Team by team

August 29, 2006|By HEATHER DINICH

A look at teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference in Sun writer Heather Dinich's projected order of finish.

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State

If the Seminoles are going to defend their 12th ACC title in 14 years, the defense will need to be rebuilt quickly after losing seven starters. Quarterback Drew Weatherford returns after becoming the top freshman passer in ACC history with 3,208 yards, but he also threw 18 interceptions.

2. Clemson

The Tigers could be the conference sleeper. Five starters return on the offensive line, but incoming quarterback Will Proctor is untested. Monster defensive end Gaines Adams returns to a defense that allowed only one offensive touchdown in the final 13 quarters of last season.

3. Boston College

Nine starters are gone from last year's roster, but junior quarterback Matt Ryan returns along with junior running backs L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender, who combined for 1,515 yards. Defensively, the Eagles will miss end Mathias Kiwanuka, but linebacker Brian Toal - if fully recovered from a nagging shoulder injury - could be a leader.

4. Maryland

Senior quarterback Sam Hollenbach returns after a full season as starter, but to whom will he throw the ball? The Terps lost their four top receivers, putting pressure on young players such as Darrius Heyward-Bey and Isaiah Williams to learn quickly.

5. North Carolina State

The Wolfpack's defensive line took a big hit when two of the best ends in school history - Mario Williams and Manny Lawson - were drafted. It will be up to Martrel Brown, who moved from defensive tackle last spring, and Ray Brooks, who sat out last season, to plug those holes.

6. Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons return more starters than anyone else in the conference (18), including 10 on defense, which is tied for the most in the country. Although the defense ranked 11th in the ACC in both scoring defense and total defense last year, a winning season and a bowl appearance are possible.

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech

The Hokies will have an unproven quarterback, but he'll have somebody to throw to, as there is talent and depth at wide receiver. Defense will be the team's strength as the offense develops.

2. Miami

Larry Coker's consecutive nine-win seasons haven't met past standards, and offseason problems haven't made life any easier for him. The Hurricanes have six new assistants and four new starters on the offensive line, but quarterback Kyle Wright returns.

3. Georgia Tech

The Yellow Jackets have perhaps the best player in the league in receiver Calvin Johnson, who finished with 888 yards and six touchdowns on 54 catches last year. The question is whether Reggie Ball, who had a career-worst .480 completion percentage, can get him the ball.

4. Virginia

There are questions on both sides of the ball after mass departures that included four assistants, the leading touchdown scorer in ACC history, and versatile quarterback Marques Hagans. The schedule ends with Florida State, Miami and Virginia Tech, so although a bowl game is possible, a top finish in the conference is improbable.

5. North Carolina

The Tar Heels have a new offensive coordinator and are still deciding between Joe Dailey or Cam Sexton at quarterback, but tailback Ronnie McGill is a proven player on offense. Senior linebacker Larry Edwards anchors a defense that showed improvement last year and has a talented line.

6. Duke

It can't get much worse than last year's 1-10 season, with the lone win against Division I-AA Virginia Military Institute. The Blue Devils will again rely on newcomers, but the top three rushers from 2005 return.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.