Preview 2010 - ACC Running Back Rankings
Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams
Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams
Posted May 24, 2010

Preview 2010 - Ranking the Top 12 ACC Running Backs

Preview 2010 - ACC

Ten Best Running Backs

- ACC Skill Position Rankings
Quarterbacks | Running Backs | Receivers | Tight Ends | Kickers   

1. Ryan Williams, Soph. Virginia Tech
After Darren Evans suffered a season-ending knee injury in August, Williams failed to skip a beat, running 293 times for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also caught 16 passes for 180 yards and a score in an epic debut. A solid 5-10, 211-pounder, he wastes no movement getting to the hole and has the wiggle and game-breaking speed to cripple defenses in the open field.

2. Montel Harris, Jr. Boston College
Harris is back to be the workhorse of this offense for a third consecutive year. In one of the best seasons ever by an Eagle back, he ran for 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns on 308 carries, getting marginal support from the passing game. A 5-10, 200-pound downhill runner, he's not the fastest or shiftiest back around, but he hits the hole with authority, will break through tackles, and has a tendency to get better late in games. he was a rock for the offense highlighted by a 264-yard, five touchdown day in the win over NC State, and he ran for 100 yards or more in each of his final five games. However, he only scored one in the final four games and that came in the bowl against USC.

3. Anthony Allen, Sr. Georgia Tech
Yes, the Jackets wish Jonathan Dwyer hadn't left early for the NFL. No, they won't be destitute in the backfield. Allen, a former transfer from Louisville, has been itching at the opportunity to be the feature back, or B-back, in this attack, rolling up some impressive numbers in limited opportunities last fall. Averaging over 10 yards a touch, he carried 64 times for 618 yards and six scores, adding five receptions for 112 yards and another touchdown. Not unlike his predecessor, he runs with the power of a fullback and the speed of a tailback, setting the stage for a monster season.

4. Shaun Draughn, Sr. North Carolina
Draughn, the feature back in the UNC rotation, is a 6-0, 210-pound senior who started the first nine games before fracturing his shoulder blade and missing the rest of the season. He wound up running for 567 yards and a score on 124 carries, adding 21 receptions on 125 yards. A tough, north-south operator, he runs with good vision through the hole and will break through arm tackles. Back at full strength, he should get more than 200 touches in his final year.

5. Darren Evans, Soph. Virginia Tech
Evans was never able to follow up on a Freshman All-America debut that included 1,265 yards rushing, 17 receptions, 11 touchdowns, and a school-best 253 yards against Maryland for an exclamation point. Instead, he rehabbed an injury that appears to be fully healed. A very different back than Williams, he's a 6-0, 223-pound workhorse and straight up, between-the-tackles runner. Workmanlike in his approach, he'll look for people to hit and has the balance to keep going after contact.

6. Da'Rel Scott, Sr. Maryland
When healthy, the 5-11, 200-pound senior is one of the premier backs in the ACC and a former 1,000-yard rusher. The problem is, he hasn't always been 100% over the last two seasons. Saddled with a broken wrist for almost half of 2009, he was limited to 85 carries for 425 yards and four touchdowns. The numbers are misleading. He has next-level ability and the sprinter speed to get outside the tackles and into the secondary in a flash. Beyond getting more support from his blockers, the key is to simply be available from wire-to-wire.

7. Andre Ellington, Soph. Clemson
No, you don't get better by losing a player of C.J. Spiller's caliber. However, Clemson is in a far better position than most programs to land on its feet. The Tigers have two terrific and complementary options in Ellington and Jamie Harper, who were neck-and-neck coming out of spring. The playmaker of the duo will be Ellington, the 5-10, 180-pound bolt of lightning out of the backfield who gets to top gear in a hurry; he's a long ball threat every time he gets into the open field. Much tougher than his size might indicate, he debuted with 491 yards and four scores on only 68 carries, adding 11 receptions for 55 yards.

8. Jermaine Thomas, Jr. Florida State
A year ago, the 5-11, 190-pound Thomas was riding high, starting 10 games and becoming the first Seminole in seven years to author three straight 100 games. He finished 832 yards and nine scores on 163 carries, adding 16 receptions for 120 yards and another touchdown. The job is his, right? Not quite. He sort of drifted back to the pack in the spring and will have a battle for reps in the summer. A bona fide breakaway back, he has outstanding speed and vision, and the natural running instincts to cut back and pop through holes that don't appear to exist. Now that he's been challenged, it'll be interesting to see how he responds.

9. Damien Berry, Sr. Miami
While it's been a long, strange trip to this point, injuries and graduations may have thrust the 5-11, 217-pound senior into the top spot at tailback. A former defensive back, he gave a shot in the arm to the running game a year ago, running 93 times for 616 yards and eight touchdowns. Down the stretch, he was at his best, providing an omen of what's to come. A power back, he always runs with assertiveness and an attitude, hitting the hole hard and defenders even harder. With proper support from the offensive line, he has a shot to be one of the biggest breakthrough players of the year in the ACC.

10. Josh Adams, Sr. Wake Forest
Adams has one more season left in a career that's sort of gone sideways after beginning with so much promise. Sure, he led the team with 541 yards and four touchdowns on 113 carries, but nagging injuries have prevented him from having a breakthrough season. The 2007 ACC Rookie of the Year, he's a 6-0, 182-pound slasher with the vision to dart in and out of traffic and make defenders miss. He's also an accomplished receiver out of the backfield, catching a career-high 28 passes for 307 yards.

11. Chris Thompson, Soph. Florida State
For evidence that change is in the air with the new staff, look no further than the backfield. The Seminoles exited the spring with no clear-cut starter and a possible running game by-committee. By far, the biggest beneficiary has been 5-8, 186-pound Thompson, a speedster who went for 120 yards and two scores on 23 carries as a reserve. More of a scatback than a workhorse, he'll stop-and-start quicker than any back on the roster and squirt through the smallest crack in a defense. Even if he's not getting 20 touches a game, it's clear he's earned a bigger role in 2010.

12. Roddy Jones, Jr. Georgia Tech
Out of the slot, or A-back, Georgia Tech has a bona fide dynamo in 5-9, 195-pound Jones. An explosive play waiting to happen, he's averaged 7.7 yards a carry during his career, running 53 times for 345 yards and three touchdowns in 2009. Never quite right last season after injuring his wrist in the summer, he's prepared to rebound and pick up where he left off at the end of 2008. With the quickness of a jackrabbit and crippling stop-and-start moves, he can bring a defense to its knees when he not bogged down in traffic.