The ABCs Of The ACC Coastal Division
By Jason Bailey
The dawn of a new season rumbles on the horizon. And with it, the formidable presence of the ACC Coastal Division's most heated rivalries will be thrown into sixth gear. What should Coastal Division fans expect from the ACC's most powerful teams? We break down the ABC's heading into 2014.
A is for Artis. Three-star defensive back Allen Artis enrolled early at North Carolina. He had a strong spring practice and hopes to make an immediate impact in the secondary this fall.
B is for Boone. With the loss of Duke signal-caller Anthony Boone to a shattered collar bone, the Blue Devils' coaching staff will be up the creek in search of a game-changing starter.
C is for Caleb. Virginia Tech's offensive line hasn't exactly made a Coastal Division splash in recent years. But 6-foot-3, 300-pound sack prevention enforcer Caleb Farris projects to fuel Tech's ground game this fall.
D is for Devon. Pitt's defense could mirror Virginia Tech's "Lunch Pail Detail." Don't laugh. Panthers' sophomore linebacker Devon Porchia is on the prowl and projects to live in opponents' backfields this season.
E is for Errin. Georgia Tech's offensive line battled to provide adequate pass protection last season. They won't be having security defects this season. Behemoth 6-foot-3, 326-pound sack prevention magician Errin Joe will see to that.
F is for Fisher. Virginia Tech's secondary was lights-out last season, frustrating opposing passing attacks. It's going to be even stingier this season with the frightening presence of Holland Fisher. The four-star safety runs a 4.3 40 and proved to be a disruptive, ball-hawking force in spring practice. The Coastal Division should be prepared to work overtime while conducting scouting reports on him.
G is for Grace. Miami's Jermaine Grace brings anything but grace to the secondary. Cited as a frightening sophomore battering ram for the U, Grace detonates his way into the backfields of opposing offenses and you're not likely to hear him express remorse for the damage. He is an explosive talent with awesome natural instincts that really packs a punch when he gets to the ball. Look for him to log 50 tackles and then some this fall.
H is for Harold. Ranked the No. 1 defensive end in the Class of 2014, the Virginia Cavaliers are stoked about dispatching Eli Harold into the defensive line trenches. And that might be something of an understatement. He started all 12 games in 2013, paced the team with 15 tackles for a loss, 51 overall and led the Cavaliers in sacks.
I is for Isiah. Georgia Tech has stung defenses with an explosive spread offense for years. Look for the Yellow Jackets to give scoreboard keepers a workout in 2014, especially with the likes of sophomore Isiah Willis in the backfield. Willis failed to reach the end zone during his freshmen campaign, but he averaged 11 yards-per-carry on the ground. Now that's just flat-out ridiculous.
J is for Johndre. Does anybody actually believe Duke will repeat as Coastal Division champions? As unlikely as it may sound, Blue Devils' junior flanker Johndre Bennett could help kindle another run at ACC glory. The First Team All-American tormented ACC secondaries last season as Duke casually scripted an unthinkable Cinderella story for the ages, with a Coastal Division title, a place in the ACC Championship game and a birth in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
K is for Khaynin. The Pittsburgh defense is on the move. And 6-foot, 310-pound defensive lineman Khaynin Mosley-Smith will not be detained. He has yet to log a sack, but the man is a Jurrasic Park-sized time bomb that is pending detonation. And with Pittsburgh's line depth spread alarmingly thin, the junior's game will unquestionably stand out this fall.
L is for Linder. Let's be honest, Miami hasn't had the most convincing ground assault in recent seasons. As a matter of fact, its been kind of MIA. No problem. Though he's just a freshman, offensive lineman Nick Linder has shown that he can help. The 6-foot-3, 265-pound newbie was unranked by the major scouting sites, but he could definitely give the ground game a significant spark and he projects to immediately vie for the starting position at center.
M is for Milton. It's not the offensive venom of the Yellow Jackets that lacks a toxic effect; it's the secondary. And rising junior Chris Milton is projected to have a breakout season. Milton recorded 13 solo tackles last year, one for a loss and snagged two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown. He will vie for a starting job in fall practice and projects to be an X-factor on the special teams' unit.
N is for Nixon. It's not often you find weapons of mass destruction on Virginia's roster. Sophomore tight end Mario Nixon is the exception. He packs an awesome set of mitts, good size and incredible speed. Given time, Nixon will be an invaluable asset.
O is for Otis. Last season conference rivals found running the ball in Norkeithus Otis' direction a bit difficult. It's about to become almost impossible. The All-Conference candidate appeared in 13 games last season, started 10 at bandit and finished with 49 tackles (13 for a loss), 7.5 sacks, nine quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, three pass breakups and a pick. And he's just getting warmed up.
P is for Powell. Duke's ground assault will be almost impossible to contain if Shaquille Powell remains healthy. The junior thoroughbred enjoyed an explosive Cinderella campaign in 2013 and won't be cooling his jets anytime soon. Powell lives in sixth gear and when he turns on the afterburners, it's game over. He effortlessly mows through conference defenses, aided by a world-class offensive line. He has registered 437 net yards on 90 carries and two touchdowns during his collegiate career.
Q is for Quinton. Virginia Tech's linebacker corps is fully loaded and begging to be discharged with Quinton Taylor stationed in the defensive backfield. Taylor didn't see varsity action last season but he continues to take reps with the second-team defense. He showed promise in spring practice, logging three tackles for losses in the Hokies' annual Maroon vs White game. If summoned to report for duty within the first-team ranks this season, Taylor will be more than ready.
R is for Reavis. Virginia Tech had a lights-out secondary last season. It will be even better this fall with C.J. Revis. Though only a freshman, he had an outstanding spring and remains poised to frustrate conference flankers.
S is for Synjyn. Not only does the decorated thoroughbred have an intriguing name, but Synjyn Days could take Georgia Tech's ground game to the next level this season. Days ripped off almost 500 yards on 98 attempts last fall, scoring nine touchdowns.
T is for Thorpe. T.J. Thorpe has a message for conference defensive coordinators. He has game and it will haunt opposing secondaries in 2014. Thorpe is no relation to gridiron legend Jim Thorpe, but he mirrors the man. The junior punished defenses last year, logging 26 receptions for 337 yards and two trips to the end zone.
U is for Umar. He is a freshman from Hampton, Va., but don't look down on the little guy simply because he hasn't seen significant time just yet. Umar Muhammad-Wyatt is scoping the ACC terrain for a secondary to shred. The conference should be put on notice.
V is for Voytik. Pittsburgh coaches should take a long, hard look at Chad Voytik's scouting report before anointing a starting quarterback. The sophomore hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in his collegiate career, but he deserves a close look.
W for Williams. It would be ill-advised for the Miami coaching staff not to give signal-caller Ryan Williams serious consideration this fall. The monster senior is registered at 6-foot-6, 225-pounds of gridiron intellect, fortitude and precision, while packing hardware that should be illegal to discharge. He ripped off 2,581 yards last season, with 17 touchdowns.
X is for Xenial. If you don't know the meaning of the word, go look it up. But it hardly describes the glaring rift between the Coastal Division's Virginia Tech and Virginia. The two have a heated rivalry dating back to the 1800s. But the Hokies have won 10 straight games, which really puts the concept of an in-state, raging rivalry on trial.
Y is for Yearby. Joseph Yearby is one of the most decorated high school football players in Florida state history. A First-Team All-State and 2014 Under Armour All-American game selection and two-time state champion, the freshman's monster horsepower engine was coveted and courted by the nation's foremost coaches as a mere high school product. And Yearby is just getting warmed up. As a senior his game erupted for 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns. He will made an immediate impact with the Miami first-team.
Z is for Zavier. Zavier Carmichael is a four-star outside linebacker that won't hesitate to lower the wood on ball carriers if they so much as entertain thoughts of crossing the line of scrimmage. Carmichael will provide sound run support for a Blue Devils defensive line.