15 Toughest Players to Replace in the ACC in 2019

Clemson is saying good-bye to the majority of its dominant defensive line

A common theme when discussing the ACC this year was that it was Clemson and a group of also-rans. Syracuse made a big jump in the win column, but when Florida State, Miami, and Virginia Tech finish a combined 18-20, there will be doubts as to the strength of the league.

 

Whether or not the ACC was down this year, there were a bunch of highly skilled players in the conference and many of them are moving on now that the season is over. Some are seniors and some had eligibility remaining, but all be difficult to replace, with throwers, catchers, and defensive linemen being the most impactful losses.

 

Clemson defensive tackles

A lot of the problems that Clemson created on defense began right in the middle of the defensive line. For three years, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence were a nightmare for opposing guards and centers. Because reserve Albert Huggins also leaves and Clemson doesn't have as many quality options inside, this grouping narrowly edges out...

 

Clemson defensive ends

Clelin Ferrell was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year for a reason and Austin Bryant had 17 sacks over the past two seasons. Both players should be gobbled up in the first couple rounds of the NFL draft, but having Xavier Thomas and other dynamic ends ready to go eases a bit of Dabo Swinney's pain.

 

Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse

The Syracuse coaching staff loves Tommy DeVito, but the skill and toughness of Dungey was a big reason for the Orange ascension under Dino Babers. DeVito is not the runner that Dungey is and as a result, the Cuse offense could look a little different in 2019.

 

Ryan Finley, QB, NC State

It seems odd that Finley, part of the 2013 recruiting class, will no longer play college football. The Boise State transfer finishes his career just behind Philip Rivers in most Wolfpack passing categories and head coach Dave Doeren will look to either Matt McKay, Devin Leary or Florida State transfer Bailey Hockman as the starter next year.

 

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

With victories in the 2017 Quick Lane Bowl and the 2018 Independence Bowl, Jones is the only Duke quarterback to win two postseason games. Quentin Harris played well in reserve early in the season, but Jones was the leader of David Cutcliffe's last two teams.

 

NC State wide receivers

Whether it’s McKay, Leary or Hockman, the new Wolfpack quarterback will not have Kelvin Harmon and Jakobi Meyers to throw to in 2019. Emeka Emezie returns with his 53 receptions, but Harmon and Meyers were the top two pass catchers and each had more than 1,000 receiving yards.

 

Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence deservedly got a ton of praise after leading Clemson to the national title. But Hyatt made sure no one was pressuring the star freshman from behind, especially in the championship game against Alabama, and did so for Kelly Bryant and Deshawn Watson before Lawrence came to town.

 

Brian Burns, DE, Florida State

Burns is kind of a one-dimensional player, but that dimension is special. The Florida State defensive end had 10 sacks this season and finished with 23 in his three-year career.

 

Gerald Willis, DT, Miami

The top-50 recruit out of high school didn’t live up to the hype at Florida. But in his one year at Miami, Willis was a force, finishing second in the ACC with 18 tackles for lost yardage.

 

Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest

Coming out of high school, Dortch was small and unheralded. Three years and two seasons later, Dortch leaves Wake Forest as one of the programs best receivers and returners.

 

Olamide Zaccheaus, WR, Virginia

When quarterback Bryce Perkins arrived in Charlottesville, it didn't take him long to figure out where to look first. Zaccheaus had a sensational career that culminated with a senior season where he caught 94 passes for 1,073 yards and nine scores.
 

Others That Will Be Missed

(alphabetical order)

 

Zach Allen, DE, Boston College

Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State

Hamp Cheevers, CB, Boston College

Justin Falcinelli, C, Clemson

Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Duke

Darrin Hall, RB, Pittsburgh

Travis Homer, RB, Miami
Joe Jackson, DE, Miami
Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami

Tyler Jones, OT, NC State

Tre Lamar, LB, Clemson

Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College

Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson

Qadree Ollison, RB, Pittsburgh

Germaine Pratt, LB, NC State

Anthony Ratliff-Williams, WR, North Carolina

Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College

Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

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