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College Football: PFF's 2020 Preseason All-ACC Team

Oct 27, 2018; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Clemson Tigers quarterback Trevor Lawrence (16) celebrates with teammates after a touchdown during the first half against the Florida State Seminoles at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

No year in college football will be more memorable than the one we are experiencing now, as the impact of COVID-19 has forced most colleges to cancel the 2020 fall football season with the hope of trying to play in the spring.

We aren't here to give you our opinion on whether they should or should not have played in the fall, nor are we going to do that with their attempt to play in the spring. Instead, we want to shine a light on the players who deserve credit for the performances they have put forth over their college careers.

Without further ado, we present to you what would have been the 2020 PFF College Preseason All-ACC Team.

QUARTERBACK

FIRST TEAM: TREVOR LAWRENCE, CLEMSON

Lawrence isn't just the best player on Clemson — he's the best player in the country and might end up as the best we have ever seen in the PFF College era. With his arm talent and great mobility, Lawrence earned an elite 90.0-plus PFF grade as both a true freshman and sophomore. Lawrence has produced 2.9 win shares (WAA) over those two seasons combined, which leads all returning players — regardless of position — by a considerable margin (second is at 2.4).

Second Team: Sam Howell, North Carolina
Third Team: Micale Cunningham, Louisville
Honorable Mention: Ian Book, Notre Dame

RUNNING BACK

FIRST TEAM: TRAVIS ETIENNE, CLEMSON

Etienne's greatness is taken for granted. In 2018 and 2019, he posted two of the three best rushing grades we have ever given out. In the span combined, the Clemson Tiger ranks first in rushing grade, broken tackles per attempt (0.35), yards after contact per attempt (4.7) and rate of carries resulting in a first down or touchdown (36.5%). On top of that, he's been the most valuable non-quarterback in the country in that span. It isn't a hot take to say Etienne should be in the conversation for best running back in the history of college football.

Second Team: Javian Hawkins, Louisville
Third Team: Michael Carter, North Carolina
Honorable Mention: David Bailey, Boston College

RUNNING BACK

FIRST TEAM: JAVONTE WILLIAMS, NORTH CAROLINA

Williams is an agile back and can bulldoze through contact. He produced over 5 yards after contact on 30.8% of his runs in 2019, the second-highest rate in the FBS behind only Clemson's Travis Etienne. Overall, Williams broke an impressive 56 tackles on 165 carries, paving the way to an 88.3 rushing grade in 2019.

Second Team: Jordan Mason, Georgia Tech
Third Team: Kenneth Walker III, Wake Forest
Honorable Mention: Hassan Hall, Louisville

WIDE RECEIVER

October 12, 2019; Winston-Salem, NC, USA; Louisville Cardinals wide receiver Tutu Atwell (1) returns a kickoff during the first half against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons at BB&T Field. Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: TUTU ATWELL, LOUISVILLE

Atwell is just an electric human being. He has reportedly clocked a 40-yard dash time in the 4.2s, and it shows with his after-the-catch ability. In addition to earning the highest grade — by a considerable margin — on screens last year and averaging over 16 yards after the catch on those plays, Atwell had 13 targets that came 20-plus yards downfield in which he was deemed open (more than a couple of steps of separation), which led the FBS.

Second Team: Tamorrion Terry, Florida State
Third Team: Dyami Brown, North Carolina
Honorable Mention: Dez Fitzpatrick, Louisville

WIDE RECEIVER

FIRST TEAM: DAZZ NEWSOME, NORTH CAROLINA

Howell and Newsome's QB-WR connection enables one of college football's most potent deep-passing attacks. Newsome produced more deep catches than any other FBS receiver in the slot last year, with 13. He's also nimble after the catch, as he has broken 45 tackles on 134 career catches.

Second Team: Terrell Jana, Virginia
Third Team: Joe Ngata, Clemson
Honorable Mention: Taysir Mack, Pitt

WIDE RECEIVER

FIRST TEAM: SAGE SURRATT, WAKE FOREST

There are not many cornerbacks who can contain Surratt in press coverage. In 2019, he picked up 3.79 yards per route against press, the third-highest in the FBS. He's not an easy man to bring down either, as he broke 17 tackles on 65 receptions in 2019.

Second Team: D.J. Matthews, Florida State
Third Team: Amari Rodgers, Clemson
Honorable Mention: Kobay White, Boston College

TIGHT END

FIRST TEAM: BREVIN JORDAN, MIAMI (FL)

Jordan isn't quite a complete tight end, but he does check the athleticism box at the position. He brings value after the catch, as evidenced by the fact that 13 of his 35 catches came with at least 10 yards after the catch last year. He earned a 63.3 receiving grade as a true freshman in 2018 and raised that mark to 75.7 in 2019, 18th in the FBS.

Second Team: Marshon Ford, Louisville
Third Team: Hunter Long, Boston College
Honorable Mention: James Mitchell, VA Tech

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

Left tackle Liam Eichenberg could be Notre Dame's highest selection in the 2021 NFL draft. Credit: Michael Caterina/South Bend Tribune, Indianapolis Star via Imagn Content Services, LLC
FIRST TEAM: LIAM EICHENBERG, NOTRE DAME

Eichenberg took a noticeable leap from 2018 to 2019, raising his pass-blocking grade from 63.5 to 85.6 while cutting his pressure total almost in half. And he got better as the season progressed, too. Eichenberg already earned the 18th-best pass-blocking grade among FBS tackles over the entire season, but his grade from Week 7 on actually cracked the top-10 (7th).

Second Team: Ikem Ekwonu, NC State
Third Team: Jackson Carman, Clemson
Honorable Mention: Tyler Vrabel, Boston College

OFFENSIVE GUARD

FIRST TEAM: JOE SCULTHORPE, NC STATE

Sculthorpe's pass protection still has ways to go, but his work in the run game is in college football's upper echelon. He produced the sixth-best positively graded run-block rate among Power 5 guards in 2019, and over the last two years, the NC State guard has earned the sixth-best run-blocking grade among Power 5 guards with at least 400 snaps.

Second Team: Tommy Kraemer, Notre Dame
Third Team: Matt Bockhorst, Clemson
Honorable Mention: Marcus McKethan, North Carolina

CENTER

FIRST TEAM: JARRETT PATTERSON, NOTRE DAME

There was a whole lot to love with Patterson's first year starting at center. He was consistent throughout the year, with the only blemish coming against Georgia. Patterson finished as the 19th most valuable player in the FBS at the position and produced an above-average pass-blocking grade on his true pass sets.

Second Team: Jimmy Morrissey, Pitt
Third Team: Alec Lindstrom, Boston College
Honorable Mention: Grant Gibson, NC State

OFFENSIVE GUARD

FIRST TEAM: AARON BANKS, NOTRE DAME

Banks is coming off an exceptional year in pass protection. He allowed zero pressures in seven of his 13 games and dominated against Power 5 competition. He actually produced an 85.6 pass-blocking grade in those matchups, third in the country among those with at least 175 such snaps.

Second Team: Zion Johnson, Boston College
Third Team: Joshua Ezeudu, North Carolina
Honorable Mention: Dakota Davis, Syracuse

OFFENSIVE TACKLE

FIRST TEAM: CHRISTIAN DARRISAW, VA TECH

Darrisaw is rarely outworked in the run game. His negatively graded run-block rate was by far the best among Power Five tackles in 2019, and he was one of five to rank in the top-20 in both negatively and positively graded run-block rate on the year.

Second Team: Jordan McFadden, Clemson
Third Team: Robert Hainsey, Notre Dame
Honorable Mention: Jordan Tucker, North Carolina

 


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INTERIOR DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: MARVIN WILSON, FLORIDA STATE

Wilson has been one of the most productive interior defensive linemen in college football. He is coming off back-to-back years in which earned a PFF grade above 90.0. He’s not an impressive athlete, but it doesn’t matter with his sheer power and technique. The 6-foot-5, 311-pound Wilson is a versatile piece who can win anywhere on the line — from heads-up nose to 5-technique. He’s played over 170 snaps at each of nose tackle, 3-technique and 4/5-technique in the past two years, and he earned a PFF grade at or above 88.9 at every alignment.

Second Team: Cory Durden, Florida State
Third Team: Robert Cooper, Florida State
Honorable Mention: Keyshon Camp, Pitt

INTERIOR DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: ALIM McNEIL, NC STATE

You're not going to find a more productive heads-up nose tackle both against the run and the pass than McNeil. Over 88% of his snaps in 2019 were at 0-tech, and he was one of two Power Five interior defensive linemen to produce 75.0-plus grades in both facets there.

Second Team: Aaron Faumui, Virginia
Third Team: Jaylen Twyman, Pitt*
Honorable Mention: Tyler Davis, Clemson

EDGE DEFENDER

August 31, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) runs the ball away from Duke Blue Devils defensive end Chris Rumph II (96) during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
FIRST TEAM: CHRIS RUMPH II, DUKE

We have been pounding the table over the past year about Rumph's talents, and he is finally starting to get the attention he deserves. There isn’t a player in college football with a better pass-rush toolbox than the Duke rusher. That helped him produce a 92.9 pass-rush grade in 2019, as well as an FBS-high 30.8% pass-rush win rate. And he accomplished those feats at 225 pounds, which makes it even more impressive.

Second Team: Carlos Basham Jr., Wake Forest
Third Team: Gregory Rousseau, Miami (FL)
Honorable Mention: Rashad Weaver, Pitt

EDGE DEFENDER

FIRST TEAM: QUINCY ROCHE, MIAMI (FL)

Roche was a dominant force for Temple this past season, producing a 93.3 pass-rush grade that ranked second to only Chase Young. He had five games last year in which he recorded more than seven pressures, something only one other FBS edge rusher accomplished (only one had four games, too).

Second Team: Patrick Jones II, Pitt
Third Team: Adetokunbo Ogundeji, Notre Dame
Honorable Mention: Victor Dimukeje, Duke

LINEBACKER

FIRST TEAM: JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH, NOTRE DAME

Owusu-Koramoah broke out in a big way when he was finally given the opportunity to start as the Irish Rover in 2019. His athleticism and instincts make him a valuable player to the defense in every facet of play, and he got better and better as the season progressed. From Week 10 on, Micah Parsons and Isaiah Simmons were the only Power 5 linebackers who earned a higher PFF grade.

Second Team: James Skalski, Clemson
Third Team: Charles Snowden, Virginia
Honorable Mention: Max Richardson, Boston College

LINEBACKER

FIRST TEAM: CAM BRIGHT, PITT

Bright was one of the best all-around off-ball linebackers in the ACC last year. The only other ACC off-ball linebacker to produce 70.0-plus grades in run defense, as a pass-rusher and in coverage was Clemson's Isaiah Simmons. Bright's blitzing, in particular, is top-notch — no Power 5 linebacker won a higher percentage of such reps in 2019.

Second Team: Noah Taylor, Virginia
Third Team: Drew White, Notre Dame
Honorable Mention: Rayshard Ashby, VA Tech

CORNERBACK

FIRST TEAM: CALEB FARLEY, VA TECH

Farley is as stingy a cornerback as you will ever see. He allowed one or no catches in seven of his 11 games in 2019 and combined for 13 pass breakups and interceptions, four more than his first downs allowed total. Farley has the size and the speed you covet at the position, and all that played a part in him producing a 90.5 coverage grade in 2019.

Second Team: Storm Duck, North Carolina
Third Team: Mario Goodrich, Clemson
Honorable Mention: Jason Pinnock, Pitt

CORNERBACK

FIRST TEAM: JERMAINE WALLER, VA TECH

Just like his now-former teammate Farley, Waller had a breakout year in 2019. One of the stingiest cornerbacks in the country, he gave up one catch or less in seven of his 12 games played and allowed just a 39% catch rate on the year. Waller also had the best forced-incompletion rate in the FBS (31.4%). His timing and location at the catch point are simply elite.

Second Team: Michael Carter II, Duke
Third Team: Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse
Honorable Mention: Josh Blackwell, Duke

SAFETY

FIRST TEAM: KYLE HAMILTON, NOTRE DAME

Hamilton has the playmaking ability in coverage that every team wishes they had in the secondary. The 6-foot-4 safety allowed only seven catches on 23 targets in coverage while making four interceptions and breaking up another five passes en route to a 1.3 passer rating allowed. And he did that as a true freshman.

Second Team: Paris Ford, Pitt
Third Team: Marquis Waters, Duke
Honorable Mention: Tariq Carpenter, Georgia Tech

SAFETY

FIRST TEAM: HAMSAH NASIRILDEEN, FLORIDA STATE

Nasirildeen can execute any role you want him to. He can stop the run in the box, blitz, play deep, man the slot — you name it, the 6-foot-4 safety can do it. He was the only safety in college football to earn 80.0-plus grades in run defense, coverage and as a tackler in 2019.

Second Team: Andre Cisco, Syracuse
Third Team: Juanyeh Thomas, Georgia Tech
Honorable Mention: Gurvan Hall Jr., Miami (FL)

FLEX DEFENSE

FIRST TEAM: ASANTE SAMUEL JR., FLORIDA STATE

What Samuel lacks in size, he makes up for with his quicks. He's in hip pockets all game long — since 2018, 62% of his targets in coverage have had no separation (best in ACC). In the same span, his 24.8% forced-incompletion rate easily leads all ACC cornerbacks who were set to return.

Second Team: Nolan Turner, Clemson
Third Team: Tyler Baker-Williams, NC State
Honorable Mention: Joey Blount, Virginia

KICKER

First Team: Nick Sciba, Wake Forest
Second Team: Jonathan Doerer, Notre Dame
Third Team: Christopher Dunn, NC State
Honorable Mention: Andre Szmyt, Syracuse

PUNTER

First Team: Kirk Christodoulou, Pitt
Second Team: Pressley Harvin III, Georgia Tech
Third Team: Trenton Gill, NC State
Honorable Mention: Lou Hedley, Miami (FL)

KICK RETURNER

First Team: Daymond Philyaw-Johnson, Duke
Second Team: Hassan Hall, Louisville
Third Team: Joe Ngata, Clemson
Honorable Mention: Michael Carter, North Carolina

PUNT RETURNER

First Team: Tayvion Robinson, VA Tech
Second Team: Amari Rodgers, Clemson
Third Team: Rodjay Burns, Louisville
Honorable Mention: D.J. Matthews, Florida State

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