What you need to know ... The
defense should be among the ACC's best if the secondary can
overcome the loss of Tye Hill and Jamaal Fudge. There are
several good options at corner and reliable safeties in Michael
Hamlin and Chris Clemons. The linebacking corps should be
tremendous with the return of Anthony Waters, Tramaine Bills and
Nick Watkins, the team's top three tacklers from last year,
while the defensive line has the potential to be sensational if
Gaines Adams has another dominant year at end and Dorrell Clark
can step up at tackle.
Anthony Waters, 109
Gaines Adams, 9.5
Interceptions: C.J. Gaddis, 3
Star of the defense: Senior DE Gaines Adams
Player that has to step up and become a star: Sophomore
DE Phillip Merling
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore NG Jock McKissic
Best pro prospect: Adams
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Adams, 2) LB Anthony
Waters, 3) LB Nick Watkins
Strength of the defense: Linebacker, experience
Weakness of the defense:
Safety depth, size at outside linebacker
The return of Gaines Adams and Donnell Clark
for another year gives the line two good veterans to work around, while
the rising young players of last year should make things even better.
End Phillip Merling and tackle Jock McKissic are phenomenal young
talents who'll grow into potential all-star talents, while Rashaad
Jackson and Dorell Scott are good enough to start on the inside. Adams is the star of the show and should be one of the
nation's premier pass rushers.
The key to the unit: All the sophomores have to keep improving
and Gaines Adams has to be Gaines Adams again before making millions next year
at the next level.
Defensive Line Rating: 8
- DE Phillip Merling, Soph. - 22 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL,
2 broken up passes
The 6-5, 280-pound sophomore is a tackle-sized end taking over for
Charles Bennett. He had a strong freshman year as a quality reserve in
every game. A former tight end, he has the athleticism to go along with
the size to grow into a disruptive force.
- DT Dorrell Scott, Soph. - 18 tackles, 2 sacks, 10 quarterback
The 310-pound Scott is the team's biggest lineman and became a big-time
interior pass rusher in his limited role. He can play either on the nose
or at tackle. Expect him to be better against the run now that he's even
stronger from another good year in the weight room and is projected to
grow into the team's top tackle.
- NG Jock McKissic, Soph. - 18 tackles
McKissic had a good freshman year growing into a solid anchor on the
nose. He's a strong 295 pounds and getting even stronger with room on
his 6-6 frame to be a rock-solid 310 pounds. He was a key reserve last
season and should be the teams top run stopper as the season goes on.
- DE Gaines Adams, Sr. - 55 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 15 TFL, 9 broken
up passes, 29 quarterback pressures
He should probably be off to the NFL. The starter at the Bandit end
plays a little bit of defensive end and a little bit of linebacker with
the size at 265 pounds to be a top run stopper and the speed and
quickness to be a great pass defender. He does a little of everything
very well with a great talent for getting into the backfield on a
- DT Rashaad Jackson, Soph. - 39 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 8.5 TFL
One of the team's rising stars, the 285-pound sophomore is a bigger
option inside than Donnell Clark and has just as much quickness. He's a
high-energy player and
a consistent all-around defender who got in the backfield on a regular
basis. He'll be starting very soon somewhere.
- DT Donnell Clark, Sr. - 11 tackles, 2 sacks, 4 TFL
The 270-pound senior started over the first six games of last year
before tearing his ACL and missing the rest of the season. He's an
active run stuffer and a quick interior pass rusher, but he has to come
back healthy. He's expected to be close to 100% by late summer.
- DE Brandon Cannon, Sr. - 4 tackles, 2 sacks
Known for his two sacks against Florida State, the 245-pound senior is
one of the team's strongest defensive ends and will combine with Elsmore
Gabriel to play behind Phillip Merling.
The corps will be one of the best in the ACC led by tackling
machine Anthony Waters in the middle, who'll be in the mix for
All-America honors if he plays like he has the last few seasons. The
outside linebackers are light, but they can fly with Tramaine Bille and
Nick Watkins sure to finish among the teams top tacklers again unless
Antonio Clay takes over on the outside.
Kavell Conner and Cortney Vincent are good prospects who'll battle to
see who might start in 2007.
The key to the unit: Get the same production from the
starting three and a bit more production against the pass.
Linebacker Rating: 8
- Tramaine Bille, Sr. - 93 tackles, 1 sack, 5.5 TFL
Bille finished third on the team in tackles on the strongside after
moving over from safety. He's a former running back with great
athleticism, but he's a bit undersized at 6-1 and 200 pounds. He plays
bigger than his size with 155 stops over the last two seasons
highlighted by a 12 stop game in the win over South Carolina. With his
experience he has to be better in pass coverage.
- Anthony Waters, Sr. - 109 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 7 broken up
passes, 5 quarterback pressures
His third season as the starter in the middle. the 245-pound senior has
been a tackling machine in the middle and is fantastic in pass coverage.
He's the ACC's leading returning tackler with 214 career stops and
should finish as an All-ACC star with well over 300 stops. He's good
enough to play any linebacker position at the next level.
- Nick Watkins, Jr. - 99 tackles, 1 sack, 5 TFL
Watkins returns on his weakside where he finished second on the team in
tackles. He's built like a safety at 6-2 and 215 pounds, is one of the
quicker linebackers, and is a sure open field tackler with tremendous
range. He's one of the team's most disruptive special teamers.
- Antonio Clay, Soph. - 27 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
Clay was a good reserve last season on the outside and should be even
more of a factor in his second year on the strong side behind Tramaine
Bille. He's lightning fast and should make more plays in the backfield
while pushing very, very hard for the starting spot.
- Cortney Vincent, Soph. - 6 tackles, 1 sack, 2 broken up passes
The 235-pound sophomore spent last year as a reserve defensive end
playing the Bandit position and now will move to the middle to play
behind Anthony Waters. He'll have to battle hard to be a factor with
players like Kavell Conner pushing for time..
Only one starter returns with the loss
of Tye Hill and Jamaal Fudge meaning there's plenty work to be done. There's no
one with the speed of Hill to be a lock-down cover-corner, but former
safety C.J. Gaddis and former running back Duane Coleman are promising
corners and there's plenty of depth led by Sergio Gilliams. Depth at
safety is an issue behind sure-tackling Michael Hamlin and lightning
fast Chris Clemons.
The key to the unit: The new corners have to be
consistent and depth needs to be developed at safety.
Secondary Rating: 7.5
- CB C.J. Gaddis, Jr. - 59 tackles, 3 TFL, 3
interceptions, 3 broken up passes
Gaddis started off at quarterback, moved to corner, moved to safety, and
now will get the fill-time starting corner job on the field side to use
his tackling ability. A far more natural corner, he's a big defender at 210 pounds with a great
nose for the ball.
- FS Chris Clemons, Soph. - 33 tackles
One of the team's top special teams tacklers last year, the 200-pound
sophomore will get the first look at free safety. He's big enough to
play strong safety and fast enough to move to corner at some point. He's
a tremendous athlete with some of the best wheels in the secondary.
- SS Michael Hamlin, Soph. - 55 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 TFL,
3 broken up passes
Hamlin became a good starter over the second half of last year and
finished seventh on the team in tackles with the speed to play free
safety if needed. He's the team's strongest defensive back and smart
enough to grow into the leader of the secondary over the next few
- CB Duane Coleman, Sr. - 35 tackles, 1 sack, 2 broken up passes
The former starting tailback saw a little bit of starting time at corner
last season and will hold down the job on the boundary side from day
one. He's not polished yet and will get picked on early on, but he
started to show promise at the end of last year turning into a strong
tackler over the final three games.
- CB Sergio Gilliam, Sr. - 37 tackles, 1 interception, 3 TFL, 4
broken up passes
Gilliam has the experience to step in at starter if needed on the
boundary side behind Duane Coleman. He's big, fast, and is a productive
all-around defender. He doesn't have the athleticism of Coleman, but
he'll be a key player in the rotation.
- CB Haydrian Lewis, Soph. - 6 tackles
Lewis saw plenty of action as a reserve and now will be one of the
team's top reserve defenders behind C.J. Gaddis on the field side. He's
not all that big, but he's physical and has great potential.
Jad Dean is one of the nation's best placekickers, but
punter Cole Chason has to be far better considering all of his
experience. Chansi Stuckey needs to do more on punt returns after
averaging 7.4 yards per try, and Aaron Kelly has to do what he did last
year and average 26.6 yards per kickoff return. The coverage units need
to be better, and the punt protection formations need to be changed up.
The key to the unit: Get another big year from Jad
Dean and hope for Cole Chason to get to around 40 yards per kick
Special Teams Rating: 6
- PK Jad Dean, Sr. - 24-31 FGs, 34-35 extra points
Dean was one of the nation's most clutch kickers highlighted by a
6-for-6 performance to beat Texas A&M. He doesn't have a huge leg with
his range topping out at 50 yards, but he hit five of his eight kicks
between 40 and 49 yards.
- P Cole Chason, Sr. - 50 punts, 1,822 yds, 36.4 yards per kick,
13 inside the 20
Chason struggled with his consistency last season getting five kicks
blocked as the Tigers finished 116th in the nation and last in the ACC
in net punting. He put 13 inside the 20, but he has to get more blast on