We take a look at 10 players to keep an eye on in the ACC in 2017.
Like every year in college football, graduation and the NFL draft offer a natural source of attrition on football rosters. Talent churns our and is replaced by ever-evolving, new generations of gridiron stars.
2017 in the ACC is no different. While reigning Heisman winner, Lamar Jackson, returns for his junior season, gone are former ACC staples, Deshaun Watson, Mitchell Trubisky and Dalvin Cook. With these names and more moving on with their life’s work — in and out of football — let’s take a look at who will be the next crop of ACC stars.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Again, Jackson is coming off of a spectacular 2016 campaign that culminated with him hoisting the Heisman trophy. Jackson’s combination of arm strength, raw athleticism and leadership make him the most dangerous weapon in the ACC, and perhaps all of college football.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
James is the classic FSU defender; big, fast and disruptive. He missed almost half of the 2016 season with a knee injury, but it won’t take long into 2017 for opposing offenses to remember just how dominant of a presence James can be.
Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
Due to the Tigers’ depth and talent, Wilkins has been a standout in a rotational role thus far. He’s been moved up-and-down the defensive line and has been a force wherever he’s lined up. Now, able to focus on one position, look for Wilkins to ratchet up his dominance even more in 2017.
Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
One of the more under-recognized players in the country, Landry led the nation in sacks last season with 16.5. A likely first-round pick, he decided to return to Boston College and continue terrorizing college quarterbacks. The Eagles should be thankful he did, as he may be even better in 2017.
Bradley Chubb, EDGE, North Carolina State
The brother of Georgia running back Nick Chubb, Bradley has made a name for himself in the ACC as a disruptive defender. The NC State defensive line is loaded and Chubb leads the way.
Deandre Francois, QB, Florida State
Inconsistent during his 2016 redshirt Sophomore season, Francois should be much improved as a passer in 2017. What we do know is that Francois is one of the toughest quarterbacks in the country, bouncing back from some monster hits last year.
Tavarus McFadden, CB, Florida State
McFadden is another typical Seminoles’ defender. He posted eight interceptions last season and at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he has the tools to be dominant. He and Derwin James form a formidable duo in the FSU defensive backfield.
Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson
The 6-5, 340 Lawrence was just a freshman in 2016 and was as physically dominant as any player on Clemson’s roster. ACC offenses are likely feeling a bit weary of the fact that Lawrence is just scratching the surface of his immense potential.
Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
While he doesn’t possess the prototypical measurables of a dominant offensive tackle, Hyatt acquitted himself quite well in 2016 — especially against the Alabama defense in the title game. Hyatt’s 2017 play will be pivotal, as Clemson will have a new QB, RB, TE and WR1.
Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
Yes, another Seminoles’ defensive stud. Burns was the nation’s freshman sack leader in 2016 with 9.5. FSU coaches have been raving about him this off-season and are understandably excited about what 2017 has in store for the lanky pass-rusher.