As part of our 2012 season review, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this season, from no. 25 to no. 1. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof, obviously — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Giovani Bernard was not the conference’s leader in all-purpose yards. He missed out on that honor by about 80 to Miami‘s Duke Johnson. But considering he played in two less games than Johnson, and yet still managed 1,981 yards (198.1 per game), I’d say Bernard’s still pretty pleased with his accomplishment.
Slated to be among the ACC’s best running backs — if not the outright best — in 2012, it’s no surprise that the UNC sophomore was able to perform well. And while his two- (nearly three-) week hiatus due to injury may have glossed over his success early on this past season, his presence was realized by everyone by the time his record-setting performance (23 carries, 262 rushing yards) against Virginia Tech wrapped up on October 6. Bernard was a one-man wrecking crew from the get-go though; the problem was his team was playing too well to keep him on the field. In three of his first four contests, he averaged 10 or more yards per carry (including 35 per carry on just two touches against Idaho). And in a season full of bright spots (four games of 140 or more yards rushing, six games of two or more scores from scrimmage), perhaps none sticks out more than the effort he put together against NC State: 304 all-purpose yards (182 of which were in the fourth quarter) and three score, plus this game-winning punt return for a touchdown that was among the best things I saw in college football last year.
Next year, he’s headed to the NFL, but that won’t allow us to forget what a truly impressive 2012 Bernard put together.