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2020 Football Position Reviews: Running backs

A position that struggled with consistency for most of the season will look different in 2021.

Vrbo Citrus Bowl - Auburn v Northwestern Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

After a shortened season capped by a Citrus Bowl victory, our postseason coverage continues by handing out grades and taking a look at what’s to come in the fall. We’ll evaluate each position group and discuss how well they performed, as well as what the future might hold. We did the quarterbacks on Sunday. Here are the running backs.

Overall Grade: B

Northwestern brought back plenty of production from a season in which they rushed the ball okay. But the ground game under Mike Bajakian played Jekyll and Hyde. It rolled over Maryland and Illinois but struggled most of the rest of the year.

Credit and blame should be given to not only the backs but the offensive line, as one hardly found success without the other.

Coming into the season, junior Isaiah Bowser and sophomore Drake Anderson were expected to do much of the heavy lifting with redshirt first-year Evan Hull providing another viable option.

However, true freshman Cam Porter began to get touches as the season went along and scored a touchdown out of the wildcat formation at Michigan State. After Drake Anderson fumbled on NU’s first offensive play against Illinois, it was Porter who assumed starting duties the rest of the way and provided a jolt.

Porter earned a reputation in the latter half of the season as a physical runner who will provide future stability to Northwestern’s backfield amidst a storm of transfers including both Bowser and Anderson.

Wide receiver Kyric McGowan also played a versatile role taking both straight handoffs and jet sweeps that often succeeded. The position group’s ability to finish at the goal line and take advantage of open-field opportunities earns it a solid overall grade.

Player Grades

Cam Porter: A-

Stats: 81 carries, 333 yards, 4.1 YPC, 5 touchdowns

The Cincinnati native came out of nowhere in the final third of the season to solidify himself as the most consistent rusher on the team. He showed a glimpse of his explosiveness with a 20-yard carry against Maryland, and Northwestern fans got the full picture with his dominant 142-yard, two-touchdown performance against Illinois.

He cemented his excellent season with 98 yards and a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl. All eyes will be on Porter in 2021 as he takes the mantle to become the feature back of Mike Bajakian’s offense.

Drake Anderson: B-

Stats: 62 carries, 256 yards, 4.1 YPC, 2 touchdowns

The sophomore’s production took a step back in 2020, rushing for just 256 yards, but he maintained an efficiency of 4.1 yards per carry. He flashed his agility and burst at times, most notably in a 41-yard touchdown run against Nebraska. Other times, he ran horizontal and struggled to pick up positive yardage.

Following the Big Ten Championship Game, Anderson entered the transfer portal and has since committed to Arizona.

Isaiah Bowser: C+

Stats: 78 carries, 230 yards, 2.9 YPC, 1 touchdowns

Bowser had a disappointing year and continued to fight injuries, as he did in 2019. Fans were excited for his development after an impressive 2018 season that saw him shoot to the top of the depth chart, but that buzz dimmed in the past two seasons.

His fumbling issues persisted, too. He cost the Wildcats a likely touchdown against Wisconsin with a goal line turnover and scarcely saw the field after.

Bowser recently announced his intention to transfer to Miami (OH), closer to home.

Evan Hull: A-

Stats: 25 carries, 209 yards, 8.4 YPC, 2 touchdowns

It’s hard to get mad at Evan Hull. When he’s come in during normal time for a snap or two, he’s proven himself to be replacement level. And he’s the king of garbage time! He was highly efficient when he got the ball, averaging an absurd 8.4 yards per carry. Watch for Hull to become more involved next season, as he’ll likely compete with incoming four-star freshman Anthony Tyus III for the second running back spot.