In the second of a four-part series, we examine the running back sleeper names to monitor as 2010 spring camps unfold around the country. Some guys are coming back from injury, some are transfers, some were redshirt freshmen in 2009, and some are true freshmen that enrolled early.
Fantasy running backs can be a dime a dozen. But fantasy backs that crack your starting line-up are another thing. Only time will tell if any of these backs can make a fantasy splash in 2010, but there are some candidates that have a serious chance.
Top 2010 Pre-Spring Sleepers: Running Backs
Anthony Allen – Georgia Tech (R-Sr)
Once Paul Johnson arrived to Georgia Tech with his triple option offense, RB Jonathan Dwyer has been the workhorse back. Now he’s off to the NFL and it time for somebody new to step up. Anthony Allen is the most talented back on the roster, and it’s hard to imagine that he would not be moved from wingback to fullback. If Allen does indeed take over the fullback position as we anticipate, he will be racking up big time yards.
Bryce Brown – Tennessee (So)
Bryce Brown was a highly touted recruit one year ago, and he did see time as a true freshman while playing behind Montario Hardesty. Now Hardesty is out, and the starting job is open. New coach Derek Dooley utilized a strong running game while at Louisiana Tech. With a talented back like Brown, you can imagine that Dooley will be putting the ball in Brown’s hands often this fall.
3/18 Update - Bryce Brown is no longer considered a member of the Tennessee football team. It is uncertain if he will return or transfer at this time.
Robbie Rouse – Fresno State (So)
Fresno State loses three of their top four RBs from 2009. Robbie Rouse is the only one that didn’t get away. As the only returning back with significant playing experience, you can expect the coaches will lean on Rouse early in 2010. His thick frame makes him tough to bring down, and he has enough speed to outrun defenders. Don’t expect Rouse to be the next Ryan Mathews, but Rouse should have a very solid fantasy season.
Sam McGuffie – Rice (Michigan Transfer)
Toward the end of the 2009 season Rice started to run the football with more consistency. As the passing game continues to struggle in their rebuilding from the 2008 offense, it appears that the running game might be the crutch that the coaches might lean on. Sam McGuffie had to sit out last season after his transfer in from Michigan, but now he is ready to run all over Conference USA defenses. And that’s exactly what you should expect to see. McGuffie might have one of the highest ceilings for RB sleepers this year.
Michael Smith – Utah State (Sr)
Michael Smith played second fiddle to Robert Turbin in 2009. But now Turbin has blown out his knee and will miss significant time reaching into the 2010 schedule. This leaves the door open for Smith to become the workhorse back for Utah State. If Smith can show that he’s dependable on an every down basis in both the running and passing game, he should keep any other backs from cutting into his carries. As long as Turbin is not participating, Smith looks to be a great late round pick for 2010 drafts.
Shawn Southward – Troy (So)
DuJuan Harris was the stud RB for Troy as the team entered 2009 fall camp. In comes true freshman Shawn Southward. Harris found his carries cut and his overall ability to make big plays went down considerably. Southward showed that he had the ability to make the big play and he was able to register just 55 fewer total touches than Harris had in 2009. If Southward can win the starting job outright, he could see his workload increase significantly.
Trent Richardson – Alabama (So)
As a true freshman Trent Richardson was able to climb up to the second spot on the RB depth chart in 2009. He displayed the ability to compliment starter Mark Ingram, and showed that he could be counted on to receive a larger workload. That is the question facing 2010 in the Bama backfield. Does Richardson get more carries since Ingram may not be on a Heisman campaign again? Or do things remain relatively the same? Richardson’s 2009 stats (145 carries, 751 yards, 8 TDs) closely resemble Ingram’s stats from 2008 (143 carries, 728 yards, 12 TDs) when he was second string behind Glenn Coffee. Could those numbers be the ceiling for a back-up RB in the Bama offense?
Stepfan Taylor – Stanford (So)
Toby Gerhart has been the heart and soul of the Stanford offense for the past two seasons. Now he’s off to the NFL and there is a big production hole left over that needs to be filled in. QB Andrew Luck will certainly help take up some of that slack, but the running game will not be abandoned. Stepfan Taylor showed his big play ability last season and Stanford fans are excited to see what he can do with more than the 53 carries he had in 2009. There will most likely be another RB in the carry mix, but if Taylor can command the bulk of carries he will be a solid late round fantasy option.
Andre Ellington – Clemson (R-So)
CJ Spiller was an electric playmaker for Clemson in 2009. With his departure many fans have been debating which RB will take over. There’s a good chance that more than one RB will be splitting carries, and Ellington is one of the hot names for one of the backs that could wield the most carries. Even if he does not become the main back, if he can command the bulk of goal line carries he will become a nice TD vulture in 2010.
Other 2010 Pre-Spring Sleepers To Keep an Eye On
Roderick McDowell – Clemson (R-Fr)
Josh Snead – Duke (T-Fr)
Damien Berry – Miami, FL (Sr)
Storm Johnson – Miami, FL (T-Fr)
Giovanni Bernard – North Carolina (T-Fr)
Deshaun Sands – Kansas (R-Fr)
Jermie Calhoun – Oklahoma (R-So)
Jeremy Smith – Oklahoma State (R-Fr)
Ryan Clarke – West Virginia (So)
Darius Willis – Indiana (R-So)
Vincent Smith – Michigan (So)
Jaamal Berry – Ohio State (R-Fr)
Alex Owah – East Carolina (T-Fr)
Tracey Lampley – Southern Miss (Jr)
Desmond Johnson – Southern Miss (R-Jr)
Erick Howard – Akron (T-Fr)
Willie Geter – Bowling Green (Sr)
Ben Axon – Eastern Michigan (R-Fr)
Cameron Bell – Northern Illinois (Iowa State Transfer)
Darius Reeves – Toledo (R-Fr)
Raymond Carter – Colorado State (UCLA Transfer)
Terence Brown – New Mexico (R-Jr)
Aundre Dean – TCU (UCLA Transfer)
Dasarte Yarnway – California (R-Fr)
Trajuan Briggs – California (T-Fr)
Lache Seastrunk - Oregon (T-Fr)
Ronnie Wingo, Jr. – Arkansas (So)
Michael Dyer – Auburn (T-Fr)
Michael Ford – LSU (R-Fr)
Marcus Lattimore - South Carolina (T-Fr)
Montrell Conner – Mississippi State (R-Fr)
Tauren Poole – Tennessee (Jr)
Sir Gregory Thornton – Arkansas State (T-Fr)
Frankie Jackson – Arkansas State (T-Fr)
Yobes Walker – UL Lafayette (R-So)
Tyrone Duplessis – Louisiana Tech (So)
Mike Ball – Nevada (R-So)
Joe Arpasi is the co-owner of CollegeFootballGeek.com, your premier resource for college fantasy football information. Check us out.