ACC: Tommy HIbbard

You gotta be sound in the kicking game.

The watch lists for the Lou Groza Award (best kicker) and Ray Guy (best punter) were released Wednesday, and these same lists will be pared down during the season, with winners announced in December.

Here are players from the ACC and Notre Dame to receive recognition:

Lou Groza Award:

Roberto Aguayo, Florida State: Only the second freshman to win the award, Aguayo is the odds-on favorite to repeat as a sophomore. He set an FBS single-season kicking record with 157 points last season and was 21 of 22 on field goal attempts. He converted all 94 extra points.

Kyle Brindza, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish’s kicker has a strong leg having made three field goals from at least 50 yards last season. He played a key role in the Irish’s bowl game, connecting on 5-of-6 field goal attempts.

Niklas Sade, NC State: A semifinalist last season, Sade was consistent for the Wolfpack. Twice last season Sade made four field goals in a single game.

John Wallace, Louisville: He nearly tied the Louisville record of 21 field goals in a single season, coming up short by one. Art Carmody, who won the award in 2006, owns the record.

Ray Guy Award:

Wil Baumann, NC State: He’s started 37 games in his career for the Wolfpack and was seventh in the ACC in punting average in 2013.

Riley Dixon, Syracuse: Dixon was awarded a scholarship in January after averaging more than 42 yards per punt last season.

Tommy Hibbard, North Carolina: Hibbard was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2012 and a honorable mention last season. He averaged 43.0 yards on 65 punts, 22 of which were downed in the red zone.

A.J. Hughes, Virginia Tech: Hughes was a second-team All-ACC selection last fall after averaging 44.1 yards and downing 24 punts inside the 20.

Will Monday, Duke: Averaged 42.7 yards on 69 punts last season. Monday had punts of 72 and 66 yards in 2013.
AthlonSports was the latest publication to release a preseason All-ACC team, joining Phil Steele from a week ago. We already broke down Steele's teams, but now that we have multiple forecasts to look at, it's worth checking out some trends and differences.

The one similarity that jumps out immediately is that North Carolina's Marquise Williams is Athlon's second-team quarterback, just like he was Steele's. As we said last week, this could very well turn out to be the case, but the fact that Williams remains engaged in a highly competitive quarterback race with Mitch Trubisky speaks to just how much uncertainty there is at the position throughout the ACC.

Duke's Anthony Boone is the third-team quarterback on both teams, while Athlon has Clemson's Cole Stoudt as its fourth-team quarterback. (Steele had Louisville's Will Gardner.)

Athlon does list Pitt's Tyler Boyd as a first-team receiver, along with Florida State's Rashad Greene. Boyd was a second-teamer on Steele's list, which featured Greene, Duke's Jamison Crowder and Louisville's DeVante Parker as first-teamers.

Athlon, however, listed just two receivers per team, and 26 total players per team (11 offense/11 defense/four special teams). Steele listed 28 total players per team (12/12/4).

Boston College's Andy Gallik gets the nod as Athlon's first-team center over Louisville's Jake Smith, who was a first-teamer on Steele's list. FSU's Bobby Hart gets the nod as one of Athlon's first-team tackles over Syracuse's Sean Hickey, who made Steele's first team.

Defensively, the biggest (and only real) difference comes at one of the safety spots, where Athlon has FSU's Jalen Ramsey as a first-teamer and Steele has him as a third-teamer. Duke safety Jeremy Cash made Steele's first team, as did teammate Kelby Brown at linebacker, where Steele had four players per team. (Athlon had three per team. Both Cash and Brown were second-teamers.)

Punter is the only difference on the first-team special teams squad, with Athlon picking Virginia Tech's A.J. Hughes and Steele taking UNC's Tommy Hibbard. Hibbard was on Athlon's second team, while Hughes was on Steele's third team.

Also of note: No Andrew Brown on Athlon's list. The five-star Virginia freshman was on Steele's fourth team at defensive tackle.

ACC all-bowl team

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
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Bowl season was kind to the ACC in a few games (Florida State and Clemson won BCS games), not-so-kind in a few others (Miami, Virginia Tech, we're looking at you) and at least one was a little of both (can we get Texas A&M and Duke every year?). But now that it's all over, we're honoring the best individual performances in the ACC with our all-bowl team.

OFFENSE

QB: Tajh Boyd, Clemson: The big stage hadn't been kind to Boyd through most of 2013, but on the first day of 2014, he was exceptional. Boyd accounted for 505 yards and six touchdowns in a Discover Orange Bowl win over Ohio State, giving the ACC two BCS bowl game victors.

RB: James Conner, Pittsburgh: The freshman tailback carried 26 times against Bowling Green, blowing past Tony Dorsett for the Pitt bowl game record with 229 yards on the ground. For good measure, Conner chipped in on the defensive line for a few snaps, too.

RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State: It wasn't the most spectacular performance of bowl season -- Freeman wasn't even the best running back on the field in the BCS title game -- but his hard running early kept FSU from falling too far behind, and his final tally -- 11 carries for 73 yards and a TD -- helped Freeman become the first FSU running back since Warrick Dunn to top 1,000 yards on the season.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesOhio State wasn't able to catch Sammy Watkins, as the Clemson WR set multiple Orange Bowl receiving records.
WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson: Watkins made his last game in a Clemson uniform one to remember, catching an Orange Bowl record 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns despite battling an injury for half the game.

WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke: Ho-hum, another 12 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown for Crowder, who turned in one last stellar performance to cap an exceptional season for the Blue Devils.

WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State: The Seminoles' dramatic comeback against Auburn in the BCS championship game wouldn't have been possible without Greene's big day. He was the only FSU receiver with positive yardage in the first half of the game, and his 49-yard reception -- he dodged two tacklers and picked up most of that yardage after the catch -- was the key play on FSU's dramatic last-minute, game-winning drive.

TE: Braxton Deaver, Duke: The junior had six catches for 116 yards, including three grabs that went for 25 yards or more and five that went for first downs.

OL: Dorian Johnson, Pitt: The Panthers simply overwhelmed Bowling Green's defensive front in the Little Caesars Bowl, racking up 487 yards of offense, including 255 on the ground. (Ed. note: We mistakenly included Matt Rotherham here in an initial post. Johnson slid from tackle to guard for the game, replacing Rotherham, and the Pitt line didn't miss a beat. We apologize for the error.)

OL: Jon Heck, North Carolina: Cincinnati entered the Belk Bowl second in the AAC in sacks with 35, but the Bearcats couldn't get to UNC QB Marquise Williams, as the Tar Heels' offense racked up 39 points -- the second-most Cincinnati gave up all season.

OL: Laken Tomlinson, Duke: The Blue Devils racked up 661 yards of total offense and 29 first downs against Texas A&M, with the offensive line -- led by Tomlinson -- paving the way for a 300-yard passer and a 100-yard rusher.

OL: Tre' Jackson, Florida State: Yes, the Seminoles' line allowed four sacks in the game, but Jackson and Co. also helped FSU run for more yards per carry (4.8) than the vaunted Auburn ground game and provided Jameis Winston with plenty of time to throw on a dramatic game-winning drive in the final minute.

C: Macky MacPherson, Syracuse: The Orange rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:14 left, to knock off Minnesota in the Texas Bowl. The physically dominant performance on the line was a fitting conclusion to MacPherson's Syracuse career.

DEFENSE

DE: Mario Edwards Jr., FSU: Edwards had one sack and three tackles for loss among his six total tackles for a Seminoles front that turned it up a notch in the second half, allowing the offense to catch up and ultimately escape with the win.

DT: Andre Monroe, Maryland: The Terrapins' finale as an ACC member ended on a sour note with a 31-20 loss to Marshall in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. Monroe tied for a game-high with 10 total tackles, three of which went for a loss, one of which was a sack. Monroe added a quarterback hurry as well.

DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt: With one more game to go in a historic season, Donald did not disappoint. The senior closed out his career with two tackles for loss, including one sack, to go with a pass break-up in the Panthers' 30-27 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl win over Bowling Green. Donald's sack came on second down of the Falcons' final drive, all but sealing the win.

DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson: Beasley was part of a Tigers front that made life extremely difficult for Braxton Miller and the rest of the Ohio State backfield. Beasley recorded four tackles for loss and a sack among his five total tackles, and in the end Clemson's defense proved to be the difference in a shootout win.

LB: Norkeithus Otis, UNC: The Tar Heels capped their strong second half with a bang, routing Cincinnati 39-17 in the Belk Bowl to make them 6-1 over their last seven games. Otis tallied seven total tackles -- two for loss and one sack among them -- to go with two quarterback hurries.

LB: Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech: UCLA proved to be too much for the Hokies in a 42-12 win in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, but Tyler played well, totaling seven tackles, including half of a sack, to go with one pass break-up and one quarterback hurry.

[+] EnlargeP.J. Williams
AP Photo/Gregory BullP.J. Williams' interception was the big break Florida State needed to create in its come-from-behind victory over Auburn in the BCS title game.
LB: Cameron Lynch, Syracuse: The Orange finished a successful first season in the ACC by topping Minnesota 21-17 in the Texas Bowl. Lynch, a junior, tied for a team-high with eight stops, with most of his big plays coming behind the line of scrimmage. He had two tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble to help Syracuse go 7-4 after an 0-2 start in coach Scott Shafer's first year.

DB: P.J. Williams, FSU: The defensive MVP from the Vizio BCS National Championship came up huge when it mattered most, picking off Auburn's Nick Marshall early in the fourth quarter to set up a touchdown that cut the Tigers' lead to one. Williams finished with seven total tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss.

DB: Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech: Thomas ended his college career with a bang, totaling a game-high 15 tackles. Three of those stops were behind the line of scrimmage, including one sack.

DB: D.J. White, GT: The Yellow Jackets get two more years of White, a future that looked all the brighter in the 25-17 loss to Ole Miss in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. White finished with 13 total tackles, two forced fumbles, one interception and three pass break-ups.

DB: Bryce Jones, Boston College: The Eagles' turnaround campaign under Steve Addazio ended on a down note, falling to Arizona 42-19 in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, but Jones was a bright spot, with the sophomore notching a team-high 12 tackles, including one for loss.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Chris Blewitt, Pitt: Blewitt went 3-for-4 for the Panthers in Detroit, connecting from 25, 28 and, most important, 39 yards with the game-winning kick with 1:17 left in Pitt's 30-27 win.

P: Tommy Hibbard, UNC: Hibbard was phenomenal for the Tar Heels, punting four times for an average of 44.2 yards per boot. He pinned Cincinnati inside its own 20 three different times, and he had a long of 59 yards in the win.

KR: Levonte Whitfield, FSU: At the time, Whitfield's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown seemed as if it would go down as one of the greatest returns in BCS championship game history. The touchdown gave Florida State a 27-24 lead with 4:31 to play -- but the lead would change twice more before it was over. Whitfield finished the game with 172 return yards.

PR: Ryan Switzer, UNC: The Tar Heels had a huge day on special teams in a Belk Bowl win over Cincinnati, with Switzer -- an All-American -- leading the way, returning his fifth punt of the season for a touchdown.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 26, 2013
12/26/13
12:00
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Come chat with AA today at 4 p.m. ET!
Phil Steele has put the finishing touches on his preseason All-America team, featuring several ACC standouts. Here is a quick look at the league players selected:

First team
Second team
Third team
Fourth team

Notice anyone missing?

That would be Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd. I can pretty much guarantee Boyd will be using the slight as even more motivation, considering it is his goal to be recognized as the best quarterback in America this season.

Here are the four quarterbacks that Steele selected instead: Johnny Manziel, first team; Braxton Miller, second team; AJ McCarron, third team; Teddy Bridgewater, fourth team. Hard to argue with the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Manziel, or Miller, who led his team to an undefeated season a year ago.

Bridgewater is a good choice, too, considering many believe he will be one of the first players taken in the 2014 draft if he turns pro at the end of the season. But, in my opinion, Boyd is a better overall quarterback than McCarron. Yes, I know McCarron has led the Tide to two straight national championships. Alabama will be a preseason top 5 team once again. But Boyd is a much more dynamic player with more upside. I view McCarron as much more of a game manager.

In any case, there certainly appears to be a tremendous amount of talent across the country at quarterback. All five go into the season as preseason Heisman candidates. You can throw Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray into the mix as well, along with Marcus Mariota at Oregon. Should be a fun season to watch.

A few other observations:
  • It is now clear that folks around the country expect Watkins to have a bounce-back season. Seeing him listed on the first team is testament to all the talent he has, and the belief he will be even better than he was his freshman season.
  • Once again, Florida State is well represented, with a league-leading five players recognized. That supplies even more proof that the Noles remain the most talented team in the ACC, despite losing 11 players to the NFL draft.
  • When Exum tore his ACL during a pickup basketball game earlier this year, many feared his senior season would be in jeopardy. But Exum has made a remarkable recovery and could play in the season opener against Alabama. Steele clearly has confidence that Exum can remain an elite corner despite his injury setback.
  • Ross Martin was a true freshman last season, replacing Will Snyderwine, who ranks No. 3 in school history in points scored. Now, Martin is a third-team preseason All-American. What a rise.

The 2011 ACC All-Bowl team

January, 13, 2012
1/13/12
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It's time to wrap up the 2011 season with the top performers from the bowl games. No, they’re not all from Florida State and NC State. Although they could be …

Offense:

QB: Mike Glennon, NC State: He was named the MVP of the Belk Bowl after throwing for 264 yards and three touchdowns to lead NC State past Louisville 31-24.

RB: Preston Lyons, Georgia Tech: The senior fullback started in place of injured David Sims and rushed for 138 yards in the overtime loss to Utah. Before this, Lyons had never rushed for more than 50 yards in a game.

[+] EnlargeDavid Wilson
AP Photo/Dave MartinVirginia Tech running back David Wilson finished the season with 1,709 rushing yards.
RB: David Wilson, Virginia Tech: He broke the school’s single-season rushing record in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Michigan with 82 yards on 24 carries. He finished the season with 1,709 yards. His 11-yard run on his second carry of the third quarter enabled him to surpass Ryan Williams’ mark of 1,655 yards set in 2009.

WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State: He had five catches for 99 yards and a touchdown in the 18-14 win against Notre Dame and was named the MVP of the Champs Sports Bowl. His 15-yard touchdown catch with just over 13 minutes to play gave the Noles a 15-14 lead.

WR: T.J. Graham, NC State: He finished with seven catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns in the win against Louisville. He also had three kick returns for 63 yards and one punt return for two yards.

WR: Kris Burd, Virginia: He had six catches, 103 yards, two touchdowns and a broken collarbone. He became only the third player in school history to score two receiving touchdowns in a bowl game.

OT: Zebrie Sanders, Florida State: He was the lone senior on an offensive line that started four freshmen. He posted a career-high grade of 94 percent in his final game at left tackle.

OT: Rob Crisp, NC State: Hey, no other lineman in the ACC had a reception in a bowl game. Granted, his teammates keep ribbing him for rumbling and fumbling, but Crisp played a good game, paving the way for the offense from the right tackle spot.

G: Josue Matias, Florida State: As one of four true freshman starters on the Noles’ line, Matias posted a grade of 82 percent from the left guard position in his first career start.

G: Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech: Even with guard Omoregie Uzzi sitting out with an injury and suspended tackle Phil Smith on a bus back to Atlanta, Tech rolled up 311 rushing yards and 448 total yards against a Utah defense that was ranked among the nation’s best entering the Hyundai Sun Bowl.

C: Dalton Freeman, Clemson: Freeman had an 84 percent grade and four knockdowns in helping Clemson to 443 yards and 33 points against West Virginia.

Defense:

DE: Brandon Jenkins, Florida State: He finished with two tackles (both solo), including one sack for minus-10 yards. His sack in the third quarter took Notre Dame out of field goal range.

DT: Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest: He finished with six tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1.5 tackles for loss and one fumble recovery in the loss to Mississippi State.

[+] EnlargeMarkus Kuhn
AP Photo/Bob LeveroneThe Wolfpack's Markus Kuhn lands on Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater for a sack during the Belk Bowl.
DT: Markus Kuhn, NC State: He finished with three tackles, including 1.5 for a loss of seven yards. He also had one sack for a loss of six yards in the win against Louisville.

DE: J.R. Collins, Virginia Tech: He finished second on the team with seven tackles and had one tackle for loss in the loss to Michigan in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

LB: Nigel Bradham, Florida State: He closed out his career with a team-high nine tackles (eight solo) against Notre Dame, finishing the season with a team-leading 86. He was the first FSU player to lead the team in tackles for three consecutive years since All-American Marvin Jones (1990-92). Bradham also added his third career interception in the win.

LB: Tariq Edwards, Virginia Tech: He finished with a team-high eight tackles, one sack for a loss of seven yards and two tackles for a loss of eight yards in the loss to Michigan.

LB: Audie Cole, NC State: The senior ended his career with a team-high 10 tackles, including a pair of sacks and four tackles for loss.

DB: David Amerson, NC State: He had two interceptions and returned one of them 65 yards for a touchdown in the Belk Bowl win against Louisville. He became the ACC’s leader in interceptions in a single season with 13. It was one shy of the Football Bowl Subdivision record set by Al Worley of Washington in 1968.

DB: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech: He intercepted a pass by Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in the first quarter. The interception marked his second of the season and the second of his career.

DB: Merrill Noel, Wake Forest: He had a team-leading seven tackles and one interception for 18 yards in the 23-17 loss to Mississippi State.

DB: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State: With Notre Dame inside the 5-yard line, Joyner intercepted his team-best fourth pass of the season. His 77-yard kickoff return after Notre Dame went up 14-0 was the longest kickoff return by a Seminole this year. It was also the third-longest in FSU bowl and Champs Sports Bowl history.

Special teams:

P: Shawn Powell, Florida State: He punted 8 times for 378 yards and a 47.2-yard average. He had three punts of more than 50 yards and landed two inside the 20-yard line. His performance sealed his title as the nation’s leader in punting.

P/K: Justin Myer, Virginia Tech: Myer entered the game 0-for-2 on the season but made field goals in the Allstate Sugar Bowl of 37, 43, 36 and 25 yards, recording a field goal in every quarter and tying Georgia’s Billy Bennett (2003) for the BCS bowl record. The four field goals tied for second-most in Sugar Bowl history. Myer missed on his fifth try, a 37-yard attempt in overtime. The field goals were the first in Myer's collegiate career. The Hokies made six field goals of 30 or more yards all season entering the game.

A/P: Sammy Watkins, Clemson: Despite the loss, Watkins broke two school records in the Discover Orange Bowl and finished with 205 all-purpose yards, giving him 2,282 for the season -- second-most in ACC history. He had seven kick returns for 143 yards, and he had five catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.

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