N.C. State's David Amerson is the best defensive player in the ACC and maybe the nation.
By ANDREW JONESFS Carolinas
Some players rack up numbers because of the systems they play in. Others with a nose for the football always seem to be in the right place at the right time.
David Amerson belongs in both categories. Not only is he a stat-sheet stuffer, he's just plain good.
Amerson is the best defensive player in the ACC, and maybe the nation.
With respect to Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones, Florida State defensive end Brandon Jenkins, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo, LSU cornerback Tyrann Mathieu, and South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, here's a vote for Amerson.
The junior from Greensboro, N.C., is a 6-foot-3 cover cornerback with the hands of an all-conference receiver. Evidence: Amerson intercepted 13 passes last season, six more than any other player in the nation. He had 11 in the regular season and two in the Wolfpack's Belk Bowl victory over Louisville.
He finished just one behind the all-time single season mark of 14, and grabbed the most picks by any player since 1968. For his efforts, Amerson won the Jack Tatum Award, which goes to the top defensive back in the nation. He was a finalist for the Thorpe Award, another honor given to the nation's top defensive back.
There's no shortage of praise around the ACC when it comes to Amerson.
"Most corners don't have the size that he has, but he absolutely can lock a guy down and has the great ball skills to go with it," said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. "You don't often see that with DBs. A lot of times guys will get their hands on balls and they knock them down and that kind of thing, and might have a lot of pass break-ups. But with him, he's got excellent hands."
Amerson returned one of his picks for a touchdown in a crucial victory at Virginia. The play ended with him doing a 360-degree flip into the end zone, a highlight aired around the nation for some time. His 65-yard pick and score against Louisville was an even more popular highlight and was one of the most impressive plays of the bowl season.
But it's not just in games where he makes the Wolfpack better. He and NCSU's secondary help refine the skills of the Wolfpack's future NFL quarterback. It's a battle they speak of often, and is quite an intriguing storyline underneath the belly of the season.
"You can make what you think is the perfect pass and he will find a way to get a hand on it or sometimes he may even grab it," senior signal caller Mike Glennon said. "He's so good there's no way to not get better going up against him."
Putting forth another sensational campaign and leading the ACC's top secondary is a welcoming proposition for Amerson. Intercepting 13 passes again would seem unlikely, but that doesn't mean he can't improve.
"I want to have a better season because it will mean personal improvement," said Amerson, who was fifth on the Wolfpack last fall with 59 tackles. "But also because it will help us win more games."
It will also secure his draft stock, which is already excellent.
Looking at nine different mock NFL drafts for 2013, Amerson's average draft spot is 6.4. The lowest projected spot has him going 10th while one reputable service has him at No. 3. Eighth, seventh four times and fifth twice fill out the other draft numbers for Amerson.
Amerson knows his time in the NFL will come. He started nine games at the boundary corner position as a true freshman in 2010 and took his lumps at times. In 640 snaps, he didn't intercept a single pass.
But Amerson worked extremely hard and made tremendous strides. If he approaches the same level of improvement between his sophomore and junior campaigns go ahead and etch his name onto every award he's eligible for, except maybe the Heisman, and give N.C. State a chance to have a great season.