- David M. Hale, ESPN Staff Writer
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We're counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this week, but it's a testament to the league how tough it was to narrow down the list. With that in mind, here's a quick look at a few stars who just missed the final cut.
Florida State RB Dalvin Cook: If we knew he'd be playing, Cook would be in our top five for sure. But at this point, it's up in the air whether he'll see action at all for Florida State — and his presence on the field before mid-September seems extremely unlikely.
Louisville RB Brandon Radcliff: He was one of the best tough-yardage runners in the league last year, but he shared carries with the rest of Louisville's backfield. His role will increase in 2015, and we wouldn't be surprised if he finishes the season as the ACC's touchdown leader.
Virginia Tech OL Wyatt Teller: There's a lot of optimism for the Hokies' this year, and much of that begins with the offensive line. And when it comes to the O-line in Blacksburg, Virginia, Teller's arrival was the turning point. When he took his spot in the starting lineup midway through last season, the Hokies' ground game improved dramatically, and Teller is poised to make an even bigger impact in 2015.
Wake Forest LB Brandon Chubb: The centerpiece of an under-appreciated Wake defense, Chubb racked up 109 tackles -- including 6.5 for a loss -- last season. He's the anchor of what is arguably the best group of linebackers in the ACC.
Duke C Matt Skura: The Blue Devils lost a first-round NFL talent in Laken Tomlinson off their offensive line, but there's still enthusiasm that they can repeat last year's impressive numbers (second-lowest rate of rushes dropped for a loss or no gain, fourth-lowest sack rate in the nation) thanks to Skura, who was a runaway choice for preseason All-ACC.
Virginia Tech DLs Ken Ekanem and Luther Maddy: Both are elite players, and both probably belong somewhere on the list. But given how much talent is on Virginia Tech's defense, the line had to be drawn somewhere.
Clemson safety Jayron Kearse: He wasn't a huge star last season, overshadowed by the Tigers' stout front seven, but the secondary was the stingiest in college football and Kearse was a big reason why. We're expecting him to take a big step forward in 2015, as he and Mackensie Alexander get a far bigger share of the headlines.
Virginia DB Maurice Canady: His three interceptions and 12 PBUs put him in the mix with the ACC's best cover corners, and he'll get a shot to prove he belongs in the conversation with Alexander, Jalen Ramsey and Kendall Fuller in 2015.
44mCraig Haubert and Tom Luginbill
3dDavid M. Hale