ACC poised to continue defensive tradition

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

In the five years since expansion, the ACC has never failed to have at least six teams ranked among the top 27 in the nation in total defense. The only teams that haven't snuck into that group are North Carolina and Duke.

Check out this chart:

There are obviously several statistics to measure good defenses -- Wake's ability to force turnovers has been unparalleled in recent years, scoring defense is a big one, etc. -- but if you want to know who in the ACC has been consistently the best when it comes to total defense, it's hard to argue with numbers. Not only does Virginia Tech appear more than any other team (five times), but the Hokies also led the nation twice, in 2005 and 2006.

What makes it more remarkable is that they're always losing players to graduation or the NFL and yet Bud Foster manages to reload every year. Heading into 2008 it was Vince Hall, Xavier Adibi, and Brandon Flowers. Didn't matter. This year, Macho Harris is obviously the big name that will be missing from the roster. Won't matter.

Seven starters returning on defense are more than enough for Foster's lunch pail crew to keep the tradition alive, and they won't be the only ones. Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, and Miami all have at least eight starters each returning on defense.

It's up to one more team to keep the streak alive. Considering former Boston College defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani is now the head coach and in charge of team that boasts the ACC's Defensive Player of the Year in Mark Herzlich, the Eagles are my pick for the ACC's sixth team to finish 2009 ranked among the top 27 in the nation in total defense.