By: Al Burke
Spotlight on the ACC
Who will be the key offensive players in the race for the ACC title in 2012? Some will be established stars, some replacing former stars and a smattering of new faces who hope to be the stars of tomorrow (or this season anyway). Opinions, objections and abuse (maybe not that one) are always welcome. Feel free to leave comments below or contact me on Twitter.
QB Chase Rettig - Star RB Montel Harris may be gone prematurely, but the trio of returning backs suggest BC should be able to run the ball effectively. That won’t be enough though; Rettig doesn’t have to be amazing (although it would be nice), but he has to show he can be consistent at least. A receiver who could stretch the field would be nice, but Rettig has enough in place to move the chains and let the running attack and defense do the rest.
2011 Stats: Passing 317-170-1960-12-9, Rushing 41-(-84)-1.
RB Andre Ellington - What about Tajh Boyd? Or Sammy Watkins? Well, they were definitely impact players on the Tigers resurgent ACC title winning squad, when Ellington got injured later in the season, the Tigers struggled. He was out for the Georgia Tech game, and hampered against NC State and South Carolina. While he was healthy for West Virginia, poor defense took him out of the game early, although he performed well when given the chance. Keeping him healthy next season should be priority #1.
2011 Stats: Rushing 223-1178-11, Receiving 22-109-0, KR 5-131-0.
LT Cameron Erving – or Daniel Glauser; or pretty much any OL. Somebody throw a block please. Last season the line was dreadful, allowing QB EJ Manuel to get battered (41 sacks) and paving the way for a meager 3.3 yards per carry. For a team considered a dark horse for the national title, this kind of production will not cut the mustard. Can you imagine this bunch against LSU’s DL? No matter how good the defense is, it can’t cover for a unit this bad.
2011 Stats – 13 games at DT
QB CJ Brown – I debated over whether an RB would be more appropriate here, but the Terps look solid with Justus Pickett and freshman Wes Brown, so the play of CJ is the key. He’s a dual-threat who showed enough in 5 starts to suggest that the future could be rosy for Maryland. He’s an excellent runner, but needs to be way more accurate as a passer. Getting all the passing reps in spring camp helped, but he’ll get a push from freshman Caleb Rowe in fall.
2011 Stats: Passing: 166-82-842-7-6, Rushing 79-574-5.
North Carolina State
QB Mike Glennon – the forgotten man in the Russell Wilson saga, Glennon showed great resilience (and talent) throughout the season, despite patchy protection from a O-Line that allowed 34 sacks. It wasn’t all their fault, as Glennon is far from fleet-of-foot. This season, many of last year’s key performers return, including 4 OLs. HC Tom O’Brien will not allow them to be this poor again. Glennon could be all-ACC this year, and will get a long look from NFL scouts.
2011 Stats: Passing 453-283-3054-31-12, Rushing 51-(-110)-1.
WR Terence Davis – QB Tanner Price had a breakout year last season, but it was in part attributable to WR Chris Givens’ (85-1330-9) success. Price is back and he has #2 receiver Michael Campanaro, more of a slot guy, but he needs someone who can stretch the field and clear the middle of the field for Campanaro now that Givens is gone. Davis showed some play-making ability, but in true Cris Carter fashion, “only caught TD passes”. This season he needs to show he can carry a full-time load or the WF offense will struggle to move the ball consistently.
2011 Stats: Receiving 20-269-5, Passing 1-1-9-0-0
QB Sean Renfree – HC David Cutcliffe has had success with QBs in the past – a couple of guys by the name of Manning – and his current protégé has all-ACC potential. Despite a rocky start to his career on replacing Thaddeus Lewis, he’s improved every season and could be ready to take a big jump in his senior year. He has his favorite receiver back, and the Blue Devils look the strongest they have in a number of years.
2011 Stats: Passing 434-282-2891-14-11, Rushing 58-(-58)-4.
WR Jeff Greene – Sounds kind of strange picking a receiver as a key to this offense, but Stephen Hill was a big-play threat last season, averaging over 30 yards a catch and scoring 5 times, to go with his blocking ability. Greene doesn’t possess Hill’s speed, but he has the size and strength to be a factor as a receiver and a blocker (he could line up at LB or S too). If the Bulldogs can’t get someone to stretch the field, the running attack will find the going that little bit tougher. Greene can’t afford to drop as many as Hill though.
2011 Stats: 12 games played.
RB Mike James – the QB battle has yet to be decided and the WRs are unproven outside of Allen Hurns, so the Hurricanes will need to ride the rushing attack, at least until the passing offense starts to click. James is a powerful runner who wears down defenders with his punishing style and has seen a chuck of action over the last couple of seasons, including 11 TDs. He has a monstrous line (averaging 317 lbs) paving the way and some good backups to keep him fresh. The U will need him.
2011 Stats: Rushing 72-275-7, Receiving 9-80-1.
WR Jheranie Boyd – Dwight Jones was a big part of the UNC passing attack, playing the role of deep threat and go-to guy. He’s off to the NFL, Boyd gets his chance to show what he can do as a starter after averaging over 20 yards per catch and scoring 12 TDs on just 40 receptions. Having Erik Highsmith to play the possession role should help things tick over. QB Brynn Renner could be poised for a big season.
2011 Stats: Receiving 14-292-5, Rushing 7-56-0.
QB Michael Rocco – okay, so he hasn’t won the starting job yet and some (mostly SEC fans) feel Phillips Sims will take the job in fall, but he got a lot better over the course of the season (overlook VTech). After throwing just 1 TD and 7 picks in his first games, Rocco went 12-5 over the last 8 as Virginia went on a 6-2 run to make their first bowl in 4 years. He has the benefit of a solid running game, a good O-Line, and the explosive Tim Smith at receiver among others. He’s set for at least another bowl run, and if he can improve even further, a division title is in the offing for the Cavs.
2011 Stats: Passing 366-222-2671-13-12, Rushing 40-118-2.
RB Michael Holmes – VT have been the class of the conference for most of the 21st century, but 2012 may see them slip back among the back despite the return of QB Logan Thomas. The problem is, only 2 other starters return on offense and star RB David Wilson isn’t one of them. Make no mistake, the O revolved around Wilson and a capable replacement is a must. Redshirt freshman Holmes looks to be the heir apparent to Wilson, and he’s good enough to have an impact from the start. The Hokies need him to.
2011 Stats: Redshirted