WakeFB

Wake Forest junior defensive end Boogie Basham celebrates a stop against North Carolina earlier this season. 

This doesn’t get any easier.

I should’ve arrived at this conclusion earlier, and I might have and forgotten, but there are always going to be positions on the All-ACC team that are just impossible to narrow down.

There were quite a few this year.

Here’s the ballot I filed:

First-team

Offense

QB – Trevor Lawrence, Clem.

RB – Travis Etienne, Clem.

RB – Cam Akers, FSU

WR – Sage Surratt, WF

WR – Tee Higgins, Clem.

WR – Tutu Atwell, UL

All-purpose – Joe Reed, UVa.

TE – Brevin Jordan, Miami

OT – Mekhi Becton, UL

OT – Charlie Heck, UNC

OG – John Simpson, Clem.

OG – Nate Gilliam, WF

C – Jimmy Morrissey, Pitt.

My take: I started filling out my ballot with AJ Dillon instead of Akers and switched when time came. I had the benefit of seeing all three of the league’s top RBs – and came away from Wake Forest’s game against Florida State thinking that if Akers was on any other team in the league, we’d be talking about him as an all-time great. He’s the total package.

Dillon’s usage — 318 carries was 87 more than Akers and astonishingly almost twice as many as Etienne’s 168 — also played a factor.

I’m not sure what else is controversial or needs to be explained here: Lawrence threw a few too many interceptions early, but threw 22 touchdowns and three interceptions in the last seven games, which were all wins by 30 points or more. Becton was the best offensive lineman I saw all year. Gilliam had an even better year than I realized until going through nomination info.

Picking first-team receivers wasn’t as difficult as Mark Packer and Wes Durham made it seem. Surratt was the best receiver in the league and that’s pretty clear. Higgins had 43 catches for 900 yards and 10 touchdowns — imagine if he had been needed in more than two fourth quarters all year.

And Atwell is a clear pick, too — he led the league with 1,125 yards and 12 touchdowns. He averaged 18.8 yards per catch, which is ridiculous for a slot receiver.

Defense

DE – Boogie Basham, WF

DE – Greg Rousseau, UM

DT – Jaylen Twyman, Pitt.

DT – Marvin Wilson, FSU

LB – Isaiah Simmons, Clem.

LB – Chazz Surratt, UNC

LB – Rayshard Ashby, VT

CB – Caleb Farley, VT

CB – Asante Samuel Jr. ,FSU

S – Andre Cisco, Syr.

S – Tanner Muse, Clem.

My take: No Clemson D-linemen after the past two seasons felt strange.

But — I’ve stumbled into this one, I swear — Boogie became Boogie. He’s Wake Forest’s first defensive end to make first-team All-ACC since Calvin Pace in 2002, and the stats speak for themselves to his impact: 53 tackles, 10 sacks, 17 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and 13 QB hurries.

Rousseau — spoiler alert — was my pick for ACC defensive rookie of the year. He led the league with 13 sacks.

Twyman was second in the league with 10½ sacks, and while I know Pitt’s sack numbers were inflated, that’s not easy to ignore when talking about an interior lineman. Wilson, my word, was a wrecking ball inside.

Simmons was the easiest pick on defense, while Surratt made my first-team more because of the linebacker he was throughout the season, not even considering how much of a game-changer he was in his first season at the position. I’m surprised Ashby wasn’t a first-team pick.

I like ball-hawking safeties who can also play in run support, and that’s reflected. Farley was an easy choice after leading the ACC in passes defended (16), while Samuel was tied for fourth with 13.

Specialists

K – Nick Sciba, WF

P – Sterling Hofrichter, Syr.

Ret. – Joe Reed, UVa.

My take: Sciba is one game away from completing his sophomore season and has already entrenched himself in the conversation of most-accurate kicker in league history. The clutch kicks against Syracuse in the finale — all three from 40-plus — only served as the cherry on top for him on this ballot.

Hofrichter is here because punters should, no, need to be evaluated on several other metrics before we look at punt average. I care little that he’s seventh in the league in average distance. It matters more to me that he’s had 10 of 69 punts returned, has only had two touchbacks and has had 42% of his punts downed inside the 20.

Oh, and Hofrichter is excellent on kickoffs.

Second-team

Offense

QB – Bryce Perkins, UVa.

RB – AJ Dillon, BC

RB – Javian Hawkins, UL

WR – Kendall Hinton, WF

WR – Tamorrion Terry, FSU

WR – Trishton Jackson, Syr.

All-purpose – Maurice Ffrench, Pitt.

TE – Noah Gray, Duke

OT – Tremayne Anchrum, Clem.

OT – Justin Herron, WF

OG – Gage Cervenka, Clem.

OG – Zion Johnson, BC

C – Sean Pollard, Clem.

My take: Perkins carried Virginia to the Coastal Division crown and was at his best when it mattered most, with all three of his 100-yard rushing games coming in the last four games and averaging 286.5 in that span, too.

Hinton’s metamorphosis was incredible to watch first-hand, but he really was one of the best receivers in the league. His 95.3 yards per game were actually second in the ACC behind Surratt’s 111.2. The WR picks were harder to whittle down with Terry, Jackson and Ffrench, though it helped that Ffrench was listed at all-purpose.

Honestly all three of the Clemson O-linemen could have been bumped up to first-team.

Defense

DE – Victor Dimukeje, Duke

DE – Xavier Thomas, Clem.

DT – Tyler Davis, Clem.

DT – Jason Strowbridge, UNC

LB – Jordan Mack, UVa.

LB – Max Richardson, BC

LB – Shaq Quarterman, UM

CB – Derion Kendrick, Clem.

CB – Jermaine Waller, VT

S – Paris Ford, Pitt.

S – Hamsah Nasirildeen, FSU

My take: Pretty standard stuff here. Richardson was third in the conference in tackles (108). Ford and Nasirildeen could have been first-team safeties in a lot of seasons — just a crowded position this year. Thomas is another injury-related drop — I’d pencil him as a first-team defensive end next year right now.

Specialists

K – Brian Delaney, UVa.

P – Trenton Gill, NCSU

Ret. – Hassan Hall, UL

My take: Gill was the league leader in punt average and only had seven touchbacks in 56 punts. I probably should’ve had Christopher Dunn over Delaney — that’s my fault. At least I didn’t leave off Dunn.

Third-team

Offense

QB – Sam Howell, UNC

RB – Michael Carter, UNC

RB – David Bailey, BC

WR –Scotty Washington, WF

WR – Dyami Brown, UNC

WR – Hasise Dubois, UVa.

All-purpose – Hassan Hall, UL

TE – Hunter Long, BC

OT – Ben Petrula, BC

OT – Jackson Carman, Clem.

OG – Bryce Hargrove, Pitt.

OG – Lecitus Smith, VT

C – Zach Tom, WF

My take: So, here we go: I thought Howell was more consistent, better in the last month of the season and more ball-secure than Jamie Newman. I’m sure that won’t go over well, I’m sure it might damage my relationship with Newman and other players on the team, but that’s how I saw things as an objective observer.

North Carolina and Wake Forest both played Virginia Tech and Clemson, the two best defenses I saw this season. Howell was a combined 41-for-76 for 492 yards with seven touchdowns and no interceptions against those two. Newman was 22-for-49 for 279 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions.

Newman threw 10 interceptions in 334 attempts; Howell threw seven in 388 attempts.

I weighed how important losing Surratt and Washington were to Newman’s play down the stretch, but that’s somewhat offset by Howell having what I thought was a worse offensive line and worse receiving corps.

That’s how I arrived at my decision.

In other news, Carman makes it all five Clemson O-linemen on my ballot. Just like Thomas, I’d pencil in Bailey as a first-team All-ACC pick when next season begins.

Defense

DE – Alton Robinson, Syr.

DE – Patrick Jones II, Pitt.

DT – Aaron Crawford, UNC

DT – Larrell Murchison, NCSU

LB – Kylan Johnson, Pitt.

LB – Michael Pinckney, UM

LB – Zane Zandier, UVa.

CB – Essang Bassey, WF

CB – Tre Swilling, GT

S – Nasir Greer, WF

S – K’Von Wallace, Clem.

My take: Bassey landed here in the actual results, while Greer picked up honorable mention. The former is going have a good shot at landing on an NFL roster and the latter very well could be a first-team pick before next season begins.

Narrowing down the last few linebackers was tough, but I’m sure there’s skepticism of not including Justin Strnad. Here’s my take: he didn’t play in enough games. Playing in 7 of 12, and the five games he missed all being ACC games, meant he didn’t play in enough games for me to consider him. If he had been healthy, I’m positive he would’ve been a first-team selection for me — likely for the rest of voters, too, as he was on pace to finish with about 120 tackles, which would’ve led the league by 10.

Specialists

K – Christopher Dunn, NCSU

P – Dom Maggio, WF

Ret. – Damond Philyaw-Johnson, Duke

My take: Maggio probably has the strongest punting leg in the league, evidenced by his 27 punts of more than 50 yards. One of the main reasons he’s not higher is that he led the league with 12 touchbacks — second-place had seven.

And I think you’re obligated to have the guy you saw return two kickoffs for touchdowns in the same game on your ballot.

Keep up with all the latest on Wake Forest athletics, from analysis to features and lots more Deacons news you won’t find anywhere else.

Recommended for you

Load comments