Far-Too-Early 2012 ACC Power Rankings (April 16)

Florida State Will Rely Heavily On QB EJ Manuel This Season. Is He Up for the Task?

With spring practices nearing completion, we have another installment of our early power rankings for the entirety of the ACC. As always, we take into account what’s happened both on and off the field, and try not to read too far into what happened in practices this spring. This will be revised monthly throughout the offseason.

1. Florida State Seminoles (LW: 1): The O-line may seem shaky, and the jury’s still out on whether quarterback E.J. Manuel can truly carry this offense, but that hasn’t stopped the hype in Tallahassee. Predicated on defense last year, the Seminoles won’t be above leaning on what should be one of the best units in the country again, if need be. But if forced to go that route, their ceiling may be winning an ACC title — rather than the national championship.

2. Clemson Tigers (LW: 2): A lot’s changing for the Tigers, who are raising the bar for the program after a 10-4 campaign in 2011. New defensive coordinator Brent Venables has hit the ground running since his arrival, and by all accounts his more aggressive style is already rubbing off on a group that desperately needs to improve upon last season’s performance. On the offensive end, fans will be curious to see how much they incorporate the pistol offense, and how well Tajh Boyd adapts to both the new scheme, and new pressures of being the league’s most highly-touted signal-caller.

3. Virginia Tech Hokies (LW: 3): Dissatisfied with offensive production, Virginia Tech has also given the pistol a shot this spring, with varying results. While the team has incorporated the spread with Logan Thomas‘s mobility as the focal point, it appears they’re mixing things up to see what works best with the inexperienced offensive line. Both attacks have their own respective challenges, and it’ll likely come down to which projects best over the course of the year.

4. NC State Woflpack (LW: 4): Off-the-field issues have played a much larger part in NC State’s spring than the program would’ve liked, and the question marks are starting to pop up about how successfully they can really be in 2012. More and more, it’s appearing as if Mike Glennon will have to shoulder much of the load — something that may improve his draft stock, but could also force them to be far too one-dimensional in a year they were originally projected to break through in the ACC. Continue reading

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2012 NFL Draft Preview: Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech’s Stephen Hill Has Impressed NFL Scouts Enough to Be Considered a Possible First-Round Selection

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.

Georgia Tech keeps most of its squad intact from 2011, but loses one of its key players, wide receiver Stephen Hill, who declared early for the draft. Of the six (seven if you count the career-ending injury to LB Julian Burnett) departing starters from last year’s team, Hill is the only player with a true shot to be selected by an NFL team.

Stephen Hill, WR, Junior

Hill’s proven to be a highly-effective cog in the Georgia Tech passing game, despite how little the team throws the ball. On just 28 catches, the junior racked up 820 yards — nearly 30 yards per catch (!) Now the question begs if he can keep up that sort of pace while being targeted consistently. With the Wreck’s triple-option, he was called upon far more as a blocker than a receiver, so though he’s honed that skill set better than most coming out of college, it’ll be interesting to see his drop-rate when thrown to 100 times in a season. Through workouts, he’s shown good hands, and definitely has the speed to excel at the pro level (he ran a 4.36 40-yard dash). Questions arise about strength though, and if he can truly be a featured receiver without putting on some extra muscle. In the meantime, his stock keeps rising, and he’s projected to go late in the first round or early in the second.

Previously: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida State

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2011 ACC Season Recap: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

In 2011, Tevin Washington Proved He Can Be the Engine That Runs Georgia Tech's Offense

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

W-L: 8-5 (5-3)

Postseason: 30-27 Sun Bowl loss to Utah

Top Offensive Performer: Tevin Washington, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Julian Burnett, LB

During a season that started in stunning, impressive fashion, it’s amazing that everything would end in so much disappointment for the Yellow Jackets in 2011. Starting out 6-0, the triple-option was firing on all cylinders early on and Tevin Washington looked as if he was born to run this offense. Looking back, however, the wheels started coming off after a huge week-three win over Kansas, and an ill-fated t-shirt to commemorate the beating. Lost in the 178 points they totaled through those first three contests was how unimpressive the defense was, and how truly awful their opponents were (just three wins between them versus FBS competition). Add to that the fact that the Wreck’s offense, though the second-best running attack in the country, was also among the most one-dimensional, and the recipe for disaster was written well in advance. Seven games after their undefeated start, Tech limped to a 2-5 finish including their blown 14-point fourth-quarter lead in the Sun Bowl.

On the defensive end, appearances say that Georgia Tech (which allowed 26.1 points per game) were marginal at best, and were mostly bailed out by a prolific offense. Much of this is true, but it short-sells the Yellow Jackets’ strong pass defense, ranked second in the ACC in terms of average yardage per game (197.6). On the ground, Tech was a middle-of-the-road squad in terms of yards, yet allowed 19 scores on the ground. When added to the 23 passing touchdowns against them (again, among the worst in the conference), there’s a simple explanation for how everything devolved so quickly. The only games they held their opponents to less than 20 points? A close win over lowly Maryland and an expertly designed scheme against Clemson. Continue reading

ACC’s Top 25 Players of 2011: No. 24, Julian Burnett

Georgia Tech's Julian Burnett is Number 24 On Our Countdown of the ACC's Top 25 Players

To recap the 2011 season of ACC football, we’ll be ranking the top 25 players in the conference this year, starting at 25, and heading all the way to the number-one slot. While these rankings can surely be debated, it’s still entertaining to assemble them. And on we go…

No. 24: Julian Burnett, LB/Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Getting more impressive each year, Burnett had his best season yet for the Yellow Jackets in 2011, his third year with the team. In total, the junior linebacker came up with 113 tackles and became a force controlling the middle portion of the field. Involved in both pass and run schemes, he recorded one sack, one forced fumble and defended three passes as well. At just 5’10” and 220 pounds, Burnett may not be the nation’s biggest linebacker (and would most likely switch to safety in the pros), but he makes up for the lack of size with speed and tenacity for getting after the ballcarrier. If he returns (and there’s no indication he won’t at this time), Burnett is poised to be the centerpiece of a Georgia Tech defense sorely in need of some help all around.

Previously: #25, Terrell Manning

Atlantic Coast Convos All-ACC Team (Defense)

Despite BC's Losing Record, Luke Kuechly Dominated on Defense in 2011

The Atlantic Coast Convos All-ACC Team honors the best players at each defensive position. We’ve provided a list of both first- and second-team selections based on what we’ve observed throughout the season. Feel free to disagree, however, since we did on several of the official ACSMA list.

First Team

Defensive End: Andre Branch, Clemson

Defensive End: James Gayle, Virginia Tech

Defensive Tackle: Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest

Defensive Tackle: Matt Conrath, Virginia

Linebacker: Luke Kuechly, Boston College

Linebacker: Sean Spence, Miami (FL)

Linebacker: Julian Burnett, Georgia Tech

Cornerback: David Amerson, NC State

Cornerback: Merrill Noel, Wake Forest

Safety: Matt Daniels, Duke

Safety: Josh Bush, Wake Forest

Punter: Shawn Powell, Florida State

Second Team

Defensive End: Quinton Coples, North Carolina

Defensive End: Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

Defensive Tackle: Joe Vellano, Maryland

Defensive Tackle: Brandon Thompson, Clemson

Linebacker: Terrell Manning, NC State

Linebacker: Zach Brown, North Carolina

Linebacker: Jeremiah Attaochu, Georgia Tech

Cornerback: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech

Cornerback: Chase Minnifield, Virginia

Safety: Antone Exum, Virginia Tech

Safety: Eddie Whitely, Virginia Tech

Punter: Dalton Botts, Miami (FL)

Breakdown by team: Virginia Tech (4), Wake Forest (3), Clemson (2), Florida State (2), Georgia Tech (2), Miami (2), NC State (2), UNC (2), Virginia (2), BC (1), Duke (1), Maryland (1)

Check out the All-ACC Offensive Team, too.