Nov. 25, 2002
Clemson defensive tackle and team leader Nick Eason was named first-team All-ACC on Monday by the Atlantic Coast Sportswriters Association. Three of his defensive teammates, Justin Miller, Bryant McNeal and Brian Mance, were named to the second team.
Clemson did not have any players from its offense on either of the first two teams, but offensive tackle Gary Byrd and placekicker Aaron Hunt were named honorable mention. Clemson linebackers John Leake and Rodney Thomas were also named honorable mention selections.
Eason had 62 tackles, including seven sacks and nine total tackles for loss this year, a key reason Clemson showed great improvement defensively. Clemson gave up just 330 yards per game, an improvement by over 60 yards per game over 2001. Eason’s seven sacks were the most by a Clemson defensive tackle since current All-Pro Trevor Pryce had 7.5 in 1996.
Miller, a first-year freshman, missed making the first team by just one first-place vote. Mance missed the first team by just three first-place votes. The Clemson cornerbacks rank one-two in the ACC in interceptions. Miller leads the way with seven, while Mance, a senior, has six. They are also both among the league leaders in passes defensed. Clemson is the only school in the nation with two players with at least six interceptions this year.
McNeal finished the regular season with 64 tackles, fifth on the team, and he paced the club in sacks (8) and tackles for loss (13). His 21 career sacks rank sixth in Clemson history, just ahead of Chester McGlockton.
Byrd was the leader of the Clemson offensive line and paced the team in knockdown blocks this year. Leake led the Tigers in tackles with 153, while Thomas had 152. Both are ranked among the top four in the ACC in tackles per game.
Hunt made 17-21 field goals, best in the ACC on a percentage and on a per game basis, yet was not named to either of the first two teams. He has made 12 of his last 13 field goals heading into the bowl season, including a pair of field goals in the victory over South Carolina.
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