Ranking the ACC Running Backs

If 2003 was the year of the quarterback in the ACC, then this year's running back group should do a good job of campaigning for the rights to the year 2004. The ACC is loaded with both good running backs and good depth at the running back position, but who is the best? Let's find out.

1. Florida State: This year the Seminole running back position will be better without the services of 250 lb bruiser Greg Jones. In fact, look for 5'11, 190 lb, Lorenzo Booker to break into the national scene this year. Booker, whose style very much resembles that of Warrick Dunn, is a legitimate 4.3 guy in the 40. He also showed out this spring with backup Leon Washington mostly watching from the sideline.

Pity the ACC's defensive coordinators.

Do you try to stop the Seminoles' wide receivers and let Booker and Washington, two guys that can hit the homerun at any time, roam free? Or maybe you try to shutdown the run and let Thorpe, Davis and crew run lose in your secondary.

Either way Booker and Washington will combine to make up the most deadly backfield combination in the ACC this season.

2. Virginia: Wali Lundy finished the season ranked in the ACC's top 10 in both rushing and receiving, his freshmen season. Last year he followed up with another stellar performance (929 yards) even though he fought injuries for more than half the year.

And injuries to Lundy are something no opposing coach wants to see. That's because they will then be asked to stop Alvin Pearman, who also returns at tailback and was also in the top 10 in rushing in the ACC last season. Pearman has a little more wiggle in his step and is more likely to take it the distance than his partner Lundy. In fact, Pearman averaged a yard more a carry than Lundy did in 2003. Behind one of the top offensive lines in the country, this duo will be able to do a lot of damage.

3. NC State: If I had to choose two running backs to make up my All-American backfield, I would pick Kansas State's Darren Sproles and NC State's TA McClendon. No back has a bigger effect on the outcome of the game than TA. When it's third and short , in the red zone, or the game is on the line, give the ball to TA McClendon and he comes through. No running back has better balance, no running back is harder to bring down, no running back has a better nose for the endzone.

So why is NC State in the three slot? Because no back is more injury prone, and no back has proven to be a solid backup to the 220 lb Junior. Reggie Davis (Soph) and Josh Brown, the quickest of the bunch, will compete to backup McClendon.

4. Miami: No one will be crying for Miami because they lost Jarrett Payton and because Frank Gore, who coach Coker said was better than Willis McGahee, is coming back off two knee surgeries. Miami will have a star-studded backfield led by sophomore Tyrone Moss who ran for 5 yards a pop and over 500 yards in backup duty. And oh yeah, Gore is expected to play this year.

5. Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons will look to move the ball on the ground this year once again. Doing so will be easy with returning starter and the ACC's second leading ground gainer in 2003, Chris Barclay.

Barclay has thrived in Jim Grobe's misdirection offense. In 2003 he rushed for almost 1,200 yards, a lot of which was at Clemson's expense. Barclay has been injured some in his career, but behind him is Cornelius Birgs who has been very successful as a backup and has nine career touchdowns in his first two seasons.

6. Clemson: The Tigers return their leading rushers from both the 2002 and 2003 seasons. Duane Coleman started off slow but came on strong in his first season as the Tiger starter. He averaged over 4.5 yards per carry and became a weapon for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst out of the backfield. A year of experience will go a long way for Coleman and if the Tiger offense plays this season like it did the end of last season the 1,000 barrier will have a hard time holding back Mr. Coleman.

Coleman will have a solid backup in Yusef Kelley who ran for over 500 yards his sophomore year before fighting injuries and weight problems in 2003. Kelly has shone a rededication in the weight room and appears ready for the challenge in 2003.

7. Maryland: Ralph Freidgen's offense has always been able to move the ball on the ground and 2004 will no exception. Terrapin Josh Allen is a proven back after rushing for over 900 yards in 2003. Sammy Maldonado, who averaged 6 yards a carry last year, should provide adequate backup.

8. Georgia Tech: Former walk-on PJ Daniels led the ACC in rushing in 2003. Daniels averaged over 5 yards a carry on his way to rushing for 1,447 yards on 283 carries. This year he loses All-ACC linemen Nat Dorsey and Hugh Reilly up front. His backups are talented yet unproven. Chris Brown, a transfer from Morris Brown, had a great spring.

9. Virginia Tech: What is Virginia Tech doing at number 9? I don't really know because Frank Beamer will have someone step up and be more than just productive in 2004. It's more of a tribute to the talent at running back in the ACC than it is a knock on Virginia Tech.

Beamer has to not only replace Kevin Jones but also fullback Doug Easlick. Even so the tailback duties will be in good hands. The next big, powerful, fast, running back at Virginia Tech will be Cedic Humes (6-1, 230 lbs). Although Humes missed time in the spring with a broken fibula, he'll be back full speed this fall.

10. North Carolina: Ronnie McGill is capable of big things as he showed in a 244 yard rushing performance against Wake Forest last season. The true sophomore will look to do more of the same in 2004 and should better his 654 yards rushing that he had in 2003.

11. Duke: Who else? Don't look now but Duke loses all time leading rusher Chris Douglas and workhorse Alex Wade this year. Names like Cedric Dargan, and Aaron Fryer will try to take their place. It's going to be ugly.

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