There were all kinds of story lines this spring, from trouble in Tallahassee to ACC commissioner John Swofford representing the BCS in Congress. New coordinators were introduced, and new players stepped into the spotlight.
There was a particular buzz around the new offenses at Miami and Virginia, and Don Brown’s defense earned rave reviews at Maryland as did Kevin Steele’s at Clemson. Virginia Tech’s Ryan Williams stole the show as far as newcomers go.
Only two players — Florida State’s E.J. Manuel and Wake Forest’s Brandon Ghee — were injured on the first day of practice and missed the whole spring. Other than that, there weren’t any major injuries or catastrophes.
There were plenty of things we could take away from the spring in analyzing how the ACC will fare this fall.
Here’s a look at a few things we learned in the ACC this spring:
1. This conference can run. Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Maryland, NC State … the list goes on. The question now is how these coaching staffs will split the carries. Some teams welcomed former leading rushers back from injuries, like NC State’s Toney Baker and Duke’s Re’quan Boyette. It seems like every team in the ACC has a legitimate difference maker at running back, and it should be a strength of the league this fall, especially considering …
2. Veteran receivers are at a premium. UNC and Virginia got hit the hardest by graduation and the NFL, but Maryland also lost Darrius Heyward-Bey, Wake Forest lost D.J. Boldin, and Florida State should be holding open tryouts. Young receivers were scrambling to establish themselves all over the ACC this spring. There’s talent at the position, it just hasn’t been tested anywhere but Miami.
3. Offensive improvement up front. Boston College, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia and Wake Forest are among several teams with at least four starters returning on the offensive line. Virginia Tech’s struggles on offense can be traced in part to a lack of athleticism up front, and that appears to have changed. Experience throughout the league should help ease the transition for some skill players and rookie backup quarterbacks.
4. There is improvement from the ground up. And it starts in the Coastal Division with Virginia and Duke. The Blue Devils had nowhere to go but up, and the pressure was on Al Groh to raise the bar after missing the postseason last year. NC State’s progress should make the Atlantic Division race interesting. If you thought last year was a wild ride in the ACC, ’09 should be even more unpredictable.
5. It’s OK to follow your dreams. Former basketball player Greg Paulus was offered a tryout as a receiver with Duke’s football team, and Miami forward Jimmy Graham was offered a tryout as a tight end with the Hurricanes, which he accepted. It will be interesting to see how both of their stories end, and whether or not switching sports in the final year of eligibility becomes a more popular trend.