NC State, Wake Forest and Duke placed two players each on the preseason All-ACC team while North Carolina got one selection in voting among media attending the league’s annual Football Kickoff event in Charlotte last week.
Quarterback Ryan Finley and wide receiver Kelvin Harmon were the Wolfpack players earning mention on the team that was announced Tuesday. Offensive lineman Phil Haynes and all-purpose receiver/returner Greg Dortch represent the Deacons while the two Duke players chosen — linebacker Joe Giles-Harris and cornerback Mark Gilbert — play on the defensive side of the ball.
UNC’s Anthony Ratliff-Williams earned his spot on the team as a kick return specialist.
Finley is the top returning passer in the ACC after completing 65.1 percent of his throws for 3,518 yards and 17 touchdowns a year ago.
In addition to picking up 104 points in the voting for All-ACC, the third-year graduate student also placed a solid third behind Boston College running back A.J. Dillon and Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins in the balloting for preseason ACC Player of the Year.
He is joined on the preseason All-ACC team by Harmon, one of only two receivers in the conference to amass more than 1,000 yards through the air in 2017 and one of three top-flight pass-catching threats in the Wolfpack’s lineup.
Wake Forest’s Dortch likely would have been the conference’s Rookie of the Year last season had he not missed the final five games with a punctured small intestine. The sophomore speedster still caught 53 passes for 722 yards and nine touchdowns while averaging 22.1 yards on kick returns and 8.1 yards on punt returns.
Three of those touchdowns came in a 42-32 win against Louisville, the game in which he was injured.
As flashy as Dortch is, his teammate Haynes has been the picture of quiet consistency during his career with the Deacons. Arriving as a lightly recruited former basketball player, the 6-foot-4, 310-pound senior has started 34 games and is the anchor of a veteran Wake Forest offensive line.
The rest of the All-ACC offense consists of wide receivers Jaylen Smith of Louisville and Hunter Renfrow of Clemson, tight end Tommy Sweeney of Boston College, offensive linemen Mitch Hyatt and Justin Falcinelli of Clemson, Chris Lindstrom of BC, Parker Braun of Georgia Tech, and running backs Dillon and Cam Akers of Florida State.
The Duke duo of Giles-Harris and Gilbert head the All-ACC defense, which also includes Wake Forest native Dexter Lawrence of Clemson — one of four Tigers defensive linemen to earn preseason recognition.
Giles-Harris continued a Blue Devils tradition last season by accumulating more than 100 tackles, finishing with 125 in 13 games to rank third in the league and first among returning players. Fellow junior Gilbert, meanwhile, led the ACC in passes defended last season with 21 while ranking second in interceptions with six.
Lawrence is a two-time All-American who has amassed 193 tackles, 10 sacks, 14 pass breakups and two recovered fumbles over his 44 games in a Clemson uniform. The rest of the preseason All-ACC defensive line is made up of his Tiger teammates Clelin Ferrell, Austin Bryant and Wilkins. Miami’s Shaquille Quarterman and Clemson’s Kendall Joseph join Giles-Harris at linebacker while Miami’s Michael Jackson and Jaquan Johnson, and BC’s Lukas Denis were the other defensive backs.
In addition to UNC’s Ratliff-Williams, a junior who returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns last year in addition to catching 35 passes for 630 yards and six touchdowns, Florida State’s Ricky Aguayo was voted onto the preseason all-conference team as the place kicker and Syracuse’s Sterling Hofrichter earned the nod as the punter.
As far as the team voting is concerned, the preseason poll announced Monday looks a lot like the final standings from a year ago, with three-time defending champion Clemson once again the overwhelming choice to win the conference title and the top three teams in each division picked in the same order they finished in 2017.
NC State placed highest of the four state teams in the voting, coming in third behind the Tigers and Florida State in the Atlantic Division. The Wolfpack did get two first-place votes, however, one more than the Seminoles.
Boston College and Louisville are predicted to finish fourth and fifth, respectively, while Wake Forest, despite returning a veteran offensive line and one of the ACC’s most explosive receivers along with six starters on defense, could only manage a sixth-place showing in the poll — ahead of only Syracuse.
Defending division champion Miami is again the choice to win the Coastal, followed by perennial contenders Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, with Duke coming in fourth in the balloting with one first-place vote. North Carolina also got a first-place vote but was picked to finish sixth in the division with Pittsburgh slotted at No. 5 and Virginia at No. 7.