As part of our 2012 season review, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this season, from no. 25 to no. 1. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof, obviously — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
From the standpoint of a Syracuse fan, it’s been great to see Alec Lemon’s progress over the past four years. The Orange senior started off as a quiet possession receiver, and then, by the time he played his last down, was the school’s career leader in most major receiving categories. Prior to the 2012 season, his accomplishments were always made with little fanfare and attention. He’d quietly catch five-plus passes per game while big-play targets like Marcus Sales grabbed all the attention. But this year, Lemon officially came into his own. Despite missing the first game, and failing to score until the seventh, Lemon still tallied 72 catches and over 1,000 yards. Along with seven receiving touchdowns, he rushed for another. But two of his catches this year were truly indicative of how much he’d improved as a player and a leader for SU. With just a few seconds left on the clock against USF, he caught the game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down. And with 20 seconds to go against Missouri, he sped by defenders for a 17-yard game-winner. That last catch would be his 12th of the game; a contest in which he scored twice and had 244 receiving yards, along with handing SU bowl eligibility for the second time in three seasons. The Orange will miss him next year, but wherever he goes in the NFL Draft (the Buffalo Bills, if I’m wagering on that one), chances are he’ll continue applying his work ethic and leadership to his play, and imparting it to future ‘Cuse receivers as well.