ACC Football 2013 Week 3 Lessons: Is This the Best Virginia Tech Defense Frank Beamer’s Ever Had?

Thanks to Detrick Bonner and Others, Virginia Tech's Defense is Reaching New Heights

Thanks to Detrick Bonner and Others, Virginia Tech’s Defense is Reaching New Heights

Each Monday morning (or sometimes Tuesday), we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 3 of the ACC football season:

1. Is this Virginia Tech‘s best defense yet?: Through three games, it just might be. The Hokies have not allowed more than 206 yards in any contest so far, and have already forced seven turnovers on defense (tied for 11th-best in the country). Obviously, the offense has presented its fair share of troubles for this team, but thus far, it’s had a minimal effect. Their stellar secondary stops passes in their tracks, while the Hokies’ sack rate is already way up. The two go hand in hand of course, and as long as that type of pressure continues, so should the turnovers, keeping them in every game for the rest of the year.

2. Florida State continues to roll: In a much different way than the first game, obviously, but FSU still looked absolutely dominant in a 62-7 victory over Nevada on Saturday. Jameis Winston was extremely accurate once again, though he didn’t need to carry the offense at all and only put up 214 yards through the air. He was supported heavily be the ‘Noles run game this time around, with a whopping 377 yards and six scores on the ground in total (including one by Winston himself). The redshirt freshman is still on fire though, with eight total scores versus just five incomplete passes, and shows no signs of slowing down.

3. Syracuse now has a full blown quarterback controversy: There were calls for Drew Allen to be replaced after struggling for the first two games, and when he came out the gate sputtering once again against Wagner, it seemed like the final straw. After being replaced by backup Terrel Hunt, the Orange proceeded to rack up points in droves, piling 54 on the Seahawks while Hunt completed 17 passes for 277 yards and three touchdowns. Of course, it’s a weak opponent, but Hunt has shown more in very limited action this season than Allen has in over two full games. No comment on who’s starting next weekend, but this is now a full-blown controversy at SU.

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ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #20, Jeremiah Attaochu

Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu is #20 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Georgia Tech’s Jeremiah Attaochu is #20 in Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Just over a week until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 20, Jeremiah Attaochu, DE/Georgia Tech (Last Season: NR)

Last season, Jeremiah Attaochu was an absolute terror for opposing offensive lines, racking up 12 TFLs (10 sacks) from the outside linebacker spot. For a Georgia Tech defense that found itself struggling for many stretches of last year, he was a bright spot, and a persistent threat to change the course of a play — quite an achievement when you’re the focal point of the other team’s gameplan. Now take that player and slot him in at defensive end for his senior season…

With his top-flight pass-rushing abilities, it’s a wonder that this transition didn’t happen earlier, to be honest. The Tech 3-4 generated pressure, of course, but there’s something to be said for a true four-man front and lining a player like Attaochu up in closer proximity to the quarterback. In a career full of tackles behind the line of scrimmage, I’d contend that the setup at outside linebacker is what prevented those numbers from jumping up considerably. Reasonably quick, with a 4.68 40-yard dash, he’s a natural for lining up at end — a pure athlete who simply can’t be stopped in a one-on-one situation with an offensive tackle. And while the numbers he’s put up to this point have been impressive, this could end up being his best season yet. It’s a terrifying proposition for Georgia Tech opponents this year, but in a little over a week, it’s about to become a reality. Those 10 sacks he recorded last year? Likely to be a nice footnote on what might be a record year for the defensive end.

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ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Has Georgia Tech's Offense Become Too One-Dimensional? And Can Vad Lee Fix That?

Has Georgia Tech’s Offense Become Too One-Dimensional? And Can Vad Lee Fix That?

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2012 W-L: 7-7 (5-3)

Head Coach: Paul Johnson (42-26; sixth season)

Returning Starters: 16 (8 Offense, 8 Defense)

Was last season a success for Georgia Tech? That depends. The Yellow Jackets won three of their final four regular season games to qualify for the ACC title game (a contest which they barely lost) and then went and beat preseason no. 1 USC in the Sun Bowl to cap off the year. Before all that though, the Wreck were 2-4 after giving up over 40 points in three consecutive games, which is when they fired defensive coordinator Al Groh. Outside of a couple choice performances, the offense was stagnant (don’t believe the overall scoring and yardage and numbers — they’re largely inflated), has never relied so heavily on the rush and also struggled to score in the red zone (only converted on 80 percent of trips inside the 20). So… what are we going to see from them this season?

The Georgia Tech offense was far too predictable last year — especially when Tevin Washington was under center. With a terrible arm, Washington’s leadership forced the team to devolve from a rush-first attack to a rush-only one, effectively making them either take the lead early, or not at all. Last year’s team ran the ball a mind-blowing 808 times. No wide receiver caught more than 10 passes on the season, and no offensive player had more than 18 catches total. That is set to change this year, however. Or it will in theory once Vad Lee takes over as the full-time starter. While he’s certainly a bit rough around the edges still, Lee showed himself to be more adept at throwing the ball downfield and more willing to keep his options open (pass or run) than his fellow quarterback. He’ll also take snaps behind a line which returns all five starters from 2012. Lee doesn’t have to be an all-conference passer. But the threat of a throw needs to be there in order to make this offense as effective as possible. recent years have allowed it to be far too predictable. The hope (I think, anyway) is that Lee promotes a distinct change in philosophy and makes it much harder to gameplan for this Tech team — a potential nightmare scenario for opposing defenses.

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ACC Football 2013 Payback Games: Georgia Tech

The Hokies Defense Nullified Georgia Tech's Late Heroics Last Year; Can the Wreck Return the Favor?

The Hokies Defense Nullified Georgia Tech’s Late Heroics Last Year; Can the Wreck Return the Favor?

Every team in the ACC has a couple games they wish they had back from 2012. Whether they didn’t bring their A-game, or the other guys just got lucky, every school would love another shot at an opponent, for the ability to prove it won’t happen again. Luckily, because of conference play and parity in the ACC, many will get a chance at redemption immediately, with rematches already on the books for 2013.

As part of our 2013 college football season preview, we’ll be running through the biggest “payback” games for each school. As no team finished with just one loss, there are likely multiple choices for each — none more “right’ than another, necessarily. Still, every selection should help provide some extra motivation for fans as they gear up for this season’s slate of games.

Team: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Opponent: Virginia Tech Hokies

Last Year: Loss, 20-17 (OT) at Virginia Tech

This Year: September 26, vs. Virginia Tech

“The winner of the Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech game has won the Coastal Division every year since 2005,” said the popular refrain that pointed out an interesting quirk in the ACC following the initial round of expansion. While the quote forgot to mention how down the other four teams in the division were for most of those seven years (Miami was the only other team to really come close), the adage had held true until last year. Despite losing to Virginia Tech in a Labor Day showcase game, the Yellow Jackets (thanks to North Carolina and Miami being ineligible for the postseason) found themselves in the ACC Championship Game. Though there’s no need to rehash “what if” — Georgia Tech still made the league title game, despite the loss — it’s also very hard to avoid discussing how close the Wreck was to winning this early contest.

Jackets’ QB Tevin Washington had seemingly become an overnight hero, throwing a touchdown pass to give his team a 17-14 lead with just 44 seconds to play. All the defense had to do was keep VPI out of field goal range, yet they couldn’t and the game headed to overtime. With Georgia Tech receiving the ball first, Washington was given a second chance to be a hero, but instead, took on the role of goat — throwing an ill-advised third down interception that confirmed every weakness ever pointed out about him. Needing just a field goal to win, Virginia Tech put it through the uprights just three plays later for the victory.

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ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks

Clemson, Led by Tajh Boyd and Cole Stoudt, Have the ACC's Top Quarterback Unit for 2013

Clemson, Led by Tajh Boyd and Cole Stoudt, Have the ACC’s Top Quarterback Unit for 2013

While we’re still over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we start with the quarterback position. Last year it was a strength — or at least it was supposed to be — and while it could be once again in 2013, that will rely on some new starters stepping up in a big way. Though it may not be as top-heavy as last year’s crop (especially after seeing EJ Manuel, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib and Sean Renfree headed to the NFL), the ACC still possesses a really strong group of passers who all look to either start or end their careers on a positive note.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual quarterback is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of passers is. Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Quarterbacks

1. Clemson Tigers: Seeing both Tajh Boyd and offensive coordinator Chad Morris return was a godsend for the Tigers, who get one more year of the potent passing attack led by those two men. In 2012, Boyd broke out for over 4,400 total yards and now he has his eyes set on both a Heisman Trophy and a national title. Beyond Boyd, the team will lean mostly on Cole Stoudt in garbage time, after losing Chad Kelly tore his ACL in the spring. Stoudt, a junior, threw for 212 yards and three scores last season in relief of Boyd.

2. Louisville Cardinals: Teddy Bridgwater has all the hype and expectations anyone could possibly deal with in one season, yet I think he’ll still succeed. The Heisman contender and possible first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft is the core of a young Cardinals team that’s aiming to be unbeaten this fall. For when games get out of hand, the ball will likely be handed to Jerry Arlinghaus, the 6’4″ sophomore from nearby Covington, KY with a nice arm.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: Bryn Renner‘s ability to transition to Larry Fedora’s spread offense has made him a rising star in the ACC, and don’t be surprised to see him put up even more impressive numbers as he closes out his senior season at Chapel Hill. Behind him, Fedora’s also stock-piling players who fit right into his system, with big passers like redshirt freshman Kanler Coker and true freshman Mitch Trubisky. Trubisky was named as “the next Johnny Manziel” by ESPN’s Joe Luginbill back in December, which is quite the name to live up to.

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NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Georgia Tech Prospects

T.J. Barnes is Viewed as the Best Georgia Tech Prospect Available, But Who Else Is on the Board?

T.J. Barnes is Viewed as the Best Georgia Tech Prospect Available, But Who Else Is on the Board?

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 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

Since Paul Johnson took over, it seems like the talent coming out of Georgia Tech has certainly diminished a bit. Of course, they’re still churning out some elite receivers, but with a diminished recruiting pipeline and a gimmick offense, you’re starting to see a reduced pool of NFL-caliber players at Tech. This year in particular, there’s no one even within sniffing distance of the NFL Draft’s first two days, though former ‘Jackets could still provide some late-round value just the same.

T.J. Barnes, DT, Senior (Projected: Sixth Round)

Barnes’s size (6’6″ 369 pounds) is both a blessing and a curse, providing him with the power to manhandle opposing linemen, while also inspiring some fear he’s a health problem waiting to happen. Surprisingly, however, Barnes and his large frame can still put up a 5.19 40-yard dash time (mildly astounding, actually), which also leaves scouts to wonder how fast he could be if he just trimmed down 20 pounds or so. The weight issue won’t stop him from getting drafted at all, but the second he’s selected, you can bet that’ll be the first item addressed with his new employer. If he can get that under control, he’ll certainly be able to easily earn and keep a pro roster spot.

Omoregie Uzzi, OG, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)

First-team All-ACC this past year, Uzzi should’ve been able to parlay that into a late-round selection. That is, until he underwent knee surgery in January and was not invited to the NFL Draft Scouting Combine. For large offensive linemen like Uzzi (6’3″ and 305 pounds), that type of procedure automatically raises red flags for scouts — fair or not — and it’s the primary reason he’s fallen off draft boards. For teams willing to take a flyer on him as a free agent though, they’ll get a strong guard with a quick first move off the snap and plenty of run-blocking ability.

Rod Sweeting, CB, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)

In many drafts, Sweeting would probably have what it takes to hear his name called on day three, but when the defensive selection pool is this deep, it’s not sure-thing for him. He’s certainly got the speed to make it as a pro (4.39 40-yard dash time), but his lack of size (5’11″ and 189 pounds) is cause for concern against the growing number of larger, physical receivers in the NFL. He did do very well in the lead-up to the East-West Shrine Game, which helps his case, but his selection will likely come down to two things: does a team want to emphasize coverage over turnovers? And are they willing to overlook his lack of size? If a team’s okay with both, then he’ll be picked. If not, he won’t. Plain and simple.

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Very Early 2013 ACC Football Season W-L Predictions

Can Tajh Boyd and Clemson Live Up to Early Predictions and Win the ACC Championship?

Can Tajh Boyd and Clemson Live Up to Early Predictions and Win the ACC Championship?

With a nod to SB Nation’s Barking Carnival for the basis of this idea, we wanted to take a very early, top-line view of each ACC team’s prospects for 2013 with regard to schedule. What we’ve done to avoid diving into each and every game, however, is limit this look to just in-conference matchups (eight per team), and provide you with the basic info you’ll need on each squad. In particular, how much experience they have at the quarterback position, how long their respective coach has been there, and how many returning starters they have. Obviously, it takes more than just that information to surmise how a team will fare in a given year, but since it’s so early, this should be plenty to get a conversation going. All figures on returning starters are from Phil Steele.

Boston College Eagles: Coach: Steve Addazio (first year); Quarterback: Chase Rettig (fourth year); Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense); Projected conference W-L: 1-7

Clemson Tigers: Coach: Dabo Swinney (sixth year); Quarterback: Tajh Boyd (third year); Returning starters: 13 (seven offense, six defense); Projected conference W-L: 8-0

Duke Blue Devils: Coach: David Cutcliffe (sixth year); Quarterback: Anthony Boone (first year); Returning starters: 14 (seven offense, seven defense); Projected conference W-L: 2-6

Florida State Seminoles: Coach: Jimbo Fisher (fourth year); Quarterback: TBD; Returning starters: 10 (six offense, four defense); Projected conference W-L: 6-2

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: Coach: Paul Johnson (sixth year); Quarterback: Vad Lee (probable; first year); Returning starters: 16 (eight offense, eight defense); Projected conference W-L: 5-3

Maryland Terrapins: Coach: Randy Edsall (third year); Quarterback: C.J. Brown (probable; second year); Returning starters: 12 (seven offense, five defense); Projected conference W-L: 2-6

Miami Hurricanes: Coach: Al Golden (third year); Quarterback: Stephen Morris (second year); Returning starters: 19 (10 offense, nine defense); Projected conference W-L: 7-1

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