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February 9, 2011

ACC spring primer: Changing faces

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There will be plenty of new faces on the sidelines when spring practice kicks off on various ACC campuses.

Heck, in some cases, the new faces haven't even been identified yet.

Boston College hasn't selected an offensive coordinator to replace the retired Gary Tranquill, while Maryland must find a defensive coordinator to step in for the recently departed Don Brown.

Those aren't the only changes.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney overhauled his offensive staff in the wake of the Tigers' first losing season since 1998. Miami fired coach Randy Shannon after a disappointing season. Maryland's Ralph Friedgen was named the ACC coach of the year and got fired anyway.

Here's a look at the start and end dates for spring drills, as well as a quick look at what each team hopes to accomplish.

Practice begins: March 15
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: Before we get to discussing Boston College's biggest task during spring practice, we must point out the job facing the Eagles before they ever take the field. BC coach Frank Spaziani still must find an offensive coordinator to replace Gary Tranquill, who retired after the 2010 season. Internal candidates for the job include wide receivers coach Ryan Day and tight ends coach Dave Brock, but Spaziani also has interviewed a few candidates from outside the program. It's vital that the new coordinator spice up the passing attack. Two new defensive line starters must be found.
Practice begins: March 7
Spring game: April 9
The buzz: Clemson will begin the adjustment from a pro-style offense to more of a spread attack under new coordinator Chad Morris, who helped Tulsa rank fifth nationally with 505.6 yards per game in his first season as a college coordinator after coming up from the high school ranks. Morris replaces Billy Napier, who was fired at the end of a 6-7 season. Other newcomers to Clemson's staff include former Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell as offensive line coach, former Furman assistant Tony Elliott as running backs coach and former Duke assistant Marion Hobby as defensive ends coach. Coaches need to see some consistency at quarterback and have to rebuild the defensive line.
Practice begins: Feb. 16
Spring game: March 26
The buzz: Duke is adjusting to the loss of a defensive coordinator for the second consecutive season, though the return of Jim Knowles should provide at least some stability. Marion Hobby, who served as a co-coordinator with Knowles last season, left to take over as Clemson's defensive ends coach. Knowles now is the Blue Devils' sole coordinator, and Duke hired former Miami assistant Rick Petri as a defensive line coach to fill Hobby's spot on the staff. Duke has been through this situation before. Former defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre left after the 2009 season to become San Jose State's coach. The offensive staff has to find a way for Duke to run the ball better.
Practice begins: March 21
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: This spring marks the formal introduction of E.J. Manuel as the Seminoles' starting quarterback. It also represents the first time Manuel has been able to join his teammates in spring practice. He broke an index finger on the first day of Florida State's 2009 spring practice, and he sat out spring practice last year after undergoing minor shoulder surgery. The Seminoles need to replace a starting guard and the starting center, and the linebacker corps also needs two new starters.
Practice begins: March 28 (tentative)
Spring game: April 23 (tentative)
The buzz: Georgia Tech must find replacements for departed QB Joshua Nesbitt and RB Anthony Allen, both former first-team All-ACC selections. Tevin Washington stepped in for an injured Nesbitt late last season, but he faces a challenge from redshirt freshman Synjyn Days this spring. Charles Perkins, Richard Watson and former QB David Sims are competing for the right to replace Allen at the B-back position. The secondary needs three new starters.
Practice begins: March 29
Spring game: April 30
The buzz: The Terrapins must adjust to new coach Randy Edsall following the firing of Ralph Friedgen, who had headed Maryland's program since 2001. They also will have two new coordinators. This spring also should reveal whether the offense will have a different look under new coordinator Gary Crowton, who arrived from LSU after James Franklin left to take over as Vanderbilt's coach. Maryland's biggest task before the start of spring practice is to find a successor for defensive coordinator Don Brown, who departed last week to take the same position at Connecticut.
Practice begins: March 5
Spring game: April 9 or April 16 (a final date hasn't been set)
The buzz: The biggest task for Miami's players is to adjust to the demands of new coach Al Golden. Players already have told reporters how offseason workouts have grown tougher and longer under the new staff. Golden's biggest task is to decide on a starting quarterback. Jacory Harris had the job at the start of last season before getting hurt, but Stephen Morris outplayed him in the Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame. Developing depth at cornerback is a must, and a new go-to receiver and a new starting tailback must emerge.
Practice begins: March 16
Spring game: April 9
The buzz: North Carolina must make major changes in the offensive backfield. While Bryn Renner takes over for four-year starter T.J. Yates at quarterback, the Tar Heels also must determine a pecking order at running back. The departures of Johnny White, Shaun Draughn and Anthony Elzy leave Ryan Houston as the only North Carolina running back with major experience. That could create opportunities for Hunter Furr, redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard and early enrollee Travis Riley. The back seven on defense could be problematic, as there will be five new starters.
Practice begins: March 17
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: North Carolina State is preparing for life without Russell Wilson, even though the star quarterback hasn't officially announced he's giving up his final year of football eligibility to pursue pro baseball. Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien said last week he was preparing for the season as if Wilson wouldn't return. Wilson's successor would be Mike Glennon, the younger brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon. Glennon, a 6-foot-6 junior, has thrown only 52 career passes. The receiving corps has to be overhauled, and the defensive line will have two new starters.
Practice begins: TBA
Spring game: TBA
The buzz: Quarterback position has been a major source of concern for years, and that remains the case this spring. Marc Verica has completed his eligibility, which leaves sophomores Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny as the only quarterbacks on the roster with much experience. Rocco went 13-of-25 for 143 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions last season. Metheny was 13-of-17 for 171 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. The starting job is up for grabs. The tailback job also looks to be open, and the defensive line has to be retooled.
Practice begins: March 30
Spring game: April 23
The buzz: Although Logan Thomas already is entrenched as Tyrod Taylor's successor at quarterback, this spring should help the Hokies know just what they can expect at the position. Thomas' 6-6, 242-pound frame makes him an intriguing player with enormous upside, but he's an unpolished quarterback who primarily was recruited as a tight end. A pecking order at tailback needs to be established, and the Hokies also have to start getting tougher against the run.
Practice begins: March 15
Spring game: April 16
The buzz: Wake Forest doesn't have one dominant position battle the way it did last spring, when the Demon Deacons had to find a successor to four-year starting QB Riley Skinner. The focus this spring is on improving and building continuity. The Deacons played so many different guys -- and new guys -- on both sides of the ball last season that they never really established a rhythm. Finding a go-to receiver and replacing two starting linebackers will be important.

Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at smegargee@rivals.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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