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MAC Daddy Series - Eight players headline a strong group of RBs in 2023
An eye-popping EIGHT RBs have VP's attention in the MAC...
The SEC is where you go to play football to get drafted in the NFL. The MAC is where you go to play football the way god intended it.
- VP (2023)
We’re back like we never left with the MAC Daddy Series today, and this time we’re taking a look at a surprisingly lengthy list of notable RBs in the Mid American Conference (MAC). For those who might have missed it, I covered QBs in last week’s edition at the link below.
I won’t drag the readers through a long preamble on this one, we have a lot of work to do in covering all these names, so let’s hop right into it.
EMU RB Samson Evans — 6’0, 217
2022 FPG: 19.7
We’re starting off with a bang on this one with EMU’s workhorse RB Samson Evans. As it happens, I actually wrote about Evans for Campus2Canton’s CFF guide, the link to which you can find here.
One month later, I still agree with that assessment. Though I’d probably prefer him as an RB3. Evans averaged 19.7 FPG overall in 2022, and around 18.36 FPG in MACtion. You read that right—this is one of the few MAC players who actually scored more on averaged in his OOC schedule than in the MAC. As mentioned above, outside of a game in Minneapolis, the schedule in 2023 sets up pretty smoothly for our guy here. The rushing volume is a safe bet with this profile, but he is not used often as a receiver. Notably, EMU will be working in a new QB this season, so they may lean even heavier on the run game. Evans should be a superstar in MAC play this November.
His ADP is currently 51.7 (fourth round in 12 team leagues), but his June ADP suggests he may be falling a bit: 62 (fifth round). That range feels appropriate to me, it’d be even better if he continues to fall (I should add that the reasoning for why he’s falling in the first place is a bit of a mystery to me).
Ohio RB Sieh Bangura — 6’0, 200
2022 FPG: 20.45
One of my favourite articles ever written was my February write-up on Sieh Bangura. If someone were to ask for one article to encapsulate what VolumePigs is all about, I’d probably send them that one. Since most of the audience today wasn’t around at that point, I’ll suggest to the reader that you should go over and give it a look—at the very least, you’ll get a glimpse of some vintage VP content.
I had a lot of shares of the Bobcat tailback last season, and he didn’t disappoint me. Save for a returning O’Shaan Allison, there are not many blemishes on Bang-man’s profile headed into 2023. It remains to be seen how involved Allison will be on his return, and I am slightly concerned that he will eat into Bangura’s volume, especially considering there is also backup RB Nolan McCormick returning.
As I mentioned last week on Kurtis Rourke’s profile, I expect the Ohio Bobcats to be a dominant force within MAC play, and I think the offence is going to be extremely effective with their returning QB, WR1 and RB1. That would be good news for Mr. Bangura, who finished 2022 with 222 carries for 1171 yards and 13 TDs in 12 games, and also added 27 receptions (43 targets) for 226 yards and 2 scores. Excluding the OOC games, Bangura averaged 23.55 FPG in the MAC. That average is elite, so it’s no wonder that Bang man is currently valued in second/third round of drafts.
With a current ADP of 30.7 (June ADP of 26.2), I think Bangura is appropriately priced as it stands in CFF drafts.
WMU RB Keshawn King — 5’11, 180
2022 FPG: 11.1
Once again, this is a player I’ve written about in the past. You can find the previous in-depth write-up over here.
King is entering his fifth year of college football; the previous four he spent with the Virginia Tech Hokies. The Apopka, FL native had his best season in 2022, averaging just over 11 FPG. He rushed 74 times for 443 yards and 3 scores. He also caught 20 passes on 24 targets for 137 yards and another score.
The new WMU head coach is a man named Lance Taylor, who was the run game coordinator at Notre Dame during Kyren Williams’ two biggest seasons—Williams ran the rock 211 and 204 times in 2020 and 2021, respectively, going over 1000 yards in each season. Combining receptions, Williams averaged 20.5 touches per game in 2020 and in 2021 (no really, the averages were the exact same).
Ideally, we want 20+ touches per game for our RBs, and I think King could see that as a superior talent in the MAC on a team that needs to replace its top two RBs — and is lacking overall in playmakers. Last year’s RB1 and RB2 leave behind a production vacancy equivalent to 265 carries, 1262 rush yards, and 12 TDs, as well as 17 catches, 166 yards, and one TD.
King’s ADP is currently listed at 205 (17th round). I think that’s fantastic value for the upside here. I plan to target him in the last rounds of my re-drafts. Could King be a smaller, poor man’s version of Sieh Bangura? Shoot, I think he could be Sieh Bangura for WMU if the cards fall right.
Kent State RB Ky Thomas — 5’11, 200
2022 FPG: 4.8
Fun fact: I wrote about Ky Thomas in my first ever article way back in January. Like this one, it was a shotgun style article covering multiple players that had transferred. For those interested, you can find it here.
Virtually the entire Kent State offence vacated the Golden Flash program this offseason. RB Marquez Cooper swapped allegiances to inter-conference rival Ball State, star receivers Dante Cephus and Devontez Walker moved on to Penn State and UNC respectively, and QB Colin Schlee transferred to UCLA. On top of that, head coach Sean Lewis took the OC job on Coach Prime’s staff in Boulder, Colorado. This gave way for former Minnesota RBs coach Kenni Burns to take the head coaching job. This is a coach who saw the Gopher’s offence revolve around a bell-cow running back, Mo Ibrahim, and Trey Potts when Ibrahim went down in week 1 of the 2021 season.
Seemingly the only man who stayed with the program is Matt Johnson, who joined the Kent State program in 2018, and has worked as the RBs coach since 2020. Johnson has been promoted to OC for the 2023 season. In 2022, Johnson’s RB1 Marquez Cooper, rushed for 1331 yards and 13 TDs on 285 attempts. This is an encouraging sign when you consider Kent State’s coaches gave that workload to a player who is undersized at 5’7, 185 pounds. Thomas, who is listed at 5’11 and 205 pounds, is more prototypical for a bell-cow college RB.
As with most MAC players, Thomas will be most effective during MACtion. That being said, Kent State’s out of conference schedule is favourable too, playing Fresno State, UCF, Arkansas and Central Connecticut. In my opinion, he should be playable in three of the four OOC games, assuming he’s the starting RB next season.
Thomas’ current ADP is 168.3 (14th round) , but that’s falling. In June his ADP was 199.7 (16th round). I think he’s worth a shot in this range. The upside is pretty immense when you look at what Cooper did last year, I’ll take a chance scratching this lottery ticket all day long at his current ADP.
Ball State RB Marquez Cooper — 5’6, 185
2022 FPG: 18.94
You might be starting to notice a pattern here—I’ve written about Cooper as well. The full article can be found here.
The Ball State program has been an elite run outfit ever since coach Mike Neu joined the program in 2016. Since that season, his RB1s have gone over 1000 yards in five of the following seven seasons. If we discard the COVID year, he has five in six seasons.
Former Ball State RB Carson Steele leaves behind a production vacancy of 289 carries for 1556 yards and 14 TDs, along with 29 receptions (38 targets) for 166 yards and another score. All told, Steele averaged 24 FPG last season with the Cardinal. I expect Cooper to come in and be a ‘like for like’ replacement. Cooper himself handled the rock 285 times last year with Kent State (an average of 23.75 carries), so we know he’s durable enough to withstand the workload even at his smaller size.
What I find odd about Cooper is that despite his size profile, he’s not really used as a receiver—or at least, he wasn’t at Kent State. I’m guessing that’s because he’s not very good at it. That’s a shame, because the receiving usage was a nice plus to Steele’s profile while with Ball State. Even still, we could be looking at a potential 300+ carry player here in Cooper.
His current ADP is 37.9, with a June ADP of 35.6. That means he’s being taken around the end of the third round of drafts. I’d be willing to go even higher, I’m comfortable taking him as high as the second round. The pesky thing about this profile is that the OOC schedule includes Kentucky and UGA in back-to-back weeks to open the schedule. So he’s probably not playable until week three (last year’s performance vs. UGA notwithstanding).
Miami (Ohio) RB Rashad Amos — 6’2, 227
2022 FPG: -0.1
The reader will have to indulge me here for a moment and look past the FPG, Amos only carried the rock twice in 2022: one was for a small loss, the other was for a positive gain but he fumbled on the play. The former three-star began his collegiate career with the South Carolina Gamecocks of the SEC in 2020. In his freshman season, he played in three games—rushing 18 times for 99 yards (5.5 ypc) and caught three passes (four targets) for 13 yards. He would unfortunately miss all of the 2021 season due to injury. Safe to say, Amos has done little-to-nothing so far in his career. So why is he on this list today?
Well, for starters the MAC is littered with former Power-Five players who dominate the conference despite having achieved nothing at their previous stops (after all, if they were producing already, they probably wouldn’t have found themselves in the MAC in the first place…). As you can see from above, Amos is a massive RB, the type of kid who could run roughshod through the inferior competition in the MAC. In 2021, Lew Nichols destroyed MAC front-sevens who simply didn’t have the manpower to tackle him. Can Amos do something similar? That’s a long shot, but I do think there’s potentially some value here.
The problem is that the staff in place have track record’s of split usage in their backfields. Save for the Pitt Panthers in 2018 (the current Miami of Ohio run game coordinator was on staff at Pitt), neither the HC or run-game coordinator have had 1000-yard RBs in the last half-decade. So there isn’t really a precedent here for elite usage. Here’s hoping the athlete can force the coaches’ hand this season. For this reason, even if Amos turns out to be a value, it’ll most likely be restricted to bestball formats.
Current ADP: None. I wouldn’t draft him in a standard league, but I did pick him up in a 24-team bestball league (somewhere in the 30s IIRC).
NIU RBs Antario Brown (5’10, 218) & Gavin Williams (5’11, 216)
2022 FPG: 11.26 (Brown) & 2.5 (Williams)
It’s finally time for Antario Brown to get his shot, unimpeded by would be volume bandits—uhh, not so fast… Former Iowa Hawkeye Gavin Williams transferred into the program earlier this offseason. While Williams hasn’t done much of anything in his career so far (I just released an article on him earlier this week), we’ve seen in the past that the MAC can work wonders in reigniting the careers of former P5 flameouts. Could Williams be next in line? Well we know he’s RB2 at best, because Brown is undoubtedly heading into 2023 as the starter.
NIU has a great system for RB usage, and we’ve seen in the past that the rushing volume can support two CFF relevant RBs. I think ideally, however, one of Brown or Williams takes the reins and dominates. RBs are an often injured position, and while I never wish that on any player, there could be immense value even in a standard re-draft league if one of Brown or Williams were to be unavailable.
Brown’s current ADP is set at 137.2 (around the 11th round), but his June ADP is 118.8, which is closer to the ninth round. Indeed, Brown will be a valuable asset in this offence, but Williams might be too in bestball formats. Williams is going undrafted in CFF leagues. I only like him as a late round target in bestball formats.
The top three runners in this conference are fairly unanimous within the CFF industry: Bangura, Evans, and Cooper. I value the Bang-man at the top, followed by a tie between the other two. I’m lower on Antario Brown than most others in the industry, I’d rather take a shot with King or Thomas for the upside. Amos is clearly the least attractive of the eight due to the system and his production profile thus far. That being said, I'm not ready to count him out from my watchlist just yet.
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