ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC's Running Backs for the 2013 Season

Devonta Freeman and Florida State Headline the ACC’s Running Backs for the 2013 Season

While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the running backs (you can check out last week’s feature on quarterbacks, too). Though there’s not a whole lot of experience at the position — just one returning back (Syracuse’s Jerome Smith) rushed for 1,000 yards last year — this group makes up for a lot of that in potential. Many of the most talented runners this year will be sophomores or juniors, so that aforementioned experience will come with time. As for those who are seniors, many possess a significant leg-up, which you’ll find reflected here as well.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Running Backs

1. Florida State Seminoles: Injuries ravaged the Florida State backfield in 2012. But because of that, the team’s top two returning rushers, Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., actually have quite a bit of experience under their respective belts (221 carries between them last year). They’re both vertical runners for the most part, doing most of their work in the middle of the line, but Wilder, in particular, also has some pass-catching ability out of the backfield (19 catches for 136 yards and two scores last year). Expect that role to expand this year, while also incorporating Mario Pender, who’s the quickest back on the roster and anxious to contribute after red-shirting last season.

2. Miami Hurricanes: Miami’s ranking here is purely on the strength of sophomore Duke Johnson, and his success is likely to decide how far the ‘Canes go this season. Despite splitting carries with Mike James last year, Johnson still ran for 947 yards and 10 scores, while tacking on another 1,133 yards from receiving and kick returns. With that on his resume in just one season, he’s now being listed among the most dynamic players in the country and will be the focal point of every gameplan against Miami. He won’t be acting alone in the backfield, but there’s no telling what to expect from backups Dallas Crawford or Eduardo Clements either.

3. Syracuse Orange: SU’s offense was largely seen as a pass-first attack in 2012, but its success in the season’s second half was heavily reliant on the running game. The Orange bring back everybody this year, and arguably have one of the deepest backfields in the country. The group will be guided by Jerome Smith (1,171 yards last year), but this will be a multi-back, run-first system. Expect Prince-Tyson Gulley to approach the 200-carry mark as well, while the team gets additional contributions from short-yardage specialist Adonis Ameen-Moore and jack-of-all-trades Ashton Broyld in hybrid WR/RB slot role.

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ACC 2012 Spring Practice Expectations: Florida State Seminoles

The Road to a National Championship Starts in Spring for E.J. Manuel and Florida State

As spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing what needs to happen for the teams and players of the ACC, culminating with notes on all 14 spring games.

Today’s featured team: Florida State Seminoles

At 9-4, the Seminoles’ 2011 season was mostly considered a failure. That just goes to show how high expectations really were down in Tallahassee last year. Starting their season as a top-10 team, their precipitous drop and subsequent rally mostly cancel each other out to be lukewarm. Hope and title dreams return in 2012 though, especially after hauling in what many have called the top recruiting class in the country. Most importantly, they’ll bring back a healthy E.J. Manuel, who could very well stick around the Heisman race for an extended period of time should FSU climb the polls. Any extended stay in the country’s top tier will be directly attributable to the rising-senior quarterback, and undisputed team leader.  But not without a running game. As much as Manuel struggled for consistency last season, the running game fared far worse. On very limited carries, Devonta Freeman had just two 100-yard games, and the team failed to top 1,500 yards on the ground for their entire season. Freeman will likely get a chance to at increased carries this spring, but a rejuvenated Chris Thompson and incoming freshman Mario Pender will be lurking. Continue reading

National Signing Day 2012: Top 15 ACC Recruits

Top-Ranked Recruit, DE Mario Edwards, Chose Florida State on National Signing Day

National Signing Day was an eventful one for the ACC, which took home several of the country’s top recruits, and placed three teams in the top 10 of ESPN’s class rankings. We’ll start our recap of the day by first looking at the top players to commit to ACC schools. For consistency’s sake, we’re going off ESPN/Scout’s rankings.

Top 15 ACC Recruits

1. Mario Edwards, DE/Florida State (No. 1 overall, Grade: 90)

2. Eddie Goldman, DT/Florida State (No. 10 overall, Grade: 85)

3. Jameis Winston, QB/Florida State (No. 14 overall, Grade: 84)

4. Travis Blanks, S/Clemson (No. 15 overall, Grade: 84)

5. Tracy Howard, CB/Miami (FL) (No. 18 overall, Grade: 83)

6. Rushell Shell, RB/Pittsburgh (No. 26 overall, Grade: 83)

7. Randy Johnson, ATH/Miami (FL) (No. 35 overall, Grade: 82)

8. Ronald Darby, CB/Florida State (No. 38 overall, Grade: 82)

9. Angelo Jean-Louis, WR/Miami (FL) (No. 41 overall, Grade: 82)

10. Mario Pender, RB/Florida State (No. 72 overall, Grade; 81) Continue reading