North Carolina's defense is being touted as possibly the best in the country, so it's no surprise that my All-ACC defensive team has a decidedly Tar Heel feel to it. Here we go:
Defensive end: Robert Quinn - North Carolina (pictured)
This guy is a stud. He is probably the best player in the conference, despite only being a junior. Big, fast, and athletic, Quinn is just the first of a number of Tar Heel defenders you will see on this list. He tallied 19 tackles for loss and 11 sacks in a monster sophomore year. Expect more of the same in 2010.
Defensive end: Allen Bailey - Miami
Bailey is a lot like Quinn as far as quickness off the snap and speed around the edge. The Hurricanes are expecting big things from this senior and hope he can anchor a defense that returns eight starters. He can play both defensive tackle and end.
Defensive tackle: Marvin Austin - North Carolina
Austin and Quinn are the only two starters returning on the Tar Heel defensive line. Austin is a big body who really clogs up the middle and causes problems in the running game. Butch Davis' staff will be expecting leadership and stellar play from this guy, and they will get it.
Defensive tackle: Jarvis Jenkins - Clemson
Jenkins is a beast at 6-4, 310 pounds (after trimming down) who teams with a similarly-sized Brandon Thompson to provide a straight-up road block at the line of scrimmage. Jenkins has yet to produce the kind of numbers people believe he can, and his senior year could be when he puts it all together to solidify his NFL stock.
Linebacker: Luke Kuechly - Boston College
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani calls him "Wonder Boy", and with good reason. In his freshman season, Kuechly totaled a staggering 158 tackles. That was good for second in the nation...as a freshman. It's only going to get harder for teams to avoid him as he moves from weakside to middle linebacker this year.
Linebacker: Alex Wujciak - Maryland
The Terrapins could have a rough season, but at least their fans get to watch Wujciak for another year. He already has two All-ACC selections under his belt, and a third one is probably a formality. Wujciak has amassed 264 tackles the past two seasons.
Linebacker: Quan Sturdivant - North Carolina
Apologies to teammate Bruce Carter, but I only have room for one Tar Heel linebacker. Sturdivant is a good choice though. The senior has good size and hard-hitting ability and is a nightmare for any offensive player who ventures to the middle of the field. Just another typical player on the North Carolina defense. And while we're at it...
Cornerback: Kendric Burney - North Carolina
Burney is undersized, but very skilled. Another Tar Heel who could have bolted for the NFL after his junior season, Burney has the ability to shut down the ACC's top receivers. He grabbed five interceptions in 2009, very impressive for a cornerback.
Cornerback: Ras-I Dowling - Virginia
Great name, better player. New Cavalier head coach Mike London may have a tough rebuilding job, but it's nice to have Dowling for the first year. At 6-2, 200 pounds, Dowling has great size for a corner and can use that to chest up to the Leonard Hankersons and Jarrett Boykins of the world. This guy is a big-time NFL prospect.
Safety: DeAndre McDaniel - Clemson
This is a no-brainer. McDaniel is the best player on Clemson's team and may be the best safety in the country. He has an incredible ability to be a factor in the running game (98 tackles in 2009) and passing game (8 interceptions in 2009) simultaneously.
Safety: Deunta Williams - North Carolina
It's fitting to round out this defensive team with a Tar Heel. Williams has started 38 straight games for North Carolina and is the centerpiece of a talented secondary. He has a knack for finding the ball in the air (12 career interceptions) and will make teams think twice about throwing against the Heels.
Punter: Matt Bosher - Miami
Bosher is both a great punter and a great placekicker. He has 27 punts of over 50 yards in his career and has made 32 of 36 field goal attempts. He was a Lou Groza Award finalist and first-team All-ACC as a kicker last year.
Other players to watch: Markus White (DE/Florida State), Da'Quan Bowers (DE/Clemson), Bruce Carter (LB/North Carolina), Rashard Hall (S/Clemson), Brandon Harris (CB/Miami)