ACC Kickoff: Clemson enters 2013 as the team to beat

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins catches a 57-yard pass during the first quarter at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Photo by Ken Ruinard

Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins catches a 57-yard pass during the first quarter at BB&T Field in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Atlantic (Finish)

1. Clemson (2)

2. Florida State (1)

3. N.C. State (7)

4. Syracuse (3)

5. Boston College (4)

6. Wake Forest (6)

7. Maryland (5)

Coastal (Finish)

1. Virginia Tech (2)

2. Miami (3)

3. North Carolina (5)

4. Virginia (7)

5. Georgia Tech (4)

6. Duke (1)

7. Pittsburgh (6)

Champion (Actual) Clemson (FSU/Duke)

ACC Player of the Year (Actual) Tajh Boyd (FSU's Jameis Winston)

2013 Preseason All-ACC Team (Actual)

Offense

QB- Tajh Boyd (Winston)

RB- Duke Johnson (Williams, BC)

RB- Kevin Parks (Freeman, FSU)

WR Sammy Watkins (Clemson)

WR Stefon Diggs (Crowder, Duke)

OT- Brandon Thomas (Erving, FSU)

OT- James Hurst (UNC)

OG- Brandon Linder (Jackson, FSU)

OG- Josue Matias (Mason, GT)

C- Jay Finch (Stork, FSU)

TE- Eric Ebron (UNC)

K- Chandler Catanzaro (Freese, BC)

Spec.- Stefon Diggs (Switzer, UNC)

Defense

DE- Vic Beasley (Clemson)

DE- James Gayle (Martin, UNC)

DT- Aaron Donald (Pitt)

DT- Derrick Hopkins (Whitlock, WF)

LB- Christian Jones (Brown, Duke)

LB- Telvin Smith (Perryman, Miami)

LB- Dyshawn Davis (Pierre-Louis, BC)

CB- Antone Exum (Joyner, FSU)

CB- Ross Cockrell (Duke)

S- Tre Boston (Harris, UVa)

S- Jason Hendricks (Cash, Duke)

P- Tommy Hibbard (O'Donnell, Miami)

For the first time in a long time, ACC football has had a quiet summer.

No talk of fellow conferences raiding its members or new NCAA investigations or even any major suspensions thus far.

Instead, the focus is actually all on football come the ACC Football Kickoff media days starting Sunday in Greensboro, N.C.’s Grandover Resort.

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd and linebacker Spencer Shuey get their time in the spotlight as two of two players from each conference school on hand this weekend. Monday, Tigers head man Dabo Swinney holds court with his fellow coaches to close the festivities.

Here’s what we’ll be talking about in Greensboro, previewing ACC football:

1. Tigers’ target on their back: The preseason hype machine really kicks up here. By Monday, Clemson will likely be crowned ACC favorites, by a wide margin, and Tajh Boyd will be anointed ACC Preseason Player of the Year. Both as a team and individually, they will look to shake some bad luck that’s come with the favorite status. Of course, Clemson was last picked to win the ACC in 2008…and then finished third in the Atlantic Division with a new coach by the end of the year (Swinney). Overall, the Tigers have won the conference 67 percent of the time (4-2) when tabbed as the favorite by the media. Individually, Boyd hopes to be the first player since 2007 to win both the pre-and-postseason ACC player of the year honors (Matt Ryan, Boston College). He will also be sure to shoulder a good amount of Heisman talk as well – despite no official campaign being underway yet. Odds-on, at least three more Tigers will join him as preseason All-ACC, including receiver Sammy Watkins, tackle Brandon Thomas and kicker Chandler Catanzaro.

2. But what about FSU?: Much like Clemson last year, the reigning ACC champs are actually flying under the radar and the “disrespect” card is sure to be played here. The Seminoles face restocking their entire d-line and nine starters overall. Highly-rated redshirt freshman quarterback Jameis Winston has been tabbed by the experts as a Johnny Manziel-esque instant-impact player and he has some weapons to work with and a veteran offensive line (113 career starts). The Atlantic is likely to come down to the Clemson-FSU matchup again, which is in TigerTown on Oct. 19.

3. Welcome to the ACC: The Syracuse Orange and Pittsburgh Panthers officially joined the conference on July 1, but this is the real welcoming party before the tribunal of ACC media. With second-year coach Paul Chryst, the Panthers figure to be picked towards the bottom of the Coastal Division with only five returning starters on offense, but they do bring back key cogs on defense from a group which finished 17th nationally in total defense last season. Joining the Tigers in the Atlantic is Syracuse, which sports a new coach (Scott Shafer) and faces replacing its school record holder in passing yards both career (9,190) and single-season (3,749), Ryan Nassib. Clemson will welcome them to the ACC come Oct. 5 for their conference opener in the Carrier Dome, looking to light up a defense losing its top-two tacklers and five starters. Confidence is high in their camp though coming off a 8-5 campaign – linebacker Dyshawn Davis already on record saying the Orange will “shock the world” in their conference debut.

4. Is there a Coastal favorite?: I’m not sure there is. Monday’s ACC media poll will be an interesting exercise with a muddled group at the top of Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami. No team other than the two Techs have won the division since its inception, but UNC would have gone to the ACC Championship Game last year if not for a postseason ban (NCAA violations). Coming off two-straight years with postseason bans, Miami has an ACC-leading 20 returning starters and 55 letterman. They also host the Hokies and the Yellow Jackets, which makes them enticing. Virginia Tech will challenge with nine returners on defense and a forgiving schedule outside of trips to Georgia Tech and Miami. Chances are this division goes to the very last week.

5. Next step for the ACC: Maryland is out the door, after this season, but will they be leaving their $50 million exit fee in Greensboro? It’s a lawsuit that holds some of the conference’s newfound stability a bit in question, but the grant of media rights surrendered by the schools through 2026-27 definitely helps. How close are we to an ACC-centric television network? What’s up with the new conference bowl schedule (coming 2014-19)? What influence will the ACC have on the four-team playoff committee for next season? Conference commissioner John Swofford will get his chance over the next couple days to put his frame on the topics driving the future of the ACC.

For more detailed previews of Clemson's upcoming opponents, check out our Scouting Report page.

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Comments » 3

seldomusedreserve#284867 writes:

Vic Beasley first team All-ACC DE? If that happens, that's great news for Clemson.

BrandonRink writes:

in response to seldomusedreserve#284867:

Vic Beasley first team All-ACC DE? If that happens, that's great news for Clemson.

Well the coaches are talking him up much like DeAndre Hopkins last spring. Seems like the light has really turned on and he'll have more opportunities for sacks/TFL.

seldomusedreserve#284867 writes:

I don't disagree that the potential is there. I'm sure he'll get his share of sacks and TFLs. I'm more concerned about how he does against the run.

Against the pass he's a highlight reel waiting to happen.

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