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Monday, July 27, 2009
Who's the best back in the ACC?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There's one pressing question here nobody seems to be able to agree upon an answer to: Who is the best running back in the ACC? The two front-runners -- Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer and Clemson's C.J. Spiller -- both happen to be here, and both of them are drawing equal praise from their opponents throughout the league.

 
  Chris Gardner/Getty Images
  C.J. Spiller said that he doesn't want the workload on his shoulders alone.

Spiller has gotten a lot of the attention because of the grassroots Heisman campaign that's sprung up on his behalf, featuring a life-size poster of the school record-holder. And it hasn't seemed to affect his competition much. In fact, everyone seems to agree he deserves it.

"I think it's pretty cool for him," said Georgia Tech rushing leader Jonathan Dwyer. "I wish him the best of luck and hopefully he can represent the ACC. I think the poster is pretty cool. Maybe I'll get him to sign one for my brother or something."

(Dwyer, by the way, insists his little bro is even better than he is.)

"To be honest, they both deserve the credit," said NC State running back Jamelle Eugene. "Spiller is a great running back and Dwyer -- if I had to choose one of the best running backs in the country he'd be amongst them. They're both deserving of all the credit they're getting, and all the accolades. They've earned it, they've put in the work and it shows on paper. Good guys don't always get noticed in the stat sheet. They did."

Spiller will no doubt be the focus of the Tigers' offense this fall, but guess what? He doesn't want to do it by himself. That's a completely different attitude from a player like Graig Cooper, who has already said he wants to be Miami's next 1,000-yard rusher.

"I already told them I don't really want to carry the load by myself," Spiller said of a conversation he had with the Tigers' younger backs. "I'm going to need their help to make our team successful. They understand that, and they took that to heart and worked hard in the offseason."

 
  Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  Jonathan Dwyer led the ACC in rushing last season with 1,395 yards.

Me: You mean that? You really don't want to do it all by yourself?

"I mean it," he said. "I want all my other teammates helping me win the game."

It will be a group effort for most of the teams throughout the ACC, as the running back position is deep. Spiller and Dwyer are hardly the only talented backs in the conference this year. In fact, Dwyer gave votes of confidence to Eugene, Virginia Tech's Darren Evans and a surprise rookie.

"I think the most surprising back is going to be Jermaine Thomas at FSU," Dwyer said. "I saw a spark when he played against us. He's a fast guy, he can make some big plays. With Jimbo Fisher's offense, you never know what he's going to do."

Nor do we know yet how the carries will be divided in loaded backfields such as Georgia Tech's, Miami's and Virginia Tech's. Which is why Spiller -- who so far has proved to be the most accomplished and versatile of the backs -- seemed like the obvious front-runner to put up the most dazzling numbers this fall. Apparently, though, he'll need a little help.