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Monday, June 27, 2011
Ranking the ACC's defensive ends

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

We'll tackle the ends today, tackles tomorrow. Make sense?

1. Quinton Coples, North Carolina: He was a first-team all-conference pick last year, and he wasn’t even playing his natural position the entire season. As a tackle last year, Coples ranked third in the ACC in sacks with 10, and seventh in TFLs (15.5). He also had 59 tackles, 12 quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.

2. Brandon Jenkins, Florida State: He finished sixth nationally last year with 13.5 sacks, and 12th in TFLs (21.5). He was a first-team all-conference selection as a true sophomore in his first season as a full-time starter. He also had five two-sack games in 2010, including one against rival Florida.

3. Cam Johnson, Virginia: He moved to defensive end from linebacker during the program's shift from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme and led the team with 6.5 sacks. He was No. 6 in ACC with 0.54 sacks per game, and No. 5 in ACC with 14.5 tackles for loss, which ranks No. 12 all-time for a season at Virginia. He was fifth on the team with 53 tackles, and he broke up four passes at the line of scrimmage.

4. Donte Paige-Moss, North Carolina: He had 10.5 of his 13.5 tackles for losses in the second half of the season and finished the regular season with 49 tackČles, 13.5 tackles for losses of 77 yards, seven sacks for 57 yards, and one pass breakup. He ranked second on the team in tackles for losses and sacks and was seventh in the ACC in sacks. UNC probably wouldn’t have won the Music City Bowl without him, as he made six tackles, 2.5 tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one blocked kick - an extra point in the fourth quarter, which kept Tennessee’s lead at three.

5. Olivier Vernon, Miami: He played in all 13 games, starting 11, and finished second on the team and 11th in the ACC with six sacks. He was fourth on the team in tackles for loss with 10.5.

6. Adewale Ojomo, Miami: He played in all 13 games last year with starts against Ohio State, North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. He finished with a career-high 38 tackles on the year, with five sacks and 7.5 tackles for loss.

7. Andre Branch, Clemson: The senior was overshadowed last year by Da’Quan Bowers, but he’s in the spotlight now. Last year Branch had five sacks and 8.5 TFLs. He also had six pass deflections, the most of any defensive lineman in the ACC last year. He had 54 tackles and eight quarterback hurries.

8. Max Holloway, Boston College: He finished second among BC’s defensive linemen with 36 tackles and lead with 24 solo stops. He lead BC with 14 tackles for a loss and was second on the team with four sacks. He also had a pair of pass breakups and forced fumbles.

9. Jason Peters, Georgia Tech: He moved from tackle to end last year and started all 13 games last and finished with 52 tackles (24 solo), five tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. He led all Tech defensive linemen in tackles and has played in 36 career games with 17 starts. He graduated in December and is playing this season as a graduate student.

10. James Gayle, Virginia Tech: He had an outstanding spring, earned the program’s highest honor from the strength and conditioning program, and earned a starting job. He started two games last year but played in all 14 and finished with 13 total tackles, including 6.5 for loss and four sacks. He also had 12 quarterback hurries.