As ACC Kickoff in Charlotte draws closer, the league’s players continue to be placed in the national spotlight, earning spots on various preseason awards watch lists.
Continuing coverage up until the two-day preseason media event, which begins Thursday, here’s a look at some of the best offensive and defensive players for each of the ACC’s four programs in North Carolina.
Daniel Jones, QB — Rising from his role as a third-string former walk-on, Jones burst onto the scene during his sophomore campaign, passing for 2,836 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. He also showed his ability as a runner with 486 yards and seven touchdowns. Over his final four games, Jones finished with 947 passing yards, five passing touchdowns and rushed for four more scores.
Ben Humphreys, LB — A third-team All-ACC selection last season, Humphreys was a tackling machine for the Blue Devils, piling up 106 tackles — sixth in the league — with 11 for loss to go with 4 1/2 sacks. Humphreys had double-digit tackles in five games, including a 16-tackle performance against Virginia Tech.
M.J. Stewart, CB — Despite going without an interception in 2016, Stewart led the Tar Heels with 11 pass breakups and recovered three fumbles, forcing a pair. With Des Lawrence gone, Stewart should draw the top defensive assignment in each outing this season for a veteran UNC secondary.
Austin Proehl, WR — With 43 catches for 597 yards and three touchdowns last season, Proehl ended up as the Tar Heels’ third-leading receiver. The mass exodus of talent pits Proehl as the Tar Heels’ top returning offensive threat this season. He hauled in seven receptions for 99 yards and a score against Pittsburgh and ended the season with seven catches and 91 yards against Stanford.
Bradley Chubb, DE — A preseason All-American defensive end, Chubb is among the best players in the nation and his decision to return for his senior campaign gives State a dominant end along one of the best defensive fronts in the country. The second-team, All-ACC selection piled up 22 tackles for loss, including 10 1/2 sacks last season. He logged five of those sacks during a two-game stretch against Wake Forest and Notre Dame.
Jaylen Samuels, all-purpose player — An All-ACC third-team selection and offensive MVP in N.C. State’s Independence Bowl win over Vanderbilt last season, Samuels enters the year as an Athlon Sports preseason All-American. He ranks sixth in Wolfpack history with 31 career touchdowns and has led the team in receptions each of the past two years. Lining up all over the field in 2016, Samuels paced the team with 55 catches for 565 yards and seven touchdowns and was third in rushing with 189 yards and six scores.
Duke Ejiofor, DE — An All-ACC third-team selection, Ejiofor starred during his junior campaign with 17 tackles for loss, including 10 1/2 sacks and two forced fumbles. He was at the forefront of the Deacons’ turnaround with an early season three-sack performance against Duke. He also showed his athleticism throughout the year by breaking up four passes and finishing with one interception.
Cam Serigne, TE — One of the top tight ends in the league, Serigne’s 12 career touchdown receptions are most by a Demon Deacon tight end and he enters the 2017 season with a streak of 36 games with at least one reception. He finished his junior campaign with 426 receiving yards, 30 receptions and three touchdowns. In Wake’s Military Bowl victory over Temple, Serigne hauled in three receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Rodd Baxley can be reached at 910-416-5182. Follow him on Twitter @RoddBaxley.