ACC: Zachariah Kerr
2. Florida State: All four starters return in juniors Brandon Jenkins, Jacobi McDaniel, Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins. Jenkins finished sixth nationally with 13.5 sacks. This group should take another step forward in the second season under coordinator Mark Stoops, but it already has an outstanding base to build on as the Noles ranked third nationally in sacks and 21st in tackles for loss last season.
3. Miami: The Canes should have one of the better rotations in the ACC. They return starters Olivier Vernon, Micanor Regis and Marcus Forston, who combined for 12 sacks and 30.5 TFLs. It’s a deep group, as DE Adewale Ojomo (seven starts), DT Luther Robinson (five starts), DE Marcus Robinson (10 games), DT Curtis Porter (one start), DE Andrew Smith (11 games) and DE Dyron Dye (six games) all have experience.
4. Virginia: Like Florida State, this is another group that should benefit from being in the second season under the same coordinator. Jim Reid switched the scheme back to a traditional 4-3, and the Hoos return a veteran group led by Matt Conrath (33 starts), DT Nick Jenkins (29 starts), and DE Cam Johnson (22 starts).
5. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have a better understanding of what is expected from them in their second season in Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, and all three starters return in ends Izaan Cross (41 tackles) and Jason Peters (52 tackles), and tackle Logan Walls. Defensive tackles Shawn Green, T.J. Barnes and J.C. Lanier will also compete for playing time along with DE Anthony Williams.
6. Maryland: The Terps should be solid up front with the return of Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis and Justin Anderson. Francis is the veteran of the group (19 career starts) and had 44 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season, but Vellano is also an all-conference candidate. The Terps have good depth with Zachariah Kerr, Isaiah Ross and Bradley Johnson.
7. Virginia Tech: This is a group that could and should jump a few spots by the end of the season. On paper, they’ve got to replace three starters, but this spring the group proved capable of getting the Hokies back to their days of dominating on defense. Based on potential, they should be ranked higher, but based on lack of dependable, proven depth, they could even fall lower.
8. Clemson: It will be difficult for the Tigers to replace the production of Da’Quan Bowers, but the defensive line is in capable hands with Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson, and Malliciah Goodman has embraced the challenge of taking Bowers’ spot. Branch was second on the team with five sacks last season and 8.5 tackles for loss. Thompson had 40 tackles, including six for losses. Defensive tackle Rennie Moore, DE Kourtnei Brown and DT Tyler Shatley also have experience.
9. NC State: Defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy is one of the underrated players in the ACC, and he returns along with defensive end Jeff Rieskamp. Several players got significant snaps last season, though, including DE Darryl Cato-Bishop (13 tackles), DT Markus Kuhn (17 tackles, and DT Brian Slay (20 tackles, two TFLs).
10. Wake Forest: The Deacs return three starters including Tristan Dorty, Kyle Wilber and Zack Thompson. Thompson only started five games last season, but after spring practices, coach Jim Grobe said Thompson has all-conference potential.
11. Boston College: Starters Max Holloway and Kaleb Ramsey return, along with four other linemen (DTs Dillon Quinn and Conor O’Neal, and DEs Dan Williams and Kasim Edebali) who each started at least two games last fall.
12. Duke: Until proven otherwise, this is where the Blue Devils belong, but Rick Petri was hired to change that. He’ll have veteran nose guard Charlie Hatcher (24 career starts) to work with, and sophomore Sydney Sarmiento, who started 11 games last season. Junior Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx and DEs Desmond Johnson and Jamal Wallace could also see playing time.
2009 overall record: 2-10
2009 conference record: 1-7
Offense: 7, defense: 5, punter/kicker 2
WR Torrey Smith, C Paul Pinegar, RB Da’Rel Scott, WR Adrian Cannon, LB Alex Wujciak, LB Demetrius Hartsfield, LB Adrian Moten, P Travis Baltz, CB Cameron Chism
LT Bruce Campbell, C Phil Costa, QB Chris Turner, FS Terrell Skinner, CB Anthony Wiseman, SS Jamari McCollough
2009 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Scott* (425 yards)
Passing: Turner (2,069 yds)
Receiving: Smith* (824 yards)
Tackles: Wujciak* (131)
Sacks: Moten* (6)
Interceptions: Chism* (4)
1. Separation at quarterback. Maryland wrapped up spring with Jamarr Robinson as its new quarterback, Danny O’Brien his backup and C.J. Brown No. 3. Robinson made good decisions, threw the ball pretty well and limited his turnovers despite two picks in the spring game. He has a quiet confidence and started to become more of a leader, taking control of the huddle.
2. Growing confidence in the offensive line. The staff feels much better about this group than it did at the start of spring. The lineup isn’t 100 percent settled, but if the Terps played tomorrow, Justin Gilbert would start at left tackle, R.J. Dill at right tackle, Andrew Gonnella at left guard, and Paul Pinegar at center. For the past couple of weeks, Justin Lewis and Bennett Fulper have shared time at right guard. Lamar Young has a chance to work his way into the rotation after missing the spring for offseason shoulder surgery.
3. Potential on the defensive line. Maryland lost three starters to graduation on the defensive line, but found some capable replacements this spring. Defensive tackle Joe Vellano, who missed the first half of 2009 and never quite got back to full speed, was one of the surprises this spring. Coach Ralph Friedgen praised Vellano, but questioned whether or not he can maintain that success on Saturdays this fall. Overall, the staff seemed to settle on Vellano and A.J. Francis at tackle, along with Zachariah Kerr.
1. Depth in the secondary. The Terps will have three new starters, but the safety position remains the biggest concern, enough so that Maryland could turn to a true freshman to help. The staff feels good about safeties Antwine Perez and Kenny Tate, but they need some help behind them and would like to solidify a fourth corner this summer.
2. How will the offensive line hold up? Yes, they made progress this spring, but the group has been a weak link. Part of that can be attributed to inexperience, but it’s an older group this year. Maryland has enough talent at running back to help take some pressure off of Robinson in his first full season as starter, but the offense will only improve as much as the players up front.
3. Will Maryland get back to the postseason? After just one win in conference play, Friedgen’s future at Maryland was in doubt. The pressure is on, but there has been a renewed sense of commitment and determination this offseason. Maryland’s season opener against Navy could set the tone for the whole season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here's your daily dose of practice reports from around the ACC, as reported by each school's information office:
Cloud cover kept the temperature from climbing Thursday morning as the Florida State football team donned full pads for the first time this preseason. It didn't take long, however, for the action to heat up as the Seminoles' offense made the lion's share of big plays.
Of course, a big day for the offense also comes with drawbacks.
"The hitting was pretty good, but too many big plays popped out of there," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden. "As a head coach you don't know who to root for, your defense or your offense. It scares me when big plays come out of there."
Quarterback Christian Ponder connected on long passes with wideouts Jarmon Fortson, Rodney Smith and Taiwan Easterling, as well as tight end Caz Piurowski, during the first five-minute period of 11-on-11 work.
"A lot of that came against the blitz and we've been working on that all week," Ponder said, offering a hint at the developing mindset on offense. "The blitz for us means big plays and that's what we've been working on and things opened up.
"We definitely didn't have enough big plays last year and stretch the field as much as we wanted to. Things are starting to open up and that's a good thing."
It should come as no surprise that Ponder had ample time to step up in the pocket created by the seasoned offensive line and deliver the football. Improving pass protection has been a point of emphasis since the conclusion of last season.
Junior center Ryan McMahon, who helps anchor the unit along with guard Rodney Hudson, was encouraged by the performance of the unit in its first real test of the preseason.
"Overall we felt we had a better practice today than we did the other day, but I'm sure there's plenty of room for us to improve," McMahon said. "Everybody's attitude was good and it was fun."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here are the reports that came in from Wednesday's practices around the league, as reported by each school's sports information office:
Clemson had its second day of two-a-day practices on Wednesday. The Tigers worked for two hours and 15 minutes in the morning and for an hour and a half in the evening.
Much of the day was spent reviewing the film from Tuesday's scrimmage and correcting mistakes. Coach Dabo Swinney felt better about his team after watching the film on Tuesday afternoon and evening.
"We played better than I thought," said Swinney. "I was very disappointed with the penalties [on offense] and a lack of attention to detail immediately after the scrimmage. And I still feel that way about those mistakes. But after watching the film we played better overall than I thought."
Swinney was impressed with the performance of his defense after the scrimmage on Tuesday and he was still happy with that performance on Wednesday.
"We have a chance to be pretty salty on defense. I look out there and really can't tell the difference between the units. I was talking to Jamie Cumbie yesterday and he said it doesn't make any difference who starts, they are just waiting to have their name called.
"There is great depth on the defensive front and the secondary. The linebackers are doing well also. I was really impressed with Kavell Conner's performance on Tuesday. He has had a terrific preseason."
10:57 1st Qtr Tulane 0 Louisiana-Lafayette 7 Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State