All week, ACC reporters Andrea Adelson, David Hale and Jared Shanker will discuss the most pressing spring storylines for teams across the conference. Up next for debate: Which ACC coach needs a big spring?
Andrea Adelson says: Dave Doeren
NC State has this way of raising hopes and expectations, and then dashing them in a variety of ways. Take last season for example, when the Wolfpack lost four games by a touchdown or less (including the games against Florida State and Clemson). Now 2017 comes along, and a quick roster breakdown shows NC State should be pretty, pretty good. And that means Doeren cannot afford to go 7-6 again.
Not with one of the better defensive lines in the ACC returning. Not with a 3,000-yard passer returning. Not with talent and depth at running back and the skill positions returning. Not with a solid offensive line returning. If anything, NC State proved it has the talent to match up with Clemson and Florida State, its Atlantic Division nemesis.
But what it lacked went beyond size and speed. Time and again, the fourth quarter came around, and the Wolfpack could not finish the game off. What Doeren has to do is focus on the mental aspect this spring. Is NC State talented enough? Absolutely. But what separates teams that win close games and teams that lose them is mental toughness. How Doeren addresses this intangible will be crucial to this team’s success in 2017. As David Hale said last week in his mailbag, NC State has a team capable of winning 10 games. But will it?
David Hale says: Virginia’s Bronco Mendenhall
When he arrived last season, Mendenhall knew a culture change was in order. What he didn’t realize until after the season began was just how big a job that would be.
Virginia was a mess for most of 2016, starting with an opening week loss to FCS Richmond and culminating with a 13th straight loss to rival Virginia Tech, a 42-point defeat that proved to be the most lopsided Cavaliers loss in the rivalry’s history. Suddenly the enthusiasm about Mendenhall’s new regime gave way to a contingent of Virginia fans wondering if this would be another bad hire.
Mendenhall remains upbeat, however, and though he acknowledges he underestimated the amount of time it would take to fix Virginia’s ills, he’s confident that the ship is now pointed in the right direction. This spring will go a long way in supplying some evidence of that. Mendenhall needs to bring quarterback Kurt Benkert along, tighten up a porous defense, build a more consistent offensive line and find some playmakers -- especially in the backfield. It’s a big job, and if progress isn’t made every day between now and September, it’s going to be another long year in Charlottesville, and patience with Mendenhall’s transition might not last long.
Jared Shanker says: Boston College’s Steve Addazio and Scot Loeffler
Only one FBS team has failed to score 100 total points in conference play each of the past two seasons: Boston College. Over those two years, there have been only three other teams that have not eclipsed 100 points. Loeffler has worked with some talented quarterbacks at Florida and Michigan, but his quarterbacks have not fared well at Boston College and Virginia Tech.
However, Eagles redshirt freshman Anthony Brown could be the answer at quarterback, which has been at the core of the offense’s issues since Tyler Murphy left after the 2014 season. Addazio likes what he has along the offensive line and at running back, so now it’s time for the offense to make significant progress.