The Atlantic Coast Conference’s top offenses should be right back in the flow next season. There will just be some new faces at North Carolina and Clemson that will be piling up the yards.
The Tar Heels, who led the ACC with more than 537 yards a game, still have perhaps the league’s best quarterback — junior Sam Howell — heading into the fall. But they won’t have their 1,000-yard backfield of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, who combined for 33 touchdowns last fall.
Howell’s prime targets are also off to the NFL. Receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome combined for 109 catches, 1,783 yards and 14 TDs a year ago.
Howell, the talented passer who is projected a top NFL draft choice in 2022, will spend the next few months getting the next wave of offensive talent ready to build upon. Ty Chandler, a Tennessee transfer, arrives to help the backfield, and Dyami Brown’s brother, Khafre Brown, was third with 337 yards in receptions returns.
“So it gives me an opportunity to kind of watch every single position and then after every play, kind of talk to guys if they’re doing stuff wrong,” Howell said.
Clemson’s run of offensive success loses two centerpiece players in quarterback Trevor Lawrence and tailback Travis Etienne.
Lawrence, last season’s ACC player of the year, is expected to go first overall in the upcoming NFL draft. Etienne, the ACC player of the year in 2018 and 2019, left as the league’s all-time rusher.
The Tigers appear set at quarterback with sophomore D.J. Uiagalelei taking over behind center for Lawrence. Uiagalelei was one of the country’s top high school passers and showed that last season when Lawrence was sidelined for two games after testing positive for the coronavirus.
He rallied the Tigers from 18 points down to defeat Boston College on Oct. 31, then threw for 439 yards against Notre Dame in a 47-40 OT loss a week later.
Clemson’s backfield is far less settled. Lyn-J Dixon has backed up Etienne the past three years and will likely get the first crack at the spot this fall. But the Tigers also have several hungry backs looking to make a mark, including five-star freshman Will Shipley.
Some other things to know about ACC football following spring drills:
MIAMI’S KEY PIECES BACK
The Hurricanes showed promise under second-year coach Manny Diaz last fall and have some of their key pieces back from a team that went 8-3 a year ago.
Quarterback D’Eriq King, who threw for 2,686 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions, is recovering well from a torn ACL suffered in Miami’s bowl loss to Oklahoma State.
“He is doing great, like we thought he would,” Diaz said. “Everything they ask him to do in rehab, he one- ups it.”
Safety Bubba Bolden, the team’s top tackler last year, turned down the NFL to return to Miami for a another season.
Florida State coach Mike Norvell believes his team took some steps forward from its 3-6 season last year. A lot of that could be the play of UCF transfer McKenzie Milton, who this spring completed 6 of 11 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown.
Norvell hasn’t said whether Milton or Jordan Travis, who started six games last year, is the front-runner heading into the fall camp. Still, Milton’s passes were precise and he showed good mobility, all good signs for the Seminoles.
Don’t sleep on college football’s opening week when several ACC teams will have challenging tests that will impact their season.
Clemson opens against Georgia in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Saturday, Sept. 4. It’s the first time these schools have played — their campuses are less than 90 minutes apart — since 2014 when the Bulldogs won 45-21.
Miami opens against defending national champion Alabama in Atlanta on Sept. 4. The Hurricanes and Crimson Tide last met in the 1993 Sugar Bowl, a 34-13 Alabama win for the national championship.
Florida State plays Notre Dame to start the season. The Fighting Irish have returned to their FBS independent status after competing for the ACC title last season.
The ACC enters fall camp with no new head coaches after league schools changed six combined in 2019 and 2020. It’s the first time since the 2018 season all the ACC schools have kept their head coaches.
Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Duke’s David Cutcliffe are the deans of the group, each leading their programs since 2008.