ACC: ACC second-year stars

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.

[+] EnlargeMarquel Lee
Frederick Breedon/Getty ImagesMarquel Lee posted 14 tackles as a true freshman.
Last up: Wake Forest

Class recap: Jim Grobe’s final recruiting class at Wake Forest included 19 three-star players and one four-star prospect (linebacker Lance Virgile), and for the first time in the former coach’s tenure with the Deacons, a number of true freshmen saw early action. Tyree Harris finished fourth on the team with 17 catches. Cory Helms was the first true freshman to start on the O line for Wake Forest since 1987, and he was joined by Josh Harris, who got a starting nod against Florida State. A handful of defenders saw limited action and work on special teams, too, and those roles promise to increase significantly under first-year coach Dave Clawson in 2014.

Second-year star: ILB Marquel Lee (6-3, 205)

Recruiting stock: A versatile athlete who played quarterback and linebacker in high school, Lee arrived as a three-star early enrollee last January. Rangy, with good speed, Lee was rated the No. 59 inside linebacker in the country by ESPN. He was solid against the run in high school, but adding size was a priority.

2013 in review: By enrolling early, Lee assured himself a shot at playing time as a true freshman, but with a veteran defense -- including Mike Olson, a redshirt senior at WLB -- there wasn’t room for a starting job. Lee finished the season having appeared in all but one game for Wake Forest, recording 14 tackles, largely on special teams.

2014 potential: That veteran defense from a year ago has morphed into a particularly green unit for Clawson, and that’s opened up plenty of playing time for Lee. Olson is gone, along with all four starting defensive linemen, and new coordinator Mike Elko has installed a 4-2-5 scheme that reshuffles the deck even further. Lee, however, appears a perfect fit. He can play sideline to sideline, which should allow him to excel in Elko’s system, and he has developed a reputation as a hard worker and a quick study. Lee was one of the major bright spots for the new-look Deacons this spring, and he wrapped things up with nine tackles in the spring game, tops among all defenders. With Lee alongside veteran Brandon Chubb, the linebacking crew could develop into a strength for the Deacons.

Also watch for: Helms and Josh Harris will be full-time starters on the offensive line this year. Helms, in particular, has taken on more of a leadership role on a particularly young offensive, too. Tyree Harris is slotted in as a starting receiver this season, too. Wake has virtually no established players at the offensive skill positions, which should allow Harris ample opportunity to excel. Meanwhile, the rash of departures on the defensive line (including the transfer of 2013 signee James Looney) means a handful of youngsters should get a crack at the rotation, led by ends Wendell Dunn, Duke Ejiofor and Ali Lamot.
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: Virginia Tech.

[+] EnlargeWyatt Teller
John Albright/Icon SMIWyatt Teller was a four-star recruit in the 2013 class as a defensive lineman.
Class recap: The Hokies pulled in the No. 20 recruiting class in the nation, with four commitments from ESPN 300 players and 10 overall four-star prospects. Defensive backs Fuller and Brandon Facyson made an immediate impact, combining for 11 interceptions to help solidify the secondary. Fuller was the ACC Rookie of the Year and a first-team Freshman All-America selection; Facyson was a second-team Freshman All-America pick. Jonathan McLaughlin became the first true freshman to start the season opener at left tackle under Frank Beamer, and ended up starting all 13 games. But of the four ESPN 300 players signed, only two were with the team last season. Safety Holland Fisher went to Fork Union last year and will enroll at Virginia Tech this summer; Cequan Jefferson went the prep route and will now go to Temple.

Second-year star: OG Wyatt Teller.

Recruiting stock: ESPN Recruiting Nation rated Teller a four-star recruit out of high school, where he played on the defensive line. Teller started his Virginia Tech career on that side of the ball, but quickly moved to the offensive line during fall practice last year to help with depth concerns. He stayed on the offensive line and ended up redshirting.

2014 potential: Teller ended the spring as the starting left guard, as coaches were impressed with the athleticism he brings to the position. It's no secret the Hokies are in desperate need to shake up their offensive line after subpar results in the run game the last several seasons. Whether Teller ends up in the starting lineup remains to be seen, but it seems pretty clear Teller will provide much-needed help to this group.

Also watch for: DT Woody Baron played in all 13 games last year as a true freshman and will be expected to make major contributions this season at the spot Derrick Hopkins leaves behind. Baron missed spring after ankle surgery, but will be ready for fall practice. TE Kalvin Cline started seven games last season with 26 catches for 321 yards and two touchdowns. Coaches said this spring that tight end will be a much bigger point of emphasis in the offense this season. WR Carlis Parker is a speedster still learning the position, but he has great potential.

Second-year stars: Virginia

May, 16, 2014
May 16
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PM ET
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.

[+] EnlargeTaquan Mizzell, Nick Miles
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRunning back Taquan Mizzell is a breakthrough candidate for Virginia.
Class recap: Virginia coach Mike London brought in the nation's No. 34 recruiting class in 2013, the sixth-best among ACC schools. The highlight of that class was four-star running back Taquan Mizzell of Virginia Beach. The 22-man haul also featured four other four-star prospects, in addition to three-star receiver Keeon Johnson, who made his presence felt last season by catching 20 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown in eight games. The Cavaliers played 12 true freshmen in 2013.

Second-year star: Mizzell (5-foot-10, 190 pounds)

Recruiting stock: Mizzell was the only member of Virginia's class who was in the ESPN 300. He was the nation's No. 9 running back and No. 75 overall prospect, and he starred in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, returning a kickoff 72 yards to set up the winning score for the East team. Nicknamed "Smoke," Mizzell rushed for more than 3,500 yards during his high school career and accounted for more than 2,000 all-purpose yards during his senior season.

2013 in review: Mizzell played in 10 of 12 games, rushing 45 times for 184 yards and a touchdown. He caught 29 passes for 164 yards and another score. He also tallied 347 yards on 21 kickoff returns. Mizzell missed two games with a lower extremity injury.

2014 potential: Potential is the perfect word to use when talking about Mizzell. He embraced comparisons to Miami's star tailback, Duke Johnson. Things didn't go so smoothly for Mizzell early on, but he is optimistic that he can take off in 2014, especially now that he is healthy. He ran track this spring, and the football staff raved about his attitude. Can he become one of the best running backs in the ACC? Life could be a little bit more difficult without tackle Morgan Moses, whom the Washington Redskins drafted in the third round last week. And with the Cavaliers returning their top-two rushers from last season in Kevin Parks (1,031 yards) and Khalek Shepherd (304 yards), the big numbers might not be as easy to come by. But Mizzell has taken all of the right steps going into his second season, and is, by all accounts, well on his way to reaching his potential.

Also watch for: You cannot overlook Johnson, who had a reception in all eight games he played in last season and had the most receiving yards by a Virginia true freshman in 14 years. Three-star receiver Andre Levrone could also see some opportunities after redshirting last year, as he impressed on the scout team. Also keep an eye on three-star, 6-foot-6 offensive lineman Eric Tetlow, who appeared in five games in 2013 and emerged this spring as Virginia's front-runner to start at center.

Second-year stars: Syracuse

May, 15, 2014
May 15
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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: Syracuse

Class recap: After coach Doug Marrone left for the NFL, the 2013 signing class stumbled to the finish line and wasn't ranked among ESPN's top 75. Only a handful of true freshmen played regularly last season, including safety Darius Kelly and wide receiver Brisly Estime. Both started for the Orange in their Texas Bowl victory over Minnesota.

[+] EnlargeBrisly Estime, Martez Shabazz
AP Photo/David J. PhillipBrisly Estime capped his first season with five catches in Syracuse's bowl victory over Minnesota.
Second-year star: WR Brisly Estime (5-foot-9, 170 pounds)

Recruiting stock: A three-star speedster from Delray Beach, Fla., Estime was ranked as the No. 105 cornerback in the country by ESPN after playing both sides of the ball in high school. Syracuse recruited him as a receiver.

2013 in review: After a slow start to the season (eight catches through seven games), Estime found some traction down the stretch, including a nine-catch performance in a win over Wake Forest and five receptions in Syracuse’s bowl victory over Minnesota.

2014 potential: Estime’s speed was his strength as a freshman, but he might have become even faster this spring. He impressed enough during spring practice that Ashton Broyld was moved to the outside full time to make room for Estime in the slot. His route-running clearly improved as 2013 went along, and an offseason of reps with QB Terrel Hunt matched with Syracuse’s desire to run a more uptempo style in 2014 should mean big things for the diminutive receiver moving forward.

Also watch for: With Marquis Spruill gone, sophomore Marqez Hodge is in line for a starting role in the Syracuse linebacking corps this season, while redshirt freshman cornerback Chauncey Scissum could get playing time in the secondary, too.

Second-year stars: Pitt

May, 14, 2014
May 14
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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: Pitt Panthers

Class recap: Paul Chryst's first full recruiting class at Pitt was solid, if not spectacular. The Panthers reeled in the nation's No. 41 class, seventh-best in the ACC, as they brought in a pair of four-star, ESPN 300 prospects and 28 commits overall. The highlight of that class was Boyd, the four-star athlete who starred in his first year at receiver, earning freshman All-America honors as he had 85 receptions for 1,174 yards and seven touchdowns, in addition to 108 yards rushing and another TD. He also returned a punt for a touchdown in the Panthers' bowl win. Let's also not forget James Conner, the three-star defensive end recruit out of McDowell (Pa.) High, who ended up leading the Panthers with 799 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

[+] EnlargeJoyner
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesPitt surrendered 3.31 sacks per game in 2013, a problem that must be addressed.
Second-year star: OT Jaryd Jones-Smith (6-foot-7, 295 pounds)

Recruiting stock: Jones-Smith was a three-star prospect out of West Philadelphia Catholic High, and ESPN's No. 91 offensive tackle prospect for the Class of 2013. He was Pitt's 13th-best recruit from the 2013 class. Jones-Smith was selected to both the Chesapeake Bowl and the Big 33 Football Classic, a pair of senior all-star games featuring the top prospects from Pennsylvania and other nearby states.

2013 in review: Jones-Smith redshirted during his first year with the Panthers.

2014 potential: Jones-Smith completed his first spring at Pitt, and he impressed many around the program as he continued his growth. With redshirt sophomore left tackle Adam Bisnowaty limited following his November back injury, Jones-Smith received the majority of the reps in his place and displayed a rare blend of size and athleticism that could give him a shot to earn some playing time when Bisnowaty returns. The question is, where? The Panthers struggled immensely up front last season, allowing 3.31 sacks per game, but they do return four of five starters, with left guard being the lone exception. Chryst said his job is to get the best players on the field, and that Jones-Smith is in the mix.

Also watch for: If Pitt's offensive line improves, the backfield will benefit. That could mean good things for Rachid Ibrahim, a three-star recruit from The Avalon School (Md.) who rushed for 136 yards last season, adding nine catches for 88 yards and a touchdown. The receiving corps is also looking for answers behind Boyd, so three-star South Fayette (Pa.) High receiver Zach Challingsworth or three-star Madison (Wis.) Memorial High receiver Jester Weah could benefit. Both players redshirted last season.

Second-year stars: NC State

May, 13, 2014
May 13
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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: NC State

Class recap: Dave Doeren’s first signing class didn’t stand out in the rankings — No. 66 by ESPN’s math — but he did get some early contributions, even if it was as much out of necessity as ability. Matt Dayes played in all 12 games and scored four times. Jack Tocho started seven games at corner, finishing with 25 tackles and two picks. Monty Nelson started five games at defensive tackle and was second on the team with 8.5 sacks. Meanwhile, a bevy of freshmen receivers saw action, with mixed results.

Second-year star: WR Jumichael Ramos (6-foot-3, 197 pounds)

[+] EnlargeJumichael Ramos
AP Photo/Karl B DeBlakerJumichael Ramos showed his potential late in the 2013 season with a 109-yard game against Boston College.
Recruiting stock: A three-star prospect out of Georgia, Ramos wasn’t even among NC State’s top signees at receiver (he was No. 191 overall at the position, according to ESPN), but he did bring both size and speed and showed increased development late in his high school career.

2013 in review: The Wolfpack’s offense was a mess throughout 2013, with rotating quarterbacks and offensive styles and, of course, a plethora of erratic receivers. But while several of the other first-year pass-catchers flashed early before disappearing down the stretch (either because of injury or inconsistency), Ramos consistently improved as the year progressed. He caught at least one pass in 10 of 12 games, and he finished the season with 11 receptions and three TDs in his final three contests, including a five-catch, 109-yard performance against Boston College. He finished the season with 24 receptions for 352 yards.

2014 potential: Projecting Ramos to be the breakout receiver among a horde of unproven talent is based largely off his strong finish to last season. The spring game was a showcase for an established veteran (Bryan Underwood) and an early enrollee (Bo Hines), while Ramos and fellow sophomore Marquez Valdes-Scantling played smaller parts. Still, the addition of Jacoby Brissett to stabilize the QB situation is good news for all of NC State’s receivers, and Ramos’ combination of speed and size should make him an inviting target. He’s got some stiff competition — in terms of both quantity and quality — throughout fall camp, but Doeren is looking for weapons in the passing game and Ramos has been the one young receiver who has shown he can be a weapon on game day.

Also watch for: Take your pick from the rest of the group of receivers. Valdes-Scantling needs maturity and consistency, and Johnathan Alston and Bra’Lon Cherry need to stay healthy to continue their development. Alston might have the biggest upside of the group. Keep an eye on Dayes getting a bigger role in the running game this season, while top signee Sean Paul shouldn’t be relegated to just special teams, as he was in 2013.
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.

[+] EnlargeDesmond Lawrence
Dannie Walls/Icon SMIFormer three-star recruit Des Lawrence is expected to be a starter for the Tar Heels in 2014.
Next up: North Carolina

Class recap: Larry Fedora brought in the No. 21 overall class (and No. 5 in the ACC) in 2013, and he used a good portion of his freshmen right off the bat. T.J. Logan led UNC running backs in rushing, Khris Francis carried 63 times, Bug Howard was a key member of the receiving corps and, of course, Switzer won All-America honors as a punt returner.

Second-year star: CB Des Lawrence (6-foot-1, 175 pounds)

Recruiting stock: Lawrence wasn’t the most coveted talent, and among UNC defensive backs, he was widely overshadowed by ESPN 300 member Brian Walker, UNC’s top signee in 2013. But Lawrence did rank as the No. 47 safety, and was a three-star prospect from Charlotte with good height and athleticism.

2013 in review: A knee injury early in training camp scuttled some early enthusiasm for Lawrence, and he missed the first six games of the season. It’s probably coincidence that UNC finished 6-1 after Lawrence’s return, but he did finally record his first tackle on Nov. 9 against Virginia and saw his playing time mount as the season progressed, finishing with 11 tackles (one for a loss).

2014 potential: The excitement surrounding Lawrence upon arrival at North Carolina was tempered early last season, but coaches knew what they had in him. He entered spring penciled in as a starter at cornerback alongside Walker, his fellow 2013 signee, and showed no signs of slowing down this spring. The Tar Heels’ secondary was burned for too many big plays last season (75 plays of 15 yards or more) and Fedora believes Lawrence and Walker can help turn that tide in 2014. Lawrence will need to show he can be more effective in supporting the run and utilize his size with more physical receivers, but he’s got ample talent to blossom quickly, and UNC is willing to let its young corners learn on the job this season.

Also watch for: The freshmen who played last season are all expected to take a big step forward in 2014, particularly the running backs. Walker will see his role increase significantly alongside Lawrence, and both could blossom into solid players this year. Dajaun Drennon could fill a role in a depleted group of defensive ends, R.J. Prince is pushing for a starting job on a thin line, and Lucas Crowley projects to take over as the starting center. And all of that ignores the biggest wild card, as quarterback Mitch Trubisky remains in competition to win the starting job over incumbent Marquise Williams. In other words, the Class of 2013 was big as freshmen, but it could have a massive impact in Year 2 in Chapel Hill.

Second-year stars: Miami

May, 9, 2014
May 9
10:30
AM ET
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 freshmen, but are poised for a breakthrough in 2014.

See our previous projections here.

Class recap: Despite extenuating circumstances, Al Golden brought in a terrific haul to Miami, landing the No. 15 recruiting class in the country, third overall in the ACC. The Hurricanes' class included eight ESPN 300 prospects and 10 four-star prospects. Coley made the biggest impact, scoring 10 touchdowns and totaling 1,461 all-purpose yards as a rusher, receiver and return man.

Second-year star: QB Kevin Olsen (6-foot-3, 210 pounds)

Recruiting stock: Olsen, the younger brother of former Hurricanes and current NFL tight end Greg Olsen, was Miami’s fifth-highest-rated recruit from the Class of 2013. He was a four-star prospect and the No. 5 overall quarterback among pocket-passing signal callers. He comes from Wayne Hills, New Jersey, where his father, Chris, coached for 26 years before retiring in 2013.

[+] EnlargeKevin Olsen
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsKevin Olsen has a chance to be the Miami starting QB and really break out this fall.
2013 in review: Olsen redshirted during his first year at Miami, working with the scout team as Stephen Morris manned the starting role under center for the Hurricanes.

2014 potential: Few second-year players in the ACC will get the kind of opportunity Olsen will next season. Starter Ryan Williams went down with an ACL tear during the spring, leaving Miami scrambling to find his replacement for the top job. Neither Olsen nor Gray Crow impressed during the spring game, but it will come down to them with the 2014 season approaching, with Olsen being the presumed front-runner. Olsen showed flashes of maturity issues as a rookie in Coral Gables and was left at home for the Russell Athletic Bowl in December. But he has to grow up fast now. His pedigree suggests he can do that, as he was the No. 3 player in the state of New Jersey for the Class of 2013 and possesses a strong pocket presence, capable of taking off on the run when things break down.

Also watch for: Defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad, another Jersey prospect, showed flashes of potential in 2013, notching two sacks and two quarterback hurries. Miami Northwestern prospect Artie Burns made his presence felt last year as a defensive back, picking off a pass, forcing a fumble and blocking a kick, and he returned 10 kicks for 261 yards.
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.

[+] EnlargeJames Quick
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesJames Quick, who caught just six passes as a freshman last season, could be a starter for Louisville in 2014.
Next up: Louisville

Class recap: Charlie Strong’s final recruiting class at Louisville was a solid one, the No. 43 class in the country. The class included seven four-star recruits, but none saw any regular playing time as freshmen. The biggest impact came from linebacker Keith Kelsey, who finished 10th on the team with 24 tackles.

Second-year star: WR James Quick (6-foot-2, 171 pounds)

Recruiting stock: A hometown signee from Louisville’s Trinity High, Quick was the top-rated player in the Cardinals’ 2013 class. Quick was ranked No. 79 in the ESPN 300 and was the No. 10 receiver.

2013 in review: In spite of his recruiting pedigree and Louisville roots, Quick didn’t immediately win much support from the previous coaching staff. He appeared in nine games, caught just six passes for 73 yards and was, for the most part, a non-factor despite the fact that Louisville threw routinely and had 10 different players record at least 14 receptions.

2014 potential: There’s no question Quick has talent, but last season, he was both underutilized and underprepared. He couldn’t win over his coaches in Year 1, but there’s a new staff at Louisville for 2014. Quick has had a year on the sidelines to both refine his game and get a taste of just how big the jump from high school to college can be for a receiver -- even a hometown kid with star potential. New coach Bobby Petrino may be the perfect antidote to Quick’s freshman-year struggles. Petrino has made a career out of designing big-play offenses, and the first hints of what could be in store came this spring, when Quick excelled in the new system. He ran with the first-team offense in Louisville’s spring game, caught a 62-yard TD pass from Will Gardner early and finished the day with five receptions for a game-high 152 yards. With an established veteran in DeVante Parker around to hog the attention of defenses, there figures to be ample room for Quick to emerge in 2014 and meet the lofty expectations he arrived with a year earlier.

Also watch for: Louisville lost both starting safeties, but Chucky Williams appears ready to step in and fill some of the void. He had a strong spring, culminating with an interception in the spring game. Stacy Thomas will be in the mix for one of the starting outside linebacker positions as the Cardinals adapt to new coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme. Grantham made stars of Justin Houston and Jarvis Jones in similar roles at Georgia.
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: Georgia Tech

Class recap: The Jackets signed a small class of 14 players that has already seen its ranks dwindle. Kevin Robbins Jr. and Justin Akins have announced their decisions to transfer, while No.3 quarterback Ty Griffin also reportedly wants to transfer as well. Two of the top prospects in the class were offensive linemen -- Shamire Devine and Chris Griffin. They are expected to see much bigger roles this upcoming season.

Second-year star: K Harrison Butker.

Recruiting stock: ESPN Recruiting had Butker ranked as the No. 3 kicker in the nation out of Decatur, Ga. He chose the Jackets over Auburn.

2013 in review: Butker came in last fall and won the starting job, leading the team with 83 points. He made 53 of 54 extra point attempts, tying for the second-most single-season PATs in school history. His only miss came on a bad snap against Miami. Butker also hit 10 of 14 field goal attempts, including nine of his final 11. Half of the field goals he made were 40 yards or longer.

2014 potential: Coach Paul Johnson truly believes Butker can be one of the best kickers in the nation. During the spring game, er monsoon, Butker made a 54-yard field goal. Something to note headed into the fall: Georgia Tech will have a new special teams coach after Dave Walkosky abruptly resigned last week.

Also watch for: The 6-foot-6, 294-pound Griffin ran with the first team in the spring at tackle and has a great chance to win the starting job. Devine, the biggest Jacket at 6-7, 340 pounds, enters the fall second on the depth chart, but coaches love his potential. Linebacker Paul Davis, who played as a true freshman last year, is also competing for a starting job.
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.

[+] EnlargeP.J. Williams
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesFlorida State receiver Jesus Wilson (3) could start as a sophomore in 2014.
Next up: Florida State

Class recap: Jimbo Fisher’s lowest-rated class since taking over as head coach (No. 9) still had plenty of impact on the Seminoles’ national title. Ramsey, Nate Andrews and Kermit Whitfield all played significant roles and made some big plays as freshmen, while several others contributed regularly as reserves.

Second-year star: WR Jesus Wilson (5-foot-9, 177 pounds)

Recruiting stock: A four-star recruit out of Miami, Wilson was ranked as the 62nd-best receiver nationally, with his size the primary knock on his game.

2013 in review: Wilson was one of three true freshmen receivers to play for Florida State last season, but his role was minimal. Aside from work on special teams, he caught just three passes all season -- one against Wake Forest and two in an 80-14 blowout of Idaho.

2014 potential: Wilson might not have shown much on Saturdays, but from the time he arrived on campus last summer, teammates raved about his work on the practice field. The transition to game days was complicated by the fact that FSU already had three talented receivers, all of whom topped 900 yards for the season. But Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin are gone, and of the receivers who remain on the roster, only Rashad Greene looks like a sure thing. Florida State does have a trio of highly regarded recruits arriving for the fall, but few positions require more time to adjust than receiver. Only two true freshmen (Boyd and Ole Miss’ Laquon Treadwell) tallied at least 54 receptions last season (the total both Shaw and Benjamin finished with). Wilson has now been with the program a full year, and his work this spring earned even more praise from coaches. He’s not guaranteed a starting job, but aside from Greene, he may already be the most refined of FSU’s receivers.

Also watch for: The Seminoles just keep reloading, and they have a ton of talented youngsters from the Class of 2013 worth keeping an eye on this season. Linebackers Matthew Thomas and E.J. Levenberry top the list, while Whitfield, defensive tackle Keith Bryant and tailback Ryan Green are among the others who figure to see an increase workload in 2014.

Second-year stars: Duke

May, 5, 2014
May 5
10:30
AM ET
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.

[+] EnlargeBreon Borders
Charles Mitchell/Icon SMIAs a freshman last season, Breon Borders had four interceptions for the Blue Devils.
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.

Second-year stars: Clemson

May, 2, 2014
May 2
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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.

Next up: Clemson

Class recap: The Tigers inked the country’s 13th-best class in 2013 and the second-best in the ACC, according to ESPN’s rankings, with 15 four- and five-star players. Several standouts, including Shaq Lawson, Jayron Kearse, Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett, earned regular playing time as true freshmen last year.

Second-year star: CB Mackensie Alexander

Recruiting stock: Alexander was the No. 2 cornerback and the No. 4 overall prospect in the country coming out of high school and was Clemson’s top signee in 2013.

2013 in review: The expectations were high for Alexander entering the year, but his debut was delayed early on when he suffered a groin injury in fall camp. By the time he was ready to return to action, a redshirt was waiting.

2014 potential: Much has been made of Clemson’s ferocious defensive line, but the secondary should be improved in 2014, too. Still, there are questions at corner with Bashaud Breeland off to the NFL and Garry Peters suspended for the opener against Georgia. That meant an opportunity for a healthy Alexander to showcase his skills this spring, and coordinator Brent Venables came away impressed. Alexander figures to have the inside track on starting the opener, and he could easily secure the job for good with an impressive fall camp. And with a pass rush that projects as one of the best in the country, the rewards for Clemson’s secondary could be rich.

Also watch for: There’s ample depth in Clemson’s backfield at the moment, and coaches haven’t given much indication of who’ll get the lion’s share of the carries, but redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman has earned raves. Swinney said he nearly lifted Gallman’s redshirt last year in a pinch, but he’s eager to see what the 6-1, 200-pounder can do in 2014.
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-American 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 team-by-team 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.

[+] EnlargeMyles Willis
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty ImagesWith Andre Williams gone, Myles Willis will be counted on to carry the load in Boston College's running game.
First up: Boston College

Class recap: Steve Addazio’s first signing class at Boston College didn’t crack ESPN’s top 75, and no member of the signing class earned a starting job as a true freshman.

Second-year star: RB Myles Willis (5-9/192)

Recruiting stock: Willis was a three-star prospect rated as ESPN’s No. 94 athlete in the 2013 class and was the top-ranked member of BC’s signing class.

2013 in review: The backbone of Boston College’s 2013 season was running back Andre Williams, and his 2,177 yards rushing didn’t leave much room for Willis. Still, the true freshman carried 60 times for 346 yards (both second on the team) and his two best rushing performances (77 yards vs. NC State, 70 yards vs. Syracuse) came in BC’s final four games.

2014 potential: Williams is gone to the NFL, but Boston College still wants to run the ball. That’s good news for Willis, who figures to be in line for a sizable increase in carries. He’s not alone in the backfield competition, but his speed and ability to catch the ball make him a dynamic weapon. BC’s offense will undergo a major overhaul from a year ago, but Willis has the tools to be a major part of the new-look Eagles.

Also watch for: Willis’ backfield mate Tyler Rouse projects to see more work this year, too. And on defense, Matt Milano played in all 13 games a year ago, largely at safety. He had a strong spring practice, and Addazio said Milano could be a great fit this year in a nickel/strongside linebacker role.

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