The ACC is loaded with players who are already high on NFL teams’ draft boards and are household names for their respective fan bases. But while those players, like Clemson’s DeShaun Watson or Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, will certainly hold a big key to how their respective teams finish so will the valuable complementary players.
Related: ACC Football 2016 Predictions
Here’s a look at some of the potential wild card players for the ACC heading into the 2016 season.
Boston College Eagles
Offense: Aaron Monteiro, Tackle
One thing is for certain under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler: the Eagles will throw more than they have in the past few years. Monteiro, the presumed starter at left tackle, has to improve his pass blocking for this new offense to take flight.
Defense: Zach Allen, Defensive End
At one defensive end spot, the Eagles are golden with junior Harold Landry poised for a breakout season after a strong 2015. On the other side, the coaching staff loves the potential of Allen, who could bookend a talented front.
Offense: Jake Fruhmorgen, Tackle
Fellow sophomore Mitch Hyatt proved to be one of the nation’s best freshman linemen last season at left tackle, but Fruhmorgen only started one game in 2015. He is expected to hold down the right tackle spot on what should be one of the nation’s best offenses.
Defense: Korrin Wiggins, Cornerback
It was not a good offseason for the Tigers’ secondary, which lost Adrian Baker to a torn ACL and Kaleb Chalmers to dismissal over multiple infractions. Wiggins is recovering from a knee injury that kept him off the field last year, but he will be counted on this fall.
Florida State Seminoles
Offense: Deondre Francois, Quarterback
Although it may be a bit of an obvious choice, this offense returns nine starters and, for the most part, is settled. However, even though Sean Maguire has starting experience, it’s Francois who emerged from the spring looking like the man for the job.
Defense: Tarvarus McFadden, Cornerback
McFadden may have the biggest shoes to fill on this defense, as Jalen Ramsey was a do-it-all talent who was drafted fifth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars this spring. McFadden, a sophomore, had considerable hype coming out of South Florida prep power American Heritage and should take on a much larger role in 2016.
Offense: Kiola Mahoni, Guard
The skill positions look to be all set for this offense, which took off last season behind quarterback Lamar Jackson. However, the offensive line is in need of patching up, and Mahoni, a returning starter at guard, can provide early leadership.
Defense: Shaq Wiggins, Cornerback
One of the returning starters in the secondary, Wiggins surprisingly did not run with the first team in the Cardinals’ spring game. Although head coach Bobby Petrino downplayed that move afterward, Wiggins’ presence during the season will need to be a steadying force.
NC State Wolfpack
Offense: Jakobi Meyers, Quarterback
The Wolfpack promise to have another strong ground attack this season, but will be in need of a replacement for quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who was drafted by the New England Patriots. Meyers is in a battle for the starting job with Jalan McClendon and Boise State transfer Ryan Finley, but his mobility could give him the edge.
Defense: Darian Roseboro, Defensive End
Despite not starting last year, Roseboro appeared in 13 games and finished with four sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss. A 4-star recruit coming out of high school, expect him to further live up to his billing in 2016.
Offense: Moe Neal, Running Back/Wide Receiver
This true freshman was an early enrollee and impressed in the spring. Although the skill positions return with some veteran experience, new head coach Dino Babers’ offense allows for multiple playmakers to get their hands on the ball, and Neal definitely fits the bill.
Defense: Chris Slayton, Defensive Tackle
Overall, Syracuse sports an experienced roster. However, along the defensive line, there is a shortage of bodies that have seen live action. Slayton is the best player along the front right now, and he will need to be the anchor until others step up.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Offense: Cade Carney, Running Back
There are a few veterans ahead of him on the depth chart, but don’t count Carney out when fall rolls around. The true freshman was an early enrollee and impressed all spring.
Defense: Jessie Bates, Safety
After redshirting his freshman year in 2015, Bates emerged in the spring as a potential starter in the secondary. Don’t be surprised to also see him make an impact as a return specialist on special teams as well.
Duke Blue Devils
Offense: Parker Boehme, Quarterback
The status of returning starting quarterback Thomas Sirk is up in the air after he tore his Achilles in February. Boehme, who saw limited time as a backup last season, played well in the spring and should hold down the spot if Sirk can’t play.
Defense: Tinashe Bere, Weak-side Linebacker
Overall, Duke is fairly young, and Bere, heading into his redshirt sophomore season, is one of the more promising fresh faces on defense. Head coach David Cutcliffe singled out Bere in the spring as one of the most improved players on that side of the ball.
Offense: Qua Searcy, A-Back
A year ago, Searcy’s season ended with a broken ankle against Notre Dame when he was hit as he tried to take a bad option pitch from quarterback Justin Thomas. If Searcy can make a full return from the injury, he’ll give a boost to an offense that needs its skill to overcome uncertainty up front.