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Virginia's defense leads the way as seven Cavaliers make all-ACC

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CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia’s defense gave up more than a full touchdown less per game this football season, and the unit earned plenty of postseason recognition for its work on Tuesday.

UVa placed seven players on the all-ACC team, and five of those players came from the defensive side of the football.

Senior cornerback Anthony Johnson was a first-team selection, as voted by a panel of media members and the league’s 14 coaches, while junior cornerback Fentrell Cypress and senior linebacker Nick Jackson made the second team, as did senior punter Daniel Sparks.

Senior wide receiver Keytaon Thompson was named to the third team, and senior defensive end Chico Bennett and senior defensive tackle Aaron Faumui were honorable mentions.

Virginia Tech didn’t place any players on the three all-conference teams but did have six chosen as honorable mention: Senior wide receiver Kaleb Smith, senior offensive tackle Silas Dzansi, senior defensive end TyJuan Garbutt, senior linebacker Dax Hollifield, freshman cornerback Mansoor Delane and freshman return specialist Tucker Holloway.

The Hokies (3-8) were the only team without a player on the three all-conference teams. It’s the first time that’s happened to Virginia Tech since joining the league in 2004.

Atlantic Division champion Clemson led the way with 12 all-conference selections. The Tigers’ Will Shipley was a first-team pick at running back, all-purpose back and return specialist.

Pitt followed with nine selections, while Florida State and Coastal Division champion North Carolina each had eight players chosen.

For Virginia, Johnson — who transferred to the Cavaliers before the 2021 season — ranked second in the ACC in passes defended with 14 and had two interceptions.

His fellow corner Cypress had 13 passes defended.

Jackson totaled 104 tackles and 5 sacks in 10 games and his 10.4 tackle-per-game average ranked second in the ACC. It was the senior’s third straight season with more than 100 tackles. Jackson is tied for 11th place on UVa’s all-time tackles list with 354.

They led a defense, under coordinator John Rudzinski, that gave up 24 points per game a season after allowing 31.8.

Sparks, a transfer from Minnesota, ranked second in the ACC with a 45.8 yards-per-punt average.

As Virginia transitioned to first-year coach Tony Elliott’s more timing-based, pro-style offense, Thompson had the biggest season of the returning Big Three receivers.

Thompson’s 72.4 receiving yards per game ranked seventh in the ACC, and his 6.6 receptions per game put him second in the league. Thompson caught 53 passes for 579 yards in eight games.

He missed two games due to injury, and UVa (3-7) canceled its final two games following the on-campus shooting death of three football players.

Bennett, who transferred from Georgia Tech before the 2021 season but suffered a knee injury, led Virginia with 7 sacks this year.

Faumui, who was part of UVa’s 2018 recruiting class and played as a true freshman and opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, had four sacks and 8½ tackles for loss this season.

First team


QB: Drake Maye, UNC, 177; RB: Israel Abanikanda, Pitt, 187; RB: Will Shipley, Clemson, 164; WR: Zay Flowers, Boston College, 184; WR: Josh Downs, UNC, 184; WR: A.T. Perry, Wake Forest, 167; TE: Oronde Gadsden II, Syracuse, 127; AP: Will Shipley, Clemson, 166; OT: Jordan McFadden, Clemson, 159; OT: Graham Barton, Duke, 132; OG: Dillan Gibbons, FSU, 131; OG: Chandler Zavala, NCSU, 119; OG: Marcus Minor, Pitt, 119; C: Grant Gibson, NCSU, 132


DE: Jared Verse, FSU, 163; DE: Myles Murphy, Clemson, 112; DT: Calijah Kancey, Pitt, 160; DT: Tyler Davis, Clemson, 116; LB: Cedric Gray, UNC, 128; LB: Yasir Abdullah, Louisville, 116; LB: SirVocea Dennis, Pitt, 116; CB: Aydan White, NCSU, 117; CB: Anthony Johnson, UVa, 84; S: Kam Kinchens, Miami, 139; S: Jammie Robinson, FSU, 129


K: Christopher Dunn, NCSU, 177; P: Lou Hedley, Miami, 133; SP: Will Shipley, Clemson, 131

Second team


QB: Jordan Travis, FSU, 98; RB: Sean Tucker, Syracuse, 140; RB: Trey Benson, FSU, 137; WR: Jared Wayne, Pitt, 114; WR: Tyler Hudson, Louisville, 109; WR: Johnny Wilson, FSU, 81; TE: Will Mallory, Miami, 94; AP: Josh Downs, UNC, 81; OT: Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse, 114; OT: Robert Scott, FSU, 69; OG: Sean Maginn, Wake Forest, 88; OG: Caleb Chandler, Louisville, 81; C: Bryan Hudson, Louisville, 57


DE: K.J. Henry, Clemson, 80; DE: Donovan Ezeiruaku, Boston College, 75; DT: DeWayne Carter, Duke, 95; DT: Bryan Bresee, Clemson, 61; LB: Drake Thomas, NCSU, 108; LB: Nick Jackson, UVa, 75; LB: Ayinde Eley, Ga. Tech, 70; CB: Fentrell Cypress, UVa, 69; CB: Storm Duck, UNC, 65; S: Tanner Ingle, NCSU, 91; S: Erick Hallett II, Pitt, 83


K: B.T. Potter, Clemson, 86; P: Daniel Sparks, UVa, 97; SP: M.J. Devonshire, Pitt, 89

Third team


QB: Sam Hartman, Wake Forest, 82; RB: Henry Parrish, Jr., Miami, 49; RB: Justice Ellison, Wake Forest, 38; WR: Jalon Calhoun, Duke, 68; WR: Antoine Green, UNC, 56; WR: Keytaon Thompson, UVa, 50; TE: Davis Allen, Clemson, 52; AP: Sean Tucker, Syracuse, 64; OT: Matt Goncalves, Pitt, 66; OT: Asim Richards, UNC, 62; OG: D’Mitri Emmanuel, FSU, 57; OG: Jake Kradel, Pitt, 50; C: Will Putnam, Clemson, 51


DE: Yaya Diaby, Louisville, 65; DE: Keion White, Ga. Tech, 44; DT: Kobie Turner, Wake Forest, 53; DT: Cory Durden, NCSU, 44; LB: Charlie Thomas, Ga. Tech, 63; LB: Trenton Simpson, Clemson, 58; LB: Mikel Jones, Syracuse, 55; CB: Kei’Trel Clark, Louisville, 64; CB: Tyrique Stevenson, Miami, 42; S: Darius Joiner, Duke, 63; S: LaMiles Brooks, Ga. Tech, 47


K: James Turner, Louisville, 72; P: Ben Kiernan, UNC, 53; SP: Jalon Calhoun, Duke, 74

Honorable mention

QB: Riley Leonard, Duke, 22; RB: Treshaun Ward, FSU, 31; RB: Tiyon Evans, Louisville, 30; WR -Thayer Thomas, NCSU, 43; WR: Nate McCollum, Ga. Tech, 37; WR: Kaleb Smith, Va. Tech, 22; WR: Jahmal Banks, Wake Forest, 21; WR: Antonio Williams, Clemson, 15; TE: Bryson Nesbit, UNC, 44; TE: Marshon Ford, Louisville, 27; AP: Jalon Calhoun, Duke, 32; AP: Hassan Hall, Ga. Tech, 18

OT: DeVonte Gordon, Wake Forest, 38; OT: Renato Brown, Louisville, 32; OT: DJ Scaife, Jr., Miami, 31; OT: Timothy McKay, NCSU, 30; OT: Silas Dzansi, Va. Tech, 21; OG: Walker Parks, Clemson, 48; OG: Marcus Tate, Clemson, 38; OG: Loic Ngassam Nya, Wake Forest, 19; OG: Jalen Rivers, Miami, 16; C: Michael Jurgens, Wake Forest, 44; C: Corey Gaynor, UNC, 26; C: Maurice Smith, FSU, 25; C: Jacob Monk, Duke, 25; C: Jake Kradel, Pitt, 21

DE: TyJuan Garbutt, Va. Tech, 38; DE: Akheem Mesidor, Miami, 36; DE: Chico Bennett, UVa, 35; DE: Jasheen Davis, Wake Forest, 21; DE: Deslin Alexandre, Pitt, 19; DE: Rondell Bothroyd, Wake Forest, 17; DT: Fabien Lovett, FSU, 36; DT: Leonard Taylor III, Miami, 34; DT: Aaron Faumui, UVa, 22; DT: Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson, 18; DT: Robert Cooper, FSU, 17; DT: Chibueze Onwuka, Boston College, 16; DT: Ashton Gillotte, Louisville, 15

LB: Jeremiah Trotter Jr., Clemson, 51; LB: Isaiah Moore, NCSU, 48; LB: Ryan Smenda, Jr., Wake Forest, 45; LB: Barrett Carter, Clemson, 36; LB: Shaka Heyward, Duke, 34; LB: Payton Wilson, NCSU, 25; LB: Dax Hollifield, Va. Tech, 22; LB: Momo Sanogo, Louisville, 20; LB: Tatum Bethune, FSU, 19; LB: Power Echols, UNC, 17; LB: Marlowe Wax, Syracuse, 16; LB: Vinny DePalma, Boston College, 15

CB: Duce Chestnut, Syracuse, 39; CB: Elijah Jones, Boston College, 37; CB: M.J. Devonshire, Pitt, 33; CB: Zamari Walton, Ga. Tech, 27; CB: Garrett Williams, Syracuse, 26; CB: Marquis Williams, Pitt, 26; CB: Sheridan Jones, Clemson, 25; CB: Renardo Green, FSU, 24; CB: Nate Wiggins, Clemson, 24; CB: Josh DeBerry, Boston College, 23; CB: Mansoor Delane, Va. Tech, 19; CB: Tyler Baker-Williams, NCSU, 17; S: Brandon Hill, Pitt, 37

Virginia basketball moves up to No. 3, heads to face Michigan in final ACC-Big Ten Challenge

; S: Andrew Mukuba, Clemson, 34; S: Ja’Had Carter, Syracuse, 33; S: Jaiden Woodbey, Boston College, 25; S: Brandon Johnson, Duke, 22; S: Jalyn Phillips, Clemson, 17

K: Andres Borregales, Miami, 17; P: Mark Vassett, Louisville, 45; P: Porter Wilson, Duke, 16; SP: Mycah Pittman, FSU, 59; SP: Tucker Holloway, Va. Tech, 26

Twitter: @RTD_MikeBarber


Related to this story

Accused University of Virginia shooter Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. enrolled at the school in the fall of 2018, walking onto the football team. Four years later, he was arrested and charged in the on-campus shooting deaths of three football players.

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