ACC Impact Players
By David England
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Counting down the top 20 impacts players in the ACC.
To define an impact player is no small task. Some would consider an impact player a game changer. Others would say it is a natural born leader on the field. Last season was filled with plenty of impact players and as usual the south was the front runner in the race.
As you span the South there are plenty of players you can pinpoint as impact players. In this two part article I will give my top 20 impact players of the ACC. So without further adieu, here we go.
20. Jeremiah Attaochu, LB, Georgia Tech- Attaochu stepped onto the field in 2011 as a somewhat unknown player at Georgia Tech. He started every game in 2011 and was a major impact in almost all games finishing the 2011 campaign with 6 sacks, which placed him tied for 6th on the conference leaderboard. He displayed a high motor and an unyielding passion for the game but his high motor can cause him to over pursue a bit on plays, but this is an aspect of his game that Al Groh and Paul Johnson can live with. Attaochu will be a junior this season and expect his numbers and impact on the field to only increase.
19. T.J. Thorpe, Kick Returner, North Carolina- Talk about an impact player, T.J. Thorpe was everything this term embodies in 2011. The numbers he put up in the kick return game are very impressive, leading the ACC in kick return yardage with over 950 yards. Thorpe was the only player with a touchdown in the conference in the kick return game. He also was second in the conference in average per return with 26.7 yards. Thorpes eye-opening speed and instincts on special teams make him a truly special player.
18. Merrill Noel, CB, Wake Forest- The cornerback position is no easy position on the field, but Merrill Noel makes it look easy when playing on Saturdays. Noel led the ACC with 21 total passes defended (19 PBU's and 2 INT's). The physical corner looks like the second coming of Alphonso Smith for the Demon Deacons. He displays great speed and truly understands the game at a high level.
17. Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech- We all know what the Hokies of Virginia Tech produce in terms of defensive players. The king of defense in the ACC, Bud Foster, has his players in tip-top shape by the start of the football season. Kyle Fuller can be described in one word: physical. He tied for third in the conference with 14.5 tackles for loss last season, Fuller also had 9 passes defended in the 2011 campaign. Fuller expects to be the leader of the secondary in Blacksburg in 2012.
16. Orwin Smith, RB, Georgia Tech- Orwin Smith truly came into his own last season. Having flashes of talent in years past Smith broke onto the scene in 2011 as the primary A-Back for the Yellow Jackets. With over 600 yards rushing and 12 TD's he became lightning to David Sims thunder. Surprising speed and ability to hit the edge separated Orwin Smith from the rest of the Yellow Jackets. With the ability to score on every play Orwin Smith is truly an impact player.
15. Demetrius Hartsfield, LB, Maryland- Terrapin Football has a rich history of talented linebackers, whether it be E.J. Henderson, D'Qwell Jackson, Erin Henderson, or Alex Wujciak. Maryland appears to be having another star leading the middle of the defense and his name is Demetrius Hartsfield. Being the leading returning tackler in 2011 with over 100 tackles, he plays with great I.Q. and a high motor. The only concern with Hartsfield is he is an injury laden player having missed three games in 2011. With that being said, Hartsfield has a chance to shine in 2012 with a very talented defense around him.
14. Perry Jones, RB, Virginia- Mike London, the Head Coach of the Cavaliers, has done a fantastic job of turning UVA Football around. It all starts with players like Perry Jones, a very unselfish, unafraid, and talented running back. Having just over 180 carries in 2011 Jones put up pretty mind boggling numbers, with over 900 yards rushing, 5 TD's, 5.0 yards per carry, and 70.4 yards per game. Jones earned the respect of his peers and coaches by his play on the field. Nicknamed "Superman" Jones, he has unreal strength for his size and surprising agility. He had a run of 38 yards on his first carry in 2011 which was the longest run since '09 for the Cavs. Expect big things for Perry Jones in 2012.
13. Ray-Ray Armstrong, Safety, Miami- Miami is known for two things, producing NFL quality players and having big egos. Ray-Ray is no different from the Miami mold that we have seen over the years. He comes in at 13 on my list for one simple reason: his upside. The ceiling on this kid is as high as they come. With phenomenal instincts, strength, and power he will be a blast to watch on Saturdays. He has the ability to make plays unseen to South Beach since Ed Reed. Football is his passion and his pride is leaving a mark on the other team.
12. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State- Greene only played in 9 games of the 2011 campaign. Some may question my ranking him so high, but with his playmaking ability I view Greene as a solid impact player. He finished last season with just under 600 yards receiving, 7 TD's, and 66 yards per game, accomplishing all this with only 38 receptions. The most amazing thing about Mr. Greene is that he will be a sophomore in 2012. With unbiased talent and a bright future, I expect Greene to truly be an impact player in 2012.
11. Conner Vernon, WR, Duke- This is the final player on the first part of my list. Vernon comes in at #11 with a chance to break the reception record for the ACC (34 catches away). Vernon had 70 receptions for 956 yards and 6 TD's in 2012. His talented and smart quarterback Sean Renfree has found his number one target in Vernon. As with all Duke players Conner Vernon is very smart with big playmaking ability. He is not the most physically gifted but has phenomenal hands and knows how to use his size. Vernon should easily break the ACC record this upcoming season barring any unforeseen injuries. If numbers do not lie then Vernon is a top receiver in the nation, not just the ACC.
As we have seen from just 20-11 on the list the ACC has premier talent on both sides of the field. I will reveal numbers 10-1 in part two.