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ACC Football: Ranking the Running Backs Through Week 3

David SolarCorrespondent IOctober 10, 2016

ACC Football: Ranking the Running Backs Through Week 3

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Sadly, Saturday's match-up between Boston College and Virginia Tech has lost some of its luster. Before the season, Virginia Tech was a nationally ranked powerhouse vying for a BCS bowl. Three weeks in? Nobody knows what to expect from this Hokie team.

     

    The game was supposed to be a duel of top running backs. After all, Ryan Williams and Montel Harris combined to run for over 3100 yards last season. This year however, things are different. Montel Harris has run for 195 yards in two games, but that yardage has come on a piddling 4.1 yards per carry.

     

    Ryan Williams? His story is even more unfortunate. After being stopped in his tracks against Boise State, Williams turned in a pedestrian effort in a shocking loss to James Madison and had only eight yards on six carries before injuring his hamstring against East Carolina.

     

    As these former titans prove to be mortal, the question rises: which running back will ascend to the top of the rankings? With nine out of twelve starting running backs averaging better than six yards per carry, it's not such an easy decision.

12. Ryan Williams: Virginia Tech

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    Oh how the mighty have fallen. His first season, Ryan Williams was extraordinary. With 1655 yards and 21 touchdowns, he was an easy choice for freshman of the year, and could have won the ACC's player of the year trophy.

     

    Coming back as a sophomore, expectations were astronomical. Could Williams top his previous production and enter the Heisman conversation? Could he improve his draft stock and become a future first round draft pick? Could he lead VT to an ACC title? Unfortunately, all of those questions have been answered -- in the negative.

     

    Before injuring his hamstring against East Carolina, Williams was already floundering. He had managed only 40 yards on 20 carries in an opening day loss to Boise State. He had failed to crack the century mark in a loss to James Madison, whose most impressive accomplishment up to that point had been drafting the bill of rights.

     

    After Williams struggled for eight yards on six carries, his yards per carry sat at a paltry 3.0. That's lower than his GPA. Hell, it might be lower than Gary Busey's BAC. Williams is a question mark for Saturday's match-up against Boston College. If he is unable to go, Darren Evans and David Wilson will split the workload. From pre-season player of the year favorite to worst ranked back...it's just been that kind of year in Blacksburg.

11. Josh Harris: Wake Forest

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    If the Wake Forest offense accounts for nearly 300 yards per game through the ground, how can their running back have such a low ranking? The Demon Deacons have a plethora of weapons, including two mobile quarterbacks.

     

    The tandem of Tanner Price and Ted Stachitas gained 283 yards through the ground, making Harris more of an afterthought in the offense. In fact, despite a reasonable 5.8 yards per carry (which is seriously helped by a 46 yard run), Harris averaged only 46 rushing yards per game.

     

    As for his receiving skills? This guy has been held without a reception through three games. Will Harris become a more significant cog in this Demon Deacon offense? Perhaps Saturday's match-up with the Seminoles will tell us more.

10. Mustafa Greene: NC State

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    This is a passing team, plain and simple. Russell Wilson has been marvelous through three games, emerging as a dark-horse Heisman candidate. His running back has turned in a far more mundane performance.

     

    In three wins, Greene has rushed for only 174 yards on a very vanilla 4.4 yards per carry. As the season progresses and teams start playing more nickel and dime packages to contain Wilson, Mustafa will need to step up.

     

    This upstart Wolf Pack team has BCS aspirations, and Greene's ability to offer another dimension to the offense will be integral in their success. He's only a freshman, and his performance has been improving.  If NC State wants to win the ACC though, Greene will have to play well beyond his years.

9. Johnny White: North Carolina

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    When starting running back Ryan Houston found himself amongst seventeen other suspended players, the starting running back gig was wide open. Enter Johnny White, a senior with 21 carries over the last two seasons.

     

    After showing signs of rust against a tough LSU defense, White exploded for 113 yards against a reputable Georgia Tech defense. While Ryan Houston and the rest of the Tar Heels await word on their eligibility from the NCAA, J-Dubs seems to have the starting gig locked down.

     

    A big game against Rutgers this weekend could ensure White keeps the job.

8. Damien Berry: Miami

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    It's really a shame that a player the quality of Berry is so far down on the list. After all, the stats are all impressive. 70 yards per game. 6.3 yards per carry. A top 25 ranking. Unfortunately, the ACC is loaded at the running back position, even if the conference is struggling on the whole.

     

    In a loss to Ohio State, Berry was the sole ray of sunshine on an otherwise cloudy day. The senior from Florida accounted for 109 total yards, including 16 rushes for 94 yards.

     

    While Berry may be a product of the talent that surrounds him, DB certainly has the talent to put up big numbers this season. Can Berry duplicate his performance against the Buckeyes tonight in Pittsburgh? My money says no, but you'll have to tune in to find out.

7. Davin Meggett: Maryland

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    The son of former NFL standout Dave Meggett, Davin is a chip off the old block. No he's never tried to solicit sex from an undercover police officer or sexually assaulted a prostitute, be he is a top-notch running back.

     

    The 5'9 bowling ball has been used intermittently this season, but has been effective in this limited capacity. Despite only 25 carries, Meggett has run for nearly 200 yards on the season.

     

    In fact, his 7.4 yards per carry ties for 2nd amongst starting running backs. Can Meggett shoulder the full load, or is he more of a change or pace back like his father? We'll have to wait to find out, as Maryland takes on perpetual whipping post Florida International.

6. Anthony Allen: Georgia Tech

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    It's too bad you can't rank Joshua Nesbitt on this list. Despite his listed position of quarterback, he's only completed all of nine passes this season. On the flip side, Nesbitt has carried the ball 57 times for 267 yards -- good for second in the conference.

     

    Unfortunately, this is a list of running backs, so we're forced to put Anthony Allen on it. The 230 pound senior is the lucky recipient of Nesbitt's pitches, and currently ranks fourth in the ACC in rushing yards.

     

    Double A was a non-factor in Georgia Tech's opening week win over South Carolina, but has subsequently improved. With 89 yards against Kansas and 120 against a hurting North Carolina defense, it will be interesting to see Allen face off against a more competent defense.

     

    Luckily we don't have to wait long, as this weekend the Yellow Jackets take on a NC State team that surrenders only 85 yards per game on the ground.

5. Desmond Scott: Duke

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    The Duke offense looks to be clicking on all cylinders. Wow that feels weird to say. What's next… pigs flying? Hell freezing over? Coach Friedgen going vegetarian?

    Alongside the impressive aerial assault of Sean Renfree has been the running back tandem of Desmond Scott and Josh Snead. While both have had a strong impact, it's Scott who has truly dazzled. In three games, D-Scott has run for 238 yards on an outstanding 6.8 yards per carry.

     

    As a recruit, he chose the Blue Devils over name brands like Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee and West Virginia. The Blue Devils have been thankful ever since. This tiny running back is a big reason the Duke offense is putting up over 440 yards and 34 points per game.

     

    With quick feet, terrific acceleration and surprisingly soft hands out of the backfield, Scott is a well rounded weapon. After a back-breaking mismatch against Alabama, wait for Scott to bounce back with a strong effort against Army.

4. Ty Jones: Florida State

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    Melissa Majchrzak/Getty Images

    A week after being grounded by Oklahoma, TJ broke out against BYU. On fifteen carries, Jones gashed the Cougar defense for 95 yards and a score. Opening day against Samford? It only took Jones eight carries to pass the century mark rushing.

     

    Jones is a dynamic, big-play back as evidenced by his 8.1 yards per carry. Even crazier? Coming out of High School, the guy wasn't highly recruited even with a 1600 yard senior season.

     

    Despite being 210 pounds and running a 4.5 40, Jones wasn't looking at FBS conference schools. In fact, TJ33 originally gave a verbal commitment to Toledo of all places.

     

    Fast forward three years and Jones is a budding star at a national powerhouse. He'll have a great opportunity to pad his already impressive stats this Saturday against the swiss-cheese defense of Wake Forest.

3. Keith Payne: Virginia

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    The Payne Train is an absolute beast. A terror for opposing defenses. At 6'3 255, KP22 is one of the biggest backs in the nation. He drags opposite linebackers and steamrolls any corner that dares stand in his way.

     

    A year removed from playing, Payne has been a wrecking ball. Through two games, he has carried the ball 28 times for 171 yards and recorded a staggering five touchdowns.

     

    Virginia takes on VMI this weekend. Don't be surprised to see this Juggernaut of half backs find pay dirt more on more than one occasion. It may be undecided whether this Virginia team is for real, but Keith Payne is definitely legit.

2. Montel Harris: Boston College

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    I'll admit…the 4.1 yards per carry are a little disconcerting, especially given BC's strength of schedule thus far. However, despite Kent State's small conference status, they do boast one of the best run defenses in the country.

     

    After a home game against the Golden Flashes, I was critical of Harris. I wondered how he could carry the ball 29 times for a measly 80 yards against such an undersized defense. Then I saw Kent State play Joe Paterno and his Nittany Lions. Penn State managed only 4.1 yards per carry against this stout run defense, and Murray State totalled -65 yards rushing (props to anybody who can find a more anemic day rushing the ball).

     

    Harris will shoulder the load this Saturday against a Virginia Tech team that allows 130 rushing yards per game.

1. Andre Ellington: Clemson

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    A year removed from losing dynamic running back C.J. Spiller to the NFL, the Clemson faithful have one thought running through their minds. C.J. Spiller who?

     

    In sophomore Andre Ellington, Clemson has found yet another game changing back. Through three games, the 5'10 180 pound Ellington has carried 37 times for 273 yards; good for an impressive 7.4 yards per carry.

     

    Last week in a heartbreaking loss to Auburn, Ellington turned in a phenomenal performance carrying the ball 22 times for 140 yards and a touchdown. Hell, his first play of the season was a sixty yard touchdown run.

     

    Ellington may not be the biggest back, but his unbelievable speed and acceleration make him one sharp cut away from the end zone on every play. Clemson doesn't play this weekend, but the October 2nd match-up with Miami should be compelling.

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