With Monday's news that Georgia Tech juniors Jonathan Dwyer, Morgan Burnett and Derrick Morgan have decided to leave school early to enter the NFL draft, consider the ACC's Coastal Division officially up for grabs.
The top two front-runners heading into 2010 --- defending ACC champ Georgia Tech and Coastal Division runner-up Virginia Tech -- have significant losses they'll have to replace. The Hokies will lose six starters on defense, and the Yellow Jackets -- in a span of four days -- have lost their leading rusher, leading receiver and top defender. Georgia Tech will have to replace seven starters from this year's impressive 11-3 season, including linebacker Sedric Griffin, guard Cord Howard, offensive tackle Brad Sellers and junior receiver Demaryius Thomas, who announced on Friday he would enter the NFL draft.
At Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson thrives on proving his doubters wrong. At Virginia Tech, defensive coordinator Bud Foster has built his reputation on consistently reloading and producing top-ranked defenses each year. But both coaches are facing significant challenges that can't be ignored heading into next season. Georgia Tech will also have a new defensive coordinator, and possibly a new defensive scheme.
Enter Miami and North Carolina.
It will be as good a time as any for either or both of these programs to reassert themselves in the standings. It will be the fourth season for both Butch Davis and Randy Shannon, and expectations should be higher for both programs. This season, UNC proved it could beat the Hokies. And Miami proved it could defend Georgia Tech. With the growing pains expected in both Blacksburg and Atlanta, 2010 would be the time for UNC and Miami to make wins like that add up to more than just a bowl appearance.