NCAA 2021 Scout Series: Defensive Perspectives from the Atlantic Coast Conference

Superlatives scouts is a series that will go from conference to conference (starting with the Power 5) and dive into some of the best players for the next 2022 Draft. We have awards to hand out, players to learn and the top 10 rankings for each division.

Given that the class scheduled for 2022 is currently expected to be very talented, I find it better to alternate offense and defense.

In this edition, let’s take a look at the defensive talent of the ACC!

Best lineman / defensive edge

Cory Durden, State of North Carolina (6036, 305, 5.14e)

The ACC defensive line class isn’t very ripe for the 2022 NFL Draft at this time. Many top players, such as Clemson’s Bryan Bresee, aren’t eligible until 2023. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t talent – and Cory Durden tops that list.

Entering his first year with the Wolfpack after transferring from Florida State, Durden enters his graduation year with a lot to prove. After starting twelve games for FSU in 2019 with 39 tackles and five sacks, his playing time declined in 2020, and notably so did production.

FSU defensive tackle Cory Durden (16).

Now, with a fresh start, Durden has a chance to fly up to the draft boards. Exceptionally tall and athletic for a 6’4 “, 315-pound man, Durden is technically highly refined as a passer with great explosiveness and fierce driving power.

You’d like to see him more effective when it comes to getting into the backfield, and his running defense is pretty hit and miss. He will have to answer questions regarding his departure from Florida State, but he could be very good value with a productive season at North Carolina State.

Best off-ball linebacker

Amari Gainer, State of Florida (6031, 232, 4.59e)

Unlike the defensive line class, the ACC linebacker squad is super intriguing. There are a large number of guys who could be pushing for consideration in the Top 100, with for example Jeremiah Gemmel (UNC), SirVocea Dennis (Pittsburgh) and Payton Wilson (NC State). Still, the best probably has higher aspirations than being at least a late pick on Day 2 – he could reach the top 32.

April 10, 2021;  Tallahassee, Florida, United States;  Florida State Seminoles linebacker Amari Gainer (33) during the Annual Garnet and Gold Spring Game held at Doak Campbell Stadium.

April 10, 2021; Tallahassee, Florida, United States; Florida State Seminoles linebacker Amari Gainer (33) during the Annual Garnet and Gold Spring Game held at Doak Campbell Stadium.

Amari Gainer kicks off her junior red shirt season at Florida State and comes out of an incredibly impressive 2020 campaign. He led the Seminoles in tackles that filled the stats sheet overall – seven tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and a recovery fumble to start.

Gainer just looks like a future MIKE linebacker starting for an NFL team when you turn on the tape. He’s long, athletic, plays with incredible energy and would be a great young man off the pitch. His run defense and cover instincts are incredibly advanced for a player his age, and when he’s up against someone he can knock your block down.

Gainer was used rather awkwardly in 2020, as his best position is a MIKE but FSU liked to use him as a slot machine corner and even sometimes as a pure defensive end. He managed to hold up, but I’m afraid his full potential may not be reached, given his variance in lineouts. Gainer has the tools, the leadership and the drive to be a great prospect, and I hope his coaches do well this coming season.

Best defensive secondary player

Andrew Booth Jr, Clemson (6003, 193, 4.43e)

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Look at any early 2022 NFL Draft on the internet and find one that doesn’t have LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. as a top cornerback caught. Chances are you won’t be able to find such a draft as Stingley is almost always in the top 10.

While Stingley’s hype is well justified, he has some legitimate competition in the form of Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr.

2020 was Booth’s first season to get some legitimate snaps and playing time for the Tigers, and it’s a total accusation of his game that he only started four games and was still a selection. of the second All-ACC team.

Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. is seen in practice Thursday.  Clemson Football Practice August 12.

Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. is seen in practice Thursday. Clemson Football Practice August 12.

Able to take root in any blanket program, Booth is incredibly athletic and uses his length and instincts (especially in human blanket) to prevent completions and lock in wide receivers.

I want to get back to the athletic part because I say it with confidence – his speed and agility over short distances is the most impressive I’ve ever seen in a cornerback.

Some of the moves he performs – whether it’s a tackle in the running game or a scoop to make a play on the ball – seem downright unrealistic and are terrifying to think of in the mind of the player. ‘one of these receptors.

The only real hits I can find on Booth Jr. are the lack of playing time, and his frame needs more muscle, but everything else equates to a player who, with an impressive 2021 campaign, will go in the first round. with ease. It is the most real of all chords.

Feels like a future giant

SirVocea Dennis, Pittsburgh (6005, 230, 4.72e)

I don’t want to make this section a joke, but the Giants have come under fire in recent years for adding linebackers to their core who aren’t very good at covering. While SirVocea Dennis (elite name, by the way) is another example, he’s a damn good football player as well.

Dennis kicks off his true junior season with a ton of positive momentum after a glorious 2020 for Pittsburgh. Starting just two of the ten games he has played, Dennis tallied 57 tackles, 14.5 loss tackles and 4.5 sacks en route to third-team All-ACC honors.

October 3, 2020;  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States;  North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary (13) passes pressure against Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker SirVocea Dennis (32) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field.  The Wolfpack won 30-29.

October 3, 2020; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States; North Carolina State Wolfpack quarterback Devin Leary (13) passes pressure against Pittsburgh Panthers linebacker SirVocea Dennis (32) during the fourth quarter at Heinz Field. The Wolfpack won 30-29.

One of the best running defenders in this linebacker class, Dennis doesn’t have a lot of twitching or athleticism. Still, he’s so smart when he sails through the gaps in the offensive line and stops running backs in their tracks. His explosion out of the snap can’t be ignored either.

Dennis will never be known for his cover ability, which limits his cap as a player, but as a SAM in the right pattern he can be a two-way threat.

Zack’s 10 best ACC defensive prospects

  1. Andrew Booth Jr. – CB, Clemson
  2. Amari Gainer – LB, State of Florida
  3. Jérémie Gemmel – LB, UNC
  4. Smoke Monday – S, Auburn
  5. Jermaine Waller – CB, Virginia Tech
  6. Cory Durden – IDL, State of North Carolina
  7. SirVocea Dennis – LB, Pittsburgh
  8. Sheridan Jones – CB, Clemson
  9. Payton Wilson – LB, State of North Carolina
  10. Dreshun Miller – CB, Auburn

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