Who was the best single-season DL & LB tandem?
Which is the best single-season running back duo in Sun Devil history?
Let's get to it. Here are the nominees.
Leon Burton and Bobby Mulgado (1957)
For about the first 70 calendar years of football at ASU, only two players rushed for over 1,000 yards in a single season with legendary Wilford “Whizzer” White’s amazing 1950 campaign joined only by Burton’s sensational 1957 résumé.
Arizona State’s ground game was far from a one-trick pony, as do-it-all Sun Devil icon Bobby Mulgado – one of the most versatile athletes in program history – was a lethal complement out of the backfield. The team in general benefited greatly from the Devils’ one-two punch as Arizona State College finished 10-0 in what was Dan Devine’s final season in Tempe.
Statistically, Burton stole the show with his 1,126 rushing yards and 16 total touchdowns, enabling him to essentially claim the college football stat book triple crown as, according to Sports-Reference.com, he was the NCAA leader in rushing yards, total touchdowns and yards-per-carry (9.6).
While Burton garnered national acclaim for his numbers, Mulgado added a dynamic presence as well with 681 rushing yards and 339 receiving yards with nine total touchdowns, while also starting as a defender, on returns as well as in the kick game. Altogether, Mulgado was responsible for 93 points scored in 1957 – second nationally only to his running mate. Revered for his jack-of-all-trades contributions to Sun Devil football, Mulgado’s No. 27 was retired shortly after his Arizona State career concluded.
Tony Lorick and Charley Taylor (1963)
A pair of First-Team All-WAC selections, the duo of Lorick and Taylor didn’t have out-of-this-world numbers (1,400 combined rushing yards, 17 total touchdowns), but the dynamic pair guided ASU to an 8-1 record during the early days of Frank Kush’s tenure in Tempe and were man-for-man two of the top offensive players for ASU in the 1960s.
Lorick, the national leader in yards-per-carry (7.7) according to Sports-Reference.com, was the leading rusher of the pair with 805 yards, helping him first-team all-league recognition after second-team honors the season before.
Though Taylor’s versatility showed most at the NFL level when he switched from running back and ended his Hall of Fame career as the NFL’s leading receiver, he created a similar reputation during his Sun Devil days. In addition to his 595 rushing yards with six scores, Taylor added 217 receiving yards with two touchdowns while also starring on defense and special teams.
Woody Green and Brent McClanahan (1972)
The Sun Devil offense of the early-1970s was nothing short of spectacular in all regards – not only was future Hall of Fame QB Danny White taking to the air, but the run game featured not just one superb, All-America caliber running back virtually each year but also a standout reserve as talented as most other teams’ starters. The 1972 season was a perfect example as Green and McClanahan combined for over 2,500 rushing yards with 32 total touchdowns for the 10-2 Western Athletic Conference champion Sun Devils.
Unquestionably the best running back in school history, many must have thought it would be tough for Green to top his 1,343-yard sophomore season – until he concluded his junior year as owner of the school record with 1,565 rushing yards and 19 total touchdowns. A consensus All-American and the WAC Offensive Player of the Year, Green finished the year third nationally in rushing with his still-standing single-season school rushing mark.
McClanahan joined Green in the backfield as ASU’s fullback but was far from merely a blocking back as he tallied 1,159 rushing yards with 13 total touchdowns on his way to joining Green on the All-WAC first-team.
In all, the combined efforts of Green and McClanahan keeps 1972 as the most recent time two Sun Devil running backs both netted first-team all-league honors in the same season. Statistically, this combination reached unprecedented levels that still remain in Tempe as their combined rushing total of 2,724 yards is greatest collective single-season sum by a pair of Sun Devil runners in program history. Unsurprisingly as well, the 1972 Sun Devil squad posted what remains a single-season rushing mark of 4,133 yards – an average of 344.4 rushing yards per game.
The duo punctuated the 1972 season emphatically with a collective jaw-dropping total of 373 combined rushing yards and five total touchdowns in ASU’s 49-35 Fiesta Bowl victory over Missouri.
Woody Green and Ben Malone (1973)
In the early 1970s, the pipeline of outstanding backs never ran dry in Tempe. While McClanahan departed for the NFL, Green soon had another running mate that picked up right where they left off.
Green topped the 1,300-yard mark for the third straight season, rushing for 1,313 yards to give him a yet unmatched ASU record 4,188. He capped his illustrious Sun Devil career by being named a consensus All-American yet again, as well as first-team All-WAC.
Malone, carrying on the backfield legacy of older brother Art, had a terrific year, rushing for 1,186 yards (still the 10th highest total in school history) and led the team with 15 rushing touchdowns. Somewhat surprisingly, perhaps due to the spotlight on Green, Malone did not receive any All-WAC team selections.
Their combined total of 2,499 rushing yards remains second in school history to Green and McClanahan's total from the year before.
Darryl Harris and Channing Williams (1986)
It's the dream of every Pac-12 team to make a run for the Roses. This backfield did just that.
In his first season as the Sun Devil starter, Harris ran for 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns, in helping lead ASU to a their first ever Pac-10 championship. He was also a reliable receiver out of the backfield, finishing fourth on the team with 19 receptions. Harris came up big when the team needed him most, rushing for 103 yards in the Rose Bowl win over No. 4 Michigan. After the season, he was named to the All-Pac-10 second team.
Joining him on that honorable squad was his fullback, Channing Williams. More than just a lead blocker, the 215-pound Williams also earned honorable mention All-American honors as he ran for 609 yards and nine scores.
Marion Grice and D.J. Foster (2013)
Perhaps no tandem hurt opponents in more ways than Grice and Foster did last season.
Assuming the lead back role, all Grice did was score touchdowns, early and often. With his unassuming style that made the game look easy, Grice scored 12 touchdowns in the first four games, eight rushing and four receiving. As both a runner and receiver, he was the Sun Devils' heart and soul. The only thing that derailed his run at the record books was a broken leg suffered late in the win over UCLA. The second-team All-Pac-12er finished the year with 996 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns and added 50 catches for 438 yards and six scores, the second straight year he led the nation's running backs in touchdown receptions.
The explosive Foster saw plenty of action at wide receiver during the early part of the year, catching 52 passes over the first 11 games while logging just 42 carries. But when Grice went down, Foster did't miss a beat, rushing for 124 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Arizona. He was the lone bright spot of the Pac-12 Championship Game, gaining 142 yards from scrimmage with two touchdowns. Foster then set a career-high with 132 yards in the Holiday Bowl.
All together, this tandem amassed 2,588 yards from scrimmage and 30 touchdowns.