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OAYP: 2019 ACC EDGE Rankings

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
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The new OAYP advanced metric ranks the ACC's edge defenders.

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

QB | RB | WR | TE | OL

Now it’s time to move to the other side of the ball, where we’ll start with the edge defenders -- defensive ends in four man fronts and outside linebackers in three man fronts. 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).

This year’s group is pretty top heavy, and a few teams boast impressive depth with three or four qualified returnees.

*marginal OAYP in parentheses*

Superstars

-Jonathan Garvin, Miami (1.96)
-Alton Robinson, Syracuse (1.66)
-Xavier Thomas, Clemson (1.53)
-Trevon Hill (VT 17), Miami (1.49)
-Rashad Weaver, Pitt (1.15)

Like I said, with five guys meeting the superstar threshold, and just one falling into the second tier, this group is top heavy. Granted, because marginal scores are dependent upon the other players’ raw scores, a lack of true superstardom could contribute to some of these guys earning inflated marginal scores. There’s no obvious Bradley Chubb, Clelin Ferrell, or Brian Burns in here. That said, a few of these guys could certainly become that kind of impact player this season, and all are obviously very good, regardless.

Both Garvin and Robinson ranked in the national top 25 last year in tackles for loss, and the top five among returning players. Both players are in similar situations after losing a dominant force in the interior of their defensive lines -- Gerald Willis for Miami and Chris Slayton for Syracuse. However, they will both benefit from another solid edge defender on the other side.

Meanwhile, Xavier Thomas, even in a reserve role, had one of the most impressive campaigns of any true freshman in college football last year -- and there were a lot of them. According to Pro Football Focus, he led all true freshman edge rushers with 26 total pressures, and posted the highest overall grade in that group. Clemson’s defensive line won’t be what it was a season ago, arguably the best ever, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be awesome. The way Brent Venables develops front seven talent, Thomas should be competing for All-American honors this season.

Trevon Hill was the other solid edge defender I mentioned when discussing Jonathan Garvin. Joe Jackson is off to the NFL, but his spot should be filled by the former Virginia Tech standout. He was one of the few bright spots for the Hokie defense early in 2018, before leaving the team after week three. Obviously, it can be difficult to project a transfer, but he walks into a favorable situation as Miami boasts what could be the best defensive front in the ACC.

Rashad Weaver did it all for Pitt in 2018, posting 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, and four pass breakups. He also graded out higher in run defense than any returning ACC edge defender. In fact, only six other players matched or bettered his production in all four of the aforementioned categories last year, two of which were Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year David Long and SEC Defensive Player of the Year Josh Allen. Weaver made a big leap from year one to year two. Another jump like that will see him join the ranks of the national elite.

Second Tier

-Carlos Basham, Wake Forest (0.89)

Basham is the lone bridge between the best of the best in the ACC and the rest of the ACC, at least according to OAYP. He did grade out as the second best returning edge defender against the run last year, only trailing Weaver. He was super consistent in 2018, posting steady production on a week to week basis, with enough flash plays to stand out. The next step is to turn that consistency with occasional flashes of dominance into consistent dominance.

NC State’s James Smith-Williams just missed the second tier threshold, and Deonte Holden would have been the potential breakout star if not for Justin Foster, so watch out for the Pack, too.

Potential Breakout Star

-Justin Foster, Clemson (0.96)

There’s no Brent Venables factor in the OAYP formula (although there probably should be), but apparently it doesn’t matter. The Tigers have led the nation in tackles for loss five out of the last six years, the lone exception when they finished a lowly sixth in 2017. They’ve also finished in the top five of either line yards per carry allowed or sack rate in each of the past five years, and a couple of times both. In other words, though Clemson’s defensive line won’t be as good as it was last year (it can’t possibly be, right?), betting on it to still be awesome is like betting on the sun to rise. And who knows, even if neither Foster nor Thomas is Clelin Ferrell this year, the two of them might be an even better duo than Ferrell and Austin Bryant.

Full Marginal OAYP Rankings for Returning ACC Edge Defenders

1. Jonathan Garvin, Miami (1.96)
2. Alton Robinson, Syracuse (1.66)
3. Xavier Thomas, Clemson (1.53)
4. Trevon Hill (VT 17), Miami (1.49)
5. Rashad Weaver, Pitt (1.15)
6. Carlos Basham, Wake Forest (0.89)
7. James Smith-Williams, NC State (0.49)
8. Charles Snowden, Virginia (0.39)
9. Kendall Coleman, Syracuse (0.39)
10. Victor Dimukeje, Duke (0.33)
11. Scott Patchan, Miami (-0.11)
12. Janarius Robinson, Florida State (-0.38)
13. Drew Jordan, Duke (-0.71)
14. Amonte Caban, Louisville (-0.76)
15. Tabarius Peterson, Louisville (-0.82)
16. Chris Rumph, Duke (-0.85)
17. Charlie Thomas, Georgia Tech (-1.06)
18. Houshun Gaines, Virginia Tech (-1.1)
19. Tre Hornbuckle, Duke (-1.1)
20. Emmanuel Belmar, Virginia Tech (-1.12)
21. Tomon Fox, North Carolina (-1.12)
22. TyJuan Garbutt, Virginia Tech (-1.13)

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