- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The truth: The ACC has one good shot at the Heisman Trophy this year. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd is a legitimate candidate, and if the Tigers beat Georgia in the season opener, get ready for the hype to skyrocket. It’s unfortunate for the ACC that former UNC running back Giovani Bernard and Clemson wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins decided to leave school early and enter the NFL draft because there’s no question they’d both be on this list. Without Bernard and Hopkins, Boyd stands alone as the ACC’s most legitimate contender.
Boyd isn’t the only player worth watching in the ACC this year, though, who has an outside chance at sneaking into the conversation for college football’s most prestigious individual award. Here are the ACC’s top Heisman hopefuls entering spring ball:
1. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd: He finished No. 10 in the country in total passing yards with 3,893. He threw for 36 touchdowns and just 13 interceptions. He completed 67.2 percent of his passes. He finished No. 14 in the country in passing yards per game and No. 5 in the country in passing efficiency.
2. Miami RB Duke Johnson: The ACC’s rookie of the year finished with 2,060 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns, and he broke Clinton Portis' 13-year-old school freshman rushing record with 947 yards. He ranked third nationally with a 33.0 yards per kick return average. His 892 kick return yards were a single-season school record, and he also tied the school single-season mark with two kick returns for touchdowns.
3. Clemson WR Sammy Watkins: With Hopkins gone, Watkins should emerge from the shadows again. Hopkins was the best receiver on the team last year, but Watkins, who made a name for himself as a true freshman in 2011, is still one of the most talented receivers in the country. He played in 10 games and was injured on the first play against LSU, but still finished with 1,073 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns.
3dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna