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Big Ten Football: A Breakdown of the 10 B1G Running Backs Named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List

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Big Ten Football: A Breakdown of the 10 B1G Running Backs Named to the Doak Walker Award Watch List

2020-08-07 14:20:56


-by Daniel Mogollon, Staff Writer; Image: Penn State running back Journey Brown. (Image Source: Matthew O’Haren / USA Today)

The SMU Athletic Forum released its preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, a list which includes 10 Big Ten running backs. Here’s how they stack up as candidates:

The Most-Likely Candidate:

Journey Brown, Penn State (Junior): As a sophomore, Brown emerged from a crowded backfield in Happy Valley to be PSU’s RB1 with a breakout 2019 campaign. After he averaged just six carries through the first eight games (eight carries total as a freshman), Brown took over as the feature back and rushed for 100 yards in four of the final five games, including 202 yards in their big bowl win over Memphis. A freakish athlete, Brown has legit sprinter speed, as he finally turned his physical talents to production on the field. If he continues to improve, including becoming a bigger factor in the throw game, the Nittany Lion could be primed for a monster season.

Preseason Award Watch Lists: Chuck Bednarik Award | Maxwell Award | Davey O’Brien Award |

Legit Sleeper:

Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota (Junior): With seniors Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks gone (301 combined carries), Ibrahim will be the man this season, a role he’s more than ready for. When the two aforementioned vets went down with injuries in 2018, Ibrahim stepped up and rushed for 1,160 yards as a freshman. He should be even better as a junior rushing behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.

I’m Saying There’s a Chance:

Elijah Collins, Michigan State (Sophomore): While Collins averaged a mere 4.5 yards per carry as a redshirt freshman, he is the Big Ten’s leading returning rusher (988 yards) and has a chance to be the focal point of Michigan State’s offense.

Dedrick Mills, Nebraska (Senior): After a slow start coming out of junior college, Mills finished the season strong with 347 yards in the final three games. With all five starters back on a deep offensive line, Mills could be primed to breakout in 2020.

Stevie Scott, Indiana (Junior): In two seasons in Bloomington, Scott has rushed for nearly 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns. A proven producer, he’s a hard runner between the tackles who was vastly improved as a pass-catcher as a sophomore.

Nakia Watson, Wisconsin (Sophomore): While he’s not assured to be a starter like Collins, Mills, and Scott, Watson backed up Jonathan Taylor last season and he runs behind a much better offensive line. His role will grow but by how much?

Who Should Be on the List: Zach Charbonnet, Michigan (Sophomore); Hassan Haskins, Michigan (Junior); Trey Sermon, Ohio State (Senior)

The Long Shots:

Noah Cain, Penn State (Sophomore): One of the more talented backs in the B1G, Cain impressed in limited duty as a true freshman, including a PSU frosh record with eight rushing scores. But it's a deep backfield and he’ll play second fiddle to Brown.

Tyler Goodson, Iowa (Sophomore): After becoming the first true freshman at Iowa to lead the team in rushing (638 yards), expectations are high in Iowa City for Goodson who also flashed good hands with 24 receptions out of the backfield.

The No Shots:

Drake Anderson, Northwestern (Sophomore): As a freshman, Anderson led the Wildcats in rushing (634 yards), however, averaged just 4.1 yards per run and there’s a good chance he’s backing up Isaiah Bowser (missed 7 games in 2019).

Mekhi Sargent, Iowa (Senior): While his production in 2019 was very similar to Goodson’s, Sargent lost the starting job down the stretch of the season, as he went from surging sophomore in 2018 to forgotten junior by season’s end.

Daniel Mogollon is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America. He is also a voter for the Thorpe and the Rotary Lombardi Award, as well as the Latino Sports MVP Awards. You can reach him via email:


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