ACC Football 2012 Preview: Predicting Who Every Team's Leading Tackler Will Be
Jeff Blake-US PRESSWIRE
This offseason, the ACC waved goodbye to some of the conference's top defensive players from the 2011 season, including six of the top eight tacklers from last year.
Former Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, former Miami linebacker Sean Spence and former North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown are some of the most notable names that will have to be replaced.
Luckily, however, the league has a host of up-and-coming defenders who appear ready for the spotlight in 2012.
Here's a look at who each team's leading tackler should be this season.
Boston College Eagles: LB Kevin Pierre-Louis
Mark L. Baer-US PRESSWIRE
Boston College lost its most valuable defensive player in linebacker Luke Kuechly, who was the team's leading tackler in each of the past three seasons.
Kuechly, who was the No. 9 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, leaves a huge hole to fill, but luckily the Eagles have another linebacker, Kevin Pierre-Louis, who should be ready to step up in 2012.
Pierre-Louis finished second on the team with 74 tackles last year, and now that Kuechly's gone he'll have the chance to rack up a lot more stops this season.
The 6'1'', 215-pound junior may be a bit undersized, but he certainly knows how to find the football and take down ball-carriers.
Clemson Tigers: LB Corico Wright
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Clemson's defense will be looking to regroup and rehabilitate its image this season after an absolutely embarrassing performance against West Virginia in a 70-33 blowout defeat in the Orange Bowl last January.
The Tigers have the talent to put together one of the conference's strongest defenses this season, and one of the unit's key leaders will be linebacker Corico Wright.
Wright, who was formerly known as Corico Hawkins, finished third on the team with 80 tackles in 2011, and he'll once again be expected to be the linchpin of the linebacker corps this year.
Although he'll have some competition from safety Rashard Hall and fellow linebacker Stephone Anthony, Wright will enter the season as the clear-cut favorite to be Clemson's leading tackler in 2012.
Duke Blue Devils: LB Kelby Brown
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In recent years, Duke's defense has annually been one of the weakest units in not just the ACC, but the entire country. However, with nine defensive starters returning for the 2012 season, this should be one of the best groups that the team has had in a while.
The face of the defense will be junior linebacker Kelby Brown.
Since he plays for a conference cellar dweller, Brown hasn't received much recognition or publicity, but his performances in each of the last two seasons simply can't be ignored.
After entering the starting lineup midway through his freshman season, Brown has been Duke's most stable defensive player, as he's notched 128 total tackles, including 12.5 tackles for loss and three sacks over the last two seasons.
Florida State Seminoles: LB Christian Jones
Florida State's defense is absolutely loaded with top-notch talent. This year, the unit will feature plenty of future high NFL draft picks such as defensive ends Brandon Jenkins and Bjoern Werner and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.
Linebacker Christian Jones might just be the defenses's biggest breakout star of 2012, though.
Now that last year's leading tackler—linebacker Nigel Bradham—is gone, Jones will be expected to take the next step in his development and become a dependable defensive leader this season.
The 6'4'', 237-pound junior totaled 56 tackles and three sacks last year, and he displayed the type of flashes of his enormous potential, which indicate that he's ready to become a true star in 2012.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: LB Jeremiah Attaochu
Josh D. Weiss-US PRESSWIRE
Georgia Tech's defense was dealt a tough blow back in January when it was announced that last year's leading tackler, linebacker Julian Burnett, would be forced to quit football due to a serious neck injury.
The Yellow Jackets will obviously miss Burnett's presence inside this season.
The good news, though, is that the team has a potential standout on the outside in Jeremiah Attaochu.
Attaochu, who totaled 59 tackles and led the team with six sacks in 2011, is an athletic, tough and instinctive defender who knows how to shed blocks and shut down ball-carriers.
Maryland Terrapins: Safety Eric Franklin
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Linebackers Kenny Tate and Demetrius Hartsfield may be the most well-known players on Maryland's defense, but the player to really watch out for in 2012 will be safety Eric Franklin.
Franklin finished the 2011 season with 106 tackles, and he proved to be one of the unit's most reliable players.
Opponents are likely going to test the Terps through the air quite often this season, which means that the 6'2'', 215-pound senior should have plenty of opportunities to make stops all over the field in 2012.
Miami Hurricanes: LB Denzel Perryman
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Miami will have to figure out how to replace its top defensive player from 2011, linebacker Sean Spence, who led the team with 106 tackles last year.
Spence will be missed, but the Hurricanes do have some talented and experienced returning starters such as safety Vaughn Telemaque, linebacker Denzel Perryman and Anthony Chickillo, who they can rely on this season.
After racking up 68 tackles as just a true freshman last year, Perryman will enter the season as the team's leading returning tackler.
Even though parting ways with a player the caliber of Spence obviously hurts, the budding sophomore star should be able to really help ease the loss in 2012.
North Carolina Tar Heels: LB Kevin Reddick
North Carolina's defense has featured an abundance of standout linebackers in recent years such as Zach Brown, Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant. Now, Kevin Reddick will be the showcase 'backer in Chapel Hill this season.
Reddick is coming off a season in which he finished second on the team behind Brown with 71 total tackles.
The 6'3'', 240-pound senior turned down the opportunity to be a high pick in this year's NFL draft in order to return to North Carolina for one final year. It should end up being a decision that really pays off for both him and the Tar Heels defense in 2012.
N.C. State Wolfpack: Safety Earl Wolf
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There's no arguing about who the best overall player on the N.C. State defense is—that honor belongs to cornerback David Amerson, who set an ACC record with 13 interceptions last season.
Since teams will likely shy away from Amerson in 2012, however, he likely won't see enough action to lead the team in tackles this year.
Instead, it will likely be another member of the Wolfpack secondary, safety Earl Wolff, who will rack up the most total tackles.
Last year, Wolff totaled 113 tackles and he showed that he's the type of playmaking safety who knows how to bring down ball-carriers in the open field.
Virginia Cavaliers: LB Steve Greer
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Virginia's Steve Greer is one of the most underrated defensive players in the country.
The 6'2'', 225-pound middle linebacker definitely isn't the most physically intimidating player in college football. However, he's one of the toughest and most intelligent defenders that you're going to see this season.
Last year, Greer led the Cavaliers with 103 tackles, and he'll likely repeat that feat once again in 2012.
Virginia Tech Hokies: LB Bruce Taylor
Bruce Taylor was limited to just eight games of action due to an injury last season, yet Taylor still managed to rack up 53 total tackles, and he led the team with 6.6 tackles per game in 2011.
The 6'2'', 244-pound senior is one of the top linebackers in college football, and he's the true heart and soul of the Virginia Tech defense.
Although he'll have plenty of competition from talented teammates such as linebacker Tariq Edwards, defensive end James Gayle and cornerback Kyle Fuller, Taylor has to be considered the early favorite to lead the team in tackles this season, just like he did back in 2010.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons: LB Scott Betros
Bob DeChiara-US PRESSWIRE
Wake Forest lost its two leading tacklers from 2011, safety Cyhl Quarles and linebacker Kyle Wilber, which means the Demon Deacons will now need a new defender to step up this season.
Cornerback Merrill Noel is clearly the unit's best player, but it's doubtful that teams will be eager to throw his way this fall, especially after his breakout freshman performance in 2011.
Instead, linebacker Scott Betros will likely lead the team in tackles this year.
Betros tallied 59 total stops last season, and the 6'1'', 240-pound senior will now be looking to have an even more productive campaign in 2012.