ACC Running Back Rankings

Here's a look at the running back rankings in the ACC, led by Pitt and their outstanding tailback James Conner.

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Here I take a look at the positional ranking of the running back position in the ACC. It's not just about the starters but the overall depth and talent of each team's position of running back and how I believe this unit will do as a whole this coming season.

1) Pitt

James Conner is one of the leading returning running backs in college football. This Panther rushed for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2014 and averaged 5.9 yards per carry. This junior is a monster at 6-foot-2, 250-pounds and looking to build on an already impressive running back resume and the 2014 ACC Offensive Player of the Year. Conner could challenge the 2,000 yard mark this season and put up Heisman Trophy like numbers once again.

As a true freshman Chris James had an impressive campaign, rushing for 437 yards, four scores and averaged five yards a carry last season. He will be counted on even more this year. Fellow freshman Qadree Ollison red-shirted in ’14 so he will be ready to go this fall. There’s also Rachid Ibrahim, who has plenty of game experience over the last two seasons. Pitt was so deep here that they moved some guys to defense. Four-star running back Darrin Hall signed with the Panthers as well.

2) Florida State

The fan in me can’t wait to see the Dalvin Cook encore in 2015. He will be one of the most explosive players in college football this coming season. Cook was one of a handful of true freshman running backs that made an enormous impact. FSU probably doesn’t make the first ever college football playoff last season without his 1,008 yards and eight scores. The only issue with Cook is ball security. He needs to do a better job in this area.

FSU has some good talent behind the speedy Cook. True freshman Jacques Patrick had a fantastic spring. He’s going to be Jimbo Fisher’s hammer with his 235-pound frame and running style. Mario Pender looked good as well and is finally ready to declare his role in the Seminole offense. Look for both Pender/Patrick to spell Cook and be kind of 2A and 2B in the rotation. There’s also Jonathan Vickers, who will likely see time at both running back and fullback.

3) N.C. State

The Wolfpack have a talented group of running backs in Raleigh. N.C. State is led by senior Shadrach Thornton. This 6-foot-1, 218-pounder rushed for 907 yards and nine touchdowns in 2014. Matt Dayes is a junior that rushed for 573 yards and eight touchdowns last season. These are two very good and underrated running backs with a ton of experience.

True freshman Reggie Gallaspy enrolled early and had an impressive spring. In their Kay Yow spring game he rushed for 131 yards. Sophomore Jaylen Samuels will get some touches as well. Two more talented backs are on their way with incoming freshman Johnny Frasier and Nyheim Hines. Even quarterback Jacoby Brissett got into the act, rushing for 529 yards and three touchdowns in 2014.

4) Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets are always such a dangerous team with their triple option ground attack. Of course this team is led by one of the most talented dual-threat quarterbacks in the country in junior Justin Thomas. After all, their rushing attack begins with him. Last season Thomas rushed for a team high 1,086 yards and eight scores.

While Thomas is back Georgia Tech must replace their next four leading rushers which totaled 2,511 yards on the ground in 2014. But I wouldn’t worry too much, as Paul Johnson always recruits very good versatile athletes that are directly suited to play in his scheme. The B-back position will get touches from C.J. Leggett and Quiade Weimerskirch while the A-back position will be manned by players like Broderick Snoddy, Dennis Andrews, Qua Searcy, Clinton Lynch and others. Snoddy was ready to breakout last season and then broke his leg.

5) Louisville

Running back is a position of strength and depth for Bobby Petrino and his offense at Louisville. The Cardinals are led by junior Brandon Radcliff. He showed he was even better this spring and is coming off a very productive 737 yards and 12 scores in 2014. Northwestern transfer Malin Jones had a nice spring as did both L.J. Scott and incoming junior college transfer Jeremy Smith.

This is a talented group with more reinforcements on the way like true freshman James Allen (if he qualifies), Trey Smith and Traveon Samuel.

6) North Carolina

Larry Fedora has a nice backfield set up for this fall. T.J. Logan and Elijah Hood should be a terrific tandem in Chapel Hill. Logan, a junior, was the team’s second leading rusher behind quarterback Marquise Williams. He finished with 582 yards and three scores. Logan is also a key component in the passing game. Hood was a true freshman that totaled 259 yards and four touchdowns in 2014. He should be much more involved this year.

There are two other veteran running backs at North Carolina in senior Romar Morris and junior Khris Francis. Morris rushed for 278 yards and four touchdowns last season. Four-star running back Ty’son Williams enrolled early and looked very good this spring for UNC. Expect this true freshman to see action this fall. Of course, North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams rushed for 788 and 13 scores.

7) Clemson

Wayne Gallman would be the starter today. This sophomore was the team’s leading rusher in 2014 with 769 yards and four touchdowns. But he’s getting pushed and pushed hard by a number of guys behind him in junior Zach Brooks, sophomore Tyshon Dye, senior C.J. Davidson, and red-shirt freshman C.J. Fuller. Sophomore Adam Choice will rejoin the team this fall and then you also have incoming freshman Ray Ray McCloud, who was one of the most explosive recruits in the 2015 class. McCloud is a likely receiver that should get some touches in the run game.

8) Miami

One of the tailbacks that could star in 2015 is Joseph Yearby for the Hurricanes. He had a good true freshman season last year, rushing for 509 yards and a touchdown. He’s battling Gus Edwards for the top spot as Miami tries to replace Duke Johnson, who has moved on to the NFL. Yearby is a quick and speedy back while Edwards is a 230-pound north-south runner. The two should both get extensive action and touches this season in Al Golden’s offense in Coral Gables.

Trayone Gray was recruited to play wide receiver at Miami but now this sophomore is getting a look at running back. Then you have the athletic Walter Tucker. He’s a speedy 226-pound junior fullback that should get some carries as well. Of course Miami signed one of the top running backs in the 2015 class from the Sunshine State in local prospect Mark Walton. He’s certainly good enough to sneak into the rotation this fall and could see extensive action.

9) Boston College

Sophomore Jon Hillman will be counted on to have a big 2015 season considering Boston College will be breaking in a brand new quarterback. There’s pressure to post bigger numbers than his 712 rushing yards and a dozen scores in 2014. Hillman was so impressive for the Eagles he made third team All-ACC honors.

Junior Myles Willis rushed for 459 yards and two scores last year. Sophomore Marcus Outlow and junior Tyler Rouse rushed for 243 and 214 yards respectively. Boston College landed two running backs in their 2015 class in Jordan Gowins and Sharrief Grice.

10) Duke

Senior Shaquille Powell and sophomore Shaun Wilson are both back for David Cutcliffe and his Blue Devils. They return as Duke’s leading rushers in 2015. Powell rushed for 618 yards and two touchdowns. He also caught 18 passes for one score. Wilson, a true freshman in 2014, rushed for 598 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 18 passes for one score.

Looking for more touches in 2015 will be red-shirt sophomore Joseph Ajeigbe. This 210-pounder only had 41 carries last season. Of course Jela Duncan is back from academic suspension. He should make an impact in the Duke passing game.

11) Virginia Tech

The Hokies backfield was like a MASH unit in 2014, with running backs Trey Edmunds, Marshawn Williams, Shai McKenzie, and Sam Rogers all suffering serious injuries leaving Virginia Tech with J.C. Coleman and Joel Caleb. Coleman finished as the team’s leading rusher with 533 yards and three scores.

Coleman is back and Edmunds was healthy again the spring. Williams should be ready to go this fall while there’s a chance McKenzie could be back as well. Travon McMillian and D.J. Reid red-shirted last year. Reid is a nice looking 232-pounder. Of course the Hokies have incoming freshman help on the way as well with DeShawn McClease and Coleman Fox.

12) Virginia

The Cavaliers have to find a way to replace about 1,100 yards of production with both Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd now both gone. Fortunately for Virignia Taquan Mizzell returns. This former five-star is one of Mike London’s top signees since he has been in Charlottesville but he’s not quite lived up to the hype. They are hoping that a bigger and more mature Mizzell in 2015 translate into a monster season for him on the ground. Last season he only rushed for 280 yards and two scores. He did catch 39 passes though.

There is not much experience behind him in the rotation. Sophomore Daniel Hamm is a former walk-on. There’s also junior LaChaston Smith and red-shirt freshman Jordan Ellis. Virginia has an incoming freshman in running back Olamide Zaccheaus.

13) Syracuse

It should be a running back by committee this season for the Orange with DeVante McFarlane getting most of the carries. George Morris and H-back Ervin Phillips will also get their share of touches. Seniors McFarlane and Morris should see the most action unless there’s a breakthrough from one of the younger backs. Both backs have seen plenty of playing time while at Syracuse but neither have much of an extensive workload in terms of running the ball. The two have combined for almost 900 rushing yards and two scores over their careers. Dontae Strickland, Jordan Fredericks, and Tyrone Perkins are incoming freshmen for the Orange.

14) Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons are a little thin at the running back position. Sophomores Isaiah Robinson and Dezmond Wortham return to Wake Forest. They rushed for 175 and 240 yards respectively in 2014. Robinson also added three touchdowns. There are a trio of incoming running backs that could all push for playing time depending on how well they transition in Rocky Reid, Tyler Bell and Matt Colburn.

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