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ACC Media Days Preview: What to expect from Florida State, Clemson, can Miami bounce back and more

Credit: Clemson football

It's been a busy few weeks across college football, where in the last seven days, the bluster of SEC Media Days took over Nashville, all while the uncertainty of the Pac-12 swept things up in Las Vegas.

Tuesday, ACC Media Days kicks off.

And while the ACC has neither the sheer excitement of the SEC or the daytime soap opera drama of the Pac-12, there are in fact plenty of storylines.

Let's take a look at the biggest ones, as all 14 ACC teams descend upon Charlotte Tuesday and Wednesday.

Is Florida State a College Football Playoff contender?

That’s the big question. Mike Norvell has steadily improved the Seminoles in his time in Tallahassee, and now this is his best team he’s had yet. Eight starters are back on an offense that was prolific last year. Jordan Travis broke through last season with a great year at quarterback and now he’s back as a potential Heisman Trophy frontrunner. He had 3,214 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, and just five interceptions last season and is ready to improve that even more. The receiving corps should be great with Johnny Wilson back and with the addition of transfer Keon Coleman who was Michigan State's leading receiver a year ago. Trey Benson is also back as the primary running back in the backfield. The offensive line lost some talent, but they loaded up on transfers, including Jeremiah Byers, a highly-touted tackle from UTEP who was first team All-Conference USA.

Most of the defense also comes back. Jared Verse is back as the best edge rusher in the ACC after finishing second in the ACC with 17 tackles for loss. Many had him as a projected first round pick, he decided to return for one more year of college football. Darrell Jackson Jr. (Miami) and Braden Fiske (Western Michigan) are transfers to watch on the defensive line with Patrick Payton also back as the ACC Rookie of the Year. Four of the five starters in secondary are back and All-ACC transfer cornerback Fentrell Cypress II from Virginia comes in to fortify the unit even more.

The Seminoles can be the best team in the ACC, but they have to prove it.

Where is Clemson?

You know the standard is high at Clemson, when the past two years - which included a nine and 10-win season and ACC title - are considered "down" years.

Now, the big question: Can they return to playoff contender status?

It all starts with the hire of new coordinator Garrett Riley, and the personnel he inherits. Cade Klubnik takes over as the starting quarterback and has shown promise with his raw talent but needs to shore up some mistakes that he’s made in the two games he started last year. Will Shipley is back at running back and is a massive all-purpose back for the Tigers. He averaged 125 all-purpose yards last year. Antonio Williams is a big receiver that is ready to break out, in addition to Jake Briningstool at tight end too.

The defense has eight starters coming back and should be very good once again. Barrett Carter and Jeremiah Trotter Jr. make up one of the best linebacker duos in the country. Tyler Davis is back at defensive tackle and Xavier Thomas is finally healthy as a defensive end. The secondary needs to be better and Nate Wiggins is the piece that is a big key at cornerback.

Clemson has pieces, but it’s a matter of if they can put it together.

Can Miami bounce back?

There was a lot of hype surrounding the Hurricanes last season and the season imploded right before our eyes. It’s Mario Cristobal’s second season and he’s added more talent and made changes to the coaching staff.

Shannon Dawson is the new offensive coordinator and he’ll be tasked with coaching up Tyler Van Dyke at quarterback, who was excellent in his time as Miami's starter in 2021, but struggled last year and got injured. He should play better in the new offense and should have a great offensive line with Zion Nelson and transfer Javion Cohen. The offense needs to find any receivers that stand out and that will come with the new offensive system under Dawson, which is the Air Raid.

On defense, Kamren Kinchens is a star at safety and is the biggest factor in the defense. James Williams has potential at safety and so does Leonard Taylor at linebacker. Wesley Bissainthe is a big key at linebacker and look for Akheem Mesidor and Jahfari Harvey to be big off the edge. Cornerback is still unknown, and they lost Kevin Steele to Alabama too.

Miami should be better, but by how much is the question. They also have a brutal schedule that includes Texas A&M and Clemson at home, with road trips to Florida State, North Carolina and NC State. Getting back to the top of the ACC won't be easy.

Is North Carolina anything else besides Drake Maye?

The Tar Heels will get the spotlight because of Maye, a likely Top 3 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft, and rightfully so. He’s the best quarterback in the country not named Caleb Williams.

However, is that it?

He has a new offensive coordinator to work with this year in Chip Lindsey and it should fit like a glove. Nate McCollum and Tez Walker are receivers to watch that transferred in for the Tar Heels. They also have three different tight ends they can use and will use a running back by committee approach with Elijah Green leading the way there. The offensive line should be good too with four starters back that all have five or more years of experience.

On defense, this group simply needs to be better. The unit was last in the conference in sacks and last in both passing yards allowed and passing efficiency. They weren’t much better against the run and were next to last there. Cedric Gray and Power Echols are key pieces at linebacker for the Tar Heels, but the defensive line needs to step up after struggling last year. They had two transfers come in at cornerback in Armani Chatman (East Tennessee State) and Alijah Huzzie (Virginia Tech).

North Carolina should be fun with their offense, but as a team they need a defense to take any sort of next step.

Is Duke a dark horse in the ACC?

Mike Elko was great in his first year at Duke, winning a staggering nine games in Year 1. The Blue Devils were just 3-9 the year before he got there in 2021.

Riley Leonhard is back at quarterback and has a chance to be one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC. He had 20 touchdowns to six interceptions last year and should improve on what. Jalon Calhoun, Eli Pancol, and Jordan Moore are all good pieces at receiver and Jaylen Coleman and Jordan Waters will split time at running back. The offensive line should be decent too with Graham Barton being a star at left tackle.

The defense should be good too. DeWayne Carter and Ja’Mion Fraanklin are good pieces at defensive tackle. Cam Dillon should be a good linebacker and Brandon Johnson and Jaylen Stinson should be very good at defensive back this year. Duke has a lot of potential this year and should be on everyone’s radar this season.

Follow Jake Faigus on Twitter - @Jake_Faigus

For full ACC betting odds - visit the Betfred Sportsbook


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