Predicting ACC Football's 2014 All-Conference Team
With kickoff just over a month away, there are plenty of breakout players and historic seasons ahead in the fall. With a Heisman winner returning and a few breakout performers who had last season cut short by injury, don't be surprised if those familiar faces shine again this year.
Here's a look at who the top performers in the ACC could be come January when the next national champion is crowned.
QB Jameis Winston, Florida State
Winston won the Heisman as a freshman when he led the ACC in passing touchdowns (40) and passing yards (4,057). He'll be joined in his sophomore campaign by four returning offensive linemen and a stable of talent at both receiver and running back. Look out ACC.
RB Duke Johnson, Miami
Johnson ran for 920 yards last season. The only problem for the rest of the conference is that he missed almost the entire second half of the season due to injury. Look for huge numbers from Johnson this year if he can stay healthy.
RB Kevin Parks, Virginia
In one of the most under-the-radar breakout seasons last year, Parks ran for 1,031 yards and 11 touchdowns. Those numbers should go up as the Cavaliers should rely on him heavily this year.
WR Jamison Crowder, Duke
Crowder returns as the top target in David Cutcliffe's pass-happy offense. His great hands allow the senior to win balls in the air as he caught over 62 percent of the passes thrown his way last season.
WR DeVante Parker, Louisville
Parker may not have Teddy Bridgewater on the other end of his catches this year, but at 6'3", he'll remain the Cardinals' go-to receiver in the red zone after hauling in 12 touchdowns a year ago.
TE Nick O’Leary, Florida State
O'Leary averaged 16.9 yards per catch last year on the way to the national championship. Especially with receiver Kelvin Benjamin no longer in Tallahassee, he'll remain one of Jameis Winston's favorite targets.
OT Sean Hickey, Syracuse
An All-ACC Honorable Mention last year, Hickey has started 26 consecutive games for the Orange and will anchor their line this year.
OG Tre' Jackson, FSU
Jackson is another model of consistency on the line with 28 straight starts for the Seminoles. His continued success will be as integral as any if they hope to repeat as national champs.
C Anthony Gallik, Boston College
Gallik played a huge part in Andre Williams' Heisman runner-up season last year. The All-ACC third-team selection from a season ago should make life easier for everyone in the backfield at Boston College this fall.
OG Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech
Mason has anchored the Yellow Jackets running-based offense for two years straight, and he should repeat as an All-ACC first-teamer.
OT Cameron Erving, Florida State
Along with Tre' Jackson, Erving will make it next to impossible to get to Jameis Winston in the backfield this year as the Seminoles front five will be among the best in the nation.
DE Vic Beasley, Clemson
The speedy Beasley could be the best athlete in the conference this season. He'll try to build on a conference-high 13 sacks from a year ago in Death Valley, and the NFL is salivating over his raw talent.
"Beasley is really an end/linebacker combo that has maybe the quickest step off the snap in the country. The Tigers will need that kind of speed of the edge to take pressure off an offense that is learning to play together. Beasley could be the second defensive end off the board in the 2015 Draft." says Football Nation's David Levin.
Clearly opposing offenses will have to game plan around Beasley if they hope to succeed against the Tigers this year.
DL Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech
Maddy should lead the Hokies defensive line this year with his brute-force style after recording 13.5 tackles for a loss last year.
DL Grady Jarrett, Clemson
Clemson returns all five of its defensive linemen from a year ago, and Jarrett could lead that group in tackles after piling up 83 tackles last year.
DE Mario Edwards, Florida State
Florida State led the nation in points allowed last year, and Edwards will bring havoc to backfields this year as the most experienced defensive lineman on the squad.
LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson
After a team-high 131 tackles last year, Anthony passed up the NFL to return to Clemson, where he'll be one of many defensive playmakers again.
LB Denzel Perryman, Miami
Another All-ACC first-team selection from last season, Perryman should repeat that feat after 108 tackles during his junior year.
LB Kelby Brown, Duke
Brown just edged out fellow Duke linebacker David Helton on this list, as they recorded a combined 247 tackles last year for the Blue Devils.
DB Ronald Darby, Florida State
In addition to being one of the fastest players in the conference, Darby will lead a secondary that led the nation in pass defense last year.
DB Anthony Harris, Virginia
Harris led the nation in interceptions last year with eight picks. Another year at UVA like that could land him on first-team All-American lists as well as leading the ACC.
Based on his remarks at the ACC Media Days, the lock down corner knows teams are scared:
Something tells me his stats still won't suffer.
DB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
Fuller led the Hokies with six interceptions as a freshman last year. With another year of experience, he will be one of the conference's most feared defenders.
DB Charles Gaines, Louisville
Gaines switched positions from receiver to cornerback last season and showed off his great hands with five interceptions. He also has the speed to stay with any receiver looking to get behind the Cardinals defense.
K Roberto Aguayo, Florida State
Aguayo set the record for most points in a season last year with 157 points. He won the Lou Groza Award for best kicker in the nation. The scariest part? He was a freshman.
Looks like the battle with Jameis for best sophomore is on.
P A.J. Hughes, Virginia Tech
With an average punt of 44.1 yards, Hughes will play an important role in Frank Beamer's always dangerous special teams unit.