ACC's Dream Team

June, 1, 2011
6/01/11
2:00
PM ET
My blogger colleagues had a fun idea and composed dream teams for their respective conferences, a good way to highlight the strongest position groups in the ACC. Here are my votes for the team I’d like to match up against anyone in this year’s Orange Bowl:

Quarterbacks: Maryland

At some point, Danny O’Brien deserves credit for his performance last season. There was a reason he was named the league’s 2010 Rookie of the Year: He’s that good, and he’s only going to get better. O’Brien had a 7-3 record as a first-year starter last season, and despite not starting the first three games, his 22 touchdown passes were third in the country among freshmen and second in school history. His efficiency rating of 134.5 last season is the best in the conference among returning quarterbacks. The question is how quickly he’ll adapt to the new offense, and which receivers will emerge as his favorite targets.

Honorable mention: Florida State, Duke

Running backs: Florida State

The Seminoles return their top three rushers in Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas, who combined to run for 1,862 yards last season -- an average of 6.1 yards per carry -- and 17 touchdowns. Thompson hit the 1,000-yard mark (exactly) in combination yardage with 845 rushing and 155 receiving. Thomas has rushed for 1,804 yards in his career heading into his senior season, the second-most of any active ACC runner, trailing only BC’s Montel Harris. Speaking of Harris, …

Honorable mention: Boston College, Miami, Clemson

Receivers: Duke

Conner Vernon led the ACC in pass receptions (73) and finished third in receiving yards (973). He has 128 catches in his first two collegiate seasons, while Donovan Varner ranked fourth in the ACC last season in pass receptions (60) and seventh in yardage (736). Their 274 combined pass receptions are the most of any active duo in the conference.

Honorable mention: North Carolina, Virginia Tech

Offensive line: North Carolina

This could be one of the biggest and most athletic groups under Butch Davis since he was hired in Chapel Hill. None of the players in the two-deep is under 305 pounds (the starting lineup averages 319 pounds), and eight of the top 10 linemen return, including three starters from last season’s roster. The left side of the line will be particularly strong with guard Jonathan Cooper (22 career starts), and tackle James Hurst.

Honorable mention: Clemson, Miami

Defensive line: North Carolina

All four starters return, making this what should be one of the most fearsome fronts in college football. Defensive end Quinton Coples played both tackle and end last season and had 15.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Tydreke Powell and Donte Paige-Moss should also be first-team all-conference candidates.

Honorable mention: Florida State

Linebackers: Boston College

The Eagles return Luke Kuechly, a unanimous All-American last season, and the top tackler in the country. Kuechly led the nation in tackles (183) and solo stops (110) a year after ranking second in those categories as a true freshman. But it’s not just Kuechly. Kevin Pierre-Louis will start alongside him on the outside. He started all 13 games as a true freshman and ranked second on the team with 93 tackles and 59 solo stops. The Eagles have to replace three-year starter Mark Herzlich, but Steele Divitto played in 11 games last season.

Honorable mention: NC State

Cornerbacks: Florida State

Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes combined for 33 passes defended last season, the most of any pair of cornerbacks in the nation. Rhodes was named the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after he ranked No. 16 nationally in passes defended with four interceptions and 12 breakups. Reid finished tenth in the nation in passes defended with three picks and 14 deflections. He was also fourth in the ACC in punt returns and led the nation in punt returns as a freshman.

Honorable mention: Virginia Tech, Virginia

Safeties: Miami

Even though he wasn’t a starter last season, Ray-Ray Armstrong was third on the team with 79 tackles and tied for the lead in interceptions with three. He started four games last seaosn and also had 4.5 tackles for loss, three pass breakups and one fumble recovery. Vaughn Telemaque has 24 career starts and finished last season with 58 tackles and three interceptions.

Honorable mention: Florida State

Punter: Florida State

Shawn Powell would have led the ACC in punting last season with a 44.3 average, but he didn’t have enough punts to qualify. Still, 16 of his 50 punts (32 percent) were downed inside opponents’ 20.

Honorable mention: Virginia

Kicker: Duke

Will Snyderwine ranked seventh nationally in field goals last seaosn, making 21 of 24 attempts. He has made 38 of 44 field goal attempts in his career, and his career field goal percentage of .864 ranks third among all active FBS kickers.

Honorable mention: Florida State

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