Six-time defending champion Clemson leads all schools with eight players on the 27-member 2021 All-Atlantic Coast Conference Preseason Football Team announced Tuesday, while North Carolina junior quarterback Sam Howell was chosen the ACC Preseason Player of the Year.
Preseason honors were determined by a vote of 147 media members, including several who were credentialed for last week’s ACC Football Kickoff in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Six of Clemson’s preseason All-ACC selections came on the defensive side. The Tigers led the conference in total defense last season (326.8 total yards per game) and were second in scoring defense (20.2 points per contest).
North Carolina’s Howell has thrown 68 career touchdown passes, the most through a sophomore season in ACC history and tied for the UNC school record. The Indian Trail, North Carolina, native led the ACC and ranked sixth nationally with 30 touchdown passes in 2020, while also topping the league with 3,586 passing yards, the fourth most in the nation.
Howell received 118 votes at the quarterback position to lead all offensive players in the Preseason All-ACC Team balloting. He is joined in the preseason All-ACC backfield by running backs Zonovan Knight of NC State and Mataeo Durant of Duke. Clemson’s Justyn Ross, Boston College’s Zay Flowers and Wake Forest’s Jaquarii Roberson form a potent wideout trio, and Virginia Tech tight end James Mitchell completes the receiving corps. Georgia Tech’s Jahmyr Gibbs was chosen as the all-purpose back.
Ross caught 112 passes for 1,865 yards and 17 touchdowns in his first two college seasons before missing last season due to injury. Flowers’ nine touchdown catches led all ACC receivers in 2020, and Roberson’s 102.9 receiving yards per game were a league high.
Boston College boasts a pair of preseason All-ACC offensive linemen in center Alec Lindstrom and guard Zion Johnson. They are joined by NC State tackle Ikem Ekwonu, Clemson tackle Jordan McFadden and North Carolina guard Joshua Ezeudu.
Ross (110 votes) and Flowers (101) joined Howell among the leading vote-getters on the offensive unit.
Clemson defensive tackle Bryan Bresee led all players in the balloting with 120 votes. Bresee’s five Tiger teammates on the preseason All-ACC defensive unit include fellow tackle Tyler Davis, end Myles Murphy, linebacker James Skalski, cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. and safety Nolan Turner.
NC State’s Payton Wilson, who joined Bresee on the 2020 All-ACC team, joins Skalski and Virginia’s Nick Jackson on the preseason All-ACC linebacking corps. Virginia Tech defensive end Amare’ Barno, North Carolina cornerback Tony Grimes and Miami safety Bubba Bolden complete the first-team defense.
Clemson’s Murphy (108 votes) and Miami’s Bolden (100) joined Bresee among defensive players hitting the century mark in the balloting, and NC State’s Wilson received 99 votes.
Wake Forest veteran Nick Sciba (third-most accurate in ACC history with a career field-goal conversion rate of .891) received the nod as placekicker. Preseason All-ACC punter Lou Hedley returns to Miami after ranking second among FBS players with an average of 47.2 yards per kick in 2020. Gibbs was a dual choice at specialist after leading Georgia Tech in all-purpose yards (968) and scoring (seven TDs) in 2020 despite missing three games due to injury.
2021 Preseason All-ACC Football Team
(Total votes in parenthesis)
- QB Sam Howell, North Carolina (118)
- RB Zonovan Knight, NC State (96)
- RB Mataeo Durant, Duke (49)
- WR Justyn Ross, Clemson (110)
- WR Zay Flowers, Boston College (101)
- WR Jaquarii Roberson, Wake Forest (80)
- TE James Mitchell, Virginia Tech (77)
- AP Jahmyr Gibbs, Georgia Tech (56)
- OT Ikem Ekwonu, NC State (83)
- OT Jordan McFadden, Clemson (53)
- OG Zion Johnson, Boston College (82)
- OG Joshua Ezeudu, North Carolina (56)
- C Alec Lindstrom, Boston College (77)
- DE Myles Murphy, Clemson (108)
- DE Amare’ Barno, Virginia Tech (63)
- DT Bryan Bresee, Clemson (120)
- DT Tyler Davis, Clemson (53)
- LB Payton Wilson, NC State (99)
- LB James Skalski, Clemson (95)
- LB Nick Jackson, Virginia (37)
- CB Andrew Booth Jr., Clemson (86)
- CB Tony Grimes, North Carolina (55)
- S Bubba Bolden, Miami (100)
- S Nolan Turner, Clemson (85)
- PK Nick Sciba, Wake Forest (69)
- P Lou Hedley, Miami (84)
- SP Jahmyr Gibbs, Georgia Tech (60)
- Preseason Player of the Year
- 1. Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina, 114
- 2. D’Eriq King, QB, Miami, 11
- 3. Bryan Bresee, DE, Clemson, 8
- 4. D.J. Uiagalelei, QB, Clemson, 6
- 5. Phil Jurkovec, QB, Boston College, 3
- 6. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College, 2
- 6. Jahmyr Gibbs, AP, Georgia Tech, 2
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