- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Out with the old, in with the new. The ACC has lost a lot of talent from 2011, including arguably the best player in the conference in former Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. There are still a lot of names for fans to be excited about, though, as we get closer to summer camp. Which players in the conference will emerge as the best? Well, based on past performances and their bubbling potential, here’s the first guess. As part of “College Football Live’s” 100 Days Till Kickoff countdown, here’s a look at the top 10 players in the ACC:
1. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: He broke all of the ACC’s single-season pass receiving records, finishing the 2011 season with 82 catches for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns. He was one of the most exciting, explosive players in the country as a true freshman. Watkins averaged 25 yards on 33 kickoff returns, including an 89-yard touchdown against Maryland.
2. David Amerson, CB, NC State: He led the FBS with 13 interceptions -- six more than any other player. It was the most in the FBS since 1968 and tied as the second-best total in FBS history. He broke the ACC’s single-season interception record in the upset of No. 7-ranked Clemson. He also broke the school’s 73-year-old single-season interception record of nine.
3. Giovani Bernard, RB, UNC: He was the leading freshman rusher in the nation. His total of 1,253 rushing yards was the third best by a freshman in ACC history. He also had 13 touchdowns on 239 carries, and was third in the ACC with 96.4 rushing yards per game. He had 45 catches for 362 yards and a touchdown.
4. Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech: Thomas set a school record for rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback with 11, and he broke the school's single-season total offense record set by Tyrod Taylor in 2010. His 234 completions, 391 attempts and 3,013 yards passing all rank second in school history for a single season.
5. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson: He completed 298 of 499 pass attempts for 3,828 yards, 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions over 14 starts. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes and had a 141.2 pass efficiency rating. He also had 218 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. He had 4,046 total yards and was responsible for a school-record 38 touchdowns.
6. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech: Fuller played at nickel back/whip linebacker and corner. He had an interception in the Sugar Bowl against Michigan, and eight tackles against Clemson in the ACC title game. He finished 2011 with 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. He also had two interceptions, nine passes defended, five quarterback hurries, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
7. Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland: Vellano led the FBS in tackles by a defensive lineman with 7.8 per game. He finished third on the team with 94 tackles, had 7.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, four pass breakups, two fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. His jaw-dropping 20 tackles against Georgia Tech was unforgettable.
8. Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State: He was second in the ACC with eight sacks for a loss of 62 yards, and had 12 tackles for a loss of 79 yards. He finished with 41 tackles, one pass breakup and five quarterback hurries. He was the team defensive MVP of the nation’s No. 4-ranked defense, and he was still disruptive despite facing double teams throughout the entire season.
9. Bruce Taylor, LB, Virginia Tech: He only played in eight games in 2011 before a season-ending injury, but Taylor still had 53 tackles, seven TFLs and five sacks. He led Tech in tackles in 2010 with 91 and in TFLs (15.5) and was second in quarterback sacks (6.0). He also had four pass breakups and eight quarterback hurries.
10. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State: Despite missing four games with injuries, Greene led FSU in receiving with 38 catches, 596 receiving yards, and seven touchdown catches as a true freshman. He averaged 15.7 yards a catch and 14.7 yards on three runs from scrimmage.