College Football: Five ACC defensive players to watch for in 2010.

Jeffrey FannAnalyst IMay 29, 2010

JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01:  Linebacker Nigel Bradham #13 of the Florida State Seminoles tries to get to quarterback Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers during the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl on January 1, 2010 at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida. Florida State defeated West Virginia 33-21 in Bobby Bowden's last game as a head coach for the Seminoles.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Recently, my blog All About Sports looked at the ACC offensive players to watch for in 2010 . This wasn't a list of necessarily the best offensive players in the league, but guys we felt were coming in a little less publicized than some others, but had the chance for a breakout season.

Now we want to see which ACC defensive players to watch for. These are players that might be coming back after an injury or starting the 2010 season just a little unnoticed.

Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College and Nate Irving, LB, NC State

No list of ACC defensive players to watch for this season can start without mentioning with these two great players. Both Herzlich and Irving are returning after being out all of the 2009 season.

Herzlich the 2008 defensive player of the year makes it back to the field after recovering from his battle with cancer. He also had to have a 12-inch titanium steel rod inserted into his leg. With all Herzlich has been through does anyone want to doubt he comes back close to the level he was before? Maybe better?

Nate Irving has recovered from a serious car accident last year. He'll play middle linebacker for the Pack this year. Head coach Tom O'Brien says Irving is a little rusty, but coming along. He'll spend the summer in the weight room regaining his strength. He's has All-ACC talent that will really help a porous NC State Defense.

Brad Jefferson, LB, Georgia Tech  

Jefferson played in relative anonymity last year for Georgia Tech. When your defense features players like Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett that can happen, but Jefferson is arguably the Jackets best returning defensive player. He's a tackling machine and hard hitter than should thrive in the Jacket's new 3-4 defense.

Bruce Carter, LB, North Carolina

The North Carolina defense is absolutely loaded and LB Bruce Carter is one of the mainstays of that defense. He was a second team All-ACC player last year. He blocked five kicks last year and had 61 tackles. He's looking to make the first team All-ACC or better this year. Carter has the talent to do it.

Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia

Dowling has all the physical tools to be the best CB in the ACC. He has good size 6-2 with enough speed to cover just about any receiver. He didn't have the season last year I expected. It was good season, but not a great one. He got beat in coverage a little more often than should have happened. I think this year SR Ras-I Dowling plays to his full potential and becomes a first or second round draft pick.

Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State

Bradham came to FSU as one of highest rated LB's in the country. Last year he led the Noles with 93 tackles. He hasn't been a disappointment, but Bradham hasn't set the world on fire either. He wasn't a first or second team All-ACC last year. 2010 might be the year for Bradham to breakthrough. The Orlando Sentinel says Bradham has one of the highest ceilings of any defensive player in the ACC.