ACC Football: Top Five Impact Freshmen for 2015

If there is one thing that is for certain in the ACC this football season, it is that the only constant is change. New faces will be flooding major positions across the conference in 2015 as so many impact players from the last couple of years have moved on from their respective schools. With plenty of young talent ready to make a difference this season, here are five impact freshmen to watch.

5.) Derwin James, Safety, Florida State


Florida State’s defense must be better this season, especially with the offense flush with newcomers. After allowing over 5.5 yards per play in 2014, Florida State will need to limit the big plays in their secondary in order to be successful. With star defensive back Jalen Ramsey transitioning to a full-time role at corner, true freshman Derwin James will have an opportunity to slide into the vacated safety spot. James, a consensus five-star recruit and the class of 2014’s top safety, will look to contribute positively to a Seminole defense that will need to improve in order to limit a substantial drop off as a team this season.

4.) George Campbell, Wide Receiver, Florida State


As Florida State re-tools their offense in 2015, there is one question at wide receiver: What kind of an impact can the 6’5″ George Campbell make? The answer lies in the replacements ahead of him on the depth chart, as the team looks to plug in the holes left by one of the most prolific receivers in school history, Rashad Greene, as well as former Mackey Award winning tight end, Nick O’ Leary. As of now, it appears that Ermon Lane and Travis Rudolph will be the two primary receivers for the Seminoles, with Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield attempting to carve out a role as well. The effectiveness and consistency of Whitfield and Wilson will ultimately determine whether or not Campbell will be able to play a legitimate role as a true freshman in 2015. If he gets an opportunity this year, he has all the tools necessary to become a legitimate threat at the position. What is more likely however, is that Campbell’s large frame will come into play primarily as a red zone threat this season for Florida State.

3.) Nyheim Hines, Running Back, NC State


In his first couple of seasons at the helm in Raleigh, it is no secret that North Carolina State coach Dave Doeren wants the backbone of the team’s offensive success to be built behind a solid run game. With veteran Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes, it is extremely clear that the team’s rushing attack is in good hands this season.

However, it is not unreasonable to expect freshman back Nyheim Hines to play a role in some capacity for the Wolfpack this season. The coaching staff has raved over Hines’ shiftiness and ability to make people miss, and I believe that he could carve out a niche initially in the return game for NC State this season. With his speed and elusiveness, he will be looking to make an impact similar to that of North Carolina receiver Ryan Switzer, when he was a freshman in 2013 and became an All-American kick returner. There remains a small chance that he could factor into the running game, but barring injury, a majority of the carries should be going to Dayes and Thornton in 2015.

2.) Deon Cain, Tight End, Clemson


Deon Cain will be a guy for Clemson that will fly under the radar in the ACC this season. While receivers Artavis Scott and Mike Williams will garner much of the hype for the Tigers this season, Cain could easily become a security blanket for quarterback Deshaun Watson. Expect heathy production out of the Watson-Cain duo for Clemson this season, as the freshman looks to establish himself as one of the young playmakers in the conference.

1.) Jacques Patrick, Running Back, Florida State


While the role of Jacques Patrick could have been much larger in 2015 if Dalvin Cook had remained indefinitely suspended, there is still an opportunity available for the former four-star recruit to carve out a niche early in his Seminole career. Patrick, who is a 6’2″ lightning rod of a ball carrier, rushed for over 2,500 yards and 32 touchdowns as a high school senior a year ago. With Cook returning to the team and assuming the lead role, all signs point to veteran Mario Pender spelling him at tailback. However, the health of Pender remains in question, as he has been unable to stay on the field for prolonged periods of time in his first three years in Tallahassee. If the ‘Noles are looking to keep Cook fresh, and want to keep Pender on the field and productive without any long-term injury concerns, there is a chance that Patrick could get an early look at running back, with a chance to prove himself as the season wears on. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has stated numerous times that Patrick must run tougher, but early reviews overall on him out of camp have been very good, which is only fueling speculation that he could play a big role before the campaign is all said and done.


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