Can you believe it is already week three of the college football season? College offenses are starting to find their rhythm, meaning your devy fantasy football prospects are beginning to show differences between perceived and actual value. Let's look at five running backs to monitor for this weekend's slate of games.
Harrison Waylee - Running Back - Northern Illinois
Born in the Ivory Coast before migrating to Johnston, Iowa, the 5'10" 185-pounder has been on a tear since the end of last year, combining for 323 yards and three touchdowns through the first two weeks of 2021. Last week against Wyoming, the sophomore ran for 179 yards with a 6.9 yards per carry average and two touchdowns in the 50-43 loss at home. With his 144-yard performance in the opener against Georgia Tech, Waylee is currently riding a four-game streak of rushing for more than 110 yards, averaging 5.9 yards per carry over that span. The tough runner from Urbandale High School has 224 yards after contact, which ranks third in the country and accounts for 69% of his rushing yard total. If the Huskies' offense can stick around with Michigan early to maintain a positive game script, this will be a fun matchup to see if Waylee can perform against a legitimate front seven.
Abram Smith - Running Back - Baylor
Smith has bounced around between running back and linebacker over his first four seasons in Waco but has started to look like the ball carrier that ran for over 4,000 yards and 55 touchdowns at Abilene High School. Paired with Baylor veteran Tristan Ebner, the 5'11" 221-pound power back has rattled off over 115 yards and two touchdowns in both games this season, averaging almost eight yards per carry. He has averaged 3.26 yards after contact per attempt, more than Iowa State's Breece Hall. Baylor hosts the Jayhawks in their first non-conference game at McLane Stadium since 2019, and the Abilene, Texas native has another opportunity to put up big numbers. Coastal Carolina's trio of running backs combined for 185 yards and three touchdowns in last week's win over the Jayhawks.
Jarquez Hunter - Running Back - Auburn
The freshman from Philadelphia runs with a style that bears no resemblance to brotherly love, bullying his way to back-to-back games of 110 or more yards and a touchdown. Despite being merely a depth piece behind Tank Bigsby, Hunter has taken full advantage of
Shaun Shivers is banged up with an injury, making the most of his limited volume and rushing for more yards than Bigsby. Through two games, the 5'10 202-pounder has amassed 257 yards on the ground on less than 20 carries, averaging a ridiculous 15.1 yards per attempt. While the opposing competition has not been great, the Mississippi native will have a chance this week to show his ability against a quality Penn State front seven. It is uncertain if Shivers will play this week, which could drastically alter the amount of volume Hunter receives. Even so, the freshman still should have earned the opportunity for more touches with his past two performances.
Lew Nichols III - Running Back - Central Michigan
The 2020 MAC Freshman of the Year has been off to a hot start so far, handling the bulk of the Chippewas' carries with teammate Kobe Lewis suffering a season-ending knee injury back in August. Nichols III ran for 135 yards, averaging over seven yards per carry and adding two touchdowns against Missouri. In the six career games where the 5'10" 220-pounder has received ten or more carries, he averaged 111.3 yards with a seven yards per carry average and scored six touchdowns. While the matchup with LSU seems tough on the surface, it should not surprise anyone if the Detroit, Michigan native produces. The Tigers are far from world-beaters against the run; two weeks ago, they were gashed for 223 yards and two touchdowns on the ground against UCLA.
Micah Bernard - Running Back - Utah
Despite Ute's landing T.J. Pledger from Oklahoma and Chris Curry from LSU this offseason, Bernard has been the most impressive back in Salt Lake City. The redshirt sophomore from California came to life in the Holy War matchup with Utah last weekend, carrying the ball 12 times for 146 yards, including a flashy 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to bring the game within one possession. Despite sharing touches with Independence Community College transfer Tavion Thomas, the 6'0" 202-pounder has rushed for 181 yards, averaging ten yards per carry and adding seven receptions. Through two games, Bernard has the fourth-highest PFF grade among Pac-12 running backs, ahead of notable prospects like Colorado's Jarek Broussard and Oregon's CJ Verdell. Bernard and the Utes head to Carson to take on San Diego State, a team that has been staunch against the run so far in 2021.
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