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Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The best of the ACC's spring

By Heather Dinich


The best thing to happen to the ACC this spring had nothing to do with the 15 practices each team was allotted, and everything to do with the 15 teams that will soon comprise the conference.

On April 22, the ACC announced that all 15 university presidents -- including Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville, and excluding Maryland -- signed a grant of media rights agreement, effective immediately. With one swift, unanimous motion, the conference put a halt to any rumors of defection and reinforced the message it had been repeating but many still refused to believe: The ACC is sticking together. It was a historic moment for the conference, and one that overshadowed Florida State's spring quarterback battle, Virginia Tech's subpar spring game and Miami's never-ending wrestling match with the NCAA.

Despite all of the instability on the field this spring in the conference -- new coaching staffs, new quarterbacks and new schemes -- the ACC will enter this fall on more stable ground than ever before.

And that is easily the biggest win the ACC has had in years.

The next step is to come out on the winning end of what will be arguably the toughest nonconference schedule in league history, but this spring revealed few concrete answers for many programs in transition.

Florida State, NC State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Virginia still have ongoing quarterback competitions. Duke and Georgia Tech will have first-year starters at quarterback, leaving half of the conference with unproven players at the most important position. The transfer of quarterback Clint Trickett at Florida State opened the door for Jameis Winston, and he knocked it down in the spring game with one of the ACC's most impressive performances. Still, coach Jimbo Fisher is keeping the competition open with Jacob Coker.

The Hokies' offense under first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler left Virginia Tech fans in a panic after totaling just 23 yards on the ground, and the situation only worsened when running back Michael Holmes was charged with a felony. Pitt's running game also took a hit when leading returning rusher Rushel Shell decided to transfer, and three Panthers, all reserves, were suspended from the team.

Several potential stars emerged, as Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett, North Carolina running back A.J. Blue, Wake Forest receiver Orville Reynolds, Duke quarterback Anthony Boone and Boston College running back Andre Williams drew rave reviews from within their respective programs. Miami running back Dallas Crawford showed the potential to emerge from the shadow of Duke Johnson, and Maryland's running backs highlighted their spring.

For Boston College, Syracuse and NC State, this was a spring of transition for first-year head coaches Steve Addazio, Scott Shafer and Dave Doeren, respectively, but they were hardly the only ones in the league in need of introductions. Fisher had six new assistants on his staff and Virginia coach Mike London had a staff overhaul, as did Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer. This spring was spent learning the foreign languages in the playbooks and working on fundamentals and techniques.

More importantly, it was spent solidifying the future of the conference.

Thanks to the grant of rights, the ACC has all of the pieces in place to remain one of the country's power conferences, but on the field, it will have to find more answers this summer if it is going to move up in the conference power rankings.