We’ve finished looking at the best offensive players in the ACC, and now it’s time to turn our attention the defense. Who are the ACC’s leading players on that side of the ball starting with the defensive linemen?
1) Brandon Jenkins, Florida State
Brandon Jenkins is one of the anchors of what could be the best defensive line in the country at Florida State. Jenkins has been named to several defensive pre-season award watch lists, and is a potential All-American DE. He is one nation’s leading pass rushers and is a potential 1st or 2nd round NFL pick. If you’re not paying attention he’ll be in your backfield before you know it.
2) Joe Vellano, Maryland
Sometimes being a great player is not about measureables. Joe Vellano at 6-2 285 lb doesn’t sound like an elite defensive linemen, but he is. Vellano plays with a non-stop motor that helped him lead FBS defensive linemen with 7.8 tackles a game. He was first team All-ACC player last year, and is projected to be a 2nd to 4th round NFL draft choice.
3) James Gayle, Virginia Tech
Hokie James Gayle is another in a long line of quality defensive ends from Virginia Tech. He led the Hokies with 7 sacks and that was while nursing and ankle injury. At 6-4 265 lbs he has good size and has impressed Virginia Tech coaches with a 400 lb bench press and 4.5 40. A fully healthy Gayle will be something to watch for this season in the ACC.
4) Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Is it really fair Florida State has two defensive linemen this good? Bjoern Werner is an outstanding pass rusher. He had 11 tackles for loss with 7 sacks for the Noles last year. The German born Werner has only been playing football since age 15, but could go as high the late first round in the NFL. He is powerful, quick and still getting better.
5) Anthony Chickillo, Miami
Miami Sophomore Anthony Chickillo is a star in the making. A 4/5-Star prospect Chickillo is just beginning to touch the surface of his potential. As a freshman he started the final 9 games of Hurricanes season. He was tied for the tops at Miami with 5 sacks in 2011.