While we meticulously previewed the top five lists of each positional group in the ACC, we had yet to preview the top five overall players in the conference for 2015. Well don’t worry college football fans, we have that for you right here, with a list that will definitely bring its fair share of critics. Agree? Disagree? Sound off in the comments and let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.
5. DE Ken Ekanem, Redshirt Junior, Virginia Tech
While fellow defensive end Dadi Nicolas takes a ton of the spotlight, and deservedly so, Ekanem is the better all-around defensive end. He’s not as flashy as his counterpart Nicolas, but last season for the Hokies, Ekanem recorded 9.5 sacks (1st on the team), along with 54 tackles and 14.5 tackles for loss. Ekanem and Nicolas help provide the Hokies with the best defensive line in the ACC, and the duo should wreck havoc on opposing quarterbacks all season long.
4. WR Mike Williams, Junior, Clemson
— Clemson Football (@ClemsonFB) August 11, 2015
I’m not sure there is a better receiver in the nation than Mike Williams, and he will be out to prove me right this season. The 6’4″ Williams was without his starting quarterback, Deshaun Watson, for a good portion of the 2014 season. Despite Watson’s absence, Williams was still able to amass monster numbers as a sophomore, compiling 57 catches for 1,030 yards and six touchdowns. If Watson finds a way to stay healthy at the quarterback position, Williams should be well on his way to even better numbers in 2015, and a likely first round selection in next April’s NFL Draft.
3. RB James Conner, Junior, Pittsburgh
Hopefully James Conner was able to recover in the off-season from carrying the Pittsburgh offense on his back. Last season, Conner rushed for 1,795 yards on 298 carries, and was third in the nation with 26 touchdowns. There is little reason to believe that he won’t at least match last year’s numbers, as the Pitt offense relies heavily on his ability in the running game. In order for the Panthers to be successful when they have the ball, Conner will have to be his usual self, and if he plays even better than he did last season, a 2,000 yard season is not out of the question.
2. CB Jalen Ramsey, Junior, Florida State
Ramsey is neck and neck with Kendall Fuller as the best player in the ACC, but we will touch on why the edge goes to Fuller below. In any case, Ramsey has nothing to worry about, as he is one of the best cover corners in the nation. In 2014, he finished fourth on the team with 79 total tackles and second in tackles for loss (9.5). Additionally, he led the Seminoles with 12 pass breakups (good for second best in the ACC) and also intercepted two passes. While exemplifying excellent pass coverage, he is also known as one of the hardest hitters in the nation, making receivers think about getting hammered every time they catch the football. His outstanding play should continue into 2015, as he looks to lead the Florida State defense, and the team at large, to their second straight College Football Playoff.
1. CB Kendall Fuller, Junior, Virginia Tech
Another year, and another great performance for Kendall Fuller in 2014. Despite breaking his wrist early in the season, Fuller continued to play and put on display why he is held in such high regard across the country. With one healthy wrist and all, Fuller recorded 54 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks, two interceptions, 15 pass breakups and a forced fumble. His 15 pass breakups in 2014 were best in the ACC, leading to him holding the slight edge over Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey heading into this season. With Fuller back to 100%, his numbers should once again spike, assuming opposing quarterbacks even look in his direction this season. Regardless, Fuller is well on his way to a first round selection in next April’s NFL Draft, and should solidify himself as the top player in the ACC in 2015.