Discover more from VolumePigs
The Itis: CFF Treats - Observations from Week Three
Two unlikely names emerging as potential PIGS in the B1G? The BYU breakout freshman? What to make of Alabama's offence? VP covers these topics and more in this week's edition of The Itis!
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
Alabama offence is puzzling
The Alabama Crimson Tide appear to be wanting at the QB position for the first time in a long time. They’ve now tried Jalen Milroe, Tyler Buchner, and Tyler Simpson each at different times to no success, raising doubts that ‘the guy’ is on this roster currently. This generally spells trouble for their WRs, but Isaiah Bond continues to impress me. I’ve always liked 007, and he’s probably my favourite player from the offence from just a cool factor standpoint. As far as tangibles, I like the target volume Bond has seen thus far (averages six per game). The QB play is limiting, however, and until further notice I’d suggest avoiding Alabama pass-catchers. As I’m writing this, it appears that Alabama will be going back to Milroe as the starter. I think he’s probably their best option, and I still have hope for him to be a viable CFF asset this season. I like his rushing upside, and I expect his passing will improve over the course of the season.
We’re reaching the point now where we’ve seen various game scripts and conditions and the RB room continues to spread the love around. Roydell Williams looked very good on Saturday vs. USF (surprising many of us), and I think this is a player that we will be seeing a lot of going forward. What does that mean for the offence? Perhaps Alabama embraces what they are and goes full UB Lance Leipold mode and runs the ball 50 times a game—resulting in CFF relevancy for both Jase McClellan and Roydell. I’m inclined to believe that both will sabotage each other in production, but Alabama should score enough in some of its games (admittedly, I say this with some trepidation), such that both McClellan and Williams should have some good games this season. The problem is predicting when that will happen.
Popular backfields spreading the love
We’re back with everyone’s favourite segment this week. This time, FSU’s Trey Benson, Ohio’s Sieh Bangura, CMU’s Myles Bailey, EMU’s Samson Evans, Cincy’s Corey Kiner, and repeat offender Utah RB Ja’Quinden Jackson are back in the line of fire.
FSU’s Trey Benson feels like a weekly staple on this segment. How long does one wait until succumbing to the unwavering conclusion that has fallen before them? Like McClellan, we’ve seen FSU in various game scripts now and the same usage split appears to present itself over and over again. If you find yourself constantly waiting for the right game script conditions with regards to a presumed bellcow who just doesn’t get the volume you were expecting, you might want to consider that the player probably just isn’t a true volume pig. Week One was a perfect opportunity for Benson to see big carry volume. He didn’t. That was a big red flag for me. Will he have some games where he sees higher volume? It would be remarkable if he didn't. At the risk of looking stupid, I’ll just declare this backfield as a committee and move on. Benson shall no longer appear on this segment unless there is a notable shift towards volume pig status.
Ohio’s Sieh Bangura is in some trouble, but it’s not terrible. This one hurts, because I liked Bangura in the offseason, and he was one of my favourite players in 2022. It’s a problem that O’Shaan Allison is getting double digit carries each game, but at least Bangura is also seeing double digit carries. The Bang Man is still seeing 16.25 carries per game, and if we add in the pass usage, he’s averaging 17.75 touches per game. That’s not bad at all, and I suspect he’ll still be very productive in the MAC schedule.
CMU’s backfield back to two-way split? Last week, CMU’s Myles Bailey dominated the backfield with 21 carries for 108 yards against UNH. Accordingly, he then became a popular pickup off of waivers, but it appears that backfield will tend more toward a two-way split than one volume pig. This weekend, Bailey carried the ball 12 times to Marion Luke’s nine carries.
I am not encouraged by what I’ve seen from EMU’s backfield splits thus far. Samson Evans has yet to hit the 20-carry threshold, despite some positive game scripts vs. Howard and UMass. My only guess is the staff are preserving him for the MAC schedule. Last year, he finished with six straight games of 20 carries or more. Notably, he started that season off with 15, 10, 36, 15 and 16 carries, and his scores were 22.8, 15.45, 33.5, 7.3, and 12.2. While his production hasn’t been there, his start this season is not that far off from 2022 when looking at usage. So I guess it’s too soon to hit the panic button. What’s alarming is his teammate—Jaylon Jackson, out carried him last game vs. UMass 12 to eight. That’s the first time that’s happened this season, but it’s something to watch. I’m not dropping Evans until I see what he does in Week Five (MACtion schedule starts).
After emerging as a potential volume pig last weekend, Corey Kiner came crashing back down to earth this past Saturday. He was out carried by teammate Ryan Montgomery 20 to 14. What’s more, QB Emory Jones also rushed 20 times. We knew Jones would be a problem, but it had looked like Kiner had ascended to bellcow status vs. Pitt when he took 20 carries to the next leading back’s three. Last Saturday’s performance raises doubts about that notion now. Since I prescribed Kiner on last week’s Pig Market article, I have accordingly put myself in the proverbial dog house for the next 24 hours (you’ll just have to take my word for it on this one…).
Like Benson, Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson remains a repeat offender on this list. I wrote about him last week, and remarked that the light at the end of the tunnel could be appearing with Micah Bernard’s season ending injury. It turns out, the Utah staff are still insisting on using a committee approach (at least, they did on Saturday), further confirming my assertion that that was probably the plan all along with Bernard, JJ and even Glover. Granted, Saturday’s contest was vs. an overmatched opponent in Weber State, and presumably QB Cam Rising will be returning at some point. QB Nate Johnson is probably the player that is eating into JJ’s production the most, so when Rising takes over we could assume JJ’s production should be increasing. Even still, for the time being, I am declaring this backfield as a committee, and will not update unless there is movement in the other direction.
BYU True Freshman LJ Martin SZN?
One of the most notable events of this past weekend was the emergence of budding volume pig and true freshman RB LJ Martin. The 6’2”, 210 pound sledgehammer was announced as the starter in advance of the game vs. Arkansas, and he didn’t disappoint. Martin carried the rock 23 times for 77 yards and two scores, plus added an additional 11 yards on two catches (22.8 points).
Something to note, however, is that Aidan Robbins has been described as ‘less than 100%’ by the head coach. In the game vs. Arkansas, Robbins saw zero carries. What I found interesting is that fellow RB Deion Smith (transfer from Colorado), only saw two carries. This to me suggests the coaching staff are comfortable giving the full workload to Martin already. When asked about the move to start Martin, OC Aaron Roderick simply said “he’s breaking tackles”.
It’s also important to note that the game vs. Arkansas was not the first time the true freshman saw the bulk of carries. In Week One vs. a stingy Sam Houston defence, Martin led BYU with 16 carries for 91 yards (9.1 points). In that game, Robbins finished with the second most carries (seven) for 23 yards. Martin’s ypc average that games comes to a strong 5.7, while Robbins’ was 3.3.
I may do a full profile about Martin later this week, where I’ll dive deeper into the coaching and system in place, but I can say just off of memory that this is a program that’s produced a volume pig in the backfield recently in Tyler Allgeier.
Not that twitter is generally a place of reason and logic, but when people are tweeting out things like this in a non-ironic way, clearly things are going well for the true freshman.
Two unlikely names emerge as potential PIGS in the B1G
The B1G has typically been a safe haven for heavy RB usage in the past. This season, however, it appears that most of its programs are deploying timeshares of two, and sometimes three RBs. We can look to PSU, OSU, Michigan, Wisconsin and others for examples of this. Two programs, however, have emerged (at least, through three weeks), as backfields with one RB seeing most of the workload.
Minnesota’s Darius Taylor is a budding volume pig in PJ Fleck’s offence. I was skeptical after his break out performance vs. EMU (33 carries for 193 yards and a score), because his teammate—Sean Tyler, also carried the rock 20 times. I figured Tyler, a senior transfer, was unlikely to just disappear. Well, it’s time to eat some crow because Taylor followed up his Week Two performance with a strong 22 carries for 138 yards and another score on Saturday vs. UNC. Tyler ended up only carrying the ball three times. Admittedly, I also thought this team would skew more pass-heavy this year compared to year’s past, but such has not really been the case, save for a Week One contest vs. Nebraska. Taylor looks like a monster asset to have going forward, but that schedule is a tough one in the B1G West.
Rutgers’ Kyle Monangai has officially been #Pigged in the last two weeks. That backfield is harder to read, as different players have gotten big volume in the three games they’ve played so far. This week is a tough matchup vs. Michigan, but after that things open up a bit for the Scarlett Knights. I know Samuel Brown is currently dealing with a lingering injury, so we shall see how the split looks when the room is at full potential. That being said, the OC—Kirk Ciarrocca, comes from (coincidently) Minnesota (2022) and WVU (2021), which were two programs that had a volume pig RB1 in both seasons (Mo Ibrahim and Leddie Brown). So we know he’ll lean on one player if he feels he’s got a guy.
Drop ‘Em Segment
I’m not going to be able to cover all the relevant names each week for this segment, but I will cover a few that I feel strongly about.
Pitt RB Rodney Hammond — Pitt OC Frank Cignetti vowed to get Hammond more involved this past week vs. WVU. He made good on that promise, Hammond received 14 carries, a marked increase from the previous weeks’ six and five. The next leading rusher received six carries. Unfortunately, Hammond only managed to produce 49 yards and no scores with that volume (3.5 ypc). While the OC promising to increase a player’s usage is always encouraging, it appears that Pitt’s run game is so weak that it might not be enough to make Hammond relevant. This is unfortunate, as Hammond was a player I liked a lot in the offseason. This is an offensive system that #Pigged RB Israel Abanikanda last season to great effect. I would wait one more week to see what Hammond can do vs. UNC. I expect him to see at least 15 touches, and the Tar Heels just got shredded by Minnesota’s Darius Taylor last Saturday.
Texas Tech QB Donovan Smith — For those who are unaware, I make weekly appearances on renowned CFF analyst Jared Palmgren’s “Chasing The Natty” YouTube show (link is included at the end of this article). On his show last week, I remarked that Smith’s massive Week Two performance was highly deceptive. Throughout ~75% of that game, his production was not good, and then he scored a late TD to force OT vs. Rice. In the double OT periods, Smith scored two TDs (I believe they were both rushing), adding a significant amount of points to his total. I was not impressed by what I saw Week One, and I was not sold on him as an elite CFF QB after Week Two. Week Three confirmed my suspicions, and I have henceforth banished him from my rosters. Bye Felicia.
Early Contenders for WR1
There are a lot of WRs who are absolutely killing it currently, many more so than RBs, so I can’t list all of them here. But some early names that have positioned themselves well thus far and should be able to maintain their dominance all season include:
Evan Stewart (A&M)
Malik Nabers (LSU)
Rome Odunze (UW)
Erik Brooks (Fresno)
Jamari Thrash (Lou)
Lincoln Victor (Wazzou)
Terrell Vaughn (Utah State)
Xavier Weaver (Col)
Marvin Harrison Jr. (OSU)
What’s interesting is — outside of Nabers and Stewart — each of these players plays in a system that has a strong track record of volume pig WRs. We have Deboar’s system at UW, Tedford’s system at Fresno State, Jeff Brohm’s system at Louisville, the famous WKU system at Wazzou, Blake Anderson’s system at Utah State, Sean Lewis (formerly of Kent State) at Colorado, and Ryan Day/Brian Hartline at OSU. Even with Stewart and Nabers, there is a breadcrumb trail there with the staff. Nabers already produced 1000 yards the year prior, and A&M’s Bobby Petrino is known as an offensive guru.
I excluded Miami of Ohio’s Gage Larvadain for the time being because I want to wait and see how things go. Head coach Chuck Martin at Miami of Ohio has also shown to funnel targets to one WR in the past (Mac Hippenhammer in 2022, Jack Sorenson in 2021).
I’ve also for the time being excluded CSU’s Tory Horton, as he had a pretty standard game in Week One, before exploding in Week Two. He also plays in an elite system.
I only mention this linkage to systems to further demonstrate the point that — almost always — the most productive players in CFB play in systems with histories of high usage at that position. Are those names above the best WRs in CFB? Maybe some are, but ultimately what’s important is that they are one of the better WRs on a team run by someone who’s system administers a lot of targets to that position.
Some other names that are right there include Oregon’s Troy Franklin, Hawaii’s Pofele Ashlock, and FAU’s LaJontay Wester. Again, the systems here have previous patterns of high usage at WR.
ODU’s WR Javon Harvey back from the dead? Whatever issue was going on in weeks one and two appears to have been resolved for ODU WR Javon Harvey. I wrote about him on this week’s Pig Market as a guy that’s worth a stash if you can afford to do so; the system has an elite track record and the Monarchs should be passing the ball at a high clip throughout the season. Harvey was the WR2 last year behind Ali Jennings, and caught two TDs in the spring game. Let’s see if he continues this momentum this week vs. Division II. school Texas A&M Commerce.
CSU’s Dallin Holker TE1? I have one share of Holker this season in the 24 team league I’m in, so the fact that Holker’s been torching it this season pleases me. I actually drafted him in another league I’m in but dropped him BEFORE his first game—what was I thinking? I know what I was thinking, I wanted another skill player and Holker had a BYE week in Week Two after playing P5 opponent WAST, so surely, no-one else would pick him up on his BYE week, and he was unlikely to pop off in Week One. I was wrong, on both fronts. Holker had a very good Week One, and someone did, in fact, claim him in his BYE week. Holker’s presence was felt in a big way last Saturday vs. the Buffs, and he looks to be a heavy feature in Jay Norvell’s offence, which has been kind to the TE position in the past. If — by some miracle — he’s available in your league, you must claim him right this instant.
Fresno State RB Elijah Gilliam missed the middle part of the game vs. Arizona State after receiving a big hit in the second quarter. It’s encouraging that he returned, and still finished with 20 touches. For those shareholders who might have panicked at the sight of Malik Sherrod reasserting himself in the carries column, I wouldn’t put too much stock in that, given the context. This weekend vs. Kent State will be a good bellwether on that backfield, assuming Gilliam is full go.
Weekly YouTube Video
In case you don’t know or don’t follow me on Twitter, I have been appearing on the YouTube show/podcast ‘Chasing the Natty’ every Wednesday morning since Week One where Jared and I talk about the upcoming weekend of CFB games and sit/start decisions.
If you enjoyed 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.