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The Itis: CFF Treats - Observations from Week Two
Popular backfields spreading the love (again), new VPs emerging, and the early contenders for RB1 are seperating themselves.
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
Bounce Back SZN for Big-Name RBs or Fool’s Gold?
Utah’s Ja’Quinden Jackson rushed 19 times for 129 yards, plus added a reception on three targets for 11 yards vs. Baylor in Week Two. The next leading rusher for the Utes had seven carries (though between the two QBs they also rushed 19 times). A nice bounce back and a positive sign for JJ, right? Well, yes, but it might be more a function of luck than anything else, as the RB who led the team in volume the week before—Micah Bernard, has been ruled out for the season and did not play vs. the Bears. Your competitor in your league (who probably doesn’t even know who Micah Bernard is) will likely be feeling pretty chuffed over the next few weeks as JJ redeems himself as an elite CFF asset. Indeed, had Bernard not been part of the picture, JJ would have been a player I would have targeted in drafts, as this changes the equation quite significantly. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, right? Then again, who’s to say this wasn’t in the plan the whole time. After all, JJ was apparently banged up in Week One, which would explain the spread in volume. Though, I would add that it would be quite bizarre for veteran Utah RB Bernard to enter the transfer portal and then return to a team just to take a major backseat to someone else (to be fair, we’ve seen stranger things happen). I’m going to stick with my initial inclination that Bernard was likely to be a heavy part of the plans for this season as the default third down back, and it’s an unfortunate way to end his year.
Florida State RB Trey Benson carved up the vaunted G5 program Southern Miss this past weekend, accumulating three TDs and 79 yards on nine carries. What’s funny is the carry volume actually isn’t any different than Week One vs. the Tigers, it’s just that the opponent was weaker, and so Benson scored more. It was a blowout, so him splitting carries is not surprising. There wasn’t really one other runner who matched his carry volume, but there were a lot of other RBs who got 3-5 carries. The unfortunate thing about these types of games is that they don’t really provide any clarity on the splits due to the lopsided score. The game vs. LSU did, though, and that was clearly a committee approach (don’t mind Travis stealing the odd rushing TD either). So what’s next? Well, a game versus a weak Boston College team (they lost to MAC program NIU in the opener) doesn’t really feel that different from last week’s game. Will he score a pair of TDs on 10 carries or less again? I mean, probably. Will it change my trepidation about this backfield? No.
Another big name at RB redeemed himself (kind of) this week in Ohio State’s TreVeyon Henderson vs. (???) Youngstown State. Uh huh… right. Putting it nicely—who cares what he did vs. YSU. On to the next one. Unfortunately, a contest vs. WKU spells blowout also, so I guess we’ll be waiting until Week Four vs. ND for more clarity. If only we had a data point vs. another B1G opponent in Week One when OSU struggled to pass the ball effectively, thus resulting in an increased emphasis on the ground. Surely, under those conditions, Henderson will have dominated with 20+ carries and over 100 yards to boot. Undoubtedly, he would not have only rushed 12 times for a measly 47 yards, while his two teammates carried the rock seven and eight times for a combined 82 yards and two scores.
Popular Backfields Spreading the Love(?)
This might just have to become a weekly section of this article with the way things have been going, at least, early in the season.
Ohio RB Sieh Bangura might be in trouble. One of my favourite players in CFB that I remarkably have zero shares of this season is in the predicament that I feared most when I wrote about him back in February. Indeed, early signs show that returning RB O’Shaan Allison is going to be heavily featured in this offence also. This potential split in carries is the kiss of death for any RB’s CFF value, and one can only hope that Allison will fade away over time. That’s not really a logical thought process to latch onto though, but it’s either that or injury. I suppose I should consider myself fortunate, that — despite my best efforts — I was unable to acquire any shares of the Bang Man this summer. And just to be clear, that doesn’t make me right in this situation, I am still wrong, or at least, the same as those of you who are Bangura shareholders. I would have drafted him if I could have. Though, to be fair to myself, I did mention my concern about this very thing happening eight months ago in the article linked above.
Oklahoma isn’t spreading the love, per se, as much as there appears to be an unlikely candidate emerging. Walk-on RB Tawee Walker (I like this kid already) dominated the Sooners backfield in a close contest vs. SMU last Saturday with 21 carries for 117 yards. Sure, he didn’t score, but what are the chances someone is going to run for over 100 yards with 20+ opportunities and not find the end zone each week? If this keeps up, Walker is a guy you have to have. Interestingly, both of the big name youngsters—Barnes and Sawchuk, saw a grand total of three carries, of which they paid off for another grand total of six yards. Their Week One game vs. Arkansas State was a complete blowout, so there isn’t really anything intelligent that we can glean from that contest. All I know is: in a game where the Sooners needed to move the ball and bleed clock, they turned to Walker and trusted virtually no-one else. What does that tell you?
Let’s take a trip over to South Bend, shall we? Chuffed as I am watching my friends and competitors complain about committees with their RBs through two weeks—while I’ve skated by quite comfortably with guys like Rasheen Ali, Ray Davis, and now even with Fresno State’s Elijah Gilliam, I have noticed some turbulence regarding my man Audric Estime, and as a shareholder, I do not say that lightly. I did not pay too much attention to the final box score carries for the Irish in their first two games, which were complete annihilations, but this past weekend vs. NC State — another strong P5 program, and a game that was competitive to the end — Estime carried the ball a decent but not great 14 times. Granted, the next three runners combined for 17 carries, but J. Price at seven carries did stand out to me. Then again, perhaps I’m being too sensitive to backfield splits, after all, it’s not reasonable to expect one runner to get literally every carry in the game (actually, Marcus Carroll would like a word). On the other hand, I look at some of the other clear bellcows (e.g., Jo Marks, Rasheen Ali), and there really isn’t the same sort of flux. Estime’s been able to weather through due to his elite efficiency so far, but we’re getting to the point now where I would like to seem him tote that thing 20+ times, or I am going to start discounting him in my valuation going forward.
Other backfields that appear to be spreading the love and that I haven’t covered so far include: Oklahoma State, Alabama, USC, and Clemson.
New VPs Emerging?
Enough with the negativity, right? Let’s get some good news.
I know there are a lot of Richard Reese shareholders out there that have been irked by Baylor’s RB Dominic Richardson ascending as the RB1 of this team. I’m not a Reese shareholder and even if I was, I must acknowledge the obvious that has fallen before me. Through two weeks, Richardson has proven to be ‘the guy’ in this backfield with 18 and 16 total touches. Reese only carried the ball seven times last weekend to DRich’s 14, and in Week One the split was similar with 16 to seven in favour of Richardson. This backfield sort of resembles ND’s so far when it comes to carry distribution, without an obvious pig back there, but perhaps a volume pig light, I guess we could say? Not a must buy by any means (after all, I literally just lamented about Estime’s usage, and DR isn’t nearly as efficient), but a guy that’s worth a shot if you need a RB to replace some of these plebs like Trey Henderson (who would have thought a sentence like this would be taken semi-seriously this time two years ago?). On a serious note, Richardson looks to be a solid value at RB right now, the TDs haven’t been there, but that might change this weekend vs. an overmatched LIU team.
I left Minnesota’s RB Darius Taylor off my waiver wire report earlier this week and that may have caused some confusion out there to the readers. Saturday was a breakout performance, there’s no doubt about that, 33 carries for 193 yards and a score is fantastic. It’s shades of Mo Ibrahim, one of my favourite VP alumni. However, as I’ve said before, being a volume pig is not just about that player’s carry volume, but also those around him. Taylor’s colleague—Sean Tyler (WMU transfer), also carried the ball 17 times for 93 yards. Funny that WMU should be mentioned, I did just write the other week about their offence moving fast enough to support two RBs with 30 and 20 carries in a game. I suppose if the Gophers adopt something similar, then maybe this can work. I don’t see that being the case, and the B1G is a harder conference than the MAC. Another path could be that one drops out of the rotation, freeing up all the carries for the other. Is Sean Tyler magically going to fade off into irrelevancy as Taylor ascends? I know that’s what CFF managers want, unfortunately, PJ Fleck most likely does not care what we want, and so I doubt he’d do Tyler — a senior transfer from WMU, which is a school that’s been kind to the Gophers lately — dirty like that.
UNC RB Omarion Hampton emerged—or did he? I’ll save you the trouble here, the guy he splits carries with—British Brooks, was absent on Saturday, thus freeing up a lot of carries for Hampton to devour. He did well with the volume, though, and that’s always notable. I included Hampton in my Fool’s Gold section of my waiver report—there I provide more details on my thoughts regarding his performance.
App State RB Nate Noel has surprised me this season. On a team that has deployed a committee in what feels like every season since I started playing CFF, the staff appear to have broken character. Noel has now received 24 and 26 carries in his first two games of 2023, and he’s gone over 100 yards in each to go with three scores. There is Maquel Haywood, a transfer from Navy, who has also seen double digit carries in back-to-back games lurking, so this is not an uncontested volume pig situation, but Noel is sitting pretty right now.
Rutgers RB Kyle Monangai led the team in rushing on Saturday with 28 carries to the next leading carrier’s six. He also ran for over 160 yards and a score. It’s hard to jump to a conclusion here, because in the first game it was his teammate—Jashon Benjamin, who led the team with 20 carries himself. Monangai still saw 14 carries, but this is not a situation where it is obvious that one RB is favoured. Both games have been semi-competitive too, vs. Northwestern and Temple.
Michigan State RB Nathan Carter appears to be separating himself in the Spartans backfield, with 18 and 19 carries in his last two games. Suspected RB1B—Jalen Berger, has very much so taken a back seat in terms of touch volume, which is a good sign for Carter. Something to note is that this program is in the midst of major turmoil, and HC Mel Tucker is currently suspended, so it’s tough to project how things will look here going forward. Old MSU HC Mark Dantonio will serve in some external capacity (he had Le’Veon Bell during his VP seasons), and the interim HC comes from the defensive side, so they might stick to mashing people on the ground in the mean time. Carter shareholders can hope, at least.
A few other notable performances from Saturday: Rashad Amos (Miami of Ohio), and Cory Kiner (Cincinnati).
Early Contenders for RB1
We’re only two weeks in, but the early signs look very promising for Georgia State’s Marcus Carroll, Mississippi State’s Jo’Quavious Marks, and Marshall’s Rasheen Ali. We knew ahead of time that Ali would be in this conversation (with some even claiming him as their 1.01), and we knew Marks would be productive this year, but Carroll has really surprised me.
Jo’Quavious Marks — In that article I did on Marks, I opened a poll for the audience and asked whether they thought the staff would go full Lew Nichols mode with Marks, or default to a two-man committee as they have so often. Kudos to you, the audience, for voting for option A. It turns out — at least, so far — that you were correct. Marks is dominating the touch volume for the Bulldogs through two weeks, with 23 and 28 touches back-to-back. That’s outstanding volume, and even more importantly, there are no other rushers on the team coming close to that volume. Uncontested volume pigs are the name of the game, in this game, as they (I) say. The fact that he continues to be used strongly in the pass game makes him that much more attractive. If you’re a shareholder, go ahead and pat yourself on the back right now.
Rasheen Ali — My boy. It’s a good thing this one worked out (so far), because Ali is one of the players that I am the most invested in this season. He’s picked up right where he left off from 2021, with five TDs in two games. Even more important, he’s dominating the touch volume through the air and the ground. My only regret is not prioritizing Marks in the mid rounds more because I am literally getting goosebumps thinking about pairing these two on the same roster. F*CK.
Marcus Carroll — I’m playing in leagues with a lot of sickos this year so Carroll actually wasn’t available via waivers in most of my leagues, but damn, I wish I thought to draft him in the later rounds. Carroll has been torching Georgia State’s opponents through two weeks with 6(!) TDs in two games. He’s also carried the ball at least 23 times in each contest. The next leading rusher is KZ Adams, who has a total of 8 carries for 9 yards in two games. To be fair, there weren’t really a lot of signs pointing to Carroll’s new found status of ultra fat volume pig (UFVP) in the offseason, and his TD production defies logic playing with TD hound QB Darren Grainger. Unlike Marks, I have no regrets here because this player was nowhere near my radar, so in no multi-simulated environment would I have drafted Carroll in the regular league set-ups I was in. In a deeper league such as Nate Marchese’s 24-team league, sure, I might have, but that doesn’t really count. The reality of an Ali-Marks duo for RB1/2 on my rosters was right there—I even wrote about both… silly me. I should have heeded my own advice more. F*CK x2.
True freshman WR/TE Juice Vereen had his breakout game on Saturday with seven targets, catching four of those for 65 yards vs. Notre Dame.
ODU QB Grant Wilson looked like the QB we thought he could be in this new offensive system vs. ULLAF. Part of that is probably due to ULLAF’s talent level, sure, but then again, those are the types of teams ODU will be playing against in-conference. Wilson was also extremely efficient, throwing four TDs on only 13 completions—that’s probably not going to happen often, but it was a good sign nonetheless. As a side note—WHERE is Javon Harvey? I have consulted with a few sources now, and the general consensus is: I don’t know. He played one snap on Saturday, which was on special teams. Clearly, there must be something off behind the scenes.
Miami of Ohio’s WR Gage Larvadain was covered in both last week’s and this week’s Pig Market article; he torched UMass on Saturday for 273 yards and three scores.
Utah State’s WR Terrell Vaughn the CFF WR1? The target volume suggests so… 18 and 12 in back-to-back games.
In this week’s Pig Market, I remarked that UK’s Ray Davis left the game vs. EKU late with an apparent wrist injury. UK released their depth chart for Akron and Davis is listed as RB1. Per the OC, Davis merely jammed his finger.
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