Though recent history indicates otherwise, the Sun Belt Conference is generally viewed as inferior compared to college football’s powerhouse conferences. The neglected conference, which has produced countless next-level prospects, is home for some of the nation’s most talented running backs. Elijah Mitchell, Josh Johnson, and Coastal Carolina RB C.J. Marable all have the intangibles to succeed at the professional level.

However, while Mitchell and Johnson are on a path to becoming household names, Marable continues to fly under the radar. The Coastal Carolina standout kicked off his senior season in style, defeating the Kansas Jayhawks in the season opener, and proved to be an instrumental component in orchestrating the upset.

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Coastal Carolina RB C.J. Marable

Presbyterian College

Despite rushing for 1,323 yards and 11 touchdowns as a senior at Towers High School in Decatur, Georgia, C.J. Marable was a disregarded two-star recruit in search of an opportunity

That initial good fortune came by way of Presbyterian College in Clinton, South Carolina, in 2017.

Starting all 11 games for the Blue Hose, Marable led the Big South in rushing (1,038 yards), totaling four scores as a runner and two as a receiver. Marable’s breakout campaign included five 100-yard games, and he became only the second player in program history to eclipse the 1,000-yard rushing mark — and the first freshman to achieve that feat.

With his first collegiate season in the rearview mirror, Marable aspired to take on his next challenge.

The all-purpose running back enrolled at Coastal Carolina University in January of 2018. After taking part in spring practices, Marable appeared poised to claim a vital role in the Chanticleers’ offense.

Sophomore surprise

When Marable transferred to Coastal Carolina from tiny Presbyterian College, few could have anticipated his early impact.

Appearing in 12 games (nine starts) as a sophomore, Marable recorded 118 carries for 719 yards and six touchdowns. He added 15 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver, and yielded 76 yards on four kick returns.

While Marable was no stranger to exceptional performances at his previous stop, he announced his arrival to the college football world in a late-October clash with Georgia State. Marable carried the ball 12 times for 128 yards and a touchdown — which included a season-long 80-yard run — and added a 48-yard reception.

Marable compiled a team-high 975 all-purpose yards and averaged 7.2 yards per touch. He was named the team’s Offensive Player of the Year.

Junior ascension

Coming off a stellar first season at Coastal Carolina, Marable was poised to garner national attention as a junior. The Chanticleers’ reigning Offensive Player of the Year appeared on Athlon Sports’ preseason third-team All-Sun Belt Conference team, as well as Phil Steele’s preseason third-team All-Sun Belt Conference team.

One of four team captains named for the 2019 season, Marable served as the offensive leader. Starting all 12 games, the 5-foot-10, 200-pound runner saw a significant increase in volume compared to the previous season, carrying the ball 204 times for 1,085 yards and 11 touchdowns. He added 38 catches for 295 yards and three touchdowns in the passing game.

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Marable eclipsed the 100-yard rushing barrier six times, including a 172-yard, two-touchdown outing against Louisiana Monroe.

The Georgia native finished third in the Sun Belt in touchdowns (14), seventh in all-purpose yards per game (118.2), and became just the fourth player in program history to surpass 1,000 yards rushing.

Marable earned honorable mention All-Sun Belt Conference honors and third-team All-Sun Belt Conference recognition from Phil Steele. He was also a finalist for the Blanchard-Rogers Trophy.

C.J. Marable’s 2020 outlook

Although Marable never earned the recognition that his play warranted in 2019, he finds himself entering his senior campaign cast in the limelight. Named to the preseason second-team All-Sun Belt Conference and College Football News’ preseason All-Sun Belt team lists, among numerous others, the explosive runner faces elevated expectations in 2020.

In the Chanticleers’ opener against Kansas, Marable demonstrated patience, acceleration, and tough running against the Jayhawks. The senior running back accumulated 21 carries for 75 yards in the 38-23 upset.

Marable shows noted patience at the line of scrimmage before fearlessly accelerating through the hole and challenges would-be tacklers. While his superior vision is an underrated aspect of his game, Marable’s contact balance while navigating through traffic and elusiveness in the open field make him perhaps the conference’s most well-rounded runner.