Spring look around the ACC

With spring practices getting started, our ACC notebook addresses the big questions facing each team.

Updated: March 19, 2007, 9:16 PM ET
By Jorge Milian | Special to ESPN.com

How will Jeff Jagodzinski fare in his first year at Boston College? Which quarterback will replace Sam Hollenbach at Maryland? Can Patrick Nix fix what was ailing Miami's offense? Our ACC notebook addresses those questions and much more.

Boston College Eagles
Spring practice starts: March 24
Spring game: April 28
Spring key: How smoothly will the Eagles transition from Tom O'Brien to Jeff Jagodzinski? BC is as loaded as it has been in a long time with nine starters returning on defense and seven starters, including All-ACC quarterback Matt Ryan, back on offense from last season's 10-3 squad. Most new coaches enter a program and immediately change the team's system and philosophy but BC may be a case where Jagodzinski is better off not doing too much rearranging. Jagodzinski, who has never been a head coach, will have to hit the ground running. BC opens 2007 with ACC champion Wake Forest and must play at Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Maryland.

Clemson Tigers
Spring practice started: March 10
Spring game: April 14
Spring key: Would Tommy Bowden dare start a freshman quarterback? Hot-shot Willy Korn graduated high school in December and is participating in the Tigers' spring workouts. He began practice fourth on the depth chart, but isn't far behind his competitors in terms of game experience. It's unlikely Bowden will start Korn in the Labor Day opener against Florida State, meaning either Cullen Harper or Tribble Reese could begin the season as the No. 1 quarterback. But if either falters early, Korn could be Clemson's starter by the end of September.

Duke Blue Devils
Spring practice starts: March 26
Spring game: TBA
Spring key: How do the Blue Devils replace cornerback John Talley? Not very easily. Duke may have lost its last 20 games, but you can't pin that on Talley, a ballhawk who was an All-ACC selection in 2005 and 2006. The problem for the Blue Devils is that Talley isn't the only corner they will have to replace this spring. Deonto McCormick is also gone. Sophomore Leon Wright opens the spring as the starter on one side. Junior Jabari Marshall, who moves over from receiver, will battle senior Rodney Ezzard and true freshman Matt Pridemore for the other job.

Florida State Seminoles
Spring practice started: March 16
Spring game: April 14
Spring key: Can Antone Smith give the Seminoles a consistent running game? FSU has been the ACC's worst rushing team in each of the past two seasons. With Lorenzo Booker gone and incoming offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher likely to emphasize the running game, the highly-heralded Smith gets a chance to be the man. The Seminoles haven't had a 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn in 1996. That's a drought Smith may need to end if FSU is to bounce back from 2006's disappointing 7-6 finish.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Spring practice started: March 1
Spring game: April 7
Spring key: Who steps in for ACC Player of the Year Calvin Johnson at receiver? There are two primary candidates in line to fill the very large shoes left by Johnson, whose cache of honors last season included the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver. Sophomore Greg Smith played sparingly behind Johnson in 2006 and caught seven passes for 113 yards and two touchdowns. Smith will be challenged this spring by redshirt freshman Demaryius Thomas. Smith and James Johnson, who caught 39 passes for 608 yards and seven touchdowns starting opposite Calvin Johnson last season, are the only returning receivers on the Yellow Jackets' roster who had as many as five catches last season. "We don't have a lot of experience, but we do think we have some talented players," said Tech coach Chan Gailey.

Maryland Terrapins
Spring practice starts: March 27
Spring game: April 28
Spring key: Will Jordan Steffy or Josh Portis win the starting quarterback job? After two seasons of virtually nothing but Sam Hollenbach at quarterback, coach Ralph Friedgen is in search of a replacement. Steffy, who has thrown 37 career passes, begins spring practice as the No. 1, but he'll be pushed by Portis, the ex-Florida Gator who impressed last season while redshirting. Finding a quarterback will be key to a Terrapins' offense that has several weapons including running backs Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore and speedy receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Quarterback may get most of the focus during the spring, but the Terps also must find a punter and placekicker as well.

Miami Hurricanes
Spring practice started:March 6
Spring game: April 7
Spring key: Can new coordinator Patrick Nix fix the Hurricanes' lifeless offense? Miami scored 234 points during the 2006 regular season, the team's fewest since 1979. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, Rich Olson left the Hurricanes in December for Arizona State and was replaced by Nix, who was Georgia Tech's offensive coordinator for three seasons. The 34-year-old Nix will first decide on a quarterback between Kyle Wright and Kirby Freeman, but must also fix holes in several other spots. Miami's last two offensive coordinators have been fired (Dan Werner) and virtually forced to resign (Olson). Nix will be under similar pressure if he doesn't produce quick results.

North Carolina Tar Heels
Spring practice starts: March 19
Spring game: April 14
Spring key: How long will it take for coach Butch Davis to turn around the Tar Heels' program? One thing Davis proved at Miami is that he knows high school talent. Davis was responsible for constructing the Hurricanes' 2001 national championship team that started 11 No. 1 NFL draft choices in their Rose Bowl win against Nebraska. Davis has already gotten off to a fast start in Chapel Hill, signing a pair of five-star recruits in defensive tackle Marvin Austin and receiver Dwight Jones. Improvement won't come overnight, but this is a program to keep an eye on.

NC State Wolfpack
Spring practice started: March 14
Spring game: April 14
Spring key: Who will kick and punt for the Wolfack? First-year coach Tom O'Brien says his biggest concern "is that there is no one in this program that has kicked the football." John Deraney handled punting and kicking duties last season, but he's gone. Redshirt freshmen kickers Josh Czajkowski and Nathan Franklin, who can also punt, have strong high school résumés, but they've never played. The only kicker on the roster who has seen game action is senior walk-on Bradley Pierson, but his one career appearance was limited to a single kickoff.

Virginia Cavaliers
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 14
Spring key: Will the Cavaliers be able to find some offense? Virginia wasted some decent defense last season with an atrocious offense that ranked last in the ACC. Second-year offensive coordinator Mike Groh must hope that sophomore quarterback Jameel Sewell turns into a Marques Hagans-clone and fast. But Sewell will miss spring practice after undergoing wrist surgery, possibly slowing his development. Finding a No. 1 tailback is key. Cedric Peerman is the leading returning rusher among the Cavs' running backs, but he gained only 153 yards last season.

Virginia Tech Hokies
Spring practice starts: March 28
Spring game: April 21
Spring key: Can quarterback Sean Glennon take a big step forward in the offseason? Glennon's numbers weren't terrible, although not good enough to win over the Hokies' fan base. He completed 56.3 percent (170-of-302) of his passes and threw for 2,191 yards, but he tossed as many interceptions (11) as touchdown passes. Ending the season on a bad note -- three interceptions, three sacks and 94 yards in a 31-24 bowl game loss to Georgia -- left many wondering if Glennon, a junior, has what it takes for Virginia Tech to compete for an ACC championship.

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Spring practice starts: March 20
Spring game: April 14
Spring key: Will tailback Micah Andrews participate in spring practice? Andrews continues his comeback from a season-ending knee injury he sustained in September and will not participate in spring practice. But coach Jim Grobe is so satisfied with his depth at the position that he moved 2006 leading rusher Kenneth Moore (507 yards) back to receiver and switched De'Angelo Bryant to safety. Sophomore Kevin Harris is the leading returning rusher (416 yards) and will probably share snaps in 2007 with Andrews, although there's plenty of excitement around redshirt freshmen Josh Adams and Lucas Caparelli. Coaches feel they have four potential starters even with Moore and Bryant changing positions.

Jorge Milian covers the ACC for The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post.

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