Let’s look at some running back situations to monitor on Friday night before the Saturday slate arrives.

Will Kendre Lead The Way?

Coming out of a small town in Texas, Kendre Miller was far from a top-tier prospect, entering Fort Worth as the 125th-ranked athlete in the class of 2020. His only FBS offers other than TCU? 

UTSA, Wyoming, and Southern Miss.

I’m sure many coaches are punching the air for missing out on the hidden gem from Mount Enterprise High School.

Miller has been exceptionally efficient over the last two seasons with the Horned Frogs, excelling as a secondary back behind Zach Evans. The 6’0″ 220-pounder forced a missed tackle on almost 30 percent of his touches in 2021, and his 7.5 rushing yards per attempt average led the NCAA. With Evans transferring to Ole Miss, many believe Miller, who has averaged 7.4 yards per carry on 137 career carries, would look with a full workload.

With that said, whether the third-year back will receive the three-down volume fantasy managers have anticipated remains to be seen. If I had to guess? We’re going to be slightly disappointed. TCU released their depth chart for the upcoming matchup, and the running back position received the dreaded four-way “OR.” To make matters worse, head coach Sonny Dykes mentioned at his press conference on Monday that they would run with a committee approach.

Don’t overreact; there is reason to be optimistic. Over Dykes’ last four years at SMU, lead backs have averaged 175 carries, compared to just 89 carries to each of the secondary rushers. Also, the number-one back under has been heavily involved in the passing game, receiving at least 20 receptions out of the backfield in three of the four seasons. 

While Miller’s workload may not be what we initially expected after Evans’ transfer, I don’t see it being far off. Only time will tell.

Berger With The Shake

After landing a record-breaking performance from a former transfer portal addition, Mel Tucker looked at similar means to replicate the magic displayed by Kenneth Walker III. While it is unlikely that one Spartan running back will replicate his production, the room in East Lansing is spearheaded by a pair of talented rushers, both of whom were higher-rated prospects coming out of high school.

Photo Courtesy of Lansing State Journal

Jalen Berger played a limited role in his first two seasons at Wisconsin, appearing in seven games and receiving only 88 carries. As a surprise to the college football world, the 6’1″ 215-pounder was dismissed from the Badgers last October. While Paul Chryst did not provide many details, sources seemed to indicate the third-year back began to skip team meetings and workouts after losing reps to Chez Mellusi, who transferred from Clemson in the offseason. 

There is no doubt that the Don Bosco Prep (NJ) product is talented, and I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt regarding any attitude issues (for now). Berger has flashed in scrimmages throughout the offseason, and things seem to indicate that he will contribute in a power-back role between the tackles for the Spartan’s offense. Yet, I question his lateral agility and whether he can make people miss in space to lead the way by himself.

On paper, Colorado transfer Jarek Broussard compliments Berger insanely well, but do not let that think he is a lock to play second fiddle in this offense. The 5’9″ 195-pounder, up ten pounds from his listed weight a year ago, had plenty of success in the Pac-12 between the tackles, averaging over five yards per carry on almost 300 career carries. He also has a league Offensive Player of the Year award and two preseason Doak Walker Award Watch List nominations. That’s an excellent resume right there.

Photo Courtesy of Lansing State Journal

The fifth-year back from Dallas, Texas, has limited repetitions in the receiving game, and he does have some injury history throughout his career, including back-to-back ACL injuries early on in his career. However, what he lacks in intrigue, he makes up with legitimate college production, contrary to Berger. Also, remember that before arriving in East Lansing, Tucker spent the 2019 season in Colorado with Broussard. While the fifth-year back missed that season with an injury, there is some familiarity here. It will be interesting how snaps and carries are split but look for both to contribute heavily this weekend.

Should We Chase Down Chase Brown?

Photo courtesy of Illinois Athletics

No player raised his initial week zero fantasy stock more than Illinois running back Chase Brown. The fifth-year back flashed in the season opener against Wyoming, rushing for over 150 yards at a 7.9-yard average and finding the endzone three times en route to Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week recognition. Yes, this was against Wyoming, but any time you break an 80-year program record, it deserves to be recognized. 

The question that fantasy managers and college football fans have alike is whether this type of production was a fluke or a sign to come. I would not be surprised if we see another big week out of Brown as Illinois heads to Indiana to face the Hoosiers.

The 5’11” 205-pounder’s role as the lead back for the Fighting Illini was never in question, as he has led the team in carries over the past two seasons. However, one thing that could provide Brown with an increased number of carries is the long-term outlook of Josh McCray, his running back counterpart, who suffered a knee injury last week and has already been ruled out for this week.

Reggie Love III will play a role, as the former high three-star prospect totaled 46 rushing yards and a touchdown in only three carries in the opener. His high school coach at Trinity Catholic (MO), Cory Patterson, is currently Illinois’ running backs coach, so there is a positive relationship there. I wholeheartedly expect Love III will out-touch fifth-year back Chase Hayden going forward, and he will see increased volume if McCray’s injury turns out to be serious.

But do not overthink it; Brown’s workload should only continue to grow. In his last four games on the road dating back to last year, he has averaged over 137 yards at almost five yards a carry. I expect close to a repeat performance in Bloomington, but it is difficult to predict just how improved the Hoosiers’ run game will be under new defensive coordinator Chad Wilt.

 

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