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ACC RBs Keep Making Plays

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The ACC's talent and depth at running back is amazing.

Mere weeks into the college football season, it's clear that the ACC is home to a number of the best running backs in the country. Players like Clemson's Travis Etienne, Virginia Tech's Khalil Herbert, North Carolina's Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, Notre Dame's Kyren Williams , Louisville's Javian Hawkins, Miami's Cam'Ron Harris, NC State's Donovan Webb, Georgia Tech's Jahmyr Gibbs, among others, are showcase talents at their position, players leading their teams and the national narrative.

Etienne continues to star for the Tigers, make his case for GOAT status.

After the convincing win over top ten Miami, one where Etienne ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns and also caught eight passes for 73 yards, top-ranked Clemson is now 43-1 when he gets more than five carries in a single game. Making plays on thr ground and through the air, Etienne is currently the only player in all of college football with at least 390 yards rushing and 240 yards receiving.

Just five times this millennium has an FBS player rushed for at least 1,600 yards and 19 touchdowns at 7.8 yards per carry in a single season; two of those five efforts belong to Etienne. He is the only FBS running back since at least 2000, and perhaps all-time, with those minimums plus 37 catches, referencing Etienne's most-recent production as a junior. He is already the lone FBS running back the past 20 years, again maybe ever, with 4,000 yards rushing, 50 rushing touchdowns, 7.5 yards per rush attempt and 500 receiving yards in career.

What Virginia Tech's Herbert is doing is stunning.

The Kansas-transfer is already a standout for the Hokies and for good reason. Herbert currently leads the nation with 149.67 yards per game. Remarkably, he has 449 yards on just 43 carries, an average of 10.44 yards per attempt, also number one in the country. Herbert has five touchdowns in only three games, with him scoring in each of them. For good measure, Herbert also already has 244 kick return yards, ranking sixth in the game in yards per return, and a couple of catches for 46 yards. 

All that he has done come with historic context. Herbert is the only Power Five running back this millennium with at least 440 rushing yards at ten yards per carry and five rushing touchdowns through the first three games of a season. Add in his kick return production and Herbert stands alone. To say he is a big play waiting to happen would be overlooking the big plays he has already made; with just three games played, Herbert leads all of college football with five rushes of more than 30 yards.

Notably, Carter has similarly impressive production for top five North Carolina and its heralded offense. He, in fact, ranks second nationally behind Herbert with both 137.67 rushing yards per game and 10.33 yards per carry. In the recent win over Virginia Tech, Carter rushed for 214 yards and two touchdowns as the player of the game. Carter is tied with Herbert for tops in the country with seven runs of at least 20 yards. 

Carter is the only running back in at least 20 years with a minimum 400 rushing yards at ten yards per carry and eight receptions through his team's first three games. Javonte Williams,  Carter's backfield teammate, leads the ACC with six rushing touchdowns and ran for 169 in the win over Virginia Tech.

Notre Dame has been one of college football's best rushing teams, with Kyren Williams compiling 359 yards and four touchdowns at 7.48 yards per carry. He ran for 185 yards and two touchdowns against Florida State, with freshman Chris Tyree topping 100 yards and adding a score. Of Power Five players averaging seven yards per carry or more, only Herbert has more rushing touchdowns than Williams.

Fresh off topping the 1,500-yard mark and averaging nearly 5.8 yards per carry as a redshirt freshman for Louisville, Hawkins already has two big-time performances this season: 164 yards against Miami and 155 versus Georgia Tech. Counting a few carries from his true freshman season where he redshirted, Hawkins has already topped the 2,000-yard mark for his career.

Miami's Cam'Ron Harris is averaging 6.83 yards per run and has five touchdowns. He, as one of the most important players for the 12th-ranked Hurricanes, Herbert and Alabama's Najee Harris are the only Power Five runners with those minimums.

Donovan Webb off NC State is tied with Carter and two others with the most rushes of ten yards or more in the country at 14. His consistency has helped key the Wolfpack's hot start as Webb has reached 94 yards in three games. Then there's Ricky Person, Jr., who lines up everywhere for the Wolfpack.

Georgia Tech's super freshman Jahmyr Gibbs has scored as a rusher, receiver and very nearly as a return specialist. He, with five total touchdowns, has reached the endzone or topped the 100-yard in every game he has played in so far.

Wake Forest's Kenneth Walker has back-to-back 100-yard games. Duke's Deon Jackson is a workhorse and leads the league with 89 attempts, while Matteo Durant has been another playmaker. With a dozen rushing touchdowns a year ago, Virginia's Wayne Taulapapa recently had two in his first game. Florida State has a productive three-back rotation led by freshman Lawrence Toafili. Syracuse freshman Sean Rucker has a 100-yard, multi-score outing. Pittsburgh's Vincent Davis has three rushing touchdowns and 15 catches. Boston College's David Bailey has scored on the air and on the ground.

The ACC's talent and depth at running back is amazing.

This a league boasting the best colletion of running backs in the country -- four of the nation's top nine in yards per game in Herbert, Carter, Williams a Hawkins, a list not including Etienne, who is one of the greatest players the game has ever seen.

With four teams ranked in the national top 12 and others off to productive starts, the ACC is off and running.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports