OG Travis Bond
6’7, 345 lbs.
North Carolina’s success this season is going to be determined by their offensive lines ability to open up holes in the running game and stop the pass rush. Bond is a behemoth of an offensive lineman with tremendous power. The question will be is he too big to play inside like some worried with Colorado’s Ryan Miller this year? In the right scheme though Bond could become a mauling monster who helps to neutralize 34 NT’s that have given so many teams trouble.
CB Tre Boston*
6’1, 190 lbs.
Every time we watched UNC last season we ended up writing down the number 10 and putting a star next to it. That was because we wanted to make sure we remembered all the plays we saw Boston make last year while waiting for him to become draft eligible. Boston is a dynamic player with more playmaking ability than any previous UNC DB in recent memory. He still has work to do with understanding how to cover some routes and not biting on fakes, but the potential is certainly there for a big year.
OT Nick Becton
6’6, 328 lbs.
With only one returning starter on the offensive line the pressure will be on Becton to anchor the most important Left Tackle position and help to protect stud QB Logan Thomas. While Becton may not be a true starter he did see the field plenty last year playing 450+ snaps. Becton has long arms and good build, but is he quick enough with his feet to stay in front of in-conference speed rushers like Brandon Jenkins, and Malliciah Goodman?
CB Antone Exum*
6’0, 219 lbs.
Exum returns to Blacksburg as the Hokies leading tackler, and pass defender. Exum had 89 tackles (18 more than the 2nd returning tackler) and 10 pass breakups last year, not bad when you consider he’s a converted QB. While Amerson may get all the press as the top junior CB in the ACC, Exum should be right behind him being a two time All-Conference player and quickly developing into a strong all-around defender.
RB David Sims*
6’0, 218 lbs.
Back to back converted QB’s on our list as we take a look at the Georgia Tech’s triple option rushing attack. Sims won’t get a lot of glory in the box score or in TV highlights because most of his carries as the B-Back involve him rushing dead ahead at the defense. Sims however has shown the power, vision, and speed to make the dive play pay big dividends for his stock.
DT TJ Barnes
6’7, 347 lbs.
A massive 34 NT prospect Barnes was expected to come in two years ago be a key cog in the new Al Groh 34 defense. Instead Barnes has struggled to control his weight and see the field. For a team that must control the middle the ability for Barnes to take over this year is vital. Barnes has a wide base, long arms, and is an ideal prospect for the zero gap position, but he plays way too high is sloppy in his technique and is able to be blocked one on one. If Barnes is finally motivated and willing to work on his game then he could be a big time prospect come April.
CB Louis Young*
6’1, 201 lbs.
Young is a similar player to Tre Boston (UNC) in terms of his ability to make plays and his athleticism. What Young lacks is some of the polish that Boston has already developed to go along with the knack for being in the right place at the right time. Some Yellow Jacket fans have grown frustrated with Young’s tendency to bite on fakes but part of that can be chalked up to being a young player and we expect that to be corrected through his development.
OT Morgan Moses*
6’6’, 335 lbs.
Moses will work opposite Oday Aboushi who many consider to be a top level OT in this year’s senior class. Moses plays with good power and leverage, and moves really well for a prospect who plays RT. He has the necessary girth and strength to take on the power ends that he sees but also the footwork to possibly make a move to LT eventually? Moses is overlooked for now because he’s a RT but he won’t be for much longer.
OLB LaRoy Reynolds
6’2, 230 lbs.
The weak side LB in this Cavalier defense, Reynolds is asked to use his speed and athleticism to knife into the backfield and make plays. He does a good job hitting both the B and C gaps on run blitzes and shows good ability to get to the ball carrier in the backfield (8 TFL). Not as strong at the point of attack as you would hope Reynolds may be stuck as a weak side only LB moving forward.
DT Darius Smith
Smith was an unranked JUCO player coming out in 2010 but still managed to land an offer from Miami. We, like Miami, were intrigued by Smith’s size and power potential and willing to overlook his rough edges. Smith is on the list because of the potential he represents as a NT prospect. The NFL is a 34 heavy league and any 34 NT prospect is currently seeing their value skyrocket due to the need for them. If Smith can put it together in 2011 he could go from Unranked JUCO prospect to a possible NFL Draft pick.
CB LaDarius Gunter*
The Canes land another JUCO prospect in the form of big LaDarius Gunter. Gunter is a physical CB who has lots of potential if he can learn how to play the position better. He’s not afraid to press at the line of scrimmage and with reported 4.4 speed he should be able to turn and run with most WR’s in the ACC. Gunter is definitely one to keep an eye on this season.
DE Kenny Anunike
6’4, 255 lbs.
The Duke Blue Devils have to find a way to put pressure on the QB this season and the hope is that senior DE Kenny Anunike will be the one to apply it. Anunike is back this year after receiving a medical redshirt for last season. He was Duke’s best pass rusher before his injury and sadly, may still be their best pass rusher after his injury. Having junior Justin Foxx opposite Anunike should help take some of the attention off Anunike.
CB Ross Cockrell*
6’0, 180 lbs.
Arguably the best defender on this Duke defense, Cockrell is still never mentioned among the best CB’s in the ACC. Despite being one of the more complete CB prospects in the ACC, Cockrell gets overlooked because he plays at Duke. With his size and speed combination Cockrell is a CB to watch. He does a good job reading the QB’s eyes when in zone coverage and gets a good break on the football.