Less than three weeks until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.
Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.
How does a former walk-on at Virginia Tech end up being considered one of the conference’s best linebackers by his senior season? By harnessing some unencumbered aggression and getting after the ball carrier in the fashion Jack Tyler has. After just one appearance his sophomore season (still, 12 tackles in that game), Tyler was at times a force of nature for the Hokies last year, racking up 119 total tackles. Every single game, he recorded at least seven stops, while also adding 13 TFLs (2.5 sacks) and managing to work himself into passing lanes as well, with three deflections. Admittedly, he’s not the most “finished” product at linebacker, but with results like this, that can be largely ignored. Tyler’s a player who’s rarely out of position and has a knack for making plays. As a former walk-on, he gets the value of hard work, and is a quick study, too.
This season’s Tech defense is a much older group than last year’s, so it won’t be short on players to fill leadership roles. And yet, Tyler is still considered among the locker room’s leading voices. As he told ESPN back in December, he’s excited to take on a larger role in that department, at the urging of defensive coordinator Bud Foster. But perhaps, he’s best served just leading by example. Despite an incredibly strong starting 11, depth is a bit of an issue for this entire defense, and what they may need more than vocal leaders are just tireless workers who can stay on the field. Tyler’s one of just three upperclassmen on the two-deep linebacker corps depth chart, and it’s imperative he (and the other experienced players) keep their health if VaTech wants to regain some defensive swagger this season.
After coming from nowhere, apparently, Tyler now has the praise of his coaches, peers and the media, but there’s still more left to do. Like many of the ACC’s top linebackers over the years, he’s perceived as slightly undersized (6’1″ and 225 pounds) and speed-wise, he’s lagging a bit behind where one might like (4.79 seconds). But his ability to get after the football makes up for it… for now, anyway. If quicker blockers start to get an edge on him, perhaps he’s contained a bit this season. However, if he can just gain a little bit more speed, and continue his general work ethic, Tyler should more than live up to his All-ACC billing from preseason.