ACC: Clemson Tigers
- The Big Ten-bound Terps got a recruit straight outta Big Ten country.
- Georgia Tech got a recruit -- from it's own baseball team.
- Is Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins going to have another record-breaking season?
- Syracuse will be looking for a punt return specialist this summer.
- The Scot Loeffler fan club seems to be growing.
- Loeffler will not discuss his recruiting philosophy regarding quarterbacks.
- The ACC has several important games to watch in Week 1.
You see, the ACC recruits very well. Signing Day is one of the most anticipated days of the football calendar for ACC fans, especially at Florida State and Clemson. The ACC is also a factory for NFL draft picks. It's what happens in between -- or, more accurately, doesn't happen -- that has the ACC consistently looking up at the SEC, Big 12, Pac-12 and Big Ten in the eyes of many.
The recent conference rankings from ESPN's RecruitingNation and Phil Steele are further evidence that something is missing in the ACC, that for some reason, all of that recruiting talent has yet to translate into something bigger during the season. (Best guess: coaching turnover has a wee bit to do with it).
Tom Luginbill and Craig Haubert of RecruitingNation recently released their conference recruiting rankings, and the ACC is right in the shadow of the SEC. That's a good thing -- the league is holding its own with the best in the country on the recruiting trail. If you look at the latest class rankings, which were released today, you'll see more than just Florida State and Clemson. Heck, even Boston College, Virginia and NC State have found their way into the Top 30, and they're not done yet. (Feel free to join in on the recruiting chat now).
Here is the problem. The on-field product still hasn't added up.
Will the ACC take a step forward this fall and elbow its way into the upper echelon of college football? It definitely will have plenty of opportunities to do so. We know Dabo Swinney and Jimbo Fisher can recruit like SEC coaches. The next task is to win like them.
Just most of it.
Such was the case with the recent “most important game” series, where colleague Andrea Adelson and I picked the make-or-break game on the schedule for each school in the ACC and then narrowed the choices to five for you to cast your vote.
We only disagreed on the key game for four teams -- Duke, Miami, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. One of the more interesting debates was over Pitt, as the votes were close between the season opener against Florida State and the game against the Hokies, but the Coastal Division clash won out over the Labor Day game.
Here are the most recent results, in what is still a fluid list:
Our pick: Syracuse
Your vote: 51 percent
Our pick: Florida State
Your vote: 50 percent
Our pick: at Clemson
Your vote: 65 percent
Our pick: Virginia Tech
Your vote: 45 percent
Our pick: at NC State
Your vote: 31 percent
Our pick: Miami
Your vote: 38 percent
Our pick: North Carolina
Your vote: 38 percent
Our pick: Virginia Tech
Your vote: 37 percent
Our pick: Clemson
Your vote: 45 percent
Our pick: Virginia Tech
Your vote: 75 percent
Our pick: at Wake Forest
Your vote: at North Carolina 57 percent
Say what?: It ain't basketball season, guys.
Our pick: at North Carolina (14 percent)
Your vote: Florida State 49 percent
Say what?: You're clinging onto the past, Canes. Win the division first.
Our pick: Georgia Tech (28 percent)
Your vote: at Miami 46 percent
Say what? That Miami game won't mean as much if the Hokies lose in Atlanta first.
Our pick: Duke
Your vote: NC State 41 percent
Say what? Justifiable, but if the Deacs are going to make a comeback, they can't be second-fiddle in-state to Duke.
No really, this is a dream. Imagine having enough money and vacation time to go to any and every ACC game you wanted to this fall. From Death Valley to Tally, or you can catch a doubleheader and go from a Thursday night game in Atlanta to a Saturday game at Syracuse. This year’s schedule is packed with possibilities, but colleague Andrea Adelson and I are narrowing it down to our favorite picks. Don’t like ‘em? Find your own driver.
This is our Ultimate ACC Road Trip:
Week 1 schedule:
Thursday, August 29
- North Carolina at South Carolina, ESPN, 6 p.m.
- Presbyterian at Wake Forest
- Florida Atlantic at Miami
- Villanova at Boston College
- NC Central at Duke
- Elon at Georgia Tech
- Florida International at Maryland
- Louisiana Tech at NC State
- Penn State at Syracuse (MetLife Stadium, The Meadowlands, East Rutherford, N.J.)
- BYU at Virginia
- Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, ESPN, 5:30 pm Chick-fil-A Kickoff Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
- Georgia at Clemson, ABC. 8 pm
Our pick: North Carolina at South Carolina AND Georgia at Clemson
Why you should come along: How do you pass up these two games when you can stay in the same state and see how the ACC stacks up against two of the best teams in the SEC East? (We can guess how Virginia Tech stacks up against Alabama.) The real plotlines in Week 1 are going to be in the state of South Carolina, where Clemson has a chance to be a national title contender with a win over Georgia, and North Carolina has a chance to rekindle a border rivalry and make a statement on the national level in just the second season under coach Larry Fedora. UNC and South Carolina used to play each other on a routine basis, but haven't since 2007.
The Clemson-Georgia game, though, is arguably the biggest of the nonconference season for the ACC. If the Tigers win that game, they will legitimize their hopes of winning the national title, and quarterback Tajh Boyd will instantly be one of the top Heisman candidates. This is also an opportunity to travel from one rival campus to another and scout two teams that will be playing each other at season's end. It's one thing to see a game in Death Valley, but to see (what's left of) Howard's Rock AND tailgate in a caboose on the same trip? (Hey, we can dream). Can the ACC go 2-1 against the SEC in Week 1? South Carolina is the place to be to find out.
- Virginia Tech running back Michael Holmes is no longer facing a felony charge and could be reinstated, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
- Dabo Swinney has added one of his former teammates to his staff.
- A.J. Francis is one of the most personable players in the ACC. His interviews will be missed.
- "Boom Boom" Donna Shalala flashed the U sign when she left the NCAA meetings yesterday.
- Sounds like the Canes have "a pretty strong case."
- Who is the best player on defense for Syracuse?
- Drug charges have been dropped against a former Pitt football player.
- Berry Tramel says the ACC's nonconference schedule isn't nearly as challenging as it was last season.
Here is a glimpse at how talented he thinks this team is headed into 2013: He has Florida State ranked among his Top 15 teams in the nation at: running back , receiver and defensive line . That means Florida State is featured in three of the four position rankings Steele has unveiled on ESPN.com so far.
Of those three groups, he has receiver rated highest of all, which surprises me quite frankly. Florida State has talent, yes, but there is no true national headliner among them. Steele admits as much, writing, "Although there are not a lot of household names in this group, the Noles could have some by the end of the year, including Kelvin Benjamin, who is 6-foot-5, 242 pounds."
No doubt Benjamin is a freak of an athlete, but he has got to be more consistent this season to really strike some fear into the heart of the opposition. Greg Dent is suspended indefinitely following his arrest this week, but Florida State has plenty of talent to make up for his loss. This is pretty high billing for a group that has a bunch of players that still need to prove themselves. We'll see if the Noles receivers can live up to these expectations.
One more ACC team to note in the receiver rankings: Maryland at No. 15, thanks to Stefon Diggs and Deon Long.
As for the other rankings, Steele has Florida State ranked No. 12 at running back and No. 8 at defensive line. Interestingly enough, he has the Florida State running back group ranked ahead of Miami, which checks in at No. 13. I understand the reason for that. Florida State returns two very solid backs in Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr., and they add Mario Pender.
Miami counters with ACC Freshman of the Year Duke Johnson and Eduardo Clements, along with spring surprise Dallas Crawford. The Canes get the nod in the headliner category with Johnson; but Florida State has more depth.
There is one ACC team ranked ahead of Florida State on the defensive line -- No. 7 Virginia Tech. No arguments here on that ranking. The Hokies should have a pretty solid front, with seven of their top eight linemen back from a year ago, including end James Gayle. Clemson also made into the rankings at No. 15. Vic Beasley is on course to have a huge season.
“It is very disappointing that someone would disrespect our unique tradition to this extent. It is one of the iconic images of the game.
“I am sure Clemson police will investigate this thoroughly and hold the person accountable for this behavior. Thankfully, most of Howard’s Rock is still intact and we will do what is necessary to protect it going forward.
“I know our coaches and players look forward to rubbing Howard’s Rock, running down the hill, and furthering one of the great traditions of college football when we open the season against Georgia on Aug. 31.”
Cody Sargent is a student at Clemson who gives the impression he would rather stand guard at The Rock 24-7 than see it vandalized again.
Sargent, who is going to be a junior this fall, had heard some rumors on campus last week that something might have happened to Howard’s Rock. On Wednesday afternoon, he and a few of his friends decided to check it out. They walked to Memorial Stadium after lunch to find the gates wide open. He walked right up to The Rock and realized a large chuck had been removed.
To some, Howard’s Rock is little more than a well-known tradition in college football, but to passionate fans like Sargent, this was one icon you don’t mess with.
“I was furious,” said Sargent, a native of Greenville, S.C., who estimated he hasn’t missed a home game in about 18 seasons. “This is one of the biggest pieces of Clemson tradition. Every football player for almost 80 years has touched this rock. I told someone on campus yesterday when they were asking me why it’s a huge deal, it’s a huge deal because every member of the Clemson family has ownership of this rock. It means something different to every single person who comes in contact with it. It’s an extension to our rich heritage and a product of our past and where we come from and our football tradition, and it also represents us striving for greatness in the future. It’s not about the football team winning; it’s about Clemson as a whole. That’s a huge hit to our hearts.”
Clemson plans on increasing the security around the rock so it doesn’t happen again.
“We are in the process of making some changes to make it more secure,” sports information director Tim Bourret told ESPN.com. “We’re looking at installing some cameras and things of that nature, looking into an alarm system.”
“It’s sad but necessary,” Sargent said. “That’s a huge piece of Clemson tradition. It means a lot to us. I think it deserves the security.”
- Somebody took a chunk of it, and police are investigating.
- Two former Pitt football players failed to show up in court.
- There's a rare recruiting battle going on between Georgia and Georgia Tech.
- Duke coach David Cutcliffe shares his take on a selection committee.
- The Flutie name is coming back to BC. Wow.
- Are UConn and BC friends again?
- Miami is prepared for its Committee on Infractions hearing. SI talked to Nevin Shapiro, who keeps on yapping and yapping.
- Who is Syracuse's best offensive player?
- It's a windfall for everyone!
- Could Pitt land Wisconsin safety Reggie Mitchell?
- NC State had a big week in recruiting.
- UVa has gotten some out-of-state commitments.
According to the school's news release, a small portion of The Rock was broken off of its pedestal after vandals broke the casing that protects the artifact. There was no damage to the pedestal that supports the rock.
"We take vandalism, especially of such an important part of our history, very seriously," athletics director Dan Radakovich said in a statement.
As is tradition, Clemson players rub The Rock before running down the hill during the football team’s entrance into Memorial Stadium for each home game.
Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program in the country, and every conference has its own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to landing top prospects. This week, we are examining the BCS conferences plus Notre Dame to find each one's strength, the biggest obstacle each faces and the overall view of the conference. The ACC is up today.
Biggest obstacle: Getting out from under the SEC's shadow. This conference shares the same player pool and it needs every matchup versus the SEC to count. Clemson beating LSU in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in 2012 was big, but over the course of the past few years Clemson, Virginia Tech and FSU haven't always fared as well, and South Carolina has been a thorn in the side of Clemson. This conference needs a resurgence from Miami and North Carolina as well as NC State. The middle- and bottom-tier teams in these two conferences are very comparable. The ACC needs its powers to consistently dominate on and off the field, and for recruiting classes from the likes of FSU, Clemson and Miami to produce double-digit wins.
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The answer is no.
What do Heather Dinich and Andrea Adelson think? So glad you ask.
Heather says: The divisions are fine the way they are
Talking about division realignment in the ACC is like the years of discussions that once engulfed what will formerly be known as the BCS -- everyone seems to have a problem with it, many try to come up with a solution, but nobody with the power to change it is in any mood to do so.
Atlantic Division teams are 75-69 against the Coastal Division in eight regular seasons, and 4-4 in ACC championship games. It’s the very definition of competitive equity, and it’s exactly what the league athletic directors and officials were aiming for when the conference first split into two divisions. At the time, it was strategically designed to get the best matchups (Florida State vs. Miami) and avoid lopsided results (SEC West). Nobody can argue it hasn’t worked to this point.
The same can’t be said in the mighty SEC, where the SEC West has claimed eight of the past 12 SEC titles. The SEC West has a winning percentage of .536 (199-172-3) against the SEC East, with only Arkansas and Ole Miss below .500 against their East opponents since 1992. If it weren’t for Florida and Georgia, the SEC East would have been blanked.
In the ACC, the question is obviously whether the formula will continue to work with 14 teams and what appears to be a top-heavy Atlantic Division, with Louisville joining in 2014. The only way to find out, though, is to have a little patience.
The outcries about the fact that Clemson and Virginia Tech will only face each other twice every 12 years are valid. It’s understandable and a legitimate argument, but it’s also one of the sacrifices that comes with having a 14-team league. If you look at a true North-South geographic realignment, Florida State, Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and NC State could all wind up in the same South Division, and that could be overload. If you have Syracuse, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Pitt in the same league, you’ve got the stigma of the old Big East, and there are probably a few athletic directors out there who aren’t in favor of that label.
The bottom line is this: ACC officials have done the same thing you have. They have rearranged the conference on paper. They have looked at it every which way. They have done their research, looked at winning percentages of schools, factored in the math, and in the end realized it was a fruitless exercise.
At the end of the day, competitive fairness always wins -- at least in the ACC.
Andrea says: Change ‘em up!
Take a gander across the college football landscape. How many conferences look just the way they did in 2005?
That would be zero.
So why is the ACC being so stubborn about divisional realignment? What worked in 2005, when the league split into two divisions, simply does not work in 2013 and beyond.
For proof, I give you the wacky rotating crossover opponents schedule, featuring one meeting between Duke and NC State between 2014 and 2024. That is just for starters.
Florida State opens at Pitt. The teams meet again in 2020.
Virginia Tech and Louisville meet for the first time in 2020.
Georgia Tech next visits Tallahassee in 2022.
You get the idea.
I understand the league was in a tough spot trying to come up with this schedule while maintaining eight league games and keeping a permanent crossover opponent to preserve long-standing rivalries. But things would be a lot easier if said rivals were all paired in the same divisions, opening up two slots of rotating crossover opponents.
That would allow rivalries to be preserved and give ACC teams an opportunity to see each other more frequently. How should a coach explain to a player that in a five-year window, he might never have an opportunity to play Florida State or Virginia Tech?
Look, if the Big Ten can switch its divisions each time it expands (creating divisions first with the Nebraska addition, then changing them with Rutgers and Maryland entering), surely the ACC can do the same.
This is a new era, and, well it makes little sense to plug Louisville in place of Maryland and pretend the Cardinals will magically form a rivalry with Virginia worthy of making them permanent crossover opponents.
I hear the competitive balance argument. There is no such thing as finding competitive balance. In 2005, Clemson was not seen as a power in the Atlantic Division. Boston College was. Today, Clemson is an elite program. BC just finished a 2-10 season.
In the Coastal, the only representatives in the ACC title game have been Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Is that competitive balance? Hardly.
It is time. Scrap the current divisional alignment and start over. Get teams better situated geographically. It makes much more sense to have Pitt, Syracuse and BC in the same division not only for travel, but because they all are former Big East rivals. There should be no stigma attached to that.
I have no issues with Florida State and Miami being paired up, either. We have never seen a rematch between them in the ACC title game, so it’s not as if that is something we all would miss.
College football has changed. The league itself has changed. It’s time for the divisions to change, too.
- Blue chip linebacker recruit Matthew Thomas told FSU coach Jimbo Fisher on Tuesday night that he will honor his commitment to the school, according to Joe Schad.
- The "grand experiment" is working at Clemson.
- Mum's the word at FSU regarding Greg Dent's legal issues.
- ACC fans might want to check out the Carrier Dome this fall -- it's not the worst place in the ACC to see a game.
- Athlon gave that award to Duke.
- Pitt AD Steve Pederson will be sticking around for a while with his new contract extension.
- Virginia Tech fared well in its APR score.
- Miami has added a track star to its roster.
Miami quarterback Stephen Morris made the list.
I scratched my head. See, I thought Morris had the breakout season last year.
Then Phil Steele came out with his preseason All-ACC team. I looked at the quarterbacks. Tajh Boyd, first team. Well, yes. No argument there. Logan Thomas, second team. Seems a bit high. Bryn Renner, third team. Yes, he is one of the best in the conference. Jameis Winston, fourth team. A redshirt freshman?!
So I guess I am in the minority in believing Morris already had his breakthrough season. Well, Andre Ware and I are in the minority.
Here is the thing that perplexes me. Miami is Quarterback U, right? The land of Heisman winners and all that tradition, right? So how is it that Morris barely made anybody notice after:
- Settting Miami’s single-season record for total offense with 3,415 yards, breaking the record of 3,412 set by Bernie Kosar in 1984
- Throwing for a career-best 3,345 passing yards and 21 touchdowns
- Completing 245 passes, the second-most in school history
- Setting a single-season school record with 421 attempts
Morris finished spring ball the way he finished the season, on an incredible tear. He and Renner are the top two quarterbacks behind Boyd headed into the year and I don't think that is up for debate.
Clearly, Miami's 7-5 record had something to do with Morris going largely unnoticed last year. So did goose eggs in the three games the Canes played against ranked teams. Miami went 0-3 in those games and scored a combined 36 points. His stellar running back, Duke Johnson, also grabbed a large part of the spotlight as well, en route to league rookie of the year honors.
But it's hard to ignore what Morris did in the final four games of the year, throwing for 1,131 yards and 11 touchdowns -- with no interceptions. The opposition was not the best (only two of those teams made bowl games), but his combined performance clearly gives him momentum going into this year. Coach Al Golden has reiterated that repeatedly since spring practice ended.
"I think his performance last year and most particularly the last four or five games speaks for itself," Golden told ESPN.com in a recent phone interview. "We’re in a mode right now as a program and Stephen as our leader that we have to go out and prove it. We don’t need accolades preceding success. We just need to do the things we need to do on a daily basis, take care of our business, trust our process and achieve results. The rest of it is immaterial to us. We have to orchestrate from within. We can’t worry about the external and we have to become more internally driven as a football program."
Still, you gotta think looking at a preseason magazine and seeing Morris' name listed among the running backs sticks in Golden's craw. As he says, Morris is going to have to prove himself all over again.
Let's hope more people are paying attention.
The average four-year APR remained 949. Only three ACC schools failed to reach that mark -- NC State, Maryland and North Carolina.
The NCAA previously announced Duke, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Boston College had earned public recognition awards for finishing in the top 10 percent in FBS for APR. The APR provides a real-time look at a team's academic success each semester or quarter by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete. The APR includes eligibility, retention and graduation in the calculation and provides a clear picture of the academic culture in each sport.
Here is a look at each ACC football team's latest multi-year APR score:
Georgia Tech 983
Boston College 982
Wake Forest 970
Virginia Tech 970
Florida State 954
NC State 947
North Carolina 934