Skip to main content

ACC Football: 10 Toughest Players to Replace in 2022

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Panthers Football

Kenny Pickett leaves big shoes to fill at Pittsburgh after developing into a Heisman Trophy finalist and leading the Panthers to an ACC title

For the first time in the College Football Playoff era, no ACC team was selected to participate in the final four. The conference certainly had talent, but many of the league's best players were young. This bodes well for 2022 as stars like Sean Tucker of Syracuse, Sam Hartman at Wake Forest, and a large chunk of Clemson's nasty defense will return.

Still, the conference will have to replace several key contributors including a Heisman Trophy finalist. This is a list of 10 major contributors (alphabetical order) who have decided to move on from their respective ACC schools.

Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson

Booth's freaky athleticism was on display at Clemson for three years. As he gained experience, his play became more consistent and NFL scouts have taken notice. Booth will surely be taken in the first round, and with Mario Goodrich also leaving for the next level, Clemson will have to replace two first-team All-ACC corners.

Related: 10 ACC Players Who Will Replace NFL Draft Early Entrants in 2022

Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina

The transfer from Tennessee had the unenviable task of taking over for the ultra-productive duo of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. In putting up 1,092 rushing yards and 14 total touchdowns, Chandler's one season in Chapel Hill was a huge success. British Brooks will be the leading returning rusher for the Heels in 2022, and he had just 295 yards, 63 of which came on one run in the Duke's Mayo Bowl.

Mataeo Durant, RB, Duke

New Duke head coach Mike Elko faces a similar situation in his running back room. Durant was the Blue Devils' workhorse and then some, carrying the ball a league-high 255 times for 1,244 yards. A productive player during his years at Duke, Durant became a first-team All-ACC player as a senior.

Ikem Ekwonu, OT, NC State

The Wolfpack will return quarterback Devin Leary, but someone has to protect his blind side, and it's doubtful that player will be as reliable as the unanimous All-American. Ekwonu made at least the All-ACC second team in each of his three collegiate seasons and will be one of the top linemen taken in April.

Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Georgia Tech

Gibbs may not heading for the NFL, but he is leaving the ACC. When the Georgia Tech season concluded, Gibbs announced that he was entering the transfer portal and shortly thereafter decided on Alabama. The Tide will be getting a dangerous three-way threat, a player who can run, catch, and return kicks.

Related: Early ACC Football Predictions for 2022

Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina

Entering the 2021 season, Howell was being talked about as a potential top overall draft pick. While this past season did not go quite as planned and he may even slip out of the first round, the Carolina quarterback still accounted for 35 total touchdowns and nearly 4,000 total yards.

Jermaine Johnson II, DE, Florida State

To think that the Georgia defense was that good and one of the best defensive players in America transferred out after 2020 is pretty crazy. Johnson would not have put up his impressive 2021 stats in Athens, but his play at FSU pushed him into first-round consideration.

Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh

His was one of the great success stories of the 2021 campaign. Pickett had had a nice career at Pittsburgh from 2017 through 2020 and could have been selected somewhere at the bottom of the 2021 draft. But he decided to come back, finished third in the Heisman voting, and could now be the first quarterback chosen in this year.

Cody Roscoe, DE, Syracuse

Roscoe played four years of college football and few fans of the game knew who he was. In three years at McNeese State and one at Syracuse, he was productive but hardly spectacular. That all changed this fall as he led the Orange with 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for lost yardage.

James Skalski, LB, Clemson

He may not have tackling and sack stats that challenge for the league lead. He has some deficiencies in coverage at times and injuries were a big reason why he was able to spend six years at Clemson. But Skalski has been a leader of the dominant Tiger defenses in so many ways since his arrival in 2016.

Podcast: How the NFL Draft Deadline Impacts CFB, the Latest in Expansion, Transfer Portal Updates, and Hawaii's Coaching Search

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.