A look at football players in the Atlantic Coast Conference this spring who are poised to break out this fall:
AJ DILLON, RB, Jr. – Dillon rushed for 1,500 yards as a freshman and added 1,108 yards last season – fourth-best in the ACC – despite an ankle injury that limited him to just 10 games. He’s expected to carry much of the Eagles’ offensive load this season, if he’s healthy.
XAVIER THOMAS, DE, Soph. – Thomas had 10 1/2 tackles for losses, fourth among the Tigers’ national championship defense, despite playing as a freshman on a defensive line that had four NFL-caliber starters. Count on him to show off his speed and quickness fulltime in continuing the team’s dominance up front.
TAMORRION TERRY, WR, Soph. – Terry is coming off a year in which he set the program’s receiving yardage record for freshmen with 744, and added eight touchdowns. His 6-foot-4 frame makes him a tough matchup for cornerbacks.
EVAN CONLEY, QB, Fr. – Conley could be the wild card as he competes for the starting job with returnees Malik Cunningham and Jawon Pass. Conley, a dual-threat QB, committed to Scott Satterfield when he coached at Appalachian State and signed with the Cardinals after he was hired to replace Bobby Petrino.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
THAYER THOMAS, WR, Soph. – Thomas in just two years has gone from walk-on to key receiver, and with several top wideouts gone to the NFL, he could be a frequent target for whomever replaces three-year starter Ryan Finley at quarterback.
TOMMY DEVITO, QB, Soph. – Devito is the heir apparent to graduated starter Eric Dungey, and threw for 525 yards with four touchdown passes in a relief role. He took most of the first-team snaps during spring ball in 2018 while Dungey healed from injuries, so he was comfortable in that spot this spring.
DE SHAMAR MCCOLLUM, DE, Fr. – McCollum, who enrolled early at Wake Forest, showed promise during the spring as a 6-foot-4 pass rusher and could team with Boogie Basham to give the Demon Deacons a strong defensive line.
JAKE BOBO, WR, Soph. – Bobo caught 10 passes for 167 yards during his freshman season, and showed some chemistry with presumptive starting QB Quentin Harris during the spring game, with the only touchdown catch of the night.
TYLER EVANS, TE, Sr. – For the first time in more than a decade, the Yellow Jackets will actually have a tight end – after not needing one during retired coach Paul Johnson’s 11-year run with the triple option. It’s worth watching the ways new coach Geoff Collins uses the graduate transfer from UConn.
SAM HOWELL, QB, Fr. – Howell flipped his recruitment from Florida State to UNC shortly after new coach Mack Brown’s arrival, and took the first snaps of the spring game. He might have the inside track to the starting position in his battle with two redshirt freshmen.
TATE MARTELL, QB, Soph. – The Hurricanes landed one of the highest profile transfers of the offseason, and he received a waiver from the NCAA that allows him to play right away. The question is whether Martell can handle the hype and beat out returnees N’Kozi Perry and Jarren Williams.
V’LIQUE CARTER, RB-CB, Soph. – Carter could see double-duty in the fall for the Panthers. He had four tackles in Pitt’s spring game, and rushed for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a key victory over Duke last fall. Pitt could use him like it did with Jordan Whitehead from 2015-17.
PK KIER, RB, Jr. – He’ll enter the season as the likely replacement for 1,000-yard rusher Jordan Ellis, despite rushing for just 80 yards in 2018. He might also become a target out of the backfield with the team trying to replace career receptions leader Olamide Zaccheaus.
DAMON HAZLETON, WR, Jr. – He led the team last year with 51 catches and eight TDs. And he could have an even bigger role with the transfer of No. 2 receiver Eric Kumah to Old Dominion.
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