Outside of Silva, picking the top three defensive players was difficult. On a whole the defense played well and many different players stepped up at various points. A started strong (Brace, Tribble) only to fade late. Others (Akins, Albright) struggled early and were playing great as the season closed. The following three guys were our best performers.
1. Jamie Silva. This is the no brainer. He led the team in tackles and interceptions. Was a great run stopper. Greatly improved his coverage skills. Silva was smart, instinctive and a player who got better each year. He was a pleasure to watch and was as important to the season as anyone else on the team.
2. Mark Herzlich. I was surprised that Herzy didn’t get more postseason recognition within the ACC. Because of our heavy rotation of linebackers, he wasn’t able to roll up the stats like Silva, but Herzy was very, very good this year. Watching the games back can often expose the guys on D. They miss tackles or are in the wrong place all the time...it is the nature of the sport. You don’t stop the offense on every play. But watching back, I rarely found myself throwing the remote because of something Herzy didn’t do. If he needs to work on anything, it’s his pass coverage…yet saying that, the guy still tipped a few passes and had an INT.
3. Jo-Lonn Dunbar. Injuries and a few quiet games kept Dunbar from having the season he did last year. But his absence during losses to FSU and Maryland showed his value to our scheme. Even in his limited role against Clemson, Dunbar made a few important plays. He had a few rough patches in the Bowl, but not enough to but a black mark on a good season and a great career.