Biggest shoes to fill in the ACC
Updated: Jul 31, 2020
The ACC may not be thought of as a deep conference, but it is more than "just Clemson" that has talent. You can see that through the NFL Draft results. After 2019, teams have to find replacements for players they lost to graduation or the pros. Here's who left the biggest shoes to fill in the ACC.
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."
Boston College QBs
Anthony Brown broke out in 2018, throwing for the 2nd most touchdowns by a sophomore QB in Boston College history. He suffered a season ending injury last year, so this is largely based on that sophomore season. Brown has now transferred to Oregon and will need to be replaced. Redshirt junior Dennis Grosel started 7 games last season, and Notre Dame transfer Phil Jurkovec adds to the competition. Matt Valecce also saw playing time last year.
Boston College RBs
While the Eagles certainly will feel the loss of Brown at quarterback, a bigger loss may be running back A.J. Dillon. Dillon was a unique back with the size of a power back (6'0", 250 lbs) but the all-around abilities of a complete back. He was a consistent threat to reach the 1000 yards mark and earned several conference and national accolades. David Bailey inherits the role after an impressive sophomore season, but Dillon is a difficult player to follow.
This wasn't really on my list until the news came out about Justyn Ross's injury. Prior to the injury, the Tigers had 2 returning starting receivers and a couple role players seeing slightly expanded roles. Now, they have to lean even more on those role players. Senior Amari Rodgers must lead the group (and stay healthy) while players like Franks Ladson Jr. and Joseph Ngata need to show they can handle bigger roles. The two have less than 30 receptions and 400 yards between them. Seems like there are plenty of opportunities for players to seize playing time.
Clemson's 2019 defense was great, including their secondary. However, that secondary was so good that 3 of the players (4 if you count LB Isaiah Simmons being moved around) are now in the NFL. Cornerback Derion Kendrick and Safety Nolan Turner both return, but the rest (A.J. Terrell, K'Von Wallace, and Tanner Muse) will need to be replaced. Given that they were all All-ACC players and may have substantial roles in the pros, it will not be easy. They do have a great defensive line to help them out.
Florida State RBs
Flash back to 2017, and everyone was questioning how the Seminoles replace the team's all-time rushing yards leader Dalvin Cook. They had Jacques Patrick returning, but they also found Cam Akers. Patrick left after the 2018 season, and Akers was just drafted by the Rams after becoming FSU's 6th leading rusher. Several players, led by Texas A&M transfer Jashaun Corbin, will try to follow Akers as the next great back. Corbin had 1,025 all-purpose yards in 14 games for the Aggies. Junior college transfer La'Damian Webb figures to be a part of the equation after leading hsi conference in rushing, and 4-star freshman Lawrance Toafili may vie for playing time.
Wake Forest QBs
Jamie Newman broke out for the Demon Deacons in 2019, finishing in the top 5 in the ACC in just about every statistical category and near the top of many school records lists. Newman has now transferred to Georgia and will compete to be their starter. Wake currently has 4 QBs on their roster: redshirt sophomore Sam Hartman, redshirt freshmen Michael Kern and Leo Kelly, and freshman Mitch Griffis. Hartman is a former starter and has been named to Athlon Sports' Top 35 Projected Breakout Players list. Kern is the only other of the four to attempt a college pass.
Bryce Perkins was the starter for 2 years for the Cavaliers and set several records, including single-season passing yards (2019) and career total offense. It had definitely been a while since the program had that caliber of a player, but now they have to find his successor. The most likely candidate is Keytaon Thompsomn, who transferred from Mississippi State. Thompson has played in 20 games, including 2 starts, throughout his career, and is immediately eligible as a graduate transfer. Brennan Armstrong has the next most playing experience of the remaining QBs on the roster.
All-Conference performers Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney are both gone. Both players had been impact players since their freshman seasons. Quarterman was a steady presence and a tackling machine for the Hurricanes, finishing with the 16th most in conference history for his career. Pinckney was seemingly always around the ball and finishes 17th in career tackles for loss in the ACC. The Canes have a daunting task ahead of them, as Zach McCloud is their only returning linebacker with legitimate experience. They better hope someone, like touted freshman Corey Flagg, breaks out to help him.
Clemson LB- James Skalski returns, but Isaiah Simmons is a big loss. I said the secondary had bigger shoes to fill because they lost more players, and I believe Simmons's absence will be felt more in pass coverage.
Wake Forest RB- Cade Carney did a lot for them over the past few years, but Kenneth Walker may be even better.
Virginia Tech RB- After losing Deshawn McClease, this would have been on the main list if they had not landed transfers Khalil Herbert and Raheem Blackshear. Both players are 1000 yard threats. They also have a JUCO transfer and others to help out.