Running Down History

June 21, 2017

DENTON - There are a few names that come to mind when you think of the pantheon of rushing history for the University of North Texas. Current Los Angeles Rams running back Lance Dunbar, former Miami Dolphins running back Patrick Cobbs and another Mean Green great, Jamario Thomas come to mind. Senior Jeffery Wilson is quickly climbing the career rushing leaderboard in a pair of key categories, and looks to have his name mentioned among the all-time greats.

Wilson currently ranks 11th all-time in school history with 1,990 rushing yards, and is 12th in rushing touchdowns with 16. This, after a breakout junior campaign that saw him carry 169 times for 936 yards and 14 touchdowns in 11 games.

"I've had the opportunity to talk to both Lance [Dunbar] and Patrick [Cobbs] and the legacy that both left at North Texas, especially for the running back group is outstanding," Wilson said. "This school breeds backs and when I was being recruited I had heard all about all of the great running backs North Texas has produced and it was a big part of why I committed. I try to work to keep up the standard that guys like Lance, Patrick and Jamario [Thomas] left for us."

The Elkhart, Texas, native passed the likes of Ray Renfro (1,556), Eric Pegram (1,613), Antoine Jimmerson (1,851) and Abner Hayes (1,864), amongst others during his 2016 season. Heading into his final year in Denton, Wilson has more names in his crosshairs.

Over the past two years, Wilson has averaged 883 yards per season with seven and a half touchdowns. Both those campaigns involved some missed time due to injury, as Wilson played in 21 of a possible 25 games.

"We've put in a ton of hours and extra work to make sure I'm feeling right," Wilson said of his recovery. "I didn't go home for break and I am in there grinding with all of the trainers who took their time to work with me and now I'm feeling like I'm ready to go. I'd like to thank the trainers, coaches and everyone who has stayed with me through this long process. We are through it now and are ready to go for the season."

Should Wilson hit his averages, he would vault comfortably into fifth place all-time in rushing yards with 2,873. That would move him past Kevin Galbreath (2,417) and put him behind Ja'Quay Wilburn, who is only one of four Mean Green rushers to ever eclipse the 3,000-yard mark. Dunbar and Cobbs seem relatively out of reach, and it would take the best single season in school history (and then some) to take the top spot.

That said, even Thomas is within shouting distance at 3,496 yards for his career. That would mean Wilson would need to post 1,506 yards in 2017, and only three have ever rushed for more (Thomas had 1,801 in 2004, Cobbs had 1,680 in 2003 and Dunbar had 1,553 in 2010).

On the touchdown side, posting seven or eight rushing scores this season (on either side of Wilson's average output for the past two seasons), he would ascend into the sixth spot all-time with 23 touchdowns. Bump that output to 10, and Wilson would be tied for fifth alongside former San Francisco 49er, Ken Bahnsen (26). Should Wilson equal his 2016 scoring pace, 14 more touchdowns would give him 30 for his career, and vault him all the way into the top three behind Dunbar (41) and Cobbs (36).

To put Wilson's scoring output from a year ago into perspective, 14 touchdowns were the third-most in that category for a single season in school history. Dunbar and Thomas each found paydirt 17 times in 2004 and 2009, respectively, while Cobbs celebrated 19 times in 2003.

Wilson is poised to make more strides as a senior and is coming back healthy following his late-season knee injury. In year two of the Seth Littrell/Graham Harrell offense, improvement all around is expected as players grow into the no longer brand new system.

"I'm going to continue to do what I did last year, which is to believe in my teammates," Wilson said of trying to carry over his 2016 successes. "Believing in my [offensive] line and having confidence in them is the best way that I can play freely and I know those guys are going to handle their business and I won't let them down. We all work together and gain off each other, which makes it all work."

New faces are also in tow, more importantly as it pertains to Wilson along the offensive line. A pair of senior starters have graduated in Sam Rice and Trey Keenan, but eight lineman comprised the signing class/transfer group for 2017. That line depth should help bolster the ground attack for the Mean Green.



North Texas Mean Green