NCF Nation: Joel Figueroa
1. North Carolina: Three starters and one part-time starter return from last year’s team, and this line could be the biggest and best since Butch Davis was hired. Guard Jonathan Cooper (22 starts), center Cam Holland (20) and tackle James Hurst (12) have combined for 54 career starts. Travis Bond has four starts and is the leading candidate to take over at the other guard position.
2. Miami: The Canes return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen including four starters from last year, and Joel Figueroa was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Even with the coaching change, the Canes should be strong up front. Center Tyler Horn is a veteran, Brandon Washington is a difference-maker, and there’s enough competition that Seantrel Henderson spent most of the spring as a backup.
3. Clemson: First-year offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has four returning starters to work with in Landon Walker, Antoine McClain, Dalton Freeman and David Smith. They also have top reserve Mason Cloy, who has 19 career starts and has played in 38 games. There is plenty of depth for a dependable rotation.
4. Virginia Tech: All four returnees started every game last year, and there is enough depth that the Hokies should be able to rotate the most players up front they ever have. It’s a veteran group led by Blake DeChristopher, Andrew Lanier, Jaymes Brooks and Greg Nosal.
5. Florida State: Despite the losses of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon, there’s experience up front. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of tackle Andrew Datko, left guard Bryan Stork or David Spurlock, center Jacob Fahrenkrug, right guard Spurlock or Stork, right tackle Zebrie Sanders. Just how good they’ll be remains to be seen as the majority of them were out with injuries this past spring.
6. NC State: The Pack lost Jake Vermiglio and will be without injured left guard Andrew Wallace for about half of the season, but Zach Allen, Camden Wentz and R.J. Mattes are returning starters. There’s also a lot of talent waiting to emerge with young players like Duran Christophe, Rob Crisp, Tyson Chandler, Torian Box and Andy Jomantas.
7. Virginia: Four players return with a combined 64 career starts in Anthony Mihota, Austin Pasztor, Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, who started the final seven games of the season as a true freshman. Pasztor is in his fourth season as a starter and has 32 career starts.
8. Boston College: Despite the losses of Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham, the Eagles are almost settled up front, it’s the experience behind the starters that’s reason for concern. The No. 2 offensive line is comprised entirely of redshirt freshmen. Mark Spinney returns at center, the projected starting guards are Nathan Richman and Ian White, who started three games as a freshman, and the tackles are Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel.
9. Maryland: It’s been an injury-prone group the past two seasons and that didn’t change this past spring. Left tackle Justin Gilbert, one of the top linemen on the team, reinjured the same knee he had ACL surgery on and will be out until October. R.J. Dill was also injured this spring, though he played in the spring game, and Justin Lewis was rehabbing from offseason surgery. Pete White also missed practices, so the group needs to solidify the two-deep roster.
10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return three starters in guard Omoregie Uzzi, guard Will Jackson and tackle Phil Smith. Sophomore Jay Finch played extensively last season and Ray Beno and Nick McRae were key reserves. Redshirt freshmen Catlin Alford and Morgan Bailey could also work their way into the rotation. Uzzi will be the leader of the line, but they were outplayed by the defense this spring.
11. Wake Forest: Four starters are back, but the Deacs will sorely miss the experience and leadership of former center Russell Nenon. Garrick Williams started the final three games of 2010 -- two at guard and one at center, but he struggled with the snaps towards the end of spring and isn’t where the staff needs him to be yet.
12. Duke: The Blue Devils should take another step forward this season under offensive line coach Matt Luke, and they need to -- Duke’s running game was last in the ACC last year and 104th in the country. Brian Moore replaces a three-year starter at center, but given his experience at right guard the past two seasons, it should be a smooth transition. That will leave a hole, though, at the right guard position, where Laken Tomlinson and John Coleman are the top candidates.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The Miami Hurricanes were one of the first teams in the country to start spring practice on Tuesday. I spoke with coach Randy Shannon Tuesday morning about his expectations for the program heading into his third season. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
To start, what are some of your top priorities this spring?
|Gary Rothstein/Icon SMI|
|Miami coach Randy Shannon is putting a positive spin on his team's difficult 2009 schedule.|
RS: Building depth on the offensive line. The two positions we've got to get some depth at are offensive line and linebacker. We have your so-called first units, but you don't want to get caught in a situation without depth at those positions and that's the one thing we have to develop. We've got a lot of guys back -- (Jason) Fox was a starter, (Joel) Figueroa played a lot, Orlando (Franklin) played a lot, (A.J.) Trump played a lot, (Matt) Pipho played -- but that next batch, we need to develop that sixth, seventh guy.
How many early enrollees do you have?
RS: Six. The last two years we've had seven or eight.
How much will it help you to have those guys for the spring?
RS: It helped us a lot last year because we played so many of those young guys. Of the eight guys that came in, seven helped us last year. These guys come in and they may have an opportunity to help us also. They get ahead.
Do you think the fact that last year's class did that and played so much helped you guys recruit this year because people saw they do have a chance to play as true freshmen at Miami?
RS: I think it did. People understand we're not afraid to play young guys coming in, and that if they're better than the guys we have on the football team they'll definitely get an opportunity to play.
With that said, how big of a step does this sophomore class now have to take and grow up a little bit more?
RS: They have to grow up a lot. Those guys played a lot last year and we have to now move forward. The seniors we do have, they're going to be very key to being leaders now. These guys have played two or three years under the new staff and we look for big things from them.
How did you wind up with such a brutal schedule?
RS: It is what it is, Heather. We have to look at it from the standpoint of, after the first four games you have an opportunity to be in the top 10 in the country. That's how you've gotta look at it. You can't look at it like the world is coming to an end, how are we going to get through this? You can't.
How far back did you schedule Oklahoma?
RS: That was before I was the coach. That was some years ago.