In recent years, the ACC has produced some of the nation’s top running backs. It has been a position of strength and depth for the conference, but this year, the league has some big shoes to fill. The two leading rushers from 2011 – Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Miami’s Lamar Miller – decided to leave early for the NFL. Two more of the ACC’s top 10 rushers from last season – Maryland’s Davin Meggett and Wake Forest’s Brandon Pendergrass – must also be replaced. The dismissals of BC’s Montel Harris and Clemson’s Mike Bellamy were unexpected headlines this spring.
When it comes to how much rushing yardage returns in the league, nobody has more work to do than Miami, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Without Miller, the Canes return only .215 percent of last year’s rushing yardage.
Only two 1,000-yard rushers return from last season -- UNC’s Giovani Bernard and Clemson’s Andre Ellington. Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington, who had 987 rushing yards, also returns, along with UVa’s Perry Jones, who had 915.
Which running backs in the ACC will crack the 1,000-yard mark this fall?
Based on past performance and future potential, here’s a look at your top running backs for 2012:
1. Giovani Bernard, UNC: He finished second in the ACC in rushing with 1,265 yards, a 5.2 average and 13 touchdowns. He also had 45 pass receptions for 362 yards and a touchdown. His combined yardage (1,615) was the second-most by a freshman in ACC history.
2. Andre Ellington, Clemson: He rushed for 1,178 yards, a 5.3 average, and 11 touchdowns in 2011. He also had five 100-yard games, including 212 yards against Maryland.
3. Mustafa Greene, NC State. He missed all of last season with a foot injury but led the team in rushing as a freshman in 2010 with 597 yards. He’ll have an experienced offensive line to work with, as the Pack returns four of five starters up front.
4. Perry Jones, Virginia: He had three 100-yard rushing games last year, including a career-high 149 yards against Georgia Tech.