ACC spring preview: High expectations for new and returning faces

The biggest conference storyline that has dominated the headlines (apart from the future of the league) is whether the ACC has two teams with legitimate college football playoff chances in Clemson and Florida State. Both teams have a lot of questions to answer first.

At Clemson, new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley steps in to try and fix a unit that has lost its fastball. Having played six consecutive playoff games, Clemson has not made the playoffs in the last two years, and this has raised questions about whether the program will be long-term. What Dabo Sweeney has done to bring Riley in makes it clear that Clemson still has a lot to prove.

Expectations in Tallahassee, Florida skyrocketed with a 10-win season and the return of all starters. But it’s also a program that had a three-game losing streak midway through last season and hasn’t beaten Clemson since 2014. higher.

While playoff performance usually determines how conferences are perceived, the ACC has been a much more balanced league than in years past. Perhaps this will ultimately play a role in what happens in 2023 when the ACC plays without controversy.

Boston College

Top plot: This spring, the Eagles will transition to a different starting quarterback and a different offensive approach after a 3-9 season that has been filled with injuries and inconsistencies. Emmett Morehead becomes a starter after playing at a high level in 2022 in place of an injured Phil Yurkovets. Quarterback coach Steve Shimko adds to this the title of offensive coordinator, but regardless of who is running the game, the Eagles need to get back in control of the game. British Columbia could never keep the same offensive line a year ago because they were so young and buff. But it should provide a much more experienced team this year, especially with the return of eventual first-round pick Christian Mahogany.

Newbie to watch: There’s no question that wide receiver Zay Flowers leaves big shoes behind to fill them up. Keep an eye out for Ryan O’Keeffe’s UCF move to make the most of your opportunity. O’Keeffe has been an outstanding playmaker for the Knights (2002 receiving yards), but he will have other opportunities to get the ball in space besides lining it up at wide receiver. He also reunites with BC receivers coach Darrell Wyatt, who coached him at UCF.


Top plot: This spring, we get our first look at what new offensive coordinator Garrett Riley will do to help quarterback Cade Strawberry get Clemson’s offense back on track. Without a doubt, Dabo Sweeney’s decision to hire Riley from TCU was one of the most important of the college football off-season – the recognition that someone outside the program should be in charge of fixing the wrong. The turning point was a loss to Tennessee in the Capital One Orange Bowl when Clemson scored just 14 points in 101 games. Riley’s offensive scheme has worked everywhere he’s been, but for the first time in his career, he’ll be participating in a program that consistently ranks in the top 10 recruiting courses. Clemson has the talent to be a power hitter again.

Newbie to watch: We’ll stay on the offensive side of the ball and go with freshman wide receiver Noble Johnson, one of the first to enlist, who was one of the top recruits Clemson signed in his class of 2023. Clemson not only needs to get more stability from his receivers, he also needs a big target that can stretch the field. Johnson, at 6’3″ and 205 pounds, has the ability to fit into that category after averaging 17.2 yards per catch in high school.


Top plot: In Mike Elko’s first year as head coach, Duke’s defense went from being the worst in the ACC – and one of the worst in the country – to a respectably midfield thanks to a significant improvement in tackles, better passing shots and 26 takeaways, nearly double the number of 2021. Building on that success will be key to the Blue Devils’ growth, but they will need to do so with a new defensive coordinator. Robb Smith left after only a year and Elko brought in his former Texas A&M assistant Tyler Santucci to take over the D. Work remains to be done for a division that still allowed 7.2 yards per pass, but if Santucci can get the defense to take one step further, there’s no reason the Blue Devils can’t repeat last year’s amazing nine-win campaign.

Newbie to watch: Speaking of passing defense, Duke added potential Miami transfer difference-maker Al Blades Jr. this offseason. In 2022, he did not enter the field for a long time. However, he is still very talented, and a fresh start with the Blue Devils could mean another shot at glory for the Blades and a big improvement for Duke’s supporting role.


Top plot: The Seminoles rank first in the nation in return productions, including the return of their quarterback (Jordan Travis), leading hitter (Trey Benson) and leading wide receiver (Johnny Wilson). There are not many high-profile positional battles to be solved in the spring. The biggest storyline revolves around how this team handles increased expectations and hype after a 10-win season. The state of Florida is a legitimate threat to win the ACC this year for the first time in seven years. No one is talking about hot spots or whether the state of Florida could ever return as a program. Now let’s talk about whether this team can qualify for the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how Mike Norvell and his team deal with all this outside noise.

Newbie to watch: Once again, Florida State has no shortage of transfers as Norvell and his staff continue to rely on a model that allows them to integrate experienced playmakers into their team. He’s been working wonders ever since Norvell came along. Among this year’s transfer talent, look out for Virginia transfer guard Fentrell Cypress II, who finished first in the ACC and ninth nationally in assists in his 2022 breakout season. He has the potential to be the best cornerback after closing. in ASS.

Georgia Institute of Technology

Top plot: Did last year’s 4-4 result indicate progress or a flare-up after the change of coach? Brent Key has done enough to earn a full-time head coach position, but now the real work begins. Key needs to show some explosiveness on an offense that often lacked any threat in the bottom half of the field, continue to develop the O-line that has been one of the worst in the league for years, and revive the ground game that used to be Technological’s hallmark. Institute of Georgia, but averaged just 3.75 yards per rush in 2022. The discovery of an aggressive identity this spring will go a long way in determining how competitive the Yellow Vests will be. Key helped change the defense in 2022. Now it’s time for the attack to make a similar leap forward.

Newbie to watch: Haynes King spent three years on Jimbo Fischer’s offense, winning a spot in the starting lineup three times, but it never seemed to work. Whether due to injury or inconsistency, King ended Aggie’s career with just 10 touchdown passes and 10 picks. However, he brought some serious talent to Georgia Tech, which, in his three years with Jeff Sims, worked through his own frustrating underachievement. Stepping out from under Fischer’s long shadow, it’s easy to imagine a scenario in which a change of scenery and far less pressure to live up to sky-high expectations give King a chance to finally thrive. If he does, it will be a boon for the Yellow Vests and possibly one of Portal’s biggest additions of the year.


Top plot: It feels like everyone in America called the hiring of Jeff Brom a “slam dunk” for the Cardinals, and with good reason. He is Louisville football royalty and he had great success as a head coach at Purdue before finally deciding to return to his alma mater. Of course, this brought a lot of attention to Louisville’s offense, which had stalled under coach Scott Satterfield. Brom is sure to give a boost to the attack, especially when it comes to playing at a faster pace. He was also able to join a top notch recruiting class, so how the players on the roster fit into what Brom wants to do is one of the biggest storylines to keep an eye on.

Newbie to watch: There are two quarterbacks to watch out for: rookie freshman Pierce Clarkson, four-star rookie and huge card pickup, and transfer Jack Plummer. Brom made it a point to step up the decor in his quarterback room as soon as he arrived. Bringing in Plummer does just that, especially since Plummer has experience with Brom. Plummer began his career at Purdue and spent four years there before moving to Cal last season. His familiarity with Brom might have given him an edge. But in any case, there will be competition for this place, and this is exactly what Brom wants.


Top plot: Miami opened the 2022 season with much fanfare with the return of Mario Cristobal, the school’s new football investment, an all-star line-up of assistant coaches, and an incumbent QB poised for glory. Result: 5-7. This offseason has seen an exodus of assistants and players, but Miami residents feel it’s for the best. In particular, it seems that QB Tyler Van Dyke will fit into Sean Dawson’s new OC attacking setup much better. There are still many big questions for Miami, but the biggest achievement the team can achieve this spring will be to simply forget about 2022 forever.

Newbie to watch: Miami has signed a pair of five-star offensive linemen, and both players, Francis Mauigoa and Samson Okunlola, will be competing at the Spring Ball. Given the Hurricanes’ offensive failures last season, which included just 1.42 yards to contact on every throw, the size and strength gains are crucial. If…


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