back this decade. In fact, there’s an argument to be made that his impact for the Red Raiders was more than any non-Mahomes player this decade. He made the running game relevant again in Lubbock, and did so with a style of play that was incredibly fun to watch. That 2015 team as a whole was probably the most exciting Tech team to watch this decade, and Washington was a big reason why.