2009 ACC Football Preview: Unit Rankings

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Unit rankings aren’t easy to do, and you’ll rarely find any two individuals
who will be in complete agreement. Nevertheless, they are fun to do. Here are
TSL’s ACC unit rankings for the 2009 football season.

The first and only rule is that every position was ranked 1-12, with no teams
tied at any position. That will lead to plenty of disagreement in the rankings.
Also, both starting talent and depth were taken into consideration.

Let’s start off with the offensive rankings.

ACC
Unit Rankings, Offense
Team QB RB WR/TE OL Average

Florida State
3 7 2 2 3.5

Virginia Tech
6 3 3 4 4

Georgia Tech
9 1 6 1 4.25

Miami
8 8 1 5 5.5

NC State
1 9 4 9 5.75

Boston College
12 5 5 3 6.25

Wake Forest
4 4 12 6 6.5

Clemson
11 6 7 8 8

Virginia
7 10 8 7 8

Maryland
10 2 10 12 8.5

North Carolina
5 11 9 10 8.75

Duke
2 12 11 11 9

There are three teams in the ACC that stand out more than the others in terms of
offensive talent. That’s Florida State, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech.

The Seminoles have an experienced quarterback, a deep group of talented
receivers, and one of the best offensive lines in the conference. Tailback
Jermaine Thomas averaged seven yards per carry last year, and FSU’s running back
rank would be higher if they had more depth at the position.

Virginia Tech has the tools to have a balanced offensive attack this year.
The offensive line has been playing well in the preseason, and there are threats
at wide receiver, tight end, and tailback. The quarterback ranking would be
higher if there was better depth behind starter Tyrod Taylor, who is set to have
a good junior season.

Georgia Tech is very difficult to rank because of their system. Their talent
in the backfield is obviously very good. While Josh Nesbitt might not be a great
passer, he doesn’t have to be in that offense.

Behind those three schools, Miami and NC State have a chance to be good
offensively this year. NC State should have very good quarterback play to go
along with a good set of wide receivers. Miami has very dangerous receivers, and
the offense should be successful if the offensive line plays well.

Boston College has good talent on offense, but they have no experience at
quarterback. Chris Crane graduated, top backup Dominique Davis transferred, and
25-year old freshman David Shinskie now has a broken rib. Quarterback play will
hold BC’s offense back this year.

Clemson is an interesting team to watch. They are starting r-freshman Kyle
Parker at quarterback. Though the Tigers still have C.J. Spiller, their
offensive line is still very young, and they lost two of their top three
receivers. The talent is there if Parker can play well, but the Tigers could
still lack toughness up front.

Virginia is another team to keep an eye on, with their new spread offense. At
only 5-9, does quarterback Vic Hall have the field vision to be a complete
threat at the position? He only has one game of experience at quarterback, and
he did not complete a single pass in that game.

Now let’s take a look at the defensive side of the ball.


ACC Unit Rankings, Defense

Team

DL

LB

DB

Average

Virginia Tech

1

4

2

2.33

Clemson

4

3

1

2.67

North Carolina

2

2

4

2.67

Miami

3

1

5

3.00

Florida State

5

6

6

5.67

Georgia Tech

9

7

3

6.33

Maryland

12

5

8

8.33

NC State

7

8

10

8.33

Boston College

10

9

9

9.33

Virginia

11

10

7

9.33

Wake Forest

6

12

11

9.67

Duke

8

11

12

10.33

Based on these rankings, four teams will stand out above the rest of the
conference in defense this season.

Virginia Tech is at the top, as usual. There really isn’t much difference
between the defensive line talent at Tech, UNC, Miami and Clemson, but the
Hokies get the edge based on history. VT is generally tougher up front than
those teams.

Tech also has one of the top secondaries in the ACC, and though they are
breaking in new linebackers, this isn’t a strong year for linebackers in the
conference.

Florida State is ranked lower in these defensive rankings than usual. The ‘Noles
don’t have the athletes in the secondary that they once had, and they are also
departing two of their three starters at linebacker. Up front, FSU doesn’t have
the top-notch raw talent that they’ve had in previous lines. This group is good,
but they can be pushed around at times.

Georgia Tech is obviously one of the top offensive teams in the league, but
their defense could potentially hold them back this year. They lost three
starting defensive linemen to the NFL Draft, and they also lost their top backup
defensive tackle. The secondary is stout, but if the Yellow Jackets can’t hold
up against the run they will have trouble winning the Coastal.

After Georgia Tech, there is a severe dropoff in defensive talent in the ACC.
UVA will be improved in the secondary, but they lost three starting linebackers
and they don’t have great defensive line depth. Maryland lost much of their
defensive line, and they were soft already. Wake Forest will take a huge step
back at linebacker and defensive back after losing Aaron Curry, Stanley Arnoux,
Chip Vaughn and Alphonso Smith to the NFL Draft.

Here is what things look like when you combine all the positions into one
ranking.


ACC Unit Rankings, Overall

Team

QB

RB

WR/TE

OL

DL

LB

DB

Avg.

Virginia Tech

6

3

2

3

1

4

2

3.00

Miami

8

8

1

5

3

1

5

4.43

Florida State

3

7

3

2

5

6

6

4.57

Georgia Tech

9

1

6

1

9

7

3

5.14

Clemson

11

6

7

8

4

3

1

5.71

North Carolina

5

11

9

10

2

2

4

6.14

NC State

1

9

4

9

7

8

10

6.86

Boston College

12

5

5

4

10

9

9

7.71

Wake Forest

4

4

12

6

6

12

11

7.86

Maryland

10

2

10

12

12

5

8

8.43

Virginia

7

10

8

7

11

10

7

8.57

Duke

2

12

11

11

8

11

12

9.57

Virginia Tech appears to be the most talented, most balanced team in the ACC.
Each position ranks in the top half of the ACC, though if something happens to
Tyrod Taylor, the Hokies will take a big step back.

Tech also plays in the same division as Miami and Georgia Tech, who are two
of the top four teams in the league according to these rankings. That makes
their schedule tougher than their Atlantic Division counterparts. There are only
two Atlantic Division teams in the top half of the ACC (Florida State and
Clemson).

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