What does a man have to do to get respect around here?
Giovani Bernard put up over 300 all-purpose yards against rival NC State on Saturday and returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown with 30 seconds left in a tied game.
The North Carolina Tar Heels' electric running back has put up numbers worthy of Heisman candidacy. He has proven to be the spark plug for this team and one of the most elusive and skilled backs in the NCAA.
Yeah, that's the feeling I get from those who don't pay attention to the "weak" ACC. I mean, it's just a basketball league, right? Do they even play football?
They do, and many of the top players in the NFL have come from the ACC. Unfortunately, they haven't gotten much notice on the national stage while in college. You'd think the conference was in the FCS.
Giovani Bernard has a chance to change all that if people would just take notice of his work.
Let's look at the numbers.
Bernard injured his knee in the season opener against Elon and missed the next two contests. Carolina lost both of those games by a total of six points.
Despite missing those two games, Bernard is tied for fourth in the nation with 15 total touchdowns—one more than he had all of last season. He has also put up 930 yards rushing on 126 attempts, which works out to a hefty 7.4 yards per carry.
But the redshirt sophomore doesn't just run the ball.
Bernard has also put up 319 receiving yards at an average of 10 yards per catch with three receiving touchdowns.
He doesn't stop there either. North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora realized he needed to get Bernard as many touches as possible this season, so he also occasionally put him out there to return punts. All Bernard has done is return 12 punts for 249 yards and two touchdowns.
That's 20.8 yards per return, for those of you without a calculator handy.
Only Marcus Murphy of Mizzou has more punt return touchdowns (three), and he's returned 20 times (still pretty darn good). Nobody has a better average than Bernard, though.
Combining rushes, receptions and returns, Gio has amassed 1,498 all-purpose yards in just seven games. That works out to 214 all-purpose yards per game.
ESPN's Heisman Watch list is stacked with seven quarterbacks, leaving little room for the runners of the league. That's a shame, because there are a lot of good ones.
But few are as electric and game-changing as Giovani Bernard.
There are two that made the list—both coming from the offensive powerhouse of Oregon.
De'Anthony Thomas is currently ranked ninth in ESPN's Heisman Watch, while his running mate, Kenjon Barner, sits in the No. 3 spot.
Barner has had quite the season, burning the turf for 974 yards on 141 carries and 14 touchdowns. He also has 13 receptions for 158 yards and one touchdown.
Chip Kelly even uses him in the return game, but he hasn't been quite as successful there. He has four punt returns for minus-six yards, along with seven kick returns for 115 yards and no touchdowns.
Moving on to De'Anthony Thomas, his averages become much more impressive than his total numbers.
Thomas only has 58 carries for 499 yards, but that averages out to 8.6 yards per carry—which is undeniably impressive. He is second in the nation with that average, while Bernard sits in seventh place.
On top of that, he has 24 receptions for 218 yards.
Like Barner, he is also used in the return game. Thomas has 12 punt returns for 220 yards and one touchdown to go with six kick returns for 88 yards and no touchdowns.
Both Oregon backs have participated in all eight of the Ducks' games.
However, Barner only has 44 more yards rushing than Bernard. Gio's averages are all better, with the exception of Thomas' rush average and Barner's reception average.
Despite playing in one fewer game, Bernard also has more all-purpose yards than both Heisman-contending running backs. Kenjon Barner has totaled 1,241 all-purpose yards, De'Anthony Thomas has 1,025 and Giovani Bernard, again, has 1,498.
It isn't just about the numbers either. Go ahead, voters, watch the film. Can you honestly tell me there is running back with a better combination of vision, patience, toughness, hands and speed?
Good luck with that.
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