It's Spring Football time. Teams and fans are starting the new season with a clean slate. Everybody is undefeated. Previously on CFBZ we took a look at the SEC West and the SEC East, now let's take a look at the the biggest question marks across the Atlantic Division of the ACC.
BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES
Fixing The Offense- Boston College was dead last in the ACC in Total Offense last year. They also averaged the least amount of points at 18.5, which was over 4 points less then the next team (Wake Forest). And that was with the second leading rusher, Montel Harris, in the conference. Harris returns this year but he needs help. New OC Kevin Rogers, formerly QB coach of the Minnesota Vikings and Virginia Tech, has come on board and what he does with the offense will greatly impact Boston College's season. There will be a lot of interest this spring on the work he does with the BC QBs as they were woeful in 2010 (13 TDs vs 19 INTs).
Installing A New Offense- Clemson has the talent to compete in the ACC year in and year out but Dabo has yet to put it all together. Coming off of a 6-7 season he has to be feeling the heat, especially since Tommy Bowden got shown the door after 8 consecutive winning seasons. Clemson finished 10th in the league last year in Total Offense. What I will be watching this year is how the young talent comes together and if it can rise to the next level. Like Boston College, Clemson has added a new OC but Clemson's hire is a little more interesting. Clemson stayed in the college ranks and plucked Chad Morris from Tulsa. Tulsa was 5th in the Nation last year averaging over 500 yards per game. Morris will be breaking in a new QB in Tajh Boyd but has some returning talent in RB Andre Ellington (5.8 ypc and 10 TD), WR DeAndre Hopkins (51 rec as a frosh), WR Jaron Brown (31 rec last year) and TE Dwayne Allen (33 rec last year). Ellington will be recovering from an injury this spring so it will be interesting to watch the young guys step up and see who can be his tag-team partner this fall. Morris's goal is to run 80 plays a game, about a 20% increase from last year. How quickly and successfully can the team adapts to this new style?
FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Is E.J. Manuel the real deal?- FSU has a lot of talent returning from a very young 2010 squad. FSU, along with Wake Forest, returns the most starters in the ACC but the most important non-starter returning is Manuel. Last year he saw action in 10 games and put up some decent stats (65 of 93 for 861 yds, 4 TD and 4 INT). Manuel is an accurate QB who also has the ability to hurt the opponent with his feet when he needs to (ran for 170 yds and 1 TD last year). Manuel will need some help up front as the Seminoles also replace two offensive linemen. We had FSU at #6 in our Pre-Spring Top 10, Manuel will need to step up for them to perform at this level.
Replacing the Playmakers- When we looked at returning offensive firepower in the ACC earlier this spring we noticed that Maryland is returning only 38% of their receptions from last year (which is dead last in the ACC). But it's not just the receptions, it's the quality of the guys they are replacing. Torrey Smith was the go-to-guy for Maryland last year as he caught almost twice as many receptions as Maryland's second leading receiver (who by the way is also not returning this year). Smith gained over 1,000 yards receiving and caught 12 TD passes. He will be tough to replace. It will be pivotal to see who steps up and if O'Brien can avoid a sophomore slump without Smith to rely on.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE WOLFPACK
Mike Glennon- The best QB in the ACC, Russell Wilson, is going to play baseball this spring instead of football with his teammates. It's not clear if he will be back or not in the fall. Because of this it's critical for Glennon to step up this spring. Glennon is a junior but only was able to attempt 13 passes last year in relief of Wilson. When we did our Exit Survey for the NC State Wolfpack, James from the Riddick & Reynolds site had an interesting take. He wanted Glennon to get in two years at the QB position (despite the success Wilson had last year) because he thought that this was the best opportunity for NC State to win an ACC Championship over the next two years. So the Wolfpack fanbase obviously has some confidence and high hopes for Glennon. In a conference filled with interesting QB storylines this one could be the most interesting.
WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS
Getting Defensive- Wake Forest finished 11th in the league last year giving up 429 yards per game. Despite those atrocious numbers, Wake Forest lost their DC (Brad Lambert) as he left to become the Head Coach at start-up program Charlotte. Wake Forest pushed back it's spring practice a few days as they scrambled to find a replacement. Grobe settled on "co-coordinators" in current assistants Brian Knorr and Tim Billings. Phil Steele shows Wake returning 8 defensive starters so there should be plenty to work with for Knorr and Billings but can they make the turnaround given that they are in a situation they did not expect to be in? The defensive side of the football will definitely be a key for Wake as they try to turn the clock back to a few years ago when they were contending for the ACC Atlantic Championship.