ACC: Chris Givens

Opening camp: Wake Forest

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
5:00
PM ET
We have come to the end of our preview of every ACC team headed into fall camp. Last, but never least ...

School: Wake Forest.

Started: Monday.

Predicted finish at media days: Fourth, Atlantic Division.

Biggest storyline: Can this team have a winning season? Coach Jim Grobe was asked during ACC media day whether any luster was taken off making a bowl game last season because the team finished 6-7. He answered the right way, saying it is always an accomplishment to make it to a bowl. That is particularly true when your last previous bowl appearance came in 2008. Still, there may have been a sense of falling short of their own expectations, particularly after a 4-1 start gave way to a 2-5 finish. Close losses to Syracuse, Notre Dame and Clemson -- with the Atlantic Division in the balance -- still sting. This year, Wake Forest is going to have to rely on an entirely new set of playmakers on offense, with the departures of leading rusher Brandon Pendergrass and receiver Chris Givens. Plus, only one starter returns on the offensive line. Defensively, Wake will have to do better than allowing an average of 170 yards rushing per game, and the pass rush has got to get better (only 11 sacks the entire season). The defense does return some All-ACC players in Nikita Whitlock and a rising star in Merrill "Bud" Noel, but there is no question this team has to get better everywhere.

Biggest position battle: Offensive line. This is the unit that has the biggest question mark by far is this group, with four starters gone from a year ago. Center Garrick Williams is the only returner, but there could be some good news with the replacements who are coming in. Remember, the offensive line did give up 35 sacks last year to rank No. 100 in the nation. Frank Souza moved over from the defensive line and impressed the coaches right from the outset and is competing for a starting job. Grobe seems happy with Colin Summers, Antonio Ford and Steven Chase. But right guard seems to be up for grabs. Daniel Blitch played there with the first team in the spring, but the competition is open this fall. Grobe has not ruled out moving Souza to the position, if necessary.

Who needs to step up: Michael Campanaro. Givens was a star for the Deacs last season, leading the ACC with 1,330 yards and catching nine touchdown passes. Campanaro did well himself, with 883 yards receiving but he was not really the big-play threat that Givens was. Now all eyes are going to be on him to see whether he will be the hands-down go-to player for quarterback Tanner Price, and whether he has the ability to stretch the field more than he did a year ago.
Week 11: Nov. 17 vs. Wake Forest (at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Ind.)

Time/TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC

Series: Notre Dame leads all-time, 1-0

2011 record: 6-7 (5-3 ACC; tied second place, Atlantic Division)

Head coach: Jim Grobe (68-67, 11 years)

Returning starters: Offense: 3; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Tanner Price, WR Michael Campanaro, C Garrick Williams, DE Zach Thompson, NG Nikita Whitlock, OLB Joey Ehrmann, ILB Scott Betros, ILB Riley Haynes, CB Merrill Noel, FS Kenny Okoro

Key losses

RB Brandon Pendergrass, WR Chris Givens, TE Cameron Ford, T Dennis Godfrey, T Doug Weaver, G Joe Looney, G Michael Hoag, DE Tristan Dorty, DE Kyle Wilber, SS Cyhl Quarles, FS Josh Bush

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Brandon Pendergrass (823 yards)

Passing: Tanner Price* (3,017 yards)

Receiving: Chris Givens (1,330 yards)

Tackles: Cyhl Quarles (101)

Sacks: Kyle Wilber/Nikita Whitlock* (3.5)

Interceptions: Josh Bush (6)

Three questions for ... ACC blogger Heather Dinich:

Wake returns plenty of talent at the skill positions, but it is tasked with replacing four starters on the offensive line. What's a realistic timeline for the newcomers to jell and form a cohesive unit?



Heather Dinich: Well, it’s more like three starters at this point, because Steven Chase, who missed the spring for undisclosed reasons, has since returned. The group also got a huge boost from the move of Frank Souza from the defensive line. Chase’s return has allowed the staff a little more flexibility with the depth chart. He or Souza -- whoever develops into the better pass protector — will likely slide into the right guard position. Souza was backup to talented noseguard Nikita Whitlock and saw the writing on the wall: Whitlock wasn’t coming off the field anytime soon. So he jumped at the opportunity to see more snaps on offense. Coach Jim Grobe told me they “hit a home run with Souza.” Right now he’s got five guys he’s comfortable with. Depth? That’s another question.



Head coach Jim Grobe rarely has much staff turnover, but three new assistants are aboard for 2012. What's new, and how will that translate on the field this season?



HD: Yes, the Deacs have long been one of the most stable staffs in the ACC, but there are a few new faces in new positions, and I think overall, it will make Wake Forest a better team. Tim Duffie will be in his first season coaching the secondary, and he has lots of talent to work with back there, particularly at the corner position. Jonathan Himebauch is in his first year coaching the offensive line, and Derrick Jackson is in his first season coaching the outside linebackers. The move of OC Steed Lobotzke to tight ends and fullbacks should help him manage his time better as a coordinator because he won’t have to deal with so many offensive linemen.



The Deacs surprised everyone but themselves last season, falling a field goal short of playing for the ACC title. There are obvious shortcomings (O-line, secondary) on this year's roster, but will they be able to overcome those and make another push at a division crown?

HD: If they did it last year, I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t be able to make another run at it. They’ve got to be able to win those close games, though. The close losses to Syracuse, Clemson -- and of course Notre Dame -- are still stinging, and just about anyone in that program will tell you they could’ve played better against UNC. Jim Grobe has a very good football team to work with this year, and he has a defense that could be reminiscent of the old days with Aaron Curry and Alphonso Smith. There are some diamonds in that group, they’re just not very experienced. It wouldn’t be wise, though, for Wake Forest opponents to take this year’s team lightly.

Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
6:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 6-7

2011 conference record: 5-3 (T-2nd, Atlantic)

Returning starters

Offense: 3; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Tanner Price, WR Michael Campanaro, C Garrick Williams, DE Zach Thompson, NG Nikita Whitlock, OLB Joey Ehrmann, ILB Scott Betros, ILB Riley Haynes, CB Merrill Noel, FS Kenny Okoro

Key losses

WR Chris Givens, T Dennis Godfrey, T Doug Weaver, G Joe Looney, G Michael Hoag, TE Cameron Ford, RB Brandon Pendergrass, DE Tristan Dorty, DE Kyle Wilber, SS Cyhl Quarles, FS Josh Bush

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Brandon Pendergrass (823 yards)

Passing: Tanner Price* (3,017 yards)

Receiving: Chris Givens (1,330 yards)

Tackles: Cyhl Quarles (101)

Sacks: Kyle Wilber/Nikita Whitlock* (3.5)

Interceptions: Josh Bush (6)

Spring answers

1. Tanner Price: As a sophomore last season, Price threw for more than 3,000 yards to go with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. Coach Jim Grobe has challenged Price to improve on his accuracy, especially on underneath passes, and if the quarterback can build off last season's 60-percent completion rate, the Demon Deacons should be just fine under center.

2. Skill players: Michael Campanaro is sliding into the go-to target shoes left behind by Chris Givens, shifting the focus to who will be the Deacs' No. 2 receiver. Josh Harris has been healthy all spring and should add a boost to a backfield that returns Orville Reynolds and DeAndre Martin. Deep? Not exactly. But Wake knows what it has in its skill-position players, and has enough weapons around Price for the quarterback to make a jump in his junior year. This spring has helped ease some concerns.

3. Front seven: The Deacs return a majority of their front-seven, including second-team All-ACC nose guard Nikita Whitlock. Grobe has praised the overall speed and depth of the defense as a whole, and he expects the team to be better on that side of the ball. Look for more pressure this season in new outside linebacker coach Derrick Jackson's first year on staff.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line: There's no sugar-coating this one: If Wake wants to repeat its surprising 2011 season -- one that saw it come within a field goal of playing for the ACC title -- it needs to find some answers up front. The line is replacing four starters. Grobe said coming out of spring that he feels comfortable about three spots at the moment, but the Deacs will need more than that if they want to get the most out of their skill players.

2. New staff: Grobe has had little turnover in his 11 years at Wake Forest, but he hired three new assistants this offseason -- Jackson, Jonathan Himebauch (offensive line) and Tim Duffie (secondary). The fresh blood, Grobe said, led to much more energy this spring, but the biggest tests will obviously come in-season.

3. Secondary. Speaking of Duffie, he'll have his work cut out for him in Year 1. Both safeties are gone, including Josh Bush, now with the Jets. Experience at cornerback will help ease the transition for the secondary, but building depth at safety could be an issue.
Despite its 6-7 overall record in 2011, Wake Forest came within a field goal from playing for the ACC title. With key pieces such as two-year starting quarterback Tanner Price returning, the Demon Deacons are looking to build off that success in 2012. Here, head coach Jim Grobe talks about expectations entering his 12th year leading the program.

The offensive line is replacing four starters. How important was the spring season for them from a developmental standpoint?

Jim Grobe: Well I thought it was really good. I think we've got three kids going forward that we can count on: Garrick Williams, our center, started for us last year so we feel really good about him. I think Colin Summers, our right tackle, is a kid who has the potential to be one of the better offensive linemen in the league, as does Antonio Ford, our left guard. I think all three of those kids really have the ability to get the job done for us. And then the rest of it's gonna be a toss-up. I think we've got some talented kids. I think Dylan Heartsill's a kid that's had some back issues at left tackle but we have great hopes for him and hopefully he'll get healthy. So we moved Frank Souza over to left tackle from nose guard -- he was backing up Nikita Whitlock on defense and we didn't feel like there was much future in that. So we moved Frank over to left tackle. I think that's gonna be a great move for us, he looked really good the last half of the spring.

We need somebody to step up at right guard; I'm hopeful that [Daniel] Blitch or [Dylan] Intemann or one of the younger guys will be that guy, so it's kind of a mixed bag. We don't have a starting five yet but I think three of those guys are really good players. If we can get a couple more guys to step up I think we can at least put a really good starting five on the field at the start of the year.

You know what you have under center in Tanner Price. Going into his third year now, what kind of strides does he need to make to take the next step?

[+] EnlargeJim Grobe
AP Photo/Nick WassJim Grobe says the goal is for Wake Forest to try to get back to a bowl game and to possibly make another run at the ACC title.
JG: Well it's huge when you've got your quarterback coming back, especially if he's a good one. I think Tanner thew for a little over 3,000 [yards] last year, [20] touchdowns, only had six picks. So he's a guy that takes pretty good care of the football. Really smart guy. a lot of Riley Skinner-type intangible stuff with Tanner. Tanner's got a more live arm than Riley had but he doesn't do as good of a job on the underneath stuff, and I think that's where his biggest improvements needs to come and I think we saw that this spring. We really challenged him to be a little more accurate with the touch stuff and I think we saw that this spring. I think he just looked better to me this spring than he did last fall and I thought he did good things last fall. So his biggest deal is just gonna be completion percentage. If we can bump that completion percentage up, we've got a guy that can win games for us.

It's been said that Michael Campanaro be that go-to guy for him, with Chris Givens now gone. Is finding a No. 2 target more pressing right now? Who has stood out in that role for you?

JG: Yeah I think so. I don't think there's any question. That's my concern. I think Campanero, you look at Chris last year, but in reality we had two guys -- Camp, he didn't catch as many balls as Chris, but he was close. They were really a 1-2 punch for us last year, so I think Camp, if he stays healthy, is ready for a big big year. So the key for us is we've gotta find some body else. If Camp's the only guy we've got to go to then defense are gonna make it really tough on us. So a guy like Terence Davis, Matt James, Brandon Terry, Sherman Ragland -- somebody in that group's gotta step up and kind of balance things out so that they can't just double-cover Camp and leave those other guys alone.

(Read full post)

Miami leads ACC draft contingent

April, 30, 2012
4/30/12
9:00
AM ET
Despite a 6-6 season in 2011, Miami led all ACC schools with six players getting selected during this past weekend's NFL draft. The ACC as a whole had 31 players selected, the third most among all conferences, behind the Big Ten (41) and, yes, the SEC (42).

NC State had five players taken, the second most among ACC schools. Neither the Hurricanes nor the Wolfpack had any players taken in the first two rounds. Duke and Maryland both had zero players drafted.

Luke Kuechly, as expected, got the ball rolling for the conference Thursday night, when the Panthers took the former Boston College inside linebacker ninth overall. I was a little surprised to see Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, projected by many as a late first-rounder, fall all the way to the Jets at No. 43.

Here's a school-by-school breakdown of the draft, followed by a round-by-round breakdown:

Miami: 6
NC State: 5
Clemson: 4
FSU: 4
Wake Forest: 4
Virginia Tech: 3
UNC: 2
Georgia Tech: 1
Virginia: 1
Boston College: 1

FIRST ROUND
No. 9, Panthers: ILB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
No. 16, Jets: DE Quinton Coples, UNC
No. 31, Giants: RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

SECOND ROUND
No. 38, Jaguars: DE Andre Branch, Clemson
No. 43, Jets: WR Stephen Hill, Georgia Tech
No. 52, Titans: OLB Zach Brown, UNC

THIRD ROUND
No. 64, Colts: TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson
No. 69, Bills: WR TJ Graham, NC State
No. 72, Dolphins: DE Olivier Vernon, Miami
No. 86, Steelers: LB Sean Spence, Miami
No. 93, Bengals: DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson
No. 94, Giants: CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

FOURTH ROUND
No. 96, Rams: WR Chris Givens, Wake Forest
No. 97, Dolphins: RB Lamar Miller, Miami
No. 100, Browns: WR Travis Benjamin, Miami
No. 105, Bills: OLB Nigel Bradham, FSU
No. 113, Cowboys: OLB Kyle Wilber, Wake Forest
No. 115, Titans: CB Coty Sensabaugh, Clemson
No. 117, 49ers: G Joe Looney, Wake Forest

FIFTH ROUND
No. 144, Bills: T Zebrie Sanders, FSU
No. 163, Packers: OLB Terrell Manning, NC State

SIXTH ROUND
No. 152, Cowboys: WR Danny Coale, Virginia Tech
No. 176, Jaguars: CB Mike Harris, FSU
No. 187, Jets: S Josh Bush, Wake Forest
No. 198, Ravens: WR Tommy Streeter, Miami
No. 200, Eagles: G Brandon Washington, Miami

SEVENTH ROUND
No. 210, Vikings: ILB Audie Cole, NC State
No. 225, Seahawks: DE JR Sweezy, NC State
No. 237, 49ers: DE Cam Johnson, Virginia
No. 239, Giants: DT Markus Kuhn, NC State
No. 241, Packers: T Andrew Datko, FSU

Mocks aplenty on NFL draft eve

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
3:30
PM ET
It's NFL draft eve, and it's the last Wednesday before the event, meaning one last chance for our team of analysts to predict how this weekend will unfold.

Mel Kiper Insider and Todd McShay Insider reveal their final draft boards, and each has a mock Insider, with McShay and the rest of the Scouts Inc. team going seven rounds full Insider.

Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, naturally, tops the list, going No. 5 to the Buccaneers. North Carolina end Quinton Coples is next off the board at No. 19, to the Bears, with wideout Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech going two spots later to the Bengals.

How do the rest of the ACC's draft-eligible players stand? Let's take a look:

ROUND 2
No. 36, Buccaneers: RB David Wilson (Virginia Tech)
No. 50, Bears: OLB Zach Brown (UNC)
No. 58, Texans: DE Andre Branch (Clemson)
No. 59, Packers: RB Lamar Miller (Miami)

ROUND 3
No. 64, Colts: DT Brandon Thompson (Clemson)
No. 68, Buccaneers: CB Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech)
No. 72, Dolphins: OT Zebrie Sanders (FSU)
No. 76, Texans: TE Dwayne Allen (Clemson)
No. 80, Cardinals: DE Olivier Vernon (Miami)
No. 82, Titans: WR Chris Givens (Wake Forest)
No. 91, Ravens: G Joe Looney (Wake Forest)
No. 95, Raiders:
DE Cam Johnson (Virginia)

ROUND 4
No. 100, Browns: OLB Nigel Bradham (FSU)
No. 124, Bills: OLB Sean Spence (Miami)
No. 125, 49ers: CB Chase Minnifield (Virginia)
No. 128, Vikings: OLB Terrell Manning (NC State)
No. 129, Raiders: OLB Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest)
No. 130, Ravens: WR Danny Coale (Virginia Tech)

ROUND 5
No. 154, Jets: WR Tommy Streeter (Miami)
No. 157, Falcons: WR TJ Graham (NC State)
No. 159, Steelers: G Brandon Washington (Miami)
No. 162, Saints: CB Coty Sensabaugh (Clemson)

ROUND 6
No. 176, Jaguars: DT Marcus Forston (Miami)
No. 178, Bills: ILB Audie Cole (NC State)
No. 188, Broncos: DE Rennie Moore (Clemson)
No. 191, Bengals: WR Travis Benjamin (Miami)
No. 197, Packers: OT Andrew Datko (FSU)
No. 205, Browns: G Antoine McClain (Clemson)

ROUND 7
No. 209, Rams: WR Dwight Jones (UNC)
No. 240, Steelers: DE Matt Conrath (Virginia)
No. 242, Jets: TE George Bryan (NC State)
No. 243, Packers: RB Davin Meggett (Maryland)
No. 245, Browns: DT Markus Kuhn (NC State)
No. 250, Chargers: CB Donnie Fletcher (BC)

Here's a breakdown by school of the 37 ACC players that Scouts Inc. thinks will be drafted:

Miami: 7
Clemson: 6
NC State: 5
Virginia Tech: 3
UNC: 3
Virginia: 3
Wake Forest: 3
FSU: 3
BC: 2
Georgia Tech: 1
Maryland: 1
Duke: 0
Mel Kiper took a different approach Wednesday to potential NFL Draft outcomes, listing who he would pick if he were selecting for each team in Rounds 1-3, Insider then compiling those players into a "best possible" scenario Insider for each franchise.

The tally revealed 14 players from ACC schools in the first three rounds, and, to change things up a bit, we'll list them here in order of the selection Kiper has them going to their respective teams.

No. 9, Panthers: LB Luke Kuechly (BC)
No. 12, Seahawks: DE Quinton Coples (UNC)
No. 38, Jaguars: WR Stephen Hill (Georgia Tech)
No. 45, Cowboys: OLB Andre Branch (Clemson)
No. 46, Eagles: LB Zach Brown (UNC)
No. 51, Eagles: TE Dwayne Allen (Clemson)
No. 53, Bengals: CB Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech)
No. 60, Ravens: OLB Terrell Manning (N.C. State)
No. 63, Giants: RB David Wilson (Va. Tech)
No. 65, Rams: RB Lamar Miller (Miami)
No. 69, Redskins: OT Zebrie Sanders (FSU)
No. 84, Falcons: DE Olivier Vernon (Miami)
No. 86, Steelers: DT Brandon Thompson (Clemson)
No. 93, Patriots: WR Chris Givens (Wake Forest)

Kuechly has moved up a spot to No. 9 on Kiper's 25-man Big Board this week, Insider and Coples has dropped a spot to No. 15.

On Todd McShay's 32-man draft board, Kuechly is up three spots to No. 7, Insider Coples is down five spots to No. 14 and Hill has moved in at No. 30. Branch rounds out the ACC contingent at No. 31, having dropped two spots.
The final team of our series, the Demon Deacons are forced to replace a versatile home-run threat who left school early for the NFL.

OUT: Chris Givens. Givens led Wake Forest in 2011 with 83 receptions for a school-record 1,330 yards and nine touchdowns. His 102.3 receiving yards per game led the ACC, and his 6.4 catches per game were second in the conference. Givens averaged 110.8 all-purpose yards per game. The first-team all-conference receiver had seven 100-yard receiving games, one shy of the school record. He leaves school with 163 career catches for 2,473 yards, with 21 receiving touchdowns, along with 45 carries for 238 yards and two scores.

IN: Michael Campanaro. While not as fast as Givens, Campanaro may be more of a complete receiver. Coach Jim Grobe has said Campanaro is a better possession receiver than Givens, and the bigger question may be who slides into Campanaro's No. 2 role after a 2011 season that saw him catch 73 passes for 833 yards and two touchdowns. Matt James and Brandon Terry are both 6-foot-5 and speedy, and the latter has run track at Wake Forest as well. Terence Davis had 20 catches last season for 269 yards and five touchdowns. Lovell Jackson had success as a kick returner but is sitting out spring practice as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
No. 1. Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

2011 stats: He finished with 191 total tackles (102 solo), 15.9 tackles per game, 12 tackles for loss, and three interceptions, including one for a touchdown.

Previously ranked: No. 1

Making the case for Kuechly: In only three seasons, Kuechly became one of, if not the most decorated defender in league history. He won the Lombardi Award, given annually to the nation’s top lineman or linebacker; the Nagurski Award, given annually to the nation’s top defensive player; the Dick Butkus Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker; and was named the LOTT IMPACT Defensive Player of the Year. You’d never know it by talking to him, though, as Kuechly remained one of the most humble players in the league. He was a relentless player, a hard-hitter who seemed to be everywhere at once. He was more than just a tackling machine. He made game-changing plays and could disrupt the passing game. He ended his junior season leading the nation in tackles for the second straight year. Kuechly set ACC records for tackles in a season (191) and career (532) in 2011. He led the nation in tackles and solo tackles for the second straight year, averaging an NCAA-record 15.92 hits per game. He also finished with an ACC-record 532 career tackles, just 14 shy of the NCAA’s career record. His 14.0 career tackle average is an ACC and NCAA record. There’s no question he deserves the top spot for 2011.

No. 2 David Amerson, CB, NC State

No. 3 Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

No. 4 David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9 Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12 Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19 Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21 Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23 Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24 Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
No. 2. David Amerson, CB, NC State

2011 stats: He started 13 games and finished the season with 59 tackles, five pass breakups, and 13 interceptions for 205 yards and two touchdowns.

Previously ranked: Not ranked.

Making the case for Amerson: He was a first-team Walter Camp All-American, and led the FBS with 13 interceptions -- six more than any other player. It was the most in the FBS since 1968 and tied as the second-best total in FBS history. He broke the ACC’s single-season interception record in the upset of No. 7-ranked Clemson. He also broke the school’s single-season interception record of nine that had stood for 73 years and was set by Art Rooney in 1937 and 1938. He was one of just three true freshmen to start a game for the Pack in 2010. To say he had a breakout sophomore season is an understatement. In 2010, he didn’t have one pick in 640 snaps. He found his comfort zone after moving from boundary to field corner.

No. 3 Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

No. 4 David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
No. 3. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson

2011 stats: He had 82 receptions for 1,219 yards and 12 touchdowns, 231 yards on 32 carries, and 33 kickoff returns for 826 yards and one touchdown. He finished with 2,288 all-purpose yards in 656 snaps over 13 games (10 starts). Watkins averaged 14.9 yards per catch, 7.2 yards per carry, and 25 yards per kickoff return. He also completed his only pass for nine yards.

Previously ranked: Not ranked

Making the case for Watkins: If you watched him at all last season, he made the case for himself, as a primary receiver, ball carrier and kick returner. He set several school records as a true freshman, but he has remained humble and willing to learn and get better. He quickly established himself as one of the best players in the country, finishing fourth in the nation in all-purpose yards per game (176.0) and 16th in receiving yards per game. He was first in the ACC in all-purpose yards per game, second in receiving yards per game, second in kickoff return average, third in receptions per game, and tied for third in points (touchdowns) per game (6.0).

No. 4 David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9 Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12 Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19 Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21 Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23 Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24 Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
No. 4. David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech

2011 stats: He started all 14 games and played over 700 snaps on offense and 51 on special teams. He rushed for a school-record 1,709 yards on 290 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns, for an average of 122.1 rushing yards per game. He also caught 21 passes for 126 yards and a touchdown. He led team with 22 kickoff returns for 415 yards and totaled 2,253 all-purpose yards.

Previously ranked: No. 10

Making the case for Wilson: He was a durable back who proved last year that he could carry the full workload, and his athleticism and explosiveness made him an exciting player to watch. He was the ACC’s overall and offensive player of the year. His streak of seven straight 100-plus rushing yard games were the most under coach Frank Beamer and he finished with 10 total, which tied the ACC single-season record set by Ryan Williams in 2009.

No. 5 Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
No. 5. Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson

2011 stats: He had 50 receptions for 598 yards and eight touchdowns (tied for fourth-most in school history) in 890 snaps over 14 games (14 starts).

Previously ranked: Not ranked.

Making the case for Allen: Quarterback Tajh Boyd orchestrated the offense, but if you ask many of Clemson’s opponents, they’d probably tell you Allen was the X-factor. He was the program’s first winner of the John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end, and his 93 career catches tied for the most in school history by a tight end. His receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns were the most by a tight end in school history. Three of his best games last season came against Florida State and Virginia Tech. He had two catches -- both for touchdowns -- in the ACC title game against the Hokies. He’s got big-play ability, and was a mature, dependable leader for last year’s young team, not to mention an All-American.

No. 6 Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9 Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12 Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19 Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21 Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23 Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24 Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
No. 6. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson

2011 stats: He completed 298 of 499 pass attempts for 3,828 yards, 33 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 997 snaps over 14 games (14 starts). He completed 59.7 percent of his passes and had a 141.2 pass efficiency rating. He also had 218 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns. He had 4,046 total yards and was responsible for a school-record 38 touchdowns.

Previously ranked: Not ranked.

Making the case for Boyd: Boyd was a completely different quarterback than the one we saw last spring, and he progressed so quickly in a new offense that he was able to get the Tigers off to an 8-0 start and play his way into the Heisman conversation. He was a major reason the Tigers won their first ACC title since 1991, and his leadership qualities were immediately embraced in the huddle in his first season as a starter. He has a 10-4 record as a starter and has the size and arm strength to become even better.

No. 7 Matt Daniels, S, Duke

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9 Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12 Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19 Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21 Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23 Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24 Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State
No. 7. Matt Daniels, S, Duke

2011 stats: He led Duke and ranked third in the ACC in tackles per game (10.5) and finished the year with 126 tackles, 4.0 tackles for loss, two interceptions, 14 pass break-ups and one caused fumble. He was the team leader in both interceptions and pass breakups.

Previously ranked: Not ranked.

Making the case for Daniels: Don’t be fooled by the fact he wore a Duke uniform. Despite the team’s 3-9 finish, Daniels was one of the best defensive backs in the country. He was just one of three players in the league to average double figures in tackles -- and he did it against the likes of Stanford (13), Florida State (14), Virginia Tech (13) and Miami (11) -- and he was third in the league balloting for the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year. His 14 pass breakups were the second-most in a single season in school history. His 126 tackles were the most for a Duke defensive back since Terrell Smith had 140 in 2003.

No. 8 Andre Branch, DE, Clemson

No. 9 Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson

No. 10 Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina

No. 11 Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech

No. 12 Blake DeChristopher, OT, Virginia Tech

No. 13 Shawn Powell, P, Florida State

No. 14 Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina

No. 15 Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina

No. 16 Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 17 Sean Spence, LB, Miami

No. 18 Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State

No. 19 Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland

No. 20 Lamar Miller, RB, Miami

No. 21 Chris Givens, WR, Wake Forest

No. 22 Terrell Manning, LB, NC State

No. 23 Matt Conrath, DT, Virginia

No. 24 Omoregie Uzzi, RG, Georgia Tech

No. 25 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

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