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OAYP: ACC Midseason Top Players & Breakout Stars

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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Jim Johnson's OAYP advanced metric highlights the special players over its 4.0 mark and the 2019 midseason breakout stars in the ACC.

Now midway through the 2019 regular season, a few names are starting to rise above the rest, in the eyes of my OAYP advanced metric.

We also have some breakout stars that, though we didn’t know much about them before the season, have emerged among the ranks of the elite.

I wanted to highlight both groups of players, so, first, let’s highlight the ‘special ones’. These are players with a marginal OAYP score greater than 4.0. Right now, just 15 players in Southern Pigskin’s entire FBS coverage area -- the ACC, SEC, and Sun Belt -- meet that threshold. The ACC has three of them.

Then, we’ll look at the breakout stars: players that didn’t have a preseason projection, either because they’re freshmen or because they didn’t play enough earlier in their career to have a qualifying sample size, but are currently at or above a 2.0 marginal OAYP score. Coincidentally, there are also 15 examples of these players in our coverage area. The ACC has six of those.

THE SPECIAL ONES

WR Tee Higgins, Clemson
Marginal OAYP: 5.38

Perhaps the best jump ball artist in the game right now, Higgins has reeled in two-thirds of his contested catches, so far in 2019. He plays even bigger than his listed 6’4, and if that ridiculous length wasn’t enough already, he can also outjump just about any cornerback that tries to defend him… tries being the operative word. He’s been a walking highlight reel, but 2019 has seen his consistency start to match his ceiling. His 4.58 yards per route run ranks second in the nation among receivers with at least 100 routes run, according to Pro Football Focus.

WR Tamorrion Terry, FSU
Marginal OAYP: 4.47

Terry’s not as well rounded or sure handed as Higgins, but they do share a lot of the same downfield traits. One of the premier deep threats in the country, as well, he rarely shies away from contact at the catch point and wins an awful lot of those 50/50 balls, usually seeming to just want it more. There are plenty of reliable high volume targets across college football, but that makes them inherently less valuable. Terry and Higgins are scored where they are because of the things you can’t teach.

DL Larrell Murchison, NC State
Marginal OAYP: 4.42

Not many guys bring it on every snap like Murchison does. He’s not the biggest or strongest interior defender in the world, but he’s athletic and light on his feet, which allows him to penetrate opposing backfields with the best of them. In his last three outings, he’s averaging two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss per game. For the season, his seven sacks lead the entire ACC and rank in the national top five.

Just Missed (marginal OAYP > 3.5): Victor Dimukeje, Duke; Isaiah Simmons, Clemson; Tremayne Anchrum, Clemson; Brevin Jordan, Miami; Patrick Jones, Pitt

BREAKOUT STARS

S Paris Ford, Pitt
Marginal OAYP: 3.1

Ford redshirted in 2017 and was used only sparingly and on special teams in 2018. So far in 2019, he’s been the best safety in ACC. His ranking is largely on the legs of an elite, two interception performance in the week six win over Duke, but he’s been steadily in the upper echelon in almost every game this season. His six total passes defended are the most among ACC safeties.

TE Hunter Long, BC
Marginal OAYP: 3.03

OT Tyler Vrabel, BC
Marginal OAYP: 2.39

Hunter Long had big shoes to fill after replacing Tommy Sweeney, but, so far, he’s arguably been even better than his predecessor. His 18.5 yards per reception are sixth in the ACC among all pass catchers, and tops among tight ends. Meanwhile, Tyler Vrabel, son of Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel, has stepped right in and anchored and offensive line that ranks #1 in the FBS in allowed sack rate.

EDGE Gregory Rousseau, Miami
Marginal OAYP: 2.57

Rousseau didn’t earn his first start until last week, against Virginia. Yet, prior to that, even in a rotational role he entered that game averaging more than a tackle for loss per game. He then rewarded Manny Diaz’s confidence with two tackles for loss and a sack against the Cavs. He now sits in the top four in the league in sacks and TFL’s, and that production should only increase as he continues to receive more playing time.

CB Jermaine Waller, VT
Marginal OAYP: 2.45

CB Chamarri Conner, VT
Marginal OAYP: 2.41

Waller is here mostly due to a two interception game at Miami, but he’ll need to be more consistent in order to stay this high. Conner, on the other hand, mostly playing from the slot, has been a multi-faceted playmaker for the Hokies’ defense. With five tackles for loss, four sacks, five QB hurries, a forced fumble, and six pass breakups, all spread pretty evenly between his appearances, Conner’s score feels much more sustainable.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW OAYP’S WEEK 7 ACC ROUNDUP, featuring overall team, offense and defense rankings, week eight picks against the spread, the formula’s ranking of the top five players at every position, and the Team of the Week.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP