While we won’t be naive (and/or like Rick Reilly/Peter King/insert-your-own-cliched-columnist) and claim there’s some sort of pristine or pure honor in playing out your four years that other players just don’t get to experience, we’d still like to point out the senior players that are likely to stand out in 2012. These players have put in the time during their college careers, and now serve as the cornerstones of their respective teams’ potential success this season.
We’ll be going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his team, and why. Have a different thought on the matter? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
Many of the Miami Hurricanes‘ upperclassmen pulled a vanishing act this spring and reappeared at the NFL Draft. That said, you can still find senior contributors on a team likely to deal with just as many obstacles off the field as they will encounter on it. Of those, however, the arrow points to senior halfback Mike James today. Most expect the defense to be fine, and it appears there may be a bit of a quarterback controversy brewing too, in other news. That leaves the running game to guide the ship, something James appears capable of as the primary back now in his fourth season.
Though James has always received limited touches (his career-high was 83 in 2010), he’s also managed to make the most of them. Last year, it was to the tune of over 350 yards and eight total touchdowns, and the previous season saw over 450 yards and four scores. So needless to say, when given the chance, James can not only be productive on the ground, but also find the endzone. His smaller frame (5’11″) is actually assisted by his weight (222 pounds), giving him a low center of gravity. His standout game last year included a 101-yard, two-touchdown performance against Duke in a 49-14 rout.
Rather than just racking up yardage against Duke however, James will be pulling the freight in front of unproven junior back Eduardo Clements for the full season. it’s a daunting task, sure, but based on prior results, the ‘Canes could see a lot from James on consistent carries. In the five games he received seven carries or more, he was able to total 226 yards on the ground, at an average clip of 4.6 per carry. He scored five times in those games as well, showing a glimmer of proof he can be the featured guy in this offense. Now, after getting a vote of confidence from head coach Al Golden, it’s up to the normally-healthy halfback to just keep at it. With all the distractions this year, expectations are low in Coral Gables — even more reason why he should be able to surprise folks as a leader for a Miami team needing a few.
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