The past few years, Clemson has dominated the conference. They are the consensus pick to be ACC Champion and are one of the two or three most common National Championship predictions. If you don’t like that, you might as well stop reading now because spoiler alert: Clemson is going to rack up.
Clemson: No surprise here. The Tigers return one of the top two quarterbacks in the nation, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, and three of their top four wide receivers from last year. Although they will be replacing their entire starting defensive line, that shouldn’t be too much of a problem, as their entire backup defensive line could step in and be better than 3/4 of college teams’ starting defensive lines. Expect the Tigers to run through the majority of their ACC schedule, with only Syracuse posing a problem. When they get to the ACC Championship game, the ACC Coastal Champion could be any number of teams and as we saw last year, shouldn’t cause too many issues on the Tigers’ romp to the College Football Playoff.
Coach of the Year
Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia: Dabo Swinney could easily go in this slot, but he won last year so it makes sense to choose someone else. Mendenhall has done great things with Virginia in the three years he’s been at the school, taking them from 2-10 in 2016 to 8-5 with a victory in the Belk Bowl in 2018. One thinks that he will continue that climb, especially with all world quarterback Bryce Perkins returning. Expectations are high for the Hoos this year, and if they do win the ACC Coastal for the first time ever and beat VPISU for the first time since 2003, don’t be surprised to see Mendenhall named ACC Coach of the Year.
Offensive Player of the Year and Overall Player of the Year
Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: Along with Clemson and Alabama being the most popular picks to win this year’s National Championship, Trevor Lawrence and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa are the two most popular picks to win the Heisman Trophy. Throughout last season (even before he took the starting job from Kelly Bryant), it was clear Lawrence was one of the best true freshman quarterbacks to ever play the game. Lawrence finished the year with a 65.2% completion percentage, and threw 30 touchdowns to four interceptions. These numbers would’ve been much higher if he had started from day one, which Lawrence is doing this year. Lawrence will be a huge leader on and off of the field for Clemson this year, and will be the key player in the Tigers’ attempt to repeat as National Champions. If the Tigers do win the ACC and the National Championship, I would be shocked if Lawrence’s selection as POY wasn’t unanimous.
Defensive Player of the Year
Shaq Quarterman, LB, Miami: Quarterman loved to terrorize Tech’s triple option each time the Jackets played Miami. In the three games Quarterman has played against Tech, he has recorded 24 total tackles (eight in each game) and has recovered three total fumbles. Quarterman has not just played well against Georgia Tech, recording 82 tackles total in 2018 with a season high of 11 against Duke. Quarterman is shaping up to be a big leader for Miami’s very good defense (it has been ranked in the teens of S&P+ all three years Quarterman has played), and looks to help steady the transition from Mark Richt to Manny Diaz. If Miami’s offense is the same story as last year (pretty bad), then look for Quarterman to keep the Hurricanes in games with his play.
Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year:
Tyler Davis, DT, Clemson: Even though all of Clemson’s defensive line was drafted last year, that doesn’t mean they don’t have great players ready to take over, as I alluded to earlier. One of those players is 4-star Apopka, Florida native Tyler Davis. Davis comes to the Tigers ranked as the number 137 recruit out of high school, and the 12th best defensive tackle. Davis is already receiving rave reviews from practice, and if Clemson continues to do what Clemson does, bet on Davis being a key player in their success.
Offensive Rookie of the Year:
Zonavan Knight, RB, NC State: NC State wasn’t too good at rushing the ball last year. According to Bill C, the Wolfpack were 66th in rushing S&P+ for the 2018 season. That makes the addition of 4-star Zonavan Knight, a North Carolina native, a big move for Dave Doeren and the rest of the coaching staff. Knight was just named to the Preseason Freshman All-American team by 247Sports and in NC State’s Spring Game, the running back totaled 139 yards rushing with a 76-yard touchdown run. The Wolfpack might rely more on the run earlier in the season to help ease the quarterback transition from Ryan Finley, so look for Knight to make an impact and lead their offense, even as a true freshman.
What are your ACC award predictions for the 2019 season?