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College Position Battles: Running Backs – Part 2 (2021 Devy Fantasy Football)

by CJ Lang | @Clubber_Lang83 | Featured Writer
Apr 23, 2021

The fantasy offseason means we are preparing our rosters for the 2021 season and getting our draft boards ready for our upcoming drafts. This is an exciting time for dynasty and devy players because we get to dig into our film and analytics research to find hidden gems in our drafts to set up our teams based on whichever strategy we have chosen.

Maybe you are the “win-now” player and are ready to make a run at that ‘ship. Maybe you are the “contender” and have a solid mix of veteran players and rookies, or maybe you are the “rebuilder” and are having a fire sale with your roster to set yourself up for the future. This series will dive into college programs’ positional battles for the 2021 college football season to help you make those decisions. Hopefully, the information here will help you prepare for your devy drafts so you can get a leg up on the competition. You can check out part one of this series here. Next up… part two of the running backs!

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Miami Hurricanes

Cam’Ron Harris vs. Don Chaney Jr.
Formerly known as Running Back U, Miami has not been producing the talent at the position they had in the past when Gore, Portis, and McGahee were there at the turn of the century. But this group of individuals could start to change that narrative. Cam’Ron Harris should be the lead back out of spring. After sharing the backfield with DeeJay Dallas, Harris had 774 scrimmage yards with 11 TD’s. He started the season hot with back-to-back performances of 134 rushing yards. The offense then took a nosedive after starting 3-0.

Don Chaney Jr. was the 11th ranked running back out of the ridiculously talented 2020 draft class. He did not get that much playing time his freshman year, but he made it count when he did. He was dragging defenders, running people over, and was electric with the ball in his hand. Along with sophomore Jaylon Knighton, I think that these two will be the next great duo in Canes history, but for now, Harris is going to be the go-to back for the 2021 season. Just promise you will keep an eye on the other two.

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Penn State

Noah Cain vs. Keyvone Lee
(Insert Journey Brown devy draft misery story here)
Miles Sanders has taken off in the NFL and has shown he can be an RB1. We all thought Journey Brown would follow in his footsteps, but a heart condition forced him to retire. The Nittany Lions should have a solid backfield this year as they have a substantial competition between Noah Cain and Keyvone Lee.

In his freshman year, Cain ran for 443 yards and eight TDs. His sophomore season, he got hurt in the first game and did not play the rest of the year. He has shown that he has a great pad level and can finish runs. He has quick burst through the hole but does not have that long-range speed. He only has seven receptions, but there is such a small sample size I would not worry too much about that yet.

Keyvone Lee is very similar to Cain, whereas he is a strong runner with great vision and quickness, but he will not burn you down the field. The one thing he does do better than Cain is his pass-catching ability. He saw more targets than Cain did and had almost the exact rushing yard total (438 yards) during his freshman year. I honestly think that Cain will get the nod, but I see this as a clear-cut split situation with head coach James Franklin staying with the hot hand.

Florida Gators

Demarkcus Bowman vs. Lorenzo Lingard
I will profile the players I think should be up for the starting jobs for these teams, but this Florida Gators team has too many mouths to feed. Last season, Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis were the leading rushers on the team, and both are coming back this season. Honestly, neither of them flashed. Pierce had 503 rushing yards, 17 receptions for 156 yards, and five TDs. Davis had 310 rushing yards but added 31 receptions and 377 yards and did not score. They both played 12 games, but Trask and Toney carried that offense.

This year, they can add Clemson transfer Demarkcus Bowman to the depth chart. Bowman felt underutilized at Clemson (sitting behind Travis Etienne) and wanted a change of scenery. Dabo and his staff were not very happy because they thought Bowman left too soon and never gave him a chance. I guess nine total plays will do that to a guy who the 3rd was overall running back in the 2020 class! His balance is excellent, he has homerun ability, and he tested at sub 4.5 in the 40-yard dash in high school. If he is given a full workload, then I think he can excel in Gainesville.

Lorenzo Lingard was the No. 2 overall back in the 2018 class (Zamir White) and originally signed with Miami. He made the most out of his 17 carries his freshman year with 136 yards and two TDs. Lingard hurt his knee at the end of 2018, and even after he was healthy, Miami would not play him. He wanted another opportunity to play in a Power 5 program and transferred to Florida. There was an outside shot that if Bowman did not move in, Lingard could have potentially seen significant playing time, but it all depends on how Emory Jones does at quarterback as he replaces Kyle Trask. Jones is a dual-threat quarterback, so we will have to wait and see what Head Coach Dan Mullens wants to feed all these players, but I know that experience in a system matters, so I would not be surprised to see Davis or Pierce start. I think that Bowman and Lingard are the superior athletes in that running back room. I cannot wait to watch it!

Thanks for reading my article. Check back soon when I analyze the key positional battles for wide receivers in the 2021 college football season!

Check out our complete list of 2021 NFL Draft profiles here >>

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