NCF Nation: Maurice Hagens

Last week we looked at how the quarterbacks stacked up in the ACC. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the running backs. Again, the position rankings by team put heavy weight on the depth of the position -– hence the team ranking, not individual. Just because Virginia Tech has one of the best running backs in the ACC doesn’t mean that collectively, as a group, Virginia Tech is the best team in the league at the position. Florida State? Loaded. Wake Forest? Not. These are based on the best combination of talent, experience and depth.

Here’s a look at how each team ranks in the position:

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIChris Thompson averaged 6.4 yards per carry for the Seminoles last season.
1. Florida State: Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas combined for 1,862 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, and 17 touchdowns last year. Thompson had 1,000 yards combined from both rushing and receiving last year, and Thomas enters his senior season with 1,084 career yards -- the second most of any active ACC runner, behind only Montel Harris (3,600).

2. Boston College: Montel Harris could break a 33-year-old ACC rushing record this fall, and his backup, Andre Williams, is a bigger back who has proven more than capable of shouldering the load himself. Together they’re one of the best one-two combos in the league.

3. Miami: The transfer of Storm Johnson hurt, but Lamar Miller should be one of the best in the ACC, and Mike James was ahead of Johnson on the depth chart. The Canes also have Darion Hall, Maurice Hagens and incoming freshman Kevin Grooms.

4. Clemson: Andre Ellington will be the leader of the pack, but true freshman Mike Bellamy could also make an immediate impact, and the group runs deep with Roderick McDowell, D.J. Howard and Demont Buice.

5. Virginia Tech: Had Ryan Williams and Darren Evans returned, this would have been one of the premier groups of running backs in the country. Instead, it will be the David Wilson show (and Josh Oglesby). Not that the Hokies will have any problem with that.

6. Maryland: Davin Meggett and D.J. Adams are a talented duo, but depth should be a concern. Meggett posted a team-high 720 rushing yards in 2010, while Adams had a freshman school-record 11 rushing touchdowns.

7. NC State: The Wolfpack are in a much better position at running back than they were a year ago, when nobody with starting experience returned. Mustafa Greene, James Washington and Brandon Barnes should make NC State’s running game a bigger factor this fall.

8. Georgia Tech: Coach Paul Johnson isn’t concerned about his B-back position because it’s one of the deepest on the team. There isn’t one superstar like in recent years, but Richard Watson, Charles Perkins and Preston Lyons will work together to keep the Jackets one of the top rushing teams in the country.

9. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace three tailbacks who accounted for 96 percent of their rushing last year. Ryan Houston is back for his sixth season of eligibility, but he is the only one who has seen significant playing time. Giovani Bernard, Hunter Furr and Travis Riley help the depth.

10. Wake Forest: Josh Harris could crack the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy, and Brandon Pendergrass is a capable backup. There are three true freshmen at the position, and it’s one area coach Jim Grobe can’t afford any injuries.

11. Virginia: Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are talented, but the Cavaliers will miss the production of Keith Payne, who accounted for 14 of the team’s 17 rushing touchdowns. Jones started all but one game last year, but only scored one touchdown.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils’ running game is starting to show progress, but last year it still ranked 104th in the country. Depth isn’t a problem, as Desmond Scott, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson should help make it a more productive group this year.

Stay tuned for the top 10 ACC running backs for 2011 ...
Miami's running game was a strength on Saturday, and ACC fans should expect to see more of the same this fall as the Canes have one of the most talented and deepest groups of running backs in the ACC. Look for more short passes to the running backs this fall. About 3,000 fans were in attendance at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, Fla., to watch the two-hour session under first-year coach Al Golden:

Offensive highlights:
  • Five backs -- Mike James, Lamar Miller, Storm Johnson, Maurice Hagens and John Calhoun -- combined for 226 yards on 41 carries (5.5 yard per rush). James led all players with 124 total yards of offense (89 on the ground and 35 through the air) while Johnson and Miller finished with 94 and 67 total yards respectively.
  • Jacory Harris completed 14 of 21 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown.
  • Stephen Morris completed 7 of 13 passes for 93 yards and one touchdown.
  • Travis Benjamin had four catches for 49 yards and two carries for 26 yards.
Defensive highlights:
  • Senior linebacker Jordan Futch led the defense with nine total tackles and two sacks.
  • Sean Spence had eight tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks.
  • Junior defensive end Adewale Ojomo had the best day of any of the linemen with six tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks.
  • In the secondary, Vaughn Telemaque led the way with seven tackles and a pass deflection.
  • Travis Williams had seven tackles, two for loss, and one sack.
Quotable: "We have talent there; we have to find ways to get them the ball," Golden said of his running backs. "We have [offensive coordinator] Jedd [Fisch], who is really coaching the heck out of them and using them, and having the quarterbacks see them and know that they're part of the progression because it's easy yards. Obviously it's our job as coaches to put our best players in position to make plays and I think they did that today. ... Michael James is a really good football player ... I'm excited about him."

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