Week 3 CFB/DFS Breakout Performers
Frank Harris - UTSA
The Roadrunners of UTSA only won three games in 2018 and four games last year. The athletic department decided they needed to turn the page and hired new HC Jeff Traylor who is a former well-respected running backs coach for Arkansas, SMU and Texas. Clearly HC Traylor’s familiarity with the run game has rubbed off on their offense quickly, as UTSA QB Frank Harris has already scored more rushing touchdowns, five, in two games than the three UTSA starting QBs scored all of last season.
Harris recorded a gutsy 51-48 victory over Texas State last week in which he completed 74 percent of his passes to go with 11 carries for 51 yards and four total touchdowns. Not to be outdone, Harris orchestrated a 24-10 win over “Stone Cold” Stephen F. Austin this week where he threw for 269 yards with a 1/1 ratio while also rushing 17 times for 104 yards and two touchdowns. Harris is racking up rushing touchdowns with reckless abandon and should be considered in all leagues where passing touchdowns are discounted to four points.
Malik Willis - Liberty
With NFL caliber talents in Buckshot Calvert and Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty passed for 289 YPG while rushing for 150 YPG in 2019. The pass-heavy Flames averaged 32.8 PPG over the past three seasons, winning at least six games in each culminating with an 8-5 record and the school’s first bowl victory in school history. Calvert finished the year with 3,663 passing yards and a 28/7 ratio while “rushing” for -153 yards.
In the wake of the Calvert/AGG connection’s departure, HC Hugh Freeze chose Auburn transfer Malik Willis to serve as the team’s starting quarterback in their season opener against Western Kentucky. Willis’ profile projects as the polar opposite of statuesque pocket passer Calvert, as he fits the traditional Nick Marshall type skill-set of the running quarterback archetype Auburn is known for recruiting. Rather than try to fit a square peg into a round hole, Liberty’s Co-OC’s Kent Austin and Maurice Harris tailored their game script to Willis’ strengths and implemented a RPO, run-based attack.
Willis threw as many passes, 21, as he had rushing attempts in the game as Liberty racked up a blistering 354 rushing yards and four touchdowns against a WKU defense that allowed only 136 rushing yards per game in 2019 and returns nine starters from that stout defensive unit. On the day, Willis completed 13-of-21 passes for 133 yards while rushing 21 times for 168 yards and three touchdowns as Liberty defeated WKU 30-24 despite being a 14 ½ point underdog. Willis has major DFS breakout potential at a reasonable price and will likely fall in the QB 25-30 range in most drafts.
Gerrid Doaks - Cincinnati
Heading into 2020, HC Luke Fickell was tasked with replacing Bearcat legend and multi-year All-AAC RB Michael Warren. In the offseason Cincinnati brought in Alabama transfer Jerome Ford to compete for carries causing many to predict the highly touted Ford would be given the starting nod. However senior Gerrid Doaks (6’0/230) was a top-70 RB recruit himself and has been on campus for four years, rushing 187 times for 1,039 yards, a 5.6 YPC and seven touchdowns in 21 career games as Michael Warren’s primary backup RB.
Cincinnati opened their 2020 season on Saturday against FCS opponent Austin Peay. Doaks started the game and received 10 carries for 20 yards, while Ford got seven carries for 28 yards. Where Doaks separated himself was both in the passing game where he caught four passes for 64 yards and a touchdown, and in short yardage where Doaks cashed in two, one-yard touchdown rushes along with another two-yard TD rush for a total of four touchdowns on the day. Ford did not catch a pass in the contest, but did cash in a two-yard TD late in the third quarter to give the Bearcats a 42-6 lead.
Doaks received all of the relevant work in the first half while Ford was clearly designated as the backup. Cincinnati put together a 2020 recruiting class that 247 sports ranked as the 42nd best country. HC Fickell has this program humming as Doaks stands to receive a Michael Warren-sized workload as UC’s RB1.
Destin Coates - Georgia State
Last year Georgia State RB1 Tra Barnett logged 248 carries for 1453 yards, a 5.9 YPC and 12 touchdowns en route to first-team All-Sun Belt recognition. For his part, Destin Coates rushed 82 times for 546 yards, a 6.7 YPC (!) and seven touchdowns, as GSU set a school-record by averaging 242 rushing yards per game with a superb 5.3 YPC. Though star QB Dan Ellington graduated, the Panthers still return eight starters including 87 offensive line starts spread among four returning offensive linemen. Two of their offensive line returnees are FWAA freshman All-American RT Travis Glover and second-team All-SBC LG Shamarious Gilmore, so the offensive line that produced the aforementioned 242 yards per game average remains almost entirely intact.
Georgia State opened up against 19th ranked Louisiana and gave the Ragin’ Cajuns all they could handle as the Panthers eventually lost 34-31 in Overtime. The story of the game for Georgia State was the all-purpose domination by Destin Coates. Serving as a true bell-cow, Coates logged a rugged 34 carries for 150 yards and a touchdown while also catching four passes for 21 yards out of the backfield. The Panthers leaned heavily on Coates who logged all but three carries from the GSU backfield, with those three carries amounting to a total of nine yards.
Given the strength of the offensive line and the borderline monopoly that Coates has on the Georgia State backfield, he should be considered in the RB20-25 range in all drafts and is a priority addition in all DFS leagues if his $5300 Draft Kings price tag from this past week shows up again.
Marlon Williams - UCF
When you really boil it down, the fact is UCF is the Alabama of the G5. The Golden Knights have averaged at least 43 PPG in each of the last three seasons while passing for 317 yards or more in two of those campaigns. A hallmark of the UCF offense is stretching the field vertically by taking deep shots down the sidelines. With Dillon Gabriel at the helm last year wide receiver Gabriel Davis caught 16-of-41 deep targets, both marks were the second-most in FBS. Williams was incredibly efficient and difficult to take down once the ball is in his possession, as he broke 12 tackles while averaging 8.8 yards after catch and catching 74% of his targets.
For his part, Marlon Williams caught 51 receptions for 717 yards and six touchdowns last year which ranks as the second most yards among returning UCF receivers behind only Tre Nixon. Nixon has been ranked higher than Williams in all the CFF rankings I’ve seen and was the preferred target for Gabriel in the first-half of their season opener against Georgia Tech. Nixon caught 4 passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns at halftime, but ended up getting injured and was unable to play in the second half.
Williams stepped into the primary deep threat role and excelled, catching 10-of-13 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Williams caught gold-zone touchdowns of seven and eight yards as UCF put a beating on Georgia Tech’s secondary, racking up 417 passing yards in the contest. Marlon Williams has vaulted into WR30-35 conversation, however if Tre Nixon is out for longer he instantly becomes a Top-20 receiving option.