Best individual performances of 2011

January, 27, 2012
1/27/12
1:00
PM ET
There were some amazing highlights from ACC players in 2011, but I've got 10 for you to rank as the most memorable:

1. Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas vs. Miami: Thomas ran 19 yards for a touchdown on fourth-and-1 with 56 seconds to play, leading the Hokies to a thrilling 38-35 win against Miami. Thomas completed 23-of-25 passes for 310 yards with three touchdown passes and ran for two scores. His only two incompletions were a short pass that David Wilson dropped, and a ball that he threw away after picking up a bungled snap.

2. Georgia Tech running back Orwin Smith vs. Kansas: The first time Smith touched the ball -- on Tech’s first offensive play of the game -- he sprinted 95 yards for a touchdown, the longest rushing attempt in Georgia Tech history. Smith finished the game with 157 yards rushing and 108 yards receiving -- the first player in Yellow Jackets history to rush and receive for at least 100 yards in the same game. He was the first ACC player to accomplish that feat since Thomas Jones of Virginia in 1999.

3. Maryland defensive tackle Joe Vellano vs. Georgia Tech: He had 20 tackles against the Jackets, the most in a game by a defensive lineman in the FBS last season. “I told him after the game that was as good as anybody has played against one of my teams,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said after the Oct. 8 game, according to the Washington Post. “Vellano may be the best [defensive] player we have faced in my four years at Georgia Tech.”

[+] EnlargeLuke Kuechly
Evan Habeeb/US PresswireLuke Kuechly of Boston College is one of five players to record 500 career tackles in ACC history.
4. BC linebacker Luke Kuechly vs. NC State. Kuechly recorded a game-high 18 tackles, including nine during a 13-minute stretch of the fourth quarter of a 14-10 win against NC State. He missed a few plays after suffering a bruised right elbow early in the third quarter. Kuechly extended his nation-best streak to 32 games with double-digit tackles, and in the third quarter became the fifth player in ACC history to reach 500 tackles in his career.

5. Clemson defensive end Andre Branch vs. Virginia Tech: He finished with four sacks and six total tackles for loss in the 23-3 win against a top-10 Virginia Tech team. Branch tied the school record for both sacks and tackles for loss in a game.

6. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd vs. Auburn: He completed 30-of-42 passes for 386 yards and four touchdowns in a win that ended Auburn’s winning streak at 17 games and was Clemson's first win against Auburn in 60 years.

7. Miami running back Lamar Miller vs. Ohio State. He rushed for 184 yards on 26 carries in the Hurricanes’ 24-7 win against the Buckeyes.

8. Georgia Tech defensive back Jemea Thomas vs. Clemson: Making his first career start, Thomas made the first two interceptions of his career, both coming in the fourth quarter, to preserve a key Yellow Jackets victory against the eventual ACC champion. Thomas also forced a fumble, had a tackle for loss and recorded five tackles.

9. NC State cornerback David Amerson vs. Louisville in the Belk Bowl: He finished with two interceptions, including one he returned 65 yards for a touchdown in a 31-24 win against Louisville in the Belk Bowl. His first pick set the ACC record for interceptions in a season, and he finished the season with 13. It was the second-most interceptions in a single season in FBS history.

10 (three-way tie). There were three players who had a field day against a banged up, rookie-laden Maryland defense:

  • Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins vs. Maryland: He accounted for 345 total yards and three touchdowns, helping Clemson climb out of an 18-point hole and beat the Terps 56-45.
  • Boston College running back Rolandan Finch vs. Maryland: He had 243 yards rushing on 39 carries and two touchdowns in leading BC to a 28-17 win in the snow at Maryland. He was the Eagles' offense in their first ACC win of the season.
  • Wake Forest receiver Chris Givens vs. Maryland: He had eight catches for 191 yards and a touchdown in a 31-10 win against Maryland.

Your turn.

What am I missing? Feel free to drop me a note in the mailbag with your nominations and votes for the top individual performances of 2011. If five plays get enough support, I'll do a separate post and we can vote on the No. 1 overall individual performance of 2011. Feel free to weigh in and I'll get back to it on Monday. What was the best play of the season?

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