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.

Continue reading

About these ads

ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Logan Thomas is the Obvious Focal Point of a Turnaround for Virginia Tech This Year

Logan Thomas is the Obvious Focal Point of a Turnaround for Virginia Tech This Year

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

Spring Practice Start Date: March 27

Spring Game Date: April 20

Following last year’s disappointing campaign, Virginia Tech’s spring is all about diagnosing issues. From the futile offensive attack, to a defense that certainly needs some course correction, Tech’s coaches have been diving into what went so wrong in 2012 — and how to fix those problems (at least in part) over the course of the next month. And while those calling for long-time coach Frank Beamer’s job may be a bit off-base right now, it’s likely that the 2013 season is a key point in the narrative of his career; be it a positive upswing after one lackluster year, or the start of a steady downfall.

Offensively, Virginia Tech struggled mightily in 2012, and there’s no one trouble spot there either. Behind an inexperienced line, Logan Thomas and his very green backfield repeatedly failed to find success, and never truly adjusted as the year wore on. With more experience all across the board, the test this spring will be to see just how much everyone learned. While Thomas should certainly be held accountable for his errors as the team’s leader, it must also be acknowledged that far too much was expected of him week-in and week-out, causing him to over-compensate. Newly installed offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler must understand both sides of this coin from the beginning, and stress additional accountability. Beyond Thomas, that means stark improvement across the line, and a more effective running game. At least at the onset, J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory and Michael Holmes should be handling the bulk of the carries, and hopefully one or two emerge as a better runner than he has been in the past.

Continue reading

ACC 2012 Season Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas Looks to Be the Difference-Maker for a Team Lacking Offensive Experience

Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

2011 W-L: 11-3 (7-1)

Head Coach: Frank Beamer (209-98-2; 26th season)

Returning Starters: 12 (3 Offense, 9 Defense)

An eighth straight 10-win season is rarely a disappointment, regardless of your team or conference. Of course, you’d also assume this string was part of a larger resume of success in that time frame. If you’re Virginia Tech, this is not the case, unfortunately. Sure, they’ve collected four ACC championships, but that’s not what we remember. Instead, they’re seen as the team that’s gone 1-4 in BCS games in that stretch, and one that has a knack for losing big games. True or not, they’re now battling perception. And only a huge postseason win is going to get them a victory in that conversation.

The Virginia Tech offense will be in transition this season, but it won’t reduce the stress on junior signal-caller Logan Thomas. Over the offseason, he lost his running back to the NFL Draft, four-fifths of his offensive line and his top two wide receivers. But if his steady improvement last year is any indicator, he’s more than capable of overcoming those numerous obstacles. An imposing 6’6″ and 260 pounds, he’ll again be hard to stop as a runner, and his passing ability just continues to get better. If the revamped offensive line cooperates (never a sure thing), he’ll need to quickly develop rapports with his new primary targets. D.J. Coles has plenty of experience, and appears ready to jump into a new, expanded role in the passing game. But there’s still question marks around Dyrell Roberts. Throughout his Tech career, he’s never really “made the jump,” so to speak, so there’s questions as to whether the fifth-year senior can finally make it happen. He’ll be given plenty of chances, so it’s up to him to make it happen.

Continue reading