5. Joe Jackson, Miami
Rising Cane’s Junior Joe Jackson is poised for a breakout year. He’s got plenty of size and knows how to use it, converting speed into power with ease. He’ll have plenty of opportunity to prove his talents as the full time veteran starter. Look for a big production jump, maybe doubling his career sack total (13) if all goes well.
4. Zach Allen, BC
Boston College always just seems to have the dude-est dudes in all of dude-ness and Zach Allen is no different, he’s 100% GRAIN-FED, FREE-RANGE, SUSTAINABLY SOURCED DUDE. Standing 6’5” 285 lbs, he doesn’t have the fastest jump, but he’s a powerful rusher that knows how to use his hands well. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being on the All-ACC team come this winter.
3. Austin Bryant, Clemson
Odds are, if you’re reading this Clemson blog, you already know who Austin Bryant is, but that doesn’t make him unworthy of your attention. Standing 6’5”, he displays wonderful power coming off the edge opposite Clelin Ferrell. He isn’t the fastest off the line and has had some injury issues, but he finally showed his potential with an 8.5 sack, 15.5 TFL, 2017. In 2018 expect to see more of the same, likely with a similar sack total.
2. Brian Burns, FSU
Seminole Junior Brian Burns has been a strong rotational player and occasional game-breaker for FSU, but now he looks to be the main DE for FSU. He has 14 sacks over his two years and is one of the few in the club of active college players that’ve sacked Deshaun Watson. He had a bit of a second-year slump, dropping from 9.5 sacks to 4.5, but he has more than enough talent and size (6’5” 231 lbs according to Seminoles.com) to bring his numbers back up in 2018.
1. Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Clelin Ferrell has managed to put himself on another level from the rest of the ACC. He’s got NFL size with elite speed to match, jumping off the line seemingly the instant the ball is snapped and delivering ferocious hits once he gets to the ball-carrier.
Ferrell is the player I was most surprised to see return for Clemson, as he seemed like a sure-1st round pick to me. Another year should only help his draft stock, barring injury. I think it’s safe to say that Ferrell, paired with Bryant and the rest of the Clemson DL, will strike fear into the hearts of ACC quarterbacks.