Saturday, August 27, 2011

acc preview extraordinaire

So. With the team previews complete, it's time for one man's views on the conference as a whole.  I'll even do something I never done did before, which is to predict the bowl shakeout.  I want to see if I'm better than the experts at it.  The first order of business, though, is to do things the usual way, which is position-by-position, and in this case we'll name the ACC's best and worst of each.

Best starting quarterback: Danny O'Brien, Maryland
Worst starting quarterback: Chase Rettig, Boston College

I'm sure a neutral observer would be awfully likely to pick Mike Rocco for that latter category.  And with so many new starters at quarterback in the ACC, there are some real candidates here; Tevin Washington at GT is another serious possibility.  But I'm going with Rettig for the worst.  Rocco's unproven and his stats weren't good last year, but Rocco was throwing largely to second and third string receivers and in very rigid evaluation conditions.  Rettig won the job at BC even by not actually being much better than the competition, and his stats were unimpressive even with one of the conference's better O-lines and WR corps.  Washington's stats were even worse, but passing is not his primary job.

As for the best, I refuse to pick someone like E.J. Manuel based mostly on the hype.  O'Brien threw 22 touchdowns and 8 picks; that is outstanding, and good enough to go into the year with the best-in-show crown, for now.  Maryland isn't actually very good, so it's quite likely someone like Manuel will  steal it from O'Brien as the season goes on.  But right now, Maryland has the league's top QB.

Best receivers: Duke
Worst receivers: Wake Forest

This was a tough call last year and it's a tough call this year.  You could hardly go wrong with a lot of choices; FSU and VT have a couple of great pass catchers, as does Miami if they don't all end up suspended, and UNC and UVA bring some great potential to the table too.  But Duke is the only team in the conference with two players on the Biletnikoff watch list (though I'm kinda surprised FSU's Bert Reed isn't.)  Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner are the best 1-2 punch in the league, just nipping VT's combo of Boykin and Coale.

As for worst, Maryland has a bunch of newbies and would make a great pick, but Wake's got one returning starter in Chris Givens who actually isn't real amazing, and otherwise basically a whole bunch of nobody.

Best running backs: Boston College
Worst running backs: NC State

When your running game is waiting for a guy with fewer than 600 yards the previous season to get healthy before it can start to scare anyone, that is when your running game has a problem.  NC State will be using James Washington - and all of his three yards per carry - until Mustafa Greene gets healthy some indeterminate time in October.

On the other end of the spectrum we have Montel Harris at Boston College, which is all you need.

Best offensive line: Virginia Tech
Worst offensive line: Georgia Tech

This comes with the caveat that Blake DeChristopher has to get healthy, otherwise the answer here is Clemson.  Actually, the ACC is strong all around on the offensive line.  Very few of these previews caused me go "ewwww" when checking out the O-line situations.  VT and Clemson are the best of a strong bunch, but Miami is exceptional up the middle, UNC is huge, and most teams have a very solid crew of veterans.  Georgia Tech and Maryland are probably the two biggest exceptions; Maryland's situation is pretty fluid at the moment but less so than GT, so GT takes home the dubious honor here even with the presence of Omoregie Uzzi at guard.

Best defensive line: North Carolina
Worst defensive line: Duke

By himself, Brandon Jenkins makes a strong case for calling FSU the best D-line in the league, and his linemates aren't exactly terrible either.  But UNC landed two of the four spots on the ACC preseason team (Tydreke Powell and Quinton Coples) and opposite Coples, Donte Paige-Moss is no slouch either.  Probably the best bookend pair of ends in the league.  As for worst, whenever I use the words "who will pressure the quarterback is anyone's guess" in a preview, things are bad.  Duke is in a major trouble spot here; Maryland isn't far behind (ahead?) and really the only thing that keeps them off the header instead is Joe Vellano.

Best linebackers: Boston College
Worst linebackers: Duke

You could line up a beanstalk next to Luke Kuechly and Kevin Pierre-Louis and it wouldn't keep BC from having the best linebackers in the league.  Kuechly is a legitimate threat to rack up 200 tackles in a season, which would be absolutely mind-boggling, and you'd think that would be hogging them all, but Pierre-Louis still had almost 100 last year.  He'd have led half the teams in the conference in tackles himself.

Duke is going the all-time nickel package route to cover for the fact that they don't have linebackers worth half a damn, and this is a team with a lousy secondary too so we're approaching desperation territory here.  Kelby Brown is decent, and then most of the rest of the depth chart says "freshman." 

Best secondary: Virginia
Worst secondary: North Carolina

No, I'm not kidding.  With what is likely the conference's best corner and two senior safeties, UVA has the best starting four in the conference.  NC State makes a good case, but they don't have Chase Minnifield.  And it's fair to expect big things out of Demetrious Nicholson despite being only a freshman, because the guy he beat out for the starting job isn't a schmo.

UNC recovered well on the defensive line from the suspension party last year year; they did not recover so well in the secondary, which was basically devastated.  Charles Brown is a solid player, and the rest are shuffled in from other positions or third-stringers forced into action because of ineligibility, injuries, and just plain ol' departures.


Last year I ranked coaches on the hot seat.  There were six; the rest of the conference's coaches were basically safe.  Three of the hot seat guys have been fired; two had better-than-expected seasons and one is still pretty much on the hot seat but gets to stay mainly because nobody cares.  This year, there's just no point in that exercise, since most of the coaches are still in their third year, or less, with their team, and those that aren't are Frank Beamer or something, and not going anywhere.

I also don't feel like ranking the teams' OOC schedules this year, largely because for the second year in a row, ours is the damn worst.  Actually scratch that.  NC State's is the worst for playing Liberty and South Alabama.  And VT isn't playing any BCS opponents.  Still, half the conference is playing Notre Dame and we're playing Idaho.  Instead, here are the most compelling OOC games that don't involve a rivalry (so, GT-UGA and the like aren't eligible.)

4. Duke vs. Stanford.  The Academics Bowl.  Stanford will definitely crush Duke because Duke has no defense and Stanford has Andrew Luck.  But Duke could put some points on the board too.  If you like games that end up 66-38, this is your thing right here.
3. Clemson vs. Auburn.  Auburn doesn't actually return any starters and the conventional wisdom has them dropping back to mediocrity in the SEC.  Good chance for an ACC team to make a ripple.
2. Florida State vs. Oklahoma.  Probably the one game that the ACC will play all season - other than maybe the ACCCG if two worthy teams make it there - that has actual national title implications for both teams.
1. Miami vs. Ohio State.  The IneligiBowl!  Come see two proud, scandal-ridden programs play their second-stringers!  C'mon, you know you'll be watching if only to play a drinking game that involves a shot every time the word "scandal" is mentioned.  Caution: Do not play this drinking game because your liver will try to escape out your butthole.


The other thing I promised is a bowl prediction, so here goes nothing.  I don't usually do this but I wanna see how I stack up to the people who do this for a living.

In the event Miami's eventual suspensions don't affect them too badly:

Orange Bowl: Florida State
BCS at-large: Virginia Tech
ex-Peach Bowl: North Carolina
ex-Tangerine Bowl: Miami
Sun Bowl: Boston College
ex-Tire Bowl: NC State
Music City Bowl: Clemson
Independence Bowl: Georgia Tech
Military Bowl: Virginia

No, in case you're wondering, I don't roll with corporate bowl names. 

Anyway, in the event Miami is decimated by the eventual suspensions:

Orange Bowl: Florida State
BCS at-large: Virginia Tech
ex-Peach Bowl: North Carolina
ex-Tangerine Bowl: Boston College
Sun Bowl: NC State
ex-Tire Bowl: Clemson
Music City Bowl: Georgia Tech
Independence Bowl: Miami
Military Bowl: Virginia

Yes, I'm being a bitch and hedging my bets.  No way of knowing what Miami's gonna be like this year.  But I do think they'll go bowling either way as long as something crazy doesn't happen like self-banning themselves from postseason play.  And yes, I do insist on predicting UVA to land in a bowl.  With that OOC schedule we really should.  If we're 6-6 and bowl eligible, you know the outfit in DC will want a nice local team to fill seats.


Erik said...

Brendan, I enjoyed your take on the conference's best and worst at each position. I especially enjoyed the love you gave to our secondary. I think they are an undervalued piece of our defense.

I'd love to hear your preseason take on who you think will be drafted by the NFL after the season. Guys like Chase Minnifield, Cam Johnson and Morgan Moses are pretty obvious, but I'd like to hear what you think about the other possibilities. Guys like Kris Burd, Austin Pastzor, Oday Aboushi, Colter Phillips, Nick Jenkins, Matt Conrath, Corey Mosley and Rodney McCleod.

furrer4heisman said...

Virginia Tech with the best offensive line? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Anonymous said...

quick thoughts on UVA guys pro potential:

Matt Conrath - A potential mid-late round defensive line pick. Doesn't really have the explosiveness or power to be a DT inside in a 4-3, and lacks the edge quickness to be a DE in a 4-3. His ideal spot was what he was for Al Groh, IMO, a 5-technique in a odd front (DE in a 3-4). I'm not sure if he can put on enough weight, as he's still a bit smallish for a 5-technique starting role. May be more of a depth guy. I sort of think of him as a poor man's Chris Canty (who excelled in the 3-4 in Dallas before signing with the Giants).

Kris Burd - A possible mid-late round WR pick. Physical WR with solid hands, more of a move the chains type. I sort of think of Marty Booker when I see Burd.

Nick Jenkins - Late round DT pick, possibly UDFA. He's a tough, hard-nosed guy, but there isn't a great fit anywhere for him. He's not explosive enough to be a 3-technique, not stout enough to play as a zero, and isn't really a 5-technique. More of a depth, hustle type of guy if he makes it in the NFL.

Chase Minnifield - 2nd/3rd round CB pick, with a slim chance of late first. I still like Ras-I better, but I think Chase is better than Chris was at the same stage. Very smooth cover corner who should be able to make a long career in the NFL in some fashion. I think the big question is, how fast is he. As pointless as 40 times can be sometimes, a poor 40 may relegate him to teams that believe in zone schemes. I think he can be an island corner, but he's well-rounded enough that I think he can fit in any scheme.

Anonymous said...

Morgan Moses - Big guy is draft eligible and could go in the first round. I think everyone's curious how he looks in-game now that he is slimmed down. If he shows elite pass blocking potential, he could be a top 10 pick, but even without elite potential, he might still be a first rounder. I'd like to see him for another year, but I think it's going to be awful tough for him to pass on the NFL if he has a good season.

Cam Johnson - A tough one to gauge, due to the bouts of inconsistency. Could go as high as the late first with a monster season, but more likely, a 2nd-4th round type of guy. His best position will likely be what he was for Al Groh - a 3-4 rush backer. He has the size and athleticism to make it work, and his background as a back 7 player who worked forward should help. Has all the tools to be an ideal rush backer.

Austin Pasztor - A big, tough son of a gun who can open holes in the run game. I like him a lot more than most, but he's still, at best, a mid-round pick. What might be interesting is if some team ponders whether or not he could move to RT. If he puts it together, I could see him as a Todd Herremans type of guy.

Oday Aboushi - I'm hoping he stays for his senior year, but he does have the tools to potential go in the 2nd-4th round range if he turns pro a year early. He's got some LT potential, but for some reason, I think of Chris Williams of the Bears a bit, and he didn't succeed at LT.

Terrence Fells-Danzer and Max Millien - Hard to imagine either fullback as anything more than a late round/UDFA type. Both guys will have to work hard on ST's to have a shot to crack a NFL roster.

Landon Bradley - Being injured won't help his chances, but he was already a bit undersized for the OL. More likely a UDFA type of pickup.

Aaron Taliaferro - UDFA type who will have to work on ST's to crack a roster.

Corey Mosley - I think Mosley's got the better shot at a pro career between the two, but he'll need to show better pass recognition this year, and he'll likely need to run a good 40. More likely a late round safety pick, but could sneak into the mid-rounds with a strong season. Will likely have to work hard at ST's early in his career.

Rodney McLeod - undersized safety who is a tough kid, but might not have the tools to stick. Will need a good 40 time, and will likely have to make his mark on ST's to crack a NFL roster.

Colter Phillips - He's got 2 years left if he wants to finish up. It'd be in his best interest to stay in school, as I don't think he is anything more than a late round type of guy, at best mid-round. Doesn't have the elite athleticism at tight end to go high.

Anonymous said...

Morgan Moses is draft eligible? He's a true sophomore right?

Brendan said...

Moses prepped a year, so he's three years out of high school which fulfills the NFL requirement.

As for the pro potential of some of these guys: Other than the obvious in Minnifield (probably a 2nd rounder), Johnson (4th-5th round unless he has a monster season), Moses (sky's the limit), I don't really see a ton of NFL potential. Pasztor is probably the best pro candidate outside those three. Late round pick, maybe 5th or 6th. Aboushi needs this season to show he's got pro potential. Burd is a knowledge guy rather than a tools guy, so I would say 50/50 shot of being drafted, and if so, 7th round. Conrath can't bulk up much more than he is now and probably isn't a DT at the next level, more like a depth DE. Jenkins too. Phillips, I don't see it right now, he needs a very productive year.