Nine days 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.
After two seasons splitting carries in a crowded Florida State backfield, Devonta Freeman appears ready to shine for the ‘Noles. Of course, he’s still splitting carries — but now as one of two primary ball carriers in the ACC’s top backfield. And that should be an advantage to both Freeman and his counterpart, James Wilder, too. Without getting overworked, both players will be able to grab a healthy amount of carries (I’d bet between 15-18 per game) and even make gains on their productivity from last season, when Freeman especially got to average 5.9 yards on 111 carries. Plus, as a runner first and foremost, and not much of a pass-catcher, he may even be able to differentiate himself as the team’s top rusher (even if not the top overall player) this season.
Of course, last year could’ve gone very differently. Further down the depth chart, he’d only grabbed 23 carries for 147 yards through the first six games — not at all premier back material. But then injuries struck, and suddenly Freeman was thrust into a feature role, proving himself as a standout playmaker, even if not feature runner material. In his first three contests with an increased workload, he tallied 244 total yards with four touchdowns. A couple weeks later, against Maryland, he grabbed another 148 yards and two touchdowns. All of this on 16 or less carries per game. And again, inconsistent playing time that would stunt the abilities of most backs. So can he repeat the performance in 2013?
Well, maybe. So long as he’s healthy, Freeman’s likely looking at 180 carries (way up from last year). If he can maintain his 5.9 yards per carry, that’s about 1,062 yards, and all between the tackles. Extrapolate out his touchdown rate, and he’s looking at 13. That’s an all-conference level performance, made even more impressive by the fact that about the same number of carries will be tossed to Wilder as well. Between the apparent peaceful coexistence between the two rushers, and a superior offensive line, he’s set up for success. And if all things stay constant for FSU, they should be looking at at least one thousand-yard rusher, if not two.