No. 4 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina
2012 stats: Bernard was a first-team All-ACC selection after a stellar season, racking up 1,981 all-purpose yards in 10 games, the second-highest total in school history. He set a school record for the highest average all-purpose yards in a season with 198.1 per game. That ranked No. 4 in the nation. Bernard ended up with 1,228 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on the ground; 490 yards receiving and five touchdown catches; and 263 yards on punt returns, with two scores.
Previous ranking: No. 16
Making the case: Bernard was thisclose to taking home ACC Offensive Player of the Year and ACC Player of the Year honors, finishing one vote behind winner Tajh Boyd. You could certainly make the case for Bernard, who was simply sensational for the Tar Heels in 2012. We already knew what he could do in the running game, but North Carolina used him as a punt returner for the first time -- and that made him virtually unstoppable. I present to you Exhibit A, his standout performance of the 2012 season. NC State fans might want to click on the next post.
Bernard accounted for 304 total yards and two touchdowns in a wild 43-35 win against the rival Wolfpack. His 74-yard punt return for a score with 13 seconds left lifted North Carolina to the win. NC State coach Tom O'Brien faced major questions about why he would even punt to Bernard, but there was no going back. He saw first-hand what a smart decision the Tar Heels made in giving the ball to their best player on special teams, too.
After the season ended, Bernard decided to forgo his final season to enter the NFL draft. He is expected to be an early round selection.