Florida State Seminoles: Taquan Mizzell
- Will Clemson receiver Mike Williams follow in the footsteps of DeAndre Hopkins and Martavis Bryant?
- Duke coach David Cutcliffe previews his tight ends for 2014.
- Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher has lost between 35-40 pounds in the offseason.
- Georgia Tech freshman Myles Autry has not yet met the school's admissions requirements.
- Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is starting the Petrino Family Foundation.
- Miami's quarterbacks remain hard at work while awaiting the arrival of Jake Heaps.
- Pitt's James Conner could play both ways this season.
- Here's the biggest reason for optimism in Syracuse.
- Get to know Virginia running back Taquan Mizzell.
- Virginia Tech announced former running back Kevin Jones will serve as special assistant to athletic director Whit Babcock.
We wrote about the big-name receivers headed for the NFL draft, but the ACC also has three wideouts returning who accounted for 1,000 receiving yards in 2013, too.
But how about the tailbacks? How many 1,000-yard rushers from 2013 will be back again this season?
Believe it or not, the lone representative on that list is Virginia’s Kevin Parks, who racked up 1,031 yards on the ground for a team that didn’t win a single conference game.
The depth chart among returning running backs in the conference doesn’t get much better beyond Parks, either. Duke Johnson is probably the ACC’s best returning running back. He racked up 920 yards in eight games before getting hurt. Beyond that, only Louisville’s Dominique Brown, who played in the AAC last year, returns with at least 800 yards on the ground from 2013.
So, if there aren’t a ton of top tailbacks returning for 2014, which teams are poised for the most success on the ground this year?
I think the issue is, if we collectively agree that we're going to schedule up, we don't have to come up with a hard rule we have to go to nine games or everybody has to schedule one game against an SEC school. It's just a matter of getting everybody to agree to that.” -- FSU athletic director Stan Wilcox
If we break down the numbers by tailbacks only, Pittsburgh is the clear front runner. No ACC team’s returning running backs accounted for a higher percentage of its 2013 carries (76 percent) than Pitt’s, and thanks to the negative rushing totals courtesy of sacks, James Conner (799 yards), Isaac Bennett (776 yards) and Co. actually accounted for 106 percent of the Panthers’ rushing yards from 2013. (A neat trick that comes courtesy of Tom Savage's 76 carries for minus-208 yards.)
With Parks back for 2014 along with highly touted sophomore Taquan Mizzell, UVA’s returning backs account for 74 percent of last season's rushes, along with 91 percent of its yards. Of course, without star lineman Morgan Moses, those yards might be a bit tougher to come by this season.
Virginia Tech, NC State and Louisville all return running backs responsible for at least 50 percent of last season's ground gains, too (with Miami falling just short after swapping Dallas Crawford to the secondary).
The bottom of the list might be even more intriguing. Wake Forest’s stable of running backs is a mess, but that’s been well documented. The rest of the bottom six, however, include BC (which lost a Heisman finalist) and the top four offenses in the league from 2013 (Florida State, Clemson, Duke and Georgia Tech).
In other words, the best offenses lost big-time runners, and the shakiest (aside from Wake) have talent returning. So, does that mean there’s reason for some serious shakeups in the ACC’s offensive standings?
Yes, the ground game is essential for most teams to succeed. Of the 10 teams that played in BCS bowl games last season, seven returned a tailback who rushed for at least 500 yards in 2012.
But the ground game isn’t defined entirely by the men toting the rock. FSU returns four starters on a veteran offensive line, along with a Heisman-winning quarterback. That should provide some room for its relatively green stable of running backs to roam.
And, of course, just because there’s talent departing doesn’t mean there isn’t more waiting in the wings. Florida State’s returning running backs (Karlos Williams and Ryan Green) averaged 7 yards per carry in reserve roles last season. Georgia Tech’s averaged 5.9, and Duke’s averaged 5.8 (QB Brandon Connette’s departure is the biggest blow to the Blue Devils’ ground attack). Even Clemson has cause to be excited about its rushing game in 2014 with the development of C.J. Davidson and Zac Brooks and the debut of uber-talented redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman.
The veteran presence in the backfield for Pitt, Virginia and NC State should offer some hope to teams in need of some offensive optimism, but it’s also a likely scenario that FSU, Clemson, and others will supply a few names to the ACC’s rushing leaderboard in 2014, too.
- Boston College right guard Harris Williams has been a big key to the Eagles' success up front.
- Heisman chatter has turned to criticism for Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd.
- With wins comes a culture change for Duke football.
- A flood of media attention does not seem to faze Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
- Take a statistical look at how Georgia Tech and Virginia match up.
- Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley says he just wants his offense to execute better.
- Miami is hoping to get credit from the NCAA for prior scholarship reductions.
- North Carolina's Eric Ebron is making his case as the nation's best tight end.
- Pitt's offensive line got a lift from Ryan Schlieper last week.
- Breaking down the 2014 Syracuse schedule.
- A healthy Taquan Mizzell is ready to contribute for Virginia.
- Check out this excerpt from "King of Sports" by Gregg Easterbrook, who illustrates how Virginia Tech does football right by more than just winning.
- Wake Forest offensive lineman Steven Chase is one tough dude.
- The AP's Jimmy Golen offers five things to watch at BC this season.
- Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett is out 3-4 weeks with an MCL injury.
- Duke's iPad investment is paying dividends, Laura Keeley writes in the Raleigh News & Observer.
- FSU receiver Kelvin Benjamin is finally looking past the hype, Coley Harvey writes in the Orlando Sentinel.
- Georgia Tech is closing in on the end of camp, Ken Sugiura writes in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- Maryland defensive back Milan Collins suffered his season-ending ankle fracture while horsing around, Alex Prewitt writes in the Washington Post.
- Miami has granted defensive lineman Jalen Grimble his release, Matt Porter writes in the Palm Beach Post.
- UNC linebacker Jeff Schoettmer might go from walk-on to starter, Harold Gutmann writes in the (Durham) Herald-Sun.
- Former NC State corner David Amerson took a different path than his brother Noah, but they both look out for each other, Kent Babb writes in the Washington Post.
- Pitt linebacker Todd Thomas is easing back into drills, Jerry DiPaola writes in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
- Syracuse tight end Beckett Wales did not practice Wednesday, Nate Mink writes in the (Syracuse) Post-Standard.
- Virginia freshman running back Taquan Mizzell is not afraid of the hype, Norm Wood writes in the (Newport News) Daily Press.
- Virginia Tech receivers are looking to eliminate drops, Mike Barber writes in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
- Josh Harris' focus is his team after his return to Wake Forest, Dan Collins writes in the Winston-Salem Journal.
Who could rise out of nowhere this year? Let's take a look at some candidates in the ACC.
Jameis Winston, Florida State QB: There is an awful lot of hype for a guy who has yet to take a college football snap. Then again, Winston was the No. 1 quarterback recruit from the Class of 2012, eclipses 100 mph on the baseball diamond as a Seminoles reliever, throws footballs over fraternity houses and starred in FSU's spring game. The redshirt freshman steps into an ideal situation, surrounded by experienced guys on an offense that is coming off an Orange Bowl win. And, well, he absolutely owned FSU's media day Sunday.
Taquan Mizzell, Virginia RB: The Cavaliers struggled running the ball last season, finishing 96th nationally in rushing yards per game (128.5). They have also said goodbye to Clifton Richardson, Perry Jones and Phillip Sims. Enter "Smoke" -- or, as coach Mike London has called him since a victorious 1-on-1 hoops game, "Mist." ESPN's No. 9 running back prospect from the Class of 2013 notched 1,231 yards and 39 total touchdowns last season at Bayside (Va.) High, and he figures to make his presence felt early at Virginia.
Anthony Boone, Duke QB: Yes, Boone is a redshirt junior. But he was behind school record-setter Sean Renfree the past two seasons, as he watched Renfree take Duke to a bowl game last year while receiving spot duty here and there. He relived an injured Renfree and rushed for a go-ahead, fourth-quarter touchdown in a win at Wake Forest, then started a week later in a rout of Virginia. For his career, Boone has completed 53.4 percent of his passes in 22 games for 839 yards with six touchdowns and three picks. He also adds another dimension on the ground, having rushed for 211 yards and six more scores. Boone now has the starting job to himself, and teammates have said there is little indication that they are playing with a first-year starter.
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