As a conference, the ACC remains more synonymous with hoops success than modern gridiron star power, as its four-team Elite Eight can attest most recently. The football version has not boasted the same kind of depth, with Florida State often towering over its competition on a national scale.
However, Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher asserted on Friday that no college football conference in 2016 can match the ACC for sheer star power.
“This is a great league. I’ve coached in the other leagues. I know what they are. This is a great football [conference]. You name me a league that has bigger stars than Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya,” the Florida State coach said at ACC media day.
Jimbo Fisher: “Name me a league that has three bigger stars coming back than Dalvin Cook, Deshaun Watson and Brad Kaaya.” #Noles
— Matt Hayes (@MattHayesCFB) July 22, 2016
Although the Seminoles are the only ACC team to have won a national championship during their years in the conference in the past 25 years, the Watson-led Tigers upstaged them last season en route to a national title game loss. The quarterback is among the favorites to win this year’s Heisman Trophy, joining Cook, Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette in that elite group. The ACC, though, has featured just three Heisman winners in the past 25 years, with all three (Jameis Winston, Chris Weinke and Charlie Ward) coming from the Tallahassee-based program.
The ACC probably won’t match the SEC for number of draft picks or teams ranked in the top 25, but the league does boast some star power this season.
Cook reeled off 1,935 yards from scrimmage and 20 touchdowns last season and enters his junior year as one of the nation’s premier running backs. Watson was, of course, a Heisman finalist and viewed by many as the top quarterback prospect for the 2017 NFL draft. Although not the star the other two are as of yet, Kaaya has thrown for 42 touchdown passes in two seasons as Miami’s quarterback and might not even be the third-biggest star in the league.