Better than Nick Chubb: Three Vanderbilt RBs most would prefer
If you’re a Vanderbilt or Georgia fan, you know the difference between Ralph Webb and Nick Chubb. While Webb continues to be one of the SEC’s sturdiest starting running backs, Chubb has thrust himself into Heisman Trophy contention after an all-conference year in 2014.
Perhaps you heard what Vanderbilt offensive lineman Jake Bernstein told the media this week; that he would rather have Webb over Chubb any day.
Verne Lundquist praised Bernstein for the statement, but most of the college football world uttered a resounding “WHAT?” followed by hundreds of angry social media posts.
We’re here to appease both sides.
It’s obvious that Chubb has been more successful than Webb, and appears to have better professional prospects than his Vandy counterpart, but surely there are Vanderbilt alums who would stack up to Chubb in any water-cooler debate.
The most obvious choice would be Zac Stacy, who set school records for career touchdowns (30) and rushing yards (3,143) between 2009-2012, and is now a running back for the NFL’s New York Jets.
But if you want to make the discussion more interesting, here are three all-time greats who would give Chubb a run for his money:
“Hungry” Jack Jenkins (1939-1942)
Born Jacque Sumpter Jenkins, this pre-war back set a single-season Vandy record with 90 points on 12 touchdowns, 15 extra points and one field goal. That mark still stands today.
The Commodores did not track individual rushing stats until the mid-’40s, so it’s unlikely that we’ll truly appreciate Jenkins’ greatness through numbers. But we do have one indication of how high his totals might’ve climbed: Vanderbilt set it’s single-game record with 606 rushing yards against Tennessee Tech in 1942, Jenkins’ senior year.
He then went No. 10 overall to Redskins in 1943, producing a classic bit of newspaper writing from The Chicago Tribune’s Edward Prell on Aug. 8 of that year:
Jenkins’ brilliant record as a blocking and running back at Vanderbilt and the flash he has shown in the Redskins’ warmups here have brought admiring adjectives tumbling his way.
“He’s the greatest prospect we’ve had since Sam Baugh joined us,” said one Redskin veteran.
“Doesn’t he remind you of Bronko Nagurski out there?” asks Owner George Marshall admiringly over and over.
Jack Sumpter stands an inch over 6 feet and weighs 210 pounds. Like most of the Washington players his body is burnished by the sun, tho California can claim only part credit. The sun over Texarkana, a town partly in Arkansas and partly in Texas, did most of the paint job on the stalwart 22 year old.
Will Chubb ever get those kind of adjectives and comparisons printed on the front page? We can guarantee the answer is “no.”
Frank Mordica (1976-1979)
Mordica was one of the SEC’s all-time great offensive players. He led Vanderbilt in rushing for three straight years, and set the conference record with 321 rushing yards in one game. The elusive Mordica also managed to put up five TDs in one game. He went No. 233 overall to New Orleans in the 1980 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, Mordica passed away this July. But his death brought memories and quotes from several old teammates, coaches and foes.
Mike Organ from Tennessean.com gathered this particularly evocative statement from Boots Donnelly, who was Mordica’s running backs coach at Vandy.
“I started Frank Mordica as a freshman because Frank Mordica could run,” Donnelly said. “His feet were so good it’d make your shoes squeak. He was unbelievable.”
Vanderbilt will have a tough time with Chubb this Saturday, but squeaking shoes will likely not be involved.
Corey Harris (1988-1991)
Perhaps Vanderbilt’s most diverse all-time great, Harris stacked up 1,827 total yards during his senior season, leading the team in rushing, receiving and kickoff return yards. Those efforts led to a consensus All-SEC selection and SEC Legend status in 2011.
Fans won’t remember Harris in any NFL backfield, but he did have a successful 12-year-career as a safety. Wearing No. 45, he played for the Baltimore Ravens during their Super Bowl-winning 2000 season.
It’s also important that we acknowledge Harris’ off-the-field accomplishments. He’s a published author and noted music nerd (rare locker room qualities), and his sense of style is unmatchable.
From BaltimoreSun.com’s Mike Klingaman:
Few Ravens dressed sharper than Harris, whose flashy wardrobe wowed his teammates. One day, he’d wear platinum pants with a see-through sheer shirt; the next, it would be a red leopard print coat with mink-topped shoes.
We know Nick Chubb can run the ball, but what else can he do? Certainly not break out the platinum pants. Right?
Vanderbilt will take on Georgia this Saturday afternoon in Nashville (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS). Fans arriving in the morning will be able to take in Tim Tebow’s first SEC Nation broadcast since returning to ESPN.