Spring Practice Preview: ACC Spring Practice Storylines

Spring Practice Preview: ACC Spring Practice Storylines

This article is part of our Spring Practice Preview series.

2023 Spring Practice Preview: ACC Preview and Storylines

Spring practices are underway across the country as programs reset and begin their preparation for the 2023 campaign. This article will tackle the major storylines for each program in the ACC after an exciting 2022 season that saw Clemson regain the throne, big-time play from first-year quarterbacks in Drake Maye at UNC and Riley Leonard at Duke, and several national contenders late in the season.

To catch up on the spring practice action elsewhere, check out our other spring practice previews from the Sun Belt, SEC, Big Ten, Big 12 and Conference USA.

Boston College Spring Storyline

Wide Receiver

In 2022 we saw Zay Flowers emerge into the national spotlight as he is now putting his talents on display in front of NFL scouts ahead of the NFL draft. The emergence of Flowers brought the Eagles' passing offense from the bottom third in the conference in 2021 to fourth in the conference in 2022. Behind Flowers, who accounted for over one-third of the team's 2,996 passing yards, the Eagles receiving corps struggled mightily as the team's second-leading receiver Jaelen Gill managed just 27 catches for 388 yards with no touchdowns. With Flowers and Gill now both gone and the team's next leading receivers being running back Pat Garwo and tight end George Takacs, the current receiver room has a big gap to fill. Looking to fill that gap will likely be transfer wide receiver Ryan O'Keefe from UCF. Over his past two seasons at UCF O'Keefe totaled 157 receptions for 1,537 yards and 12 touchdowns. Looking to fill the number two spot behind O'Keefe will likely be Joseph Griffin who managed to haul in 18 receptions for 234 yards and five touchdowns in 2022.

Clemson Spring Storyline

 Quarterback/Wide Receiver development

With all major pieces of the offense coming back, the major spotlight here will be on Cade Klubnik. After sitting behind DJ Uiagalelei for the majority of Klubnik took over in the ACC Championship game following two three-and-outs from Uiagalelei. From there Klubnik went to go 20-of-24 for 279 yards with one touchdown passing and one touchdown rushing en route to a 39-10 romp over UNC. Following the big-time win over UNC the Clemson offense struggled in the Orange Bowl against Tennessee. Despite throwing for 320 yards, Klubnik had two interceptions and the Clemson offense was unable to find the endzone until the middle of the fourth quarter.

For Clemson to regain footing in the playoff, Klubnik will need to develop more consistency some of which could be helped by more consistent play from his wide receiving corps as well. Klubnik and the Clemson offense will look to have increased and more consistent production from last year's leading receiver Antonio Williams who had 56 catches for 604 yards and four touchdowns, as well as from junior Beaux Collins who had 22 catches for 373 yards and five touchdowns.

Duke Spring Storyline

Growth of the offense

In 2022 the Blue Devils had to replace their top contributor at every offensive skill position. However, in 2023 they have all their top skill players coming back with Riley Leonard at quarterback, Jordan Waters at running back and Jalon Calhoun at wide receiver. The Blue Devils had a surprisingly good season in 2022 under the leadership of their first-year quarterback. In year two, Leonard may look to make another leap and be a dark horse Heisman Trophy candidate as the majority of the Duke offense will run through him.

Florida State Spring Storyline

Wide Receiver

Florida State is another ACC team that has all of their top skill position players returning in 2023 because of this Florida State has been short-listed for the National Title in the sportsbooks. Florida State's top receiver heading into 2023 will likely be Johnny Wilson after he racked up 43 catches for 897 yards and five touchdowns in 2022. Behind him will likely be veteran receiver that transferred in from Oregon last year Mycah Pittman. Pittman amassed 32 catches for 330 yards and three touchdowns last season with the Seminoles. Though Pittman looks like the favorite to be the number two receiver in a potent Florida State offense he may see some competition in redshirt junior wide receiver Kentron Poitier. In 2022 Poitier was a big play machine with 14 catches for 283 yards and four touchdowns. With Pittman looking at a lengthy rehab from a hip injury that could keep him out until September, Poitier will have a chance to make inroads at a starting role this spring.

Georgia Tech Spring Storyline

 Quarterback

Georgia Tech saw their starting quarterback from 2022 Jeff Sims transfer to Nebraska. As Sims battled with injury and consistency last season two other quarterbacks saw some action in Zach Gibson and Zach Pyron. Gibson got the most action of the two going 57-of-104 for 597 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Meanwhile, Pyron went 49-of-82 for 565 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions while adding 35 carries for 127 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Fighting for the job with the Zachs next season will also be Texas A&M transfer Haynes King. The former Aggie led A&M in attempts last season where he went 104-of-187 for 1220 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. 

Louisville Spring Storyline

Wide Receiver

Louisville will see quite the overturn in their offense next year as they lose four-year starter and focal point of their offense Malik Cunningham. The Cardinals also have a head coaching change as they bring in Jeff Bohm from Purdue. With a new head coach comes a new offensive play style but Bohm also brings with him his former quarterback from Purdue who spent last season as a grad transfer at Cal, Jack Plummer. Along with the major offensive changes the Cardinals also lost their leading receiver Tyler Hudson who racked up over 1,000 yards last season. Replacing Hudson next season will likely be transfer Jamari Thrash. Last season at Georgia State, Thrash hauled in 61 catches for 1,122 yards and seven touchdowns. Also battling it out with Thrash will be last year's third leading receiver for the Cardinal Ahmari Huggins-Bruce and Jacksonville State transfer Kevin Coleman.

Miami Spring Storyline

Point of Interest: Quarterback

After a surprising showing in 2021, quarterback Tyler Van Dyke struggled in 2022. Van Dyke shined against North Carolina last year where he threw for 496 yards with three touchdowns and one interception on 73.7 percent passing. But, he also threw up clunkers against Middle Tennessee and Texas A&M where he combined to go 37-of-72 for 355 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Van Dyke was also benched on a few occasions late in the season where we saw action from Jake Garcia. Van Dyke will be the incumbent starter in Miami but will be watching his back as the Hurricanes have a talented quarterback room with sophomore Jacurri Brown and freshman Emory Williams who has been turning some heads as an early enrollee.

North Carolina Spring Storyline

Building Around Maye

In 2022 first-year starter Drake Maye burst onto the scene and lit it up. Going into 2023, Maye is a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy but will be without his top receivers from 2022 Josh Downs and Antoine Green. In 2022, Downs and Green combined for 137 catches for 1,827 yards and 18 touchdowns. Likely trying to fill the void left at the top of the receiver room will be junior receiver J.J. Jones. Along with the overhaul at wide receiver, the Tar Heels also brought in a new offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey. Lindsey formerly served as head coach at Troy and offensive coordinator at Southern Mississippi. During his time at both places, Lindsey has used his running backs a considerable amount in the passing game and has made his intentions of continuing this trend known. Lindsey will have a loaded backfield to work with in Elijah Green who rushed for 558 yards and eight touchdowns last year, Caleb Hood, D.J. Jones and senior British Brooks who had a massive finish to the 2021 season racking up 285 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries in the Tar Heels last three games before suffering a season-ending injury during fall camp before the 2022 season. 

North Carolina State Spring Storyline

Quarterback/Wide Receiver

Last year's Heisman preseason Heisman hopeful Devin Leary transferred to Kentucky in the offseason but incoming is Virginia transfer Brennan Armstrong. After racking up 4,449 yards 31 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions passing in 2021, Armstrong regressed in 2022 as he threw for just 2,210 yards with seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Bringing in Armstrong means he will likely be the Day 1 starter but he will have some competition in MJ Morris who showed flashes of brilliance during his time filling in for an injured Leary last season. Along with their quarterback, the Wolfpack also lost their top two receivers in Thayer Thomas and Devin Carter. Up next will likely be Keyon Lesane who was the team's third-leading receiver last season. Along with Lesane will be Clemson transfer Dacari Collins

Pittsburgh Spring Storyline

Offensive overhaul

After winning the ACC Championship in 2021, Pitt lost star quarterback Kenny Pickett and brought in Kedon Slovis. After an anti-climactic season, Slovis is out and on his way to BYU. Also gone, though moving on to the NFL, is focal point of last year's offense Israel Abanikanda. Abanikanda had a massive season rushing for 1,431 yards and 20 touchdowns. Things don't stop there as the Panthers will also be without top pass catcher and 1,000-yard receiver last season Jared Wayne.

The Panthers have addressed the quarterback question as they have brought in Phil Jurkovec from Boston College to replace Slovis. Replacing the production of Abanikanda and Wayne may be tougher though. Remaining in the backfield for the Panthers is last year's second-leading rusher Rodney Hammond who added 479 yards on the ground along with senior C'Bo Flemister. Pitt also brought in former safety recruit Derrick Davis who played a few games at running back last season with LSU. Replacing Wayne will likely fall in the hands of Konata Mumpfield and Bub Means who were the team's second and third-leading receiver last season.

Syracuse Spring Storyline

Taking the next step

In 2023 quarterback Garrett Shrader will enter his third season as Syracuse's starter. Coming into last season Shrader wasn't sure who his top wideout would be following several transfers. It wasn't long before he found Oronde Gadsden. Gadsden ended the season with 61 catches for 969 yards and six touchdowns. The 2022 Syracuse offense had some very successful points as Sean Tucker again ran for over 1,000 yards and Shrader was extremely efficient with the football completing 64.5 percent of his passes for 8.3 yards per attempt.  With Tucker off to the NFL, Syracuse will need to find an answer in the run game. Some more explosive elements to the offense could come from a guy like Damien Alford, another six-foot-six big-bodied wide receiver much like Gadsden.

Virginia Spring Storyline

 Quarterback

In 2021 we saw Brennan Armstrong throw for over 4,000 yards but after a dismal 2022 campaign Armstrong has hit the transfer portal leaving a void in the center of the offense. To try to fill the void the Cavaliers have brought in Tony Muskett from Monmouth College. The 2021 Big South freshman of the year has been very effective for Monmouth over the past two years completing 64.7 percent of his passes for 4,648 yards with 42 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Muskett will also be battling things out with Jay Woolfolk who has seen the field a few times in the absence of Armstrong over his long tenure in Virginia.

Virginia Tech Spring Storyline

Running Back

Offense was not the strong point of the Hokies by any means last season as they finished 2022 with the second-worst offense in the ACC behind Boston College. However one of the more effective parts of their offense was the running game. The big surprise was leading rusher Keyshawn King, who rushed for 6.0 yards a carry and over 700 yards on the season. Unfortunately for VT King has hit the transfer portal. Also gone is the Hokies second leading rusher Jalen Holston. The Hokies will likely look to fill this void with a host of inexperienced backs in redshirt sophomores Malachi Thomas and Chance Black along with true sophomore Bryce Duke.

Wake Forest Spring Storyline

Moving on from Hartman

The Demon Deacons will be faced with a harrowing task this offseason in replacing the ACC's second all-time leading passer behind only NFL great Phil Rivers in Sam Hartman. During his tenure in Winston-Salem Hartman racked up over 12,000 yards passing but has now moved on to finish his college career at Notre Dame. The transfer of Hartman will likely leave things in the hands of Mitch Griffis and Michael Kern. Neither quarterback has seen the field much over their careers as they have sat behind Hartman but Griffis got more playing time in primary relief of Hartman last season while Kern has gotten more time over his career at Wake as the primary backup prior to last season. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jake Blanchard
Jake attended college at the University of Alabama, where a childhood love for college football truly blossomed. During his time in college, Jake started his own blog, where he wrote about all sports, but it mainly focused on college football, NFL and MLB while also giving gambling advice. Jake now covers college football for RotoWire.
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