Breaking Down the Top Offensive Players in the ACC

Stephen MorrisBy: John Langley @Langley468

This will be a breakdown of the top two players at each offensive position in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). Each player will be followed by his 2012 stats, his strengths and his weaknesses.



Stephen Morris, Miami (FL), Senior.  6’2, 214 lb’s.

2012 Stats:

58.2 completion. 3,345 passing yards. 21 passing touchdowns.

Morris is a physical dream as a quarterback. He has the frame, the arm, and the look of a premier quarterback. Morris has the ability to fit the ball into tight areas, and make all the throws necessary to take the next step as a quarterback. Where Morris tends to struggle is with his footwork. Morris will lose his footwork at times, and that affects his throws. Morris could also improve with his reading of defenses. He will throw the ball into tight coverage at times, and that causes some poor interceptions that can be avoided.

Bryn Renner, UNC, Senior.  6’3, 225 lb’s.

2012 stats:

65.4 completion percentage. 3.356 passing yards. 28 passing touchdowns.

Renner has the tools to be a solid quarterback, but he doesn’t try to use them. Renner certainly has the arm to make the deep throws, but rarely attempted them last season. There were many check-downs, with the intent to get Giovani Bernard involved in every way possible. Renner seems to try to run a lot, but isn’t really mobile. Renner is better suited as a pocket passer. Renner also widens his hips, which affects his throws, taking power off of them. Pressure also seems to be a problem for Renner. When the pressure comes from the middle, he seems to panic and make poor decisions. Renner often settles for the safe throw, when he could take more chances down the field. Overall, Renner is solid, but there is more to be seen from him.


Running backs:

Duke Johnson, Miami (FL), sophomore.  5’9, 194 lb’s.

2012 stats:

Rushing: 139 attempts. 947 yards. 10 rushing touchdowns.

Receiving: 27 receptions. 221 yards. 1 touchdown.

Duke Johnson is an absolute playmaker. He has the speed, elusiveness, and grit you want in your runningback. Many are skeptical of speed backs like Johnson, but there is no reason to shy away on this one. Johnson has blazing speed, he hits the hole hard at full speed, and has fairly decent field vision. Johnson is thin though, and could always bulk up a little bit. Another small issue with Johnson is the fact that he runs upright through the middle of the defense. This is opening himself up for big hits and potential injury risk in the future. This is a very minor flaw and can easily be corrected this upcoming season. Expect big things from Johnson as he continues to make a name for himself.


James Wilder, Florida St., junior.  6’2, 226 lb’s.

2012 stats:

Rushing: 110 attempts. 635 yards. 11 rushing touchdowns.

Receiving: 19 receptions. 136 yards. 2 touchdowns.

James Wilder is an absolute animal, and has to be one of the scariest runningbacks to bring down. Wilder is big and strong, as evidence by his frame. He hits the hole hard and drags defensive players around like a sled. When he is engaged by a tackler, he keeps his feet moving which allows him to truck through for more yards. The best thing about Wilder is he is a traditional north-south runner. He isn’t going to try to be flashy. He knows who he is and plays to his strengths. Wilder needs to improve his field vision a bit. He seems like he has blinders on out there and just runs forward. He doesn’t catch the ball very often, and if he can include catching the ball into his arsenal a bit more often, he can become that much more dangerous. Wilder has solid speed, but it’s not great speed, which could truly set him apart. Wilder is a special player, and we could see the best of him this upcoming season.


Wide Receivers:

Sammy Watkins, Clemson, Junior.  6’1, 205 lb’s.

2012 stats:

Receiving: 57 receptions. 708 receiving yards. 3 touchdowns.

Rushing: 14 attempts. 97 yards. 1 touchdown.

Sammy Watkins is a physical specimen at the wide receiver position. The greatest asset that Watkins possesses is his burning speed. Watkins can blow by any corner, and create the separation necessary to give Tajh Boyd an open target. Watkins finds a way to make nice catches all over the field. He works the middle of the field while still having the ability to make plays down the field. Watkins had a down year somewhat statistically in 2012, but a lot of that had to do with DeAndre Hopkins taking some of the production. Watkins is extremely elusive, and has the ability to take some hand-offs on jet sweeps. Watkins has the big frame to use his body to position himself and box out defenders. Watkins has a few key areas where he needs improvement that could elevate him into the top tier of receivers, one of which being his blocking on run plays. Watkins isn’t terrible as a blocker, but this is one area he could seek improvement. Many times, Watkins could be seen staring back as his defender ran by him and got in on the tackle. The route running is another area that could help Watkins be even better. With his speed, good routes could make him even more dangerous. Expect a big year from Watkins, as he becomes the biggest threat on a dangerous Clemson offense.


Stefon Diggs, Maryland, sophomore.  6’1, 185 lb’s.

2012 stats:

Receiving: 54 receptions. 848 yards. 6 touchdowns.

Rushing: 20 attempts. 114 yards. 0 touchdowns.

Kick returns: 2 touchdowns.

Stefon Diggs has the potential to be a blossoming star right before the eyes of many. Diggs was able to have a breakout season without an ideal quarterback the entire season. He was even hauling in passes from a linebacker to end the season. Diggs has solid hands, and is able to use his solid frame to go up and haul in passes against defenders. Diggs is an all-around playmaker, given his star studded returning ability, pass-catching ability, and rushing ability. What makes Diggs special is his knack for knowing where he is, and how to elude defenders to make something happen after the catch. Multiple times this season, you could see 4-5 defenders all in position to tackle Diggs, and he just plants his foot in the ground, spins around, and eludes every single one of them. Diggs can catch every type of pass as well. Whether it is a short route, intermediate route, or a pass downfield, Diggs can make a play on the ball. Diggs does have some areas to work on as a wide receiver, and route running is definitely one of them. If Diggs can improve his routes, he can get even more open and continue to pile up the yards after the catch (YAC). Diggs is also a very thin player. While he is an athletic nightmare, it isn’t too hard to throw him around once you can get your hands on him. If Diggs can add a little bit more muscle to his frame, it would help him more into the future. Diggs also doesn’t block as well as most would like. He does a decent job, but this is another aspect of his game he must work on. With CJ Brown coming back as quarterback for the Terps, expect Diggs to produce even more this upcoming season.


Tight Ends:

Eric Ebron, UNC, Junior.  6’4, 245 lb’s.

2012 stats: 40 receptions. 625 receiving yards. 4 touchdowns.

Eric Ebron has the physical frame to be an effective tight end. Ebron has a knack for getting open over the middle of the field and being a safety net when a big play is needed. Ebron has questionable hands, but can go up and get the ball over the middle of the field. While there were times where Ebron struggled to engage in his block and do an effective job, other times, he truly did a good job. On screen plays, he was able to get the job done and take his defender out of the play with a solid block. There were also times on running plays where his blocking was poor. Ebron could do a better job on out routes, and passes towards the sideline. He didn’t do a great job of getting separation at times when going for passes towards the sidelines. Ebron is still fairly young and has some work to do, but by the end of the year, he could be a sought after tight end at the next level.


Asa Watson, NC State, Junior.  6’4, 235 lb’s.

2012 stats: 24 reception. 282 receiving yards. 1 touchdown.

Watson, as seen from his stats and tape, didn’t get a huge opportunity to show what he is capable of. Watson is adequate at blocking, and has the ability to do some pass catching. This will be a crucial year for him to step up. He should get his chances to make an impact, and he has a chance to boost his draft stock for the future with a big season.


Offensive Tackle:

Seantrel Henderson, Miami (FL), Senior.   6’8, 345 lb’s.

Henderson is an absolute mammoth of an offensive tackle. He has all the tangibles to be a dominant tackle this season, and at the next level, but there are aspects of his game he could work on. Henderson seems to dominate in the running game, engaging his defender and pushing him backwards with his superior strength. In pass protection, Henderson could see some improvement in his footwork to get better. Overall, the expectation is for Henderson to have a good season and look forward to the NFL draft next year.


James Hurst, UNC, Senior.  6’7, 305lb’s.

Hurst is quite a bit lighter than the aforementioned Henderson, but there are aspects to his game that many may fall in love with. Hurst has solid footwork in pass protection, and is able to keep defenders off of his quarterback. One aspect to watch for is his run blocking. While it’s not poor, he isn’t as overpowering as some. He has a high ceiling and many should look for him to make a jump this season.


Offensive Guards:


Tre Jackson, Florida St. junior.   6’4, 327 lb’s.

What Jackson does do well is run block, as shown if you watch James Wilder run behind that line. Jackson is massive, and is tough on the line. He gets a good initial push, which is great in the running game. Pass protection can be questioned, as well as his athleticism. Due to his size, it is not likely he would be effective on pulls, which is something NFL teams like to employ. But for this season, based on the system he is in, he is in the right scheme.

Brandon Thomas, Clemson, senior.   6’3, 305 lb’s.

Thomas is in a spread out offense in Clemson, which usually demands athleticism out of its lineman. Thomas is at a decent size for a guard, and should be able to pull and do what it takes to help Clemson is every facet of the game. This is something he can take into next season and build on. If the strength is there with the athleticism, he can be a special guard.



Bryan Stork, Florida St. senior.   6’4, 312 lb’s.

Stork plays in a scheme at Florida st where they like to run the ball, so they depend on strong and big offensive lineman. Stork fits this mold, weighing in at 312 pounds. It is important to have a man in the middle who can move big defensive lineman around, and Stork fits this mold. It will be interesting to see how much Stork plays up his draft stock this season, with centers being an important piece to NFL franchises.

Andrew Miller, Virginia Tech, senior.  6’4, 293 lb’s.

At Virginia Tech, the offense can use athletic offensive lineman. At his size, Miller can be athletic and do many things from the center position. He has the task of protecting Logan Thomas, as well as opening running lanes in a system that uses shotgun often. Miller could be considered undersized, but if he can use his athleticism, the size may work to his advantage.