Originally Published: May 7, 2013

ACC shows solidarity off the field

By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com


The best thing to happen to the ACC this spring had nothing to do with the 15 practices each team was allotted, and everything to do with the 15 teams that will soon comprise the conference.

On April 22, the ACC announced that all 15 university presidents -- including Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Louisville, and excluding Maryland -- signed a grant of media rights agreement, effective immediately. With one swift, unanimous motion, the conference put a halt to any rumors of defection and reinforced the message it had been repeating but many still refused to believe: The ACC is sticking together. It was a historic moment for the conference, and one that overshadowed Florida State's spring quarterback battle, Virginia Tech's subpar spring game and Miami's never-ending wrestling match with the NCAA.

Despite all of the instability on the field this spring in the conference -- new coaching staffs, new quarterbacks, and new schemes -- the ACC will enter this fall on more stable ground than ever before.

And that is easily the biggest win the ACC has had in years.

John Swofford
AP Photo/Chuck BurtonWith the ACC all intact, John Swofford and the league can focus on the future.

The next step is to come out on the winning end of what will be arguably the toughest nonconference schedule in league history, but this spring revealed few concrete answers for many programs in transition.

Florida State, NC State, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Virginia still have ongoing quarterback competitions. Duke and Georgia Tech will have first-year starters at quarterback, leaving half of the conference with unproven players at the most important position. The transfer of quarterback Clint Trickett at Florida State opened the door for Jameis Winston, and he knocked it down in the spring game with one of the ACC's most impressive performances. Still, coach Jimbo Fisher is keeping the competition open with Jacob Coker.

The Hokies' offense under first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler left Virginia Tech fans in a panic after totaling just 23 yards on the ground, and the situation only worsened when running back Michael Holmes was charged with a felony. Pitt's running game also took a hit when leading returning rusher Rushel Shell decided to transfer, and three Panthers, all reserves, were suspended from the team.

Several potential stars emerged, as Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett, North Carolina running back A.J. Blue, Wake Forest receiver Orville Reynolds, Duke quarterback Anthony Boone and Boston College running back Andre Williams drew rave reviews from within their respective programs. Miami running back Dallas Crawford showed the potential to emerge from the shadow of Duke Johnson, and Maryland's running backs highlighted their spring.

For Boston College, Syracuse and NC State, this was a spring of transition for first-year head coaches Steve Addazio, Scott Shafer and Dave Doeren, respectively, but they were hardly the only ones in the league in need of introductions. Fisher had six new assistants on his staff and Virginia coach Mike London had a staff overhaul, as did Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer. This spring was spent learning the foreign languages in the playbooks and working on fundamentals and techniques.

More importantly, it was spent solidifying the future of the conference.

Thanks to the grant of rights, the ACC has all of the pieces in place to remain one of the country's power conferences, but on the field, it will have to find more answers this summer if it is going to move up in the conference power rankings.

What we learned this spring

By Heather Dinich | ESPN.com

The final spring games are in the books, and spring practices in the ACC have officially come to a close. The biggest news in the ACC this spring was the grant of rights agreement, which further solidified the league's future. On the field, though, there was much less certainty.

Here's a look back at three lessons learned in the ACC this spring, in no particular order:

Logan Thomas
AP Photos/Chris BernacchiVirginia Tech's offense needs improvement and most of that is going to fall on Logan Thomas.

1. Virginia Tech's new offense looks a lot like the old offense: It was ugly. Virginia Tech gained a total of 23 yards on the ground. Quarterback Logan Thomas threw three interceptions -- including two that were returned for touchdowns. [Insert cringe here.] While the spring game was hardly a revelation of the playbook under first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler, the Hokies struggled to even execute the basics -- against a second-string defense that was spotted 13 points. Thomas was selected by the coaching staff as one of the most improved players of the spring, but it wasn't reflected in the spring game.

2. Quarterback questions remain. While some separation began to take place across the ACC, the programs with quarterback questions still hesitated to name a starter. At Pittsburgh, Tom Savage took the most reps with the first team, but Chad Voytik was the star of the spring game. At NC State, Pete Thomas got the most meaningful reps this spring, but the staff will let the competition with Manny Stocker play out into the summer. Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett decided to transfer not long after Jameis Winston had a strong performance in the Noles' spring game. Syracuse might have had the least amount of separation, and the transfer of Oklahoma quarterback Drew Allen further muddled the picture. Virginia is still looking for a starter, and that has become a theme under coach Mike London.

3. Transfers have changed the picture. Pittsburgh dealt with the transfer of leading returning rusher Rushel Shell, Florida State lost Trickett and Syracuse was the beneficiary of the transfer of Allen. All three of them affected key positions and the two-deep, if not the starting lineup. Shell was next in line to take over for Ray Graham, Trickett was right in the mix to replace former starter EJ Manuel and Allen isn't even expected to enroll until the summer. Shell left little experience behind at the running back position at Pitt, but in the long run it could be addition by subtraction because the players there want to be there. Trickett's departure hurt the depth at the position at FSU, and he did have game experience as Manuel's backup each of the past two seasons. Overall, all three of these transfers should continue to resonate this summer with each team.

Best of the ACC

By Andrea Adelson | ESPN.com


Best spring game performance: That belongs to none other than "Famous" Jameis Winston, whose performance sent Clint Trickett packing his bags less than a week later. While coach Jimbo Fisher did not proclaim Winston his starter, Trickett probably knew what was coming after being outplayed in the spring game. Winston went 12-of-15 for 205 yards and two touchdowns -- one of them a long score on his first throw. This, by the way, while he moonlights for the baseball team. Talk about taking advantage when the spotlight is on.

Jameis Winston
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsThe future is now for Florida State and QB Jameis Winston.

Best overall spring: Nobody had a better spring than commissioner John Swofford. Nobody. A league many believed to be teetering on the brink of another raid solidified itself well into the future with a grant of rights agreement that makes it next to impossible for any school to leave without incurring major financial debt for a lifetime. While all these football teams worked on their techniques, Swofford was mastering his. That's all that matters right now in the ACC.

Best addition: Syracuse has been enmeshed in a quarterback controversy all spring, but it's not going to let up until the fall, not with Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen coming onboard later this summer. Allen sat behind Sam Bradford and Landry Jones and is hoping to find his way into the starting lineup. He gives Syracuse a high-quality transfer from a high-quality program, but he's going to have to fight off hard-charging Terrel Hunt and Charley Loeb for the starting job.

Best performance by an early enrollee: Two-way tie here between Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Facyson and Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett. Facyson turned heads when spring practice opened, so much so that he has given himself an opportunity to be on the field when the season opens against Alabama. Leggett, meanwhile, has got a terrific opportunity to start at tight end when the season opens against Georgia because of a knee injury to Sam Cooper. Leggett had a great spring game, with seven receptions for 97 yards and the game-winning touchdown.

Best underdog story: Take a look at the spring Virginia center Jackson Matteo had. The walk-on opened practice as the backup behind senior Luke Bowanko, who started every game last year. By the end of spring, Bowanko was moved to left guard and Matteo was listed as the starting center. Matteo, a redshirt freshman, turned down a scholarship offer from Temple to be a preferred walk-on for the Hoos last year. And yes, he remains walk-on, though he has an opportunity to earn a scholarship in the fall.

Projecting the ACC

By Brian Fremeau | Football Outsiders

Spring practices have wrapped up across the country, and there's not much more data we can pull into our projection model for the fall. At Football Outsiders, factors such as five-year program ratings, returning starters, quarterback reliance and more have featured into the projections. We'll publish final projections based on play and drive efficiency in the Football Outsiders Almanac later this summer, but we can take a sneak peak at preliminary projections through the lens of our drive-based FEI ratings.

For this series, we first ran preliminary projections for team, offense and defensive efficiency. Then we calculated win likelihoods in each scheduled game, producing a projected record and win total range. Running the win likelihoods through 1,000 simulated seasons, we then calculated the frequency with which each team claimed a conference crown.

On Tuesday we're looking at the projections for the ACC, which features two very intriguing divisional races.

To read the rest of the projections for the ACC, click here Insider.