Clemson quarterback and 2014 Gainesville High graduate Deshaun Watson are the preseason picks for Atlantic Coast Conference favorite and player of the year.
The reigning champion Tigers were picked on 144 of 191 votes released Monday from media members attending last week’s league media days. Atlantic Division rival Florida State was second with 39 votes, while Coastal Division favorite North Carolina was picked on seven.
The Tigers are coming off a 14-1 season that included a win against UNC in the ACC championship game and a trip to the College Football Playoff title game, where Clemson lost to Alabama.
“We want to finish with no regrets,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said during the ACC Kickoff in Charlotte. “Even had we won the game, for us, we’re going to start over. We’re going to go back to the basics and try and reinstall our program, the core values of our program, get everybody on the same page with a common purpose and go grind. That’s just what we’re always going to do.”
The Tigers earned 148 first-place votes as the Atlantic favorite over FSU, which had 42 votes. They were followed by Louisville, North Carolina State, Boston College, Syracuse and Wake Forest.
The Tar Heels earned 121 first-place votes as the Coastal favorite as they come off an 11-win season. They lost to Clemson 45-37 in last year’s ACC championship game and are trying to become the first repeat Coastal champion since 2011 in a division with three new coaches.
Miami was picked second with 50 first-place votes, followed by Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia.
Watson earned 164 votes as player of the year, while FSU running back Dalvin Cook was second with 18.