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2011 ACC Preview - Atlantic Team Breakdowns
Clemson RB Andre Ellington
Clemson RB Andre Ellington
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jul 26, 2011


Preview 2011 - CFN ACC Atlantic Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish


Preview 2011

ACC Atlantic Team By Team


ATLANTIC
- 2011 Boston College Preview | 2011 Clemson Preview
- 2011 Florida State Preview | 2011 Maryland Preview
- 2011 NC State Preview | 2011 Wake Forest Preview 
 
COASTAL
- 2011 Duke Preview | 2011 Georgia Tech Preview
- 2011 Miami Preview | 2011 North Carolina Preview 
- 2011 Virginia Preview | 2011 Virginia Tech Preview 

- 2011 ACC Preview | 2011 ACC Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN Schedules & Picks | 2011 ACC Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-ACC Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 ACC Atlantic Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 ACC Coastal Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2010 ACC Preview

Predicted ACC Championship: Clemson over North Carolina

Note: Predictions based on team talent and schedules.

1. Clemson
Predicted Overall Record: 8-4
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Dabo Swinney’s biggest offseason addition may have been coordinator Chad Morris, who drew rave reviews at Tulsa. The Clemson offense will never be the same. Morris will be installing an up-tempo, at times no-huddle attack that changes pace and keeps defenses on their heels. It’s a system that runs more plays, changes pace liberally, and is ideally balanced. Morris inherits a team with potential and a lot of youth. Tajh Boyd is the key, a former blue-chip recruit who’s set to take the reigns at quarterback. His best weapons are RB Andre Ellington, WR DeAndre Hopkins, and TE Dwayne Allen, a trio of All-ACC types. All eyes, however, might be on the offensive line, which needs to replace LT Chris Hairston and prepare for different blocking schemes. Whether or not the Tigers are more potent will depend on how quickly the kids digest the new playbook.

Defense: Coordinator Kevin Steele has done a terrific job in his first two seasons in Death Valley. However, he could be facing his toughest challenge to date. Not only must the Tigers replace six starters, but three of them, DE Da’Quan Bowers, DT Jarvis Jenkins, and S DeAndre McDaniel, were members of the All-ACC first team. The D plans to regroup around DT Brandon Thompson, DE Andre Branch, and FS Rashard Hall, while banking on the quick maturation of some youngsters. Dabo Swinney’s latest recruiting class had a bumper crop of defensive stars, including DE Corey Crawford and a phenomenal collection of rookie linebackers. The biggest concern lies with a defensive backfield that’ll be adjusting to life without three really talented starters.

2. Florida State
Predicted Overall Record: 9-3
Predicted Conference Record: 6-2

Offense: Is E.J. Manuel ready to be the field general of the Florida State offense? No other question carries more significance around Tallahassee heading into the 2011 season. Although he has all of the physical tools for success, replacing Christian Ponder is no small chore. Fortunately, the junior will have an able support staff as he attempts to guide the ‘Noles to their third straight year averaging 30 points a game. The skill positions are flush with depth, with speedy Chris Thompson and Bert Reed leading the backs and receivers, respectively. Plus, the line figures to hold up in pass protection, especially with the returns of starting tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders. Manuel’s biggest challenges will be to light a spark beneath the passing attack, manage the game like a veteran, and trade a few more field goal attempts for touchdowns.

Defense: After just one year, coordinator Mark Stoops has already earned his keep in Tallahassee. Under his watch, Florida State turned the corner on defense in 2010, improving in just about every statistical category after hitting rock bottom under Mickey Andrews in 2009. Now, with returning starters and budding stars everywhere, the ‘Noles want to build a bridge to the glory days when defense was the fuel for championships. Sure, there’s need for improvement, such as bolstering the middle of the D and making more stops on third down. However, there’s also reason for unbridled optimism. Brandon Jenkins is one of America’s top pass rushers, a safe bet to leave early for the NFL at the conclusion of the season. Nigel Bradham is the cover boy at linebacker after leading the team in tackles. And the secondary is gushing with young playmakers, like Xavier Rhodes, Greg Reid, and Lamarcus Joyner. This much talent plus a second year with Stoops at the controls is going to equal another big step in the right direction for the Seminole defense.

3. Boston College
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 5-3

Offense: After ranking last in the ACC and 109th nationally in scoring and total offense, the Eagles brought in Kevin Rogers to make a difference. He has a long to-do list. In Boston College’s defense, it did use a lot of young players in 2010, namely at quarterback with true freshman Chase Rettig. His development will be the top priority of the staff, if not the entire program. If he can begin turning the corner, the unit has a chance to be markedly better. Montel Harris and Andre Williams are back to spark the running game, and the receivers are deeper and more talented than at any point in recent history. The front wall, usually a given, will have question marks in the summer. The graduations of three players, including leading man Anthony Castonzo, have the Eagles auditioning replacements in the offseason.

Defense: As has often been the case, the Boston College D proves that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Sure, LB Luke Kuechly has started to emerge as a household name, but he’s the exception. The Eagles are perennially stout under Frank Spaziani because their disciplined, know their assignments, and don’t miss many tackles. It’s not the most athletic defense in the ACC, but it is one of the best coached. This fall’s priorities will be to generate more pressure, which has been missing lately, and develop replacements at strongside linebacker and cornerback. DE Max Holloway and CB Donnie Fletcher provide a solid base up front and out back, respectively, but both need a little more support. The team had just 20 sacks last fall, and only leans on the blitz as a last resort.

4. NC State
Predicted Overall Record: 7-5
Predicted Conference Record: 3-5

Offense: The Wolfpack backfield will have a fresh look, but will it be able to reach the levels of production that became customary over the past couple of seasons? Star QB Russell Wilson is making a full-time commitment to baseball, opening the door for former blue-chip recruit Mike Glennon to get his long-awaited turn at the controls. The sky is the limit for the pro-style passer. He’s expected to be joined in the backfield by another can’t-miss get, second-year RB Mustafa Greene, who led the team in rushing as a rookie despite starting just a single game. The primary offensive concerns in Raleigh are at wide receiver and the offensive line. State must replace last season’s top two pass-catchers and plug the leaks in a front wall that was last in the ACC in sacks allowed and blocked for a running game that averaged 3.4 yards a carry.

Defense: Credit the Wolfpack staff for the phenomenal job it did in 2010, transforming a defense that imploded just a year earlier. NC State attacked from all angles, ranking No. 4 nationally in sacks and improving to No. 29 in scoring D. Three starters from that unit are gone, namely all-star LB Nate Irving, but the wave of returners are determined to keep the defense on a northern trajectory. The 2011 edition will be built on the front seven, including penetrating DT J.R. Sweezy and linebackers Audie Cole and Terrell Manning. Ultimately, the group’s final grade will rest with a secondary that’s been victimized regularly over the past few years. There’s no shortage of experienced players, but they’ve got to do a better job of breaking up passes and defending the red zone.

5. Maryland
Predicted Overall Record: 4-8
Predicted Conference Record: 2-6

Offense: Watching head coach Randy Edsall’s Connecticut teams and coordinator Gary Crowton’s last few LSU offenses reveals that innovation won’t be the trademark of the Terp attack. Edsall, in particular, can be conservative, leaning heavily on the ground game and taking a low-risk approach. However, Danny O’Brien is better than any quarterback either coach has had in years. A revelation in his debut, he has the skill set to make people rethink time-tested philosophies. However, does he have the supporting cast to deliver an appropriate encore? Although RB Davin Meggett is a great starting point and a potential 1,000-yard rusher, the receivers lack a go-to guy now that Torrey Smith is gone, and the line might be partly responsible for soaring healthcare costs. While O’Brien shouldn’t have to shoulder the load, he’ll definitely be asked to do more in his second year as the face of the program.

Defense: The Terrapin D turned the corner in 2010, one of the secrets of the team’s success. It’s now up to new coordinator Todd Bradford to parlay last season into a trend. The coach wants to be aggressive, dictating the tempo of the game, yet playing with sound fundamentals. He’ll inherit a solid corps that includes seven returning starters and 20 lettermen. The big news in the offseason was the shift of all-star S Kenny Tate to linebacker, where he’ll be even closer to the action. His move creates a hole in the secondary that’s going to be filled by a pair of big-hitting up-and-comers, junior Eric Franklin and sophomore Matt Robinson. Up front, Maryland will get pressure on the inside from feisty Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, but someone has to get to the quarterback from around the edge. Enter DE Isaiah Ross, who’ll need to deliver for the good of the entire D.

6. Wake Forest
Predicted Overall Record: 2-10
Predicted Conference Record: 0-8

Offense: Tom O’Brien has always favored an offense built on a power running game. All signs, however, point to the passing attack being the catalyst once again. Most of the Pack’s talent is through the air, with Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon throwing to an underrated receiving corps headed by Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams, and TE George Bryan. The ground game, on the other hand, remains a work-in-progress after finishing 92nd nationally and averaging 3.4 yards a carry. None of the backs have ever started a game and a young and unproven offensive line doesn’t figure to provide much cover. Throw in a defense that pretty much requires shootouts, and Wilson and the receivers will again fatten their stats while the backs get a crash course in pass protection.

Defense: Unable to maintain the momentum from the end of 2008, the NC State defense collapsed last year, allowing at least 27 points in each of the last nine games. Picking up the pieces will not be easy. The Pack must replace seven starters, including the entire defensive line. Couple those departures with the youth and instability that’ll define the secondary, and the defense will once again struggle to stop the pass. The silver lining exists within a corps of linebackers that welcomes back Nate Irving and will enjoy the coming-out party of Audie Cole. The unit is brimming with talent throughout the two-deep, but could be overworked as it attempts to support a secondary that can’t cover and a defensive line hunting for pass rushers.

ATLANTIC
- 2011 Boston College Preview | 2011 Clemson Preview
- 2011 Florida State Preview | 2011 Maryland Preview
- 2011 NC State Preview | 2011 Wake Forest Preview 
 
COASTAL
- 2011 Duke Preview | 2011 Georgia Tech Preview
- 2011 Miami Preview | 2011 North Carolina Preview 
- 2011 Virginia Preview | 2011 Virginia Tech Preview 

- 2011 ACC Preview | 2011 ACC Unit Rankings
- 2011 CFN Schedules & Picks | 2011 ACC Thoughts
- 2011 CFN All-ACC Team & Top 30 Players
- 2011 ACC Atlantic Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish
- 2011 ACC Coastal Team By Team Looks & Predicted Finish 
- 2010 ACC Preview