Earlier on Monday, the 2013 preseason watch list for the Maxwell Award was released. The list was compromised of 76 names of talented college football players who, based on their past performances, have earned the right to be considered favorites to be named the college football player of the year in 2013 when all is said and done.
Of those 76 names, eight athletes from the Atlantic Coast Conference were included. This upcoming week, we’re going to profile each young man, including what earned them the right to be on this list as well as their chances of winning the actual award this December.
We’re going to start this off with an explosive athlete from a team that is actually beginning their ACC tenure this year, Syracuse Orange senior RB Jerome Smith.
Coming off a 2012 season that saw Smith rush for 1171 yards on 227 carries, Smith certainly deserves to be included on this list. This is especially evident seeing as he wasn’t even expected to do half of that last season. Early on in the year, Smith split carries with teammate Prince-Tyson Gulley. While it was a pretty effective two-headed monster, as time passed, Smith began to emerge on his own.
Beginning in week 7 against the Connecticut Huskies, Smith rattled off four consecutive 100-yard performances which concluded in week 10 in the 45-26 upset victory over the eventual Sugar Bowl Champion Louisville Cardinals. This stretch was the catalyst for pushing Smith towards becoming the fifth straight Syracuse running back to rush for over 1,000 yards.
Smith capped off that 2012 season by torching the West Virginia defense in the Pinstripe Bowl for 152 yards on 29 carries, very much solidifying his status as a player to watch coming into this season.
As far as Smith’s chances at being recognized as the best player in college football for 2013, that is going to be a hefty task to take on.
With a new head coach, new offensive system and a much tougher conference to play in, it wouldn’t be surprising to see somewhat of a drop-off in production in 2013 for the 6-0, 217-pound back.
New offensive coordinator George McDonald is implementing the popular spread-style into the offense, which will likely require Smith to split some carries yet again, this time with sophomore Adonis Ameen-Moore. Moore is the short-yardage threat and actually finished up with more touchdowns last season (5) than Smith did (3). While Smith will undoubtedly be the workhorse of the offense from the running back position, Moore may be the one picking up a lot of the glory inside the 10-yard line.
Still, no matter how much time is split, there’s no question Smith is one of the more talented players in the nation. And with games this season against some high-profile opponents such as Penn State, Florida State and Clemson, he’ll have a bit of a bigger stage than he did during last year’s run to show everyone that he is among the elite.
Jack is the ACC College Football Writer for Rant Sports. Follow Jack on Twitter @JackJ14RS