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Wednesday, July 9, 2008
ACC Atlantic Division rankings


Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

After paying close attention this spring, visiting a few practices and talking with numerous players and coaches, I've come up with a revised ranking for the ACC Atlantic Division heading into summer camp. Agree or disagree, here it is:

1. Clemson -- With 14 starters returning, this is obviously the team to beat, and everyone in the ACC knows it. Here's why: They've got the best quarterback in the league in Cullen Harper, and two bruising backs in James Davis and C.J. Spiller -- not to mention a 1,000-yard receiver in Aaron Kelly. Sure, Tommy Bowden will tell you he's concerned about his offensive line, which lost four starters, but guess what? Davis and Spiller are talented enough to compensate for it. The only thing that will keep these guys from winning it all is themselves. Can they handle the hype?

2. Wake Forest -- If you haven't started believing in Jim Grobe yet, Wake up. He's the best coach in the league (sorry, Frank), and might have his best team with 16 starters returning. Quarterback Riley Skinner led the nation in completion percentage last year (72.4 percent), and Alphonso Smith is arguably one of the best corners in the country. All four guys in the secondary return. Specialist Sam Swank will be chasing the ACC's career scoring record.

3. Maryland -- Someone roll out the red carpet for James Franklin. Maryland fans and those within the program are thrilled with this hire and deservedly so. He recruited a fair amount of the Terps' top playmakers, and now he's back to teach them the West Coast offense -- a system receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey should flourish in. Ralph Friedgen is more rested now that he's not doubling up as offensive coordinator, and finally has time to act like the CEO of the program. The main concern for these guys will be how wishy-washy Friedgen is on picking a quarterback. Chris Turner has already proven himself, but Jordan Steffy had a good spring and his time is winding down.

4. Florida State -- Scheduling Western Carolina and Chattanooga was no accident. With numerous players suspended for the first three games and Wake Forest No. 3 on the schedule, these guys are going to need some time to get it together. The Seminoles could be one of the better teams in the ACC, but isn't likely to grow into that role until the second half of the season. Unfortunately for them, that's when the schedule gets tough. The biggest problem here will be the offensive line, where there's not a junior or senior in sight for the first time in school history.

5. Boston College -- This season will be tumultuous without Matt Ryan, Andre Callender, Kevin Challenger, Jamie Silva and DeJuan Tribble -- just to name a few. The good news? Offensive coordinator Steve Logan is still around. He knows what it takes to get newly annointed quarterback Chris Crane ready, and will tweak the offense to suit his strengths. It's going to take some time to develop a running game, though, as true freshman Josh Haden will be running behind an offensive line that hasn't quite come together yet. The Eagles' strength this season should be the front seven on defense.

6. NC State -- With only 11 starters returning and absolutely no answer at quarterback, it's a little too soon to be talking turnaround. The one thing Tom O'Brien has going for him is the return of tight end Anthony Hill and running back Toney Baker. Those guys, along with Andre Brown and Jamelle Eugene will help take some pressure off the quarterback. We'll see if O'Brien's revamped offensive line can pave the way for them. And let's face it: losing seven starters from a defense that was next-to-last in the ACC in total defense might not be such a bad thing.