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July 22, 2013
Every year, the ACC media assembles at the league's kickoff event and predicts the eventual champion and All-ACC teams. Below is staff writer Ryan Tice's preseason ballot for the offense.
QB: Tajh Boyd, Clemson
Probably the easiest decision on the board. He's my pick for Preseason ACC Player of the Year and how can he not be? Last year, Boyd threw for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns against just 13 picks; he also rushed for ten scores. He was also one of the most efficient passers in the land with a 165.6 rating and averaged 339.2 yards of total offense per contest. Boyd does lose a few weapons, but he still has Sammy Watkins and the powerful Clemson offense, which averaged 46.5 points and 542.5 yards per game last season, is what makes the Tigers tick. Boyd was also my preseason ACC Player of the Year pick.
RB: Duke Johnson, Miami
Johnson was a highly touted recruit when he pledged to his hometown school and the true freshman did not disappoint. He ran for 947 yards and ten scores while breaking Clinton Portis' rookie rushing record, but that wasn't all. Johnson finished with 2,060 all-purpose yards (average of 171.7 all-purpose yards per game) and 13 total scores in 2012; he could be even better this fall operating behind an experienced offensive line with quarterback Stephen Morris ready for year two as the starter.
RB: Jerome Smith, Syracuse
Smith might not be a familiar name to the ACC, but it shouldn't take long after the new import totaled 1,171 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in 2012. With Syracuse turning to a new quarterback, expect Smith to play an even bigger role in the offense this season. The senior also has the luxury of a capable back-up in classmate Prince-Tyson Gulley, a for sure All-Name selection who ran for 830 yards and nine scores last season.
WR: Stefon Diggs, Maryland
Wide receiver is perhaps the most loaded position group in the league. The league returns 11 receivers who totaled at least 620 yards through the air last season, and the number increases to 12 if you count UNC tight end Eric Ebron. It is interesting that neither returning 1,000-yard receiver (Boston College's Alex Amidon and Duke's Jamison Crowder) makes my team, but that is no slight to either. Diggs is a dynamic talent and could be even better in 2013 with some stability at quarterback; he hauled in 54 catches for 848 yards and six scores, while he added more than 900 additional yards on returns.
WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson
I really wanted to go off the beaten path and pick Amidon here, but I just couldn't pull the trigger. Somebody has to catch all those passes for Clemson and Watkins should return to freshman year form following the departure of DeAndre Hopkins to the NFL. He still put up solid numbers last year (57 catches for 708 yards and three touchdowns), but he'll be the unquestioned No. 1 option this season and is one of the nation's best out wide.
TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina
Another easy decision. No other tight end in the league can match Ebron's production last year, after he hauled in 40 passes for 625 yards and four scores. Ebron should continue to thrive in the Carolina offense and is a match-up problem for any team in the ACC. The junior was a second-team All-ACC pick last season and set the school's tight end receiving record.
OL: James Hurst, North Carolina
The returning All-ACC tackle is going to have to step up big for the Tar Heels. The line was great last year when they allowed just 11 sacks, but a rebuild is needed following the departure of All-American guard Jonathan Cooper, as well as right tackle Brennan Williams and right guard Travis Bond. Hurst is a veteran of 34 starts.
OL: Morgan Moses, Virginia
The behemoth right tackle has been a starter since his freshman year in Charlottesville and will lead the way for a veteran group that returns four starters. The 6-6, 335-pounder is the most experienced up front with 31 starts under his belt and he was named All-ACC honorable mention by the coaches last season.
OL: Brandon Linder, Miami
The senior right guard may not have the name recognition of teammate Seantrel Henderson, but he is the Hurricanes' best protector up front. Linder is one of five returning starters on the offensive line for Miami and coach Al Golden, and the veteran of 31 starts earned All-ACC honorable mention from both the media and league coaches in 2012.
OL: Tre' Jackson, Florida State
Jackson is another interior guy, but he's a good one. The junior was a first-time starter last year, but impressed in his 14 appearances. The FSU offense will likely rely more on the ground attack following the graduation of EJ Manuel with four returning starters back on the offensive line.
OL: Brandon Thomas, Clemson
The tackle was a first-team All-ACC pick a year ago and will lead the way for an explosive offense once again. The senior opened every game last season - his first as a starter. The left tackle will anchor a line that returns four starters while he tries to repeat his all-conference honor.
K: Chandler Catanzaro
It's no surprise that the kicker on the league's most powerful offense would nab this slot. He was 18-of-19 last season with a long of 50 yards and barely beats out Duke's Ross Martin, who was not quite as efficient.
Check back later for Tice's defensive ballot.
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