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2009 CFN ACC Team Capsules
Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor
Virginia Tech QB Tyrod Taylor
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 5, 2009


2009 CFN ACC Predictions and Team-by-Team Thumbnail Views

2009 CFN ACC Preview

CFN Team Capsules & Picks

Atlantic
- Boston College | Clemson | Florida State | Maryland | NC State | Wake Forest


Coastal
- Duke | Georgia Tech | Miami | North Carolina | Virginia | Virginia Tech

- 2009 CFN ACC Preview
- 2009 CFN All-ACC Team & Top 30 Players
- 2009 CFN ACC Team Capsules
- 2009 ACC Schedules & CFN Picks 
- 2009 ACC Unit Rankings
- 2008 CFN ACC Preview 

ACC Championship: Virginia Tech over Florida State

Atlantic

1. Florida State | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 8-4  Conf. Record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: LG Rodney Hudson, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Dekoda Watson, Sr.
Offense: The presence of coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher has finally begun to pay dividends for the Florida State offense. While not a finished product, the ‘Noles produced their best output in years, despite being littered with young kids and first-year starters. One of those rookies was QB Christian Ponder, who proved to be a much better scrambler than passer at this stage of his career. If he can make strides in the vertical game, sans much talent at wide receiver, the offense could be on the verge of building a bridge to the glory days. The ground game, which produced its best numbers of the decade, will forge ahead without leading rusher Antone Smith. Taking his place is Jermaine Thomas, who ripped off seven yards a carry in a sneak peak preview. The gem of the offense is a front wall that used three true freshmen in 2008, and with LG Rodney Hudson as the centerpiece, could wind up morphing into the ACC’s best unit.
Defense: While the numbers looked pretty good a year ago, the 2008 defense wasn’t a classic, take-no-prisoners unit that used to be routine under Mickey Andrews. Holes in run and pass defense, which weren’t evident in September, began to appear against the rare quality offense. Now, Andrews must find replacements for much of his defensive line, half the secondary, and all three of his all-leaguers. The big worry is up front, where ends Everette Brown and Neefy Moffett are gone, heaping pressure on Markus White and Kevin McNeil to offset their production. If they fail, the secondary could get exposed as ordinary. The least concern is at linebacker, where Dekoda Watson, Nigel Bradham, and Kendall Smith have All-ACC skills and aspirations. The ‘Noles are fortunate they get two home games before having to travel to Provo to face Max Hall and BYU.


2. Clemson | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 8-4 Conf. Record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player: RB C.J Spiller, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: CB Chris Chancellor, Sr.
Offense: The Tigers are attempting to rebound on offense after last season’s unmitigated disaster. Despite harboring some of the better players in school history at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver, Clemson was 87th nationally in total offense. It’ll look to build the attack from the ground up with a 29-year old first-time offensive coordinator, a rookie quarterback, and an offensive line that has a lot of proving to do. The silver linings come in the form of a pair of blazing seniors, RB C.J. Spiller and WR Jacoby Ford. The importance of Spiller’s decision to return for one more year, rather than jet to the NFL, cannot be overstated. If he wasn’t around to keep opposing defenses honest, the Tiger offense might qualify for federal aid.
Defense:
Dabo Swinney’s best recruits of the offseason haven’t worn helmets in years. He lured Kevin Steele away from Alabama, giving Clemson one of the nation’s premier defensive coordinators. While it’s not as if the Tigers have been underachieving on this side of the ball, his presence and track record ensure that they’ll remain one of the ACC tightest defenses. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to be welcoming back a mess of really talented players from a unit that allowed under 300 yards and 18 points a game a year ago. Save for a need to bag more sacks, Clemson has no glaring weaknesses on D. It’s stout versus the run, gives up no ground in pass defense, and stiffens better than anyone in the red zone. Steele inherits no less than eight All-ACC candidates, headed by Da’Quan Bowers up front, Kavell Conner at linebacker, and Chris Chancellor at corner. Steele’s pristine reputation as an assistant won’t be in jeopardy with this crew.

3. NC State | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 8-4  Conf. Record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player: QB Russell Wilson, Soph.
Best Defensive Player: DE Willie Young, Sr.
Offense: Now that Tom O’Brien has his quarterbacks of the future, he and his staff must surround Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon with an appropriate level of talent. Wilson was the surprise of the ACC last season, beginning the year on the bench and ending it on the all-conference first team. He needs more help, however, specifically from an offensive line that’s prone to getting bullied at the line of scrimmage. When the blockers aren’t doing their jobs, RB Jamelle Eugene can’t maneuver into space and Wilson is flushed from the pocket way too often. Eugene is hoping to get help from Toney Baker, the power portion of the ground game, who’s missed the last two seasons with knee problems. Although the receiving corps needs to tighten things up, junior wideouts Owen Spencer and Jarvis Williams, and sophomore TE George Bryan might all develop into all-stars before they’re through. Wilson is special, but he can’t produce miracles without some support.
Defense: The defense played its best football over the second half of 2008, a trend it hopes to carry into 2009. Riddled by injuries and poor tackling early on, the Pack underwent a transformation, creating more turnovers and clamping down in run defense. Keeping the momentum going will depend on a secondary that’s young and still very vulnerable to even mediocre quarterbacks. The good news for CB DeAndre Morgan and his teammates is that they’ll be getting plenty of assistance from a front seven that’ll  surprise a lot of people this fall. DE Willie Young, DT Alan-Michael Cash, and LB Nate Irving are All-ACC types, with the athleticism to create constant chaos. Plus, they’re surrounded by solid veterans, like DE Shea McKeen, DT Leroy Burgess, and LB Ray Michel, who will flourish in secondary roles.


T4. Boston College | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 6-6  Conf. Record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player: LT Anthony Castonz, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: RB Montel Harris, Soph.
Offense: Everyone wants to know what new coordinator Gary Tranquill’s offense is going to look like. Considering the Eagles’ gaping hole at quarterback, figure it to be conservative and heavily reliant on the running game. If you want to have early success, why not play to your strengths? In the case of Boston College that means backs Montel Harris and Josh Haden, and a physical offensive line that welcomes back four starters. The situation behind center is dire. In two years, the program has lost its three best quarterbacks, Matt Ryan to the Atlanta Falcons, Chris Crane to graduation, and Dominique Davis to suspension. The result? A mad scramble, with no good options. If the Eagles can’t throw, it’ll make it that much easier for defenses to stack the box to stop Harris and Haden.
Defense: Few teams in the country were tougher up the middle than Boston College in 2008. This year? Not so much. The Eagles are reeling from the graduations of stud tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, the loss of ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich to cancer, and the Achilles injury of middle linebacker Mike McLaughlin. Unlike a year ago, when Boston College was No. 7 nationally versus the run, this team will be vulnerable against basic, north-south running attacks. New coordinator Bill McGovern is expected to build his defense around an air-tight, athletic secondary, while saying a few novenas that McLaughlin can return in time for the opener. Up front, there is some hope. The same Alex Albright who led the team in sacks in 2007 is expected back from a neck injury. And on the inside, Damik Scafe is a hidden gem, with the quickness and strength to follow Raji and Brace into the NFL in two years.

T4. Wake Forest | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 7-5  Conf. Record: 3-5
Best Offensive Player: QB Riley Skinner, Sr
Best Defensive Player: NG Boo Robinson, Sr.

Offense: The Demon Deacons will remain about as conservative as a Texas politician, relying on a power running game and a low-risk passing attack. The system works at Wake, provided the offensive line takes care of its assignments. That didn’t happen in 2008, and the results were predictably poor. The Deacons couldn’t move it on the ground or through the air, averaging just 308 yards a game. The line has regrouped, and presumably will be much more effective, especially since massive senior has regained his academic eligibility. If so, there’s enough talent at the skill positions to keep the chains moving. Fourth-year starter Riley Skinner is a picture of stability at quarterback, the backfield is deep, and the receivers are young and very fast.
Defense: Defensive coordinator Brad Lambert earned a lot of praise last year. This season, however, is when he’ll really earn his paycheck. The back seven of that feisty Demon Deacon defense must be revamped with six new starters, including two to replace former stars Aaron Curry and Alphonso Smith. While it isn’t going to be easy, this program has proven to be up to the challenge in the past. Everything will be built on a solid front four that boasts all-league candidates Boo Robinson, John Russell, and Kyle Wilber. At linebacker, Hunter Haynes has been waiting for a chance to make his mark on a program that was thrilled when he signed. The defensive backfield is bolstered by speedy corner Brandon Ghee and a bunch of unproven kids.


6. Maryland | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 5-7  Conf. Record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: RB Da'Rel Scott, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Alex Wujciak, Jr.
Offense: Attracting explosive skill position players to College Park has not been a problem during the Ralph Friedgen era. Developing an efficient passer who can get the most out of those athletes, however, has been. Chris Turner will be trying to change that trend in his third year as the starter and his final one with the program. He’ll have to deliver if the Terrapins are to improve on last year’s No. 92 ranking in scoring. He has the luxury of playing with All-ACC RB Da’Rel Scott and a precocious corps of receivers that’ll soon point to sophomore Torrey Smith as its cover boy. The biggest concern, by far, revolves around an offensive line that’s replacing three starters and is a little short on star power. If this rebuilt group doesn’t gel early, Maryland is destined to once again have one of the league’s least efficient offenses.
Defense: Ralph Friedgen had an interesting response to the departure of coordinator Chris Cosh, hiring successful head coach Don Brown away UMass. He arrives determined to attack at all times, fostering a culture of blitzing and man-press coverages. It could be a good marriage at a school, which always seems to attract high-quality athletes. The Terps have spent the offseason trying to retool a defense that’s bringing back just four full-time starters. The leading man will again be junior inside linebacker Alex Wujciak, who had a team-high 133 tackles to earn second team All-ACC honors. Better tackling and tighter coverage in the red zone are two key priorities that must be addressed before the opening day trip to Cal.


Coastal

1. Virginia Tech | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 10-2  Conf. Record: 7-1
Best Offensive Player: OG Sergio Render, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DE Jason Worilds, Jr.
Offense: The Hokie offense was supposed to be feeble in 2008, and failed to disappoint, averaging just 303 yards and 22 points a game. Furman held Tech to just 24 points, which is all you need to know about last year. Better days, however, should lie ahead if the offense can find a replacement for Darren Evans, the star back who suffered a torn ACL in fall camp. Eight other starters return from a year ago, including developing QB Tyrod Taylor and all of the receivers who required training wheels last fall. Painfully young, the Hokies are all a year older, which, coordinator Bryan Stinespring hopes, will translate into fewer mistakes and more big plays. While Tech remains a devout ball-control offense, it could have the right mix of talent to get inventive every so often in 2009.
Defense:  If ever there was a time when the Hokie D was on its heels, it would’ve been 2008. Seven all-stars had run out eligibility and the two-deep was littered with unproven players. So what happens? Tech finishes No. 7 nationally in total defense and No. 9 in scoring defense. It’s no wonder long-time assistant Bud Foster is widely hailed as one of the nation’s premier defensive coordinators. His Hokies will be air-tight again this season, welcoming back starters at every level and a slew of key letterwinners. If there’s an All-America candidate in this no-name crew, it’s junior DE Jason Worilds, who toyed with opposing tackles throughout his first season as a regular. He’ll set the tone up front for a defense that doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses and faces a schedule that’s light on firepower.


2. Georgia Tech | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 9-3  Conf. Record: 6-2
Best Offensive Player: RB Jonathan Dwyer, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: S Morgan Burnett, Jr.
Offense: Can the triple-option work in a major conference? So far, so good. Without all the right parts in place, Georgia Tech finished fourth nationally in rushing, led the league in total offense, and produced the ACC Player of the Year, RB Jonathan Dwyer. Still, there’s considerable room for growth. The offense sputtered too often on third down and in the red zone, which can be traced to spotty play by the offensive line and inconsistencies under center from Josh Nesbitt. While that year in the system is expected to solve some problems, the coaching staff is taking a more proactive approach by adding new wrinkles into the playbook. Oh, the option will still be the preferred mode of transportation, but Paul Johnson hopes to keep defenses honest by installing elements of the run-and-shoot and sprinkling in a few more deep routes to WR Demaryius Thomas.
Defense: Last year, coordinator Dave Wommack was forced to rebuild his defensive backfield. This year, he’s focusing his attention on a defensive line that parted ways with three all-stars. Michael Johnson, Darryl Richard, and Vance Walker are all trying to make NFL rosters, leaving their alma mater with a gaping hole up front. While the return of Derrick Morgan makes end less of a concern, the Jackets are especially worried about the interior, where undersized Jason Peters and Ben Anderson are taking over. Fortunately, there are far fewer concerns at linebacker and the secondary. At linebacker, there’s plenty of depth and talent, bolstered by the return of headhunter Sedric Griffin and switch of Cooper Taylor to the new hybrid “wolf” position. The defensive backfield is flush with great athletes and experienced players. The headliner is Morgan Burnett, a rover looking for back-to-back All-American recognition.


3. Miami | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 8-4  Conf. Record: 5-3
Best Offensive Player: RB Graig Cooper, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: LB Sean Spence, Soph.
Offense: Three years, three different offensive coordinators. In an effort to ignite an offense that’s been inconsistent for much of the last six years, Randy Shannon has turned to Mark Whipple, a respected veteran of the college and NFL ranks. He plans to install a pro-style attack that seeks balance and more use of the backs and tight ends in the passing game. More important than the complexities of the new system, he’s being asked to coach up a precocious bunch of ‘Canes, who are a tweak here and a tinker there away from being so much better. The kids at running back and wide receiver, like Graig Cooper and Aldarius Johnson, are just waiting to explode, but they need sophomore QB Jacory Harris to light the fuse. If he can begin to reach his potential under Whipple, this group is capable of surprising the rest of the ACC.
Defense: Bill Young’s departure back to Big 12 country has Miami breaking in a new defensive coordinator for a second straight year. John Lovett, most recently the special teams coordinator at North Carolina, inherits a defense that has a nice mixture of veterans and young players. This is not, however, a vintage Hurricane defense. The ‘Canes had trouble stopping the run and creating takeaways in 2008, both of which Lovett hopes to address. His front seven has depth and talent, including budding stars in DT Marcus Forston, DE Marcus Robinson, and LB Sean Spence. The biggest concern rests with a mediocre secondary that was painfully short on big plays a year ago.


4. North Carolina | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 8-4  Conf. Record: 4-4
Best Offensive Player: RB Shaun Draughn, Jr.
Best Defensive Player: DT Marvin Austin, Jr.
Offense: It’s tough losing one NFL-caliber pass-catcher to graduation, but four? Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster, and Richard Quinn all showcased their skills to scouts at the combine in February. That’s a nice hook in recruiting, but a problem for this year’s squad. While the next wave of Heels are busting at the seams with potential, they’re also very young and very inconsistent. And if they don’t grow up in a hurry, QB T.J. Yates and the rest of the offense will suffer the consequences. As the triggerman of the attack, Yates needs a big season after Carolina sputtered in 2008, finishing 92nd nationally in total offense. Former safety Shaun Draughn is back to spur the ground game, with the help of powerful Ryan Houston. The Heels won’t frighten or stretch many opponents this fall, meaning the defense and special teams will be leading the charge once again.
Defense:
North Carolina doesn’t have the best defense in the ACC. It does, however, have one of the most athletic collections of talent in the league. Defensive coordinator Everett Withers wants his kids to play fast and loose, which isn’t going to be a problem. Can they, however, play better? Despite featuring next-level players at each unit, the Heels were only slightly better than average, finishing 11th in the conference in total defense. With nine starters back from that group, more is expected. Much more. All of those emerging sophomores, like DT Marvin Austin, LB Quan Sturdivant, CB Kendric Burney, and S Deunta Williams, are now juniors with all-star potential. If the line can get more pressure and the secondary makes more stops, this defense has the ingredients to carry the program a long way.

5. Virginia | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 5-7  Conf. Record: 2-6
Best Offensive Player: RB Mikell Simpson, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: CB Ras-I Dowling, Jr.
Offense: Enough is enough. After three straight years of 100th or lower in total offense, Mike Groh is gone as the offensive coordinator, replaced by veteran Gregg Brandon. He brings with him a no-huddle, up-tempo spread attack that figures to be far less predictable than what fans have grown accustomed to in recent years. The coach has hurdles to success, namely a green receiving corps and an average offensive line, but he’ll also have some interesting options at his disposal. Dual-threat QB Jameel Sewell returns from a one-year hiatus, looking to recapture the form he had toward the end of 2007. He’s in an interesting battle with Vic Hall, the do-it-all athlete, who’s better known for his work in the secondary and on special teams. RB Mikell Simpson, like Sewell, was getting hot in 2007, and has the all-purpose potential to finish his career with a flurry.
Defense:
While the Cavaliers figure to be just fine on the first and last lines of defense, the linebackers are going to be a problem, especially for a 3-4 team. Last year’s top three tacklers, Clint Sintim, Jon Copper, and Antonio Appleby, are gone, leaving a massive void that’ll be filled by young kids and journeymen. If this group isn’t able to create pressure and string out runs, the entire defense will feel the ripple effect. Up front, Virginia has three returning starters and a budding force in sophomore DE Matt Conrath. The defensive backfield will be loaded. Ras-I Dowling and Chris Cook are a pair of safety-sized players, who’ll form one of the best and most physical corner tandems in the ACC. Sophomore safeties Rodney McLeod and Corey Mosley are ramping up for what might someday be all-star careers in Charlottesville.

6. Duke | Offense | Defense | Depth Chart

Predicted Record: 4-8  Conf. Record: 1-7
Best Offensive Player: QB Thaddeus Lewis, Sr.
Best Defensive Player: DT Vince Oghobaase, Sr.
Offense: By every possible measure, from scoring to total offense, Duke improved in the first year under David Cutcliffe. Now that the foundation has begun to set, it’s time to start building on it. The Blue Devils must replace star WR Eron Riley, but are buoyed by the returns of fourth-year starting QB Thaddeus Lewis and RB Re’quan Boyette, who missed all of 2008 with a knee injury. To really turn the corner, the offense will have to run the ball effectively for the first time in years and become more effective when it matters most. A year ago, Duke was 111th nationally in red zone offense and 85th on third down conversions.
Defense:
Yes, progress was made a year ago, but Duke remains one of the most vulnerable of the ACC defenses. While the Blue Devils have quality players, and even next-level players, they still lack a level of depth and talent to handle better offenses. Plus, this year’s defense is moving forward without All-America LB Michael Tauiliili, who’s still getting credit for tackles after graduation. With DT Vince Oghobaase anchoring the line and Vincent Rey taking over as the next big thing at linebacker, Duke should be fine on the front seven. The secondary, however, must stop yielding so many easy conversions through the air if the D is going to stiffen as a whole in 2009.

- 2009 CFN ACC Preview
- 2009 CFN All-ACC Team & Top 30 Players
- 2009 CFN ACC Team Capsules
- 2009 ACC Schedules & CFN Picks 
- 2009 ACC Unit Rankings
- 2008 CFN ACC Preview