Friday, April 13, 2012
Six ACC spring games slated for Saturday
By Matt Fortuna
Six ACC schools will conclude their spring seasons Saturday with intrasquad scrimmages open to the public. And, in the case of Miami, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida State and Clemson, on ESPN3, too. (FSU's will also air on ESPNU.)
Let's take a quick look at what to look for as each squad unveils its latest look for 2012:
Wake Forest (1 p.m.)
For the first time during coach Jim Grobe's 12-year tenure, the Demon Deacons' spring game will be an actual game -- two teams facing off at BB&T Field. Previously, Wake would hold a controlled scrimmage between the offense and defense. Tanner Price returns to lead the offense, looking to build off his 3,000-yard sophomore season from 2011. Keep an eye on the offensive line, which is replacing four starters from last season's squad.
Miami (2 p.m.)
Can Ryan Williams continue his stellar spring and make things interesting upon Stephen Morris' return for fall camp? The Memphis transfer has drawn rave reviews thus far while Morris recovers from back surgery, and the starting job will likely be anything but a sure thing for Morris once he returns. A poor performance in the Hurriacnes' second scrimmage this spring left a bad taste in Williams' mouth following a stellar showing in scrimmage No. 1, and he'll look to end the spring on a strong note Saturday.
Virginia (2:15 p.m.)
Can the Cavaliers capitalize on the big play? That's not a question just for the offense, either. Yes, Michael Rocco is back throwing the football again this season, but he lost leading receiver Kris Burd. The replacements, including returning starter Tim Smith, create matchup problems with their speed. How they perform and respond against a secondary replacing three starters is something to keep an eye on.
North Carolina (3 p.m.)
How fast can the Tar Heels adjust to new coach Larry Fedora's pace? The program opened the spring right after NCAA sanctions were announced, providing closure before the official start of a new era. Now, it's about keeping up to speed on offense, where UNC will look to resemble Southern Miss' 74.4 plays per game last season, a bump up from the Heels' 62.5 in 2011.
Clemson (4 p.m.)
All anyone wants to talk about is the defense after the Tigers gave up 70 points in an Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia. And new coordinator Brent Venables should have more to work with, especially at linebacker. Preventing the big play will be key, as will be giving Tajh Boyd and the rest of Clemson's skill players the freedom to operate as the squad replaces three starters on the offensive line.
Florida State (4 p.m.)
We know what the defense is capable of. And EJ Manuel is back for a second full season under center. But can the Seminoles protect him? Going off that, can they establish a consistent ground game? Too many three-and-outs hindered FSU last season, which ended with four freshman offensive line starters in the Champs Sports Bowl win against Notre Dame. The maturation of that unit can go a long way toward the Seminoles fulfilling expectations in 2012.