ACC Power Rankings: Top 12 Running Backs of 2010
C.J. Spiller was the headliner of the ACC last season.
While he ultimately lost out on a conference trophy and a chance to be a Heisman finalist, there are plenty of strong running backs this season who look to take up where Spiller left off.
While other conferences criticize the ACC, no one can deny that they have some of the most explosive running games in the country. The size, the depth and the elusiveness could help lead to a resurgence in national respect for this conference and its teams.
So, without further ado, let's rank the top running backs in the ACC next season. The players who can simply take over a game and carry their team to victory.
Let the debate begin.
12. Davin Meggett (Maryland)
It never hurts when you have talent in your DNA.
Davin Meggett is the son of Dave Meggett, an NFL running back who amassed over 14,000 total yards for his career with a number of professional teams.
Davin Meggett started the season on the bench, but when he was the next man up, he took advantage.
Meggett is a versatile back who can catch passes as well as run behind his blockers. He is short but that only seems to help with his elusiveness.
Last year, Meggett found the endzone seven times despite having fewer than 120 touches for the season.
The truth is that he probably could start at many other Division-I schools, but he simply waits his turn and his patience could pay off in 2010.
With a new quarterback under center, expect the Terrapins to run often next season and if Da'rel Scott is not fully healed by that point, you can expect Meggett to battle fiercely for the starting spot.
Meggett may not be the pure athlete of others on this list, nor does he have the physical strength to bully people over. What he does have though is persistence, like a gnat he sticks around on offense and eventually wears people out with his moves.
When you forget about Meggett, that's about the time you will see him heading into the endzone.
11. Andre Ellington (Clemson)
It's never an easy job replacing a great player like C.J. Spiller, but someone has to do it.
Stepping into that void for the Clemson Tigers will be Andre Ellington,a rising sophomore who impressed as a back-up when he ran for 491 yards on just 68 attempts.
Despite the numbers, Ellington had the advantage of taking on a defense already softened up by Spiller. Who knew that when defenses thought they were getting a break they were simply being fooled by an emerging talent.
Ellington has several things in his favor heading into 2010. He has an emerging quarterback who can carry an offense, he has an experienced offensive line who is only losing one starter, and some decent wide receivers that will garner the attention of the secondary and linebackers.
In truth, Ellington could breakout in 2010 but he will have to earn it. Can he sustain success throughout the course of the game? Will he be able to handle the increased workload?
These are questions that need answers and those responses could very well determine the course of the season for the Tigers.
10. Anthony Allen (Georgia Tech)
Bye, bye Jonathan Dwyer.
Paul Johnson knows how to run his triple option offense but now he will need a new running back to help keep it moving alongside senior quarterback Josh Nesbitt,
The most likely candidate appears to be Louisville transfer Anthony Allen. Allen may be battling Roddy Jones for playing time, but experience clearly is in his favor.
The former Cardinal racked up over 1,000 yards and 20 touchdowns his first two years in the Big East before a big junior season where he rushed for 618 yards and six touchdowns on just 64 carries.
Let's face it, someone is bound to rack up numbers in Johnson's offense and the explosive speed of Allen makes him the primary candidate to reap those dividends.
Allen's two biggest games last season came in critical matches. The first was a 127-yard performance against rival Clemson, the second was a 103-yard, two touchdown game against Virginia.
While the Cavaliers may have finished near the bottom of the ACC, Allen's performance gave the Jackets their first win in Charlottesville since 1990.
Expect Allen to continue handing misery to his opponents in 2010.
9. Ryan Houston (North Carolina)
In football, it's not always how many times you get the ball, but what you do with it.
Ryan Houston knows a thing or two about that. The short-yardage back is relied upon to finish off drives in the endzone and that's exactly what he did last season.
Houston finished the 2009 season with 713 yards and nine touchdowns, but the impressive thing is that he did that with less than 200 carries. Despite splitting time with Shaun Draughn, Houston was 10th in the conference in rushing yards and sixth in rushing touchdowns.
Houston has been working hard to improve his entire game. The bruising back has improved his speed and that hard work has resulted in his most productive season by far. In 2009, he had as many touchdowns and more yards than his first two seasons combined.
Houston's biggest game though came in a contest where he never found the endzone. Against rival Duke, Houston touched the ball 40 times on rushes and receptions for 179 yards in a big win to avoid a letdown after beating Virginia Tech the week before.
The big man enters his senior year with a strong work ethic and a talented team that is desperate to make a move in the ACC next season. Houston knows how to have a big performance, as he scored multiple touchdowns in four games.
When you remember just how beat up the line was for North Carolina, that becomes even more impressive.
If Houston continues to improve and becomes a consistent scorer, then we might be hearing his name well after his days as a Tar Heel are over.
8. Josh Adams (Wake Forest)
Opportunity knocks for Mr. Adams this season.
Despite only 113 attempts last season, Josh Adams is poised for a breakout season in 2010.
Well, first off, quarterback Riley Skinner is gone and the inexperience under center will force Wake Forest into being a running team.
Second, Adams is the most experienced option. The 2007 ACC Rookie of the Year had a sophomore season derailed by injuries but his improving health gives the Demon Deacons a strong candidate to carry the team back to form in 2010.
Adams does have competition with Brandon Pendergrass but he also has 20 career touchdowns and nearly 2,000 career yards to his credit.
Given an opportunity, the senior will not disappoint.
7. Shaun Draughn (North Carolina)
Being the son of two ministers, you better believe that Tar Heel running back Shaun Draughn knows a thing or two about keeping the faith.
He started his career at Chapel Hill in the defensive backfield but found his niche as tailback for coach Butch Davis.
Draughn did not start at the running back position until halfway through his sophomore season and yet finished the year with the sixth best rushing total in the ACC. Even more impressive, it was the best single season rushing total for a North Carolina Tar Heel in over a decade.
Draughn is an elusive and speedy back, someone who racks up the yards and moves the ball down the field. Although Coach Davis kept him off the goal line last season, he still had the ninth best rushing total in the ACC.
What is more impressive, Draughn made the top 10 with by far the fewest amount of carries. The second lowest total of carries by an ACC player in the top 10 was Toney Baker of North Carolina State, who still had nearly 40 more attempts than Draughn.
Clearly, Draughn knows how to make the most of a situation.
Despite splitting time in the backfield, Draughn's ability to make defenders miss makes him a nightmare for coordinators. With a healthy offensive line in 2010, Draughn should be able to help ease the burden off of embattled quarterback T.J. Yates.
6. Damien Berry (Miami)
Running backs often have to work their way up the depth chart.
Damien Berry got his playing time the old-fashioned way, he earned it.
Graig Cooper began the season as the starter for the Hurricanes, but Berry took advantage of his opportunities and enters 2010 as the best running back on the roster.
Berry finished last season with 616 yards and eight touchdowns, despite not playing in the first four games of the season.
When he did find the field, he scored at least one touchdown in his first seven games. That's not a bad way to start a career.
Berry's position is helped by the fact that Cooper is recovering from an injury he sustained during Miami's bowl game against Wisconsin. His back-up Lee Chambers is also out of spring practice with an injury.
This means the rising senior, who started his collegiate career as a defensive back, appears to be the unquestioned tailback of the team and should help Jacory Harris build upon a comeback season for the Hurricanes.
Look out for Berry, as his strength and speed make him a big time threat next season.
5. Jermaine Thomas (Florida State)
Considering the publicity for Christian Ponder and the bemoaning of a porous Seminole defense, lost in the shuffle was a spectacular season by Jermaine Thomas.
Although he had to fight for carries, Thomas proved that when given opportunities he can be a premiere back in the ACC.
Consider the fact that in the four games Thomas got 20 or more carries, he rushed for over 100 yards in each game and racked up a combined six touchdowns.
Indeed, when quarterback Christian Ponder was sidelined with an injury, Thomas was the sophomore who had to carry the team and he did not disappoint.
Considering that the Seminoles are returning their entire two-deep offensive line for next season, these young kids will have the experience to step up and help both Ponder and Thomas reach the next level in 2010.
For Thomas, the main problem will be continuing to prove to people that he deserves the rock. With all the play-makers on offense and a great recruiting class coming in, Florida State will look to spread the wealth.
The pressure will be on to perform early, otherwise Thomas may continue to be searching for his first 1,000-yard season.
4. Da'Rel Scott (Maryland)
A running back knows better than anyone just how brief a football career can be.
All of the top running backs have to deal with injuries and even the brightest prospects heading into the season can quickly be derailed by broken bones.
Da'Rel Scott appeared to be on his way to backing up an impressive sophomore campaign where he ran for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns.
Through the first three games, Scott had three touchdowns and 275 yards. However, injuries began to take their toll and before you knew it, five games passed without Scott playing a single down.
When he returned for the final two games of the season, the speedy running back slowly came back into form.
However, despite the junior letdown, Scott is prepared to make his senior season a memorable one.
He, like the Maryland Terrapins, have failed to live up to expectations as of late. However, opportunity appears to be knocking.
Considering that Terrapin quarterback Chris Turner is now graduated, Maryland will be turning into a run-first team. Turner's heir apparent, the mobile Jamarr Robinson, can distract defenses so much that Scott can take advantage.
Scott's biggest problem heading into 2010 is not his health but his competition. Davin Meggett, son of NFL running back Dave Meggett, is a good complementary back, running for 338 yards and 6 touchdowns as the back-up for Scott.
Both of them are talented backs and both should see action but the experience and the hunger of Scott will lead to good things for him next season.
Scott is a small guy but he can make a big impact with his speed and his elusiveness. If he can raise his game, Maryland may be able to return to a bowl game and turn down the heat on coach Ralph Friedgen's seat.
3. Darren Evans (Virginia Tech)
Given what happened last year, it may be easy to forget that the starter for Virginia Tech heading into 2009 was Darren Evans.
Don't worry, he will make sure you remember his name in 2010.
After a season-ending injury cost him the spotlight, Evans looks to return to form as the freshman that ran for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns. Only six freshmen in ACC history have ever surpassed 1,000 yards in a season when he achieved the feat.
Evans turned a corner later in 2008, his breakout performance coming against Maryland where he rushed for 253 yards and a touchdown. The mark was a single-game record in school history and helped solidify Evans as the back of the future.
He then ended the season with two big 100-yard performances against Boston College in the ACC Championship and Cincinnati in the FedEx Orange Bowl, earning him MVP honors in the first ever BCS game victory for Virginia Tech.
Evans is a punishing back and someone who knows how to find the endzone. In fact, he scored eight touchdowns in the first six games of his career. Expect him to get some goal line carries in 2010 and continue to bolster one of the deepest running games in the ACC if not the country.
2. Montel Harris (Boston College)
With all the flashy running back names like C.J. Spiller, Jonathan Dwyer and Ryan Williams, it may be easy to forget about Boston College's Montel Harris.
However, Harris proved last season he may be the most valuable running back in the entire conference.
While the other big names had a superior supporting cast around him, Montel Harris was alongside a freshman quarterback in Dave Shinskie and a team who was expected to battle for the cellar by season's end.
Harris responded with 1,457 rushing yards, the second most of any player in the ACC and backed it up with 14 rushing touchdowns, third best in the conference.
Week after week, opponents would gameplan to shut down the sophomore and every time they found disappointment. The central performer on offense continued to do just that, perform.
In the Eagles big victory over Florida State, Harris had 179 yards on only 25 carries for two touchdowns. Two weeks later, he had the best game of his career against Atlantic rival North Carolina State. Not only did he rush for an astounding 264 yards but he scored five touchdowns.
In fact, Harris is currently riding a five-game streak of rushing for over 100 yards and looks to keep it going in 2010.
Considering the returning experience, the Eagles could soar next season. If so, expect Harris to continue to improve and prove to everyone that he should be a household name.
Harris has some nifty moves and defensive players will be seeing a steady diet of him throughout the season. Too bad that most of the time their only view of Harris will be as he speeds towards the endzone.
1. Ryan Williams (Virginia Tech)
So remember when everyone wrote off the Hokies last season following the season-ending injury to Darren Evans?
Someone forgot to tell Ryan Williams.
People knew that the freshman was going to be a good running back, but most had to be surprised just how quickly he was able to take over the ACC.
Behind a strong offensive line, Williams was able to cut through defenses and use his strength to bully his way into the endzone 21 times. In the process, he not only broke the school record books for freshmen but helped solidify another big season for the Hokies as they claimed victory over Tennessee in the Chick-fil-a Bowl.
That's right, even defensive guru Monte Kiffin, a coordinator who shut down Florida quarterback TIm Tebow and kept Alabama running back Mark Ingram out of the endzone could only watch in disgust as Williams found pay dirt twice while rushing for 124 yards.
The 1,655 yards was the most of any ACC running back last season and earned him All-ACC honors. Bad news for opponents, he shows no signs of stopping in 2010.
Although Virginia Tech may have a loaded backfield heading into next season, Williams will still see plenty of action on the field and you can bet he will make the most of those opportunities again. His play and his toughness could cement his legacy as one of the top Hokie running backs ever.