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(Editor's Note: Jeff Fischel, Max Skinner, Jacob Dennis and Patrick Ronan are the contributors for the "Top 25 Players to Watch" list. Names at the end of each sub piece delineate that writer's contribution.)
Here at the ACCDN, we are counting down the top 25 ACC football players to watch heading into the 2015 season. We've ranked the league's best players based on past success and what we expect to see from them this upcoming season.
After going through the entire list of impressive student-athletes throughout the ACC, here are numbers 20 through 16.
You may have forgotten--or never noticed--that during Wake Forest’s struggles a year ago, the defense was actually very good. The Demon Deacons ranked 40th nationally in total defense.
And Brandon Chubb is the unquestioned leader of that defensive unit which returns 7 starters.
Chubb had 109 tackles a year ago--fifth in the ACC. And with Marquel Lee and Hunter Williams patrolling the run and pass with him, Wake Forest is set up for another strong year from its defense. – Jeff Fischel
Sometimes, you can just tell players understand their roles.
You might think it’s important for Miami’s Joseph Yearby or Gus Edwards to ascend to number one on the depth chart now that the school’s all-time leading rusher, Duke Johnson, is gone to the Cleveland Browns.
Nope. They’re happy to work together and show that, as a tandem, they can match Johnson’s numbers.
Yearby broke it down perfectly for the Sun-Sentinel: "He's a big, power back and I'm more of a scat back, an out-in-the-open-field back so anything I can do to get him better and what he's lacking on, I do it and anything he can do to get me better, he'll do it. I like the alternating route. One back can get in and make a big play and then another back can come right in and do the same thing."
Backing up Johnson, they combined for over 850 yards last year.
Don’t be surprised if they double that in 2015. – Jeff Fischel
There’s a reason why the #16 Blue Devils football jersey is being sold online and in the student store – Jeremy Cash is special. The kind of special that Duke’s football program has never seen. The senior safety from Miami is the first two-time defensive All-American in the history of the program, and a big part of the reason why Duke has been able to go from FBS bottom feeder to a team that’s won 19 games over the past two seasons including an ACC Coastal title.
The fact that Cash is even suiting up in Duke blue on Saturdays is remarkable. Cash committed to Ohio State out of high school and saw action in five games for the Buckeyes as a freshman. But when former coach Jim Tressel left the program, Cash followed. Tressel praised Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and told Cash to go to Duke. He listened, and sold the contents of his dorm room he deemed he could live without to buy a series of Greyhound bus tickets that eventually landed him in Durham.
Is it a coincidence that Duke has won as many games in the three years since Cash arrived on campus as they did in the pervious TWELVE seasons? Or that they’ve reached a bowl game and posted a winning record for the first time since 1994? The answer is no. Cash leads a Duke defense that ranked 24th nationally in points against in 2014 and looks to contend for the ACC Coastal for a third straight season. – Patrick Ronan
As a true freshman Ryan Switzer made a name for himself as one of the most dangerous punt returners in the country – tying an NCAA record with five punt returns for touchdowns. But in his sophomore season, Switzer emerged as one of the top slot receivers in the ACC, catching 61 passes for 757 yards and four touchdowns. The junior from Charleston, West Virginia comes into the 2015 season as UNC’s top returning receiver in yards and catches, and will undoubtedly be one of the favorite targets for quarterback Marquise Williams in a loaded veteran UNC receiving core.
In May, Switzer dropped jaws across the country with a video of him making a catch while doing a standing backflip, something that we certainly won’t see on Saturdays, but is a testament to his athleticism, coordination and concentration. Switzer says he’s just scratching the surface of what he can be as both a receiver and a return man, admitting that he was pressing to make the big return in 2014. As a freshman, Switzer returned 24 punts, averaging 20.9 yards per return and tying the aforementioned NCAA punt return touchdown record.
In 2014, Switzer retuned 37 punts with an average of just 4.6 yards per return and no touchdowns. Much of his offseason film sessions involved him watching all 37 of his returns over and over, taking note of when he should have waived his hand and called fair catch – something he has never done in his career. With two full seasons as a receiver and return man under his belt, look for Switzer to continue to emerge as one of the top targets in the ACC and get back to his All-American return man form. – Patrick Ronan
Say hello to the Bash Brothers.
That’s the name Louisville’s middle linebackers, James Burgess and Keith Kelsey have given themselves heading into this season.
Burgess explained to Cardinal Authority why their relationship works so well on and off the field, “The way that we play off each other, and feed off each other. Stuff that he lacks, I can pick up on and stuff that I lack on, he can pick up. We have a good relationship. He's a good friend of mine. He's always willing to learn and he's never been a stubborn person.”
Sounds like a beautiful relationship that will get ugly for opponents. – Jeff Fischel