Spring 2014 - ACC Atlantic Analysis
Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt
Spring 2014 - ACC Atlantic Team-By-Team Analysis & Breakdown
ACC Coastal Breakdowns
Start: March 12, Spring Game: April 12
With the wind at their backs, the Eagles want to soar in 2014. Now that second-year head coach Steve Addazio has succeeded in changing the culture at BC, he plans to make winning a habit. Sure, there'll be challenges ahead, like finding replacements for RB Andre Williams, WR Alex Amidon and LB Kevin Pierre-Louis. However, Addazio has already completed the heaviest lifting in Chestnut Hill, getting an entire program to rethink its potential. This season is all about adding a new level to the foundation, while erasing any possibility that 2014 was a one-and-done fluke.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - The Eagles believe they've located a new quarterback in Florida transfer Tyler Murphy, but who'll form his supporting cast? BC must spend the spring developing a new set of skill position players capable of offsetting the enormous lost production left by the graduations of Williams and Amidon. Murphy doesn't want a repeat of the power outage he witnessed in Gainesville last year.
This spring will be a success if … the defensive backs appear more competent than they did a season ago, when BC ranked 108th nationally in pass efficiency D and allowed 26 touchdown passes. While the Eagles didn't lose a single DB to graduation, there are no guarantees that the unit will be more air-tight than it was in 2013.
Start: March 5, Spring Game: April 12
New quarterback, same expectations. Clemson will no longer have long-time QB Tajh Boyd behind center, or his favorite target, Sammy Watkins, running routes. Huge losses, but don't expect the bar to be lowered dramatically around Death Valley. Dabo Swinney has a great thing going with the Tigers, and he and his staff continue to thrive on Signing Day. The program is bound to take a small step back in 2014, fading a little further behind Florida State, but there's enough talent on hand to realistically be thinking major bowl game for the third time in the last four years.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Make the running game a bigger priority than it's been in recent years. Yeah, Chad Morris' offense is up-tempo and full of surprises, but the Tigers might want to consider a slightly more conservative approach with a new man under center. D.J. Howard and Zac Brooks will compete to supplant Roderick McDowell, with Tyshon Dye hoping to contend after rehabbing a torn Achilles suffered in February.
This spring will be a success if … Swinney and Morris have a workable pecking order at quarterback to take into the summer. Senior Cole Stoudt, dual-threat sophomore Chad Kelly and true freshman Deshaun Watson, the country's third-ranked high school quarterback, will begin jockeying for position in March. Everyone benefits if one guy grabs a lead before the spring game.
Start: March 19, Spring Game: April 12
Everyone is looking up at Florida State. The ‘Noles are planning to keep it that way. FSU is the king of the college football world. Remaining on the throne is Jimbo Fisher's priority in 2014. He'll be reloading with a Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback, Jameis Winston, and a roster littered with gifted former high school stars. Fisher and the staff know they possess the right mix of talent to repeat, at least as the ACC champ. Maintaining the drive and focus that helped Florida State navigate last year's schedule without a loss will be a far tougher task than filling a few holes on the depth chart.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Sure, the ‘Noles registered 35 sacks in 2013, but the linemen were a little too quiet. In fact, CB Lamarcus Joyner led the team with 5.5 sacks. Joyner and NG Timmy Jernigan, who was second in sacks, have graduated. Florida State needs its former blue-chippers, like Mario Edwards, Eddie Goldman and Chris Casher, to dominate and continue to make the Seminole line shine.
This spring will be a success if … there's an undeniable scent of competition in the Tallahassee air. For the Seminoles to repeat in 2014, they'll have to be as hungry as they were a year ago to get to the top of the mountain. If they have that desire to be great again, the way Alabama did in 2012, it'll be fueled in the spring by younger backups who challenge incumbents out of their comfort zone.
Start: March 18, Spring Game: April 11
Change is hard. The Cardinals are feverishly nodding their head in agreement. QB Teddy Bridgewater is preparing for a career in the NFL. Charlie Strong is preparing for his first season as a Longhorn. And the American is no more, replaced by a timely relocation to the ACC. Louisville is on solid footing for the long-term, but 2014 will be wrought with all kinds of tricky challenges. Just how well the program weathers the initial storm will depend heavily on the ability of Bobby Petrino to recapture the magic he had as the school's head coach from 2003-06. Hiring Petrino made for a shrewd reunion, provided the coach leaves his baggage at the airport.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Help turn RB Michael Dyer into the shooting star he was while at Auburn. Dyer has had off-field issues, as has Petrino. It's an intriguing pairing of flawed individuals looking to use Louisville as a pivot point. The Cards need more backfield help with Bridgewater gone, and Dyer would like to use 2014 as a staging area for a career in the NFL.
This spring will be a success if … sophomore Will Gardner seizes control of the quarterback opening and never looks back. No, Louisville can't possibly be the same team on offense just a year after Bridgewater departs, but the program really likes the upside of the 6-5, 230-pound Gardner, who served as the caddy last fall.
North Carolina State
Start: March 4, Spring Game: April 12
A new year means renewed optimism in Raleigh. The Wolfpack is looking for a do-over after last season's 3-9 disaster. The good news is that the program figures to be improved at the two most important places, head coach and quarterback. Dave Doeren can coach and recruit, and the fact that Year 1 is now behind him will benefit both he and his players. Doeren is especially excited to be breaking the seal on QB Jacoby Brissett, the Florida transfer who has already been named the starter. Better days are ahead for the Pack, even if this season still contains a fair amount of stumbles and mishaps.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Treat Brissett like the savior, because he might have to be for a while. The Pack quarterbacks were awful last season, but to be fair, they also didn't get a lot of help. Doeren and the coaching staff must let it be known that anyone who fails to protect Brissett or drops his throws runs the risk of riding the pine for an extended period of time.
This spring will be a success if … one or two offensive linemen end the session as the most improved players of spring. Doeren owns the right formula for success on offense, but the attack will again sputter if the blockers fail to do their jobs. Three sophomores started up front in 2013, lending hope that an evolution could occur this fall.
Start: March 18, Spring Game: April 12
Decent start in the ACC, Orange, but is 7-6 as good as it gets? Syracuse exceeded expectations by rising above .500 with a Texas Bowl win over Minnesota. Where do Scott Shafer and his program go from here? The Orange proved that it can compete in the ACC, but Shafer isn't content with simply remaining competitive or filling the voids in the league's second-tier bowl openings. Syracuse will have a critical edge over much of the conference—a quarterback with starting experience. Terrel Hunt had a rocky debut, but he never left the lineup after taking over in September.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Devise an offense that brings out the very best of RB Prince-Tyson Gulley. Remember the Gulley who ran for 208 yards, caught five passes and scored three times in the 2012 Pinstripe Bowl blowout of West Virginia? Yeah, the Orange need to see that guy again, especially since backfield mate Jerome Smith has graduated. Gulley received a fifth year of eligibility, and it's up to the Syracuse staff to make the most of No. 23 this fall.
This spring will be a success if … new linemen emerge in the middle of both lines. Two of Syracuse's biggest holes are on the interior, as all-league C Macky MacPherson and all-league DT Jay Bromley used up their eligibility. The Orange boasts returners on offense and defense, but the units will struggle if there's no presence on the inside.
Start: March 25, Spring Game: April 26
The Demon Deacons had grown stale under Jim Grobe. Enter Dave Clawson. Grobe had a good thing going for a while in Winston-Salem, even winning the ACC back in 2006. But that was a long time ago, and the program hasn't delivered a winning season since 2008. Clawson was lured out of the MAC in the hopes that he can do at Wake Forest what he did for Bowling Green. The Deacons are at a perennial disadvantage versus the rest of the league, a small private school that attracts second-tier recruits. Clawson will look to overcome the odds sans last year's best offensive and defensive players, starting quarterback and leading rusher.
Unsolicited advice on what to work on this spring - Building depth. Wake Forest isn't winning the ACC in 2014, and it probably won't earn a bowl berth. This first season for Clawson and his staff will be all about installing systems, learning the personnel and building depth on both sides of the ball. If any members of the 26-man recruiting class are ready to chip in right away, they ought to be turned loose as quickly as possible.
This spring will be a success if … Tanner Price's successor at quarterback begins to emerge. Senior Patrick Thompson, sophomore Tyler Cameron and redshirt freshman Michael Radford will start their battle for playing time in the spring, and likely continue it in the summer. Quarterbacks have had success in the past running Clawson's varied offense, and Wake Forest sure could use an identity and a leading man under center.
ACC Coastal Breakdowns