by Sean Dujay - CollegeFootballGeek.com contributing writer
CFG’s recruiting guru, Sean Dujay, takes a close look at the latest batch of incoming freshman running backs and outlines who has the best chance to make an early fantasy impact.
Michael Dyer (Auburn) – Reminds me of Maurice Jones Drew and has the ability to beat out Onterio McCalebb to start the season because he is more of an every down back than Onterio. Fannin will get his touches too, but with the departure of Ben Tate and a solid O-line setting up for 2010, Dyer will get every opportunity to shine.
The big key, for me, is his ability to catch the ball out of the back field in Gus Malzahn’s offense. He will contribute immediately, it’s just a matter of whether he produces 5-700 all purpose yards and say 5-7 TDs or whether he produces those gaudy stats us fantasy owners crave.
Lache Seastrunk (Oregon) – This kid is a home run hitter who has been compared to Reggie Bush at the college level. While I’m not willing to go quite that far, I do like him more than Lattimore from a fantasy perspective at this point.
The reason being that he is in a better system at Oregon and although LaMichael James returns, Lache could still have a big year as the No. 2 and you never know what can happen as James found out last year with the suspension of LeGarrette Blount.
The kid can flat out fly on film despite only clocking in at 4.5 seconds in the forty which leads me to believe he has game speed that is much faster than his testing times. Every time it looks like a defender has the angle, he blows past him which is why I like him more than Lattimore because he should be able to score more in the wide open Pac-10.
Right now the evidence against Jeremiah Masoli, regarding the theft situation, doesn’t seem overwhelming and a prosecuting attorney does not believe Masoli has much to worry about which is good because he runs that explosive option offense extremely well. This allows more than one RB to shine as we saw previously with Jeremiah Johnson and Blount.
Lache may be an injury away from starting, but then again so could Dontae Williams (another very impressive incoming Fr. with great film, but injury prone and inconsistent). Williams has a similar running style to Blount in that he looks to dish out punishment!
(Update: LaMichael James was arrested on 2/17 and his future status is uncertain)
Marcus Lattimore (South Carolina) – He will have to fend off one of last year’s preseason favorite fantasy sleepers Jarvis Giles, who had less than impressive season stats to go along with a suspension for the Alabama game. I’m not saying to write off Giles, who enrolled early a year ago—unlike Lattimore—and had a 5.3 yard average, but if Marcus can keep his nose clean and stay out of Spurrier’s dog house then he has the size and skill set to start right away.
He will have to improve his ball security, but he, like Dyer, has the physical tools to be more of an every down back for the Gamecocks. One of the best parts of Lattimore’s game is something that many RBs don’t develop until later in their maturity which is patience and the ability to wear down defenses over the course of a game.
He is a workhorse who has been compared to one of my all time favorite fantasy performers, Knowshon Moreno. Enough said.
Jordan James/Malcolm Jones (UCLA) – UCLA is a team on the rise and nobody has really stepped up and laid claim to the RB position out of Jonathan Franklin, Derrick Coleman, Milton Knox (PS No. 8!), or Christian Ramirez.
Other VHT’s, like Raymond Carter and Aundre Dean, decided to transfer so just because James and Jones come in with a lot of hype doesn’t mean that they will succeed; although, they have as good a shot as anyone currently on the roster.
They are completely different backs and even though James is rated higher, the transition to college may be tougher for him because he is more of a speed guy that needs to get stronger whereas Jones is already physically ready for the next level, but needs to work on his speed.
Jones is also a smart kid, as evidenced by Stanford being the only other school that he considered, which could give him a leg up early due to the complexity of a collegiate play book. Jones could crack the lineup earlier at RB, but then again he could also be moved to LB. James has better long term potential, but probably won’t step in and start right away.
Storm Johnson/Eduardo Clements (Miami) – With the graduation of Javarris James and the unfortunate injury to Craig Cooper, who probably would have went pro otherwise, there is a possible opportunity here if one of these guys really impresses early on (both are already enrolled and residing in Coral Gables).
Make no mistake about it, the starting job is Damien Berry’s (PS No. 37 DB) to lose, but if Shannon and company think one of these guys is the next great Miami RB then the job could be his. I was really impressed with Damien Berry last year as he runs the ball with authority (6.6 yards per carry), can catch the ball out of the back field and doesn’t make mistakes (0 fumbles in 93 carries).
Berry scored in every game last year except the last regular season game against South Florida (rushed for 114 yards though) and the forgettable Champs Sports Bowl versus Wisconsin. Mike James is someone else that the Miami brass were high on coming into last season, but for my money Storm Johnson is exactly the type of back Miami covets.
He hits the hole hard, sets up his blocks beautifully, refuses to be tackled and finishes (he wants to score every time he touches the ball and gives every ounce of effort to do so). He was a man amongst boys in HS and it won’t be as easy for him at this level, but he has a powerful base, cuts back well, makes people miss, and has a nose for the end zone.
I know some people like Eduardo Clements better and he is a great RB in his own right, but Storm Johnson looks like the No. 2 back at The U this year while Berry finishes off his career and then they hand him the reigns in 2011.
Dillon Baxter (USC) – This kid can play, no doubt about it, and he may even be able to play right away (especially in light of the fact that he is already on campus competing). CJ Gable (PS No. 9) was one of Kiffen’s favorites during his first stint as OC at USC under Pete Carroll and there’s also Marc Tyler (PS No. 1) and Allen Bradford (PS No. 3 LB) left to contend with.
I’m thinking Baxter may be able to earn some spot duty and if that goes well, then maybe we have a good, not great, fantasy back (more so for the future than 2010). I think the backfield is still a little too crowded with VHT’s for him to come in and take over right away.
Furthermore, everyone is looking for the next Reggie Bush; however, Bush was one of the all time greats and you simply can’t replace that kind of legacy (certainly not overnight). Fantasy owners tend to think because USC has had unbelievable RB recruits over the last few years that you can simply plug whichever one comes out on top in and voila you have the next Reggie. Wrong.
There are far too many variables involved and USC RB’s continue to be one of the most over rated fantasy picks year in year out since Bush and Lendale White left town.
Devon Wright/Devon Kirkwood (Minnesota) – Again, as fantasy owners, we’re all looking for the next Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney combo, but they’re certainly hard to come by (maybe even once in a lifetime).
Both these Florida kids have quite a bit of upside, but I like Devon Wright a little better. He’s fun to watch and Minnesota has a pretty good O-line returning to go along with a very good recruiting class to bolster that unit.
Coach Brewster is definitely on the hot seat and last year he switched schemes to a power running offense which may pay more dividends this year. Kevin Whaley, last year’s star recruit at the position, transferred so there is an opportunity for one or both if they can out do the lackluster performances of Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge (neither of which has the pedigree of Wright or Kirkwood).
In other words, these young men have a chance to start right away.
Jamal Woodyard (Southern Miss), Erick Howard (Akron), Tony Drake (Colorado St.), Alex Owah (East Carolina), Spencer Ware (LSU), Nicholas Parker (Ole Miss), Deantre Lewis (Arizona St.), Aaron Spikes (Louisiana Lafeyette), Ja’Terian Douglas (Tulsa), Frankie Jackson (Arkansas St.)
Sean Dujay is a contributing writer for CollegeFootballGeek.com , your premier resource for college fantasy football information. Check us out.