When it comes to the NFL Draft, no position has seen its stock fall further than that of the running back. It was once common to see backs being taken early in the first round, but we had to wait until pick No. 54 in 2014 to see one taken.
The league is becoming much more pass-happy, but it shouldn't go unnoticed that a strong running game is a key component of any successful team. Running backs still matter quite a bit, and with that in mind, College Football 24/7 took a look at college football programs and took into account their history of producing NFL backs (including fullbacks) over the past 25 years, the quality of backs they've produced, and even considered the future a bit to see what kind of pipeline there is for the school at the position.
Here are the 10 programs that can proudly lay claim to the title of "Running Back U" based on their success in sending players to the league during the past quarter century or so.
10. Ohio State Buckeyes
Draft picks the last 25 years: 16, including Carlos Hyde, Beanie Wells, Maurice Clarett, Eddie George and Robert Smith.
The skinny: A historical powerhouse at the position, George is the biggest name the Buckeyes have sent to the league in the past 25 years, but he's far from their only notable rusher. Ohio State has the second-highest total of backs drafted and seven of the 16 picks turned into starters for their team for at least a season.
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9. USC Trojans
Draft picks the last 25 years: 17, including Stanley Havili, Joe McKnight, Reggie Bush, LenDale White and Ricky Ervins.
The skinny: In terms of numbers, it's the Trojans and everybody else as they've had more backs drafted in the past quarter century than any other school. A number of them have had good careers. However, similar to the situation with Trojans quarterbacks, the hit percentage for starting NFL rushers isn't what it should be with 17 draft picks. If you look back even further, USC would shoot up the rankings, but lately it hasn't lived up to its historical reputation in terms of impact tailbacks.
8. LSU Tigers
Draft picks the past 25 years: 14, including Jeremy Hill, Spencer Ware, Joseph Addai and Kevin Faulk.
The skinny: The Tigers have almost always had a good ground game, but the program has really started to pump out running backs at an impressive rate since Les Miles' arrival. Hill and Alfred Blue were the combo in 2014 and could join the six LSU backs picked in last quarter century or so that ended up as primary ball carriers in the NFL. Take note of the name Leonard Fournette -- the incoming freshman is considered to be the best high school running back recruit since Adrian Peterson.
7. Tennessee Volunteers
Draft picks the last 25 years: 15, including Montario Hardesty, Travis Henry, Jamal Lewis and Charlie Garner.
The skinny: The glory years of Vols football certainly contributed to their place on the list despite things trickling off a bit after 2005. Six of the 15 draftees turned into NFL starters and that's not even counting undrafted star Arian Foster, the NFL rushing champ in 2010 and another Vol who became an All-Pro at the next level. Head coach Butch Jones has a good stable in the backfield in Knoxville already and recruiting in the area is going well, too.
Draft picks the last 25 years: 13, including Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson, Le'Ron McClain and Shaun Alexander.
The skinny: We had grown accustomed to seeing a Crimson Tide back drafted every two or three years, but thanks to Nick Saban, we're seeing one picked just about every year. Shaun Alexander is the headliner of the group but there are some quality names up and down the Tide's list. Six of the 13 drafted turned into starters and the future is bright with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry in Tuscaloosa.
5. Auburn Tigers
Draft picks last 25 years: 13, including Tre Mason, Ben Tate, Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams and Rudi Johnson.
The skinny: The Tigers notably produced two top-five picks at running back in 2005 with Brown and Williams, but there are some equally big names that have come out of the Plains over the years. Six of the 13 backs drafted ended up starting for a number of years and the program has done a great job sending fullbacks (like NFL Network's Heath Evans) to the pros, too. With Gus Malzahn in charge, Tre Mason will likely be the first in a long line of backs the Auburn head coach produces in the coming years.
4. Georgia Bulldogs
Draft picks last 25 years: 13, including Knowshon Moreno, Olandis Gary, Terrell Davis and Garrison Hearst.
The skinny: The Bulldogs had an incredible run in the 1990s, led by Hearst and NFL Network's Davis. Six of their 13 picks at the position turned into primary starters and there have been four Georgia backs picked in the first round over the years. Since Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are on the roster and there's a strong recruiting pipeline in place in the backfield, Athens is certainly a must-stop for scouts looking for tailbacks.
3. Penn State Nittany Lions
Draft picks last 25 years: 15, including Evan Royster, Larry Johnson, Curtis Enis and Ki-Jana Carter.
The skinny: After a hugely productive run in the 1990s, the Nittany Lions have fallen off a bit lately, but have a strong pedigree and plenty in the pipeline. The school produced a No. 1 overall pick at the position (Carter in 1995) and saw nine lead backs emerge for at least two seasons among their 15 picks at the position. Larry Johnson led the way in terms of impact on the field among the Penn State group, and the program also saw a number of quality fullbacks make it to the NFL.
2. Florida State Seminoles
Draft picks last 25 years: 14, including Devonta Freeman, Leon Washington, Greg Jones and Warrick Dunn.
The skinny: The state of Florida has been a great pipeline for NFL backs and there's a reason the two ACC programs in the state are high on this list. Nine of the 14 picks the Seminoles have produced played in more than 90 games in the NFL and just two failed to develop into decent pro players. Dunn put up the biggest numbers out of the FSU group, by far. Given the way head coach Jimbo Fisher has been recruiting, it's probably safe to say Chris Thompson and Devonta Freeman are just the beginning of a new pipeline of Seminoles backs moving on to the NFL.
1. Miami Hurricanes
Draft picks last 25 years: 13, including Willis McGahee, Lamar Miller, Frank Gore, Clinton Portis and Edgerrin James.
The skinny: The U hasn't produced the most picks of any school, but the team's still-rich history and the number of impact backs it has produced is enough to keep the Hurricanes atop this list. Four Miami running backs have rushed for more than 8,000 yards in the NFL, and a remarkable nine of the school's 13 draft picks turned into a team's primary ball carrier at the next level. With Duke Johnson and freshman Joseph Yearby on the roster in 2014, along with a strong commitment to the ground game, expect Miami to be able to hold off others for this title in the coming years, too.
Best of the rest: Fresno State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Wisconsin, California, Florida, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pitt, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas, Texas A&M, Stanford.
Follow Bryan Fischer on Twitter @BryanDFischer.