2020 NFL Draft running back watch: Travis Etienne, Zack Moss return with big performances
One of the nation's best running backs returned from injury this week
College football teams are selling out to stop some of the game's best running backs and forcing their opposition to beat them in other manners. It was a really strange week with some strange performances.
CBS Sports examines how the top NFL Draft running back prospects fared last weekend.
1. D'Andre Swift, Georgia: Stock Steady
Stats: 6 games -- 89 carries for 573 yards, five touchdowns; 12 receptions for 155 yards, a touchdown
South Carolina did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage. Their defensive line threw different stunts at a talented Georgia offensive line, their linebackers were active and they rattled Jake Fromm, who uncharacteristically threw his only three interceptions of the season and fumbled a snap.
Swift ran with a purpose though. It is clear how much the Bulldogs value him because he is in the game to protect Fromm on any passing down. He finished with 113 rushing yards and a touchdown on 23 carries as well as two receptions for eight yards. He escaped downfield and was wide open on another route but Fromm underthrew it. In a Georgia backfield that has a lot of mouths to feed, Swift continues to get his share.
2. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin: Stock Steady
Stats: 6 games -- 129 carries for 825 yards, 14 touchdowns; 15 receptions for 136 yards, four touchdowns
Michigan State was determined not to let Taylor beat them this weekend. They stacked the box, which limited him to 26 carries for 80 yards and two touchdowns as well as three receptions for 22 yards. Both of his touchdowns were hard, physical, short-yardage plays. It took an official review for one of his second efforts to be ruled a touchdown. His two longest runs were of 11 and 13 yards and they were indicative of his running style. He slow-played the run, allowed blockers to take shape and then jump cut his way upfield before finally being dragged down. Taylor's patience is one of his standout traits.
3. Travis Etienne, Clemson: Stock Up
Stats: 6 games -- 84 carries for 589 yards, five touchdowns; 11 receptions for 93 yards, a touchdown
Etienne had 13 carries for 91 yards in the first half and his team built a 28-0 halftime lead. He was in the game for one second half series. On that drive, he accumulated four carries for 37 yards. Etienne has struggled this season but Saturday was a bounce back game. He made a nice block on a linebacker blitzing up the middle and caught a screen out of the backfield. Those are two areas in which he needed to improve. The Louisiana native shows good balance and was not going down on initial contact.
He was shaken up a bit on that screen in the first half, so this is something to keep an eye on.
4. Cam Akers, Florida State: Stock Down
Stats: 6 games -- 124 carries for 616 yards, seven touchdowns; 15 receptions for 108 yards, two touchdowns
Akers had three carries in the first half. They were down 28 points at that point. He finished the game with nine carries for 34 yards. Clemson dominated their front and it was difficult for him to gain any traction. His longest run on the day was 15 yards -- and he fumbled on that play -- so his other eight carries went for 19 yards.
5. Zack Moss, Utah: Stock Up
Stats: 5 games -- 68 carries for 514 yards, six touchdowns; two receptions for seven yards
Moss was stock up just by being back on the field this week. He has missed all or most of Utah's past two games with an injury. It was a nice game to ease the running back into the rotation. He had just five carries and they all occurred in the first half. The Utes had established a 35-0 lead at halftime. The offense had four touchdowns in the first half: none of them required more than six plays and two of them took less than a minute. Moss had a 91-yard touchdown run that was the bulk of his 122 rushing yards. He popped a defender at the line of scrimmage and then was untouched the rest of the way.
6. Trey Sermon, Oklahoma: Stock Down
Stats: 6 games -- 45 carries for 345 yards, four touchdowns; six receptions for 56 yards, a touchdown
Sermon recorded zero statistics against Texas but he was on the field. He helped spring running back Rhamondre Stevenson for a big gain. It is, however, concerning that their most experienced running back did not receive any of Oklahoma's 17 total running back touches in a rivalry game.
7. Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt: Stock Up
Stats: 6 games -- 102 carries for 607 yards, five touchdowns; 17 receptions for 143 yards
Vaughn had 193 of the team's 306 offensive yardage against UNLV. He finished with 15 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown as well as a reception for 53 yards. He was the Commodores' offense in a 34-10 home loss to a 2-4 Rebel team. I have described Vaughn's game as 'boom or bust' in the past. He totaled 149 yards on four of his 16 touches. His other 12 touches went for 44 yards (3.67 yards per carry), which is still not terrible considering the opposition was stacking the box.
8. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State: Stock Steady
Stats: 6 games -- 116 carries for 826 yards, six touchdowns; seven receptions for 44 yards, a touchdown
Dobbins and the Buckeyes had the week off. They were able to watch Georgia go down and a few other teams survive close calls. Their place in the College Football Playoff hunt became a little more secure.
9. Eno Benjamin, Arizona State: Stock Up
Stats: 6 games -- 125 carries for 529 yards, seven touchdowns; 19 receptions for 185 yards, two touchdowns
Arizona State and Benjamin really showed their full arsenal in a win over Washington State. They ran a lot of option plays and they exercised every outlet. Jayden Daniels was keeping it, he was handing off to Benjamin and he was throwing outside for an extended run. The spread offense allowed a few big runs directly up the middle for Benjamin. He showed balance, burst and an ability to escape tacklers. Most impressive was his production in the pass game. He caught six passes for 34 yards, including one where he took a swing pass and hurdled a defender. It was a great, well-rounded game for the Texas native.
10. Darius Anderson, TCU: Stock Steady
Stats: 5 games -- 70 carries for 532 yards, six touchdowns; 10 receptions for 87 yards
TCU was off this weekend after being doubled up by Iowa State the previous week. They have a road game next week against Kansas State. The Wildcats are allowing 188.6 rushing yards per game so it could be a big week for Anderson.
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