Top ACC Football Newcomers for 2016 : #20-16

By Dave Lackford
follow me on twitter at https://twitter.com/Res4Six

Flowers ACC
20.) Ruben Flowers – PITT, OH, WR, 6’4” 191-pounds
Flowers was a composite 3 star but a 4 star (Rivals250 #225) according to Rivals.

With Tyler Boyd heading to the NFL Pitt is looking for someone to compete for a starting spot opposite RS Senior WR Dontez Ford. Many believe that Sophomore Tre Tipton will be the guy there. Pitt also has an explosive homerun threat in Sophomore WR Quadree Henderson, but he is only 5’8” and 170 pounds and will likely operate as a slot receiver. There isn’t another receiver like Flowers on the Pitt roster, well maybe Jaquan Davidson, but he hasn’t shown the desired transition to the WR position yet after coming in as an athlete.

All of this bodes well for Ruben Flowers’s chances of seeing the field this season.

Ruben excels at the top of the passing tree, which isn’t a surprise considering his size and speed. He was impervious to press coverage during his senior season at Lima, showing a knack for getting off the line as well as winning jump balls by utilizing his size and body positioning to high point passes over smaller defensive backs. He will need to improve his route running and hips if he wants to be an every down wide receiver this season but if those skills take time to develop, he still provides value as a red zone target due to his ability to win contested jump balls in a crowd. He may not start, but he will be utilized this year because of his unique skill set.

Ruff ACC
19.) Kenneth Ruff – Early Enrollee, Syracuse, DE, FL, 6’1” 258-pounds

Ruff was a composite 3-star recruit from Dillard High School in Lauderhill, Florida. As a senior, Ruff racked up 98 tackles and 19 sacks while forcing three fumbles and recovering four. While he played inside linebacker all four years at Dillard, Cuse head coach Dino Babers moved him to DE due to only having four defensive ends on the roster heading into Spring Ball. Factoring the lack of depth and experience at the positon (Only one returning DL has a sack to his credit) and Ruff finds himself in a good situation for early tick.

Ruff is one of Babers recruits that he did not inherit from former head coach Scott Shafer and the new head coach has been pleased with his young early enrollee’s work ethic in the gym. Ruff has put on 18 pounds since he committed to the Orange in December of 2015. Kenneth has also been productive in practice, he had a 50 yard scoop and score in spring practice and while Babers joked that Ruff doesn’t know what he’s doing yet, the Head Coach says he has still been flying around making plays.

Ruff’s work in the gym, the lack of depth at his position, and his production is spring all seem to point to early playing time for the true freshman. If he can buckle down and pick up the defensive scheme and improve in the areas the staff demands, he could even start. Look for Huff to get his chance to make a splash early this season week one against Colgate. If he can impress the staff, he may be manning the WDE position against Louisville the following week.

18.) Trayvon Mullen – Clemson, CB, FL, 6’2” 170-Pounds
Mullen was a consensus 4 Star, (ESPN ranked him 18th overall and the #2 CB in the nation) and a much needed addition to a Clemson defense that lost All-American CB Mackensie Alexander to the NFL draft, and Adrain Baker to an ACL tear.

The talented 4-star form Coconut Creek, Florida has a great opportunity to earn a starting spot opposite Senior CB Cordrea Tankersley. Mullen’s main competition would have been Adrian Baker, who snagged two interceptions last season and knocked down three passes, but he tore his ACL, missed Spring ball and may miss the entire year. That means that it is down to Mullen or former 4-star recruit Mark Fields (sophomore, 5’11” 190) to man the field corner position this season and my money is on Mullen to eventually win this battle before the season is over.

The only thing that gives me pause about Mullen’s chances and why I didn’t rank him in the top ten is his frame. He’s a tall fluid corner but he’s a little light at 170 pounds stretched out over six feet and two inches. This is problematic as he figures to play the field corner position, and that means he will have to come up in run support and sometimes set the edge. Mullen is a pure cover corner, one of the best in this class, but he doesn’t have a reputation as a hitter. Nevertheless, the young 4 star can shut down bigger receivers at the line and run with anyone. Plus I except the Clemson training staff to have Mullen in the weight room and filling his plates in the cafeteria.

Mullen has a golden opportunity to step into a void for a defensive system that fits his skill set as a true freshman. It’s not really a question of if more so than a question of when Mullen will see the field for the ’16 Tigers.

17.) Mike Pinckney – Miami, OLB, FL, 6’1” 215-Pounds
Pinckney was a consensus 3 star. The fact he was a mere three star makes me wonder what these sites need to see from a linebacker that plays in the nation’s most fertile hotbed of recruits. Maybe what hurt Pinckney is that he is a little undersized, compared to four stars, for a downhill thumper type of middle linebacker. If you look at the prototypical 4-star middle linebacker, he should be around 6’2” 225 if he’s a “thumper” and if he is 6’1” 215, he needs to have a hybrid skill set where he can blitz, come off the edge, and excel in coverage. This is me at my most diplomatic, trying to give my friends in the biz the benefit of the doubt.

Truth be told, Pinckney’s size is better than 90% of his peers.

6’1” 215 pounds is fine for an incoming freshman WILL linebacker if the kid has heart and speed. Pinckney checks all those boxes. He’s aggressive, plays downhill, can track the ball sideline to sideline and he isn’t a slouch in pass coverage. Mark Richt agrees with this, that’s why Pinckney has been getting considerable first team tick at the WILL position in his 3-4 scheme. It’s hard not to come away impressed with this kid when you watch his videos and read the reviews of his spring performances. It looks like Al Golden left the new staff a lot of linebacker talent to work with and this particular group has the promise to lead this defense for the next three years.

16.) Emmitt Rice – FSU, OLB, FL, 6’3” 200-Pounds
Rice was a composite 3 star. Rivals had him ranked as a 4-Star in the top 250 at #186, and ESPN ranked him a 4–Star. Scout and 24/7 award Rice three stars, respectively.

Scout and 24/7 may not have liked Rice’s size for a linebacker, but the young linebacker from Miami Norland is an elite talent and a perfect scheme fit for FSU’s 3-3-5/4-2-5 hybrid defense. A do it all, every down type of backer, Rice can thump, get pressure off the edge or up the middle when moved around the formation, and his ability to drop back in coverage and hang with slot receivers is his greatest asset. An extremely versatile player, Rice never has to come off the field as he excels in all facets of his position.

Due to the offensive paradigm shift to spread/options in college football, Rice is a modern prototype at LB. FSU’s schedule includes spread/option opponents like Ole Miss, UNC, Clemson, USF, NC State, and Wake Forrest. Also, when FSU travels to Louisville, they will need speedy side line to side line backers to track down Louisville’s ultra athletic QB, Lamar Jackson. The same is true for Clemson and their dynamic Heisman candidate QB DeShaun Watson. Look for Rice to contribute early and often this season as a situational linebacker and special teams player.

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