Headlining the InstantScouting 2017 Top Division Three Senior Running Backs List is Carnegie Mellon University senior running back Sam Benger.
The senior running back has been named preseason Most Valuable Player by Lindy’s Sports for the 2017 season. In addition to his first team honor from Lindy’s, the Benger was also named to the Street & Smith’s Preseason All-America team.
Benger will enter his final season as the program’s all-time leading rusher, as he has ran for 4,333 yards in 32 career games. The senior has rushed for 49 touchdowns in three seasons and needs 10 more to become the school’s all-time leader. His yardage currently rank fifth on the Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) all-time list while his carries (725) and rushing touchdowns rank sixth.
The 5-8, 185-pound back is a two-time AFCA Division III Coaches’ All-American, D3football.com All-American, CoSIDA Academic All American and PAC Offensive Player of the Year. Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III South Offensive Player of the Year was another honor bestowed upon Benger in 2016. As a sophomore, Benger was the University Athletic Association (UAA) Offensive Player of the Year and garnered All-America recognition from The Associated Press (AP).
In 2015, Benger led the nation with an NCAA Division III-best 2,092 yards, averaging 190.2 yards per game while becoming the 21st player in Division III history to reach the 2,000-yard plateau. He then finished his junior season rushing for 1,671 yards and 26 touchdowns, ranking second nationally in touchdowns and third in rushing.
Position, Name, Class, School, Hometown, Ht & Wt
RB Joey Valdivia, Senior, Lake Forest College, Grayslake, Illinois 5’10, 210 lbs
Joey Started every game while setting the single-season team records for rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and total points. Led the Midwest Conference and nation in rushing touchdowns and total points. Finished first in the league in scoring, rushing touchdowns, and rushing yards and second in yards per carry. Was fourth in the country in rushing per game, ninth in yards per carry, and 10th in all-purpose yards per contest. Scored at least one touchdown in every game. Finished with at least 100 rushing yards and two or more touchdowns in all but one contest.
Also earned First Team All-Midwest Conference, D3football.com First Team All-West Region, D3football.com Third Team All-American and Team’s Most Valuable Player
RB Sam Benger, Senior, Carnegie Mellon University, Hingham, Massachusetts 5’8, 185 lbs
Over three seasons, he’s rushed for 4,333 yards and has tallied 49 rushing touchdowns. In 2015, he was chosen as an All-American.
Also earned American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) All-America First Team, D3football.com Second Team All-America and CoSIDA Academic All-America First Team honors. Is the 2016 ECAC South Offensive Player of the Year, PAC Offensive Player of the Year, ECAC All-Star, All-UAA First Team, All-PAC First Team and D3football.com First Team All-Region. Set the school record for single-season rushing touchdowns with 26 and for single-season points scored with 170
Rushed for a total of 1,671 yards in 11 games.
RB Nick Savant, Senior, Muhlenberg College, Hellertown, Pennsylvania, 5’10, 192 lbs
Savant is coming off a breakout season in which he rushed for 1,589 yards – fourth in Division III – and 18 touchdowns. He averaged 7.0 yards per carry and 16.0 yards per reception, adding four receiving touchdowns to his total. Savant rushed for at least 100 yards in nine consecutive games, setting a school record with 277 against Juniata.
Savant was selected to the All-Centennial Conference first team, ECAC South All-Stars first team and D3football.com All-South Region third team. He will enter his senior season tied for fifth on the Mules’ all-time list with 2,293 career rushing yards.
RB Dylan Hecker, Senior, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Winneconne, Wisconsin 6’1, 230 lbs
The senior running back Dylan Hecker, who owns the program record with 45 rushing touchdowns and topped the WIAC with 1,142 rushing yards and 17 rushing touchdowns a year ago. UW-Oshkosh’s 24 victories in the last two seasons are the most in program archives.
RB Jacob Burke, Senior, Case Western Reserve University, Johnstown, Ohio 6’1, 210 lbs
Earned All-PAC and All-UAA Second Team honors as a running back during his junior season… Started eight games and played in all 10 during the year, and was the team’s featured back, carrying the ball 172 times… Became the fourth player in school history with over 1,000 rushing yards in a season, finishing the campaign with 1,065 yards… His 16 rushing touchdowns were the second-most in a single season in school history, while his 6.19 yards per carry is the best mark ever by a Spartan player…Finished the season ranked 14th in Division III in scoring (10.2 points per game), 18th in rushing touchdowns, 21st in total touchdowns (17), 25th in total points scored (102), 37th in rushing yards per game (106.5), and 40th in rushing yards… Added four receptions for 83 yards and a touchdown during the year… Rushed for a touchdown in eight of the team’s ten games.
RB John Smith, Senior, Husson University, Fayetteville, Georgia 6’1, 215 lbs
Smith continues to accrue honors after another record breaking season as he earned his second-straight D3football.com All-East Region selection, becoming the first Eagle player in program history to be named to team twice. He was tabbed as the ECFC’s Offensive Player of the Year for the second-straight season, a first team All-ECFC selection for the third-straight season, and a NEFW All-New England selection for the third-straight season. The junior led the entire conference in rushes (308), yards (1,822), yards per game (165.6), and touchdowns (17) with one turnover, while being ranked among the nation’s leaders in most rushing categories throughout the year. The tailback scored at least one touchdown in all but three contests and surpassed the 100 yard mark nine times, and the 200 yard mark three times.
In 2016, Smith once again rewrote the record book as he became the all-time career leader in rushing yards (4,963), rushing attempts (830), rushing touchdowns (50), total offense (4,963), touchdowns responsible for (52; 50 rush, 2 rec), total points scored (314), 100-yard career rushing games (25) and 200-yard career rushing games (7) while surpassing his single-season records for rushing yards (1,822), and rushing attempts (308) and setting a new single-game mark for rushing yards (280) vs. Dean on Sept. 16, 2016.
Smith is the only player in ECFC history to be named Offensive Player of the Year in back-to-back seasons and the only player on the 2016 All-NEFW squad to be named to the team three straight seasons.
RB Brandan Campbell, Senior, Hope College, Otsego, Michigan, 5’11, 220 lbs
After spending his freshman and sophomore years on the Ferris State University football team, Campbell transferred to Hope, where he earned the athletic department’s Newcomer of the Year honors following his junior season, in which he rushed for 1,361 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games.
Campbell’s yardage and touchdown numbers were the fourth most by a Hope player in a single season in each category, despite the fact that he failed to break the 100-yard mark until the team’s third game.
RB Roger Walker, Senior, Marietta College, Palm Bay, Florida, 5’10, 185 lbs
Walker, a second team honoree in 2015, becomes just the second Pioneer to win the offensive back of the year award. Previously known as the Mike Gregory Award, Curt Weikart won the award in 1995.
Eclipsing the 100-yard rushing mark in the each of the final seven games of the season, Walker led the OAC in rushing with 1,292 yards. He is Marietta’s first 1,000-yard rusher since Lamar Hunter ran for 1,031 in 2009.
RB Ro Golphin, Senior, John Carroll University, Cleveland, Ohio 5’8, 180 lbs
Golphin had six 100-yard rushing games, 1,111 rushing yards total on 164 carries and 11 touchdowns. Also earned All-OAC first team in 2016 and All-OAC second team in 2015.
RB Mike Miklusicak, Senior, Hope College, Wayland, Michigan 5’9, 195 lbs
Miklusicak ran for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns on 160 carries. He ranks 10th among the Flying Dutchmen’s single-season rushers.
Miklusicak’s 259 yards were the third-most in a single game by a Hope player. He’s only surpassed by only Brandan Graham’s 302 yards on 46 attempts against Kalamazoo in 1996 and 293 yards on 44 rushes against Olivet in 1995.
RB Michael Diggins, Senior, University of Wisconsin River Falls, Andover, Minnesota, 5’9, 205 lbs
Diggins, a senior running back from Andover, MN. led a Falcon offense that ran for 275 total yards in their 21-14 win at UW-Stevens Point on Nov. 4. He gained 224 rushing yards to add to his league rushing lead. His 1,190 rushing yards through nine weeks gives him the most rushing yards at UW-River Falls in the last 10 years and makes him the first 1,000-yard rusher since 2011. Diggins also added three more rushing touchdowns against the Pointers to add to his conference-leading touchdown and scoring ranking. His 16 touchdowns are the most points and touchdowns scored at UW-River Falls since 1987.
RB Sola Olateju, Senior, Wheaton College, North Oaks, Minnesota 5’10, 201 lbs
Olateju ran for 273 yards on 25 carries and four touchdowns during Wheaton’s 71-0 victory at Carroll. He established career highs for rushing yards and touchdowns in a single game. He established a new school record for career rushing with 3,194 yards. He also finished with 34 career touchdowns, which is tied for fifth in program history.
RB Chad Johnson, Senior, Concordia College, Glyndon, Minnesota 6’1, 210 lbs
Johnson set the school record with 40 rushing touchdowns in his career while finishing his senior season with 1262 rushing yards, 17 touchdowns and 7.7 rushing average.
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