Atlantic Rushing: Dalvin Cook, Sophomore, Florida State (1,008 yards)
Equipped with the perfect blend of speed, power and balance, Dalvin Cook burst on to the scene during his freshman season at Florida State. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound former five-star recruit averaged 5.9 yards per carry to rack up an ACC-fifth-best 1,008 rushing yards, while reaching the end zone eight times in 13 games.
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Coastal Rushing: James Conner, Junior, Pitt (1,765 yards)
James Conner was one of college football’s most dominant forces in 2014, as the 250-pounder rumbled for 1,765 yards and earned an ACC Player of the Year recognition. The workhorse carried nearly 300 times for the Panthers last season, taking 26 of them in for touchdowns. Pitt is under new leadership, but Conner still projects to be the team’s driving force in 2015.
Ray Carlin-USA TODAY SportsRaymond Carlin III
Atlantic Passing: Jacoby Brissett, Senior, N.C. State (2,606 yards)
It’s been a long road for Jacoby Brissett, who was forced to sit out the 2013 season after deciding to transfer from Florida to N.C. State, but the results were well worth the athletic passer's wait. Brissett's breakout game came in a loss to then-No. 1 Florida State, when he threw for 359 yards and three touchdowns. He tossed 23 touchdowns last season, in addition to passing for the ACC's sixth-highest yardage total.
Brad Kaaya was a true-freshman phenomenon last season. Among ACC competition, only Florida State’s Jameis Winston eclipsed Kaaya’s 3,198 yards in 2014. The Miami passer played a pretty clean game, too, completing just under 60 percent of his attempts while throwing 26 touchdowns compared to just 12 interceptions. Kaaya is one of the conference’s rising stars.
Getty ImagesJoel Auerbach
Atlantic Receiving: Mike Williams, Junior, Clemson (1,030 yards)
The ACC is loaded with talented athletes, but few are as gifted as Clemson’s Mike Williams. As a sophomore, the 6-3, 205-pound deep threat finished fourth in the conference with 1,030 receiving yards. Williams averaged 18.1 yards per catch (also fourth in the ACC) The speedster finished the year strong with a season-high nine receptions for 112 yards and a score during the Tigers 40-6 win over Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Pitt is lucky enough to return the conference’s top rusher and top receiver for the 2015 season. Tyler Boyd may not see the touches RB James Conner enjoys, but he’s every bit as electrifying when the ball is in his hands. Last year, the 6-foot-2-inch pass-catcher hauled in 78 passes for 1,261 yards, recording eight touchdowns and a long catch of 53 yards.
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Atlantic Tackles: Ryan Janvion, Junior, Wake Forest (118)
There weren’t many bright spots for Wake Forest in 2014, but the play of sophomore strong safety Ryan Janvion was one of them. The 5-11, 190-pound ball-hawk tallied 9.6 stops per game to rank fourth in the ACC in tackles with 115. Janvion recorded 10 tackles or more in half of the games he played, including a season-high 18 during a loss to Utah State.
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Coastal Tackles: DeVon Edwards, Junior, Duke (105)
Few defenders around the ACC were as productive as Duke’s DeVon Edwards in 2014, as the safety compiled a ridiculous 133 tackles. He complemented that impressive tackle total with 4.5 sacks and an interception, too. To top it off, Edwards is also a superb kick returner. He averaged 25.7 yards per return last season, taking one back for a touchdown against Pitt.
Weighing in at 6-2, 305 pounds, Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins is a massive man who was a big force up front for the Cards last season. Rankins racked up a team-high eight sacks, which ranked fifth in the ACC. Rankins also tallied 12.5 tackles for a loss to earn All-ACC third-team honors.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY SportsMark Konezny
Coastal Sacks: Ken Ekanem, Junior, Virginia Tech (9.5)
Virginia Tech always fields a ferocious defense, and last year’s unit was fueled by a pair of productive pass-rushers. Ken Ekanem’s 9.5 sacks barely edged out Dadi Nicolas’ 9.0. This duo will continue to terrorize ACC quarterbacks, as both Ekanem and Nicolas are set to return to the Hokies defense for the 2015 season. Opposing passers be wary.
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Atlantic Interceptions: Josh Jones, Sophomore, N.C. State (4)
Josh Jones turned in a redshirt-freshman year to remember, as the Wolfpack’s strong safety picked off four passes to tie for second in the ACC. Perhaps no interception was more important than the one he made against Syracuse to seal a 24-17 victory. Jones also wasn’t afraid to get up in the box, as he finished fifth on the team in tackles.
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY SportsMark Konezny
Coastal Interceptions: tie-D.J. White and Jamal Golden, Georgia Tech (4)
The Yellow Jackets thrived on creating takeaways last season. Defensive backs D.J. White and Jamal Golden each snagged four interceptions, and both players returned one pick for a touchdown. In a game where Georgia Tech's defense completely dominated Clemson, White and Golden lifted the Jackets to a 28-6 victory by intercepting one pass each.