Top Returning ACC Defensive Ends For 2017

    The ACC is home to some of the country’s best defensive ends, but who’ll be the best among the returners in 2017?

    March 9, 2017

    The ACC is home to some of the country’s best defensive ends, but who’ll be the best among the returners in 2017?

    Four of the top dozen or so defensive ends in college football in 2017 will come from the ACC. Heck, with a break or two this year’s All-America teams could be littered with edge defenders from the conference. The league is that talent-rich at the position, with up-and-comers like Virginia’s Andrew Brown, NC State’s Darian Roseboro, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell and Florida State’s Brian Burns and Josh Sweat yet to crack the top 5. The ACC is so light in proven quarterbacks and so deep in quality ends that it’s going to be tough to thrive in 2017 without a consistent ground game.

    Top Returning ACC Defensive Ends

    5. Joe Jackson, Miami

    There is plenty of competition for this No. 5 spot, but Jackson showed enough in his debut to warrant recognition. He was dynamite as a true freshman, leading the Hurricanes with 11.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks, despite starting just a pair of games. Jackson is long and explosive off the snap. And once he adds more muscle to his 6-5, 250-pound frame, he’ll be better positioned to contribute to run defense as well as the pass rush. Jackson plus senior Chad Thomas sets up as a ferocious bookend for Mark Richt in 2017.

    4. Duke Ejiofor, Wake Forest

    With a chance to finally play an entire season injury-free, Ejiofor blossomed into a force off the edge in Winston-Salem. Lightly-recruited out of Houston, he spent his junior year showing the Big 12 what they missed in him. The 6-4, 270-pound Ejiofor busted loose with 50 stops, 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks to set the table for his Demon Deacon finale. He’s a natural pass rusher, with the get-off and the long arms to be unblockable again this season.

    3. Bradley Chubb, NC State

    Chubb is an NFL-caliber defensive end who’ll be facing a spate of offensive tackles who’ll never be paid to play on Sundays. In other words, a recipe for a repeat of last season’s monster output of 58 stops, 22 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. What makes Chubb so special is his ability to affect the opponent on all three downs. He has the 6-4, 275-pound frame and functional strength to move the pile on running downs, while flashing an obvious ability to impact the integrity of the pocket.

    2. Christian Wilkins, Clemson

    Wilkins wasn’t prevented by NCAA guidelines to enter the NFL Draft following his sophomore season. But he was physically ready for the next step in his athletic career, just two years removed from high school. At 6-4 and 310 pounds, Wilkins is the kind of lineman who can line up inside or out, though he was a strongside end for the Tigers. Uncommonly quick and agile for a defender of his size, the Second Team All-ACC selection made 13 stops behind the line in 2016.

    1. Harold Landry, Boston College

    Landry plays the game at one speed—extremely fast. And when combined with a non-stop motor, the 6-3, 250-pound edge rusher in an outside linebacker’s body is one of the toughest players in the country to block. Landry, who thought long and hard about entering the NFL Draft, will instead vie for All-American honors in 2017. As a junior, he led the nation with 16.5 sacks and seven forced fumbles, yet still only rose to the All-ACC Second Team, which will serve as additional motivation.

    MORE: Top Returning Defensive Ends In College Football For 2017


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