Now that spring football has ended across the ACC, it is time to do a quick stock report: Which teams are trending up compared to last season? Which are trending down? And which are in a holding pattern? Given all the quarterback uncertainty in the Coastal Division, this assignment quickly turned into a tricky proposition.
Duke: Buy. The Blue Devils have an opportunity to be sneaky good this season behind quarterback Daniel Jones, who returns after putting together a redshirt freshman season in which he threw for 2,836 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is in complete control of the offense, and he should have an improved line in front of him, along with a better (and deeper) group of backs. Defensively, Duke should be better up front, too. We would be shocked if the Blue Devils missed another bowl game this season.
Georgia Tech. Hold. When spring began, I had the Jackets in the 'buy' category, but after projected starting quarterback Matthew Jordan was injured, it is a tougher call to make on the Jackets. Though he is expected back for fall, and coach Paul Johnson has heaped praise on the backups, replacing Justin Thomas under any circumstance was going to be difficult. There are solid choices in the backfield (especially Dedrick Mills) to get the offense rolling again, but there are still questions that need to be answered.
Miami. Buy. Miami has no starting quarterback, but everything else appears to be in place for the Hurricanes, which is why so many are buying in for 2017. The defense should be elite, especially the front seven. The offensive line should be better. And there is plenty of talent at the skill positions, so the quarterback won’t need to win games single-handedly. Mark Richt wants to see what N'Kosi Perry brings to the table in the fall. The safe assumption is that Perry will play at some point this season.
North Carolina. Sell. It was a tough spring in Chapel Hill for the offense, where nobody stood out among the quarterbacks, the running back group was depleted and the receiver group is largely unproven and inexperienced beyond Austin Proehl. Now it appears the Tar Heels are hoping to rely on some grad transfers to enter the mix and be difference-makers: Brandon Harris at quarterback and possibly Auburn transfer Stanton Truitt. This is looking more like a transition year.
Pitt. Hold. The Panthers have yet to name a starting quarterback, though most believe it will be USC transfer Max Browne. But beyond quarterback, there are reasons for hope: depth at running back, Jester Weah at receiver and a rebuilding offensive line that should hold its own. The bigger questions remain on a defense that struggled through large parts of last season. Who picks up the sack slack with Ejuan Price gone? Can Jordan Whitehead return to form? Is Damar Hamlin the superstar people thought in high school?
Virginia. Hold. Bronco Mendenhall tore up the entire foundation in Charlottesville, and it’s going to take some time to get it rebuilt and remolded just the way he wants. Quarterback Kurt Benkert appears to have turned a corner this spring, but the skill positions and offensive line (which Virginia had to build the transfer route) still lag behind other teams in the division. There are more talented players on defense, including Micah Kiser and Quin Blanding, who will be relied upon to lead the way.
Virginia Tech. Sell. We could go through woulda, shoulda, coulda scenarios here with quarterback Jerod Evans, who left school early only to go undrafted over the weekend. Had he returned, the Hokies would have been considered a contender to win the Coastal Division again. But with more uncertainty at quarterback, no real depth behind Cam Phillips at receiver, and a muddled situation in the backfield, it’s going to be difficult for Virginia Tech to repeat what it did last season.