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2008 ACC Lookbacks/Recaps
Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor
Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jan 17, 2009


Taking a look back at every ACC team's 2007 season.


  
Atlantic Boston Coll | ClemsonFlorida St | Maryland | NC State | Wake Forest

Coastal Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami | North Carolina | Virginia | Virginia Tech
- 2008 CFN All-ACC Team
| 2008 CFN Preseason All-ACC Team
- 2007 ACC Lookback/Recaps


 - 2009 ACC Early Lookaheads

Boston College  
CFN Preseason Prediction: 9-3  Final Record: 9-5


Recap
: Not much was expected of Boston College in 2008, so a second straight Atlantic Division crown was evidence that there is life after Matt Ryan in Chestnut Hill. The Eagles shook off a couple of losses to North Carolina and Clemson in the middle of the year, winning their final four games and earning an improbable spot in the ACC title game opposite Virginia Tech. However, BC finished with a whimper, losing 30-12 to the Hokies and 19-16 to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl, snapping the nation’s longest bowl winning streak.

Offensive Player of the Year: RB Montel Harris
Defensive Player of the Year
: LB Mark Herzlich

Biggest Surprise: Harris. Yeah, graduations created a gaping void in the running game, but conventional wisdom had true freshman Josh Haden carrying the load. Instead, Harris, also a rookie, seized the opportunity in September and wound up rushing for a team-high 900 yards and five scores.

Biggest Disappointment
: QB Chris Crane. He wasn’t going to be Ryan, but with a veteran receiving corps and four years in the system, he wasn’t supposed to be the ACC’s 10th-rated passer either. Before being lost for the year with a broken collarbone, he’d tossed more picks than touchdowns and was struggling with his accuracy.

Looking Ahead
: Redshirt freshman Dominique Davis got all of the reps after Crane went down, promptly showing he has a long way to go as a passer. Assuming he keeps the job, he’ll get plenty of help from the running game and one of the league’s best offensive lines. On defense, interior linemen B.J. Raji and Ron Brace will be impossible to adequately replace.

Clemson  
CFN Preseason Prediction: 10-2   Final Record: 7-6


Recap
: The 2008 season was a wild and disappointing ride that began with a loss to Alabama in the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff, ended with a loss to Nebraska in the Gator Bowl, and featured a coaching change in between. With preseason expectations soaring, Tommy Bowden was unable to survive a 3-3 start, opening the door for Dabo Swinney to use the second half of the year as a job audition. The Tigers showed some life in November, going 4-1 and prompting the administration to remove the interim tag from Swinney’s title.

Offensive Player of the Year
:
RB C.J. Spiller
Defensive Player of the Year
: S Michael Hamlin

Biggest Surprise
: Swinney. After Bowden got the boot, Swinney was considered a distant longshot to remain at the helm beyond this season. Clemson would surely go after some big name with an even bigger resume, right? Nope. The team clearly responded to Swinney’s coaching style, which was enough for him to land an improbable contract.

Biggest Disappointment
: QB Cullen Harper. A microcosm in many ways for the Tigers’ early season troubles, Harper was a shell of the quarterback that began the year as a Heisman contender and sure-fire NFL draft pick. He had twice as many picks and twice as few touchdowns as a year ago, getting briefly benched in October.

Looking Ahead
: That the bar will be lowered for Clemson is a good thing for Swinney as he begins his first full season at the helm. The defense will be a strength, but the offense needs better consistency from an offensive line that shares some of the blame for a 7-6 mark. While Willy Korn is the expected heir apparent at quarterback, he could get pushed by freshman Kyle Parker.

Duke
CFN Preseason Prediction: 1-11  Final Record: 4-8


Recap
: At Duke, where progress gets measured a little differently, four wins was considered a step in the right direction. First-year coach David Cutcliffe’s impact was immediate, instilling a better work ethic and tighter fundamentals into the Blue Devils. The school snapped its 25-game conference losing streak and was actually thinking bowl eligibility as late as November before running out of gas down the stretch. Half of Duke’s eight losses were by 10 points or less, which was the difference between making progress and making national headlines.

Offensive Player of the Year
: WR Eron Riley
Defensive Player of the Year
: LB Michael Tauiliili

Biggest Surprise
: Beating Virginia on Sept. 27. Until this game, it had been almost four years since the Blue Devils had beaten an opponent from the ACC. After a sloppy first half, Duke exploded for 28 points over the last 30 minutes, setting off a rare celebration from the fans at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Biggest Disappointment
: The final month of the season. Even at Duke, people can get a little greedy sometimes. At 4-3, the Blue Devils had visions of their first bowl game in 13 years, but dropped the last five games, despite being competitive in all but one. Although the program has momentum, taking a long losing streak into the offseason made it a little harder to notice.

Looking Ahead
: After winning as many games in 2008 as the previous four years combined, Duke will be looking to build on that success and take a step closer to the postseason. While Tauiliili’s graduation will be felt on the defense, there are enough returning veterans, such as DT Vince Oghobaase and Vincent Rey, to piece together a formidable front seven.    

Florida State
CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5  Final Record: 9-4


Recap
: While the Seminoles won nine games, including the Champs Sports Bowl over Wisconsin, there remained a hollow feeling for a school that hasn’t had a 10-win season since 2003. Florida State expects to win championships, but it might be time to permanently lower the bar for a program that’s bowled in December for three straight years. The ‘Noles actually finished deadlocked atop the ACC Atlantic Division, but took a backseat to Boston College, which won the head-to-head match up in Tallahassee on Nov. 15.

Offensive Player of the Year
: RB Antone Smith
Defensive Player of the Year
: DE Everette Brown

Biggest Surprise
: QB Christian Ponder. First, he beats out incumbent Drew Weatherford for the starting job. Then, he goes out and makes a bunch of plays as the program’s best dual-threat at the position in years. If Ponder can take the next step as a passer, he’s got the quickness outside the pocket to be exactly what this inconsistent offense needs.

Biggest Disappointment
: The loss to Boston College in mid-November. After Wake Forest lost earlier in the day, the Seminoles had a chance to control their own destiny in the Atlantic Division, but failed to hold serve at home. Ponder was intercepted three times, and P Graham Gano led the team in rushing on a 24-yard fake in the final quarter.

Looking Ahead
: Attracting talent has never been an issue in Tallahassee. Turning those players into winners will once again be the challenge for Bobby Bowden, Jimbo Fisher, and the rest of the staff. The ‘Noles will need Ponder to take another step in his development and for the green offensive line to ripen.    

Georgia Tech
CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6  Final Record: 9-4


Recap
: As first-year head coaches go, the school was thrilled with the debut of Paul Johnson, who unexpectedly led Tech to nine wins, a spot in the Top 25, and a rare defeat of rival Georgia. With changes and turnover touching every area of the program, expectations were modest, yet the Yellow Jackets were in the Coastal Division hunt until the end of November. Johnson’s trademark triple-option is far from a finished product, creating a buzz on the Flats that the best is yet to come.            
 
Offensive Player of the Year: RB Jonathan Dwyer
Defensive Player of the Year: S Morgan Burnett

Biggest Surprise
: Beating Georgia for the first time since 2000. More than anything else, the inability to topple the Dawgs was Chan Gailey’s undoing at Georgia Tech. Johnson delivered on his first try. In one of the wildest games of the season, the Yellow Jackets rushed for 409 yards and held on for a satisfying 45-42 victory in Athens.

Biggest Disappointment
: Getting destroyed by LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. In what was practically a home game on New Year’s Eve, Tech had hoped to use this stage as a chance to show the nation how far it had come in Johnson first season. Instead, it got embarrassed, 38-3, by a freshman quarterback and a better prepared opponent.

Looking Ahead
: Georgia Tech soared past its target using a slew of underclassmen, so forget about sneaking up on anyone in 2009. The option will presumably be better, especially if Josh Nesbitt can perfect his role as the point guard of the attack. The defense, however, will need help along the line now that Michael Johnson, Vance Walker, and Darryl Richard have run out of eligibility.    


Maryland
CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6  Final Record:
8-5

Recap: College football’s version of the human genome project, the Terrapins were almost impossible to figure out on a week-to-week basis. The same Maryland team that couldn’t get past Middle Tennessee State and was blanked by Virginia went 4-1 against ranked teams, including wins over Cal and Wake Forest. Until dropping three of their final four games, the Terps were driving toward a program-first Atlantic Division title. They wrapped up the rollercoaster ride with a 42-35 win over Nevada in the Humanitarian Bowl.

Offensive Player of the Year
: RB Da’Rel Scott
Defensive Player of the Year
: LB Alex Wujciak

Biggest Surprise
: Upsetting Cal on Sept. 13. The Bears were ranked and the Terps were coming off an unforgivable loss in Murfreesboro. So what happens? Maryland jumps out to a big lead and holds on for a 35-27 victory, which was the first indication that this was going to be a strange season in College Park.

Biggest Disappointment
: The stretch run. Once November rolled around, the Terps were in the Atlantic Division driver’s seat, but were unable to handle the position. They bottomed out on Nov. 22 in a nationally-televised flop at the hands of Florida State. Maryland was gutted 37-3, ending its dominance at Byrd Stadium and any hopes of playing for an ACC championship.

Looking Ahead
: If Maryland can plug holes on both lines, it’ll be back in the divisional hunt again in 2009. Wujciak is back to anchor the defense and the backfield returns intact. The combination of Scott and Davin Meggett at running back gives the Terps a couple of talented runners who are capable of carrying the load.

Miami
CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5  Final Record: 7-6


Recap: When you rely on so many youngsters, you’re going to get baby steps. Miami made its first serious move back toward respectability, winning seven games and returning to the postseason with a two-deep that was littered with freshmen and sophomores. Before losing their last two games to Georgia Tech and North Carolina State, the Hurricanes were honing in on a Coastal Division crown. Even after falling short, head coach Randy Shannon feels he finally has the program pointed in the right direction.

Offensive Player of the Year
: RB Graig Cooper
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Sean Spence

Biggest Surprise
: P/PK Matt Bosher. What does it say about a program when the punter/placekicker is named team MVP? Well, it’s hardly an ideal situation, but Bosher proved worthy of the honor in his first year on the job, earning a spot on the All-ACC second team both as a punter and a placekicker.

Biggest Disappointment
: RB Javarris James. He spent the entire offseason targeting 2008 as his rebound year, but it never materialized. A bum ankle kept him on the sidelines for much of September and October, and he wound up rushing for just 286 yards on 68 carries. While Cooper did a solid job as the feature back, the ‘Canes had counted on having a tandem to support the young quarterbacks.

Looking Ahead
: After poking its head around the corner, Miami is ready to make an even stronger push for an ACC championship. All of those kids will be a year older and presumably less prone to rookie mistakes. Now that Robert Marve has severed ties with the program, the two-quarterback system is history. Jacory Harris will enter spring camp as the undisputed starter.

North Carolina
CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6  Final Record: 8-5


Recap
: The Tar Heels spent the season solidifying themselves as one of the ACC’s fastest rising programs. Carolina jumped out to a fast start, even climbing to climbing to No. 18 in the polls, before showing their youth and lack of offensive consistency in the second half of the year. The league’s Coastal Division was there for the taking after back-to-back blowouts of Boston College and Georgia Tech, but the Heels couldn’t close the deal. Still, winning eight games for the first time since 2001 represents a building block for Butch Davis.

Offensive Player of the Year
: WR Hakeem Nicks
Defensive Player of the Year: S Trimane Goddard

Biggest Surprise
: Coming from behind to beat Miami in Davis’ return to the city. This was the first sign that the Heels were growing up and destined to be a factor in the ACC race. Despite being down to third-string QB Cam Sexton, Carolina rallied for two touchdowns in the final nine minutes and held on when Trimane Goddard made a gorgeous game-saving pick in the end zone.

Biggest Disappointment
: Dropping a heartbreaker to Maryland on Nov. 15. The Tar Heels lost more than a game when Obi Egekeze split the uprights with 1:42 left on the clock. They also lost control of their own destiny in the division. Despite being outplayed for much of the game, Carolina had countless opportunities to win, and wasn’t the same after this loss.

Looking Ahead
: The pieces are in place for North Carolina to take the next step in its evolution under Davis. Naturally, there’ll be key losses, such as Nicks and Goddard, but the Tar Heels have recruited well enough over the past few years to continue moving north in a wide-open ACC.

NC State
CFN Preseason Prediction: 6-6  Final Record: 6-7


Recap
: For the second straight year under Tom O’Brien, the Wolfpack started slowly and finished with a flurry. Unlike last season, however, a scintillating November resulted in a bonus game. Although State lost to Rutgers in the Papajohns.com Bowl, playing in December was a much-needed show of progress for the Pack. The biggest development of the year in Raleigh was the emergence of Russell Wilson, who was named First Team All-ACC, and is poised to be the face of the program for the next three seasons.

Offensive Player of the Year
: QB Russell Wilson
Defensive Player of the Year
: LB Nate Irving

Biggest Surprise
: Wilson. The redshirt freshman wasn’t even a sure-thing to be in the starting lineup when the season started. Yet, he grabbed control of the job and never let it go. Wilson threw just one pick all year, showed tremendous quickness outside the pocket, and led the Pack like a long-time starter. With Mike Glennon about to remove his redshirt, State hasn’t looked this good at quarterback since Phillip Rivers was on campus.

Biggest Disappointment
: The bowl loss. For the first 30 minutes, NC State was clearly the better team, taking a 17-6 lead into halftime. However, Rutgers stormed back behind the passing of Mike Teel, denying the Pack a chance to take a five-game winning streak into to the offseason. The outcome probably would have been different had Wilson not sat out the second half with a knee injury.

Looking Ahead
: With many of last year’s key contributors returning, this could be a breakout year for O’Brien and the Wolfpack. Down the stretch, they were playing as well as anyone in the ACC and will be a nuisance in the Atlantic Division if Wilson can stay off the trainer’s table.


Virginia
CFN Preseason Prediction: 7-5  Final Record: 5-7


Recap
: Unlike a year ago, there wasn’t enough magic in Charlottesville to carry Virginia back into the postseason. After enduring a tumultuous offseason and a horrible 1-3 start, the Cavaliers miraculously got off the mat to author an improbable four-game winning streak over favored opponents that went on to bowl. However, poor play from the quarterback position and the offense in general caught up with them in a winless November that defined an up-and-down season.

Offensive Player of the Year: LT Eugene Monroe
Defensive Player of the Year
: LB Clint Sintim

Biggest Surprise
: October. After getting destroyed by USC, Connecticut, and Duke the previous month, who could have guessed that this Virginia team would suddenly rise up and beat Maryland, East Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia Tech in successive weeks. By the first week of November, there were whispers that the Cavs might actually steal the Coastal Division.

Biggest Disappointment
: The Nov. 1 loss to Miami. This was where the season took a wicked and permanent turn for the worse. With the division lead hanging in the balance, the Cavaliers allowed a game-tying desperation heave from Jacory Harris near the end of regulation before falling, 24-17, in overtime.

Looking Ahead
: After finishing 102nd nationally in passing efficiency, Virginia needs more from the quarterback. Enter Jameel Sewell. Actually, re-enter Jameel Sewell. After sitting out 2008 for academic reasons, he’s expected to pilot Gregg Brandon’s new spread offense. Al Groh’s son Mike has already been relieved of his duties. Dad will be next if Virginia doesn’t get back over .500 in 2009.

Virginia Tech
CFN Preseason Prediction: 9-3  Final Record: 10-4


Recap
: If there was a good year for the rest of the ACC to run circles around the Hokies, this was it. They were faced with massive turnover from last year’s league championship team and opened the season with a humbling loss to East Carolina. Yet, in a testament to Frank Beamer and his coaching staff, Tech regrouped in time to win consecutive ACC titles and the Orange Bowl over Cincinnati. Beamer’s Week 2 decision to pull the redshirt from QB Tyrod Taylor, who was slated to sit out the year, might have saved the season for the Hokies.

Offensive Player of the Year
: RB Darren Evans
Defensive Player of the Year: CB Victor Harris
 
Biggest Surprise: Evans. With little hope for a steady passing attack, Tech knew it had to get a ton of help from a running game that had no clear-cut feature back. It just didn’t expect Evans to be that guy. A backup when the season began, the redshirt freshman went on to rush for 1,265 yards and 11 scores in an All-ACC debut.

Biggest Disappointment
: The opener. As if losing to a Conference USA opponent wasn’t humbling enough, the Hokies got beat at their own—special teams. Up 22-20 with two minutes left in the fourth, Tech inexplicably allowed East Carolina’s T.J. Lee to block a punt and return it 27 yards for the game-winning score.      
 
Looking Ahead: After manufacturing an ACC crown with the help of a lot of underclassmen, Virginia Tech might be thinking bigger in 2009. If Taylor can continue to mature as a passer, the Hokies will be considered a fringe contender for a national championship. With Alabama waiting in the opener, we’ll know right away if they’re for real or if they’re Clemson.

Wake Forest
CFN Preseason Prediction: 8-4  Final Record: 8-5


Recap
: Although the Demon Deacons went 8-5 and won their bowl game over Navy, there was still a sense that the program underachieved. With so many key players returning from a year ago, Wake Forest felt it was poised for its second ACC championship in the last three years. However, a rebuilt offensive line proved unable to meet the challenge, grinding the trademark power running game to a halt. The Deacons were still contending in the Atlantic Division before suffering back-to-back conference losses in November.

Offensive Player of the Year
: WR D.J. Boldin
Defensive Player of the Year: LB Aaron Curry

Biggest Surprise
: Knocking off Florida State for a third straight year. While it was an ugly affair dominated by field goals and turnovers, a win in Tallahassee is always a big deal for Wake Forest. This one cemented the notion that the Deacons have done the unimaginable, passing the once-mighty ‘Noles in the ACC pecking order.

Biggest Disappointment
: Losing to Boston College on Nov. 22. With the Atlantic Division lead hanging in the balance, Wake Forest dropped a league game at home for the first time in two years. It was a crippling defeat that occurred when Eagle backup QB Dominique Davis, a freshman, plunged in from a yard away with just 1:12 left on the clock.

Looking Ahead
: If better days lie ahead in Winston-Salem, Wake Forest must bolster that O-line and find replacements for defensive studs, such as Curry, CB Alphonso Smith, and S Chip Vaughn. The backfield will be a strength, led by veteran QB Riley Skinner and a stockpile of talented backs.


- 2009 ACC Early Lookaheads