College Fantasy Football: Scouting the 2011 Freshmen Running Backs
As we discussed in another article, it's not often that a true freshman bursts on to to the scene in year one and becomes an instant college fantasy football star. Few have been able to do it. Most recruits need a year or two on campus before they become consistent fantasy producers. Last year, only one true frosh became a viable season-long fantasy stud - South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore.
So with our expectations in check, here's a rundown of a few potential instant impact freshmen running backs. We list around thirty names below knowing full well that only a couple will make it onto the fantasy stage this fall.
Uber-talented backs who have a good shot to start from day one.
Savon Huggins (Rutgers) - Rivals.com No. 7 RB
It's one thing when a five-star recruit lands at a powerhouse like USC or Oklahoma and has to fight his way to the top of the depth chart. It's quite another when one winds up at a school that desperately needs his services, which is exactly what we have here. A New Jersey native, Huggins stayed close to home in signing with the Scarlet Knights. Head coach Greg Schiano all but promised Huggins he would start this fall. There aren't any running backs currently on the roster that would seem to pose any sort of threat to Huggins becoming a workhorse back early.
Malcolm Brown (Texas) - Rivals.com No. 1 RB
The pressure is on for young Mr. Brown. Texas limps into 2011 after a dreadful losing season. Thanks to lackluster offensive line play, the Longhorns haven't produced a quality running back since Jamaal Charles in 2007. For a school that routinely hauls in four and five-star talent, that's too long of a drought. Brown will have every opportunity to step in and put his stamp on the running game. Can he live up to the hype or will he fall to the wayside like stud recruits Traylon Shead and Chris Whaley of recent years?
These running backs enter favorable depth chart situations.
Harvey Langi, RB (Utah) - Rivals.com No. 17 RB
The Utes dive into Pac-12 play without Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide. Langi is a Utah native who decided to stay home instead of heading to Stanford, where many thought he would land. He has a shot to see early playing time and has enrolled early for the spring.
C.J. Anderson (JUCO) and Brendon Bigelow (No. 11 RB), Cal
With Shane Vereen moving on to the NFL, and no super-stud waiting in the wings, Anderson and Bigelow could battle veteran Iso Sofele for a shot to crack the starting lineup. Anderson is s JUCO signee who might have a leg up on Bigelow, who's recovering from two knee surgeries. Cal always seems to produce top fantasy RBs, so this situation is one to watch this off-season.
Justice Hayes (No. 3 All-Purpose) and Thomas Rawls (unranked three-star), Michigan
With no clear-cut starting running back returning in Ann Arbor, the job is open for competition. Rawls is a big back that would seem to be a nice fit in Brady Hoke's pro-style offense. Hayes is coming off an injury his senior year. He's versatile enough to play multiple positions. Remember, Hoke did wonderful things with Ronnie Hillman (SDSU) and MiQuale Lewis (Ball State) in recent years.
Mike Blakely (Florida) - Rivals.com No. 6 RB
With a new coaching staff in place down in Gainesville, the running back position could be up for grabs this fall. If that's the case, Blakely will certainly be in the mix for playing time—if he's fully recovered from surgery. He is enrolled early this spring.
Artez Brown (Arkansas State) - unranked three-star
Talented back who could push for early playing time. Had big offers from Arkansas, Baylor, Kansas and Ole Miss but opted for Arkansas State where he could become an instant star.
Storm Woods and Malcolm Agnew (Oregon State) - both unranked three-stars
Jacquizz Rodgers departs. Who will fill his shoes? Veteran Ryan McCants returns, but he doesn't exactly strike fear into Pac-12 defenses. Woods and Agnew weren't uber-recruits, but they are fresh legs that could make noise in Corvallis this fall.
Marcus Caffey (No. 37 RB) and Josh Clemons (No. 54 RB), Kentucky
With Derrick Locke gone, these guys could battle for carries. Caffey had scholarship offers from the likes of Arkansas, South Carolina and West Virginia.
DeVondrick Nealy (Iowa State) - Rivals.com No. 9 All-Purpose RB
Alexander Robinson graduates, leaving a gaping hole at RB. Nealy is a speedy Florida recruit with receiving skills that make him a nice fit in the Cyclones' offense.
Chevelle Buie (East Carolina) - Rivals.com No. 7 All-Purpose RB
At 5'7" and 153 pounds, this dude is about as tiny as a four-star talent can get. But Jonathan Williams departs the high-powered ECU offensive machine and someone will need to fill his shoes. We're just not sure this Buie will see enough touches early on to warrant serious fantasy consideration.
The Wild(er) Cards
Two intriguing prospects to keep a close eye on in August.
James Wilder Jr. (Florida State) - Rivals.com No. 2 RB
Florida State hasn't had a running back crack the century mark since the Clinton administration. None of the backs on the current 'Nole roster blow you away. Can Wilder come in and take over the No. 1 RB job out of the box? It's possible.
Andrew Buie (West Virginia) - Rivals.com No. 6 All-Purpose RB
We're intrigued with this Florida all-purpose back. Dana Holgorsen comes to Morgantown with a whole new offensive philosophy. With Noel Devine moving on, Shawne Alston would seem to be the RB1 for Holgy, but does he fit the new system? If not, Buie could have a shot at the job as he possesses the rushing and receiving skills to flourish in an open offense.
Darrian Miller (Kansas) - Rivals.com No. 22 RB
Turner Gill was able to reel in a big fish here. If Miller can live up to the hype, it could be only a matter of time until he unseats James Sims in the backfield. He is enrolled for the spring semester.
Wait Your Turn
These guys will have their chance to shine, just probably not in 2011.
Aaron Green (Nebraska) - Rivals.com No. 8 RB
He's being touted as the being the next great Husker running back. But for 2011, Rex Burkhead stands in his way.
Isaiah Crowell (Georgia) - Rivals.com No. 4 RB
It wasn't that long ago that the pundits thought Washaun Ealey and Caleb King would become All-Americans in Athens. It hasn't transpired yet. Still, both remain on campus and Crowell will have to beat them out this fall.
Demetrius Hart (Alabama) - Rivals.com No. 1 All-Purpose RB
2011 is Trent Richardson's year to carry the load. Barring an injury to TR, we doubt Hart makes a significant fantasy splash this fall.
Mike Bellamy (Clemson) - Rivals.com No. 5 RB
Andre Ellington will be The Man in Death Valley this season. Bellamy should see the field, but will have a hard time earning enough touches to please fantasy owners.
Brandon Williams (Oklahoma) - Rivals.com No. 3 RB
He's a five-star monster, but he'll have to beat out Roy Finch, Brennan Clay and Jermie Calhoun for playing time right away.
Herschel Sims (Oklahoma State) - Rivals.com No. 2 All-Purpose RB
Joseph Randle will be RB1 in Stillwater this fall, but Sims is one to keep on your radar for down the road.
De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon) - Rivals.com No. 1 Athlete
The "Black Mamba" spurned USC at the last minute and chose Oregon. That's great for Chip Kelly and company—another dangerous weapon,but how on earth will he make a fantasy impact in 2011 with LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and Lache Seastrunk in the fold?
Clifton Richardson (Virginia) - Rivals.com No. 20 RB
With Keith Payne and his 16 total TDs graduating, Perry Jones figures to get the lion's share of carries for the Cavs this fall.
Jameel Poteat (Cincinnati) - Rivals.com No. 15 RB
Isaiah Pead returns for one final year. Once he's out of the picture, Poteat will be the frontrunner for playing time.
Ka'Deem Carey (Arizona) - Rivals.com No. 13 RB
Carey rushed for 4,500 yards and 69 touchdowns over his past two prep seasons. Nic Grigsby departs from the Zona backfield, but Kealoha Antolin returns.
Quartterrio Morgan (Western Kentucky) - unranked three-star
Had offers from Georgia Tech, Indiana and Illinois. Won't see much time in 2011 unless Bobby Rainey goes down to injury. But in 2012, look out.
K.C. Nlemchi (SMU) - Rivals.com No. 36 RB
Zach Line is back for another year. Once he's gone, K.C. has a good shot to be the next great SMU back. Also had offers from Arkansas and Utah.
Kenny Hillard (LSU) - Rivals.com No. 7 RB
Stevan Ridley left early for the NFL, but Mike Ford and other highly-touted recruits litter the depth chart. It's going to be tough to crack the starting lineup right away, but he is on campus this spring which should help his cause
Todd DeVries is the founder of CollegeFootballGeek.com, your home for all things college fantasy football.
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