Continuing our week of opponent look-aheads, we preview the best skill position players the Hurricanes will see all year.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State, Jr.
Simply put: he’s real good. Battled through injuries to rush for 1,691 yards as a sophomore, including a performance last Oct. 10 in Tallahassee (269 total yards, three touchdowns) that broke the Hurricanes’ backs. His yards per carry (7.4) was remarkable for a back who carried the ball 229 times.
Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech, Jr.
As a sophomore, he was the ACC’s only 1,000-yard receiver (1,164), led the league in touchdown grabs (11) and finished third in receptions (75). Miami held him to four catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, but if transfer quarterback Jerod Evans is as good as the Hokies hope, he and Ford might light up the night in Blacksburg on Oct. 20.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh, Jr.
His sophomore year in 2014 — the ACC’s offensive player of the year after 1,765 rushing yards and a school-record 26 touchdowns — seemed to presage greater things. Then he tore his ACL last September and announced he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma three months later. Now cancer-free, he has his eyes on 2016, which includes a Nov. 5 date with the Hurricanes.
Elijah Hood, RB, North Carolina, Jr.
He was a big part of UNC’s surprise run to the Coastal title, racking up 1,463 yards and 17 touchdowns. He was a 6-foot, 220-pound bell cow for the Tar Heels last year, and enters this fall as one of the top-rated running backs eligible for the 2017 draft.
Travis Rudolph, WR, Florida State, Jr.
Cardinal Newman alum (and one-time Miami commit) who caught 59 passes for 916 yards and seven touchdowns last year. The Seminoles have a wealth of receivers, but Rudolph is the most proven.
Jaylen Samuels, RB/WR/TE, North Carolina State, Jr.
At 5-11 and 223 pounds, he carries the ball, splits out wide, and blocks like a tight end. He scored 16 touchdowns (third in the ACC), nine on the ground and seven through the air. His yards from scrimmage (965) were split as well (368 rushing, 597 receiving).
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech, Jr.
Tall target (6-7, 245) who produced a 40-530-6 receiving line, then opted to return to school instead of test the NFL draft waters. He’ll spend more time out wide in Justin Fuente’s spread-flavored offense.
Mack Hollins, WR, North Carolina, Sr.
Led the country in yards per catch, (24.9), finishing with 745 yards and eight touchdowns on 30 receptions. Big frame (6-4, 209) and a tough cover for pretty much any defensive back.
Taquan Mizzell, RB, Virginia, Sr.
Former five-star recruit who set a conference record in receiving yards by a running back (721). He also rushed for 671 yards and produced eight total touchdowns. Shut him down and it’s a lot easier to beat Virginia; the Hurricanes held him to a quiet 5.0 yards per touch in last year’s win.
Honorable mention: Ryan Switzer, WR, North Carolina, Sr.; Jesus “Bobo” Wilson, WR, Florida State, Sr.; Kermit Whitfield, WR, Florida State, Sr.; Matt Dayes, RB, North Carolina State, Sr.; Qadree Ollison, RB, Pittsburgh, Soph.; Travon McMillan, RB, Virginia Tech, Soph.; Torii Hunter Jr., WR, Notre Dame, Jr.; Tarean Folston, RB, Notre Dame, Jr.