Preseason All-ACC ballot

Borrowing the formula that's used to put together MLB All-Star teams, it's time to unveil this year's defensive ballot for the preseason All-ACC team.

At least one player from each of the 14 schools in the conference will find a spot on my ballot when it comes time to vote at next week's ACC Football Kickoff.

Clemson and Florida State will both have five players written scribbled on the list. Third with three players will be Miami.

Not coincidentally, the thought here is that Clemson or Florida State will be playing Miami in the ACC Championship game.

The big surprise could be Duke having two players on the list. The rest of the league's schools -- Boston College, Georgia Tech, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest -- all will have one player representing them.

DEFENSIVE ENDS: Miami's Anthony Chickillo and Georgia Tech's Jeremiah Attaochu. Chickillo was an All-ACC honorable mention by the coaches after logging four sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss last season. Look for those numbers to jump during his senior season.

There's little debate when arguing Attaochu's ability as a pass rusher. He had 10 sacks last season and has 19 in his career, which is tied for eighth-most all-time at Georgia Tech.

DEFENSIVE TACKLES: Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest. Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh. Whitlock's measurables won't wow anybody. Generously listed at 5-foot-11, 250 pounds, he plays way bigger than he looks. After missing two games last season, his reputation helped get him on both the coaches' and media second-team All-ACC.

Donald could be one of the first players to be named All-Big East and All-ACC. A first-team selection last season, he had 18.5 tackles for loss. That's pretty good, no matter what league it's in.

LINEBACKERS: Christian Jones - Florida State, Jack Tyler - Virginia Tech, Dyshawn Davis - Syracuse. Despite being named to the second-team a season ago, Jones was one of the top linebackers in the ACC. He still is. Heck, he might even be the best.

Tyler was second-team All-ACC, according to the media. The coaches thought he was better than that, voting him to the first-team. Either way, he had over 100 tackles in over 800 snaps last season.

As a sophomore, Davis was fifth in the Big East in tackles for loss average with 1.08 per game. He currently sits 14th on the all-time list at Syracuse with 24.5.

CORNERBACKS: Ross Cockrell - Duke, Demetrious Nicholson - Virginia. Cockrell was tied for first in the league with five interceptions last season, but no other cornerback received more votes from him on the All-ACC ballot.

Most folks won't argue about Nicholson being the Virginia representative. He was tied for first in the ACC with 15 pass breakups a season ago.

SAFETIES: LaMarcus Joyner - Florida State, Travis Blanks - Clemson. Joyner is, arguably, the best player on the conference's best defense. Despite him likely spending more time at cornerback this season, we'll mark him down at safety, because that's his natural position. And it's where's played a majority of his career.

Could Blanks be a bit of a stretch? Probably.

Will anyone else outside of the Clemson beat vote for him next? Probably not.

Will he be a legit candidate at the end of the season? Probably.

KICKER: Chandler Catanzaro - Clemson. If you're reading this, chances are pretty high that you're a Clemson fan. So no explanation is needed. Catanzaro missed just one field goal last season and made the game-winner against No. 8 LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl.

PUNTER: Will Monday - Duke. Monday was first among ACC punters with a 44.6 yards per punt average last season. He was a freshman.

RETURN MAN: Stefon Diggs - Maryland. As a freshman, Diggs was fifth in the ACC with a 10-yard average on punt returns. He was second with 28.5 yards per kickoff return and one of four players in the league to have two returned for a touchdown.

PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tajh Boyd - Clemson. An award that's usually reserved for offensive players, it's hard not to give it to the most indispensable player on the best offense in the ACC.

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