ACC: Duke Johnson

Earlier this week, I asked: Will Miami win the Coastal Division? Over 3,000 votes were cast, and the overwhelming majority say absolutely not.

Let's dig into the mailbag to see what you had to say.

Richard in Raleigh writes: You mentioned Miami had far too many concerns to overlook to be named the preseason Coastal favorites. Can this not also be said for the other 5 teams with a shot of winning the Coastal?

Andrea Adelson: Absolutely. But the Miami Hurricanes have a backbreaking schedule; and headed into the season, I am more confident in the quarterbacks for four of those teams (Duke Blue Devils, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Pittsburgh Panthers, North Carolina Tar Heels). As for the Virginia Tech Hokies, as long as their defense plays up to standards, the Hokies will always be in contention.




Ryan in Charlotte writes: Agree with Duke winning the Coastal. Duke's D-Line lost three, but I really don't think there will be a huge drop off in terms of production. Miami has an incompetent coaching staff, otherwise they should win it and [Frank] Beamer for not getting a real offensive coordinator prevents VT from being the favorite. Carolina every year is projected to win it and chokes consistently despite NFL talent. GT is also underrated, [Paul] Johnson has never finished lower than third in his time at GT. Pitt lost their QB and [Aaron] Donald, don't see them as being a dark horse. All of this coming from a die-hard Duke Fan.

Patrick Clark in Durham, North Carolina, writes: I'm quite surprised that you and I seem to be in the minority picking Duke to win the Coastal. Duke returns their top three tacklers, All-ACC WR Jamison Crowder, and are one of only three teams in the conference to return their starting QB in senior Anthony Boone. Throw in one of the easiest schedules in the conference and it seems to me, if you're able to put past history and stigmas aside, that Duke is the obvious choice to represent the Coastal Division and make it back to Charlotte. Are we crazy?

Adelson writes: Crazy like foxes!




Jason Freeman in Cumming, Georgia, writes: I would just like to know the insistence on picking a UNC, Miami, and now Duke! Until Duke did it last year, there has been only TWO schools that have represented the Coastal. And one of them is absolutely NEVER picked, I think you know which one I'm talking about! But what baffles me is, Duke is the favorite this season, but Georgia Tech went to Duke and embarrassed them, one of only two teams that beat them in the regular season! ... Oh and by the way, Georgia Tech beat the only other team to beat Duke in the regular season last year! And I know that Johnson isn't living up to what we thought he would do after the first two seasons. Keeping that in mind, we then were picked at the bottom in the Coastal and way surpassed expectations! But the same teams keep getting these exaggerated picks, and constantly fall under what is expected of them.

Rich in Atlanta writes: Shocking...that the media would pick Miami for the Coastal. Also funny that UNC & VT are ahead of GT. Duke maybe. Year after year, GT has the No. 1 offense in points and yardage for the Coastal (No. 1 in both categories again last year). What everyone is overlooking is that GT had the No. 2 defense in those categories last year only trailing VT. GT's average finishing rank in the Coastal is second since Coach Johnson arrived. D is on the upswing, O will produce as it always does. When has CPJ's O not been No. 1 in Coastal? Never.

Ryan in New York City writes: I'm definitely not one to downplay the Canes' woes of the last several seasons, particularly on defense. But I think most people are being really unfair in their evaluation of [Jake] Heaps. He had a very solid freshmen year at BYU before transferring due to a scheme change. Then he went to play for one of the worst coaches (Charlie Weis) at one of the worst programs (Kansas) where he got no help from his O-Line or receivers. At the very least, he's a mature player who has experienced a lot of different schemes, and will be in an offense with playmakers EVERYWHERE around him. By no means do I expect us to win the division (particularly because of the complete lack of defense), but I expect Heaps to earn the starting nod and surprise some people early in the season.

Phil in New York writes: Duke Johnson. Anthony Chickillo. Stacy Coley. Clive Walford. Phillip Dorsett. Herb Waters. Tyriq McCord. Tracy Howard.Get ready for your Coastal champs - the University of Miami Hurricanes!!!

CaliNative in SF/Miami writes: Miami and Virginia have the hardest conference schedules in the Coastal this year (Virginia's is harder because they play @FSU instead of UL). But my question is do you think if you switch Duke (or even VTech's) and Miami's schedule, do you think Miami becomes the overwhelming favorites? I mean Duke's schedule is set up only to lose to VT, UNC, and Miami. I think Miami (and UNC) are just set up so that they have to sweep the Coastal, or only have one loss, to win it. And honestly, that is the only reason I can see for not having Miami or UNC winning the Coastal.

Adelson writes: The schedule Miami has to play would be difficult for any team. One of the reasons why the Hurricanes want a nine-game league schedule is to even out the slate a little more for everyone. They have to play the Florida State Seminoles every year; their Coastal brethren don't. If Duke played Miami's schedule, then I would not pick the Blue Devils. Schedule is a huge reason why I think Duke has an edge, as I stated in the post. The schedule you play impacts how you finish, no matter how talented you are.




Al in Florida writes: You love to talk Miami down don't you, AA? I don't blame you, I would still be salty if I was a Gator fan. All Miami needs at QB is someone to get the ball to the playmakers without turning the ball over. We have the playmakers, more so than FSU or Clemson. Plus our O-line isn't too shabby. If (James) Coley can improve the O and if (Mark D'Onofrio's) D is half as good as it was last year, you can buy me a beer in North Carolina come December.

AJ Brown in Plantation, Fla., writes: The one true reason in my mind that Miami is favored to win the Coastal is because you can't ignore the talent that Miami possesses. Firstly, Miami has the best group of receivers RIGHT NOW in the entire ACC. That means that whoever starts at QB for Miami does not have to be STELLAR, but a game manager instead. Last year, the problem Miami had on offense was that Stephen Morris could not make the right reads and could not make the intermediate throws. Often times he was a one-trick pony who could only throw the deep ball. Jake Heaps, for example, may not have the arm or the pretty deep ball, but he can make the intermediate throws that Morris could not. As far as the defense, Miami SHOULD BE a lot better because of addition by subtraction. Miami had starters on the defense last season who had absolutely no business starting, like Tyrone Cornelius, Shayon Green, Jimmy Gaines, Kacy Rodgers and AJ Highsmith. The players replacing them are without a doubt more talented with way more athleticism, like Dallas Crawford, Jermaine Grace, Quan Muhammad, Jamal Carter, Tyriq McCord etc. Bottom line is, I don't think you can compare the talent level between Miami and Duke as Miami has a clear advantage there. I'm not saying Miami WILL win the Coastal, but I think you're drinking too much Blue Devil Kool-Aid because you're looking at Duke's Cinderella year from last season and the fact that they're returning their starting QB.

Adelson writes: I could not resist a parting shot. Duke beat the far more talented Miami head-to-head a year ago.

Why Miami will win Coastal

July, 25, 2014
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The ACC's Coastal Division is wide open entering the 2014 season. With six of seven teams receiving at least one first-place vote in the preseason media poll, the possibilities for how this race shakes out are vast. Here, we take a look at the six teams that garnered first-place votes, examining reasons that are working for and against them in their quests to get to the ACC title game.

Why Miami will win the Coastal:

1. They have recruited the best. Steve Spurrier says the recruiting rankings are usually right, so, first off, pat on the back RecruitingNation. If it was sarcasm, Steve, keep it to yourself. Miami would like to think so, too, as no program in the Coastal has recruited better than the Hurricanes despite the NCAA sanctions. In four out of the last five cycles, Miami has had the best class among Coastal teams. The only time they didn’t finish first is when Golden was hired two months before signing day in 2011. This most recent class finished in the top 10, and the 2013 class had budding star Stacy Coley and Al-Quadin Muhammad, who could make a national name for himself this fall. The 2012 class finished No. 8 nationally, and as third-year players it is time for them to become the core group that will elevate Miami to a conference championship game.

[+] EnlargeDuke Johnson
Joel Auerbach/Getty ImagesDuke Johnson rushed for 920 yards and averaged 6.3 yards per carry through eight games before his 2013 season was cut short by a fractured ankle.
2. Duke Johnson is 100 percent healthy. Miami’s offense is a question mark going into the season. A case can be made for four different quarterbacks to be the starter opening day. One thing Golden won’t need to worry about is the player behind his signal-caller. Johnson said he felt 100 percent last month and will be ready for preseason practice. He is the conference’s best running back and will challenge the 100-yard mark in every game this season. Golden and Johnson agree the junior running back is even better than he was a year ago and won’t come off the field often. When he does, Johnson is doing his best to make sure there is little to no drop in production. He regrets not preparing Miami’s younger running backs last season before his injury, so he has taken Joseph Yearby, the No. 4 running back in the 2014 class nationally, under his wing.

3. There is talent on defense. Canes fans hoped Golden would relieve Mark D’Onofrio as defensive coordinator at the end of last season, but Golden refused to fire his long-time friend. The defense will have to be markedly better for D’Onofrio to return to Miami fans’ good graces, but there are capable players throughout the defense, especially in the back seven. Denzel Perryman is one of the conference’s best linebackers as a tackler and in pass coverage. Cornerback Tracy Howard and Deon Bush are coming into their own in the defensive backfield. And maybe this is the season Anthony Chickillo puts it all together.

Why Miami won’t win the Coastal

1. They don’t have a starting quarterback. The sense around Coral Gables is Ryan Williams needs to return from his April knee surgery as quickly as he can. Golden and Johnson made it clear redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen still has a lot to prove, not only on the field but as a leader. Jake Heaps is eligible to play right away but he’s been the college equivalent of a journeyman, bouncing from program to program. Brad Kaaya was a blue-chip prep quarterback but has not been on campus long. It’s rare for a team to win a conference championship with shaky quarterback play, and, outside of Wake Forest, no team is worse at the position right now than the Canes. If Williams returns after missing only a few games or Olsen can step up during preseason drills and just manage the game, Johnson might be able to carry Miami all the way to Charlotte.

2. The defensive line is still shaky. The hope is Chickillo will live up to the expectations that followed him when he arrived at Miami, but he’s been inconsistent in his career. Muhammad has the promise and look of a great lineman, but he’ll still take his lumps early in his sophomore season. Golden looked to the junior college ranks for help and signed Calvin Heurtelou, but determining the impact of a juco prospect in their first year is a guessing game. If the defensive line does not improve, chances are it won’t matter how talented the back seven of the defense is. Bush and Howard cannot cover all day, and Perryman will be far less effective when the running back is charging at him with a 300-pound lineman lead blocking.

3. The schedule could be an issue. The hope is Williams returns by the Nebraska game Sept. 20, but if he does not it could put Miami in an early hole. The Canes open up the season at Louisville in a Monday night game, and it is the Cardinals’ first game as an ACC team. Expect a wild atmosphere in what could be a Week 1 loss for Miami. The week after the nonconference Nebraska game, Miami plays host to Duke, the reigning Coastal champions. If Williams does not play in that game, will Miami be able to score enough points to hang with Duke? If he does, will he have shaken off the rust in time? It could be a double-edged sword. Miami also has to play at Virginia Tech in prime time on a Thursday, and let’s not forget the annual rivalry game against Florida State. The Seminoles are going to be the preseason No. 1 team in all likelihood.

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 24, 2014
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Two Miami topics up for discussion this fine lunch hour.

First: Is Duke Johnson a viable Heisman candidate? I agree with everything Athlon Sports says about Johnson in its write-up:
From a talent standpoint, Johnson is the only other option in the ACC who can compete with Winston. He has elite-level, breakaway speed and explosiveness. The biggest speed bump in The Duke’s Heisman campaign will be staying healthy. The smallish back has dealt with injuries but if he can stay on the field and post 250 touches, his numbers could be ridiculously good.

Being healthy is obviously important. If he is able to get 250 carries while averaging his career mark of 6.5 yards per carry, Johnson will have at least 1,650 yards. If he can somehow get to 2,000 like Andre Williams did a season ago, then he has a terrific chance of being invited to New York. But there is one more stumbling point from my point of view: uncertainty at quarterback.

With Stephen Morris behind center and Johnson at running back, Miami always had the threat to run or pass. The passing threat has been taken away without a sure-fire quarterback. More teams will load the box. Williams found a way to overcome that at BC last year, but the Eagles decided early on they wanted to be physical and play smash-mouth football. Miami does not play that style of football. So along with staying healthy, Johnson has to find a way to keep breaking off explosive runs with more defenses keying on him.

Second: Can the Hurricanes help make Miami a football town again? I completely understand what Miami Herald columnist Greg Cote is trying to say here. I grew up in South Florida in the 1980s and early 1990s, when football was king. But even when the Hurricanes were winning national championships, they only sold out their biggest games. Losing LeBron James will in no way start guaranteeing more seats filled at Sun Life Stadium.

Oh sure, football will be talked about more, but everybody knows Miami fans only come out for winning teams. In the case of the Canes, they need to win and play in big games.

Now let's take a look at other headlines across the ACC:
The preseason All-ACC team was released Wednesday, and naturally quarterback Jameis Winston led the way with the most votes. There were not too many surprises, beginning with Florida State players littered throughout the list of 26 names.

Here is the 2014 preseason All-ACC team, as voted on by the media at the ACC Kickoff:

 
 
 

Thoughts: While the ACC had the second-most NFL draft picks in May, there is significant talent returning to the conference for the 2014 season. Of the 26 players, 21 were named to one of the three All-ACC teams at the end of last season. That doesn’t include Parker, who will play his first season in the ACC this coming season. Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and the leading vote getter (although not a unanimous one), and Beasley, who received the second-most votes, are two of the three returning consensus All-Americans from the 2013 season.

Few conferences would be able to rival that offense with Winston throwing to 1,000-yard receivers Crowder and Greene and a 6-foot-3 target in Parker. O’Leary is one of the best tight ends in the country. There was a seemingly close battle at running back behind Duke Johnson, Williams got the nod over Virginia running back Kevin Parks, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season.

Defensively, that is one talented line. Beasley received the second-most votes for the preseason player of the year, and Edwards was the No. 1 high school recruit in the 2012 class. Maddy and Jarrett are two of the best defensive tackles in the country.

Duke has the second-most players on the team, which speaks to the program David Cutcliffe is building in Durham. The Blue Devils were not picked to win the ACC Coastal despite winning it last season and returning quarterback Anthony Boone. There is a constituency out there that still doesn’t believe Duke is the real deal and is bound for a letdown, but the media believes there is talent throughout the roster; the Blue Devils have a player at receiver, offensive line, linebacker and the secondary. Miami, which was picked to win the division, has two players on the list.

Even as Duke had four players, the Seminoles still had nine, only further signifying the gap between Florida State and the rest of the conference, although the league is undoubtedly improving. That list does not include Ronald Darby or Jalen Ramsey, two players who will almost certainly be on an All-ACC team by the end of the season. It is no surprise Florida State was ranked as having the most talent on its 2014 roster two weeks ago in ESPN.com's future power rankings.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- We can all agree just about every team in the cluttered Coastal Division has a chance to win it.

Yet, it was still a surprise to see Miami selected as the media’s preseason choice to play in its first ACC championship game. Sure, the Canes have a shot just like the other five teams that earned first-place votes, but it is hard to see how they have the best shot to make it to Charlotte.

Duke is my choice to finish first. Here is why I believe the Blue Devils have more of an edge than Miami headed into the season.

1. Quarterback. Duke is one of three teams in the league to return its starting quarterback. Senior Anthony Boone showed tremendous growth through 2013, and has used his fourth-quarter performance in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl as an opportunity to grow and learn, too. Coach David Cutcliffe says Boone has taken on much more leadership, responsibility and accountability. He should, especially with Brandon Connette out of the mix.

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Miami, meanwhile, has no answers at quarterback -- not until Ryan Williams returns from a torn ACL. Kevin Olsen or Jake Heaps will have to pilot the Canes until then and there are major question marks around both. You don't need to read much into these comments from Johnson to wonder: Has Olsen matured? Can Heaps live up to the hype that trailed him out of high school? And even when Williams does return, he is no sure thing. He’s only taken a handful of snaps in mop-up duty at Miami and just two against Top 25 competition (garbage time in a blowout to Kansas State). Duke Johnson is one of the best players in the country, but Miami needs an effective quarterback to help him out. We don’t know yet whether he does.

2. Schedule. Miami plays one of the toughest schedules in the ACC. The Hurricanes get both Florida State and Louisville out of the Atlantic, and then have to play at Virginia Tech on a Thursday night. No other bona fide Coastal contender has to face that trifecta. Miami will definitively be without Williams for the opener at Louisville, a team that destroyed the Canes in the Russell Athletic Bowl in December. Louisville has a radically different look, but the Cards already are favored to win. Duke, meanwhile, avoids Florida State, Clemson Tigers and Louisville, playing Syracuse Orange and Wake Forest from the Atlantic. In addition, the Blue Devils get Virginia Tech and North Carolina at home. It seems pretty clear Duke has the schedule advantage.

3. Defense. The truth is, neither defense was stellar last season. Miami and Duke ranked toward the bottom in the ACC in just about every major defensive category. But no coordinator is under fire more than Mark D'Onofrio at Miami. There is a level of play people have come to expect from the Miami defense, and nobody has seen it in years. Al Golden has talked up his group headed into this season, but acknowledges the defensive line needs to transform itself into a dominating group. For Miami to make the jump to a championship, it needs a vastly improved group. I’m just not sure the Canes will field a dominating defense this year.

Certainly, Miami has the talent to make it to the title game. The Canes had early momentum last year before they fell back, mostly because Johnson was hurt. A healthy Johnson gives Miami an opportunity to win all its games. But remember, even when Johnson was healthy last season Miami was living on the edge, needing fourth-quarter comebacks against Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina and Wake Forest.

The bottom line is this: There are far too many questions to overlook to believe in Miami as the preseason Coastal favorites.

Agree? Disagree? Vote in our poll and drop me a line in the mailbag with your thoughts. Best comments go up Friday.

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 21, 2014
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Make sure to check out our live coverage of ACC media day starting at 1:30 p.m.! Follow @ESPN_ACC, @DavidHaleESPN, @Matt_Fortuna and @JShankerESPN for all our coverage.
video
GREENSBORO, North Carolina -- Reporters began staking out seats in front of the placard that read "Jameis Winston" more than an hour before the Heisman-winning quarterback was scheduled to speak. When Winston finally arrived, it was with his typical bluster, as he implored the gawkers to offer a round of applause that his Florida State Seminoles had finally wrestled college football's national championship from the clutches of the big, bad SEC.

It was an appropriate entrance, really. After all, it's the SEC that had set the standard for preseason media frenzies, first with Tim Tebow and, at the past year's SEC media days, with Johnny Manziel. But now it was Winston's star power that garnered all the attention.

Winston sat at a small table with his teammate, P.J. Williams, perched quietly at the opposite end. The crowd surrounding Winston grew so massive that reporters were standing on chairs just to get a peek, while the other ACC representatives discussed minutia with spartan audiences. But if Winston stole the spotlight, no one seemed upset by the spectacle.

"He's a great player, a great athlete and a great person to be around," BC defensive back Dominique Williams said. "He's a funny kid. Guys like us, we're just going about our business, and if people want to talk to us, they'll talk to us."

In fact, there were plenty of players just as eager to meet the ACC's biggest name live and in person.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston reminded those at the ACC's preseason kickoff that he and the Seminoles stopped the SEC's string of national titles this past season.
During the day's photo session, Winston smiled and snapped a selfie with Clemson's Cole Stoudt. He cracked jokes with players from Boston College and Wake Forest. When he wrapped up his session with print media, he danced in front of the North Carolina contingent.

"That guy's crazy," laughed Tar Heels' linebacker Norkeithus Otis.

His partner at the dais wasn't surprised. UNC quarterback Marquise Williams first met Winston at a camp five years ago, then he roomed with the Heisman winner at this past week's Manning Passing Academy. Winston's playful demeanor in the face of so much media scrutiny came as no surprise for Williams.

"I've known that knucklehead," Williams said. "I'm impressed with him. He's not like you think, not cocky. He's humble. He's a real down-to-earth guy. You can tell he won the Heisman, so something had to change, but everybody gets better as they get older. They get more knowledge."

That was a theme for Winston throughout. He didn't offer much in the way of contrition for the off-field incidents that have made him fodder for jokes and a headliner on celebrity gossip sites, but Winston did repeatedly talk about maturing in the spotlight and learning from his mistakes.

"You always have to have a smile on your face," Winston said. "Leadership is not only on the field -- it's off the field too. I know I have guys looking up to me, and I know I have a lot of support from my teammates as well."

The smile endeared Winston to the crowd Sunday, but the lingering concerns about last year's sexual assault investigation and this spring's police citation for stealing crab legs from a local grocery store tinged nearly every question Winston received. That too earned the attention of his colleagues around the room.

"He's a kid that made mistakes -- some bigger than others -- but he's doing a good job of handling himself," Miami tailback Duke Johnson said. "He got asked questions that were uncomfortable for him, but he handled himself well."

It was less than a year ago that Winston vaulted into the national spotlight, and he insists that despite all the chaos of a high-profile investigation, a Heisman win and a BCS title, he hasn't changed much. That certainly seemed to be the case Sunday, as he maintained the same air of playfulness and confidence that endeared him to so many Florida State fans from the outset of his career.

But Winston said he also knows Sunday won't be the last time he faces the cameras and answers some uncomfortable questions. Now that he's wrestled a championship from the SEC, he's going to be at the center of college football's universe -- for better and worse.

"I understand my leadership responsibilities for a team that won a national championship and a Heisman trophy," Winston said. "We still have a little fun here and there, and we've still got our mind set on winning another national championship. That's the most important thing."
video Jameis Winston stole the show at Florida State’s media day a year ago as the charismatic freshman quarterback and instant media darling. He is the show Sunday in Greensboro, North Carolina, where the ACC media days begin with Winston talking to reporters first.

It will be the first time Winston will meet with the media since the end of spring practice April 12, but there’s been no shortage of headlines featuring Winston’s name, as he was cited for shoplifting seafood and did not testify at the school disciplinary hearings for teammates Chris Casher and Ronald Darby.

It surprised some to see Florida State was bringing Winston to media days considering the intense scrutiny he’s faced over the last nine months. There won't be the same ability for Florida State to control the questions thrown Winston’s way at media days in front of a national group of reporters, many of whom have written columns in the last year criticizing Winston and Florida State’s handling of his off-field incidents.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Stacy Revere/Getty ImagesAll eyes will be on Jameis Winston as ACC media days kick off on Sunday.
How will Winston respond when peppered with questions about crab legs or his rumored no-show at the hearings for Casher and Darby? (Winston’s lawyer, Tim Jansen, told ESPN.com in May that Winston was not required to attend.) Auburn came under fire last week for leaving quarterback Nick Marshall at home following a marijuana citation, electing to allow Marshall to avoid the prodding questions from SEC media. Critics wanted to see maturity out of Marshall in front of reporters, and they will be looking for the same from Winston.

Every sentence and every gesture Winston makes will be analyzed Sunday. And unlike this time last year, Winston has earned the spotlight with his dazzling play on the field and puzzling decisions off it.

While Winston is the story of media days this week, here a few other players certain to draw significant attention:

RB Duke Johnson, Miami: The Hurricanes’ workhorse last season suffered a season-ending ankle injury against Florida State. With a questionable quarterback situation, Miami’s offense might only go as far as Johnson takes it.

WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh: If not for Winston, Boyd might have been the ACC’s top rookie in 2013. An explosive playmaker, Boyd will be relied upon heavily this season with Devin Street off to the NFL. Boyd is one of the better quotes, too.

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson: The Tigers are looking to dethrone the Seminoles in the Atlantic Division, and their chances might rest on the Clemson defense, which could be among the nation’s best.

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville: Parker is poised for huge numbers in Bobby Petrino’s offense. If Petrino can upset the balance of power in the ACC at all this season, Parker will be a major reason.
NFL.com has made its predictions for the ACC’s leaders in the major statistical categories, and it didn’t exactly go out on a limb with any selections. In fact, I’d say NFL.com’s picks are probably the same as mine.

But let’s play devil’s advocate for a bit today and dig a little deeper into the ACC’s talent pool to find some other contenders. So, here are my not-so-obvious choices:

Passing yards

NFL.com choice: Jameis Winston (Florida State)
Not-so-obvious choice: Will Gardner (Louisville)

OK, there’s really only one contender for this, and it’s Winston. But if we’ve got to find an alternative, we’ll go with Bobby Petrino’s new QB. In nine years as a college head coach, Petrino’s QBs have topped 3,000 yards five times (and that includes four different quarterbacks). Louisville also has a strong group of receivers and a veteran line in front of Gardner, so the passing game should be solid. And who knows? Perhaps FSU blows out so many of its opponents again that Winston’s numbers suffer as a result of too many second halves spent on the bench.

Rushing yards

NFL.com choice: Duke Johnson (Miami)
Not-so-obvious choice: Zach Laskey (Georgia Tech)

What separates Johnson beyond talent is that he figures to be a bell cow in the backfield, and that’s something that just doesn’t exist much anymore. Florida State, Syracuse, Clemson, UNC, Pitt — they’re all going to have more of a committee approach that will likely prevent any one back from piling up too many yards. That’s true at Georgia Tech, too, but because the Yellow Jackets run the ball more than anyone else (78 percent of its plays last year), we’ll assume Laskey will get his shot at a title anyway. Of course, despite all those carries, Tech tailbacks have led the ACC in rushing just twice under Paul Johnson (2008 and 2010).

Receiving yards

NFL.com choice: DeVante Parker (Louisville)
Not-so-obvious choice: Rashad Greene (Florida State)

OK, so Parker might actually be the not-so-obvious choice here, as Greene, Tyler Boyd and Jamison Crowder all return fresh off 1,000-yard seasons. We’d bet all four top 1,000 again this year, but the edge will go to Greene, who has the best QB throwing to him, but won’t have to compete with Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw for targets this year.

Tackles

NFL.com choice: Steven Daniels (Boston College)
Not-so-obvious choice: Kelby Brown (Duke)

A lot gets made of BC’s run of great tacklers. Every year, the Eagles produce another 100-tackle defender. But do you know which team had the top three tacklers in the ACC last season? That’d be Duke (David Helton, Jeremy Cash and Brown), and all three are back this year. In fact, in the last six seasons, Duke has produced eight players with 100-tackle seasons.

Sacks

NFL.com choice: Vic Beasley (Clemson)
Not-so-obvious choice: Corey Crawford (Clemson)

Beasley has already received so much attention, it would be a mild surprise if he led the league in sacks again just because opposing linemen will make him a focal point all season. In fact, the last time the same player led the ACC in sacks in consecutive years was Florida State's Peter Boulware in 1995 and 1996. So here’s betting that one of Beasley’s teammates reaps the rewards of all the attention he figures to get in 2014.

Interceptions

NFL.com choice: Kendall Fuller (Virginia Tech)
Not-so-obvious choice: P.J. Williams (Florida State)

This one is sort of a crapshoot, but Florida State figures to be up big in many games, forcing the opposition to throw, and with a balanced and deep corps of defensive backs, it will be hard for teams to avoid throwing to any one side of the field. So that means Williams should get a few chances, and he’s as talented as any corner in the country, so we’re betting he makes the most of a few of those opportunities.

More links:

Player list for ACC media days

July, 10, 2014
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The 2014 college football season is inching ever so closer, with ACC media days set to take place in less than two weeks.

The league released its list of players who will be attending the July 20-21 event at The Grandover Resort in Greensboro, North Carolina. Here they are:

BOSTON COLLEGE
C Andy Gallik, R-Sr.
DB Dominique Williams, R-Sr.

CLEMSON
QB Cole Stoudt, Sr.
DE Vic Beasley, R-Sr.

DUKE
OG Laken Tomlinson, R-Sr.
LB Kelby Brown, R-Sr.

FLORIDA STATE
QB Jameis Winston, R-So.
CB P.J. Williams, Jr.

GEORGIA TECH
OG Shaquille Mason, Sr.
LB Quayshawn Nealy, R-Sr.

LOUISVILLE
WR DeVante Parker, Sr.
DE Lorenzo Mauldin, Sr.

MIAMI
RB Duke Johnson, Jr.
LB Denzel Perryman, Sr.

NORTH CAROLINA
QB Marquise Williams, Jr.
LB Norkeithus Otis, Sr.

NC STATE
RB Tony Creecy, R-Sr.
DE Art Norman, R-Sr.

PITT
WR Tyler Boyd, So.
DB Ray Vinopal, R-Sr.

SYRACUSE
OT Sean Hickey, Sr.
LB Cameron Lynch, Sr.

VIRGINIA
RB Kevin Parks, Sr.
SS Anthony Harris, Sr.

VIRGINIA TECH
WR Willie Byrn, R-Sr.
DT Luther Maddy, DT

WAKE FOREST
FB Jordan Garside, R-Sr.
CB Kevin Johnson, R-Sr.
Do you need a sign college football is close but still just a little too far away? The first preseason award watch lists were released Monday, a list of more than 70 players that could be the best in the country by season’s end.

It doesn’t matter if you have started only three games in your career and haven’t played a down since November 2012 -- there is a spot for you on the list.

That said, it’s college football and as ridiculous as these often are, I admit I enjoy looking at them. The watch lists for the Maxwell Award, given to the college player of the year, and Bednarik Award, given to the top defensive player, were released Monday. As the season progresses, the list will be pared down before a winner is announced in December.

Here is a look at the ACC players to make the cut and some justification for each player being on the list.

Maxwell Award

WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh: As a freshman last fall, Boyd was as good of a receiver as there was in the ACC. As the Panthers’ No. 1 receiver heading into the 2014 season, Boyd could put up monster numbers and follow in the footsteps of Pitt great Larry Fitzgerald.

[+] EnlargeJames Connor
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsJames Conner set a Pitt record with 229 yards in the Panthers' bowl win over Bowling Green.
QB Jacoby Brissett, NC State: This is not a knock on Brissett, but his inclusion is certainly puzzling considering he sat out all of 2013 after transferring from Florida, where he saw limited time as a starter and backup. However, the Wolfpack staff is high on Brissett leading the program’s turnaround, and Brissett was a blue-chip high school recruit.

WR Stacy Coley, Miami: Much like Boyd, Coley had a strong freshman season and is poised for a breakout sophomore campaign. One of the country’s elite recruits in 2013, Coley could make a national name for himself if he can build a connection with Miami’s quarterbacks, which have struggled with inconsistency and injury.

RB James Conner, Pitt: It’s almost unfair Conner was limited to just the Maxwell watch list Monday considering he is a two-way standout for the Panthers. Conner is already a huge fan favorite in the Steel City for his bruising and relentless running style, and he broke Tony Dorsett’s school bowl-game rushing record in December.

WR Jamison Crowder, Duke: Any time you catch more than 100 passes for more than 1,300 yards, you deserve to be on this list.

RB Duke Johnson, Miami: Johnson’s inclusion here is a credit to how dominant he was before the injury against Florida State and how woeful Miami looked after. If he can stay healthy, Johnson has the potential to be an elite back nationally.

WR DeVante Parker, Louisville: As the Cardinals’ leading returning receiver and now in Bobby Petrino’s offense, Parker should light up stat sheets this coming season.

WR Rashad Greene, Florida State: There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Seminoles’ receivers, but none of it includes Greene, who led the Noles in receiving in 2013. With Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw in the NFL, Greene will be looked upon to bail out Jameis Winston this fall.

QB Jameis Winston, Florida State: Speaking of Winston, the Maxwell is about the only thing he did not win last season. Another spectacular season and it will be hard to ignore him again.

RB Karlos Williams, Florida State: Similar to Brissett, this is a bit of a projection pick, although Williams has done significantly more than Brissett. Williams was the third-string running back in 2013, but with his five-star talent base coupled with a senior-laden offensive line and Williams could set records in his final season in Tallahassee.

Reaction: While Brissett is obviously a surprise, overall it is hard to argue with much of the list. Williams' inclusion might be pushing it a little bit, although he certainly could be one of the best running backs in the country with his blend of size and speed. It's a positive sign for the ACC that several underclassmen are on the list, including special playmakers Boyd, Coley and Conner, who will all be true sophomores this fall. The biggest question is whether Winston will win the award if he performs the way most expect him to as a redshirt sophomore. AJ McCarron won the award last season over Winston, who was a semifinalist along with Johnny Manziel. Winston's off-the-field issues might have played a role, so it would be interesting to see if the Maxwell Award will continue to take those incidents into account.



Bednarik Award

LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson: A third-team All-ACC selection last season, Anthony was brilliant in the Orange Bowl win against Ohio State with 11 tackles and an interception.

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson: A semifinalist for the award last season, Beasley is a disruptive force in opponents’ backfields. If he can show a little more consistency, he might win the award in 2014.

[+] EnlargeVic Beasley
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesClemson's Vic Beasley is among the favorites to repeat as a finalist for this season's Bednarik Award.
LB Kelby Brown, Duke: The Blue Devils under David Cutcliffe are most known for offense, but Brown is a stout defender and one of the conference’s best. He will make a run at 100 tackles for a second straight season this fall.

DB Jeremy Cash, Duke: Cash was an instant impact player for the Blue Devils a season ago following a transfer from Ohio State. With another year in the system, Cash is poised for a huge season.

DL Mario Edwards, Florida State: The former No. 1 recruit nationally was dominant in the national championship. Edwards is now the leader of the defensive line and has just as good a chance as any to win the Bednarik.

DB Anthony Harris, Virginia: An All-ACC selection as a junior, Harris will be looked upon to lead the turnaround for the Cavs on defense. It is a talented unit, and Harris, a team captain this fall, might be the best.

DE Eli Harold, Virginia: Last season he finished sixth in the ACC with 15 tackles for loss, an impressive number. He could see his numbers improve drastically with five-star Andrew Brown now at defensive tackle.

DB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech: An impact performer as a freshman and a second-team All-ACC selection, Fuller is set to be the next great defensive back at Virginia Tech.

DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson: With Beasley constantly seeing double teams, this opens up the door for Jarrett to be an interior force for the Tigers’ defensive line, which is arguably the country’s best.

DT Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech: He helped make a name for himself against Alabama at the beginning of the season, and his strong play continued throughout the year.

LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville: It will be interesting to see how he fares without defensive guru Charlie Strong, but is as talented as they come.

DE/LB Norkeithus Otis, North Carolina: Otis is another player poised to possibly gain national recognition and it begins with his inclusion on this list. He had a very strong junior season with 6.5 sacks.

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami: One of the few bright spots on Miami’s defense last season, Perryman is the unquestioned leader of the Hurricanes’ defenses. He could put up a huge number of tackles this fall.

CB P.J. Williams, Florida State: Williams was one of FSU’s best players this spring, and he might be the country’s best cornerback. His stiffest competition could come from the opposite side of the field in teammate Ronald Darby, who surprisingly did not make the list.

Reaction: It was surprising Darby's name was not included on the list despite missing the spring. He could be the first cornerback taken in the NFL draft next year. The ACC is home to some of the country's best defensive backs with Williams, Fuller and Harris. Beasley is certainly one of the favorites coming into the season, but he was shut down by Florida State last season and will need to rebound against the Seminoles to make a push for the Bednarik as a senior. His sack numbers should be impressive once again, and if he can perform on the big stages, it might be the little extra that wins him the award this season. FSU's Edwards could be the best defensive lineman in the ACC and the country if he plays like he did against Auburn all season. What could hurt Edwards is he will not always be in a position to pile up sacks and tackles even when he is dominating opposing offensive linemen.
From Florida State’s veteran line to Clemson’s fearsome defensive front, the ACC projects to have some of the country’s best position groups this fall, while a few other contenders will enter 2014 with some major question marks in key areas. With that in mind, we’re looking at the ACC’s best units, a few more that might surprise in 2014 and the top teams with holes that could keep them from an ACC title.

Previous installments of this series can be found HERE.

Next up: The running game

Best of the best: Florida State

There's plenty of competition for the top spot, but we're giving the edge to FSU's revamped ground game in spite of the losses of Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. While the Seminoles said goodbye to two of their top runners, they return a senior-laden offensive line that has opened holes to the tune of 5.6 yards-per-carry last season, as well as a dynamic (if inexperienced) group of ball carriers. At the top of the depth chart, Karlos Williams tallied 730 yards and 11 TDs last season in a limited role, and his size/speed combination makes him as tough to bring down as any runner in the country. Behind him, Ryan Green and Mario Pender offer speedy alternatives, while true freshman Dalvin Cook oozes potential and could emerge as FSU's No. 2 option. Jimbo Fisher has made a point of distributing carries in recent years, so expect all four to see plenty of work.

Next up: Miami

It's easy enough to make a case for Georgia Tech (300 rush yards per game last year), Louisville (veteran offensive line and deep backfield) or Pitt (two 700-yard tailbacks returning), but we'll give the slight edge to Miami because there may be no more dynamic or productive runner in the conference than Duke Johnson. True, Johnson is coming off a severe ankle injury that cost him the final five games of 2013, but he's back and feeling good already, and he promises to be the foundation of the Canes' offense. With a healthy Johnson in the backfield last season, Miami averaged 5.4 yards per carry -- which would've been good for 13th nationally and third in the ACC.

Possible sleeper: North Carolina

Against FBS foes last season, North Carolina mustered a mere 148 yards per game on the ground -- good for 11th in the ACC. But that doesn't mean the ground game won't be a strength for the Tar Heels in 2014. In the early going, UNC mustered a meager 2.8 yards-per-carry and six TDs in its first seven games of the year (in which the Heels finished 2-5). After the calendar flipped to November, however, North Carolina's ground game flourished, averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry and scoring 13 times, while helping the Heels to a 5-1 finish. Now, T.J. Logan is back to lead a particularly deep corps of runners, and Marquise Williams is as good a threat to run as any QB in the league. If the offensive line can hold up, North Carolina's ground game should be vastly improved in 2014.

Potential problem: Virginia Tech

The Hokies' backfield was a disaster last season. Set aside the work of now-departed QB Logan Thomas, and the running backs tallied a mere 3.98 yards-per-carry last season and managed just 11 third-down conversions. Against FBS teams, Tech managed just 2.88 yards-per-carry, the ninth-worst mark in the nation. The eight teams that were worse had a combined record of 18-79. Now the Hokies add a first-year starter at quarterback, and the situation looks even more dire.

ACC mailblog

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
3:00
PM ET
Have a great weekend, everyone!

Dave in Baltimore writes: OK, the division realignment discussion is getting old at this point -- how many years has it been going on? We've all got our ideas of what we want to see, but let's talk about something that is maybe a little more plausible. I love the idea of entire conference ACC-SEC matchups every year. We've already got four built in, so it is a perfect match. Being a Virginia Tech fan, I would love to see VT play Tennessee a lot more often. I think you have to keep the core four matchups, but I wouldn't force the others because not every pair of teams has a natural "rival." There are several good options for VT in Tennessee (proximity), Texas A&M (very similar schools and the best road trip I've been on) and Alabama (we have played them 13 times in the past). One problem I see is that VT has a lot of B1G teams on the future schedule through 2023 (OSU, Wisconsin, Michigan, Penn State, Purdue), many of which are also great games. I don't see them scheduling both SEC and B1G teams in the same year unless strength of schedule really becomes a factor. It stinks when you're looking forward to these games for a decade and then they get bought out and canceled. My OSU friends and I have been waiting 10 years for the OSU series!

Adelson writes: Every fan has to live with the idea that a terrific matchup scheduled way down the road could end up getting canceled. But let's not go there. It is true every athletic director has to balance nonconference scheduling -- creating a solid slate without killing their team. But it is not unheard of to have two challenging nonconference games on the slate, like a Tennessee and an Ohio State. Clemson has it this year with Georgia and South Carolina; Florida State has it with Oklahoma State and Florida. During the spring meetings, I asked Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock how he would approach scheduling in years the Hokies played Notre Dame, considering the Big Ten games already on the table. He replied, "In Blacksburg, if we have Michigan and Notre Dame on the schedule, I think our fans would be fine with that." Another option exists, if all ACC teams end up with a yearly game against the SEC. In the seasons Virginia Tech plays one of the tougher Big Ten opponents, or Notre Dame, perhaps the Hokies get paired up with Kentucky (still in geographic proximity). I know the matchup is not nearly as glamorous as Tennessee, Alabama or Texas A&M, but it does balance out the schedule a little more.

 




Justin in Ocala, Florida, writes: So, Andrea, I know you know my city is here in the heart of Gator country, and I have been hearing a lot of talk lately about UF having some serious interest in setting up a home and home with Clemson. Of course, this is just fan talk, but the local radio guys (former Gator greats) have all been saying they really like what Clemson brings to college football and would love to set up some crossovers. Granted, Clemson is in the deep South, which is clearly college football country, but with big-time SEC teams expressing interest in another ACC matchup (they already get FSU every year), do you think this is a good sign for the rise of the ACC? It would appear that the interest is there from the SEC (I consider UF a power player for the SEC) to get some real nontraditional but still power games set up. Since we all expect the ADs to take a wait-and-see approach on strength of schedule versus college playoff entrance, are there any real discussions to get these games set up? It seems that it would be a real recruiting coup for the ACC and SEC if they could get some inter-conference power games yearly, which could definitely help pull some of those California kids back East. By the way, how awesome would it be to see UF-Clemson square off in some night games in Death Valley and the Swamp?

Adelson writes: Yes, please! The ACC and SEC have been in discussions about setting up yearly matchups between their schools. I think we can all agree that would be a huge positive for the ACC. Clemson has not been shy about scheduling nonconference games against SEC teams outside of South Carolina. Note the recent home-and-home with Georgia and regular-season matchups against Auburn. Florida is the school that has been much more reluctant to schedule a tougher nonconference schedule, if only because the Gators are not in the habit of playing home-and-home contests. Miami was an exception to that, and the series has ended. However, the recent scheduling news that Florida will play Michigan in 2017 in Arlington, Texas, provides a glimmer of hope that perhaps scheduling philosophies are shifting. Florida already has its yearly ACC game, so it won't be required to add another. As opposed to a home-and-home, perhaps the Gators would agree to a one-off against a team at a neutral site, like Atlanta. That would be a win-win for everyone.

 




Michael in Atlanta writes: What players do you feel will step up for Miami this year on the defensive side?

Adelson writes: I am looking for a big year out of defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad. There is no doubt Miami needs to increase the pressure from the defensive line, and Muhammad is poised to take advantage after having a good spring. The coaches have raved about Tracy Howard and Artie Burns at cornerback, a position where Miami needs much more consistent play. Howard has taken on much more of a leadership role, which the coaches have been happy to see.

 




Colin in Orlando writes: Wow...... No Duke Johnson or Stacy Coley for best special teams players? Not even one of them? That is horrendous reporting. It shows a lack of detail and credibility. I am a Hurricane fan, but I am also a realist. We have no QB and the defense hasn't played together in years. That doesn't mean we still don't have some of the best talent in the nation. I would take Stacy Coley and Duke Johnson over Kermit (Whitfield) any day. He has one gear and one move (straight and fast), and yeah he is good at that, but come on man! I would take Duke and Coley over anyone on that list! To not even mention one of them is ludicrous.

Adelson writes: When I did the special teams position analysis video you are referring to, I geared it specifically toward the players who either led the NCAA or were among the best in the NCAA in returns. As in any of these videos, there is never truly enough time to go into detail on every player on every team. Are Johnson and Coley good returners? Absolutely. You can see where Coley ranks among ACC kickoff returners here. But neither player did what Whitfield or Ryan Switzer or even DeVon Edwards did last season, so that is why they were not included in the video discussion. That does not diminish their skills or talents. Looking forward to watching them both in a very stacked group of ACC specialists.
Earlier this week, Andrea Adelson wrote about the potential for Duke’s offense to be exceptional again this season because the Blue Devils are the lone ACC team that returns their leading passer, rusher and receiver. No doubt, that’s good for offensive rapport, and certainly Duke deserves to be considered among the favorites in the Coastal.

But what about the other side of that coin?

[+] EnlargeCole Stoudt
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsCan players such as quarterback Cole Stoudt keep the Clemson offense humming?
Last week, Andrea wrote that four teams had to replace their leading passer, rusher and receiver from 2013: Clemson (Tajh Boyd, Roderick McDowell, Sammy Watkins), Wake Forest (Tanner Price, Josh Harris, Michael Campanaro), Boston College (Chase Rettig, Andre Williams, Alex Amidon) and Georgia Tech (Vad Lee, David Sims, Robert Godhigh).

This week, we wanted to know if that was a sign of impending doom, so we looked for some historical precedent. Oddly, this kind of thing doesn’t seem to happen all that often.

In the last five years combined, there have been just six examples of ACC teams losing their leading passer, rusher and receiver in the same year. And really, that’s stretching the definition a bit. NC State actually returned its leading rusher in 2011, but Mustafa Greene missed the year with an injury. We counted 2011 Louisville, too, though the Cardinals weren’t in the ACC at the time. So really, the combined total for massive offensive attrition in the previous five seasons is matched by this year’s group alone.

Aside from the relative rarity, however, the outcome is what promised to be intriguing. If a team is losing an established QB, running back and wideout, surely its offense will take a nosedive, right?

Actually, the numbers don’t entirely support that logic. Here’s how the previous six fared.



In total, the six previous teams to undergo a complete offensive makeover saw effectively no change in scoring, total offense or yards per play. What they did see, however, was an increase in wins. In four of six cases, the teams upped their win total. One stayed the same. The sixth, 2011 NC State, slipped by just one game.

Of course, there’s more to the story than just the aggregate numbers. Four of the six teams did see a decline in offensive production. The two that showed rather significant gains were 2009 Clemson and 2012 Miami. In the case of the former, that can partially be attributed to the change from Tommy Bowden to Dabo Swinney as the head coach. In the latter, the new arrivals (Stephen Morris, Duke Johnson and Phillip Dorsett) were probably all improvements over their predecessors.

In other words, such vast turnover isn't likely to result in better numbers unless there's more to the story, but it certainly doesn't have to mean a sharp decline on the bottom line either.

So how do the four ACC offensive renovation projects this year compare?

At Georgia Tech, the replacements have some experience already, and Paul Johnson’s system tends to be immune to turnover in personnel. (Closest comparison: 2013 Pittsburgh.)

At Wake Forest, Dave Clawson has his work cut out for him with little to no depth anywhere on the offensive side of the ball. But really, the Demon Deacons were among the worst offenses in football last year, so there’s probably nowhere to go but up. (Closest comparison: 2011 Virginia.)

For Boston College, replacing the production of Williams and the veteran presence of Rettig and Amidon will be tough. Steve Addazio probably won’t have a Heisman finalist again in 2014, but Tyler Murphy could be an adequate stopgap at QB while the young runners develop in the backfield. (Closest comparison: 2011 NC State.)

But, of course, the most intriguing question is at Clemson, where the Tigers not only lose the trifecta of Boyd, McDowell and Watkins, but also No. 2 receiver Martavis Bryant and All-ACC lineman Brandon Thomas. The Tigers return a mere 26.9 percent of last year’s total offensive yards, ninth fewest in the nation (and sixth-fewest among Power 5 teams). Really, there simply isn't an honest comparison.

So what will become of Clemson in 2014? Repeating the magic of 2009, when the renovation led to an ACC title, is the goal, and from Deshaun Watson to Wayne Gallman to Charone Peake, there’s still some hype-worthy offensive talent on the roster. And, of course, Swinney can point to that defense as cause for optimism. And if the recent history of offensive renovation projects is a guide, that’s just as good a recipe for wins as any.

ACC's lunchtime links

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
12:00
PM ET
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel talked with Miami tailback Duke Johnson, who said he “feels 100 percent” after a devastating ankle injury suffered against Florida State last season that cost him the final five games of the season.

That’s good news for Miami fans, of course, although Johnson said he’s still toying with future rehab plans to help build strength in the ankle.

It goes without saying that Johnson is an integral part of the Hurricanes’ 2014 hopes, and perhaps no other offensive player in the ACC is as important to his team.

While healthy last season, Johnson accounted for 27 percent of Miami’s total offense and 58 percent of its rushing yards. Only Heisman finalist Andre Williams accounted for a higher percentage of his team’s rushing yards in the ACC.

More importantly, Miami’s ground game fell apart without Johnson. Before the injury, the Hurricanes averaged 5.4 yards per carry and ran the ball 37 times a game. After the injury, they mustered a mere 3.6 yards per rush and ran just 28 times per game. Total offense for Miami dipped nearly 80 yards per game without Johnson, and, of course, the Canes lost four of six games in which Johnson wasn’t healthy and on the field the whole time.

Add all that to a messy quarterback situation this fall, and even Johnson understands what it all means.

“Even if [injured quarterback Ryan Williams] was here, I’d do the same thing and put the pressure on myself, take the pressure off of him,” Johnson said. “Because that’s just what I do.”

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