Kenny Pickett College Footballers Succeed After Not Transferring


Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making the news in college football, where they host a different kind of bootleg in Tennessee:

MORE DASHBOARD: The College Football Patch List | The great hopes of the East


Sometimes a transfer is for the best. The Dash has noted those who have won big – players and teams – using the transfer portal. And sometimes it’s pretty obvious when a player has to drop out of college and head to the NFL.

But sometimes, often, a change of address is not the best option. Sometimes sticking around and overcoming challenges can also pay off. The Dash salutes 10 upper class students who are making the most of their decision to stay in the schools where they started their college careers:

Kenny Pickett (11), Pittsburgh. Status: fifth year quarterback. Stats: Sixth-ranked passer in the country, leading a 6-1 Panthers team that has a two-game lead in the loss column against its closest pursuer (Virginia) in the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference. Last December, Pickett was set to put his name in the NFL Draft, but opted to compete in the fifth year of free NCAA eligibility. Now he explodes and lifts drawing boards.

Pickett’s passing efficiency rates his first four seasons at Pitt: 125.8, 120.3, 122.4, 129.6. This year: 176.1. If he remains in good health for the remainder of the season, Pickett is virtually guaranteed to be the school’s career leader in passing. And he’s now generating a big buzz for the Heisman Trophy.

Hassan Haskins (12), Michigan. Status: senior running back. Stats: second on the team for the rush (602 yards sharing the post with sophomore Blake Corum) and second for touchdowns (10). The Wolverines are 7-0. Every time Haskins has had 20 carries in a game in Michigan, he’s produced over 100 yards, including each of the last two games.

In 2018, Haskins was a special teams-only player. In ’19 and ’20, Haskins had limited litters in the first games of the season, before playing a bigger role as the seasons go by. This year, while sharing the post again (this time Corum, previously Zach Charbonnet), Haskins is an increasingly important part of the offense. At just seven games, he’s recorded a career-high 124 races. Coach Jim Harbaugh cites the return of Haskins as one of the developments that solidified the leadership of the team.

BJ Baylor (13), State of Oregon. Status: fifth year running back. Stats: Leads the Pac-12 in the rushing run and is sixth nationally with 118.4 yards per game. One of only two players nationwide with over 100 carries and averaging over seven yards per carry. The Beavers are 5-2 and tied for the lead over Pac-12 North at 3-1.

After the redshirting in 2018, Baylor totaled 81 runs over the next three seasons, never more than 10 in a game, just one of many substitutes for Jermar Jefferson. This season, Baylor has returned to the job and produced triple-figure games against all four Pac-12 opponents. He has the most runs over 30 yards in the conference (five) and over 40 and over (four).

Abram Smith (14), Baylor. Status: fifth year senior running back. Stats: 10th nationally in rushing yards per game at 112.1. The only backstroke in the country with over 100 carries that averages more yards per carry than Oregon State’s Baylor (7.48). The Bears are 6-1 and tied for second in the Big 12.

In his first four seasons at Baylor, Smith totaled 12 races. He missed the entire 2017 season as a red shirt after ripping an ACL in preseason, played sparingly as running back and more in special teams in 18 and 19 while rubbing up against linebacker, then spent all of last season at linebacker. Smith has led the Bears in tackles in each of the last four games of the season. Last spring, coach Dave Aranda asked Smith if he was interested in returning to running back. He accepted the challenge and is on track to become Baylor’s first 1,000-yard rusher in five years.

Jaivon Heiligh (15), Carolina Coastal. Status: senior wide receiver. Statistics: 13th nationally for yards per game (96.6) and 18th for yards per catch (19.3). Coastal Carolina is 6-1 this season, 1-2 over the last two.

Heiligh entered the field as a true freshman in 2018, catching 14 assists and starting two games. He went on to become Coastal’s main receiver in second year and has kept that distinction ever since, capturing 146 assists in the past two and a half seasons. He had 13 receptions for 178 yards in the Cure Bowl against Liberty last season and had four receiving games for 100 yards this season. While he certainly could have sparked interest in the Power 5 programs through the Transfer Portal, Heiligh remained in Conway, SC, and is well on his way to becoming Coastal’s all-time leader in receiving yards. .

Luke Masterson (16), Wake Forest. Status: sixth year senior linebacker. Stats: Leads the team in tackles (6.86 per game) and is fifth in the CCA in solo tackles (32). The Demon Deacons are 7-0 for the first time since 1944 and have never been 8-0.

Masterson was redshirted in 2016 and played three positions at Wake: linebacker, safety and rover. He missed important parts of three seasons with injuries. A repeat team captain, he lost two sacks and three tackles in the win over Virginia and forced a fumble to end the game against Louisville.

Frank Harris (17), UTSA. Status: Fifth-year senior quarterback. Statistics: in the top 20 nationally in percentage of completion and in the top 25 in efficiency of success. On the verge of breaking his own school record for completion percentage. The Roadrunners are 8-0.

Harris didn’t play his first two years in college at all, wearing red shirts and then needing the second season to recover from an injury. He took over as a starting quarterback in 2019, but suffered a late-season injury in Game 4. Last year he did a full season and UTSA went 7-5. This year, Harris improved his efficiency rating from 129.4 to 157.7 and is averaging 258 yards per game on offense.

Oregon running back Travis Dye leads the team in rushing yards, touchdowns and general purpose yards.

Travis Dye (18), Oregon. Status: fourth year running back. Stats: Leading the Ducks in rushing yards, touchdowns and all-purpose distance. Set an FBS record against UCLA on Saturday with touchdowns in four consecutive races. Oregon is 6-1.

Dye has been an impact player for four years, but still shared the job with CJ Verdell, who got most of the work this year until a season-ending injury against Stanford. In the last three games, Dye has produced 424 yards of scrimmage and five touchdowns. Had Dye decided to look elsewhere in search of a comeback, Oregon college football’s playoff hopes would likely be derailed at this point.

Brian Robinson (19), Alabama. Status: fifth year running back. Stats: Leads the Southeastern Conference in rushing attempts (142) and rushing touchdowns (11), despite missing a game. He is third in the SEC in rushing yards per game (100.9) and second in scrum yards per game (123.9). Alabama is 7-1.

Robinson is a kid from his hometown who waited his turn behind Damien Harris and Najee Harris. Now he’s back and was an October workaholic, averaging 29.5 touches per game. Robinson’s legs will be one of the keys to sustaining the Crimson Tide’s defense of his national title over the next month.

Haskell Garrett (20), State of Ohio. Status: fifth year defensive tackle. Stats: Leads the Buckeyes in loss tackles (six) and sacks (four and a half) and has scored touchdowns this year and last. The state of Ohio is 6-1.

Garrett made three tackles in 2017, eight in 18, 10 in 19, and then was finally able to be a prominent member of the Ohio State defense last year. It was then that he was shot in the face in August as he tried to break down a dispute. Miraculously, Garrett escaped a serious injury and was able to play last season and play well. This season he’s upped his production and the Buckeyes have hit their stride in recent weeks.

More college football coverage:
• SI Top 10: Michigan State reigns supreme
• Washington State coaches can only blame themselves
• Ed Orgeron’s rapid downfall at LSU: in a superb post-title collapse
• Wake Forest’s baffling RPO system has a demon deacons offense roll


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