College Football 2011: 5 ACC Players Ready to Break out
The Atlantic Coast Conference has not been as strong as it was envisioned to be when Miami and Virginia Tech joined the conference in 2004, but it looks to be back on the rise this season.
In a conference going nowhere but up, there will always be players who step their game up and really take it to the next level.
All it takes is an opportunity, and the following five guys are ready to break out in a big way this season.
5. Andre Ellington, Clemson, RB
Andre Ellington tied for third in the ACC in touchdowns last season despite getting injured and appearing in just eight games.
His 12 touchdowns were impressive enough, but he also racked up 6.3 yards per carry, showcasing the explosiveness that has him ready to break out this season.
Clemson has some depth in the backfield, but Ellington is a true game-breaker who will thrive if given the opportunity and the touches.
First year offensive coordinator Chad Morris should be able to find creative ways to get Ellington the football to maximize his play-making abilities.
4. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech, QB
With Tyrod Taylor now gone, Logan Thomas will step in to become the starting quarterback for the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Thomas is a physically imposing quarterback in the mold of last year's Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, standing at 6'6" and 242 pounds.
He has a huge arm and can make all the throws, as he displayed all spring when he was the Hokies' best player in spring practices.
Thomas is a good athlete with a solid pocket presence, and will be helped by a strong Virginia Tech running game this season.
3. Quinton Coples, UNC, DE
Quinton Coples has been given the go-ahead to play by the NCAA after he was cleared of any wrongdoing in the North Carolina agent scandal.
As a junior last season, he registered 59 tackles and 10 sacks and is considered one of the best defensive line prospects in the nation.
He was named to the All-ACC team after finishing third in the league in sacks, and that total could conceivably go up this season.
Coples is super fast coming off the edge and has the ability to beat any offensive tackles to the quarterback.
He's also excellent in run support, proven by his 15.5 tackles for loss last season.
2. Lamar Miller, Miami, RB
Lamar Miller is the most explosive player on the Miami Hurricanes' offense, and maybe in all of the ACC.
Miller averaged 6.0 yards per carry last season in limited action and scored six touchdowns on the ground.
He also returned returned a kickoff for a score against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Miller will now assume a starting role in the Canes' backfield, and with new head coach Al Golden emphasizing ball control, you can bet he will be the recipient of plenty of carries.
Miller is also adept at catching the ball out of the backfield, and since quarterbacks Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris have been told to check down more often instead of forcing passes, he'll see plenty of action in that area of the game as well.
Perhaps no player in the Atlantic Coast Conference will have more opportunity to make the best use of his skill set than Miller.
1. E.J. Manuel, Florida State, QB
E.J. Manuel is your classic dual-threat quarterback.
Blessed with a rocket arm as well as the ability to escape the rush and make plays with his legs, Manuel should be an instant star in his first full year as the starter in Tallahassee.
Manuel has great size at 6'5" and 210 pounds and he is able to power the ball to any area of the field with that big right arm of his.
He has excellent presence in the pocket and the ability to see all areas of the football field.
Florida State looks to be one of the strongest teams in all of college football, and Manuel is a big part of what should be a terrific offense under Jimbo Fisher.
Manuel completed 69.9% of his passes in limited action last season, and with the talent around him at Florida State this year, that's not an inconceivable number for him to achieve again.