LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye, North Carolina State linebacker Payton Wilson and Louisville coach Jeff Brohm headline the honorees in The Associated Press’ midseason report for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Maye was picked as the top offensive player through the season’s first half in voting by AP writers covering league teams, while Wilson was picked as top defensive player. Brohm was the choice as top coach after the 14th-ranked Cardinals’ fast start, which also made Louisville the pick as the most surprising team so far.
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Maye, a third-year passer and top NFL prospect, edged out quarterback Jordan Travis of fourth-ranked Florida State after helping the No. 12 Tar Heels (5-0, 2-0) post their best start since 1997. He entered the season facing massive expectations and got off to a slow start with TD throws as the team leaned more on the running game under new coordinator Chip Lindsey, but he ranks among the Bowl Subdivision leaders in passing yardage (fourth, 325.8), total offense (360.6) and completion percentage (14th, 72.1%) while also running for four scores.
“Drake has thrown for a few more yards this year than he did this time last year, and it’s been against tougher competition,” UNC coach Mack Brown said.
Wilson has been a relentless presence in the middle of the Wolfpack’s defense. He’s fourth in FBS with 11.7 tackles per game, and he’s had at least nine stops in every game.
“He’s the leader of this football team,” Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said. “He’s the best player on this football team.”
As for Brohm, he left Purdue to return to the program where he starred as a passer. His Cardinals (6-0, 3-0 ACC) were picked to finish eighth in the league, but they’re off to their best start since 2013 after ending Notre Dame’s 30-game winning streak against ACC teams in the regular season.
“We’ve raised the bar here a little bit with this past win,” Brohm said. “If you want to be good, you’ve got to back it up every week. If you can’t back it up every week, then you’re really not that good.”
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Georgia Tech receiver Eric Singleton Jr. snagged a touchdown grab in each of his first five college games. He’s third in FBS among freshmen in receiving yards (355), while his five TD grabs are second nationally among freshmen.TOP FIRST-YEAR TRANSFER
Florida State receiver Keon Coleman wasted no time making a huge impact for the Seminoles after his arrival from Michigan State. The junior had nine grabs for 122 yards and three touchdowns in the season-opening win against LSU. His six touchdown catches are tied with Louisville’s Jamari Thrash — also a first-year transfer having a strong league debut after arriving from Georgia State — for the ACC lead.MOST SURPRISING PLAYER
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Georgia Tech’s Haynes King has been among the ACC’s top passers since his arrival from Texas A&M. King is tied for third in FBS with 16 touchdown passes, at least four more than any other ACC player entering the week. He’s thrown for a league-best 1,631 yards (19th nationally).
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Things haven’t gone to plan for Clemson. The Tigers were picked ahead of FSU to win the ACC for the eighth time in nine years, boasting a No. 9 ranking in the preseason AP Top 25 and an offense led by new coordinator Garrett Riley. But Clemson was blown out in its season opener at Duke, tumbled 16 spots to No. 25 for one week and then ultimately fell out of the poll before falling to FSU for an 0-2 ACC start.
The pressure is building on multiple coaches in the league, starting with Virginia’s Tony Elliott.
Elliott is 4-12 in Year 2 with the Cavaliers (1-5, 0-2), including 1-8 in ACC play. Two of those four wins have come against Coastal Athletic Association teams from the Championship Subdivision.
Elsewhere, Boston College’s Jeff Hafley started his tenure with a pair of six-win seasons but went 3-9 last year with the Eagles (3-3, 1-2).BIGGEST INJURY
Syracuse lost tight end Oronde Gadsden II for the rest of the season to a Lisfranc foot injury in the Week 2 win against Western Michigan. Gadsden led tight ends nationally with 969 yards receiving last year to go with six touchdowns and had a TD grab in the opener against Colgate.
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There’s also one to watch in Duke dual-threat quarterback Riley Leonard, who suffered an ankle injury in the final minute of the Sept. 30 loss to Notre Dame. It’s unclear how quickly he’ll return, which could play a huge role in the ACC title chase considering the No. 17 Blue Devils still have road games with FSU, Louisville and UNC ahead.
AP Sports Writers Gary B. Graves in Louisville, Kentucky; Will Graves in Pittsburgh; Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, South Carolina; Hank Kurz in Richmond, Virginia; and Charles Odum in Atlanta contributed to this report.