The opening of fall camps around the ACC is just a few more weeks away, and with it, a few important names will be returning to the field for the first time in a long time. Here’s our list of 10 ACC players returning from significant injuries in 2015 that could have a big impact on the 2016 season.
Matt Dayes, RB, NC State
Dayes racked up more than 1,000 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns before going down with a season-ending injury in the first half of NC State’s game against Clemson, putting a major dent in the Wolfpack’s ground game in the process. He was close to 100 percent this spring, but he’ll be full-go for fall camp as part of a potentially dynamic NC State backfield.
James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
A knee injury cost Conner the 2015 season, but his battle against cancer -- diagnosed late last year -- has been an inspiration to everyone. He continued to work throughout his cancer treatment, and while his leadership would’ve been critical for Pitt regardless, his return to the field this fall could make the Panthers a Coastal Division contender.
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
The Tigers’ offense was still spectacular even without Williams, who went down with a neck injury in Week 1. But his loss as a deep threat did force some adjustments, as evidenced by the marked decline in Artavis Scott’s yards after catch numbers. His return opens up another dimension for a passing game that is already among the nation’s best.
Korrin Wiggins, DB, Clemson
An ACL injury in fall camp forced Wiggins to miss the season, and he was limited during spring practice, but he should be 100 percent by the time camp opens again in August. The Tigers will need him after watching four starters in their secondary -- including nickel Travis Blanks -- depart early for the NFL draft. Wiggins opens up options as a fifth DB or strongside linebacker.
Bryon Fields, DB, Duke
The Blue Devils’ top corner missed the entire season with an ACL injury, and as a result, the Duke defense allowed nearly 11 yards per completion last year, among the worst rates in the country. Fields' return not only bolsters the defense, but allows coordinator Jim Knowles some versatility with DeVon Edwards, who could move between safety and corner.
Trey Marshall, DB, Florida State
After starting the first six games of the season, a biceps injury ended Marshall’s sophomore campaign early. He returned to work during spring practice, and he promises to be a key figure in a secondary that’s already among the best in the ACC -- and maybe the country.
Qua Searcy, RB, Georgia Tech
Searcy played in just three games as a freshman before an ankle injury ended his season, but his talent was obvious. He worked his way back slowly this spring, but as the Yellow Jackets prep for fall camp, there’s optimism Searcy will grab hold of the starting A-back role and run with it.
Michael Mooney, OT, Virginia
Coach Bronco Mendenhall is still working to find his starters on the line, but having the veteran Mooney healthy after missing the final seven games of 2015 is a big bonus. Mooney has started 14 games in his career and his athleticism on the edge could be critical for a team looking to jump start its offense in a new scheme.
Sean Huelskamp, LB, Virginia Tech
The former walk-on had earned a starting job at linebacker early last season before an injury interrupted his season, and a return for the Hokies’ bowl game was short-lived. Huelskamp expects to be ready for camp, and his presence adds some depth in a wide-open competition at linebacker.
Jonathan Hilliman, RB, Boston College
Two years ago, Hilliman was one of the top freshmen in the league, rushing for 860 yards and 13 touchdowns. His sophomore campaign came to an end, however, after just four games -- and when he went down, BC’s offense disappeared, too. A healthy Hilliman -- along with the return of Darius Wade to the QB battle -- should inject some much-needed life in a unit that was among the nation’s worst in 2015.