Stars in college football are usually made not just because of their stats but also the narrative surrounding them. Great players on great teams get far more attentions than the ones toiling on non-contenders. But that shouldn't diminish the production of a few ACC players who had great numbers last season without the cache of a championship team. With that in mind, we put together a few blind comparisons to shed some light on some of the ACC's overlooked stars.
Let's start with a couple of quarterbacks.
Player A: 63.1 percent completions, 3,956 yards of total offense, 35 touchdowns
Player B: 63.1 percent completions, 3,856 yards of total offense, 34 touchdowns
Pretty close competition, right? Well, Player A is Baylor's Bryce Petty, widely considered one of the top QBs in the country and the 10th-place finisher in Heisman balloting. Player B is North Carolina's Marquise Williams, a QB narrowly made third-team All-ACC status last year. Williams wasn't nearly the downfield threat that Petty was at Baylor, but his versatility as both a passer and a runner put him on par with some of the best QBs in the country statistically.
Next up, some running backs.
Player A: 1,880 yards from scrimmage, 22 total TDs, 14.8 percent of runs stopped for a loss or no gain, 45 rushes of 10 yards or more
Player B: 1,934 yards from scrimmage, 23 total TDs, 13.4 percent of runs stopped for a loss or no gain, 37 rushes of 10 yards or more
OK, so this one is a little bit of a cheat. Player A is Nebraska standout Ameer Abdullah, who spent most of the season hailed as one of the top running backs in the nation. Player B is actually two players -- NC State's Shadrach Thornton and Matt Dayes. Obviously it's not fair to compare a split workload with a workhorse back, but the point is that the Wolfpack actually had an exceptional rushing attack last year, only it was largely overlooked because the success was distributed among a multitude of players.
How about a couple receivers?
Player A: 50 catches, 1,044 yards, 20.8 yards-per-catch, 9 TDs, 76 percent of receptions went for a first down
Player B: 57 catches, 1,030 yards, 18.1 yards-per-catch, 6 TDs, 83 percent of receptions went for a first down
Player A wasn't exactly a star last year, but he's become a household name in recent months. That would be UCF's Breshad Perriman, who most draft experts expect to be selected early in the first round of this weekend's draft. Player B was Clemson's Mike Williams, who was as good a downfield threat as there was in the ACC last year despite playing the bulk of his games with a QB who was terribly erratic with the deep ball. Williams gets some love already, but if he can connect with Deshaun Watson for a full season in 2015, his numbers could be off the charts.
Now let's look at a couple of tight ends.
Player A: 48 catches, 44 yards per game, 6 TDs, 28 first downs
Player B: 54 catches, 44 yards per game, 5 TDs, 25 first downs
This one's actually an All-ACC edition. Player A is the Mackey Award winner, Florida State's Nick O'Leary. He's a senior who got to play with a Heisman winner at QB on an offense that was prolific. Player B is Wake Forest's Cam Serigne, a freshman who proved to be the only legitimate weapon on one of the worst offenses in history. O'Leary was an All-American, Serigne didn't make any of the three All-ACC teams. But if you're a Wake fan looking for bright spots, the list begins with Serigne.
Let's check out some defenders, too.
Player A: 12 sacks, 34 tackles, six QB hurries on a team that finished first nationally in defensive efficiency
Player B: 10.5 sacks, 54 tackles, 14 QB hurries on a team that finished seventh nationally in defensive efficiency
This is another All-ACC edition. Player A is Vic Beasley, the reigning ACC defensive player of the year -- and deservedly so. Player B, however, flew well beneath the radar. It's Virginia Tech's Ken Ekanem, who emerged into a force at the line of scrimmage in his sophomore season. He finished strong, too. Over the final four games of the season, Ekanem had 5.5 sacks and 6.5 TFL, while the Hokies held their competition to just 15 points per game.
And one more...
Player A: 3 interceptions, 64 tackles, 4 TFL, 2 pass break-ups on a defense that allowed 6.2 yards per pass
Player B: 4 interceptions, 56 tackles, 1 TFL, 7 pass break-ups on a defense that allowed 6.6 yards per pass
Player A got love as Sports Illustrated's second-team All-American safety. It's Ole Miss's Cody Prewitt. He's a fine player, but also a senior on a D that had a lot of talent around him. Player B is NC State's Josh Jones, who was a redshirt freshman on a defense that didn't find its groove until the second half of the season. In fact, Jones didn't start back-to-back games until the final month of the season, but from that point on, the Wolfpack allowed just 49.4 percent completions (fifth-best among Power 5 schools), 5.92 yards per attempt (7th) and posted a 4-1 record.