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How did William Stanback Come Out of Nowhere to Lead CFL in Rushing in 2021?

William Stanback is a CFL running back for the Montreal Allouettes, and regarded as one of if not THE best running back currently in the league. At 6’0 233 lbs the 27 year old is headed into his 4th season with the CFL. He is no stranger to the NFL, having spent time with the Green Bay Packers in 2017, and the Raiders in 2020 during the CFL shut down, however other than those brief offseason stints he was not able to land a long term role in the NFL.

That might change by next offseason when he is again a free agent. Let’s get into why I believe the bruising back is built for the NFL. Despite running the 40 yard dash at 230 lbs, he logged a 4.55 second 40 time, a 2.77 20 yard split, and a 1.63 10 yard dash. Showing he is quicker, and faster than most backs his size. To put this into perspective, NFL veteran Carlos Hyde who has the exact same build ran a 4.61 40 yard dash, 2.77 20 yard split, and a 1.69 10 yard split.

Even a casual fan can see that his quick first step is what is causing him to be so dominant at the CFL level, get the ball in his hands, and he accelerates so quickly that most linebackers, and defensive lineman can’t even dream of catching him from behind. One big knock on him coming out of college was his lack of targets in the passing game. During his freshman year of college at UCF, he caught just 15 passes for 186 yards and 1 touchdown. That year he also found himself contributing on special teams with 11 kick returns for 218 yards or a little over 19 yards per return, he also logged 5 tackles and 1 forced fumble on coverage units. By the end of his 3 years in UCF, Stanback had just 27 receptions for 244 yards and 3 touchdowns.

He would go on to complete his college career with the Virginia Union University Panthers where he finally became a full-time starter. He would reward them for their confidence in him and rush for 1,299 yards, and 15 touchdowns on just 207 carries for a 6.3 yard average, adding 13.7 yards per reception on 12 catches for 165 yards and 3 touchdowns. This brough his college career totals to: 513 carries, 2,450 yards and 31 touchdowns, while adding 39 receptions for 409 yards and another 6 touchdowns.

photo credit: https://www.silverandblackpride.com/

Despite this he went undrafted during the 2017 NFL draft, later signing with the Green Bay Packers as an undrafted free agent. He would last just 3 months with the team, being cut prior to the season beginning. In 2018 he would sign with Montreal for the first time.

Despite signing as a depth piece he was left on the bench for most of the first 10 games of the season racking up just 5 carries for 56 yards, catching 5 of 5 targets for 63 yards. In week 11 Montreal made the change at running back and turned to Stanback as the starter.

He responded by rushing 11 times for 53 yards or 4.8 yards per carry, while catching 2 of 2 targets for 20 yards. In week 14, he this time he rushed just 8 times for but had 52 yards or 6.5 yards per carry, while catching all 3 of his targets for another 10 yards.

Heading into week 15, confidence was beginning to build around the CFL rookie, and he continued to impress going forward. In week 15, he showed exactly why coaches were so high on him. He rushed 12 times for 71 yards and added 4 receptions on 5 targets for 35 yards marking his first game with over 100 yards from scrimmage. Spoiler alert….it would be far from his last.

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In week 19 he rushed for 118 yards on 10 carries but caught just 2 of 4 targets for 6 yards, in week 20 he rushed for 60 yards on 9 carries or 6.7 yards per carry, while adding 52 yards on 3 targets and 2 receptions totaling 112 yards on just 11 touches, finally in the last week of the season, he rushed 6 times for 31 yards, and added 5 receptions on 5 targets for 103 yards, finishing the 2018 season with four 100 yard games in his last 6 starts.

With good reason this sparked even more enthusiasm for him as the starter in 2019. How could you not be excited about a 6’0 233 lb running back who in his first season managed to average 6.5 yards per carry on 81 carries, while adding 25 receptions on 31 targets, for another 313 yards and 2 touchdowns. He barely missed a 1,000 yards of offense on the season despite his slow start, totaling 852 yards on 106 touches. He also added 19 kick returns for 464 yards or 24.4 per return adding 9 tackles, 8 of which came on special teams.

In 2019 Stanback returned to Montreal, this time as the full-time starter. Despite this he still showed up on special teams logging 2 tackles, but gave up kick return duties. He would go on to start fast with a 9 carry game in which he produced 8.4 yards per carry and added 17 yards on 2 receptions, missing week 2, before he followed up with a 13 carry 78 yard performance, adding 5 receptions on 6 targets for 37 yards marking his first 100 yard performance of 2019.

In week 4, Stanback went off, carrying 22 times for 203 yards and 3 touchdowns, and added a 46 yard reception on 2 targets, falling 1 yard shy of the 250 yard mark. In week 4 he followed up with his 3rd career 100 yard rushing game, with 18 carries for 100 yards. After the fast start things sort of tapered off yardage wise, as he would post games with less than 50 rushing yards in weeks 6, 11, and 15. He would log just 1 more 100 yard rushing game the rest of the season, and go on to play in just 15 of 22 games.

He would produce a respectable 179 carries for 1,086 yards, and 5 touchdowns, adding 33 receptions on 45 targets for 329 yards. This was enough to garner NFL attention once again in 2020, during the CFL shutdown due to Covid 19.Despite playing in just 14 games, he was ranked 3rd in the league in rushing yards, and fell just 43 yards short of second place. William Powell who had racked up the 1093 yards to clinch the second most rushing yards, had played in all 18 games to do so. Showing just how explosive Stanback is compared to the other top rushers in the league.

Photo Credit: Raiders.com

In 2020 Stanback signed a reserve/futures deal with the Raiders on January 3rd. In July Stanback was forced to leave training camp to deal with the tragic dealth of both of his parents. Despite this he would return to the Raiders less than a month later. This time he would go on to last until final cuts with the Raiders, being released on August 23rd nearly a full 9 months later.

Despite beating out a guy like Jeremy Hill who was a former 2nd round pick who ironically shares a very similar body type to Stanback, the Raiders still opted to release Stanback, and let me tell you…the Allouettes to their credit didn’t wait long to resign him. December 14th 2020, Stanback was officially signed by Montreal once again, this time to a two-year contract. This set the stage for Stanback to once again lead the Allouettes in rushing in the 2021 season.

In 2021 Stanback did lead Montreal in rushing, and he did one better by leading the CFL in rushing yards as well. An impressive feat for a guy who spent the entire 2020 season out of football. The crazy part about his 2021 season is he played in just 12 games this time around, and still managed 1,176 rushing yards. Well over the 1050 yards he produced in 2020, despite playing in 2 more games during the season in 2019. This season brought his career rushing average to 6.2 yards per carry. Through 3 seasons in the CFL, and even with his slow start in 2018 Stanback has produced 33 starts in 42 games, 445 carries for 6.2 yards per carry with a total of 2,765 rushing yards, and 8 tds, along with 73 receptions for 740 yards and 2 touchdowns.

He is again on the last year of his deal, and currently they have not talked about an extension to prevent him from testing free agency in 2023’s offseason. However with wide receiver Jake Weineke looking like he might be leaving this offseason Stanback becomes infinitely more valuable for the Allouettes who will need a strong running game to keep their offense afloat after losing a receiver that produced 19 touchdowns in just 2 seasons of play in 2019, and 2021.

That is assuming they are able to keep him from finding an opportunity at the NFL level, but with Stanback turning 28 years old on July 3rd this season there is a high likelihood Stanback has exhausted all chances to return to the NFL, and stays in the CFL as arguably the most prolific back in the league for the next few seasons. The thing is despite Stanback playing a 4 year college career, and now heading into his 6th season of professional football, his body likely doesn’t feel the wear and tear like it would had he been a 4 year starter in college, or came into the CFL as a starter right away.

Let alone the fact that he spent the 2017, and 2020 seasons out of the game for the most part which let him get 100% healthy and prevented unnecessary workload on the 28 year old running back. I’ve seen my fair share of running backs last into their mid 30’s but most of them didn’t have as much time as off the field as Stanback has had in his career, which truly leads me to believe Stanback has a long future ahead of him in the CFL, and if I was Montreal, I would be trying to lock him to a 3 year deal in the 2023 offseason.

If they follow this path, it will lock him up until his 32nd birthday, giving you a chance to reevaluate where he is at injury wise, and see if he has lost a step yet. At that point you can transition to a series of 1 year deals to keep him around until he empties the tank and begins to lose a step then you can cut bait without much if any dead money affecting the cap.

For more information on the CFL please check out my other articles:

I began writing years ago out of an obsession with the NFL. I never intended to take it anywhere but after watching so many others succeed as freelance writers I decided it was worth a shot. I jumped I and have loved every minute of it. I have expanded my content to include YouTube, as well as Twitter Spaces, SoundCloud, and should be launching on Amazon Podcasts soon.

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