ACC fresh faces: Five freshmen who have the potential to breakout in 2017
There are new names to learn every season, and here are five to keep an eye on from the ACC
Get to know these names. They may be new, but they're important. They're the fresh, baby-faces around college football that are poised to make an immediate impact this fall.
Today, we bring you five freshmen to watch this year in the Atlantic Coast Conference that could make an instant impact at the start of the season.
1. Cam Akers, running back, Florida State: Jacques Patrick is plenty capable at the running back position for Florida State, but Akers adds a totally different dimension to the Florida State backfield -- a Dalvin Cook dimension. Akers played quarterback in high school, rushed for more than 2,100 yards and threw for another 3,100 as a senior; he brings college physicality and NFL speed to the backfield. He enrolled early and was the star of the spring game, and he continues to progress in preseason camp. He likely won't be the day one starter for Jimbo Fisher, but Akers will make a day one impact because of that speed and home-run ability.
2. Dalton Keene, tight end, Virginia Tech: In high school, Keene played quarterback, running back, tight end, defensive end, linebacker and more. He's a 6-foot-4, 240-pound unique athlete that could have played on either side of the football, but Virginia Tech will use him on offense as a tight end ... or something resembling a tight end. Keene could get touches as an in-line guy, a slot receiver and an H-back. His physical tools and intelligence have allowed the Colorado native to adapt quickly and give the Hokies a rare weapon and mismatch opportunity that they look anxious to cash in on.
3. Damarri Mathis, cornerback, Pittsburgh: During Pat Narduzzi's short tenure at Pitt, he's struggled to field the kind of stifling defenses that became his calling card as coordinator at Michigan State. Part of the reason for that has been his limitations at the cornerback position. But reinforcements are coming in the way of Mathis, a cornerback out of Lakeland High School in Florida. Mathis decommitted from South Carolina back in November before committing to the Panthers and now he looks poised to garner some significant playing time right out of the gate -- if not a starting job -- thanks to a competitive temperament
4. Jerry Howard, running back, Georgia Tech: This time last year not many people outside of Georgia Tech knew anything about Dedrick Mills. The local product went on to rush for 780 yards as a true freshman as one of the most productive newcomers in college football. One year later and Mills has been dismissed from the team and not many people outside of Georgia Tech know much about Jerry Howard, his potential replacement. Howard could have the same kind of impact as Mills before him now that the pathway to the B-back job is clear. Howard possesses similar size to Mills at 6-foot, 215 pounds, and he comes to Atlanta with almost identical recruiting rankings. Howard has a tremendous opportunity to shoulder a big workload in Paul Johnson's option offense.
5. Mekhi Becton, offensive tackle, Louisville: Lamar Jackson won a Heisman Trophy behind an offensive line that can gently be described as bad. Imagine what he could do behind a line that could even cautiously be described as good. That's the transition Louisville hopes to make this year, and it's turning to a true freshman to help implement the change. Becton has already locked down a starting job at offensive tackle and at the very least, the 6-foot-7, 345-pounder is going to bring some mass for defenders to try and handle.
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