Top Returning DL in the ACC (2024)

Having great talent on the defensive front is a key piece of any winning football program. To be successful in the ACC this is no different. In a league that consistently has strong quarterback play, having players who can put pressure on those guys is important. That is why defensive linemen have become a premium that many teams are trying to find or retain in this transfer portal era.

To continue our best-returning players series, we now look at the top returning defensive linemen in the ACC. Narrowing down the list was not easy, but the players who made the list have already proven they can dominate and are poised to have an amazing 2024 season.

Aeneas Peebles- Virginia Tech

The only transfer player on this list is graduate player Aeneas Peebles. After spending his undergraduate career at Duke, Peebles now moves on to become a Hokie. In all his time at Duke though, Peebles only started three games. Much of that time was spent rotating behind three-time Duke captain and third-round NFL draft pick DeWayne Carter. Now though, Peebles should have his time to shine truly.

Still, even in that time not being a starter, Peebles found a way to contribute big time for the Blue Devils. In 2023 he tied for first on Duke’s defense in tackles for loss with 9.5. Peebles also had the second-most sacks on the team with five. He also got 43 total tackles, two pass deflections, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. He earned an All-ACC third-team selection from the conference. It’ll be interesting to see how Peebles performs in a new situation this season. Many in the media see Virginia Tech as a potential dark horse in the ACC championship race. Peebles could end up being a huge reason that happens.

TJ Parker- Clemson

A rising sophom*ore who had a breakout freshman season was Clemson defensive endTJ Parker. He was a finalist for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award for a reason. Parkers’ 12.5 tackles for loss tied for second on Clemson’s defense and broke the program record for tackles for loss by a freshman. His 5.5 sacks tied for first on the Clemson defense. Along with that, Parker also had 32 total tackles, two pass deflections, and a fumble recovery. Parker was also named a Freshman All-American. All of this while mainly being a rotational player for the Tigers in 2023.

Clemson has had many mixed opinions thrown their way over the last few years. Going into 2024 it has not gotten any better. The one thing most can agree on though is the defense looks stacked. If the Tigers are going to get back to national championship form it is going to be because of the defense.More specifically the defensive front. Parker is going to be relied upon big time to be a difference-maker for Clemson and the film shows he should be ready.

Rueben Bain Jr- Miami

Having a best returning defensive linemen list without the 2023 ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year would be just wrong.Rueben Bain Jrhad a stellar freshman season for Miami. He finished the 2023 season with 44 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks. Bain led all defensive linemen for the Hurricanes in each of those statistical categories. He also added to those totals three forced fumbles and a pass deflection. This earned him an All-ACC third-team selection by the conference. The freshman All-American did all of this after earning the starting role in just week 3.

Miami right now is seen as one of the favorites to win the ACC in 2024. Bain is one of the biggest reasons for the high expectations. It is said that the biggest jump in improvement for most college players is between their freshman and sophom*ore years. If this is true for Bain, then the conference needs to be on notice.

Ashton Gillotte- Louisville

It is only right this list is topped with the only player on it to be named First-Team All-ACC by the conference.Ashton Gillottehad a monster season for Louisville in 2023. His 45 total tackles were the most by any Louisville defensive lineman. Gillotte also racked up 11 sacks which tied for ninth most in a season by a Louisville player. Along with that he also had 12.5 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. This earned Gillotte Second-Team All-American honors from USA Today, The Athletic, and Sports Illustrated. He also was on the All-ACC Academic team.

Going into his senior year, Gilotte has no choice but to be even better than last season. Louisville surprised many last year when it made it to the ACC Championship game. Even though that was just a season ago, many are overlooking the Cardinals once again. If Louisville is going to shock the nation again, Gillotte dominating in the trenches must happen.

Top Returning DL in the ACC (2024)


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