ACC Football 2015: Predicting the Leaders For Every Major Stat

For the past two seasons, Florida State has represented the ACC on the national stage, starting with their victory over Auburn in the 2014 BCS Championship Game and ultimately ending with a turnover-filled loss to Oregon in the same location this past January.

The Seminoles are now entering a bit of a transitional phase following the loss of Heisman-winning quarterback Jameis Winston and a host of other NFL-caliber players.

The door could be open for a team like Clemson, Georgia Tech, Duke or Louisville to step up and challenge for the ACC crown in 2015.

No matter how the conference race shakes out, though, there should be plenty of excitement around the conference this fall.

Great talent at the quarterback and receiver positions should provide for some big passing numbers. Plus, there are plenty of impact standout playmakers on the defensive side of the ball as well.

Here’s a look at the ACC players who are projected be the top performers in every major statistical category for the 2015 season.

Passing Yards

Projected Leader: Deshaun Watson, Clemson

Projected Stat Total: 3,565 Passing Yards

Watson only played in eight games during his debut campaign, but he still managed to make quite an impact. The former blue-chip recruit averaged 10.7 yards per throw, the highest average of any quarterback in the ACC. He also finished the 2014 season with a 14-2 touchdown-interception ratio and a 188 total passer rating.

With the ACC’s top receiving duo of Mike Williams and Artavis Scott at his disposal, the 6’2”, 205-pound sophomore should be able to light up opposing secondaries once again in 2015.

Projected Top 5 Passing Leaders

1 – Deshaun Watson, Clemson

  1. Jacoby Brissett, NC State
  2. Thomas Sirk, Duke
  3. Brad Kaaya, Miami
  4. Marquise Williams, North Carolina

Rushing Yards

Projected Leader: James Conner, Pittsburgh

Projected Stat Total: 1,550 Rushing Yards

Conner proved he had the stamina, endurance and determination to be the Panthers’ featured work-horse back in 2014. He carried the ball a whopping 298 times, more than any other back in the ACC. He finished the year as the league leader with 1,765 rushing yards and 26 rushing touchdowns.

The massive and powerful 6’2”, 250-pound junior is a true hammer who can carry a heavy workload. He should quickly become a favorite go-to weapon for new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney.

Projected Top 5 Rushing Leaders

1 – James Conner, Pittsburgh

  1. Brandon Radcliff, Louisville
  2. Justin Thomas, Georgia Tech
  3. Shadrach Thornton, NC State
  4. Shaquille Powell, Duke

Receptions

Projected Leader: Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

Projected Stat Total: 88 Receptions

You could easily make the argument that Tyler Boyd is the best overall wide receiver in all of college football, especially considering his production over the past two seasons. In his first two years at Pitt, the 6’2”, 185-pound junior totaled 163 catches for 2,435 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.

Boyd, who has frequently drawn comparisons to former Panther legend Larry Fitzgerald, will be looking to cement his status as one of the premier players in the sport with another highly productive campaign in 2015.

Projected Top 5 Receiving Leaders

1 – Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh

  1. Mike Williams, Clemson
  2. Quinshad Davis, North Carolina
  3. Isaiah Ford, Virginia Tech
  4. Artavis Scott, Clemson

Touchdowns Scored

Projected Leader: James Conner, Pittsburgh

Projected Stat Total: 24 Touchdowns

Pittsburgh Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell has developed into one of the top young offensive weapons in the NFL, totaling 19 touchdowns in his first two seasons. Bell isn’t the only back in the Steel City who has a knack for getting the ball past the goal line, though.

This past season, Pitt RB James Conner was a frequent visitor to the end zone, just like Bell. He led the ACC with 26 touchdowns—a total which ranked fourth overall in the nation.

Projected Top 5 Scoring Leaders

1 – James Conner, Pittsburgh

  1. Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh
  2. Brandon Radcliff, Louisville
  3. Mike Williams, Clemson
  4. Shadrach Thornton, NC State

Total Tackles

Projected Leader: Jeremy Cash, Duke

Projected Stat Total: 128 Tackles

Jeremy Cash is the only returning player in the ACC who has ranked in the top 10 in the league in total tackles in each of the past two seasons. He’s racked up over 100 tackles in each of those two campaigns, which has helped earn him consecutive appearances on the All-ACC team.

The 6’2”, 205-pound senior is a quintessential veteran defensive leader who has incredible instincts and a tremendous radar for the ball. Cash will be the centerpiece of a Duke secondary that should be one of the most improved defensive backfields in college football in 2015.

Projected Top 5 Tackle Leaders

1 – Jeremy Cash, Duke

  1. Paul Davis, Georgia Tech
  2. Terrance Smith, Florida State
  3. Quin Blanding, Virginia
  4. DeVon Edwards, Duke

Tackles For Loss

Projected Leader: Devonte Fields, Louisville

Projected Stat Total: 19 Tackles For Loss

After putting together a dazzling debut campaign as a freshman back in 2012, it appeared that Devonte Fields was well on his way to becoming one of college football’s superstar defenders. However, Fields’ time at TCU proved to be short-lived, as he parted ways with the program the following year.

The former Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year has been given a second chance at Louisville, where he’ll be looking to get himself back on track and rejuvenate a once promising collegiate career. If he plays up to his potential, the explosive edge-rusher, who totaled 10 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss in 2012, should be one of the most menacing defenders in the ACC.

Projected Top 5 TFL Leaders

1 – Devonte Fields, Louisville

  1. Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech
  2. Shaq Lawson, Clemson
  3. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
  4. Ken Ekanem, Virginia Tech

Sacks

Projected Leader: Shaq Lawson, Clemson

Projected Stat Total: 11 Sacks

When Gaines Adams was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft it was the start of Clemson’s run of producing prodigious pro pass-rushing prospects, one which has included defensive ends such as Da’Quan Bowers, Ricky Sapp, Andre Branch, Malliciah Goodman and most recently Vic Beasley.

With Beasley now gone, it looks as if Shaq Lawson is primed to step up and become the program’s next pass-rushing phenom. The 6’3”, 275-pound junior has shown plenty of flashes of his raw ability over the past two seasons, as he’s displayed the type of skills it takes to become an elite edge-rusher.

Projected Top 5 Sack Leaders

1 – Shaq Lawson, Clemson

  1. Devonte Fields, Louisville
  2. Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech
  3. Ken Ekanem, Virginia Tech
  4. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville

Interceptions

Projected Leader: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Projected Stat Total: Seven Interceptions

Florida State’s defensive backfield took a major hit this offseason with the early departures of cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby. Luckily, the Seminoles still have Jalen Ramsey, one of the best defensive backs in the country, who will be a stabilizing force in the secondary.

Whether he’s lining up at cornerback or safety, Ramsey is an active ball-hawk who always finds a way to make an impact. The 6’1”, 204-pound junior only had two interceptions in 2014, but his 12 pass breakups show that he’s got a knack for making plays in coverage.

Projected Top 5 Interception Leaders

1 – Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

  1. Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech
  2. Maurice Canady, Virginia
  3. DeVon Edwards, Duke
  4. DJ White, Georgia Tech

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