The ACC has produced incredible talent over the last decade, with 353 players drafted into the NFL since 2005.

So it should come as no surprise the league is well represented in our countdown of the Top 100 players in college football.

Seventeen ACC players made the list -- 11 from Florida State. There is no question Florida State has one of the most talented teams in the country, perhaps the most talented team.

Ten of those 11 players made our ACC Top 25 player countdown, though the order is slightly different.

Clemson, Miami, Louisville, Duke and Pitt also have players represented in the Top 100.
video

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher talks about his mindset as his team prepares to defend its national championship and discusses the development of Jameis Winston since last season.

ACC lunch links: Bulk on the O-line

July, 28, 2014
Jul 28
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It was an ugly year for Pitt’s offensive line in 2013 by virtually any measure.

No line in the ACC allowed more sacks than the 43 coughed up by the Panthers.

The 3.62 yards per rush for Pitt’s ground game ranked 12th in the conference, despite two 700-yard rushers on the roster.

Against AQ-conference teams, the Panthers mustered just 2.35 yards per carry -- a league worst.

But there is plenty of optimism that things will be better for Pitt in 2014, and one of the reasons for that optimism is that Pitt will be bigger.

Per the Pittsburgh Tribune:
When training camp opens next Sunday, Pitt's offensive linemen will stand, on average, taller than 6-foot-5 and weigh 311.4 pounds. That's not unlike how it was in 2011 when former coach Todd Graham's line stood at 6-5 and 313 pounds. But it's a half-inch taller and more than 16 pounds heavier than in Dave Wannstedt's final season in 2010.

Obviously there’s a lot more than goes into a successful O line than simply height and weight, and as the Tribune notes in its story, Paul Chryst will pick his starters based on ability, not size. But bulking up in the trenches is generally a sign of good things to come.

Take, for example, what Jimbo Fisher built at Florida State. As the Tallahassee Democrat noted this week, expectations are immensely high for FSU’s senior-laden offensive line, which features four returning starters.

But take a look at 2011. FSU’s O line returned plenty of starters then, too, but the group was simply awful. Injuries played a part, sure, but what Fisher learned early on was that the Seminoles simply didn’t have the bodies up front for his offense to run as efficiently as he wanted.

For the 2011 opener, FSU’s line averaged about 308 pounds. The interior of the line (a young Bryan Stork, David Spurlock and Jacob Fahrenkrug) averaged about 302 pounds. The expected line for the opener in 2014 checks in averaging 315 pounds with the interior group (Austin Barron, Tre' JacksonJosue Matias) in the neighborhood of 316.

The results for Florida State:

2011: 3.34 yards-per-carry (9th in ACC), 40 sacks
2012: 5.62 yards-per-carry (1st), 26 sacks
2013: 5.63 yards-per-carry (1st), 33 sacks

There’s no question there has been a significant upgrade in talent -- Barron, Jackson and Matias were part of the freshman-heavy line that started 2011’s bowl game -- but there was a clear upgrade in size, too.

And make no mistake, there is talent on Pitt’s O line. Adam Bisnowaty and Dorian Johnson were both four-star recruits. Matt Rotheram is an All-ACC caliber player. There’s depth with the likes of Jaryd Jones-Smith.

But there’s also size for Pitt’s line, which now -- from a physical standpoint anyway -- measures up favorably against the best of the ACC.

Left tackle: Pitt (Bisnowaty, 6-6/305); FSU (Cam Erving, 6-6/308)
Left guard: Pitt (Johnson, 6-5/300); FSU (Matias, 6-6/325)
Center: Pitt (Artie Rowell, 6-2/315); FSU (Barron, 6-3/293)
Right guard: Pitt (Rotheram, 6-6/335); FSU (Jackson, 6-4/330)
Right tackle: Pitt (T.J. Clemmings, 6-6/315); FSU (Bobby Hart, 6-4/320)
Average: Pitt (6-5/314); FSU (6-4.5/315)

On to more links …
The College Football Playoff selection committee has the unenviable task of choosing the four best teams in the country -- a difficult job, but not inconceivable.

Choosing the best 100 players in the country?

Impossible.

Yet here we are with a No. 1 just for you.

This summer, 32 writers and editors from ESPN.com narrowed down a field of 460 players representing every conference to create #CFBrank -- a list of the top 100 players based upon their expected contributions for this season. It was a dizzying assignment, one with no right answer or formula. There is no simple way to compare kickers and quarterbacks, or linebackers and linemen -- yet that’s exactly what we did. Each player was ranked using a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 being the most valuable to his team.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston would have been a 10 last season. It's a no-brainer: Heisman Trophy winner. National title. Undefeated.

A lot of talent from his supporting cast is gone this season. Still a perfect 10?

What about Auburn center Reese Dismukes? A Rimington Trophy finalist who helped his team to the national title game. Do you rank him a nine? Eight?

The exercise is subjective: Which positions do you value more? The linemen who are the lead blockers or Todd Gurley, a Heisman hopeful who's had 12 career 100-yard-rushing games? Do you give more credit to the quarterbacks or the defensive ends who smother them? Incoming freshmen like LSU running back Leonard Fournette, and Michigan cornerback Jabrill Peppers -- the top two players, respectively, in the 2014 recruiting class -- were also considered. Neither of them has done diddly squat at the collegiate level, but both are oozing potential and are worthy of at least a ... five? Six?

(Don’t forget that the last defensive player to win the Heisman Trophy was a Michigan cornerback, too.)

Go ahead, argue among yourselves. Think you can do it better? You’ll be arguing with yourself.

Oregon's Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is an All-American cornerback whose three interceptions last season all came in the end zone. He plays for a national title contender. Is he more valuable than Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller? Michigan State Spartans defensive end Shilique Calhoun?

Don’t look for Oklahoma transfer receiver Dorial Green-Beckham -- Bob Stoops can’t find him yet, either. Because the former Missouri star's eligibility is still uncertain, he wasn't included in the voting. These 100 spots were reserved for the players who have all but guaranteed playing time. They’re for game-changers at every position -- or players we think will be.

Beauty, they say, is in the eye of the beholder. So are the top 100 players in the country. Here are the first two parts -- 100-91 and 90-81 -- of #CFBrank. We will unveil the rankings in descending order every day this week.

Top ACC players: Nos. 25-21

July, 28, 2014
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As we get set to open fall camps around the ACC, we're counting down the conference's top 25 players -- five per day all this week.

25. Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech Hokies

Position: Defensive tackle
Year: Senior

If Virginia Tech’s defense is to be among the best in the nation once again, Maddy will likely be the centerpiece of the front seven. He was exceptional last season, racking up 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks -- most among returning interior linemen in the conference. He also racked up 55 tackles and 16 quarterback hurries for a Hokies squad that allowed the fewest rushing yards per game in the league. But Tech also lost three senior linemen at season's end.

24. Jeremy Cash, Duke Blue Devils

Position: Safety
Year: RS Junior

The perfect fit in Duke’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme, Cash racked up a whopping 121 tackles and four interceptions last season working as both a safety and linebacker. At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he’s a bit undersized as a true linebacker, but he matches up well against bigger receivers and is still strong enough to help in the run game. He was an All-ACC selection last season and got a nod from the media on this year’s preseason balloting. The Blue Devils’ secondary ranked 11th in the ACC in pass defense last season, but it's a young group that can develop nicely with Cash as a centerpiece in 2014.

23. Ronald Darby, Florida State Seminoles

Position: Cornerback
Year: Junior

Darby has been a standout since he set foot on campus in Tallahassee, Florida, yet he’s always managed to fly a bit beneath the radar with stars like Lamarcus Joyner and Xavier Rhodes alongside him in FSU’s secondary. But if fans have overlooked him, quarterbacks haven’t. Darby was Florida State’s most-feared defensive back last season despite a nagging groin injury that hampered him all year. According to STATS, LLC, no returning ACC defensive back targeted at least 20 times last season allowed a lower completion percentage than Darby.

22. Grady Jarrett, Clemson Tigers

Position: Defensive tackle
Year: Senior

He’s 6-1 and nearly 300 pounds, but coach Dabo Swinney gushes that Jarrett is as physically sculpted a player as he’s come across. In fact, Swinney said if he was starting a team from scratch, he would build around Jarrett. That’s high praise considering the other stout defensive linemen on the Tigers roster. Still, Jarrett is unquestionably one of the conference’s top interior linemen, having racked up 83 tackles (including 11 for a loss) and 14 quarterback pressures last season.

21. Stephone Anthony, Clemson Tigers

Position: Linebacker
Year: Senior

One of the ACC’s top tacklers, Anthony adds another weapon to a ferocious Clemson defensive front. His 15 tackles for loss in 2013 were the most among returning ACC linebackers, and with a deep defensive line in front of him, those numbers could go up in 2014.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Though not as heavy on star-studded talent as in years past, there was still plenty of news at Florida’s Friday Night Lights camp. The day started with the Gators receiving a commitment from three-star offensive tackle George Brown Jr., and ended with some of the top prospects from the Southeast attending the one night camp. Here is a closer look at the top story lines from Friday evening.

ESPN 300 athlete set to decide

The 11th-ranked athlete and the No. 155-ranked player overall in the ESPN 300, Ray Ray McCloud III, will announce his college decision on Monday night.

McCloud didn’t participate at Friday Night Lights but did have a chance to spend some time with current Florida player and pre-season All-SEC selection Vernon Hargreaves III, who like McCloud is also a Tampa native.

"Vernon knows I’m coming from the same place he was a few years ago,” McCloud said. "He just told me to always keep my options open until signing day because you never know what could happen as far as coaching changes. He said to just take my time with the process.”

McCloud will choose between Florida, UCLA, Clemson and Maryland on Monday but his father, Ray McCloud Jr., also added that USF has recently made an impression on his son.

Florida head coach Will Muschamp had one last chance to speak with McCloud before he makes his big decision on Monday and his message was simple.

"He said he wants me to do what I do in my home state,” McCloud said. "He wants me to be a Gator."

Four-star running back remains committed to Miami

Despite Miami signing Joseph Yearby, the No. 4-ranked running back in the country last year, and having three running backs committed this year, ESPN 300 running back Dexter Williams said he remains strong in his commitment to the Hurricanes.

“It would be a good feeling to be in the backfield with them because all of them are great backs and they can do great things,” Williams said. "Wherever you go, there's competition. You've got to beat out your competitor.”

The Florida coaching staff was hoping to changes Williams’ mind on Friday but to no avail.

"They're just saying you can get on the field here," Williams said. "We're only going to take two [running backs]. They're taking four. Just think about it."

Williams admits his own father pushes him to switch his commitment to the Gators.

"He has loved the Gators since he was little, and he wants me to be a Gator a lot," Williams laughed. "So he tells me every morning, 'Be a Gator.' When I told him I was still thinking about it, he said, 'That's the way. That's where I want you to go.'"

Coney has leader, will decide soon

Four-star linebacker Te’Von Coney sent out a tweet recently that said he would be attending the same school as his friend George Brown Jr. On Friday, Brown committed to the Gators and Coney admitted that their packaged deal will likely still happen.

"It was, like, 85 percent true,” Coney said of his tweet. "Florida is my leader right now but I’m still checking out Auburn, Tennessee, Miami and other programs but Florida is still my leader. I’ll probably make my decision soon, like within the next month or so.”

Coney admitted his visit to Gainesville strengthened the Gators chances of landing him.

“I just think Florida’s a great school,” he said. "It’s the Harvard of the South. I can get a great education, they have a great business and engineering school which are two majors I’m thinking about majoring in.

"I think they have a great program and they need linebackers right now to come in and step up and I think Will Muschamp is a great defensive coach and they are always going to have a top defense and that’s what I want to play in."

Prince likes four

ESPN 300 offensive tackle Isaiah Prince was one of the most impressive linemen to attend FNL and received plenty of attention from the Florida coaching staff.

After the event concluded Prince said there are four schools that are standing out right now but he’s likely to add other schools as his recruitment continues.

"Right now, the schools that really stick out to me is Maryland, Alabama, Florida and Ohio State, but I’ll probably have more schools in the mix as I take more visits,” he said.

Though he has no set dates in mind, Prince knows of three schools he would like to visit in the fall.

“This visit helped Florida out a whole lot,” Prince said. "It’s a really nice campus, I want to study sports management and that building is right next to the stadium. I’ll most likely be back for a game in the fall as well as games at Alabama and Ohio State."

Florida State's Jimbo Fisher is a national championship-winning coach, but his popularity is just now spiking after bringing an old southern tradition to national light.

NBC's "The Today Show" hosts Kathi Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb are the latest to experiment with salted peanuts in a glass bottle of Coke, referencing Florida State's Fisher as the reason for the seemingly puzzling mixture's popularity (around the 4:30 mark).

At the ACC Kickoff in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Monday, Fisher opened his session with the media with a bit of nostalgia, reminiscing about dumping peanuts in his Coke bottles while growing up in West Virginia. As reporters queried Fisher as to its origin and, frankly, as to why, Fisher was shocked there were some who have never heard of it.

Three separate times during his interview Fisher discussed the southern ... drink? snack? treat? When I asked about it midway through, he responded, "How about that -- people didn't know about putting peanuts in a Coke. You believe that? This generation now. Golly."

If it's an old southern tradition, credit Fisher's ranting for raising its profile north of the Mason-Dixon line and west of Texas.

"It's very salty sweet. I get it," Gifford said after trying it during Friday morning's segment.

Last year, Coca-Cola published an article trying to trace the history of the combination. I won't spoil the theories for you.

And as word spread in Tallahassee, Florida, of Fisher's repartee with the media, local restaurant and bar Madison Social, which sits in the shadow of Doak Campbell Stadium, picked up a bottle of peanuts and some Coke, Diet Coke and orange soda. The orange soda is a wrinkle in all of this -- who would have thought there would be layers -- as former coach Bobby Bowden supposedly drops his peanuts into orange soda bottles.

Madison Social tweeted a picture of the ingredients, and general manager Jason Walker said they were offered free samples to customers Tuesday.

"Some people loved it, some people hated it. It was a good reaction," said Walker, who said it tastes like vanilla Coke to him. "It brought some people in and made them aware of it, and it's becoming a thing around Tallahassee people are starting to do."

If Nick Saban wears the Luigi hat, then maybe we can get Fisher in the Planters Mr. Peanut top hat and monocle.

 
Earlier this week, I asked: Will Miami win the Coastal Division? Over 3,000 votes were cast, and the overwhelming majority say absolutely not.

Let's dig into the mailbag to see what you had to say.

Richard in Raleigh writes: You mentioned Miami had far too many concerns to overlook to be named the preseason Coastal favorites. Can this not also be said for the other 5 teams with a shot of winning the Coastal?

Andrea Adelson: Absolutely. But the Miami Hurricanes have a backbreaking schedule; and headed into the season, I am more confident in the quarterbacks for four of those teams (Duke Blue Devils, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Pittsburgh Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels). As for the Virginia Tech Hokies, as long as their defense plays up to standards, the Hokies will always be in contention.




Ryan in Charlotte writes: Agree with Duke winning the Coastal. Duke's D-Line lost three, but I really don't think there will be a huge drop off in terms of production. Miami has an incompetent coaching staff, otherwise they should win it and [Frank] Beamer for not getting a real offensive coordinator prevents VT from being the favorite. Carolina every year is projected to win it and chokes consistently despite NFL talent. GT is also underrated, [Paul] Johnson has never finished lower than third in his time at GT. Pitt lost their QB and [Aaron] Donald, don't see them as being a dark horse. All of this coming from a die-hard Duke Fan.

Patrick Clark in Durham, North Carolina, writes: I'm quite surprised that you and I seem to be in the minority picking Duke to win the Coastal. Duke returns their top three tacklers, All-ACC WR Jamison Crowder, and are one of only three teams in the conference to return their starting QB in senior Anthony Boone. Throw in one of the easiest schedules in the conference and it seems to me, if you're able to put past history and stigmas aside, that Duke is the obvious choice to represent the Coastal Division and make it back to Charlotte. Are we crazy?

Adelson writes: Crazy like foxes!




Jason Freeman in Cumming, Georgia, writes: I would just like to know the insistence on picking a UNC, Miami, and now Duke! Until Duke did it last year, there has been only TWO schools that have represented the Coastal. And one of them is absolutely NEVER picked, I think you know which one I'm talking about! But what baffles me is, Duke is the favorite this season, but Georgia Tech went to Duke and embarrassed them, one of only two teams that beat them in the regular season! ... Oh and by the way, Georgia Tech beat the only other team to beat Duke in the regular season last year! And I know that Johnson isn't living up to what we thought he would do after the first two seasons. Keeping that in mind, we then were picked at the bottom in the Coastal and way surpassed expectations! But the same teams keep getting these exaggerated picks, and constantly fall under what is expected of them.

Rich in Atlanta writes: Shocking...that the media would pick Miami for the Coastal. Also funny that UNC & VT are ahead of GT. Duke maybe. Year after year, GT has the No. 1 offense in points and yardage for the Coastal (No. 1 in both categories again last year). What everyone is overlooking is that GT had the No. 2 defense in those categories last year only trailing VT. GT's average finishing rank in the Coastal is second since Coach Johnson arrived. D is on the upswing, O will produce as it always does. When has CPJ's O not been No. 1 in Coastal? Never.

Ryan in New York City writes: I'm definitely not one to downplay the Canes' woes of the last several seasons, particularly on defense. But I think most people are being really unfair in their evaluation of [Jake] Heaps. He had a very solid freshmen year at BYU before transferring due to a scheme change. Then he went to play for one of the worst coaches (Charlie Weis) at one of the worst programs (Kansas) where he got no help from his O-Line or receivers. At the very least, he's a mature player who has experienced a lot of different schemes, and will be in an offense with playmakers EVERYWHERE around him. By no means do I expect us to win the division (particularly because of the complete lack of defense), but I expect Heaps to earn the starting nod and surprise some people early in the season.

Phil in New York writes: Duke Johnson. Anthony Chickillo. Stacy Coley. Clive Walford. Phillip Dorsett. Herb Waters. Tyriq McCord. Tracy Howard.Get ready for your Coastal champs - the University of Miami Hurricanes!!!

CaliNative in SF/Miami writes: Miami and Virginia have the hardest conference schedules in the Coastal this year (Virginia's is harder because they play @FSU instead of UL). But my question is do you think if you switch Duke (or even VTech's) and Miami's schedule, do you think Miami becomes the overwhelming favorites? I mean Duke's schedule is set up only to lose to VT, UNC, and Miami. I think Miami (and UNC) are just set up so that they have to sweep the Coastal, or only have one loss, to win it. And honestly, that is the only reason I can see for not having Miami or UNC winning the Coastal.

Adelson writes: The schedule Miami has to play would be difficult for any team. One of the reasons why the Hurricanes want a nine-game league schedule is to even out the slate a little more for everyone. They have to play the Florida State Seminoles every year; their Coastal brethren don't. If Duke played Miami's schedule, then I would not pick the Blue Devils. Schedule is a huge reason why I think Duke has an edge, as I stated in the post. The schedule you play impacts how you finish, no matter how talented you are.




Al in Florida writes: You love to talk Miami down don't you, AA? I don't blame you, I would still be salty if I was a Gator fan. All Miami needs at QB is someone to get the ball to the playmakers without turning the ball over. We have the playmakers, more so than FSU or Clemson. Plus our O-line isn't too shabby. If (James) Coley can improve the O and if (Mark D'Onofrio's) D is half as good as it was last year, you can buy me a beer in North Carolina come December.

AJ Brown in Plantation, Fla., writes: The one true reason in my mind that Miami is favored to win the Coastal is because you can't ignore the talent that Miami possesses. Firstly, Miami has the best group of receivers RIGHT NOW in the entire ACC. That means that whoever starts at QB for Miami does not have to be STELLAR, but a game manager instead. Last year, the problem Miami had on offense was that Stephen Morris could not make the right reads and could not make the intermediate throws. Often times he was a one-trick pony who could only throw the deep ball. Jake Heaps, for example, may not have the arm or the pretty deep ball, but he can make the intermediate throws that Morris could not. As far as the defense, Miami SHOULD BE a lot better because of addition by subtraction. Miami had starters on the defense last season who had absolutely no business starting, like Tyrone Cornelius, Shayon Green, Jimmy Gaines, Kacy Rodgers and AJ Highsmith. The players replacing them are without a doubt more talented with way more athleticism, like Dallas Crawford, Jermaine Grace, Quan Muhammad, Jamal Carter, Tyriq McCord etc. Bottom line is, I don't think you can compare the talent level between Miami and Duke as Miami has a clear advantage there. I'm not saying Miami WILL win the Coastal, but I think you're drinking too much Blue Devil Kool-Aid because you're looking at Duke's Cinderella year from last season and the fact that they're returning their starting QB.

Adelson writes: I could not resist a parting shot. Duke beat the far more talented Miami head-to-head a year ago.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Jameis Winston's dad and his coach have said this season won’t be the reigning Heisman Trophy winner’s last at Florida State, but the Seminoles’ star quarterback isn’t willing to go that far.

Winston, a redshirt sophomore and eligible for the 2015 draft, dodged the question when asked at the ACC Kickoff.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
AP Photo/Don Juan MooreJameis Winston is focused on the 2014 season, not any decisions he'll face after it.
"Well you know, four years, I can't really focus on that right now. I can't tell you about the past, I can't tell you about the future, but I can tell you about right now,” he said. “Right now it's about us developing as a team, us having another successful season, us getting the young guys regrouped, watching film, getting them doing their thing because I can't predict the future."

Throughout the spring, Fisher cautioned that it was not a foregone conclusion Winston would depart for the NFL following the 2014 season. Winston’s dad, Antonor, told AL.com last month that Winston will play two more seasons of football and remain in school “until he gets that degree.”

A talented baseball player, Winston closed for the Seminoles’ baseball team this past spring. At the ACC Kickoff, Winston was asked if he would prefer to go to the NFL straight out of high school. High school players are eligible for the MLB draft. Winston was the No. 1 quarterback in the Class of 2012, although he acknowledges he would not have been prepared for the NFL without spending a few seasons in college.

"With baseball, they have so many leagues that develop them into being that players that they want, the minor leagues. There aren't that many Bryce Harpers in the world that can go at 17 and play in the [minor leagues],” Winston said. “Football, it's a team-oriented sport. This game is so strategic. I respect that we can't leap into the NFL. … We know before you go up there, you have to be truly ready. Baseball is more individual based.”

The movement to compensate college student-athletes in revenue sports is reaching a tipping point with the conference autonomy and the O’Bannon trial, but Winston isn’t interested in profiting off his likeness just yet. Florida State recently made its redesigned jerseys for sale, and Winston’s No. 5 jersey is on the front page of the athletic department’s official online store.

The No. 1 player on Mel Kiper’s 2015 Big Board, Winston said he is fine waiting for his payday.

"One thing about college is we're blessed to get a free education. That's the most important thing college gives you,” Winston said. “… My job as a Florida State Seminole is to be a good student first and an athlete second. So that scholarship we get every year, that's enough money for me. My love is for the game and one day, hopefully, god willing, I will have the opportunity to have football as my job and baseball being my job."

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 25, 2014
Jul 25
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'Tis the season to compile lists, fa-la-la ...

You get the point. In the absence of practice reports and games, we need something to do in the summer until football actually begins. So we make lists. Lots of lists. This one is a pretty fun, light read: Top revenge games for 2014. Because who doesn't love exacting revenge?

One ACC game makes the list. And it's a bit surprising.

Duke-Virginia Tech.

I suppose the Hokies do want to exact a measure of revenge on the Blue Devils, whose shocking win in Blacksburg last season helped propel them to the Coastal Division title. It was Virginia Tech's first loss to Duke since 1981. They meet again Nov. 16 in Durham, North Carolina, and just about everybody believes there will be ACC championship game implications at stake when they play.

Still, the Duke-Virginia Tech matchup does not exactly scream revenge the way most of the others on the list do. After all, this game has actually meant something just once. The shock factor clearly put this game on a different level.

Now, here are some choices for top revenge games in the ACC:

Boston College-Syracuse: BC coach Steve Addazio said last season's last-second loss to Syracuse was one of the toughest of his career. Syracuse scored with 6 seconds left to win 34-31. The Eagles surely want payback.

North Carolina-East Carolina: The Tar Heels came completely unraveled in a shocking 55-31 loss to the Pirates last season. It was East Carolina's first win in Chapel Hill since 1975.

Miami-Louisville: The Hurricanes are still smarting from their embarrassing performance in a 36-9 loss to the Cardinals in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Revenge could be served up in Week 1.

Let's take a look at other headlines across the ACC:

By the numbers: Dominant DBs

July, 24, 2014
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Let’s begin with a little either-or exercise.

Below are the basic stats for two defensive backs — tackles, tackles for loss, interceptions and passes defended. If forced to choose Player A or Player B for your team, which one would you want?

Player A: 121 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 4 INTs, 8 PD
Player B: 49 tackles, 2.0 TFL, 1 INT, 2 PD

Look over the numbers for a minute or 10, but really, it should’t take that long. It’s pretty clear that by any of our regularly deployed metrics, Player A is a clear frontrunner, right?

But here’s where it gets a little tricky. Player A is Duke safety Jeremy Cash, and those gaudy numbers from 2013 earned him a spot on the media’s preseason All-ACC team.

[+] EnlargeJalen Ramsey
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State's Jalen Ramsey isn't on the preseason All-ACC team. Was it an oversight?
The funny thing, however, is after that happened, a whole host of fans and media erupted in confusion because of the clear oversight that Player B, who happens to be Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey, was left off the squad.

So how is it that in the eyes of many experts, Cash seems not just the wrong choice compared to Ramsey, but a ludicrous one?

I’ll admit, I was one of the many offering confusion that Ramsey could miss out on first-team All-ACC status, and my basic rationale was two-fold. On one hand, Ramsey passes the eye test. He looks like a great player, was a five-star recruit and coaches and scouts gushed about his quick grasp of Florida State's defense. He was a true freshman last season and started every game, playing both safety and corner. Secondly, Duke’s defense, which did post some gaudy stats when it comes to tackles and takeaways, was also pretty darned bad. Florida State's secondary allowed 90 fewer yards per game and 11 fewer passing touchdowns than Duke. So shouldn’t the Seminoles’ defensive backs earn the rewards?

It’s an argument that makes sense, too, which only goes to underscore how limited our typical metrics for evaluating defensive backs are.

Cash has more tackles, more interceptions, more passes defended. Ramsey was a key figure in a secondary that was perhaps the best in the country. But maybe Cash benefited from opposing QBs attacking him more often because they weren’t concerned he’d beat them. Or maybe Ramsey benefited from having so many elite players around him. For every argument, there’s a perfectly reasonable counterargument.

Of course, we also don’t have to live with just those basic metrics, either. We wanted to dig a little deeper.

Stats LLC uses a stat called “burn rate” to track defensive backs. It looks at the number of times they were targeted and how many of those passes were completed. This should be a far better way of isolating a single DB, right?

So, using those numbers, how does our theory about Cash being a more ripe target for opposing QBs hold up? Actually, not too well. According to Stats LLC, Cash was targeted 41 times last season, 32nd-most in the ACC. Ramsey was targeted a tick less — 35 times, 47th-most in the ACC. So yes, it does speak highly of Ramsey that a true freshman was targeted, on average, just 2.5 times per game, but the numbers also don’t entirely serve the simple narrative that Cash’s counting stats (tackles, INTs, etc.) benefited from more opportunities.

But if Cash wasn’t targeted significantly more often, surely he didn’t snuff out those targets quite as well as Ramsey. Again, the numbers don’t make the case quite so clear.

Cash’s burn rate (43.9 percent) ranked 22nd in the ACC and was better than Ramsey’s (45.7 percent, 27th in ACC). Cash picked off four passes, the 10th-best rate in the ACC, to Ramsey’s one. Cash defended 19.5 percent of passes, good for 25th in the conference and better than Ramsey’s rate of 5.7 percent (good for 85th). The one area where Ramsey stood out was that, when he was burned, it was rarely for a lot of yards. His 9.7 yards per completion ranked eighth-best in the ACC and his 4.4 yards per attempt was seventh. And, after all, limiting the big plays is the primary job of a safety. Cash allowed 15.2 yards per completion (53rd in ACC) and 6.7 yards per attempt (32nd).

Those last two numbers probably sum the argument up the best. When Cash was good, he was exceptionally good. He made a lot of tackles because his teammates didn’t. He made big plays when he had the chance, but he gave up quite a few, too. Ramsey wasn’t nearly as flashy and clearly had better teammates around him (Terrence Brooks, FSU’s other starting safety last season, had the lowest yards-per-completion rate in the ACC) and wasn’t tested in the running game nearly as often. He didn’t post dynamic numbers because he didn’t have to.

So where has all this gotten us?

I’d argue that the numbers prove Cash certainly wasn’t a bad choice for first-team All-ACC honors. His play in 2013 and the assumption he’ll be better in 2014 more than qualifies him for the honor.

But I’d also argue that Ramsey’s vote total (just 13 votes, nine at safety and four at corner, where FSU had him listed on the ballot) was far shy of any of the winners and appallingly low considering his talent.

But hey, a little friendly debate is really the best part of these preseason lists because, regardless of what the numbers say today, odds are they’ll all look a lot different by season’s end.

And since we tracked down the numbers, here’s a quick look at the best burn rates, defended pass rates, and YPC, per Stats LLC, among returning ACC defenders (min. 25 targets).

BURN RATE
1. Ronald Darby (Florida State), 33.3%
2. Maurice Canady (Virginia), 36.2%
3. Breon Borders (Duke), 37.5%
4. Ant Harris (Virginia), 37.8%
5. Justin Simmons (BC), 38.1%

PASS DEFENDED RATE
1. Borders (Duke), 37.5%
2. Harris (Virginia), 31.1%
3. Brandon Facyson (Virginia Tech), 27.7%
4. Hakim Jones (NC State), 27.0%
5. Ray Vinopal (Pitt), 25.7%

YARDS PER COMPLETION
1. Quayshawn Nealy (Georgia Tech), 9.3
2. Cameron Lynch (Syracuse), 9.6
T3. Denzel Perryman (Miami), 9.7
T3. Ramsey (Florida State), 9.7*
5. Brandon Chubb (Wake Forest), 9.8

*Note: Ramsey is the best among returning defensive backs. Nealy, Lynch and Perryman are linebackers. The next best returning DBs were Boston College's Justin Simmons (10.3), Duke’s Bryon Fields (11.7) and Miami’s Deon Bush (11.8).
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- In between breaking down pass-rushers and drawing up passing trees, Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher wanted to watch some basketball. Last month’s NBA Finals provided little drama, so he loaded Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals onto the screen. The "Flu Game."

This wasn’t a reprieve from preparations for the 2014 season, though. This was a lesson in history, one that will have a profound impact on the Seminoles’ 2014 season, Fisher believes. He didn’t so much wonder how Michael Jordan played through the flu-like symptoms, but why.

Why did Joe Montana play through six concussions? Why did Larry Bird refuse to retire from a back injury so bad that his surgeon was bewildered as to how he played through it?

“We study guys who had attitudes of domination who won for long periods of time -- Joe Montana, John Elway repeated, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson,” Fisher says. “Those guys all had that killer instinct and were guys who wanted to be on top, stayed on top, and one championship wasn't enough.

[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonJimbo Fisher said that Florida State's biggest obstacle in 2014 may not be an opponent, but complacency.
“A picture’s worth 1,000 words. Your actions speak, your drive, your commitment to excellence. Michael Jordan, you never saw him not play to the max, and that, to me, to the players, sends a message. It’s a constant education to me, to these kids, to get them to think in that type of mold, because it’s human nature to win and relax.”

There are certainly questions on Florida State’s roster, but it is still considered the best in the country. Where the Seminoles could trip up is mentally, an aspect of the game Fisher has worked so hard to strengthen within his program. He’s spent the past year praising the 2013 team for its work ethic and desire to return the Seminoles to the pinnacle of the sport they once dominated.

Now that they’re there, the next task -- admittedly his toughest yet -- is keeping the Seminoles there. So if you happen upon Fisher wandering through the Florida State library, it’s because he is looking for a book on a very specific topic. He’s soliciting suggestions, but perusing the bestsellers list and Oprah’s book club will be fruitless. The coach needs reading material on how to maintain the Seminoles' status as one of college football’s elite programs.

"Can't find many books on it,” Fisher says. “All of them talk about how to get there, not many of them talk about how to stay there.”

He’s turned to friend and confidant Nick Saban, who mentored Fisher during their time at LSU. Saban won the national championship at Alabama in January 2010, but a talented team failed to meet expectations during the 2010 season. Saban found the formula again, however, and the Tide won the title after the 2011 season; they repeated the next year.

As the confetti fell in Pasadena, California, in January when Fisher won his first national championship, the two coaches sat on the "College GameDay" set. They celebrated, they reminisced but, most importantly, they advised.

“He said, ‘Now you got some challenges, now is when the problems start,’ and I understood that,” Fisher recalls of their conversation inside the Rose Bowl. “He’s been through it, and he fixed it after a while, didn’t he? He had that one year and then came back and did it twice.”

But Saban isn’t going to spell it out for Fisher -- even Saban is constantly tinkering to quell complacency. They’re friends, but increasingly they have become rivals. Florida State is the biggest threat to end an Alabama dynasty that has three of the final five BCS crystal balls in a trophy room in Tuscaloosa.

Fisher says he believes he has a Jordan in Tallahassee, Florida: quarterback Jameis Winston, a player who wants to win two more than he wants to win one. The redshirt sophomore won a national championship and a Heisman Trophy before losing a game, which he still has yet to do. Winston says a loss is “definitely not in our vocabulary.”

With Winston, Fisher is confident that the “attitude of domination” has been instilled throughout the program, which means there is not as much of that annual concern as to whether his current team has the needed motivation for a national title run. What Fisher still needs to discern is how the 2014 team is different from last season’s. He has an idea, but the pads won’t come on for another two weeks, and two-a-day practices have not worn down this particular squad yet. One of the underrated aspects of being the head coach is identifying the personality and drive of a team, Fisher says, and pushing the wrong buttons at the wrong time can derail a season.

“There’s no formula for it,” Fisher says. “I think it evolves and don’t think you ever have the answer. It’s a constant battle that challenges you all the time. That’s one of the things that makes it so hard to duplicate that success. You’re constantly fighting that battle.”
At events like The Opening, prospects get together in a unique environment. RecruitingNation took advantage and asked a few questions.

Of Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel or Jameis Winston, who would you want as your quarterback?

Choosing Newton:

ESPN 300 No. 2 Martez Ivey: You could pick Manziel, too, but it’s what Cam brings. He always has that smile on his face. I remember watching him when Auburn was down to Alabama, he still had a smile on his face and went out there and won the game. He wins.

No. 10 Tim Settle: He can be locked down and not be able to throw, but he can run. And I’m trying to tell you, he doesn’t get just 10 yards -- he can get 15 if you want 10. I also think he was more mature than Johnny and Jameis.

No. 19 Josh Rosen: Probably, Newton. Just because there are so many things you can do with him. He’s just one of those guys if he runs around on the college level he’s not as susceptible to injury because of his size and athleticism. I would probably pick someone that can stand in the pocket first, and I think if you put Cam in the right system -- he can do some damage.

No. 35 Calvin Ridley: I would definitely take Cam Newton because I like him, he can sling the ball, he’s a threat to run, defense had to pack the box in college against him and gives guys like me more opportunities one-on-one.

No. 51 Breiden Fehoko: I think Cam Newton. When you look at overall, playmaker, dual-threat, he has a gun [strong arm], he’s just as fast on his feet as others, he stands about 6-foot-6, weighs 250 and he can see the entire field with everything else he has.

*Of the 30 players asked, 22 picked Newton.

Choosing Manziel:

No. 38 Malik Jefferson: Manziel. He has the go-get-it attitude. He wants it every second. Even though people said he was a dumb butt off the field, he always wanted to play no matter what his circumstance was. He just goes out there and plays, and has fun while he is doing it.

Alabama commitment Blake Barnett: I would say Johnny Manziel, just because he’s a playmaker. He can drop back and throw the ball down the field, then he can beat you up with his feet. I think he’s a terrific player.

Choosing Winston:

No. 16 Jashon Cornell: In college? I’m going to take Jameis. He has the ability to be the best of all. He plays baseball, too, which helps his arm strength, and just the leader he is.

Georgia commit Jackson Harris: I would probably go with Winston. I know [FSU quarterbacks coach Randy Sanders] pretty well, he recruited me, and he would just tell me the stuff that he can do and does. His stories were unbelievable.

Michigan verbal Alex Malzone: Winston, just because of his winning mentality. He’s going to work, you can tell he is a competitor and will do anything to win. As a quarterback, that is what you want.

Will Winston repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner?

Ivey: Those receivers made him look really good last year. It’s going to be a challenge for him, and there is always a young freshman that steps up from out of nowhere now. I don’t really think the off-the-field hurts him. People are always going to hassle him about something. It comes with being a Heisman winner and high profile player.

Settle: No. He can’t stay out of trouble. He’s always in trouble, and some of them are the littlest things that end up being big. He has to be hitting on all cylinders to have a chance, because there is some freshman that will pop up. I won’t be shocked if he has a great year, but you have to be smart in the decisions you make.

No. 12 Torrance Gibson: Yeah, I think he can. He has a lot of dedication and determination. He’s a great quarterback and a great leader, and I think he can repeat. The off-the-field could hurt a little. The politics too -- people don’t like seeing other people on top. If he keeps his head on straight, I think he’ll be fine.

No. 28 Damien Harris: I don’t think he will. Not saying he’s not a great player, as he was the best player in college football last year, but I actually have Braxton Miller winning the Heisman this year. I think he’ll win it, he’s a great quarterback. I don’t think the off-the-field should hurt Jameis, unless it’s something out-of-the-question horrible. I think Braxton will get him though.

Barnett: I think it’s a possibility. He’s an excellent athlete and a great quarterback. If he’s got a solid team at Florida State again, he will be productive. Almost every player goes through different adversities off the field, but just like Johnny Manziel did -- he’s continued to be very successful.

Texas A&M commit Jordan Davis: No. There is a lot of young talent. And if Johnny [Manziel] didn’t do it, I don’t think Jameis will. The off-the-field stuff hurt Johnny, so I think the stupid decisions Jameis made will hurt him, too, next year.
The preseason All-ACC team was released Wednesday, and naturally quarterback Jameis Winston led the way with the most votes. There were not too many surprises, beginning with Florida State players littered throughout the list of 26 names.

Here is the 2014 preseason All-ACC team, as voted on by the media at the ACC Kickoff:

 
 
 

Thoughts: While the ACC had the second-most NFL draft picks in May, there is significant talent returning to the conference for the 2014 season. Of the 26 players, 21 were named to one of the three All-ACC teams at the end of last season. That doesn’t include Parker, who will play his first season in the ACC this coming season. Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and the leading vote getter (although not a unanimous one), and Beasley, who received the second-most votes, are two of the three returning consensus All-Americans from the 2013 season.

Few conferences would be able to rival that offense with Winston throwing to 1,000-yard receivers Crowder and Greene and a 6-foot-3 target in Parker. O’Leary is one of the best tight ends in the country. There was a seemingly close battle at running back behind Duke Johnson, Williams got the nod over Virginia running back Kevin Parks, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season.

Defensively, that is one talented line. Beasley received the second-most votes for the preseason player of the year, and Edwards was the No. 1 high school recruit in the 2012 class. Maddy and Jarrett are two of the best defensive tackles in the country.

Duke has the second-most players on the team, which speaks to the program David Cutcliffe is building in Durham. The Blue Devils were not picked to win the ACC Coastal despite winning it last season and returning quarterback Anthony Boone. There is a constituency out there that still doesn’t believe Duke is the real deal and is bound for a letdown, but the media believes there is talent throughout the roster; the Blue Devils have a player at receiver, offensive line, linebacker and the secondary. Miami, which was picked to win the division, has two players on the list.

Even as Duke had four players, the Seminoles still had nine, only further signifying the gap between Florida State and the rest of the conference, although the league is undoubtedly improving. That list does not include Ronald Darby or Jalen Ramsey, two players who will almost certainly be on an All-ACC team by the end of the season. It is no surprise Florida State was ranked as having the most talent on its 2014 roster two weeks ago in ESPN.com's future power rankings.

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July, 23, 2014
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Georgia Tech has had some major roster turnover this offseason, adding more fuel to the fire surrounding coach Paul Johnson.

On Monday, the school announced backups Anthony Autry, Travin Henry and Darius Commissiong had been kicked off the team for rules violations. Since last season ended, Georgia Tech has lost more non-senior players from its roster than any other team in the ACC.

Ken Sugiura of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution goes over the complete list of departures:
  • Defensive lineman Justin Akins (left team)
  • Receiver Anthony Autry (dismissed)
  • Offensive lineman Morgan Bailey (transfer)
  • Defensive end Darius Commissiong (dismissed)
  • B-back Travis Custis (transfer, academic issues)
  • Defensive end Jabari Hunt-Days (academically ineligible)
  • Quarterback Ty Griffin (transfer)
  • Defensive end Travin Henry (dismissed)
  • Jimmie Kitchen (expected to transfer after suspension)
  • Quarterback Vad Lee (transfer)
  • Defensive lineman Kevin Robbins (transfer)
  • Offensive tackle Chase Roberts (medical)
  • Defensive lineman Anthony Williams (scholarship not renewed)

That is quite a list, though only Hunt-Days and Lee were starters last season. Still, it is very unusual to see this much roster turnover on a team with a returning head coach. So why have so many players either gotten themselves into trouble or decided to leave? Does this have to do with Johnson or something else?

Johnson did not shed much light into the turnover during the ACC Kickoff, saying there is a consistency to the way he expects the program to run. Some players adhere to standards. Some don't.

Turnover is always expected, but not like this. Johnson has had to defend himself for months now, but that has gone deeper than just the roster changes. There is a growing segment of the Georgia Tech fan base that has become disenchanted with him, his style of play and efforts on the recruiting trail. Johnson criticized all the negativity in Atlanta while he was in Greensboro, N.C., pointing at his overall and conference records while at Tech.

Still, it is alarming to see so many players gone.

The Jackets may not be done losing players, either. Autry's younger brother, Myles, signed with Georgia Tech in February but has been unable to enroll because of NCAA Clearinghouse issues.

Myles Autry, an ESPN 300 player, told the AJC he was indeed reconsidering the Jackets. He was the highest-rated player in the 2014 Georgia Tech class, so losing him would be yet another blow.

Here's a look at other headlines across the ACC:

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