Miami (Fla.) Leads Early ACC Coastal Division Rankings
In recent years, the winner of the Coastal has been the team who just barely survives or owns the tie-breaker.
So what should we expect in 2014? I predict that history will repeat itself and this will be another race to finish. Let’s take a look at who could make it to the ACC Championship Game later this fall:
1. Miami Hurricanes
Al Golden has the most talented team in this division. With playmakers such as Duke Johnson, Stacy Coley, Denzel Perryman and Tracy Howard, the Hurricanes should have one of its best seasons during the Golden era. But there is one glaring black hole on this roster: the quarterback position. Whether it’s redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen or true freshman Brad Kaaya lining up under center this season, they will be accompanied with a talented supporting cast. Golden will be expected to finally make it to the ACC Championship game.
2. North Carolina Tar Heels
How could you not like the Tar Heels’ chances for 2014? Quarterback Marquise Williams returns and you can expect that he’ll be even better this season. Williams will be without his offensive coordinator from last year, as Blake Anderson left for Arkansas State. However the transition should be smooth as head coach Larry Fedora hired from within and named Gunter Brewer and Chris Kapilovic as co-offensive coordinators. The defense has been strong while Fedora has been there and I expect this unit to be dependable again in 2014. I like the Tar Heels' chances to be contenders this season.
3. Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies have been known for their stingy defense under defensive coordinator Bud Foster, but he’ll have his work cut out for him this season. The front seven will have plenty of fresh faces this year, so Foster will be relying heavily on Kendall Fuller to man the secondary. So with the losses on defense, the offense will depended on, strangely. The good news is that there is plenty of experience on this side of the ball for Frank Beamer. Mark Leal is expected to replace Logan Thomas at quarterback this season—which Thomas’ production was average at best last season—so there shouldn’t be a significant drop off for the offense.
4. Duke Blue Devils
Yes the Blue Devils had a magical season in 2013, but this program doesn’t have the foundation to have continued success just yet. Head coach David Cutcliffe won’t be sneaking up on anyone in the conference this year. Quarterback Anthony Boone will be leading the offense again, along with his all-conference receiver Jamison Crowder. But Boone will be without his former offensive coordinator, as Kurt Roper left to take the same position at Florida. This program is getting better, but it’s not where it needs to be just yet.
5. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Paul Johnson’s offense is normally ranked in the top five in rushing yards, but now that quarterback Vad Lee has transferred, Johnson is searching to replace his top three rushers from last season. One of those players was Robert Godhigh, who also led the team in receiving. So there are plenty of questions this season for the Yellow Jackets. I’ll put my faith in Johnson to find answers and have a mediocre season.
6. Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia went winless in conference play in 2013 and head coach Mike London is seeking immediate help for this season. The good news is that he was able to put together a talented recruiting class, one that will feature several players seeing playing time as a freshman. But the bad news is that there is still no answer at the quarterback position. Whether it’s David Watford or Greyson Lambert taking the snaps this season, I don’t see how this team can compete at a high level just yet.
7. Pittsburgh Panthers
Like many other struggling programs, Pittsburgh has major questions at the quarterback position. Chad Voytik is the front-runner for now, but he’s just attempted 11 passes in his career. The good news is that the team’s leading receiver Tyler Boyd will be back, along with the leading rusher James Conner. I don’t believe the defense will be able to replace the All-American defensive tackle Aaron Donald, so this may be a season for Panther fans to forget.