Football season is right around the corner and that means a rebirth for many college football programs. A new season also means a brand new stage for new stars to arise.
2015 ACC Preview: Rising Stars
JAMES CONNER | Running Back | PITT
Before the 2014 season, RB James Conner set some pretty lofty goals.
“I want to have about 10 sacks and go for about 10 touchdowns and try to go for about 1,300 rushing yards,” Conner told the Pittsburgh-Tribune-Review.
Well James, how does 1,765 yards and an ACC record 26 touchdowns sound instead? That sounds pretty pretty good to me. We’ll give you a break for only recording one tackle…
Last season, Conner established himself as one of the nation’s elite offensive players, earning All-American and winning ACC Player of the Year. Even after a historic season, Conner still came in second for ACC Preseason Player of the Year. You know what’s a scary thought? James Conner, aka the Terminator, playing with a chip on his shoulder.
Carolina and Duke fans may want to take cover from this bulldozing machine. In four career games against UNC and Duke respectively, Conner has rushed for 758 yards and nine touchdowns. So basically, he’s averaging 190 yards and 2.25 scores per game against the Heels and Blue Devils. You would have thought Conner was playing for the Victory Bell!
Even though he’s the reigning ACC Player of the Year, this kid is getting under looked. Regardless, circle your calendars for Oct. 29 (vs UNC) and Nov. 14 (at Duke). While you’re at it, just tune into the James Conner show all season. Get your popcorn ready, folks.
QUIN BLANDING | Safety | UVA
Quin Blanding was Coach London’s first pledge for the 2014 class, and the former five-star prospect may be London’s last hope. Blanding finished 2014 ranked second in the ACC and 12th nationally with 123 tackles. Blanding led the nation’s freshmen in tackles and broke UVa’s freshman record, previously held by Ahmad Brooks.
For someone who was just “learning the defense” last season, those numbers are a scary anecdote for opposing coaches. Blanding has been named preseason first-team All-American by Athlon Sports, and the 6-1 sophomore is also on the watch list for the Bednarik Award, Bronko Nagurski Award, and the Jim Thope Award.
Blanding’s mother, Corey Lee, must have known her kid was gonna be special when she named him after the folk-rock song, “The Mighty Quinn.” Match that foretelling birthright with Quin’s affinity for colorful socks, and the Hoos have a superstar on their hands. Virginia’s difficult non-conference schedule (at UCLA, vs Notre Dame, at Boise State) will get Quin Blanding the national exposure he deserves. Everyone should expect the exact opposite of a sophomore slump for The Mighty Quin in 2015.
JACOBY BRISSETT | Quarterback | NCSU
Want to know a fun fact? Jacoby Brissett hates when guys wear girls’ sandals. Want to know another fact? Brissett is one of the most elusive quarterbacks in the ACC. Just ask FSU fans…
After transferring from Florida to NC State in 2013, Brissett took full advantage of his new opportunity in Raleigh. The 6’4″, dual-threat quarterback from West Palm Beach, Florida, made quite a name for himself in 2014. Brissett completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 2,606 yards and 23 touchdowns with only five interceptions. In fact, Jacoby ranks seventh in ACC history for most consecutive passes (187) without an interception. Wolfpack nation, guess who’s numero uno on that list? Hint: he dates Ciara.
WPN can only hope Brissett continues to play with the same amount of poise he displayed in 2014. After all, NC State’s offense was one of the nation’s most balanced, totaling 2,659 yards on the ground and 2,652 through the air.
TERREL HUNT | Quarterback | Syracuse
Every Thursday this summer, Terrel Hunt goes to get his car washed. It’s not a superstitious or egocentric routine; it’s just a routine. According to Hunt, it’s about “following the game plan.” His game plan consists of swimming and yoga twice a week. All of these efforts are meant to slim down to become a more proficient pocket-passer. Hunt even ventured out to California this summer for a weeklong camp with quarterback guru George Whitfield. Talk about dedication…
Regardless of offseason routines, Terrel Hunt is one of the most exciting players in the ACC. The 6’3″ dual-threat quarterback from NYC believes he can be one of the best in the league. For good reason…barring injuries, this kid can flat out play, let alone run. Hunt may be overlooked due to his team’s mediocrity, but look for the senior quarterback to have a breakout year and surprise some people.