Signing Day needs: ACC
Got talent? Here is a breakdown of where your favorite college football team stands going into National Signing Day on Wednesday, according to CollegeFootballNews.com (Rankings based on CFN’s preseason team rankings within the conference):
1. Florida State (9-4)
What’s needed now: This might not turn out to be the class last year’s was, but head coach Jimbo Fisher is playing with the biggest of big boys when it comes to bringing in talent. He’s loading up on the lines, especially defensive end, with Mario Edwards the top end prospect in America, and Chris Casher and Dante Fowler not far behind. He’s looking for instant help from the JUCO ranks for the offensive line that needs a few more options, and he’s going hard after a few top quarterback prospects to be ready to fight for a job when E.J. Manuel is done next year.
Team concerns: Playing up to the talent level. There’s no excuse this season to not be in the national title chase with a few outstanding recruiting classes setting the expectations high, and now the skill and experience are both in place to come up with a huge season. Improving the running game will be a priority, and developing Manuel into a top NFL prospect is a must, but that’s nitpicking. Everything is in place to do big things.
2. NC State (8-5)
What’s needed now: The Wolfpack are going hard after the defensive line for the second time in four years. The line is fine for now, but Tom O’Brien needs players to develop for down the road with the wave of strong prospects from the 2009 class are done. The offensive side will get more help for the interior with the guards getting the most attention.
Team concerns: The passing game needs more options for QB Mile Glennon to work with because speedy T.J. Graham chose to leave early and receivers Jay Smith, Steven Howard, and tight end George Bryan are also done. The defensive side needs help on the inside with starting tackles J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn gone. NC State has plenty of young players ready to show what they can do, but it’ll be an untested area in spring ball.
3. Clemson (10-4)
What’s needed now: Lowered expectations. Head coach Dabo Swinney appears to be putting together another terrific class, but it’s asking for way too much to come up with an instant game-changer like Sammy Watkins. Even so, this receiving corps is about to get even better with a few good four-star types to be ready to roll when Watkins bolts for the NFL as soon as humanly possible. The defensive line will get the most attention and should be the strongest part of the haul.
Team concerns: Consistency. After the awful last part of the season — outside of the ACC championship — the team needs to bring the effort and production week in and week out. That might be hard early on with three starters gone off the defensive front and three new starters on the offensive line. There’s an interesting blend of terrific young talents and decent veterans, and it all needs to blend fast in what could be another title run.
4. Boston College (4-8)
What’s needed now: Linebackers. Is BC the new Linebacker U.? With Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly, the tradition of spectacular linebacker play continues, and now the program needs to load up on more options for the middle. The position is fine for now, but the class will be looking three years ahead. Upgrading the receiver talent would be a bonus.
Team Concerns: The offense has to find more pop. Last season might have been a dud, but this was a young team in several areas that now comes back loaded with talent. Replacing Kuechly is next to impossible, and backup in the middle Will Thompson is also gone. The last few classes have solidified an O line that should be deep and strong for the next few seasons. All the key skill players were sophomores, and now they have to start doing far more.
5. Maryland (2-10)
What’s needed now: Running backs. The defense will end up getting the most help with a ton of great linebackers coming in, but head coach Randy Edsall wants to run the ball, run the ball, run the ball. His ground attack is what made him such a success at UConn, and his first job in his first full recruiting cycle is to beef up the talent in the backfield.
Team concerns: The Terps have to find a consistent offense, and again, that’s going to start with the ground game. Almost everyone is back on O except for top back Davin Meggett. The defense gets everyone back except for corner Trenton Hughes, and gets yet another year out of safety/linebacker Kenny Tate, a future NFL star who’s coming back from injury. The experience will be there across the board. Can the production start to come? For Edsall, it had better.
6. Wake Forest (6-7)
What’s needed now: The passing game. Wake Forest is hardly known for its air attack, bit it has to have the pieces in place for 2014 with Tanner Price and Ted Stachitas done in a few years. The receiving corps lost talented Chris Givens a year early to the NFL, and this year’s class could produce a prospect or two to make an early impact. More than anything else, head coach Jim Grobe wants to go after as many good players as possible regardless of position.
Team concerns: Finding a No. 1 target in place of Givens is a must, and getting more out of the running game without Brandon Pendergrass will be a task. The defense doesn’t lose much, but starting safeties Josh Bush and Cyril Quarles are both gone. It’ll be a very, very young secondary that’ll take its lumps early on.
1. Georgia Tech (8-5)
What’s needed now: Receivers. Georgia Tech recruits to a type, and while its classes won’t ever be high up on the lists, they work for what Paul Johnson is trying to do. The defensive line is a focus with a few excellent talents coming in, and the secondary is getting a few new prospects even though the 2010 class was loaded with DBs. The key might be finding the next game-breaking receiver to be the home-run hitter the offense needs. No Tech target will ever be a 100-catch playmaker, but Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas have made the school cool for wideouts.
Team concerns: Gamebreaking receiver. It goes hand-in-hand with this recruiting class. The running backs are in place, and QB Tevin Washington has grown into his own, but the offense has to come up with a big play, 20-yard-per-catch target to replace Stephen Hill, who’s leaving early for the NFL. Also gone is fellow starting receiver, Tyler Melton.
2. Virginia Tech (11-3)
What’s needed now: Offensive skill players. Frank Beamer is always going after the next great running back, and he’s bringing in several options along with plenty of receivers with size and talent. This will be a class to boost up the offense for 2014 and beyond, while the defense will get the most help at linebacker. It’ll take a few years in the weight room, but this year’s class is big on speed and athleticism for the back seven.
Team concerns: The Hokies are bare on the offensive line with four starters gone. The 2010 recruiting class focused on the lines, but it’s asking a lot for the young players to be ready for prime time now; they’ll need another year, but they’ll provide the depth. The secondary lost corner Jayron Hosley and safety Eddie Whitley, but it’s a deep group that should be fine with a little bit of time.
3. Virginia (8-5)
What’s needed now: Receivers. The last few classes have revolved around the offense, and the defensive front seven is getting the strongest talent this year, but the Cavaliers are looking to keep bringing in good targets. Last year, head coach Mike London came up with a strength-in-numbers class of receivers, and he’s doing it again with at least five prospects coming in. While the passing game needs more attention, London likes the running game and he’s getting a good one in Kye Morgan.
Team concerns: The defensive line has to find a disruptive force to fill in for Cam Johnson on the end, but the biggest problem is a secondary that loses three starters including shutdown corner Chase Minnifield. Considering the Cavs played so many close games, solidifying the kicking game is a must with P Jimmy Howell and PK Robert Randolph both gone.
4. North Carolina (7-6)
What’s needed now: New head coach Larry Fedora hasn’t had any time to work, and he has to deal with the pressure of a new gig and trying to live up to the expectations of past UNC recruiting classes. For good and bad, the program has been a factory for pro talent over the last few years, and while there aren’t any jaw-droppers in this class, there’s talent at linebacker and a few good-looking defensive backs on the way. Next year’s class will have to load up on skill players.
Team concerns: The pieces are in place for a terrific year with the shelves still stocked with talent, but Fedora has to try to replace the production of Quinton Coples — the possible top end taken off the board in the 2012 draft — and Zach Brown, who might be the fastest linebacker at the Combine. Donte Paige-Moss and Tydreke Powell are also gone off a rebuilding defensive front, while two good starters in Charles Brown and Jonathan Smith are gone from the secondary.
5. Miami (6-6)
What’s needed now: Apparently, someone forgot to tell the excellent Miami recruiting class about the Nevin Shapiro situation. While this might not be a special haul, it’s looking like a strong job done by Al Golden to keep bringing in enough NFL caliber prospects to keep the expectations high. Golden wants to upgrade the passing game, and it shows with a load of receivers coming in of all shapes and sizes. At least three quarterbacks are going to be signed, and they’ll be expected to be the main backups behind Stephen Morris sooner than later.
Team concerns: The NFL bus left with several key underclassmen on it, and now Golden needs to find veteran playmakers early on who can win the close games that last year’s team couldn’t. Three starters are gone off the offensive line, RB Lamar Miller will be missed, and targets Travis Benjamin and Tommy Streeter are done. The defense has to replace Sean Spence in the middle and pass rusher Olivier Vernon on the outside.
6. Duke (3-9)
What’s needed now: More options for the passing game. The 2010 class addressed the quarterback situation for the next few years, but more and more targets need to be developed for down the road. Head coach David Cutcliffe is trying to build up the offensive talent level, and he’s getting a few more good prospects than normal. With Donovan Varner gone and Conner Vernon done next year, the opportunities will be there to shine early on.
Team concerns: The offense has to start producing like it’s supposed to. Varner is the only big loss with QB Sean Renfree, all the top backs, and Vernon returning to provide the experience needed to be consistent, and after going through the growing pains with four underclassmen starting up front, all five starters are back on the line. This is when the payoff has to come.
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