The ACC spring football season has come to a close and the conference has new life. The 2017 and 2018 seasons weren’t very kind to ACC football, even with Clemson being a dominant program around the nation. Even with the Tigers being a College Football Playoff mainstay, the ACC has been harshly criticized for the quality of week-to-week competition.
There are new head football coaches around the ACC including the Coastal’s Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, UNC Tar Heels, and Miami Hurricanes. The Atlantic has a more stable footing but the Louisville Cardinals have a new coach, too. The turnover in the ACC could be seen as a negative but I feel it’s a positive step heading into 2019 and the new ACC Network (via ESPN).
As I’ve written in the past few weeks, there are new stars in the ACC on the field, too. There have also been some big time spring game performances that have sparked an interest in the conference (here and here).
Hopefully the hype behind Manny Diaz and “The New Miami,” Geoff Collins and the 404 swag (and Waffle House stuff), and Mack (Brown) is Back will put more eyes on the ACC this football season; but they’ll also have to back it up. The conference needs a boost and the new network needs a great game from the Jackets against Clemson to open its network TV slate, and the ‘Canes need to beat the Gators in front of a national week zero TV audience.
Spring games from the final weekend
April 26th, Georgia Tech
If you don’t think Geoff Collins “gets it” you’re sadly mistaken. The Yellow Jackets new football coach either payed homage or was snarky (I’ll take the former) to the old Jackets flexbone to start their spring game. Collins’ new squad threw 48 passes, scored eight touchdowns, and broke a spring game attendance record.
Will Georgia Tech be competitive for the Coastal title in year one? Probably not. The transition isn’t going to hurt the offensive line as much as the quarterback situation that they’ll have to get figured out in a hurry. No one truly stands out at the position. Tech’s current recruiting class is 10th in the nation per 247 and Tampa Plant QB Tucker Gleason is on board with Coach Collins.
April 27th, Virginia Cavaliers
Bronco Mendenhall is known for being a defense-first, ground and pound coach even back to his days at BYU. Coach Mendenhall likes his tight ends, fullbacks, and 3-4 defense. The best thing for UVA to see coming out of April 27th was the rise of a starting running back. The Hoos will be looking to Wayne Taulapapa to be the feature back alongside quarterback Bryce Perkins.
The five-foot-eleven, 205 pound Taulapapa is a former three-star out of Hawaii. The sophomore scored twice in the spring game against a stingy UVA run defense. He was mainly in the kicking game in 2018 but will enter fall camp as the starter.
The S&P+ has posted a pre-seasons rankings system (and Bill C has adjusted the formula a bit). The Clemson Tigers are ranked 3rd in the nation which is a good sign for the ACC, while Hurricanes come in at 19th, Florida State at 28th, Virginia Tech at 30th and UVA at 41st to round out the top-5. If the conference only finishes with one top-10 team and only two top-25 teams the ACC will still be seen as a lesser-than conference when compared to the SEC, and Big Ten.
The SEC has six teams in the S&P+ top-10 (including Alabama and Georgia at one and two, respectively), while the Big Ten has two (Ohio State at 7, Michigan at 9). The ACC has to become more than just Clemson in 2019. Will “The New Miami” be that other top-10 program? Will FSU bounce back? Or will it by Syracuse or another surprise program?
It’s time to embrace the doldrums of the sport as the end of spring football and the NFL Draft brings us a dead period before recruiting camps and weight room fluff pieces start coming out about how much “faster” and “stronger” everyone is with their new “wild man” strength coach.