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NC State Football

DISCUSS: A Look At Our Preseason All-ACC Ballot

July 26, 2021

We submitted our official preseason All-ACC ballot at the ACC Football Kickoff, and here is a list of which players we selected and why.

Preseason ACC Player Of The Year

QB D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson – A lot of times this player comes out of nowhere, and I'm not sure if Uiagalelei fits that profile or not given he’s the starting quarterback at Clemson. However, look for him to be the best player in the ACC this year.

What he did in two ACC games as a starter, I'm not sure any quarterback in league history has had a two-game start to their careers like he had. Uiagalelei led Clemson to an 18-point comeback win over Boston College in his first start and then went on the road and threw for 439 yards at Notre Dame.

If healthy, he's going to be a superstar.

Preseason All-ACC Offense

Position Player Team
Quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei Clemson
Running Back Zonovan Knight NC State
Running Back Christian Beal-Smith Wake Forest
Wide Receiver Jaquarii Roberson Wake Forest
Wide Receiver Emeka Emezie NC State
Wide Receiver Zay Flowers Boston College
Tight End James Mitchell Virginia Tech
All-Purpose Back Jahmyr Gibbs Georgia Tech
Offensive Tackle Ikem Ekwonu NC State
Offensive Tackle Tyler Vrabel Boston College
Offensive Guard Zion Johnson Boston College
Offensive Guard Joshua Ezeudu North Carolina
Center Grant Gibson NC State
Kicker Nick Sciba Wake Forest
Specialist Jahmyr Gibbs Georgia Tech


Quarterback: See D.J. Uiagalelei info above.  Sam Howell was under consideration but we like Uiagalelei’s upside.

Running Back: Zonovan Knight is poised to have a breakout season and is one of the top returning rushers in the country per PFF's advanced metrics.  The Christian Beal-Smith pick is about opportunity. WIth Kenneth Walker no longer on he team, Beal-Smith should thrive as the feature back for the Deacs. 

Full disclosure, Jamhyr Gibbs was picked over Beal-Smith before realizing he was an option at All-Purpose Back.

All-Purpose Back: Like with Uiagalelei, this was a bet on a young player breaking out.  Gibbs is really, really good.

Wide Receiver: This was the hardest position to pick, with as many as eight or nine legit options.  Jaquarii Roberson is a returning All-ACC pick and will be funneled targets in Wake's system. The same can be said for Zay Flowers, one of the league’s most exciting players.  Emeka Emezie was as efficient as any wideout in the league last year, and a full season with Devin Leary could lead to a huge, huge year.

Tight End: It came down to James Mitchell and Will Mallory for us, and we felt Mitchell has a little more upside.

Offensive Line: Ikem Ekwonu is the league’s top returning tackle, and his 92.1 PFF run-block grade as an underclassman was the fourth-best mark among FBS tackles. Grant Gibson has the best returning grade among PFF ACC OL.  Zion Johnson was an All-ACC pick last year and Josh Ezeudu and Tyler Vrabel have impressed us on tape.

Kicker: Nick Sciba barely edged Chris Dunn. Both are great options... the league is loaded at kicker.

Preseason All-ACC Defense

Position Player Team
Defensive End Myles Murphy Clemson
Defensive End Amare Barno Virginia Tech
Defensive Tackle Bryan Bresee Clemson
Defensive Tackle Calijah Kancey Pittsburgh
Linebacker Payton Wilson NC State
Linebacker Nick Jackson Virginia
Linebacker SirVocea Dennis Pittsburgh
Cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. Clemson
Cornerback Jermaine Waller Virginia Tech
Safety Bubba Bolden Miami
Safety Tanner Ingle NC State
Punter Lou Hedley Miami


Defensive Line: Clemson’s Myles Murphy and Bryan Bresee are stars, and Amare Barno was an All-ACC pick in 2020.  

Per PFF, only three Power Five interior defensive linemen ranked inside the top 10 in both run-defense and pass-rush grades in 2020. Two are in the NFL, and the other is Pittsburgh's Calijah Kancey.

Linebacker: Payton Wilson is a star and might be the ACC's best player. Nick Jackson was right there with Wilson and pops on tape. SirVocea Dennis is a versatile linebacker who really excels in coverage.

Cornerback: Two of my favorite players to watch, Andrew Booth and Jermaine Waller, are explosive corners who really excel in coverage.

Safety: Bubba Bolden is a playmaker for Miami and the same can be said for Tanner Ingle. NC State was undefeated with Ingle on the field, and he had some of the best rush and pressure grades at PFF for ACC safeties.

Punter: Another strong position in the league, and Lou Hedley is terrific. he averaged over two yards more per punt last season than the next-highest punter.

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