2013 ACC Preview - Atlantic Team Breakdown
Maryland WR Stefon Diggs
Preview 2013 - CFN ACC Team By Team Quick Looks and Predicted Finish
ACC Atlantic Team By Team
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Predicted ACC Championship: Clemson over Georgia Tech
Note: Predictions based on team talent and
2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
2013 ACC Prediction: 8-0
Offense: QB Tajh Boyd put off the NFL for another college season. Coordinator Chad Morris, the architect of the up-tempo, no-huddle attack, passed on offers to become a head coach. Life is good for the Clemson offense, though there are holes that still need to be filled before the opener with Georgia. The Tigers ranked in the top 10 nationally in total and scoring offense in 2012, averaging 512 yards and 41 points, respectively. However, three key members of Boyd's supporting cast, RB Andre Ellington, WR DeAndre Hopkins and C Dalton Freeman, are now working toward NFL careers. In order to remain one of the country's most potent and feared offenses, it's incumbent upon the next generation of skill position players to step up. Senior Roderick McDowell is slated to take over at running back, earning a starting gig for the first time in his career. And budding receivers Charone Peake and Martavis Bryant need to absorb some heat from superstar Sammy Watkins, who's aiming to recapture his Freshman All-American form of 2011.
Defense: After taking a much-needed step forward in Brent Venables' first season as coordinator, Clemson is determined to further improve in 2013. The Tigers went from 81st in scoring D to a more respectable 48th a year ago. Now, even with personnel changes, especially in the secondary, the program expects to be better since the holdovers should have a tighter grasp on the system and the staff. Venables will be working with a bunch of familiar faces, yet no slam-dunk superstars. A bunch of Tigers, though, such as DE Vic Beasley, DT Grady Jarrett, LB Stephone Anthony and FS Travis Blanks, are closing in on hitting their lofty ceilings. The program continues to recruit extremely well, filling the pipeline with some of the Eastern Seaboards premier young talent. Clemson figures to be sound in the front seven after using so many underclassmen last season. However, the secondary is a worry for Venables and his assistants. Three regulars are gone from a group that gave up too many big plays through the air in 2012.
2. Florida State
2013 CFN Prediction: 10-2
2013 ACC Prediction: 7-1
Offense: The Florida State offense is back. The 2012 edition cranked out more yards—6,591—than any other team in Seminoles history, a balanced unit that ranked No. 2 in ACC rushing, while producing the first quarterback chosen in the 2013 NFL Draft, EJ Manuel. Now that Manuel is a Buffalo Bill, though, the ‘Noles need to develop a successor. Clint Trickett transferred to West Virginia, paving the way for Jameis Winston to become the most talked about redshirt freshman in America during the offseason. The rookie has been a revelation so far, tantalizing fans with his rocket arm, quick feet and impressive maturity. If Winston maintains his composure, the offense will again be potent. The ground game is assertive, with James Wilder Jr., Devonta Freeman and Mario Pender set to run behind the ACC's most physical offensive line, a group that exceeded all expectations last season. The corps of receivers took a hit when Greg Dent was suspended in June. Still, WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O'Leary lead an athletic group of pass catchers who'll do more good than harm for the new starting quarterback.
Defense: The meteoric rise of new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is making a stop in Tallahassee. While disappointed to lose Mark Stoops to Kentucky, Florida State believes it's landed another rising star of the coaching ranks. Pruitt inherits one of the country's deepest and most talented defenses, a unit that led the ACC in scoring and total D in 2012. His primary objective will be to retool a D-line that lost more stars to graduation than any other FBS program. The openings will give NG Timmy Jernigan, DE Mario Edwards Jr. and DT Eddie Goldman, among others, a chance to flourish now that their path to increased playing time is no longer congested. Christian Jones and Telvin Smith head an active corps of linebackers, and few teams can boast a secondary as deep or as stingy as the one at Doak Campbell Stadium. Pruitt is preaching a more physical brand of defense, and plans to mix in some 3-4 looks. At the end of the day, he won't have to tinker too much for Florida State to once again sport a nasty and suffocating defensive group.
T3. NC State
2013 CFN Prediction: 8-4
2013 ACC Prediction: 4-4
Offense: Just about everything is set to change on offense at NC State, and that is not such a bad thing. Gone is Tom O'Brien's conservative attack, replaced by Dave Doeren's faster tempo that uses more read-option looks and hurry-up situations. Other than at wide receiver, where Quinton Payton and Bryan Underwood are all-star-caliber, the Pack has question marks that transcend just playbooks and formations. Either Pete Thomas or Manny Stocker will be replacing current Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Mike Glennon, a key battle that likely won't be decided until the summer. It was Doeren's system that birthed Jordan Lynch at Northern Illinois, so Raleigh is beginning to look attractive to high school and transferring quarterbacks. Above all else, though, NC State needs to somehow bolster the front wall. The Pack was an absolute sieve in the trenches in 2012, and will be replacing three key starters from that unit.
Defense: Head coach Dave Doeren hired long-time veteran coordinator Dave Huxtable to guide a defense undergoing a transition in 2013. Yeah, the base D remains a 4-3, but the terminology is naturally changing, and last season's top four Pack tacklers have exhausted their eligibility. Most of NC State's talent is going to be concentrated along the D-line, where ends Art Norman and Darryl Cato-Bishop and tackles T.Y. McGill and Thomas Neal have all shown a penchant for busting gaps and generating heat. They'll need to do that plenty this fall in order to support a suspect back seven. The linebackers do get a boost from the return of D.J. Green, who was suspended for all of 2012. And senior CB Dontae Johnson appears capable of using his finale as a launching pad to the NFL. Still, unless the front wall can completely controls the tempo of games, the Pack will have problems slowing down the ACC's more accomplished offenses.
T3. Wake Forest
2013 CFN Prediction: 7-5
2013 ACC Prediction: 4-4
Offense: In an effort to address its woeful offense, which ranked 117th nationally last season, Wake Forest plans to pull out all the stops in order to ignite the running game. More option-based plays, fewer restrictions on the legs of veteran QB Tanner Price and expanding the job description of the wide receivers will all be in play. Heck, if senior RB Josh Harris could simply remain healthy enough to log 200 carries, the Demon Deacons might not have to become so inventive. But prior history indicates that the senior will miss time in the fall. With help from star slot receiver Michael Campanaro, Price wants to recapture his 2011 form, when he calmly flipped 20 touchdown passes to just six picks. Last season, though, he was inaccurate, in part because of an injury-tattered O-line that did not block at an ACC level. Unfortunately, all indications are that Wake will be every bit as overmatched in the trenches as it was last season.
Defense: Eight veteran Deacons return after starting the majority of 2012. If this unit doesn't improve dramatically, heads could roll by December. Coordinator Brian Knorr will be coaching a D that has no shortage of leadership or experience. The group just has to polish up the fundamentals, tackling and reacting up to their ability. Oh, and it has to rise up when it matters most, on third downs and in the red zone. Knorr will have at his disposal an all-star candidate at each level of the D to go along with a solid supporting cast. Up front, Nikita Whitlock is one of the quickest nose guards in the ACC. LB Justin Jackson will look to build on his breakout campaign in 2012. And FS A.J. Marshall and corners Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel each has an all-league ceiling. Barring injuries, Wake Forest will have no excuses if it repeats last season's results. Neither for that matter will Knorr or his three positional assistants.
2013 CFN Prediction: 6-6
2013 ACC Prediction: 3-5
Offense: Former Miami wide receivers coach George McDonald is assuming control of an offense with one central goal this offseason—finding a replacement for All-Big East QB Ryan Nassib. There are two distinct choices for the staff, athletic sophomore Terrel Hunt, the leader exiting spring, and Oklahoma import Drew Allen, the former coveted pocket passer recruit who joins the fray in August. While Syracuse wants what most offenses seek, balance, the focus will clearly be on the running game, especially in the early going. The Orange boasts what could be the ACC's best backfield duo, powerful Jerome Smith and shifty Prince-Tyson Gulley, which combined for 2,001 rushing yards in 2012. Otherwise, don't expect to see too much pop or star power out of this blue-collar offensive attack. The heart-and-soul of the unit will be senior C Macky MacPherson, who along with LT Sean Hickey, are Syracuse's all-league contenders up front.
Defense: The Syracuse D was just average a year ago. Average isn't going to cut it for the Orange, especially as the team starts play as a member of the ACC. Now that Scott Shafer has been promoted to head coach, he needed to find a replacement for himself at defensive coordinator, a job that went to Chuck Bullough, who wants to dictate the tempo, much the way Shafer did when he was an assistant. Applying pressure, though, could require blitzes from the linebackers and safeties, because the ends are unproven and relatively untested. The Orange, in fact, has concerns on the perimeter of the secondary as well, lacking the stoppers to shut down opposing quarterbacks. The strength of this defense will be up the middle, where the tackles are stout, and the linebackers play with the desired range. At 6-4 and 290 pounds, unit leader Jay Bromley is by far the smallest defensive tackle on the two-deep. Dyshawn Davis and Marquis Spruill will once again set the tone from the second level, flying all over the field in order to leave an imprint on the offense.
2013 CFN Prediction: 5-7
2013 ACC Prediction: 2-6
Offense: The Maryland offense was feeble in 2012. The program is about to learn just how much of its futility was attributable to misfortune. The Terps were besieged by knee injuries to the quarterbacks, forcing them to eventually move rookie LB Shawn Petty under center. It was an impossible set of circumstances. But those quarterbacks are on the mend, including fifth-year senior C.J. Brown, who is uniquely qualified to run Mike Locksley's zone-read system. Is he, though, skilled enough to take advantage of Maryland's brightest assets, its wide receivers? Brown has modest arm strength, which could get exposed when emerging stars Stefon Diggs and Deon Long are running fly patterns through opposing defenses. The staff is optimistic about the future of its young triplets in the backfield, sophomores Brandon Ross, Wes Brown and Albert Reid. However, all three will fail to maximize their sizable potential unless a perennially weak offensive line can perform an about-face following successive years of blatant ineffectiveness in the trenches.
Defense: Last year, the Terps had a first-year coordinator, Brian Stewart, and a veteran-laden D. This year, the script has been flipped, with Stewart beginning his second year at the helm of a defense that desperately needs some leadership and direction on the two-deep. Maryland must replace six starters, four of whom earned at least All-ACC honorable mention. DE Joe Vellano and LB Demetrius Hartsfield, in particular, have left behind gaping holes. Stewart's unit is a little understaffed just about everywhere except cornerback, where Dexter McDougle and Jeremiah Johnson form a solid tandem. The defense looks as if it'll be especially vulnerable early on in the front seven. Basically, this team will be stronger on the interior, with NT Darius Kilgo and inside linebackers Cole Farrand and L.A Goree, than it will be on the fringes. If opponents want to really test the Terps in 2013, they're likely to do it outside of the tackles.
7. Boston College
2013 CFN Prediction: 3-9
2013 ACC Prediction: 0-8
Offense: The revolving door at offensive coordinator continues to spin, with Ryan Day the latest coach to take the job. He has a little edge in that he was on staff from 2007-11, and knows many of the upperclassmen rather well. Of course, that also means Day knows the lengths to which he must go to turn around the attack. Boston College sported one of the country's worst offenses in 2012, failing to produce more than 23 points in any of its final seven games. The new regime wants to cultivate a more physical brand of football that sets up the pass with a blue-collar ground game. The focal points will be fourth-year starting QB Chase Rettig, RB Andre Williams and WR Alex Amidon, all seniors—and all with the potential to deliver their best seasons to date. Where the Eagles will continue to struggle is with its lack of depth at the skill positions and its lack of talent in the trenches. If BC is ever going to channel its former bully persona, it'll have to get back to birthing big and nasty linemen that use Beantown as a launching pad to the NFL.
Defense: New defensive coordinator Don Brown has a direct approach to his new team—you're Eagles, now start acting like it by soaring all over the field. Brown wants his kids to attack, a particularly poignant message for a defense that's been anemic in the pass rush for years. In fact, BC was 120th nationally in sacks in 2012, and hasn't finished higher than 90th since 2008. Back from last year's disappointing unit are eight of the top nine tacklers, so experience and a veteran presence in the huddle won't be an issue. The strength of the 2013 edition will be the linebackers, which house all-star candidates Kevin Pierre-Louis and Steele Divitto and up-and-comer Steven Daniels. The secondary is mediocre at this stage of the offseason, and will only go as far as the pass rush allows it. If the Eagles get as much support as they received a year ago, six sacks, there aren't many defensive backfields in America capable of holding up on an island for that long.