By Will Vandervort.
By Will Vandervort
As the season draws closer and closer, we at The Clemson Insider will start to take a closer look at the Atlantic Coast Conference. In the coming weeks, we will begin to have a lot of information pertaining to Clemson and the rest of the ACC.
Tuesday, we will be covering Dabo Swinney’s Media Golf outing where we will get to speak with Swinney, offensive coordinator Chad Morris, defensive coordinator Brent Venables and the rest of the coaching staff. This is the only time the media gets to speak to the other assistant coaches during the football season.
Next Sunday, the TCI team will be in Greensboro, NC as we cover the ins and outs of ACC Football Kickoff 2013. Today, we get things started by looking at the best players on the ACC with our All-ACC Preseason First-Team Offense.
TCI’s All-ACC Preseason First-Team Offense
Tajh Boyd, QB, Sr., Clemson: Boyd is considered to be one of the best quarterbacks in the country and heads into the season as serious Heisman Trophy Candidate. Boyd has definitely earned his lofty status. He has broken just about every game- and single-season records at Clemson, while owning a few career marks, too. He is sure to own a few more before it is all said and done. Boyd has been the First-Team All-ACC quarterback in each of the last two seasons and is the reigning ACC Player of the Year.
Duke Johnson, RB, So., Miami: Johnson is one of the best players in the ACC. Though he did not start on a full-time basis during his freshman season, he still beat out Clinton Portis’ freshman rushing record. Johnson has great vision, quick feet and solid speed. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield as well. His dual threat presence makes him a headache for ACC defenses.
Jerome Smith, RB, Jr., Syracuse: He is a classic power back that rushed for 1,171 yards last year. Last year, the Orange liked to run him downhill and control clock which played a big role on their 6-1 finish to the season. Smith carried the ball 227 times last season in 12 starts and lost only one fumble.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Jr., Clemson: 2012 was a down year for Watkins, who as freshman raced onto the college football scene with 1,218 yards and 12 touchdowns. But defenses keyed on Clemson’s star wideout last year, which he admitted he was not truly prepared for. Missing four games did not help either, but Watkins has vowed to make up for it this season. It should help that he will move to DeAndre Hopkins’ old position at the boundary side of the field.
Stefon Diggs, WR, So., Maryland: Diggs was last year’s Watkins. The speedy wide receiver recorded the second most all-purpose yards in Maryland history in 2012 and led the ACC in that category. He led the Terps last season with 54 catches for 848 yards and eight touchdowns. He also had kickoff returns on 100 and 99 yards last season.
Eric Ebron, TE, Jr., North Carolina: Like Dwayne Allen was for Clemson in 2011, Ebron is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He is very athletic and has good speed for a tight end. By the way, if Ebron does earn All-ACC status, it will mark the first year since 2008 that a Clemson tight end did not hold this status.
Bryan Stork, C, Sr., Florida State: Stork has the most experience on a line that returns four starters. A heady player, he is listed as one the best centers in the country.
Tre’ Jackson, G, Jr., Florida State: Like Stork, he brings a lot of experience. One of the better pulling guards in the ACC and why the Seminoles top two running backs averaged 5.8 yards per carry in 2012.
Brandon Linder, G, Sr., Miami: He is a third-year starter and has been the Hurricanes most consistent starter the last two years.
James Hurst, T, Sr., North Carolina: Hurst is perhaps the best pro tackle prospect in the ACC. He has great technique and feet and can hold his own against some of the best defensive ends in the business. He will get tested right off the bat against South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney.
Brandon Thomas, T, Sr., Clemson: Like Hurst, Thomas is a pro prospect this year, but he will more than likely play guard at the next level. Thomas is very flexible. He can play both tackle positions as well guard. If sophomore Isaiah Battle comes along in the fall at left tackle, look for Thomas to move inside more than likely.
Chandler Catanzaro, K, Sr., Clemson: The senior made 18 of 19 field goals last season, and is considered one of the best in the country. He is 20 of 27 on kicks 40 yards or longer in his career, a school-record.