The ACC lost plenty of talent to the NFL Draft once again, when it comes to defense. Heading into 2012 though, there is still plenty of defensive play-makers spread throughout the conference top to bottom. Below is a list of several names that will be all over the field on defense. Each of them have the potential, and some already the track record, to make plays and impact games on the defensive side of the ball.
David Amerson North Carolina State CB
Amerson is coming off a very productive, record-setting 2011 campaign. The North Carolina native set the ACC and NC State school record with 13 interceptions. That mark is also tied for second in FBS history. The 2011 season saw Amerson make pretty much every All-American team and also earned him a spot on the 2012 SI Preseason All-American roster as well.
If offenses were smart, heading into 2012, David Amerson will more than likely not see as many balls come his way from a year ago. With that said, the combination of Amerson’s incredible length and athletic ability should allow him to still affect more than enough plays on defense. Last season he showed he has a knack for the ball and producing in big games, both are things we should continue to see in 2012.
Brandon Jenkins Florida State DE
Jenkins is another player named to plenty of 2012 Preseason All-American lists. He is also on the 2012 watch-lists for the Lott Trophy, the Bednarik award, and also the Nagurski award that are all given to the nations top defensive player at seasons end. Jenkins is coming off a very productive 2011 season on a very talented defense with 8 sacks and 29 solo tackles from his defensive end position. It appears the FSU defense has only gotten deeper with talent and experience, which has FSU coaches and Media members alike expecting big things. Look for Brandon Jenkins to have a big part in any success the FSU defense has.
Kyle Fuller Virginia Tech CB
The Virginia Tech defense did lose some talent(CB’s Jayron Hosley and Eddie Whitley) to the 2012 NFL Draft. Yet, overall, the Hokies return 9 starters including a physical, big hitting, play maker in CB Kyle Fuller. Fuller is a preseason All-ACC selection and is a 2012 Nagurski Award watch list member as well. Within the ACC, Fuller may get overlooked because of David Amerson but that shouldn’t be a problem for Fuller who should get plenty of play-making opportunities(perhaps more than Amerson) with such a stout front seven in front of him stopping the run consistently.
Kevin Reddick North Carolina LB
North Carolina has had a plethora of talented linebackers come on campus through the years. Recently, it has been guys like Zach Brown, Quan Sturdivant, Bruce Carter, and now Kevin Reddick. Reddick is on the 2012 Butkus award watch list and has the potential to be one of the nations top linebackers overall. As a new defense is also installed in Chapel Hill, look for Kevin Reddick to not only be the defensive team leader, but more than likely he will also be the defenses leading tackler and play maker. As long as Reddick can stay healthy and on the field, he should improve on every defensive statistic from a year ago, especially the 71 total tackles.
Joe Vellano Maryland DT
After a dismal 2-10 season a year ago, defensive tackle Joe Vellano may have been one of the only positives. Vellano finished 2011 on the All-ACC first team defense after having several dominating performances including a 14 tackle game against Georgia Tech. Yea, 14 solo tackles for a D-tackle. Vellano will anchor a defense for Maryland that returns 8 starters and 10 of their top 13 tacklers from a year ago. Maryland can’t get much worse than a season ago and I look for their defense to be among the top of the ACC if Joe Vellano can continue to be one of the best defensive players in the conference.