ACC Atlantic Division 2016

Clemson has to be considered the favorite of the ACC Atlantic Division and the ACC overall. With the nation’s best Deshaun Watson returning at Quarterback, the Tigers will be a threat for a national title again. Besides Watson, the Tigers return a very good Running Back in Wayne Gallman. As a redshirt sophomore, Gallman ran for 1,527 yards and 13 Touchdowns and he returns for one more shot at championships. Watson rushed for over 1,000 yards himself, but he also threw for over 4,000 yards and most of his targets from last year are back. Top WRs

Artivus Scott has been the Tigers top receiver for the past two seasons and the Tigers return Mike Williams who missed all of the 2015 season after running into the goal post in the first game of the season. Williams  Deon Cain, Hunter Renfrow, Germone Hopper, Ray-Ray McCloud and Trevion

Thompson all return and all are good. Tight End Jordan Leggett is also one of the nation’s best. Up front, Mitch Hyatt at Left Tackle was the best freshman Offensive Lineman in the country last season and he leads a talented Offensive Line which also includes Jake Fruhmorgen, Tyrone Crowder and Center Jay Guillermo. The Tigers should have one of the top Offensive Lines in the country.

On Defense, the Tigers lost a lot of talent. But, they have joined the elite and they are reloading. Starting at Defensive Tackle, they have some great talent in Carlos Watkins and Christian Wilkins. Talented Scott Pagano backs them up and they added 5 star Defensive Tackle Dexter Lawrence and people had better get out of his way.

Ben Boulware is a team leader at Linebacker and Dorian O’Daniel is a super talent. Another super player that they added is Rahshaun Smith at Linebacker and he will push for early playing time.

Cordrea Tankersley is the only returner in the Secondary, but that just gives other future stars the chance to play.

Clemson could win it all this year, if they can just win their division of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Getting past Florida State will not be an easy task for Clemson, or anyone else in 2016. They return every starter on Offense and then some. Sean Maguire returns at Quarterback, but he was injured in the Seminoles bowl loss to Houston. He missed all of the Spring while recovering which allowed redshirt freshman Deondre Francois a lot of playing time. Maguire probably starts his senior year in 2016, don’t rule out Francois. Also, true freshman Malik Henry from Long Beach Poly has an outside chance of playing, but he probably redshirts.

Running Back Dalvin Cook is as good as anybody in the country and that includes Leonard Fournette and Christian McCaffrey. Cook ran for 1,691 yards and 19 Touchdowns in spite of facing hamstring and other injuries and missing a game. Cook is 5-11, 205 and has outstanding speed.

Jacques Patrick was a true freshman last season and he ran for 314 yards and 5 Touchdowns as Cook’s back up. Patrick is a different type of back altogether at 6-2, 235. He runs with power, but he has good speed, as well.

The Seminoles return every receiver led by Travis Rudolph, Kermit Whitfield and Bobo Wilson. The great thing for Nole fans is possibly the addition of redshirt freshman Auden Tate, who at 6-5, 220 could be that big receiver they have missed since Kelvin Benjamin left for the NFL. They are still waiting for the talented George Campbell to step up and play like he is capable, plus Ermon Lane.

In spite of a terrible performance against Houston, the Florida State Offensive Line returns everybody. Led by Left Tackle Roderick Johnson, the Offensive Line might be as good as any in the country and it’s a lot more experienced this time around. Seminoles Offensive Line coach Rick Trickett is maybe the best in the nation. Watch out for former Defensive End Rick Leonard at Right Tackle. He made the move in the Spring and he looked fantastic. As already written, the Seminoles return everyone on Offense and then some.

The Defense had some losses, but they return plenty of talent maybe led by sophomore Derwin James at Safety. The freshman All American in 2015 is a head hunter and was second on the team in tackles last season. Defensive End DeMarcus Walker returns at Defensive End along with Josh Sweat on the other side. Ro’Derrick Hoskins at Linebacker, Derrick Nnadi and Demarcus Christmas on the Defensive Line, Nate Andrews and Trey Marshall in the Secondary will make sure the Noles continue to play good defense.

Florida State should be a top 10 team in the country going in with a really big chance of moving up. Clemson must play Florida State in Tallahassee in a game that everyone that loves college football

should see.

The Louisville Cardinals started last season at 0-3 before improving dramatically and finishing 8-5 on the season. Quarterback Lamar Jackson is one of the more exciting players in the entire country. As a true freshman, he threw for 1,840 yards and he ran for 960 yards. He possesses a rocket for an arm and sprinter’s speed. He’s a fun guy to watch. He is so good that last year’s freshman sensation at Quarterback, Reggie Bonnafon moved to Running Back.

The Cardinals need more production out of their Running Backs, but they have plenty of young talent at Wide Receiver.

Their defense is led by Linebacker Keith Kelsey, Defensive End Devonte Fields and giant Safety Josh Harvey-Clemons. At 6-5, 230, Harvey-Clemons is probably the biggest Safety in the country and he is productive. Fields, a former starter at TCU, led the team with 11 Quarterback sacks.

The Cardinals should be improved in 2016 and they likely won’t start off 0-3 again. I don’t think they threaten for the Atlantic Division title, but they will be dangerous as long as Lamar Jackson is healthy.

The Wolfpack of North Carolina State started the season off strongly last year at 4-0, but when they started playing league teams they began to lose some. They finished at 7-6 for the year. Head coach Dave Doeren is going into his 4th season as head coach and he is making progress. However,

replacing Quarterback Jacoby Brissett will be no easy task. If sophomore Jalan McClendon can step up adequately the Wolfpack could be competitive.

The Wolfpack had a pretty good defense a year ago and they return most of their best players. Led by top tackler Airius Moore at Defensive Back and Bradley Chubb at Defensive End.

Dave Doeren may have a ways to go, but he’s making progress. They should probably finish about fourth in the ACC Atlantic, but the competition is fierce.

Syracuse hired Dino Babers from Bowling Green where he fielded a very fun team to watch. But, he will find the going tougher in the ACC than in the MAC.

The Orange went 4-8 last season, but some of their losses were pretty tough games and they were competitive.

Quarterback Eric Dungey is a bright young talent, but he missed 4 games due to injury. The true freshman from Oregon can run and throw if he can stay on the field.

They return every Running Back and Wide Receiver and those receivers must be chomping at the bit to get out there in Dino Babers’ offense.

Middle Linebacker Zaire Franklin led the team in tackles a year ago and he returns and so does most everybody else on that side of the ball other than Ron Thompson who left early for the NFL. True freshman Kenneth Ruff from the Sunshine state is slated to start at Defensive End. That’s kind of

scary, but they do have good young Tackles in Steven Clark, Chris Slayton and Kayton Samuels.

Things may be looking up for the Orange of Syracuse.

But, they are in a tough division and it’s going to take Babers a little time to field a team that can trade blows with the ACC’s finest like Clemson and Florida State. Still, optimism should be high at Syracuse.

Wins were hard to come by for the Wake Forest Demon Deacons and things should be about the same next season.

The Demon Deacons return both of their Quarterbacks and with a year’s more experience. John Wolford is the better passer and Kendall Hinton is the better runner.

They are young at Running Back and their top 3 rushers were freshmen. They return most of their receivers as well.

The Demon Deacons return about 8 starters on defense and they could be fairly good on that side of the ball, but they did lose top player and tackler Brandon Chubb.

Boston College might be improved in 2016, but they lost their best weapon from last season. Michigan and Jim Harbaugh stole maybe the best Defensive Coordinator in the country, Don Brown. The thing that kept Boston College in games was their incredible defense which was one of the best in the country.

Former Kentucky Quarterback Patrick Towles graduated and transferred to Boston College to finish up his college football. He was blamed for all of the deficiencies of the Kentucky offense and benched. His replacement put up almost the same types of numbers which should raise an eyebrow,

or two.

Darius Wade was the starter for the Eagles before he was injured and lost for the season. Towles is supposed to start with Wade as his back up. John Fadule, Jeff Smith and Troy Flutie all played as freshmen last season.

It will help that Jon Hilliman returns after missing a good portion of last season at Running Back. He was excellent as a freshman.

Boston College head coach Steve Addazio named Scot Loeffler his new Offensive Coordinator and Jim Reid his new Defensive Coordinator. Losing Don Brown was a huge blow because the most points the Eagles gave up was to Clemson and they scored 34. If Reid can get the job done even close to the level of Don Brown, the Eagles could be a tough team to play.

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