Top Returning ACC Running Backs For 2017

    Now that four of the league’s five 1,000-yard running backs are gone, who are the top returning ACC ballcarriers of 2017?

    March 8, 2017

    Now that four of the league’s five 1,000-yard running backs are gone, who are the top returning ACC ballcarriers of 2017?

    Buh-bye, Dalvin Cook, Wayne Gallman and James Conner. Hello, transition year for ACC running backs in 2017. The position is a pulsating, unequivocal question mark for the league, with Miami junior Mark Walton sticking out as the only sure thing. The pecking order after Walton will be extremely fluid between now and the opening weekend, pending what happens in the competition for carries on campuses like Clemson, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, Pitt and Virginia Tech.

    Top Returning ACC Running Backs

    5. Cade Carney, Wake Forest

    Carney has a rather tenuous hold on this spot, pending what occurs with some of the high-profile battles across the league. However, only one other ACC returning running back averaged more yards per game in 2016. And Carney was just a true freshman last fall, missing three games with a knee injury. He’s a blue-collar 215-pounder who runs low to the ground and wastes no movement getting through the hole. With more help from the Deacon blockers, Carney and Matt Colburn will be productive at chewing up real estate in 2017.

    4. Qadree Ollison, Pittsburgh

    The last time Ollison got a chance to supplant James Conner, he responded in 2015 by rushing for more than 1,000 yards and being named ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year. Ollison could get that opportunity again now that Conner is NFL-bound, but he’ll need to rebound from an awful sophomore season. The 6-2, 230-pound thumper only earned 33 carries, a number that’ll only increase if he gets in shape and remains focused on holding off the challenges of Darrin Hall and Chawntez Moss.

    3. Dedrick Mills, Georgia Tech

    While the Yellow Jackets will be breaking in a new quarterback in 2017, they could be set at B-back for the foreseeable future. Despite a pair of suspensions, Mills seized control of the all-important feature back role as a true freshman, capping his debut by being named the MVP of the TaxSlayer Bowl. At 5-10 and 217 pounds, Mills has the physicality and the leg drive to burrow through the traffic, scoring a dozen times on only 152 carries last season.

    2. Jacques Patrick, Florida State

    Patrick is first in line to replace Dalvin Cook, though he’s going to face a serious challenge from incoming five-star recruit Cam Akers. Patrick showed glimpses of his potential over the past two seasons, running for 664 yards and nine touchdowns, and he delivered when given a chance versus Syracuse in 2015 and South Florida last September. The 6-2, 231-pound Patrick is a north-south navigator who can drag tacklers when he builds up a head of steam. He’s staring at an enormous opportunity to bloom into a star as a junior.

    1. Mark Walton, Miami

    Joseph Yearby was more heralded in high school, but Walton rose above him in 2016. And now that Yearby is gone, Walton should see an uptick in touches this season. He quietly had a very good sophomore campaign, leading the Canes with 1,117 yards and 14 touchdowns on 209 carries. Walton will stutter step out of danger and then suddenly burst through a crease in the defense. His ability to separate from defenders makes him one of the ACC’s most dangerous weapons entering 2017.

    MORE: Top Returning Running Backs In College Football For 2017


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