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The Incredible Matt Breida

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Last week it was announced that Breida was one of ten semifinalists for the 2014 Doak Walker Award, given annually to the best running back in college football.

I have to give the thanks to my team, without them I wouldn't even be in consideration for the (Doak Walker) award. I'm really honored, but I owe it all to the rest of the guys in that locker room.
~Matt Breida

Is Matt Breida the best young running back in college football? It's difficult to answer that question definitively, but there is certainly a case to be made for Georgia Southern's sophomore standout.

Last week it was announced that Breida was one of ten semifinalists for the 2014 Doak Walker Award, given annually to the best running back in college football. Of the ten semifinalists, Breida is one of only two underclassmen, joined by Pittsburgh's James Conner. This is impressive in its own right, and is only heightened by the fact that there is a particularly strong class of ball carriers in college football this season. Don't expect him to just be happy to be mentioned with the likes of Melvin Gordon and Cameron Artis-Payne. He wants to be better than them.

There's a lot that goes into judging the abilities of football players. Don't be mistaken, the intangibles can be as important as anything else, but when it comes to running the ball, numbers never lie. Matt Breida's numbers are staggering. Frankly, they're a little ridiculous. Heading into the game against Louisiana-Monroe, he had piled up 1,434 rushing yards, good for seventh in the nation. Although the way in which he gained those yards is much more telling. So far this season, Breida has averaged an almost unfathomable 9.43 yards per carry. That's more than anyone else in the entire country. That's more than most people average per carry in video games. Giving Breida the ball is basically a cheat code for Willie Fritz.

At 5'10", 185 pounds, Matt Breida isn't the biggest guy on the field by any stretch of the imagination. He doesn't need to be. You don't average nearly a first down every carry without upper echelon vision and good top end speed to compliment it. He has great awareness that allows him to make that one cut that can lead to huge chunks of yardage, like the 88-yarder against Navy earlier this year. He may not be a big punishing ball carrier but he's awfully slippery and plenty capable of making defenders miss in the open field.

For a back as young as Breida to be as gifted as he is and to already possess so many of the intangibles that the great tailbacks possess is remarkable. Not only does he have all this talent, but he's making the most of it and already getting national recognition for his efforts.

It's been a pretty magical year for the Georgia Southern Eagles. Not only have they become just the third team to ever win a league title in their inaugural season, but they've done so in dominating fashion, going unbeaten in Sun Belt play. It's been a team effort and this Georgia Southern squad is full of unsung heroes. It's nice to finally see Willie Fritz's program start to get some of the recognition it deserves and if players like Matt Breida continue to come to Statesboro, it might not be too long until Georgia Southern becomes known as a powerhouse.

At this point it seems like the Doak Walker Award is Melvin Gordon's for the taking. That's okay, though. The soft spoken Matt Breida will just file that away and keep chugging along. When asked about being considered for the award the sophomore could not have been more gracious as he simply replied,"I have to give all the thanks to my team, without them I wouldn't even be in consideration for the award. I'm really honored, but I owe it all to the rest of the guys in that locker room." With the proper coaching and continued growth, it might not be long before people are mentioning Breida's name not only in the Doak Walker conversation but maybe even in the Heisman chatter.

This is just one more reason it's so unjust for Georgia Southern not to be allowed to play a bowl game. It sure would be interesting to see if any defense is capable of stopping the Matt Breida machine from gashing them for chunks of double digit yards at a time. If the rest of the season has been any indication, it seems unlikely.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP