Pittsburgh – S Damar Hamlin
Tommy DeVito will have his hands full in back to back weeks, dealing with experienced safeties patrolling the secondary. Hamlin is a guy SU fans may remember from last year, when the safety recorded 14 total tackles against the Orange on his way to being named ACC Defensive Back of the Week. Hamlin was named to Athlon Sports’ First Team All-ACC preseason team after totaling 90 total tackles last year to go along with a couple of interceptions. Hamlin is fantastic at controlling the run game as well.
Florida State – RB Cam Akers
Last season was a rough introduction into the ACC for first-year head coach Willie Taggart. After a strong freshman campaign, Akers took a step back adjusting to Taggart and Kendal Briles’ spread offense, but he’s FSU’s best offensive weapon. He’s an electric runner between or outside the tackles, and provides versatility as a pass catcher. Last season Akers caught 23 passes, averaging over six yards per catch. He also ran for 4.4 yards per carry. Here’s highlights of what Akers can do when he gets a head of steam.
Boston College – RB AJ Dillon
Dillon is one of the best running backs in college football, but his biggest issue has been staying on the field. Last year he only played 10 games but ran for over 1,100 yards and recorded 11 touchdowns. BC likes to run Dillon a lot. Maybe even too much. Dillon had over 30 carries in three games last season, including a bone crunching 37 handoffs against Florida State. The Eagles are clearly trying to get the ball into the hands of their best player as much as possible. But there can be too much of a good thing, and when it costs your star three games, that’s a problem.
Duke – RB Deon Jackson
The running back trend continues with an extremely young Blue Devils team that lost its star quarterback, Daniel Jones, to the NFL Draft and the New York Giants. 48 of the 87 potential non-specialist players are freshmen or sophomores. Luckily All-ACC Second Team selection Deon Jackson returns to lead the offense. A season ago Jackson had 1,100 yards from scrimmage, showing off his versatility in the run and pass game. He also finished with 9 touchdowns to lead all running backs and wide receivers.
Louisville – QB Jawon Pass
Not much went right for the Cardinals last year as they wheezed to a 2-10 record. Former head coach Bobby Petrino was fired after starting the year 2-8, and was replaced by interim Lorenzo Ward. Then Louisville hired former Appalachian State coach Scott Satterfield in an underrated hire. Satterfield doesn’t have many weapons to work with, but maybe he can figure out how to use quarterback Jawon Pass effectively. Last year Pass threw for almost 2000 yards, but chucked up 12 interceptions compared to just eight touchdowns.
Wake Forest – RB Cade Carney
Carney led Wake Forest’s rushing attack last year with over 1000 yards on the ground. While sophomore quarterback Sam Hartman had a nice freshman season, Carney is the leader of this offense. The senior is a big, physical running back at 215 pounds, even if he may be a little undersized at 5-foot-11.