ACC COASTAL DIVISION
Offense: The Eagles return a good nucleus of players on the offensive side of the ball for 2006, led by Junior QB Matt Ryan (5-0 as a starter). Two talented Running Backs are returning, Juniors L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender. Mr. Inside, (Whitworth) and Mr. Outside, (Callender) should keep many a defensive teams guessing throughout the year. Along with these two is A. J. Brooks. He is possibly the most talented RB of the three. A. J. will need to learn some of the less glamorous aspects of the RB position, but when he does he will be hard to keep off the field. The offensive line returns 3 starters and has the potential of being a very good unit this year. The big question on offense this year for the Eagles is at the receiver position. They lost their two top receivers to graduation and if teams can stop their running game, the Eagles could be in trouble. How well their new receivers play may dictate their season.
Defense: Returning six starters from last year’s outstanding defense, (allowed only six rushing TD’s last year). The defense did lose five starters including their best defensive player, Al Washington. Although the defensive line has huge tackles who should be good run stoppers; I don’t believe this unit can put enough pressure on the QB to win more than 8 games. The linebacker corps has two excellent players in Brian Toal, (maybe their best defensive player and Jolonn Dunbar, but after that, it gets a little shaky, The Eagles have very good defensive backs but little depth so they need to stay healthy. Junior Safety Jamie Siloa and Senior, Ryan Glasper could be the best Safety combo in the ACC. This area is strength unless a starter goes down.
Player to keep your eye on: Matt Ryan. Matt has to have an excellent season if this team wants to win (8) games. I believe he has the ability, but I’m not sure the receiving unit will do their part.
Offense: The Clemson Tigers will be returning eight starters on the offense side of the ball from last year’s 8-4 team. They will be led by fifth-year Senior Will Proctor. This is his first year in that capacity. Last year Proctor started one game and completed 13 of 21 for 201 yards. At Running Back, the Tigers have a nice array of talent. Sophomore, James Daner, 2005 ACC Rookie of the Year, should start with Reggie Merriweather who also will get a good share of playing time. They also have an excellent Freshman Running Back in C.J. Spiller, who was the Number #1 rated running back in Florida H.S. last year. The Tigers are also returning their two Wide Receivers from last year’s team, sophomore, Aaron Kelly and Senior Chansi Stuckey, (1st Team All ACC in 2005). The offensive line should line up with all five starters from last year. This is a very strong and physical group that averages better than 315 pounds per man. Tight End maybe the only weak spot on the offensive side of the ball unless Sophomore Durell Barry becomes the starter sometime during the year…
Defense: Seven starters and 22 lettermen return in 2006. DE Gaines Adams and MLB, Anthony Waters will lead a defense that gave up an average of only 17.6 points per game in the 2005 season. Adams had team highs with 15 tackles for a loss, 9.5 sacks, and was credited with 29 QB hurries. The only question about the DL is they don’t have a lot of experience and are a little light as a group. Clemson is returning all three starting linebackers.
Offense: Florida State has 7 offensive starters returning from and 8-5 season last year. This could be a down year for a potential powerhouse. The team’s destiny to return to the upper echelon of College Football starts with Sophomore QB, Drew Weatherford. If the Seminoles can win their first game against Miami this could be an outstanding season. Florida State must improve their run game to again join the top teams in the country. Antone Smith, a former Mr. Florida Football player must make a statement. Lorenzo Booker must continue to provide the tough yards. The Receiving Corp seems to have plenty of talent with Greg Carr (All Conference) and Mr. Steady, Senior, Chris Davis. De’Cody Fagg should be the number three Receiver. Florida State is also blessed with (3) potentially outstanding freshmen. The Tight End position will have to hope that freshman, Brandon Warren, can step in from day one and contribute. The offensive line has some talent, but maybe only six-man deep/strong. Depth is shallow in this group.
Defense: With only 4 starters from last year team that gave up an average of 22 points per game much of their hopes rest on a talented but unproved group. This is the most points a Seminoles Team has given up since 2001. The DL starts four excellent starters with speed, but has no big run stopper. DE. Everette Brown has a lot of potential and if he can live up to the billing, the DL could be a real asset. However, the Linebacker position should be the strength of the Defense. This unit might be the best in the country, (Lawrence Timmons and Bust Davis) are All American candidates. At the Defensive Back position, the Seminoles are returning 2 players, (Tony Carter and J. R. Brant) from off-season shoulder surgery. At Safety, they will be starting Junior, Roger Williams and freshman sensation, Myron Rolle.
Players to keep your eye on: QB Weatherford, can he continue to improve from an outstanding first year? Myron Rolle, can he step right in and be a stopper as a roving safety and can someone in the DL step up and provide 8-10 sacks.
BEST OF THE REST
Virginia: The Cavaliers will not win more than 6 games this year. Inexperience at the QB position will not hold well for this team and although the QB may play better as the season goes on, the Virginia scheduled gets tougher in the later part. At running back the Cavaliers will start Senior Jason Snelling a very good back at all aspects of the game but is not a breakaway threat. The strength of this football team is the excellent talent at wide receiver. Deyon Williams should make the all-conference team this year barring injury. He is extremely talented with excellent speed and an ability to go up and snare the jump ball type pass. The other top three receivers are Fontel Mines, Emmanuel Byers and Thierren Davis all have the ability to break a game wide open. The defense has plenty of promise but will they live up to the potential? The DL has to put pressure on the opposing QB if this unit is going to improve from last year’s team that gave up better than 23 points a game.
Wake Forest: This could be the most improved team in the ACC in 2006. They are returning 9 offensive and 10 defensive starters from last year’s 4-7 team. Returning this many starters is almost on heard of. An excellent running team last year, this squad could show a more balance attack with Benjamin Mauk at QB. The only question mark on the offensive side of the ball will be at the wide receiver position, where no one jumps out at you as being a real threat. If someone develops at this position to be a real game breaker, look out for the Demon Deacons. The defense is a solid unit with a lot of depth, especially up front. The line backing corps will be lead by Jon Abbate, one of the best LBs in the ACC. If the QB has a good year and someone develops at the WR position look out for this team. I see the Demons winning at least 8 games this year.
North Carolina State: The 2005 North Carolina team finished with a 7-5 record last year with a very good defense and a fair offense. Trying to reach 7 wins this season will be a little more difficult. The defense lost two exceptionally talented players in Mario Williams (#1 draft choice in NFL) and LB Stephen Tulloch (who may have been the heart and soul of the team). The Wolfpack return two excellent running backs in Andre Brown and Toney Baker. Between them they gained more than 1200 yards last season and averaged better than 4.6 per carry. If QB Marcus Stone can improve his completion percentage and his touchdown to inception ratio the Wolfpack could finish with another 7-5 record.
Offense: Five starters coming back from last year’s 9-3 squad. This should be a very interesting year for H. C. Larry Coker and the Hurricanes. Nine wins is a pretty good season for most teams, but Miami is not most teams. The Hurricanes have the best winning percentage of any team in the nation since the 2000 season. This year’s squad will be lead by QB Kyle Wright who produced 18 TD’s and 10 INT’s last year. He has a good arm, but lacks mobility. He had a decent year in 2005, but when he played against upper tear teams he seemed to struggle at times. Give him time and he will find the open receiver, but if you force him to make a quick decision there is a good chance something negative will happen. Miami is returning two very good RB’s in, Tyrone Moss (ACL injury against Virginia Tech) and Charlie Jones. Tyrone, if he can come back 100% is the home-run threat; where Mr. Jones is the steady between the tackles workhorse. There are also two speed demons in Junior, Andrew Johnson and sophomore, Derron Thomas waiting in the wings. The Wide Receiving squad has potential, but is not the explosive squad we are used to seeing at Miami. At the Tight End position the Hurricanes have Junior, Greg Olsen who maybe one of the best TE’s in the College ranks. The Offensive Line will be the big question mark on this team with four new starters. Center, Anthony Wollschlager, if he remains healthy, could be the best center in the ACC.
Defense: Six returning starters on a squad that gave up an average of only 14.2 points per game. The Defensive Line returns three veteran starters, End, Bryan Pata and tackles, Atkins and Brown. The playmaker on the defensive line is Bryan Pata, but he will have to increase his sack total of last year, 2, for this squad to have a chance to match last year’s defensive record. The Linebacking corps is potentially as good as any in the country, but for this to occur, Sophomore Willie Williams must play up to his unlimited potential. In the defensive backfield the Hurricanes are set at safety in the hard-hitting Brandon Meriweather and Kenny Phillips at free safety. The cornerback positions are not yet set, but it looks like Randy Phillips and Bruce Johnson will get the first opportunity. Look for Miami to finish with 9 or 10 wins.
Player to watch: Junior QB Kyle Wright must continue to improve his decision making in big games. He will need help from the offensive line to limit sacks to (25) or less and if so, Miami could be a Top 10 Team.
Offense: Returning 5 starters from last year’s 11-2 squad. Questions regarding who will be the starting QB is never good. The leading candidate right now is Sean Glennon. He is the best passer on the team, but he will have stiff competition from Corey Holt and Ike Whitaker. Both Holt and Whitaker are more athletic and better runners. At Running back, Branden Ore is returning and should be the main go-to player at this position. The Hokies have a group of good running backs, but no super star. The strength of the offense will be in the receiving group, led by Senior, Daniel Clowney, and Junior Eddie Royal. This tandem could excel if they get the ball thrown in their direction a little more this year. The Hokies will be starting three new players in the offensive line and I’m not sure this will help the questionable QB position.
Defense: The strength of this squad should be the defense where 7 starters are returning from a group who gave up on 12.9 points per game last year. The Hokies did lose their best defensive player, (Darryl Tapp) from last year, but should be able to generate plenty of trouble for other teams with players like, Chris Ellis and Vince Hall. Senior, Aaron Rouse will lead the secondary from the rover position. This group has excellent speed and should be the strength of a very good defense.
Player to keep your eye on: QB position… With Marcus Vick banned from the team at the conclusion of last season, the Hokies are very vulnerable at this position. Someone has to step up big time at this position for the Hokies to win more than (9) games this season.
Offense: Returning 8 starters from last year’s 7-5 team. The fortunes of this team are squarely in the hands of senior QB Reggie Ball. Mr. Ball has talent but only completed 48% of his passes last year and only had 11 TD’s against 12 INT’s. He must improve both his completion percentage and his touchdown to inception ratio if the Yellow Jackets are to improve upon last year’s 7-5 team. The running game has Juniors Tashard Choice and Rashaun Grant both capable if not outstanding runners. The receiving corps is lead by Calvin Johnson (all-American status second team) and Sophomore James Johnson, a speedy number 2 receiver. There is enough talent behind these two with a group of talented freshman receivers. The TE position has not been used much by the Yellow Jackets in the past few years and that probably is because of the talent level at this position. George Cooper and Mike Matthews are better than average blockers but only fair receivers. The offensive line returns four starters from a very good unit. This is definitely strength of the team. THE OL is lead by offensive tackle Andrew Gardner, a first- team freshman all-American and Matt Rhodes, a junior standout at Guard.
Defense: The Yellow Jackets will put a very solid unit on the field in 2006. The DL will be lead by Junior DE Adamm Oliver and Senior DT Joe Anoai both returning starters from last year’s 13th ranked run stoppers. They also will have plenty of other talented players in the DL that will make major contributions all year long. Senior KaMichael Hall will lead a very sound and speedy linebacking corps. The only question regarding the linebackers is they are a little light. The defensive backfield positions will have only one returning starter, Senior Kenny Scott. Jamal Lewis should be the other starting DB and he has the speed and tackling ability to be an excellent starter. I believe there will be some drop off at the safety positions from last year when the Yellow Jackets had two all-ACC performers but both Djay Jones and Joe Gaston were excellent special team players who should be adequate everyday players.
Player to keep your eye on: OB Reggie Ball. He is not the best player or the most gifted player on this team but the Yellow Jackets will go as far as Reggie can take them.
BEST OF THE REST
Maryland: The Terrapins will have another long season and I can’t see them winning more than five games. Their biggest problem, as it was last year will be at the QB position. It looks like Senior Hollenbach will start the season as the starter and he is not a top flight QB. The running back position could be one of the few real strengths of this team. Junior Lance Ball may be a star in the making and he should have plenty of help in Josh Allen, Keon Lattimore, and Morgan Green. The defense should be improved this year if for no other reason than an improved DL which will feature more depth in the middle of the line. The LBs should be the strength of this team again with plenty of speed.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are returning 5 starters on offense and 8 on defense from a team that finished 5-6 last year. This team will have a tough time reaching five wins this season and probably will win only four games. A new QB and many questions at running back and wide receiver positions do not hold well for this team. They also have a very tough schedule, way too much for this team to overcome and have a positive 2006 season. The defense is the strength of this team and if they have any chance for a winning season it will have to be on the backs of the defense (not going to happen). This will be a long season for Tar Heel fans!
Duke: It will be another losing season for the worst team in the ACC in 2006. There just is not enough talent on this football team. They need to get a coach and coaching staff that can plain out recruit and motivate. The level on talent on this team says they will not win one game this year. They are returning two very good defense players in LB Michael Tauiliili and CB john Talley. Bottom line, this team plays the toughest schedule in the ACC and has the least talent.
2. Florida State
3. Boston College
4. Wake Forest
6. North Carolina State
2. Virginia Tech
3. Georgia Tech
4. North Carolina
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