It's Spring Football time. Teams and fans are starting the new season with a clean slate. Everybody is undefeated. Previously at CFBZ we took a look at the ACC Atlantic Division, now it's time to check out the Coastal.
Duke Blue Devils
Fixing The Defense- Last year Duke gave up 450 yards per game and 35.4 points per game. In the three games they won they had to score at least 28 points to win every one of them. The defense is has to step up or it will be more of the same this year for the Blue Devils. Jim Knowles will be the third DC in as many years for Duke as he was promoted from within (he was also the head man at Cornell for six years). Rick Petri, who has 29 years of experience, was brought in to coach the DL. Duke is learning new techniques up front and using a lot of different fundamentals. Will it be enough? Duke's offense was middle of the pack in the ACC so it's clearly on the defense if Duke wants to be better this season.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Replacing Nesbitt- For Paul Johnson's entire tenure at Georgia Tech he's been able to lean on Joshua Nesbitt as his leader at QB. That day has finally come to an end and Johnson will now be tasked with finding a new man to run his offense. Nesbitt was not recruited by Johnson and was not recruited to run Johnson's style of offense but in the end it turned out pretty good for the both of them as they won a Conference Championship and received a berth in a BCS bowl. This year there are three Paul Johnson recruits who will vie for the QB position. The first is Tevin Washington. Washington played in 8 games last year and became the starter after Nesbitt went down with an injury. In the four games Washington started the overall productivity didn't really decrease but the scoring did as Tech failed to score more than 10 points in two of the four games that Washington started. Will Washington's experience help him win the starting job or will RS Freshman Synjyn Davis or true Freshman Vad Lee win the job? The guy with the highest upside is Vad Lee but he also doesn't arrive on campus until after this spring. In addition to replacing Nesbitt, Tech needs to see significant improvement from their defense in the second year of the 3-4.
Changing The Culture- It's a new era in Miami football and this spring will go far in determining how quickly Al Golden can turn this Canes team around. The players are being pushed physically and mentally in order to build a stronger team. How will the players respond and how much will it help once September rolls around? Golden is big on accountability and competition and all of the players will be ranked weekly. The speed and tempo of practice has been increased in order to create more energy. Miami will be one of the most interesting campus's for spring and fall football.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Getting Everybody On The Field- UNC lost a ton of players last year to various off the field issues. Lots of young Tar Heels got in playing time because of this and some of the suspended players will be back and challenging for playing time this year. CB Charles Brown was second on the team in tackles in 2009 but didn't play last year, one would think that he will be a pretty big contributor this year. FB Devon Ramsey is back and is listed as first-string on the depth chart. RB Ryan Houston missed the first five games of last year due to suspension and then red-shirted because he didn't want to play half a season. He's back and oh by the way he was the Heels leading rusher in 2009. Those are three guys who should have a good impact but you also have to wonder how much better the returning players will be because of the experience they got last year when thrust into early playing time. North Carolina did a good job weathering the storm last year but they also must ensure that they have fixed their off the field issues if they want to contend this year.
Replacing Production From the Offensive Skill Positions- Virginia needs a lot of help on defense this year (last year they were 10th in the ACC in both yards allowed and points allowed) but we are going to focus on the offense. When we looked at the ACC's returning offensive firepower it was obvious that Virginia is going to have to replace a lot of production at QB, RB and WR. Virginia will have to replace their QB (who threw 89% of the Cavs passes last year), they have to replace their leading rusher (Keith Payne scored 14 of their 17 rushing TDs) and have to replace their leading receiver in terms of yardage. Kris Burd will need to step up his production from last year (he had a really good year with 58 receptions and 5 TDs) and Perry Jones (who rushed for 646 yds last year) will also really need to step up. Virginia had a middle of the pack ACC offense last year but it will be critical for them not to take a step back in that department as they continue to try and build a defense.
Virginia Tech Hokies
Replacing the Backfield- Who would have thought that Virginia Tech would go undefeated in the ACC after losing their first two games? Not this guy. Three of the big reasons for their success are gone. Tyrod Taylor was pretty great last year. He was the highest rated passer in the ACC, put up an awesome TD to INT ratio (24:5) and also finished second on the team with 659 yards rushing. Besides replacing their field general they also have to replace two of their top RBs in Darren Evans (850 yds and 11 TD) and Ryan Williams (481 yds and 9 TD). Is David Wilson ready to tote the rock more this year? What does Logan Thomas bring to the table and how close can he come to replacing Tyrod Taylor this year?