Now that we know who’s staying and who’s leaving for the NFL draft, let’s tally up our winners and losers in the ACC.
Clemson’s offense: Regardless of who was coming back, Clemson was going to return star QB Deshaun Watson to the fold in 2016. That might’ve been scary enough for opposing defenses, but now that running back Wayne Gallman, tight end Jordan Leggett and receiver Mike Williams all decided to stick around, too, it’s hard to fathom the Tigers not being among the most explosive teams in the country next season.
Louisville: It could’ve been a mass exodus from Louisville, but instead every one of the Cardinals’ top underclassmen has decided to return. Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons, defensive tackle DeAngelo Brown and linebackers Keith Kelsey and Devonte Fields all will be back in 2016, meaning Todd Grantham’s group could emerge as one of the best defenses in the country.
Brad Kaaya: The hope is that with Mark Richt now coaching Miami, big things will be in store for the Hurricanes’ star QB. But the better news is that one of Kaaya’s top targets, Stacy Coley, will be back for 2016, too. After a dismal sophomore season, Coley rebounded in a big way last season, catching 47 balls for 689 yards and four touchdowns.
Charles Kelly: Sure, it hurts to lose Jalen Ramsey. But we all saw that coming, and with Marquez White and Derwin James, the secondary for Florida State remains strong. The bigger news for Kelly’s defense was that star defensive end DeMarcus Walker decided to return after a stellar 2015 season in which he 10.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. With developing younger players, Walker provides some stability in a key area for a unit that should be exceptional next year.
Syracuse’s defense: The defense for the Orange was already a disaster through much of last season, and now they’ll look toward 2016 without one of the few bright spots. Ron Thompson’s seven sacks led Syracuse and ranked ninth in the ACC. With so many other moving pieces on that side of the ball, now having to replace that production in the pass rush makes life even tougher for Dino Babers’ new staff.
Clemson’s defense: It’s not that most of the departures come as a surprise, but it’s still a big hit to the Tigers’ defense that four underclassmen will be hitting the road. Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd accounted for 24.5 sacks between them, more than 51 other teams nationally. On the back end, three-quarters of the secondary is gone, too, meaning there’s ample pressure on Brent Venables to rebuild his defense for the second straight year.
Florida State’s special teams: The Seminoles are losing their four-year starting punter, but an early departure to the NFL also lured away All-American kicker Roberto Aguayo and Ramsey, one of their return men. FSU has been terrific at simply reloading on special teams, but replacing Aguayo, in particular, is a tall order.
NC State's offense: Not only will the Wolfpack be breaking in a new system after Matt Canada was dismissed, and not only will they need to find a new quarterback after Jacoby Brissett graduates, but now NC State will also be looking to replace one of its biggest offensive weapons in tight end David Grinnage, who's caught eight touchdowns in the past two seasons -- fifth most by a Power 5 tight end during that span.