Impact Player: Philip Wheeler

Georgia Tech linebacker Philip Wheeler has come out of nowhere to be one of the ACC's best.

Through eight games, Wheeler has tallied 54 tackles, 12.5 tackles for a loss (1st in the ACC), and 8.0 sacks (2nd in the ACC), and he is coming off a game against Miami that earned him ACC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors.

Wheeler led an outstanding defensive effort as the 21st-ranked Yellow Jackets defeated visiting Miami 30-23 to take the lead in the ACC Coastal Division. The junior from Columbus, Ga., had six tackles and three of Tech's six sacks for 22 yards in losses, and it was his second time winning the award as he did so earlier this season following Tech's victory over Virginia Tech.

Regarded as one of the most athletic linebackers in the country, Wheeler's accomplishments this season come after he was moved to middle linebacker in the spring. He played outside linebacker in 2005, but has flourished in his new role, the first time he ever played middle linebacker.

Unlike Tech's other star, Calvin Johnson, Wheeler wasn't considered a heralded recruit out of high school. The Shaw High star recorded 106 tackles with 34 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles as a senior, earning first-team all-state honors. He was rated a two-star prospect and the No. 102 linebacker in the country by and earned offers from Alabama and Mississippi State prior to committing to the Yellow Jackets.

Wheeler is more proof that star rankings aren't always right.

He played sparingly as a true freshman, recording six tackles on defense and special teams, before redshirting the 2004 season. In 2005, he started every game, finishing the year wtih 64 tackles, 11.5 tackles for a loss, four sacks, one forced fumble, a fumble recovery, four pass breakups, and four interceptions (5th in the ACC).

Wheeler was a key performer on a Tech defense that ranks in the Top 20 nationally in total defense (10th), rushing defense (11th), pass efficiency defense (14th), scoring defense (16th), interceptions (7th), turnover margin (17th) and takeaways (20th).

At outside linebacker he used his athleticism to make plays but never felt really comfortable at the position. He's found a home at middle linebacker.

Flanked by KaMichael Hall, a senior linebacker who came into the season with a host of preseason accolades, Wheeler continues to impact games each week and has to be considered a lock to earn All-ACC honors. It only takes a couple of more signature performances to possibly win the ACC Defensive Player of the Year Award, as his stats speak for themselves.

NC State better hope Wheeler doesn't play as well as he has been playing, or they could be in big trouble.

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