Florida State won the ACC in 2013 and later a BCS bowl, but lost a lot of talent to the NFL draft. Clemson, with Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins, look like the team with the most impressive individual talent, while the Seminoles return imposing linebacker Christian Jones.
Another quarterback who will be very interesting to watch is Bryn Renner of North Carolina returning for his senior year, while Duke Johnson, the Miami running back, also seems poised to have a big sophomore year.
Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
The returning senior leads the ACC in sacks among those coming back for the 2013 season, recording 10 last season for Georgia Tech and had 12 tackles for a loss. He should be just as dominant next season under a new defensive coordinator.
Tajh Boyd, Clemson Tigers
Boyd will be entering his third season as a starter for the Tigers, hoping it’ll be just as good as in 2012 which ended with a win over LSU in the Chick-Fil-A bowl, while he won the ACC player of the year award, leading Clemson to an 11-2 record and being 11th on the AP poll. He won’t have DeAndre Hopkins to throw to, but he’ll still be one of the early Heisman candidates.
Stefon Diggs, Maryland Terps
His 172.4 all-purpose yards-per-game average trailed only North Carolina’s Giovani Bernard’s mark in the conference last year. On his freshman season, Diggs caught 54 passes for 848 yards and 6 touchdowns, and even getting to throw a pass for a touchdown, truly doing everything for Maryland. He also scored two kickoff return touchdowns.
James Gayle, Virginia Tech Hokies
Gayle didn’t like his chances of making it in the NFL draft this season, so he’ll be one of nine returning starts for the Hokies in a season that should see them return to some of its past dominance in the conference, at least on defense. Gayle is a second-team all-ACC selection these past couple of seasons, and should continue to be one of the more impressive pass-rushers in the conference in 2013.
Duke Johnson, Miami Hurricanes
Johnson had a terrific true freshman season for Miami in 2012, running for 947 yards, scoring 10 touchdowns and averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He’ll be more involved in the passing game to combine with his returning skills and will produce even bigger numbers now that Mike James is gone.
Christian Jones, Florida State Seminoles
Jones made a huge jump last season as he moved to become a weak side linebacker, recording a total of 95 tackles, 7 of them for a loss last season. He was a big reason for the Seminoles defense being so good, leading to a win in a BCS bowl for the first time in over a decade, and will probably be even more dominant in his senior year with a lot of top players gone to the NFL.
Bryn Renner, North Carolina Tar Heels
Renner showed more improvement on his Junior campaign throwing only 7 interceptions to his 28 touchdowns, and has thrown for 6442 yards and 54 touchdowns over the last couple of years, ranking him behind Boyd in the conference’s top quarterbacks.
Sammy Watkins, Clemson Tigers
An injury halted Watkins’ improvement last season, but without Hopkins playing next to him, Watkins is a potential All-American in 2013, possibly combining with Boyd for the best receiver-quarterback combination not just in the ACC but possibly the nation, hopefully playing as well and even better as he did in his freshman campaign.