Rivals.com College Football Staff Writer
The changing face of the Atlantic Coast Conference is evident from a look at the Rivals.com all-conference teams. Wake Forest has as many players on the team – seven – as the combined total of Miami and Florida State representatives. Boston College has an ACC-leading five first-team selections, while Clemson paces the field with nine overall picks.
ACC offensive player of the year Matt Ryan leads a contingent of four Boston College players on the first-team offense. Ryan threw for 3,953 yards and 28 touchdowns while leading the Eagles to the Atlantic Division championship.
Virginia defensive end Chris Long was our league defensive player of the year. Long ranks third in the nation with 13.5 sacks and also has a conference-leading 18.5 tackles for loss.
Virginia's Al Groh is our ACC coach of the year. Groh has led Virginia to a 9-3 record that included a 5-0 mark in games decided by two or fewer points. That's an NCAA record for number of games decided by such slim margins.
Rivals.com 2007 All-ACC First Team
QB Matt Ryan, Boston College, Sr., 6-5/220 HIGH SCHOOL: Philadelphia William Penn Charter BUZZ: Ryan has completed more passes than any player in school history – including 1984 Heisman winner Doug Flutie. Ryan has thrown for 3,953 yards and 28 TDs this season. He led comebacks against Virginia Tech and Clemson to help B.C. win the Atlantic Division.
RB Andre Callender, Boston College, Sr., 5-11/199 HIGH SCHOOL: West Orange (N.J.) Seton Hall Prep BUZZ: Callender works out of the backfield and still has a team-high 59 catches to go along with 613 receiving yards and four TDs, including the game-winning catch against Virginia Tech. He has rushed for 905 yards and nine scores while averaging 4.7 yards per carry.
RB Tashard Choice, Georgia Tech, Sr., 6-1/205 HIGH SCHOOL: Lovejoy (Ga.) High BUZZ: Choice leads the ACC with 1,310 rushing yards despite missing all or part of three games. He rushed for more than 130 yards against Notre Dame (196), Clemson (145), Maryland (135), Miami (204), Duke (170), North Carolina (142) and Georgia (134).
WR Aaron Kelly, Clemson, Jr., 6-5/190 HIGH SCHOOL: Marietta (Ga.) Walton BUZZ: Kelly has caught 84 passes for 1,045 yards and 11 TDs. He leads the ACC in the latter two categories and has set a single-season school record for TD catches. Kelly has caught at least five passes in 10 consecutive games and scored two touchdowns in a game three times.
WR Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina, Soph., 6-1/215 HIGH SCHOOL: Charlotte (N.C.) Independence BUZZ: Nicks ranks second in the ACC with 79.8 receiving yards per game. He finished the season with 74 catches for 958 yards and five touchdowns. Nicks caught 43 passes over his last six games.
TE Ryan Purvis, Boston College, Jr., 6-4/258 HIGH SCHOOL: Lancaster (Pa.) Catholic BUZZ: Purvis has caught 50 passes for 521 yards and five touchdowns to lead ACC tight ends in all three categories. He has caught at least two passes in each Eagles game this season and had 10 catches for 102 yards and two touchdowns against Maryland.
OT Gosder Cherilus, Boston College, Sr., 6-7/319 HIGH SCHOOL: Somerville (Mass.) High BUZZ: Cherilus appears likely to continue Boston College's pipeline of offensive linemen to the NFL. The veteran leader of the Eagles' line moved from right tackle to left tackle this season and extended his string of consecutive starts to 49 games.
OT Barry Richardson, Clemson, Sr., 6-7/330 HIGH SCHOOL: Mt. Pleasant (S.C.) Wando BUZZ: This four-year starter has rebounded from a slow start to live up to his reputation as a potential first-round pick. He was ACC offensive lineman of the week in back-to-back weeks. Richardson is the seventh Clemson offensive lineman to participate in 2,500 career plays.
OG Branden Albert, Virginia, Jr., 6-7/315 HIGH SCHOOL: Glen Burnie (Md.) High BUZZ: Albert has emerged as the top performer on an offensive line that returned all five starters from last season. He has started each of the past three seasons. Albert was versatile enough this season to fill in for two games at left tackle.
OG Chris McDuffie, Clemson, Sr., 6-5/330 HIGH SCHOOL: Danville (Va.) George Washington BUZZ: McDuffie has fought through knee, ankle and elbow injuries this season to emerge as Clemson's steadiest performer on the line. McDuffie has helped the Tigers lead the ACC with 35.2 points per game.
C Steve Justice, Wake Forest, Sr., 6-4/284 HIGH SCHOOL: New Smyrna Beach (Fla.) High BUZZ: Justice earned the Jacobs Blocking Trophy awarded by ACC coaches each year to the league's top blocker. In his third season as Wake Forest's starting center, Justice leads the team in knockdown blocks and has graded out at 92 percent.
DE Chris Ellis, Virginia Tech, Sr., 6-5/267 HIGH SCHOOL: Hampton (Va.) Bethel BUZZ: Ellis has recorded 48 tackles, 8.5 sacks and 22 quarterback hurries this season while delivering at least half a sack in all but three of the Hokies' games. Ellis had a combined 13 quarterback hurries against Boston College and Florida State.
DE Chris Long, Virginia, Sr., 6-4/284 HIGH SCHOOL: Charlottesville (Va.) St. Anne's-Belfield BUZZ: This future first-round pick has recorded 13.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss to lead the ACC in both categories. He ranks third in the nation in sacks per game. Long is a finalist for the Lombardi Award that goes to the nation's top lineman.
DT Kentwan Balmer, North Carolina, Sr., 6-5/295 HIGH SCHOOL: Weldon (N.C.) High BUZZ: Balmer collected 59 overall tackles, which represents an unusually high number for a defensive tackle. He also recorded 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks while developing into a probable first-day draft pick.
DT Vance Walker, Georgia Tech, Jr., 6-2/275 HIGH SCHOOL: Fort Mill (S.C.) High BUZZ: Walker has made the most of his first year as a starter by collecting 14 tackles for loss and a team-high 8.5 sacks. He has made at least one tackle behind the line of scrimmage in 10 of Tech's 12 games. Walker also has forced three fumbles.
LB Xavier Adibi, Virginia Tech, Sr., 6-2/236 HIGH SCHOOL: Hampton (Va.) Phoebus BUZZ: Adibi has 99 tackles – 11.5 for loss – and helped Virginia Tech withstand an injury to preseason All-America candidate Vince Hall that knocked him out for four games. Adibi has made 38 consecutive starts.
LB Geno Hayes, Florida State, Jr., 6-2/218 HIGH SCHOOL: Madison County (Fla.) High BUZZ: Hayes has a knack for making the big play; 17.5 of his 72 tackles came behind the line of scrimmage. He ranks second in the ACC in tackles for loss per game. Hayes delivered a game-clinching 38-yard interception return for a TD against Boston College.
LB Erin Henderson, Maryland, Jr., 6-2/236 HIGH SCHOOL: Aberdeen (Md.) High BUZZ: Henderson has overcome a variety of nagging injuries to deliver his second consecutive 100-tackle season. Henderson has 122 tackles to lead the ACC and rank eighth in the nation in tackles per game.
CB Brandon Flowers, Virginia Tech, Jr., 5-10/200 HIGH SCHOOL: Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic BUZZ: Flowers has picked off four passes in his past five games and has five interceptions overall. He also has collected 72 tackles – seven for loss – while teaming up with Victor Harris to give the Hokies one of the nation's top cornerback tandems.
CB Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest, Jr., 5-9/191 HIGH SCHOOL: Pahokee (Fla.) High BUZZ: Smith has set a school record with eight interceptions, which leads the ACC and ranks second in the nation. He returned interceptions for touchdowns against Boston College, Maryland and Duke.
SS Kenny Phillips, Miami, Jr., 6-2/210 HIGH SCHOOL: Miami Carol City BUZZ: This three-year starter collected 82 tackles this season and solidified his reputation as a big-play threat by forcing three fumbles and picking off two passes. He also broke up five passes and had six tackles for loss. We're putting Phillips at strong safety on our team.
FS Jamie Silva, Boston College, Sr., 5-11/210 HIGH SCHOOL: East Providence (R.I.) High BUZZ: This playmaking defensive back has a team-high 110 tackles – including 18 against Florida State – to lead all ACC defensive backs. Silva also has five INTs. He recorded three interceptions against North Carolina State and two more against Bowling Green.
K Connor Barth, North Carolina, Sr., 6-1/190 HIGH SCHOOL: Wilmington (N.C.) Hoggard BUZZ: Barth went 19 of 22 on field-goal attempts and was 18 of 18 inside 49 yards. His three misses came from 49, 52 and 63 yards away. Barth made four field goals against Miami, including a season-long 51-yarder. He also made four field goals against Georgia Tech.
P Durant Brooks, Georgia Tech, Sr., 6-0/202 HIGH SCHOOL: Macon (Ga.) Tatnall Square Academy BUZZ: This Ray Guy Award finalist has the highest career punting average (45.6) in Georgia Tech and ACC history. Thirty of his 61 punts this year have landed inside the opponent's 20. Brooks is averaging 45.5 yards per punt this season.
KR Kevin Marion, Wake Forest, Sr., 5-10/168 HIGH SCHOOL: St. Petersburg (Fla.) Dixie Hollins BUZZ: Marion leads the ACC and ranks fourth in the nation with an average of 31.3 yards per kickoff return. Marion has four kickoff returns of at least 80 yards this season, including a 98-yard touchdown against North Carolina.
PR Eddie Royal, Virginia Tech, Sr., 5-10/180 HIGH SCHOOL: Herndon (Va.) Westfield BUZZ: Royal, the league's career leader in punt-return yardage, leads the ACC and ranks ninth in the nation with an average of 15.1 yards per return. Royal scored on punt returns against William & Mary and Clemson.
ALL-PURPOSE Kenneth Moore, Wake Forest, Sr., 6-0/204 HIGH SCHOOL: Charlotte (N.C.) Butler BUZZ: Moore has a league-high 87 catches for 899 yards and five touchdowns. He also has rushed for 318 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries. Moore ranks third in the ACC in punt returns with an average of 11 yards and returned a kick for a TD.
Rivals.com 2007 All-ACC Second Team
QB Cullen Harper, Clemson, Jr., 6-4/220 HIGH SCHOOL: Canton (Ga.) Sequoyah BUZZ: Harper is on pace to become the first ACC quarterback to lead the nation in passing efficiency since Mike Eppley in 1983. Harper also leads the ACC with 27 touchdown passes while throwing just six interceptions in his first season as the starter.
RB Josh Adams, Wake Forest, Fr. (RS), 6-0/180 HIGH SCHOOL: Cary (N.C.) High BUZZ: Adams has made an impact by rushing for 887 yards and 10 touchdowns on 200 carries. He rushed for more than 100 yards against Florida State, Navy and Vanderbilt.
RB James Davis, Clemson, Jr., 5-11/210 HIGH SCHOOL: Atlanta Douglass BUZZ: Davis ranks second in the conference with 82.7 rushing yards per game. Davis has run for 992 yards and nine touchdowns in a season that has included 100-yard efforts against North Carolina State, Maryland, Duke and South Carolina.
WR Preston Parker, Florida State, Soph., 6-0/190 HIGH SCHOOL: Delray Beach (Fla.) Atlantic BUZZ: Parker has caught 54 passes for 686 yards and three touchdowns. He was just starting to emerge as one of the ACC's top receivers when he moved to tailback late in the season and rushed for 133 yards in a victory over Maryland.
WR Eron Riley, Duke, Jr., 6-3/200 HIGH SCHOOL: Savannah (Ga.) Windsor Forest BUZZ: Riley caught 40 passes for 830 yards and nine touchdowns to rank fourth in the ACC in receiving yards per game. Riley caught seven touchdown passes during a three-game stretch against Navy, Miami and Wake Forest.
TE Tom Santi, Virginia, Sr., 6-5/250 HIGH SCHOOL: Nashville (Tenn.) Montgomery Bell Academy BUZZ: Santi has caught 33 passes for 402 yards and three touchdowns to lead his team in the latter two categories. He scored two touchdowns against Duke and also reached the end zone against Pittsburgh.
OT Scott Burley, Maryland, Jr., 6-5/324 HIGH SCHOOL: Baltimore Woodlawn BUZZ: Ankle problems bothered Burley for much of the season, but he continued playing to assist a line that was ravaged by injuries. His fortitude paid off when he was named the ACC's offensive lineman of the week for his performance in an upset of Boston College.
OT Andrew Gardner, Georgia Tech, Jr., 6-6/298 HIGH SCHOOL: Tyrone (Ga.) Sandy Creek BUZZ: Gardner was named the ACC offensive lineman of the week after a season-opening performance against Notre Dame that set the tone for the rest of his season. He has started 38 games in a row while helping Tech lead the ACC with 202.5 rushing yards per game.
OG Derrick Morse, Miami, Sr., 6-4/320 HIGH SCHOOL:Estero (Fla.) BUZZ: Morse has started every game at right guard this season while opening up holes for Miami's talented backfield tandem of Graig Cooper and Javarris James. Morse also served as one of the Hurricanes' vocal leaders for much of the season.
OG Sergio Render, Virginia Tech, Soph., 6-4/310 HIGH SCHOOL: Newnan (Ga.) High BUZZ: Render opened the season by collecting nine knockdowns and grading out at 91 percent against East Carolina in a performance that set the tone for the rest of his season. Just a sophomore, Render already has matured into the Hokies' top lineman.
C Kevin Tuminello, Georgia Tech, 6-4/292 HIGH SCHOOL: Boardman (Ohio) High BUZZ: Tuminello has made 38 consecutive starts and has paved the way for Tashard Choice to lead the league in rushing. A two-time Academic All-ACC pick, Tuminello was the ACC offensive lineman of the week after compiling nine knockdowns in a win over Clemson.
DE Phillip Merling, Clemson, Jr., 6-5/280 HIGH SCHOOL: Cordova (Tenn.) High BUZZ: Merling showed a knack for delivering in big games by earning ACC defensive lineman of the week honors for his performances against Florida State, Wake Forest and Boston College. Five of his six sacks and seven of his 15 tackles for losses came in those games.
DE Hilee Taylor, North Carolina, Sr., 6-3/245 HIGH SCHOOL: Laurinburg (N.C.) Scotland BUZZ: Taylor ranks second in the ACC with 10.5 sacks. He had seven sacks during a six-game stretch, including a three-sack outburst against Virginia. Taylor recorded two sacks against NC State and finished the season with 49 overall tackles, including 16 for losses.
DT Ron Brace, Boston College, Jr., 6-3/325 HIGH SCHOOL: Worcester (Mass.) Burncoast BUZZ: Brace has 22 tackles – seven for loss – and 2.5 sacks while helping give Boston College the nation's second-ranked run defense. The Eagles are allowing just 65.6 rushing yards per game and 2.2 yards per carry.
DT Dre Moore, Maryland, Sr., 6-4/311 HIGH SCHOOL: Charlotte (N.C.) Independence BUZZ: Moore's six sacks this season were the most by a Maryland player since Shawne Merriman had 8.5 in 2004. Moore has 58 overall tackles and 11 for losses. He recorded two sacks each against Villanova and Virginia.
LB Aaron Curry, Wake Forest, Jr., 6-3/240 HIGH SCHOOL: Fayetteville (N.C.) E.E. Smith BUZZ: Curry has 96 tackles – 11.5 for losses – and leads all ACC linebackers with four interceptions. He scored on interception returns against Army, North Carolina and North Carolina State.
LB Durell Mapp, North Carolina, Sr., 6-2/235 HIGH SCHOOL: Burlington (N.C.) Cummings BUZZ: Mapp ranks second in the ACC and ninth in the nation with 11 tackles per game. His 132-tackle season included a 23-tackle performance against NC State and an 18-tackle effort against East Carolina. Seven of his tackles came behind the line of scrimmage.
LB Philip Wheeler, Georgia Tech, Sr., 6-2/230 HIGH SCHOOL: Columbus (Ga.) Shaw BUZZ: This speedy linebacker has developed into a perfect fit for defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta's blitzing schemes. Wheeler has a team-high 78 tackles – nine for losses – and six sacks this season. Tech is first in the nation in sacks and second in tackles for loss.
CB Victor Harris, Virginia Tech, Jr., 6-2/203 HIGH SCHOOL: Highland Springs (Va.) High BUZZ: Harris, whose nickname is "Macho," ranks second in the ACC in pass breakups and also has five interceptions to rank third in the league. He returned an interception for a touchdown against East Carolina and picked off two passes against Georgia Tech.
CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State, Soph., 5-11/184 HIGH SCHOOL: Miami Gulliver Prep BUZZ: Robinson picked off a pass in five consecutive games at one point before finishing the regular season with six interceptions. He also has 28 tackles and forced a fumble.
SS Chip Vaughn, Wake Forest, Jr., 6-2/220 HIGH SCHOOL: Fairfax (Va.) Robinson Secondary BUZZ: Vaughn rotated between both safety positions over the course of the season, but he makes our team as a strong safety. He ranks second among all ACC defensive backs with 100 tackles and leads the conference with 14 pass breakups.
FS Michael Hamlin, Clemson, Jr., 6-3/205 HIGH SCHOOL: Lamar (S.C.) High BUZZ: Hamlin has picked off four passes and recovered two fumbles this season. He recorded an interception in consecutive games against Louisiana-Monroe, Furman and North Carolina State. He also has 71 tackles.
K Gary Cismesia, Florida State, Sr., 5-11/205 HIGH SCHOOL: Bradenton (Fla.) Lakewood Ranch BUZZ: Cismesia leads the ACC and ranks second in the nation with 27 field goals. He has made 81.8 percent of his attempts, including a 60-yarder against Florida that ranks as the longest field goal in ACC history.
P Jimmy Maners, Clemson, Jr., 6-1/190 HIGH SCHOOL: Rock Hill (S.C.) Northwestern BUZZ: Virginia's Ryan Weigand has a better average and ranks fifth in the nation in punting, but he landed only two of his 49 attempts inside the opponent's 20. Maners who has landed 13 of his 43 punts inside the 20 while ranking third in the ACC at 43.1 yards per attempt.
KR Jabari Marshall, Duke, Jr., 5-11/200 HIGH SCHOOL: Atlanta Mays BUZZ: Clemson's C.J. Spiller is 10th in the nation in kickoff-return average, but he's our second-team all-purpose player. Marshall ranks third in the ACC with a kickoff-return average of 24.6; that includes a 94-yard TD in the opener against UConn.
PR Darrell Blackman, North Carolina State, Sr., 5-10/205 HIGH SCHOOL: Williamsport (Pa.). High BUZZ: One of the most prolific return men in ACC history, Blackman ranked second in the conference and 17th in the nation this season with an average of 12.4 yards per return. He also handled the kickoff returns for the Wolfpack and averaged 22.5 yards per attempt.
ALL-PURPOSE C.J. Spiller, Clemson, Soph., 5-11/190 HIGH SCHOOL: Lake Butler (Fla.) Union County BUZZ: Spiller hasn't made quite as many big plays as he did in his sensational freshman season, but he still has rushed for 656 yards while also catching 32 passes and scoring on two kickoff returns. He has averaged 6.0 yards per carry in his past six games.