Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter
Athlon Sports ranks the best ACC running backs of the BCS Era.
The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.
The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.
So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.
The ACC has gone through many changes during the BCS Era with multiple rounds of expansion. This is why some of the greatest players of the BCS Era won't be found in the ACC ranks. Names like Kevin Jones from Virginia Tech, William Green from Boston College, Michael Bush from Louisville or the long list of elite backs from Miami (James, Portis, Gore, McGahee) won't be found below. Miami and Virginia Tech joined in 2004, Boston College joined in '05, Syracuse and Pitt played for one season last fall and Louisville enters the league in '14. It leaves the league lacking for playmakers at the running back position. But a few schools have carried the banner.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. C.J. Spiller, Clemson (2006-09)
Stats: 606 att., 3,547 yds, 32 TDs, 123 rec., 1,420 yds, 11 TDs, 2,621 ret. yds, 8 TDs
Versatility and explosiveness are the words that come to mind when describing Spiller. With elite burst and big-play ability, Clemson used Spiller in every aspect of the game to great success. He is No. 2 in ACC history in yards from scrimmage and total touchdowns and is the NCAA’s all-time leader with seven kickoff return touchdowns. His 2,680 all-purpose yards in 2009 are a single-season ACC record and his 7,588 all-purpose yards are the all-time career record in the ACC by almost 2,000 yards (Leon Johnson, 5,828). No ACC player has scored in more games (34) than Spiller did while at Clemson.
2. Thomas Jones, Virginia (1996-99)
Stats: 823 att., 4,065 yds, 37 TDs, 72 rec., 578 yds, 3 TDs
Until 2013, Jones boasted a long list of illustrious ACC rushing records. His 334 carries and 1,798 yards in 1999 were both single-season ACC records until Andre Williams broke both this past season. His six 200-yard games are an ACC record still (Williams has five) and he is seventh all-time with 18 100-yard games. Jones is sixth all-time in the ACC in rushing, leading the league twice in 1998-99, and is tied for 12th all-time with 40 total touchdowns. Jones finished eighth in the Heisman voting in 1999 and was one of two consensus All-American running backs during the BCS Era (Spiller).
3. Andre Williams, Boston College (2011-13)
Stats: 704 att., 3,739 yds, 28 TDs, 10 rec., 60 yds
From a single-season perspective, no player in ACC history can match what Williams accomplished in 2013. Williams set the ACC single-season rushing record for carries (355) and yards (2,177) when he rolled up five 200-yard games and 18 touchdowns en route to a fourth-place Heisman Trophy finish. He is the only ACC player to win the Doak Walker Award during the BCS Era and he was named an All-American in the process. He is 11th all-time in the conference in rushing yards.
4. Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (2011-12)
Stats: 423 att., 2,481 yds, 25 TDs, 92 rec., 852 yds, 6 TDs, 263 ret. yds, 2 TDs
It’s a shame fans in the ACC only got two seasons of Bernard because he could have been really special. No player in the history of the league has averaged more rushing yards per game than Bernard’s 107.9 per game. His 1,253 yards in 2011 were the third-best season by a freshman in ACC history and then he led the ACC in rushing as a sophomore with 1,228 yards despite missing three games. He scored 33 total touchdowns in just 23 career games while at Chapel Hill and he was the first running back taken in the 2013 NFL Draft. His 198.1 all-purpose yards per game in 2012 are an ACC single-season record, topping even Spiller.
5. Lamont Jordan, Maryland (1997-00)
Stats: 807 att., 4,147 yds, 36 TDs, 76 rec., 737 yds, TD
No player in the ACC ran for more yards during the BCS Era than Jordan. His 4,147 yards are third all-time in ACC history and his 18 100-yard games are tied for seventh all-time. He rushed for 1,632 yards on 266 carries for a 6.1 yard per carry average in 1999 — good for second-best in ACC history at the time and currently sixth-best all-time. He is one of just fix players in league history to top 300 yards in a single-game (306, Virginia, 1999) and he is seventh all-time with 4,960 all-purpose yards. He is tied with Peter Warrick for 17th all-time with 37 total touchdowns.
6. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (2007-09)
Stats: 517 att., 3,226 yds, 35 TDs, 15 rec., 263 yds, TD
The burly ball-carrier was a freight train in Paul Johnson's option attack. In just three seasons, Dwyer averaged 6.2 yards per carry on just 517 attempts, landing eighth all-time in ACC in yards per attempt (min. 1,000 yards). He won ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors when he led the ACC in rushing in 2008, posted 17 career 100-yard games and was virtually impossible to tackle one-on-one. He posted back-to-back 1,395-yard seasons and scored at least nine times in all three seasons. Some may think the option inflated his numbers, however, Dwyer averaged only 12.9 carries per game for his career. Imagine what he could have done with 800-900 attempts?
7. James Davis, Clemson (2005-08)
Stats: 753 att., 3,881 yds, 47 TDs, 51 rec., 441 yds, 2 TDs
Davis’ career didn’t end with a bang as his senior year was slightly disappointing, but few reached paydirt and were as consistent as Davis was for Clemson. Davis never rushed for fewer than 751 yards (2008) and his 17 rushing touchdowns in 2006 are tied for eighth-best all-time. Davis finished second all-time in ACC history with 47 rushing touchdowns, fifth all-time with 49 total touchdowns and ninth all-time in rushing.
8. Chris Barclay, Wake Forest (2002-05)
Stats: 840 att., 4,032 yds, 40 TDs, 62 rec., 381 yds, 517 ret. yds
Few players were as consistent as Barclay was for Jim Grobe. He never scored fewer than nine rushing touchdowns in any of his four seasons and finished his career with back-to-back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Barclay is the ACC’s No. 5 rusher all-time and is one of just five to top 4,000 yards rushing. His 840 attempts are fifth all-time and he led the ACC in rushing in 2005, earning ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors. Barclay's 40 total touchdowns are 12th in league history.
8. Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech (2009-10)
Stats: 403 att., 2,132 yds, 30 TDs, 26 rec., 289 yds, 2 TDs
Few players have posted a single year like Williams did… especially, considering he was a freshman. His 1,655 yards in 2009 are an ACC freshman rushing record and is good for the fifth-best rushing season in ACC history. Williams is the only player in ACC history to score 20 touchdowns in a season as his 21 rushing scores in ’09 are a single-season record. An injury slowed him during his sophomore season and then he departed for the NFL after his redshirt sophomore season leaving fans in Blacksburg to wonder what could have been.
10. Wali Lundy, Virginia (2002-05)
Stats: 742 att., 3,193 yds, 43 TDs, 114 rec., 895 yds, 9 TDs, 409 ret. yds
Lundy never topped 1,000 yards in any one season but he was wildly consistent and no one in the history of ACC football has scored more touchdowns. His 52 total touchdowns top Ted Brown (1975-78) and Spiller by one. Lundy burst onto the scene with 1,261 yards from scrimmage and 10 total scores as a freshman — in fact, his 58 receptions are third-best all-time among all ACC freshmen. Lundy posted three straight seasons of at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 17 times in 2004 as a junior. He never scored fewer than 10 times in any season for Virginia and the Wahoos went to a bowl game all four seasons — something that has happened just twice since Lundy graduated in 2005.
Just missed the cut:
11. David Wilson, Virginia Tech (2009-11)
Stats: 462 att., 2,662 yds, 18 TDs, 37 rec., 363 yds, 5 TDs, 1,324 ret. yds, 2 TDs
Wilson earned ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2011 when he finished with 1,709 yards (fourth all-time in ACC history) and 2,253 all-purpose yards (third all-time in ACC history). He was a first-round NFL Draft pick and led his team to the ACC title game two years in a row. His seven straight 100-yard games that year is the fifth-best streak in ACC history.
12. Montel Harris, Boston College (2008-12)
Stats: 973 att., 4,789 yds, 39 TDs, 59 rec., 467 yds, 3 TDs
After three full seasons and an injury-shortened fourth, Harris transferred to Temple. Taken in full, his rushing numbers would be the best in ACC history. His 4,789 would rank first but his 3,600 in the ACC are still 16th. He led the ACC in rushing as a junior and set the sophomore rushing record with 1,457 in 2009. He rushed for 1,054 and 12 scores for the Owls in 2012.
13. Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech (2005-07)
Stats: 697 att., 3,465 yds, 28 TDs, 41 rec., 288 yds
Like Harris, Choice played one year elsewhere (Oklahoma). Unlike Harris, Choice didn’t produce at all at his other school. He came to the ACC and was a star, leading the league in rushing in both 2006 (1,473) and '07 (1,379). He scored 28 times and posted an ACC-record nine consecutive 100-yard games.
14. Andre Ellington, Clemson (2009-12)
Stats: 621 att., 3,436 yds, 33 TDs, 59 rec., 505 yds, 2 TDs, 645 ret. yds, TD
Even though he battled nagging injuries throughout his career, Ellington still finished in the top 20 in rushing all-time in ACC history. He scored 36 total touchdowns and led Clemson back to its first ACC championship in 20 years in 2011. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry and had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in two years that Clemson played in the ACC title game.
15. Travis Minor, Florida State (1997-00)
Stats: 664 att., 3,218 yds, 28 TDs, 106 rec., 831 yds, 3 TDs
Like Lundy, Minor never topped 1,000 yards rushing but he was a huge contributor all over the field for a team that won a lot of games. He helped lead his team to three ACC titles and three straight BCS title games, including the 1999 national championship. Few players have this resume: 3,000 yards rushing, 100 receptions and a national title.
Best of the rest:
16. Travis Zachery, Clemson (1998-01): 686 att., 3,043 yds, 41 TDs, 104 rec., 1,032 yds, 11 TDs
17. P.J. Daniels, Georgia Tech (2002-05): 707 att., 3,346 yds, 23 TDs, 56 rec., 369 yds, 3 TDs
18. Bruce Perry, Maryland (1999-03): 468 att., 2,491 yds, 17 TDs, 55 rec., 478 yds, 2 TDs
19. Alvin Pearman, Virginia (2001-04): 500 att., 2,394 yds, 19 TDs, 138 rec., 1,398 yds, 8 TDs
20. Chris Douglas, Duke (2000-03): 695 att., 3,122 yds, 21 TDs, 89 rec., 867 yds, 5 TDs, 1,759 ret. yds
21. Branden Ore, Virginia Tech (2005-07): 617 att., 2,776 yds, 31 TDs, 43 rec., 399 yds, 2 TDs
22. T.A. McLendon, NC State (2002-04): 542 att., 2,479 yds, 33 TDs, 93 rec., 858 yds, 3 TDs
23. Devonta Freeman, Florida State (2011-13): 404 att., 2,255 yds, 30 TDs, 47 rec., 475 yds, TD
24. Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (2008, '10): 438 att., 2,119 yds, 22 TDs, 26 rec., 217 yds
25. Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech (2006-10): 546 att., 3,036 yds, 33 TDs, 33 rec., 401 yds, 5 TDs
ORV: Duke Johnson, Greg Jones, Andre Brown