Athlon Sports ranks the best ACC defensive backs of the BCS Era.
The Bowl Championship Series is dead. But even the harshest of BCS detractors must acknowledge that the 16-year run was arguably the best era of college football in the history of the sport.
The era was highlighted by the advent of the BCS Championship Game, conference realignment and mega-dollar contracts for conferences, programs and coaches. But the elite athletes had a huge, if not the biggest, hand in the unprecedented growth of college football over the last two decades.
So Athlon Sports is looking back on the players that made the BCS Era great — conference-by-conference, position-by-position.
Note: Must have played at least one season between 1998-13 in the conference.
1. Dre Bly, North Carolina (1996-98)
Not only one of the coolest names in college football but one of the coolest customers on an island all by himself. Bly set the ACC single-season record with 11 interceptions in 1996 and left school with an ACC record 20 INTs in his career (both since broken). He was a consensus All-American as a freshman and sophomore (one of few in NCAA history to accomplish the feat) and was a second-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft.
2. Anthony Poindexter, Virginia (1995-98)
He was a leader and one of the hardest-hitting players to ever play the game — and made one of the most famous tackles in NCAA history. He set a school record with 98 tackles as a sophomore and was an All-American as a junior in 1997. Despite getting injured late in the year, Poindexter earned ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors and became a two-time All-American. He was the only defensive back in the ACC to win conference Defensive Player of the Year honors during the BCS Era. The three-time, first-team All-ACC pick finished his career with 12 interceptions.
3. Jimmy Williams, Virginia Tech (2002-05)
Playing multiple positions all over the defense, Williams entered the starting lineup as a sophomore. He was a first-team All-ACC pick as a junior while leading Tech to an ACC championship with a league-leading five interceptions and 19 passes defensed. In 2005, Williams was a unanimous All-American and Jack Tatum Trophy winner as the nation’s top defensive back. He was a second-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft.
4. Antrel Rolle, Miami 2001-04)
He only played one season in the ACC but it was a good one. Along with Sean Taylor, Rolle was one of just four true freshmen to play on the dominant 2001 BCS National Championship team. He was an All-Big East pick as a sophomore and a unanimous All-American in the ACC in 2004 as a senior. He played safety in the NFL after being selected eighth overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, but he was an elite college cornerback, shutting down names like Larry Fitzgerald (3 rec., 26 yds) and Calvin Johnson (2 rec., 10 yds) during his career.
5. Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest (2005-08)
The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick led the ACC in interceptions and passes defended in both 2007 and '08. He totaled 15 picks and 38 passes broken up over that span. He was a consensus All-American as a senior and his 21 career interceptions is an ACC all-time record. Additionally, he scored on four INT returns, tying Randy Neal of Virginia for the all-time ACC record.
6. David Amerson, NC State (2010-12)
When it comes to interceptions, few have been better in the ACC than Amerson. The Wolfpack coverman set an ACC record and led the nation with 13 interceptions in his 2011 sophomore season. His 18 career picks rank third all-time and his 287 return yards are fourth all-time in ACC history. Amerson won the Jack Tatum Trophy as the nation’s top defensive back and was a first-team All-American as well. He finished with 177 tackles and three INT touchdown returns for his career. Amerson was a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.
7. Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State (2009-13)
There wasn't much that Joyner didn't accomplish while at Florida State. The five-star recruit played 55 career games, won two ACC titles and a BCS National Championship while earning back-to-back first-team All-ACC honors. Joyner finished with 197 tackles, 10.5 for loss, 6.5 sacks, eight interceptions and 1,260 return yards.
8. Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech (2004-07)
One of best tackling cornerbacks in the NFL, Flowers started the final 27 games of his career before leaving early for the NFL Draft in 2008. He played on two ACC championship teams and was an All-American in 2007. He finished his career with 157 tackles, 17.0 for loss, 3.5 sacks, 10 interceptions and 40 passes defensed in three seasons on the field before Kansas City took him in the second round.
9. Robert Carswell, Clemson (1997-2000)
A leader both on and off the field, Carswell is one of the Tigers' greatest players. He was named to the first-team All-ACC squad twice, started 41 consecutive games and is the all-time tackle leader for any defensive back in Clemson history with over 373 stops.
10. Victor Harris, Virginia Tech (2005-08)
The two-time, first-team All-ACC pick helped lead Tech to back-to-back ACC championships during his junior and senior seasons. His 15 career interceptions are a school record and good for 15th all-time in ACC history. His 278 return yards are tied for fifth all-time in ACC history. Harris posted 128 total tackles and scored on five return touchdowns.
Just missed the cut:
11. Tay Cody, Florida State (1996-2000)
Cody played on three consecutive teams that made it to the BCS national title game and was a consensus All-American on the 2000 squad that lost to Oklahoma. He finished his career with 12 career interceptions and was a third-round NFL Draft pick.
12. Tye Hill, Clemson (2002-05)
After playing running back as a freshman, Hill switched to cornerback and excelled for three seasons on defense. He eventually earned All-ACC honors and was a consensus All-American and Thorpe Finalist in his final season at Clemson. He had 114 total tackles in three full seasons as a starter.
13. Ross Cockrell, Duke (2010-13)
As one of the senior leaders for the Blue Devils, Cockrell helped his program reach unprecedented levels of success on the field. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick on the only back-to-back bowl teams in Duke history. He posted 233 tackles and 12 interceptions during his career, but he will always be remembered for being a key part of the first 10-win in school history.
14. Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech (2007-09)
Few players can match the raw talent of the current Packers' starting safety. He was a three-year performer for Tech and posted 235 tackles, 13.5 for loss, 32 passes deflected and 14 interceptions before leaving early for the NFL Draft in 2010.
15. John Talley, Duke (2003-06)
Talley was a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick and is the ACC’s all-time leader with 395 interception return yards. His 18 career interceptions rank third all-time in ACC history and he earned All-American honors following a senior campaign that included an ACC-leading seven INTs along with 42 tackles (5.5 for loss).
16. Chase Minnifield, Virginia (2008-11)
After playing all 36 games in his first three seasons for bad UVa teams, Minnifield helped return the Cavaliers to their only bowl game in the last six seasons. He was a two-time, first-team All-ACC selection and finished his career with 151 tackles, 12.0 for loss, 13 interceptions, 30 passes defensed and nearly 1,200 return yards.
17. Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (2009-11)
He played in all 39 games of his career, starting for two full seasons and earning first-team All-ACC honors as a sophomore. His nine interceptions that year are a Tech single-season record and are fourth all-time in ACC history. He also sits 15th all-time in the ACC with 815 punt return yards. Hosley posted 109 tackles and 12 INTs in his three-year career.
18. Jamie Silva, Boston College (2004-07)
One of only a handful of consensus All-Americans from the ACC at DB, Silva earned that honor with a league-leading eight interceptions in his final season. He was a three-year starter in ACC play (one year in the Big East) and had 269 tackles, 15.0 for loss and 13 interceptions in three ACC seasons.
19. Terrence Holt, NC State (1999-02)
A three-year starter and special teams force, Holt was a two-time All-ACC first-teamer and had a unique knack for blocking kicks. He posted 12 career blocks — eight field goals and four punts — and collected 307 career tackles.
20. DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (2007-10)
The troubled Clemson defensive back was a freshman All-ACC pick in 2007 and a two-time, first-team All-ACC pick as a junior and senior. Despite major off-the-field issues, McDaniel finished with 275 tackles, 20.0 for loss and 15 interceptions.
Best of the rest:
21. Dexter Reid, North Carolina (2000-03)
22. Lloyd Harrison, NC State (1996-99)
23. Kelly Jennings, Miami (2002-05)
24. Josh Gattis, Wake Forest (2003-06)
25. Chris Hope, Florida State (1999-2001)
26. Kenny Phillips, Miami (2005-07)
27. Xavier Rhodes, Florida State (2010-12)
28. Brandon Harris Miami (2008-10)
29. Antwan Edwards, Clemson (1995-98)
30. Stanford Samuels, Florida State (2000-03)