ACC: Boston College Eagles

We’ve talked plenty about the myriad of quarterback battles going on around the ACC, but the conference actually returns five QBs who accounted for 2,000 yards of offense or more last season.

We wrote about the big-name receivers headed for the NFL draft, but the ACC also has three wideouts returning who accounted for 1,000 receiving yards in 2013, too.

But how about the tailbacks? How many 1,000-yard rushers from 2013 will be back again this season?

Believe it or not, the lone representative on that list is Virginia’s Kevin Parks, who racked up 1,031 yards on the ground for a team that didn’t win a single conference game.

The depth chart among returning running backs in the conference doesn’t get much better beyond Parks, either. Duke Johnson is probably the ACC’s best returning running back. He racked up 920 yards in eight games before getting hurt. Beyond that, only Louisville’s Dominique Brown, who played in the AAC last year, returns with at least 800 yards on the ground from 2013.

So, if there aren’t a ton of top tailbacks returning for 2014, which teams are poised for the most success on the ground this year?



If we break down the numbers by tailbacks only, Pittsburgh is the clear front runner. No ACC team’s returning running backs accounted for a higher percentage of its 2013 carries (76 percent) than Pitt’s, and thanks to the negative rushing totals courtesy of sacks, James Conner (799 yards), Isaac Bennett (776 yards) and Co. actually accounted for 106 percent of the Panthers’ rushing yards from 2013. (A neat trick that comes courtesy of Tom Savage's 76 carries for minus-208 yards.)

With Parks back for 2014 along with highly touted sophomore Taquan Mizzell, UVA’s returning backs account for 74 percent of last season's rushes, along with 91 percent of its yards. Of course, without star lineman Morgan Moses, those yards might be a bit tougher to come by this season.

Virginia Tech, NC State and Louisville all return running backs responsible for at least 50 percent of last season's ground gains, too (with Miami falling just short after swapping Dallas Crawford to the secondary).

The bottom of the list might be even more intriguing. Wake Forest’s stable of running backs is a mess, but that’s been well documented. The rest of the bottom six, however, include BC (which lost a Heisman finalist) and the top four offenses in the league from 2013 (Florida State, Clemson, Duke and Georgia Tech).

In other words, the best offenses lost big-time runners, and the shakiest (aside from Wake) have talent returning. So, does that mean there’s reason for some serious shakeups in the ACC’s offensive standings?

Not necessarily.

Yes, the ground game is essential for most teams to succeed. Of the 10 teams that played in BCS bowl games last season, seven returned a tailback who rushed for at least 500 yards in 2012.

But the ground game isn’t defined entirely by the men toting the rock. FSU returns four starters on a veteran offensive line, along with a Heisman-winning quarterback. That should provide some room for its relatively green stable of running backs to roam.

And, of course, just because there’s talent departing doesn’t mean there isn’t more waiting in the wings. Florida State’s returning running backs (Karlos Williams and Ryan Green) averaged 7 yards per carry in reserve roles last season. Georgia Tech’s averaged 5.9, and Duke’s averaged 5.8 (QB Brandon Connette’s departure is the biggest blow to the Blue Devils’ ground attack). Even Clemson has cause to be excited about its rushing game in 2014 with the development of C.J. Davidson and Zac Brooks and the debut of uber-talented redshirt freshman Wayne Gallman.

The veteran presence in the backfield for Pitt, Virginia and NC State should offer some hope to teams in need of some offensive optimism, but it’s also a likely scenario that FSU, Clemson, and others will supply a few names to the ACC’s rushing leaderboard in 2014, too.

ACC's lunch links

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
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I write the ACC lunch links one week out of every month, and still I was somehow left off Time’s list of its 100 most influential people. Something is seriously wrong with their criteria.

ACC teleconference notebook

April, 23, 2014
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The ACC coaches participated in a teleconference Wednesday to wrap up spring practices, as Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will close out spring in the ACC this weekend with their respective spring games. Here are a few quick highlights from the call:

Eight is enough

As the ACC prepares to debate an eight- or nine-game league schedule at its spring meetings next month in Amelia Island, Fla., the coaches “lean heavily toward eight” conference games, according to Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who is chair of the ACC coaches committee.

“I think it’s going to be debated, I will say that,” Cutcliffe said. “I wouldn’t be being truthful if I didn’t tell you the coaches lean heavily towards eight. That’s where we are. … From a coaching standpoint, we’re real happy with eight games. I think there’s a lot of discussions we’re going to have with the ADs that could be interesting.”

The athletic directors, though, have the final vote, and the last time this topic was debated, the coaches were overruled in favor of nine games.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy, Danielle Hunter
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsTyler Murphy's experience in the SEC was a selling point for Boston College coach Steve Addazio.
Boston College names starting QB

Florida graduate transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy has officially earned the starting job at Boston College, coach Steve Addazio said. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Murphy’s history with Addazio and the fact that he was the only quarterback on the roster who has ever started a college game. Murphy started six games last year for the Gators in place of injured starter Jeff Driskel.

Addazio praised Murphy’s pocket presence this spring, said he throws the ball well and is dynamic with his feet.

“You’re talking about a guy who’s been in the heat of the battle,” Addazio said. “He’s a veteran, experienced guy, who’s been a starter in the SEC. My familiarity with him, I recruited him, I coached him, I knew him well. He’s pretty comfortable in terms of our program, our weight room, the way we practice, our terminology. It’s not a foreign animal to him. He had a great spring.”

Syracuse kicker suspended

Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said kicker Ryan Norton was suspended for the spring game because of a violation of team rules. Norton should rejoin the team in the summer, and Shafer praised his player for "taking ownership." Shafer declined to say what caused the suspension.

"It's between Ryan and I, but he'll be back with us shortly and we look forward to that," Shafer said.

Norton served a one-game suspension last season after he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and underage drinking.

Virginia quarterback still unknown

Virginia coach Mike London said he’ll release a post-spring depth chart by the end of next week, and he’s currently in the process of having exit interviews with every player. He said he still has two quarterbacks to interview before he names his starter. David Watford has been competing with Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns this spring for the top job.

“They’ll know it before anyone else knows it,” London said. “I think that’s the right way to do it.”

ACC's lunch links

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
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Because you know you want to see Larry Fedora rapping Drake lyrics

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
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Thoughts with all those affected Wednesday in Pittsburgh.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 9, 2014
Apr 9
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What a year for UConn hoops.

ACC's lunch links

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
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I'll go with UConn tonight. You?
Steve Addazio knows better than anyone that one man will not have the kind of production for Boston College in 2014 that Andre Williams provided the Eagles last season. The ingredients in the run game this year will feature several more surprises, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the collective production will take a dip.

"Well let's say this: When I took this job a year ago, people didn't even know if Andre Williams would even start here," Addazio said recently. "Then all of a sudden Andre went on and had a great season and became a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. … We're a gap-scheme team. [We] had a really good offensive line last year, we've got a really good offensive line here, and all those factors will go hand-in-hand and we'll be able to achieve productivity.

"We might be more diversified in our run game. Our quarterbacks now are dual-threat quarterbacks, so the defense will have more to worry about in the run game than just one tailback, so that'll open up some opportunities."

The one player who did outclass the others on Saturday, though, was a running back. And he did it in more ways than one.

Myles Willis opened the Jay McGillis spring game with a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. He added 75 yards on the ground. Tyler Rouse was no slouch himself, piling up 68 rushing yards, 41 of which came on a touchdown run.

Florida transfer Tyler Murphy threw for 78 yards in his public debut as a BC quarterback.

Addazio said last week that he was pleased with the intensity of practices, where the Eagles were missing a number of key components due to injury. Like most coaches at this time of the year, he would like more depth. But he knows his offense will be far from the one-trick pony it was for much of his first year in Chestnut Hill, Mass., when Williams seemingly came from out of nowhere to rush for an ACC-record 2,177 yards en route to a surprising 7-6 campaign.

Willis was the primary No. 2 back last season, rushing for 346 yards and two touchdowns. Rouse had 125 yards last season with two touchdowns.

Add to the mix three starters returning on an offensive line that helped pave the way for Williams' historic campaign, and it is easy to see why the Eagles are confident in their different look heading into Addazio's second year.

"I think our diversity in our run game will help us, so I think all those things will factor in," Addazio said. "You're never exactly the same, but you just keep tweaking things, and all that matters is what the output is in the end. It doesn't matter how you get there."

Reviewing the ACC pro days

April, 4, 2014
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Pro days are now in the rearview mirror, with a month remaining between now and the NFL draft. With that, let's take a look back at some notable performances from ACC pro days this year.

Boston College (March 12)
Big name: RB Andre Williams. Representatives from 29 NFL teams were on hand to see the nation's top running back from last season. Williams says he improved on his combine 40-yard-dash time of 4.56. Also of note: Nate Freese, who went 20 of 20 last season on field goal tries, did not disappoint in front of his future employers, hitting a 60-yard try.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
AP Photo/Michael ConroyClemson WR Sammy Watkins in all likelihood will be the first ACC player drafted in May.
Clemson (March 6)
Big name: WR Sammy Watkins. Watkins stood on his 40 time of 4.43 from the combine but was there to help out quarterback Tajh Boyd, doing little to change the general consensus that he is the top receiver in this year's draft. Boyd said scouts told him his performance was much better than his showings at the combine and Senior Bowl, as he connected on short, intermediate and deep routes with familiar receivers in familiar environs.

Duke (March 26)
Big name: CB Ross Cockrell. Cockrell improved on his combine results, with Duke saying that his 40 time was sub-4.4, which is better than what he ran in Indianapolis (4.56).

Florida State (March 17)
Big name: Where to begin? DL Timmy Jernigan slightly improved his combine 40-time from 5.06 to 5.03. S Terrence Brooks, LB Telvin Smith, DB Lamarcus Joyner and LB Christian Jones all drew a crowd, but they declined to run the 40 in front of reps from all 32 NFL teams, content to sit on their combine performances.

Georgia Tech (March 28)
Big name: LB Jeremiah Attaochu. Attaochu ran drills at both linebacker and defensive lineman, recovering nicely from a hamstring injury in the Senior Bowl that forced him out of the combine. He said his 40 time was in the 4.5s. DB Jemea Thomas also impressed, reportedly running a 4.38 40.

Louisville (March 17)
Big name: QB Teddy Bridgewater. With scouts from 29 teams watching, Bridgewater was off target with several of his throws. He ran an unofficial 4.78 40 time, but the potential No. 1 pick misfired on at least 10 passes, leaving some questions lingering heading into the draft.

Miami (April 3)
Big name: OT Seantrel Henderson. This is the name that is going to stick out, as Henderson did not finish his workouts. His agent later told reporters that it was due to dehydration. With 30 NFL teams represented, quarterback Stephen Morris took a strong step forward, reportedly completed almost all of his 67 throws.

North Carolina (March 25)
Big name: TE Eric Ebron. Ebron stood on his 40 time from the combine of 4.60, but his pro day was marred by several dropped passes, though the always upbeat tight end was not stressed about the drops when speaking to reporters afterward.

NC State (March 25)
Big name: CB Dontae Johnson. Johnson showed his versatility, as he can play corner or safety, and he said he felt better than he did at the combine, where he ran a 40 time of 4.45 and jumped 38.5 inches in the vertical.

Pittsburgh (March 3)
Big name: DT Aaron Donald. College football's best defensive player rested on his combine numbers in the 40 (4.68) and bench press (35 times), but teammates Tom Savage and Devin Street helped themselves. Savage impressed during a scripted 100-throw workout while Street said he ran a sub-4.5 40.

Syracuse
Big name: LB Marquis Spruill. Spruill recovered nicely from a combine snub, weighing in at 231 pounds, nine pounds heavier than his playing weight. He did not disclose numbers. Running back Jerome Smith, meanwhile, said he ran in the 4.5-4.6 range, which would be an improvement over his combine time of 4.84.

Virginia (March 17)
Big name: OT Morgan Moses. A considerably different-looking Moses showed up at 311 pounds, roughly 20 pounds lighter from his playing days with the Cavaliers. After clocking in at 5.35 in the 40 at the combine, he unofficially ran between 4.9 and 5.06 at his pro day, though he pulled a hamstring during one of the runs, forcing him to miss the remainder of his drills.

Virginia Tech (March 19)
Big name: QB Logan Thomas. Thomas remains a fascinating prospect to keep an eye on in the NFL, and he threw well in front of NFL scouts at pro day. Corner Antone Exum impressed as well, running 40 times of 4.53 and 4.55.

Wake Forest (March 17)
Big name: WR Michael Campanaro. After seeing his final year end prematurely because of a shoulder injury, Campanaro, the only Demon Deacon to have garnered a combine invite, again impressed in receiver drills, making his case to become a potential mid-round pick. Nose guard Nikita Whitlock, meanwhile, saw himself lining up as a fullback for the first time in his career. Weather conditions were less than ideal for the NFL hopefuls.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
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Lots of injuries, not a lot of quarterbacks ...
The theme throughout this spring across the ACC has been turnover and uncertainty at quarterback.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Boone
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesWith Anthony Boone (and Brandon Connette), Duke has plenty of experience at the QB position in 2014.
But what about those schools that return a good amount of starting experience? Duke returns more career starts than any team in the ACC, just ahead of Florida State. Quarterbacks Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette have combined to start 16 games for the Blue Devils, while Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston has 14 starts for the Noles.

That should give both teams and edge when it comes to defending their respective division crowns. How much of an edge? Depends on the viewpoint. Relying on returning quarterback data alone to predict how a team will do often fails to look at the big picture.

Go back to last season. Duke and Florida State went into 2013 having to replace veterans at quarterback — EJ Manuel had 31 career starts for the Noles, while Sean Renfree had 35 career starts for the Blue Devils. Questions about experience at quarterback followed both teams into the season. Indeed, Clemson was picked to finish ahead of Florida State thanks in large part to returning starter Tajh Boyd, going into his third season behind center.

Those questions, however, were quickly answered as both Duke and Florida State went on to play for the ACC championship. Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina -- all picked to finish ahead of Duke -- returned multi-year starters at quarterback but that was not enough to win the division. Boyd did not help Clemson win an ACC title, but the Tigers did make a BCS game and won 11 contests. Tanner Price, one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the ACC last season, could not help Wake Forest get back to a bowl game.

Still, returning a starting quarterback is almost always preferable. Not every redshirt freshman is going to win the Heisman the way Winston did in Year 1 as a starter. Boone, who had his share of ups and downs early last season as he transitioned to a starting role, has now been on both sides.

“You’re obviously going to have some growing pains with quarterbacks who haven’t played many snaps, young quarterbacks going into their first year as a starter,” Boone said recently. “I just feel like that’s something we’re capable of avoiding, that’s something that should be to our advantage, having the knowledge of different teams in our league, just knowing tendencies of what team plays what kind of defense, just having that knowledge going into next year. I feel like it’s good to if you have one, but we have two who have been there. It’s a good feeling. It lets our offensive coordinator be at ease because we have the ability to fix a lot of play calls that have been called, if something happens. I feel that knowledge is a huge winning edge for us, compared to guys who may not know the system as well.”

Returning career starts at quarterback:

Duke: 16
Florida State: 14
Virginia: 12
Syracuse 10
Miami: 10*
Boston College: 6*
North Carolina: 5
NC State: 3*
Clemson: 0
Georgia Tech: 0
Louisville: 0
Pittsburgh: 0
Virginia Tech: 0
Wake Forest: 0

*-QBs at these schools made their starts while playing for other programs.


Change in W-L record for teams that returned starting quarterbacks in 2013.

Boston College: +5
Miami: +2
Louisville: +1
Virginia Tech: +1
North Carolina: -1
Clemson: No change
Wake Forest: -1


Change in W-L record for teams that started first-time quarterbacks in 2013.

Duke: +4
Florida State: +2
Pitt: +1
Georgia Tech: No change
Syracuse: -1
Virginia: -2
NC State: -4

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 20, 2014
Mar 20
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I will not call today's games the "second round."

ACC mailblog for Friday

March, 14, 2014
Mar 14
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The mailbag has returned. Make sure to keep those questions coming so we have enough to fill up this space each week!

Paul in Roanoke, Va., writes: As a lifelong UVA fan, of course I would love to see Mike London turn things around this fall and get the program back to respectability. However, many fellow Wahoo fans seem to think he will not make it past 2014 and have already begun to speculate on who AD Craig Littlepage will target for the next head coach. With Al Golden turning down the Penn State job, his potential return to Charlottesville has become a dream scenario for many fans, and I honestly don't think it seems that far-fetched. His suit-and-tie personality fits in well with UVA, and he had a great deal of success coaching Ahmad Brooks, Chris Canty, and others under Al Groh before taking the Temple job. Given UVA's top-notch facilities, great academics, solid fan base and location near the Hampton Roads recruiting hotbed, it seems to be a desirable location for someone who already has a history of winning there. And an intra-conference coaching move isn't unprecedented given that Tom O'Brien did it when he moved from BC to NC State. Do you think there is any chance at all that Golden could be lured away by the Wahoos, or do you think he will call Coral Gables home for the foreseeable future?

Andrea Adelson writes: Paul, I appreciate the question, but I cannot speculate about two men still employed as head coaches. I completely understand your concerns about Mike London, given what has happened the past few seasons. And I completely understand the coaching connection between the school and Golden, who has done a solid job at both Temple and Miami. I have no idea what the future holds for either coach. Golden has drawn interest from Wisconsin and Penn State (his alma mater) the last two seasons and stayed with the Canes. Does that mean he is in Coral Gables for the long term? Only time will tell. As for London, he absolutely has to get the ship righted as quickly as possible. He signed a terrific class in February, so I want to see what he does with these incoming players and a second year with his coordinators in place.


Tony Milano in Marco Island, Fla., writes: Andrea, I have not read anything about the defense at Boston College. Can you tell me how it is doing?

Adelson writes: BC has only had three practices so far, Tony, so you have not missed out on many big updates. In talking to coach Steve Addazio before practice began, I know he was really pumped about Josh Keyes at linebacker, and the return of just about everybody in the secondary. That remains a huge area that has to improve headed into next season. BC ranked last in pass defense and wore down as the season went on. This will be a much more veteran group in 2014, and Addazio believes that will translate to better results on the field.


Ethan in N.Y., writes: While the Hokies haven't exactly been spectacular these past two seasons, they have still been major contenders in the Coastal Division. In 2012, they were 55 seconds away from beating No. 10 FSU and were still a contender in November. In 2013, they were one North Carolina victory away from playing in Charlotte. Whether this pays tribute to the Hokies or shows how bad the Coastal has been the past two seasons, I don't know. This just tells you to never count out the Hokies. I pick them behind UNC to finish second in the Coastal in 2014, but they could easily win it, or be fifth. Where do you see them finishing in the murky pool of chaos that is the ACC Coastal Division?

Adelson writes: Great question, Ethan. The Coastal has been muddled the past two seasons, and I do not think 2014 is going to be much of an exception. I could legitimately make the case for six teams to win the division this fall. While I believe North Carolina and Duke are the top two at this point, if Virginia Tech can solve its offensive issues, the Hokies absolutely will be in the mix. I also think Pitt could have a great shot as a darkhorse, given some of the players it returns to the team. The Panthers have more talent at the skill positions than the Hokies do headed into the spring. Miami, with a healthy Duke Johnson, cannot be counted out. And Georgia Tech always hangs around the Coastal race. I am happy I don't have to slot my teams in 1-7 until July!


Gil Torres in Mobile, Ala., writes: With Bobby Petrino going to Louisville, how long do you think it will take him to compete for the ACC championship and possibly competing with SEC? Thanks in advance for your answer.

Adelson writes: Gil, given how much of a head start Clemson and Florida State have on him, it is going to take at least a few years for the Cards to compete for an ACC championship. I think they will win their fair share of games, but they need some excellent cycles on the recruiting side to begin building the consistent talent and depth we have seen from their two biggest Atlantic foes.


John in Arlington, Va., writes: Hi Andrea, Big fan of the blog and read it just about every day. I was just wondering why we keep getting updates about Jameis Winston's baseball career? I understand he's the most well-known player in the ACC, and it's the slow time of the year for a college football blog, but this is just that, a college football blog. If I wanted information on how well he's doing in baseball, I would follow college baseball. Just saw a link to "Winston's easy ninth inning", which fueled this rant. Other than that, keep up the good work and thanks for all you do.

Adelson writes: Thanks for reading, John. I think what Winston is doing with baseball is completely relevant and totally fascinating. Players as skilled as Winston have been told for years they had to pick one sport over another. This is the rare exception when he is not only allowed to do both, but excels at both. I understand how all the Winston mania may be getting a little bit old for some people. But his status as the Heisman Trophy winner on the No. 1 team in America makes his baseball career worth following. Especially if it ends up impacting what happens on the football field.

(*Target totals courtesy ESPN Stats & Info.)

Much has been made about the enormous turnover at quarterback in the ACC, where nine of the league’s 14 teams will feature a different starter in Week 1 of 2014 than at the conclusion of 2013.

The new arms throwing the football will be a major storyline for the spring, but the players on the other end of those passes will be much different this year, too. Eight of the top 12 receivers in the ACC last season are moving on, including likely first-round NFL draft picks Sammy Watkins, Eric Ebron and Kelvin Benjamin.

[+] EnlargeTyler Boyd
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsPittsburgh's Tyler Boyd could be one of the ACC's top wideouts in 2014.
Combine the high turnover at quarterback with the loss of so many top receivers, and it’s fair to say the passing games in the ACC will look much different in 2014. Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t some impressive returning talent. Nine receivers who were targeted at least 70 times last season return.

The obvious standout is Jamison Crowder, who was targeted a whopping 174 times in 2013. Nationally, only Fresno State’s Davante Adams (180 targets) was thrown to more often, according to ESPN Stats & Info. It’s also worth noting that Fresno State had 203 more passing attempts than Duke did. Crowder was on the receiving end of 37 percent of Duke’s passing attempts last season, compared with just 27 percent for Adams. Among ACC receivers, only Boston College’s Alex Amidon accounted for a higher percentage of his team’s throws (41 percent). Given his contributions on special teams, too, there's a case to be made that, aside from Jameis Winston, no player in the ACC means more to his team than Crowder.

It’s worth noting, too, that Duke is one of the five ACC teams with the quarterback position already settled, with Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette both returning for 2014, giving the Blue Devils easily the most tested quarterback-receiver combo in the conference.

Beyond Duke’s established QB/WR combo, Florida State is in good hands with senior Rashad Greene returning for his senior season. In 2013, he was on the receiving end of 27 percent of Winston’s throws, and with Benjamin and Kenny Shaw both gone, Greene’s role figures to only get bigger in 2014.

SportsNation

Who will be the ACC's best receiver in 2014?

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    10%
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    10%
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Discuss (Total votes: 4,023)

Believe it or not, the third-most tested combo in the conference is at Virginia, where QB David Watford returns along with receiver Darius Jennings, who was targeted 78 times last year. Of course, the Virginia passing game was far from effective for much of the season -- and Jennings only hauled in 49 percent of his targets with a paltry 4.3 yards/target average -- but the rapport Watford and Jennings were able to build throughout 2013 offers some hope for the Cavaliers’ offense.

In terms of pure explosiveness, North Carolina could have an interesting combination with Marquise Williams back at quarterback and emerging talent Quinshad Davis at receiver. Davis hauled in an impressive 67 percent of his targets and gained an average of 10.1 yards per target last season, including 10 touchdowns. Of course, he’ll need to prove he’s as effective without Ebron hogging so much of the attention from opposing defenses this year.

Similarly, the ACC will get its introduction to Louisville standout DeVante Parker in 2014. While Parker won't have the luxury of Teddy Bridgewater throwing to him, his numbers last season were immensely impressive. He averaged nearly 11 yards each time he was thrown to, and he hauled in two-thirds of his targets.

While Crowder and Greene represent the cream of the crop for receivers with returning quarterbacks, the player with perhaps the most upside of the group is Tyler Boyd. Pitt might be in search of a new starting quarterback to replace Tom Savage, but few first-year starters will have a weapon as reliable and explosive in the passing game as Pitt has in Boyd. As a true freshman in 2013, Boyd finished third in the conference in targets (behind only Crowder and Watkins), hauled in nearly 70 percent of his targets (tops among returning receivers with at least 70 targets) and his 10 catches of 25 yards or more is second only to Crowder among returning receivers in the conference.

But perhaps the most intriguing names on this list are the trio from Virginia Tech. The Hokies account for one-third of all the ACC’s returning receivers with at least 70 targets, meaning that while Frank Beamer works to find his new quarterback, he’ll have a veteran group of receivers to target. Of course, experience only matters if there’s talent to back it up and that’s the big question in Blacksburg.

Virginia Tech ranked 63rd nationally in passing offense last season, 68th in yards per attempt and 89th in QB rating. While Demitri Knowles, Willie Byrn and Joshua Stanford were all among the ACC’s most targeted receivers, they also hauled in just 56 percent of the balls thrown their way and averaged just 7.9 yards per target. They’ll need to be far more reliable in 2014 with a new QB throwing to them.

Video: ACC's top sophomore RB

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
2:00
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video

Andrea Adelson talks about sophomore running backs with big opportunities in the ACC this spring.

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