ACC Coastal: Can Georgia Tech rebuild the DL?

 

Virginia Tech won another ACC championship during a rebuilding year in 2008. Georgia Tech was the surprise team in the Coastal Division in the first season under Paul Johnson. Miami made some baby steps back towards its old form. North Carolina continued to progress under Butch Davis. Duke made significant improvement in its first year under David Cutcliffe. Virginia struggled for a host of reasons.

Those were the story lines in the ACC’s Coastal Division in the fall of 2008. What will be the stories in 2009? Now that spring practice is over, let’s take a look at what we still don’t know about the ACC Coastal.

This is list is in alphabetical order. We’ll project the order of finish later on this month. If you want to pick the winners now, be my guest.

 

 

DUKE

Last season: 4-8, 1-7 ACC.

Starters returning: Offense 5, defense 5, kickers 2.

Coach: David Cutcliffe, 48-37 overall, 4-8 in one season at Duke.

What we still don’t know: Can Duke find some stability on the offensive line? The Blue Devils are set at quarterback (Thaddeus Lewis) and are excited about the return of RB Re’quan Boyette, who sat out all of last season with a knee injury. But neither will get a chance to show what they can do if the offensive line doesn’t come around. Only two starters (C Bryan Morgan and LG Kyle Hill) return. Duke will miss OT Cameron Goldberg, who had 35 career starts. Can somebody step up to replace WR Eron Riley? The Savannah native had 40 career starts and led the team with 61 catches for 693 yards last season. Duke has a couple of good sophomores in Johnny Williams (30 catches) and Donovan Varner (25). But somebody has to make plays like Riley. Who is going to help Vincent Rey (109 tackles in 2008) at linebacker? Marcus Jones and Michael Tauiliili combined for 66 career starts and they are gone. Adam Banks, Damian Thornton and Abraham Kromah have a little experience. It’s time for them to step up.

First game: Sept. 5 vs. Richmond.

 

GEORGIA TECH

Last season: 9-4, 5-3 ACC; lost to LSU 38-3 in Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Starters returning: Offense 9, defense 8, kickers 2.

Coach: Paul Johnson, 116-43 overall, 9-4 in one season at Georgia Tech.

What we still don’t know:  Will the new guys come through on the DL? Only DE Derrick Morgan returns from a defensive line that sent three guys (Michael Johnson, Vance Walker, Darryl Richard) to the NFL. It looks like junior Robert Hall will handle the other end while sophomore Jason Peters and redshirt freshman T.J. Barnes will handle the tackles. Morgan will be a star this season but will these young guys give him enough help? Can the offensive line finally get healthy? Center Dan Voss (shoulder), guard Cord Howard (hand) and tackle Nick Claytor (back) missed all or most of spring with injuries. This area looks a little thin, even if all these guys make it back. Can Scott Blair’s load be lightened?  Blair handled punting, placekicking and kickoff chores last season and was just okay. He averaged 38.9 yards per punt. He made 12 of 19 field goals but was 0 for 6 from 40 yards or more. He needs to hand one of those jobs over to someone else.

First game:  Sept. 5 vs. Jacksonville State.

 

MIAMI

Last season:  7-6, 4-4 ACC; lost to California 24-17 in Emerald Bowl.

Starters returning: Offense 8, defense 8, kicker 2.

Coach: Randy Shannon, 12-13 in two seasons at Miami.

What we still don’t know: How will Jacory Harris handle being “The Man?”  As a true freshman in 2008 Harris showed that he could lead this football team. But now that Robert Marve has transferred and Mark Whipple has come on as offensive coordinator, how will Harris handle being a full-time starter on Day One in 2009? Shannon had high praise this spring for Harris and his ability to control the huddle and learn Whipple’s offense. How many true freshmen will have an impact this fall? Miami signed another Top 10 recruiting class in February and six of them enrolled in school early and took part in spring practice. CB Brandon McGee looks like a lock to be a backup despite a hand injury during spring practice. Veterans Javarris James and Graig Cooper lead the way at running back but freshman Mike James is pushing to get some carries. “Right now there are 56 freshmen and sophomores on this team,” Shannon said. “We played a lot of freshmen last spring and did it again this spring. You can see them starting to grow and develop.” There are more good freshmen to come in August, including quarterback A.J. Highsmith, the son of former Hurricane great Alonzo Highsmith. Can the defense start forcing some turnovers? Miami had only four pass interceptions last season, two of those came from defensive backs. WR Sam Shields was moved to cornerback this spring in an effort to get some play-making potential on that side of the ball. John Lovett takes over as the new defensive coordinator.

First game:  Sept. 7 at Florida State.

 

NORTH CAROLINA

Last season: 8-5, 4-4 ACC; lost to West Virginia 31-30 in Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Starters returning: Offense 6, defense 9, kicker 1.

Coach: Butch Davis, 63-33 overall, 12-13 in two seasons at North Carolina.

What we still don’t know: Who is going to catch the ball? With the exit of Hakeem Nicks (68 catches, 1,222 yards, 12 TD), Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster, the Tar Heels’ leading returning receiver is fullback Bobby Rome (31 catches). Of the 21 touchdown catches North Carolina had last season, the players who accounted for 19 of the scores are gone. Sophomore Dwight Jones, freshman Joshua Adams, and junior Greg Little, a former tailback, look like the guys. Who will be the kickers? The Tar Heels did not have a scholarship punter in the spring but incoming freshman C.J. Feagles, son of former NFL punter Jeff Feagles, will get a shot at the job. Casey Barth made 10 of 15 field goals last season but is being challenged by Jay Wooten, who has a stronger leg.  Who will replace Trimane Goddard at safety? Goddard is one of only two starters not returning on defense this season. Da’Norris Searcy, a junior, and senior Melvin Williams are still locked in a very competitive battle for that position.

First game:  Sept. 5 vs. The Citadel.

 

VIRGINIA

Last season: 5-7, 3-5 ACC.

Starters returning: Offense 5, defense 6, kicker 2.

Coach: Al Groh, 82-84 overall, 56-44 in eight seasons at Virginia.

What we still don’t know: Virginia has completely committed to the spread offense by hiring former Bowling Green HC Gregg Brandon as its offensive coordinator. So the Cavaliers are going to throw a bunch of passes. But who is going to catch them? The top four receivers from a year ago are gone and nobody really stepped up in the spring. Virginia still hasn’t settled on a quarterback. Vic Hall, a converted CB, spent all spring at quarterback. Jameel Sewell started 13 games in 2007 when the Cavaliers won nine games and played on New Year’s Day. He sat out 2008 with academic issues and is back. He seems perfect for Brandon’s offense but hasn’t won the job. Marc Verica, a classic drop back passer, started nine games last season but threw 16 interceptions. Will the special teams improve? Former Kansas State head coach Ron Prince, a former Groh assistant, returns to Charlottesville to head up the special teams. Both kicking and punting were spotty in 2008. There is a lot of room for improvement in this area.

First game:  Sept. 5 vs. William & Mary.

 

VIRGINIA TECH

Last season: 10-4, 5-3 ACC; beat Boston College 30-12 in ACC championship game; beat Cincinnati 20-7 in Orange Bowl.

Starters returning: Offense 8, defense 7, kicker 1.

Coach: Frank Beamer, 219-112-4 overall, 177-89-2 in 22 seasons at Virginia Tech.

What we still don’t know: Who is going to back up QB Tyrod Taylor? Taylor, a junior, is clearly the starter but he was in and out of the lineup last season due to injuries. The coaches are concerned about the No. 2 QB position should Taylor get hurt. Redshirt freshman Ju-Ju Clayton won the job in the spring but the coaches are not entirely comfortable with his ability to run the offense. Will another linebacker step up? The starters are pretty much set as sophomores Barquell Rivers and Jake Johnson will join returning starter Cam Martin. But Virginia Tech DC Bud Foster wants to be six deep at the position and he is still looking for a backup to Johnson. Sophomore Quillie Odom and redshirt freshman Lyndell Gibson are the likely candidates. Is this team good enough to beat Alabama? The Hokies will be in just about everybody’s preseason Top 10. Alabama, the defending SEC West champs, is rebuilding its offensive line. It’s going to be an interesting chess match between Foster and Jim McElwain, Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

First game:  Sept. 5 vs. Alabama (Georgia Dome, Atlanta).

 

 

161 comments Add your comment

Carolina Jacket

May 12th, 2009
8:27 am

I believe that the improvement of Tech’s linebackers and dbacks the defense will be fine. The dlinemen that are coming in are all quite capable. I just hope that the oline holds up. That will be crucial.

jablonski

May 12th, 2009
8:37 am

ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ…..

Tony,
You should really just cover the SEC.

Huh?

May 12th, 2009
8:41 am

I’m such a sore loser, I’m still crying about 45-42.

Tony, please tell me that same offense isn’t coming back for GT!

RAMBLE ON!!!

May 12th, 2009
8:45 am

jablonski, you have the police blotter if you want to read something about the SEC.

m

May 12th, 2009
8:46 am

Thank God & Greyhound I found my Spock ears, thought I lost ‘em Friday night! You guys suck.

Frank

May 12th, 2009
8:56 am

Even a blind hog finds an acorn every now and then!

Kid Ray

May 12th, 2009
9:02 am

I think Duke and VT take a step back and UNC wins division. and their fans skip the ACCCG to watch a bball practice.

swampjacket

May 12th, 2009
9:05 am

HOW ABOUT COMMENTING ON TWO TECH SIGNEES WINNING TWO INDIVIDUAL STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS IN TRACK AND FIELD. STEPHEN HILL(you know the guy uga “didn’t want”) SET A NEW STATE RECORD IN THE LONG JUMP 25′8″ AND WON THE 300 HURDLES(HE AND MILLER GROVE ALSO WON THE TEAM TITLE IN TRACK AND BASKETBALL, HE WAS THE BACK COURT MATE WITH TECH’S POINT GUARD SIGNEE) AND DANIEL DRUMMOND WON BOTH THE SHOT AND DISCUS FOR FLOWERY BRANCH(and he’s coming to play running back). BODES WELL WHEN YOU RECRUIT GREAT ATHLETES FROM WINNING PROGRAMS.

William Casey

May 12th, 2009
9:16 am

I always wonder how many seasons bloggrs here actually coached football at any level? 20 years of high school here.

Not Disappointed

May 12th, 2009
9:18 am

The D back should be able to assist the D-Line while they find themselves. It should be a good year on the “Flats!” Ramblin Wreck!

JB

May 12th, 2009
9:28 am

Tech will win 9 or 10 games……the offense is pretty good, but when it doesn’t click, it doesn’t click.

Stumpy's Bear

May 12th, 2009
9:37 am

VT is the reigning power in the division and needs to be knocked off their mountain still, but I don’t get the preseason top 10 love they are getting. Taylor is a good QB, but beyond that where’s the names? Who is going to be so talented for them? Do you feel they even have a top 3 ACC backfield? Dline? They don’t return as many as FSU or TECH either.
Great points about UNC’s receiving corp, I had no idea they lost so much. I feel much more comfortable facing them now, although they have a very talented QB.
Lastly, I didn’t know UVA had gone spread and also hired Prince. Very interesting.

yellowblood

May 12th, 2009
9:38 am

I see Tickle Pile as far as the eye can see. It’s going to be a great year!

Huh?

May 12th, 2009
9:40 am

VT still the team to beat in the Coastal and the entire ACC. Basically, they screw up the least and are the least inconsistent team. That’s what wins you ACC Championships. The bar is absurdly low.

GT Rich

May 12th, 2009
9:51 am

I thought GT was bringing back 11 starters on offense? They lost Gardner and AJ Smith 2/3’s of the way through the season and I can’t think of any other seniors on the O at the end of the year. In any case, VT and UNC are the main competition. UNC lost their offensive weapons and GT has them early. This really means that VT vs GT is THE game for the coastal.

Opiner

May 12th, 2009
9:56 am

Va. Tech looks like the only interesting thing to talk about since they are the only really good team in the whole conference. Should be a great game between them and Bama to kickstart the season. It would be more interesting talking about that one game then the rest of this conference put together.

buckblue

May 12th, 2009
10:01 am

Tech sould be fine this year as long as they have uga on their schedule and do not have to play LSU again….

Stumpy's Bear

May 12th, 2009
10:01 am

GT Rich, I think you are right, that should be 11, but basically everyone since Gardner and Smith didn’t finish the season.

ACC Fan

May 12th, 2009
10:05 am

2008 Season can be summed up this way: HUGE over-achievement at ALL levels using a complete patchwork roster on both Off & Def. In 2009, GT will be lethal on both sides of the ball.

GT O-Line massively over-achieved in 2008 based on the long list of injuries, loss of Gardner, and Freshmen having to play. A much improved O-Line combined with all the backfield weapons GT has, and the GT offense is going to look like a steamroller at full-speed running downhill. Just consider, in 2008 GT still was #4 in rushing in the nation. This Fall, the GT Offense is going to be a JUGGERNAUT!!

As for the defense, GT Secondary will be THE BEST in the ACC, and will lead the nation in INTs. Take that to the Bank!! Burnette lead the nation all by himself in 2008. He’s gonna get lots of help this year. D-Line will be very good. LBs will be a stand-out. In 2008, LB corps had lots of injuries, and many Freshmen having to play.

GT will CRUSH Clemson and Miami back-to-back in September to start the season.

OH NO!

May 12th, 2009
10:06 am

Yet you took time to read this column Opiner. Why don’t you crawl back to the UGAG blog where you can check up on all the inmates in Clarke County. You and the rest of the Rednecks need to open your eyes and see that the “MIGHTY SEC” is not the only conference in College Football. Every single team in the ACC in competitive. Just because they don’t have teams like UF, LSU or bama doesn’t mean they are “boring”. What happened to Tennessee and Auburn last year? They sucked. Duke could had beaten them.
Check yourself before your Wreck yourself!

Huh?

May 12th, 2009
10:09 am

The bar is soooo low, I can’t get over why UGA can’t beat an ACC team.

…I’m such a sore loser, or am I just a Loser with a capital L?

ACC Fan

May 12th, 2009
10:09 am

Can’t wait til the “GTGs’” come up with a new 2009 Video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aI6EAsKvgg

snooooozer

May 12th, 2009
10:10 am

ACC= Almost Competitive Conference

North Ave Dude

May 12th, 2009
10:22 am

Defense will be rock solid this year. The offense will score 35+ EVERY SINGLE GAME. GT is going to R-O-L-L this year.

Got 12?

May 12th, 2009
10:25 am

I’ll give the nod to VT. They will start off a little shaky but Beamer will right the ship in time to make the ACCCG, as usual.

GT GRAD

May 12th, 2009
10:28 am

Good article.

I hope the ACC continues to improve. I really want GT to represent the coastal division and then top it off with a win in the ACC Championship game and a dominating win in the BCS matchup of course! I would also like to see less biased opinions from the numerous “sports reporters” and commentators; will they ever give a little love to the ACC? Maybe this year will be the start and the ACC will be considered one of the Top Three conferences by the so-called “reporters”. All of the facts suggest the ACC has been Top 3 for the past 3 years; any saine and reasonable person would agree if they conduct a fair and unbiased comparison of the BCS conferences (Top-to-Bottom).

Go GT!

DawginLex

May 12th, 2009
10:33 am

It would seem to me that Tech needs to worry about beating VT, UVA and UNC, 3 teams they lost to last year before worrying about UGA.

be honest

May 12th, 2009
10:42 am

Techie’s, the loss of your D-line wont be replaced that quickly. In coming freshmen wont be good enough or experienced enough, they never are. The linebackers and secondary partly looked good last year because OF the D-line. The lack of Pressure this fall will be a tougher test for your secondary.

MiltonDawg

May 12th, 2009
10:45 am

The D-line issues will hurt Tech this year. Will not be able to stop the run, might become a bigger issue. Secondary does look good as well as offense. VT will still be the top dog to beat.

sec

May 12th, 2009
10:47 am

UGA is 9-1 vs the acc in the last 10 meetings

JB

May 12th, 2009
10:53 am

speaking of no love, Mark Richt has the best winning percentage in the SEC in the last 8 years and wins 10 games a year, but because Florida and LSU have National Championships, We sit at the little table with the media, and rightly so. I say this to Tech fans because it’s all about the The hardware. You gotta win the ACC to get respect. Ask us. Most national press folks have us losing to Florida and LSU for sure before the season even starts. Winning 9-10 games will not put ya’ll on a national stage. Your goal ought to be to win the ACC this year. Good seasons puts you in the waiting room, with us…………………..Go Dawgs

North Ave Dude

May 12th, 2009
10:54 am

GT patchwork roster lost close very games to VT and UVA. UNC game, GT ran up over 420 yds of Offense, with an all-freshmen O-Line, and Nesbitt going out, and two awful TO’s late. All 3 games were mostly lost on GT turnovers.

As for the Mutts, no worries. UGA is clearly headed for its worst season in 10 years. UGA will be nothing but roadkill after FL game. Then, GT will mop the field with whatever is left.

Remember, UGA had 2 full weeks to prepare for 2008 GT game. ROTFLMAO.

JB

May 12th, 2009
11:03 am

North Ave Dud……….In that line of thinking, take away Stafford’s dinky pass into the gut of a Tech player for an easy six, I think we win by 4. Just making the same comparison. If were talking about coulda, woulda, shoulda’s. Also. i think our roster was more than a little “PATCHWORK” last year.
If, We’re making the same comparisons ?????????? If we only had wings, I know we could fly !

Gator Growl

May 12th, 2009
11:11 am

Looks like Miami has a few starters coming back but unfortunately so is their coach. With the talent they recruit you would think they would dominate their division but they don’t and they won’t. Personally, I hope Geprgia Tech runs the table in the ACC and KILLS FSU and Miami. But sorry GT fans, when it comes to GT vs UGA, I gotta root for my conference.

Gator Growl

May 12th, 2009
11:13 am

Sorry about the mis-type on the Georgia Tech…no disrespect intended.

man's gotta know his limitations

May 12th, 2009
11:19 am

———-
William Casey

May 12th, 2009
9:16 am
I always wonder how many seasons bloggrs here actually coached football at any level? 20 years of high school here.
———-

Guess we all know your limitations Willy, not only can you not put a sentence together, but also apparently you were not good enough to get to the college level, so don’t try and tell anyone on here about college football.

409

May 12th, 2009
11:21 am

Hey JB, Roddy Jones just scored again.

RW

May 12th, 2009
11:21 am

VT will be very good this year and their game at GT will decide the Coastal.

Why are sec fans so insecure? Good Lord what a bunch of whiners

Otto

May 12th, 2009
11:22 am

Thanks Gator Growl and I hope what you say comes true. This is one UGA fan who wants GT to win the ACC and then get run over by UGA.

CMR’s worst season we’ve heard it before and if you keep track of the program 2006 looked much worse and IMO ‘09 looks better than ‘08. Keep hoping you’ll stay #1 in the state for anything more than a short period of time.

2009 and beyond

May 12th, 2009
11:23 am

My my, just look at the dawgies here on the ACC board. Tech wins two, three more in a row against UGA. Tech will continue to get better, UGA had it’s best team that it will have in a while last season and basically could in no way stop Tech.

RAMBLE ON!!!

May 12th, 2009
11:26 am

Wow JB, that was pretty nice. You feeling OK?

Let’s not forget our guard who turned tight end and thought he was a Barry Sanders instead of running straight for a first down. GT had to settle for a FG instead of a first and goal.

Who took a knee to end the game. Do you really think that defense would have stoped GT if we had to score late in the game?

2BT

May 12th, 2009
11:26 am

Tony, the ACC coaches and officials are holding their meetings this week right? On one or two occasions, Paul Johnson made comments that he was looking forward to putting on a ‘clinic’ to show these ACC officials what is and isn’t a chop block. My understanding is that meeting is taking place this morning. (No truth to the rumor that Les Miles was going to be in attendance to argue) Any scoop you can give on that ‘clinic’ would be appreciated. My guess is that only NAVY might’ve been flagged more for ‘illegal chop blocks’ last Fall!

Reality Check

May 12th, 2009
11:27 am

Sure GT should have a good offense next year, but defense wins championships. Just ask Virginia Tech, who always has a great defense and has actually won the conference over the last ten years. Losing three defensive lineman to to pros will hurt more than most people are ackonwledging. At least with the offense you should be able to outscore most unless you turn the ball over.

VT is still the favorite until you beat them.

Gator says congrats to UGA

May 12th, 2009
11:27 am

Congrats to UGA for being ranked #1 pre-season last year, having the #1 pick in the draft @ QB, having a stellar RB, having a great coach, a great program, and most of all congrats on winning the BCS championship.

…oh …woops …49-10 …nevermind.

G man

May 12th, 2009
11:31 am

Florida Gators: 2008 National Champions
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets: 2008 State Champs in Georgia
Georgia Bulldogs: 2008 Pre-season #1

G8R GRAD

May 12th, 2009
11:33 am

Jeez.
Tough crowd.

stoopid

May 12th, 2009
11:43 am

Hey G Man, howd that bowl game turn out for you??

And for all the lame tech fans sayin this is gonna be the worst year UGA has had in awhile, and that we’ll be awful for years to come, UGA just had another top 10 recruiting class, one of the top 3 QBs in the nation coming outta HS is already enrolled and learning the system, AJ will be here for atleast 2 more years, along with Marlon Brown. Both lines are made up of freshman, soph and a few Jr’s… IF anything, we have yet to see the best UGA team take the field. Your gimmick offense will be exposed by every opponent you play this year! maybe stephen hill will be the savior you think hes gonna be! hahahahah! keep it up with the 45-42 cause its gonna be a looooooooooong time before youll be posting another score.

2BT

May 12th, 2009
11:54 am

Stoopid, the only thing that was ‘exposed’ last year was your program’s inability to win big games with top-level talent! And why are you are on an ACC blog? Wouldn’t your time be better spent on the Athens-Clarke County Jail log looking to see who’s next? Will it be another announcer or football player?

North Ave Dude

May 12th, 2009
11:58 am

See the link: http://www.bulletin.uga.edu/MajorSpecific.aspx?MajorId=157
I don’t know whether to ROTFLMAO, or cry, at the colossal waste of tax-payer money. I mean really, a whole major dedicated to the Study of Feminism?? This passes for a college education??? What a bunch of BS.
With the current undergrad enrollment stats showing 65% Female and 35% Male, it seems clear that the “G” stands for Girl. It’s no wonder UGA degrees come in single and 2-ply rolls.

Saint Nick

May 12th, 2009
12:02 pm

GT fan,

The honeymoon with your “gimmick” offense will be over this coming season!!!! Pass the ball this season 20+ times this year or you lose 5 or 6!!!!!!