2020 Players to watch in the ACC
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
The ACC's quarterback group is clearly led by Clemson star Trevor Lawrence. Lawrence has been considered the top QB in college football since he supplanted incumbent starter Kelly Bryant as a true freshman on a national championship contending team. This also led Chase Brice to transfer to Duke, where he has high hopes as the Blue Devils' starter. Another transfer to keep an eye on here is Miami's D'Eriq King, who has previously starred at Houston. North Carolina's Sam Howell and Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett both return after finishing in the top 4 in the conference in passing yards. Howell had an impressive freshman year in 2019, finishing as ACC Rookie of the Year (Offensive & Overall), Freshman All-American, and 3rd team All-ACC. Louisville appears to have a competition at the position with Jawon Pass and Micale Cunningham. Wake Forest will have to replace Jamie Newman, and Virginia will replace Bryce Perkins.
Once again, a Clemson player leads the way. Travis Etienne has been one of the best backs in the country for 3 years. He is a back-to-back conference Player of the Year and holds the school and conference career records for rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns, and points by a non-kicker. Clemson has a good tandem of backs with Etienne and Lyn- J Dixon. Louisville's Javian Hawkins and North Carolina's Michael Carter are the only other 2 returning running backs in the conference who ran for at least 1000 yards last season. Both earned All-ACC honors. Carter and Javonte Williams will form a great backfield duo for the Tar Heels. Jashaun Corbin will help Florida State try to replace Cam Akers after playing well at Texas A&M. Abdul Adams will take over lead back duties at Syracuse. Boston College's David Bailey, NC State's Zonovan Knight, Wake Forest's Kenneth Walker, and Georgia Tech's Jordan Mason are also notable returners at the position.
Clemson has one of the strongest units but will be missing Justyn Ross. Ross was supposed to lead a group that includes Amari Rodgers, Frank Ladson Jr.., and Joseph Ngata. Ngata and Ladson are role players from last year's team stepping into full time positions. Several of the conferences other top receivers from a year ago are also returning. Louisville welcomes back the tandem of Tutu Atwell (1272 yd, 12 TD) and Dez Fitzpatrick (635 yd, 6 TD). North Carolina brings back two 1000+ yard receivers in Dynami Brown and Dazz Newsome. Florida State's Tamorrion Terry returns after finishing 2nd in receiving yards in the conference in 2019. Taysir Mack will lead Pitt. Sage Surratt is the leader at Wake Forest. Also watch Syracuse's Taj Harris, NC State's Emeka Emezie, and Virginia's Terrell Jana.
The ACC is a pretty talented tight end conference. Boston College's Hunter Long and Miami's Brevin Jordan lead the way. Both earned All-Conference honors, along with Duke's Noah Gray, last year. NC State's Cary Angeline also returns after All-Conference honorable mention in 2019. Elsewhere, Clemson's Braden Galloway had a productive college football playoff performance after returning from suspension. J.C Chalk also returns for the Tigers. Virginia has picked up Central Michigan transfer Tony Poljan.
Boston College usually has some very good offensive linemen. This year, the Eagles have Alec Lindstrom, Zion Johnson, Ben Petrula, and Tyler Vrabel. Lindstrom, Johnson, and Petrula are returning All-ACC performers, and Vrabel earned honorable mention as a freshman. Clemson's Jackson Carman was also All-ACC and has 1st round NFL potential. Pittsburgh welcomes back All-ACC linemen Jimmy Morrissey and Bryce Hargrove.
The ACC also has many quality defensive linemen. 10 of the 12 All-Conference performers from 2019 will return for 2020 (Miami's Gregory Rousseau, Pitt's Jaylen Twyman and Patrick Jones, FSU's Marvin Wilson, Wake Forest's Carlos Basham, Duke's Victor Dimukeje and Chris Rumph, and Clemson's Xavier Thomas, Tyler Davis, and Nyles Pinckney). Rousseau, Twyman, Wilson, and Basham are all considered 1st round NFL prospects. Miami's defensive line also features Temple transfer Quincy Roche ( 1st team All-AAC) and UCLA transfer Jaelan Phillips. Another promising Clemson player is DE K.J. Henry, while Pitt also has Rashed Weaver. Guys to watch at other schools include Virginia Tech's Emmanuel Belmar and NC State's Alim McNeil.
Virginia has a couple of tall, athletic linebackers in Charles Snowden and Noah Taylor that can wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Both players have All-Conference potential. Virginia Tech's Rayshard Ashby led the conference in tackles and is joined by Dax Hollifield in Blacksburg. Boston College's Max Richardson, Georgia Tech's David Curry, and UNC's Chazz Surratt also return after finishing in the top 10 tacklers in the conference. Clemson's James Skalski is an intense MLB who can be seen all over the field. Virginia's Zane Zandier also returns and is worth watching.
The conference has some good players on the back end of the defense. Clemson returns CB Derrion Kendrick and S Nolan Turner. The conference's leading interceptor, Syracuse's Andre Cisco, is also back. Caleb Farley finished 3rd in the category and returns for Virginia Tech. Other returning All-ACC players include Virginia's Joey Blount, FSU's Asante Samuel Jr and Hamsah Nasirildeen, and Pitt's Paris Ford. Ford will be joined on the back end of the Panthers defense by Damar Hamlin. Also keep an eye on UNC's Cam'ron Kelly, Miami's Al Blades Jr, and Duke's Mark Gilbert.
Editor's Note*: This was written before it was announced that Notre Dame would be joining the ACC for the 2020 season. Any Notre Dame content related to this topic will be included in the article about "Other Conferences."