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OAYP: 2019 ACC Linebacker Rankings

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

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 and defensive linemen. Those, along with a more comprehensive explanation (in the QB rankings), can be found here:

QB | RB | WR | TE | OL | EDGE | DL

Now, we’re onto the linebackers. 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 class is loaded with star power at the top and a deep second tier on the precipice of superstardom, themselves.

*marginal OAYP in parentheses*


-Isaiah Simmons, Clemson (2.52)
-Shaq Quarterman, Miami (1.78)
-Jordan Mack, Virginia (1.15)
-Michael Pinckney, Miami (1.07)

If the other three are superstars, and I think it’s fair to say that they are, Isaiah Simmons is a super-duper-star. A hybrid linebacker/safety, Simmons’ skillset is perfect for the modern game. As college offenses from sea to shining sea continue to innovate and explore spread concepts and exploit spacing, defensive coordinators dream of versatile chess pieces like him to counteract the opposition. As comfortable in coverage as he is beating a ball carrier to the edge or even as a blitzer, the only aspect of the game where there is even slight room for improvement is between the tackles.

When you picture a prototypical inside linebacker in your mind, you picture Shaq Quarterman. From a size, speed, functional strength standpoint, his boasts the quintessential profile for the position. He’s started every game since he stepped on campus at Miami and earned freshman All-Amercian honors in 2016, and finished in the top two on the team in tackles all three years. If he simply mimics his production from last season, he’ll be just the fifth player in the country, since 2000, to post 330 career tackles and 45 tackles for loss. He’s also perfectly complemented by his partner in crime, Michael Pinckney, who had the highest coverage grade among ACC linebackers last year and allowed a measly 40.6 passer rating on throws into his coverage, according to Pro Football Focus, and finished in the top five among returnees in run stop percentage.

Jordan Mack missed four games last year with a shoulder injury, but fought his way back and finished the season on a high note with 40 tackles in Virginia’s final four games, including the 28-0 shutout of South Carolina in the Belk Bowl. Even so, he’s managed 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and two forced fumbles in the past two years, ranks third among returning ACC linebackers in run stop percentage, and should have his best season yet in 2019 as a leader on what projects to be one of the three or four best defenses in the ACC, at worst.

Second Tier

-Dontavius Jackson, Florida State (0.96)
-Justin Strnad, Wake Forest (0.72)
-Isaiah McDuffie, Boston College (0.6)
-Max Richardson, Boston College (0.59)
-Rayshard Ashby, Virginia Tech (0.53)

Good luck this season, ACC running backs. Dontavius Jackson, Rayshard Ashby, and Max Richardson all boasted run stop percentages greater than 10% in 2018. Jackson’s was tops among returnees at 12.1%, followed by Ashby’s 11.2%, the aforementioned Jordan Mack, and then Richardson at 10.4%.

Justin Strnad and Ashby also return as the conference’s leading tacklers, each posting 105 last season, while Isaiah McDuffie trails only Quarterman in sacks among returnees at the position.

Potential Breakout Star

-Chad Smith, Clemson (1.28)

Chad Smith, seemingly in a position battle with James Skalski for that Mike linebacker spot, may not even end up starting for Clemson in 2019. Far be it from me to tell Brent Venables anything, but it’s pretty clear where OAYP stands on the issue. From a special teams demon as a redshirt freshman, Smith grew into a useful rotational piece over the last two years. In 2018, he tallied 35 tackles, two tackles for loss, and sack on just 127 snaps. The former four-star has waited his turn admirably, contributed willingly wherever and whenever needed, and now it’s his time to shine.

Full Marginal OAYP Rankings for Returning ACC Linebackers

1. Isaiah Simmons, Clemson (2.52)
2. Shaq Quarterman, Miami (1.78)
3. Jordan Mack, Virginia (1.15)
4. Michael Pinckney, Miami (1.07)
5. Dontavius Jackson, Florida State (0.96)
6. Justin Strnad, Wake Forest (0.72)
7. Isaiah McDuffie, Boston College (0.6)
8. Max Richardson, Boston College (0.59)
9. Rayshard Ashby, Virginia Tech (0.53)
10. Isaiah Moore, NC State (0.15)
11. Saleem Brightwell, Pitt (0.11)
12. DeCalon Brooks, Florida State (-0.01)
13. Zach McCloud, Miami (-0.11)
14. Zane Zandier, Virginia (-0.13)
15. Dax Hollifield, Virginia Tech (-0.38)
16. Andrew Armstrong, Syracuse (-0.58)
17. Robert Snyder, Virginia (-0.6)
18. David Curry, Georgia Tech (-0.68)
19. DJ Taylor, Wake Forest (-0.82)
20. Elias Reynolds, Pitt (-0.86)
21. Dorian Etheridge, Louisville (-0.94)
22. CJ Avery, Louisville (-0.95)
23. Dominique Ross, North Carolina (-1.11)
24. Brandon Hill, Duke (-1.21)
25. Nick Okeke, Louisville (-1.8)

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