It’s ACC preview week and here is a look at the top five positional groups in the conference heading into the season.
1. BOSTON COLLEGE OFFENSIVE LINE
Simply put, this is a unit with zero holes and some really high-end players. It all starts in the middle with Alec Lindstrom, who’s one of the top centers in college football. Right next to him is Zion Johnson, who transferred from Davidson in 2019 and has dominated ever since, and the other guard is Christian Mahogany who’s no slouch either.
Tyler Vrabel is an outstanding tackle with great bloodlines, and Ben Petrula is a very versatile player who can play all three positions. All told, they combine for 125 career starts and will be one of the best lines in the country.
2. CLEMSON DEFENSIVE LINE
Bryan Bresee lived up to his five-star billing last season as a true freshman, finishing the season as one of the best interior defensive lineman in the entire country. And with two more seasons in front of him before he bolts for the pros, he’s got a chance to finish his collegiate career as one of the best ever.
Tyler Davis is another really nice piece at the tackle position for the Tigers as well. Myles Murphy is an outstanding young edge rusher, and he and Bresee teamed up to make one of the best true freshmen duos in the country last year at any position group. K.J. Henry rounds out a starting group that has plenty of experience, and they’ve got really nice depth behind them.
3. NC STATE OFFENSIVE LINE
If there’s one unit that could challenge the Eagles for supremacy in the conference it’s the Wolfpack, who have a star center of their own in Grant Gibson, who might be the best center in the country not named Tyler Linderbaum. At tackle, Ikem Ekwonu is an all-conference level left tackle, and he’s truly outstanding in the run game, ranking No. 4 in the country according to PFF.
Expect a breakout season from Dylan McMahon at left guard, and transfer Chandler Zavala, a D-II All-American, should lock down the RG spot. The only question about this unit is right tackle, but Bryson Speas has starting experience both there and at guard.
4. NORTH CAROLINA DEFENSIVE BACKS
The Tar Heels’ defense begins at the back end with Storm Duck and Tony Grimes as arguably the best corner duo outside of LSU in the entire country. Duck is coming off of an injury that limited him to two games last season, but his freshman season was phenomenal back in 2019. Grimes had ups and downs last year as a 17-year-old freshman, but the talent is there for the former five-star recruit and he came on late in the season.
UNC will need Ja’Qurious Conley to improve in coverage at safety – he’s proven to be a great run defender, but he was consistently burned by opposing receivers. Senior Trey Morrison returns a free safety after receiving an honorable mention All-ACC nod last season.
5. GEORGIA TECH RUNNING BACK
It might surprise some people to see any Yellow Jackets on this list, but Jahmyr Gibbs and Jordan Mason are as good a 1-2 punch at the position as any. Gibbs is an unbelievably well-rounded back, as he broke more tackles per attempt in the country last season after only Javonte Williams, while also earning PFF’s best grade for receiving among all Power Five running backs. And he managed to do all of that as a true freshman.
Like Gibbs, Mason is a runner who is very tough to take down, averaging 4.37 yards per attempt after contact as a freshman in 2019. Geoff Collins would be wise to employ a lot of two-back sets to get his top two playmakers the ball as much as possible.