The 2008 ACC football season was a disappointment is some people's eyes. Twelve teams battling for the top of mediocrity. In the Atlantic division, there was only one game which separated the bottom and top. In the Coastal division, there were two games (not including Duke) that separated the bottom and top.
I think 2009 will be different. The ACC will start to become one of the top football conferences in the nation. I think each team in the ACC is headed in the right direction.
Virginia Tech has been the most dominant football team in the ACC, since they first joined the league in 2004, winning the ACC Championship in 2004, 2007, and 2008. Plus, in 2005 they won the Coastal division, but lost in the Championship game.
Va. Tech has one of the youngest offenses in the league. With a "Michael Vick"-like QB in Tyrod Taylor calling the shots, he will have many weapons on his offense. A young wide receiver core and a young RB in Darren Evans.
Evans is a beast running the ball. Racking up over 1200 yards on the ground his freshman year, with an average of 4.4 yards a carry, and 11 touchdowns.
Virginia Tech is returning a lot of people on both sides of the ball. They have a very good chance to repeat in the ACC, and possibly be a sleeper in the BCS.
Reigning ACC Player of Year Jonathan Dwyer returns to the Yellow Jackets along with most of the Jacket offense. Dwyer ran all over his opponents last year racking up close to 1400 rushing yards, 12 touchdowns and averaging seven yards a carry. With most of Dwyer's offensive line returning, he will have a good chance to repeat his title.
Ga. Tech lost five seniors on Defense, including DE Michael Johnson who got drafted by the Bengals in the third round. They lost three on D-line, one LB, and one CB. They will have a young Defense next season, and may struggle on this side of the ball.
Georgia Tech finished 5-3 in the ACC last year, but lost to Va. Tech in the season so they did not make in to the ACC Championship game. They got embarrassed in their bowl game against LSU, when some people (like me for example) had them beating the SEC team.
They have a good chance to compete for the Coastal Division this season, but I think they will come up short again this year too.
This will be Paul Johnson's second year, and he brought in some recruits to run his triple option offense. Johnson has this program on the rise, and they could be a team to watch out in the next couple of years.
Losing Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate, and Brooks Foster will hurt this offense next year, but will still have QB TJ Yates under center.
Yates had the highest passing efficiently last year in the ACC until he had an ankle injury against Virginia Tech. Yates is now recovering from a frisbee injury, but should be back to start summer workouts.
On the other side of the ball, Carolina returns all but two starters on Defense. They were one of the top defenses in the ACC last year, and will probably have a top defense again this season, too.
This is Butch Davis's third year at Carolina, and he has turned this program around and heading in the right direction. He brought in a top 10 recruiting class this offseason, and is bringing in top recruits in future years too.
UNC went 4-4 in the ACC last year and fell short off winning the Coastal Division. This year with their defense improving and adding to weapons for their offense, they could contend for the Coastal Division. They have back to back games against Florida State and at Virginia Tech, and those will be crucial to their season.
The hurricanes are one of the youngest teams in the conference. The return everyone on offense, other than QB Robert Marve. Which, in my opinion, was good for the hurricanes, because Jacory Harris is better QB than Marve anyways. Robert Marve decided to transfer once he found he was second string on the spring depth chart.
I think offenses that use a two-quarterback system is dumb, because you do not really have a leader on their on the field and most teams look at their QB to be the one to follow.
This is Randy Shannon's third year in the ACC and has been called a great recruiter, but not a good coach. In 2008 Sporting News article, he was ranked dead last (66th) out of all BCS coaches.
He has two top 25 classes in his two seasons at Miami, and if he can develop these players, Miami will be national powerhouse in football again.
Virginia finished 3-5 (fifth in the Coastal and 11th in the Conference) this past season, and lost some players to graduation. This including their best player, Cedric Peerman.
Peerman had close to 1,000 yards on the ground and receiving the ball. He average on five yards a carry and had seven touchdowns on the ground. He was selected in the NFL Draft in the sixth round by Baltimore Ravens. The Cavaliers will miss him on offense.
Virginia finished in the cellar of the ACC last year, and will probably stay there this year too. Al Groh is a good coach, and will get this program up on their feet again in the next few years.
Duke won one game last year in the ACC, and for them that was a big improvement. Duke had lost 16 straight ACC games until beating Virginia last year.
I still see the Devils, moving in the right direction. They have a great coach in David Cutliffe, who went 4-8 in his first season at Duke.
Cutliffe is best known for coaching QB Peyton Manning, while he was Offensive Coordinator for Tennessee. He also coached his little brother, Eli Manning, while he was head coach at Ole Miss.
This past season, he coached QB Thaddeus Lewis to a second Team All-ACC selection, who will be back for his senior season, and will be the Devil's best player.
As for the rest of the Devils, they lost their RB Clifford Harris, four Wide Receivers, and TE Tielor Robinson.
They lost seven starters on Defense, which is not good for a team that gave up 23 points per game and 356 yards of total offense.
Cutliffe will have to find some new players for his team. He brought in the 51st best recruiting class (according to rivals.com) with a four star RB and a four-star DT, too.
I do not see Duke making a lot of noise in the ACC this year, but I will not be surprised if they make some noise in the next few years.
The Wolfpack returns first Team All ACC QB Russel Wilson, who will be the Pack's best player.
As a Freshman, Russel Wilson led the ACC in passing efficiency, only threw one interception. He had over 1900 yards threw the air and 388 on the ground. He accounted for 21 of the Wolfpack's touchdown in 2008.
NC State also brings back redshirt Senior Toney Baker, who has come back from injury. He will probably be the starter, with redshirt Senior Jamelle Eugene getting some carries too.
They return all Wide Receivers including redshirt Senior Donald Bowens, who is recovering from a knee injury sustained last year.
They do lose RB Andre Brown (selected by the NY Giants in the fourth round) and TE Anthony Hill (selected by the Houston Texans in the fourth round). On defense they lost three starters.
Tom O'Brien is in his third with NC State and has them moving in the right direction. And if the Wilson can stay healthy for all 12 games, State has a very good chance in competing against Florida State for the Atlantic Division.
The Tigers lost 13 total starters this past year including RB James Davis, who was selected in the sixth round by the Cleavland Browns.
Davis had over 3800 rushing yards and 441 receiving yards during his time at Clemson. He average 5.2 yards a carry and had a total of 49 touchdowns. He will be greatly missed in Clemson.
His replacement is C.J. Spiller, who has spilt time with Davis over the past three years. He rushed for 634 yards and averaged 5.4 per carry last year. He will be the starter this year, and should be the main focal point of the Tiger's offense this season.
Tigers also have a new head coach. Dabo Swinney became the interim head coach last season, once Tommy Bowden stepped down. He was offered the job at the end of the season, and probably had the job locked up after beating in state rival South Carolina.
Clemson should be around mediocre next season, while Swinney tries to rebuild after losing so many seniors this past season.
The Demon Deacons did not lose one starter on offense, but not the case of defense.
Nine starters on D graduated last year. The Deacs lose all three linebackers including the fourth pick in the NFL Draft, Aaron Curry (who, in my opinion, should have been the first pick). The also lose three defensive lineman and three players in the secondary.
They finished with a 4-4 record in the ACC last year, and I do not see them doing much better this season.
They do have one of the best coaches in the ACC, in Jim Grobe. It will not be too long until Grobe gets Wake back contending for the ACC Title
The Terrapins went 4-4 in the ACC last season, received a bid the Humanitarian Bowl against Nevada.
They lose a total of ten starters. Wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey was one of those players they lose. He was drafted seventh overall by the Oakland Raiders (which was way to high, in my opinion).
Ralph Friegen is the Terrapins coach, who is entering his ninth season at the helm. He won the 2001 ACC title in his first year as head coach. Prior to that, Maryland had had only one winning season since 1990.
Maryland will be one of those teams, that gets better throughout the year. They should have a decent season, and get a bowl bid.
The Seminoles have been the early favorite to win the Atlantic Division by most writers.
They are also a very young team, and do not having one senior starter. The 'Noles have a great young QB in Christian Ponder, but protecting him will be the problem
Florida State does not have one junior or senior starter on their offensive lineman.
Bobby Bowden is good at developing young teams, and the Seminoles are the favorite to contend with Virginia Tech to win the ACC.
Boston College surprised a lot of people last year, including me, in making it to ACC Championship game. They had one of the top defenses in the league last year, that included stud DE B.J. Raji(who was selected ninth overall by Green Bay).
The have a new coach in Frank Spaziani, who has been the Eagles defensive coordinator for the past ten seasons.
They'll have sophomore Dominique Davis at QB, who saw some action last year when senior QB Chris Crane got hurt. Davis impressed me while he was under center. He likes to make most of his throws outside the pocket.
I except the Eagles to be in the middle of the ACC in 2009, but I won't be surprised if they sneak up and take the Atlantic Division like the did last year. They are my dark horse pick in the ACC for 2009.
Most ACC football programs are headed in the right direction. There are plenty of coaches who just started to build their school's program up. I think within the next three to five years, the ACC will be a top tier football conference.