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CFF Series - WMU's Offence is a unique case study
Lance Taylor's new WMU offence reminds me of a former potent MAC team that was a gold mine for RBs in CFF
Gold rush… acid flux, saturate me, I can't get enough…
- Sleep Token, music group
What does a gold rush look like in CFF form? WMU’s torrid pace on offence would be a start. The stat lines of the backfield in particular last Thursday evening left CFF managers wanting a piece of this offence with high urgency.
“Saturate me, I can’t get enough…”
Is what redshirt freshman RB Jalen Buckley told head coach Lance Taylor (probably) as the staff fed him a cool 30 carries throughout the evening. But as with all Week One performances, a question we should ask is: how much of what we saw is repeatable—are the standout players one-offs, or sustainable studs going forward?
A deeper look into the mechanics of the offence should shed some light on this question. I will also be taking a look at the breakout player himself—Jalen Buckley.
Lance Taylor’s WMU Offence is FAST
If you were paying attention to the Thursday night slate of games, you might have noticed that WMU ran the football a lot. The Broncos ran a total of 66(!) run plays against SFPA. To provide some context, UCF — in a game vs. Kent State where they scored 56 points, and are also a fairly run heavy outfit with QB John Rhys Plumlee often taking to the ground — ran 46 run plays total.
Not only did they have a RB hit the 30-carry threshold (which immediately triggers the VP alarm in our interns’ offices), but also another RB who hit the 20-carry threshold. And do you know what it reminded me of? Another Lance-run offence formerly of a MAC team not so long ago—Lance Leipold’s Buffalo Bulls outfit with Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks in the backfield. In 2019, Leipold’s Bulls ran the football so much that they had one rusher go over 300 carries (Patterson), and another over 225 (Marks).
The next leading rusher had 23 carries total. That’s a difference here, WMU also had a third rusher involved in KeShawn King, who had seven carries and a reception before getting knocked out of the game in the second quarter. But the sheer amount of run plays executed was very reminiscent of those old UB teams, which makes this team extremely interesting going forward.
Taking out the context on King, the stat line of WMU’s rushing attack on Thursday night strikes an uncanny resemblance to those Leipold teams.
The Broncos also threw 26 passes, totalling to a sum of 92 plays through 60 minutes. Lance Taylor said in the offseason that the plan was to move at a faster pace, but I don’t think any of us forecasted this level of pace.
Normally, my thought process is that if there are two CFF relevant RBs on the same team, then there are none. That’s usually a sagacious guideline with ‘normal’ offences, moving at a semi-normal pace. In the case of Leipold’s Bulls of old, while the RB2 might not have been consistently dominant, they certainly had a dominant RB1 who — despite splitting carries — still saw enough volume on a game-by-game basis to make him a monstrous asset.
I do want to be careful with applying that comparison, as we’ve only seen one game from WMU, and it was vs. an FCS opponent. However, what is important to me is the pace of the offence and how much volume its players will see in it. They might not always average 6.5 ypc the way Jalen Buckley did on Thursday, but if they are running 90 plays per game and he is seeing 25+ touches consistently, good things are going to happen more often than not. Even more interesting—is RB2/3 Zahir Abdus-Salaam a relevant player in CFF? I certainly think he could be in a Bestball format—you don’t want to be relying on him as a starter in a regular league. We will have to wait and see how things shake out with a healthy King in the mix. Many, including myself, thought that he had the potential to be an elite CFF asset this season, we did not foresee the aforementioned Buckley asserting himself the way he did (silly us, how could we have missed that?).
Encouragingly for those who are seeking to acquire Buckley via waivers this week—even when King was healthy, Buckley took most of the early carries to start the game (looking through the game logs can be helpful in this regard).
For some context on WMU’s head coach Lance Taylor, he joined the Broncos this offseason after serving one year as the OC at Louisville. Before that, he spent three seasons as the RBs coach and Run Game Coordinator at Notre Dame. Notably, RB Kyren Williams went over 1000 yards in back to back seasons under Taylor’s watch (2020-21). Williams never broke the 300 touch mark, however. Taylor also served as the RBs coach at Stanford from 2014-16. In the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Taylor’s RB1—Christian McCaffrey, secured over 380(!) total touches in ‘15, and 290 in ‘16.
Who in the hell is redshirt freshman Jalen Buckley?
It’s fitting that WMU’s Jalen Buckley would have a LinkedIn profile, but not a 247 Sports profile. In fact, he has less followers on twitter than I do. A sleeper in every sense of the word. Indeed—players like Buckley are part of why many of us consider CFF to be the superior product compared to the NFL counterpart. A ‘sleeper’ in the NFL is… what—former AZ State RB Rachaad White? Or former Arkansas superstar Treylon Burks? lol. That’s incredibly lame. But CFF actually provides the domain to find players first. Buckley was not a player anybody even knew about on Thursday morning (even the sickos), 24 hours later he’s topping everybody’s waiver requests for the coming week. You love to see it.
The 6’0, 185 pound Buckley joined WMU out of high school in the 2022 class out of Aurora, IL. He redshirted his first season, playing in only four games, and he made his debut vs. Ohio, taking three carries for 18 yards. If his first performance of his second season on Thursday night was any indication on how he’ll be used, he’s in for a monstrous campaign. Buckley took 30 carries for 194 yards and a score, also adding a reception for four yards.
That being said — as mentioned above — we have a one game sample size, and there were other RBs heavily involved. If you’re in a league with FAAB, I would suggest treading with caution. Don’t break the bank just yet. Syracuse, Iowa and Toledo over the next three weeks is a tough slate. Certainly, the next two weeks are going to be rough sledding for the Broncos, as they’ll be overmatched by superior talent. After that we have a nice respite vs. Ball State before heading down to SEC country against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Matchups vs. Miami of Ohio and Ohio University are among the tougher within the MAC, but WMU should be able to make some noise. One thing to note is that WMU’s opponents week 12 and 13 are fairly juicy—NIU and BGSU, suggesting Buckley (or any other WMU player who becomes relevant) could be nice stashes for those playoff weeks.
I am highly intrigued by WMU’s pace on offence and how it will materialize into CFF points this season. Overall, I am excited about Jalen Buckley, but I am more in wait and see mode on how things will play out. He’s not a player I would be going all in on if you have a free agent budget in standard leagues, in no small part due to the fact that the schedule over the next five weeks is pretty challenging, and we don’t really know how effective WMU’s run game is going to be in more evenly matched competitions. We also don’t know how the split will look with a healthy King. I’ll put in a waiver in my leagues, but this is not a ‘must have’ player for me based on the current repository of information. For many of you, a less savvy owner may end up acquiring Buckley this week in your leagues and subsequently end up dropping him two weeks later after back-to-back duds vs. Syracuse and Iowa, so you might be able to play the rebound here.
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