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Mitchell Wolfe's All-ACC Teams: Running Backs

Who are the best ball-carriers in the ACC?

1st-Team All-ACC Running Backs: Sean Tucker, Syracuse and Pat Garwo, Boston College

Sean Tucker returns for Syracuse with the second-most rushing yards from the 2021 season among any returning running backs. He led the conference in rushing yards and finished second in rushing touchdowns. Tucker essentially was the entire Syracuse offense last year; ideally, the rest of the offense can take some pressure off him this year. If Tucker puts together another excellent season, it will most likely be his last with the Orange.

The other running back, like Tucker, was one of the few remaining starters in the conference that won’t be in a timeshare backfield this year. Pat Garwo entered the 2021 season relatively buried on the depth chart but burst onto the scene with dominant performances against UMass and Missouri. Garwo should get the lion’s share of carries for BC this season, and with a more diverse offensive attack, he shouldn’t have to run into so many heavy boxes. Expect both of these backs to rush for well over 1000 yards and more than ten touchdowns.

2nd-Team All-ACC Running Backs: Will Shipley, Clemson and Jalen Mitchell, Louisville

While Dabo Swinney is far from reticent to give true freshmen playing time, it typically takes a few weeks before he hands them a starting role. Such was the case with Will Shipley. He dealt with some injuries in the early part of the year but started four of the final six games last year. Shipley ran for over 100 yards in three of those starts and led the team in touchdowns for the entire season. He may still share carries with Kobe Pace, but Shipley is the future of the Clemson backfield.

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Jalen Mitchell is the next All-ACC running back on our list, and he will receive significant help from a very talented and experienced offensive line. Mitchell started the first twelve games of the season before missing the Cardinals’ bowl game. He only broke 100 yards in one game last year, but Louisville got stuck in multiple shootouts, forcing them to throw the ball late into games. This year, the redshirt sophomore should get some more help from an improving defense and an offense that will use him as a featured weapon.

3rd-Team All-ACC Running Backs: Jaylan Knighton, Miami (FL) and Christian Turner, Wake Forest

Jaylan Knighton took over the starting job for the Hurricanes after Cam’Ron Smith went down with a season-ending injury. In his first five games, he ran for over 75 yards in four of them and scored five rushing touchdowns. But he trailed off a bit as the season wound down, finishing with more than 50 yards only once in three games. With Smith off to the NFL and a running back room lacking significant experience, Knighton should be the bell-cow back from Miami’s explosive offense.

Speaking of explosive offenses, someone needs to be the handoff choice in Wake Forest’s wonky read-option offense. This year, that role should fall to Christian Turner. He transferred to Wake Forest last year after spending the previous three at Michigan. Turner was second on the Demon Deacons in carries but finished fourth in yards and touchdowns. His snap consistency increased later in the year, while fellow back Justice Ellison fell behind. Ellison could win the starting job, but my bet would be on Turner to be the primary back, given his ability to gain consistent yards between the tackles and create yards after contact.

Honorable Mention: Israel Abanikanda, Pittsburgh; Vincent Davis, Pittsburgh; Kobe Pace, Clemson; and Dontae Smith, Georgia Tech