Defensive back is one of the strongest position groups across the ACC, especially at the top.
We went with Florida State as the best unit during our recent position review analysis, but that was not a unanimous decision.
I believe Virginia Tech has the best group coming back.
Fellow ACC reporters David Hale and Matt Fortuna laughed at me when I suggested we debate the topic. But I soon discovered I am not a lone wolf howling into the wilderness.
Noted college football expert Phil Steele has Virginia Tech ranked No. 1 among all defensive back units, just ahead of Florida State.
There absolutely is a debate to be made here.
I am not discounting the depth and talent Florida State has in its secondary. These two groups are the top two in the entire nation. Who you believe is No. 1 depends on your perspective.
From my vantage point, Virginia Tech gets the edge because it returns the more experienced starting group, one that has all four of its starters back. These guys are no slouches, either. There is a reason Virginia Tech is known as DBU. Since 1997, 21 Virginia Tech defensive backs have been drafted. More are on the way.
Despite losing first-team All-ACC selection Kyle Fuller -- a first-round NFL pick -- Virginia Tech returns two All-ACC selections: his brother, Kendall (second team) and safety Kyshoen Jarrett (third team). Kendall Fuller also was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Florida State loses its veteran leaders Lamarcus Joyner and Terrence Brooks, both first-team All-ACC selections. Beyond their production, their leadership was a huge intangible on the national championship team. Nobody else returning to the Florida State secondary earned a spot on the All-ACC coaches team a year ago.
Virginia Tech also returns 15 of the 17 interceptions made by defensive backs last season -- including 11 from Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson.
Florida State led the nation with 26 interceptions a year ago, but returns a smaller share of picks made by defensive backs (13 of 20). Still, the Noles have terrific depth -- seven of the top nine are back -- and a superstar in the making in Jalen Ramsey, taking over the spot Joyner played last season. Nate Andrews returns after his terrific freshman season, leading the team with four interceptions. P.J. Williams had a big-time performance against Auburn in the national championship game. Ronald Darby should have his best season yet.
In explaining his decision to put Virginia Tech No. 1, Steele wrote that the Hokies have finished in the Top 15 of his pass defense ratings nine of the past 10 years. Last year, Virginia Tech was No. 1 in his pass defense rankings. He closes with this: five defensive backs return with a combined 49 starts, 226 tackles, 15 interceptions and 26 pass-breakups.
Both groups have great talent, and the potential to develop an All-American by season's end. (Steele has Fuller and Williams as preseason second-team All-Americans.) Each school has three players on the two preseason All-ACC teams already released. All this ratchets up the anticipation to see both units play and perform. Perhaps a clearer picture will develop by January.
Which team do you think has the best group? Vote in our poll, and drop me a line in the mailbag with your thoughts.