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2008 CFN ACC Team Capsules
NC State DE Willie Young
NC State DE Willie Young
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 6, 2008


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Atlantic
Boston Coll | Clemson | Florida St | Maryland | NC State | Wake Forest
Coastal Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami | North Carolina | Virginia | Virginia Tech

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ACC Championship: Clemson over Virginia Tech

Atlantic

1. Clemson
Predicted record: 10-2  Conf. record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player:
RB James Davis, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
NG Dorell Scott, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The All-ACC trio of QB Cullen Harper, RB James Davis, and WR Aaron Kelly resisted the temptation of testing NFL waters, giving Clemson the key parts of one of the league’s top offenses. Add in Davis’ dynamic running mate, C.J. Spiller, and the Tigers have the ingredients to be balanced and downright combustible. The key to the success, however, lies with an offensive line that’ll be breaking in three new starters, including both tackles. Chris Hairston and Cory Lambert are being counted on to win the tackle jobs on a front wall that could dictate whether or not the Tigers reach their goals this season.  
Defense: While there are openings and uncertainty at linebacker, the rest of the defense is in good shape with size and speed up front and depth and experience in the secondary. CAT safety Michael Hamlin heads a backfield that boasts four returning starters and a slew of letterwinners. Even without DE Phillip Merling, the Tigers have recruited well enough in recent years to dominate in the trenches and create outside pressure. Mega-recruit DaQuan Bowers has an ACC body and 15 spring practices behind him. One of the most heralded recruits to ever sign with Clemson, he’ll join Ricky Sapp to give the defense a scary and speedy pass-rushing tandem.        

2. Boston College
Predicted record: 9-3  Conf. record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player:
WR Rich Gunnell, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Brian Toal, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: Who fills Ryan’s shoes? Although he’ll have to officially earn the job first, senior Chris Crane is the heavy favorite to start the opener. Surprisingly quick at 6-4 and 236 pounds, he has a capable arm and two valuable seasons as Ryan’s understudy. The Eagles don’t run as much as they did when O’Brien was around, but they still like to occasionally pound the ball between the tackles. Unfortunately, last season’s best rushers are gone, and Jeff Smith and A.J. Brooks are unlikely to suit up for physical and disciplinary reasons, respectively. Enter rookie Josh Haden, who has the breakaway speed and clear path to win the job. Taking the place of massive Gosder Cherilus at left tackle is Anthony Castonzo, who started on the right side as a true freshman.
Defense: Ryan got most of the pub last fall, but the defense was the backbone of a program that often had trouble putting points on the board.  Even without LB Brian Toal and DT B.J. Raji, Boston College finished second nationally in run defense and No. 19 in total D, despite beginning the season without any true stars. The cornerstones of this year’s crew will be DE Alex Albright, DT Ron Brace, and LB Mark Herzlich, who’ll help form a sturdy front wall that’ll again be tough to run on. The pass defense, however, will be easier for opponents to navigate. Fiery S Jamie Silva and top CB DeJuan Tribble are gone, putting pressure on Marcellus Bowman and DeLeon Gause, respectively, to bridge the gap.  

T3. Florida State
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player:
WR Preston Parker, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Everette Brown, Jr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 
Offense: QB Drew Weatherford tore the lateral meniscus in his knee in March, not exactly a good omen for an attack that needs all the veterans it can get. He’s expected to be healthy for the start of the season, when he’ll renew acquaintances with top receivers Greg Carr and Preston Parker. While Carr is one of the ACC’s top long ball threats, Parker is an electrifying playmaker who can also play in the backfield. RB Antone Smith is too gifted to average less than four yards a carry, as he did a year ago. The running game was 91st nationally with the blocking having as many issues as the backs. Last season’s best lineman, Rodney Hudson, is making the move from left guard to left tackle. He’s the brightest bulb in a unit that’s going to struggle all season long.
Defense: This is Florida State, where Mickey Andrews’ kids are typically fast and nasty, but the defense showed cracks in the armor late last year allowing more than 30 points in four of the final seven games, while being especially vulnerable on deep passes. Andrews has the athletes and the focus to make sure the late-season letdown is an aberration. DE Everette Brown was the team’s sack leader as a part-time starter, LB Derek Nicholson led the team with 99 tackles, and S Myron Rolle should be ready to blossom into a star. The biggest area of concern is at defensive tackle, where Andre Fluellen and Letroy Guion leave gaping voids that need to be filled.

T3. Wake Forest
Predicted record: 8-4  Conf. record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player:
RB Josh Adams, Soph.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Aaron Curry, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: Although do-everything WR Kenny Moore will certainly be missed, the fate of the conservative Deacon offense rests squarely with an offensive line that’s losing four starters, including All-ACC C Steve Justice and enormous G Chris DeGeare, who was declared academically ineligible for 2008. If Riley Skinner is going to have time to throw, and RB Josh Adams is to build on last year’s sparkling debut, the O will need a bunch of anonymous blockers to raise the level of their games. Relative unknowns Trey Bailey, Russell Nenon, and Jeff Griffin will be under the microscope from the moment Wake Forest travels to Baylor for the opener.        
Defense
:
The Deacons lose just two starters from a feisty and underappreciated defense that allowed only 22 points a game and finished No. 4 nationally in takeaways. While Anthony Davis is a prime candidate to replace Jeremy Thompson at defensive end, the program caught a break when starter Matt Robinson was granted an additional year of eligibility. The back seven is as good as any in the ACC, with Aaron Curry bolstering the linebacker corps and CB Alphonso Smith leading the secondary. Smith is a microcosm of the Wake Forest D, an undersized and overactive defender that has a knack for getting his hands on the ball. An underrated Xs and Os guy, outgoing coordinator Dean Hood will be sorely missed.

T5. Maryland
Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Dave Philistin, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: With nine starters returning, things can’t be so bad, right? Well, not exactly. The climate on offense isn’t going to improve unless a couple of key backfield problems are solved. First, the Terps must decide on a quarterback to run James Franklin’s West Coast offense out of Chris Turner, Jordan Steffy, and Josh Portis, none of whom have achieved much at this level.  Portis has the most upside, but he’s running No. 3 on the depth chart and is saddled with a couple of layers of rust. Second, the offense needs replacements for the productive running duo of Keon Lattimore and Lance Ball. Da’rel Scott and Morgan Green are promising and explosive sophomores with the skills to flourish running behind the enormous Maryland line.  
Defense: Maryland labored to stop good running teams when it had tackles Dre Moore and Carlos Feliciano, and LB Erin Henderson prowling the middle of the field. Without that reliable trio, the Terps are going to be in trouble against the likes of Clemson, Wake Forest, and Virginia Tech. If last December’s bowl game is a good indicator, Adrian Moten is about to become the next in a long line of NFL-caliber linebackers from College Park. He and Alex Wujciak provide excellent depth to the defense’s strongest unit. Although CB Kevin Barnes is on the verge of becoming an All-ACC defender, he’ll need help in a secondary breaking in three new starters.

T5. NC State
Predicted record: 6-6   Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
RB Jamelle Eugene, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
DE Willie Young, Jr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart 
Offense: Head coach Tom O’Brien desperately wants to establish a power running game, especially with State’s on-going uncertainty at quarterback. Although he’ll be loaded at running back with Jamelle Eugene, Andre Brown, and Toney Baker back in the fold, it won’t matter unless the Wolfpack gets dramatically better inside. The line got routinely blown off the ball in 2007, making Eugene’s three 100-yard days all the more impressive. Out of Daniel Evans, Russell Wilson, Harrison Beck, and Justin Burke the Pack needs a reliable quarterback after combining for a league-high 23 interceptions. O’Brien’s offenses aren’t built around the passing game, but everyone benefits if the quarterbacks play with more consistency. Don’t expect an epiphany from the passers, but it’ll help getting back TE Anthony Hill from a season-ending knee injury.   
Defense: There are plenty of holes to plug on a defense that ranked No. 11 in the ACC and ran out of gas in November. The casualties are everywhere, hindering the staff’s quest to become more physical in run defense and generate a greater number of takeaways. While the Pack will be challenged by the departures of five key members of the front seven, it gets back DE Willie Young and DT Alan-Michael Cash, a pair of playmakers with all-conference skills. Graduation was particularly harsh on the linebackers, which lose all three starters and three of the team’s top five tacklers. S DaJuan Morgan left early for the NFL, creating an opportunity for redshirt freshmen Justin Byers and Jimmaul Simmons.      

Coastal

1. Virginia Tech
Predicted record:
9-3  Conf. record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player:
QB Sean Glennon, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
CB Victor "Macho" Harris, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The biggest of many decisions the staff will make is whether or not both quarterbacks will be featured prominently again this season. In 2007, Frank Beamer used Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon extensively, often maximizing their complementary set of skills.  However, even with 11 games of experience now in the vault, the dynamic Taylor is having a difficult time surpassing the more experienced Glennon. The Hokies favor the running game, but they haven’t been able to come up with the replacement for Branden Ore. While Kenny Lewis has seniority, he’s recovering from shoulder surgery, pushing Jahre Cheeseman and Darren Evans into more prominent roles. The attack will revolve around four experienced linemen headed by all-league candidates Sergio Render and Ed Wang.
Defense: This is one of those years Bud Foster has a chance to enhance his reputation as one of the game’s premier coordinators. Seven Hokies who earned All-ACC honors are off to the NFL, meaning there’ll be inexperienced players littered throughout the two-deep, and in need of coaching. While that won’t stop Foster from being aggressive, he might be forced to temper his penchant for chaos and all-out blitzes until the newcomers prove they can handle man-to-man situations. Considering he’s the only reigning all-star returning to Blacksburg, CB Victor Harris might feel a little lonely in the early going. DE Orion Martin will be the anchor up front, while Cam Martin is steadiest linebacker.  

T2. Miami
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player:
RB Javarris James, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Colin McCarthy, Jr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: The winner of the quarterback derby will be taking his first career snap when Miami hosts Charleston Southern on Aug. 28.  The job may be Robert Marve’s to lose, but he’s getting challenged by Jacory Harris, a gem from this year’s class who already took part in spring practice.  Marve has moxie and the athletic ability that the program has never really had under center.  With Graig Cooper and Javarris James on campus, the running game should be much better than a year ago, but not unlike the situation at Florida State, the line shares a lot of the blame.  The ‘Canes are hunting for three capable linemen to go along with steady starting tackles Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood.  It’s time for Sam Shields to emerge as a No. 1 target in a young receiving corps that’s brimming with upside.
Defense: You’re not in Kansas anymore, Bill Young.  Young was lured away from the Jayhawks to coordinate a defense that allowed an un-Miami-like 120 points over last year’s final three games.  A master of the zone blitz, the new coordinator will be working with more talent than he’s ever had at his disposal.  While you certainly don’t get better by losing DE Calais Campbell and S Kenny Phillips, the ‘Canes have stocked the cupboard deep enough in the last two winters to rebound in a hurry.  LB Colin McCarthy has the right makeup to evolve into the anchor of the defense.  If, as he’s declared, S Anthony Reddick is ready to go after suffering a serious knee injury, Phillips’ departure is a little easier to digest.  DT Marcus Forston and LB Arthur Brown, a couple of recruiting coups, are destined to be special.

T2. Virginia
Predicted record: 7-5  Conf. record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player:
LT Eugene Monroe, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
LB Clint Sintim, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: Without QB Jameel Sewell, the offense will likely be turned over to unproven Peter Lalich, a 6-5, 225-pound flame-thrower who could be a sitting duck playing behind a rebuilt Cavalier offensive line. While the sophomore will no longer have Albert or his top two tight ends as protection, he will get WR Kevin Ogletree and RB Cedric Peerman back from serious injuries. Ogletree was slated to be Virginia’s go-to receiver before tearing his ACL, while Peerman was leading the ACC in rushing when he suffered a season-ending foot injury in October. The silver lining to Peerman’s absence was that it created an opportunity for Mikell Simpson, who responded with 570 yards rushing, 43 catches, and 10 touchdowns in just half a season.     
Defense: Who’s going to rush the passer? As if losing Chris Long isn’t tough enough, the line also has to replace Jeffrey Fitzgerald, who left school. The pair combined for 21 sacks last season, leaving behind an untested set of backups who won’t make life any easier for an already vulnerable Cav secondary. Chris Cook was the team’s top cover corner, but didn’t keep up in the classroom, putting pressure on young Ras-I Dowling to mature even faster than he did a year ago as a true freshman. The unquestioned strength of the defense is at linebacker, where Jon Copper, Antonio Appleby, and Clint Sintim represent three of last season’s top seven tacklers.

4. North Carolina
Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player:
WR Hakeem Nicks, Jr.
Best Defensive Player:
S Deunta Williams, Soph.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: If not for Duke, North Carolina would be home to the ACC’s worst offense over the last two seasons. The Heels made modest progress in John Shoop’s first season as coordinator, yet still averaged only 21 points a game. Part of the problem can be traced to having a freshman under center and losing presumptive starting RB Barrington Edwards before the season ever started. Neither will be issues in 2008. Carolina welcomes back record-setting QB Yates, who’ll have to cut back on his mistakes to hold off hard-charging Cam Sexton and Mike Paulus. Whoever gets the ball will enjoy throwing to a stocked receiving corps that’s led by Hakeem Nicks, and handing the ball to Greg Little, a sophomore on the verge of a breakthrough season.
Defense: When defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano left to coach the Baltimore Ravens, it opened the door for Everett Withers to return to his Carolina roots. An energetic teacher with a specialty for coaching defensive backs, he inherits far more young talent than he left behind at Minnesota. The Tar Heels will feature up-and-coming sophomores at each level, including DT Marvin Austin, LB Quan Sturdivant, and FS Deunta Williams. Withers would like to turn his smallish, athletic group of defenders loose on the blitz periodically, but he’ll need to have more confidence in a young and vulnerable group of cornerbacks that took its lumps a year ago. Finding a replacement for sack-happy DE Hilee Taylor will be one of the staff’s main priorities.

5. Georgia Tech
Predicted record: 6-6  Conf. record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player:
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Soph.
Best Defensive Player:
DT Vance Walker, Sr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: Taylor Bennett, last year’s starting quarterback, has already transferred, making it a three-man race between Josh Nesbitt, Bryce Dykes, and Calvin Booker to become Paul Johnson’s first signal-caller at Tech. All three possess varying degrees of athleticism to run the option attack, particularly Nesbitt who ran for 339 yards as a true freshman and flashed the burst and escapability that bode well for his future. The interior of the offensive line must be rebuilt, and top RB Tashard Choice is gone. His successor is likely to be new B-back Jonathan Dwyer, who raced for 436 yards and nine scores as a rookie, and will be a nice fit for the new ground-oriented offense.       
Defense: With all of the attention on the transitioning offense, it’s easy to forget that the defense is facing significant turnover as well. Coordinator Jon Tenuta is a sizable loss, as are DE Darrell Robertson, LB Philip Wheeler, and S Jamal Lewis. New coordinator Dave Wommack can take solace in Vance Walker and Darryl Richard, who’ll form one of the nation’s most disruptive tandems of defensive tackles. They’ll need to be extra ornery to help offset a secondary that was gutted by graduation. The Jackets do boast a pair of budding stars in DB Morgan Burnett and DE Michael Johnson. Johnson is a phenomenal all-around athlete, who’ll get more room to roam around in Wommack’s system, improving his draft grade on a steady basis.

6. Duke
Predicted record: 1-11  Conf. record: 0-8
Best Offensive Player:
WR Eron Riley, Sr.
Best Defensive Player:
DT Vince Oghobaase, Jr.
- Offense | Defense | Depth Chart
Offense: As good as David Cutcliffe is as an offensive teacher, he’s never been surrounded by so much uncertainty on this side of the ball. The Blue Devils were last in the ACC in scoring and total offense a year ago, averaging less than 18 points a game. QB Thaddeus Lewis and WR Eron Riley are nice starting points for the new pro-style offense, but more support is needed from a running attack that managed just 64 yards a game. The key, as always, will be up front with an offensive line that allowed 45 sacks and never opened enough holes for underrated Re’Quan Boyette. Tackles Fred Roland and Cameron Goldberg have potential, but Duke needs three or four more blockers like them to have a fighter’s chance of moving the chains with greater frequency.
Defense: While there’s little empirical data from last year to back it up, the Blue Devils could be feisty on defense. Ten starters return, giving coordinators Mike MacIntyre and Marion Hobby the building blocks needed to construct a foundation. The strength will be a front seven that features linemen Vince Oghobaase and Ayanga Okpokowuruk, and LBs Vincent Rey and Michael Tauiliili, last year’s top two tacklers, respectively. Oghobaase, in particular, might be a household name if he wasn’t playing in Durham. While the run defense should be statistically better, the pass defense needs to make strides after yielding 21 touchdown passes and finishing last in the ACC in pass efficiency defense.