We spent last week’s first leg of our annual Spring Football Tour in the SEC. This week we’ll spend some time looking at the ACC. I was at Florida State on Friday. Today I’ll be in Clemson and will then spend Tuesday visiting with Georgia Tech.
Let’s kick things off with Five Burning Questions about the ACC’s Atlantic Division as spring ball gets into full swing. As always, please feel free to share some questions (and answers) of your own.
1. Will Kyle Parker be Clemson’s starting quarterback when the 2010 season begins? There is no question that Clemson will miss running back C.J. Spiller who, for my money, was the most dynamic player in college football last season. But with Jamie Harper (418 rushing) and Andre Ellington (491 rushing) returning, the Tigers should be fine at running back. The real question is whether or not Kyle Parker, a rising redshirt sophomore in football, will be back, after throwing for 2,256 yards and 20 touchdowns and leading Clemson to the ACC championship game. If Parker has a big year for the No. 5 Clemson baseball team, he may move up significantly in June’s Major League baseball draft (he was taken in the 24th round coming out of high school). If that happens, he will have a decision to make. Through 24 games this season Parker is batting .396 with 10 home runs. He leads the ACC in home runs and slugging percentage. Parker has been practicing football when his baseball schedule allows and is scheduled to take part in this Saturday’s scrimmage. If Parker does not return, the job would likely go to redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd, who sat out last season but looked good in last Saturday’s first scrimmage of the spring. I believe that Parker would choose running down the hill at Death Valley and competing for an ACC championship over riding a bus in the minors but, when money is involved, you never know.
2. What does Mark Stoops bring to the table as the new defensive coordinator at Florida State? The Seminoles used to be a fixture among the top defenses in the nation. But last season Florida State finished dead last in the ACC in total defense (434.6 ypg) and 94th nationally scoring defense (30.0 ppg). Longtime defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews retired and new head coach Jimbo Fisher (who replaced the legendary Bobby Bowden) hired Stoops, the defensive coordinator at Arizona. Stoops certainly has the bloodlines. His brothers, Bob (Oklahoma) and Mike (Arizona), were successful defensive coordinators before they became head coaches. Arizona was No 25 nationally in total defense (322.0 ypg) last season. “I like the energy he’s bringing over there,” Fisher said of Stoops. “I think we’re going to be okay.” Only six starters return but a lot of good athletes are waiting in the wings. An interesting note on the schedule: On Sept. 11 Florida State goes to Oklahoma and Stoops will go play against his big brother, Bob.
3. Will Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich be able to come back at full strength from his battle with cancer? A lot of people thought Herzlich, the 2008 ACC defensive player of the year, was done with football last spring when he was diagnosed with Ewings’ Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer. He sat out the entire season but by October Herzlich was able to announce that the doctors had proclaimed him cancer free. Herzlich would join six starters from a defense that ranked 19th in scoring defense in 2009, giving up 19.77 ppg. I predict Boston College will be an inspired team and make some noise in this division. It doesn’t hurt to have Montel Harris, the ACC’s No. 2 rusher (1,457 yards), coming back either.
4. Will N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving regain his previous form after a near fatal automobile accident? N.C. State was hammered by injuries in 2009 but none more significant than the single car crash which almost cost Irving his life late last June. After sitting out the entire 2009 season Irving is back at practice hoping to regain his form of 2008, when he had 80 tackles and four interceptions. “He’s practicing and hoping to get back to where he was,” coach Tom O’Brien said. Only time will tell but with four starters returning on a defense that finished 11th in ACC scoring last season (31.2 ppg), the Wolfpack, sure could use him.
5. Who will replace Riley Skinner as the quarterback at Wake Forest? Wake Forest had one of the best four-year runs in its history (33-19, three bowls, one ACC championship) which coincided with the career of Skinner, who left the Deacons with 9,923 total yards of offense in 49 career starts. “It sure is different not having Riley out there,” said head coach Jim Grobe said Sunday. “One of the young guys has to step up but I think they miss him too.” The candidates include redshirt sophomore Ted Stachitas, who replaced Tim Tebow at Neese High School in Jacksonville. He’s talented but he’s had a couple of shoulder surgeries. Redshirt sophomore Skylar Jones and sophomore Brendan Cross are also in the mix. Right now Grobe is more concerned about the cast of characters the Deacons will put around the new QB. “It’s kind of hard to evaluate a quarterback if you’re not protecting him very well,” Grobe said.
Can Maryland’s Da’Rel Scott stay healthy? Scott was a first-team All-ACC running back in 2008 and, with the return of quarterback Chris Turner, Maryland thought it would be a division contender in 2009. But Scott stayed banged up most of the year and played in just seven games. With Turner gone, Scott needs to be on the field for most of the season for the Terps to bounce back from a 2-10 record (1-7 ACC) in 2009.
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