1. NC State – T.A. McClendon will probably be the conference's best Heisman contender in 2004. He combines power, speed, vision, and footwork to be the best the best that the ACC has to offer in the backfield.
2. Virginia – The Cavaliers might not have an all-American, but they do have 2 guys that would see the field for any team in the country. Wali Lundy and Alvin Pearman are backs guys that are surprisingly tough between the tackles, and then have the versatility to catch the ball out of the backfield.
3. Miami – With Frank Gore and Tyrone Moss, the Hurricanes could have the most potent backfield duo in the country. Gore's health has been a concern the past few seasons, but if all goes well, there will be many yards gained on the ground down in Miami.
4. Florida State – With the graduation of Greg Jones, the Seminoles will turn to the explosive duo of Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker to handle the carries. What they are lacking in experience, they make up for in big-time ability.
5. Wake Forest – First team all-ACC back Chris Barclay returning to lead the ground-oriented Demon Deacons. He is short and somewhat light, however, he is fearless and thrives in Wake's offense. He also led the ACC last season with 12 touchdowns. There is no real experienced depth here, however, Wake's offensive scheme gets the ball into many runners' hands. Experience will come quickly for the backups.
6. Georgia Tech – Junior P. J. Daniels burst on to the scene in 2003, rushing for 1447 yard and scoring 10 TDs. He will undoubtedly contend for the league rushing title. Given Tech's recent ability to develop runners (Daniels and Tony Hollings), there should an adequate replacement should injuries arise.
7. Maryland – Josh Allen has been sharing the load with Bruce Perry the past few seasons. Now it is his turn to shine. Allen is the 3th leading returning rusher in the conference, gaining 922 yards in 2003. He also had the ACC single-game high last season, amassing 257 yards in a win over Virginia. Bruising senior Sammy Maldonado will back Allen up.
8. North Carolina – The Tar Heels seem to have found their feature back in true sophomore Ronnie McGill. He has good size and excellent balance, not to mention better than average speed. If UNC can keep from having to come from behind all-season, expect McGill to challenge for 1000 yards. Jacque Lewis offers a quicker, more elusive option. Chad Scott can play also, but doesn't have the bog play ability of the other two.
9. Clemson – After being the ACC's worst rushing team in 2002, the Tigers showed improvement in 2003, and should continue that upward trend in 2004. Chad Jasmin and Duane Colman both had solid seasons last year, both gaining over 500 yards. Jasmin also found the end-zone nine times.
10. Virginia Tech – With the departure of 1600-yard gainer, Kevin Jones, the Hokies will have some big shoes to fill in the backfield. Cedric Humes and Mike Imoh will both get opportunities to show their stuff. Humes is coming off an injury, but is expected to be at full-speed by the start of preseason practice. An incoming freshman could have an impact here.
11. Duke – The Devils lost a ton of experience and ability here. 2003 1st team all-ACC performer and Duke all-time leading rusher Chris Douglas graduated, as did 2002 2nd team member Alex Wade. Returning for Duke is the tandem of Cedric Dargan and Aaron Fryer. Dargan rushed for 264 yards and 5 touchdowns in spot duty in 2003. He is very strong between the tackles and had good burst through the line. Fryer saw limited action as a freshman last year, and showed good-open field ability. Former CB JP Kimbrough looked sharp in spring drills, but is still learning the position. All of the backs show promise, but there are more question marks here than with any other ACC team (other than maybe Virginia Tech).
Best player - T.A. McClendon (NCSU): If he stays healthy, he's might be the best RB in the country. He has the total package of skills for a running back
Best chance to surprise – Ronnie McGill (UNC): If coach John Bunting can figure out that McGill is far and away the best runner they have, he could challenge for the league rushing title. UNC can block for a change, and McGill can really run the ball.
Toughest to bring down: T.A. McLendon – NCSU
Best pound-for-pound: Chris Barclay – WF
Best Moves: P.J. Daniels – GT
Best open field runner: Frank Gore – Miami
Most Versatile: Alvin Pearman – UVA
Due for a rebound: Frank Gore – Miami
Ready to be "The Man": Josh Allen - MD