2013 Top 25 player countdown: No. 22

Time to move on in our countdown of the Top 25 players in the ACC headed into the season.

No. 22 Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse

Previous ranking: Ranked No. 19 in the final 2012 Big East Top 25 player countdown.

Making the case: Smith goes into the season as one of the best running backs in the entire league, given his performance a year ago in the Big East. In fact, you could make the case Smith should have been on the preseason All-ACC team ahead of Florida State back James Wilder Jr. Smith ran for 1,171 yards in 2012, and his productivity in the second half of the season is simply hard to ignore. In the final seven games, he ran for 816 yards and allowed Syracuse to end up with a 1,000-yard back for the fifth straight season. Thanks to Smith and a host of talented returners, running back is perhaps the strongest position on offense headed into the season. There will be challenges, though. Syracuse will not have a proven quarterback this season, so expect teams to load the box and focus on stopping the run. The Orange also have to replace first-round pick Justin Pugh on the line, along with one other departed starter. If history is any indication, though, the Syracuse run game will be just fine.

The countdown

  • No. 25 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

  • No. 24 Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina

  • No. 23 Nikita Whitlock, NG, Wake Forest