CFF Series - G5 RBs to the P5... Let's Talk About It
Georgia State's Marcus Carroll is the latest G5 stud to elevate up a level in competition; what should we make of his valuation headed into 2024?
I'm on a mission, that they say is… impossible, but when I swing my sword, they all choppable…
- GZA (Wu-Tang Clan), musician
On Monday of this week, former Georgia State RB and CFF stud Marcus Carroll announced that he’d be transferring to the SEC program—the Missouri Tigers. This is a fairly notable event in the CFF sphere (and even within the larger CFB domain), so naturally, I wanted to write something about it.
However, when thinking about this archetype of player (G5 RB to a P5 program), my feeling was that it typically doesn’t work out. So, I decided to investigate that, by the numbers, and include it in my assessment of how Carroll should be valued headed into 2024. This profile is actually quite a complex one, which makes it an interesting case study to evaluate. There are multiple forces in both directions at play, none bigger than the one in the proceeding section. But, there are many reasons to think that Carroll may be the one to buck the recent trend of G5 RBs getting lost in the P5.
So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Pattern of G5 RBs to the P5 is Not Good (Terrible Actually)
I think most CFF players probably feel that G5 RBs who transfer to the P5 generally do not do well. If that’s you, you are correct. Let’s take a look at the top RBs who transferred up a level last year:
Carson Steele (Ball State to UCLA) — It’s a damning endidetement on this list that Steele is probably the top performer of the group. He finished 2023 with one game over 20 points (vs. those nerds at Stanford), and compiled on aggregate a total of 847 rushing yards (actually hit 1000 yards total) and scored eight times. Those season-long stats actually aren’t that bad, but they still only produced a 13.5 PPG average for our boy. That’s a steep drop from his much more attractive 24 PPG the year prior in the MAC. That being said, the MAC might be the worst of the G5 conferences, so this step up in competition was a pretty big one. Overall, I’d grade this transfer as a ‘B’. It’s not great, but it isn’t a disaster either.
Aidan Robbins (UNLV to BYU) — Next up is former UNLV Rebel Aidan Robbins, who transferred to BYU in the same season that they were inducted into the BIG12. As a refresher, Robbins finished 2022 averaging 18 PPG for the Rebels. He even had a game where he went over 200 yards. His arrival at his new program wasn’t so successful. To be fair to Robbins, he was dealing with an injury for basically the entire season. He had a total of 10 carries in the first two games, and then wouldn’t return to the lineup until October 21st. When true freshman runner LJ Martin got banged up down the stretch, Robbins began to find his form. He took 22 carries for 182 yards against Oklahoma in late November. Unfortunately, save for a solid 15 point output vs. WVU, this would be the only mark Robbins would make on the season. I grade this a ‘C’.
Brian Battie (USF to Auburn) — Battie was coming off an 1100 rushing yard season in 2022 when he decided to join the Freeze man on the plains this past offseason. What did he get for his troubles? How about less than 300 yards total in 12 games played. Yikes. Battie probably is not going to be the key feature man in the offence this season either, with a stable of solid runners still in the fold. I grade this as an ‘F’, failure on all accounts. Who’s advising these kids? Do they need to bring me in as a consultant? I think so…
Alton McCaskill (Houston to Colorado) — Some of you remember McCaskill, right? He came out of nowhere for Houston in 2021, amassing 16 TDs in 14 games played that year. He then tore his ACL in the 2022 offseason, and then transferred to Colorado in the 2023 offseason. He was not the same player returning from injury when he did play, and struggled to stay healthy for most of the year. He was then granted a redshirt for 2023. Maybe he finds his form in 2024? I won’t rule that out. The Buffs need to find success in the run next season to take pressure off of Shedeur, and we’ve seen that Prime likes to feature ‘his guys’, or should I say, his luxury Louis Vuitton luggage. I grade this as a ‘D-’, only because I can see the potential in 2024 and McCaskill’s injury is not his fault.
Sean Tyler (WMU to Minn) — I’m guessing the point has been made clearly and thoroughly by now, but I want to drive the nail in the coffin with this final example. Tyler — a multi-season 1000-yard back in the MAC — finished 2023 with a total of 242 rush yards, and no scores. When you think of how beat up Minnesota’s running back room was this year, it’s particularly damning that Tyler couldn’t make head waves. He got lost in the shuffle, as they say. Do I even need to say it? This is an ‘F’, obviously… I’d give it an ‘F-’ just for good measure.
Marcus Carroll from the SBC to the SEC Could Be Different
So we’ve covered the pattern of this profile, and the writing on the wall is pretty clear: it’s probably best to avoid. End of story, right? Not so fast, I think we need to investigate further.
I like this landing spot for Carroll. Not as much as if he were to stay in the G5, of course, but it’s a good spot nonetheless. To critically assess this claim, let us take another look back in history since Eli ‘Wu-Tang’ Drinkwitz became the HC at Missouri, and even beyond that to his time as HC at App State (2019), OC at NC State (2016-2018), and OC at Boise State (2015).
So as stated, I will cover what coach Drink has done at Missouri, but first I want to highlight this run he had from 2015 to 2019 at the RB position. Before moving to the SEC, Drink was the HC at App State for the 2019 season. His leading rusher carried the rock over 250 times, and cleared 1400 yards, scoring 18 times. That’s pretty good, especially when considering that not included in the figure below is the fact that Evans also scored five times via the air on 21 receptions, plus an additional 121 yards.
Prior to App State, every single season that Drink spent as the OC at NC State (2016-2018), his leading RB went over 1000 yards. You can verify this for yourselves at this link.
What’s interesting is that none of the three RBs at NC State who cleared 1000 yards received more than 249 carries in a season. In fact, one of them—Nyheim Hines (some of you will recognize that name), only carried the rock 197 times in 2017 when he cleared the 1000-yard threshold.
At Boise State it was — if you can believe it — more of the same. His sole season as the OC (2015), Jeremy McNichols was potentially the CFF RB1 that year, carrying the rock 240 times for 1337 yards and 20(!) scores, plus an additional 460 yards receiving and six more scores on 51 receptions.
Coming back to his current position, Drink joined the Missouri Tigers in 2020. In the first (shortened season), his RB1—Larry Rountree, carried the rock 209 times for 972 yards and 14 TDs in only 10 games. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s an average of 20.9 carries, just under 100 yards, and 1.4 TDs per game. That’s not bad.
The 2021 season is the one everyone remembers. Fourth year RB Tyler Baddie had a monstrous campaign for the Tigers. He rushed 268 times for 1604 yards and 14 scores, plus (as seems to be customary for Drink’s RBs) caught 54 passes for 330 yards and four more scores.
As CFF managers found out in 2022, even iron-clad patterns like coach Drink’s stellar RB record are not infallible. For the first time since 2015, Drink’s RB1 failed to clear 1000 yards in a full season of play. Cody Schrader, in year one of his transfer, amassed only 745 yards and 9 scores. This is obviously a warning of caution for those interested in Carroll. Keep in mind, however, that Schrader was not a G5 transfer, but an FCS transfer, which — remarkably — with Cam Skattebo’s 17.2 PPG season in 2023, appears to be a better profile than the G5 guys. On the other hand, Schrader was making an even bigger jump than Carroll.
Of course, we all know what eventually happened with Schrader at Mizzou in 2023, he finished the regular season campaign with a fantastic 1489 rushing yards and 13 scores on 247 carries, plus 191 receiving yards on 22 receptions. He’s currently averaging 23 PPG in 1PPR formats. What’s the takeaway? Maybe Carroll is better as year two option (if he stays)? Maybe. And the pattern of this profile suggests that we should avoid. But, as Wu-Tang clan member GZA says above (paraphrasing), sometimes things seem impossible, until I pull out my Tachi Samurai sword and start chopping heads.
Our boy Carroll is a down-south southern boy from Georgia, who not only looks the part of an SEC player coming off the bus, but also could probably pull off playing a black Samurai in an international action thriller (Hiya!!).
Caroll is coming from arguably the best G5 conference—the Sunbelt. He has the exact size profile you want with regards to P5 CFF stud RBs—5’10, 210 pounds (otherwise affectionately known as the demon build). I actually think that the 5’10, 210 profile is just a catch-all that teams use for any RB who’s within a few inches of 5'10 (5’8, 5’9, 5’11) and five-to-ten pounds within the range of 210, just due to how often it comes up when I look at player profiles.
There’s a data point that is also very important to consider in all of this. It’s one thing that keeps me on buzz about Carroll’s potential: the Week 11 game vs. LSU.
Now, I know that LSU’s defence this year was not good by SEC standards, but they are still an upper-tier SEC program, which automatically qualifies as a top P5 program. Carroll managed to take only 15 carries for 87 yards (5.8 ypc) and a score, plus caught four passes for 51 yards (23.8 points).
That’s a great (and efficient) output vs. an SEC program, let alone one of the better programs of the conference. The pass catching usage in that one is also notable. Carroll wasn’t used this way that much this season, but he appears to have it in his arsenal, which as pointed out above, is typically a hallmark of Drink’s RB1s in the past.
Where does current Mizzou OC Kirby Moore fit into all of this? Well, I — for one —can’t be the only one that wonders why he doesn’t wear a visor. His first name is Kirby and he coaches in the SEC, time to get with the program, guy. But I digress, Kirby Moore was the OC this past season, and probably some of the success Schrader had is due to him also.
Prior to joining Mizzou, Moore was the OC at Fresno State in 2022, and the WRs coach from 2020-2021. Some of you will recall that FSU’s RB1 that year—Jordan Mims, torched the MWC for 1370 rushing yards and 18(!) scores on 261 carries, plus caught 21 passes for 126 yards and another score. That’s a great year.
Clearly, he and Drink seem to be aligned on this front. They want to run the ball—more importantly, they want one guy to be the feature. That’s not a guarantee that there will be a guy — someone has to step up, of course — but we at least know that that’s the preference here. So the question is, how much do we believe in Carroll?
I think I’m comfortable in saying that of the G5 RB transfers to the P5 (the 2022 group and Carroll), I feel like Marcus probably has the best chance on the face of it to succeed. He’s coming from the best G5 conference, we have a good data point vs. an opponent that is of the caliber of teams he will be facing in 2024, and the system he is entering is pretty much as good as it gets in CFF. That’s a lot going for him.
So enough with the waffling, where do I stand with Carroll’s eval? First round is out of the question. The track record of this profile is too concerning. Second round still feels rich for me. Third round is a bit risky but is not out of the question in my opinion. The fourth round, I think, is a good spot. That’s still an important pick, yes, but if you’re a degenerate RB hoarder like me, by that point you’ve already drafted three other RBs, so taking a swing with Carroll only makes sense.
Extrapolating that to the average CFF player, maybe I should say more generally: wherever you would typically draft your RB3/4, that’d probably be a range I’d consider Carroll. We won’t know what the price to acquire him is until we get offseason mock draft data this spring. I’m also trying to be more conservative with my take, lest I end up contributing to CFF players drafting him in the top two rounds this offseason, then we all suffer, right?
Now, we are basically 10 months out from the next CFF season, and a lot can change in that time. Spring reports — as usual — will be important to monitor. But let me plant my flag right now while I still can—if Carroll is popping off next season, his nickname will officially be declared as: Marcus ‘The Black Samurai’ Carroll.
“Attack like a wolf pack once I pull back, and bust through, like a fullback…”
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