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ACC mailbag: Florida State's pass blocking, Miami QB battle

Peel your eyes away from college basketball for a few minutes and let’s check in with an ACC football mailbag…

David Hale: Ooh, good question. Truth is, athleticism is athleticism, so the top tier football programs would probably be similarly good on the court, with Florida State, Clemson and Miami at the top of my list. I'd probably go with the Tigers, because I'm not sure who matches up with Christian Wilkins in the paint.


DH: I just don't see it this year. For one, the ground game wasn't great last year with Wayne Gallman and Deshaun Watson, and odds are defenses are going to key on the backs in the early going. Moreover, this looks like a backfield-by-committee approach, somewhat similar to 2014 at Clemson. In the long run, I think Tavien Feaster becomes an all-around star, with the comparisons to C.J. Spiller not completely unreasonable, but the more likely scenario for 2017 is three backs with 500 yards rather than one with at least 1,000.


DH: Short answer, yes. Across the board, this roster looks like a playoff team, but the offensive line is the one area where there are legitimate question marks. But the more nuanced answer is that, progress by the line needs to be matched by progress from Deondre Francois. FSU actually allowed a far lower rate of pressure in 2016 (26.7 percent) than it did in 2015 (33.3 percent), but the sack rate actually increased from 5.8 percent to 7.9 percent. That's largely on Francois, who hung onto the football way too long. He needs to be smarter in the pocket -- scramble, throw it away, check down -- more often, and that will make the line look a whole lot better.

DH: I only hate your favorite team 90 percent as much as I hate everyone else's favorite team.

DH: Not sure we learned a whole lot from the first scrimmage, and frankly I'd be surprised if we end spring in a far difference scenario that it began. It only makes sense for Kelly Bryant to remain in the driver's seat throughout the offseason, if for no other reason than he offers needed leadership in the group when the coaches won't be around.

DH: Pretty sure this is the third straight week with a Louisville offensive line question, which underscores just how significant this one position group will be for how the ACC Atlantic looks in 2017. Unfortunately, it's no easy answer at Louisville. It's certainly largely on the personnel, and that's really hard to change in a short period of time, but Lamar Jackson clearly can improve pre-snap and in the pocket, and Bobby Petrino can certainly do a better job of playcalling to try to help the line out some.

DH: I'm on the Hurricanes bandwagon in the Coastal, but the top teams are still in the ACC Atlantic. Let's see how the QB situation unfolds before we start thinking playoffs.


DH: This, to me, is one of the most under-appreciated QB battles in the country. Miami is so talented elsewhere, but the QB situation is a big question mark. There's tons of talent there, and while I think Clemson is going to default toward the veteran, I'm leaning toward one of the youngsters at Miami. N'Kosi Perry is perhaps the most intriguing, if only because it's been so long since the Hurricanes had a true dual-threat QB. Since 2008, only USC has fewer non-sack rushing yards from its QBs, and Mark Richt has shied away from mobile QBs, to the extent that it might've been his undoing at Georgia. Clearly, turnover at QB with an inexperienced guy taking the snaps creates its share of headaches, but some mobility would certainly make Miami's offense more dynamic, even if it's not quite as efficient.

DH: It would be hard to argue for anything other than defensive line -- and edge rushers in particular. Clemson's entire line is superb, as is Bradley Chubb and the group at NC State. Duke Ejiofor makes Wake's front formidable, Miami's duo of Chad Thomas and Joe Jackson is terrific, Florida State should be exceptional up front and even some of the lower-tier programs like Duke, Boston College and Virginia should be solid on the line. Given the turnover at QB and on some O-lines around the league, don't be surprised if there are a lot of big sack numbers posted in 2017.