On Thursday I shared a burning question for every Southeastern Conference team with a spring game on Saturday, April 13. Today it’s time to focus on the Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the South.
Clemson: Can Clemson bring its defense up to the same level as its offense?
It’s no secret that the Clemson Tigers can pile on points and run with just about anyone on the offensive side of the football. But if the Tigers want to be involved in national championship conversations, second-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables has to find a way to beef up his unit.
The football world saw what Clemson was capable of on defense when the Tigers came from behind to beat LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Venables dialed up a fierce pass rush and kept the LSU offense guessing. It’s going to take a full season of that kind of play to get Clemson where it wants to go.
Duke: Can Anthony Boone keep Duke’s offense from falling off?
Redshirt junior Anthony Boone was named the starting quarterback entering spring practice and has been praised for his poise and confidence both on and off the field. He won’t get pressure from No. 2 or 3 on the depth because redshirt junior Brandon Connette and freshman Parker Boehme are both injured.
The Blue Devils ranked sixth in the ACC in total offense last season and lost a good number of starters. Boone has been building a new relationship with wide receivers Jamison Crowder, Issac Blakeney and Max McCaffrey, but will they be able to step up?
Florida State: Who’s going to replace EJ Manuel at quarterback?
There are four names in the hat for Florida State’s open quarterback job: Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker, Jameis Winston and Sean Maguire. No one knows who’s going to come out on top.
Each of the four candidates is as different as can be, in age, experience and style.
Trickett, as a fourth-year junior, has the experience and Winston the hype and athleticism. Coker is 6-foot-6 and has a cannon arm while Maguire might be the forgotten man, but he has all the confidence in the world.
Keep an eye on each quarterback Saturday.
Miami: Will Miami’s defense improve?
The Miami Hurricanes ranked No. 116 in the country last season by giving up 486.42 yards per game to opposing offenses. No team in the ACC was worse. The front four was just as inept at getting to the quarterback, registering just 13 sacks in 12 games (No. 112 nationally).
The good news for Miami is that each of the four defensive linemen from last season returns, and the unit is building confidence by the day in spring practices.
Defensive end Anthony Chickillo and defensive tackle Olsen Pierre are juniors while end Shayon Green and tackle Curtis Porter seniors. With experience under their belts, this line made exclusively of upper classmen must exceed everyone’s expectations in 2013.
The defensive line has reportedly dominated at times in spring practices (one 247 Sports report gave them eight sacks in one session). That surely needs to roll over into the regular season.
North Carolina: How many holes can be plugged in Carolina’s offensive line?
The North Carolina Tar Heels had the third-best rushing attack in the ACC last season, averaging 193.8 yards per game. But it may be a miracle if the offense can repeat those numbers.
First, the Tar Heels lost starting running back Giovani Bernard who led the ACC with 1,228 rushing yards last season and was the only running back in the conference to average over 100 yards (122.8) per game.
While replacing Bernard will be an issue for North Carolina, replacing three starting offensive linemen, and All-ACC members, will be a much more important task.
Offensive guard Jonathan Cooper will likely be a first-round draft pick in the NFL draft at the end of April. The loss of James Hurst and Travis Bond will also hurt immensely. If the Tar Heels can’t adequately fill the shoes of these three departing linemen, it doesn’t matter who replaces Bernard at running back.