ACC Action Week 4: RB Landscape Shifting

Photo: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to ACC Action! Each week our staff will divide up the conferences, watch the games pertaining to the the assigned conference and then write up an overview with the key takeaways from that weekend.

With Boston College and Virginia Tech falling to unranked opponents to earn their first losses of the season, it was not a great week for the conference.

Let's dig into the notable impressions and what we learned from Week 4 in the ACC.

Kelly Bryant's role declining

For the second week in a row, freshman QB Trevor Lawrence had more passing attempts and far out-produced senior QB Kelly Bryant. In Saturday's win over Georgia Tech, Lawrence was 13-of-18 for 174 yards with 4 touchdowns and an interception. Bryant was 6-of-10 for 56 yards.

Bryant was never an overly exciting NFL Draft prospect and that's certainly not going to improve if he doesn't see the field.

Clemson has employed a true two-quarterback system so far through four games, but it could quickly become the Lawrence show if he continues to ascend. Bryant led the Tigers to an ACC Championship and the College Football Playoffs in 2017 but the upside Lawrence offers may be too much to ignore. Bryant's limitations as a passer were exposed against Alabama in the playoffs and if the Tigers are going to challenge for a National Title then it's going to require more consistency in the passing game.

Cade Carney Heading Towards Career Year

We've talked a lot about Matt Colburn as an intriguing NFL Draft prospect, but we've got to start including junior RB Cade Carney in the discuss too. Carney has 151 more rushing yards on eight more carries than Colburn while averaging nearly two yards more per carry.

Carney is a powerful, no-nonsense downhill runner that will stick his face in a fan and like it. While he doesn't offer the same elusive ability as Colburn, Carney excels as a one-cut runner that can sustain his balance through contact and grind out yards.

In Wake's 56-27 loss to Notre Dame on Saturday, Carney logged his third consecutive game of at least 13 carries while also averaging over 6 yards per attempt.

Hokies Cash in Dreadful Defensive Performance

Virginia Tech only returned only four defensive starters from last year's squad so some struggles were to be expected. Holding Florida State to just 3 points in Tallahassee in Week 1, it appeared defensive coordinator Bud Foster would be able to overcome it.

After last week's contest against ECU was cancelled, a fresh Hokies defense gave up 632 yards and 49 to the Monarchs of Old Dominion. The same Old Dominion that was previously 0-3 and scored a combined 55 points against FIU, Liberty and Charlotte. Oh, and the Monarchs did all of this damage with its backup quarterback!

Not good.

The silver lining is that it's a non-conference loss and the Hokies have a good chance at winning the ACC Coastal but defensive leaders DT Ricky Walker, DE Trevon Hill and S Reggie Floyd need to help reclaim the Hokies defensive identity.

Qadree Ollison is Pitt's Guy

Darrin Hall finished 2017 with 520 rushing yards and eight touchdowns across Pittsburgh’s last five games but Qadree Ollison has been the Panthers' horse so far this year.

Through four games, Ollison has more than double the carries and yards Hall while Hall has yet to log more than seven carries in any game this season.

Ollison is a powerful runner that can wear down a defense but what makes him superior to Hall is his vision. He's a patient runner with an impressive second gear for his size.

Ollison stared his career with a standout freshman season that included over 1100 yards and 11 TDs but faded in 2016 and 2017. He's re-stablished himself so far in 2018 and is firmly on the NFL's radar.

Jaylen Smith Nearly Invisible

WR Jaylen Smith was a favorite target for Lamar Jackson but he isn't producing as a senior with Jackson now in the NFL. Smith has a lowly eight receptions through four games.

The Cardinals offense as a whole is struggling to produce post-Jackson and were held to just three points against Virginia on Saturday. Jackson hung 38 points on UVA in 2017 and Smith caught two touchdown passes.

In what looks to be a deep and talented crop of WRs for the 2019 NFL Draft, Smith needs to start producing. Listed at 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, Smith made a habit of getting loose behind the secondary and winning at the catch point with Jackson as the triggerman but has been held back in 2018.

Harmon, Finley Producing for Pack

Senior QB Ryan Finley has three consecutive games of over 300 yards to start the season after logging a season-high 377 against Marshall. On pace for a career-year, Finley is completing nearly 69 percent of his passes and is on pace for new career highs in yards and touchdowns. NC State's ACC schedule kicks off next week against Virginia so tougher foes await. How he performs in conference games will define his draft stock and it appears the NFL is set on loving Finley despite notable physical limitations.

Junior WR Kelvin Harmon tallied six receptions for 150 yards on Saturday against Marshall, showing off his ability to win at the catch point in contested situations. This standout performance comes on the heels of 8 catches for 129 yards in his last outing. Dating back to 2017, Harmon was relatively quiet with just 9 receptions for 78 yards in his previous three games. He's breaking back out at the right time and it needs to continue in ACC play starting next week. He's firmly in the first round conversation when it comes to 2019 WR prospects.

Quick Hitters

  • Miami DT Gerald Willis III continued his breakout senior season with three more TFL's against FIU. He now has 10 through 4 games.
  • BC QB Anthony Brown followed up his standout performance against Wake that included 304 passing yards and 5 TD's with 96 passing yards and 4 interceptions against Purdue.
  • Against Virginia Tech and Syracuse, FSU EDGE Brian Burns has 3.5 sacks. He didn't record a sack against Northern Illinois or Samford earlier this season.
  • Syracuse QB Eric Dungey has been responsible for 13 TD's (9 passing, 4 rushing) through four games.
  • Remaining ACC Undefeated Teams:  Clemson, Syracuse, Duke and NC State like we all expected.

Power Rankings After Week 4

  1. Clemson
  2. Miami
  3. NC State
  4. Virginia Tech
  5. Virginia
  6. Syracuse
  7. Boston College
  8. Duke
  9. Florida State
  10. Wake Forest
  11. Louisville
  12. Pittsburgh
  13. North Carolina
  14. Georgia Tech


Written By:

Joe Marino

Chief Administrative Officer

CAO & Senior NFL Draft Analyst for The Draft Network. Co-host of the Draft Dudes podcast. Member of the FWAA.