Athlon Sports released its Preseason All-ACC teams today (June 8). Eight Cavaliers were mentioned on Athlon Sports’ preseason All-ACC team, with sophomore free safety Quin Blanding leading all Cavaliers with first-team honors.
Blanding (So., Virginia Beach, Va.) was UVa’s lone first-team mention and Maurice Canady (Sr., Richmond, Va.) was the only Cavalier named to the second team. David Dean (Sr., Virginia Beach, Va.), Taquan Mizzell (Jr., Virginia Beach, Va.) and Eric Smith (Jr., Decatur, Ga.) were named to the third team. Ross Burbank (Sr., Virginia Beach, Va.), Ian Frye (Sr., Bristol, Va.) and Demetrious Nicholson (Sr., Virginia Beach, Va.) round out the UVa honorees with fourth-team accolades.
Blanding, already named a preseason All-American by Phil Steele, was the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2014 after finishing the regular season No. 2 in the ACC with 123 tackles, while also leading the nation’s freshmen. Blanding also was named Scout.com’s National Defensive Rookie of the Year, while also earning numerous Freshman All-American distinctions from various outlets, including by Phil Steele.
Cornerback Canady was a second-team All-ACC performer in 2014 after making 37 tackles, breaking up 12 passes and recording three interceptions. His 12 pass breakups ranked No. 2 in the ACC.
Defensive tackle Dean earned honorable mention All-ACC honors from the media and third-team recognition from the ACC coaches in 2014. He was a key cog in the middle of UVa’s defensive front seven that ranked No. 20 nationally in defending the run (120.7 ypg). A captain in 2015, Dean tallied 40 tackles and 8.0 tackles for loss in 2014.
Running back Mizzell rushed for 280 yards and two touchdowns in 2014 as the third option. Mizzell’s 39 receptions in 2014 were the most among all running backs in the ACC and was No. 2 overall for Virginia.
Offensive linemen Burbank and Smith recorded 23 combined starts on the offensive line between them in 2014. Burbank started 11 games at center and Smith started all 12 games at right tackle. The duo helped UVa accumulate 500 yards of total offense in back-to-back games (BYU and Kent State) for the first time since 2004.
Placekicker Frye was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist and a second-team All-ACC performer in 2014 after finishing the regular season No. 2 in the ACC and No. 6 in the nation with 22 field goals. His 22 field goals rank No. 2 all-time in UVa history for makes in a season.
Cornerback Nicholson returns to the UVa lineup healthy after receiving a medical hardship for the 2014 season. Nicholson owns 31 career starts, but has only appeared in six games since the start of the 2013 season. In his lone appearance in 2014 Nicholson made five tackles, intercepted one pass and broke up another. His 28 career breakups rank No. 1 amongst all returning ACC defenders. The former All-ACC honoree has 141 career tackles and four interceptions.