Quarterback Tajh Boyd returns for his senior year after his record setting 2012 season as a Heisman candidate and the reason Clemson is the favorite in the ACC. Boyd passed for 36 touchdowns and established himself as a run threat with 10 touchdowns on the ground. Clemson loses first team all ACC running back Andre Ellington and wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins but still has plenty of offensive weapons including receiver Sammy Watkins, who has emerged as one of the most talented players in the ACC. Clemson brings in the 3rd ranked recruiting class in the ACC and the 26th in the nation, highlighted by four star linebackers Jayron Kearse, Dorian O'Daniel, and Ben Boulware. The Tigers ended their 2012 season with a victory over LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, and they will enter the 2013 season as favorites to win the ACC
After their Orange Bowl winning 2012 season, Florida State will have to reload for 2013 with the loss of quarterback E.J. Manuel. Clint Trickett is the likely candidate to be Manuel's replacement, but he will have to compete for the job with Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston. The Seminoles received good news when leading tackler Christian Jones announced he was returning for his senior season. Florida State has the top 2013 recruiting class in the ACC and no. 17 class in the nation, highlighted by four star DT Demarcus Walker, the no. 7 DT in the nation. The Seminoles lost too much talent to remain one of the top teams in the nation. But with coach Jimbo Fisher's recent recruiting success, they are deep enough that they will not fall too far and could still contend for the ACC title.
Maryland showed promise early in the 2012 season, but was torn apart by injuries at the quarterback position and lost their final six games after going 4-2. Quarterback C.J. Brown will return to lead the Terps offense in 2013, and will be accompanied by several weapons including breakout wide receiver Stefon Diggs, incoming receiver Deon Long, and returning running backs Wes Brown, Albert Reid, and Brandon Ross. While the offense will be much improved, Maryland may struggle on the defensive end, where they lose key starters Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis, Kenny Tate, Darin Drakeford and Demetrius Hartsfield. Maryland has the no. 7 recruiting class in the ACC, and no. 47 in the nation, highlighted by four star tackle Derwin Gray. Coach Randy Edsall should see more improvement in his third season, as the Terps look ready to return to a bowl game.
Syracuse defeated West Virginia in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, but the Orange have many openings to fill as they enter their first year in the ACC. Head coach Doug Marrone left to coach the Buffalo Bills, and will be replaced by Scott Shafer, who gets his first head coaching job. Syracuse also has to replace quarterback Ryan Nassib. His spot will be battled for by Charley Loeb and Terrel Hunt. Syracuse is also losing receivers Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales, as well as several key players on defense. Their key returning starter is 1,000 yard rusher Jerome Smith, who will be Syracuse's biggest offensive weapon in 2013. Syracuse's 2013 recruiting class in 75th in the nation and last in the ACC. Their best recruits are tight end Tyler Provo, running back Augustus Edwards, and linebacker Marquez Hodge, all three stars. Syracuse has improved in the past few years under Marrone, but now they have many questions left to answer as they make the transition to the ACC.
The Demon Deacon's have a chance to make it to a bowl in 2013, as they return most of their key starters. Highlighting the offense is quarterback Tanner Price and wide receiver Michael Campanaro, which could be one of the most dangerous duos in the conference. Wake Forest is returning most of their defense, which will need to improve on its 2012 performance when it finished 11th in the ACC in points allowed. Wake Forest's recruiting class is no. 58 in the nation, 10th in the ACC, and is highlighted by 15th ranked Center Cory Helms.
First year coach Dave Doeren faces a tough challenge as he looks to replace quarterback Mike Glennon in the Wolfpack offense. Sophomore Manny Stocker and Colorado State transfer Pete Thomas will compete for the starting spot. NC State is also losing big parts of their offensive line and their secondary which they will need to fill. The Wolfpack have the no. 71 recruiting class in the nation, second to last in the ACC, highlighted by three star center Cole Blankenship. NC State went 7-6 in 2012 and made it to a bowl, but will have a very different looking team in 2013 and will struggle to reach .500.
The Eagles finished 2-10 in 2012, and even though they are not losing many starters, they still do not have the talent to suggest they will see major improvement. First year coach Steve Addazio inherits an Eagles offense led by quarterback Chase Rettig that finished 11th in the ACC in scoring and last in rushing yards. The Eagles 2013 recruiting class is 12th in the ACC and no. 69 in the nation. The class is highlighted by tight end Charlie Callinan, quarterback Tim Boyle, and linebacker Jack Cottrell, all three stars.
While on a postseason ban in 2012, North Carolina still managed to finish 8-4 and 5-3 and the ACC, and would've gone to the ACC championship game if they were eligible. The Tar Heels big loss is running back Giovani Bernard, who rushed for 1,228 yards and 12 touchdowns. They have the talent to replace him though; Romar Morris and A.J. Blue both had decent production for the Heels this season and will compete to step into the lead role. Quarterback Bryn Renner returns for his senior year after an impressive 2012 campaign with 3,356 yards and 28 touchdowns. Freshman Quinshad Davis was their leading receiver last year and he looks to be still improving. The Heels have holes to fill on offense and defense, but they have the incoming talent to fill them. North Carolina has the top recruiting class in the ACC and the no. 21 class in the nation. Their incoming class is highlighted by DT Greg Webb, QB Mitch Trubisky, and RB T.J. Logan, all four stars. North Carolina and Miami are the top 2 teams in the Coastal, but the edge goes to UNC here because of their schedule. The heels don't have to play Clemson or Florida State, and their matchup with Miami is in Chapel Hill. The Heels are serious ACC contenders in Larry Fedora's second season as head coach.
The Hurricanes finished 7-5 and 5-3 in the ACC last season, and they would have gone to a bowl if not for a self imposed postseason ban. They come into 2013 returning most of their starters from last season, including quarterback Stephen Morris, running back Duke Johnson, and all five offensive lineman. Morris set the school record for yards in a season with 3,415, and he is poised to be one of the ACC's top quarterbacks in his senior season. Miami has the ACC's 6th best incoming recruiting class, 39th in the nation, highlighted by quarterback Kevin Olsen, tight end Standish Dobard, and defensive end Alquadin Muhammad, all four stars and top ten for their position. The NCAA is still investigating Miami, and the threat of possible sanctions could pose a distraction to the Hurricanes. If head coach Al Golden is able to keep his players focused and playing well Miami could be a contender for the ACC title.
The Yellow Jackets ended their season on a good note, beating USC in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Quarterback Tevin Washington is gone, and it looks like he will be replaced by Vad Lee. Lee appeared in several games this season, and was productive both in the air and on the ground, giving the Yellow Jackets a more dynamic dual threat quarterback. They also lose running back Orwin Smith, but they have three capable running backs in David Sims, Zach Laskey and Robert Godhigh. Their defense struggled last season but showed improvement in the last few games. They hired a new defensive coordinator Ted Roof, former Duke head coach and Penn State defensive coordinator. Georgia Tech has the 9th ranked 2013 recruiting class in the ACC, and the no. 51 class in the nation. Their incoming class features tackle Shamire DeVine and running back Travis Custis, both four stars. Georgia Tech isn't far behind the top two teams in the division. They are a talented and experienced team that has the potential to end up near the top of the ACC.
Quarterback Logan Thomas is returning for his senior year and will be playing for new offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler. Thomas loses his top three receivers from an offense that wasn't very productive last season. Thomas passed for 18 touchdowns and ran for 9 last season, but he also threw 16 interceptions, a stat that he will need to work to bring down. Freshman running back J.C. Coleman is a dynamic athlete, and his improvement as the season went on showed that he can be a reliable back for the Hokies. Tech returns most of their starters on defense, and could have one of the best defenses in the conference. Virginia Tech has the 5th ranked 2013 recruiting class in the ACC and the no. 30 class in the country. Their incoming class is highlighted by five star corner Kendall Fuller and four star linebacker Holland Fisher.
In Paul Chryst's first season as Pitt's head coach, the Panthers went 6-7 and made it to the BBVA Compass Bowl. With quarterback Tino Sunseri departing, Pitt will have a new man under center as they enter their first season in the ACC. Rutgers transfer Tom Savage and red shirt freshman Chad Voytik will vie for the starting role. Pitt
also loses running back Ray Graham, but Rushel Shell proved to be a viable option last season and has the potential to be one of the top running backs in the ACC. Pitt returns a large chunk of its defense, which ranked 23rd in the country in points against last season. Pitt has the 3rd best 2013 recruiting class in the ACC and the no. 23 class in the nation. Their incoming class is highlighted by tackle Dorian Johnson and safety Tyler Boyd, both four star recruits. Pitt faces a challenge in its first year in the ACC, but it would not be surprising to see them grind out 6 or 7 wins and get another bowl appearance.
Virginia was a disappointment in 2012, finishing 4-8 and 2-6 in the ACC. Quarterback Michael Rocco transferred to Richmond, he will be replaced by Phillip Sims, who had a share of the passing duties last season and looked promising. Sophomore Kevin Parks returns as running back after a good 2012 season where he ran for 734 yards and five touchdowns. With Perry Jones gone, Parks will get most of the carries and could be one of the leading rushers in the ACC. Virginia also brings back its entire receiving corps, which will provide plenty of options for Sims. Defensive coordinator Jim Reid was replaced by NC State assistant Jon Tenuta. Virginia had the 7th best recruiting class in the ACC, no. 41 in the nation. Their incoming class features running back Taquan Mizzell and safety Tim Harris, both four stars. Virginia lost four games by a touchdown or less in 2012, if they can grind out close games they have the ability to turn things around and make it back to a bowl in 2013.
Duke made their first bowl appearance since 1994 last season, but they will struggle to get back to the postseason in 2013. They lose quarterback Sean Renfree and top receiver Conner Vernon, who had a record setting 2012 season. Renfree will likely be replaced by Anthony Boone, who threw 95 passes last year for 531 yards and five touchdowns, adding two touchdowns on the ground. The Blue Devils return running backs Jela Duncan and Josh Snead, who shared the load on the ground last year and looked promising. Duke has the 11th best recruiting class in the ACC, ranked no. 63 in the nation. Their incoming class features center Austin Davis and cornerback Johnell Barnes, both three stars. Duke has momentum after finally playing in a bowl game after an 18 year hiatus, but with key parts of their offense gone the Blue Devils face an uphill battle if they want to make it back to the postseason.