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Senior Bowl 2016: 10 ACC candidates for next year's game

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Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY Sports
Virginia Tech's Dadi Nicolas will enter the 2015 season as one of CFB's most intriguing pass rushers.

The 2015 Reese's Senior Bowl is over, which means, of course, that it is time to look ahead to the 2016 version of the game.

Here is a league-by-league look at seniors-to-be who very well could be in Mobile, Ala., next year for the Senior Bowl. We limited it to 10 players per league for each of the Power Fiver conferences and listed 10 players total for the non-Power Five leagues.

Here's a look at 10 players from the ACC (listed in alphabetical order).

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Clemson OT Isaiah Battle

The buzz: Battle (6-foot-7, 290 pounds), a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., started out as a basketball player at a Virginia prep school before switching to football. He was a reserve as a true freshman in 2012, was a part-time starter at left tackle in '13 and became a full-time starter at left tackle this past season. While he remains somewhat raw, he is a good athlete who plays with some nastiness. His size is impressive, and he seemingly could add 20 or so pounds with no ill-effects.

Duke S Jeremy Cash

The buzz: Cash (6-2, 205) is a south Florida native who began his career at Ohio State before transferring. While not a blazer, Cash is fluid, has excellent size and instincts and is a big hitter. He also is incredibly productive: He has 232 tackles, six interceptions, 11 pass breakups and six forced fumbles the past two seasons.

Georgia Tech FS Jamal Golden

The buzz: Golden (6-0, 193) returned from a shoulder injury that limited him to three games in 2013 and became a big-play guy for Tech's defense with four picks and three forced fumbles in 2014. Golden, who played quarterback in high school in Alabama, also is a dangerous return man; he ranked in the top 10 in the nation in kickoff and punt returns in 2012, and has a chance to become Tech's career leader in kickoff-return yards in 2015.

Georgia Tech DT Adam Gotsis

The buzz: Gotsis (6-5, 282), an Australian, has been a disruptive force the past two seasons. He has good quickness for his size and has 21 tackles for loss in the past two seasons. He had little experience with "American football" when he signed with Tech, but has been a quick study and never redshirted. He is an effective interior pass rusher and will be a three-year starter for the Yellow Jackets. Given his relative inexperience, he looks to have a high ceiling.

Wake Forest NT Tylor Harris

The buzz: Wake always seems to have one star player each season, and Harris (6-4, 285) -- who grew up a few minutes from LSU's campus in Baton Rouge -- likely will be that guy next season. Harris, who didn't redshirt, was a first-time starter in 2014 and did a nice job clogging the middle. He also showed a nose for the football, finishing with four fumble recoveries. He has good size and strength, and has been clocked as fast as the 4.8s in the 40. He has good feet, befitting a guy who was a state champion in high school in the shot put; he also threw the discus.

Virginia Tech DT Luther Maddy

The buzz: Maddy (6-1, 293) was a starter for his first three seasons on campus before he was forced to redshirt in 2014 after suffering an early-season knee injury. He is a squatty guy who is solid against the run, but he also has an extremely quick first step and is an effective pass rusher; Maddy had 6.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hurries in 2013, and he has 11.5 sacks in his career. He moves well laterally, too.

Virginia CB Demetrious Nicholson

The buzz: Nicholson (5-11, 185) was bothered by a severe turf toe injury for almost a year and was declared out for the 2014 season in November after playing just one game. He was a fulltime starter in each of his first two seasons on campus but has played in just six games the past two seasons. If he is truly healthy, he has a chance to be the best cornerback in the ACC. He has four picks and 28 pass breakups in his tenure at UVa, and also is physical against the run.

Virginia Tech DE Dadi Nicolas

The buzz: Nicolas (6-4, 231) is undersized for an end, and his likely position at the next level is outside linebacker. He runs well and has some pass-rush skills, as evidenced by his 8.5 sacks in 2014. Nicolas has been solid against the run while at Virginia Tech, but it's his pass-rush ability that is going to impress NFL scouts.

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Florida State LB Terrance Smith

The buzz: The rangy Smith (6-4, 222) has played both middle and outside 'backer. He runs well laterally and is solid in coverage. His athleticism, sheer speed and versatility are big selling points. He had 86 tackles for the Seminoles in 2014. FSU returns both starting linebackers from this past season, but leading tackler Reggie Northrup -- who also will be a senior in the fall -- suffered a torn ACL in the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon and his status is somewhat up in the air.

North Carolina G Landon Turner

The buzz: Turner (6-4, 315) will be a three-year starter for the Heels, and he could be the best offensive lineman in the ACC next season. Turner was a consensus national top-125 player out of high school in Virginia. Turner is a road grader in the running game and has improved steadily as a pass blocker. His uncle, Jim Braxton, was a running back for the Buffalo Bills in the 1970s.

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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