Quantity and quality for contenders
By Raphielle Johnson
The 2008 season saw the Atlantic Coast Conference begin with what many thought was a clear favorite in the Clemson Tigers. Boasting a loaded backfield and playmakers all over the field, Tommy Bowden’s team was expected to be a serious threat to end the league’s losing streak in BCS games.
The avalanche began with the ill-fated decision to promise freshman Jamie Harper the first carry of the season, and his fumble sent the Crimson Tide on their way. Clemson never fully recovered from the opening game stinker, resulting in the removal of Bowden and offensive coordinator Rob Spence, and Dabo Swinney taking over on an interim basis (at the time). With the Tigers falling by the wayside and the remainder of the league embodying the word “parity”, it looked like the ACC would go another year before winning their BCS game.
Luckily for the conference, Frank Beamer’s Virginia Tech
Hokies were more than up for the challenge in knocking off
But if you think a three-peat will be a walk in the park
think again; Virginia Tech could have a hard enough time simply making the ACC
Championship Game. Year one of the spread option under Paul Johnson was a
success at Georgia Tech, resulting in nine wins and their first win in their
last seven meetings over rival
Duke may not get the pub that the other schools in the division, but they do have one of the best quarterbacks in the league in Thaddeus Lewis. All Lewis did last season was finish second in the ACC in total offense, earning Second Team All-ACC honors. But David Cutcliffe’s team returns just ten starters, something that will test the improved recruiting of the Duke program.
Virginia, the lone victim of the Blue Devils in league play last season, is still looking for a suitable answer at quarterback. Jameel Sewell is back in the fold after missing all of last season due to academic issues, but he’s no shoo-in to reclaim the job with 2008 starter Marc Verica and Vic Hall both in the fold. Hall is one of the best athletes in the ACC, a player who you could end up seeing at just about any position on the field at any given time. The Cavaliers do return four starters on the offensive line, so they should be in decent shape there.
Of the two divisions, the
Dabo Swinney was rewarded for keeping the Tigers together as interim head coach with the full-time gig, and luckily for him C.J. Spiller decided to stick around for one more season. Spiller is a threat to go to the house every time he touches the ball, and Jamie Harper should be ready to step in and earn some more work in the backfield. The question: quarterback.
Kyle Parker left spring camp as the frontrunner for the job, even though he was also a mainstay on the Clemson baseball team. Willy Korn, the “chosen one” in the eyes of some fans when he first stepped on campus, worked on skills under the tutelage of offensive guru Jerry Rhome. And incoming freshman Tajh Boyd will also look to earn some snaps this season. Jacoby Ford is another of the eight returning starters on offense, and with all five linemen back Swinney could hit the ground running. But are the Tigers mentally tough enough to handle adversity? The answer will have a direct impact on how good of a season the Tigers have.
Four starters return up front, and solid offensive line play
has been a constant at BC since the Tom Coughlin years. But the defense will
miss the presence of 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich, who
will miss this season while undergoing treatment for
Storyline: Quantity and quality. Just like last season the ACC won’t be short on conference title contenders. But unlike last season the candidates will be of higher caliber, thus garnering a little more respect for the conference on the national level.
Players of the Year: RB Jonathan Dwyer (Georgia Tech) and FS Kam Chancellor (Virginia Tech)
How they’ll finish:
2. Clemson 2. Georgia Tech
NC State 3.
Wake Forest 4.