ACC: Mike Locksley

MARYLAND

If you’re just joining us, this series looks at the unranked teams in the ACC as either contenders or pretenders heading into the 2013 season. Florida State and Clemson are not included because they are the only two teams from the ACC expected to be ranked this preseason. Those rankings automatically qualify them as contenders.

Maryland? The Terps still have a long way to go.

SportsNation

What do you expect out of Maryland in 2013?

  •  
    9%
  •  
    91%

Discuss (Total votes: 2,901)

Why they're a contender: If the Terps are going to make some noise this season, they are going to have to rely on their offense out of the gate. Maryland has seven starters returning, including dazzling freshman Stefon Diggs, who finished No. 8 in the nation last season in all-purpose yards. The Terps have what they hope to be a nice complement at receiver as well, with transfer Deon Long, and what looks to be plenty of depth at the position. Their top two rushers are back in Brandon Ross and Wes Brown. And what's more, Maryland is hoping to avoid a repeat of the quarterback nightmare it had to navigate last season, when it ended the year with a linebacker playing the position. C.J. Brown is expected to be back and healthy for the start of the season. It goes without saying that his return is absolutely huge for this program. One more factor to keep an eye on: There is finally some staff stability, as both offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and defensive coordinator Brian Stewart are back for Year 2. A jump in production should be expected.

Why they're a pretender: There are some pretty major holes to fill on defense, with only five starters returning. Gone are All-ACC stalwart Joe Vellano, along with A.J. Francis, Kenneth Tate, Darin Drakeford, Eric Franklin and leading tackler Demetrius Hartsfield. There are definitely guys returning with playing experience, but how they all mesh and fit into starting roles remains to be seen. Also, who emerges as the leader of this group? The defense was the definite strength of this team last season -- ranking No. 3 in the league in total defense -- so there is work to be done. Then there is the offensive line, which was not very good last season. Coach Randy Edsall knows this is an area that needs some major improvement if some of the talent he has assembled on offense is going to do what it is capable of doing.

Final verdict: Pretender. I think Maryland has the capability of getting back to a bowl game this season after two straight losing campaigns, but I don't think the Terps will be able to contend for an ACC title in their final year in the league. There are too many question marks on defense and along the offensive line to stamp this team as a contender.

More in this series
BOSTON COLLEGE

Spring start: Feb. 28

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. The transition: Introductions will be necessary as first-year coach Steve Addazio takes over. The good news is that offensive coordinator Ryan Day is a familiar face as he was the receivers coach under Frank Spaziani. He should work well with quarterback Chase Rettig.
  2. The front seven. There used to be a time when BC’s defense was one of the best in the country. It wasn’t last year. The Eagles were No. 111 in the country in rushing defense and No. 120 in sacks and tackles for loss. First-year coordinator Don Brown has some work to do.
  3. The running backs. They were an inconsistent group last year as BC ranked No. 115 in the country in rushing offense at 90.92 yards per game. All of the key contributors return, including leading rusher Andre Williams, but the group has to do a better job of taking pressure off of Rettig.
CLEMSON

Spring start: March 6

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. Defensive progress: This is the second spring under coordinator Brent Venables, and the defense is the missing piece to the program becoming a contender on the national level. The defensive backs will have the most to prove as three starters have to be replaced.
  2. The new playmakers: Clemson lost two big names on offense in receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who left early for the NFL, and running back Andre Ellington. There is plenty of talent remaining in the wings, but it has to step out of the shadows this spring.
  3. Front and center: The Tigers return four starters to the offensive line, but have to replace their anchor in veteran center Dalton Freeman. While quarterback Tajh Boyd returns, the communication with the new center will be critical for calls and snaps.
FLORIDA STATE

Spring start: Mar. 20

Spring game: April 13

What to watch:
  1. The QB battle: It's a three-way race to replace EJ Manuel, and while Clint Trickett will enter spring practice as the nominal No. 1, there's no clear favorite to win the job. Sophomore Jacob Coker has perhaps the best mix of arm strength, athleticism and experience, but redshirt freshman Jameis Winston was the country's top QB recruit two years ago and could blossom into a superstar.
  2. The new coaches. There will be a much different feel on the practice fields at FSU this spring with six new assistant coaches running the show. Four of the assistants have previous coordinator experience, making it a veteran group, and new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt brings an Alabama pedigree to a unit that was already among the best in the nation.
  3. The new faces. A year ago, there weren't a ton of jobs open in the spring thanks to a hefty dose of veterans. Things are different this time around, meaning youngsters like WR Kelvin Benjamin, DE Mario Edwards Jr. and CB Ronald Darby will get their opportunities to solidify key roles on this year's team.
MARYLAND

Spring start: March 2

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  1. Quarterbacks. The Terps’ unprecedented run of injuries at the position was one of the ACC’s biggest storylines last year. C.J. Brown, the projected starter, will be limited and won’t play in the spring game, but he can throw and participate in some drills. Ricardo Young, who sat out all year after transferring, will be the top healthy quarterback on the roster this spring and take the majority of the snaps. He played for offensive coordinator Mike Locksley at New Mexico and is familiar with the system. Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe aren’t nearly as ready or healthy as Brown is. Dustin Dailey, who also sat out last year because of NCAA transfer rules, is healthy and available.
  2. Early enrollees: Three recruits enrolled early, including two junior college transfers who can help immediately. Maryland fans should be eager to see how junior college transfer Deon Long, a receiver, adds to the offense. Silvano Altamirano, another junior college transfer, will compete immediately for playing time at offensive guard.
  3. Defensive competition: Maryland has some big names to replace in defensive linemen Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis, and middle linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, all of whom were mainstays on the defense. Cole Farrand will be the veteran linebacker now, and Darius Kilgo is the only returning starter on the defensive line.
NC STATE

Spring start: March 19

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. The quarterback competition. The Mike Glennon era is over, and Manny Stocker and Pete Thomas are the top options to replace him. Thomas, a former transfer from Colorado State, was a two-year starter there and threw for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns. Stocker, a sophomore, has yet to take a collegiate snap.
  2. The staff transition. First-year coach Dave Doeren is taking over and he has hired an almost entirely new staff. How the players adjust to the change in terminology, schemes and personalities will be critical to the transition.
  3. A revamped secondary: NC State will have to replace three starters, including Earl Wolff, Brandan Bishop and David Amerson, the school’s career interception leader. Cornerback Dontae Johnson returns, along with Juston Burris, who played in the nickel package. There are also several redshirts and younger players who will compete.
SYRACUSE

Spring start: March 19

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. Staff changes: First-year coach Scott Shafer, who replaced Doug Marrone, has been with the program for four years, so it’s not a drastic change for the players, but it is Shafer’s first as a head coach. He has a chance to put his stamp on the program as it enters the first season in the ACC.
  2. Quarterback competition: The Orange have to replace record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib, and it’s a wide-open competition. Backup Charley Loeb, junior John Kinder, and dual-threat Terrel Hunt are the top candidates, but Ashton Broyld, who moved to running back in 2012, could be in the mix as well.
  3. Replacing SS Shamarko Thomas: The Orange have to replace their leading tackler and top defender, as Thomas had 84 tackles last year. He was a game-changer who also had two interceptions and three forced fumbles. He was a first-team All-Big East selection.
WAKE FOREST

Spring start: March 19

Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  1. The health of the O-line: Wake was hit hard by injuries last year, and keeping this group healthy this offseason will be critical. The Deacs only lost one senior -- center Garrick Williams, but last year injuries forced the staff to play a significant number of redshirt freshmen, which it doesn’t like to do. Whit Barnes, for example, started 11 games at left guard. He was supposed to be a backup center.
  2. Camp’s complement: The Deacs have to find a complement to star receiver Michael Campanaro. He’s the go-to guy, but quarterback Tanner Price needs a few more reliable targets to emerge this spring. Sherman Ragland, Matt James, Brandon Terry and Airyn Willis are all options.
  3. Improving inside: The Deacs’ inside linebackers need a boost after losing Riley Haynes and Scott Betros. Redshirt junior Mike Olson will be a starter, but Wake needs to find another starter there and develop some dependable backups.

Maryland building depth at receiver

February, 19, 2013
2/19/13
2:00
PM ET
Maryland true freshman Stefon Diggs grabbed all the headlines last season as the top Terps receiver, thanks to his incredible athleticism and eye-popping moves.

But behind Diggs, the Terps have assembled some pretty good depth and talent at receiver. That depth was bolstered further on signing day, when Maryland signed four-star receiver Taivon Jacobs, who flipped his commitment from Ohio State. His addition was enough to give Maryland coaches visions of Diggs and Jacobs running 4.0 40s in their heads.

[+] EnlargeStefon Diggs
G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty ImagesStefon Diggs headlines a deep group of Maryland receivers.
"In my opinion, we’re pretty stout at receiver," Maryland recruiting coordinator John Dunn said. "When you add more skill players, what that allows you to do is you can’t key on one guy, and you can’t throw coverage to one guy or double one guy. Now we’re adding even more explosive weapons to where maybe you’ve got to be more honest defensively and spread the ball around to all your different playmakers. I think it’s a very nice complement certainly."

Even better for Maryland -- there is not one senior among the top returning receivers. Maryland had four receivers with at least 10 catches last season. Three are back: Diggs, the team's leading receiver, along with second-leading receiver Marcus Leak (junior) and Nigel King (sophomore).

The Terps also return sophomore Levern Jacobs, who had seven catches for 50 yards last year, and sophomore Tyrek Cheeseboro, who has yet to live up to his potential because of injuries the past few seasons. Now add junior college transfer Deon Long into the mix. Long played at New Mexico for two seasons -- as a redshirt freshman he tied for the team lead with 47 receptions and led the Lobos with 809 receiving yards and four touchdown catches.

He then transferred to Iowa Western Community College, where he he became the first player in NJCAA history to catch 100 passes in a season. Long is eligible to play this season and already is enrolled. His coach at New Mexico is current Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley.

Long grew up in Washington, D.C., and already knows Diggs. He told local reporters earlier this month, "I call him the 'Young Great One' because he is really good, and before he came to college we were on the field together playing. I know what he can do and he knows what I can do. He is a great guy to play beside."

The talent is there for the Terps. If Maryland can get a quarterback to stay healthy, this could be one of the better groups in the entire league.

2012 top Atlantic Division assistants

December, 17, 2012
12/17/12
10:00
AM ET
The head coaches get all the money and all the ink. Not today. Today Andrea Adelson and I are recognizing one assistant coach from each staff in the ACC for a job well done this year. The Atlantic Division is up first:

BOSTON COLLEGE – Wide receivers coach Aaron Smith. In his first season with the program, Smith helped junior Alex Amidon develop into one of the ACC’s best. Amidon’s 1,210 yards receiving at the end of the regular season ranked second in the ACC, just four yards behind DeAndre Hopkins of Clemson. The entire group, including Johnathan Coleman, Bobby Swigert and Spiffy Evans, had one of its more productive seasons.

CLEMSON - Offensive coordinator Chad Morris. There’s a reason he was on the short list for many head coaching jobs this offseason. Clemson enters the Chick-fil-A Bowl ranked sixth in the nation in scoring (42.33), ninth in total offense (518.3) and 13th in passing (319.6) -- all record numbers for the program. Clemson has scored at least 37 points in 10 of the 12 games this year, and quarterback Tajh Boyd showed measurable improvement and mobility in his second season as a starter.

FLORIDA STATE – Defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot. There’s no question he will be missed on FSU’s staff, as Eliot was hired as Mark Stoops’ defensive coordinator at Kentucky. FSU’s defensive line didn’t miss a beat despite season-ending injuries to two of the group’s top players, Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine. Bjoern Werner has 13 sacks this season, leading the ACC and ranking second nationally in total sacks. Carradine went from backup to first-team All-ACC. He has 11 sacks this season, second in the ACC and 14th nationally.

MARYLAND – Mike Locksley, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks: No quarterbacks coach in the country had to deal with what Locksley did this year, as the Terps were down to their fifth-string quarterback -- a freshman linebacker in Shawn Petty. After injuries to every scholarship quarterback on the roster, Maryland still never quit and somehow managed to score 38 points on the road against North Carolina. Many wrote off Maryland before the season even began, when C.J. Brown tore his ACL. But the Terps hung in until the very end thanks to great coaching by Locksley.

NC STATE – Offensive coordinator Dana Bible. He was named interim coach for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, and has been a rock on the sideline for the often inconsistent Pack. He has been integral in the development of quarterback Mike Glennon, who finished first in the ACC in passing yards per game (304) and second in total offense (292 yards per game). Despite numerous injuries and shuffling on the offensive line, NC State’s passing game was always a threat.

WAKE FOREST – OLB coach Derrick Jackson. Not only was he instrumental in the development of the linebackers, he was also a key recruiter for the Deacs this year. Linebacker Justin Jackson, who led the team with 80 tackles, including 8.5 for loss and four sacks, also had two pass breakups, one blocked kick and a forced fumble, and was the star of the group. Zachary Allen, Kevis Jones and Steve Donatell also showed significant progress this year under Jackson.

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 8, 2012
11/08/12
12:00
PM ET
HD has Florida State-Virginia Tech covered tonight in Blacksburg. Do the Hokies have a shot?
Playing behind a struggling offensive line might be the closest thing to hazing a true freshman quarterback can experience.

Maryland’s Perry Hills has been sacked 16 times this season, more than all but five quarterbacks in major college football, according to the Washington Times.

Maryland’s coaching staff has confidence two freshmen offensive linemen can help.

Pass protection was undoubtedly one of the Terps’ priorities over the bye week as they prepare to face Wake Forest in their first league game of the season on Saturday in Byrd Stadium. Instead of getting more experienced, though, Maryland’s offensive line has actually gotten younger. Coach Randy Edsall has promoted two freshmen into the starting lineup in right guard Andrew Zeller and left tackle Mike Madaras.

“Oh, we've got to get better, there's no doubt about that,” Edsall said of the pass protection. “That hasn't been to my liking, and we've given up way too many sacks. We've got to continue to work and get better with the technique and making sure we don't make mental mistakes in terms of the protections and who we're supposed to block or the protection that we should be in. So no, we have got a lot of work to do, and that's something that we worked on last week, but we have got to continue to get that cleaned up.

"I think that having Andrew and Mike in there, I think that'll help part of that, and everybody else has to do their job around them.”

Madaras has played in every game this season, but this will be his first career start. Zeller, a redshirt freshman, has only seen playing time against West Virginia. The Terps have only started four true freshmen on the offensive line since 2001, according to the Times. Madaras would be the fifth.

“I would venture to say you don’t want to make a living out of starting a bunch of true freshmen on the offensive line,” said offensive coordinator Mike Locksley. “That’s the one position that maturity, strength, and all those things come as you develop with them in the system. Fortunately for us, Mike comes out of a program at Good Counsel where they’ve done a pretty good job, obviously, of bringing along their players. Whether it be from a strength standpoint or a technical standpoint, I would definitely say that’s not something you want to do a lot where you have too many true freshmen playing up front. You can get away with it at the perimeter positions, but inside there is where strength comes with age and maturity. We’re fortunate he’s come in with some pretty good skill set.”

“I think they both add athleticism up front,” said Locksley. “Obviously with Mike, he’s one of the most athletic guys for a freshman that I’ve had the chance to see play. I think with every game he’s getting better. With Zeller, he gives us a little more athleticism, a little more strength on the inside. I’m not saying those other guys worked or haven’t, but right now we feel those guys will give us the best chance to have some success. It’s creating competition we like to see throughout the offensive positions.”

For Hills’ sake, it also needs to create a more solid wall in front of him.
There was nothing pretty about the way Maryland beat William & Mary last week, most especially on offense.

Growing pains are to be expected when there are so many young, inexperienced players seeing time. Maryland started a true freshman at quarterback in Perry Hills, and running back in Albert Reid. In all, 12 true freshmen played for the Terps last week. It has been 12 years since so many true freshmen saw the field in the opener in College Park.

[+] EnlargePerry Hills
AP Photo/Luis M. AlvarezTrue freshman Perry Hills is looking to improve after throwing three interceptions in his Maryland debut last Saturday.
But as always, the spotlight always falls onto the quarterback, whether you are a true freshman or senior. With Hills in charge, the offense only managed one score, and it came in the fourth quarter after trailing for most of the game. One score and 236 yards against an FCS opponent is not the way Maryland needed to start the season. Nor are all the turnovers -- four of them to be exact. Hills had three interceptions and Reid had a fumble.

So to say there is a lot of work to be done before its game against Temple on Saturday is to say the sun rises in the morning. But Edsall has been encouraged with the way Hills has put his debut game behind him during his preparations this week.

"He knows he has a lot of things to work on and improve, but he is one of those guys who can put it in the rear-view mirror pretty quickly," Edsall said this week. "I think that was evident by what took place on Saturday with the lack of success, so to speak, in the first half. He ended up putting it behind him. After the other interception to start the second half he takes the team down for a score. His demeanor and his approach have been very good. It’s what you expect from a freshman for his first start, to learn from it, make the corrections, and work to get better at the things you can control."

Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley said he thought Hills got rattled early in the game because of all the pressure William & Mary brought his way. He also thought Hills was a play behind in making his adjustments, something he has spoken to his quarterback about this week.

For his part, Hills said he has spent extra time going over the game tape to see how he can play better against the Owls. One of the biggest things he learned was the need to shrug off mistakes during the game.

"I know that if you keep thinking about it, it’s going to ruin you for the rest of the game," Hills said. "I have to put it behind me; it’s something as a quarterback that you have to learn to do. Sometimes bad things are going to happen, and you just have to learn how to deal with it, move on, and play each play."

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 23, 2012
8/23/12
12:00
PM ET
Ran five miles this morning. Almost back down to playing weight. Bring on the season ...

Opening camp: Maryland

August, 6, 2012
8/06/12
5:00
PM ET
As ACC teams begin to start practicing again, Heather Dinich and I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. The series concludes Tuesday with Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest. Next up ...

School: Maryland.

Start date: Today.

Predicted finish at media days: Sixth, Atlantic Division.

Biggest storyline: Putting 2011 behind. I know how excited everybody in College Park must be to just put 2011 to rest. The only way to do that is to get started this year, and coach Randy Edsall believes he has players onboard who want to do just that. The big headlines in the year-plus since Edsall arrived have been all about the defections, with 25 players leaving. Local and national columnist ripped Edsall every way you could possibly imagine. But Edsall has done his best to put on a happy face. He has new coordinators in Mike Locksley (offense) and (Brian Stewart) defense, and he does have one of the best interior linemen in the league in Joe Vellano. The nonconference schedule is not that imposing, either, with games against William & Mary, Temple, Connecticut and West Virginia. Maryland could very easily surpass last season's win total during its nonconference slate alone.

Biggest position battle: Running back. The Terrapins have to replace Davin Meggett, who led the team with 896 yards rushing and four touchdowns a year ago. Meggett was an incredibly reliable back for this team, so he leaves behind pretty big shoes to fill. Factor in the transfer of D.J. Adams, and it is really apparent Maryland has to find a starter and depth at the position. During the spring, big Brandon Ross (5-foot-10, 205 pounds) and Justus Pickett (5-10, 185) competed for the starting job. Ross redshirted last season, while Pickett ran for 274 yards and a touchdown as a true freshman. But you have to figure incoming freshmen like Wes Brown and Albert Reid are going to get a shot at playing time this season.

Who needs to step up: C.J. Brown. All eyes are going to be on the quarterback, for various reasons. Brown is now entrenched as the starter, but will have to make the transition to more of a pro-style offense. Does that mean there will be fewer opportunities to run, something he did so well last seaosn (574 yards, five touchdowns)? If Brown is going to be sitting in the pocket and throwing more, he has to work on his completion percentage (49.4 percent) and cut down on the mistakes (seven touchdowns to six interceptions). Brown was clearly thrown into a difficult situation last season, but now he is the man right out of the gates. How much he progresses and how well he learns the new offense will be critical for Maryland this season.

One good reason: Maryland

July, 9, 2012
7/09/12
4:30
PM ET
MARYLAND

Welcome back. Last week we began a series taking a look at one good reason each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs like Maryland that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order.

The series continues today with one good reason why …

Maryland will go bowling: The defense is legit. It starts with first-team all-conference lineman Joe Vellano, who could play both noseguard and end in first-year coordinator Brian Stewart’s new 3-4 scheme. Nine starters return on defense, and the Terps rotated enough players up front last year that there will be plenty of experience returning. Senior Demetrius Hartsfield, who ranked second in the ACC and fifth nationally in tackles with 108, leads a talented group of linebackers. The secondary will lean on junior cornerback Dexter McDougle, who had 44 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups before suffering a season-ending injury last year. Senior safety Eric Franklin made 106 tackles last fall. The secondary has to replace two starters, and the Terps need to build depth at every position, but overall, the defense should be a strength at Maryland this year.

Why it won’t: Too much turnover. A total of 25 players have left the program since Randy Edsall was hired. Not only has the sheer volume of departures hurt the depth, it’s also hurt the starting lineup. Maryland has to replace three starters on the offensive line, including both tackles. Max Garcia started 12 games at left tackle last year, and quarterback Danny O’Brien transferred to Wisconsin. The Terps still have C.J. Brown, who started five games last year, but there is no experience behind him. Maryland also hired two new coordinators and is switching to a 3-4 scheme on defense. Coordinator Mike Locksley will run a pro-style offense with spread principles. For the second time in two seasons, Maryland will have to adjust to new coordinators, schemes and terminology. The Terps also need to find a new leading rusher. Starting fresh isn’t a bad idea after a 2-10 finish, but instead of building something in College Park, it seems like Edsall is still picking up the pieces this year.

More in this series

Maryland spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
9:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 2-10
2011 conference record: 1-7 (6th, Atlantic)
Returning starters: Offense: 5; defense: 10; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
LG Pete White, RG Josh Cary, C Bennett Fulper, TE Matt Furstenburg, WR Kevin Dorsey, DE Marcus Whittifield, DE Keith Bowers, NG Andre Monroe, DT Joe Vellano, LB Demetrius Hartsfield, LB Darrin Drakeford, LB Lorne Goree, LB Kenny Tate, CB Dexter McDougle, S Eric Franklin, S A.J. Hendy

Key losses
LT R.J. Dill, RT Max Garcia, LG Andre Donnella, QB Danny O'Brien, RB Davin Meggett, WR Quintin McCree, CB Cameron Chism

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Davin Meggett (896 yards)
Passing: Danny O'Brien (1,648 yards)
Receiving: Kevin Dorsey* (573 yards)
Tackles: Demetrius Hartsfield* (108)
Sacks: Andre Monroe* (5)
Interceptions: Dexter McDougle*/Cameron Chism (3)

Spring answers

1. Defense has come a long way: The unit passed with flying colors in its first public test under new coordinator Brian Stewart and his 3-4 scheme. It overpowered the offense in the squad's spring game despite missing Joe Vellano and Kenny Tate. Both players should be back for the fall, giving the defense 10 returning starters.

2. Who is there and who isn't: Spring No. 2 is in the books and the remaining players are on board with Randy Edsall, giving the program a chance to push forward with less doubt regarding those who may not be all-in. After the Terrapins' spring game, senior Justin Gilbert told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: "I hate saying it, but now that the guys who don't want to be here are gone, we can really focus on next season. We don't have any distractions anymore. Everybody who's here wants to be here. I really saw that this spring with guys. The chemistry was better. There was no cancers on the team. Everybody was all together."

3. C.J. Brown holding steady: Brown was the only quarterback this spring who had any actual game experience, so he received most of the attention. With five starts under his belt, Brown, whom colleague Heather Dinich has labeled the conference's most indispensable signal-caller, survived the spring and enters the fall as the No. 1 guy.

Fall questions

1. Will anyone challenge Brown? Despite said strengths, Brown, who rushed for more than 500 yards last season, is switching from a spread attack to new coordinator Mike Locksley's pro-style system. Recruits Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe enter this summer and, depending on Brown's transition, could challenge for some snaps.

2. How will the new coordinators transition? We said this earlier with Wake Forest: Things have gone smoothly this spring, but the ultimate test comes in game action this fall. How Locksley, Stewart and Andre Powell (special teams) adjust in-season will ultimately affect the ruling on the reshuffled staff.

3. Everything else … It would appear, at this moment, that the defections have subsided. Two dozen players have left Maryland since Edsall arrived, none bigger than quarterback Danny O'Brien. Some were calling for Edsall's job after Year 1, and a debut season that featured just one win over an FBS team didn't do the program any favors. The spotlight is on College Park this season for the wrong reasons, and how the program adjusts this fall can possibly dictate its fate.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 24, 2012
4/24/12
12:00
PM ET
Pretty busy Monday, eh?

Video: Mike Locksley on Maryland

March, 8, 2012
3/08/12
9:00
AM ET

New Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley talks to ACC blogger Heather Dinich about his philosophy heading into spring ball.
Back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes have already begun to separate Florida State and Clemson from the rest of the Atlantic Division -- at least on paper.

It’s only news, though, when those programs don’t bring in some of the nation’s most talented players.

Clemson, after all, just won its first ACC title for the first time since 1991. Florida State last year couldn’t beat Wake Forest. Which is why there is no reason for the Deacs or anyone else in the division to surrender just yet.

“They key for us is not how many stars they come in with, it’s how good they play when they’re juniors and seniors,” Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said. “At least that’s our key. For us it’s all about developing players. It’s a standard joke among coaches, ‘How’d your recruiting go? Well, we’ll know in a couple of years.’ Sometimes that’s good to laugh and giggle about, but absolutely at Wake Forest, we know when they’re juniors and seniors if we’ve done the right thing in recruiting.

“For us, I think we know where we are. We’re a development program. We’ve got to do a great job of coaching our kids in the offseason and the weight room and out on the practice field, so by the time they’re juniors and seniors, there are a lot of other teams in the league that look at them and say, ‘Man, I wish I would’ve taken that guy.’”

Guys like Alphonso Smith, Aaron Curry, Chris Givens and Joe Looney. At Boston College, guys like Montel Harris and Luke Kuechly.

“Here’s the way I’ve always looked at the competition,” said BC coach Frank Spaziani. “As the competition gets better, everybody else better get better and move forward. There are a lot of other areas to it than just that.”

Just how much of a talent discrepancy is there within the division? Can BC compensate for a lack of stars with its hard-working, disciplined, blue-collar traits? Can Wake Forest continue to develop diamonds out of its “recruiting puddle?” NC State already beat a No. 7-ranked Clemson team, but can it win consistently? Will the hire of offensive coordinator Mike Locksley change Maryland recruiting?

Florida State and Clemson are ahead of the race, there’s no question about it. But until either one of them plays and wins with more consistency, it won’t be a two-team race in the ACC.

Atlantic Division spring previews

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
9:00
AM ET
For some, it might feel like the season just ended, but for others -- like Duke, Maryland and Boston College, which didn't get to play in a bowl game -- spring ball can't get here fast enough. The Eagles kick off spring practices in the ACC on Saturday, so today we'll take a quick look at the main storylines for each team in the conference heading into the spring:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Spring practice start date: Feb. 18
Spring game: March 31 (1 p.m. ET)

What to watch:
  • Yet another offensive transition. Doug Martin will be the Eagles’ fifth offensive coordinator in five seasons, including Kevin Rogers, who took a medical leave of absence early last year and never returned, and Dave Brock, who replaced Rogers. Martin said he is looking for a physical downhill running game, wants to increase the tempo and add some no-huddle elements.
  • The return of running back Montel Harris. The ACC’s leading rusher in 2010 missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he is expected to return for spring ball. How healthy and durable he is remains a question, but he’s still aiming to break a 33-year-old ACC rushing record.
  • Who will replace All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly? It’s an open competition as Kuechly is the only linebacker departing. Sean Duggan was his backup last year, but Steele Divitto put in a lot of work this offseason on his own time.
CLEMSON

Spring practice start date: March 7
Spring game: April 14 (4 p.m. ET)

What to watch:
  • The rebuilding efforts up front. Clemson has to replace three starters on both the offensive and defensive lines. On defense, Malliciah Goodman is the only starter returning on the line, and he’ll be one of the candidates to replace the production of end Andre Branch, but Corey Crawford will be the next in line at the position.
  • The defensive transition under first-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables. After giving up 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl, Dabo Swinney fired Kevin Steele and hired Venables. How quickly will he be able to make a difference and will everyone buy in?
  • The linebackers. This is the year that the outstanding linebackers in the 2011 recruiting class will finally have their chance to shine. Venables is also the linebackers coach, and he’ll have a young, talented group to work with. The lineup of the future should include Stephone Anthony, Lateek Townsend and Tony Steward, all top 100 players coming out of high school.
FLORIDA STATE

Spring practice start date: March 19
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Maturation of the offensive line. FSU started four freshmen in the Champs Sports Bowl against Notre Dame, and those players will be expected to continue their improvement this spring. The most important question is who will replace the top two tackles from a year ago in Zebrie Sanders and Andrew Datko.
  • The kicking game. Punters aren’t usually in the spotlight, but that wasn’t the case at FSU, where All-American Shawn Powell had an impact on every game. Finding a replacement for him this offseason will be a priority.
  • The running backs. Chris Thompson, who broke his back last year, is expected to return this spring, and has been cleared for the most part, but the coaching staff isn’t likely to push him. Devonta Freeman will be the main man, but there are plenty of other candidates to emerge -- if, of course, the offensive line figures things out.
MARYLAND

Spring practice start date: March 10
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • The quarterback drama. Maryland’s two-quarterback storyline will continue this spring -- if, of course, Danny O’Brien decides to remain at Maryland instead of transferring. There has been much speculation about his future, but for now, the staff expects him to be limited this spring as he continues to recover from a broken arm. C.J. Brown should get the most reps.
  • An overhaul of schemes. Maryland hired a new offensive coordinator in Mike Locksley and a new defensive coordinator in Brian Stewart. How quickly the Terps buy into their systems and philosophies will be critical in turning around last year’s 2-10 record.
  • The running backs. This is a position where a true freshman could earn some playing time this year, but standout recruit Stefon Diggs won’t be on campus in time to compete this spring. Meanwhile, Justus Pickett returns, along with Brandon Ross, who redshirted last year. Wes Brown (who played at Good Counsel with Diggs) could also compete for major playing time when he arrives for summer camp.
NC STATE

Spring practice start date: March 23
Spring game: April 21 (1 p.m. ET)

What to watch:
  • Who will emerge as dependable linebackers. With Audie Cole and Terrell Manning gone, this position is a big question mark for the Wolfpack. Cole was the team’s leading tackler each of the past two seasons, and Manning was one of the defense’s most disruptive players last year.
  • The new go-to for Glennon. With T.J. Graham gone, NC State turns to a young group of receivers. Tobias Palmer and Bryan Underwood return, but there are several unheralded players who have a chance to make names for themselves by emerging as a go-to player for quarterback Mike Glennon.
  • The running game. NC State returns four of five starters on the offensive line, but will Mustafa Greene return in time for the spring? When he does, the Pack will have another new running backs coach, who has yet to be announced. NC State had the No. 109 rushing offense in the country last year. Greene would be a big boost.
WAKE FOREST

Spring practice start date: March 1
Spring game: April 14 (1 p.m. ET)

What to watch:
  • The revamped offensive line. The Deacs have to replace four starters up front. Coach Jim Grobe has played only one true freshman there in 11 years. He has several redshirt freshmen and sophomores who are expected to fill in.
  • The next playmakers. Wake Forest is thin at running back (Josh Harris returns, but has a history of hamstring injuries), the Deacs lose two starting wideouts -- including record-setter Chris Givens -- their top two tight ends and 2011 leading rusher Brandon Pendergrass.
  • Solidifying the secondary. The Deacs have to replace starting free safety Josh Bush and starting strong safety Cyhl Quarles. There is still plenty of talent at cornerback, but the safety position is thin.

SPONSORED HEADLINES