Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It may not be the year for offensive
coordinators across the Football Championship Subdivision to be overly fancy
with their game plans.
Just give the ball to the running back and let him go.
Indeed, this is the year of the running backs nationally.
The stable of FCS backs is an embarrassment of riches. An All-America team can
go three or four teams deep and some obvious candidates will still be left off
Among the backs returning this season are seven finalists for the 2011 Walter
Payton Award: Indiana State's Shakir Bell, Wofford's Eric Breitenstein,
Bryant's Jordan Brown, Youngstown State's Jamaine Cook, Sam Houston State's
Tim Flanders, Delaware's Andrew Pierce and Towson's Terrance West.
It will be interesting to watch the yards and touchdowns pile up.
Following are 10 FCS running backs to watch this season, although another
group of 10 might be questioning their omission:
Zach Bauman, Northern Arizona, Jr., 5-10, 200 - A consistent runner who can
calculate defenders' moves before they do them, Bauman does a lot of his
damage as a workhorse between the tackles. He was a 1,000-yard rusher as a
freshman in 2010 and used two 200-yard games as a sophomore last season to
ground out 1,435 yards. Also an excellent pass catcher, he has 57 receptions
in his career.
Shakir Bell, Indiana State, Jr., 5-8, 185 - Bell finished third in the Payton
voting after his sophomore season in which he rushed for 1,670 yards on a
scintillating 7.26 yards per carry. He was one yard shy against South Dakota
State from having five 200-yard games. Small, but powerful, his speed is
nearly unstoppable in open space.
Eric Breitenstein, Wofford, Sr., 5-11, 225 - Officially listed as a fullback,
don't get the wrong impression, Breitenstein has helped the Terriers' wingbone
lead the FCS in rushing in each of the past two seasons. He has great feet and
vision to get to the hole and move through it. He is the active FCS leader
with 3,695 rushing yards and 46 touchdowns.
Jordan Brown, Bryant, Sr., 5-9, 185 - By rushing for at least 100 yards in all
11 of Bryant's games last year, Brown finished with 1,815 yards to lead FCS
players (Bryant was in the transitional phase to the FCS, so he was not in the
official NCAA leaders). He is a workhorse who averages 30 carries a game while
also getting touches on passes and returns. He had 2,500 all-purpose yards
Jamaine Cook, Youngstown State, Sr., 5-9, 205 - What's Cook-ing? A potentially
huge season for Youngstown State with its outstanding back leading the way.
Cook sees the field and reads his blocks well. Last year, he built on a
breakout sophomore season (1,276 yards) with 1,386 more yards and 14 total
Matt Denham, Eastern Kentucky, Sr., 5-11, 181 - Through four games last
season, including three EKU losses, Denham had hardly touched the ball,
getting a combined 21 carries. It all changed from there as Denham averaged 29
carries and 184.5 rushing yards over the final eight games. The former
University of Kentucky player is a between-the-tackles runner who has great
vision. He will work behind one of the FCS' better offensive lines this
Washaun Ealey, Jacksonville State, Sr., 5-11, 215 - The former University of
Georgia standout slowly, but surely became the focal point of the Gamecocks'
offense last season. There's no denying his skills as a runner. He rushed for
1,082 yards on over six yards per carry in his first season at JSU. He is
the FCS' top 2013 NFL Draft prospect among running backs.
Timothy Flanders, Sam Houston State, Jr., 5-9, 210 - The lasting image of
Flanders battering the Montana defense for 287 rushing yards in last year's
FCS semifinals must stick in the heads of opposing Southland Conference
coaches. Flanders, a transfer from Kansas State, is a touchdown machine,
scoring 24 in 15 games last season. He rushed for 1,644 yards as the first
option on a Sam Houston offense that has to spread around the touches to its
Andrew Pierce, Delaware, Jr., 5-11, 200 - It's hard to believe Pierce has two
more seasons of eligibility remaining. He's been a standout since the first
game of his freshman season and helped the Blue Hens to a national runner-up
finish in 2010. He is 62 rushing yards shy of 3,000 in his career. The
workhorse also has 74 career receptions.
Terrance West, Towson, Soph., 5-11, 220 - The inaugural Jerry Rice Award
winner scored an FCS-high 29 touchdowns in his freshman campaign last year.
His emergence, including 1,294 rushing yards, helped CAA Football's 2010
cellar dweller win a surprising conference title last season. He has the speed
and power to rough up defenses.
It's worth noting that there isn't a better combination of FCS backs on one
team than Stony Brook's Miguel Maysonet and Marcus Coker. Maysonet had a tag-
team partner in each of the last two seasons with fellow two-time 1,000-yard
back Brock Jackolski. This year, Maysonet, who rushed for 1,633 yards and 15
touchdowns last season, will share the load with Coker, a Iowa transfer who
rushed for 1,384 yards to finish second to 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Montee
Ball of Wisconsin in the Big Ten in rushing.
The Sports Network