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2016 ACC Football: The Struggle is Real

Last week I took a look at the 2015 year that was in the ACC, some good and bad for each school. This week we’re going to put the past behind us and take a look at what 2016 may hold for ACC football.

Boston College

What needs to get better – The passing game and 3rd down conversions. The two go a bit hand in hand. BC had one of the worst passing games in the nation, ranking 125th in yards per game. None of their quarterbacks threw for more than 464 yards on the season. Yes, you read that correctly. The quarterbacks combined to complete 44.6% of their passes. This all lead to an offense that was 126th out of 127 in 3rd down conversion rate, getting a first down on just 26.7% of their third down attempts. If the offense wants improvement in 2016, it’ll need to start here.

What will go well – The run game. Part of the inability to throw the ball has been due to the dual-threat nature of the quarterbacks that the Eagles trot out there. This obviously helps the ground game. After five games of not getting double digit carries, junior RB Tyler Rouse had 24 for 111 yards and two touchdowns in the final game against Syracuse. Hopefully that leads to a big senior year for him. Helping will be the offensive line, which returns three starters that were only underclassmen last year.

What will be a struggle – Passing game. Once again. There really isn’t much hope here. Even if there is moderate improvement it’s hard to see a team jumping from the bottom five in the country to anywhere near average. Last year BC’s leading receiver had 17 catches for 233 yards. If someone approaches 500 yards in 2016 it would be a miracle.

Clemson

What needs to get better – Big plays allowed. Clemson had a great season, but they gave up some big plays in the ACC Championship to North Carolina which allowed the Tar Heels to hang around and stay in the game. Those big plays basically cost them the title, with multiple breakdowns in the secondary resulting in long touchdowns for the Crimson Tide.

What will go well – The offense. I know, I’m a such a genius, but this is about as obvious as it gets. Deshaun Watson was coming off a knee injury and still was a Heisman finalist this season. Now he’ll be further removed from that injury and back with him will play explosive playmakers Wayne Gallman, Artavis Scott, and Mike Williams, who would have been the Tigers’ best WR but was lost for the year in the season opener.

What will be a struggle – The defense. Clemson is going to be in a lot of shootouts in 2016. Brent Venables was able to rebound from losses to the NFL draft going into 2015 to lead one of the nation’s best defenses yet again. It’s hard to overcome that multiple years in a row however, just ask LSU. This time the Tigers lose both starting DEs (who just happened to be numbers 1 and 2 in the country in tackles for loss) as well as 3/4ths of the secondary. They lose seven defensive starters in total, an astonishing five of them early entrants to the NFL draft.

Duke

What needs to get better – The defense. It gave up almost 31 points per game, including 40+ to the explosive offenses that were Virginia and Virginia Tech. They pass defense in particular was a sieve, finishing 73rd in yards allowed, but there is hope. All five secondary starters return in their 4-2-5 alignment.

What will go well – The running game. Duke’s ground attack was pretty versatile in 2015, led by QB Thomas Sirk. Sirk led the team with 803 yards rushing, but they also had three different running backs all rush for over 400. In total the Blue Devils ran for over 2500 yards on the season on almost five yards per rush.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. It’s not all Sirk’s fault, he just doesn’t have much to work with. A measley 6.15 yards per attempt won’t put fear into the hearts of defensive coordinators, and Duke will not see much improvement unless someone steps up and produces some of the play-making that vanished when Jamison Crowder took his talents to the NFL after the 2014 season.

Florida State

What needs to get better – The passing game. You couldn’t expect FSU’s passing to be as good when Jameis Winston left for the NFL. Outside of a couple nice efforts, the it couldn’t be counted on consistently, and certainly not against the better teams on the schedule. Whether Sean Maguire retains the starting job going into 2016 or a younger, more talented signal caller takes the spot, there’s no reason for this area not to improve with the talent the Seminoles have at receiver.

What will go well – Handing the ball off. FSU could probably just do that every play in 2016 and win double digit games. Dalvin Cook averaged 7.4 ypc last year and he’ll be back. He’ll also be running behind an offensive line that returns all five starters. I already feel bad for the rest of the ACC.

What will be a struggle – Kicking game. The Seminoles have been spoiled the last few years with Roberto Aguayo, one of the best college kickers in years. Aguayo never missed an extra point and was almost as automatic on field goals, converting over 90% of them (64-70) from under 50 yards. With Aguayo off to the pros, Seminoles fans will have to hope their kicking situation doesn’t turn into the one present in Gainesville.

Georgia Tech

What needs to get better – Ball security. It might be expected that a team that runs the triple option would have more chances at fumbling. But you’d also think that they’d preach protecting the ball even more. Whatever they do didn’t work in 2015 as the Yellow Jackets lost 14 fumbles (only three teams lost more). Navy, another triple option team, only lost six. Add the Yellow Jackets’ 10 interceptions, another astonishing number considering how little they throw it, and the result is finishing 105th in turnover margin.

What will go well – The run game. Georgia Tech wasn’t able to stay in games with their rush attack like in previous years, but there are plenty of reasons for optimism. The line was extremely young (they had a freshman at center and both tackles spots by the end of the year) so it should improve. Add that to QB Justin Thomas and their stable of running backs returning and the offense should rebound.

What will be a struggle – Pass defense. It wasn’t bad in 2015, ranking 37th in pass yards allowed, but the Yellow Jackets were also 120th in sacks. They now lose all four starters from the secondary. If the front seven can’t find a way to put pressure on the opposing quarterback, the defense could get burnt through the air with a less experienced defensive back corps.

Louisville

What needs to get better – The offense. I can’t believe I’m saying this about a Bobby Petrino team but the offense was pretty disappointing. The quarterbacks were average, finishing 61st in QBR. That is a little more understandable with Lamar Jackson getting so much playing time, but with a dual-threat guy like himself, the Cardinals should have been able to finish better than 81st in rushing.

What will go well – Defense. The Cardinals defense could be one of the best in the country in 2016. They were T-10th in sacks last year and return stud Devonte Fields who was T-10th in individual sacks. As if a ferocious pass rush wasn’t enough, the ‘Ville will also get all their secondary starters back, including NFL prospects Shaq Wiggins and Josh Harvey-Clemons.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. Bobby Petrino can work whatever magic and QB voodoo he wants, I just don’t think he’s going to be able to do what he traditionally has with Lamar Jackson. It doesn’t mean Jackson won’t improve, I just don’t think there will be any game to game consistency, which will frustrate the coaching staff as well as Cardinals fans.

Miami

What needs to get better – 3rd downs. I talked about how bad Boston College was on third downs, but that’s a little more understandable considering their quarterback situation and well, because of the fact that they’re Boston College. But Miami was almost as bad, finishing 107th at 35%. Considering the talent at the skill positions and at quarterback, there’s no excuse for that and Miami needs to see drastic improvement in this area if they want any shot at competing for the division in 2016.

What will go well – Pass attack. The offensive line was extremely young last year, with four underclassmen starters at year’s end. With improvement Kaaya should have time to throw. With talent at WR in Stacy Coley and Braxton Berrios and at TE in Standish Dobard and David Njoku, Kaaya will have plenty of options at his disposal.

What will be a struggle – Pass defense. Miami was 70th last year in sacks, and they have had a non-existent pass rush for years. Last year the pass defense was able to survive because of how good the secondary was. That won’t be the case this year. Miami loses both starting safeties as well as CB Artie Burns, who led the ACC with six interceptions. In 2016, no lead will be safe.

NC State

What needs to get better – Explosive passing plays. Jacoby Brissett had a mediocre yards per attempt, and it showed when you look at the receivers. The Wolfpack’s leading WR averaged under 10 ypc (9.2). That’s embarrassing. And their second leading receiver had just 34 catches. Not the ideal way to keep a defense honest.

What will go well – Run game. At least NC State has this going for them. They have their top three running backs return, and all three averaged over six yards per rush in 2015. But the biggest reason will be the return of Matthew Dayes. Dayes was averaging over 100 yards per game on 6.5 ypc and had 12 touchdowns through just 7+ games. He ended up missing the last five games due to a foot injury but will be back next season.

What will be a struggle – Passing attack. NC State might be able to get some plays off play-action thanks to their run game, but a standard passing game will not be forte. They have limited wide receivers and with Jacoby Brissett no longer around, will have a new starting quarterback as well.

North Carolina

What needs to get better – The defense. It was abysmal the second half of the year. They gave up at least 31 points in 4 of 6 games. The two that they didn’t were against Miami and Virginia Tech, not exactly the Marcus Mariota-led Oregon Ducks.

What will go well – Offense. The Tar Heels’ offense was explosive in 2015 and have most of it returning in tact for next year. 4/5 offensive linemen return along with the top two receivers and stud running back Elijah Hood. While starting quarterback Marquise Williams departs, he’ll be replaced by Mitch Trubisky, who fans have been high on.

What will be a struggle – The defense. It’s hard to see much improvement from a unit that allowed over 400 yards per game. It was 110th in run defense, stamped off by their embarrassing showing in the bowl game when the allowed a bowl record 645 rushing yards to Baylor. Now they lose a DT and MLB who were defensive captains.

Pittsburgh

What needs to get better – Their “passing attack”. It wasn’t Boston College level putrid, but it left a lot to be desired. Pitt can run the ball, so mild improvement in the passing game is all they need to have a competitive offense.

What will go well – The run game. James Conner was an ACC player of the year candidate before missing basically the whole season. In his place was Qadree Ollison who ran his way to a nice little 1,100 yard, 11 touchdown season in Conner’s place. Both will be back in 2016 to run behind an offensive line that returns 4/5 starters.

What will be a struggle – The passing game. The Panthers need their passing game to be competent, but I don’t see how it improves from last year. It wasn’t good to begin with and now the Panthers are losing WR Tyler Boyd early to the NFL draft. Boyd accounted for 91 of the team’s 212 receptions in 2015.

Syracuse

What needs to get better – The whole offense. They were 119th in yards per game. Brutal to watch and not able to move the ball consistently as evidenced by their 100 ranking in red zone opportunities. But the Orangemen were actually pretty good once they got there, ranking 8th in red zone scoring percentage. If the offense can move the ball a little more, they can put their red zone efficiency to better use.

What will go well – Defense. It wasn’t exactly good this past year, but it was young. They return seven starters so with the experience they should be better just from that. Additionally, the defense played better at home in 2015, not surprising for a young unit. A year older and they should be able to carry some of that success on the road more frequently.

What will be a struggle – Getting to a bowl game. It’s hard as a fan to go into a year knowing your team probably won’t make a bowl. What’s more difficult is seeing how Syracuse gets to one. Along with divisional home games against FSU and Louisville, they have to go on the road in conference to play BC, Pitt and Clemson. Add in non-conference games at Connecticut and with Notre Dame and this year will be about building for 2017.

Virginia

What needs to get better – Performance in close games. Virginia had their chances last year. They had a halftime lead against Notre Dame and a second half lead against Miami, neither of which they could hold. They were also tied at half with North Carolina and tied in the 4th quarter with Louisville. An ability to finish games and the Cavaliers may have not been looking for a new coach.

What will go well – Off-season. If nothing else there will be positive vibes around the Cavaliers before the season starts. Tiquan Mizzell is a player fans can be excited about watching. There’s always hope when a new head coach comes in, which is what Virginia has in Bronco Mendenhall. Throw that in with a senior quarterback and fans may talk themselves into a sneaky good season.

What will be a struggle – The offense. An experienced quarterback returns, yes, but also a limited one. He’ll be looking for new targets as well since the offenses loses its top two receivers from last year. Just like 2015, it appears 2016 will be the Mizzell show.

Virginia Tech

What needs to get better – The running game. As bad as Virginia Tech’s offense has been, you could usually count on a decent running game if nothing else. Last year the Hokies didn’t even have that, ranking 112th in yards per carry. If you’re going to win games by keeping them close and playing good defense, you need a good running game to take pressure off the quarterback.

What will go well – Pass defense. This is one thing you can count on with the Hokies. They were 17th in passing yards allowed per game and return everyone in the secondary besides Kendall Fuller. He can be adequately replaced by Brandon Facyson, the next in line for NFL-caliber Hokie corners.

What will be a struggle – The passing offense. It’s going to be a shock for new coach Justin Fuente going from possible 1st rounder Paxton Lynch to new Hokies starter Brenden Motley. Motley got his feet wet last year when Michael Brewer got hurt and I don’t think fans liked what they saw. He had success in his first couple starts against against Furman and Purdue (congratulations), but the rest of the way was mostly a disaster.

Wake Forest

What needs to get better – Pass protection. Wake Forest is Wake Forest, so they’re going to be playing from behind a lot. Because of this it would be nice if the quarterback wasn’t running for his life every other play. That’s probably what it felt like for Demon Deacons quarterbacks last year, when they were sacked on 8.94% of drop-backs, 113th in the country.

What will go well – “Offensive fireworks”. OK fireworks might be a strong word. But Wake’s offensive should be vastly improved from a unit that was almost last (125th) in scoring at 17.4 ppg. The offense only loses two seniors, one at WR and one at guard, and 7/11 starters last year were freshmen or sophomores. On top of that, QB John Wolford improved his accuracy from 58.3% to 60.9% while also increasing his yards per attempt by over two full yards (5.55 to 7.69). Why do I feel like I’m talking myself into Wake Forest? I can’t wait to look back on this in November when Wake is eliminated from bowl contention and the offense is still a disaster.

What will be a struggle – Speaking of bowl games, making one will be tough for Wake Forest next year. The first month of the season is manageable but with a road slate that includes games against Florida State, Louisville, NC State, and Duke, it’s going to be a nail-biter for fans the second half of the season.

E-mail Jason at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JLindy87.

Featured image courtesy of Thomson20192

ACC WRAP UP 10/21

The rich got richer in the ACC this weekend, with a couple of teams pulling away from the pack in division races. The Atlantic division is the two horse race that everyone thought it would be between #6 Clemson and #9 Florida State, but the Coastal division is as wide open as it gets. Three teams sit at 5-1 atop the Coastal division being #23 Duke, #25 Pittsburgh and North Carolina, with Miami looking up at 4-2.

Here’s what else we learned in the ACC this weekend:

PITTSBURGH IS REAL

Qadree Ollison has rushed for 559 yards in replacement of the injured James Conner
Qadree Ollison has rushed for 559 yards in replacement of the injured James Conner

 This Pittsburgh team is doing exactly what they weren’t doing last season; finishing close games. Their game this past weekend against Georgia Tech is the perfect example. With 8:13 remaining in a tie game, the Panthers took seven minutes off the clock, and hit a 56-yard field goal that ended up being the game winner. Pittsburgh is now 4-1 in one score games this season. Pittsburgh has a well-rounded offense between QB Nathan Peterman, RB Qadree Ollison and WR Tyler Boyd, and also have the tenth ranked defense in the nation in yards allowed. It’s unclear exactly how good this team is since they haven’t had a very hard schedule to date, but that will quickly change as they face UNC, #11 Notre Dame and #23 Duke in the next month.

MARQUISE WILLIAMS HAS BEEN PLAYING GREAT

Since North Carolina’s loss the first game of the season, quarterback Marquise Williams has responded with a 14:3 touchdown to turnover ratio, leading the team to five straight victories. This is the way that Tarheel fans were hoping Williams would be able to play and is exactly what the Tarheels need if they want to win the Coastal division. Although they haven’t had a very tough schedule, it is still nice to see Williams clicking on all cylinders as they head into the defining part of their schedule. Williams will look to prove he can keep this play going when it really matters with divisional matchups in each of the next five weeks.

 GOLSON GETTING COMFORTABLE IN FSU OFFENSE

As Florida State’s season has progressed, QB Everett Golson has noticeably been getting more and more comfortable in the Seminole offense with every week. Since their bye week three weeks ago Golson has completed 71/102 passes for 865 yards, 5 TD’s and 0 interceptions. Of course, everything that the Noles do on offense is reliant on RB Dalvin Cook’s success, but that doesn’t change the fact that Golson has played very well. Despite looking a bit shaky in the beginning of the year at times, he still hasn’t turned the ball over all season and now is starting to develop trust in his teammates and vice-versa, allowing him to just go out there and control the game. With a dynamic running back in Cook, the Seminoles don’t need Golson to single-handily beat opponents, they just need him to do what he has been doing which is spread the ball around enough to make defenses respect the pass, and not turn the ball over.

GT HAS HAD THE HARDEST SCHEDULE IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Something that has been overlooked during Georgia Tech’s five game losing streak is the quality of their opponents. As the teams are currently ranked now, Georgia Tech’s past five games have been against #11 Notre Dame, #23 Duke, a 5-1 UNC team, #6 Clemson, and #25 Pittsburgh, with things not getting any easier as #9 FSU comes into town this weekend. Their schedule after this weekend gets much easier to round out the season, but unfortunately the Yellow Jacket’s season is beyond all repair, sitting at 2-5 for the season and 0-4 within the ACC.

 

Pros and Con for Staying Status Quo

Will one more year matter? That seems to be the questions that the University of Pittsburgh Athletic Department and administration face at the end of this season. The current season for the team has been a disaster so will anything change next season with Pitt and head coach Paul Chryst at the helm. The way I make some decisions is making a pro/con list so lets try that and help upper management make this decision.

Pro: Stud running back James Conner who is racking up the numbers and accolades is a true sophomore meaning he will be back for at least one more year.

Con: The Panther offensive line has been a rotating vortex of inconsistency. They have basically changed the lineup every game and after this many games a set squad should have been a fore gone conclusion (injuries aside). This is unacceptable.

Pro: Quarterback Chad Voytik is also a sophomore and making steady strides in his passing skills and understanding what his opponents are throwing at him as well as the coaches are finally coaching to his strengths and athletic ability.

Con: The Special Teams has cost the team at least one victory if not more. Kicker Blewitt missed a 26-yard field goal that would have beat Duke but missed it and the Panthers ending up losing in 2 overtimes.

Pro/Con: The secondary of the Pitt defense is pretty much composed of all freshmen except senior safety Ray Vinopal. They are making mistakes that are ending up in huge plays but by the same token gaining invaluable on the field experience that should pay off in the future.

Pro: A linebacking core that will lose only one starter after this year.

Con: The defensive line has been horrible this year and that is putting is kindly. No one expected the line to be able to replace All American Aaron Donald, but they have not produced at all and that has really hindered the defense.

Con: The defense as a whole seems to be ill prepared at the start of games for what their offensive counterparts are throwing at them. I am not even taking about trick plays which would be understandable but the basic sets the defense seems to be confused and out of position. That is poor game preparation and film management.

Pro: The in-game adjustments that the defense makes always seem to work. The real problem is that by the time these adjustments are made the team is down by a substantial margin.

Con: Not fully utilizing the talents and superstar nature of sophomore wide receiver Tyler Boyd. The best part of his game has been his returns. With the progression of quarterback Chad Voytik should have been the numbers for Boyd but that has not been the case. Boyd needs to be given the ball in a bigger more dynamic capacity.

Pro: Tyler Boyd is only a sophomore and another year with Voytik can only make each of them better but only if the coaches can find ways to get Boyd the ball in tight and open spaces.

Con: The Coastal Division in the ACC is very weak this year and the Panthers were supposed to make a run at it but they have faltered greatly and proved yet again that they are mediocre.

Con: Aside from their few superstars, the talent level is not comparable to their opponents and that falls squarely on the coach. Unless you get better players and take advantage greatly recruiting areas the Panthers will always be middle or bottom of the pack.

The Panthers have to win 2 of their final 3 games against North Carolina, Syracuse and Miami to become bowl eligible. If not they will miss out on a bowl no matter how low level for the first time since 2007 and that is unacceptable. Head Coach is 17-18 in his three seasons and I don’t see that as every changing but the problem is if the Panthers would seek another coach would it matter. Not unless the mentality of being satisfied with mediocre is changed and wanting to be on top.

Invariably Chyrst will stay but I think defensive coordinator Matt House will be fired and his staff and everyone at Pitt will say that a change for the better is taking place at Pitt. Coach Chyrst will have one more year with his sophomore studs and if another year of 6-6 is had then he will be gone but to no avail.

ACC Coastal – Ready to Rumble

While we are only 5 weeks into the season, a couple of questions are starting to sort themselves out and as we might expect, many remain unanswered. Two frequently asked questions at the start of the season that are becoming clearer with each week: Is Virginia really going to be that bad again? Is North Carolina really a top-25 team? Clearly Virginia is nowhere near as bad as last year and may end up being pretty darned good. Just as clearly UNC is not a top-25 team and could end up being pretty darned mediocre. Other teams this week advanced, dropped, and held steady in their quest for a Coastal crown.
For the second week in a row, the ever-confident UNC defense gave up at least 50 points and over 500 yards of total offense. At least this week’s beneficiary of Carolina’s poor tackling and blown secondary assignments was an ACC opponent. I suppose the upside for Carolina is…if we are grading on improvement, 535 yards and 50 points against Clemson is better than 789 yards and 70 points against ECU. The bottom line however, is that this is a bad defense playing well below its talent level. The Carolina offense, when led by a settled Marquise Williams is quite capable and certainly above average in the Coastal division. However, the woeful play of the Carolina defense is placing an undue burden on an offense that is talented, but struggling a bit to find its identity. The result after 5 weeks is a very tepid 2-2 in which Carolina has played worse than their record and well below expectations.
Virginia on the other hand has proven itself worthy against 3 of the nation’s top 25 teams and sports a 3-2 record that could just as easily be a 4-1 mark. Virginia’s problem has been one of single play breakdowns combined with a bit of bad luck that have resulted in two very tough losses. Virginia’s most important objective after dreadful seasons in 2012 and 2013 is to learn how to win. The second half of the Kent St game this weekend may have been a step towards that objective. After a lackluster first half performance in which Kent St made some nice plays and Virginia made some bad ones, Virginia led the lowly Golden Flashes by a mere 4 points. The second half was a different team and a different story. Virginia imposed its will upon Kent St. Virginia moved the ball and scored consistently while stuffing the Flashes regularly, and frankly there was nothing Kent St could do about it. For the game, Virginia forced 5 turnovers and scored 21 points off of turnovers, eclipsing last season’s total again in a single game. In a must-succeed season when Virginia needs to make a bowl game to save Mike London’s job, each game is a must-win situation. This week’s game against Pitt looms as the newest “most important game of the season.” Virginia is good enough to win, but the question is have they learned how to win?
Miami home games against anyone other than Florida St often draw about as many fans as a regional spelling bee – so crowd noise can’t be the excuse for Duke’s undoing on Saturday. Rather I believe the confectioner’s jubilee Duke feasted upon the first four games of the season came back to haunt them against Miami. After smashing Elon, Troy, Tulane, and Kansas in their first 4 games, 22-10 does not fully reflect how ineffective Duke was and how Miami dominated the game. This game was close to “Miami of old” versus “Duke of old.” Miami had better players who made better plays for 60 minutes. I suppose dominating the Elon running game probably wasn’t great preparation for Duke Johnson and Joseph Yearby who combined for 216 yards rushing. Freshman QB Brad Kaaya continued his impressive play and had little trouble unraveling the Duke defense. Miami heads to Georgia Tech on Saturday to contend with the triple option while Duke is off, which one could argue makes five weekends out of their first six.
Sometimes cute puppies bite you. Sometimes games against MAC opponents intended to pad the schedule go horribly awry. The Akron Zips came to Pitt Saturday and dropped an embarrassing 21-10 loss on the Panthers who may have been reeling from a tough home loss against Iowa while looking ahead to a critical road match against Virginia. The bottom line was the Zips played a better game and deserved to win. While Akron failed to shut down Pitt’s offensive juggernauts James Connor and Tyler Boyd, they contained them and dared the remaining Pitt offensive playmakers to beat them. None stepped up and the Zips came away with an impressive road win. This was no fluke. Pitt didn’t commit 6 fluky turnovers or 15 penalties. Akron played the better game and won. This could either start a death spiral or inspire a turnaround for Pitt’s season. We will see a strong indication of which it is Saturday night in Charlottesville.
Virginia Tech played well enough to post a convincing win against Western Michigan in Blacksburg. There was nothing particularly notable, good or bad, about the Hokie’s performance. They were by far the better team and despite a scrappy effort from WMU, came away with a confidence-building win. The biggest concern for Hokie fans has to be the continued inconsistent play of Michael Brewer. All-American one play and FCS bench-warmer the next, Brewer put in a solid performance, but still tossed two interceptions to raise his 5 game total to a troubling 11. The good news for Brewer and the Hokie offense is that they go to Chapel Hill this Saturday to face the ACC’s most generous defense which currently ranks 120 out of 125 FBS programs. The bad news for Virginia Tech is they will be without promising freshman running back Shai McKenzie. Trey Edmunds is getting healthier each week which is good news and can mitigate the McKenzie loss. Running game aside, the key for the Hokies on Saturday will be getting their playmakers in space against Carolina’s inept secondary.
Pitt vs. Virginia, VT vs. UNC, and Miami vs. GT. Next week will we may start to answer some of the remaining questions in the Coastal. Can UNC hold an FBS offense under 500 yards for the first time this year? Can Virginia win a big one at home? Can GT open an early and unexpected lead in the Coastal race? Stay tuned. This is going to be fun.

The Key to Pitt’s Success

chad_voytik
The lynchpin for the Pitt Panthers in 2014 is quarterback Chad Voytik. Yes I realize that is the case with most teams from Pop Warner to the NFL but with Pitt is will ultimately define whether they contend in the weak Coastal Division in the ACC or fight to make .500.
Sophomore quarterback Chad Voytik is replacing now Houston Texan Tom Savage. Voytik played in 4 games last year with his most on field time being in the Little Ceasar’s Bowl victory over Bowling Green, so if nothing else Voytik and the coaches got a glimpse of the future and realized more than ever what his strengths and weaknesses are.
Voytik is very athletic which will help when the offensive line breaks coverage but by the say token it hinders his progress when staying in the pocket and going through his progressions. His arm strength is suspect as is his accuracy. His arm strength may always be an issue but as his reps increase his accuracy will increase as well. The greatest strength for Voytik is Pitt’s overall strength in fellow standout sophomores Tyler Boyd and James Conner. Boyd will make passing easier for Voytik as he is a great receiver already with good hands, range and a nose for the ball. Conner is a football player plain and simple and his running style will wear down defenses unfortunately Conner will also wear down because he will also be playing defense.
Voytik will be developing right along with his offensive line who will need to gel in a hurry in camp for Voytik to be able to concentrate on his passing skills and not rely on his feet. The line is young and inexperienced and was erratic at best last year but if they get any consistent play especially from their tackles, Voytik will be able to relax and focus on the game down the field.
I have a very good feeling at Voytik and the progress he will make this year. I think his mobility will help save the offensive line as well force defenses to keep a spy on him opening up more lanes for Conner to run and Boyd to exploit in the slot.
Pitt head coach Paul Chryst is now in his third season but his previous job was offensive coordinator at Wisconsin where he helped another athletic quarterback with suspect arm strength and accuracy, his name: Russell Wilson. I am not comparing Voytik to Wilson but just be aware that Chryst knows what he’s doing with quarterbacks.