The 2013 signing class has already made its mark on the ACC, from Tyler Boyd and Stacy Coley shining on offense to Jalen Ramsey and Kendall Fuller starring on defense to Ryan Switzer racking up All-America honors on special teams. But for most players, the transition from high school to college takes a little time, and it’s not until Year 2 that they truly shine. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at the best candidates for second-year stardom in the conference -- the players who didn’t quite hit the big time as true freshmen, but are poised for a breakthrough in 2014.
See our previous projections HERE.
Next up: Duke
Class recap: It’s never easy for David Cutcliffe to reel in a haul of hot prospects, but the 2013 class yielded some talent that contributed early, including safety Deondre Singleton, who worked his way into the starting lineup midseason and finished sixth on the team with 62 tackles. Receiver Johnell Barnes earned a start against Virginia Tech and finished sixth on the team with 15 catches, too.
Second-year star: CB Breon Borders (6-foot, 175 pounds)
Recruiting stock: The Statesville, N.C. product earned a three-star ranking coming out of high school, with ESPN ranking Borders as the No. 108 cornerback in the class.
2013 in review: Borders impressed coaches last fall, earning immediate playing time and notching an interception in Duke’s opener. Playing behind second-team All-ACC corner Ross Cockrell, Borders still managed 26 tackles, four picks and eight pass breakups.
2014 potential: Borders didn’t start a game in 2013, but he still tied for the team lead -- and was fifth in the ACC -- in interceptions. So, what can he do with significantly more snaps in 2014? The Blue Devils will find out after both starting corners -- Cockrell and Garett Patterson -- graduated. Borders has added some bulk to go with his long frame, making him an even tougher matchup for receivers, and while he’s still refining his technique, the playing time he earned last season should provide a strong foundation for his sophomore campaign.
Also watch for: Opposite Borders at corner, Bryon Fields is in position to take over the other starting job -- meaning the Class of 2013 will be responsible for three-fourths of Duke’s secondary. Linebacker Chris Holmes moved from safety to WLB this spring and is in line for reps behind starter David Helton.