Spring wrap: 14 players ready to break out in ACC in 2021


A look at football players in the Atlantic Coast Conference this spring who are poised to have standout seasons this fall (Notre Dame, which competed in the league last season, returned to FBS independent status in 2021):


BOSTON COLLEGE: LB Kam Arnold played in the Eagles’ secondary as a freshman last season and made a case in spring to be a starting linebacker this fall. He had 15 tackles as he played all 11 games.

CLEMSON: WR Justyn Ross is expected back after missing last year due to a serious neck injury and figures to return to the form of a potential first-round NFL draft pick he showed his first two seasons. Ross, 6-foot-4, had 46 catches for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018, then 66 receptions for 865 yards in 2019.

FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles have high hopes for UCF transfer QB McKenzie Milton, who is returning from a significant knee injury two years ago.

LOUISVILLE: DE Yaya Diaby was a junior college standout who started seven games last season and had 18 tackles, including 2.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage. This spring, defensive line coach Mark Ivey said Diaby has added about 18 pounds of muscle was a positive on defense.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE: The Wolfpack returned starting QB Devin Leary, lost in October after breaking a bone in his left leg. He finished with 890 yards with eight touchdowns and just two interceptions in his four games before the injury.

SYRACUSE: RBs Abdul Adams and Jarveon Howard both opted out of the 2020 COVID-19 impacted season. The two are back and looking to make their marks in the Orange backfield. Howard ran for 337 yards in 2019 while Adams, an Oklahoma transfer, gained 336 yards.

WAKE FOREST: RB Justice Ellison has the edge at joining Christian Beal-Smith in the Demon Deacons’ two-headed backfield. Ellison, a rising sophomore, played in eight games his freshman season, gaining 115 yards and a touchdown.


DUKE: QB Gunnar Holmberg led the depth chart after spring in the race to replace last year’s starter, Chase Brice, who transferred to Appalachian State. Holmberg played in six games last year behind Brice, completing 18 of 25 passes for 161 yards. He threw two interceptions and no touchdowns.

GEORGIA TECH: QB Jeff Sims is a sophomore who showed lots of promise along with lots of mistakes his first season, passing for 19 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. But Yellow Jackets coach Geoff Collins said Sims has taken positive steps this spring that will be evident in the fall.

MIAMI: WR Charleston Rambo spend his first four years at Oklahoma and could be the deep threat the Hurricanes have needed. Rambo started 24 games with the Sooners. He played in Miami’s spring game and had seven catches for 74 yards.

NORTH CAROLINA: WR Josh Downs appeared in 10 games a a freshman. The 6-4 wide out figures to get plenty of opportunities with the Tar Heels top two receivers from last year gone.

PITTSBURGH: TE Lucas Krull was a Florida graduate transfer in 2020 who was expected to play a big role for the Panthers. But he played just one game due to injury. The 6-6 Krull, though, has played like an NFL first-rounder this spring, according to coach Pat Narduzzi.

VIRGINIA: TE Jelani Woods is an Oklahoma State transfer who Cavaliers coach Bronco Mendenhall called the brightest spot of the spring. Woods left the Cowboys with 31 career receptions for 361 yards and four touchdowns.

VIRGINIA TECH: DE TyJuan Garbutt started 11 games in 2019 and figured to be a bigger contributor the next season. Instead, he had personal issues at home to deal with that limited him to just four games in 2020.

More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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