Top Returning ACC Defensive Tackles For 2017

    In a parallel to the league as a whole, the ACC’s top defensive tackles entering the 2017 season can be found at Clemson and Florida State.

    March 9, 2017

    In a parallel to the league as a whole, the ACC’s top defensive tackles entering the 2017 season can be found at Clemson and Florida State.

    The Atlantic Seaboard, traveling right down the coast to the Sunshine State, is flush in top-tier linemen, particularly those wider bodies that occupy space along the defensive front wall. They prep in places like Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida, and many of them wind up matriculating at ACC universities. In 2017, the league will feature one of the best defenders at any position, Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence, and a cross-section of other talented tackles taking aim at all-conference honors.

    Top Returning ACC Defensive Tackles

    5. Justin Jones, NC State

    The Pack D-line is going to be terrific in the upcoming season. Bradley Chubb and Darian Roseboro will create mayhem on the outside, while Jones and NT B.J. Hill will plug running lanes from the interior. Jones is active for a powerful 6-2, 312-pounder, finishing his junior year with 43 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. He’s quick through the gaps and unlikely to ever be double-teamed considering the complementary talent joining him up front.

    4. Demarcus Christmas, Florida State

    Christmas is one-half of the ACC’s best tackle tandem heading into 2017. In his first season as a full-timer, he started every game as a junior, earning honorable mention all-league for his development. He’s more of a space-eater who absorbs opposing blockers so that teammates can flourish. However, the 6-4 and 308-pound Christmas is also unusually long for an interior lineman, a key factor in last fall’s five batted balls at the line of scrimmage.

    3. Kendrick Norton, Miami

    With two quality seasons laid as a career foundation, Norton is set to become one of the ACC’s premier defensive linemen in 2017. He started every game at tackle as a sophomore, making 39 tackles, an impressive 10 stops for loss and a pair of sacks to be recognized by league coaches on the All-ACC Third Team. Norton is a 6-3, 305-pound wide-body in the middle of an underrated Cane front, yet he’s nimble and carries that weight surprisingly well.

    2. Derrick Nnadi, Florida State

    Nnadi is back in Tallahassee for his senior year to improve his draft stock and raise the bar after being named by league coaches to the All-ACC First Team in 2016. He’s a legitimate playmaker from the interior, strong at the point of attack, with the lateral quickness to hunt down the man with the ball from behind. Nnadi’s junior output is testament to his penchant for being near the action, making 49 stops, 10.5 tackles for loss and six sacks to rank in the upper echelon of pass rushing tackles.

    1. Dexter Lawrence, Clemson

    Lawrence is an anomaly for a defensive tackle—hulking at 6-5 and 340 pounds, yet with the agility to wreak havoc at and behind the line of scrimmage. He was remarkably impactful in his debut out of Wake Forest (N.C.) High School, earning ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as second-team all-league. Lawrence’s first-year numbers, 78 stops, 9.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks and 23 hurries, were staggering for any interior lineman, let alone a true freshman. He has the ingredients and the potential to be the first overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.

    MORE: Top Returning Defensive Tackles In College Football For 2017


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