With the regular season in the books, it's time to start handing out some hardware. And with that in mind, here’s our 2016 All-ACC team -- the result of probably the toughest work we’ve had narrowing down a list in recent history.
QB: Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Sure, the battle for this spot was closer than anyone might’ve predicted a month ago, but Jackson’s body of work -- nearly 5,000 total yards and 51 touchdowns -- still is enough to edge out a late charge from Deshaun Watson. Jackson was electric, both as a passer and as a runner, and he did it all behind one of the worst offensive lines in college football. He was a game changer, and while his team finished with three losses, that number would’ve easily doubled with another QB taking the snaps.
RB: Dalvin Cook, Florida State
RB: James Conner, Pitt
Jackson and Watson dominated the Heisman talk, but Cook certainly made a good case of his own. Meanwhile, Conner returned from both a season-ending knee injury and a life-threatening battle with cancer to tally another 1,000-yard season and total 20 touchdowns. These picks were no-brainers.
WR: Amba Etta-Tawo, Syracuse
WR: Mike Williams, Clemson
TE: Jordan Leggett, Clemson
Etta-Tawo transferred from Maryland and found a perfect landing spot in Dino Babers’ offense, finishing in the top eight nationally in receiving yards, receptions and touchdowns. Williams returned from a neck injury to become the ACC’s best red-zone threat and Watson’s favorite weapon. Leggett not only built on a solid junior season as a receiver, but his blocking improved by leaps and bounds in 2016.
OT: Mitch Hyatt, Clemson
OG: Dorian Johnson, Pitt
C: Freddie Burden, Georgia Tech
OG: Danny Isidora, Miami
OT: Adam Bisnowaty, Pitt
Hyatt was exceptional as a true freshman last year, and he was even better in 2016, anchoring a line that was among the nation’s best at pass protection. Johnson and Bisnowaty easily could have added a couple more teammates to this list, too. Pitt’s offensive line was terrific. Isidora was a big part of an unheralded Miami O-line that helped the team's running backs average 5.44 yards per carry between the tackles. Burden was the anchor of a dramatically improved Georgia Tech offensive line that proved to be the key cog in a big turnaround season for the Yellow Jackets.
DE: DeMarcus Walker, Florida State
DT: Woody Baron, Virginia Tech
DT: Carlos Watkins, Clemson
DE: Ejuan Price, Pitt
No position was tougher to narrow down than defensive end, where arguably the league’s best defender (Christian Wilkins), the nation’s co-leader in sacks (Harold Landry) and a guy with the fourth-most TFL in the country (Bradley Chubb) couldn’t crack the list. That’s a testament to the seasons produced by Walker (63 tackles, FBS-best 15 sacks, three forced fumbles) and Price (FBS-best 21 TFL, 12 sacks, 13 QB hurries). It might be a while before the ACC sees a better group of pass rushers in a season.
On the interior, Baron led all Power 5 defensive tackles in TFL this season with 17.5, and Watkins’ 8.5 sacks led Power 5 interior linemen.
LB: Micah Kiser, Virginia
LB: Ben Boulware, Clemson
LB: Marquel Lee, Wake Forest
Kiser was on a bad defense in 2016, but his numbers were tough to ignore. He’s third nationally in total tackles (134), had 6.5 sacks, broke up seven passes and forced five fumbles. More often than not, he was the lone bright spot for the Cavaliers. Lee’s production at Wake Forest was just as impressive, tallying 19 tackles for loss -- tops by an ACC linebacker -- to go with 98 tackles and 7.5 sacks. Boulware, for the second straight season, was the lifeblood of Clemson’s defense, a high-energy run-stuffer who led the team with 105 tackles.
S: Terrell Edmunds, Virginia Tech
S: Jadar Johnson, Clemson
CB: Cordrea Tankersley, Clemson
CB: Tarvarus McFadden, Florida State
Johnson waited three years for his turn to be a starter in the Clemson secondary, and he didn’t disappoint, finishing with five interceptions, 49 tackles and seven PBUs. Edmunds, meanwhile, allowed just one touchdown all season (according to STATS, LLC), picked off three passes and finished third among ACC strong safeties in total tackles.
Aside from defensive end, no position was tougher to narrow down than corner, where a half-dozen players had a legitimate case. We went with Tankersley’s consistency -- just 38 percent completions allowed, tops by an ACC corner, according to STATS, LLC -- and McFadden’s highlights, including an FBS-best eight interceptions.
K: Nick Weiler, North Carolina
P: Nicholas Conte, Virginia
R: Quadree Henderson, Pitt
Weiler wasn’t the ACC’s most accurate kicker, but he was its best in big moments. He booted three field goals of 50 yards or more (one of just three FBS players to do so) and was one of just three kickers nationally to connect on at least 70 percent of his field-goal tries with an average distance of at least 39 yards. Conte’s punting was needed for a struggling Virginia team this year, and he delivered, pinning the opposition inside its 10-yard line 13 times -- four more than any other ACC punter. Henderson may have been the best return man in the country in 2016, the only player in the nation with at least 750 kick return yards, 250 punt return yards and at least one touchdown as both a kick and punt returner.