ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #14, Eric Ebron

North Carolina’s Eric Ebron is #14 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

North Carolina’s Eric Ebron is #14 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Less than one 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. 14, Eric Ebron, TE/North Carolina (Last Season: NR)

In a quick-release offense, a tight end can be among the most important players on the field, and that’s certainly true when it comes to Eric Ebron and UNC. Now a junior, the huge (6’4″ and around 250 pounds) tight end is being hyped at one of the best in the country at his position. And why not? He’s built like a tank and can keep pace with most wideouts. Whether he’s up against linebackers or defensive backs, there are mismatches galore all over the field, and there are few tight ends built to exploit them like he can.

Ebron also appears to have the mental makeup to succeed at this level and beyond, despite some bumps in the road as a freshman. In a recent feature with Fox Sports Carolinas, Lauren Brownlow was able to get inside Ebron’s head and what she found was an intriguing character — focused, but introverted; humble, but still keeping some lofty goals in mind. North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora’s put up 12 touchdowns as a goal for Ebron, and instead of shying away from it, he’s set his own goal of 15. But his top priority is simply improvement, and unexamined improvement at that. As he told Brownlow:

“I’d rather live my life in the dark and improve without people telling me I’m improving or telling me I’m this or telling me I’m that. I’d rather see it for myself or hear it from the people that actually matter… You get tired of everyone telling you what you are. … I don’t like to listen to All-ACC this and All-American that. I’d like to go out and prove it instead of having it all come to me.”
About these ads

ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #32, Quinshad Davis

North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis is #32 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

North Carolina’s Quinshad Davis is #32 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Off-topic: I’ve been gone for the past few weeks for my wedding and honeymoon (thank you), but now the site will be charging full-bore toward the start of college football season. Appreciate everyone for continuing to stop by — even during my absence — and rest assured, we’ve got plenty of content set for the next few weeks.

Less than three weeks 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. 32, Quinshad Davis, WR/North Carolina (Last Season: NR)

Through the early part of North Carolina’s 2012 schedule (the very easy part), you didn’t know what to think of then-freshman wide receiver Quinshad Davis. His first four games yielded just 11 catches and a little over 100 yards, plus zero touchdowns. But over the next eight games, it was an entirely different story. Maybe even more so than tight end Eric Ebron, Davis was the Heels’ top receiving target for the rest of the season, nabbing 50 catches, 665 yards and five touchdowns. His final three games in particular were a show of force for what may be to come for the rising ACC wideout. In three stellar team offensive performances, he had 32 catches, 417 yards and three scores. So yes, his production may have appeared to be spiked by a few great games. But it’s easy to see how this could be a harbinger of some exciting things to come.

Part of that is due to the team’s quick transition to coach Larry Fedora’s spread offense. After it appeared there would be a slight learning curve for the group of formerly pro-style players, they wound up averaging over 40 points per game and looked to get stronger as the season progressed. In just 12 games, the team ran 898 plays (nothing too stellar), but averaged a highly efficient 6.49 yards per (tied for 14th in the country). For 2013, Fedora wants to go faster. If they manage to, while still maintaining that level of efficiency, that offense becomes nearly impossible to stop, and makes it much easier for Davis (and his fellow receivers) to find holes in opposing defenses likely to already be on their heels.

Continue reading

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

ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks

Clemson, Led by Tajh Boyd and Cole Stoudt, Have the ACC's Top Quarterback Unit for 2013

Clemson, Led by Tajh Boyd and Cole Stoudt, Have the ACC’s Top Quarterback Unit for 2013

While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be 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 till July and 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 start with the quarterback position. Last year it was a strength — or at least it was supposed to be — and while it could be once again in 2013, that will rely on some new starters stepping up in a big way. Though it may not be as top-heavy as last year’s crop (especially after seeing EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib and Sean Renfree headed to the NFL), the ACC still possesses a really strong group of passers who all look to either start or end their careers on a positive note.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks

1. Clemson Tigers: Seeing both Tajh Boyd and offensive coordinator Chad Morris return was a godsend for the Tigers, who get one more year of the potent passing attack led by those two men. In 2012, Boyd broke out for over 4,400 total yards and now he has his eyes set on both a Heisman Trophy and a national title. Beyond Boyd, the team will lean mostly on Cole Stoudt in garbage time, after losing Chad Kelly tore his ACL in the spring. Stoudt, a junior, threw for 212 yards and three scores last season in relief of Boyd.

2. Louisville Cardinals: Teddy Bridgwater has all the hype and expectations anyone could possibly deal with in one season, yet I think he’ll still succeed. The Heisman contender and possible first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is the core of a young Cardinals team that’s aiming to be unbeaten this fall. For when games get out of hand, the ball will likely be handed to Jerry Arlinghaus, the 6’4″ sophomore from nearby Covington, KY with a nice arm.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: Bryn Renner‘s ability to transition to Larry Fedora’s spread offense has made him a rising star in the ACC, and don’t be surprised to see him put up even more impressive numbers as he closes out his senior season at Chapel Hill. Behind him, Fedora’s also stock-piling players who fit right into his system, with big passers like redshirt freshman Kanler Coker and true freshman Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky was named as “the next Johnny Manziel” by ESPN’s Joe Luginbill back in December, which is quite the name to live up to.

Continue reading

Too-Early 2013 ACC Football Power Rankings (June 10)

Can FSU Quarterback Jameis Winston Live Up to His Growing Hype?

Can FSU Quarterback Jameis Winston Live Up to His Growing Hype Around Tallahassee?

The college football season is in sight! No, seriously it is. I received my Athlon Sports 2013 season preview magazine a couple weeks ago. Football Study Hall was able to amass a power poll based on all the preseason rankings thus far. Things are happening! And with that, we’re edging closer and closer to late August. Until then, these rankings are just conjecture, but oh well — we all need something to pass the time until kickoff.

1. Clemson Tigers (Last: 1): Clemson’s season is very likely to boil down to the first and last weekends, with 10 trap games in the middle. Vegas obviously likes the Tigers, but will the pressures of being a National Championship contender finally get to the team at some point? That’s why they play the games, of course, but win or lose the opening game against Georgia, it’s worth circling September 19 vs. NC State and October 19 vs. FSU as some potential bumps in the road.

2. Louisville Cardinals (Last: 2): Is is ridiculous to say that anything short of an undefeated season will be a disappointment for Louisville? The Cardinals play the 90th-most difficult schedule in the country in 2013 — a nice way of saying “nobody.” Like Clemson, though, they’ll be up against the weight of expectations, which could end up being the toughest opponent they face all season.

3. Florida State Seminoles (Last: 3): Jameis Winston will need a couple of games to adjust as the Seminoles’ starting passer, but until then he’ll have plenty of support from his defense, which is more experienced than the “returning starters” numbers let on. FSU doesn’t face a major-conference team with a winning record until October (Clemson), so there’s ample time for everyone — players and coaches — to get settled in.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (Last: 4): North Carolina had one of the top 15 offenses in the country last season, and that was just the first season under Larry Fedora’s system. As he continues to burn up the recruiting trail, this is a team poised to be even better in 2013 as they adapt to Fedora’s spread style. The Heels’ defense may be a trouble spot, but if they’re scoring as they should, it may not matter much. Continue reading

ACC Football Standout Senior 2013: North Carolina

UNC Quarterback Bryn Renner Appears Poised for a Breakout Senior Campaign

North Carolina Quarterback Bryn Renner Appears Poised for a Breakout Senior Campaign

Last season’s juniors are now this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.

Over these few weeks, we’re going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

North Carolina Tar Heels: Bryn Renner, QB

Last season, all the focus was on Giovani Bernard, and rightfully so. The now-Cincinnati Bengals running back put in one of the best seasons in UNC history at his position, and was a large part of the program’s eight wins last season. But by focusing in on Bernard, the team’s quarterback — Renner — ended up shuffled into the background; something that could end up being a blessing for him in his senior season. For those who may not be aware, Renner’s thrown for nearly 6,500 yards over the past two seasons, to go with 54 touchdowns and just 20 picks. While his accuracy may have taken a slight dip in 2012 (from 68-percent completion to 65), he’s still throwing better than most starters in the game. And all this while running a Larry Fedora offense that’s entirely based off of calling as many plays as possible, while worrying about efficiency later. While Renner was not a natural for the spread style Fedora installed upon coming to Chapel Hill, he sure looked like one by the end 2012, completing 81 of 110 passes (74 percent) for 970 yards and 10 scores over his final three games.

The biggest key for Renner, right off the bat, is the advantage he gains from a quick release. In 2011, he took 26 sacks in 13 games, but in 2012, he had just 11 all season. o course, some of that is due to the fact that he had a top-10 draft pick in front of him (Jonathan Cooper), but Cooper was there in 2011 as well. Even better, that quick release hasn’t created a huge discrepancy in yards-per-attempt either, as is typical. Throwing 72 less balls in 2012 (in one less game), he averaged nearly eight yards per attempt — versus nearly nine yards per throw in 2011. While “efficiency” isn’t the right word here, as he did complete a lower percentage of throws, I think it is safe to say that Renner was more effective as a passer in 2012 than the season before. And this year, despite some turnover on the line, we may see even more improvement.

Continue reading

Way-Too-Early 2013 ACC Football Power Rankings (May 6)

Do Vic Beasley and the Clemson D Decide Whether or Not the Tigers Contend for a Title?

Will Vic Beasley & the Clemson D Decide Whether or Not the Tigers Contend for a Title?

As SB Nation so aptly pointed out today, we are halfway through college football’s offseason; which means that as of right now, it’s just 115 days ’till kickoff, one of the most magical days on the sporting calendar. For the ACC, hope springs eternal at the moment, with at least one real national title contender and a collection of up-and-comers looking to crack the polls, too. Obviously, it’s all speculation, but what else do we have to get us through the next few months?

1. Clemson Tigers (Last: 1): We’ll know all we need to about Clemson after the first game against Georgia — a matchup that’s likely to pit two top-10 teams against one another in a national showcase. The Tigers offense will be fine, but were the glimmers of hope the defense provided come the end of 2012 a flash in the pan, or an indication of better things to come? I’m tempted to think the latter, actually.

2. Louisville Cardinals (Last: 2): The Cardinals’ schedule is a joke consisting of the depleted Big East American Athletic Conference, so running through it with 11 or 12 wins should not be a problem at all. What observers will find truly intriguing about Louisville this year will mostly revolve around whether voters will give the Cards enough credit in the national title conversation, and/or how much Heisman hype Teddy Bridgewater can amass.

3. Florida State Seminoles (Last: 3): New starting quarterback Jameis Winston appears to be the real deal, but we won’t know the extent of the young passer’s growing pains until the real games begin. Though the ‘Noles lost plenty to the draft (11 players in all), the last few recruiting classes still leave plenty of talent to keep this team hovering among the top 15-20, nationally.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (Last: 5): On paper, the Heels lost quite a bit with the departures of Giovani Bernard and Jonathan Cooper, but that discounts the extent of the offense’s evolution under coach Larry Fedora much too heavily. As a senior, QB Bryn Renner‘s poised for his best year yet, and after a strong part-time campaign last year, running back A.J. Blue could be one of the conference’s biggest surprises.

Continue reading