A cursory look at ACC spring practice happenings shows a few sure things and a whole bunch of positional battles that will linger into the season. We think we have a potential breakout back in Tallahassee, and we know we have some very promising quarterbacks ready to make that next step. Yet we still cannot say for certain who will emerge at may key positions in traditional fantasy hot spots, and this is especially true when it comes to position battles at Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami and even Virginia Tech. Youth will be served in 2009 as some of the conference's best fantasy talents won't be required to declare a major for another year or two, and this will make the ACC a potential drafting goldmine, especially for those playing a little keeper league college fantasy football.
Movers and Shakers
QB Kyle Parker, Clemson
QB Sean Renfree, Duke
QB Vic Hall, Virginia
*RB Jermaine Thomas, FSU
RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
RB Morgan Green, Maryland
RB Jamal Womble, North Carolina
RB Jamie Harper, Clemson
RB Andre Ellington, Clemson
RB Re'quan Boyette, Duke
*WR Dwight Jones, North Carolina
WR Torrey Smith, Maryland
WR Devon Brown, Wake Forest
K Spencer Benton, Wake Forest
* denotes draft worthy player in BCS-only leagues
Spring practice in Chesnutt Hill has confirmed that the right quarterback is not on the roster. Old-school coordinator Gary Tranquil has no time for things like Facebook, Twitter or the spread attack. He wants a pro-style quarterback and such a signal caller is not in the cupboard. It's expected that Dominique Davis will hold off Justin Tuggle and others, and Davis is just not an accurate passer right now.
New head coach Frank Spaziani and Tranquil will look to feature their young backs, and each would be a potential fantasy factor if the other weren't around. However Josh Haden and Montel Harris will likely only have an impact in ACC leagues.
We knew the Clemson quarterback race would be one of the more interesting spring battles, and it lived up to the hype. Kyle Parker was able to work a little spring football into his busy baseball schedule, and he performed well enough to likely hold a slight lead over Willy Korn heading into summer ball. Stay tuned.
All signs point to the running back job truly belonging to C.J. Spiller, but this is Clemson, so there will be some very talented backs vying for carries. Bruiser Jamie Harper has lost about 20 lbs. since last season, and burner Andre Ellington has impressed just about everybody.
And no, we still can't give up on Jacoby Ford as a potential fantasy star. He's the top dog in what is still an unsettled receiving corps.
The spring performance of Thaddeus Lewis provides Duke fans with greater optimism for 2009 while the breakout spring from redshirt freshman Sean Renfree provides hope for 2010 and beyond. Both quarterbacks appear to be blossoming under second-year coach David Cutcliffe, and while the complementary talent in Durham is not quite where it needs to be there's now doubt that things are moving in the right direction.
It also looks like Re'quan Boyette is fully recovered from a knee injury that cost him the 2008 campaign, though fantasy owners should prepare for split carries with Jay Hollingsworth. Should one emerge then we may have a decent option in ACC leagues.
In short Duke is getting better with each practice, and Thaddeus Lewis could have some very big games, though we're still at least a year away from taking a serious draft day look at Duke's skill talent.
Expected starting running back Jermaine Thomas was a silver lining in an otherwise dreary spring. Quarterback E.J. Manuel was expected to challenge Christian Ponder for the starting job, but Manuel's right index finger injury allowed Ponder to emerge as FSU's spring MVP. Ponder should be the starter to begin the season, but we're not sold on any fantasy impact. And questions remain about who exactly will catch the ball in Tallahassee.
Wide receiver Rod Owens was nabbed for DUI, Corey Surrency lost his appeal with the NCAA, and Taiwan Easterling spent his spring recovering from Achilles surgery. Factor in the departure of Greg Carr (graduation) and Preston Parker (too many bad decisions to count) and Bert Reed appears the only sure starting wide receiver in 2009.
Oh, and the FSU defense struggled mightily this spring, and the head coach is whining not about NCAA sanctions but rather the potential reduction of wins from his resume.
Coach Paul Johnson was able to finally install the majority of his refreshingly unique offense, and this spring did nothing to make us think that the Yellow Jackets won't roll out a devastating offensive unit, one that should be more powerful than last year. Sadly, their fantasy value takes a drop.
While Jonathan Dwyer will once again be the focal point, he will likely split carries with Anthony Allen and Roddy Jones. Improving-by-the-minute quarterback Jaybo Shaw will push Josh Nesbitt, and the physical pounding absorbed by Tech quarterbacks means each will see significant snaps. Ironically the most promising fantasy prospect in this run-happy offense may be wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. A large aspect of the offense's spring development is the installation of more passing plays.
Who replaces Darrius Heyward-Bey? Raiders' owner Al Davis will likely claim it's impossible to replace such a wide receiver, but we think it can be done. Our gut says Torrey Smith will step up and emerge in College Park. He and Adrian Cannon had their moments this spring.
And yes, Da'Rel Scott's (strained knee) injury issues this spring have us a bit concerned. As much as I want to say that Scott will be a fantasy star in 2009 I'm thinking Morgan Green and Davin Meggett will get their looks.
The offense's unquestioned leader is Jacory Harris, and we're excited to see what he can do as the clear number one guy. And though it took Miami awhile to finally settle on an offensive coordinator, we believe in Mark Whipple we have one that will lead to some interesting numbers. We've learned he loves the gadget play.
No running back or wide receiver really stepped up, causing concern that there may not be one to emerge as a fantasy factor in Coral Gables. And this could be disappointing because there are signs that the offense will be much-improved.
And former quarterback Robert Marve has apparently narrowed his search for a new school down to 32.
The development of wide receiver Dwight Jones and running back Jamal Womble were the key stories this spring. Jones appears ready to step right in and soften the blow of Hakeem Nicks' early departure, and in addition to having a cool name, young running back Jamal Womble showed an ability to take carries away from Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston
North Carolina State
All signs point to Russell Wilson being good to go this fall, and while his knee doesn't appear to be a factor fellow youngster Mike Glennon may be. As good as Russell Wilson was in 2008 (and he was very good) it may be very difficult to keep Glennon on the bench for long. This is a great problem from Coach Tom O'Brien to have, though fantasy owners that have invested in Wilson should be a little concerned.
Oft-injured back Toney Baker appears ready to play a key role this summer/fall, and he'll join Jamelle Eugene and Curtis Underwood in yet another by-committee running attack.
The Cavaliers are moving to this brand new offense called the spread. Apparently it's all the rage. And quarterback Vic Hall appears the favorite to man the controls; and both he and running back Mikell Simpson appear possible fantasy starters in ACC leagues. Otherwise it was typical sunshine and puppies in Charlottesville this spring. New system is great, everyone is playing "fast" and the beer is flowing at Miller's Downtown.
That collective grown emanating from Blacksburg last Saturday was produced by owners of running back Darren Evans after highly-regarded redshirt freshman Ryan Williams exploded for about 130 yards in the spring game. We're certain that Evans, who missed the spring game with a leg injury, will enter the fall as the starter. But we're more certain that Ryan Williams will see a good deal of carries as he's too talented to keep off the field.
It also appears that Matt Waldron has won the kicking job, and that Greg Boone will remain a stud. His versatility has been impressive to date but his fantasy numbers have not. We're expecting a nice bump in numbers in 2009.
Not a ton to report following spring ball in Winston-Salem. Riley Skinner is improving and will apparently see more opportunities to wing it around a bit. The running triumvirate of Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass and Kevin Harris looks like a three-headed monster that will leave fantasy owners fleeing in fear. And coach Jim Grobe is raving about wide receivers Terence Davis and Devon Brown.
Even with all of these positive vibes it's hard to place any faith in Demon Deacon skill talent. BB&T Field is home to a solid, well-coached football program that hangs its hat on toughness and discipline. And these attributes don't lead to a great deal of fantasy success.