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Monday, March 2, 2009
Which ACC receivers will catch on in '09?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

We talked a little bit last week about how there will be some shuffling this spring among starting quarterbacks in the ACC, but you could have Colt McCoy back there and it wouldn't matter unless he has somebody to throw it to. Virginia Tech fans might be excited about the quarterback transition at Alabama, but receiver Julio Jones could make me look competent back there. Well, OK, maybe not, but you get the idea ...

Wide receiver is one position the ACC lost 90 percent of its leaders last year to either graduation or the NFL. Nine of the top 10 leaders in receptions per game are all gone, including the top five leaders in receiving yards per game -- D.J. Boldin, Hakeem Nicks, Aaron Kelly, Eron Riley and Kevin Ogletree. North Carolina is hardly the only team looking for an answer this spring.

That's not to say there isn't any talent returning. It's just very young. Six of the top 10 returnees are sophomores. Boston College senior Rich Gunnell and Clemson senior Jacoby Ford will be the veterans this season, along with Georgia Tech junior Demaryius Thomas and NC State junior Owen Spencer.

The spring will help determine who will emerge at this position in the ACC, but here are five early guesses:

1. Jacoby Ford, Sr., Clemson -- This should be the year Ford emerges from former teammate Aaron Kelly's shadow. Ford had 55 catches for 710 yards and four touchdowns.

2. Owen Spencer, Jr., NCSU -- He had 31 receptions for 691 yards and five touchdowns last year. There were some times last year where Russell Wilson would have looked even better if his receivers had helped him out.

3. Torrey Smith, So., Maryland -- The Terps will be looking for a go-to receiver to replace Darrius Heyward-Bey, and Smith already set the single-season kickoff return record last year with 41 returns for 1,089 yards.

4. Aldarius Johnson, So., Miami -- As a freshman, Johnson led the Canes with 31 catches for 332 yards and three touchdowns. He should only be better in his second season, but he'll have to learn under a second coordinator in as many seasons.

5. Danny Coale, So., Virginia Tech -- He led the Hokies a year ago with 36 catches, and he had 408 yards and started every game. It was valuable experience gained as a freshman, but it's also possible Jarrett Boykin emerges as Tyrod Taylor's favorite target.