June 16, 2024

Ranking the ACC’s best running backs of 2024

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ACC's best running backs of 2024

Florida State running back Lawrance Toafili carries the ball during the third quarter against LSU Sunday September 3, 2023 at Camping World Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

There’s no denying that the ACC will field some of the best collection of rushers this upcoming season.

After all, the conference will have four players that rushed for over 1,000 yard in 2023, and several underrated running backs looking to build off last year’s success. Which should create some physical and entertaining football from the trenches in the most underrated league in the Power Four.

17. Sedrick Irvin, Stanford: The Miami native got his feet wet as a true freshman last year, and started three games for the Cardinal. Irvin made the most out of his 26 carries, and had some promising moments. He rushed for 22 yards at USC. Irvin carried the ball 10 times for 66 yards and a touchdown against Arizona, which were all season-highs. The former four-star prospect looked vastly improved in the spring game. Irvin generated a 35-yard touchdown run, to go along with a receiving score. He’ll share the load with Ryan Butler, who recorded 18 carries in 2023. The big boys up front need to block better at the point of attack though, after Stanford finished 103rd in the FBS in rushing offense.

16. Kobe Pace, Virginia: The former four-star prospect led the Cavaliers in carries and rush yards last season. Pace runs hard, and can do damage out of the backfield with his soft hands. He rushed for 39 yards in the opener at Tennessee. Pace found the end zone on the ground, and hauled in a 75-yard touchdown pass against James Madison. The Georgia native carried the ball 20 times for a season-high, 83 yards in the victory over William & Mary. Pace had a season high, 21 carries for 54 yards in the win over Duke. Not to mention he caught a 19-yard touchdown at Maryland. Pace also recorded a receiving score against Georgia Tech. He’ll need to improve his 3.1 yards per carry average though.

15. Maurice Turner, Louisville: The Georgia native has rushed for 598 yards over the past two seasons. Turner showed his potential in a crowded backfield in 2023. He finished with 30 yards on the ground in the opener at Georgia Tech. Turner rushed for his only touchdown in the victory at Indiana. His 81 rushing yards at Pittsburgh were a season-high. The former three-star prospect posted 41 yards on the ground against Florida State in the ACC Championship Game, and 33 against USC in the Holiday Bowl. Turner will likely share the load with Keyjuan Brown this fall. Brown rushed for a season-high, 65 yards and a score against Murray State. He also had 37 rushing yards in the spring game.

14. Desmond Reid, Pittsburgh: The former three-star prospect paid his dues in the FCS ranks over the past two seasons at Western Carolina. During that span Reid played in 18 games, started eight, and rushed for 1,723 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Catamounts. Not to mention he earned All-America honors. Reid will likely share the load with veteran Daniel Carter, who has rushed for 271 yards and six touchdowns in his career with the Panthers. Carter rushed for a touchdown in the victory over Wofford in the opener. He also found the end zone against North Carolina. Carter had a promising performance in the spring game, in which he carried the ball seven times for 27 yards.

13. Demond Claiborne, Wake Forest: The former four-star prospect led the Demon Deacons in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground in 2o23, which was his first season with the team. Claiborne got off to a fast start, with 70 rushing yards, and a touchdown in the opener against Elon. His 26 carries for 165 yards in the victory over Vanderbilt, were both season-highs. Not to mention Claiborne generated 81 yards on the ground at Duke. The Virginia native rushed for 60 yards and a score at Clemson. Claiborne rumbled for 96 yards and two touchdowns in the win over Pittsburgh. The five-foot-nine, 200-pounder also found the end zone, and rushed for 42 yards against Georgia Tech.

12. Jaylan Knighton, SMU: The Florida native rushed for 1,193 yards and 10 touchdowns in three seasons at Miami. Last season was Knighton’s first with the Mustangs, and he led them in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground. He rushed for 76 yards at Oklahoma. His 150 yards on the ground, and two touchdowns in the victory over Charlotte were season-highs. Knighton rushed for 129 yards and a score against North Texas. The former four-star prospect also found the end zone in wins over Temple, Tulsa, Memphis, Tulane and Boston College. LJ Johnson will be in the mix too. Johnson eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards against Louisiana Tech, North Texas and Memphis.

11. Kye Robichaux, Boston College: The Georgia native played his first two seasons at Western Kentucky, where he rushed for 828 yards and six touchdowns. Robichaux finished second on the Eagles in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground last year. He helped Boston College reach bowl eligibility for the first time since 2019. Robichaux rushed for 94 yard and a touchdown against Holy Cross. His 165 rushing yards, and two scores in the win at Georgia Tech were season-highs. Robichaux also eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards, and scored twice against Connecticut. He even found the end zone against Miami, and Florida State, and rushed for 118 yards at Pittsburgh.

10. Lawrance Toafili, Florida State: The former four-star prospect is a veteran, with 1,439 rushing yards, and 12 touchdowns over the past four seasons. Toafili also displayed soft hands, which helped him haul in 67 passes for 690 yards and four scores during that span. He backed up Trey Benson in 2023, but started five games. Toafili averaged a jaw-dropping 6.7 yards on 69 carries. The Florida native rushed for 50 yard and a score against Virginia Tech. Toafili had 93 yards on the ground, and a score against Syracuse. The six-foot, 196-pounder caught a 21-yard touchdown against Duke. Toafili rushed for a season-high, 118 yards and a touchdow in the ACC Championship Game.

9. Jaquez Moore, Duke: The former three-star prospect has rushed for 1,182 yards over the past two seasons with the Blue Devils. Last year Moore shared the load with Jordan Waters, but finished second on the team in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground. He rushed for 43 yards and a touchdown in the opening victory over Clemson. Moore posted 72 yards on the ground, and a touchdown against Lafayette. His 110 rushing yards at Florida State were a season-high, and he added a touchdown. Moore also hit the century mark in rushing yards, to go along with a score at Virginia. The 5-foot-10, 201-pounder even found the end zone against Wake Forest and Pittsburgh.

8. Bhayshul Tuten, Virginia Tech: The New Jersey native started out his career in the FCS ranks at North Carolina A&T. Last year was Tuten’s first campaign with the Hokies, in which he started all 13 games, and helped them reach seven victories, including a bowl win for the first time since 2016. He led the team in carries, rushing yards and touchdown on the ground. Tuten caught a 30-yard touchdown against Purdue. The 5-foot-11, 209-pounder rushed fo 109 yards, and hauled in a touchdown pass in the victory over Pittsburgh. Tuten posted three rushing scores at Boston College. He went over 100 yards rushing in four of the final six games, including a season-high, 136 against Tulane.

7. Jordan Waters, NC State: The former three-star prospect rushed for 1,690 yards, and 23 touchdowns over the past five seasons at Duke. Although Waters shared the load with Jaquez Moore in 2023, he ended the year with third-team, All-ACC honors. Waters rushed for 112 yards, and two touchdowns in the victory over Lafayette. The North Carolina native had 113 rush yards, and two scores at North Carolina. Waters also posted two rushing scores apiece in wins over Northwestern and Connecticut. Not to mention Waters rushed for a season-high, 123 yards and a touchdown against NC State. Waters also posted a touchdown on the ground against Notre Dame, Wake Forest and Clemson.

6. Phil Mafah, Clemson: He’s a big bruiser, who uses his six-foot-one, 230-pound frame to bulldoze over would-be tacklers. Mafah shared the load with Will Shipley last season, but led the Tigers in carries, rushing yards and touchdowns on the ground. Not to mention he tied for fourth in the ACC with 13 rushing scores. Mafah carried the ball 36 times for a season-high, 186 yards and two touchdowns in the victory over Notre Dame. The Georgia native also rushed for two touchdowns apiece against Charleston Southern and NC State. Mafah scored against Florida Atlantic, Syracuse and North Carolina, and left a lasting impression with four touchdowns in the bowl win over Kentucky.

5. Jamal Haynes, Georgia Tech: The former three-star prospect had a breakout campaign last season, and became the Yellow Jackets’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2017. Haynes averaged 6.09 yards per carry, which ranked second in the ACC. He also finished fifth in the league in yards on the ground. Not to mention Haynes capped off the year with third-team, All-ACC honors. The Georgia native got off to a fast start with 113 rushing yards, and a score in the opener against South Carolina State. Haynes also eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards against Virginia, Clemson, and UCF. The five-foot-nine, 180-pounder rushed for a score, and hauled in a 15-yard touchdown pass against Syracuse.

4. LeQuint Allen, Syracuse: The former three-star prospect is coming off a stellar campaign, in which he finished fourth in the ACC in rushing, and yards on the ground per game. Allen also capped off the year with second-team, All-ACC honors. He eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards in non-conference play against Colgate and Army. Not to mention Allen rushed for a season-high, three touchdowns against Western Michigan. The New Jersey native went over 100 yards rushing in seven games, including five in ACC play. Allen caught 38 passes out of the backfield, including a six-yard touchdown against Clemson. It helps that Syracuse has produced a 1,000-yard rusher for three-straight years.

3. Damien Martinez, Miami: The 20-year old rushed for 1,185 yards and nine touchdowns through Oregon State’s first 12 games. Martinez averaged 98.8 rushing yards per game, which ranked 19th nationally. He also finished 22nd in the FBS in yards per carry. The former three-star prospect rushed for 145 yards in the opener at San Jose State. Six days later he had 104 yards on the ground, and a score against UC Davis. Martinez eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards against Colorado, Stanford and Washington. His 146 rushing yards, and four touchdowns in the victory over the Cardinal were all season-highs. For his heroics, Martinez capped off the year with first-team, All-Pac-12 honors.

2. Jaydn Ott, California: The former four-star prospect put together a monster campaign last year, in which he led the Pac-12 in rushing, and all-purpose yards per game. Ott became California’s first 1,000-yard rusher since 2017. His 1,315 yards on the ground were the seventh-most in a single-season by a Golden Bear. Not to mention Ott’s 12 rushing scores tied for ninth in a single-season at California. Ott averaged a jaw-dropping, 106.9 yards per game, and earned first-team, All-Pac-12 honors. He eclipsed the century mark in rushing in five games, including four in Pac-12 play. Ott even caught a touchdown pass against Utah and Washington State. The Californian has added 10 pounds of muscle too.

1. Omarion Hampton, North Carolina: The 21-year old is coming off a magnificent season, in which he led the ACC, and ranked fifth in the FBS in yards on the ground. Hampton finished second in the conference in all-purpose yards per game. He averaged a jaw-dropping 115.7 rushing yards per game, and earned first-team, All-ACC honors. His 1,504 rushing yards were the second-most in a single-season at North Carolina. Not to mention his 15 rushing touchdowns ranked sixth in a single-season at the program. Hampton eclipsed the century mark in rushing in seven games, including five tilts. The North Carolina native has rushed for 1,905 yards and 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons.

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