By: Cole Mantell (@lightningdragon)
At midseason, now is a good time to look back on the first half and see which players are off to a hot start. Each conference has its standouts, and many of the names you’ll see in this four-article series will be contenders for the end-of-year awards. As for the method of the madness, the format for these midseason awards is as follows.
First, we use the same All-American set that is used for the real awards at the end of the season. That is shown below:
Second, except for the returner position, each player will be only eligible for one category. And thirdly, because I want to highlight every team, I am challenging myself to have at least one player from each team for these awards. Remember, the end-of-season All-Americans are for the entire CFSL, not by conference. So the point of this exercise isn’t to declare anything with only half the season over. It’s to highlight who has been playing well and who might be considered once the season is over and voting begins. Each position group will be highlighted in each article as well.
First up is the ACC. The ACC returned to the CFSL with a vengeance this season. Florida State and Miami are two of the top teams in the CFSL and enter midseason undefeated. The only other two undefeated teams in the CFSL are in the Big 10. The conference has some great depth as well. Notably, teams such as North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame are right behind the top two in the conference and are all battling for playoff positioning. That leaves a lot of material to judge in this first projection.
Zeus Claydon – Florida State
This was a two-man race, and already one of my hardest decisions for the entire project. Claydon and Miami QB Sam Dobbins have been battling for ACC supremacy all season. Their matchup later this season will decide the ACC and easily be one of the biggest games this season. Dobbins has a higher QB Rating and better completion, but I went with Claydon because of his better TD/INT ratio and the fact he has about 300 more passing yards than Dobbins at the time of writing.
Others Considered – Sam Dobbins
Bo Yost – Miami
Rocco Rambo – North Carolina
Bo Yost is a lock here, being a huge part of Miami’s offensive explosion this season. Rocco Rambo leads the ACC in rushing yards right now, but with only two rushing touchdowns Rambo had stiff competition from FSU HB Ronnie De La Rocha. A few other HBs compete, and don’t forget about some great QB rushing numbers as well. But for now, these two are the class of the ACC.
Others Considered – Ronnie De La Rocha, DJ Yost, Ike Porter, Nick Cal
Draymond Shakur III – Florida State
Josiah Baker – Syracuse
Deuce Bolden – Miami
Joshua Sims – Florida State
The Seminoles and Hurricanes are well represented here with the ongoing battle between both offenses as touched on earlier. Shakur and Baker are the two leading WRs in the ACC when it comes to receiving yards and Bolden and Sims have been awesome in the red zone so far this season. The other WRs considered are close, but they are either lacking the yards or touchdowns to quite make this list. There were plenty more than 4 worthy ACC receivers for this exercise.
Others Considered – JaMarr Carr, Alexander Tolbert, Damian Jones, Houston Begley
Darius Harris – Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh has turned around already from last season, especially on offense. This was all highlighted in a huge upset in Week 4 over North Carolina, with momentum on their side heading into the second half. Darius Harris has been a huge piece for the Panthers. Reliable and steady, his 293 receiving yards lead the ACC among Tight Ends. There is no more Cadberry Wellington destroying record books, but Harris has proved himself a big piece for Pittsburgh moving forward.
Others Considered – John Holcomb, Buck Hunter
Brett Brazelton – Notre Dame
TJ Gardner – Notre Dame
Bubba Wadsworth – Miami
Maria Sebastiano – Clemson
This position group provides some great talent and some tough decisions for me. The top three are pretty secure. Brazelton and Gardner are the lifeblood of a powerful Notre Dame defense and are near the top of the CFSL in TFLs and sacks. Wadsworth is close behind and also has been a game-wrecker for Miami. The 4th spot however does not have a clear frontrunner in the ACC at the position. After looking over the stats, I eventually gave the spot to Maria Sebastiano. She is Clemson’s only representative on this list. While the Tigers aren’t having a great season, Sebastiano has been excellent on the line for them as a freshman.
Others Considered – Fred VanSickle, Hom Kear, Anthony Kuehler
Candace Navarro – Miami
Destiny Buss – North Carolina
Isabella DeJesus – Florida State
This group of linebackers is much wider open than other positions on the list. In terms of tackling, Navarro leads the way for the ACC. Buss has been a big play machine once again this season for North Carolina. And DeJesus is tied with Buss with 3 interceptions for the most of any linebacker in the CFSL right now. Still, there are plenty of players just under this cutoff who also could be considered. As it stands, Linebacker (along with QB) might be the strongest position group of the ACC right now.
Others Considered – Holly Jax, Garrett Evans, Bishop Guerrero, Van Jackson, Nathan Reno
Andrew Cook – Notre Dame
Elijah Pence – Florida State
Craig Smith – North Carolina
Cornerbacks are usually judged on one stat. Interceptions are the bread and butter of great pass defense. In the ACC, that’s Cook and Pence leading the way with 4 so far this season. However, Craig Smith is tied for 1st in the CFSL with 7 deflections and that means something in a game, even if he isn’t catching most of them. He gets the third nod here as a few more CBs are right behind this group as well.
Others Considered – Chris Bryant, Tyr Gunderson, Aiden Miller
Zaveon May – Pittsburgh
John Brooks – North Carolina
Jamal Davis – Miami
This is another category where again there is so much depth in the ACC. Here, Zaveon May leads the way as he leads the CFSL in tackles. It’s a one-man race in the ACC for the best safety right now with his season. Behind him, Brooks and Davis are both effective off the ball in coverage and get the nod here. A few others have a lot of one stat (tackles, INTs, PDs, etc.), but not enough in other stats.
Others Considered – Malcolm Moses, DJ Sutton
Zaveon May – Pittsburgh
In addition to being the best safety in the CFSL right now, May has torched teams on kick returns this season. While some other ACC returners have more yards per return, no one has more kick return yards than May. His volume work speaks for itself and gets him the second nod here.
Others Considered – Damian Jones, Tyr Gunderson, Draymond Shakur III, Maalik Henderson, Tyson Steele, Joshua Sims