Four of the Power 5 conferences have returned to action. The PAC 12 is scheduled to join the party in three weeks. It has been great to have college football over the past two months but it never felt whole. When the SEC returned to the schedule, it started to feel more normal. With the Big Ten back this weekend, it felt as though the college football gas tank was nearly full. Four conferences are represented in today's running back watch recap.
Spencer Brown, UAB
Brown is trying to confuse draft aficionados by becoming the second Spencer Brown -- the Northern Iowa offensive tackle being the first -- that could be drafted in 2021. Few have been as consistent as the UAB runner this season. He is averaging 4.6 yards per carry or greater in five of his six games. He has rushed for 100+ yards in four of his six games and scored at least one touchdown in five of six games.
The Alabama native is a bigger back with limited exposure to the passing game. Over the past three seasons, he has averaged five receptions. In a 24-20 loss to Louisiana, Brown rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries. A concern is that his yards per carry has dipped each quarter this season, according to truMedia stats. He averages 5.77 yards per carry in the first quarter and just 3.35 yards per carry in the fourth quarter.
Javian Hawkins, Louisville
Hawkins took a handoff right before reversing course and scurrying 70 yards for a touchdown. There is skepticism that move would be possible in the NFL but it is not impossible. His speed down the sideline was more noteworthy. It was his second of three touchdowns on the day. On his first touchdown, he showed a little jump cut and a natural ability as a runner to bounce an inside carry outside. It was a perfect example of a great player turning a potentially short gain into a scoring opportunity.
Hawkins has fumbled thrice on 127 touches this season. It is a relatively new problem considering he did not fumble on any of his 264 carries in 2019.
Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
Gopher football is back and Ibrahim picked up where he left off in 2019. The Maryland native showed more than a few NFL caliber runs despite his team being bludgeoned by Michigan. Ibrahim rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in addition to four receptions for 17 yards. His first touchdown was impressive. It was an outside handoff where he showed good lean and physicality. As he was slipping through the first attempted tackle, he received a shoulder hit from cornerback Vincent Gray but was able to convert enough of his forward momentum into a pylon dive.
Ibrahim was impressively consistent last season averaging 5.03 yards or greater per carry in each quarter.
T.J. Pledger, Oklahoma
Pledger got the scoring started with a 12-yard bone-rattling run in which he bounced off a few would-be Horned Frog tacklers. For the second straight game, he rushed for over 122 yards. The former Top 100 recruit, according to the 247Sports Composite, was not involved in the passing game but is making the most of his opportunities in an offense without Kennedy Brooks, Trey Sermon and Rhamondre Stevenson. The Sooners' backfield was stocked the past few years but it has suddenly warmed to the idea of a feature back.
Javonte Williams, North Carolina
The Tar Heels' ground attack met little resistance on Saturday against N.C. State. Michael Carter and Williams both topped 100 yards rushing. Carter added 46 receiving yards on two receptions. Williams had two touchdowns on runs of five yards or less but his 27-yard touchdown run looked the easiest of the three. Over the course of the day, he showed physicality and the ability to cut through gaps like a warm knife through butter. Unlike Brown, Williams seems to get stronger as the game progresses. In the first half, the North Carolina native is averaging 4.4 yards per carry on 70 attempts. On 89 second-half carries, he is averaging 6.82 yards per carry. The junior has rushed for 119+ yards in three straight games. Virginia, allowing 133.6 rushing yards per game, awaits next week.