As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
Unfortunately for Jeremiah, a large portion of his 2011 season will be remembered for the punch he threw at Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas. But for our purposes here, we’ll be focused on his on-field accomplishments, as opposed to forgettable exploits.
Named to the preseason Lombardi trophy watch list (for the nation’s best college lineman), expectations are extremely high for Attaochu as he enters his junior season at Tech. In just 11 games last year, he was able to increase his total tackles by more than double (from 23 to 59) from his freshman to sophomore season, respectively. In a league where getting after the quarterback has become more of a team effort than an individual one, he was among the top 10 with six sacks (including three against North Carolina). His 11.5 tackles-for-loss and two forced fumbles also ranked him among the best in the ACC.
Georgia Tech defensive coordinator doesn’t want the heightened profile to stand in the way of improvement, though. As he said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Monday:
“A lot of plays that Jerry had – and I use this same critique with other guys – I would look at the play and say, ‘What’s he doing? It’s not what we teach. It’s not what he did on Wednesday (in practice). What’s he doing?’ Eradicating those from his game and doing the things that he knows how to do and do well with greater consistency, which should happen for a lot of these players who are now going into their third season of doing the same thing.”
And Groh would be completely right in that assessment, too. While Attaochu possesses a ton of raw talent, he’s still honing it into a cogent football skill set. You can definitely see glimpses of true excellence, though, especially in how he pursues runners behind the line of scrimmage. If he can focus on that more; blocking out distractions and improving upon last year’s impressive output, the junior should be counted among the best linebackers in the ACC.