It took Boston College freshman running back AJ Dillon a few weeks to get going, but once he did, wow. Things were never the same for the Eagles.
This week, AJ Dillon was named ACC Offensive Rookie of the Year, and to the conference’s first team offense. How exactly did we get here?
It started with CMU
In the first four games of the 2017 season, Dillon carried the ball 54 times for 178 yards and one touchdown. That’s 13.5 carries per game, 3.3 yards per carry and 44.5 yards per game. Dillon, however, broke out against Central Michigan: 25 carries, 120 yards and a touchdown.
After that, it was no looking back.
Over the final eight games of his rookie season, Dillon carried the ball 214 times (26.7 per game) for 1,254 yards (156.8 per game) and 12 touchdowns. He averaged nearly six yards per carry in this stretch, too, which took place against some of the most-talented defenses in the ACC. Oh, by the way, Boston College went 6-2 in this stretch.
Dillon ran for 196 yards against NC State; a week prior, Dillon went for 149 yards in the win over Florida State. And don’t forget his record-setting 272 yards and four touchdowns against Louisville, too.
By the end of it, Dillon completed the regular season with 1,432 yards (No. 15 in the FBS) and 13 touchdowns — No. 20 in the FBS. The 1,432 yards are the second most in the history of the ACC for a freshman running back.
By the numbers
Dating back to the 2000 season, only 10 ACC players have rushed for at least 1,400 yards and 12 touchdowns. That list now includes Dillon, of course. Lamar Jackson was the only other player in the league to accomplish this feat this year, too.
Let’s have some more fun with filters, shall we? According to Sports Reference, only 83 times this season did an FBS player run for at least 190 yards in a game. AJ Dillon accounted for four of those performances.
Part of what made Dillon so good was his remarkable consistency. The freshman posted an Opportunity Rate of 38.4 percent, per Football Study Hall. This means Boston College’s offensive line provided Dillon with at least five yards of running room on 38.4 percent of his carries. When given a crack at daylight, Dillon tacked on an additional 5.7 Highlight Yards per Opportunity.