North Carolina Tar Heels star sophomore running back Giovani Bernard is one of the top RBs in the nation and was named to several Heisman trophy watch lists before the season began. Bernard became the first RB to rush for over 1,000 yards since, Johnathan Linton in 1997. His 1,253 yards made him the first 1,200 yard rusher since Derrick Fenner in 1986 and his total was the most overall since Don McCauley’s magical 1970 season when rushed for an amazing 1,720 yards.
Bernard is, in my view, the best offensive player the Tar Heels have had in quite sometime. I believe he is a future first round NFL Draft pick and if he has the opportunity to play on a contending team, will be a true Heisman contender. But will that ever happen during his tenure in Chapel Hill is the true question.
Bernards spectacular freshman season on a 7-6 team hid his accomplishments on the national level. This season the team is under NCAA sanctions and is prevented from appearing in a Bowl game and cannot win the ACC or Coastal division titles. Couple that with the injury that cost him two and a half games of competition and you can count him out of the race this year.
After his junior season next year, Bernard will be eligible to declare for the NFL Draft if he so chooses. Also apart of the sanctions against the program are scholarship restrictions for three years, meaning the team head coach Larry Fedora is building will be behind the curve in building depth. Any program under investigation also has to add that to the list of obstacles in obtaining top prospects.
The massive overhaul in systems that Fedora and his coaching staff run typically takes a program 2-3 years before they can be expected to fully reach their potential. So let’s assume that Bernard decides to stay put in Chapel Hill for his senior season, will that be long enough for the program to become a contender and put him in a large enough spotlight to gain enough National recognition to be considered for college footballs most prestigious individual award?
I think there is a chance, but a slim one that Fedora and company can build a winner in that time frame. With quarterback Bryn Renner, a junior gone after next year, Bernard will have a young QB leading the offense. Either Marquis Williams or Mitch Trubisky likely will be at the helm leading the Tar Heels, which, depending on how you look at it, could help, or hurt his chances.
If the young QB has a strong enough supporting cast around him for the team to win AND Fedora goes with a run heavy approach that features Bernard, he might have a chance. That’s a whole lot of if’s to consider in this puzzle, therefore, the likely answer is no and that’s a shame for a player of Bernards caliber.
Only time will tell if Fedora is the right man to lead Carolina to prominence, Bernard needs him to do it quickly if he’s ever going to be considered the best player in the country. Do you think Bernard has a chance of ever winning the award in Carolina blue?