Less than two weeks until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
Kevin Parks’s career numbers thus far aren’t eye-popping. In two seasons, he’s run for more than 1,400 yards, plus 14 scores. His 2012 season looked very much like his 2011 season, save a slight dip in touchdowns. And yet, that could all change this fall. Now that Perry Jones is gone, Parks is the primary back for Virginia and will get all the carries that come with that responsibility. There was always a sense that he was impeded by the split backfield setup with Jones — that Parks was one of those backs that just needed to get 20 touches and establish and consistent rhythm. Now, he’ll get a chance to prove it for the Hoos.
Last year, Parks topped 100 rushing yards in a game just twice, and it’s no coincidence that those were the only two games in which he had over 15 carries. He managed to become more of a factor in the passing game (24 catches) to at least increase his involvement in the offense though, a fold that should play some very big dividends as UVa breaks in quarterback David Watford. While Parks is obviously a valuable rusher, being a safety valve for an inexperienced passer is a huge role as well. He’s proven he’s a capable receiver out of the backfield, and it’ll be interesting to see how that part of his game expands this season. I’d fully expect him to come in around the 40-catch mark, but we’ll see how quickly Watford gets comfortable throwing downfield. The more tepid he is at the onset, the more likely Parks will be racking up receptions.
Last year, I’d argue that even more than the split backfield situation, the biggest issue for Parks (and the offense’s productivity as a whole) was the uncertainty at quarterback. For a team whose bread and butter was supposed to be running the football, Virginia did so just 417 times in 2012 — versus 496 times in 2011 (when the rushing attack averaged over 162 yards per contest). Last year, with two passers consistently trying to do too much to differentiate themselves, the result was an inefficient, pass-happy attack that didn’t suit them well. With all of that resolved, Parks should be well set up to thrive in the new Virginia offense, and as long as the line holds up, he should be in for a stellar junior season.