Last week we listed the five SEC players who’ll be missed the most in 2009. Today let’s look at the ACC list. If you have others, please add them to the list. Here we go:
Everette Brown, DE, Florida State: For several seasons the Seminoles were without the key component to Mickey Andrews’s best defenses: A big-time rusher off the edge. In 2008 Florida State finally had one in Brown and then he decides to pass on his senior year and turn pro. Brown led the ACC and was third nationally in sacks with 13.5. Florida State has only five starters returning on defense and will have two new defensive ends. Andrews could really use Brown this season, especially when the Seminoles go to BYU to face quarterback Max Hall on Sept. 19.
Aaron Kelly, WR, Clemson: Running back James Davis was a great, great player for the Tigers. But the guy Clemson is really going to miss will be Kelly, the ACC’s all-time leader in career receptions with 232. Kelly, from Marietta, was a big target (6-5) and had sneaky speed. And he caught everything that came his way. Jacoby Ford, an NCAA track champion (60 meters), now becomes the go-to guy for new starting quarterback Kyle Parker.
Michael Johnson, DE, Georgia Tech: Johnson was one of three great players on Georgia Tech’s 2008 defensive line that are now gone. But Tech is going to miss this guy because he was a freak of nature in the best possible sense. He was long (6-7) and athletic and at times was just impossible to block. He had nine sacks in 2008 with 17.5 tackles for loss. He was chosen first-team All-America by the American Football Coaches Association. Johnson could be a little inconsistent at times but he could make the big play when Georgia Tech needed it. Now the reins at defensive end will be turned over to Derrick Morgan, who Coach Paul Johnson believes was his most consistent defensive lineman last season.
Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest: Head coach Jim Grobe has never been one to overhype his players. But for a couple of years Grobe tried to tell anybody who would listen that he had something special in Aaron Curry. On NFL Draft day the whole world became convinced as Curry was the No. 4 overall pick by Seattle. Curry, who won the 2008 Butkus Award which goes to the nation’s best linebacker, had 49 career starts for Wake Forest. In his final three seasons the Deacons posted a record of 28-12, the best three-year stretch in school history. Last season he had 105 tackles. Wake Forest lost seven starters on defense. They will miss Curry the most.
Hakeem Nicks, WR, North Carolina: How good was Nicks? Nicks led the ACC in receiving yardage (1,222) and touchdowns (12) in 2008 and decided to pass up his senior season and enter the NFL. After just three seasons Nicks left Chapel Hill as the school’s all-time leader in receptions (181) and yardage (2,840). North Carolina lost its top three receivers from last season. If Nicks were back to give junior QB T.J. Yates a top-flight target, the Tar Heels would be a favorite to win the ACC Coastal.
Victor “Macho” Harris, CB, Virginia Tech: Harris, a first-team All-American, had 40 career starts on defense for the Hokies. He had a total of 15 career interceptions with 11 of those coming in his final two seasons. He was Virginia Tech’s top punt returner (9.3 avg). He even played some offense for the Hokies.
Clint Sintim, LB, Virginia: Sintim started 49 career games for Virginia with 245 total tackles. In 2008 he had 11 quarterback sacks, the fifth-highest season total in school history. In passing situations Virginia would move Sintim from LB to DE and his long wingspan made him very effective.
Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College: Herzlich was the ACC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 and expected to have big senior season. Instead he will sit out 2009 as he battles a rare form of bone cancer. Herzlich intercepted six passes last season, which tied for the lead among linebackers. The reports on Herzlich were positive this summer. He hopes to return to football in 2010 but at this point nothing is certain.
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