May 17, 2012

The Wolfpacker's ACC spring wrap up, Part I




Boston College


Last year: 4-8, 3-5 ACC
Coach: Frank Spaziani, 4th year at Boston College and overall (20-19)
Returning starters: 17 (Offense: 6, Defense: 7, Specialists: 1)
Key returners: Entire OL except C, QB Chase Rettig, RB Rolandan Finch, RB Andre Williams, WR Colin Larmond, WR Bobby Swigert, CB Jim Noel, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB Steele Divitto
Key losses: LB Luke Kuechly, DE Max Holloway, CB Donnie Fletcher, RB Montel Harris
Notes: Last year's campaign ended a streak of 12 consecutive bowl games for the program ... Star running back Montel Harris was permanently dismissed from the team on May 1; he would've started 2012 just 868 yards from breaking Ted Brown's all-time ACC rushing record ... The Eagles are adjusting to their fifth offensive coordinator in the last five years ... Last year, the team started 1-6, but rebounded to win two of their final three games, and hold each of their last three opponents to fewer than 20 points ... Defensive tackle Dominic Appiah is one of three returning defensive tackles who has at least eight career starts; Appiah earned first-team Freshman All-America honors last season from CFN.com ... Kicker Nate Freese enters 2012 ranked sixth nationally among active players in career field goals per game (1.3) ... Returning running backs Rolandan Finch and Andre Williams combined for more than 1,200 rushing yards last year, and both averaged at least 4.3 yards per carry ... Finch had the ACC's best rushing game last season after going off for 243 yards and two scores against Maryland; he also thrived in the spring game with 27 carries for 197 yards, and also hauled in four passes for 38 yards ... Junior quarterback Chase Rettig, a veteran of 21 college starts, threw for 1,954 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall ... Tight end Chris Pantale has started the last 38 games at tight end for the team while totaling 77 career receptions for 797 yards ... Over the last seven seasons, BC ranks fifth nationally in rushing defense, allowing foes to average just 99.53 yards per contest ... Linebackers Steele Divitto and Kevin Pierre-Louis each tallied at least 70 tackles last season while flanking National Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly ... Pierre-Louis' 74 stops ranked second on the team despite the fact that he missed three games due to injury ... Early-enrollee wide out Karim Zoungrana caught four passes for a game-best 109 yards and two scores in the spring game ... On the defensive side of the ball, redshirt freshman Ameer Richardson totaled two picks and six tackles, including 2.5 for loss ... Sophomore cornerback James McCaffrey also notched a pair of interceptions, to go along with a fumble recovery, in the spring game.

Clemson


Last year: 10-4, 6-2 ACC, ACC Champions, finished No. 22 in AP and USA Today Coaches' Poll
Coach: Dabo Swinney, 4th full season at Clemson and overall (29-19)
Returning starters: 15 (Offense: 7, Defense: 7, Specialists: 1)
Key returners: QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins, WR DeAndre Hopkins, RB Andre Ellington, S Rashard Hall, C Dalton Freeman
Key losses: TE Dwayne Allen, T Landon Walker, DT Brandon Thompson, DE Andre Branch
Notes: On offense, the Tigers return last year's top rusher (Andre Ellington, 1,178 yards), receiver (Sammy Watkins, 1,219) and passer (Tajh Boyd, 3,828), as well experienced receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who recorded 978 receiving yards last year and has added 20 pounds of muscle since last fall ... Hopkins was also named the MVP of the spring game, after totaling seven receptions for 120 yards and a score ... The nine starters that the team lost combined for 232 career starts ... Under Swinney, the youngest coach in the ACC, Clemson has gone to four straight bowls and a pair of ACC Championship games in the past three years ... Last year marked the Tigers' first ACC crown in 20 years, the school's first Orange Bowl berth in 30 years, and the program's first 10-win campaign in 20 seasons ... New defensive coordinator Brent Venables is switching the Tigers' alignment to a 4-3 ... Clemson started off last season 8-0 while only committing eight turnovers, but the Tigers gave the ball up 16 times while stumbling to a 2-4 finish, including a 70-33 shellacking by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl ... Boyd set school records with 3,828 passing yards and 33 scoring throws en route to All-ACC first-team laurels; he also set the ACC record for touchdown responsibility (38) ... Watkins was the first ACC true freshman, and just the fourth overall, to be named first-team All-America by the Associated Press after setting conference rookie records for receptions (82), receiving yards and TD receptions (12) ... Watkins was arrested this spring after practice concluded and charged with a pair of misdemeanors, but no punishment has been announced yet; a suspension would definitely hurt the team, though, considering the Tigers open against Auburn on Sept. 1 ... Kicker Chandler Catanzaro paced the league in total points scored last fall, with 118; and he won the spring game in a modified double overtime, with a 45-yard field goal ... The Tigers led the ACC with 470 points scored last year, but also came within two points of being the first squad in league history to pace the conference in points scored and points allowed during the same campaign ... Freshman punter Bradley Pinion enrolled at Clemson early and should replace four-year starter Dawson Zimmerman ... Senior safety Jonathan Meeks was the defense's spring game star after hauling in a pair of interceptions ... Former five-star running back Mike Bellamy, who ranked second on the team in rushing last year as a rookie but was suspended for the ACC Championship game and Orange Bowl, was recently declared academically ineligible and will leave Clemson.

Duke


Last year: 3-9, 1-7 ACC
Coach: David Cutcliffe, 5th year at Duke (15-33) and 12th overall (59-62)
Returning starters: 17 (Offense: 9, Defense: 8, Specialists: 0)
Key returners: QB Sean Renfree, WR Conner Vernon, C Brian Moore, OT Perry Simmons, DT Sydney Sarmiento, CB Ross Cockrell, LB Kelby Brown
Key losses: WR Donovan Varner, S Matt Daniels, K Will Snyderwine, P Alex King
Notes: Over the last four years, coach David Cutcliffe has guided the Blue Devils to 15 wins, which is five more than the school totaled in the eight years prior to the coach's hiring ... However, the school is still vying for its first bowl game since 1994; the Blue Devils were close last year, though, with three losses coming by a combined seven points ... Quarterback Sean Renfree enters 2012 as the ACC's leading active career passer with 6,352 yards; he is trying to become the first Duke signal caller drafted since 1992 ... Experienced quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette also return under center ... Wide out Conner Vernon needs just 35 catches and 843 receiving yards to become the ACC's all-time leader in both categories ... Vernon has earned second-team All-ACC honors in each of the past two seasons ... The defense should be improved in its second year under coordinator Jim Knowles, who runs a 4-2-5 alignment ... Duke will face a tough schedule out of the gate with a home contest against Florida International, followed by a trip to Stanford; they face 10 teams that were bowl eligible last fall in 2012 ... Guard Laken Tomlinson was named a first-team Freshman All-American last season by the Sporting News ... The defense returns eight of its top nine tackles from last season and 11 of its top 13 ... Junior Brandon Braxton has started 15 games at wide out and ranked as the team's fourth-leading receiver with 40 catches last year, but has been moved to defense this spring ... Running backs Juwan Thompson and Desmond Scott both return after each gained at least 367 yards on the ground last year; both also averaged at least 4.2 yards per carry ... Linebacker Kelby Brown has started 17 games in his first two years of playing, and totaled 65 tackles with 7.0 tackles for loss and three sacks last year, but is questionable for the fall after aggravating a 2011 injury this spring.

Florida State


Last year: 9-4, 5-3 ACC, finished No. 23 in AP and USA Today Coaches' Poll
Coach: Jimbo Fisher, 3rd year at Florida State and overall (19-8)
Returning starters: 18 (Offense: 8, Defense: 9, Specialists: 1)
Key returners: QB EJ Manuel, CB Greg Reid, DE Brandon Jenkins, DE Bjoern Werner, CB Xavier Rhodes, S LeMarcus Joyner, RB Devonta Freeman, K Dustin Hopkins
Key losses: OT Zebrie Sanders, OT Andrew Datko, LB Nigel Bradham, P Shawn Powell
Notes: The offense returns last year's leading rusher (Devonta Freeman, 579 yards), passer (E.J. Manuel, 2,666) and receiver (Rashad Greene, 596), as well as two other receivers who totaled at least 418 yards through the air ... Greene paced the team in receiving despite being a true freshman who missed four games with injuries ... In addition, receivers Willie Haulstead, who missed all of last year with a concussion, and Kelvin Benjamin, a 6-6 redshirt freshman, join the group of pass catchers ... The stable of running backs is also loaded, although not as proven, with Freeman joined by promising ball carriers James Wilder Jr., a bruiser, and Chris Thompson, who rushed for 845 yards as a sophomore in 2010 ... On defense, the Seminoles return their top sacker (Brandon Jenkins, 8.0) and interceptor(LaMarcus Joyner, 4) off of a unit that ranked second nationally in rushing defense, fourth in scoring defense and fourth in total defense ... Three of the Noles' four losses last year came by a combined 11 points; they also lost by 10 points to Oklahoma, who was ranked No. 1 at the time ... Kicker Dustin Hopkins, who has one of the strongest legs in college football, led the ACC with an average of 8.5 points per game; he was named Honorable Mention All-America by SI.com ... Hopkins needs just 68 points to break the ACC career scoring mark ... Defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan earned consensus first-team Freshman All-America laurels last fall, and defensive end Bjoern Werner also returns following a campaign in which he totaled seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss ... Jenkins, Werner and fellow end Cornellius Carradine helped the defense rank eighth nationally in sacks per game (3.08), and the returning trio of pass rushers combined for 21.5 sacks and 31 tackles for loss ... FSU started four freshmen on the offensive line in its bowl game victory over Notre Dame, including freshman right tackle Bobby Hart, who performed admirably after Andrew Datko went down with an injury ... Manuel brings a streak of 121 pass attempts without an interception into 2012 ... Former safety Nick Moody moved to the weakside linebacker spot this spring ... Cornerback Greg Reid paced the ACC and finished 17th in the nation for punt returns last fall (11.24); in 2010, he finished 10th nationally in passes defended with three interceptions and 14 deflections ... FSU currently holds the nation's longest active bowl participation streak at 30 straight postseason berths.

Georgia Tech


Last year: 8-5, 5-3 ACC
Coach: Paul Johnson, 5th year at Georgia Tech (33-19) and 16th overall (140-58)
Returning starters: 15 (Offense: 7, Defense: 6, Specialists: 2)
Key returners: QB Tevin Washington, LB Jeremiah Attaocho, RB Orwin Smith, OG Omoregie Uzzi, CB Rod Sweeting, RB David Sims
Key losses: WR Stephen Hill, RB Embry Peeples, RB Roddy Jones, LB Julian Burnett
Notes: Quarterback Tevin Washington led the squad in rushing (987 yards) and passing (1,652) last fall, but lost his top receiver in Stephen Hill, as well as Tyler Melton, who was the only other receiver to record a reception in 2011 ... The good news is the Yellow Jackets' attack is based on the running game, and Tech returns four of last year's starting linemen, including one of the best guard tandems in the nation with Omoregie Uzzi and Will Jackson, along with running backs David Sims and Orwin Smith, who both rushed for at least 600 yards last year ... Smith led all NCAA rushers who totaled at least 600 yards on the ground with an average of 10.1 yards per carry; he averaged 12.44 yards from scrimmage on 74 touches and scored 12 times ... The nine starters that the team lost combined for 279 collegiate starts, including second-team All-ACC linebacker Julian Burnett, who paced the squad in tackling for each of the past two seasons but will miss the season with a neck injury, which could end his football career ... Senior defensive end Izaan Cross is the only returning starter along the front line of Al Groh's 3-4 defense; Groh is in his third year as the defensive coordinator ... Outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu returns after totaling 59 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and six sacks last fall ... After an impressive 6-0 start in 2011, the Yellow Jackets went 2-5 down the stretch with a pair of losses coming by a combined six points ... Coach Paul Johnson has tallied more wins than any other mentor in school history during his first four years (33); he's also the first to coach the Rambling Wreck to a bowl appearance in each of his first four campaigns ... Johnson's triple-option offense has led the nation in rushing yards per game for each of the past four years, and never finished lower than fourth in rushing offense ... GT has averaged 301.98 yards per game on the ground during the Johnson era ... Tech has also finished .500 or better against ACC competition in 17 straight years, a league record.

Check back tomorrow night for Part II of The Wolfpacker's ACC spring wrap up.


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