Abu Sama: 2024 College Football Breakout Watch

Iowa State running back Abu Sama made his mark in 2023, earning True Freshman All-America Team honors from 247Sports. Sama accumulated 665 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns on just 91 touches, averaging 7.3 yards per touch.

Sama was a three-star recruit in the class of 2023 per 247Sports, ranking as the 27th running back and fifth-ranked player in the state of Iowa. He competed in the 2022 U.S. Army Bowl Game on his way to committing to play for the Cyclones. Kansas State was the only other Power Five school to offer Sama a scholarship, and he proved he belonged in his first year.

Sama’s rise continued into the season as he led the team with 614 rushing yards. His six total touchdowns were second only to playmaking wide receiver Jaylin Noel’s seven scores. Sama’s big breakout came in November of 2023, recording his first 100+ yard performance against BYU and then exploding for 287 scrimmage yards and three touchdowns against Kansas State two weeks later. His monster performance came on just 16 carries and one catch.

On the first play of the game in snowy Manhattan, Kansas, Sama burst up the middle and scored a 71-yard touchdown. It wasn’t Sama’s only long score of the game, as he took another handoff 77 yards to the house early in the second quarter, showcasing tremendous balance and acceleration after shedding two tackles in the backfield. For his third score of the game, Sama took advantage of some very poor Wildcat tackling on his way to a 60-yard touchdown.

While his production surge late in the season was eye-popping, Sama’s film throughout the year was impressive. While his performance against Kansas State stuffed the stat sheet, Sama arguably looked even more impressive in his breakout game two weeks before against BYU. He flashed elite cutting abilities on his way to an efficient 110 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries.

As just a true freshman, Sama showed he has serious potential. His listed size of 5-foot-11, 200 pounds suggests he can add weight during his career, but that’s far from a concern after his freshman season. Sama already runs with power and has proven he’s a rushing threat between the tackles.

In a small sample size, Sama also showed promise as a receiver. He recorded just seven receptions, but he made multiple athletic plays to make tough catches during the season. If the Cyclones choose to feature Sama even more in the receiving game in 2024, he could emerge as a legitimate pass-catching running back.   

Iowa State has a respectable recent history of producing NFL talent. 49ers QB Brock Purdy, Jets RB Breece Hall, Lions RB David Montgomery and Jets DE Will McDonald IV among others have all entered the league out of Iowa State in recent years. For a player like Sama, there’s a clear path forward for boosting his NFL Draft stock over the next few seasons if he can continue to impress like he did in 2023.

Elijah Southwick is the lead sports content writer for Degen Magazine. His work has appeared in several news and sports publications.

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