FB's Random Ramblings: Volume 1

To take a break from the previews and team capsules, here are some random statistical notes from the 2003 ACC season, and a few other odds and ends for 2004 (stats courtesy of The 2004 Football Prospectus published by theacc.com).

- I don't think I've ever seen a team finish a season with a total of TWO interceptions. Unfortunately, that is exactly what the UNC defense did last season. Needless to say, they were last in many other categories as well. At least the Duke staff didn't have to worry about someone from Carolina "intercepting" the Victory Bell on its 8-mile trip from Kenan Stadium to Durham. Since the defense also recovered a pedestrian 8 fumbles, the Tarheels averaged less than 1 turnover created per game. No wonder they had such a tough time stopping opposing offenses.

- Quick, what team does Leroy Hill play for and what position does he play? If you said Clemson and linebacker, you are correct. If you also said that he is the ACC's leading returning tackler (11.2 TPG, 4th overall last year) and led the conference with 27 tackles for loss last year, give yourself a gold star. Talk about adjusting well to a position, 2003 was his first year as a starter at linebacker.

- Hill made a lot of tackles last year, but what ACC team had not one, but two players finish the season with more tackles per game? That would be your own Duke Blue Devils. Ryan Fowler was 3rd in the conference averaging 11.3 TPG, and Terrell Smith finished 2nd with 11.7 TPG. In case you are wondering, former Georgia Tech linebacker Keyaron Fox led the conference with 11.9 stops per game.

- For someone who is considered a colossal disappointment, FSU's Chris Rix sure had a decent 2003. 3011 yards, and 22 touchdowns are nothing to sneeze at. Funny that everyone is assuming that Charlie Whitehurst is the best QB in the ACC. Rix threw for more TDs and had a higher QB effiecency rating, though Whitehurst did throw for more yards, and averaged more total offense per game. Seems like they are pretty neck and neck to me.

- How strong was the ACC in 2003? Lets see, the ACC went 5-1 in bowl games with the only loss coming in FSU's 2-point nail-biting loss to new ACC member Miami. Virginia struggled a bit in their bowl win over Pittsburgh, finally prevailing 23-16. The other 4 games were blowouts. P. J. Daniels set an all-time NCAA bowl record with 301 yards rushing in Tech's 51-7 rout of Tulsa. Meanwhile, Philip Rivers caps a storied college career by throwing for 475 yards, 5 touchdowns and no interceptions in NCSU's thrashing of Kansas in the Tangerine Bowl. Maryland thoroughly whipped West Virginia in the Gator Bowl, and, Clemson was never threatened in their 2-touchdown win over Tennessee. All of these impressive victories helped the ACC pass the SEC as the top conference in the final 2003 Sagarin ratings. For those that think 2003 was a one year fluke, the ACC has a 3-year bowl record of 13-6, best in the country. The ACC also owns the best all-time bowl winning percentage (.538).

- When looking at the overall talent of the ACC from 2003, it was pretty obvious that the ACC was a primarily a conference of quarterbacks, defensive linemen, and linebackers. When looking at the team rosters of ACC members for the upcoming season, however, two different positions standout as being stocked with All-American caliber talent, offensive line and defense back. The ACC could have the two best tackles in the country in FSU's Alex Barron and Miami's Eric Winston, and the best guard in the country in Virginia's Elton Brown. That doesn't include the center position, which has three players who could garner national acclaim (David Castillo - FSU, Jed Paulsen – NC State, Hugh Reilly – Georgia Tech). At defensive back, the depth is just as outstanding. Cornerbacks Antrel Rolle of Miami and Justin Miller of Clemson will both contend for national honors. Of course, don't forget about 2003 1st team all-conference CB Eric King of Wake Forest. As strong safety, there isn't a better hitter in the country than NC State's Andre Maddox. James Butler of Georgia Tech is arguably the top free safety the country.

- While we are on the subject of ACC position strength, many would think that with all of the name linebackers that graduated last year (Leake, Fox, Joe, Boulware, Fowler, etc…), it would be a down year in the conference at the position. This couldn't be further from the truth. There are players who were overshadowed by bigger names in 2003, which will make their mark in 2004. Leon Joe was the name heard around Maryland. This year, it will be D'Qwell Jackson. FSU lost all 3 starters, including NFL draft picks Kendyll Pope and Michael Boulware. By the end of 2004, they could be even better at LB with the emergence of A.J. Nicholson and Ernie Sims. NC State's Pat Thomas is a name that will come to the forefront during the up coming season. UNC's Fred Sparkman has a great name and nasty attitude. Duke's Brendan Dewan looks like a surfer with his curly blond hair, however, beach bums don't tackle and cover like Dewan. Then you have nations best unit at Virginia (Ahmad Brooks, Kai Parham and Darryl Blackstock) leading the pack. Just because you don't know the names, that doesn't mean they can't play. The ACC's linebackers are going to be as good as ever.

- Since its nearly impossible to forecast how freshmen will adjust to college football, predicting the ACC freshman of the year is usually a waste of time. Since everyone is still waiting for preseason practice to start, I'll try and waste some time for you. In a somewhat surprising prediction, for the first time since 1989 (Randy Cuthbert), Duke will produce the ACC rookie of the year. Duke has suffered massive attrition at wideout during the offseason, with the top three receivers from 2003 no longer part of the program. As a result, the Devils will be forced to play 2 or 3 freshmen out of necessity. This also happens to be the one position where Duke recruited players who fit the 21st century prototype for the position (tall and fast. Combine opportunity, ability, and the pass-happy offense of new offensive coordinator Marty Galbreath, you get Duke freshman WR Chancellor Young as ACC rookie of the year.

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