10 questions after wrapping spring practice in the ACC
Spring practice has wrapped up in the ACC, but there are still questions at Florida State, Clemson, Pittsburgh, North Carolina and NC State.
Spring practice has concluded for all 14 ACC teams, as the league prepares for the first year of expanded play with Pittsburgh and Syracuse. After this the players will take time off for exams, then enter the summer conditioning program until preseason camp opens in August.
No coach is going to reveal any key information about their squad in spring practice, at least not during media availability or in the spring game, so here are 10 questions to ponder as the ACC gets ready for summer vacation.
1. Why won't Jimbo Fisher commit to Jameis Winston at quarterback?
After Jameis Winston's impressive spring game was followed by Clint Trickett's decision to transfer, it seemed as though the competition to replace EJ Manuel was over. But late last week Fisher refused to commit to the two-sport redshirt freshman as Florida State's starter for 2013.
"We've got three good quarterbacks, and we'll continue to grow and see where that progresses down the road," Fisher told the Tallahassee Democrat. "We've still got three very talented quarterbacks."
In a conversation on the Eye On College Football Podcast, the Orlando Sentinel's Coley Harvey predicted that Winston would start the season on the top of the depth chart with Trickett, Jacob Coker and Sean Maguire next in line.
2. How will three new coaches shape their schemes to match inherited personnel?
Three new head coaches will make their debut this fall: NC State's Dave Doeren, Boston College's Steve Addazio, and Syracuse's Scott Shafer. Shafer was promoted from defensive coordinator, but with Doug Marrone taking some key assistants to the Buffalo Bills it will be a fresh start for the Orange as well. Doeren hopes to run an up-tempo offensive attack similar to the one Northern Illinois ran a year ago, but there are still some uncertainties as to whether transfer Pete Thomas or Manny Stocker will start at quarterback. Addazio ran a hard-nosed, power rushing attack at Temple but inherits an Eagles team that has a strong passing attack with quarterback Chase Rettig and wide receiver Alex Amidon.
3. Will Brent Venables provide another step forward for Clemson's defense?
Clemson's defense slowly improved throughout the 2012 season, peaking during the dramatic Chick-fil-A Bowl win over LSU. The unit led the ACC in red zone defense, but still allowed 5.65 yards per play on the season. A bend-but-don't-break defense can keep Tajh Boyd & Co. in the game, but challenging Florida State for the Atlantic Division will require another noticeable improvement in 2013.
4. After Rushel Shell's exit, what does Pittsburgh do about RB depth?
Rushel Shell's decision to transfer to UCLA not only leaves Pitt without its apparent rising star, but also an offensive backfield thin on experience. Junior Isaac Bennett and sophomore Malcolm Crockett will take on more prominent roles at running back; a position that needs to produce with transfer Tom Savage and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik, a former high school All-American, still battling for the starting quarterback job.
5. Can Maryland avoid the injury bug in 2013?
Maryland's final 4-8 record did not do justice to the improvements made in the second year under Randy Edsall. A string of injuries, including four season-ending injuries to quarterbacks, put the Terps in too many unwinnable situations to bounce back to the postseason. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs looks even better after recording the 1,896 all-purpose yards as a freshman in 2012 -- the second most in program history, and quarterback C.J. Brown is expected to be healthy after tearing his ACL in a non-contact drill during preseason camp in 2012.
Syracuse's competition to replace quarterback Ryan Nassib got much more interesting when Oklahoma quarterback Drew Allen announced his intentions to transfer to the Orange for his final year of eligibility. Hunt, a junior, had the apparent edge on redshirt senior Charley Loeb as spring practice wound down, but Allen, a 6-foot-5, 226-pound former high school All-American, promises to make things interesting.
7. Is UNC run-game reload good news or a bad sign for the defense?
The Tar Heels' four running backs combined to gain 250 yards during the annual Blue-White game earlier this season. Early enrollee Khris Francis wowed fans with 101 yards on 20 carries, while Romar Morris and A.J. Blue -- Gio Bernard's primary backups in 2012 -- added 80 yards and 30 yards, respectively. Tar Heels' coach Larry Fedora identified the run defense as a area for improvement, disappointed that the unit was "getting gashed in a lot of different areas."
8. Will Virginia's quarterback competition continue into the regular season?
Mike London and then-offensive coordinator Bill Lazor allowed Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims to compete throughout the 2012 season, and it looks like the quarterback shuffle at Virginia could continue in 2013. Rocco transferred, but David Watford is back after a redshirt year and highly-touted redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert is in the mix as well. Watford is considered by some as the leader coming out of spring, but Lambert had the best spring game (248 yards, two touchdowns) and Sims has the most game experience. London and new offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild have not picked a permanent starter, and might not before the season opener.
9. Will Ted Roof's arrival fix the Georgia Tech defense?
Longtime coach Ted Roof returns to the place where he played linebacker and coached from 1998-2001 to fix a broken Georgia Tech defense. Al Groh was dismissed after three years of struggling to install his 3-4 defense, and Roof's first move was moving outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu to defensive end and moving the unit to a 4-3. For more on Roof's arrival in Atlanta, check out Tony Barnhart's feature from Monday.
10. What happened in Wake Forest's spring game?
Everyone has different scoring methods for the spring game, but the Black team's 3-0 victory over the Gold team on Saturday is a bit concerning for Demon Deacons fans. Jim Grobe chose not to award any points to the defense (Gold) for turnovers or sacks, giving more clarity to their point total. But the offense's inability to manage more than two first downs and one field goal in a 70-minute scrimmage is not good news for Wake Forest.
"I think it proves what we think -- we're not a pure-throw football team," Grobe said after the game. "If we come out and just throw the football, it's going to be really, really hard."
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