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Offensive Strengths and Weaknesses for 2012 ACC

BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES

Strengths: The Boston College offense has been in the tank for the last couple of seasons. The 18.2ppg the Eagles put up in 2011 was the worst in the entire conference. The 18.5ppg they put up in 2010 was the worst in the ACC. The offense for the last two seasons has been the worst in the ACC and it’s not even been close. When you as a program can’t put an offense together that can challenge the likes of Wake Forest & Duke, then something has gone disastrously wrong! It’s difficult to come up with strengths when a unit has been this historically bad, but Boston College certainly has one thing going for it, and that’s experience. The Eagles bring back their top-3 rushers, their starting QB and their top-4 receivers. They also bring back 4 returning starters along the offensive line including 3 upperclassmen with good experience. Individually there are some fairly decent players. RBs Rolandan Finch & Andre Williams combined to rush for 1,222 yards & 7TD while averaging 4.3ypc. Those are certainly pedestrian numbers individually but combined it was pretty good and BC ranked 7th in the ACC in rushing yards per game. WR Colin Larmond is 6’3/202lbs and led the team in receiving last year with 528 yards & 3TD. TE Chris Pantale is a load at 6’6/255lbs. Pantale caught 21 balls last year and should be a bigger contributor in 2012. Pantale is on the only player Boston College really has that will truly threaten for All ACC honors but Finch, Larmond and O-Linemen Bobby Vardaro & Emmett Cleary are pretty good pieces.

Weaknesses: The offense simply isn’t very good. QB Chase Rettig is entering his 3rd year as a starting QB and the light really needs to turn on for him. Last year, Rettig completed just 54% of his passes for 1,960 yards with 12TD to 9INT. Boston College has really struggled finding the heir apparent to Matt Ryan and has went through quite a number of offensive coordinators. It’s unclear how much of an impact this has had on Rettig from a developmental standpoint but right now you have to consider the QB position a significant weakness until Rettig shows he can improve his accuracy and decision making. The receivers all return but outside of Lamond, they don’t do much after the catch. No returning receiver save Lamond averaged more than 11.2 yards per catch! There is no home run threat or speed on the edge for BC. For whatever odd reason, Patale has not been a key feature of the offense despite him having been a full time starter since he was a freshman and being an incredible matchup nightmare at 6’6/255lbs! Even with all the returning starters, the talent pool at receiver is simply too thin. The O-line is also a weak spot. BC has size on the line averaging 6’6/304lbs. They have experience with 66 career starts among the projected starting lineup. They have talent. What they don’t have is production. Boston College as a team hasn’t averaged 4.0 yards per carry since 2003 and the O-Line hasn’t allowed less than 20 sacks since 2005! Speaking of rushing yards, the running game is also a weakness. I sort of like Finch & Williams, but in college if you only average around 4.0ypc then you aren’t doing very well and Boston College has a lot of runners who are underwhelming.

Game Plan: There isn’t really one area where you can attack Boston College’s offense. It’s all pretty pedestrian so the thought going in would be to overwhelm them with talent, speed, power and aggression. Figure out what BC might be doing well and then close it off and make the Eagles beat you with what they aren’t particularly good at on that particular day. If I’m a defense my main priority is to shut down Pantale. The rest will take care of itself, but I certainly don’t want to leave him unaccounted for because at some point BC has to realize he’s their biggest threat offensively. This is also a fairly sad commentary on the state of Boston College football. BC is a program pretty rich in history that always puts out bowl worthy squads. Offensively this team has been dreadful and the only thing keeping it from sinking the very bottom of the ACC has been stellar defensive play over the past few seasons. If BC does well offensively it’ll be because of the experience they bring back, but if they struggle again, HC Frank Spaziani might be looking for new employment opportunities.

CLEMSON TIGERS

Strengths: There might not be a better group of receivers in the entire nation! Clemson brings back 8 of their top-9 receivers including 1st-Team All ACC WR Sammy Watkins (6’1/200lbs) who as a true freshman caught 82 balls for 1,219 yards & 12TD and also contributed 826 yards & a TD to the kickoff game which earned him 1st-Team All American honors as a special teamer! Junior DeAndre Hopkins (6’1/212lbs) returns as well after catching 72 balls for 978 yards & 5TD last season. Also coming back is Jaron Brown (6’2/200lbs), Martavis Bryant (6’5/210lbs) and TE Brandon Ford (6’4/235lbs). Bryant is an interesting guy to keep an eye on. He has tremendous talent and was just a true freshman last season. He only cuaght 9 passes but those 9 receptions went for 221 yards (24.6ypc!!!!) & 2TD! Clemson also brings back some outstanding depth which includes sophomore Charone Peake and true freshman Germone Hopper & Zac Brooks, two of the more highly touted freshman WR in the 2012 class. USC, West Virginia & Florida State might argue they have just as good of a receiving corps as Clemson does, but no team in the nation can boast of better receivers. This group is loaded. Throwing to this smorgasbord of options will be QB Tajh Boyd who is antoher strength of Clemson’s offense. Last year as a sophomore, Boyd completed 60% of his passes for 3,828 yards & 33TD to only 12INT which was good enough to be named to the 1st-Team All ACC squad! A year like he had last season would put Boyd 2nd all time among Clemson QBs. If he sticks around for his senior season, Boyd should surpass Charlie Whitehurst as the most prolific passer in Clemson history! Something to keep in mind is that Boyd got significantly better from freshman to sophomore. He completed just 52% of his passes in limited duty as a rFR and increased that percentage to 60% last year. This is his 4th year in the program and if he can up his completion percentage to the 62-64% range then he could easily be a dark horse Heisman candidate should Clemson be in the national title picture. With so much emphasis on Watkins, Hopkins & Boyd, it’s easy to forget that RB Andre Ellington was a 2nd-Team All ACC RB who ran for 1,178 yards (5.3ypc) & 11TD last season! True frosh Mike Bellamy didn’t disappoint either in backup duty rushing for 343 yards (6.0ypc) and 3TD. Throw in DJ Howard and Clemson has an outstanding trio of running backs that will keep opposing offenses honest! Ellington could be in for a massive senior season which should easily culminate in 1st Team All ACC honors and a flirtation with All-American status! When you look at overall skill players, this is about as good as it gets and Clemson’s offense should be one of the very best in the nation.

Weaknesses: I need to mention that TE Dwayne Allen was a 1st Team All-American and Mackey Award winner last season and Clemson will have to replace him. Allen was a 3rd round draft choice of the Indianapolis Colts in the 2012 NFL draft and while TE Brandon Ford has some pretty big shoes to fill, remember that Ford averaged 11.9ypc last season to Allen’s 12.0. Allen’s longest catch was for 54 years to Ford’s 50. Clemson’s offense should be incredible but losing the best TE in the nation needs a mention. The one weakness Clemson might have this year is their offensive line. Last season the O-line allowed 33 sacks and paved the way for Clemson runners to average 4.2ypc! Those are terrible numbers given how effective the Clemson running backs were last season. Clemson brings back just 2 returning starters from that unit and are quite young across the line. Center Dalton Freeman was a 1st-Team All ACC selection last season so he anchors the unit, but projected starters Kalon Davis & Gifford Timothy are both sophomores with hardly any playing time. Tyler Shatley is a converted defensive lineman while projected starting LT Brandon Thomas is only 6’3/300lbs and played guard last season! The unit has 46 career starts with 36 of them coming from Freeman! If there is one chink in this offensive juggernaut it will be the play of the offensive line. A dominant D-line could cause massive problems.

Game Plan: Clemson averaged 33.6ppg last season with a relatively young group of players offensively. The skill position players are simply ridiculous. Opposing defenses can forget about trying to force the issue with them. Clemson is a little bit like TCU but a bit more exaggerated because the Horned Frogs don’t have the same ability as Clemson does with the skill position. Both programs are strong at every position on the field with the exception of the offensive line which is going to force opponents to be as tough, physical and aggressive up front as they can be to get tremendous pressure. In the run game it’s about pushing the O-Line back and into the backfield without letting Ellington have the opportunity to make cuts and breaks. When Boyd drops back to pass it’s about getting pressure off the edge and collapsing the pocket on the inside to prevent him from moving around. Therefore Clemson should always be about timing. Can the O-Line hold off long enough for Boyd to make his reads and get rid of the football? Can the O-Line rush block just enough for Ellington to see some open space? Every single one of Clemson’s games will be decided in the trenches unless the O-Line emerges. This won’t be a problem against most teams, but if Clemson wants to be in the hunt for a national championship or a BCS bowl berth, then they are going to have to get better up front when the play the likes of Florida State or Virginia Tech.

DUKE BLUE DEVILS

Strengths: Like Boston College or other bad teams in college football, Duke has specific players that are strengths rather than entire units because the offense as a whole isn’t very good! WR Conner Vernon was a 1st-Team All ACC receiver last year after catching 70 balls for 956 yards & 6TD. At 6’1/195lbs he’s not going to blow up any scouting combine and he averaged only 13.7ypc last season, but he’s probably the most dangerous offensive player Duke has at the skill positions. QB Sean Renfree certainly looks the part of a big time QB at 6’5/230lbs! He was pretty good last season completing 65% of his passes for 2,891 yards & 14TD, but he did throw 11 picks which isn’t too fantastic considering only 14TDs. The O-line is also somewhat of a strength. They return 4 starters back from a unit that allowed only 19 sacks, but the unit is short on talent and wasn’t particularly good blocking for Duke runners as the team averaged just 3.1ypc! Guards Laken Tomlinson & Dave Harding have some pretty sweet game, but that’s about it. I do want to mention that the O-Line did allow just 19 sacks last season which is pretty good. If you were going to give Duke one legitimate strength regarding a particular unit, you’d say the O-Line is their biggest strength. If you are only going to have one strength, that isn’t a bad one to have. RB Desmond Scott didn’t carry the ball a ton for Duke last season but averaged 5.1ypc and is projected to be the Blue Devils starting RB in 2012. Scott was a gifted high school recruit when he came out, and now that he’s a senior, he might have his best year yet in him.

Weaknesses: Really the only problem at Duke is the same problem that plagues schools like Kansas, Indiana and Kentucky. They simply have a dearth of talent on the football team. In the 4 years before David Cutcliffe took over the head coaching position, Duke posted a combined 4-42 record! That’s a 1-10 record on average over a 4-year period! In the 4 years that Cutcliffe has been HC, Duke has posted a 15-33 record. That’s about 4-8 per year. It’s still a losing record, but 4-8 is a lot more respectable than 1-10! Offensively Duke returns a lot. They have their top-3 rushers along with their starting QB. They return 4 starting offensive linemen and an all-ACC receiver. If we were talking about Florida State or Virginia Tech, we’d be talking about a top-20 offense nationally, but since we are talking Duke football, the offense will struggle to score 25ppg. From an experience standpoint there isn’t any identifiable weakness other than possibly receiver depth. The problem is talent.

Game Plan: There is no one game plan for Duke. The easiest route for opposing defense is simply to overwhelm Duke with incredible speed, talent & aggression and bury them from the jump. We’ll see tremendous examples of this in 2012 when Duke plays road games against Florida State & Virginia Tech. The other option is to play your normal base defense and figure out what Duke is doing well on a particular Saturday. Take what they are doing well away and then force Duke into uncomfortable situations that should lead to unforced errors and turnovers. Desmond Scott has a chance to make things interesting and if you had to gameplan one aspect of Duke’s offense, I’d go with stopping Scott and forcing Renfree to pass the football. He’s big and accurate, but if you can double Vernon and stack the box a bit then there really is no other option for Duke to score points unless somebody steps up big for them. Duke could actually be an interesting team if they play well and remember that this team covered the spread last season against Virginia Tech & Georgia Tech. They are thin on talent, but shouldn’t be taken lightly, especially at home. Are you listening Clemson!???

FLORIDA ST. SEMINOLES

Strengths: Wow. More than any one thing, the talent level at Florida State jumps out and screams right in your face. There might be as much talent at schools like Alabama, Ohio State, USC, LSU, Texas and Florida, but there isn’t more talent. Florida State’s offense is extremely young, but if you were putting together a collection of the most talented football players in college football, you’d spend a lot of time picking guys in Tallahassee! Let’s start with QB EJ Manuel. The senior to be comlpeted 65.3% of his passes last season for 2,666 yards & 18TD to only 8INT. Florida State is more of a run first team, but if Manuel can stay healthy for a full season & the Noles pass the football a bit more, there is no reason why the 6’5/240lbs Manuel couldn’t throw for 3,000+ yards & 25+ TD. Manuel will battle for all-conference honors with Logan Thomas & Tajh Boyd, but if FSU runs the table expect Manuel to get quite a few accolades and become a leading Heisman Trophy candidate. Keep in mind that Manuel missed two starts last season and FSU was 0-2 in both games. Florida State’s running game should be outstanding. Last season true freshman Devonta Freeman (5’8/200lbs) & James Wilder (6’2/220lbs) combined to rush for 739 yards (4.8ypc) & 9TD. Freeman & Wilder were highly sought after recruits and will only get better. HC Jimbo Fisher has also brought in Mario Pender (6’0/190lbs) and Marvin Bracy (5’9/170lbs) in this year’s freshman class. The overall running numbers weren’t fantastic for Florida State last season, but look for those numbers to go way up. What might be the most signficiant strength of this young team is their receiving corps. The Seminoles return their top-4 receivers led by  Rashad Greene (6’0/175lbs) & Rodney Smith (6’6/219lbs). Both receivers combined to catch 74 balls for 1,157 yards & 11TD. Smith is a beast at 6’6 and a complete matchup nightmare. Helping the cause is 6’2/206lbs wideout Christian Green and 5’11/170lbs Kenny Shaw. Greene & Green were freshman last season and both should get significantly better their second time around the ACC. Florida State also boasts of incredible depth with guys like Willie Haulstead (6’3/233lbs & Kelvin Benjamin (6’6/242lbs). TE Nick O’Leary (6’4/250lbs) made a couple of starts last season as a true freshman and was one of the most highly touted TE prospects in the 2011 class. The receiving corps is deep to be sure and extremely talented, but what strikes me the most is just how big they are. Benjamin & Smith are both 6’6! Shaw is the smallest guy and even he’s 5’11. FSU has a ridiculous amount of strength in their skill position players and  can stack up with any team in the country. Smith, Greene, O’Leary & Manuel will all compete for All-ACC honors even though none of them were All-ACC players a season ago. Very interesting.

Weaknesses: If you were going to identify a weakness for Florida State it would be their offensive line. Last season this unit allowed 41 sacks which was the worst mark in the ACC by a significant margin! They also led FSU rushers to average just 3.3 yards per carry which ranked 9th in the league behind basement dwellers Duke & Wake Forest! Florida State should get significantly better this season with 4 starters returning along with a highly sought after JUCO transfer to play LT. RT Bobby Hart might be the best of the bunch. He was a 2nd-Team Freshman All-American last season and at 6’5/314lbs, has the talent, size & ability to switch over to LT if FSU wants him to. This is actually an interesting unit. They average 6’5/309lbs which is pretty big and there is talent to burn, but so far the production on the field hasn’t matched the hype surrounding the unit. I think that actually gets better this season. The projected starters have 41 starts between them and feature 4 upperclassmen starters. Hart and guard Jake Fahrenkrug should compete for all conference honors. This unit has potential but until we actually see some production, it’ll have to be considered a weakness.

Game Plan: Opposing defenses should really make a point of putting pressure on the offensive line. That is the significant weak point of this Florida State offense and one that needs to be exploited if teams want to stop the ‘Noles on offense. Remember that this team allowed 41 sacks and ran for only 3.3ypc and still scored 31ppg! If the offensive line can cut down on the sacks and road block a bit more, then Florida State could easily average 36-37ppg which would be more than enough given how stout their defense is predicted to be. You know Manuel isn’t going to beat himself. He’s too accurate, too seasoned, too experience and too good to start making bad decisions with the football in his final season. Your best bet is to get into the backfield and start disrupting the offensive flow. If Florida State gets the ball into their playmakers hands in open space then the defense is going to have problems. If opposing teams can be faster upfront and win the line of scrimmage, they have a decent chance at hindering the Florida State offense. This is obviously easier said than done. Florida State’s offensive line might have been the worst in the ACC last season and still got the 31ppg. Opposing defenses probably won’t be as lucky this season, but the game plan is to expose the big uglies up front and hope for the best.

GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS

Strengths: Georgia Tech’s biggest strength is their HC Paul Johnson and his love affair with running a spread triple option (or flexbone or inside veer or whatever silly commentator is coming up with that doesn’t completely get the offense) which makes their rushing attack virtually unstoppable. Since Johnson has taken over the program, Tech hasn’t rushed for less than 5.2yards per carry, has a combined record of 34-19, won one ACC title, been to a BCS bowl and has posted 4 straight bowl seasons. You don’t necessarily think of Georgia Tech when you think of elite college football programs, but Tech has averaged 9 wins a season since Johnson took over and if they can make a jump to the next level, we are talking about a storied program that could be a double digit win team competing for BCS championships. It’s gimmicky to be sure, but it’s certainly a gimmick that has worked at every point in Johnson’s career. With all that said, clearly the strength of Tech’s football team is their running attack. In Johnson’s scheme you typically see two primary ball carriers. Last year that was QB Tevin Washington & RB David Sims. Washington rushed for 986 yards (4.1ypc) & 14TD. Sims rushed for 698 yards (5.2ypc) & 7TD. Sims is what is known as the “BB” back which is the lead ball carrier. The two “AB” backs are typically blocking backs, but what’s interesting is that AB Orwin Smith ran for 615 yards & 11TD. Not big deal right? WRONG! Smith ran for 615 yards which by itself doesn’t look crazy, but HE AVERAGED 10.1YPC!!!!! That’s nuts. This really sets up well for Georgia Tech because back in 2009, the Yellow Jackets went 10-2 during the regular season and then beat Clemson in the ACC title game to win the ACC and get to the Orange Bowl. They would finish the season 11-3, but what’s interesting is that Tech had a lot of experience in their offensive attack with QB Josh Nesbitt, RB Anthony Allen and RB Johnathan Dwyer. Throw in Demaryius Thomas at WR and you can see why GT won 11 games. This year is somewhat interesting. Washington, Sims and Smith are all upperclassmen. While GT doesn’t have Demaryius Thomas, WR Jeff Greene is 6’4/200lbs while WR Darren Waller is 6’5/220lbs. Both were true freshman a year ago that played in 12 games each. There is an interesting similarity going on here. The cherry on top? The offensive line returns all 5 starters led by RG Omoregie Uzzi who was a 1st-Team All ACC player last season. LG Will Jackson & C Jay Finch should also fight for All-ACC honors this season. Georgia Tech averaged 5.7ypc last season as a rushing team and also averaged 34.3ppg as a scoring offense. Those numbers were the best numbers Tech has put up under Johnson. With all the important skill positions returning including the entire offensive line, how can you not expect Georgia Tech to potentially hit the 6.0ypc mark and average more than 40ppg? Another thing to keep in mind with Georgia Tech is that overall strategy is a huge strength. Running the football runs the clock down which keeps the other team’s offense off the field. If your offense isn’t on the field, you can’t score points and GT doesn’t throw the ball enough to make up for it in turnovers. This type of offense forces opponents to be exceptionally efficient on offense which is difficult for 99% of college offenses.

Weaknesses: The passing game. It simply isn’t emphasized and the wideouts primary concern is blocking the cornerbacks from coming up and trying to make tackles on the running backs. Georgia Tech had a huge loss when Stephen Hill left, but remember that Hill only caught 28 passes last season. He’s an extremely dynamic player (Hill averaged 29.3 yards per catch in 2011!!), but he contributed 2 catches per game! Georgia Tech isn’t going to miss him in much the same way the offense kept chugging along even with the loss of Demaryius Thomas. What’s very unique about Georgia Tech this season is that they don’t have a single wide receiver on the squad that has made a catch in a college football game! Both Waller & Greene played in 12 games last season, but neither one had a reception! While this is certainly a weakness for Georgia Tech, it’s simply not a huge part of the offense so being weak in the passing game doesn’t matter all that much.

Game Plan: You hear this all the time, but defenses have to play smart, disciplined, assignment football. Remember that the underlying theory behind Johnson’s offense is to take the defense away from the ball. What this is supposed to create is a one-on-one matchup between the ball carrier and a lone defender (typically a linebacker or safety). What Georgia Tech hopes for in this scenario is for that defender to over pursue or fall for a fake move that allows the runner to cut and run to the end zone! This doesn’t always work of course because you have new players and they have adjustments to the schemes. This happened in 2010 when the Yellow Jackets finished 6-7 after a bowl loss. There were simply too many new players to implement the schemes effectively. Another way defenses can get around this is to simply be so athletic and fast, they can get away with a little bit of undisciplined football and still make plays. Teams are going to have a very difficult time with Georgia Tech this season. There is simply too much experience here and even with exceptionally disciplined defense, GT is going to run the ball effectively. This offense is going to be extremely difficult to stop.

MARYLAND TERRAPINS

Strengths: The Terps bring back a pretty nice receiving corps from the 2011 squad with 3 of their top-4 receives returning. WR Kevin Dorsey (6’2/210lbs) led the team in receiving last season with 45 receptions for 573 yards & 3TD. WR Kerry Boykins (5’11/190lbs) also added 37 catches for 430 yards while TE Matt Furstenburg (6’4/245lbs) chipped in 31 catches for 348 yards & 2TD. This trio didn’t do much with the ball after the catch however as not one of them averaged more than 12.7 yards per catch, but all 3 are seniors who bring a lot of experience to the table with Dorsey & Furstenburg looking to compete for all conference honors. Fursternburg might be the best TE in the ACC which is certainly a plus for a team coming off a 2-10 season! What makes the unit very intriguing is who HC Randy Edsall was able to sign in his 2012 recruiting class. True freshman Stefon Diggs (6’0/185lbs) can argue that he was the best WR in the entire ’12 Class and he’s considered one of the ten best overall players in said class! He comes in and is an immediate starter opposite Dorsey with Boykins likely in the slot. Diggs, a Maryland native, turned down offers from teams like Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Tennessee & USC to play for the Terps! Edsall also brought in Nigel King (6’3/210lbs) who should be able to contribute. Levern Jacobs (6’0/180lbs) & Devin Burns (6’3/200lbs) provide depth for a surprisingly high upside group of Maryland receivers.

Weaknesses: Everything else. With Danny O’Brien transferring to Wisconsin, Maryland turns to junior CJ Brown to QB this team. Brown had a very solid season last year rushing the football, gaining 574 yards & 5TD while averaging an eye-popping 7.3ypc! On the other hand, Brown didn’t do much with his passing opportunities. The 6’3/205lbs QB completed 49.4% of his passes for 842 yards and 7TD to 6INT. Admittedly Brown had 100 less attempts than O’Brien last season so maybe he’ll get a lot better with more repetitions and there is no competition to be had here. Edsall brought in true freshman Caleb Rowe & Perry Hills, but those two guys will battle each other for the future of Maryland football, not the present. Brown is an intriguing dual threat QB, but if he can’t pass the ball, Maryland has huge problems considering their strength relies on the QB getting it the football! The rushing game is also a bit weak. Last year Devin Meggett led the team with 896 yards (5.2ypc) & 4TD which was fairly solid work but he graduated and true freshman Wes Brown looks to be the starter. Brown (6’1/220lbs) is another highly touted Maryland native that turned down some great offers to play for the Terps. Running back is one position where a freshman can come in and have a great impact, but it is still somewhat of an unknown at this point. Brown isn’t as highly touted as guys like Michael Dyer, Marcus Lattimore or Isaiah Crowell so we’ll have to see if he can have a similar impact for for Maryland. What could hamper Brown having a tremendous year is a suspect offensive line. Maryland brings back just 2 starters on the offensive line and the 5 projected starters only have 25 starts between them! True freshman Mike Madaras is projected to be the starting right tackle which will be interesting. I don’t think any of the starting O-Linemen for Maryland will compete for all-conference honors making this unit potentially the biggest weakness for Maryland on offense. What’s unfortunate is that the unit was fairly good last season allowing just 17 sacks and paving the way for Maryland to rush for 4.8ypc! You have to go back to 2002 to see numbers that good for Terps and incidentally, Maryland went 10-3 that season! If having Maryland’s O-Line perform at historical levels in 2011 is any indication, O-Line play for 2012 looks bleak.

Game Plan: Defensive gameplanning for Maryland is actually interesting. On the one hand their receivers are a significant strength so you would definitely want to take them away and force Maryland to run the football. That seems pretty good in theory but the problem is that if you drop into nickle or dime coverages to prevent Maryland from passing, CJ Brown might take off running and he’s shown quite a bit of ability to do so. What Brown hasn’t shown the ability to do is to be accurate with his passes and to avoid throwing interceptions. Although it might seem counter intuitive, I think as a defense you want to put tremendous pressure on the QB by bring in pressure from the edges and then getting good inside push from the interior of a defensive line and a couple of linebackers. That will force you into some one-on-one coverage with the receivers but it also forces the game to move at a lightning quick pace for Brown and potentially get him into some situations where he’s slinging the football with reckless abandon. The O-Line is significantly weak so edge pressure won’t be a problem and if Brown tries to run up the middle, then you have that covered to.  Maryland doesn’t look like a strong offensive team, but Randy Edsall & Co. might have a bit more game than people first see. If Brown can loosen up the defense by hitting some passes then the offense takes on a different look. CJ Brown & Wes Brown can run the football. The receivers are solid. If the O-line can buy CJ Brown some time and Brown himself take a step forward as a passer then Maryland should be able to move the football which could make things interesting.  As a defense I’m forcing Brown to take that step!

MIAMI-FL HURRICANES

Strengths: It sounds crazy when you think of all the great Hurricanes teams of the past, but I’m going to say that the only real strength Miami-FL has this season is their projected offensive line. They return 3 starters in guards Brandon Linder & Jon Feliciano and also tackle Seantrel Henderson who was a 1st team Freshman All-American as a true freshman, but missed significant time last season with injuries. Center Shane McDermott had a great rFR season and projected starting LT Malcolm Bunche is a beast at 6’7/325lbs. Last season this unit allowed only 19 sacks while paving the way for Miami runners to average 4.4ypc. They lose an incredible amount of talent seeing 2nd-Team All ACC LT Brandon Washington, 2nd-Team All ACC C Tyler Horn and LG Harland Gunn all leave, but the projected unit averages 6’6/320lbs! It’s a massive unit with high upside, and I think in Al Golden’s 2nd year, they’ll be as good as the unit was in 2011. Henderson & Linder have chances to be ALL-ACC type players with Henderson being a dark horse All-American candidate if he can play up to his considerable potential.

Weaknesses: Randy Shannon essentially left the program in tatters so you knew HC Al Golden would have a project on his hands. Even so, can you imagine looking at a Miami-FL team and believing that their biggest weaknesses on offense reside in every single one of the skill positions!? QB Jacory Harris finally put together a solid season in his final go around in Coral Gables. Harris completed 65% of his passes for 2,486 yards & 20TD while only throwing 9INT! What an improvement and you can’t help but wonder what Harris might have done if he could have avoided injuries and Golden was the HC for his entire 4 years. Harris leaves “THE U” as the schools 2nd all-time leading passer with over 8,800 yards, behind only Ken Dorsey. Replacing him is junior Stephen Morris. Morris has had very limited game action and is battlng injuries this spring. Memphis transfer Ryan Williams is also in the mix. A sophomore who got 10 starts for the Tigers as a freshman, Williams looks the part at 6’6/225lbs. Golden also brought in 3 true freshman who might compete for reps as well. When it looks like you have 5 QBs who can potentially play, you basically have no QBs who can play. Losing RB Lamar Miller doesn’t help the cause either. Miller rushed for 1,279 yards (5.6ypc) & 9TD on his way to 2nd-Team All ACC honors and a draft pick of the Miami Dolphins. Replacing Miller will either be Mike James or true frosh Duke Johnson. Johnson was drawing comparisons to Titans RB Chris Johnson as a high school standout and can argue he’s the best RB in the 2012 class! Running back looks like a weakness to be sure, but if Johnson really is as good as the hype machine makes him out to be, the Miami-FL running game could turn out to be a significant strength. RBs Eduardo Clements and Danny Dillard might also get some run. Miami loses their top-2 receivers in Tommy Streeter & Travis Benjamin. Both Hurricane wideouts combined to catch 87 balls for 1,420 yards & 11TD. Those don’t seem like amazing numbers but remember that Benjamin was a 4th round pick in the NFL Draft while Streeter went in the 6th round. It’s not everyday you lose two NFL-caliber wideouts at the same time and Miami will suffer from the loss. Allen Hurns (6’3/190lbs) will try to take over the #1 WR role from the 6’5 Streeter. He’s the leading returning receiver with 31 catches for 415 yards & 4TD. No other receiver really stands out. The Canes have talent at receiver but will need players to step up. Angelo Jean-Lewis (6’0/180lbs) is a true frosh looking to make an impact. Phillip Dorsett (5’10/186lbs), Herb Waters (6’2/172lbs) and Malcolm Lewis (6’0/194lbs) might also play roles. TE Clive Walford (6’4/250lbs) is a returning starter, but didn’t do much last season with just 18 catches for 172 yards & 1TD. TE David Perry who is 6’7/270lbs is an intriguing option at TE if he gets the playing time.

Game Plan: As odd as it sounds, I simply think game planning for Miami-FL is about playing base defenses very aggressively. The Hurricanes simply don’t have a strong point to their offense so seeing what they do well on a game-by-game basis is pretty much what defenses will have to do and simply take away that aspect, forcing the Canes to beat them another way. Miami is heavily reliant upon young players. Whether it’s Johnson at RB, Jean-Louis or Dorsett at WR or even one of the 3 freshman QBs (Preston Dewey, David Thompson or Gray Crow), the Hurricanes are in full rebuilding mode. Obviously for defenses it’ll be scheming to put those guys in the best positions to make freshman mistakes. If I had to pick one aspect to stop I’d go with the running game. Miami’s O-Line is big and probably will do OK as run blockers. If Duke Johnson is as good as advertised then Miami-FL is going to be a pretty good rushing team. I’d try & take that away and force the QBs to beat me with their arms. A wild card could be Memphis transfer Ryan Williams. Williams wasn’t great at Memphis but he did complete 57% of his passes while throwing for over 2,000 yards with 13TD. That’s not awful for a true freshman. Then again, the ACC isn’t Conference USA. The learning curve will be steep. Things have to get a little worse before they get better for “THE U!”

NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS

Strengths: Almost too many to consider. I’m going to start with RB Giovani Bernard. As a rFR in 2011, Bernard exploded onto the scene rushing for 1,253 yards (5.2ypc) & 13TD on his way to becoming a 1st-Team All ACC selection, but the accolades didn’t stop there. Bernard was also a 1st-Team Freshman All-American and took home the ACC freshman player of the year award! Not content to be a one trick pony, Bernard also contributed 45 receptions for 362 yards & a TD giving the Tar Heels a legitimate 3-down RB. The 5’10/210lbs Bernard has the skill & build to be an every down back in the NFL and returns to Chapel Hill as the ACC best RB. What is interesting to note too about Bernard is that his true freshman season ended before it started with an ACL injury. He’s not another year removed from injury and could be even better. Too much upperclass talent to contend for All-American status but stats might suggest that honor. Scary good. QB Bryn Renner also returns to the UNC backfield. Renner had an exceptional sophomore campaign, completing 68.3% of his passes for 3,086 yards & 26TD to 13INT. The 6’3/220lbs junior has the look of a pro caliber QB and his statistics suggest even bigger things ahead if he can cut down those interceptions. The 68.3% completion rate as a sophomore is ridiculous and if he pushes that past 70% in 2012, he could be in for a very special season. Carolina’s receiving corps should also be extremely strong. They lose their leading receiving from a year ago in Dwight Jones who caught 85 balls for 1,196 yards & 12TD, but return their next 4 leading receivers. Erik Highsmith (6’3/190lbs) was no slouch last season catching 51 balls for 726 yards & 5TD. Highsmith will be helped by Jheranie Boyd (6’2/190lbs) who only caught 14 passes last season but averaged 20.9 yards per catch! TE Eric Ebron (6’4/230lbs) was just a true freshman last season but averaged 20.7 yards per catch with his 10 receptions last year and should be a bigger part of the offense in 2012. True frosh Quinshad Davis (6’4/185lbs) could also contribute as should sophomore TJ Thorpe (6’0/190lbs). Carolina has a ton of talent & depth are receiver and it should be a real strength in ’12. Highsmith should compete for an all-conference team selection. Even with all that skill position strengths Carolina has, the O-Line might be their best unit. UNC’s O-Line returns 4 starters including 3 seniors and a junior. Guard Jonathan Cooper and tackle James Hurst were 2nd Team All ACC O-Linemen last season. The projected starting line averages 6’6/316lbs and has a staggering 93 combined starts between them! Cooper & Hurst will be 3-year starters so there is a ton of experience & leadership with this line. I think it is most likely the best line in the ACC and is a top-10 line among all teams in the FBS. If you win games up front with the big uglies, then UNC might be in for an incredible season given the depth & experience of their offensive line. Cooper, Hurst & guard Travis Bond should compete for all-conference honors. Cooper is arguably the best guard in college football and both he & Hurst will make a run towards All-American honors! This is a tremendous line blocking for a RB who is scary good and a QB who could complete 70% of his passes! The final strength for UNC is new HC Larry Fedora. He brings his spread offense to Chapel Hill and one look at what he did at Southern Mississippi is all you need to know about the fireworks headed towards Keenan Stadium. The Golden Eagles never averaged less than 30ppg when Fedora was running the offense and over the last 2 seasons, Southern Miss averaged 37ppg!

Weaknesses: There isn’t one as far as the units are concerned. The only weakness I see out of Carolina is learning Fedora’s offense. There will always be some transitional periods for a team learning new schemes under a new head coach. That is the only problem I see with UNC’s offense. If they pick up on Fedora’s concepts quickly then there simply isn’t a weakness here to exploit.

Game Plan: Hope for injuries. North Carolina isn’t a scary offensive team because of how much experience they have returning to that side of the football, but because they have that much experience and everyone could get significantly better! Bernard last season was a rFR coming off an ACL injury! Renner was a first year starting QB that ended up completing 68% of his passes! The WR unit only loses one receiver. The TE could have a breakout season. The offensive line should be the best unit North Carolina has had in years, and the new HC is one of the best offensive minds in all of college football. It’s really a perfect storm of events for the Tar Heels that could give them a season they haven’t had since Mack Brown was leading the program! It’s an extremely balanced offense that defenses will be hard pressed to stop. Last season the Tar Heels averaged 28ppg, but this year that number could easily be 35-36 which would put UNC as one of the best 20 offenses in the country and they could threaten to be in the top-15. Too bad they can’t play in a postseason game because this might be the best Carolina team we’ve seen since 1997.

NC STATE WOLFPACK

Strengths: Senior QB Mike Glennon is ready to have a coming out party for the Wolfpack in 2012. The 6’6/235lbs QB is flying under the radar a bit this preseason but has incredible size & arm strength that should make him a potential 1st round NFL Draft pick in 2013 as long as something doesn’t go horribly wrong in 2012. Glennon completed 63% of his passes last season for 3,054 yards including 31TD to 12 picks. Last season was Glennon’s first year as a starter in Raleigh having sat behind Russell Wilson for a couple of seasons. HC Tom O’Brien said that Glennon was going to start no matter what in 2011 which led to Wilson transferring to Wisconsin. While NC State didn’t have as good a record as Wisconsin and Wilson had a better statistical year than Glennon, the first time QB didn’t do anything to make O’Brien waver in his decision to turn the reigns over. Glennon returns for his senior year and I think he’ll have a truly special season. NC State’s rushing attack should also be solid as James Washington (6’0/186lbs/SR) and Tony Creecy (6’0/210lbs/SO) return as the team’s 2 leading rushers. Washington chipped in 897 yards (4.0ypc) while Creecy rushed for 382 (3.7ypc). Creecy is the projected starter and was highly touted coming out of high school. A rFR last season, Creecy will be in his 3rd year for NC State and could have a pretty big breakout season. Joining those two is Mustafa Greene who sat out last season with an injury but who was a highly touted back in the 2010 class. Senior Brandon Barnes & true frosh Shadrach Thornton could also get some run time, making for a very deep & talented rushing unit. The Wolfpack’s biggest strength behind Mike Glennon might be the offensive line. The Wolfpack bring back 4 starters on the O-Line with all 5 being upperclassmen with 98 career starts between them! Tackles Rob Crisp & RJ Mattes have some serious talent and the line averages 6’5/312lbs. O-Line play under Tom O’Brien hasn’t been too good when you look at sacks allowed and yard per carry, but this line should be better & O’Brien believes it is the best O-Line he’s had since arriving in Raleigh. Mattes and center Camden Wentz should compete for all conference honors!

Weaknesses: The one weakness NC State has offensively coming into 2012 is their receivers. They lose 3 of their top-4 receivers including their leading receiver from a year ago in TJ Graham. Graham led the team with 46 catches for 757 yards & 7TD which was good enough for him to be a 3rd round draft pick by the Buffalo Bills earlier this season. The Wolfpack also lost 2nd-Team All ACC TE George Bryan who had 331 yards receiving & 4TD in ’11. Tobais Palmer (5’11/175lbs) is NC State leading returning receiver who caught 37 balls for 496 yards & 5TD a year ago, but everyone else is new. WR Quintin Payton (6’4/210lbs) will try and be NC State’s #1 WR while Bryan Underwood (5’11/175lbs) will try to work in the slot between Palmer & Payton. WRs Hakeem Flowers (6’3/182lbs) & Maurice Morgan (6’2/225lbs) are both rFR who are big and in their 2nd year in the program which will add depth the unit. TE Mario Carter (6’4/262lbs) is a big body hoping to fill in for Bryan, but NC State’s best bet at TE might be another rFR in Benson Browne who has excellent size at 6’5/250lbs. This receiving unit doesn’t have a lot of production statistically but there are some decent pieces in play with Palmer & Payton. With Glennon throwing the football, the receivers might be OK even though they are a perceived weakness currently.

Game Plan: The obvious defensive play here would be to force NC State to pass the ball because the running game is somewhat of a strength, but I’m going to go against the grain here and say that the best bet to defensively stop NC State is to force them to run the football and forget about passing the ball. Mike Glennon just looks like he is coming out to turn heads and Tom O’Brien is far too good a head coach for NC State to keep lingering in 7-8 win territory. I think taking the passing game away would be your best bet. That forces NC State to run the football. The weird part about this plan is that defenses won’t be capitalizing on NC State’s perceived weakness at receiver, but if you can force the Wolfpack to run and they don’t do it effectively then you can effectively shut down the entire offense. Remember that Washington & Creecy weren’t fantastic last season and the O-Line, while a perceived strength, has yet to post any positive statistical numbers. If NC State proves they can run against you then you go back to stopping the run which will force the WR to make plays, which odds are they can’t. It’s sort of analogous to reverse psychology, but I think it’s the right play to stop NC State’s offense. The Wolfpack averaged 28.2ppg last season and I think they can get that mark to 30 this season.

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

Strengths: The big strength that jumps out at you with Virginia is their rushing attack. Perry Jones (5’8/185lbs), Kevin Parks (5’8/195lbs) & Clifton Richardson (6’0/215lbs) combined last year to rush for 1,990 yards (4.9ypc) & 16TD. Parks & Richardson were freshman with loads of talent so Virginia truly will have a 3-headed monster in the backfield in 2012. Khalek Shepherd could also see some time carrying the rock. Jones is considered the best runner on the team and came close to rushing for 1,000 last season (915 yards). He might get to that point unless the young guns behind him take away carries from the grizzled senior. The Cavaliers averaged 162 rushing yards per game last season and that number probably goes up with the rushing talent on hand. Don’t forget about Jones’s ability to be an exceptional receiver out of the backfield either. He caught 48 passes last season for 506 yards & 3TD giving Virginia a true every down back. He’s small at 5’8/185lbs, but if he stays healthy he’s an all-conference performer. A good running game obviously needs good blocking which is another strength for Virginia. The Cavaliers bring back 3 starters and 4 upperclassmen to a unit that allowed just 16 sacks & paved the way for UVA runners to average 4.2ypc. RT Mogan Moses & LT Oday Aboushi both return to bookend the line which means QB Michael Rocco should be in for more of the great pass protection he enjoyed last season. Both tackles should be contenders for all-conference honors. Also returning is guard Luke Bowanko. This O-Line is big averaging a tick below 6’6 and 302lbs. I think they’ll improve their run blocking and become one of the best units in the ACC. Moses & Aboushi not only have a chance to be 1st-Team ALL ACC tackles, but they have an outside shot at becoming All-American this season. Having a couple of those on your offensive line isn’t so bad is it? This is a top-20 O-Line.

Weaknesses: QB is an issue with Virginia. Michael Rocco (6’3/225lbs) was pretty good last season as a first time starter, completing 61% of his passes for 2,671 yards & 13TD, but he also threw 12 interceptions and is pretty immobile in the pocket. Just a sophomore, I don’t want to be too hard on Rocco because he did do really well with his completion percentage, but that TD:INT ratio doesn’t bode well and Rocco really needs to improve his decision making in the pocket going forward. What makes this position somewhat of a weakness is the question of who the starting QB might be. Rocco is the obvious answer but things got a bit murky when former Alabama all-world recruit Phillip Sims decided to leave Alabama and transfer to Virginia where he was granted a waiver by the NCAA to being play immediately. Sims (6’2/220lbs) is a ridiculous talent who is just a sophomore, so HC Mike London will have some decision making to do. Don’t forget about true frosh Greyson Lambert (6’5/220lbs) or Matt Johns (6’5/200lbs) either. Sophomore David Watford also has some game. All of a sudden Virginia has an embarrassment of riches under center, but right now it’s a weakness because we really don’t know how things will play out. Receiver is another weakness for Virginia. Tim Smith (6’0/185lbs) returns after catching 33 balls for 565 yards & 3TD, but Virginia loses their leading receiver from a year ago in Kris Burd. Darius Jennings was a true freshman last season as was Dominique Terrell. Senior TE Colter Phillips isn’t much of a pass catching threat so while Virginia is certainly talented at receiver with Terrell, Smith & Jennings, there isn’t much production to speak of outside of Smith. While Smith may be an all conference selection, HC London is going to have to hope that the young receivers step up amidst the mystery QB situation.

Game Plan: The Wahoos are a pretty easy defensive game plan to execute. They are going to rely heavily upon Perry Jones and their rushing attack. Defensively you want to gear your defense to stop the run and force either a QB who has some shaky decision making issues or a first time starter make plays with his arm. If worse comes to worse and Rocco, Sims and Watford go down, Virginia will be dealing with a true freshman QB with a weakness at WR trying to make plays due to the fact that the opposing defense is taking away the running game. It’ll be really interesting to see if Virginia can impose their will on opposing defenses because I’m not sure Virginia is going to be able to use the passing game to loosen up the defense so they can run the football. It will be interesting to see what the veteran O-Line can do and the RB depth is such that they could wear an opposing defense down. More than anything, defenses simply need to stop the run and see if the passing attack works. It’s the biggest question surrounding the Cavaliers heading into 2012.

VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES

Strengths: QB Logan Thomas enters the 2012 season as arguably the best QB in the ACC, a potential All-American and a QB on the short list of legitimate Heisman Trophy candidates. The 6’6/262lbs GIANT is ridiculously large for the position. He’s bigger than Cam Newton, Vince Young and even Ben Roethlisberger. The Hokies took only 17 sacks last season which is a testament to just how hard it is to get the QB down. Thomas didn’t disappoint with this statistical line either. Although he completed just 59.8% of his passes, he did throw for 3,013 yards & 19TD to 10INT. He also ran for 469 yards (3.1ypc) & 11TD showing a great aptitude for getting into the endzone when Virginia Tech got close. Having RB David Wilson on the team along with Thomas’s ability to run the football certainly made Virginia Tech a run first team, but Thomas should get more opportunities to throw the football in 2012 and showcase his ability as a passer. Thomas isn’t without faults. He needs to be more accurate and his decision making could get better, but let’s remember that Thomas was just a sophomore last season. He might have a coming out party this season as a junior but if Thomas is smart, he’ll stick around Blacksburg for his senior season.

Weaknesses: Virginia Tech took on massive losses from a season ago. RB David Wilson ran for 1,709 yards (5.9ypc) & 9TD! Wilson was a 1st Team ALL ACC player and ended up being a 1st round draft pick of the New York Giants! Virginia Tech has some serious talent coming in at RB, but they are all freshman. Michael Holmes (5’11/208lbs), JC Coleman (5’7/170lbs) & Drew Harris (6’1/220lbs) have all combined for absolutely nothing at the collegiate level. The leading returning rusher from last season is sophomore Daniel Dyer who rushed for all of 30 yards in 2011! While there is certainly talent in this unit, there is no experience and that has to be considered a weakness. You can’t lose a 1st round tailback and replace him with freshman without expecting some bumps along the way. Virginia Tech is also hurting along the offensive line. Last season the O-Line allowed just 17 sacks and let V-Tech rushers average 4.4ypc. The Hokies lose 4 fantastic starters. Gone are 3rd Team All-American RT Blake DeChristopher, LT Andrew Lanier, Honorable Mention All ACC LG Greg Nosal and 2nd-Team All ACC RG Jaymes Brooks! These weren’t just starting linemen, but dominant linemen controlling the trenches for a team that finished the season 11-3 including a trip to a BCS bowl! Center Andrew Miller is the only returning starter. While there appears to be some talent on the line and there is some nice size here, the unit has 14 career starts all coming from Miller! This is Virginia Tech so it won’t be like this line is horrible, but it has some gigantic question marks heading into the 2012 season! Virginia Tech also has some questions at receiver. They lose their top-2 receivers from last year in Danny Coale & Jarrett Boykin who combined to catch 121 balls for 1,665 yards & 8TD. Marcus Davis (6’4/228lbs) & DJ Coles (6’3/216lbs) return which give the Hokies two huge targets on the outside, but keep in mind that Boykin & Coale are Virginia Tech’s top-2 receivers of all time! Other projected starters WR Dyrell Roberts S& TE Darius Redman haven’t done much in their careers to date. The Hokies are big and talented at wideout which will certainly create matchup problems for opposing secondaries, but the lack of actual production make this unit somewhat of a weakness.

Game Plan: It’s weird to see how inexperienced Virginia Tech is on offense. Defensively you have to gameplan for Logan Thomas. With the O-Line being such a weakness, the best bet for a defense is to simply overwhelm the O-Line and put tremendous edge pressure on Thomas with your 4-3DE or your 3-4OLB. The next step would be to clog up the middle really hard with your DTs and ILBs. This puts Thomas in position where he can’t do a lot but stay in the pocket and try to make plays with his arm. He’s certainly capable of doing so, but with a receiving corps that doesn’t have much production to their name. Getting edge rushers after Thomas could also cause the Hokies to think about running the football more which is a good idea. Thomas is a playmaker. The runners are freshman. Defenses would much rather have the ball in a freshman’s hands than a potential Heisman Trophy candidate. However an opposing defense decides to do it, the bottom line is that they need to get the ball out of Thomas’s hands and overwhelm the O-Line at the line of scrimmage. Virginia Tech will have a long season if they can never win the battle up front. Keep in mind that Virginia Tech averaged 27ppg last season. They took on significant losses so that number might slide to 23-25ppg. Entirely too low if Virginia Tech wants to compete for an ACC title.

WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS

Strengths: While he doesn’t necessarily look the part at 6’2/200lbs and left-handed, QB Tanner Price had a coming out party last season as a sophomore. Starting all 13 games after starting 9 as a true freshman, Price completed 60% of his passes for 3,017 yards & 20TD to only 6INT! If HC Jim Grobe decides to stick with Price over the next couple of seasons, Price has the chance to become Wake Forest’s all time leading passer, currently held by Riley Skinner. The stats are impressive enough but keep in mind that as a freshman, Price completed just 57% of his passes and had 7TD to 8INT! That is significant improvement. Price has the ability to push his completing percentage into the high 60% range with excellent decision making skills. The ACC is loaded with solid quarterback options (Thomas, Boyd, Manuel, Glennon, Renner, Washington & Renfree) but Price is a good one and shouldn’t be overlooked!

Weaknesses: Overall Wake Forest falls into the same category as a Duke or Kansas or Indiana or Vanderbilt. There simply isn’t enough talent to go around. That is Wake Forest’s biggest problem. The running game might be a weakness after Wake loses last year’s leading rusher in Brandon Pendergrass who rushed for 823 yards & 9TD. Incoming starter Josh Harris didn’t do too poorly last season rushing for 432 yards (4.3ypc) & 3TD, but he wasn’t very highly touted (if he was at all!) coming out of high school and now he has the added bonus of being the lead back. There isn’t much depth or talent behind him so it’s a sink or swim proposition for the junior. Wake Forest also loses their top receiver from a year ago in Chris Givens who caught 83 passes for 1,330 yards (16.0ypc) & 9TD! Givens was a 4th Round draft pick by the St. Louis Rams and was very dangerous with the ball after the catch. Givens was a 1st Team All ACC player and was only the 2nd player in Wake Forest history to leave school early to go to the NFL! WR Michael Campanaro had a great season last year catching 73 balls for 833 yards & 2TD but was far less dangerous after the catch than Givens and at 5’10/190lbs, seems more like a possession receiver even though he was a 2nd-Team All ACC wideout in 2011. Campanaro is a very nice piece, but that is all Wake really has coming back. Senior WR Terence Davis hasn’t done a lot. Anthony Rook is the projected starting TE and he’s a true freshman. Matt James (6’5/210lbs) is extremely intriguing because of his size & ability but he’s just a sophomore. The biggest weakness for Wake Forest is their offensive line which loses 4 starters from a year ago. Gone is 1st-Team All ACC LG Joe Looney (3 year starter & 4th round draft pick of the San Francisco 49ers), RG Michael Hoag (2 year starter), RT Doug Weaver (2-year starter) & LT Dennis Godfrey (2 year starter). Only center Garrick Williams returns in what should be potentially the worst O-Line in the ACC. The O-Line should have OK size but 3 underclassmen are projected starters and the unit as a whole combines for 15 starts! Projected starting LT Frank Souza is only 6’4/280lbs and was playing on the defensive line last season! As was the case with Virginia Tech, the  four losses on the O-Line are major losses. All 4 were at least 2-year starters and you can’t replace that kind of consistency, experience & leadership with a bunch of underclassmen and not expect to struggle. The Demon Deacons lost a truckload on offense and it’ll be readily apparent rather quickly once the season begins.

Game Plan: What should be obvious here is that Wake Forest’s situation is a poor man’s Virginia Tech. The losses are almost identical so the game plan will essentially be the same. Wake Forest’s biggest strength is their QB so the object will be to try and get the ball out of Tanner Price’s hands as quickly as possible. Obviously the easy way to do this is drop into nickle or dime packages so Wake believes it’s best option is to run the football. That would be correct, but also remember that defenses simply need to overwhelm the O-Line with superior speed, talent & aggression. If Wake Forest is getting dominated up front then they don’t have much of a chance to win. Wake averaged only 26ppg last season en route to a bowl game. Expect that number to go down to the 21-22 range. This offense looks bleak! Lots of edge rush. Dominate the line. Pressure the QB. Make Wake run the football. Overwhelm the O-Line. It’s a recipe for success against what might be the worst team in the ACC.

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August 13, 2012 - Posted by | ACC, Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Florida St., Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami-FL, NC State, North Carolina, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest

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