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Forde-Yard Dash: 10 Upperclassmen Benefiting From Staying at the School Where They Started

College football may be the middle of its transfer portal era, but leaving isn’t always the best option.
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Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football, where they run a different kind of bootleg at Tennessee:

MORE DASH: Fix-It List | Big Ten East | Worst P5 Jobs

SECOND QUARTER: THE CASE FOR PATIENCE AND PERSEVERANCE

Sometimes a transfer is for the best. The Dash has noted those who won big— players and teams—by utilizing the transfer portal. And sometimes it’s quite obvious when a player should leave college behind and head to the NFL.

But sometimes—many times—a change of address isn’t the best option. Sometimes staying put and riding out some difficulty can pay off, too. The Dash salutes 10 upperclassmen who are getting the most out of their decisions to remain at the schools where they started their college careers:

Quarterback Kenny Pickett is leading a resurgent Pitt team thinking ACC title.

Kenny Pickett (11), Pittsburgh. Status: fifth-year quarterback. Stats: sixth-rated passer in the nation, leading a 6–1 Panthers team that is two games up in the loss column on its closest pursuer (Virginia) in the Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division. Last December, Pickett was close to putting his name in the NFL draft but chose to take the NCAA’s free fifth year of eligibility. Now he’s blowing up and rising up draft boards.

Pickett’s pass efficiency ratings his first four seasons at Pitt: 125.8, 120.3, 122.4, 129.6. This year: 176.1. If he stays healthy for the rest of the season, Pickett is virtually assured of being the school’s career passing yardage leader. And he’s now generating significant Heisman Trophy buzz.

Hassan Haskins (12), Michigan. Status: senior running back. Stats: second on the team in rushing (602 yards in a job share with sophomore Blake Corum) and second in touchdowns (10). The Wolverines are 7–0. Every time Haskins has gotten 20 carries in a game at Michigan, he’s produced more than 100 yards, including each of the last two games.

In 2018, Haskins was a special-teams player only. In ’19 and ’20, Haskins got limited carries in the first several games of the season, before taking on a bigger role as the seasons progressed. This year, while once again sharing the position (this time Corum, previously Zach Charbonnet), Haskins is an increasingly important part of the offense. Just seven games in, he’s had a career-high 124 carries. Coach Jim Harbaugh mentions Haskins’s return as one of the developments that solidified the team’s leadership.

B.J. Baylor (13), Oregon State. Status: fifth-year running back. Stats: leads the Pac-12 in rushing and is sixth nationally at 118.4 yards per game. One of only two players nationally with more than 100 carries who is averaging more than seven yards per rush. The Beavers are 5–2 and tied for the lead in the Pac-12 North at 3–1.

After redshirting in 2018, Baylor had a total of 81 carries over the next three seasons, never more than 10 in a game, just one of many backing up lead back Jermar Jefferson. This season, Baylor has taken over the position and produced triple-figure rushing games against all four Pac-12 opponents. He has the most runs of 30-plus yards in the conference (five) and the most 40-plus (four).

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Abram Smith (14), Baylor. Status: fifth-year senior running back. Stats: 10th nationally in rushing yards per game at 112.1. The only back in the country with more than 100 carries who averages more yards per rush than Oregon State’s Baylor (7.48). The Bears are 6–1 and tied for second in the Big 12.

In his first four seasons at Baylor, Smith had a total of 12 carries. He sat out the entire 2017 season as a redshirt after tearing an ACL in the preseason, played sparingly at running back and more on special teams in ’18 and ’19 while even dabbling at linebacker, then spent all of last season at linebacker. Smith led the Bears in tackles in each of the last four games of the season. Last spring, coach Dave Aranda asked Smith whether he was interested in a return to running back. He accepted the challenge and is on pace to be Baylor’s first 1,000-yard rusher in five years.

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Jaivon Heiligh (15), Coastal Carolina. Status: senior wide receiver. Stats: 13th nationally in receiving yards per game (96.6) and 18th in yards per catch (19.3). Coastal Carolina is 6–1 this season, 1–2 over the past two.

Heiligh got onto the field as a true freshman in 2018, catching 14 passes and starting two games. He then morphed into Coastal’s leading receiver as a sophomore and has held that distinction ever since, catching 146 passes over the past two and a half seasons. He had 13 receptions for 178 yards in the Cure Bowl against Liberty last season and has had four 100-yard receiving games this season. Although he certainly could have garnered interest from Power 5 programs via the transfer portal, Heiligh stayed in Conway, S.C., and is on pace to become Coastal’s all-time leader in receiving yards.

Luke Masterson (16), Wake Forest. Status: sixth-year senior linebacker. Stats: leads the team in tackles (6.86 per game) and is fifth in the ACC in solo tackles (32). The Demon Deacons are 7–0 for the first time since 1944 and have never been 8–0.

Masterson was redshirted way back in 2016 and has played three positions at Wake: linebacker, safety and rover. He’s missed significant parts of three seasons due to injuries. A repeat team captain, he had two sacks and three tackles for loss in the win over Virginia and forced a fumble to end the game against Louisville.

Frank Harris (17), UTSA. Status: fifth-year senior quarterback. Stats: in the top 20 nationally in completion percentage and top 25 in pass efficiency. On pace to break his own school record for completion percentage. The Roadrunners are 8–0.

Harris didn’t play at all his first two years of college, redshirting and then needing the second season to rehab an injury. He took over as the starting quarterback in 2019 but had a season-ending injury in the fourth game. Last year, he put in a full season, and UTSA went 7–5. This year Harris has improved his efficiency rating from 129.4 to 157.7 and is averaging 258 yards per game in total offense.

Oregon running back Travis Dye leads the team in rushing yards, touchdowns and all-purpose yardage.

Travis Dye (18), Oregon. Status: fourth-year running back. Stats: Leading the Ducks in rushing yards, touchdowns and all-purpose yardage. Set an FBS record against UCLA on Saturday with touchdowns on four consecutive carries. Oregon is 6–1.

Dye has been an impact player for four years but always shared the job with CJ Verdell, who was getting most of the work this year until a season-ending injury against Stanford. In the past three games, Dye has produced 424 yards from scrimmage and five TDs. If Dye had decided to look elsewhere in search of being the feature back, Oregon’s College Football Playoff hopes probably would be derailed at this point.

Brian Robinson (19), Alabama. Status: fifth-year running back. Stats: leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing attempts (142) and rushing touchdowns (11), despite missing a game. He’s third in the SEC in rushing yards per game (100.9) and second in yards per game from scrimmage (123.9). Alabama is 7–1.

Robinson is a hometown kid who waited his turn behind Damien Harris and Najee Harris. Now he’s the feature back and has been an October workhorse, averaging 29.5 touches per game. Robinson’s legs will be one of the keys to the Crimson Tide keeping its national title defense alive over the next month.

Haskell Garrett (20), Ohio State. Status: fifth-year defensive tackle. Stats: leads the Buckeyes in tackles for loss (six) and sacks (four and a half) and has scored touchdowns both this year and last. Ohio State is 6–1.

Garrett had three tackles in 2017, eight in ’18, 10 in ’19, and then finally was in position to be a prominent member of the Ohio State defense last year. That’s when he was shot in the face in August while trying to break up a dispute. Miraculously, Garrett escaped serious injury and was able to play last season—and to play well. This season he’s upped his production and the Buckeyes have hit their stride in recent weeks.

MORE DASH: Fix-It List | Big Ten East | Worst P5 Jobs

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