I’ve spent the past week and a half or so catching up on the 2022 freshman running back class to be able to speak intelligently with my Campus2Canton.com teammates. They are all generally well ahead of the curve in this arena and undoubtedly disappointed that I haven’t caught up yet. But hey, if you expect disappointment, then you can never really be disappointed. In any regard, I have some observations on the class that are probably best suited for long-form discussion.
It’s Singleton or Blue for the No. 1 Spot
I flip between Penn State commit Nicholas Singleton and Texas’s Jaydon Blue for the top spot in the class. On any given day, I may have a different answer, but they compose my top tier at the position.
I love Blue’s knack for efficiently avoiding or breaking tackles. I started to watch for this kind of movement efficiency after Matt Waldman ranked Nick Chubb over Saquon Barkley in his 2018 RSP. In that edition of the RSP, and during his discussions about Chubb v. Barkley, Waldman explained that he preferred Chubb’s subtle tackle avoidance over Barkley’s more dramatic, pronounced, and flashy running style. According to Waldman, Chubb’s subtle movements to avoid or shed tacklers allowed him to remain on course during any given run and be better able to string together multiple moves to avoid the next potential tackler. On the other hand, Barkley’s dramatic jump cuts tended to take him completely off track – like out of the intended hole created by his blocking.
In sum, one player minimized the effort needed for gains, and the other made life more difficult for himself.
Circling this back to Blue, he is a runner that makes life easy for himself, specifically with his ability to shrink his potential tackling surface with a forward lean, lowered shoulder, and head dips. I think the micromovement enthusiasts, including Mr. Waldman, would enjoy Blue’s tape.
Speaking of Chubb, he is the player comparison for Singleton according to 247 Sports’ Gabe Brooks.
I don’t disagree with the comp from a body type and athleticism standpoint. But Chubb presents a more subdued running style, while Singleton’s style is more angry and violent. Not just in the form of creating collisions. Singleton has a bucking running style, forcefully high stepping his knees towards the air as though a rabid pit bull is chasing behind him. He runs like his very livelihood is dependent on the forcefulness and speed of each individual stride.
Not since Miles Sanders has Penn State had a back of Singleton’s caliber. I can’t imagine a scenario where Singleton is not the starter in Happy Valley by the end of the 2022 season. Singleton is a monster. And with great power comes great responsibility.
I’m fine with Singleton or Blue being the first pick in this offseason’s C2C supplemental drafts, Quinn Ewers availability notwithstanding, and without having thoroughly studied the quarterbacks or wide receivers to date.
Branson Robinson Could Suit Up for An NFL Team Today
I think Georgia commit Branson Robinson could suit up for your favorite NFL team this weekend, have a role, and hold his own. Not to imply that we should expect Robinson to dominate the collegiate ranks. I mean that his body is ready today to take on and absorb hits from grown men paid to hit other men.
Robinson is a tank. His physique has been the subject of whispers in the devy community for some time now. 247 compares him to Samaje Perine. I think the X-Men’s Juggernaut is a more apt comparison myself.
Under the Radar
Speaking of Georgia commits, Jordan James is one of my favorite lesser heralded prospects in the RB class. He is overshadowed by Robinson. But I think he’s on the Rhamondre Stevenson spectrum, a runner whose thick lower base causes tacklers to slide off his hips and waist. In my opinion, he’s an NFL running back but may not be fantasy-relevant. He’s built to carry the load and possesses soft hands that may not be expected for a player of his size and playstyle. Just like Stevenson.
Terrance Gibbs is my favorite player at any position in the class. I don’t see that changing. He suffered what has been described as a catastrophic knee injury after transferring his junior year. He has not played football since. Had he not been injured, I think he would have been the class’s top back. There isn’t a back in the class that possesses Gibbs’s diverse toolkit; stiff arms, speed to power conversion, acceleration, lateral agility, and soft hands are all evident in watching Gibbs. It figures that Miami offered him as an 8th grader.
After James and Gibbs, UNC commit George Pettaway is one of my favorite lesser heralded prospects. Something about his game reminds me of Aaron Jones at UTEP. If you haven’t seen Pettaway, I highly recommend you get on your phones, scour the internet, and Scooby-Doo this s**t.
It Ain’t All Rainbows and Sunshine
Raleek Brown is a consensus top back in the class. He will not be on any of my Campus2Canton rosters.
I think the absolute ceiling is a Deuce Vaughn type, which feels like a low probability play. It feels like Brown has reached his BMI/size ceiling already. He’s an all-purpose player whose lofty underclassmen production immediately took a dip after transferring from Edison High School in Huntington Beach, California to the more renowned Mater Dei in Santa Ana. I could be wrong on Brown, but you gotta trust your tingle.
Felix H. Sharpe is a Co-Founder of Campus2Canton.com and co-host of the Devy Debate. You can yell at him @sharpereview on Twitter.