It was a simpler time back then. Drivers focused on driving, nobody's great aunt ever typed LOL in response to a mailed letter, and number one running backs saw carries befitting number one running backs. Now things are all different. There's a wildcard in baseball, granny has a Facebook account, and teams are trotting out backs for those specialized 2nd down and 6 situations.
The #1 running back used to pull the sled. He'd see every carry of a ten-minute drive, score, throw up on the sideline, and then threaten to Sprewell his coach if the head man even thought about giving someone the ball during the next drive. Sure we had Kevin Smith carry the ball 450 times in 2007, but there used to be a clear cut #1 back at every school. And these guys would all seemingly get stronger as the game wore on.
Why then, has the workhorse back gone the way of the pager, phone card and bunny ear antenna? Because in most cases it doesn't make sense to give the ball to one football player all game and season long.
We've bemoaned the pending extinction of the true workhorse back from a fantasy perspective, but as football fans we understand and agree with the trend. Too many players made too many recruiting promises mean that it's hard to give one tailback the ball 28+ times; and of course bigger and faster defensive players make it hard for a body to take that type of pounding on a regular basis. So what this means is when we do see one college footballer pulling the sled we really have to sit up and take notice. And even with the 2008 departures of Javon Ringer and Donald Brown, we're still left with some backs to whom fantasy owners can hitch their wagons. And three proved their worth yesterday, both on the scoreboard and the stat sheet.
Toby Gerhart ran the ball 29 times for 134 yards and three scores Saturday against UCLA, giving him 120 carries, 650 yards and eight touchdowns in 2009. And Gerhart's effort was the main reason why Stanford had the ball nearly 10 minutes longer than the Bruins. And it doesn't look like he's going to slow down at all.
Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh is bringing Andrew Luck along slowly, allowing him to manage games while Gerhart shortens them. And fantasy owners know that in the Stanford star they have a back that is going to see the ball 25+ times on a regular basis, and one who's going to be THE option around the goal line.
John "Cassius" Clay, delivering a pounding to Big Ten defenses:
Since just this summer we've seen John Clay go from overrated on draft day to underutilized in the Wisconsin backfield. Now he's just overwhelming Big Ten defenses.
John Clay has carried the ball 32 times in each of the Badgers' Big Ten victories to start the conference campaign. Against Michigan State he ran for 142 yards and a score, and against Minnesota yesterday he posted 184 and three. And like the poor UCLA defense that was gasping for air at the end, Clay led Bielema's boys to a nearly 10 minute advantage in time of possession over a Minnesota defense comprised of players with their hands on their helmets.
Having withstood a push from the talented Zach Brown, John Clay is now the clear #1 guy. And while Brown brings a great deal of knockout power, Clay brings the non-stop body blows that lead to Big Ten victories...and fantasy titles.
Central Florida running back Brynn Harvey plays for George O'Leary, a man whose younger sister was originally believed to have started the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Ok, I made that up in hopes of transitioning to the fact that George O'Leary is old-school. He likes his teams to run the football and play tough defense. And when George O'Leary says something or puts it down on paper...wait, skip that.
Well he does believe in giving Brynn Harvey the football on a regular basis.
Yesterday Harvey toted the rock 42 times for 219 yards and a score against Memphis. Earlier in the year he carried it 31 times against Samford and 25 times against Buffalo. All this said, there is a little cause for concern with this UCF workhorse.
Owners will want to avoid Harvey in upcoming matchups against Miami and Texas, two games to be played in the next month that cause me to wonder just who is doing the scheduling for the Knights. However the other remaining opponents (Rice, Marshall, Houston, Tulane and UAB) look as tasty as can be.
More Gus Fluffing
Ask the casual football fan about Gus Malzahn and he'll likely talk about an offensive coordinator that loves to spread it out and wing it all around the field. And he'll be wrong.
Auburn ran the ball 48 times en route to a huge win in Rocky Top, and his squad held on to the ball for nearly 35 minutes of action. It didn't produce gaudy statistical numbers this week, but it's clear that this is an offense that can adapt to circumstance. Chris Todd managed things, Ben Tate was a workhorse, and six players caught at least two passes.
Fantasy owners can rest assured; Auburn players will post huge numbers on occasion. Other times Gus will just do what he needs to do to get the win.
The problem with Paulus
It's common for a first-year starting quarterback to have a miserable game, even one where he throws a bunch of picks. It's uncommon for that first-year quarterback to be doing this in his final year of eligibility. And Greg Paulus' five picks in the loss to USF yesterday underscores the depth of Doug Marrone's rebuilding process at Syracuse.
The Orange were left in such bad shape that Marrone was willing to take a shot on Paulus, even for a one-year deal. And to be fair, not all has been bad. Syracuse sits at 2-3 with a nice win over Northwestern: clearly a marked improvement over last year. However at what cost?
The quarterback of the future isn't in the 2009 team picture, or else he'd be playing. And next year, when the talent will definitely be upgraded, da Cuse will be breaking in another signal caller.
Last season freshman Bo Levi Mitchell threw five picks in a game. And June Jones knew that this was part of paying his dues. It must be more difficult to deal with these growing pains from a player that won't be around next season.
Purdue's Joey Elliott was impressive (313 yards and three scores) in another losing effort, this time to Northwestern. This gives him three games with at least three touchdown passes, and he's becoming a great option in all sorts of leagues.
As impressed as we've been with Toledo's Aaron Opelt this season, Saturday's performance takes the cake. 422 yards passing and five scores, including a last-minute touchdown in an incredible win, is the stuff of MAC legends.
Frank Goodin "Plenty" continues his great season. He's averaging 5.6 yards per carry and he's scored eight times. And this is while playing Texas and Arizona State. Believe me, the schedule is more favorable down the stretch.
Houston's James Cleveland is putting it all together, catching 14 balls for 147 yards and two scores in the loss to UTEP.
Kellen Moore now has 13 touchdowns on the season. And Moore, along with Austin Pettis and Titus Young, is likely getting geared up for next week's trip to Tulsa.
Tyrod Taylor's 17-22 for 327 yards and two scores is evidence of his growth as a passer. And it's actually good news that he only ran five times for one yard. He's becoming more dangerous with each game.
Eric Decker is so consistent it's scary. It's hard to believe that he was underrated following last season, but this is another example of too much attention paid to what Arrelious Benn could do in the Big Ten, rather than what Eric Decker has and will continue to do.
Very nice bounceback week for Jevan Snead. Trips to Nashville to tackle Vandy are never easy, and his three scores righted the Ole Miss ship, just in time to welcome the Crimson Tide.
Chris Polk has arrived.
Riley Skinner, is that really you? 361 yards passing and three touchdowns are not what we have come to expect from the Wake passing attack. Just think what he'd have done if he hadn't been sacked six times.
When Jahvid Best is good, there aren't any better. When he's bad then the Bears and his fantasy owners have no hope.
Jerrod Johnson came back to Earth a bit this week, and his two fumbles didn't help things. But there was no stopping the Hog offense on Saturday.
These are not the types of numbers that owners had in mind for Michael Smith. The number of talented backs at Arkansas makes it time to cut bait.
Not what we were thinking there G.J. Kinne.
It's easy to take Texas Tech quarterback production for granted. Taylor Potts getting knocked out of the game certainly had a huge impact in leagues across the country, and Steven Sheffield's performance may eventually lead to a quarterback controversy in Lubbock, just when we thought Potts was in the clear.
North Carolina's loss to UVA is the worst loss of the Butch Davis era in Chapel Hill. And a team that saw its season begin with such promise is now watching it fall apart thanks to turnovers and a putrid ground effort.
No doubt that the Buffalo Bulls' season ended with the season-ending injury to James Starks.
Jeremiah Masoli did it to us again. Just when we hop back on in anticipation of a huge performance, he posts modest numbers. We give up on the Oregon field general.
We said it this summer, and we'll say it again: watch out for Carlton Mitchell of South Florida. This junior is putting it all together, and there aren't many wide receivers in the country with more natural ability.
Nevada scores 63 points and Colin Kaepernick only accounts for one touchdown?
Good for Randy Shannon. This is a different type of Miami team.
Yesterday's Notre Dame and Washington game highlighted two of my favorite players to watch, Jake Locker and Golden Tate. Each was impressive in his own way, but Tate needs to work on sticking the landing.
When Paul Johnson says Georgia Tech is going to do something he means it. All summer he spoke of placing greater emphasis on the pass, and the fact that Demaryius Thomas has three games with more than 100 yards already this season is proof positive.
In light of another tough injury to Oklahoma, this one to wide receiver Ryan Broyles, Cameron Kenney should be on a lot of owners' lists this week.
When he's given room there is not a more fun running back to watch than Noel Devine. His Thursday night performance was must-see.
Looks like B.J. Daniels is ready for his primetime test against Cincinnati on October 15. All eyes will be on Tony Pike, and rightfully so. But the Bearcats may find themselves feeling like a matador that didn't get out of the Bulls' way.
Looking for roster help? Check out our waiver wire page for the top performers from the past weekend.