As we shift our focus to the other half of the ACC, I wish I could keep the excitement and optimism flowing. Unfortunately, the Atlantic Division currently has more questions than answers and if I had to set an ACC Championship matchup in March, I'd pick two teams from the Coastal (Miami and Virginia Tech) if it were allowed!
But despite a perceived lack of top tier talent, the ACC Atlantic does have its share of proud programs capable of churning out stars. And while there may not be a national title contender here, guess what? The only wins and losses that matter here are your fantasy team's - and there is enough here to keep you in the win column.
2009 Record: 8-5 (5-3)
Returning Starters: 8 offense / 4 o-line, 6 defense
Who They Lose
The BC offense returns largely intact. Wide receivers Rich Gunnell and Justin Jarvis have departed Chestnut Hill, leaving a glaring need for pass catchers, and Gunnell’s steady play will be missed. Place kicker Steve Aponavicius takes his accurate but not overly strong leg elsewhere as well. But when you can sum up your offensive losses with two wide receivers and a kicker, things look terrific. The late season transfer of running back Josh Haden should not be forgotten either.
Montel Harris, enough said. Harris burst onto the scene as a freshman two seasons ago, and hasn’t looked back. The rising junior ran for 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns last year, and will be looked to do at least that again as a junior. The offensive line returns four starters, which makes things look even better for Harris.
Chris Weinke wanna be, quarterback Dave Shinskie returns for his second season as a soon-to-be 26 year old. The losses at wide receiver make Shinskie’s growth rather difficult to be excited about, and he will be asked to do more managing and handing off than anything else. Keep an eye on tight end Chris Pantale however. The Eagles have a history of churning out solid tight ends, and without a go-to wideout, Pantale could emerge as Shinkie’s safety blanket and red zone target.
What’s old is new again
It’s a new season, but 2010 will look pretty familiar to Eagles fans. There isn’t anything sexy about the offense, but the same grind it out style should lead to a good chunk of wins again. The conference schedule looks great as well, as the Eagles avoid Miami and Georgia Tech and get Virginia Tech at home. A non conference slate of Hofstra, Kent State, Syracuse and Notre Dame isn’t overly daunting either. These guys just might be the favorite in the Atlantic. Just what the ACC envisioned! Keep an eye on verbal commitment Shakim Phillips to see if the 6-foot-2 wide receiver can move through a depleted depth chart.
2010 Fantasy Outlook: Boring
Boston College will never be confused with an offensive juggernaut. Montel Harris is a top back nationally, but everyone else here is (might) only worth owning in ACC heavy leagues.
2009 Record: 9-5 (6-2)
Returning Starters: 6 offense / 4 o-line, 6 defense
Who They Lose
Wowsers, we go from a BC team that returns most of its offensive firepower to a Clemson team with lots of holes to fill. Gone is all world running back C.J. Spiller, who quite frankly is irreplaceable. Wide receiver Jacoby Ford and tight end Michael Palmer also depart, and when you pair that with Spiller’s 503 receiving yards, you have to wonder what the future holds for the Clemson offense. In addition, former star recruit Willy Korn has transferred, and if Kyle Parker chooses baseball over football, you are looking at mass changes for a team that can usually hold its own offensively.
For now, we have to assume Parker is the starting quarterback for the Tigers, which probably isn’t an overly safe assumption. Spring ball will be interesting to watch with Parker presumably spending most of his time smacking balls all over a diamond. Redshirt freshman quarterback Tajh Boyd will see the bulk of the snaps, and he offers an enticing dual threat skill set that would excite most fantasy owners.
Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper will look to fill Spiller’s large shoes. Ellington’s speed coupled with Harper’s size offer plenty to look forward to. Unfortunately, their production will be limited by the other's presence. But if we are looking at a new quarterback, a lack of receiving options, and a veteran offensive line. . . maybe there will be enough carries to go around.
Lots of questions, very few answers
It’s almost overly daunting to attempt to predict what Clemson’s 2010 depth chart will look like, and we don’t figure to have many answers until August at best. Spring practice and the MLB draft will start to clear things up, but we may not know much of anything until the season begins, if that early! Don’t forget about redshirt freshman WR Bryce McNeal. He sat out last season simply to put on weight, and coaches weren’t shy in saying he could have played last season. He could become a household name sooner than later.
2010 Fantasy Outlook: In a holding pattern
Check back in August. Clemson recruits on a national level, so talent isn’t the question here. Opportunity is, and we won’t know whose team this is anytime soon.
2009 Record: 7-6 (4-4)
Returning Starters: 10 offense / 5 o-line, 6 defense
Who They Lose
Not much to see here. Wide receiver Rod Owens led the team in catches and yards while Richard Goodman also hauled in his share of balls. But on a team that had five players catch at least 27 passes, less can be more. It would be unfair if we didn’t mention the departure of legendary head coach Bobby Bowden. You can debate how much coaching he’s done recently, but I know I’ll miss seeing his reaction when FSU misses another field goal against Miami!
Everyone else! Wide receiver Bert Reed is more than capable of taking Owens' place as a playmaker, while uber talented Jarmon Fortson should see more snaps as well. These two combined for 105 catches and 1,320 yards while sharing time and dealing with the loss of a starting quarterback. The playmaking ability here may not be rivaled by any other ACC school.
The question is who throws them the ball? Christian Ponder was developing into a very good quarterback prior to separating his shoulder and missing the final four games, including FSU’s bowl game. Enter E.J. Manuel who held his own, and really just needs more snaps before gaining national relevance. Both offer great dual threat capability, but Ponder holds the key to the immediate success of FSU wide receivers.
What’s the plan Jimbo?
“New” head coach Jimbo Fisher is in an interesting spot. Christian Ponder could put things together and be the best quarterback in the ACC. But E.J. Manuel is the future of the Seminoles. Assuming Ponder’s shoulder is healthy, he has to see most of the snaps. But I don’t think Manuel’s only time will be in blowouts. Just how many meaningful snaps Manuel sees will be vital in determining how much, or how little, we can value the Seminole wideouts.
2010 Fantasy Outlook: Too much means too little
On talent, the impact here is high. But the likelihood of some split snaps is tremendous, and enough to lower expectations on a national level. We haven’t mentioned the FSU running backs, where Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones will do their share of stealing each other's thunder. Tough to imagine a team that can score 40 or more regularly, that might not have a weekly fantasy option, isn’t it?
2009 Record: 2-10 (1-7)
Returning Starters: 8 offense / 3 o-line, 5 defense
Who They Lose
Quarterback Chris Turner departs, but I don’t see many Terp fans crying right now. Left tackle Bruce Campbell did depart early for the riches of the NFL, and his absence will be felt. Franchise LT’s are hard to come by.
I want to preface what follows by reminding everyone Maryland was 2-10 last season.
The Terps return an awful lot of potential on offense, headlined by wide receiver Torrey Smith. Smith is arguably a Darrius Heyward-Bey with more on-field production, and is coming off a 827-yard, five-score season.
I’ll admit I’m surprised to see running back Da'Rel Scott still on campus. After breaking his wrist in early October, most assumed Scott’s season, if not collegiate career was over. He returned for the final two contests of the season, and if he can stay healthy, Scott can be a top ACC running back. Just don’t forget about Davin Meggett, the bowling ball (5 foot 8, 220 pounds) has shown quite a knack for the goal line.
How good is Jamarr Robinson?
Ah yes, the quarterback position. Here rests the fate of the 2010 Maryland Terrapins, and probably head coach Ralph Friedgen’s employment. The 6-foot, 190-pound rising junior signal caller showed flashes late in 2009, highlighted by a 104-yard passing, 129-yard rushing effort against Virginia Tech. Simply put, he gives Maryland fans a reason to be excited...with cautious optimism. The skill positions should allow Robinson some room for growth, but is he ready to become a weekly starter?
2010 Fantasy Outlook: Sneaky potential
Usually, a team that went 2-10 while averaging 21 points per game doesn’t offer much from a national fantasy perspective. But be on alert. ACC-heavy leagues would be wise to take note of the potential hear, and a team that returns a potential 1,000-yard rusher, a potential 1,000-yard receiver and a dual threat quarterback not many have heard of is worth monitoring in the early portions of 2010.
North Carolina State
2009 Record: 5-7 (2-6)
Returning Starters: 6 offense / 1 o-line, 5 defense
Who They Lose
Running backs and lineman. RBs Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene both leave Raleigh, and take 259 carries, 1,082 yards and eight touchdowns with them. Four offensive lineman graduate, making filling the gap at RB even more challenging.
The best quarterback in the ACC, that’s who. Rising junior Russell Wilson threw for 31 scores and 11 INT’s as a sophomore, while also rushing for four more touchdowns. Top wide receiver Owen Spencer returns as well, and these two may be the best returning pass-catch combo in the league.
Tight end George Bryan also returns to give Wilson a reliable target over the middle. In two years, Bryan has scored 10 times, and if you think the offensive line departures will lead to additional pressure, Bryan figures to be quite the safety valve.
Wilson will sit out the spring to play baseball. Don’t be overly concerned when you see Mike Glennon’s name featured prominently during March and April. But Wilson’s size does figure to limit his football future, so if he is drafted high enough by a baseball team, June through August could be a little interesting.
Who runs the ball?
If only I had the answer here. A week before signing day, the Pack didn’t have a running back commitment. That changed when Mustafa Greene
pledged his allegiance. It’s a shame Greene isn’t already enrolled, because he’d have a chance to see significant carries. As it stands now, Brandon Barnes
figures to have the opportunity to win the gig, but Greene was a big pickup for the Wolfpack, and I think he has some keeper potential.
2010 Fantasy Outlook: Volatile
Russell Wilson is one of the most dynamic offensive players in America, and he will have his share of monstrous outings in 2010. But I think there is tremendous cause for concern here. Four new offensive linemen, no established running back, and a defense that couldn’t stop anyone last year has to replace half of its starters. Don’t overvalue Wilson next year and view the Wolfpack’s other options with guarded optimism.
2009 Record: 5-7 (3-5)
Returning Starters: 6 offense / 2 o-line, 6 defense
Who They Lose
Only the most decorated quarterback in school history. Riley Skinner leaves Winston Salem as the school’s career leader in passing touchdowns while playing an amazing 50 games over his career. Backup Ryan McManus and the top four tackles along the offensive line depart as well, painting a rather bleak picture for Wake.
If there is any hope for the Demon Deacons, it’s that the bulk of their playmakers return. The top three wide receivers are back in Marshall Williams, Devon Brown and Chris Givens. This trio combined for 2,167 yards and 19 touchdowns catches last season. Brown also ran the ball 36 times and Givens 15. Head coach Jim Grobe will continue to find creative ways to get these two the ball.
The backfield also returns experience in Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass. The senior Adams was terrific as freshman, but suffered a sophomore slump before rebounding somewhat last season. He did have a career-best 307 receiving yards in 2009 and will be looked upon more and more in 2010. Pendergrass is a solid between-the-tackles runner who stole Adams’ thunder in 2008 before playing second fiddle last season. Yes, split carries will happen again, but with questions abound under center, these two should see a decent amount of touches.
So, who’s the quarterback?
Your guess is as good as mine, and this will be a position to monitor throughout spring and summer. Skylar Jones was listed third on the Wake depth chart last season, but also spent time running routes as a wide receiver. So, either he is a super athletic player we need to see, or someone without a position. Wake Forest is rapidly becoming famous for redshirting players and developing experience as a result. Redshirt sophomore Ted Stachitas and redshirted freshman Brendan Cross figure to see snaps as well, but this is a battle that could linger.
2010 Fantasy Outlook: Bleak
Too many questions here for anything to materialize. Wake has playmakers in Adams, Brown, Givens, and Williams. But with a revamped line and who knows taking snaps, you can’t count on any of these playmakers to be put in successful situations. It’s a shame too, because all can be serviceable options in the right matchup.