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2014 Pre-Preseason Rankings - ACC Atlantic
Posted Jan 22, 2014

The ridiculously too early lookahead at the 2014 season.

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- ACC Coastal – Pre-Preseason Rankings

1. Florida State
2013 Record: 14-0, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 1

What Needs Working On: Punting. Cason Beatty netted out well on his punts, but he struggled with his hang time and it showed. The Seminoles finished 111th in the nation in net punting averaging 34.48 yards per try.

What’s Up Going Into The Offseason?: Jameis Winston is back, so automatically the Seminoles are loaded. Remember, the 2013 team had to replace a first round NFL draft pick quarterback and almost everyone on the defensive front. The 2014 team has even more work to do losing Christin Jones, Tevin Smith from the linebacking corps, but Terrance Smith is back to work around. Lamarcus Joyner is done at one corner, and SS Terrence Brooks has to be replaced. Timmy Jernigan will start as some NFL team’s defensive tackle next year, but the rest of the line should be back intact.

There’s depth all across the board, and the recruiting has been sensational, but the offense can’t help but take a step back. Who will Winston throw to? Kelvin Benjamin is off to the NFL after his national championship-sealing catch and Kenny Shaw is done, but Rashad Greene is sticking around along with all-star, top 15-caliber OT Cameron Erving. The rest of the line is back to pave the way for … ? Devonta Freeman and James Wilder took off, but Karlos Williams is back after running for 730 yards and 11 scores. Can Lou Groza kicker Roberto Aguayo avoid a sophomore slump after hitting 21-of-22 field goals? Punter Cason Beatty will most certainly be used more after averaging 41 yards per punt.

2. Clemson
2013 Record: 11-2, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 13

What Needs Working On: Time of possession. It usually doesn’t matter for a quick strike offensive juggernaut, but Clemson didn’t have the ball enough, keeping it for just 27:17 per game ranking 110th in the nation in time of possession.

What’s Up Going Into The Offseason?: The program is at a point where it reloads instead of rebuilds, but the loss of Tajh Boyd will be a problem, even though Cole Stoudt is a big passer with good potential. Sammy Watkins is going to be a top 20 overall draft pick, and Martavis Bryant has NFL talent, too. Also done is leading rusher Roderick McDowell, meaning D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks need to help take the heat off of Stoudt. LT Brandon Thomas and TG Tyler Shatley are done, but three starters are back.

DE Vic Beasley is going to quickly be a star pass rusher at the next level, but he’s coming back along with the other three starters should be back up front. Outside linebackers Quandon Christian and Spencer Shuey are gone, but Stephone Anthony returns in the middle. Corner Darius Robinson is done, but the other three starters are back in the secondary. PK Chandler Catanzaro is finished after a strong season, while P Bradley Pinion is back after averaging under 40 yards per kick.

3. Louisville
2013 Record: 12-1, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 15

What Needs Working On: Penalties. The Cardinals were 103rd in the nation in penalties, getting flagged seven times per game for 64 yards per outing. By the way, Western Kentucky committed 6.14 penalties for 47 yards per game last year under Bobby Petrino.

What’s Up Going Into The Offseason?: Now that the coaching situation is settled, the focus of the offseason will be on Teddy Bridgewater’s replacement, but the defense will be the bigger problem with end Marcus Smith gone along with fellow starters Roy Philon and nose tackle Brandon Dunn. Leading tackler Preston Brown is gone at middle linebacker along with George Durant on the outside, but three starters are back in the secondary to try to fill the void of the loss of star safety Hakeem Smith, one of the best tacklers in the nation.

But yes, finding a new leader to replace Bridgewater to guide the team into the ACC will be the biggest question mark. Will Gardner and Kyle Bolin are big passers with upside, but they’re not Bridgewater. RB Dominique Brown should be the focal point of the offense, while the loss of leading receiver Damian Copeland shouldn’t hurt too badly with DeVante Parker back to join Eli Rogers and TE Gerald Christian. Punter Ryan Johnson and kicker John Wallace, who hit 20-of-24 field goals, are back.

4. NC State
2013 Record: 3-9, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 97

What Needs Working On: Scoring. The Wolfpack struggled to put points on the board on a regular basis, failing to break 28 over the final eight games. State was 101st in the nation in red zone offense, scoring just 77% of the time.

What’s Up Going Into The Offseason?: The defense gets back seven starters, but gone are the top three tacklers including Robert Caldwell at middle linebacker and Dontae Johnson at free safety. Fortunately, the next ten leading tacklers are back. Three starters return up front, including leading pass rusher Art Norman, and three starters are back in the secondary

Shadrach Thornton is back after leading the team with 768 yards and four rushing touchdowns, working behind a line with four starters returning. QB Brandon Mitchell is done, but former Florida Gator Jacoby Brissett is ready to take over if he can beat out Pete Thomas. Unfortunately, leading receiver Rashard Smith is done and Quintin Payton is finished, but Bryan Underwood is back after missing half of last year. Enough good targets return to make the passing game go. PK Niklas Sade is back after hitting 19-of-23 field goals, while P Wil Baumann returns after averaging 42 yards per try.

5. Syracuse
2013 Record: 7-6, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 56

What Needs Working On: Passing game. The ground game took control of the offense, but the passing attack was painfully inefficient and came up with just 182 yards per game, finishing with just 13 touchdown passes and 17 picks.

What’s Up Going Into The Offseason?: The Orange should be even better and stronger with the potential for 16 starters to return before opening up the year with Villanova. The offense gets back most of the key running backs, losing the banged up Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith, who’s leaving early, but promising sophomores-to-be George Morris II and Devante McFarlane will take over. The O has to build more around QB Terrel Hunt, and he should get plenty of time to work behind an improved line with four starters back and only center Macky MacPherson gone. Leading receiver Ashton Broyld is back.

Five of the top six tacklers are back including FS Durell Eskridge to be a steadying factor in a secondary that loses CB Ri’Shard Anderson and SS Jeremi Wilkes. MLB Marquis Spruill is finished, but he’ll likely be replaced by a bigger, stronger Luke Arciniega on the inside. Three starters are back on the line, and they’ll all be seniors to make up for the loss of DT Jay Bromley. P Riley Dixon and PK Ryan Norton are back.

6. Boston College
2013 Record: 7-6, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 66

What Needs Working On: Pass defense. When the offense is working around the running game, the defense has to keep from getting torched. BC allowed 268 passing yards per game with 26 touchdowns on the year and nine picks.

What’s Up Going Into The Offseason?: So who’s the next Andre Williams? Myles Willis is more of a shift scat back than a pounder, but he’ll get the first look. Senior-to-be Josh Bordner is the next man up at quarterback in place of Chase Rettig, but he doesn’t have any experience, and he doesn’t have Alex Amidon to throw to. The Eagles lose their top three targets including TE Mike Naples and FB Jake Sinkovec, and tackles Matt Patchan and Ian White have to be replaced. Fortunately, the interior is back with center Andy Gallik and guards Bobby Vardaro and Harris Williams leading the way.

BC always has linebackers who can hit, but Steele Divitto and Kevin Pierre-Louis were good veterans who’ll be missed. Three starters are gone from the line with tackle Dominic Appiah the only one returning. There’s size among the new options, but not a lot of experience. All four starters return to the secondary led by tackling FS Sean Sylvia and CB Manuel Asprilla. Kicker/punter Nate Freese is a massive, massive loss.

7. Wake Forest
2013 Record: 4-8, 2013 Final CFN Ranking: 87

What Needs Working On: Scoring. The lack of an efficient passing game allowed defenses to load up against a woeful ground attack. The Demon Deacons ended up scoring just 18.3 points per game.

What’s Up Going Into The Offseason?: New head coach Dave Clawson needs to ramp up the running game first, and he has to do it without leading rusher Josh Harris or second-leading rusher, QB Tanner Price. Dominique Gibson is the top returning runner along with Joshua Wilhite. Tyler Cameron and Patrick Thompson will get the first look this offseason to take over for Price, but the new starting QB has to go on without leading receiver Michael Campanaro and TE Spencer Bishop. Only two starters are back up front.

The top two tacklers are back – SS Ryan Janvion and LB Brandon Chubb – but NG Nikita Whitlock is done along with LB Mike Olson from the front seven. Only DE Hunter Williams returns on the defensive front, and Chubb is the lone returning starting linebacker. All four starters are back in the secondary, led by CB Kevin Johnson. PK Chad Hedlund is back after hitting 8-of-12 field goals, and while P Alexander Kinal returns, he has to average more than 40 yards per try.

- ACC Coastal – Pre-Preseason Rankings