2013 Pre-Preseason ACC Coastal Rankings
Miami QB Stephen Morris
Miami QB Stephen Morris
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 27, 2013


The too early look at how good the ACC Coastal teams should be in 2013.

CFN 2013 First Look Rankings

ACC Coastal
 

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- Based On Opinion ... CFN 2012 FINAL Rankings, Top  25

- 2013 CFN Pre-Preseason ACC Atlantic Rankings

1. Miami (7-5)

Miami, this is the year to actually take the chances that are there – don’t give back this one. With ten starters returning to each side of the ball, Al Golden has an experienced team that should know what it’s doing. The defense has to be far, far stronger and the offense more consistency, but the pieces are there to challenge for the ACC title.

The offense rolled by the end of the year, putting up 162 points in the final four games hanging 40 on both Virginia and South Florida and 52 on Duke. The passing attack was deadly and the ground game found its groove. Running back Mike James is the only loss, but his absence should only open up more chances for lightning bolt leading rusher, Duke Johnson. Stephen Morris started to take the offense by the horns, and he should be in for a huge year working behind Seantrel Henderson at a strong line that should gel into one of the ACC’s best. Phillip Dorsett will be the No. 1 target in a deep receiving corps.

Can the defense tackle anyone? Dead last in the ACC total defense and run defense, and with no pass rush whatsoever, there’s lots and lots of work to do. Corner Brandon McGee is the only loss, and while there are some question marks about whether or not everyone can play, only two players are gone off the three-deep depth chart. Linebacker Denzel Perryman will likely be among the team’s leading tacklers again, while end Anthony Chickillo should be the top pass rusher.

2. North Carolina (8-4)

Larry Fedora put together a nice year considering the team wasn’t eligible for anything, and now it’s time to shine again. With a whopper of a recruiting class coming in to go along with a veteran team, the future is bright for a Tar Heel program still trying to fight through its probation. If eligible, it would’ve played for the ACC title last season, and now it should be ready to battle for the Coastal and a shot at the championship.

With all-star running back Giovani Bernard leaving early for the NFL, the offense will revolve even more around quarterback Bryn Renner, who’ll be on showcase for pro scouts all year. The receiving corps needs Sean Tapley and Quinshad Davis to do more with the loss of Erik Highsmith, while it’ll be up to the combination of A.J. Blue and one of the nation’s top kickoff returners, Romar Morris, to make up for the loss of Bernard. Guard Jonathan Cooper is almost certainly going to be a first round draft pick, and big right tackle Travis Bond is gone, but James Hurst is back at left tackle to lead an excellent line.

The defense that was so good at getting into the backfield has to replace middle linebacker Kevin Reddick and end Dion Guy, but Kareem Martin returns at one end and Tim Jackson is back on the nose. The entire secondary is back led by free safety Tre Boston and corners Jabari Price and Darin Rankin.

3. Georgia Tech (7-7)

After sneaking into the ACC championship thanks to Miami’s decision not to go, and making the most of the bowl opportunity with a win over USC, the Yellow Jackets have to be even better with 17 starters back and enough pieces in place to run Paul Johnson’s offense exactly the way he’d like.

Quarterback Tevin Washington is gone, but Vad Lee started to take over as the season went on anyway. Leading rusher Orwin Smith is done, but David Sims and Robert Godhigh lead a deep stable of backs that should keep the nation’s fourth-best ground game moving. Four starters are back, but the one loss – guard Omoregie Uzzi – is a big one. The efficient passing game gets back starting receivers Darren Waller and Jeff Greene.

The defense didn’t do quite enough to get behind the line, but outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu is back and should be among the league’s best pass rushers. All four linebackers return and corner Ron Sweeting is the only starter missing from the secondary that gets back leading tackler Isaiah Johnson. Tackle T.J. Barnes was a massive body on the inside, and while Tech has size up front, it’s not a massive wall.

4. Virginia Tech (7-6)

It wasn’t the season the Hokies were used to having, but three straight wins – with two in overtime – closed things out on a high note. The defense did its part, but can the offense start to find something that works again after sputtering and coughing in so many big games? Can Frank Beamer get Tech back to its normally high level? It will all start up front.

The line didn’t do much for the always-talented stable of Hokie backs and was mediocre in pass protection. Tackles Nick Becton and Brent Benedict are gone, but the interior returns intact. J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory and Michael Holmes need to do more for the ground game, but more than anything else, quarterback Logan Thomas has to play up to his immense promise and be more efficient and more consistent. It won’t help losing top targets Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts.

The defense wasn’t the problem, finishing 18th in the nation thanks to a dominant pass rush that led the ACC in sacks. Linebacker Jack Tyler led the team in both tackles and tackles for loss, but he’s the lone returning starter to the corps with Bruce Taylor and Alonzo Tweedy gone. If the secondary isn’t the best in the ACC, it’ll be a close No. 2, while the front four should be dominant at times with three good starters returning and decent options to replace tackle Antoine Hopkins.

5. Virginia (4-8)

It was forgotten about as the season went on, but this was among the nation’s most disappointing teams, especially after beating Penn State for a 2-0 start. The offense didn’t work, the defense fizzled in key spots, and the special teams were lousy. However, head coach Mike London might not have that might work to do.

Quarterback Michael Rocco started out the season looking like the main man for a solid offense, but he transferred to Richmond to open the door for former Alabama transfer Phillip Sims to try to fulfill the immense promise and potential he showed as one of the nation’s top prospects. Tackle Oday Aboushi is gone, but four starters are back up front led by tackle Morgan Moses. Running back Kevin Parks finished as the team’s leading rusher, taking the sting off of the loss of top pass catcher Perry Jones. Darius Jennings, Tim Smith, Dominique Terrell and E.J. Scott are small, speedy receivers who should make Sims look great.

The defense that finished fourth in the ACC has to make more big plays. Tackling machine linebacker Steve Greer is gone from the middle, as is La’Roy Reynolds, who led the team in tackles for loss. However, all four starters from a secondary full of underclassmen return to a pass defense that only allowed 208 yards per game. There should be more of a rotation up front with Chris Brathwaite ready to do more in the interior next to Brent Urban.

6. Pittsburgh (6-7)

With the move to the ACC, Pitt needs to shed its underachiever label. Among the most talented teams in the Big East over the last several seasons, it never seemed able to put it all together – the loss to Ole Miss in the bowl didn’t do much to show that things are quickly changing under Paul Cryst. But there’s enough talent returning to make some immediate noise in the Coastal.

The defense that finished 17th in the nation and was so terrific against the pass should be an instant problem for the new league with nine starters returning. Aaron Donald and Tyone Ezell form a solid tackle tandem on the interior, while safety Jarred Holley is the only starter gone in the back seven. Free safety Jason Hendricks is back after leading the team in tackles, while Donald should be a sure-thing all-star with his pass rushing ability.

The offense got a terrific season out of quarterback Tino Sunseri, but now it’ll be a fight to see who’ll get the first look this spring. The line was disastrous in pass protection, but three starters are back to try making it right. The running game is in good hands with Rushel Shell sure to get more of the workload with Ray Graham done, while Devin Street should be more of a threat as the main man for the passing attack.

7. Duke (6-7)

After a stepping-stone season with a bowl appearance and a 6-2 start, there’s hope for the Blue Devils to maintain a little bit of consistency with 15 starters returning and enough firepower to keep the offense, at least the passing game, moving.

The problems were mainly on defense, finishing last in the ACC in scoring defense and pass efficiency D, getting torched for 41 points or more in six of the final seven games. Leading tackler Walt Canty is gone along with two other starters in the secondary, but three starters are back up front including tackles Sydney Sarmiento and Nick Sink. It’ll be a young linebacking corps in the 4-25, but C.J. France will put up decent stats.

Quarterback Anthony Boone has to step in for Sean Renfree to air it out for David Cutcliffe’s passing game, but he’ll miss having Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott to throw to. The line gets four starters back – only losing center Brian Moore – and Juwan Thompson, Josh Snead and Jela Duncan are decent backs to try balancing things out. The special teams will be a plus with kicker Ross Martin and punter Will Monday back, but Vernon will be missed as a punt returner.

- 2013 CFN Pre-Preseason ACC Atlantic Rankings