Just over a week 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.
Last season, Jeremiah Attaochu was an absolute terror for opposing offensive lines, racking up 12 TFLs (10 sacks) from the outside linebacker spot. For a Georgia Tech defense that found itself struggling for many stretches of last year, he was a bright spot, and a persistent threat to change the course of a play — quite an achievement when you’re the focal point of the other team’s gameplan. Now take that player and slot him in at defensive end for his senior season…
With his top-flight pass-rushing abilities, it’s a wonder that this transition didn’t happen earlier, to be honest. The Tech 3-4 generated pressure, of course, but there’s something to be said for a true four-man front and lining a player like Attaochu up in closer proximity to the quarterback. In a career full of tackles behind the line of scrimmage, I’d contend that the setup at outside linebacker is what prevented those numbers from jumping up considerably. Reasonably quick, with a 4.68 40-yard dash, he’s a natural for lining up at end — a pure athlete who simply can’t be stopped in a one-on-one situation with an offensive tackle. And while the numbers he’s put up to this point have been impressive, this could end up being his best season yet. It’s a terrifying proposition for Georgia Tech opponents this year, but in a little over a week, it’s about to become a reality. Those 10 sacks he recorded last year? Likely to be a nice footnote on what might be a record year for the defensive end.
Though it does depend on which version of Attaochu shows up. Early in 2012, he struggled to get penetration, notching just two sacks in the first six contests, and beyond 10- and 13-tackle games against Virginia Tech and Clemson, respectively he hadn’t really registered as a threat. Once Paul Johnson let go of Al Groh, however, something clicked. No, Attaochu wasn’t collecting 10 or more tackles every game, but he was making the stops that mattered, and drawing attention away from teammates, too. The eight and half sacks despite being doubled was also a feat, and it’s the main reason why everyone’s o high on him this fall.
If there is one thing that concerns folks, however, it’s his size. Attaochu is tall enough (6’3″) to play defensive end, but can 242 pounds cut it when going up against 300-pound linemen? And can he get to the same acceleration from directly on the line as he did from a few feet back at linebacker? I’m wiling to say yes, but it’s a concern nonetheless — and one which could determine whether or not the Yellow Jackets are going bowling at all.