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Ranking the ACC units: Running backs

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This one will probably be the toughest ranking of them all because the position is so loaded. But somebody's has to be the best, right?

1. Georgia Tech -- This is the deepest, most proven group in the conference, and it's only expected to be better in Year 2 of Paul Johnson's offense. Reigning ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer led the league in rushing last year with 1,395 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Louisville transfer Anthony Allen and sophomore Roddy Jones, along with Embry Peeples and Marcus Wright give the staff a bundle of options.

2. Virginia Tech -- Ryan Williams and Darren Evans have stolen the spotlight, but don't forget about Josh Oglesby and Kenny Lewis Jr., whose status after a torn Achilles last season will be re-evaluated at the end of the summer. Oglesby can be a threat to catch the ball, but this is still Evans' show. Williams had a great spring game, but Evans is coming off a record-setting freshman season.

3. Miami -- Graig Cooper is the team's leading returning rusher and one of the most versatile players on the roster. He and Javarris James make a tough 1-2 punch, but Cooper has his sights set on a 1,000-yard season. They've also got a great recruit in Mike James, and Lee Chambers and Damien Berry give the position added depth.

4. Wake Forest -- Wake has three capable tailbacks in Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass and Kevin Harris, who each had a 100-yard game last year and started at least one game. They'll have an improved offensive line blocking for them this year.

5. Boston College -- Josh Haden and Montel Harris were two of the most productive freshmen in the country last year, as they combined for 106 yards per game. They'll benefit tremendously from that experience, plus be working behind one of the best offensive lines in the ACC.

6. Florida State -- The Noles lost their leading rusher in Antone Smith, but Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones have the skills to compensate for it and the FSU running game shouldn't miss a beat. Thomas lost only 10 yards rushing all of last year, and had a breakout freshman season. Jones showed his potential in the Champs Sports Bowl with 55 yards and a touchdown on four carries.

7. Maryland -- The Terps have a solid group in Da'Rel Scott, Davin Meggett and Morgan Green, who ran for a career-high 72 yards in the Humanitarian Bowl. Scott is their star, as he rushed for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns last year, but he's got to work on running lower and tougher between the tackles. He could be more of a complete back if he got better at running routes and improved his pass protection.

8. Clemson -- The Tigers have the most accomplished, versatile back in the ACC right now in C.J. Spiller, and he's going to get the bulk of the carries without James Davis to share it with this year. The question is if he can handle it. Sophomore Jamie Harper has been working hard this offseason for an increased role, but the Tigers definitely don't have the depth of the other teams, leaving the job almost entirely to Spiller.

9. NC State -- Just as the Wolfpack welcomed back Toney Baker, Jamelle Eugene went down with a shoulder injury and missed spring drills. Brandon Barnes and James Washington benefited from Eugene's absence, but the Pack will need to keep their top two backs healthy this fall. It will be interesting to see how effective Baker is considering he hasn't played in full pads since he was injured in the season opener two years ago.

10. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels return all of their running backs from a year ago, and should see more consistency now that everyone knows their roles. Shaun Draughn became the starter midway through last season and rushed for 866 yards, and Ryan Houston gave a powerful push off the bench, leading the team with eight touchdowns, including six from just a yard out. Freshman Jamal Womble impressed the staff this spring.

11. Duke -- The return of Re'quan Boyette will help the Blue Devils tremendously, and they're in a much better position than they were a year ago. While Boyette was out, Jay Hollingsworth led the team in rushing with 399 yards while catching 25 passes for an additional 188 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Jackson, a converted safety in his second year with the program, rushed for 259 yards while catching 12 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown.

12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers have to replace their leading rusher and team leader in Cedric Peerman, which means Mikell Simpson is going to have to revert to his 2007 form. Simpson was hampered by injuries and missed three games as a result last year. He ran for 570 yards in 2007 before dropping to 262 last year.