College Football Fast-Forward: 2009 Impact Freshmen Running Backs
Part One of our story proves that you should temper your emotions when it comes to freshmen, at least from a fantasy standpoint. Try not to get too caught up in the hype that a hotshot recruit brings to campus before he has even played a down.
Some big-name players dive right in and contribute (Alabama WR Julio Jones), while others disappoint in their rookie campaign (Colorado RB Darrell Scott).
By our count, 16 freshmen made a significant fantasy impact in 2008. Half of those players were big-name recruits, while the others where not on the preseason fantasy radar. Figuring out who will make that splash in year one isn’t easy, but we’ll take a stab at it.
We started with the quarterbacks. Now, it's the running backs' turn.
Darrell Scott, De’Anthony Curtis, Chris Polk, and Josh Haden were four highly regarded freshmen in 2008 who had an excellent chance to play early. None of them made much of an impact. There were five frosh RBs that did make an impact, but only Jacquizz Rodgers and Bryce Beall hit the 1,000-yard, 10-touchdown plateau.
This year’s crop appears to be deeper, and there is certainly early playing time opportunity for some of the big names. We expect a bigger fantasy contribution from this year’s class.
Best Chance to Make 2009 Fantasy Impact
Larry Caper (Michigan State)
Rivals rank: No. 28 Running back
Also had offers from: Michigan, Purdue, Stanford, Iowa
Why he’s on the radar: Javon Ringer and his incredible 390 carries are off to the NFL. Caper is going to have a chance to fill the void. If he could get even half of those carries, you are looking at a 1,000-yard running back.
What to be concerned about: Caper will be competing for carries with another highly touted freshman, No. 6 ranked running back Edwin Baker. Baker is recovering from a knee injury that might slow him down this spring, otherwise he might be in this spot instead of Caper.
Jarvis Giles (South Carolina)
Rivals rank: No. 3 Running back
Also had offers from: Georgia, Clemson, Tennessee
Why he’s on the radar: People forget that Steve Spurrier’s best Florida teams RUSHED the ball really well. Giles is a big-time recruit for The Visor. With Mike Davis off to graduation, Giles will step in and contribute from day one. He is already enrolled for the spring semester.
What to be concerned about: Other than the tough SEC defenses, the only concern is fellow four-star newcomer Ben Axon stealing touches.
Cierre Wood (Notre Dame) [pictured]
Rivals rank: No. 8 Running back
Also had offers from: USC, Florida, Auburn
Why he’s on the radar: The ghost of Darius Walker looms large in the minds of fantasy owners. 3,100 yards and 19 touchdowns (in his final two seasons) is hard to forget. Can the Irish find a tailback to produce those kinds of stats again? The running backs currently on the ND roster have shown nothing special.
Cierre Wood arrives in South Bend with lots of fanfare...and talent. He will be given a chance to challenge for the starting gig. With a maturing Jimmy Clausen and a talented receiving corps surrounding him, Wood could produce Walker-like numbers in the near future.
What to be concerned about: The offensive line has been, well, offensive over the past two seasons. It improved a little last year, but will it be good enough in ‘09?
Trent Richardson (Alabama)
Rivals rank: No. 2 Running back
Also had offers from: Florida, LSU, Florida State
Why he’s on the radar: One of the crown jewels of Nick Saban’s latest recruiting haul. Glen Coffee is off to the NFL, and Richardson will have a shot to be a part of a 1-2 punch with Mark Ingram.
What to be concerned about: Richardson won’t be a feature back as long as Ingram is healthy. But Coffee and Ingram were able to co-exist, and there is hope that Ingram and Richardson will be the Tide’s next dynamic backfield duo.
Jaamal Berry (Ohio State)
Rivals rank: No. 5 Running back
Also had offers from: Florida, Michigan, Florida State
Why he’s on the radar: Coach Jim Tressel has no problem playing freshman running backs (i.e. Chris Wells, Maurice Clarett). Berry will get on the field early and, at the very least, be a change of pace back and home run threat for the Buckeyes.
What to be concerned about: Boom Herron is the front-runner to inherit the starting running back job.
Keep an Eye on These Guys in August
Desmond Scott (Duke)
Rivals rank: No. 5 All-purpose back
Also had offers from: Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Auburn
Why he’s on the radar: Four-star skill position players don’t often land in Durham, but that’s exactly what happened here. Desmond Scott is a hometown kid who should get every chance to play early and often.
What to be concerned about: Duke hasn’t had an running back crack the 500 rushing yard barrier in the past five seasons.
Christine Michael (Texas A&M)
Rivals rank: No. 3 Running back
Also had offers from: Florida, LSU, Oklahoma
Why he’s on the radar: Loads of talent. A home run threat with a blend of speed and strength.
What to be concerned about: The talented Cyrus Gray stands in his way. Also, it’s still difficult to try to get a sense for what kind of offense A&M is going to run this fall. Will they be enticed to follow the pass-happy trend in the Big 12 and ride the arm of Jerrod Johnson? Or will coach Mike Sherman decide to shift gears and pound away with the run game?
Edwin Baker (Michigan State)
Rivals rank: No. 6 Running back
Also had offers from: Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Texas
Why he’s on the radar: As we mentioned above with his new teammate Caper, someone will need to replace all of those Javon Ringer carries. Baker could be that guy.
What to be concerned about: Baker has had injury problems that could hamper his chances of becoming the No. 1 guy in East Lansing this fall.
Tavon Austin (West Virginia)
Rivals rank: No. 13 All-purpose back
Also had offers from: Michigan, Boston College, Illinois
Why he’s on the radar: Skills translate well to the Mountaineers' offensive system.
What to be concerned about: Will have to share duties with Noel Devine.
Bryce Brown (TBD)
Rivals rank: No. 1 Running back
Also had offers from: Miami, Kansas State, Oregon, LSU, USC, Tennessee
Why he’s on the radar: Rivals’ top ranked player in the country. Verbally committed to Miami, but did not sign on LOI Day. Reportedly still considering LSU and Oregon.
What to be concerned about: Is he a headcase? Brown’s recruitment has taken some strange twists and turns. He has considered playing in the CFL. He has a "handler" helping him with the process. Brown says he will announce his plans in March, but who knows?
David Oku (TBD)
Rivals rank: No. 1 All-purpose back
Also had offers from: Tennessee, Auburn, Syracuse, Oklahoma State, Nebraska
Decommitted from Tennessee and has not signed on with a school as of yet. Auburn and Syracuse are reportedly still in the mix. Syracuse? Syracuse?
Waymon James (TCU)
Rivals rank: No. 10 Running back
Also had offers from: Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Georgia Tech, Utah
Why he’s on the radar: No. 10-ranked running back. TCU likes to run the ball. The Horned Frogs don’t get too many recruits of this caliber, and one would expect him to see the field early.
What to be concerned about: Aaron Brown is gone, but Joseph Turner and his 11 TDs return. Even if James proves himself in practice, he’s looking at a time-share situation. TCU brought in three other RBs in the 2009 class, all ranked in the Rivals No. 50-75 range.
Chris Whaley (Texas)
Rivals rank: No. 8 Athlete
Also had offers from: Florida State, Oklahoma, Notre Dame
Why he’s on the radar: Mack Brown has churned out several fantasy feature backs in the past. Nobody currently on the roster has taken the bull by the (long)horns and emerged as a go-to guy in the running game. Can Whaley fill that role?
What to be concerned about: Fozzy Whitaker and Vondrell McGee are back. Colt McCoy and his pass-happy offense could limit the number of carries even if Whaley becomes The Man. And don’t forget about Cody Johnson. The 255-pounder currently sits atop the depth chart with McGee and at the very least could continue to vulture goal line touchdowns—he had 12 last year.
Lamon Muldrow (San Jose State)
Rivals rank: N/A, four-star Running back (JUCO)
Also had offers from: Arizona, Colorado State
Why he’s on the radar: Muldrow is the No. 13 rated JUCO player in the country. This is a prized recruit for San Jose State. For that reason alone, one would think Muldrow has a great chance to see early playing time for the Spartans. More good news—their 2008 leading rusher graduated. Muldrow is the definition of a sleeper candidate.
What to be concerned about: San Jose State averaged 2.7 yards per carry as a team. They will need to improve on the O-line to open up holes for Muldrow and company.
Rivals Rank - Player - School
No. 8 All-purpose back—Fitzgerald Toussaint (Michigan)
No. 37 RB—Teric Jones (Michigan)
No. 39 RB—Arthur Burns (Washington State)
No. 12 RB—Rodney Scott (Ole Miss)
No. 14 RB—De’Antwan Williams (Rutgers)
No. 16 FB—Curtis Dukes (Penn State)
No. 4 RB—David Wilson (Virginia Tech)
No. 6 All-purpose back—Eric Stephens (Texas Tech)
No. 16 All-purpose back—Kendial Lawrence (Missouri)
No. 9 RB—Lamar Miller (Miami)
No. 7 RB—Michael Ford (LSU)
Todd DeVries is the founder of CollegeFootballGeek.com, your premier resource for college fantasy football information. Check us out.
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