With the recent news that Cam Porter, the projected starting running back for Northwestern and the offense’s most anticipated player, suffered a season ending leg injury, there have been many questions about who will take the reins in the 2021. As a true freshman, he racked up five touchdowns and 333 yards including a 142-yard game against Illinois. Porter averaged a ridiculous 4.1 yards per carry and put himself in a position good enough that it earned him a spot on the Doak Walker preseason watchlist.
However, there is a silver lining to this dark cloud. Pat Fitzgerald has a deep running back room with a variety of in-game playing experience. It is often difficult to predict the order of Fitz’s depth chart, but most can agree that the trifecta of Andrew Clair, Evan Hull and Anthony Tyus III are all now in contention for the starting role and at the very least a small feature within the offense.
Clair is one of the ‘Cats’ newest pickup, as he announced his move from Bowling Green to Northwestern in March of this year. Clair is who I would start in the backfield due to his four years of experience in the MAC, and due to his hard nosed running style. Clair is not the type of player that will make multiple cuts behind the line of scrimmage, though he will burst through gaps like a madman and run through anything and anyone in his way. He is what most people envision when thinking of a north-south runner. The Grad Transfer back was Bowling Green’s second leading rusher in 2020, as he garnered 266 yards on a whopping 5.1 yards per carry. Additionally, Clair brings experience and ability that can be utilized in the passing game. His play recognition and overall athleticism allow him to leak into the soft spots of opposing defenses, giving his quarterbacks a valuable check down option, and his 5-foot-11, 202 pound frame is also great for picking up blitzing defensive players.
If you watched the game against Illinois on December 12, or even more disturbingly the infamous Malört Bowl against pitiful UMass back in 2019, then you surely know the name Evan Hull. He exploded for 149 and 226 yards in those two games, respectively, though the redshirt sophomore has seen little action outside of those two cameos. Hull started the season as the fourth running back in the depth chart, but worked his way up to second as Isaiah Bowser and Drake Anderson were not available during the latter half of the season. Hull, much like Clair, is a north-south, fundamental running back, a patient runner that waits for the ample opening and then explodes through the line. Hull is also good at protecting the football and avoiding fumbles, a trait that Fitzgerald and his staff will be analyzing closely when they are determining who out of the three potential candidates should fill Porter’s spot. Hull has improved greatly over the past couple years so it would not be surprising if he enters the regular rotation and takes on a larger load in 2021.
Anthony Tyus III
Northwestern has historically not been able to recruit an abundance of highly rated high school talent, but times are changing, as Anthony Tyus III might prove to you The 3-star running back is the second highest rated running back in Northwestern history behind Justin Jackson. Tyus hails from Portage, Michigan, where he made waves all throughout the college football recruiting world. He recorded over 1,800 yards with an absurd 22 touchdowns in his senior season for Portage Northern. His dominant gameplay led him to receive offers from schools such as Iowa State, Indiana and Michigan State along with a bundle of others. Tyus committed to the ‘Cats in June of 2020, signed in December, and enrolled in January 2021. Fitz is usually cautious about is giving first-year skill players large workloads, but if any freshman is ready for the challenge it would be Tyus. He is a violent runner that finishes every run with bruising force. Since Tyus has been with the program for longer than most freshman, it will be interesting to see how much Mike Bajakian and the rest of the offensive coaching staff were able to develop his skills. Tyus has an extremely high ceiling, and with the starting role now up for grabs, it will be fun to see how much the purple and white attempt to tap into his potential during the upcoming season.