With a month to go, we are closing in on the start of college football season. Here are five names to watch in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
Players to Watch from the ACC
With former quarterback DJ Uiagaelei transferring to Oregon State, Cade Klubnik will take the reins for the Clemson Tigers this season. He is faced with high expectations following in the footsteps of National Championship-winning quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Trevor Lawrence.
Klubnik has been praised for his accuracy and pocket awareness. In high school, Klubnik threw for 86 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, winning three state championships in the process. He saw limited action last season and showed flashes of his potential, completing 61% of his passes (100 attempts) and throwing for two touchdowns.
Not only does he impress as a passer but he also plays well on the ground. He added two touchdowns on the ground and even had a 19 yard reception for good measure. He will look to give Clemson their 13th consecutive double-digit win season and get them back to National Championship contention in 2023.
Cypress is one of the top transfers to watch in 2023. He joins the Florida State defensive backs room after a four-year career at Virginia. Last season, he led the ACC with 14 pass breakups and was named to the Second Team All-ACC team for his efforts. Cypress’ abilities extend beyond pass coverage, as he also showcased his strong tackling skills, accumulating a career-high 39 tackles in just nine games including eight in the season opener against Richmond.
Cypress will create a dynamic duo in the secondary with Greedy Vance who had three picks and five pass deflections in 2022. Look for teams to gameplan around these two young studs on the defensive side of the football.
After missing the 2022 season with a torn ACL, Christian Mahogany will look to build on what has been a stellar collegiate career thus far. The 6’3 335-pound offensive guard has been the anchor of the Boston College offensive line since he entered the starting lineup in 2020.
Prior to last season, he was ranked by Mel Kiper as the number two guard prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft. Because of the injury, he decided to stay another year to prove himself and “leave no doubt on his college career”. His return will bolster a Boston College team that finished just 3-9 in his absence after two straight winning seasons. With another strong campaign, Mahogany will reclaim his status as one of the top guards in the draft and could provide NFL teams with a strong, athletic player on the interior offensive line starting in 2024.
With Sam Howell leaving for the NFL prior to the 2022 season, Drake Maye and Jacolby Criswell engaged in a competitive quarterback battle to replace him. Maye won the competition and it proved to be the right choice for the Tar Heels. He had a breakout season, throwing for 38 touchdowns and adding 698 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
He was named the ACC Player of the Year and finished tenth in the Heisman Trophy voting. Standing at 6’5 with a weight of 220 pounds, Maye has great size for a quarterback. His size combined with his mobility and big play ability has impressed scouts, with some even giving him a top-10 pick projection. With another offseason of reps under his belt, look for Maye to build on his performance from last season and have the Tar Heels in contention for another marquee bowl game in 2023.
Clemson running back Will Shipley was one of just three players in the ACC in 2022 to amass over 1,000 rushing yards. (Sean Tucker and Israel Abanikanda) He was a bright spot for the Tigers in what was another excellent season for the program. With quarterback struggles plaguing the team, Shipley carried the load out of the backfield and ran for 1,182 yards and 15 touchdowns. He showcased a big play ability, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 6.4 yards per reception. Look for Shipley and quarterback Cade Klubnik to create an intriguing one-two punch in the backfield for Clemson this season.
As the college football offseason unfolds, fans can eagerly anticipate the performances of these standout athletes and the overall excitement that the SEC consistently delivers.
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