ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #20, Jeremiah Attaochu

Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu is #20 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu is #20 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Just over a week until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 20, Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/Georgia Tech (Last Season: NR)

Last season, Jeremiah Attaochu was an absolute terror for opposing offensive lines, racking up 12 TFLs (10 sacks) from the outside linebacker spot. For a Georgia Tech defense that found itself struggling for many stretches of last year, he was a bright spot, and a persistent threat to change the course of a play — quite an achievement when you’re the focal point of the other team’s gameplan. Now take that player and slot him in at defensive end for his senior season…

With his top-flight pass-rushing abilities, it’s a wonder that this transition didn’t happen earlier, to be honest. The Tech 3-4 generated pressure, of course, but there’s something to be said for a true four-man front and lining a player like Attaochu up in closer proximity to the quarterback. In a career full of tackles behind the line of scrimmage, I’d contend that the setup at outside linebacker is what prevented those numbers from jumping up considerably. Reasonably quick, with a 4.68 40-yard dash, he’s a natural for lining up at end — a pure athlete who simply can’t be stopped in a one-on-one situation with an offensive tackle. And while the numbers he’s put up to this point have been impressive, this could end up being his best season yet. It’s a terrifying proposition for Georgia Tech opponents this year, but in a little over a week, it’s about to become a reality. Those 10 sacks he recorded last year? Likely to be a nice footnote on what might be a record year for the defensive end.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Has Georgia Tech's Offense Become Too One-Dimensional? And Can Vad Lee Fix That?

Has Georgia Tech’s Offense Become Too One-Dimensional? And Can Vad Lee Fix That?

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2012 W-L: 7-7 (5-3)

Head Coach: Paul Johnson (42-26; sixth season)

Returning Starters: 16 (8 Offense, 8 Defense)

Was last season a success for Georgia Tech? That depends. The Yellow Jackets won three of their final four regular season games to qualify for the ACC title game (a contest which they barely lost) and then went and beat preseason no. 1 USC in the Sun Bowl to cap off the year. Before all that though, the Wreck were 2-4 after giving up over 40 points in three consecutive games, which is when they fired defensive coordinator Al Groh. Outside of a couple choice performances, the offense was stagnant (don’t believe the overall scoring and yardage and numbers — they’re largely inflated), has never relied so heavily on the rush and also struggled to score in the red zone (only converted on 80 percent of trips inside the 20). So… what are we going to see from them this season?

The Georgia Tech offense was far too predictable last year — especially when Tevin Washington was under center. With a terrible arm, Washington’s leadership forced the team to devolve from a rush-first attack to a rush-only one, effectively making them either take the lead early, or not at all. Last year’s team ran the ball a mind-blowing 808 times. No wide receiver caught more than 10 passes on the season, and no offensive player had more than 18 catches total. That is set to change this year, however. Or it will in theory once Vad Lee takes over as the full-time starter. While he’s certainly a bit rough around the edges still, Lee showed himself to be more adept at throwing the ball downfield and more willing to keep his options open (pass or run) than his fellow quarterback. He’ll also take snaps behind a line which returns all five starters from 2012. Lee doesn’t have to be an all-conference passer. But the threat of a throw needs to be there in order to make this offense as effective as possible. recent years have allowed it to be far too predictable. The hope (I think, anyway) is that Lee promotes a distinct change in philosophy and makes it much harder to gameplan for this Tech team — a potential nightmare scenario for opposing defenses.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #48, Quayshawn Nealy

Georgia Tech Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy Appears Ready to Leap Into a Starring Role

Georgia Tech Linebacker Quayshawn Nealy Appears Ready to Leap Into a Starring Role

We’re now less than two months away from the start of the 2013 college football season, and that means preview countdowns! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 48, Quayshawn Nealy, LB/Georgia Tech (Last Season: NR)

The state of Georgia Tech’s defense last season was… not good. But just because the group was poor overall (allowed over 28 points per game), it doesn’t take away from the individual performances of a few choice individuals. One of those in particular is Quayshawn Nealy, the team’s fourth-leading tackler from last season and the key to a strong linebacker group this season. With 79 tackles last season, the cerebral junior has improved each season on campus and now appears ready to take a leadership role with the team as its main weakside threat.

Last year, when Nealy was an active part of the defense, Tech automatically saw results. In the 56-20 victory over Virginia, he had 10 tackles and an interception. Against Maryland, 12 tackles in a 33-13. In the barnburner over North Carolina, he registered a career-high two sacks. And in the big bowl victory over USC, he snagged another interception. His size (6’1″ and 232 pounds) allows him to remain agile and part of every play in the middle part of the field, while also serving to deceive opposing blockers who may see him as an easy match-up. On the contrary, Nealy’s upper body strength allows him to both get into passing lanes (see last year’s two INTs) and also work around linemen to get after opposing passers. Following this season’s transition to a 4-3 scheme (from Al Groh’s 3-4), he may get more of an opportunity to play more pass defense in the open field as well.

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NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Virginia Prospects

Oday Aboushi Took a Step Back Last Season, But Is Still Slated to Be Picked This Weekend

Oday Aboushi Took a Step Back Last Season, But Is Still Slated to Be Picked This Weekend

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

Virginia‘s program is loaded with young talent, but lucky for them, most of it is still on-campus. For the few departing Hoos, however, there will be plenty of uncertainty at the pro level. Several players could be drafted this weekend, but where they go is mostly a mystery. As Mike London’s image continues to form for the UVa football team, this draft is giving us the final remnants of Al Groh’s talent pool — with some returns greater than others.

Oday Aboushi, OT, Senior (Projected: Fourth Round)

Aboushi’s strength lies primarily in his size (6’6″ and 308 pounds), which he uses to his advantage against smaller defenders. As far as athleticism, however, scouts have knocked him for not being overly fast (5.45 40-yard dash time) or quick with his hands or feet. As SB Nation’s Streaking the Lawn has also noted, he can find himself a bit outmatched with NFL-caliber talent and struggles with secondary moves from relentless defenders. He’s both a competent pass- and run-blocker, but ideally, his driving ability makes him more of a major asset in the running game. Obviously, the rough year for UVa and its running game didn’t help Aboushi’s stock, though he’s still doing well on many boards around the league due to the aforementioned size as well as his aggressive style.

Steve Greer, ILB, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)

Undersized at 6’2″ and 230 pounds, Greer projects as a ‘tweener at the next level — failing to really fit the mold of any one position. He’s not large enough to be a pro linebacker and not fast enough (5.04 40-yard dash) or experienced enough in coverage to transition to the secondary. But that said, he’s still a tenacious defender who’s garnered a reputation as an effective run-stopper with a knack for making solid first contact. Starting out as a special-teamer in camp this summer, he’ll have ample opportunities to make a roster, and eventually work himself into special packages on defense, too.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Georgia Tech's Up-and-Down Season Leaves Everyone in Search of a True Verdict; Positive or Negative?

Georgia Tech’s Up-and-Down Season Leaves Everyone in Search of a True Verdict; Positive or Negative?

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

W-L: 7-7 (5-3)

Postseason: 21-7 Hyundai Sun Bowl win over USC

Top Offensive Performer: Tevin Washington, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Jeremiah Attaochu, LB

It’s hard to get a handle on just what happened during Georgia Tech’s roller coaster season. After starting the year with a close loss to then-no. 16 Virginia Tech, hopes were high in Atlanta. But soon after, the wheels came off and three straight losses would land them at a very disappointing 2-4 record. Three in-conference wins in a row and two postseason bans would catapult them into the ACC Championship Game somehow, but not before they were embarrassed by rival Georgia. Though they lost the ACC title game to Florida State, they’d aptly put up a fight, before ending the odd season with a dominating win over USC (preseason no. 1 team in the country). Have you followed all that so far?

Georgia Tech’s offense performed mostly as advertised in 2012; running the ball using Paul Johnson’s triple-option, while throwing it sparingly. The group’s 33.6 points per game (33rd in the FBS) were similar to last season (34.3), but admittedly, that doesn’t tell the whole story. In the 2012 season preview I wrote up for Georgia Tech, I emphasized that although their run-first offense certainly worked, there was a ceiling applied unless the team learned how to pass with efficiency. Not surprisingly after losing star receiver Stephen Hill to the NFL Draft last year, the passing numbers did go down (by 14 yards per game). It should also be noted that departing senior QB Tevin Washington — while a natural for the triple-option — is hardly a “passer” by any FBS standards. In his four years at Tech, he’s managed just 21 touchdown passes and 50.7-percent completions. His passing yardage diminished by 400 yards despite playing in one additional game this season, though it would be remiss to leave out his reduced playing time, too. Running the ball, however, was truly his forte. The senior ran for 20 scores this year, giving him 38 on his career. He was always more comfortable advancing the ball on the ground, which is what made him (and the Tech offense) overly consistent during his career, too.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week 14

Tajh Boyd and the Clemson Offense Were No Match for South Carolina, as the Gamecocks Embarrassed the Tigers Once Again

With the regular season officially over, we check back in with the ACC’s teams to assess the damage of 2012. The good: two teams won ten games during the regular season, just one team won less than four games, and 10 teams (could be 11 if Pitt wins this weekend) won at least six games. The bad: No team won more than 10 games, two of the league’s top five teams are ineligible, and eight teams (out of 14) won between five and seven games. Oh, and Maryland decided to leave. Which is bad.

1. Florida State Seminoles (10-2) (7-1) (LW: 1): Favored against archrival Florida, the Seminoles had a very manageable game at home and seemed poised for their first 11-win regular season in years. But then they struggled out the gate, and closed just as poorly en route to a 37-26 defeat. As a team, FSU looked outmatched everywhere but the defensive line, and quarterback EJ Manuel‘s four turnovers were the stuff of a worst-case nightmare. They’ll be favored again in the ACC Championship Game, and under no circumstances can the conference really afford for them to lose.

2. Clemson Tigers (10-2) (7-1) (LW: 2): Clemson’s BCS dreams are all but dead after they came up very short against South Carolina and its vaunted defensive front. The Tigers impressive offense was shut down in a way no one had really figured out up until Saturday, and the result exposed a team that can’t run the ball with consistency, nor can they manage to stop anyone on defense either. If Clemson hopes to take the next step and become a truly elite program under coach Dabo Swinney, they need to take full advantage of opportunities against top-tier competition. They had just three games against teams with winning records all season, and went 1-2 in those contests, while being outscored 124-116.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (7-5) (5-3) (LW: 5): It’s unfortunate for the conference to see Miami sit out another postseason, but if the alternative is seeing an even better, more experienced version of this group next year, it may be the best option for everyone. In line to play in its first ACC title game, we miss out on a ‘Canes/’Noles matchup this year in exchange for what’s hopefully many more to come. Anyone who watched Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson in action this season knows there are good times ahead, so long as the defense starts to clean up its act.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (8-4) (5-3) (LW: 4): As the year’s wore on, we’ve caught glimpses of what this Heels offense could truly become under Larry Fedora and his spread attack. But on Saturday, quarterback Bryn Renner really delivered on that potential by putting up over 300 yards and five touchdowns. The junior’s obviously taken a bit more time to adapt to the new system than initially expected, but all in all, you still can’t argue with 3,356 yards and 28 scores. Expect even better production next year, as Fedora really turns him loose.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week 12

As Has Been the Case All Season, Florida State and Clemson Remain Atop the ACC Power Rankings

We’re just two weeks from the end, and yet very little has been decided in the ACC. The conference has just four bowl-eligible teams, nine squads possessing between four and six wins, and both divisions remain up in the air. While the Atlantic wraps up this weekend, the Coastal will go down to the final game to decide who gets pummeled to represent the division in the ACC Championship Game. On the bright side, the league is likely to have two teams make BCS bowls for the second straight season.

1. Florida State Seminoles (9-1) (6-1) (LW: 1): FSU’s effort last Thursday night nearly ruined everything for the ACC, but thankfully, that crisis was averted in pulling out a very messy 28-22 victory over Virginia Tech. Despite the fact that the ‘Noles are 9-1, there’s still plenty to criticize here — offensive play-calling, coverage on deep balls and overall decision-making, to name a few. As we addressed yesterday, this a team that got extremely lucky, and they must refocus if they hope to make it to the Orange Bowl. The Seminoles are the most talented team in the conference on both sides of the ball. Now it’s time they started playing like it.

2. Clemson Tigers (9-1) (6-1) (LW: 2): The Tigers look bored out there, and the country appears tired of their lopsided box scores as well — unthinkable in other conferences, but in the ACC, that’s the way it goes. So while they’ve won six straight games, all people focus on is the 26-34 overall record that competition has, instead of the 141 points Clemson outscored those teams by. On both sides of the ball, this is a team that continues to get better and better as the season continues. And even if they’ve only been tested once so far this season, they have a chance to wipe out that narrative completely in two weeks, when they take on South Carolina.

3. Duke Blue Devils (6-4) (3-3) (LW: 5): Duke was off last week, so in the Coastal division, that means you won. But, due to upsets around the division, the Blue Devils do control their own destiny now — a weighty responsibility that has seemingly ruined others before them. So which Duke team show up these last two games: The one that lost to Clemson and FSU by a combined 77 points, or the one that’s 6-2 against all of their other opponents? Like the rest of the Coastal, this team is an enigma, but they may also have the most senior leadership to guide them through this mess.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (6-4) (3-3) (LW: 3): Every week it seems like the Heels fluctuate between terrific and terrible — there is no middle ground. This past Saturday, UNC somehow managed to inhabit both characterizations at the same time, though. While the defense was putrid in letting up 68 points and 588 yards of offense, their own offense scored 50 points themselves. Quarterback Bryn Renner threw for 350 yards and three scores, while Giovani Bernard tacked another two touchdowns onto his own rising total. But due to an inept defense, this team is far from complete. Allowing 136 points over the last three games is unacceptable, and there’s no solution in sight.

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