ACC's Pre-Spring Top 15 Player Rankings for 2015

Pittsburgh's James Conner tops the pre-spring ranks.

The ACC is losing some significant star power with the departure of Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, Clemson defensive end Vic Beasley, Louisville safety Gerod Holliman and Miami running back Duke Johnson (just to name a few).

 

All 14 teams in the ACC will be busy this spring filling key personnel question marks for 2015, and the loss of several star players shows why most preseason rankings have Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech all outside of the playoff picture.

 

As spring practice begins around the ACC, it’s never too early to take a peek at what’s ahead in 2015. Here’s a quick primer on the top 15 players in the ACC for next season, as well as a few names to watch. 

 

ACC's Pre-Spring Top 15 Players for 2015

 

1. James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
2014 Stats: 1,765 yards, 26 TDs

Conner was the ACC’s Player of the Year in 2014 and will remain the centerpiece of Pittsburgh’s offense in 2015. 

 

2. Jalen Ramsey, S, Florida State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 79 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INT, 12 PBU

 

Ramsey’s all-around ability is a huge asset for Florida State’s defense. He led the team with 12 pass breakups last season and could slide to cornerback to help replace the production lost by P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby.

 

3. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 54 tackles, 2 INT, 15 PBU

 

Fuller has a variety of accolades in just two seasons with the Hokies. The Baltimore native was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2013 and earned All-America honors last year. He should lead a tough Virginia Tech defense in 2015.

 

4. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior

2014 Stats: 78 receptions, 1,261 yards, 8 TDs

 

Boyd has started his career with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons and has grabbed 15 touchdown receptions in two years. The Pennsylvania native will be the ACC’s No. 1 receiver in 2015.

 

5. Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore
2014 Stats: 1,008 yards, 8 TDs, 22 rec., 203 yards

Cook is primed for a monster season as Florida State’s go-to back. As a true freshman in 2014, Cook led the team with 1,008 yards. All-America honors in 2015 would not be a surprise. 

 

6. Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 93 of 137, 1,466 yards, 14 TDs, 2 INTs

 

Watson could be the No. 1 player on this list by the end of the 2015 season. He’s recovering from ACL surgery, but the sophomore lived up to his recruiting hype by throwing for 1,466 yards and 14 touchdowns in limited action last year.

 

7. Justin Thomas, QB, Georgia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Junior
2014 Stats: 1,719 passing yards, 18 TDs, 6 INTs, 1,086 rush yards, 8 TDs

 

Thomas is the perfect fit as the catalyst in Georgia Tech’s option offense. The Alabama native led the team with 1,086 rushing yards last season and connected on 14 pass plays of 30 yards or more.  

 

8. Dadi Nicolas, DE, Virginia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 72 tackles, 18.5 TFL, 9 sacks

 

Nicolas had a breakout season in his first full year as a starter. After recording four sacks in 2013, Nicolas upped that total to nine and ranked second among ACC defenders with 18.5 tackles for a loss.

 

9. Marquise Williams, QB, North Carolina

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 270 of 428, 3,068 yards, 21 TDs, 9 INTs, 788 rush yards, 13 TDs

 

Williams will miss spring practice due to a hip injury, but the senior isn’t expected to miss any snaps in the fall. He ranked second among ACC quarterbacks (conference-only games) by completing 62.9 passes last year. Williams ranked second in the ACC by averaging 296.6 total yards per game. 

 

10. Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 221 of 378, 3,198 yards, 26 TDs, 12 INTs

 

Kaaya started all 13 games as a true freshman and guided Miami's offense to an average of 29.2 points per game. The California native is only going to get better as a sophomore, which is critical for a team dealing with key losses on defense (Denzel Perryman), at running back (Duke Johnson) and on the offensive line.

 

11. Jeremy Cash, S, Duke

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 111 tackles, 10.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 INT, 7 PBU, 4 FF

 

Cash sat out spring ball due to knee injury, but the senior is expected to be at full strength by the fall. He’s one of the top defensive playmakers in the ACC after recording four forced fumbles and two picks last season.

 

12. Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 2,606 yards, 23 TD, 5 INTs, 529 rush yards, 3 TDs

 

Brissett turned in a solid all-around in his debut at NC State, and bigger and better things should be coming for the senior in 2015. The Florida transfer did not throw an interception over the last three games of 2014.

 

13. Quin Blanding, S, Virginia

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 123 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 3 INT, 6 PBU

 

Blanding certainly lived up to his five-star recruiting hype coming out of high school. On his way to earning second-team All-ACC honors, Blanding led the team with 123 tackles and tied for first on the defense with three interceptions.

 

14. Luther Maddy, DT, Virginia Tech

2015 Year of Eligibility: Senior

2014 Stats: 9 tackles

 

Maddy missed nearly all of 2014 due to a knee injury. In 2013, he recorded 55 tackles (13.5 for a loss) and 6.5 sacks. If Maddy is healthy, he will rank higher on this list in the fall.

 

15. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

2015 Year of Eligibility: Sophomore

2014 Stats: 21 tackles, 2 TFL, 6 PBU

 

It’s a little bit of a projection to put Alexander here, but he’s poised for a breakout year after starting all 13 games last season. According to Clemson’s game notes, Alexander ranks first in school history in snaps by a freshman. 

 

Six Names to Watch in Spring Practice

 

KeShun Freeman, DE, Georgia Tech

As a true freshman, Freeman’s emerged as one of Georgia Tech’s top defensive linemen in 2014. He should make an even bigger impact in 2015.

 

Rod Johnson, OT, Florida State

Rising star anchored the left side of Florida State’s line for the final five games of 2014 - as a true freshman.

 

Artavis Scott/Mike Williams, WR, Clemson

This duo combined for 133 catches for 1,995 yards and 14 scores last season. It’s a good bet one of these receivers rank on the top 15 players for the ACC at the end of 2015.

 

Cam Serigne, TE, Wake Forest

Serigne was a bright spot for a struggling Wake Forest offense last season. He caught 54 passes for 531 yards and five scores.

 

Wyatt Teller, OL, Virginia Tech

Teller moved from the defensive line to the offensive line in 2013 and started the last six games in his redshirt freshman season. Virginia Tech’s offensive line is a huge question mark entering 2015. Teller is one of the few certainties heading into this season.

 

Joseph Yearby, RB, Miami

Duke Johnson leaves big shoes to fill, but Yearby is capable of handling the starting role in 2015.

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