Discover more from VolumePigs
The Itis: CFF Treats - Observations from Week One
Popular backfields spread the love, high octane offences emerge, and the unlikely potential QB1 of CFF.
I present to you "The Luther." A full-pound burger patty covered in cheese, grilled onion, five strips of bacon, all sandwiched between—Two Krispy Kreme doughnuts!
- Granddad, The Boondocks
Popular CFF backfields spread the love
I always advise readers to not overreact after one game, however, it is still important to recognize troubling signs early on to at least acknowledge where problems may arise. In Week One, there were several backfields that featured a popular CFF RB that gave me some pause. In many of these backfields, a player (or two) might have still finished with a high point output, but the question is about whether these performances will be repeatable going forward, when these teams are not playing in lopsided contests against weak OOC opponents.
Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson on a milk carton — Last week I remarked on CFF darling and Hawaii RB Tylan Hines’ usage, and how it was disturbingly low, even worse—his efficiency with the volume he did get was shocking. It later came out that he was dealing with heat cramps. In the case of Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson, many are expecting big things this season. I actually think I’m the only one who expects this backfield to be more of a split than most, but even I did not expect that distribution on Thursday night. One troubling factor is likely only to persist in the short term—QB Nate Johnson looks like a fantastic runner, but Cam Rising will be returning soon. Johnson actually led the Utes in rushing vs. UF, with six rushes for 45 yards and a TD. Veteran RB Micah Bernard led the way with seven carries—also for 45 yards, he caught two passes and narrowly missed bringing down a long reception in the first quarter that would have netted around 40 yards and potentially a score. While the offensive line did struggle a bit at times (their true freshman LT, specifically) JJ’s 3 ypc is not pretty. Sophomore Jaylon Glover also had a tough showing with four carries for six yards (1.5 ypc). From my recollection of the game, JJ opened the game as the starter and got a few carries early on, and then it was a lot of Bernard and Glover—so I’m not sure what happened, potentially an injury or a missed blocking assignment resulting in a trip to the dog house? (Post initial draft edition: he is dealing with a minor injury) I wrote about Utah’s backfield in March here.
Missouri deploying a two-man committee? — I have a lot of Cody Schrader shares this season so naturally, I was interested in Miszou’s opener vs. FCS opponent South Dakota State. While Schrader finished with a strong fantasy output (24.1 FPs in 1-ppr), and his volume in isolation was strong, watching the usage throughout the game it was clear RB Nate Peat was a big part of the game plan. Peat finished with 14 carries (16 total touches) to Schrader’s 18 (21 total touches). Schrader’s RB coach said earlier this offseason in a pretty definitive way that he “will be a 1000-yard rusher” this season, which led to Schrader rising up draft boards this offseason. Since this was a lopsided contest, it’s difficult to get a definitive read on the splits, but the early distribution was more even than I was hoping for. Notably, however, is that Schrader performed much better than Peat with 7.7 ypc to Peat’s 3.7.
UCF Knights all over the place — Not only did QB John Rhys Plumlee dominate as a rusher (as was expected) but three RBs saw eight carries or more, and four different RBs scored a rushing TD. RB Johnny Richardson led the way in yardage with 100 yards on 12 carries, meanwhile CFF darling—RJ Harvey, rushed 10 times for 84 yards and a score, but also caught a pass for 50 yards and another score (26.4 FPs). Harvey’s output ended up looking strong, but this backfield split was difficult to watch as a Harvey shareholder. He salvaged the day, of course, but the emergence of Richardson was troubling. One thing I will say is that this contest was lopsided from the beginning, so UCF had the luxury to rotate in backups at every position. It’s possible they were using this game to see what they have. The OC of UCF is formerly from UAB, and if you recall, the Blazers used two RBs extensively last season with a clear RB1A in DeWayne McBride, who—despite splitting carries somewhat, had a very strong campaign. Perhaps UCF will operate similarly in 2023. I wrote about Harvey earlier this summer here.
Ohio State in potentially a four-way split? — True sophomore Dallan Hayden appeared to be absent from the opener for the Buckeyes, but that didn't stop Hartline and co. from distributing the volume fairly evenly anyway. Chip Trayanum led the team in rushing yardage with a measly 57 yards, while CFF darling TreVeyon Henderson averaged a poor 3.9 ypc on 12 attempts. Henderson has been on a downward trajectory since his breakout freshman season, so the split in this backfield will be particularly interesting to watch, especially when Hayden — who can do a lot of what Henderson can do — returns. And of course, there are a few thing guaranteed in this life: death, taxes, and Miyan ‘Meatball’ Williams pounding his way into the end zone. Williams was the only runner to score in this one, and he’ll be a guy who likely steals a lot of red zone TDs going forward. If you read Volume Pigs back in April, this outcome was not surprising—however, I will also say what I always say in week one: it’s just one game.
FSU sticking to committee under Norvell? — It’s only one game, but… Norvell’s been doing it every season since he arrived at FSU, so it wouldn’t surprise me. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.
Who in the hell is WMU RB Jaden Buckley? — Few among us had WMU’s redshirt freshman Jaden Buckley circled as a big-time performer for week one. In fact, he doesn’t even have a 247 recruiting profile—a sleeper in every sense of the word. He finished his first game carrying the rock 30 times for 194 yards and a score (26.8 FPs). That carry volume is due in large part to two things: 1) the WMU offence moved at an extremely fast pace and 2) transfer RB KeShawn King got knocked out of the game in the first half. That being said, Buckley opened the game getting carries, and still dominated the carry volume prior to King’s injury. What’s even more impressive/interesting, is that there was another RB who got over 20 carries in Zahir Abdus-Salaam. This is an interesting offence that might actually be able to support two runners, but it does seem that they will be distributing carries around. Buckley will be a hot name on the wire this week, but I’d proceed with caution. This was a cupcake game even for a MAC team, and King’s injury looked to be minor—which suggests he’ll be back soon.
Longo-ball strikes again in Madison — Wisconsin split carries fairly evenly amongst it’s two top runners—Braelon Allen and Chez Mellusi. This is not atypical for the OC—Phil Longo, as his offence has typically deployed two-RB committees. I wrote about my thoughts on this backfield in April here. While each runner salvaged the day with strong stat lines, we’ll have to see how effective each can be when they play a more evenly matched opponent. Something to note is that Allen in particular had little production late into the game, then exploded late in the third quarter and fourth quarter, saving many CFF managers from a rough week one.
UCLA’s Chip Kelly splitting reps between two runners — CFF managers spent countless hours this offseason trying to decipher which runner would be the lead dog for a vaunted UCLA offence that is rife with former rotund volume pigs in the backfield. Unfortunately, if week one is any indication on how things will proceed, it doesn’t appear that there will be a pig in the backfield this season, as the carries were split evenly between TJ Harden and Ball State transfer Carson Steele (11 to 13). Each rushed for the same yardage (76) coincidently… symbolism?
Penn State’s duo cannibalize each other’s output, unsurprisingly — For those of us who faded this backfield in CFF this offseason, I suppose Saturday’s performance was music to our ears. Neither runner had more than 14 touches total in a game that was competitive all the way to the end, and vs. an opponent that PSU should have been able to push around in the trenches. Singleton at least still finished the day with a score and 70 rush yards, but the split and outputs in this game were everything I feared about these two. That being said, in Bestball, I would say each are still very valuable, as I expect them to have big games this season. Predicting when that will happen, on the other hand, is less predictable.
AZ State Cameron Skattebo shines in FBS debut — FCS transfer Skattebo was a popular late round RB in CFF drafts this offseason. While he had a strong day (71 yards rushing and a score plus 41 yards receiving), another runner in the backfield got significant run in DeCarlos Brooks (12 carries to Skattebo’s 17). Even though the Sun Devils were playing an FCS opponent, this game went the distance, finishing 24-21 in favour of the Devils, so this is not a situation of a blowout and the younger guy getting reps late. This split is more of a concern in standard formats vs. Bestball.
Pitt backfield in three-way split? — Again, while Rodney Hammond’s numbers will look good on the surface (multiple rushing scores), the problem here is a bit more insidious. Now, it’s hard to tell how much of the split in carries between Hammond, Flemister and Carter was due to the fact that Pitt was playing an overmatched opponent in Wofford (this game was ugly throughout). However, the distribution in volume appeared to be much more spread compared to what many of us were hoping for given what we saw with former Panther RB Abanikanda last season.
Texas in three-way split — We knew ahead of time that the Horns would be utilizing a two-back committee in Brooks and Baxter based on the word out of camp, however in this one sophomore RB Jaden Blue also got heavy run, with the second most carries (10) to Brooks’ 12. This was a blowout, and Blue mostly got his work in the second half, suggesting that he might not be as involved in more competitive games. Baxter also left the game in the first half, which likely freed up some carries for Blue. Next week’s game vs. Alabama should provide clarity on the matter.
Kansas State two-way split — DJ Giddens and Treshaun Ward split carries in Saturday’s contest vs. FCS opponent Southeast Missouri. Giddens topped 100 yards, but Ward was the one who scored. Interestingly, neither caught a pass. My read on this backfield was that it would be a split between these two, as both runners have shown themselves to be effective at the RB position. Should one get injured, then the other could hold a lot of value, but as it stands, it’s hard to see the value here in standard leagues. Keeping in mind that this was a game against an overwhelmed opponent, so we shall see if there is a different split in-conference.
UAB’s Jermaine Brown in a split— While Brown will headline the Blazers’ first game with two rushing TDs, he was actually out carried by Isaiah Jacobs (10 to 6). Brown did get significant work through the air, however, securing four passes for 31 yards. Two TDs on 10 total touches is not sustainable over the long term. In this case, UAB was pushing around FCS opponent NCAT, so it’s hard to get an accurate read on this split from this contest.
NIU deploying two-man approach again — Similar to UAB, Antario Brown will catch the headlines because he scored twice (one rushing, one receiving), but Iowa transfer RB Gavin Williams led the team in rushing yardage with 61 yards on 15 carries to Browns’ 16 carries. We’ve seen this NIU program feature two runner heavily in the past few seasons, so—while it’s only one game, there’s reason to believe this will be how the split looks going forward. I wrote about Gavin Williams here.
As predicted, Boise State splitting work — We knew ahead of time that it was likely the case that both Holani and Jeanty would be mixing carry volume. No surprises here.
South Alabama La’Damian Webb in trouble? — Webb was out carried by his teammate Kentrel Bullock 9 to 12 in this one, and the only player to score a rushing TD was QB Carter Bradley. Not a great start for Webb, who reached VP status last season, but dealt with constant injuries.
High Speed/High Volume Offences — WMU, Colorado, WSU
Western Michigan moving at a torrid pace — 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. 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. Combine a torrid pace and a heavy run tendency and what do you get? Two RBs that each saw strong volume—one carrying the rock 30 times, the other, 20 times. I have an article coming out on this offence later this week.
Colorado pass volume is extremely heavy and concentrated — Heavy and concentrated volume is the perfect formula for success in CFF. If week one is any indication on how things are going to play out this season, the Buffs are going to have a lot of CFF-relevant assets. Not only did QB Shedeur Sanders look good, but his top three WRs—Xavier Weaver, Jimmy Horn, and dual position standout Travis Hunter, each went over 100 yards, including a fourth 100-yard receiver in RB Dylen Edwards. Hunter led the way with 14 targets, Horn followed with 13 and Weaver had eight.
Washington State offence operating at full potential in 2023? — New OC Ben Arbuckle (formerly co-OC of WKU), might be just what the doctor ordered for the Cougs in 2023. QB Cameron Ward looked to be much improved, making good on the promise of the potential we were all excited about last offseason. Most notably, the slot WR— Lincoln Victor seems to have emerged. There was much speculation in the offseason about who would be taking over the coveted slot position in Ben Arbuckle’s offence. Many of us, including myself, thought early on that it might be DT Sheffield. The language out of camp was positive in that direction, however, at least after one game, it would appear that Victor has secured this role. The slot man in this system has been absolute money in CFF over the past few seasons.
Satterfield’s done it again with Emory Jones?
One of the most notable performances that deserves some attention was QB Emory Jones’ 7(!) TD performance. Granted, this was vs. FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky. Still — for those unaware — new head coach Satterfield joined by way of Louisville this offseason. At Louisville, he had QB Malik Cunningham, who has a very similar skill set to Jones, and who topped CFF charts in 2021. This offence is one you’ll want to keep an eye on going forward. A word of caution for those interested in picking him up: the schedule over the next few weeks is rough, so you may end up stashing him until October. On the other hand, we should get a good barometer of how good Jones can be in this offence vs. opponents like Oklahoma and Pitt. As it happens, I wrote about Jones having a potential renaissance season back in April here.
Other Notable performances
FSU’s WR Keon Coleman absolutely torched his Seminole debut vs. a vaunted LSU team, going over 120 yards on nine catches (11 targets) and three scores. He repeatedly went up over LSU DBs and demonstrated immense tenacity at the point of catch. He looks to be a player that will be a heavy feature in this offence this season. Overall, I thought the FSU offence looked fantastic on Sunday night. TE/swiss-army knife Jaheim Bell was also notable, as he finished with both a rushing and receiving score.
Oregon State and former Clemson QB DJ Uiagalelei had a phenomenal debut with the Beavers scoring a total of five TDs (three passing, two rushing). The change of scenery appears to agree with DJU, granted this was vs. a lower level program in SJSU. He’s a guy I think that is worth a shot on waivers if available.
Julian Fleming led OSU in receiving with 6 catches for 58 yards, while popular CFF WRs MHJ and Emeka Egbuka totalled 5 catches. It was a rough day through the air for an OSU team that looks to be wanting at the QB position this season. A statement that hasn’t been made in quite some time.
BYU true freshman LJ Martin led BYU in rushing with 16 carries for 91 yards to Aidan Robbins’ 7 carries for 23 yards. No other RB registered positive yardage.
Troy RB Kimani Vidal rushed 25 times for 248 yards, while the next two leading rushers on Troy finished with 5 and 6 carries. Vidal finished with a total of 302 yards when including his receiving work. There aren’t many true volume pig RBs that emerge on the wire, but Vidal is showing that he could be one of them. Granted this performance was vs. an FCS opponent, so again, keep that in mind when coming up with your valuation of Vidal.
Miami of Ohio WR Gage Larvadain finished the opener with 8 receptions for 80 yards. The receiver showed good rapport with QB Brett Gabbert, and was actually targeted an eye-brow raising 12 times. The Redhawks were overmatched in this one vs. Miami, but you can imagine what a player like this could do once in MACtion. If he continues to see that kind of volume, he’ll be a valuable stash that provides dividends later on.
Stanford TE Ben Yurosek torched the Hawaii secondary with 9 catches for 138 yards and a score. He was targeted a monstrous 11 times, which is rarefied air for the TE position. Yurosek was always a CFF relevant TE, but with the new system in place, his value might have shot up significantly. I always preach caution after one game, however, as we saw with SDSU’s Mark Redman, who had a breakout game in week zero, only to fall flat the next week.
WVU WR Devin Carter led the Mountaineers in receiving with 6 catches for 90 yards. I wrote about Carter this offseason, who was making heavy waves in training camp. In it, I remarked that he wasn’t a player I’d draft in normal leagues, but I wanted to monitor week one for a waiver play. It seems he’s answered the call. While he probably won’t be at the top of your WR priority this week, he looks like a solid play in deeper leagues or if you miss on your top targets. He was targeted 8 times. They may not be throwing it much next week vs. FCS opponent Duquesne, but this WVU team projects to be trailing in many of their games in 2023.
Not a performance per se, but CMU’s QB Bert Emanuel looks to be the official starter. This is a player that is worth a stash for when he gets into MACtion as his dual-usage upside is extremely high.
If you enjoy this content, I encourage you to join the Pig Pen (subscribing), and follow me on twitter.
Have questions? Find out what people are saying about VolumePigs here.
VolumePigs is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.