ACC Football: Top 5 Defensive Ends for 2015

5. Ron Thompson – Senior, Syracuse

The first two players on this list are rising stars in the conference poised for big seasons. Thompson was a disruptive presence for a solid Syracuse defense in 2014. The Orange ranked 26th in the nation in total D, in part thanks to Thompson’s 32 total tackles and seven tackles for loss. He also forced two fumbles.

4. KeShun Freeman – Sophomore, Georgia Tech

Freeman had an outstanding first season for the Yellow Jackets. He was named to Freshman All-America teams by ESPN, 247Sports, Phil Steele and USA TODAY. He posted 54 total tackles including 37 solo. He managed 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss which led the Yellow Jacket defense. That unit needs to improve on last season’s rating of 79th in total defense. Freeman has a chance to blossom into a full-fledged star.

.3. Sheldon Rankins – Senior, Louisville

Last season he finished with 53 tackles and a team-highs of 9.0 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Rankins has a chance for a big year on a Louisville team that should be pretty formidable.

2. Dadi Nicolas – Senior, Virginia Tech

At the end of last season, Nicolas was 14th in the nation with 18.5 tackles for loss. He also added 72 tackles and nine sacks as part of a tandem with Ken Ekanem that should be ferocious this year. The entire starting line for the Hokies will create problems. Staying healthy is a priority though as depth is an issue. The two plays below really show Dadi’s impressive speed and athleticism.

1. Ken Ekanem – Junior, Virginia Tech

Nicolas is faster, but Ekanem is a better all around defensive end. He led Tech with 9.5 sacks last season plus 54 tackles and 14.5 TFL — second only to Nicolas. These two should provide quite a challenge for opposing offensive lines. When you include Luther Maddy who returns from injury and Corey Marshall, the Hokies clearly have one of the top defensive lines in the country.

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