ACC mailblog: Clemson's kicker, top frosh & Richard Petty


A. Good question. It's hard to think of a team whose strengths have shifted more from one year to the next. Moreover, there are some big wild cards. Can Clemson find some help on the D line? Will Deshaun Watson stay healthy? Will Chad Morris' departure hurt the offense? For what it's worth, Clemson still averaged 30.8 points per game last year and allowed just 16.7 points per game. Let's say the numbers revert to 2013 standards, we'd see a 10-point improvement on O and a 6- to 8-point setback on D. I think that sounds reasonable, if all goes well for the Tigers.

A. Are we talking a European or African swallow?

A. The trend around the country seems to be that coaches get three years before the hot-seat rumors really rev up, and it's in Year 4 that things can get ugly. I'd expect the same for Shafer, even with the change at AD.

It's not particularly insightful, but Mark Coyle didn't exactly sound impatient when our colleague Andrea Adelson posed the question earlier this week: "Nobody wants to win more than our current student-athletes and coaching staff," Coyle said. "It's my job to make sure we do everything we can to provide the resources financially and from a personnel standpoint to help them achieve those goals."

In other words, this year will be a time to evaluate everything the program is doing and make some institutional changes. I'd expect Shafer to get at least another year after that. Besides, nobody wants to make Jim Boeheim mad.

Moreover, who could fire this guy?

A. Three big reasons: 1.) Clemson's expectations are a lot bigger than Miami's this year. 2.) Watson is more of a mystery since we only got glimpses of him last year. 3.) Watson has better (or at least more established) weapons around him.

I've got some real worries about Miami's O line, and Kaaya lost his two best safety valves in Duke Johnson and Clive Walford. But he's also durable (while Watson has been continuously hurt) and has already played better defenses (look at Watson's schedule last year). Bottom line: ACC has some really good QBs in 2015.

A. I think the answer lies in Larry Fedora's tempo. Say, one every 19.8 seconds.

A. First off, I love Chaney's approach. I think he sees Chad Voytik as a real weapon, and we'll see a little more of the QB this year. He has prioritized deepening the receiving corps, and that will be crucial. James Conner sounds like he's in the best shape of his life (scary!), but I think Chaney realizes he needs to tone down the carries for his lead back and use him wisely. In the end, I think we'll see a little more balanced offensive approach, but the bread and butter should still be Conner and Tyler Boyd.

A. At the end of spring practice, I had Clemson as my ACC Atlantic champ, but since then Everett Golson transferred to FSU, Ebenezer Ogundeko left the program at Clemson, Lakip landed in hot water, and starting left tackle Isaiah Battle entered the supplemental draft. That's a lot of bad news for the Tigers. Perhaps Watson is talented enough that none of it matters, but for me, it probably shifts the balance of power in the division back in Florida State's direction.

A. First, it depends who's responsible for that one loss. A really ugly one - like, say, to Wake Forest or Syracuse - would doom anyone. But assuming there's not an embarrassing blemish on anyone's record, it'll come down to the most big wins. For that, I like Georgia Tech, which gets Notre Dame, Clemson, FSU, Virginia Tech and Georgia. So let's say the Yellow Jackets fall at Clemson in the regular season, but finish 11-1 and get some revenge against the Tigers in the ACC title game. That, to me, is a no-question playoff resume. FSU, Clemson and possibly Virginia Tech (if it beats Ohio State again) might have an outside shot, too, but I think the Yellow Jackets have the best chance because they've got the most opportunities for marquee wins.

A. Look back the last two years and the impact of true freshmen has been immense in the ACC, from Jalen Ramsey and Boyd to Watson and Kaaya. There are plenty of options this year, too, but a few off the top of my head: Derwin James, George Campbell and Josh Sweat at FSU, Jalen Dalton at UNC, Tyree St. Louis or Kendrick Norton on a thin Miami O-line, Jordan Whitehead at Pitt, Devante Peete at Louisville, and Darian Roseboro at NC State. I'm probably forgetting a bunch more.

A. I like the young skill position guys. I love Kaaya. I think the schedule is manageable (despite getting FSU and Clemson from the Atlantic). But I have huge worries on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and I'm worried about how many hits Kaaya ends up taking. There are so many dark clouds surrounding the program right now, and it's hard to foresee a huge turnaround. Then again, look no further than Georgia Tech a year ago to find exactly that blueprint (with roughly the exact same question marks). So I'll say 7-5, but I won't be shocked if the Hurricanes ended up 10-2 or 4-8.

A. Excellent question. I started out with Burt Reynolds from "Smokey and the Bandit" when I was stationed in Tallahassee. I switched up to Richard Petty when I relocated to Charlotte. The trend is fast cars and mustaches. So, let's open it up to suggestions. Got a good idea for a new Twitter avatar? Hit me up on Twitter and I'll promise a special shout out to the winning suggestion.