Thicc Stauskas' Big Ten Position Rankings: Running Back, Part Two
It's a battle royale between Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin. Which backfield comes out on top?
SITE STUFF: Yes, another co-authored post! We’ll be doing a few of these to make sure we get through our planned offseason content. Dan did all the research and compiled the rankings, Ace wrote the words.
Also, we’re aware the realignment apocalypse may have arrived. We’re gathering our thoughts while awaiting official word.
Previously: Quarterback (Part One, Part Two)
If you missed it last week, Part One covered the bottom seven backfields in the conference and outlined Dan’s methodology.
Let’s get back to it.
7. Penn State
RB1 (rank among returners): Keyvone Lee (8/28)
RB2 (rank among returners): Devyn Ford (26/28)
Penn State’s backfield is notoriously difficult to figure out because they have to run behind Penn State’s offensive line, which has been an omnishambles since the first Obama administration.
Last year’s opening day starter, former blue chip recruit Noah Cain, transferred to LSU after seeing his yards per carry decline from 5.3 as a freshman to 3.3 as a junior through little fault of his own. In that context, Keyvone Lee rushing for 4.9 YPC on a nearly identical number of carries is somewhere between impressive and remarkable.
Lee’s an impressive open-field athlete; when he got blocking, he made big plays happen. He needs to stop also making big plays for the defense, though, after losing three fumbles on 108 carries in 2021.
If Lee can’t hold onto the ball, five-star freshman Nick Singleton may be able to seize control of a talented backfield. There’s no shortage of talent with five former four- or five-star recruits at RB, the most of any team in the conference. Whether this offense can utilize that talent is another matter.
6. Michigan State
RB1 (rank among returners): Jarek Broussard (Colorado transfer) (7/28)
RB2 (rank among returners): Jordon Simmons (23/28)
After Kenneth Walker III went from Wake Forest to Doak Walker winner last season, Mel Tucker has gone back to the transfer well, this time pulling 2020 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jarek Broussard from his old stomping grounds in Colorado.
In the COVID-shortened 2020 season, Broussard rushed for 895 yards and five touchdowns in only six games. He wasn’t as productive on a per-carry basis as a junior in 2021, due in part to nagging injuries and CU’s anemic offense. While it’s going to be hard to replicate Walker’s 2021 dominance, Broussard is capable of competing for all-conference honors.
MSU also added Wisconsin transfer Jalen Berger, a former starter and four-star recruit who was usurped in Madison by budding superstar Braelon Allen. Although there’s no shame in falling behind Allen, Berger disappointed compared to expectations at UW. As a backup, though, he should be capable, and State has other options if he doesn’t work out.
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