- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Step into my office ...
Carla in Houston writes: Just curious: How do you think the ACC will be viewed going into next year? Will the committee be impressed by a team doing well in-conference, or is the ACC still thought to be weak? On one hand we have Florida State, THE national champion! Boy it feels good to say that! The Seminoles were unstoppable this year and have a Heisman winner to prove it. Not to forget Clemson, who finally seemed to break its big-game curse! But the rest of the conference worries me. Virginia Tech underperforming yet again? Miami face planting? Georgia Tech being unable to move the national radar for another year? We have Louisville coming in so that will be a plus, but even that might not be enough. I am worried the ACC will start being viewed as a Top heavy conference, where beating Florida State and Clemson is the *only* way a team can get respect. Thoughts?
HD: Carla, I think you nailed it. It IS a top-heavy conference right now, and expectations are even lower this year for Clemson with the departures of Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd. The ACC took a HUGE step forward last season with FSU winning the national title and going 2-0 in BCS bowls while the SEC went 0-2 in its BCS bowls. There was plenty to brag about, but in order to get more respect from the selection committee, it's going to have to go deeper. Look at how many teams the SEC and Pac-12 had ranked in the final Associated Press Top 25, and the ACC's 0-4 record overall against the Pac-12. Teams like Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech have to improve so that the ACC's league schedule isn't dismissed as easy.
Colby Lanham in Clemson, SC writes: What do you think of the three-way quarterback battle between Cole Stoudt, Chad Kelly, and Deshaun Watson? Do you think Stoudt has a legitimate shot and do you think Watson redshirts? Also, who emerges at running back? Perhaps C.J. Davidson, Tyshon Dye or Wayne Gallman?
HD: Stoudt should have the upper hand entering the beginning of the season because he has the most experience. He did well when he was put in the lineup last season. His 79.7 percent completion percentage was the best in the country among QBs with at least 50 passes. With Clemson playing at Georgia and at Florida State within the first three games of the season, you want an experienced QB. Still, coach Dabo Swinney has said that he's not afraid to play two QBs if necessary. Kelly can really run -- even better than Boyd -- and that is an important dimension in Chad Morris’ offense. Watson is a four-star recruit with a lot of talent, but that's a lot to ask of a true freshman. Look at all the records Boyd set and the 32 wins he had. But he redshirted his first season.
As far as running back is concerned, Dye was doing very well in the preseason this year until he had a back problem. Davidson got some opportunities in the bowl game and probably has the most breakaway speed among the running backs. Don’t count out Zac Brooks, who can catch the ball out of the backfield and that is important in the Morris offense. There is a lot of time between now and the Georgia game -- 15 spring practices and 29 more in August. Ask me again then.
Josh in Tallahassee writes: In a league where coaches are everything, how concerned should our Noles be with Kelly at DC? I feel like talent will make up for a lot of it but how much? Will there be a dropoff on defense?
HD: I don't think FSU fans should be too concerned. First, I think it was a smart move because of how much transition there has been at the coordinator position, with this being the Noles' third coordinator in as many years. Keeping a familiar face who knows the terminology, the system and the players will save a lot of offseason headaches and potential in-season growing pains. Also, it's important to remember that coach Jimbo Fisher wanted to hire a DC with a good working knowledge of the secondary to help scheme against spread offenses. Kelly was a DB in college and has extensive coaching experience at the position. Kelly's foundation also stems from knowledge of Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, which continues what Fisher was looking for all along when he hired Jeremy Pruitt. So, while the defensive staff came unraveled a bit with Pruitt's departure, I think Kelly was the best option to keep Fisher's philosophies tied together.
Christopher Evans in Melbourne, FL writes: Do you think, with the addition of Louisville to the Atlantic Division, the ACC might re-organize the two conferences for travel and strength of team purposes? I understand the roller coaster that is college football when it comes to the ups and downs of teams, but with Clemson, Louisville, and Florida State all in the Atlantic, would it be smart to make an adjustment, even if it has Clemson going Coastal and Georgia Tech going into the Atlantic Division? Atlantic:1) Florida State2) Louisville3) Miami or Virginia4) Syracuse5) Pittsburgh6) Boston College7) Georgia TechCoastal:1) Duke2) NC State3) North Carolina4) Virginia Tech5) Clemson6) Wake Forest7) Miami or Virginia
HD: First, if the ACC makes any changes to its divisions, it won't happen until 2015 at the earliest. Second, the ACC is considering the possibility of doing away with the divisions entirely, as the NCAA reconsiders its requirements for conferences to have title games. Scheduling and realignment continue to be on the agenda for next week's winter meetings, but I don't think they would change just because the Atlantic Division is top-heavy. It would be more to enhance the title game.
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