News came out today that depending on who you are could either be the best or worst news you have ever heard (at least at this moment). If you are a fan of the North Carolina Tar Heels then today you are dealing with the departure of a superstar. If you are a fan of any other ACC team then you are dealing with the same thing, only from the other side. UNC running back Giovani Bernard is leaving school early to enter the NFL Draft. He will be forgoing his junior and senior seasons to do so.
Bernard was the most electrifying running back in the ACC and perhaps the entire country this year. He was the spark plug that ignited head coach Larry Fedora’s high powered offense. ESPN “draft guru” Todd McShay has Bernard ranked as one of the best running back prospects in this upcoming draft, and it’s hard to disagree with him on that.
The redshirt sophomore is a triple-threat as he is a spectacular runner; kick returner and receiver out of the back field. His overall statistics are mind boggling. He was the best returner in the country this year, averaging over 16 yards per return. He was a very consistent running back in his two years as the Tar Heels starter. As a redshirt freshman in 2011 he carried the ball 239 times for 1,253 yards and 13 touchdowns. This year he ran for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns on 55 less carries. He was also a weapon in the passing game catching 47 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns.
I think that Bernard is NFL ready right now, and will be able to make an impact on a team in his first season, but this move will hurt North Carolina. A.J. Blue was a solid backup to Bernard in 2012, but I’m not sure if he is ready to become the featured back in Fedora’s system. Blue will be a senior next season and he is a big bruising back that can break through tackles, but Bernard was a versatile back that could beat opponents with speed, elusiveness and power.
Bernard has played his last game as a Tar Heel, because NCAA sanctions are keeping North Carolina out of the postseason this year, but the running back is now looking on to bigger and better things. His former team will have trouble replacing him.