As part of our 2012 season preview, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC for this season, from 25 to one. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective, so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.
It can be argued that the two best defensive players in college football both played in the ACC last season. While one of them — former Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly was selected in the top 10 of the NFL Draft this past April, the other remains in school for at least another season. David Amerson, NC State’s phenomenal cover man and arguably the country’s best ball-hawk, is back for the Wolfpack, after a season in which he recorded a conference-record 13 interceptions. With offenses actively avoiding him this season though, will he be capable of giving us a true encore performance?
I think he can. Of course, there’s a good chance offenses will try to throw away from him, but what are they supposed to do? Completely avoid their top target because Amerson is in the vicinity? His opportunities may decrease, but it’s hard to believe that a player who averaged a pick per game is suddenly going to struggle to get his hand on the ball. Additionally, it’s not as if his fellow defenders are slouches either. The team finished with a FBS-best 27 interceptions in 2011, meaning there’s plenty more chances to go around. Fellow DBs Earl Wolff and C.J. Wilson will also keep offenses honest, after combining for four interceptions last year.
And this may end up being the capacity where Amerson plays the biggest role — siphoning unsuspecting receivers off to his equally-capable counterparts. Additionally, he can also make big plays in the open field. At 6’3″ and 194 pounds, he’s a bigger corner than you may normally see, and he’s not afraid to dole out hits. He recorded 59 stops last year, and could very well improve upon that total given how pass-happy to ACC looks to be in 2012.
Wolfpack head coach Tom O’Brien has already gone on the record stating that Amerson will likely head for the NFL after this season, and most believe he’s right. The junior is the type of lock-down corner necessary in today’s pro game, and his ability to get on the ball will be a huge asset. So long as he remains healthy this season, you’ll see a rise in NC State wins and his draft stock, too.