Early Rankings: ACC Football
1. Virginia Tech
VT returns 16 starters overall, including QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Darren Evans, and all of their receivers. They were the seventh overall rated defense last year, but they are losing CB Victor "Macho" Harris and two linebackers
This will be tough to overcome, but Bud Foster is one of the best DCs in the country. I'm confident that VT's D will remain stingy, and the offense will steadily improve. However, the Hokies' success this year relies on VT's ability to throw the ball.
QB Christian Ponder return for the Noles and is looking to build on the good season he had last year. FSU loses big 6'6" WR Greg Carr, and speedster Preston Parker has been kicked off the team. Parker looked to have a huge role in FSU's offense next year, and a big key will be if a WR and also a new RB will step up.
Last year, Mickey Andrews' defense was very good. This year, they lose safety Myron Rolle. Also, CB Tony Carter graduated, and star DE Everett Brown left for the NFL. However, the Noles have tons of talent, and I'd look for the D to continue to impress.
Paul Johnson's triple option offense did much more than expected last year and looks to do more this year. QB Josh Nesbitt and RBs Roddy Jones, Lucas Cox, and Jonathan Dwyer return to make the best backfield in the ACC. DE Michael Johnson won't be back, and GT will need to revamp its D-line. It's the only real defensive question mark.
Butch Davis will lead his most talented squad onto the field in '09. The loss of superstar WR Hakeem Nicks could loom large for UNC, as who will step up at WR is still a big question mark.
Overall, Butch has recruited well over the past few years, and this is the year where he should take that next step. Anything less than a Gator Bowl is a disappointment for UNC fans this year.
Russell Wilson returns for a talented State team that has a good coach in Tom O'Brien. The Wolfpack came on strong last year at the end of the season and look to build on their recent success. Look for the Wolfpack to be the surprise team in the ACC. I'll even go so far as to say they could win the Atlantic.
Dabo Swinney takes over an already talented team. The biggest hurdle for Clemson to overcome is how QB Willy Korn can play in his first year of real starting time. Clemson returns C.J. Spiller, who should be the focal point for the Tigers offense. Da'Quan Bowers will be a star on the D. This could be a good year for the Tigers.
Miami is talented, but they have a brutal schedule their first four games, and they could very easily start off 0-4. I think that could result in a tough situation for Randy Shannon to overcome.
QB Jacory Harris is still young and needs to develop a better and bigger arm if he wants to compete against the tough ACC defenses. Miami's D will be good as always, but this could be a big letdown year for Miami.
QB Chris Crane graduated, and freshman Dominique Davis transferred. Davis didn't play great in his limited action last year, and the remaining QBs don't look too good. BC returns its main running back Josh Haden. Frank Spaziani takes over as head coach, and their defense took a huge hit when Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer.
The loss of DTs B.J. Raji and Ron Brace could loom large as they were the key of the tough BC run defense. Overall, BC's offense needs to step up and produce, or it could be a down year in the parity-filled ACC.
Riley Skinner and Josh Adams return for the Deacs. However, the Deacons' talent isn't there compared with other ACC teams, but what Jim Grobe does with his group of players is always incredible. They are hard to predict, but in my opinion it'll be an average year in the ACC for the Demon Deacons.
Chris Turner returns at QB for the Terps this year. His play will be crucial in their West Coast style attack. Da'Rel Scott and Davin Meggett should lead a very good Maryland running game.
The loss of WR Darrius Heyward-Bey will be HUGE for Maryland, as he was a very big deep threat and made a lot of players for the Terps over the years. Someone needs to pick up his productivity, or else it could be a long year for Maryland.
UVA will return Jameel Sewell, their QB who was suspended this past year. How well he does in this upcoming year will be crucial to their success.
Al Groh fired his son Mike, their offensive coordinator, and he was replaced by a spread guru. Their switch to the spread could take a few years, and with the loss of their star receiver Kevin Ogletree, UVA loses a lot on offense. However, Vic Hall in the Wild Wahoo could be an interesting formation to watch for.
UVA can be good, but I'd predict another season trying to creep into a bowl game at the end of the year.
Duke made progress last year beating UVA, and getting a good ACC win. However, Duke returns QB Thaddeus Lewis in his second season under QB genius David Cutcliffe. This could be a breakout year for the Dukies, getting two or three ACC wins...it's a process, and they have to start somewhere. Any improvement is good for the Dukies.
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