TheInsiders.com 2004 College Football Preview
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2004 CLEMSON TIGERS
Author: Roy Philpott, CUTigers.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04Wake Forest
09/11/04Georgia Tech
09/18/04@Texas A&M
09/25/04@Florida State
10/07/04@Virginia
10/16/04Utah State
10/23/04Maryland
10/30/04North Carolina State
11/06/04@Miami (Fla.)
11/13/04@Duke
11/20/04South Carolina
 
Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst (6) of the Clemson Tigers runs with the ball during their game against the Florida State Seminoles on November 8, 2003.
Getty Images/Craig Jones
Head Coach: Tommy Bowden (38-24)

Last Season's Record: 9-4 (5-3, 3rd place in ACC, AP No. 22, ESPN/USA Today No. 22)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl (27-14 win over No. 6 Tennessee)

Key matchup(s): Sept 18 @Texas A&M, Sept 25 @FSU, Nov 6 @Miami

Star Power: Charlie Whitehurst QB (6-4, 215), LeRoy Hill LB (6-1, 225), Justin Miller CB (5-11, 200), Airese Currie WR (5-11, 185)

Notable Additions: Akeem Robinson OL/DL (6-5, 270), Brandon Croley CB (6-0, 180), Tribble Reese QB (6-3, 190), Cullen Harper QB (6-3, 220)

Notable Subtractions: Derrick Hamilton WR (NFL), Kevin Youngblood WR (graduation), Donnell Washington DT (NFL), John Leake LB (NFL).

Notable Returnees: Cedric Johnson OG, Maurice Fountain DE, Travis Pugh FS, Duane Coleman RB, Tye Hill CB.

Offensive Overview: Led by junior QB Charlie Whitehurst, the Tigers will once again have one of ACC's top units in 2004. Questions exist at both tackle positions, as the team must figure out a way to replace two seniors from a year ago. At wide receiver, converted QB Chansi Stuckey enjoyed a strong spring and should provide a nice compliment to the speedy Airese Currie. In the backfield, junior Duane Coleman returns after leading the team in rushing last season and also bringing in 34 receptions. The interior of the offensive line should be a strength this season as all three starters and all three back ups return at LG, RG, and C.

Defensive Overview: Defensively, the team must find a way to replace both defensive tackles up front. Donnell Washington and DeJuan Polk were two of the most valuable players on the team last year and both are now gone. At linebacker, potential ACC Defensive Player of the Year candidate will look to build on last year's 27-tackles for loss performance. The secondary should be of the best units in the league with all four starters returning. Junior CB Justin Miller leads a unit with both size and speed. FS Travis Pugh and ROV Jamaal Fudge are two of the toughest hitters in the league and CB Tye Hill ranks as one of the fastest players in the nation. Maurice Fountain and the vastly improved Charles Bennett are two ends just now coming into their own.

Special Teams Overview: Cole Chason returns for his second year of action at punter and Jad Dean and Stephen Furr will battle it out for first-team placekicking duties. Chason finished sixth in the ACC in net punting last season, but showed tremendous improvement over the course of his last four games. Losing senior PK Aaron Hunt will hurt, but both Dean and Furr have stronger legs. Dean has tremendous leg strength but has yet to demonstrate accuracy.

The Tigers can stay in the Top 15 if... they can find a way to go 2-2 through a murderous stretch at Texas A&M, at Florida State, at Virginia, and at Miami.

2004 DUKE BLUE DEVILS
Author: John Watson, The DevilsDen.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04@Navy
09/11/04@Connecticut
09/18/04@Virginia Tech
09/25/04Maryland
10/02/04The Citadel
10/16/04@Georgia Tech
10/23/04Virginia
10/30/04@Wake Forest
11/06/04@Florida State
11/13/04Clemson
11/20/04North Carolina
 
Duke defender Phillip Alexander (48) puts the pressure on.
AP Photo/Bob Jordan
Head Coach: Ted Roof (2-3)

Last Season's Record: 4-8 (2-6)

Last Bowl Appearance: 1995 (34-20 loss to Wisconsin)

Key matchup(s): Sept. 11 @Uconn, Oct. 30 @Wake Forest, Nov. 20 North Carolina.

Star Power: Phillip Alexander DE 6-4 235 JR, Orrin Thompson DT 6-7 285 JR, Ben Patrick TE 6-4 250 RSFR

Notable Additions: WR Chancellor Young 6-2 210 O'Dea High Seattle, , TB Justin Boyle, 6-1 220 Kennesaw, GA (Harrison HS), WR Jomar Wright 6-1, 180, Duncan, SC (James F Byrnes HS).

Offensive Overview: The offensive unit promises to be one of the more exciting groups in recent years with the addition of new offensive coordinator Marty Galbraith. Sophomore quarterback Mike Schneider will fit well into the new schemes thanks to a powerful arm and decent mobility. The offensive line is reportedly one of the places where Duke may surprise this season. It'll have to as the Blue Devils will be relying on inexperienced backs to replace All-ACC performers Alex Wade and Chris Douglas. Duke is very deep at the tight end slot where Ben Patrick, Andy Roland, and Calen Powell are all highly regarded. With the loss of several top receivers for off the field issues, the Blue Devils will likely award a lot of playing time to true freshmen Chancellor Young and Jomar Wright.

Defensive Overview: The team speed on the defensive unit may be among the best in Duke history. LBs Malcolm Ruff and Brendan Dewan are both big hitters who can get to opponents quickly. The secondary also shows speed. The Blue Devils lose one player from 2003, 2nd team all-ACC SS Terrell Smith. They will, however, return the rest of the depth chart, plus add a few more players who might figure into the mix. At one corner, 3-year starter Kenny Stanford returns. Stanford was among the conference leaders in passes defended, and provides speed in the secondary. 2-year starter Alex Green will once again line up at FS. He has good ball-hawking skills, and could be an all-conference type performer if he can improve his consistency. 2-year starting CB, Brian Greene, has moved into the vacant SS spot. He doesn¹t hit like Terrell Smith, but provides much more size and speed at the position, and is better in coverage. Sophomore John Talley will man the other CB spot.

Special Teams Overview: The Devils are more than solid in kickoff returns and punt coverage. Senterrio Landrum was 7th in the nation in kick return average, despite not having a return for a touchdown to his credit. Duke punter Trey McDonald gets good height on his punts and averages more than 40 yards per kick. Walk-on Matt Brooks is a solid ³pooch² punter, consistently pinning opponents inside their own 20. The big question marks for Duke are placekicking and punt returns. Duke made just over 60% of their field goal attempts in 2003, which must improve. Matt Brooks and Freshman Alex Feinberg will compete to replace departed senior Brent Garber.

Duke can improve on last year if... the new systems on both sides of the ball are implemented without a hitch. Also the linemen on both sides need to have better than expected seasons. The defense should be good, and the offense will be asked to operate efficiently and with a minimal amount of turnovers. Also the excitement surrounding the program needs to continue on that note with early season success.

2004 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
Author: Jim Henry, TheTerritory.org

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/06/04@Miami (Fla.)
09/18/04UAB
09/25/04Clemson
10/02/04North Carolina
10/09/04@Syracuse
10/16/04Virginia
10/23/04@Wake Forest
10/30/04@Maryland
11/06/04Duke
11/11/04@North Carolina State
11/20/04Florida
 
Wide Receiver Craphonso Thorpe (1) of the Florida State Seminoles looks up during the game against the Miami Hurricanes at the Doak Cambell Stadium in Tallahassee, Florida.
Getty Images/Andy Lyons
Head Coach: Bobby Bowden, 269-67-4 at FSU in 28 years; 342-99-4 overall in 38 years. Bowden is the all-time winningest coach in Division I-A history in front of Joe Paterno (339) of Penn State.

Last Season's Record: 10-3 (7-1, ACC Champions, AP No. 11, ESPN/USA Today No. 10)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Orange Bowl (16-14 loss to Miami)

Key matchup(s): Sept. 6 @Miami, Sept. 25 Clemson, Nov. 20 Florida.

Star Power: Craphonso Thorpe, WR, Sr. 6-2, 200; Alex Barron, ST, Sr. 6-6, 308; Chris Rix, QB, Sr., 6-4, 210; Eric Moore, DE, Sr. 6-4, 244; A.J. Nicholson, LB, Jr. 6-2, 235; Bryant McFadden, CB, Sr. 6-0, 186.

Notable Additions: Barry Wright, Coffeyville CC, LB, 6-1, 220; DeCody Fagg, Hargrave Military Academy, WR, 6-3, 195. LB Jae Thaxton, Hart County (Georgia), LB 6-3, 225.

Notable Subtractions: Darnell Dockett, DT (graduation), Michael Boulware, LB (graduation), Kendyll Pope, LB (graduation), Stanford Samuels, CB (graduation), Greg Jones, RB (graduation), P.K. Sam, WR (early for NFL).

Notable Returnees: Alex Barron, OL, Craphonso Thorpe, WR, Leon Washington, RB, Chris Rix, QB, David Castillo, C, Ernie Sims, LB, Xavier Beitia, PK, Matt Meinrod, OL, Brodrick Bunkley, DL, Travis Johnson, DL.

Offensive Overview: Athletic Chris Rix enters his senior season with 34 career starts and at the controls of a unit that features nine returning starters and has the potential to be one of the most effective in school history. However, the unit's success depends on the oft-criticized Rix, who can look spectacular one series and awful the next due to poor decisions. The success of the Seminoles' passing game will also depend on the healthy return of receiver Craphonso Thorpe, who suffered a broken leg last season against North Carolina State. Thorpe has been cleared for drills, showing off his world-class speed with a 4.3 40-yard dash in conditioning drills. Receiver P.K. Sam's decision to skip his senior season for the NFL was unexpected, but returnees Chauncey Stovall, Willie Reid and Dominic Robinson will get an opportunity to shine. While the departure of three-year starter Greg Jones will be felt at tailback, FSU is excited about the tag-team versatility that Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker should provide. After losing four of five offensive line starters last season, the Seminoles welcome back all five starters. The unit is anchored by All-America split tackle Alex Barron and three-year starter Ray Willis at tight tackle. The Seminoles also features three quality tight ends in Paul Irons, Matt Henshaw and Donnie Carter.

Defensive Overview: Senior end Eric Moore must anchor a front seven that lost six starters, including tackle Darnell Dockett and all three linebackers -- Michael Boulware, Kendyll Pope and Allen Augustin. Moore led the Seminoles in sacks last season with 7.5 and has 11.5 over his career. Senior Travis Johnson, who has displayed flashes of brilliance, and junior Brodrick Bunkley must set the tone along the interior. Despite three new starters at linebacker, this unit may actually emerge as a defensive strength. The trio of A.J. Nicholson, Ernie Sims and Sam McGrew features a rare combination of quickness and athleticism. Senior Ray Piquion also expects to lend a steady hand, while Buster Davis, Marcello Church and newcomer Barry Wright are expected to provide quality depth. FSU's secondary should not have any excuses this season, returning three of four starters and plenty of key reserves. Seniors Bryant McFadden at cornerback, Jerome Carter at rover and B.J. Ward, who holds the school record for blocked kicks, at free safety are expected to excel. Juniors Pat Watkins at free safety and Leroy Smith at cornerback also should make a difference.

Special Teams Overview: Senior Xavier Beitia has converted 77.3 percent (51 of 66) of his field goal attempts during his career. Of course, he also has missed potential game-winning kicks against Miami in 2002, North Carolina State in 2003 and the Hurricanes once again in last year's Orange Bowl. The Seminoles, in a strange twist, also features two other kickers on scholarship if Beitia falters -- redshirt freshman Chase Goggans and incoming freshman Gary Cismesia. Coaches feel good about the potential of junior punter Chris Hall and snapper Myles Hodish, a former walk-on who must replace four-year starter Brian Sawyer.

The Seminoles will play for the national championship if... they can get by state rivals Miami in the opener and Florida in the regular-season finale. FSU has dropped five consecutive to the Hurricanes but has won five of its last six against the Gators. FSU has won 11 ACC Championships in its 12 years in the league, and the national spotlight will be on the league with the additions of UM and Virginia Tech. FSU features a veteran offense but a defense that will have new starters at seven positions.

2004 GEORGIA TECH YELLOWJACKETS
Author: Justin Whitehead, TheInsiders.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04Samford
09/11/04@Clemson
09/18/04@North Carolina
10/02/04Miami (Fla.)
10/09/04@Maryland
10/16/04Duke
10/28/04Virginia Tech
11/06/04@North Carolina State
11/13/04Connecticut
11/20/04Virginia
11/27/04@Georgia
 
Wide Receiver Levon Thomas (7) of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets makes it to the one yard line.
Getty Images/Doug Pensinger
Head Coach: Chan Gailey (3rd season, 14-12, 38-23 overall)

Last Season's Record: 7-6 (4-4, T-4th place in ACC)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Humanitarian Bowl (52-10 win over Tulsa)

Key matchup(s): Oct. 2 Miami (Fla.), Oct. 28 Virginia Tech, Nov. 27 @Georgia.

Star Power: Reggie Ball QB 5-11 195 SO; P. J. Daniels RB 5-10 210; Nate Curry WR 5-10 195 SR.

Notable Additions: WR Calvin Johnson (Sandy Creek HS) Tyrone, GA; DE Darrell Robertson (Jonesboro HS) Jonesboro, GA; DT Darryl Richard (Destrehan HS) Destrehan, LA.

Notable Subtractions: C Hugh Reilly; OT Nat Dorsey; TE John Foschi; ILB Daryl Smith; OLB Keyaron Fox; WR Jonathan Smith.

Notable Returnees: James Bulter 6-3 210lbs FS senior; Jimmy Dixon 6-1 225lbs FB senior; Levon Thomas 6-0 195 lb WR senior, Kyle Wallace 6-6 295 lb OT senior, Andy Tidwell-Neal 6-4 315 lb OL senior, Travis Parker 6-5 260 lb DL junior.

Offensive Overview: Incumbent sophomore QB Reggie Ball and junior tailback P.J. Daniels are leading the Yellow Jacket offensive for the 2004-05 season. Ball set school records as freshmen for passing yards (1,996) and total offense (2,380) completing 51.7 percent of his passes. While Daniels provided much balance on the ground averaging 111 yards per game becoming moving up to 12th on the Yellow Jackets all-time rushing list. The receiving corps add highly recruited Calvin Johnson, 6-4, 215, a freshmen who will contribute immediately with his size and athleticism. The offensive needs improvement where they’ll struggle to replace TE J.P. Foschi.

Defensive Overview: The Yellow Jackets return seven starters on defense where they look improve on last years (7-6) record. Henderson and Parker anchor a young but experienced defense line, while the secondary seems to be in good shape three of four starters. The safety tandem should be one of the best in the conference with Butler and Dawan Landry.

Special Teams Overview: Special teams welcome redshirt freshmen Travis Bell, who opted to play football over soccer scholarship offers from Clemson. The punting game though inconsistent last fall looks to improve with the Kyle Belcher challenging for the position.

The Yellow Jackets will return to a bowl game this year if... Reggie Ball and P.J. Daniels have productive seasons. The defense, though young, looks to be vastly improved.

2004 MARYLAND TERRAPINS
Author: Staff, TerpTown.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04Northern Illinois
09/11/04Temple
09/18/04@West Virginia
09/25/04@Duke
10/09/04Georgia Tech
10/16/04North Carolina State
10/23/04@Clemson
10/30/04Florida State
11/06/04@Virginia
11/18/04@Virginia Tech
11/27/04Wake Forest
 
Wide receiver Steve Suter (34) of the University of Maryland Terrapins is congratulated by his teammates.
Getty Images/Doug Pensinger
Head Coach: Ralph Friedgen (6th season, 31-8)

Last Season's Record: 10-3 (6-2, 1st in ACC, AP No. 17, ESPN/USA Today No. 20)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2004 Gator Bowl (41-7 victory over #20 West Virginia Mountaineers)

Key matchup(s): ): Oct 16 North Carolina State, Oct 30 Florida State, Nov 6 @Virginia.

Star Power: Tailback Josh Allen averaged 5.5 yards per game on his way to 922 yards and 8 TDs in 2003. Allen finished 6th in the ACC in rushing last season. In addition, two-time all-ACC receiver Steve Suter returns and will likely be the top receiver in 2004. Suter pulled down 29 catches for 471 yards in 2003, and is currently third among in ACC career punt return yards.

Notable Additions: The best recruiting class to date for Coach Friedgen and the Terp staff. Top QB recruit, Jordan Steffy is likely to get a strong look come August, and represents the future of Terp football. Expect 6’3, 230 DL Trey Covington to make an immediate impact on the defensive line this fall.

Notable Subtractions: Gone is 2001 ACC Offensive Player of the Year, TB Bruce Perry. Perry finishes his career at Maryland with 2,494 yards rushing. Also missing is QB Scott McBrien who threw for 5,169 yards and 34 TDs in his two years as starter.

Notable Returnees: All-ACC CB Domonique Foxworth returns to build on his 8 interception careers total. The Terps will also benefit from experience at placekicker as All-ACC first teamer, Nick Novak returns to pursue his quest to become the ACC’s all-time leading scorer.

Offensive Overview: The Terps return five starters to the team that won the final 10 of 11 games in 2003. Maryland runs one of the most balanced attacks in college football relying on his team to get yards on the ground, and through the air. Without a veteran QB, the Terps may have to rely more on Junior RB Josh Allen early in the season to grind yards on the ground until the QB position has been solidified. As the season wears on, look for TE Derek Miller to emerge as one of the top targets.

Defensive Overview: The defensive line that includes sophomores Conrad Bolston and Rob Armstrong will look to senior Kevin Eli for leadership this fall. Eli, who didn’t start until mid-season in 2003, earned second team All-Conference honors. Perhaps Maryland’s strength on defense lies in its linebacker corps. A breakout season from second-team all-ACC middle linebacker, D’Qwell Jackson is likely, and with the help from sack specialist, Shawne Merriman, the Terps are poised to bring toughness to the Terrapin defense. Domonique Foxworth is the only returning DB in the secondary so the Terps pass coverage may be a bit shaky in the early season.

Special Teams Overview: All-ACC kicker, Nick Novak and second team All-ACC punter, Adam Podlesh ensure the Terps will not have much to worry about in the special teams department as long as they can both stay healthy. Suter’s ability to return punts for TDs make him one of the more dangerous special teams returners in the college football.

A post-season bowl is a virtual guarantee if... the Terrapins are able to find the right fit at quarterback this fall. In order to make a BCS bowl, the Terrapins are going to need to get some early help from TB Josh Allen in order to take the pressure off a young quarterback early in the season. In addition, the on-the-job training of the secondary could be a major factor in the Terps success this season. If the defensive line and linebacker corp is able to pressure the opposing quarterback, and keep the pressure off the young secondary, the Terps could be looking at a possible BCS bowl with a couple of key victories in mid-season.

2004 MIAMI HURRICANES
Author: Bryan Knoll, CanesTime.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/06/04Florida State
09/18/04Louisiana Tech
09/23/04@Houston
10/02/04@Georgia Tech
10/14/04Louisville
10/23/04@North Carolina State
10/30/04@North Carolina
11/06/04Clemson
11/13/04@Virginia
11/20/04Wake Forest
12/04/04Virginia Tech
 
Defensive back Antrel Rolle (6) of Miami celebrates with the ball after recovering a fumble.
Getty Images/Andy Lyons
Head Coach: Larry Coker (35-3)

Last Season's Record: 11-2 (1st place in Big East, AP No. 5, ESPN/USA Today No. 5)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2004 Orange Bowl (16-14 win over Florida State)

Key matchup(s): Sept. 6 Florida State, Oct. 23 @N.C. State, Nov. 13 @Virginia

Star Power: RB Tyrone Moss (5-10, 210, SO), WR Ryan Moore (6-3, 215, SO), LT Eric Winston (6-7, 315, JR), DT Orien Harris (6-2, 300, JR), CB Antrel Rolle (6-1, 202, SR)

Notable Additions: RB Charlie Jones (5-11, 200, FR), RB Andrew Johnson (5-11, 195, FR), WR Lance Leggett (6-3, 180, FR), LB James Bryant (6-3, 240, FR), LB Willie Williams (6-2, 230, FR)

Notable Subtractions: TE Kellen Winslow, OL Vernon Carey, DT Vince Wilfork, LB Jonathan Vilma, LB D.J. Williams, S Sean Taylor

Notable Returnees: QB Brock Berlin (6-1, 215, SR), RB Frank Gore (5-10, 220, JR), WR Roscoe Parrish (5-9, 170, JR), DE Baraka Atkins (6-4, 265, SO), DE Bryan Pata (6-4, 266, SO), DE Javon Nanton (6-4, 240, JR)

Offensive Overview: Following a season in which the ‘Canes struggled as a whole on offense Miami has many questions to address this season. Starting with Florida State in its first game will be a true test in every sense as the ‘Noles promise to bring a stellar defense to the Orange Bowl on Labor Day. With a new offensive coordinator (Dan Werner) and tight ends coach (Mario Cristobal) Miami has plenty of moving parts. If there is one key to the season it will be the play of Brock Berlin at quarterback. If he can manage the game more efficiently this season and cut down on the mistakes Miami should gain more and more confidence as the season progresses. With more depth at wide receiver and running back expect Miami to be better this year on offense.

Defensive Overview: Duplicating the stifling defense of a season ago will be very tough. Miami lost four first-rounders from the defense and must replace all but Antrel Rolle in the back seven. Miami has made a name for itself by plugging in newcomers that emerge as stars and this season they will need that to happed. There is talent at every position but who steps up will be the question heading into the season. Keep an eye on the linebacker corps as they will all be new starters. The defensive front will be spectacular and Rolle will manage the secondary. If the linebacker position steps up you may not see much falloff with the group.

Special Teams Overview: You could argue that freshman Jon Peattie earner the team MVP a season ago with his performance. Anything close to his success of a year ago will be fine. In the punting game Brian Monroe had different results. Monroe struggled at times and suffered some badly shanked punts that really hurt the defense. Monroe will only be better this year so expect Miami to be better overall in the special teams area.

Overall Miami is a team that could go a number of different ways this season... A win against Florida State in the opener could be the kick-start they need. A loss could send them reeling. Talent abounds but so do the questions. Following the Florida State game the ‘Canes should be favored in each game so look for the ‘Canes to equal the record of a season ago or perhaps do even better.

2004 NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
Author: Ben Sherman, InsideCarolina.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04William And Mary
09/11/04@Virginia
09/18/04Georgia Tech
09/25/04Louisville
10/02/04@Florida State
10/09/04North Carolina State
10/16/04@Utah
10/30/04Miami (Fla.)
11/06/04Virginia Tech
11/13/04@Wake Forest
11/20/04@Duke
 
Senior quarterback Darian Durant (4) headlines the Tar Heels' high-powered offense.
Getty Images/Craig Jones
Head Coach: John Bunting (13-24)

Last Season's Record: 2-10 (1-7, 9th place in ACC)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2001 Peach Bowl (16-10 win over Auburn)

Key matchup(s): Sept. 18 Georgia Tech, Oct. 9 NC State, Nov 20 @Duke

Star Power: QB Darian Durant (5-11, 217, Sr.), RB Ronnie McGill (5-11, 210, So.) C Jason Brown, (6-3, 312, Sr.), WR/KR Mike Mason (6-0, 191, So.), LB Larry Edwards (6-3, 240, So.)

Notable Additions: S Gerald Sensabaugh (6-2, 217, ETSU transfer), DE Khalif Mitchell (6-6, 293, Newport News, Va.), OL Calvin Darity (6-4, 285, Tallahassee, Fla.), S Stephen Green (6-0, 185, Little Rock, Ark.)

Notable Subtractions: S Dexter Reid, OL Jeb Terry, TE Bobby Blizzard

Notable Returnees: WR Jarwarski Pollock (5-8, 170, Sr.), RB Jacque Lewis (5-10, 192, Sr.), S Mahlon Carey (6-1, 219, Jr.), CB Lionell Green (6-1, 183, Sr.)

Offensive Overview: All the pieces are in place for a terrific offense -- senior quarterback Darian Durant already holds just about all of the school's all-time records; running back Ronnie McGill is poised for a breakout 1,000-yard season; the offensive line is experienced and led by All-American candidate Jason Brown; and the wide receiver corps is stocked with a versatile collection of wideouts. The only question mark for the offense is whether the UNC defense will hold up its end of the bargain.

Defensive Overview: After last season, there's no where to go but up. And the Tar Heels will assuredly show significant improvement in 2004. With new co-defensive coordinators restoring confidence and a implementing a clearer game plan, coupled with an added year of experience for the promising youngsters, there is reason for hope. ETSU transfer Gerald Sensabaugh steps in to lead a secondary that only picked off two passes a year ago. Look for Lionell Green to have a big year at cornerback. Of the linebackers, Larry Edwards garnered the spotlight as a freshman last season, and he should have more help this year. Up front, the defensive line will be the foundation for the team's potential success. Sophomore tackle "Puff" Thomas is a beast inside and there's quite a buzz about big freshman end Khalif Mitchell.

Special Teams Overview: Mike Mason is the big-time playmaker on kick-off returns, while Jarwarski Pollock will likely handle punt returns. David Woolridge is a solid punter and all-world freshman placekicker Connor Barth is expected to start from day one.

The Tar Heels will make a bowl game if... the defense far exceeds expectations and the Tar Heels get off to a great start. The offense is a given this year, but it'll be up to the defense to bounce back from two-straight horrific seasons on that side of the ball. If the defense can click early -- with the offense putting up the expected big numbers -- and manage to win three of the first four games to open the season, then there will a chance for an eye-opening campaign. The schedule is brutal and a great start will be essential for momentum, as the elite opponents come one after another from then on.

2004 NORTH CAROLINA STATE WOLFPACK
Author: James Henderson, PackPride.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04Richmond
09/18/04Ohio State
09/25/04@Virginia Tech
10/02/04Wake Forest
10/09/04@North Carolina
10/16/04@Maryland
10/23/04Miami (Fla.)
10/30/04@Clemson
11/06/04Georgia Tech
11/11/04Florida State
11/27/04@East Carolina
 
Tailback T.A. McLendon (44) of the North Carolina State University Wolfpack rushes for yards against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Toyota Gator Bowl at Alltel Stadium on January 1, 2003 in Jacksonville, Florida.
Getty Images/Craig Jones
Head Coach: Chuck Amato (34-17)

Last Season's Record: 8-5 (4-4, T-4th place in ACC)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Tangerine Bowl (56-26 victory over Kansas)

Key matchup(s): Sept. 18 Ohio State (ABC), Oct. 23 Miami, Nov. 11 Florida State (ESPN)

Star Power: T.A. McLendon, RB, Jr. 5-11, 225; Tramain Hall, WR, Jr. 5-10, 190; T.J. Williams, TE, Jr. 6-4, 250; Jed Paulsen, C, Sr. 6-3, 295; Mario Williams, DE, Soph. 6-7, 290 DE; John McCargo, DT, Soph. 6-3, 280; Andre Maddox, S, Sr. 6-1, 210; Pat Thomas, LB, Sr. 6-2, 230.

Notable Additions: DeMario Pressley, Greensboro, NC (Dudley), DT, 6-2, 290; Darrell Blackman, Chatham, VA (Hargrave), RB, 5-11, 195; DaJuan Morgan, WR, Riviera Beach, FL (Suncoast), 6-2, 195; Gerard Miller, Vanceboro, NC (West Craven) DT, 6-4 265; RB Bobby Washington, Miami, FL (Killian), RB, 6-0 200.

Notable Subtractions: Philip Rivers QB (graduation), Jericho Cotchery WR (graduation), Sean Locklear (graduation), Austin Herbert P (graduation)

Notable Returnees: Chris Colmer OL, Derek Morris OL, Leroy Harris OL, Richard Washington WR, Brian Clark WR, Reggie Davis RB, Manny Lawson DE, Freddy Aughtry-Lindsay LB, Oliver Hoyte LB, Stephen Tulloch LB, Lamont Reid CB, Dovonte Edwards CB, Marcus Hudson S, Troy Graham S.

Offensive Overview: Philip Rivers is gone and NC State must now find a quarterback to replace arguably the ACC’s best ever signal-caller. Either junior Jay Davis or freshman Marcus Stone will win the job and both have a plethora of weapons around them. Running Back T.A. McLendon leads a strong group of running backs that also features talented newcomers Darrell Blackman and Bobby Washington. McLendon battled through an injury-plagued sophomore season after earning 1st team All-ACC honors as a true freshman. Juniors Tramain Hall and Richard Washington give NC State dangerous threats at the wideout position with junior Brian Clark and sophomore Chris Hawkins providing key depth. Junior T.J. Williams returns at tight end after earning honorable mention All-ACC honors in 2003. The offensive line may be the Wolfpack’s strongest position, with Remington Award nominee Jed Paulsen at center and sophomores Derek Morris and Leroy Harris at right tackle and left guard respectively. Both Harris and Paulsen earned honorable mention All-ACC honors in 2003. The wildcard on the offensive line could be senior left tackle Chris Colmer who returns after receiving a medical hardship for the 2003 season. An All-ACC selection in 2002, Colmer garnered preseason All-American consideration before suffering a mysterious shoulder ailment in fall practice. With talent and depth at running back, wide receiver, tight end, and along the offensive line, NC State’s quarterbacks should be able to perform well in 2004 and give the Wolfpack once again a very potent offense.

Defensive Overview: Last season was rough for NC State's defensive unit, as youth and inexperience hurt in more ways than one. With ten starters returning from an 8-5 squad and respected defensive coordinator Reggie Herring at the helm, a bright future begins now for the Wolfpack defense. The defensive line should be considerably better in 2004 with sophomore Mario Williams, sophomore John McCargo, junior Dwayne Herndon, and junior Manny Lawson returning after starting last season. Seniors Pat Thomas, a second-team All-ACC pick last season, and Freddy Aughtry-Lindsay anchor a strong group of linebackers that should be the backbone of the defense. Safety Andre Maddox, a first-team All-ACC pick and Jim Thorpe Award nominee, is the Wolfpack’s top defensive player and a future pro. He’ll be joined in the defensive secondary by seniors Lamont Reid, Dovonte Edwards, and Troy Graham. Junior safety Marcus Hudson returns after missing the 2003 season with academic issues and should provide key depth at cornerback and free safety. With talent at every position, expect NC State’s defense to be much better in 2004.

Special Teams Overview: Special teams has been a strong suit of the Wolfpack the past four seasons and three reasons why were punter Austin Herbert, long snapper Danny Young, and kicker Adam Kiker. Herbert departs as the most prolific punter in school history, Kiker finished among the program’s top scorers, and Young started every game at long snapper while in Raleigh. The Wolfpack may look to incoming freshman Tyler Lewis to take over some of the kicking duties. Lewis, a Parade and USA Today All-American, doubled as a kicker and punter for Albemarle (NC) High but will likely begin his career at NC State as a punter. Expect red-shirt sophomore John Deraney to do kickoffs and field goals this season after handling just kickoffs as a freshman. Blessed with a powerful leg, forty of Deraney's 75 kickoffs last season went for touchbacks. He also only improved as the season went on, kicking 36 of his last 55 kickoffs into the endzone, including 11-of-17 in his last three games of the regular season. Sophomore William Lee looks to handle the snapping duties following the departure of Young. Look for NC State to once again have a strong block unit led by specialists like Manny Lawson. Following in the footsteps of former Wolfpack star Terrance Holt, Lawson already has five blocked kicks in his career which is the fourth-best mark in school history. Wide receiver Tramain Hall returned two punts for touchdowns last season and should be amongst the league’s best this year. Cornerbacks Lamont Reid and A.J. Davis enter the fall as the kick returners, with Reid having returned two kicks for touchdowns in his career. Under new special teams coach Manny Diaz, expect the Wolfpack to continue their tradition of being sound in the kicking game, an area that Coach Amato often refers to as a critical component in a game’s outcome.

The Wolfpack will finish amongst the ACC’s elite if... the defensive improves as expected and a leader emerges at quarterback. The ingredients are there for NC State to have a very strong defense, but can the talent come together quickly enough to develop as a strength? Look for Jay Davis or Marcus Stone to perform better than expected at quarterback, given the players that should excel around them.

2004 VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
Author: Miller Safrit, UVAInsider.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04@Temple
09/11/04North Carolina
09/18/04Akron
09/25/04Syracuse
10/07/04Clemson
10/16/04@Florida State
10/23/04@Duke
11/06/04Maryland
11/13/04Miami (Fla.)
11/20/04@Georgia Tech
11/27/04@Virginia Tech
 
Runningback Wali Lundy (33) of the Virginia Cavaliers.
Getty Images/Otto Greule Jr.
Head Coach: Al Groh (4th season, 22-17)

Last Season's Record: 8-5 (4-4, T-4th place in ACC)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Continental Tire Bowl (23-16 win over Pittsburgh)

Key matchup(s): Oct. 7 (Thur) Clemson (ESPN), Oct. 16 @ FSU, Nov. 13 Miami

Star Power: Heath Miller TE (6-5, 255, JR), Elton Brown RG (6-6, 338, SR), Chris Canty DE (6-7, 290, SR), Ahmad Brooks ILB (6-4, 249, SO), Darryl Blackstock OLB (6-4, 240, JR), Connor Hughes K (5-10, 172, JR)

Notable Additions: Philip Brown CB (5-11, 188, FR), Christian Olsen QB (Transfer from Notre Dame, 6-3, 226, SO), Tom Santi TE (6-5, 255, FR), Nate Lyles S (6-0, 195, FR)

Notable Subtractions: Matt Schaub QB (NFL), Almondo Curry CB (CFL), Jamaine Winborne DB (NFL), Ottowa Anderson WR (Academics), Ray Mann OLB (Graduation)

Notable Returnees: Jermaine Hardy FS (5-10, 200, SR), Wali Lundy RB (5-10, 214, JR), Alvin Pearman RB (5-9, 204, SR), D'Brickashaw Ferguson LT (6-5, 295, JR), Kai Parham ILB (6-3, 247, SO), Michael McGrew WR (Injured in 2003, 6-2, 201, SR), Jason Snelling FB (Red-shirted in 2003, 5-11, 245, SO)

Offensive Overview: With Matt Schaub now in the NFL, Marques Hagans will have the job of running the Virginia offense. Hagans has spent the last two seasons as a wide receiver and punt returner but must step up and continue to make plays in UVa’s west coast offense. He holds the key to a successful season for the Hoos. Hagans’s go-to-guy will be All-American tight end Heath Miller. He is arguably the best tight end in conference history after just two seasons. In 2003 Miller led UVa in every statistical receiving category and is quite possibly the ACC’s best receiving threat. Senior RB Alvin Pearman was the team’s most versatile threat last season, as he finished 2nd on the team in both rushing yards (10th in the conference) and receptions (8th in the conference). This year he will back up All-ACC candidate Wali Lundy, who led the ACC in touchdowns last season. Lundy was hampered by injuries all last season, yet still managed over 900 yards rushing. Two other players to watch out of the backfield are fullback Jason Snelling and running back Michael Johnson. Snelling and Johnson displayed great potential as true freshmen, but both were red-shirted last season. This talented group of backs will be running behind an offensive line that returns all four starters. The line is anchored by right guard Elton Brown, an All-American who will be entering his third year as a starter. The all-important left tackle spot has been manned by D’Brickashaw Ferguson since 2002. Ferguson has started every game in his career and is a big reason why Virginia yielded an ACC best 11 sacks last season. Ron Darden will step in for the injured Ian-Yates Cunningham at left guard. Brad Butler started every game last year at right tackle and Zac Yarbrough returns at center. The wide receiver position was a weakness entering the season, and will be even more-so now that Ottowa Anderson has been suspended for the year. Anderson was Virginia’s best WR in 2003, maturing nicely as the season went on. Senior WR Michael McGrew returns from a spring practice injury that kept him out for all of 2003. McGrew will be the top wide receiver this year for the Hoos. The 2nd starting job is still up for grabs, yet it is likely that sophomore Deyon Williams will become the new starter. Williams posses a great combination of size and speed, but needs to work on his route running. He has the potential to become a great WR. Overall, the Hoos will rely heavily on the short passing game and running attack. The schedule is filled with cupcakes up front which will give time for Hagans to get the feel of a full time QB. If Hagans can limit mistakes and also remain consistent, then Virginia should have one of the ACC’s most dynamic offenses.

Defensive Overview: This is the year that Virginia’s defense will step up and become one of the best in the nation. The talent is obvious and youth is no longer a valid excuse; six of the front seven return as well as two starters in the secondary. UVa uses a 3-4 defensive scheme designed to give linebackers the opportunity to make plays. Three of the LBs return. That trio – Ahmad Brooks, Darryl Blackstock, and Kai Parham – combine to form the best group of linebackers in the country. Sophomores Brooks and Parham are the starters on the inside who both just scratched the surface of their potential. Brooks led the team in tackles with 117, and also recorded 4 sacks. Parham finished fourth on the team in tackles despite battling with back injuries since arriving at UVa. Junior Darryl Blackstock came to UVa as a pass rushing specialist, but since then he has developed into a complete linebacker. He recorded 10 sacks as a freshman which was his first season as an outside linebacker. Blackstock led the team in tackles for loss, sacks, and fumbles recovered in 2003. Senior Dennis Haley is the other starter at OLB although he must remain consistent to keep freshmen Jermaine Dias and Vince Redd off the field. The linebackers will be playing behind a veteran defensive line. All three starters return on the line, which is led by Senior co-captain Chris Canty. The 6’7’’ DE is arguably the best end in the ACC as he led the conference in tackles by a lineman last season. Andrew Hoffman has developed nicely as a defensive tackle which will require defenses to double team him. This will give the ends and linebackers 1-on-1 opportunities which will result in more big plays. Junior Brennan Schmidt is the other defensive end, but will be pushed by Kwakou Robinson for playing time. Schmidt provides the power and Robinson has size and quickness. Keenan Carter and Melvin Massey supply depth on the defensive line. The secondary will be the weakness for this defensive squad. Although Jamaine Hardy returns as a great free safety, it will be up to Marcus Hamilton and Marquis Weeks to fill in as starters at corner and strong safety, respectively. Hardy is an All-ACC candidate that suffered injury after injury last season. If he can stay healthy, then he will become a force in the defensive backfield. Sophomore Tony Franklin returns at CB, where he started the last six games of the year. Although Franklin was not consistent enough, he did make several big plays including an interception returned for a touchdown. If Hamilton and Franklin can develop into dependable corners, then it will allow for more blitzes by the linebackers. Marquis Weeks, a senior, spent the off-season converting from a back-up running back to a starting strong safety. Weeks has been a great special teams player the past few seasons and has the physical tools to become a quality safety. The secondary will no longer be a weak spot if Weeks can grasp the mental part of playing safety. Philip Brown is the only depth that the Hoos have at corner, which could become a problem. Brown was the #1 player in Virginia in 2002 but did not qualify; he spent last year at Hargrave Military Academy. It is possibly that Brown overtakes Hamilton or Franklin as a starter by mid-season. As a unit, this defense contains too many talented players not to be successful. The entire D is now gelled and ready to live up to its enormous expectations. It will be up to the defense to lead Virginia to the top of the conference.

Special Teams Overview: The punting and kicking game are exact opposites for UVa. Junior Connor Hughes is one of the best place kickers in the country while Kurt Smith is an elite kick-off specialist. Hughes showed he has accuracy and distance, as he made over 90% of his FG attempts, including a 53-yarder. However, the punting game can only be described as dismal. Virginia finished 110th in net punting. To make matters worse, two-year starter Tom Hagan left the team to concentrate on baseball. The job will now be a battle between sophomores Noah Greenbaum and Sean Johnson. Both kickoff returners return. Although neither Tony Franklin nor Marquis Weeks finished in the ACC’s top 10 in kickoff returns, they both consistently gave Virginia’s offense good field position. Look for Pearman to get some time there as well. Unless Marques Hagans losses the starting quarterback job, he will not come back as the punt returner. Both Marcus Hamilton and Michael Johnson had several great returns in 2002 before going down with injuries and they are the leaders for the job. Red-shirt freshman Emmanuel Byers will also compete to be the starting punt returner. The coverage units will be strong as well, as UVa gave up only 20.3 yards per kickoff return, which was 2nd best in the ACC.

Virginia will play in a BCS bowl game if... Marques Hagans can become a mistake-free quarterback. Everything else is in place for the team to have an outstanding season. The schedule will give Hagans time to develop into a full-time starter, but it will be how well he performs against Florida State and Miami that will determine if UVa finishes in the ACC’s top three. The offense has several All-Americans and the defense can be one of the nation’s best, but the rest is up to the quarterback. This season, the team will depend heavily on the consistency and playmaking of the energetic Hagans.

2004 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES
Author: Spencer Cagle, VTInsider.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
08/28/04@Southern California
09/11/04Western Michigan
09/18/04Duke
09/25/04North Carolina State
10/02/04West Virginia
10/09/04@Wake Forest
10/16/04Florida A&M
10/28/04@Georgia Tech
11/06/04@North Carolina
11/18/04Maryland
11/27/04Virginia
12/04/04@Miami (Fla.)
 
Quarterback Bryan Randall (3) of Virginia Tech.
Getty Images/Ezra Shaw
Head Coach: Frank Beamer, 18th season at VT (125-74-2, 167-97-4 overall)

Last Season's Record: 8-5 (4-3)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2003 Insight Bowl (52-49 victory over California)

Key matchup(s): Aug. 28th USC - ESPN (in Washington, D.C.); Oct. 2 West Virginia; Nov. 27 Virginia.

Star Power: QB Bryan Randall, CB Jimmy Williams, LB James Anderson.

Notable Additions: Eddie Royal WR, Andrew Bowman LB, Kent Hicks S, Maurice Reevey LB, George Bell RB.

Notable Subtractions: Ernest Wilford WR (graduation), Jake Grove C (graduation), Kevin Jones RB (NFL), DeAngelo Hall (NFL).

Notable Returnees: Bryan Randall QB, Mike Imoh RB, Cedric Humes RB, Eric Green CB, Jimmy Williams CB, James Griffin CB, Roland Minor CB, Aaron Rouse LB, James Anderson LB, Jonathan Lewis DT, Tripp Carroll OL, Will Montgomery OL, Brandon Gore OL, David Clowney WR, Noland Burchette DE, Jim Davis DE, Vince Hall LB.

Offensive Overview: Although Marcus Vick's year-long suspension will keep him from manning the Tech offense, seasoned quarterback Bryan Randall is back and poised to have a fantastic senior season in Blacksburg. Randall started most of 2003. Look for true freshman receiver Eddie Royal to see the field this season. Royal could end up being one of the best athletes at Tech in recent years if his play on the field can match his numbers -- in freshmen check-in, Royal ran a 4.3 forty, benched 350 pounds, and recorded a 34-inch vertical. Not bad for a true freshman. One of the Hokies' big concerns has to be at running back where the Hokies no longer have a proven big-time running back like Lee Suggs or Kevin Jones. Bruising running back Cedric Humes is expected to step in there. The offensive line has some holes to fill with the graduation of players like the nation's top center from a year ago, Jake Grove. Still, if Humes comes through as expected, Tech's offense could be potent in 2004.

Defensive Overview: Tech's defense was roughed up in the season finale this past season in the Hokies' bowl game against California, giving up 52-points in a 52-49 loss. After an offseason of hard work, this year's defense is poised to have a better showing than the 2003 version. The linebacking corp should be interesting to watch this year as redshirt freshmen Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi could both wind up taking over starting positions by the end of the season. Watch out for linebacker James Anderson to break out this season as well.

Special Teams Overview: Beamerball will be back again this year, but with some new faces. Electric CB/KR/WR DeAngelo Hall will not be back returning kicks this season, but the Hokies still have some talented return men in guys like Mike Imoh and true freshman Eddie Royal. Expect more great special teams from Tech in 2004.

The Hokies will be young, but... don't expect a bad season. Although Tech has been predicted as low as ninth in the expanded ACC, Tech has the talent to do much better. Although the schedule is one of the toughest in the nation and the Hokies are young, having a lot of home games at the beginning of the year could be a blessing for the Hokies as the team comes together. A lot depends on how well this very young team can come together.

2004 WAKE FOREST DEMON DEACONS
Author: Spencer Cagle, DeaconSports.com

2004 FOOTBALL SCHEDULE
09/04/04@Clemson
09/11/04@East Carolina
09/18/04North Carolina A&T
09/25/04Boston College
10/02/04@North Carolina State
10/09/04Virginia Tech
10/23/04Florida State
10/30/04Duke
11/13/04North Carolina
11/20/04@Miami (Fla.)
11/27/04@Maryland
 
Wide receiver Jason Anderson (80) of the Wake Forest University Demon Deacons looks on.
Getty Images/Otto Greule Jr.
Head Coach: Jim Grobe (4th Year, 18-18)

Last Season's Record: 5-7 (3-5, 7th place in ACC)

Last Bowl Appearance: 2002 Seattle Bowl (38-17 victory over Oregon)

Key matchup(s): Sept. 4 @Clemson, Sept. 11 @East Carolina, Nov. 13 North Carolina, Nov. 27 @Maryland.

Star Power: RB Chris Barclay, LB Brad White, QB Cory Randolph, LB Jon Abbate, P Ryan Plackemeier, WR Willie Idlette, WR Jason Anderson.

Notable Additions: LB Stanley Arnoux, DE Anthony Davis, DE Jeremy Thompson, WR/S Chip Vaughn, WR Alphonso Smith, LB Eric Berry.

Notable Subtractions: OL Mark Moroz, OL Tyson Clabo, OL Craig Jones, LB Kellen Brantley, FS Quintin Williams

Notable Returnees: QB Cory Randolph, TB Chris Barclay, WR Willie Idlette, WR Jason Anderson, OL Steve Vallos, OL Blake Lingruen, LB Jon Abbate, LB Brad White, DE Jyles Tucker, CB Caron Bracy, CB Eric King, CB Marcus McGruder, SS Warren Braxton, DT Goryal Scales, DE Jerome Nichols, QB Ben Mauk.

Offensive Overview: Tailback Chris Barclay, the second leading rusher in the ACC is 2003, returns to lead the Demon Deacon rushing attack in 2004. In 2003, Jim Grobe's Demon Deacons continued to be among the top rushing teams and expect more of the same this season. With Barclay back in the backfield, quarterback Cory Randolph returning behind center, and wide receivers Jason Anderson and Willie Idlette returning, Wake Forest is solid at the skill positions. If the Demon Deacon offensive line can hold up after the loss of 1st-team All-ACC lineman Tyson Clabo, 2nd-team offensive lineman Mark Moroz, and guard Craig Jones, Wake's offense will be a force in 2004.

Defensive Overview: Wake Forest will introduce a new scheme in 2004. After running the 3-3-5 in prior years, Coach Grobe and his staff will utilize the four-three this season. The new scheme will take some adjusting but should help make things easier on the players as well. Eight starters return this season including cornerback Eric King, a potential All-ACC performer. Linebackers Brad White and Jon Abbate are also expected to have big years for the Deacs.

Special Teams Overview: Returning kicks in 2004 is speedster Willie Idlette, one of the ACC's most electric athletes. Punter Ryan Plackemeier led the ACC in punting with 45.6 yards-per-punt in 2004 and returns this season.

The Deacons will have a good season if... the offensive line can gel and replace three starters from the line a year ago. Look for a great offensive year if this happens as Wake Forest's top skill players are all back. If the defense can stay healthy and adjust to the new scheme successfully, Wake Forest could have a very good season defensively in 2004 as well. The non-conference slate has three winnable games for the Demon Deacons -- East Carolina, Boston College, and North Carolina A&T, but the ACC schedule is tougher, however, with Miami and Virginia Tech added to the schedule in addition to ACC foe Florida State.