1st-Team All-ACC Edge Defenders: Myles Murphy (Clemson) and Rondell Bothroyd (Wake Forest)
Myles Murphy is the first selection for All-ACC edge defenders. Not only is he among the best defensive players in the conference, but he is also one of the best in the country. Murphy is the Platonic ideal of the modern edge rusher; he can play inside or outside the tackle, win from a variety of stances, stop the run and rush the passer, and can defeat offensive tackles with speed, power, or finesse. He’s more athletic and explosive than Clelin Ferrell and more technically developed and consistent than Vic Beasley. Murphy should hear his name called very early in the 2023 NFL Draft.
For many consecutive years now, Wake Forest has had at least one dynamic edge defender (Duke Ejiofor, Carlos Basham, Luiji Villain). All three of these players deservedly ended up playing in the NFL. Rondell Bothroyd should be the next one in line. Bothroyd finished in the top ten among ACC edge defenders in both pressures and sacks last season. He also finished tied for first among all ACC defensive players with four forced fumbles. Even though Bothroyd was productive as a pass rusher, he was even better as a run defender, finishing third in the ACC with 16.5 TFLs.
2nd-Team All-ACC Edge Defenders: Xavier Thomas (Clemson) and Habbakuk Baldonado (Pittsburgh)
Xavier Thomas is a name that fans of any ACC team should be very familiar with. Thomas has been with Clemson for a very long time now, arriving with significant fanfare as a top-five overall recruit in his class. However, he has not lived up to the (perhaps somewhat unrealistic) expectations that came to Clemson with him. Thomas has played significant snaps for the Tigers during his time there but has never recorded more than 3.5 sacks in a season. Nevertheless, he is a remarkably consistent presence off the edge, especially as a run defender. If he finally puts it all together this season, expect him to be next to his Clemson teammate as First-Team All-ACC honorees at the end of the year.
Sporting possibly the best name in the ACC, Habakkuk Baldonado was a tremendous edge defender for Pat Narduzzi’s defense last year. With stars Rashad Weaver and Patrick Jones II off to the NFL, Baldonado finally got his chance to start and excelled. The Italy native led the conference in total pressures (48) and QB hits (14) and finished tied for third in sacks (9). With most of the Panthers’ defensive line returning, Baldonado should have another stellar year before joining his former teammates at the next level.
3rd-Team All-ACC Edge Defenders: Yasir Abdullah (Louisville) and Marcus Valdez (Boston College)
The members of my Third-Team All-ACC edge defenders are among two of the more atypical-looking players for their position. On the one hand, Yasir Abdullah plays outside linebacker in Louisville’s 3-4 defense where he is asked to wear many hats. At 6’1” and 237 pounds, Abdullah is rarely asked to set the edge against offensive tackles and tight ends. But he excels as a pass rusher, winning with his explosion, bend, and agility. He is especially dangerous when Louisville dials up exotic blitz packages, where he is asked to twist and loop around the formation, frequently getting free runs at the quarterback.
On the other hand, Marcus Valdez is a traditional 4-3 defensive end that does much of the dirty work for Boston College’s defense. Where Abdullah wins with his athletic ability, Valdez wins with technique and effort. Despite his size (6’0”, 258 lbs), he is an exceptional run defender, using his natural leverage to take on much larger offensive linemen and win frequently. In what should be his final season in Chestnut Hill, Valdez needs to be more consistent rushing the passer, especially late in the year.
Honorable Mention: YaYa Diaby, Louisville; Kaimon Rucker, North Carolina; Deslin Alexandre, Pittsburgh; and Kameron Butler, Virginia