ACC mailbag: Spring games, Coastal contenders & top transfers

Happy Friday, folks. Let’s celebrate with a mailbag.

The short answer here is, no. Coaches aren't looking to get anyone hurt or give away any trade secrets in front of a crowd. The spring games are largely just an end-of-spring showcase for the fans, so it's probably not worth reading too much into anything. Having said all that, there are the occasions in which it's hard to ignore certain highlights (Jameis Winston beating an All-American corner on his first throw for a long TD comes to mind), and there are some situational moments worth monitoring. The latter is probably true for NC State, where I'm particularly interested to see how the Wolfpack's offense handles any short-yardage and goal-line opportunities, as the power running game is one of the bigger mysteries on this team, and the defensive line is good enough to provide a real challenge.

This could be a big year for grad transfers, actually. Max Browne at Pitt is in a great position to put up big numbers. Receiver James Clark at Virginia Tech and kicker Carson Wise at NC State both fill big needs for their respective teams. And, of course, North Carolina added a few high upside players in running back Stanton Truitt (from Auburn) and Brandon Harris (from LSU). It's worth noting that former Vanderbilt transfer Jordan Cunningham figures to have a prominent role this year, too. We wrote a bit about Harris' move to UNC and why this offensive scheme might be a good fit for him, and Truitt looks like the perfect replacement plan for T.J. Logan. Still, I'd take Browne as the guy most likely to make the biggest impact because he has a) opportunity, b) a strong surrounding cast and c) the luxury of being on campus throughout the spring.

Two big things matter when it comes to true freshmen: talent and opportunity. The guy with the best mix of the two is probably running back Markenzy Pierre, who was an absolute stud at Liberty High School in Florida and arrives to a fairly depleted backfield in need of a power runner. I wouldn't be surprised if Pierre ends up Syracuse's leading rusher this year, though several others - Nadarius Fagan, Aaron Hackett, the incoming receivers - should have a shot at early playing time, too.

It's dangerous to jump on the Miami bandwagon, as the last 15 years have proven, but I'm on board with my feet kicked up and my luggage stowed in the overhead compartment. I'm not sold on any one QB yet, but I think Mark Richt will find the right guy. Cornerback isn't as much of a concern as some think, though safety is probably thin. I'd love to see a second running back emerge to complement Mark Walton, too. But these are all relatively minor worries, and overall, Miami looks poised to be awfully good in a division with a lot of turnover. Plus, we're living in an era in which Cleveland has a championship, the Cubs won the World Series and Sharknados are real. Anything can happen.

The ACC would love to be doing business in North Carolina again, but the conference is at the bottom of the PR trickle-down effect. What does the NBA think of the attempt at HB2 repeal? That probably impacts how the NCAA views it, which in turn impacts how the ACC will respond. Odds are, being in North Carolina is good business for all parties, and staying out of politics when possible is the ideal spot for them, too.

This is an easy one ...

Career completions to Christian Wilkins:

Andy Teasdall: 1

Deshaun Watson: 0

*mic drop*

From simply a statistical standpoint, there's bound to be a big drop-off for a number of the new QBs. But in terms of how an offense actually functions, the one I'd be most worried about is Virginia Tech. It's not that the Hokies can't be good in 2017, but Jerod Evans was such an integral part of an offense that also loses a bunch of key supporting talent. It's hard to imagine any QB stepping in without missing a beat. Moreover, as we wrote a few weeks ago, without more production from the ground game, any QB at Virginia Tech is going to face an uphill battle.

The safe bet is still Kelly Bryant, but the progress Hunter Johnson has already made this spring is impressive, and perhaps the most telling sign is that, while a number of the older players looked out of sorts following Clemson's spring break, it was clear Johnson had used the time away from practice to refine a lot of his rough edges. If he could do that in a week, what can he do during an entire offseason? This QB battle is starting to feel more and more like 2014, when Watson wasn't quite ready Day 1, but he owned the job by Week 4.

They're not on your list, but I'd start with the D-line, with Christian Wilkins or Dexter Lawrence at the top of my list. But to address your question, I think the most NFL upside among current QBs, RBs and WRs in the ACC would probably be Duke's Daniel Jones, Miami's Mark Walton (though some incoming freshmen have immense upside) and Clemson's Deon Cain.

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