2008 ACC Football: Early Outlook

Tony BerkshireCorrespondent IFebruary 19, 2008

Thirteen days ago, the top high school players in the nation signed their names to national letters of intent and in doing so committed to spend the next four years of their lives at the school of their choice. 

The University of Miami and Clemson University, both ACC dynasties, signed the top two commit classes in the nation.

The outlook for the two teams are looking extremely bright for next season, but what about the rest of the conference?

ACC: Atlantic Division

Clemson Tigers

With the second best recruiting class in the nation, Clemson looks to trigger an earthquake in Death Valley.

James Davis is returning this season to most likely break over five school records. He will partner with Cullen Harper and CJ Spiller to hopefully lead the Tigers to their first ACC championship since the early 90's.

Clemson will return eight starters on defense and with the new commits, may finally have the top five national defense the team has been looking for. The defense will be anchored by five-star recruit Da'Quan Bowers and Sr. DB Michael Hamlin.
The posing problem is the offensive line only returns one starter, Center Thomas Austin.
Although the Tigers have one of the most efficient passers in the NCAA, pass protection may be a problem this season.

Boston College Eagles

With the big losses of QB Matt Ryan, leading receivers Andre Callender and Kevin Challenger, and RB L.V. Whitworth, the '08 season is expected to be a year of rebuilding.  Boston came up with a C+ rated recruiting class nonetheless, with no ESPN top 150 prospects, and landing the No. 18 ranked QB Ugo Okpara.

Offensively returning three starters, and a group of players with no game time waiting to play.

Defensively the Eagles return eight starters, the defense should be dominant this year in the ACC.

The Eagles main focus is rebuilding their offense after the losses.

Florida State Seminoles

This season is also suspected to be a rebuild year for FSU under new head coach Jimbo Fisher. Most time on offense being applied to grooming top five QB E.J. Manuel into starting spot.

Offensively, WR Decody Fagg was the biggest loss. FSU will manage to return eight starters on offense and eight on defense.  But the players will not start the first three games due the academic scandal that costed FSU a bowl win versus Kentucky, also placing FSU on a two year NCAA sanctioned probation.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons   

Finishing the season 9-4 proved a previous '06 ACC championship was not a mistake.  Wake finished the season in second place between Boston College and Clemson, nobody really talked about them. Head coach Jim Grobe decided to stay and make a run at another championship with six offensive and eight defensive returning starters.
The big loss to the team is receiver Kenneth Moore, who accounted for half of every receiving stat on the team. Wake has a big shot at becoming the underdog again in the '08 season, lets hope RB Josh Adams can carry the running game on his back.

North Carolina State Wolfpack

Coming off of a four game winning streak, NC State dropped to Maryland 37-0.  Seven starters return on defense, possibly being the teams chance to make a come back in the Atlantic division.  All of the starting receivers are gone, and a couple of playmakers on defense in Pressley and Jones.  Which could be the spoiler to the season.  The Wolfpack turned the ball over 32 times but only gained 16 takeaways, with a 2-0 turnover margin to UCF in a 25-23 loss, losing State the bowl birth they were looking for.  Look for NC State to get better as the season progresses.

Maryland Terrapins

Returning nine starters offensively makes Maryland a strong front runner this season.  Last season they lost five games by a touchdown or less.  With the experience returning, Maryland could prove worthy of nine wins and a shot at the ACC title contention.
Losing three playmakers on defense will require patchwork, which may be the downfall of the team. Having to balance the game with offensive scores. Although the offensive line needs the most work, allowing forty sacks in thirteen games.  I see Maryland, with a little work, in the championship game this year.

Coastal Division

Miami Hurricanes

The big surprise this year was the overall interest from top recruits.  Miami signed five of the top seven outside linebackers in the nation. Also hauling in the number one defensive tackle, two great QB's, and two ESPN 150 receivers.

Losing six of the last seven game in the season, Randy Shannon still managed to hold the number one recruiting class in the nation before signing day.

Nobody knows who the QB will be this season, ranking last in the ACC in passing, that area needs to be improved. With such a heralded class, dont expect to see Miami with six wins this season. Even the greatest teams take time to build.

Duke Blue Devils

With David Cutliffe taking over the head coaching position, the offense will be a lot better this season. Especially returning seven starters on offense. Defensively, Duke returns ten total starters, with some work, Duke could turn around over the next few seasons. After years of the basketball program earning all the honors, its time for the football program to show what their made of. Losing some close games this past season could have been a five win season for the team with just a one turn around play in each game. I will be watching Duke this season to see how they turn around.

North Carolina Tarheels

Ten starters offensively, eight defensively, will be returning to the Tarheels this year. Starting freshmen this past season who were not ready to play may be what the Tarheels really needed for the next three seasons. UNC really surprised me with how strong the program was this past season. Losing six games last season by a touchdown or less, the experience returning should be able to turn those games around and quickly become a contender in the ACC for the next three years.

Losing a few top tackles, and the nations best kicker, could prove to kill the team defensively. Lets hope the defensive secondary can repair itself and carry the team over and above.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Losing RB Tashard Choice will be the offensive killer this year. But GT will once again be an underdog this season. The receiving game will be carrying the team this year mostly after big losses on defense as well, and no experienced running back to turn to. With QB Taylor Bennett transferring this year, Calvin Booker and Josh Nesbitt are the QB's left in wait, with new recruits Tevin Washington and Jaybo Shaw undershadowing them temporarily.

Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech will once again be a tough team to fight this year.  Losing the teams best linebackers will not effect the team on either side of the ball. Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor both returned for the dual QB system the Hokies are well known for. RB Brandon Ore decided to withdraw from the draft and return to help the Hokie run game this year, considering the four top receivers are gone. The defense is drained as well with CB Brandon Flowers and DE Chris Ellis both gone. The Hokies offensive line needs the most work this year, allowing 54 sacks.

The Hokies will be another contender this year though, as they can rotate players the best of any team in the nation.

Virginia Cavaliers

Peter Lalich has returned! With Kevin Ogletree returning from a knee injury, and new star RB Mikell Simpson. The offense will sing for Virginia with six other starters backing them up. The ACC's second strongest defense will also return seven starters. Virginia I project will contend for the Coastal division title once again.

Starting their season against USC will likely faulter the Cavs in the beginning. I see LB Jon Copper becoming the big playmaker. It will take the defense to keep the offense on the field to get the Cavaliers their wins.

With the ACC competition getting closer every season than ever before, the next few years will be interesting to watch.

My placings for the ACC are... 

Atlantic Division

Wake Forest
Boston College
Florida State
NC State

Coastal Division

Virginia Tech
Georgia Tech


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