- David M. Hale, College football
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Just a few weeks remain before fall camp opens around the ACC, and there are plenty of big questions still left to be answered. With that in mind, we’re looking at some of the conference’s biggest wild cards -- veterans without a distinguished track record who could make all the difference for their respective teams this season. One caveat: With so much of the conference breaking in a new QB, we ignored that key position for now. We’re also not including any true freshmen, since they all come with their share of intrigue. Instead, these are the Atlantic Division’s biggest wild cards as we get set for 2014.
Boston College: WR Josh Bordner
Steve Addazio is at least trying to be optimistic about Bordner’s future at receiver. The 6-foot-4 senior has some physical tools to create mismatches at the position, but after transitioning from QB this spring, he doesn’t have much in the way of experience. Of course, no one else on BC’s depth chart at receiver does either. Bobby Swigert projects as the top target, but he missed all of last season with an injury, and Harrison Jackson is now out for 2014 after tearing his ACL. At the very least, that makes Bordner intriguing as BC looks for someone to fill the void left by Alex Amidon, who had 155 catches the last two seasons.
Clemson: WR Charone Peake
When they both arrived on campus in 2011, Peake and Sammy Watkins were both considered elite recruits. Three years later, Watkins was the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft, while Peake has 37 career catches in three seasons thanks to injuries and inconsistency. However, if he can return from a torn ACL to help fill the void left by Watkins and Martavis Bryant it would be a huge boon to the Tigers’ passing game.
Florida State: WR Jarred Haggins
In the first three games of 2011, Haggins had 11 receptions. In the nearly three seasons since, he’s managed just eight more. But as FSU’s receiving corps has been diminished by early departures (Kelvin Benjamin) and off-field issues (Greg Dent, Jesus Wilson), Haggins provides a rare bit of experience to go with Rashad Greene and Christian Green in 2014.
Louisville: DT DeAngelo Brown
Louisville has some potentially exceptional pass rushers, but in order for them to succeed in new coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme, the D-line needs to be able to take on blocks and clog up the lanes, and that’s a huge question right now. Louisville has just two projected D-linemen who played in 2013, but Brown, who missed all of last season with an Achilles injury, could be a savior. He’s a behemoth at 320 pounds, and if he can command double teams playing the zero- or one-technique at nose guard, Grantham’s new-look D could make some noise in its first season in the ACC.
NC State: OT Rob Crisp
A back injury limited Crisp in 2012, and a concussion ended his 2013 season early, but an NCAA waiver allowed him to return to NC State for 2014. If Crisp can stay healthy this season he could be an immense help for a Wolfpack offensive line that allowed the fourth-most tackles for a loss of any Power 5 conference team last season.
Syracuse: DE Ron Thompson
The Orange know they can’t replace the production of departed DT Jay Bromley, so they’re hoping to find a combination of players who can help fill the void. That’s meant plenty of mixing and matching on the D-line, but it’s also opened up some more playing time for Thompson as a rush end. He’s a former four-star recruit at tight end, but his athleticism and quickness -- not to mention a year of experience at his new position under his belt -- have Syracuse’s coaches extremely excited about what Thompson might contribute this season.
Wake Forest: RB Orville Reynolds
Someone has to make some plays on offense for Wake Forest, right? There’s virtually no experience at any of the skill positions, and Reynolds’ move from receiver to tailback was made more out of desperation than anything else. But first-year coach Dave Clawson found success moving a receiver (Travis Greene) to running back last year at Bowling Green. Reynolds likely won’t match Greene’s 1,594 yards, but if he can even approach half that total, it would be the most by a Wake tailback since 2011.
Just a few weeks remain before fall camp opens around the ACC, and there are plenty of big questions still left to be answered. With that in mind, we’re looking at some of the conference’s biggest wild cards -- veterans without a distinguished track record who could make all the difference for their respective teams this season.