ACC's all-breakout team: Defense


Last week, the ACC announced its preseason all-conference team, but those selections are bound to change dramatically by year's end. With that in mind, we’ve put together our All-Breakout selections for the ACC, made up entirely of players we think can emerge as stars in 2015 despite failing to receive a single vote in the conference’s preseason balloting.

Our offensive selections posted yesterday. Here's the defense.

DE -- Chad Thomas, Miami

The former five-star recruit didn’t make a huge impact in Year 1 and doesn’t have a secured starting spot yet. Still, there's no arguing talent, and Thomas can be an impact performer as an edge rusher that Miami desperately needs (just 69 sacks since 2012). He'll see more snaps this season, and if he continues the improvement he showed this spring, he could quickly blossom into a star.

DT -- Andrew Brown, Virginia

Last season, fellow five-star recruit Quin Blanding made an instant impact for UVA. This year, it's Brown's turn. He earned raves this spring for his improved performance, and he's promised more playing time with so much turnover up front for the Cavaliers. Brown is too talented to spend another season in the shadows, and he has the potential to make Virginia's defense into a force.

DT -- Quaven Ferguson, Duke

The Blue Devils struggled against the run last season and didn't routinely get to the opposing QB. Finding tackles with the size and strength to make an impact has been job No. 1, and Ferguson (6-foot-2, 305 pounds) fits the bill. Ferguson doesn't have a starting job yet, but he'll be part of Duke's rotation and could force his way into more snaps as the season progresses.

DE -- Jacob Pugh, Florida State

Consider this more of a nod to new DE/OLB coach Brad Lawing, who takes over a Florida State pass rush that struggled to bring down the QB last year. Pugh showed flashes of potential and is likely to get the first crack at significant reps, but given the amount of talent FSU has recruited, Lawing is bound to find someone to get the job done.

LB -- Devonte Fields, Louisville

If Fields had been officially on Louisville's roster as of voting time, he surely would've earned some attention in the preseason balloting. The former TCU star steps into Lorenzo Mauldin's role at outside linebacker, and he's got a chance to become one of the ACC's top pass rushers. He'll be a crucial cog in a new-look Louisville D.

LB -- Airius Moore, NC State

Moore's playing time was limited last season, but when he got on the field, he made an impact, racking up 29 tackles in a four-game stretch from mid-October to mid-November. Now, he’ll move from middle linebacker to play alongside fellow rising star Jerod Fernandez.

LB -- Marquel Lee, Wake Forest

How does a guy with 101 tackles last season make it onto this list? Hard to say, but Lee still received a goose egg when it came to media votes. Don’t be surprised if he ups his game even more in 2015 and forces the outsiders to take notice.

S -- T.J. Green, Clemson

No player on Clemson’s roster received more praise this offseason than Green. The 6-3 junior made huge strides this spring and, combined with Jayron Kearse, should give the Tigers a formidable tandem at safety.

S -- Chuck Clark, Virginia Tech

Clark's role in Bud Foster's defense remains a bit up in the air with C.J. Reavis likely to be ineligible and Brandon Facyson still an injury concern. Wherever he ends up, he could emerge as a disruptive force in a system that allows its athletes to make plays.

CB -- Brad Watson, Wake Forest

Kevin Johnson anchored an underrated Wake defense at corner last season. This season, Watson will step into a similar role. While the unit won’t hinge on man-to-man matchups quite as much, coach Dave Clawson is excited to see Watson take the next step in 2015.

CB -- Kamrin Moore, Boston College

What's to make of BC's secondary? Aside from safety Justin Simmons, things are still a bit in flux. But while Moore is far from a sure thing at corner, he did rack up four PBUs as a true freshman last season in limited duty and had a career-best five tackles in BC's bowl game against Penn State. He’s got good speed and athleticism and, with a bit more polish, he could easily carve out a big role on an Eagles defense in transition.