During a season in which the ACC took plenty of lumps on and off the field, there were still plenty of individual performances worth bragging about; so we’ll make sure to do so in this space. Below are our picks for the top 10 individual performances of the 2012 season, highlighting the best players the ACC had to offer.
Agree or disagree with any of these choices? Feel free to add your own commentary below.
Top 10 Individual Performances of 2012
10. Bjoern Werner, DE/Florida State (4 sacks vs. Murray State): One of FSU’s standout seniors on defense set the tone for a big year with his opening effort against Murray State. Of Werner’s five tackles in limited action (the team was pulling starters early in the blowout), four of them were sacks. He also defended a pass during a very productive day that was impressive, regardless of opponent.
9. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (428 yards, 5 TDs vs. Wake Forest): In a Thursday night game many billed as an “upset special,” Boyd had quieted all the critics by halftime. The junior completed 71 percent of his passes, and threw all five touchdowns in the first half (and four of them were in the second quarter).
8. Giovani Bernard, RB/North Carolina (262 yards, 1 TD vs. Virginia Tech): Like many of the stars we’re highlighting in this feature, this is just one of many phenomenal games from Bernard. In his first full game of the season (he was cut short or out during the first five), he put in the fifth-highest rushing total in UNC history and played a central part in one of the Heels’ key victories of the season.
7. EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State (439 yards 4 TDs vs. Boston College): Coming back from the Seminoles’ first loss of the season, Manuel played like a man on fire against the Eagles in a 51-7 victory. The senior completed nearly 80 percent of his 34 throws, and appeared to have his team and his offense right back on track. Regardless of whether or not that was the case, it was a dazzling air display that really showed just how much Manuel could do when given an opportunity.
6. Duke Johnson, RB/Miami (245 all-purpose yards, 4 TDs vs. Bethune-Cookman): While he was certainly impressive in his first game as a collegiate player, this is really the game where people started to stand up and pay attention to Duke Johnson. So while he didn’t put up earth-shattering numbers rushing or receiving against Bethune-Cookman, it was his work in the return game that separated him here and ultimately lands him so high on this list. Plus, you know, four touchdowns. It’s kind of tough to ignore that part.
5. Giovani Bernard, RB/North Carolina (304 all-purpose yards, 3 TDs vs. NC State): Sure, the numbers Bernard put up are impressive. But then you remember why he’s really here: that game-winning punt return. On top of the return, Bernard also amassed nearly 200 all-purpose yards in the fourth quarter alone. When the Heels needed him, he tossed the entire team on his back, and in this case, it showed up in the box score too.
4. Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest (16 catches, 123 yards, 3 TDs vs. Boston College): If only Campanaro wasn’t serving out some sort of sick prison sentence trapped in the Wake offensive scheme. The only highlight to speak of from the Demon Deacons’ 2012 season, Campanaro’s game against BC was his best effort — one that was really the only reason his team pulled out the win. It was a recurring theme, and it’s worth acknowledging along with his triumph in this game.
3. Ryan Nassib, QB/Syracuse (512 yards, 4 TDs vs. Northwestern): Syracuse fans had only dreamed of what Nassib would show he was capable of in the opener this season, shattering team and league records across the board. And the comeback he engineered… phenomenal. Down 22 points late in the third, the veteran passer turned up the jets and simply let it fly for 20 minutes straight. It was foreshadowing a big year for both Nassib and the Orange offense.
2. Stephen Morris, QB/Miami (566 yards, 5 TDs vs. NC State): Of all the games on this list, Morris’s record-breaking performance against the Wolfpack is likely the most random and unexpected. On the year, Morris rarely threw for more than 225 yards, and following this game in September, he wouldn’t top 225 again until mid-November. But in this game, he was the star of the show; the focal point of a Miami offense that started reminding folks of the Canes’ heyday of the late 90s-early 00s. Most importantly, he also tossed the game-winning strike with just 19 seconds left — the best measure of just how well he played that day.
1. Tajh Boyd, QB/Clemson (529 yards, 8 TDs vs. NC State): Anyone else notice how many of these performances came against NC State’s defense? In case there were any lingering memories of last year’s gaffe against the Wolfpack, Boyd made sure they were all put to bed during his phenomenal November effort. Making plays with both his arm and his legs, Boyd was absolutely unstoppable as he showed off his maturity as a quarterback. Though he received an assist from his own defense’s inability to contain State’s offense, thus keeping him on the field for the full contest, it takes a special player to amass these sort of numbers. Whether he sticks around next season or not, we’ll look at Boyd’s performances like this one as some of the best the conference has ever seen.