Tech has the latest start (April 1) and is tied for the latest end (April 25 w/ BC) to spring drills in the ACC this year. So we'll have a good idea of the other teams in the league, particularly our division, are looking before we even hit the field.
Here's a look at our primary competition in the Coastal.
2008 Record: 7-6, 4-4
Spring Start: Feb. 24
Spring Game: March 28
The Hurricanes have two new coordinators for 2009. Mark Whipple becomes Miami's OC after spending last year on the Philadelphia Eagles' staff. The new DC is John Lovett, who previously was an assistant at North Carolina. Whipple's hire brings the most change to Coral Gables as he runs more of a pro-style offense. The Miami bloggerati is high on Whipple.
Whipple wants Harris making quicker reads. Release the ball quicker. Find #2 if #1 isn't open. Expose mismatches by lining running backs up against linebackers. For the first time in forever, running backs are learning more passing routes and will be more involved in the passing game. This is something that's been talked about at Miami for years (Who hasn't forgotten about Coker talking about Devin Hester or even Graig Cooper becoming "the next Reggie Bush"...)
Rivals/Yahoo! has its take on the 'Canes as well. Miami appears to be reevaluating its talent and trying to figure out how to put it to its best use. What a novel concept!
In off-the-field news, Miami took a stand against kids who are too big for their britches by pulling a scholarship offer to highly touted Wichita recruit Bryce Brown. I applaud Miami's decision.
North Carolina Tar Heels
2008 Record: 8-5, 4-4
Spring Start: March 2
Spring Game: April 2
Because it's March, the only person who really cares about UNC football is Annette.
The Heels' receiver situation mirrors that of Virginia Tech's going into 2008. If the Heels follow the Hokies lead, they'll let their run game do everything early on and let the defense hold on for dear life. It'll give you gray hairs and a drinking problem, but it will also give you the best chance to win when you have no passing game.
Shaun Draughn emerged as the go-to running back at the end of last year, so Greg Little may see more action through the passing game, so sayeth Rivals/Yahoo!.
I expect UNC's defense to be fairly stout next year. I'm a big fan of Quan Sturdivant and Deunta Williams, who were both all over the field last year against the Hokies.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
2008 Record: 9-4, 5-3
Spring Start: March 23
Spring Game: April 18
At the end of the regular season, the Jackets were playing better than just about any ACC team. However, their momentum was derailed in the Georgia Dome by an LSU team everyone expected to have no chance against Georgia Tech's option attack.
The Jackets were just learning their new offense at this time last year. Now they can work on adding new wrinkles over a year into the Paul Johnson era. It looks like they're going to show a lot of different looks out of the flexbone.
...but what if Nesbitt spends a little time at A-Back, even if only at practice? Not only will his reads improve, but what on earth does a defense do when it sees Lucas Cox at B-Back with Dwyer and Nesbitt at A-Back? Having Nesbitt throw out of a sweep play to Dwyer, Hill, or our favorite Demaryius Thomas, and we are seeing some exciting things happen with a scheme that most people write off as a football system of yore.
That all does sound scary. Johnson may have to employ all of those tricks next year because he's defense won't be nearly as potent as last year. Gone are Michael Johnson, Darryl Richard and Vance Walker from the defensive line and Jahi Word-Daniels from the secondary. Basically, their four best defensive players in my opinion. However, Sedric Griffin and Morgan Burnett are back, so all is not completely lost, just mostly.