This is the seventh in a series on the 2011 All-ACC team. First, we profiled the players returning from the 2010 All-ACC team. Then we discussed quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends, offensive line and defensive ends.
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Remember that these honors are voted on by writers. That means certain (read: Carolina states) schools are favored, sack numbers and tackles for loss rule all, and you'll almost never see two players from the same team receive high offers. This is really not a great method for selecting defensive tackles, because some great defensive tackles don't have many stats as their job is to eat up blockers while the linebackers behind them roam free.
Two players return from last year's All-ACC team in Maryland's Joe Vellano and N.C. State's J.R. Sweezy. But they are anything but locks to make it again. The ACC has a lot of quality defensive tackles and these spots will be difficult to win.
Most consider Miami's Marcus Forston to be the top defensive tackle in the league. He's a likely first rounder if he leaves early and when healthy, he dominates. And the Canes are deep at defensive tackle, so he won't get worn down.
Tydreke Powell of North Carolina is an excellent defensive tackle, but he is a blocker-occupier and thus won't have many TFLs. If he makes it, it will be because of name recognition. The 'Heels also brought in one of the top JUCO DTs in the country in Sylvester Williams (6'3" 320). He made it in for Spring and is expected to start. If he is the new nose, perhaps Powell could get more TFLs.
Florida State will likely have a seven-man rotation at defensive tackle. That's great for the 'Noles, but perhaps not so great for individual accolades. But when a defensive line is this good, writers are going to elect someone. And that someone is probably 4th-year junior Everett Dawkins. Dawkins is reportedly up to 300 pounds, and is the best candidate to wrack up heavy TFL numbers. That said, if you made a list of the top 25 defensive tackles in the league, Florida State would probably have 7 of them. Defensive line is really a spot that separates the haves from the have-nots.
Last year Clemson had two All-Conference types. This year they have only one: Brandon Thompson. 'Nole fans are very familiar with Thompson as he has played well against FSU over the last two years and Clemson beat FSU for him in the recruiting game. He's undoubtedly one of the best defensive tackles in the conference. But he may have a recognition problem due to the fact that he is called upon to absorb blocks more than make tackles for loss.
I've already mentioned Sweezy from N.C. State, but it is worth noting that the Wolfpack has a very solid rotation of five at the position. One of the deeper groups in the league.
Wake Forest has a very good player in Nikita Whitlock, but at 5'11" 260 he is not suited to play nose guard and thus is unlikely to make the team.
Interestingly, I don't see anyone from Virginia Tech as a serious threat here.
Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins of Virginia aren't great players by any means, but they are names, and writers often go with what they know. One of them could notch a few tackles for loss and land on the team.
And finally, Duke. Yes, Duke has a player who could make it this year in senior Charlie Hatcher. The 300-pounder has started 24 games in his career and could notch double-digit TFLs.
This was a really tough call and as noted, the ACC really has a lot of quality interior linemen this year.
1st Team: Marcus Forston (Miami) & Everett Dawkins (FSU)
2nd Team: Brandon Thompson (Clem) & Tydreke Powell (UNC)
Hon Mention: J.R. Sweezy (NC State) & Joe Vellano (MD)