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Spring games abound in ACC

4/10/2015

It’s a big weekend for spring games -- or what’s passing for a spring game anyway -- in the ACC, with five teams wrapping up practices Saturday. Here’s a quick look at what has been accomplished this spring at each school, and what still needs improvement over the summer.

Florida State (ESPN3, 2 p.m. ET)

What we learned: The biggest storyline was at quarterback, where Sean Maguire appears to have distanced himself from the rest of the pack this spring. Elsewhere, Jalen Ramsey's move to cornerback helps fill a void on FSU’s depth chart, and the new-look offensive line got some time to gel.

What’s still missing: It’s been a while since FSU had so many open questions at the end of spring, but none loom larger than the defensive front, where early departures for the NFL and a massive number of injuries at linebacker meant this spring didn’t come close to providing enough answers.

NC State

What we learned: The defense continues to progress, and Dave Doeren seems to have found an ideal combo at linebacker after moving Airius Moore to the Will position, getting him on the field with talented sophomore Jerod Fernandez. State’s defense made strides to end the season and looks poised to be a much improved group this fall.

What’s still missing: When Bo Hines and Marquez Valdes-Scantling decided to transfer, it left a huge vacancy on the Wolfpack’s depth chart at receiver. Bra'Lon Cherry and Jumichael Ramos are the obvious veteran candidates to step up, but much more work needs to be done to find potential playmakers.

Wake Forest (ESPN3, 3 p.m. ET)

What we learned: Things will be better on the offensive line for Wake this season, as a new group of blockers has added some size and strength to the mix. Freshman wideout Tabari Hines has turned heads early, and quarterback Kendall Hinton has pushed for reps, too.

What’s still missing: Dave Clawson likes what he has in Brad Watson at one cornerback, but the other spot is a mystery. Last season, Wake put its cornerbacks on an island often, so identifying a true cover corner is a necessity between now and Week 1.

Clemson

What we learned: Nick Schuessler got ample reps with the first-team offense, which should provide some depth at quarterback this season. That’s crucial given Deshaun Watson's injury history. The offensive line appears to be coming together, too, and new offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott have pared down the playbook a bit to aid their young playmakers. On defense, Jayron Kearse appears to be a future star, and Brent Venables is interested in using Kearse’s size and speed in a multitude of roles this season.

What’s still missing: The obvious missing piece is Watson, who by all accounts is making great strides in his recovery from ACL surgery. Still, it’s tough to know exactly what to expect from the sophomore after three serious injuries during his freshman campaign. Venables is still searching for talent in his front seven, too. He’s been a bit pessimistic in his evaluations this spring, and whether that’s a matter of a coach motivating his team or a lack of inspired play remains to be seen.

North Carolina

What we learned: Gene Chizik has shaken up the defense, which is, by default, a good thing. His arrival certainly has inspired a new attitude for a unit that lacked any semblance of consistency last season. UNC has been without quarterback Marquise Williams, but that might be a blessing as it’s forced Mitch Trubisky to take first-team reps and given the running backs more to do. At left tackle, Bentley Spain appears to have an edge for the starting job, too.

What’s still missing: Getting Williams back will provide a better idea of how the Tar Heels’ offense will function, but that’s never been the big question for this team. Getting the defensive issues fixed is a far bigger problem. Chizik is still working to identify playmakers, especially at nickel and linebacker in his new defensive scheme.