Spring Football Storylines: Atlantic Division

Jimbo Fisher dealt with considerable turnover on the Florida State coaching staff this offseason.
Jimbo Fisher dealt with considerable turnover on the Florida State coaching staff this offseason.

Boston College: There’s a new head coach in Chestnut Hill. After four disappointing seasons under Frank Spaziani (21-29, 13-19 ACC), the Eagles hired Steve Addazio. Addazio was an assistant from 2005-2010 under Urban Meyer at Florida. Addazio has spent the last two seasons as head coach at Temple, where the Owls were 13-11 with a win in the 2011 New Mexico Bowl before struggling last season in their introduction to the Big East.

Addazio is a high-energy guy who should provide a spark to an Eagles program coming off a miserable season. This should bring some much-needed interest and excitement to Boston College, both on and off the field. With that said, his two seasons at Temple represent his only head coaching experience, and his teams are typically run-heavy offenses that won’t have anybody lauding his creativity or ingenuity. If Addazio can’t produce results that match his persona in time, he will be a coach of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Clemson: Seven starters (including quarterback Tajh Boyd, wide receiver Sammy Watkins, and four offensive linemen) return from last season’s explosive Tigers offense. However, they will be without running back Andre Ellington and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Part of the danger behind Clemson last season was the sheer number of offensive weapons they had, even when dealing with obstacles like Sammy Watkins’ ankle injury on the first play from scrimmage in the Chick-fil-A Bowl for the Tigers.

Clemson has a recent history of “feature” backs, such as James Davis, CJ Spiller, and Ellington. If there will be a similar scenario in 2013, the lead back will likely be senior Roderick McDowell, who rushed for 450 yards and five touchdowns last season. However, junior DJ Howard and sophomore Zac Brooks will certainly have something to say about that during this spring. There’s also the possibility of a committee approach, but whatever happens this spring will likely have a large impact on what we see in the fall.

Florida State: Jimbo Fisher is still the head coach, and as Florida State’s playcaller there probably won’t be much change from 2012 outside of adjustments to a new season’s roster. However, there will be plenty of new faces on the Seminole coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Mark Stoops is now the head coach at Kentucky. Offensive coordinator James Coley now holds the same position at Miami (Gasp! The treason!).

All told, Fisher filled six vacancies on his staff in the off-season (one of them twice, as Billy Napier was only on the job as tight ends coach two months before bolting for Alabama). There is no “offensive coordinator” replacing Coley, but Jeremy Pruitt will be the team’s new defensive coordinator. How will the new staff mesh this year, and what potential changes will they bring, especially on the defensive side of the ball?

Maryland: Spring can be a metaphor for life, new beginnings, and rejuvenation. This is particularly apropos when discussing Maryland quarterbacks, who were dropping with more regularity than autumn leaves during the 2012 season. Senior C.J. Brown had been expected to start under center last season, but tore his ACL during non-contact drills in August. He will perform individual drills this spring, but will not be able to take full first-team offensive snaps.

Taking those snaps will be Ricardo Young. He sat out last season after transferring from New Mexico when offensive coordinator Mike Locksley came to Maryland from the Lobos, but got plenty of opportunities to learn Maryland’s system while working with the revolving door of quarterbacks the Terrapins employed. Will Young merely be a placeholder until Brown’s rehabilitation is complete, or can he perform well enough to compete for the starting job?

NC State: Mike Glennon passed for over 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns last season for the Wolfpack. Now, it will be up to either junior Pete Thomas or sophomore Manny Stocker to succeed Glennon under center.

Stocker was the Glennon’s backup quarterback last season, with two pass attempts to his credit. Thomas started 21 games over two seasons at Colorado State before transferring to NC State. The quarterback that can pick up new head coach Dave Doeren’s offense (which should feature more spread elements than either NC State’s previous offense or the system Thomas ran at Colorado State) and execute it most effectively this spring will have a leg up on garnering the starting spot for 2013.

Syracuse: There is a whole lot of change for the Orange. It’s the first year in a new conference, as Syracuse makes the jump from the Big East to the ACC. Syracuse is also another Atlantic team facing a coaching change. Doug Marrone is now the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, and Scott Shafer will be making his head coaching debut.

The players will be a lot different for the Orange, too. Quarterback Ryan Nassib is gone, along with the other four players Syracuse placed on All-Big East teams in 2012 (WR Alec Lemon, OT Justin Pugh, S Shamarko Thomas, DL Brandon Sharpe). None of Nassib’s potential replacements have passed for a collegiate touchdown. It will be trial by fire for all involved in Syracuse.

Wake Forest: A team without a lot of turnover! Wake Forest returns nearly everybody from last year’s Demon Deacons roster. The trouble, of course, is that the 2012 Wake Forest team was just 5-7, with a 3-5 record in ACC play.

Many of those woes came from an ineffective offense that must improve this year. Out of 124 FBS teams, Wake Forest was 120th in yards per game on offense and 116th in points per game. The struggles came in large part due to an ineffective rushing attack, which averaged just 100.5 yards per game. Senior Josh Harris and sophomore Deandre Martin will need to have more success running the ball in 2013, and their offensive line will have to do a better job of creating opportunities for success.

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