5 ACC questions that will impact CU

CUTigers.com publisher Roy Philpott takes a look at five burning questions within the ACC that will impact the Clemson football program this coming season.

According to some pundits, it may not matter however if you've watched T.J. Yates play over the years, you know it will. North Carolina's defense should be as stout as you'll find this coming season, but uncertainty on offense, primarily on the line and at the quarterback position leaves plenty of concern on the Heels' chances to win the rough-and-rugged Coastal Division. Insiders in Chapel Hill have suggested Yates won't make it through preseason camp as the starter, but do you really want to open against LSU with red-shirt freshman Byrn Renner? Regardless, expect Renner to be the starter when the Tigers play at Kenan Stadium Oct. 9.

Perhaps the better question is 'can Miami's offensive line keep Harris upright long enough to remain healthy for 12 games?' Keep in mind Miami gave up 35 sacks in 2009, third worst in the ACC. At the same time Harris is recovering from a thumb injury that kept him out of spring practice, and even though he admitted to the Miami media earlier this week he would be 100 percent for the start of the season, you have to wonder how a thumb injury on your throwing hand will impact your overall throwing motion through the course of a season. Clemson faces Miami Oct. 2 in Death Valley.

Simply put, it has to. FSU ranked dead last in the ACC in 2009 in total defense, giving up 434 yards per game, including an astounding 204 on the ground. The 'Noles lack the quality players up front, particularly in the interior defensive line to make that big of a jump in the ACC's defensive standings, but the addition of new defensive coordinator Mark Stoops (Arizona) should pay immediate dividends. How much will dictate whether FSU can hold off Clemson and Boston College for the Atlantic Division championship. The Tigers travel to Doak Campbell Stadium on Nov. 13.

After what felt like a 17-year career, Riley Skinner and his 10,000 yards of career total offense are now gone in Winston-Salem. Wake head coach Jim Grobe took a close look at three potential replacements in spring practice and those three (senior Skylar Jones, sophomore QB Ted Stachitas and freshman QB Brendan Cross) should all receive the same opportunity in preseason camp. Whoever captures the starting spot will have the luxury of throwing to the most productive group of returning wide receivers in the league (top three combined for over 2,100 yards and 20 TDs a year ago and are all back). Clemson travels to Wake Forest on Nov. 20, the week before facing South Carolina and the week after battling FSU.

With the loss of Demaryius Thomas to the NFL, Nesbitt will have to find another physically imposing wide out to throw to in 2010- and in all likelihood it will be sophomore Stephen Hill. The 6-4, 200-pound specimen certainly has big shoes to fill but he'll have to do it this season to help prevent teams from loading the box with eight or nine defenders. Make no mistake, the Yellow Jackets will rush for gaudy numbers once again in Paul Johnson's scheme, but repeating as Coastal Division and ACC champs will likely come down to Hill's production. More times than not Thomas bailed out Nesbitt's poorly thrown balls downfield with circus catches over multiple defenders. Can Hill do the same? Clemson hosts Georgia Tech Oct. 23.

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