NCF Nation: 051812 power rankings

SEC post-spring power rankings

May, 18, 2012

We're putting spring behind us and looking toward the fall with our post-spring power rankings:

1. LSU: The Tigers had one of the best springs around. Things were quiet off the field, and the offense rallied behind quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Coach Les Miles was very impressed with Mettenberger's play and maturity, and expects LSU's offense to be more balanced with him under center. LSU can still use four or five running backs, as well. Defensively, the Tigers are stacked once again, especially up front with two potential first-rounders in ends Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo. Questions surround the inexperienced linebackers, but Kevin Minter had a tremendous spring in the middle. On paper, LSU is equipped with the talent to make another title run, and gets Alabama at home this year.

2. Alabama: While the defending national champs saw a lot of "new" faces on defense this spring, coach Nick Saban left happy with where his players were -- but not satisfied. There is still work to be done, especially in the secondary, where the Tide must replace three starters. Dont'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw are gone at linebacker, but the coaches were impressed with how Nico Johnson, C.J. Mosley and Adrian Hubbard played this spring. Some think Hubbard, a redshirt sophomore, could be Bama's top pass-rusher. Offensively, quarterback AJ McCarron is back, more mature and surrounded by a very veteran line. He has a group of younger receivers to throw to, but has at least four quality running backs. Alabama's road to repeating is tougher, with games at Arkansas and LSU.

3. South Carolina: A healthy Marcus Lattimore (knee) at RB makes South Carolina an even better contender for the SEC East crown. His status is uncertain, but the pieces around him are pretty impressive. Quarterback Connor Shaw had an impressive spring, and looks ready to be the passer coach Steve Spurrier wants him to be. The defense is once again stacked, especially up front with ends Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor. There are questions in the secondary, with two new, young starters in Victor Hampton (cornerback) and Brison Williams (safety), while senior Akeem Auguste returns after missing last season with a foot injury. Still, Spurrier is chirping about his SEC counterparts, so you know he thinks he's got a good team this year.

4. Georgia: The Bulldogs should be higher on this list, but when you take into account the suspensions of four defensive starters at the beginning of the season, they slide a little. Georgia returns nine defensive starters, including one of the nation's best linebackers in Jarvis Jones, and some firepower on offense, led by veteran quarterback Aaron Murray, who could get some early Heisman love. It also sounds like enigmatic running back Isaiah Crowell is slowly turning things around. Yet again, the Bulldogs have a favorable SEC schedule, with no games against Alabama, Arkansas or LSU, so their road to the SEC championship is easier than South Carolina's, but keep an eye on that inexperienced offensive line.

5. Arkansas: If not for Bobby Petrino's embarrassing dismissal, the Razorbacks might be ranked higher. Offensively, it doesn't get much better than what Arkansas has. Tyler Wilson returns as arguably the league's best quarterback, and he'll get to work with one of the most complete backs around, Knile Davis, who is returning from a devastating ankle injury. An older and more improved offensive line returns, and so does a talented receiving corps led by Cobi Hamilton. But there are questions. How effective will interim coach John L. Smith be, especially if something goes wrong? Will Marquel Wade's suspension leak into the fall after his spring arrest? And will the defense improve and be more aggressive under new coordinator Paul Haynes? The good news is that Alabama and LSU play in Fayetteville this fall.

6. Florida: The chemistry is much better in Gainesville. Florida returns 10 starters from a defense that ranked eighth nationally in 2011. Matt Elam looks like a budding star at safety, and Florida's linebacking group is solid. Buck/defensive end Ronald Powell could be out after tearing his ACL this spring, but coach Will Muschamp recently said Powell is off crutches. Stud defensive tackle Dominique Easley is also walking fine after tearing his ACL in last year's season finale. The Gators have their third offensive coordinator in three years, and unproven sophomore quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel are still battling. Florida has unproven running backs and receivers, but the offensive line toughened up tremendously.

7. Auburn: The Tigers welcomed two new coordinators, Scot Loeffler and Brian VanGorder, this spring, and by all accounts players were very receptive. Coach Gene Chizik is still dealing with a lot of youth, as close to 70 percent of his roster is made up of underclassmen. One of those underclassmen is quarterback Kiehl Frazier, who made strides as a passer this spring and seems to have the edge in the quarterback race with Clint Moseley, who missed some of the spring with a sore shoulder. The defensive line will be the team's strength, with end Dee Ford exploding this spring and Corey Lemonier returning. There is a lot of depth up front on defense, which will go a long way for the Tigers.

8. Missouri: Coach Gary Pinkel and his players have made it clear they aren't intimidated by the move to the SEC. These new Tigers return solid offensive firepower, but there has to be some concern about quarterback James Franklin, who missed most of the spring after having surgery on his throwing shoulder. Plus, Mizzou's backup QB could miss games this fall after his recent arrest, so the Tigers' offensive success will be riding on Franklin's health. The Tigers are replacing a few starters on both lines, but feel confident about both areas. Mizzou will face a Georgia team down a few defensive players in Week 2, but must travel to South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

9. Tennessee: A lot is different in Knoxville, as the Vols welcomed seven new assistant coaches. Coach Derek Dooley insists the changes were for the best, but there's still going to be some adjusting to do this fall. The good news is that Tennessee returns a lot on both sides of the ball, starting with quarterback Tyler Bray and receivers Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers. A healthy trio there makes Tennessee's passing game one of the best in the league. Questions remain on the offensive line and at running back, but improvements were made this spring. New defensive coordinator Sal Sunseri would like to run more 3-4 this fall, but players aren't totally comfortable, leaving some concerns.

10. Mississippi State: Quarterback Tyler Russell finally looks ready to take over as the guy in Starkville, and he'll have a veteran receiving corps to work with. However, that group still has a lot to prove, especially senior Chad Bumphis. The running game looks solid with LaDarius Perkins and Nick Griffin, and the offensive line got help from the junior college ranks. Defensively, there are a few holes to fill up front and in the secondary, but Johnthan Banks and Corey Broomfield are a solid cornerback tandem and linebacker is set with a few vets back, including stud Cameron Lawrence. Junior college defensive end Denico Autry has to perform early to help a line with a couple of holes.

11. Texas A&M: The Aggies have some holes to fill this year, but the offensive line will be a strength. Left tackle Luke Joeckel, a future first-rounder, leads a line that returns four starters. Star wide receiver Ryan Swope is back, and running back Christine Michael should be healthy (knee) this fall, but quarterback is an issue. Sophomore Jameill Showers has the edge right now, but like all of his competitors, he lacks experience. The defense will lean on linebackers Sean Porter, Steven Jenkins, Jonathan Stewart and converted end Damontre Moore, but the secondary has depth and experience issues, and the team will still be adjusting to a new staff led by coach Kevin Sumlin.

12. Vanderbilt: There is some solid offensive talent in Nashville, starting with running back Zac Stacy and receivers Jordan Matthews and Chris Boyd, but coach James Franklin is still waiting for quarterback Jordan Rodgers to be more consistent. The offensive line is very thin and could barely get through spring. The defense must replace a handful of starters and leaders, but Franklin felt better about guys like linebacker Chase Garnham, defensive end Walker May and cornerback Trey Wilson. Vandy's schedule will be tough this fall, and if that offensive line doesn't hold up, getting back to a bowl will be tough.

13. Kentucky: Coach Joker Phillips was pleased with how spring practice ended, especially when it came to finding offensive playmakers, like receivers Demarco Robinson and Daryl Collins. Quarterback Maxwell Smith had a solid spring, but struggled during the spring game, meaning the battle with Morgan Newton and freshman Patrick Towles should go into the fall. The offensive line is still trying to get by after losing three starters, and the Wildcats must replace six starters at linebacker and in the secondary. Given the Wildcats' schedule, they will need to sweep their nonconference games to be in bowl shape.

14. Ole Miss: The arrival of coach Hugh Freeze brought a lot of positive change to Ole Miss, especially off the field, but there are still a lot of concerns. There are depth issues at just about every position, especially running back and defensive tackle. Even one of the most experienced groups, the offensive line, has struggled mightily with picking up Freeze's spread offense and is the team's biggest weakness. Academic issues are also worrying Ole Miss' staff, and top running back Jeff Scott and cornerback/receiver Nickolas Brassell are in that group. Quarterback is still up for grabs, but progress was made on defense, especially in the secondary.

So where do things stand after spring practices and heading into the offseason? Let's see.

(You can check out our January power rankings here).

1. USC: The Trojans are expected to contend for the national title (typing that strikes up a not-unfamiliar feeling). Best starting 24 -- specialists included -- in conference and probably in the nation. Some nagging depth questions. Key is staying healthy, particularly on the lines and at running back.

2. Oregon: Marcus Mariota's spring performance made everyone forget Darron Thomas leaving early, even if it's uncertain Mariota will win the QB job over Bryan Bennett. Defense should be among the best in the conference. Ducks and Trojans meet in the Coliseum on Nov. 3. May be the national game of the year.

3. Stanford: There will be a drop-off post-Andrew Luck, but as long as the running game and front seven on defense remain intact, it won't be as severe as most think, especially since the Cardinal have the exact same schedule as last season.

4. Utah: Best defensive line in the conference. That alone should win the Utes a game or two. And it's good that QB Jordan Wynn is again healthy. Still, Utes need to beat the upper-echelon teams (and stop losing to the lower ones) to really show they have arrived in the conference.

5. Washington: Potentially strong on offense with QB Keith Price, but the line needs to get healthy, and you don't replace Chris Polk with RB-by-committee. The defense should be better with coordinator Justin Wilcox. Still, the power rankings are like Missouri: You've got to Show Me. And, gosh, that early-season schedule is BRUTAL.

6. California: QB Zach Maynard had a strong spring, according to coach Jeff Tedford. Pair that with an A-list receiver in Keenan Allen, good depth at running back and a potent defense, and the Bears could climb these rankings. Check that. Cal stinks. Turrible. There. That should help.

7. UCLA: There is enough overall speed and talent to make an impact for the "defending South champs." The new spread offense could be sneaky-good if the Bruins ever figure out who is going to run it. The switch to a 3-4 defense is a good move for the available talent.

8. Washington State: Of the four new coaches, it's Mike Leach who will probably have the biggest impact early on. Receiver might be the Cougars' deepest position, and quarterback Jeff Tuel can spread it around. Both lines are questions.

9. Oregon State: QB Sean Mannion should be better in his sophomore year, and he has some good targets, starting with Markus Wheaton. Solid at running back and in the secondary. But what about those lines? Really, the Beavers' getting back to a bowl game will end up being about the hogs stepping up.

10. Arizona: QB Matt Scott and the offense have a chance to be good in Year 1 with Rich Rodriguez, though Scott might not be able to run too much option because there's no backup QB. There's talent in the secondary, particularly if Jonathan McKnight comes back healthy in the fall after missing all of 2011 with a knee injury. But there are significant questions at linebacker. And who's going to rush the passer?

11. Arizona State: There's nice depth at running back, and the offensive line was solid during spring practices. The return of LB Brandon Magee will help the defense, as much for his positive leadership as his skill. But there's uncertainty at quarterback, receiver, linebacker and safety.

12. Colorado: The most crushing injury this spring was Buffaloes WR Paul Richardson blowing out his knee. On the plus side, the offensive line looks solid, and Tony Jones stepped up at running back. If everyone stays -- or gets -- healthy, the linebackers will be first-rate. And DE Chidera Uzo-Diribe could be a breakout player. But there are huge questions at receiver, on the defensive line and in the secondary. Colorado may play as many freshmen as any team in the country this year.
The book is closed on spring football in the Big Ten, but what did the chapters reveal? Although no games are played during the spring, which fuels optimism for all 12 teams, the 15 practices provide clues for the upcoming season. The Big Ten saw few major injuries to key players, some good news (the NCAA declaring Michigan State WR DeAnthony Arnett eligible for 2012) and some potentially troubling signs.

It's time to revive the power rankings coming out of the spring. We see separation with the top two teams, while Nos. 3-5 are closely matched. The same holds true for Nos. 7-10.

Here they are ...

1. Michigan State: The Spartans' defense looks like the single best unit in the Big Ten entering the season. Spring practice only enhanced our opinion of Pat Narduzzi's group, which has no shortage of stars. While the passing game needs work, Arnett's presence should help, and the Spartans will rely more on their run game with Le'Veon Bell and an improved offensive line.

2. Michigan: Quarterback Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint, who affirmed himself as Michigan's top tailback this spring, form arguably the Big Ten's most dangerous backfield tandem. If Michigan can fill some key pieces on both lines, where there was some shuffling this spring, it will be back in the BCS bowl mix and among the favorites to win the Big Ten crown.

3. Wisconsin: It seems hard to fathom, but Montee Ball appeared to take his game to an even higher gear this spring. The Badgers' star running back will fuel the offense again, although quarterback remains a question mark as Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien arrives this summer. Wisconsin still needs more playmakers to emerge on the defensive line and in the secondary.

4. Nebraska: Tough call on this spot, but the Huskers return their core pieces on offense from a 9-4 team. Footwork-conscious quarterback Taylor Martinez received good reviews this spring, and he should be more comfortable in Year 2 at the helm of Tim Beck's offense. Coach Bo Pelini thinks the defense will be improved and potentially deeper, although the Huskers lose a lot of star power on that side of the ball.

5. Ohio State: There were few dull moments in Ohio State's first spring under Urban Meyer, who began installing an offense unlike any seen in Columbus. After resembling a "clown show" early on, the offense made strides and quarterback Braxton Miller looks like a strong fit for the system. An improved defense, led by linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, should buy the offense some time to get acclimated.

6. Penn State: New coach Bill O'Brien ushered in a historic spring in Happy Valley, and Penn State players for the most part embraced the many changes taking place. The Lions still don't have a quarterback, but they have an excellent running back in Silas Redd and an improved offense line that pleasantly surprised O'Brien this spring. Penn State's defensive front seven, led by linebacker Gerald Hodges and tackle Jordan Hill, might need to carry the team at times.

7. Purdue: Fourth-year coach Danny Hope thinks this is clearly his best team in West Lafayette, and with 18 starters back, it's easy to see why. The Boilermakers are one of the Big Ten's deepest teams at positions like quarterback, defensive tackle, running back and cornerback. Purdue must continue to absorb the new defense installed by Tim Tibesar and fill some key gaps along the offensive line.

8. Iowa: Although Iowa's changes this spring didn't make national headlines like the ones at Penn State and Ohio State, they were very significant. New offensive coordinator Greg Davis began installing a more up-tempo and multifaceted offense that seems to be clicking with senior quarterback James Vandenberg. Jordan Canzeri's ACL injury once again clouds the picture at running back entering the summer, and Iowa needs its young defensive line to grow up in a hurry.

9. Northwestern: The Wildcats showcased one of the league's top wide-receiving corps this spring, and if Kain Colter can improve his passing, the offense should surge. Defense has been Northwestern's bugaboo in recent years, and young players like end Deonte Gibson and cornerback Nick VanHoose stepped forward this spring. It's crucial for the defense to keep making progress if Northwestern wants to maintain its bowl streak.

10. Illinois: There's little doubt Illinois will be a defense-driven team, and the Illini look loaded in the front seven with players like end Michael Buchanan, who turned in a very strong spring, as well as tackle Akeem Spence and linebacker Jonathan Brown. An offense that flatlined late last season began learning a new system this spring and still lacks playmakers at running back and wide receiver. Running back Josh Ferguson's spring-game performance is encouraging.

11. Minnesota: The second spring of the Jerry Kill era brought greater comfort for both players and coaches alike. Quarterback MarQueis Gray made strides in his second spring session as the starter, although the Gophers are still looking for more weapons to surround No. 5. The defensive line should be an improved group after several lifeless seasons. Minnesota still needs to develop depth in the secondary and at wide receiver.

12. Indiana: After playing an insane number of freshmen in 2011, Indiana began to reap the benefits this spring. An influx of junior-college defenders, including linebackers David Cooper and Jacarri Alexander, also should boost a unit that needs all the help it can get. The Hoosiers have some nice building blocks on offense at both quarterback (Tre Roberson) and running back (Stephen Houston, Isaiah Roundtree), but they still have a lot of work to do before the season.
It's that time again, boys and girls. The spring is over, and the Big 12 stock must be checked. Here's how I slot the conference heading into the summer.

1. Oklahoma: The Sooners' lead on the rest of the league looks like it's slimming after the suspensions of Jaz Reynolds, Trey Franks and Kameel Jackson. The pressure's on for an impressive haul of freshman receivers, highlighted by spring star Trey Metoyer and juco transfer Courtney Gardner, to offer Landry Jones solid targets.

2. West Virginia: You could certainly make a case for WVU as the favorite, but consider me a bit spooked by the inconsistency the Mountaineers showed in 2011. That inconsistency was masked by (a) their playing in a league that almost nobody in Big 12 country watches and (b) their most impressive showing of the season coming on their biggest and final stage, the Orange Bowl. I can't wait to see Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey navigate a Big 12 schedule, though. They'll fit right in. Getting Dustin Garrison back will be huge, too.

3. Kansas State: K-State has the widest variance of possibilities of any team in the Big 12 (undefeated and a Big 12 title or a six-win disappointment are both in play), and they have the highest volume of doubters of probably any 10-win team in America. Bill Snyder put together one of his finest coaching jobs ever in 2011, and he'll need another doozy to win a Big 12 title in the midst of a deep top half in 2012.

4. TCU: TCU also has the talent to win a Big 12 title -- in the starting lineup, anyway. Coach Gary Patterson said this spring that the first unit is good, but the second and third units are the reasons teams win Big 12 titles. The defense took a hit with offseason arrests, but the offense should be on par with any in the league.

5. Texas: The Longhorns are loaded with upside, but until they show something, that's all it is. Last year's truckload of freshmen will be sophomores in the fall, and the offense revolves almost entirely around them. The defense will be stingy at all three levels, but can the offense prove it's balanced (or powerful) enough to keep Big 12 defenses honest?

6. Oklahoma State: OSU pulled the trigger on a true freshman at quarterback after just 15 practices, and even OC Todd Monken said before the spring he'd be "shocked" if that was the case. Here we are. The good news for new QB Wes Lunt? Last year's opportunistic defense which ranked 107th in total defense but first in forcing turnovers could be one of the Big 12's best, and could become both opportunistic and solid in places other than the red zone.

7. Baylor: Nick Florence validated his status as the likely heir to Heisman winner Robert Griffin III; doubt the offense's potency at your own risk. The defense is still a massive question mark, but Baylor may finish the season with the Big 12's best receiving corps, despite losing Big 12 receiving champ Kendall Wright. The trio of running backs (Glasco Martin, Jarred Salubi and Oregon transfer/Texas native Lache Seastrunk) will be productive, regardless of how carries are divvied up, which is still in flux.

8. Texas Tech: Tech stayed healthy this spring, which was a welcome development. The Red Raiders are coming off a 5-7 season, but the offense was still productive in 2011, despite missing the top two receivers and two running backs for part of conference play as well as a host of injuries on the offensive line and defense. New coordinator Art Kaufman is a longtime associate of Tommy Tuberville and installed his 4-3 this spring to try to fix a defense that gave up more rushing yards than any team in college football in 2011.

9. Iowa State: ISU's spring was about finding a quarterback and replacing departed OC Tom Herman. Courtney Messingham was promoted from within, but the Cyclones left the spring as the lone Big 12 team that doesn't have a starting QB identified. That doesn't bode well for the fall.

10. Kansas: I'm a firm believer that the gap between Kansas and the rest of the Big 12 is narrowing. And trust me, it was enormous. Charlie Weis infused some much-needed talent through transfers, headlined by Notre Dame transfer Dayne Crist. Former Oklahoma receiver Justin McCay will have to wait until 2013 to play, as will ex-BYU quarterback Jake Heaps, but Weis set a tone when he dismissed about 10 players from the team before spring even began and suspended starting running back James Sims three games for an OWI arrest.
Time for my long-awaited post-spring power rankings. I made only a few changes from the pre-spring rankings. Here goes ...

1. Louisville: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater looked better than ever this spring, giving me renewed confidence the Cardinals are going to be the preseason favorite in the league. The secondary should be exceptionally strong, and the offensive line should be better. Questions remain at running back and with depth in the front seven. But of all the teams in the league, I think the Cardinals have the most stability headed into the season. Plus, it hugely helps to have Charlie Strong entering Year 3.

2. USF: Big jump for the Bulls. I know I said I refused to buy into USF until the Bulls actually do something. But what they have returning is hard to ignore. Generally speaking, teams with 18 returning starters -- many of them seniors -- do really well. So do teams with veteran starting quarterbacks. While USF still has some major question marks on paper -- can B.J. Daniels develop, what happens at running back, where is the depth at linebacker -- the Bulls look like they have a shot.

3. Rutgers: At one time, I had Rutgers as my preseason favorite. But I am a little nervous about the situation at quarterback. I thought there would be a resolution this spring, but neither Chas Dodd nor Gary Nova did much to impress. Mohamed Sanu is gone, there are more shifts on the offensive line, and the running game has to prove something. I think the defense will be the best in the Big East. The offense is scaring me right now, which is why I moved the Scarlet Knights down.

4. Cincinnati: The Bearcats do return talent, and players who saw some significant action last season. But they also lose 21 seniors, including Big East Offensive Player of the Year Isaiah Pead and Big East Co-Defensive Player of the Year Derek Wolfe. I don't have any doubts that the Bearcats will have a good season. I just don't know if they will win another championship.

5. Pitt: If there is any team with "ifs" all over the roster, it is the Panthers. They have a new head coach. They are returning Tino Sunseri at quarterback. Nobody knows how Ray Graham is going to do after major knee surgery. The offensive line has to be better. There is not much depth on the defensive line. If all of these come together, the Panthers could be really good. If they don't, they could be really bad.

6. UConn: The Huskies will be good on defense. But what about quarterback? I feel like a broken record saying the same thing over again. Quarterback uncertainty always makes me hesitant to rank a team in the top half of the league. I was hesitant last year, and I am hesitant again this year.

7. Syracuse: I have said this before, but it bears repeating: I think Syracuse is the hardest team to gauge in the Big East. The Orange have to be more consistent on offense. They have to find a running game to help ease some of the burden off quarterback Ryan Nassib. Does Ashton Broyld give them enough to get them more explosive plays? The defense still has depth concerns in the front seven.

8. Temple: I worry about how the Owls will make the transition to the Big East in Year 1. I think Temple has a good team, but the Owls also lost a lot of their best players and have depth concerns on the offensive and defensive lines. That is enough to worry any coach in Year 1 in a major conference.
Now that spring practices are over, it’s time to re-evaluate the ACC pecking order for 2012. There wasn’t much change at the top from the pre-spring power rankings, but Georgia Tech did get a slight bump, along with two teams on Tobacco Road. Here’s a look at the latest ACC power rankings:

1. Florida State: The Noles’ defensive line should be one of the deepest and best in the conference, if not the country, and they’ve got an outstanding quarterback in EJ Manuel. If the young offensive line can mature quickly and the running game improves from 2011, there’s no reason the Seminoles shouldn’t be contending for the ACC title.

2. Clemson: The Tigers could open the season without star receiver Sammy Watkins, who is awaiting his punishment after he was arrested on misdemeanor drug charges, but as long as he’s in the lineup and the offensive line is playing well, Clemson has enough talent to defend its 2011 ACC title.

3. Virginia Tech: It’s hard to forget how the Hokies fared against Clemson in two meetings last season, but they enter this season with the better defense. The question is how quickly the revamped offensive line can come together, and who will emerge as the next star running back.

4. NC State: This team is quietly preparing a championship-caliber roster. Quarterback Mike Glennon is still under the radar, and he’s got an experienced offensive line to work with. This is a team that could surprise some people.

5. Georgia Tech: The Jackets had a promising spring, but the defensive line has to replace two of three starters, and last season’s atrocious special teams still have a lot to prove. One thing is for sure: These guys will be able to run the ball on just about anyone.

6. Wake Forest: Much like the rest of its division, Wake Forest’s success will hinge in part on how quickly the new starters on the offensive line come together. The Demon Deacons have an experienced and much-improved quarterback in Tanner Price, and last year they made a statement that they’re not to be overlooked in the ACC race.

7. North Carolina: The two biggest questions for the Tar Heels are how quickly they can adapt to and execute a new system under first-year coach Larry Fedora, and where they will find their motivation now that the NCAA has banned them from the postseason. This spring revealed a positive outlook for the new offense, which should give quarterback Bryn Renner a chance to shine.

8. Virginia: The ACC’s 2011 Coach of the Year has quickly raised expectations, but they should be tempered because seven starters have to be replaced on defense. Michael Rocco is the undisputed starting quarterback -- unless Alabama transfer Phillip Sims has something to say about it.

9. Miami: With Stephen Morris out this spring with a back injury, quarterback transfer Ryan Williams had a chance to impress the coaches. The position is one of many questions still looming for the Canes, a young team still waiting for closure from an NCAA investigation.

10. Maryland: The Terps had a good spring and were able to move forward with players who wanted to be there. It was a positive vibe, but coach Randy Edsall is still tangled in the shadow of last year’s two-win season. He’ll have to improve upon it without the services of former quarterback Danny O’Brien.

11. Boston College: Several offseason staff changes were embraced this spring, and quarterback Chase Rettig made strides under yet another offensive coordinator, Doug Martin. The Eagles have to find a way to win without two of their most valuable players in running back Montel Harris, who was dismissed from the team, and linebacker Luke Kuechly, who left early for the NFL.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils had a good spring and are still buying into the philosophies of coach David Cutcliffe. They’ve been on the verge of making the postseason before, but fans are looking for them to finally break through in Year 5 under Cutcliffe. Quarterback Sean Renfree can get them there if they minimize the turnovers and play better defense.