Week 2 College Football Breakout Performers
Kyren Williams - RB - Notre Dame
Heading into fall camp Notre Dame’s running back group was stocked with talented options, but no established starter in the wake of Tony Jones' graduation. Converted wide receiver Jafar Armstrong (6’0/220 )was initially thought to be the early favorite for the gig, as he showed promise in 2018 by rushing 72 times for 383 yards and seven touchdowns while hauling in 14 passes for 159 yards. However, Armstrong managed only 122 yards on 46 attempts for a 2.7 YPC last year before suffering a season ending injury. Though his injury helps explain the lack of impressive yardage totals, his per carry average of 2.7 YPC was an ominous sign considering ND's reputation for producing a bruising run game.
As camp reports surfaced HC Brian Kelly heaped effusive praise on redshirt freshman RB Kyren Williams (5’9/194). Williams proceeded to wrest the RB1 spot from Armstrong and highly-touted true freshman Chris Tyree, who was rated as the number one 2020 all-purpose back in the country according to 247Sports’ composite rankings. Williams solidified his spot atop the depth chart by logging 19 carries for 112 yards and two touchdowns against a respectable Duke defense. As if that weren’t impressive enough he also caught two passes for 93 yards. Including a 75-yard catch and run that led to a Notre Dame score. Eyeball test - passed. ND takes on USF next week and you can rest assured that Williams will require a larger DFS investment than the $6600 price tag he received from Draft Kings this weekend.
Jonathan Adams - WR - Arkansas State
What a difference a week makes? Adams caught six-of-ten targets for 65 yards in Arkansas State’s 37-24 loss to Memphis in their first contest. Adams was replaced by Bubba Ogbegor in the first half after he had a concentration-drop, and then again in the fourth quarter when Adams appeared to leave the game due to injury. With ASU’s other starting outside receiver Dahu Green sidelined against Kansas State, Adams was forced to take on the brunt of receiving work for the Red Wolves offense.
Facing a Kansas State team that won eight games last season and allowed only 21.4 PPG, Adams proved up to the challenge of replacing 2019 All-American Omar Bayless. He caught eight-of-ten targets for 98 yards and three touchdowns as ASU’s primary aerial weapon. With :38 seconds left in the fourth quarter and Arkansas State down 31-28, Adams caught the game-winning 17-yard touchdown pass from Layne Hatcher to seal the victory for ASU. All of Adams touchdown receptions were within the red zone, as the 6-foot-3, 220 pounder’s physicality at the goal line allowed him to dominate the KSU secondary when it counted. Arkansas State takes on Central Arkansas next week as DFS aficionados will likely see a substantial increase from Adams’ very affordable $6000 Draft Kings price tag this week. Adams has solidified himself as a top-10 CFF receiving option.
Thomas Hennigan - WR - Appalachian State
When Appalachian State WR1 Corey Sutton opted to forego the 2020 season to train for the NFL Draft, the announcement appeared to leave a void in the Mountaineer wide receiver room. Fortunately for Appalachian State they have Thomas Hennigan ready to step in and take over. Hennigan (6’1/205) has started every one of Appy’s 40 games over the last three seasons, earning Honorable Mention All-SBC accolades as a freshman and receiving Second Team All-Sun Belt recognition last season. Hennigan even quietly led the Mountaineers in receiving in 2019, posting 61 receptions, 773 yards and six touchdowns.
Appalachian State opened up against a Charlotte team that made their first bowl game as a FBS school in 2019. They lost to Buffalo in the Bahamas Bowl, but still recorded a seven-win season. While ASU leaned on their vicious rushing attack by racking up 308 yards on 50 carries, it was Thomas Hennigan who was the clear number one receiving option. Hennigan caught all five of his targets for 120 yards and a touchdown. His ability to stretch the field down the sidelines kept the 49er defense honest and allowed the ASU run game to chew up Charlotte’s over-matched front-seven. Next week Appalachian State faces a tough Marshall team who looked reborn under new starting QB Grant Wells. Expect Hennigan to once again be the focal point of ASU’s passing attack, though it’s hard to expect a 10+ target workload if Appy continues to bludgeon opposing defenses on the ground with such ruthless efficiency. For Hennigan's CFF prospects he would be best served if Appalachian State would fall behind occasionally so they need to lean a little more on the Zac Thomas/Thomas Hennigan connection.
Joshua Moore - WR - Texas
With highly-regarded receiving prospects such as Jake Smith, Brennan Eagles, Jordan Whittington and Tarik Black, Moore had an uphill battle to carve out a starting wide receiver role. Even so, the former four-star recruit Moore ranked as the 19th best wide receiver in the 2018 prep class according to 247Sports. Moore managed to bypass several talented challengers in fall camp to lock down a starting outside receiver spot in a promising Texas offense that averaged 35.2 PPG and 466 YPG last year.
In Texas’ opener against perennial CUSA cellar dweller UTEP, Moore excelled. He caught six of his team-leading eight targets for 127 yards and a touchdown as Texas’ number one receiver on the day. His yardage total eclipsed every other receiver on the roster by at least 47 yards while showing a comfort level with star Texas QB Sam Ehlinger. Last year's leading wide receviers, Collin Johnson and Devin Duvernay, have departed. The slot receiver role in Tom Herman's Texas offense has traditionally been the passing attack's honey hole. However vaunted former Oklahoma State OC Mike Yurchich is running the show now. The OK St. offense always produces at least one dominant outside weapon they force feed 10+ targets a game to. Moore has the opportunity to take the reins of this WR room and be the next Texas wideout to post 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns while elevating their NFL Draft stock.
Brock Sturges - RB - Texas State
Sturges was coming off a JUCO season where he rushed 210 times for 1089 yards and nine touchdowns, with another 154 yards and a touchdown in the air for good measure. His strong performance while matriculating at Butler Community College put Sturges firmly on the radar of several FBS programs such as Western Kentucky, Arkansas State, Charlotte and UMASS. Despite the higher profile of some of these G5 programs, second-year HC Jake Spavital was able to sell Sturges on being able to start right away in a RB room that averaged a paltry 2.8 YPC and only 77 yards per game rushing in 2019. Sturges was rated as a top-10 2020 JUCO recruit according to 247Sports' composite rankings, which would put him as the highest running back recruit that Texas State has ever signed.
Sturges showed out nicely in Texas State’s first game, rushing 14 times for 95 yards and a touchdown in a hard-fought 31-24 loss to SMU. However that was just a precursor to what he had in store for UTSA this week. Sturges proved his all-purpose credentials by rushing 17 times for 67 yards and a touchdown, while also catching 2 passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in the air. His aerial touchdown came on a beautifully setup dump-off from QB Tyler Vitt that Sturges took to the house for a 66-yard touchdown reception on the third play of the game.
Sturges has already shown that he can hang with anybody at the G5 level, and he’s just getting started. The only caveat to his impressive debut is that Texas State has a pretty tough draw coming up. They travel to play BC, Troy and BYU, while also drawing Appalachian State, ULL and Arkansas State from the Sun Belt. Though the Bobcats will be underdogs in most of their remaining games, former West Virginia OC Spavital has proven he can run a potent offense and give the remaining teams on their schedule a run for their money. Sturges will be the focal point of the Texas State offense for the next two-to-three seasons and will be in the top-50 CFF RB conversation.
Grayson McCall - QB - Coastal Carolina
In 2019 Coastal Carolina rotated between two sophomore quarterbacks - Fred Payton and Bryce Carpenter. Payton completed 63% of his passes for 1,421 yards and a 12/7 ratio while rushing for 181 yards/ two touchdowns. Carpenter completed 65% of his passes for 927 yards and a 8/2 ratio. He also posted 390 yards on the ground and a touchdown. CCU scored 30.3 PPG and recorded 394 yards of offense per game in 2019. These marks represent the highest offensive marks for the Chanticleers since their move to FBS.
Heading into 2020 former three-time Big South Coach of the Year HC Jamey Chadwell had a dilemma - while CCU had respectable, 5-7 seasons each of the past two years, is maintaining status quo going to get them to a bowl game? Heading into their opening game against Kansas the general consensus was that Fred Payton would start against KU.
However Chadwell chose to buck conventional wisdom and selected a redshirt freshman with no prior experience to lead the Chanticleers offense against a Power Five foe in Kansas that was looking to avenge their 2019 12-7 loss. In his first collegiate start McCall was as good as you can expect. He completed 11-of-18 passes for 133 yards and three touchdowns in the air, while rushing 11 times for 73 yards and another two touchdowns. On one of his rushing touchdowns he broke containment, ran straight up the middle, took on two converging defenders, dove into the end zone with reckless abandon and scored a touchdown while being spun in the air like a helicopter blade.
Coastal Carolina faces FCS opponent Campbell next week before starting their Sun Belt conference schedule. If McCall can maintain his pass/rush balance against his conference rivals, he could provide ample CFF and DFS value with minimal investment.