Photo by Turner Walston
Bellcow. Backbone. Workhorse. These are just a few of the terms used to describe a stable running back.
For many years, teams utilized running backs in a lone-back situation, where the starting player would take on a majority of the reps. As football has moved into a pass-heavy era, many teams have been using sets of backs — one for pass-catching, one for short yardage, maybe another for blocking, etc. It is not uncommon to see three or four different running backs take repetitions in today's game.
In Chapel Hill, it is usually a committee of rushers that pace the Tar Heel attack. But there are a few instances in UNC history in which one guy has carried a majority of the load. It has not happened too often, but there have been three seasons that separate from the pack.
*Again, this only dates back to 2000. Working on getting the resources to go further.
No. 1 Giovani Bernard - 2012
Stats: 1228 rushing yards - 12 rushing touchdowns / 47 receptions - 490 receiving yards - 5 receiving touchdowns / 2 punt return touchdowns / 332.8 fantasy points
In 2012, Gio Bernard produced 332.8 fantasy points from the running back position. This number is seldom paralleled in the NFL, but Bernard upped the ante by doing it in a mind-blowing 10 games.
That’s 33.28 fantasy points per game by Bernard, a baffling number in fantasy football, considering most signal-callers don't reach this height of points per game.
What's even more impressive is that he did it on 184 rushing attempts, or 6.7 yards per carry— third in the ACC. He also led the ACC punt yards per return, and punt return touchdowns. He had over 100 yards from scrimmage in every game, and over 150 in six of them.
To put this lofty performance in perspective, the No. 2 and 3 seasons come in below 300 fantasy points.
Truly, Run-GIO was on a different level in this season altogether, ranking him first by a landslide. In the All-ACC selection in 2012, there were no unanimous picks — 46 total votes — for first team. But Gio's 10 game composition of greatness earned 45 of them.
Below is his career high 262 rushing yard game vs. Virginia Tech in 2012. 11.4 yards per carry, it's art in its finest form.
No. 2 Giovani Bernard - 2011
Stats: 1253 rushing yards - 13 rushing touchdowns / 45 receptions - 362 receiving yards - 1 touchdown / 290.5 fantasy points
Not surprisingly, Gio holds the No. 2 spot as well. His inaugural season rushing in Tar Heel Blue wasn't as bright as the encore, but it was brilliant in its own ways.
What 2011 lacked in consistency, it made up for with explosive, workhorse performances.
Take his game against Miami — a season high 36 touches for 182 yards and a score. The ability to maintain his production through the fatigue of an high volume speaks to Gio's sturdy 2011 season.
He was able to keep his health through this massive workload — 284 plays from scrimmage, logged 25 or more rushing attempts in a game four times — which is a feat on its own.
Even with the ups and downs, he was still No. 5 in the ACC with 5.2 yards per rushing attempt, and first in touchdowns from scrimmage with 14.
No. 3 Elijah Hood - 2015
Stats: 1463 rushing yards - 17 rushing touchdowns / 13 receptions - 71 yards / 268.4 fantasy points
A year for the ages, Hood was an absolute beast in 2015.
His yardage total is by far the most rushing yards since 2000, and the second most in single-season history for UNC. His 17 rushing touchdowns are also tops since 2000.
His highlight game came against NC State. Hood bruised for 220 yards on 21 carries, while also reaching the end zone twice.
He ranked third in the ACC in yards from scrimmage, and second in touchdowns from scrimmage. Hood was a man among boys in his monstrous 2015.