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OAYP: 2019 ACC Defensive Linemen Rankings

By Jim Johnson
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The new OAYP advanced metric ranks the ACC's returning interior defenders.

In case you missed it, I’ve already released the marginal OAYP rankings for all the qualifying ACC offensive players as well as the edge defenders. Those, along with a more comprehensive explanation (in the QB rankings), can be found here:

QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | EDGE

Now, we’re onto the interior defensive linemen. As we did with all the offensive players, we’ll tier them out into ‘superstars’ (marginal OAYP >1.0), ‘second tier’ (marginal OAYP between 0.5-1.0), and potential breakout stars (players that didn’t get enough reps to qualify, but posted high OAYP scores on a smaller sample size).

After losing Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins to the NFL, not to mention players like Ricky Walker and Chris Slayton, there’s not as much star power in this year’s class. However, there are a few guys ready to make that jump to superstardom, and a strong second tier to challenge for the throne, as well.

*marginal OAYP in parentheses*


-Tanner Karafa, Boston College (1.15)
-Marvin Wilson, Florida State (1.09)
-Miles Fox (ODU 17), Wake Forest (1.02)

Tanner Karafa has shown a nice, upward linear progression throughout his time at Boston College. From a little used redshirt freshman in 2016 to a solid rotational piece in 2017, to a productive starter last year, he has all the tools to become the next great BC defensive linemen in 2019. He’s the only returning starter from last year’s group, so he’ll have to shoulder an increased leadership burden, but he returns more sacks than any other Eagle, the second most tackles for loss and run stuffs, and he allowed the second lowest success rate on the team in 2018, only behind Zach Allen.

That being said, Florida State’s Marvin Wilson may actually be the best bet as to who will be the league’s top defensive lineman in 2019. As a former five-star, the number one defensive tackle in the country for the Class of 2017, he’s had the pedigree, and now he has the production. According to Pro Football Focus, he returns the highest overall grade among returning ACC interior defenders and the most combined QB pressures with 34. Last season left one wanting a little more from him in run defense, but nose guards at his size that move and wreck a pocket like he can don’t come along everyday.

Miles Fox was a great offseason pick-up for Wake Forest, and projects as a solid, upper echelon defensive linemen, but this slotting feels a little hot. The ACC, for all of its struggles a season ago, is a different ballgame than Conference USA, where he thrived two years ago. I would have been fine with even a second tier marginal rating on Fox, but this one is just too high for my money.

Second Tier

-Nyles Pinckney, Clemson (0.99)
-Larrell Murchison, NC State (0.69)
-Derrick Tangelo, Duke (0.54)

It’s really easy to assume that most of Clemson’s defensive linemen are going to be awesome. Sure, we all know the saying about what happens when you assume, but this one really does feel pretty safe. Brent Venables is a wizard, and Pinckney flashed high end potential on a decent sample size last year, anyway. The Tigers’ defensive line won’t be what it was last year. It can’t be. That might have been the best front four in college football history, but it’s still going to be one of the best in college football. I thought from what he showed last year that Pinckney would have started for almost any other team in the country. This year he’s going to prove me right.

Larrell Murchison returns the second highest PFF grade among returning ACC interior defenders and the fourth most pressures of that group. Like Marvin Wilson, there’s still room for growth in the run game, but he will enjoy a deep, talented, and largely experienced supporting cast around him. He was named the team’s most improved player last year. If he takes another leap like that, he’ll join the ranks of the ACC elite.

Duke’s tackle tandem of Derrick Tangelo and Trevon McSwain may quietly have an argument as the best in the league. OAYP likes a couple of duos a little more, but I think the formula is underrating McSwain at least, if not both of them. McSwain returns more interior pressures than any ACC player aside from Marvin Wilson, and offers a perfect compliment to Tangelo’s menacing run defense. Both also graded out in the top five of returning ACC interior defenders, per PFF. Both are very good on their own, but they could be great together.

Potential Breakout Star

-Kenneth Ruff, Syracuse (0.69)

Gone is Chris Slayton, but Syracuse may not be out of solid interior defensive line play just yet. Ruff compiled 4 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and five run stuffs with limited opportunities last year. Who knows what he could do on a larger sample size? Plus, he’ll benefit from playing alongside a truly dynamic edge rushing duo in Alton Robinson and Kendall Coleman.

Full Marginal OAYP Rankings for Qualified ACC Defensive Linemen

1. Tanner Karafa, Boston College (1.15)
2. Marvin Wilson, Florida State (1.09)
3. Miles Fox (ODU 17), Wake Forest (1.02)
4. Nyles Pinckney, Clemson (0.99)
5. Larrell Murchison, NC State (0.69)
6. Derrick Tangelo, Duke (0.54)
7. Eli Hanback, Virginia (0.39)
8. Pat Bethel, Miami (0.22)
9. Alim McNeill, NC State (0.15)
10. Cory Durden, Florida State (0.13)
11. Trevon McSwain, Duke (0.07)
12. Chigozie Nnoruka (UCLA 17), Miami (-0.03)
13. Jason Strowbridge, North Carolina (-0.04)
14. Aaron Crawford (17), North Carolina (-0.53)
15. Sulaiman Kamara, Wake Forest (-0.69)
16. Mandy Alonso, Virginia (-0.81)
17. Antwan Owens, Georgia Tech (-1.01)
18. Jared Goldwire, Louisville (-1.58)
19. GG Robinson, Louisville (-1.74)

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP