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August 6, 2013

NC State's top 50 opponents, Nos. 25-1

Earlier we debuted the first part of our countdown of the top 50 opponents on NC State's 2013 slate and we finish the countdown now with a look at players listed Nos. 25 to the best individual player NCSU will face this fall.

25. Jerome Smith, RB, Syracuse
2012 stats: 227 rushes-1,207 yards, 3 TD; 8 receptions-83 yards
The 5-11, 213-pound redshirt junior exploded for more than 1,200 rushing yards last season. It was a great starting debut for the rusher, now he needs to find the end zone a little bit more this fall.

24. Vintavious Cooper, RB, East Carolina
2012 stats: 200 rushes-1,049 yards, 7 TD; 26 receptions-229 yards, 1 TD; totaled 1,278 all-purpose yards and 8 TD
The former JuCo transfer, who was an option quarterback at his previous school, made a splash in his first year in Greenville, when he surpassed the 1,000-yard mark and earned Conference USA's Newcomer of the Year Award. Cooper was also named second-team all-conference after he accounted for 41 plays that netted at least 10 yards.

23. Zurlon Tipton, RB, Central Michigan
2012 stats: 252 rushes-1,492 yards, 19 TD; 24 receptions-287 yards, 1 TD; Totaled 1,779 all-purpose yards and 20 TD
There aren't many guys on this list that were more productive than the 6-foot, 221-pound Tiption in 2012. He was named second-team All-MAC after he ranked third in the league and 20th nationally with an average of 9.2 points per game. He also ranked 14th in the land with an average of 115.1 rushing yards per contest.

22. Quinshad Davis, WR, North Carolina
2012 stats: 61 receptions-776 yards, 5 TD
The 6-4, 205-pounder emerged as the Heels' go-to guy out wide in 2012 despite being a true freshman. Davis started 10 games, set school receiving records for a true rookie and was named an honorable mention freshman All-America. He is just the second receiver in the FBS since 2000 to catch 16 balls in a single game.

21. James Wilder, RB, Florida State
2012 stats: 110 rushes-635 yards, 11 TD; 19 receptions-136 yards, 2 TD; Totaled 771 all-purpose yards and 13 TD
The son of a former NFL 1,000-yard rusher of the same name, the younger Wilder began to make a name for himself as the Noles' big back at 6-2 and 229 pounds. He was the MVP of the ACC Championship Game despite logging just 10 carriers and ranked third in the league with 11 rushing scores. The FSU ground game average 205.9 yards per game and produced a school record 40 touchdowns last year, and they could be even better this year with the return of four starting linemen, Wilder and backfield mate Devonta Freeman.

20. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State
2012 stats: 57 receptions-741 yards, 6 TD; 20 punt returns-307 yards, 2 TD; Totaled 1,078 all-purpose yards and 9 TD
The junior has paced FSU in receiving for each of the past two seasons and he emerged as one of the finest punt returns in the land in 2012, after he averaged 15.4 yards per return, which ranked third in the nation. Greene scored touchdowns via reception, rush and punt return last year.

19. Tre Jackson, OG, Florida State
2012 honors: Started all 14 games at right guard and recorded second-highest season grade on the team (84.7 percent)
The right guard is one of four returning starters up front for the Seminoles, who had the most productive offense in school history last season. The true junior started every game in 2012 and totaled 22 knockdown blocks, which ranked third on the squad.

18. Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
2012 stats: 200 rushes-1,194 yards, 27 TD; 10 receptions-35 yards, 1 TD; Totaled 1,229 all-purpose yards and 28 TD
The reigning WAC Freshman of the Year racked up several awards in his debut campaign, including Freshman All-America honors and first-team all-conference laurels. In addition to 1,194 yards on the ground, Dixon set an NCAA rookie record with 27 rushing scores and 28 total touchdowns. He'll be the focal point of the Tech offense this season.

17. Timmy Jernigan, DT, FSU
2012 stats: 46 tackles, 8 TFL, 1.5 sack, 1 QBH
Jernigan started just two games last year, but was a vital part of the defensive line rotation and will have to step up big following the Seminoles' losses along the defense's front line. He had a great performance in the ACC Championship game, where he recorded the team's only sack and racked up nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss. Jernigan also totaled one perfect five-point throw on the gridiron last year.

16. Justin Hardy, WR, East Carolina
2012 stats: 88 receptions-1,105 yards, 11 TD; 1,280 all-purpose yards
The inside receiver is an electric playmaker and earned first-team All-Conference USA laurels as a receiver, while being tabbed for the second-team as a punt returner. The junior was just the fourth receiver to surpass the 1,000-yard receiving mark and the former walk-on stands second in school history with 152 receptions for 1,763 yards, which ranks third all-time.

15. Christian Jones, LB, Florida State
2012 stats: 95 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FR (1 for TD)
The FSU defense was stellar last season, and it was Jones who led the unit in tackles a year ago. He's another standout back for his senior year at FSU and he really improved last year. After he totaled just 18 stops in the first six games, he notched 77 over the final nine.

14. Dyshawn Davis, LB, Syracuse
2012 stats: 69 tackles, 14 TFL, 1 sack, 1 INT, 2 PBU, 1 QBH, 2 FR
The two-year starter has totaled 24.5 tackles for loss during his collegiate career and ranked fifth in the Big East last year for the category. The prep wide out is an athletic defender and could thrive at full health this season after he missed the spring following shoulder surgery.

13. Ross Cockrell, CB>, Duke
2012 stats: 71 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 sack, 5 INT, 13 PBU, 1 FF, 1 FR, 2 defensive TDs (1 INT, 1 block kick return)
The six-footer earned honorable mention All-America laurels from Sports Illustrated in 2012 and is a consensus preseason first-team All-ACC selection heading into this year. Cockrell is an excellent athlete who scored on a 75-yard blocked field goal and a 32-yard interception return last fall, while his 18 passes defended tied the second-highest single-season total in school history. Phil Steele named him the No. 11 cornerback in the land this preseason.

12. Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
2012 stats: 40 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 4 sacks, 3 PBU, 8 QBH, 1 FF, 1 FR
The defensive end has started each of the past 25 games and earned second-team All-ACC honors last year. He registered at least one tackle for loss in 10 of the team's 12 contests and will have to play an even bigger role this year on the Heels' defense.

11. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke
2012 stats: 76 receptions-1,074 yards, 8 TD; totaled 1,243 all-purpose yards
Crowder is one of two returning 1,000-yard receivers in the league, but the junior won't have the luxury of Sean Renfree throwing him passes this season. The honorable mention All-ACC candidate from a year ago led his team in all-purpose yardage, yards per reception, receiving yards and touchdown receptions last fall.

10. Bryn Renner, QB, North Carolina
2012 stats: 276-of-422 passing (65.4%) for 3,356 yards, 28 TD, 7 INT, 150.8 rating; 1 rushing TD
Renner has put up some outstanding numbers in Chapel Hill since taking over for T.J. Yates in 2011. He is one of the nation's most efficient quarterback and completed 65.4 percent of his passes last year for a school-record 28 touchdowns against just seven picks. He reportedly shined at the Manning Passing Academy this summer.

9. Brandon Thomas, OT, Clemson
2012 honors: All-ACC first team (media, CBS Sports), second team (coaches, Phil Steele); notched 23 knockdowns in team-high 987 snaps over 13 starts.
The big man was named first-team All-ACC by the league media last year after starting every game at left tackle. Thomas is a versatile performer who has played both guard and tackle, but it seems he has settled in on the blind side.

8. Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest
2012 stats: 79 receptions-763 yards, 6 TD; 16 rushes-82 yards, 1 TD; 1-1 passing for 8 yard TD; totaled 871 all-purpose yards and 8 TD in 10 games played
The ACC's Wes Welker paced the league with an average of 7.9 receptions per game last season and improved in the red zone, totaling six touchdown through the air after he had just two the year before.

7. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
2012 stats: 40 receptions-625 yards, 4 TD
Ebron is the ACC's best at his position without a doubt, and he should continue to improve on the field. He set school receiving records for tight ends in 2012 en route to second-team All-ACC laurels. The athletic 6-4, 245-pounder is a match-up problem. Current NFLers Vernon Davis and Heath Miller are the only ACC tight ends to ever record more receiving yards in a single season, and coach Larry Fedora has said he expects Ebron to catch at least 10 touchdowns this year.

6. Alex Amidon, WR, Boston College
2012 stats: 78 receptions-1,210 yards, 7 TD; 1,265 all-purpose yards with 8 TD scored
The ACC is completely loaded at wide receiver and Amidon is just another of the 12 returning pass catchers who totaled at least 620 yards through the air in 2012. Amidon earned All-ACC first-team honors last year while his totals set school records for receptions and receiving yards.

5. LaMarcus Joyner, CB, Florida State
2012 stats: 51 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 Int., 5 PBU; 18 kickoff returns-424 yards (23.6 avg)
Despite his 5-foot-8 frame, Joyner probably could've jumped to the NFL after the 2012 season. He didn't and he'll anchor the FSU defense while moving to cornerback from safety, where he has started the past two years.

4. James Hurst, OT, North Carolina
2012 honors: All-ACC first team (coaches), All-ACC second team (media); Started 11 games at left tackle for line that allowed just 11 sacks.
Hurst is a popular preseason All-America pick this year and for good reason — the veteran of 36 starts is arguably the ACC's best frontline protector. He will be counted on to anchor a line that is replacing three starters from his left tackle position.

3. Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
2012 stats: 54 receptions-848 yards, 6 TD; 20 rushes-114 yards; 22 punt returns-221 yards; 25 kickoff return-713 yards, 2 TD; 1-2 passing for 8 yard TD; 1,896 all-purpose yards with 8 TD scored; only played in 11 games.
Diggs had a phenomenal true freshman campaign, but the dynamic playmaker could be even better with some quarterback stability as a sophomore. He has tools that can't be coached and does it all — he will even throw for the occasional touchdown when he isn't scoring them on receptions, rushes or returns.

2. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
2012 stats: 57 receptions-708 yards, 3 TD; 14 rushes-97 yards, 1 TD; 1-2 passing for 52 yard TD; 1,073 all-purpose yards with 4 TD scored; only played in 10 games with seven starts.
Watkins' production took a dip last season when he was limited to 10 games and seven starts while Hopkins emerged as one of the nation's top pass catchers. Provided there are no more off-the-field issues, the junior should step back into the spotlight and thrive as the top dog in the Tiger offense.

1. Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
2012 stats: 287-of-427 passing (67.2%) for 3,896 yards, 36 TD, 13 Int. Rating of 165.6. 514 yards, 10 TD rushing
Boyd is the reigning ACC Player of the Year and despite the losses of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back Andre Ellington, the Clemson offense is still loaded with talent. The quarterback is one of three Tigers who plays on offense and made the top 10 on this list.

All-Opponent team


QB: Tajh Boyd, Clemson
RB: Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech
RB: James Wilder, Jr., Florida State
WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson
WR: Stefon Diggs, Maryland
TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina
OL: James Hurst, North Carolina
OL: Brandon Thomas, Clemson
OL: Tre' Jackson, Florida State
OL: Morgan Moses, Virginia
OL: Jake Olson, Central Michigan


DE: Kareem Martin, North Carolina
DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson
DT: Timmy Jernigan, Florida State
DT: Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest
LB: Dyshawn Davis, Syracuse
LB: Christian Jones, Florida State
LB: Derrell Johnson, East Carolina
CB: LaMarcus Joyner, Florida State
CB: Ross Cockrell, Duke
S: Tre' Boston, North Carolina
S: A.J. Marshall, Wake Forest*

* - Marshall was the only selection to the All-Opponent team that did not make the top 50 countdown, he was listed under, 'just missed the cut.'

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