ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Defensive Line

Senior James Gayle Leads the Hokies' Top-Ranked Defensive Line in 2013

Senior Defensive End James Gayle Leads the Hokies’ Top-Ranked Defensive Line in 2013

A little over 40 days from the start of the 2013 college football season! And it is indeed that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off until August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the defensive lines (check out previous rankings of ACC quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers/tight ends, offensive line). For several teams that have been churning out elite defenders for years, this is simply another group of stud performers. For others, this is a sign of some serous rebuilding. The ACC has plenty of stars on the defensive line this season, but there’s also plenty of question marks too. We’ll get to both. though as you’d expect, the questions increase as we head further down the list.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual end or tackle is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of defensive linemen is (though it certainly does help). Also note: Louisville (as has been the case since November) is included here, despite playing in the American this season. Additionally, since these are completely subjective rankings, the difference between one number to the following one is almost entirely negligible. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Defensive Line

1. Virginia Tech Hokies: Looking for experience? The Hokies have plenty, as they bring back all four starters from last season and are chock full of juniors and seniors on the depth chart. As a whole, Tech’s defense recorded 35 sacks last season (16th in the FBS), most of which is attributable to this group. With another year of playing together under their belt, the unit — led by senior defensive end James Gayle — could be in for a monster season as the motor that drives Virginia Tech’s success.

2. Clemson Tigers: You might be surprised to see Clemson here, but that only means you haven’t been paying attention. The young Tigers that watched the 2012 Orange Bowl debacle are all grown up and have become a pretty frightening foursome (34 sacks last year; 20th in the FBS). Yes, they did lose Malliciah Goodman and his seven sacks, but considering who’s replacing him at defensive end (Vic Beasley), there’s very little to worry about in terms of a drop-off in production. Expect Brent Venables’ men to be even more aggressive getting after the passer this season.

3. Florida State Seminoles: FSU replaces every starter from last year’s potent pass-rush, but all is not lost in Tallahassee. Last year’s deep group received plenty of reps as the line was ravaged by injury, so this still ends up being a pretty veteran defensive line. Tackles Timmy Jernigan and Demonte McAllister will anchor them from the tackle positions, but they’ll also rely on Mario Edwards to take a leap as a sophomore and become the threat he was projected to be as a recruit.

Continue reading

National Signing Day 2012: ACC Team Recruiting Rankings

With Players Like Mario Edwards, Florida State's Recruiting Class May Be the ACC's (and the Nation's) Best

We previously covered the top-ranked players successfully recruited by ACC schools on National Signing Day. Now, we take a closer look at each team’s haul and how it stacks up against their conferencemates, while also highlighting each school’s top recruit. Once again, we’ll be using ESPN’s rankings for consistency’s sake. Please don’t take that as us putting too much stock in these (or any) numbers, however.

1. Florida State Seminoles (19 commitments; 10 in ESPNU Top 150): Florida State cleaned house, going blow-for-blow with the SEC‘s top programs and ultimately landing either the nation’s best, or second-best recruiting class. With a focus on team speed, the Seminoles bolstered themselves on both sides of the ball with a frighteningly good batch of players — some of whom will jump right in to contribute. Top Recruit: Mario Edwards, DE (No. 1 overall, Grade: 90)

2. Miami Hurricanes (33 commitments, 6 in ESPNU top 150): It would appear that off-the-field issues matter very little to this incoming class, which is great for the Hurricanes. In spite of the threat of a multiple-year postseason ban, the ‘Canes lured in an enormous class, mostly based on tradition and their locale. If nothing else, it’s a PR victory for coach Al Golden and his staff. Top Recruit: Tracy Howard, CB (No. 18 overall, Grade: 83)

3. Clemson Tigers (20 commitments, 6 in ESPNU top 150): Either Clemson’s recruits didn’t tune in to their Orange Bowl thrashing last month, or they did, and see it as an opportunity. While offense was surely a big part of this class, the Tigers grabbed plenty of help on defense, too, with the hopes of improving an effort that appeared subpar more often than not (see 70-33 bowl beatdown). Top Recruit: Travis Blanks, S (No. 15 overall, Grade: 84)

4. Virginia Tech Hokies (30 commitments, 1 in ESPNU top 150): As always, Frank Beamer stressed going after athletes who could play football first of all, and then worry about plugging them into his system (especially on the defensive side of the ball). While lacking a huge star, it’s a deep class of quality guys (there’s an enormous concentration of players rated at a grade of 78) that will play where they’re needed. Top Recruit: Joel Caleb, ATH (No. 83, Grade: 81)

5. Virginia Cavaliers (26 commitments, 1 in ESPNU top 150): The Cavaliers 2012 class is all over the map — covering all positions, and most of the eastern seaboard. After a surprisingly successful season, it appears word spread quickly, and the result was a shockingly good group coming in, keeping the program on its apparent upswing. Top Recruit: Eli Harold, DE (No. 124 overall, Grade: 80) Continue reading