With this entry I'm going to post my thoughts entering the '09-'10 Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division Football season.
The ACC hasn't played well in the last 4-5 years, excpet for a good year here and there by teams like VT and FSU. This season, alot of teams have improved;Miami, VT,and UNC are the biggest improvers. Not necessarily because of great recruiting classes, but of these teams returning alot of starters.This year will be filled with excitement and hard fought football games. This looks to be one of the more exciting years in recent memory.
Many fans would say that this is the dominant ACC division, with 4 teams having a good shot of taking the crown. Miami,VT,GT,and UNC, are all close in having a chance to take the ACC Coastal. These teams are fairly evenly matched, and games will be decided my a matter of a few points. In VT's four losses they lost by an average of only 5.5 pts. Those are the close games that i expect to see out of the forementioned ACC Coastal teams. I wouldn't be surprised if at the end of the year, GT,VT,Miami, and UNC were all ranked. Not saying they are as good as the SEC, but they might have just as many ranked teams as the SEC
- *We start with Duke(4-8)[1-7conf.] Last Season: Some people see them as being a "Darkhorse" this year, and that thought they do have a shot, a longshot , at winning a few ACC Games this year. They started 3-1 last year and people thought that they had "turned the corner" from being just a basketball school to a school that would have an average football team, or atleast one that could compete within its division. After beating UVA, the Blue Devils went 1-7 in their final 8 games only beating a Vanderbilt team in their 7th game of the year. Duke has improved though, Taking 9 NC and 5 SC recruits for the upcoming season. With plenty of senior leadership returning on the offensive side of the ballBut QB Thaddeus Lewis is returning for his senior season, and he will be the key to their success. He'll need someone to throw to with Eron Riley leaving (leader in Rec. Yds and Tds with 8) Johnny Williams will really have to step up in his sophmore season. The Blue Devils will improve the offense, but the defense could struggle losing the likes of Michael Tauiliili and Alfred Williams. I look at Duke, and still see a team that is too young, and overpowered by other teams in their division. Cuttcliffe has improved them but only have will only have 5 wins to show for it due to the talent that his conference rivals are bringing in. With opponents like Army, NC Central, and Richmond, i see the Blue Devils winning those three along with 2 or 3 ACC games
Prediction:::Duke Blue Devils:(5-7)Overall/[2-6]Conf. this year.
- Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets(9-3)[5-3conf.]Last Season::: Paul Johnson has really turned that ship around in a hurry at GT. His triple option offense had much success last year. They had the #5 rushing attack in the nation last year, and I see that offense improving now that he can get his recruits and the men he wants running that offense. Phil Nesbitt is returning and he ran the offense really well last year. He can really succeed if only he can hit his WR's more often, giving them the "quadruple threat" of the QB, two RB's and a WR. Demaryius Thomas is returning as the #1 WR for the Yellow Jackets, and is capable of putting up huge numbers (9 rec., 230yds,TD v. Duke). Also returning is Jonathan Dwyer, RB. He was the leading rusher for GT and also caught 8 passes for an average of 26 yds, which was the 2nd best average on the team(Marcus Wright, 1 Rec, 47 Yds =]).Not only is he a tough RB to stop, but he has good hands, and can make some catches. There are some question marks on the defensive side of the ball though, losing 3 seniors on the defensive line is tough to build on, but with Chris Crenshaw coming in and plenty of room for him to work, he could make an immediate impact. 5 defensive players are gone(3 DE's, 1LB, and 1CB), but only 2 offensive players are gone from last years team, 2 O-Lineman(Andrew Gardner, and David Brown) being able to keep that offensive team chemistry will really help.
With GT, they're a team that depends solely on their rushing attack. It allows them to pound away at the defense, tiring them down, and with good downfield blocking, the option can really succeed in college football. If their offense improves(moreso than last year), they will beable to keep their defense off the field and be well-rested, but moreover, they can keep the other teams offense from scoring. There is little chance for opposing teams to score when the GT offense is on the field, because they simply do not turnover the football.Returning 95% of their rushing attack look for the offense to be stellar, but the defense to be less than they were this past season.
Prediction:::Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets:(9-3)Overall/[6-2]Conf.
- Miami Hurricanes(7-6)[4-4Conf.] last season::: The 'Canes fell hard at the end of the year not only losing its last 3 games of the year to GT,UNC, and Cal, but the announcment that Marve was leaving to pursue a starting job somewhere else really hurt them. The good news is the Jacory Harris will be returning along with a plethera of solid WR's inclduing Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier, and Dedrick Epps(TE) who all received 300+ passing, and 3 others who had over 250 yards last year. Jacory Harris has gotten more time to familiarize himself with those WR's and look for big things from him. He completed 60% of his passes last year, but really needs to cut down on his Interception:Touchdown ratio[12:7]. As a the back-up QB he threw 12 INT's. If his numbers can reflect more of what Marve did (13 TD's 8 INTs) then expect big things from this offense. Randy Shannon said to "Look for the U to be alot more creative this year on the offensive side of the ball", and that they would "make sure the playmakers get the ball, and make plays" in a recent interview on CCS Hurricane Football Preview.
The U didn't have one guy on the offense that you could keep an eye on and shut down without another one emerging. this isn't to say they had a "high-powered" offense, but rather one that could be very efficient in games. The balanced attack really helped in the redzone. They ranked 3rd in scoring% on trips in the red zone, placing an astounding mark of 94% [44 of 47 trips] 29 TD's, along with 15 FG's.
Defensively, Miami will be returning 8 starters including 3 of the 4 starting defensive lineman, and 3 of 4 defensive backs. LB Spence will be the a crucial part of their defensive succes, recording 65 tackles last year, 9.5 for a loss.
With 8 starters on both sides of the ball(9 offense if you include Jacory Harris) the Miami Hurricanes will be retruning alot of leadership and be gaining alot back with men who missed significant time with injuries. If Harris can show the leadership that he showed in the games against Duke and UVA, than this team, could be one of the best if not the best, QB in the ACC, and with a cake of a schedule after the Oklahoma Game, Miami will have plenty of time to improve and get helathy with games against teams like, Florida A&M, Duke, and Virginia.
- North Carolina Tarheels(8-5)[4-4Conf.] last season::: This past year, Butch Davis lead the Tarheels to a succesful season. He had to deal with the injury bug for the betterpart of the season. Brandon Tate went down week 6 with an ACL injury, and T.J Yates missed the middle part of the season after suffering an ankle injury that forced him to sit out until the final 4 games of the year. When T.J Yates was leading the offense(first 3 games) he led the nation in all-purpose yds. They had a dominating performance over Rutgers, and were up 17-3 over VT when Yates was injured. Yates is coming back, which is GREAT for UNC, but he will be missing 2 phenomanal WR's. Hakeem Nicks had a some of the best hands last season making some ridiculous receptions, and Brandon Tate was a pre-season favorite to be an All-ACC performer.
Looking Foward:The Tarheels are returning 6 of their front 7 on the defensive front.This defense forced 20 interceptions in 13 games last season, which was good enough to be ranked 8th nationally. They also scored 6 non-offensive touchdowns, showing not only could they get it done offensively, but defensively and with special teams that they could beat you.They lose alot of key senior leadership with LB Mark Paschal leaving along with DB Tremaine Goddard. If UNC wants to continue the succesful defense they had last year, they'll need alot of boys to step up.
Offensively this is where they stand T.J Yates can be a great QB, but he'll need someone to throw it to, and this recruiting class should provide that. They have a stellar running game that can provide a stable crutch for UNC while their WR's get into the flow of things. Shaun Draughn provided 866 yards last year but wasn't anonounced as the starter until week 7! He'll have big games this season, ecspecially when he and Ryan Houston can mesh so well togehter. I saw Ryan Houston play in High School here in Charlotte for Butler High School and saw defenders bounce off of him left and right, by bulldozing his way through them. You can hear some UNC fans referring to him as the next "Marion Barber".... Now, I don't think hes THAT good, but he makes for a great #2 back.
UNC is sort of in a rebuilding year, with its top 3 WR's leaving, but they are still sound defnesively and look for Quan Sturdivant(LB) to emerge as a GREAT Linebacker, not just in the ACC, but nationally. He averaged 9.4 tackles per game last year recording 122 tackles in the 13 games.
Prediction:::University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Tarheels(9-3)Overall/[5-3]Conf.
- Virginia Cavaliers(5-7)[3-5Conf.] last season:::The Cavaliers were able to beat ECU,then ranked UNC and GT on back to back to back weekends, but losing 4 straight games after that, ending a season that was back and forth. 1Loss,1Win,1Loss,4Win,4Loss. They started hot, but played alot like that team that got destroyed by USouthernCal in week 1 (52-7 Loss), they even gave Duke their only conference win.
They are returning only 11 combined starters, 5 on offense and 6 on defense. For a team looking to improve, they'll have to do that with rebuilding. They lose the man that won the ACC's Jacobs Blocking Trophy with Eugene Monroe graduating, along with 3 WR's and TE John Phillips. They combined for 80% of the reception yds, and thats a big chunk of offense to replace when you were searching for a QB for most of the year. With Jameel Sewell returning and fighting with Mark Verica for the starting job(and maybe Vic Hall ,CB, who started 1 game at QB), the clean competition could help them. Verica did an good job in at the QB position, throwing for 2,000+ yds in 9 starts, but Sewell is returning after taking a leave, and is a better fit for the spread offense. The good news is that other than Eugene Monroe the entire O-Line is returning, but on the other hand, they don't have a great RB to run through that line. Cedric Peerman, who averaged 5 yds a carry last year is gone, and to step in his place is Mikell Simpson, who has had mediocre success at Virginia.
9 of their 12 opponents they face this year made bowl appearances last season, which will make things even harder. Their Out-Of-Conference schedule includes games against TCU and SoutherMiss which could hurt them since those games are games that many people see TCU and SMU winning.
With the lack of returning playmakers on the offense and a defense that was at most better than average last year, they will have to rebuild heavily....
Prediction:::University of Virginia Cavaliers(3-9)Overall/[1-7]Conf.
- Virginia Tech Hokies(10-4)[5-3Conf.] last season::: Frank Beamer is one of the brilliant coaches in the league. He can beat you in a number of ways, and consistently does it differently. From a versatile offense, to a speedy defense, to a special teams unit that will beat you in the field postion battle day in and day out. This season you can expect great things from this group of young men. With Tyrod Taylor returning along with their top 3 receivers (Jarrett Boykin,Danny Coale both rising sophmores and Greg Boone an upcoming senior TE) and also Darren Evans returns after having a impressive freshman year, in which he broke an ACC Freshman Rushing record with 1,265 yards, along with Tyrod Taylors 738 yards, they showed they can have a very impressive offense. With such a young group, this offensive set (if healthy)will be extremely hard to stop. They will have two starting sophmore WR's and a Jr. RB to work with Junior Tyrod Taylor. So you can expect them to not only dominate this year, but also in years to come. When Tyrod scrambles and makes plays with his feet, It can result in buig payoffs, and also in big dissappointment. When he gets flushed he loves to run, but when he tries to throw on the run, his accuracy drops, but if he connects, its usually for a large chunk of yards.
On defense VT looks to, yet again, be a solid group. In the last 5 years combined they led the nation in Yards Allowed Per Game, allowing just over 263 yards. 2nd place was Les Miles boys at 274 YAPG.The defense returns All-ACC DE Jason Worlids, who led the team with 8 Sacks last year and 13.5 tackles for a loss. Alongside him John Graves, who played a huge role in VT's special teams blocking 3 kicks last season. They also return their leading tackler, who by the way, didn't even start last season.... He recorded 71 tackles and had 7 sacks playing behind LB Sturdivant. I expect this years defense to be better than last years which ranked #7 nationally.
Prediction:::Virginia Tech Hokies(11-1)Overall/[8-0]Conf.
So here's how I see the Coastal Division breaking Down.
1]Virginia Tech Hokies [8-0]
2]Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets [6-2]
3]North Carolina Tar Heels [5-3]
4]Miami Hurricanes [5-3]
5]Duke Blue Devils [2-6]
6]Virginia Cavaliers [1-7]