This third-year starter earned first-team all-ACC honors last year and led the conference in total offense (242.2 yards per game) and passing yards (245.5 per game). Ryan owns a 14-4 career record as a starter. His yardage totals could climb this year under new coach Jeff Jagodzinski and offensive coordinator Steve Logan, who have talked about opening up the offense.
Campbell may have as bright a future as any underclassman in the country. This future first-round draft pick ranked fourth in the nation with 20 tackles for loss last year while also collecting 10½ sacks and forcing three fumbles. Campbell recorded at least one sack in seven consecutive games last year, which represented the second-longest streak in school history.
This Oklahoma transfer led the ACC with 1,473 rushing yards last year. He gained at least 100 yards in each of his last seven games and averaged 131.9 yards during that streak. Choice reached the century mark a total of nine times last year to break Eddie Lee Ivery's 28-year-old school record for most 100-yard games in a season.
The son of Pro Football Hall of Famer Howie Long has recorded a total of 22 tackles for loss the last two seasons. He overcame constant double-teaming to record 57 overall tackles last season. Long enters his senior year as a near-certain first-round draft pick and a legitimate candidate for almost every national defensive award.
Davis earned first-team all-ACC honors last year while rushing for 1,187 yards and tying a school single-season record with 17 touchdowns. Davis leads all active ACC players with 26 career rushing touchdowns and has ranked in the top four in the conference in rushing each of his first two seasons at Clemson. Davis and Terry Allen are the only Clemson players ever to rush for 2,000 yards in their first two seasons.
Fluellen appears intent on joining former Seminole defensive linemen Travis Johnson and Brodrick Bunkley as first-round draft picks. This third-year starter has recorded 15½ tackles for loss over the last two years. Fluellen showed his versatility last year by moving from defensive tackle to nose guard after Paul Griffin's season-ending injury.
Heyward-Bey caught 45 passes for 694 yards and five touchdowns last year as a Rivals.com first-team Freshman All-American. Heyward-Bey's 694 receiving yards set a Maryland freshman record. Heyward-Bey has run the 40 in 4.23 seconds and showed off that lightning speed while scoring from 65 and 96 yards away against Miami. Heyward-Bey also burned Florida State for a 30-yard score.
The leader of North Carolina State's defense has made 23 consecutive starts – more than twice as many as any of his teammates. Pressley is athletic enough to play either defensive end or defensive tackle. Pressley's career statistics reflect his consistency. He had 44 overall tackles and seven for loss last year after recording 43 overall tackles and six for loss in 2005.
Nicks ranked third in the ACC in receiving yards per game (60.0) and eighth in catches per game (3.6) last year on his way to earning second-team Freshman All-America honors from Rivals.com. Nicks caught 39 passes for 660 yards to set North Carolina freshman records in both categories. Nicks showed an ability to come through in high-profile games by catching six passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame.
Adibi has a knack for making game-changing plays. His interception set up the winning touchdown against Miami last year. He returned a fumble for a touchdown in a victory over Wake Forest and forced a fumble to set up Virginia Tech's first touchdown against Virginia. Adibi finished his junior season with 82 tackles while also picking off three passes and forcing three fumbles.
This former walk-on was named Maryland's most improved offensive player last year after catching 37 passes for 369 yards and three touchdowns. Haynos had caught only one pass in his entire career before last year. Haynos stepped up against Maryland's toughest foes and caught a combined 20 passes in road games against West Virginia, Clemson and Boston College.
Hall enters his senior year seeking his third consecutive 100-tackle season. He led the ACC with 128 tackles last year after compiling 112 tackles in 2005. Hall also collected 10 tackles for loss last season while earning first-team all-ACC honors. Hall's big season allowed him to claim the Dudley Award that goes to the top college football player in the state of Virginia.
This former tight end has made himself into one of the nation's top offensive tackles. Brown is moving to left tackle this season after starting at right tackle the last two years. He led all Virginia Tech linemen last year with an average grade of 87 percent, which helped him earn second-team all-ACC honors. This 302-pounder also had enough speed to make four tackles on punt coverage last year.
This third-year starter was a Rivals.com second-team All-American who ranked fourth in the ACC in sacks (nine) and tackles for loss (14½) last season. Wheeler also collected 89 total tackles last year. He forced a fumble that was returned for a touchdown and also recorded two sacks in a victory over Virginia Tech that helped catapult Georgia Tech to the Coastal Division title.
Richardson was the first Clemson true freshman offensive lineman to start the majority of a season since 1943. That quick start was a sign of things to come, as Richardson now is a potential first-round draft pick entering his fourth year as a starter. Last year, Richardson became the first Clemson offensive tackle in a decade to earn first-team all-ACC honors as an underclassman.
Flowers ranked third in the nation in passes defended per game last year. He finished the season with 18 pass breakups and 21 passes defended to lead the ACC in both categories. When he isn't bothering opposing wide receivers, Flowers is giving quarterbacks headaches. Even though he played in the secondary last year, Flowers still recorded 3½ sacks to tie for the team lead.
Justice played his best when it mattered most last year. He graded out at 99 percent in the ACC championship game victory over Georgia Tech and posted a 94 percent grade in the Orange Bowl loss to Louisville. This Dean's List student earned first-team all-ACC honors last year and graded out at 92 percent overall while collecting 65½ knockdown blocks.
Tribble picked off seven passes and returned three for touchdowns last year on his way to earning third-team All-America honors from Rivals.com. Tribble's touchdown against Florida State made the difference in the Eagles' 24-19 victory. Tribble also scored against Maryland and Miami. Tribble's 11 career interceptions rank him second to Boise State's Marty Tadman among all active players.
Crummey has gained 30 pounds since his arrival on campus while growing into one of the top guards in the nation. He has made 28 career starts – more than anyone else on Maryland's roster – and earned second-team all-ACC honors last year while helping Maryland allow just 19 sacks. Crummey also is versatile enough to play center.
Lewis was supposed to start last season at cornerback, but he moved to strong safety after teammate Joe Gaston suffered a season-ending injury. Lewis adapted to his new position well enough to become a first-team all-ACC selection last year. Lewis ranked third on the team with 75 tackles and also collected three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Morse's versatility could cause him to move to center this season, but we'll place him on our all-conference team as a guard. Morse bounced back from an injury-riddled 2005 season and started 12 games at right guard last year while allowing only one sack. Morse earned his team's Walt Kichefski Award for commitment, consistency and work ethic last year.
Phillips earned third-team All-America honors from Rivals.com last year despite missing the Hurricanes' final three regular-season games with a broken thumb. Phillips' three-interception performance against Duke helped Miami squeak out a 20-15 victory over a team that finished winless. Phillips finished the year with 71 tackles, six pass breakups and four interceptions.
How often is a special-teams performer selected by teammates as the most valuable player of a conference championship team? That's what happened last year with Swank, a Rivals.com first-team All-America kicker last year who also handled Wake Forest's punting duties. Swank ranked fourth in the nation last year with 1.64 field goals per game and went 5-for-7 from beyond 50 yards. Swank's three field goals accounted for Wake Forest's points in a 9-6 ACC championship game victory over Georgia Tech.
Brooks ranked second in the nation in net punting (40.66) and fourth in punting average (45.5) last year while becoming one of three finalists for the Ray Guy Award that goes to the nation's top punter. His punting average was the second-best in Georgia Tech history. Thirty-five of his 79 punts last season caused the opposing team to start drives inside its 20-yard line.
Blackman ranks second in ACC history in career kickoff return average (28.6) and ranks fifth on his school's all-time list with 524 career punt-return yards. He ranked third in the nation in punt return average in 2004, sixth in the nation in kickoff return average in 2005 and fourth in the nation in kickoff return average last season. Blackman also ranked fourth in the ACC last year in all-purpose yardage with 105.5 yards per game.
Spiller scored six touchdowns from at least 50 yards away last season and became the only player in Clemson history to have an 80-yard run and an 80-yard catch in the same season. Spiller, a former Rivals.com five-star recruit, rushed for 938 yards while averaging an astounding 7.3 yards per carry as a freshman. Clemson coaches have talked about making this sophomore running back more of a weapon in the passing game this year, which makes him a perfect fit for the utility spot on our all-conference team.
All he did as a redshirt freshman last year was step in for an injured Ben Mauk and lead Wake Forest to its first conference title since 1970. Skinner set the school record for completion percentage (65.8), led the conference in passing efficiency and was named the ACC Rookie of the Year. Skinner led the ACC and ranked 12th in the nation in interception rate. He was picked off just once out of every 52 pass attempts.
This fourth-year starter has compiled 27 tackles for loss and 13½ sacks over his last three seasons. He closed the 2006 season by forcing a fumble and recording a sack in a Chick-fil-A Bowl loss to Georgia. Ellis missed spring drills after undergoing shoulder surgery, but this fifth-year senior boasts so much experience that he probably didn't need the practice time as much as most players.
Ore could lead the conference in rushing if he manages to stay healthy all season. A high ankle sprain limited his effectiveness late last year, but Ore still rushed for 1,137 yards and 16 touchdowns. Ore was leading the ACC in rushing at the time of his injury. Ore showed his All-America potential midway through last year by rushing for 207 yards against Southern Mississippi and 203 yards against Clemson in back-to-back games.
This third-year starter never has recorded more than 3½ sacks in a season, but his high tackle totals compensate for his lack of pass-rushing production. Oliver ranked fourth on his team with 70 overall tackles last year to earn second-team all-ACC honors. He had eight tackles and a fumble recovery in a crucial win over Virginia Tech. Oliver also delivered a sack and forced a fumble that led to the clinching touchdown over Miami.
Smith may benefit more than anyone from the arrival of new offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher. The staff change should add some life to Florida State's dormant rushing attack. Smith has averaged 5.2 yards per carry in his career while backing up Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker, but the former five-star prospect has looked even better in the preseason. He averaged more than 7 yards per carry in spring drills and was named the Seminoles' most valuable offensive player at the end of spring practice.
Booker recorded 52 tackles – an unusually high total for a defensive tackle – and made seven stops behind the line last year in his first season as a starter. Instead of resting on his laurels, Booker has prepared for his senior year so well that Virginia Tech coaches gave him an award for having the best spring practice of any player on defense.
Carr was listed as a second-teamer on Florida State's preseason depth chart, but we're guessing he works his way back into the starting lineup and maintains his status as one of the conference's top receivers. Carr has struggled with consistency, but he still has caught 21 touchdown passes in the first two seasons of his career. Carr has utilized his 6-foot-6 frame to become one of the nation's most effective red-zone targets.
Raji will try to pick up where he left off after recording two tackles for loss and a sack last year in a Meineke Car Care Bowl victory over Navy. The third-year starter was a second-team all-ACC selection in 2006 and finished the season with 8½ tackles for loss. Raji enters his senior season with 16½ career tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Miami's struggles last season overshadowed the personal comeback of Leggett, who bounced back from a disappointing 2005 campaign to catch 38 passes for 584 yards and four touchdowns in his junior year. Leggett caught at least one pass in every game last year and ranked 10th in the ACC in receiving yards per game. Leggett injured his knee in spring practice and expects to wear a brace all season, but the all-ACC hurdler still should possess enough speed to rank among the league's top deep threats.
Dunbar missed Boston College's final two regular-season games with an ankle injury last season and still led the Eagles with 92 tackles. Dunbar recorded 28 tackles – four behind the line – and recovered three fumbles in the last two games he played. He returned two fumbles for touchdowns in a victory over Maryland and had a fumble recovery that set up the winning field goal in a Meineke Car Care Bowl triumph over Navy.
Santi is versatile enough to play fullback, but he has done his best work at tight end. Santi has averaged 20 catches per year over the last three seasons while providing a nice-sized target over the middle with his 6-foot-5 frame. Santi caught at least one pass in each of his first 10 games last season.
Hayes should serve as the leader of Florida State's linebacking corps now that the Seminoles must replace first-round draft pick Lawrence Timmons and Rivals.com third-team All-American Buster Davis. Hayes sat out three entire games and missed the most of a fourth with sprained ligaments in his right knee, but he still finished the 2006 season with 59 overall tackles and 12 tackles for loss.
Cherilus is moving from right tackle to left tackle this fall as he enters his fourth year as a starter. The 6-foot-7 Cherilus seems likely to continue Boston College's reputation for producing quality NFL offensive linemen. If he adapts to his switch to left tackle this season, Cherilus can cement his status as a first-round draft pick.
The younger brother of former Maryland star and current Minnesota Vikings linebacker E.J. Henderson has done a nice job of making a name for himself. After missing the entire 2005 season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Erin Henderson bounced back in fine form last year with 114 tackles. Virginia Tech's Vince Hall was the only ACC player to compile more tackles last season.
Gardner has started every game at left tackle since his redshirt freshman season. In his first year as a starter, Georgia Tech allowed the fewest sacks in the ACC. In his second season, Gardner helped pave the way for Tashard Choice to lead the conference in rushing. Gardner has gained about 50 pounds since enrolling at Georgia Tech and now tips the scales at nearly 300 pounds.
The 5-foot-9 Carter has overcome his lack of height to emerge as one of the ACC's top big-play performers on defense and special teams. Carter scored touchdowns on two interception returns last year and also returned a blocked extra-point attempt and a blocked field goal for scores. Carter was named the defensive MVP of the Emerald Bowl after scoring on an 86-yard interception return and breaking up two passes in the victory over UCLA.
Tuminello has made 26 consecutive starts as he heads into his senior season. Tuminello should team up with fellow second-team all-ACC pick Andrew Gardner to lead a Georgia Tech offensive line that returns four starters. Tuminello opens this season on the watch list for the Rimington Trophy that goes to the nation's top center.
This sixth-year senior boosted his credentials as one of the ACC's toughest players last season by returning to action after missing the entire 2004 and 2005 seasons with torn anterior cruciate ligaments in each knee. Sharpe led the Hurricanes with 14 pass deflections last year and won the Brian Piccolo Award that goes to the ACC's most courageous player.
Albert is a former basketball star who didn't even start playing football until his junior year of high school, but he's proving a quick study. Albert allowed just one sack all season last fall to earn honorable mention all-ACC honors in his second season as the Cavaliers' starting left guard.
This former five-star prospect lived up to the hype by compiling 77 tackles and breaking up five passes as a true freshman. Rolle started the last 10 games of the 2006 season and was a Freshman All-America second-team selection by Rivals.com. Rolle clearly has a head for the game. He enters his sophomore season just three hours shy of becoming a senior academically.
Render started every game for Virginia Tech at right guard last year and was selected as a Rivals.com second-team Freshman All-American. Render led the Hokies with 37 knockdown blocks last year and was named the ACC's lineman of the week after grading out at 90 percent in a victory over eventual league champion Wake Forest. Render underwent offseason knee surgery that limited him in spring practice, but he should recover in time to build on the momentum he established last season.
Silva showed his penchant for making big contributions on big occasions last year when he made the game-clinching interception in a double-overtime victory over Brigham Young. That certainly isn't the only big play Silva has made in his college career. Silva picked off four passes and recorded 57 tackles last season. He enters his senior year with 187 career tackles.
Barth bounced back from a disappointing 2005 season by going a perfect 10 of 10 on field-goal attempts last year. Barth's big season included a 54-yarder against North Carolina State and a 52-yarder against South Florida. The 54-yarder marked the second-longest field goal in school history. Barth has made 18 of his last 20 field-goal attempts in a run that started during his sophomore year.
Ayers enters his fourth year as Boston College's main punter. He delivered his finest season last fall by ranking fifth in the ACC with his average of 42.1 yards per punt. Twenty of his 59 punts last season forced opponents to start drives inside their 20-yard line. Ayers, who also plays outfield on Boston College's baseball team, owns a career average of 40.9 yards per punt.
Tate returned two kickoffs and one punt for touchdowns last season. He ranked second in the ACC in punt return average (9.7) and sixth in kickoff returns (23.7). He set a single-season school record with 902 kickoff return yards. Tate closed his 2006 season against Duke by becoming one of only six players in NCAA history to return a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in the same game.
Royal led Virginia Tech in receiving yards (497) last season while also topping the ACC in punt return average (13.2). Royal enters his senior year ranked second at Virginia Tech in career punt return yards (841), third in career kick return yards (1,060) and 10th in career receptions (86). The most versatile player on Virginia Tech's roster also ranks among the strongest Hokies. Royal weighs 181 pounds and can bench-press 390 pounds.