UNC Football star among top 10 running backs heading into 2024 season

After a breakout sophomore season, UNC football standout Omarion Hampton has earned a spot among the nation's top returning running backs.
Duke's Mayo Bowl - North Carolina v West Virginia
Duke's Mayo Bowl - North Carolina v West Virginia / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

Even with Drake Maye at quarterback a season ago, the UNC football program wanted to put an emphasis on running the football.

That mission was accomplished, as sophomore Omarion Hampton burst onto the scene.

In his second season in Chapel Hill, Hampton rushed for 1,504 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns while adding 222 receiving yards and an additional score through the air. He was one of the nation's best, as he finished the season as a Doak Walker Award finalist.

Heading into his junior season, Hampton is once again expected to be a focal point of the UNC football program's offense, as he may essentially be the main guy with Drake Maye departing for the NFL. Although the Tar Heels have uncertainty at the quarterback position, North Carolina knows that they have a workhorse in Hampton to rely on, as he hopes to replicate (or even top) his production from a season ago.

ESPN tabbed Hampton as one of the top 10 returning running backs in the country, as the Tar Heels star came in at No. 4 overall on the list. He was one of just two ACC players to make the list, as Jaydn Ott, who plays for conference newcomer Cal, came in at No. 9 overall.

Here's what Andrea Adelson had to say about the Tar Heels' star running back:

North Carolina went into last season wanting to place a much bigger emphasis on running the ball. Mission accomplished behind Hampton, who had a breakout sophomore season en route to becoming a Doak Walker Award finalist, and earning Walter Camp first-team All-America honors. Hampton rushed for 1,504 yards -- second on the school's single-season list -- with 15 rushing touchdowns, while adding 29 receptions for 222 yards and a touchdown. Hampton had seven 100-yard games and his total rushing yards ranked fifth in the FBS.

This season, the dynamic shifts a bit. With Drake Maye gone and an open quarterback competition set to begin this spring, Hampton is the most known commodity on the North Carolina offense. Conventional wisdom says defenses will stack the box to stop Hampton and force the new starting quarterback -- projected to be transfer Max Johnson or Conner Harrell -- to try to beat them."

Hampton is a special player, as his skillset was well on display during the 2023 season. The Tar Heels hope that he can find a way to be even better this season as the running game will be a major factor in the team's success in 2024.

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