NFP Director of College Scouting Wes Bunting contributed to this preview.
Click here to see 2010 Big East Preview
Clemson: Two-sport quarterback Kyle Parker is back, but I wonder if Clemson will struggle offensively in 2010. Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper should be productive out of the backfield in replacing C.J. Spiller, but the situation at wide receiver is murky. Xavier Dye and Terrence Ashe had nice springs, and Brandon Clear looked to be improved, but they still haven’t been tested in the regular season. However, the defensive line will be one of the best in the nation, as it is loaded with good talent and great depth. Three starters return from last season’s line, led by junior end Da'Quan Bowers, who has big pro potential. Tackle Jarvis Jenkins is also a future pro.
ICONBC's Montel Harris rushed for 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns in '09.
Boston College: BC will have a stingy defense once again. The defensive line is still a bit unsettled, but the linebackers will be the heart and soul of the unit with freshman All-America Luke Kuechly and 2008 Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich. Could relying on the defense be enough for the Eagles to win their third Atlantic title in four years? Likely not, as they are going to need solid play under center. There were already questions about quarterback David Shinskie, and his job will be even tougher with the loss of top receiver Colin Larmond Jr. for the entire season. Montel Harris is a tremendous running back and will be leaned upon heavily once again by the Eagles. The junior rushed for 1,457 yards and 14 touchdowns on 308 carries in ’09. But will he be able to have similar production if the passing game can’t help move the chains?
Florida State: The Seminoles will be much better on defense under new coordinator Mark Stoops. But they couldn’t get any worse, right? It’s finally Jimbo Fisher’s team after the retirement of Bobby Bowden, and those around the Seminoles program could not be any more optimistic. Quarterback Christian Ponder’s shoulder seems to be healthy and is being pumped for a Heisman run. Losing receiver Jarmon Fortson will hurt, however, because he complemented Bert Reed very well. But the backfield is deep, and Ponder will make plays with his feet and his arm. The Seminoles want Oklahoma on September 11 real bad, but will the defense be fully ready?
Maryland: This season is all about the future of head coach Ralph Friedgen and the health of Da’Rel Scott. The Terrapins will be fine on defense, as they were last year. But the offense remains the major question mark. Quarterback Jamarr Robinson took command of the huddle this spring, and he displayed his dazzling athleticism when he was pressed into action late last year. Scott has looked great this fall, and junior Torrey Smith was one of college football’s most productive all-purpose players in ’09. But can the offensive line protect Robinson? The opener against Navy will be huge to see just how confident the Terps are in a make-or-break year for the Fridge.
N.C. State: With a new athletic director on board, head coach Tom O’Brien enters a make-or-break season, much like Friedgen at Maryland. The major question for the Wolfpack is whether the defense can improve after a woeful ’09. Former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta will be coaching the linebackers, but the secondary is young. The team ranked No. 99 in the nation last year in scoring defense and No. 106 in pass efficiency defense. Those numbers must drastically improve. Russell Wilson will continue to keep things exciting under center, especially with arguably the best receiving unit in the league. However, the Wolfpack will enter a season without any starting experience in the backfield for the first time since 2005.
ICONJim Grobe is 59-51 in nine seasons at Wake Forest.
Wake Forest: With Riley Skinner gone, Ted Stachitas will be under center for the Demon Deacons. Stachitas, a sophomore who took over for Tim Tebow at Nease High in Jacksonville, Fla., has a strong arm and has capable running backs and wide receivers to make the offensive attack run smoothly. Jim Grobe is one of the better head coaches in the country and always has his teams playing hard. But Wake could struggle because of inferior play along the offensive line. Both tackle spots could be problem areas.
Virginia Tech: There was some concern about the Virginia Tech defense this season because of some uncertainty in the front seven, but the secondary should carry the unit until the linemen and linebackers become more comfortable on Bud Foster’s defense. If the Hokies could stop the run by the time conference play opens, they should be fine. They do, however, face Boise State in the season opener. If they trip up against the Broncos, this team still has enough talent to win the Coastal this season. With versatile quarterback Tyrod Taylor, the best backfield in the nation and a group of improved receivers, the Hokies are in good shape.
Miami (FL): Head coach Randy Shannon begins his fourth season in Miami, and the Hurricanes are poised to officially make their mark on the national scene again. Let’s not forget, however, that the job offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has done with the ‘Canes is second to none and is a key reason why they can compete for a conference title in 2010. A healthy Jacory Harris is expected to be more consistent under center, and the staff is excited about the depth at running back — despite losing Javarris James to the next level and dealing with Graig Cooper’s injury. The front seven should be very tough to compete against — particularly the defensive ends — but will the secondary struggle?
ICONAnthony Allen is stepping in for the departed Jonathan Dwyer at GT.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets will employ a 3-4 defense under new coordinator Al Groh, which should give opposing offenses problems despite losing defensive studs Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett. But it may take a little time. Expect some wild ACC contests, but they have enough playmakers on defense to win some shootouts. In B-back Anthony Allen, they have a more than capable replacement for Jonathan Dwyer. He can definitely run between the tackles, even if the offensive line has some questions following the departures of three starters. But can Stephen Hill be a poor man’s Demaryius Thomas, and can quarterback Joshua Nesbitt make enough plays in the passing game to keep defenses honest?
North Carolina: The Tar Heels have all the talent in the world, but will we see all of them on the field ready to compete? With the South Beach drama involving Marvin Austin and Greg Little — and perhaps others — the uncertainty in Chapel Hill is one of the more interesting storylines in the league. On defense, the Heels go two-deep at nearly every position. But can an offense, which ranked 108th in total offense in ’09, put enough points on the board? T.J. Yates held off Bryn Renner for the starting job under center, but the rushing attack will need to improve, along with an offensive line that is a year older. We’ll see if the Tar Heels can put the distractions behind them when they get a big test in the opener against LSU.
Duke: Head coach David Cutcliffe is building a solid program in Durham. The Blue Devils have added much-needed speed and depth during his tenure, specifically at wide receiver. With an offensive line and running game that should be steady, the Blue Devils could sneak into a lower-tier bowl game. The defense should be a little more exotic under new coordinator Marion Hobby, but will the defensive line be stout enough against the run and generate enough pressure? The talent level isn’t quite there yet at this stage, but Cutcliffe knows how to coach. And I like Sean Renfree, who replaces four-year starter Thaddeus Lewis under center.
Virginia: Rebuilding will be the key word for the Cavaliers this season. Mike London is the new sheriff in town, and he’s been doing his best to remake the Virginia brand, reaching out to high school coaches across the state in an effort to help recent disappointing recruiting efforts from the old regime. On the field, the defense will shift to a 4-3 base, but the offense could struggle once again with a rushing attack that doesn’t look very strong and the quarterback position looking shaky at best. Could signal-caller Marc Verica stabilize the position under center?
Stay with the NFP as we count down the remaining days until the start of the 2010 college football season on Thursday, Sept. 2.
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