Coming off four 7-6 seasons in the last five years under Steve Addazio, Boston College returns its starting quarterback (Anthony Brown), two of the top defensive backs in the ACC (Lukas Denis and Will Harris) and their entire starting offensive line this fall. BC also brings back A.J. Dillon, the top returning running back in the ACC, and a preseason ACC Player of the Year candidate.
Is Dillon the best returning running back in the country?
Not in terms of total yardage. But nobody had a better second half of the 2017 season on the ground than Dillon. And if he plays throughout the 2018 season the way he played in October and November of last year, Dillon will have a reasonable chance of leading the country in rushing this fall.
After producing just 178 combined rushing yards over BC’s opening four games as a true freshman, Dillon cracked the 100-yard plateau for the first time with 120 rushing yards in late September against Central Michigan. After rushing for just 35 yards in a loss at Virginia Tech, Dillon had his breakout game – 272 yards in a stunning BC victory at Louisville.
Dillon ran for 1,253 yards over BC’s final seven contests, including 157 yards in the Eagles’ Pinstripe Bowl loss to Iowa. No running back in the country could match Dillon’s average of 179 yards on the ground over BC’s final seven outings.
Only three returning running backs in America ran for more yards in 2017 than Dillon – Stanford’s Bryce Love, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, and Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary. Love and Taylor are two of the foremost preseason Heisman Trophy candidates, and two of the few backs in the country who can stake a claim to being better than Dillon.
Love finished the regular season with 1,973 yards, and followed that up with 145 rushing yards in the Alamo Bowl against TCU to finish with 2,118 total rushing yards. Taylor had 1,847 yards in the regular season, and added 130 rushing yards in the Orange Bowl against Miami to finish with 1,977 yards. Singletary had 1,796 rushing yards in the regular season, and 124 rushing yards in the Boca Raton Bowl to finish with 1,920 rushing yards.
Like Boston College, Wisconsin returns its entire 2017 offensive line intact. That increases the chances for Taylor to enjoy another stellar season on the ground. Stanford returns all but one offensive line starter – left guard David Bright. So all three players head into 2018 expecting to improve on their lofty 2017 production.
The Heisman Trophy may be a bit of a stretch for Dillon unless the Eagles shock the ACC community and challenge for a league title. But the BC sophomore shouldn’t be overlooked as a bona fide candidate for honors including the Doak Walker Award. Even if Love and Taylor receive more preseason attention.