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Wednesday, December 14, 2011
McShay's Top 25 freshmen

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

In Tuesday's chat, Doug in Raleigh asked which three current players I would pick to build an ACC team around. On the spot, my best answer was Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins, Florida State defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan and a quarterback. Not sure which quarterback, but it's hard to forget the way Logan Thomas played against Miami this year. The potential is clearly there, but he also had a great supporting cast this year.

As it turns out, two of those players -- Watkins and Jernigan -- were listed among Todd McShay's top 25 freshmen for 2011. It's important to remember that his list is NOT based on NFL talent, rather the potential to dominate college football over the next few seasons. Here's how the ACC fared, and a quick excerpt from McShay's analysis on each:
No. 1 Clemson WR Sammy Watkins: The game seems to come easily to Watkins, who is remarkably well-developed for a freshman. He is physical and shows the ability to break tackles after the catch, and he is also a smooth athlete with good top-end speed.

No. 11 UNC RB Giovani Bernard: Bernard is an efficient runner who doesn't leave many yards on the field, and his production is no fluke. He forces defenders to fight through or run around his blocks, and his ability to shake defenders in the hole makes him that much tougher to defend.

No. 16 FSU DT Timmy Jernigan: Jernigan lacks elite size and needs some time in the weight room to improve his overall strength, but he is already a quick and disruptive one-gap defensive tackle.

No. 22 FSU WR Rashad Greene: It's no surprise that Greene was the Seminoles' leading receiver this season. He is a smooth athlete who tempos his routes well and has above-average suddenness to separate from man coverage.

As I mentioned in Tuesday's video, with so many talented young players, plus the maturation of talented quarterbacks, the future of the ACC is bright.