ACC Spotlight: The five biggest position battles
Spring football is underway around the country and teams around the ACC are looking for position battles to sort themselves out and have reliable replacements step forward. These are five ACC position battles to keep an eye on as August inches closer.
1. CLEMSON WIDE RECEIVER
Losing Amari Rodgers to an ACL injury Monday puts a damper on an otherwise positive spring for Clemson. The race to fill his spot involves two players, including former five-star Derion Kendrick. Kendrick played well in limited action last season, but was recently moved to cornerback to compete with Mario Goodrich, LeAnthony Williams and Kyler McMichael to fill the void left by Trayvon Mullen.
The other wide receiver competing for Rodgers’ spot is Cornell Powell, a former Rivals100 prospect. Powell redshirted last year and has struggled to get consistent playing time, mainly because of the considerable depth Clemson has at wide receiver.
Dabo Swinney and his staff will probably opt to play both Kendrick and Powell, unless one really separates from the other throughout the rest of the offseason.
2. FLORIDA STATE'S ENTIRE OFFENSIVE LINE
FSU had its share of problems last year, but there were none bigger than a porous offensive line that led to a number of other issues for a Seminoles team that finished 5-7 and missed a bowl game for the first time in 36 years. New offensive line coach Randy Clements will have plenty of holes to fill, but will have a ton of options with which to work, as FSU signed five offensive linemen this offseason and also welcomed in graduate transfer Ryan Roberts from NIU. Junior Baveon Johnson is a notable name at center and could slide into the spot as he seems ready to contribute at a high level. Landon Dickerson is FSU’s most proven tackle, but he has battled injuries during his career, while Jalen Goss and Chaz Neal could also find playing time at the position after redshirting last season. There’s depth at guard, but no position seems promised after what transpired up front in 2018.
3. MIAMI QUARTERBACK
Miami fans hope new head coach Manny Diaz is able to put the quarterback issues that plagued the program a year ago in the past and won’t much care how he goes about doing it as long as it gets done. That said, there are three viable options on the roster. Sophomore N’Kosi Perry was inconsistent in limited action a year ago, while freshman Jarren Williams remains a bit of an unknown. The Wildcard in the Hurricanes’ quarterback room, however, is Ohio State transfer Tate Martell. Martell, who was declared eligible to play this season after receiving an NCAA waiver, may be the favorite to land the job, but he will still need to prove it on the field. UM’s season hinges on this quarterback competition, as the winner will be tasked with injecting some life into an offense that essentially ruined the season year ago.
4. NC STATE QUARTERBACK
NC State had a great run with Ryan Finley at quarterback, but he’s moved on and Dave Doeren and his staff have three quarterbacks competing for the starting job. Matt McKay is the most experienced of the three, and the former three-star has the best understanding of the offense. Redshirt freshman Devin Leary, a former Rivals250 prospect, also has a good grasp of the offense and the talent to really push for the job. Transfer quarterback Bailey Hockman doesn’t know the terminology as well as McKay or Leary, but he is otherwise doing a good job competing.
Trying to predict the outcome of this battle is next to impossible, because nobody has seen much of any of these three quarterbacks playing. You would think McKay has the inside track right now, but Leary and Hockman seem to be right in the thick of it. This race will probably go all the way until the first game of the season.
VIRGINIA TECH QUARTERBACK
The Hokies are trying to put last year behind them and want a quarterback to lead the transition. It looks like the race for quarterback has come down to Ryan Willis and Quincy Patterson. Last year, Willis had some good and bad moments, but the coaches are hoping he’ll be able to get the offense to put up better numbers. Patterson, a former four-star prospect, redshirted last season but is seen as the quarterback of the future in Blacksburg.
Patterson’s broader skill set makes him the favorite to be the starter, but Willis’ experience and understanding of the offense carries a lot of weight with the coaches.