Most of the running back talent in college football are underclassmen; meaning they are not eligible for the 2021 NFL Draft. The marquee names like Clemson's Travis Etienne and Alabama's Najee Harris were inactive this week, which presented the opportunity for others to create some positive buzz for themselves.
Here are some of the notable performances from the running back position during Week 11:
Leddie Brown, West Virginia
Brown was looking to bounce back after a rather pedestrian game against Texas last week. He recorded his lowest rushing total of the season and fumbled for the second time this season. The junior from Philadelphia met little resistance against Baylor this week. He finished with 156 yards on 24 carries. Brown is a natural runner that shows good lateral agility. He looks comfortable catching passes out of the backfield but is never going to be confused for a short-yardage back. According to truMedia Stats, he has successfully converted just 45.2% of third down runs this season. According to PFF, Brown was second in yards after contact in Week 11 (105), however. That's a next-level trait that translates.
Caleb Huntley, Ball State
At 5-foot-10, 226 pounds, Huntley is a bruiser as a running back. In fact, he may ultimately be better suited as a full back. The Georgia native is springy and capable of changing directions quickly. He shows quick footsteps in short space and is willing to fight through initial contact. The senior shows solid burst, speed and vision. Although his between the tackles running style is more generally suited for a power running scheme, Huntley's skill set often translates to a wide zone scheme.
Huntley recorded 204 yards and three touchdowns on 34 carries against Eastern Michigan as well as one reception for 13 yards.
Louisiana's trio of backs
The Ragin' Cajuns have a rich recent history with running backs. Elijah McGuire and Raymond Calais each went on to the NFL and Louisiana is stocked at the position again. Draft-eligible sophomore Chris Smith has received roughly 20% of the carries this season. He had 99 yards and one touchdown on seven carries in a 38-10 win over South Alabama. Of the three, Smith is the only one with a fumble (2) this season. He is also the most skilled when it comes to catching passes out of the backfield.
Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell have essentially split the remaining 80% of carries. Each has six touchdowns. None of the three are particularly good on third down. Ragas leads the group turning just 55.6% of third down carries into first downs. Ragas and Mitchell combined for 139 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries.
Chris Rodriguez, Kentucky
Rodriguez has eclipsed 100 rushing yards in five of his past ten games dating back to 2019. The most impressive aspect of that stat is that he has received just 7.5 carries per game during that stretch. In the week leading up to Kentucky's game against Vanderbilt, the Wildcats lost offensive line coach John Schlarman to a battle with cancer. The offense played inspired and ground out a win over the Commodores.
Rodriguez finished the game with 149 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. His longest rush of the day was a 74-yard jaunt to the end zone to give UK a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter. The Georgia native is a bigger back reminiscent of Benny Snell. He has not fumbled this season and has been a presence in short-yardage situations. According to truMedia Stats, the redshirt sophomore averages 6.65 yards per carry on third down and has successfully converted into a first down 92.3% of the time. His yards per carry increases every quarter from 3.78 in the first quarter to 9.00 in the fourth quarter. His style of play is punishing. According to PFF, his 111 yards after contact were the most by any college running back in Week 11.
CJ Verdell, Oregon
Verdell was recorded as having one fumble in Saturday's game against Washington State. He had just one fumble in the previous 419 carries dating back to 2018. The junior finished with 18 carries for 118 yards and one touchdown as well as five receptions for 36 yards. It was his second game in as many weeks with 100+ rushing yards. He did break a 40-yard run during the game, but his lone score was set up by a long Jaylen Redd reception. Considered a dual-threat running back because of his pass-catching ability, Verdell does not hold up well in pass protection, which will negatively impact his ability to stay on the field in a pass-happy league.