- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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Now that spring practices are over, it’s time to re-evaluate the ACC pecking order for 2012. There wasn’t much change at the top from the pre-spring power rankings, but Georgia Tech did get a slight bump, along with two teams on Tobacco Road. Here’s a look at the latest ACC power rankings:
1. Florida State: The Noles’ defensive line should be one of the deepest and best in the conference, if not the country, and they’ve got an outstanding quarterback in EJ Manuel. If the young offensive line can mature quickly and the running game improves from 2011, there’s no reason the Seminoles shouldn’t be contending for the ACC title.
2. Clemson: The Tigers could open the season without star receiver Sammy Watkins, who is awaiting his punishment after he was arrested on misdemeanor drug charges, but as long as he’s in the lineup and the offensive line is playing well, Clemson has enough talent to defend its 2011 ACC title.
3. Virginia Tech: It’s hard to forget how the Hokies fared against Clemson in two meetings last season, but they enter this season with the better defense. The question is how quickly the revamped offensive line can come together, and who will emerge as the next star running back.
4. NC State: This team is quietly preparing a championship-caliber roster. Quarterback Mike Glennon is still under the radar, and he’s got an experienced offensive line to work with. This is a team that could surprise some people.
5. Georgia Tech: The Jackets had a promising spring, but the defensive line has to replace two of three starters, and last season’s atrocious special teams still have a lot to prove. One thing is for sure: These guys will be able to run the ball on just about anyone.
6. Wake Forest: Much like the rest of its division, Wake Forest’s success will hinge in part on how quickly the new starters on the offensive line come together. The Demon Deacons have an experienced and much-improved quarterback in Tanner Price, and last year they made a statement that they’re not to be overlooked in the ACC race.
7. North Carolina: The two biggest questions for the Tar Heels are how quickly they can adapt to and execute a new system under first-year coach Larry Fedora, and where they will find their motivation now that the NCAA has banned them from the postseason. This spring revealed a positive outlook for the new offense, which should give quarterback Bryn Renner a chance to shine.
8. Virginia: The ACC’s 2011 Coach of the Year has quickly raised expectations, but they should be tempered because seven starters have to be replaced on defense. Michael Rocco is the undisputed starting quarterback -- unless Alabama transfer Phillip Sims has something to say about it.
9. Miami: With Stephen Morris out this spring with a back injury, quarterback transfer Ryan Williams had a chance to impress the coaches. The position is one of many questions still looming for the Canes, a young team still waiting for closure from an NCAA investigation.
10. Maryland: The Terps had a good spring and were able to move forward with players who wanted to be there. It was a positive vibe, but coach Randy Edsall is still tangled in the shadow of last year’s two-win season. He’ll have to improve upon it without the services of former quarterback Danny O’Brien.
11. Boston College: Several offseason staff changes were embraced this spring, and quarterback Chase Rettig made strides under yet another offensive coordinator, Doug Martin. The Eagles have to find a way to win without two of their most valuable players in running back Montel Harris, who was dismissed from the team, and linebacker Luke Kuechly, who left early for the NFL.
12. Duke: The Blue Devils had a good spring and are still buying into the philosophies of coach David Cutcliffe. They’ve been on the verge of making the postseason before, but fans are looking for them to finally break through in Year 5 under Cutcliffe. Quarterback Sean Renfree can get them there if they minimize the turnovers and play better defense.