AJ Dillon / Photo Courtesy of: Michael Dwyer (APSI)

Now that the 4th of July fireworks have been lit and the barbecue is off the grill, our attention turns to football as teams begin to take the field for summer workouts as the season draws near. Team success is always the primary goal, but there are special players who are just a level above everyone else. These college football players have the opportunity to stand out as the most important contributors in their conferences. 

While being player of the year in their conference doesn’t automatically put them in contention for the Heisman Trophy, the best players from all the leagues garner national attention. Most conferences award top honors to one offensive and one defensive player. Every game in the ACC will be a battle as few teams in the conference are cupcakes. As the ACC has grown to one of the top football conferences in the country, it’s only fitting they have NFL-level talent. To prepare for the upcoming season, SportsRadioAmerica.com looks at the athletes who could hold the crown as ACC Player of the Year at the end of the season. 

Top Candidates  

AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College: Sophomore AJ Dillon could develop into one of the best running backs in the country. During the first six games of his freshman season, Dillon managed 333 rushing yards and two touchdowns. After adapting to the game, he accumulated 1,256 yards and 12 scores in the second half of the season. If he puts in a full year of that level of production, he’ll gain national attention.  

Clelin Ferrell, Weak-side DE, Clemson: Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence are returning as first-team, All-ACC lineman, but Ferrell is the most explosive lineman and he’ll have great numbers with that talent on the line. Ferrell will still likely emerge, once again, as the best defensive lineman on his team. He led Clemson with 18 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks last season, also forcing two fumbles. Additionally, he’s a beast in the against the run of play category. 

Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami: Jaquan Johnson has been ranked the nation’s third-best safety by a number of media outlets. Johnson was the reason for the “Turnover Chain” being sighted on the Hurricanes’ sideline. He had four interceptions and forced three fumbles. He was also the U’s most feared tackler with 96 tackles, serving as a heavy-hitter and playmaking force in the secondary. 

One to Watch 

Cam Akers, RB, Florida State: With the uncertainty at quarterback, FSU will rely heavy on the running game. Usually, the Seminoles are guaranteed to compete with Clemson, but that’s not the case in 2018. With a new-look FSU team and new head coach, Akers could provide a wonderful boost. He cracked approximately 1,000 yards while sharing carries as a true freshman. 

Predicted Winner 

Dillon’s output behind a seasoned blocking unit gives him an early edge, but any of the Clemson stars could have a major claim to the award. It’s going to be tough for Dillon while others compete for the ACC title. But, as long as Boston College isn’t terrible and posts numbers like the latter part of last year, Dillon will win the award. 

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