How far up the career rushing yards list will Donnell Pumphrey go?

Coming into this season, San Diego State’s Donnell Pumphrey was 75th all-time in career rushing yards with 4,272 to place just ahead of Tulane legend Matt Forte. Five weeks into the season, Pumphrey is now 14th  on the list after a first five games that have seen him pass a who’s who of collegiate running back stars:

  • Montee Ball
  • Mike Hart
  • Avon Cobourne
  • Darren Sproles
  • Ray Rice
  • Thurman Thomas
  • Marcus Allen
  • Darren McFadden
  • Marshall Faulk
  • Amir Abdullah
  • Keenan Reynolds
  • Kenneth Dixon
  • Eric Dickerson
  • Earl Campbell
  • Bo Jackson

The question simply remains, how high up the list can Pumphrey go? It’s pretty apparent that he will move up; here is a list of the 10 running backs above him on the list, with how many yards ahead of Pumphrey they are:

  • Garrett Wolfe (1)
  • Herschel Walker (96)
  • Anthony Thompson (136)
  • Damien Fletcher (139)
  • LaDanian Tomlinson (224)
  • Cedric Benson (377)
  • Archie Griffin (426)
  • Travis Prentice (433)
  • D’Angelo Williams (863)
  • Charles White (882)

I’m skeptical as to whether Pumphrey can manage to crack that gap in between Prentice and Williams, but there’s no reason to rule it out entirely. So far this season Pumphrey has racked up less than 140 yards on the ground only once (against New Hampshire) and has averaged 178 yards per game.

If Pumphrey simply maintains that average, he would wind up with 6,412 rushing yards at the end of the regular season, which would place him third all-time and give him a very realistic shot at passing Tony Dorsett if the Aztecs go to the conference championship and/or a bowl game. He has already faced three of the 20 worst run defenses this season, and has four upcoming conference games against teams that are bottom-15 in that category.

Not only that, he has gotten where he has so far (and will keep going) at least in part because he is the one reliable weapon the Aztecs have. With the extremely underwhelming Christian Chapman under center, the Aztecs regularly lean and lean hard on Pumphrey, and opponents can’t stop him anyway. This is liable to snowball especially given his upcoming schedule; Hawai’i is surrendering 236 rushing yards per game, and that’s the fourth-worst run defense left on his schedule.

Will Pumphrey finish his career on the top-10 list? Unquestionably. It might even happen this week.

Will he finish as a top-5 back in rushing yardage? Probably, unless the run defenses he faces from here out have been sandbagging so far to make him think they are bad.

How about finishing as one of the best of all time? It will take everything breaking just so, but I would put the odds at 50/50 at minimum, because he is just that good at what he does.

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