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The Confidential

The ACC Sports Blog

Archive for the category “Correspondents”

How Many Wins Will Mack Brown Have in His First Year at UNC?

If we have learned anything in college football, it is that new coaches, looking to rebuild a program, often struggle in their first year. Scott Frost started 0-6 at Nebraska, Chip Kelly started 0-5 at UCLA and the legend Nick Saban lost to Louisiana-Monroe in his first year at Alabama. In Bryant Denny Stadium. So, can we expect Mack Brown to walk in and go to a bowl game in his first year back in Chapel Hill?

It is going to be difficult for Mack Brown to win games in 2019. UNC is not the most talented team and they are accustomed to losing. In games they should have won this year against Virginia Tech and North Carolina State, they simply quit at the end of the game. It is going to take time to change that culture. That said, the staff Mack Brown is creating could b amazing.

The rumors are Kliff Kingsbury could be offensive coordinator and Gene Chizik will return to run the defense. This would be a dream come true in Chapel Hill. If this staff is assembled, the Tar Heels should be winning multiple Atlantic Division titles in the ACC in the years ahead. Note that UNC tends to be a stepping stone for coordinators so if they do get a very successful coordinator, they could parlay that into another head coaching stint somewhere in the south.

Mack Brown will have a successful year in 2019 if he is above .500. The Tar Heels out of conference schedule includes South Carolina and Appalachian State, both of which could be ranked in the top 25 when the Tar Heels play them. If the Heels can win a few home ACC games, they should beat Mercer and will likely go 1-1 against App and South Carolina.

UNC fans will likely be patient at Mack Brown started his first job at UNC with one win each of his first two seasons. He then went on to have multiple 10 win seasons before moving on to Texas and winning a championship with Vince Young in 2005.

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Should the CFP Be an ACC and Three SEC Teams?

Prove me wrong. The four best teams in the country are Alabama, Clemson, Georgia and LSU. Anyone that thinks that Notre Dame or Michigan can play with these teams is fooling themselves. I recently made a comment that if you have seen frost on the ground before Halloween, you are already eliminated from the College Football Playoff. Other than Ohio State winning in 2014, when is the last time a Northern college football team even competed in the CFP.

Let’s look at the numbers:

2014

Ohio State 42, Alabama 35

Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

2015

Alabama 38, Michigan State 0

2016

Clemson 31, Ohio State 0

Alabama 24, Washington 7

2017

No Northern Teams

So, the total score for North vs South from 2015 through 2017 is 93-7. Yes, 93-7. Northern teams have been able to score a single touchdown in three games versus ACC and SEC teams in the College Football Playoff if we exclude the 2014 season in which Ohio State won the championship.

In my opinion, there is no argument to be made that a Northern team could stay on the same field with one of the three SEC teams or Clemson. Can you imagine the score if Alabama played Notre Dame on Saturday. Heck, even LSU would destroy Michigan and Notre Dame.

As we continue to work our way to championship weekend, there will be losses by the SEC teams. Obviously, Alabama or LSU will lose this weekend as they square off in Death Valley. It will likely be Georgia and Alabama in the SEC Championship Game so one would assume a two loss Georgia team would not get into the playoff. The two losses would be to LSU and Alabama.

I think it is safe to say that Clemson is going to go undefeated and will win the ACC Championship Game. Any team that gets 5 wins in the Atlantic Division will likely make the championship game and Clemson will be favored by about 24. Maybe more.

So, all you B1G and Pac-12 fans, tell me why you deserve a team in the College Football Playoff.

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Clemson at Texas A&M Game Thread

I am going to update based on time of day (est). This should be fun.

10:36 – Of course Hunter Renfro ends up recovering the onside kick. That will do it. Clemson wins 28-26. The Aggies cover the -12.5 and it went over.

10:34 – Well, Clemson steps up and stops the 2 point conversion. Onside kick time. That play never had a chance from the outset. The Tigers are 22-4 in one possession games since 2011. That’s decent.

10:32 – Touchdown Aggies! Ok, let’s settle down and get a 2 point play in. This is the most important play of the season for the Aggies. Well, until they play Alabama.

10:31 – Aggies get it at the 50 and there is just over a minute left. I get the feeling the Aggies will score a touchdown but will be stopped on the 2 point conversion.

10:28 – The Aggies get the stop. The punt will be kicked at 1:17. Texas A&M has no timeouts left but will have a shot.

10:27 – If the Aggies can get a stop here they will get it back with around 1:00 to go.

10:26 – The Samford QB has over 300 yards against FSU in the first half. In the first half!

10:21 – Noooooo. He might have fumbled this out the back of the end zone. That means Clemson would get it. Ugh. This is going to be a huge review. It is amazing how many times players dive for the end zone and lose the ball out the back and get a touch back. It is officially a touch back and that is likely the ball game.

10:18 – What we have learned is the middle of the field is very weak for Clemson. A&M has gouged the Tigers down the middle of the field. If your team has a QB that can throw is 20 yards down the middle, you can move the ball on the Tigers.

10:18 – The Aggies receivers have some great hands. Mond is throwing it up and they are coming down with it. Let’s see if this drive can end with a TD and a potential tie with a 2 point conversion.

10:16 – One last think you to our sponsor pediatric dentist in Ashburn, VA Little Smiles of Ashburn.

10:15 – A&M gets the stop and will get the ball back down 28-20. Remember, the spread was 12.5 for Clemson.

10:10 – Big stop for Clemson there after Texas A&M marched into their territory. With only 6:33 left, they can close this game out with points on the upcoming drive.

10:04 – The Aggies are moving the ball against Clemson here in the 4th quarter. This Mond kid is pretty good.

9:48 – Mond scrambles, throws it up for grabs in the end zone and an Aggie comes down with it. An offensive explosion has broken out at Kyle Field. It is now 28-20. That under looks done. Let’s see what it was. The O/U was 50.5. One would think it will go over now, but we also assumed the under was a guarantee 45 minutes ago.

9:42 – Dirty move there by Wilkins. Picking up the QB and trying to put your 300 lbs into him while plowing him in the ground is not acceptable. He will get his.

9:33 – Clemson answers with an Etienne TD. Remember the under I was talking about? That is why you do not bet on sports ladies and gentlemen. It is now 28-13 Tigers.

9:31 – Renfro gets another 1st down inside the 20 for Clemson. It seems like he has been there for a decade.

9:25 – Huge play with Mond back in. That said, you have to find a way to get in the end zone there if you are Buckley. Watch, Clemson will now “buckle” down and hold Texas A&M out of the end zone. I was wrong, they get a TD pass from Mond. Huge series. Do not go for two here. Do not! Ok, good. Kicked the PAT and it is now 21-13.

9:21 – A word for the best orthodontist in Pensacola, Florida, Dr. Clay Sims.

9:20 – And just that fast, the Tigers score. It is now 21-6 Clemson.

9:17 – Unreal. The Aggies backup QB comes in, stumbles, and throws a pick to a defense lineman. Just a horrendous play. As predict, Kelly Bryant is back in the game. He immediately connects with Higgins on a long pass.

9:14 – Mond, the A&M QB, uses his athleticism to get a big first down. He is now down and cramping up. The Aggies need him on the field in this second half.

9:13 – Is Florida State really losing to Samford 13-0? My how things have changed in Tallahassee.

9:12 – You may not know, Bryce Love and Dexter Lawrence played on the same high school football team – Wake Forest.

9:08 – A huge stop for the Aggies and they get the ball back after the second straight 3 and out for Trevor Lawrence and the Tigers. One would expect Dabo to put Bryant back in on the next drive.

9:02 – Another FG for the Aggies here. It goes through and the game is now 14-6. One would think the under is a guarantee but anything can happen when it comes to college football.

8:57 – Trevor Lawrence starts the 2nd half for the Tigers at QB. The Aggies really need to stop Clemson here. Trimming the lead early in the 3rd quarter is imperative if they want to compete late in this game. As I type that, 3 and out. huge stop. Aggies getting the ball.

8:35 – Texas A&M punter bombs a 74 yarder to make certain Clemson doesn’t try to get points at the end of the half. We go into the locker rooms at 14-3 Clemson. A&M needs to win the first half of the 3rd quarter. I am certain Jimbo knows this.

8:29 – Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence come in for the heavy package. Bryant fumbles and the Aggies will get the ball back down 14-3.

8:27 – Etienne is running much more physical this year. The Aggies are having trouble tackling him. If the Tigers can score here, they will go up 21-3 right before halftime. A&M needs a stop here.

8:26 – Sorry about that. Had to go grab some Thai Milk Tea and some Thai Popcorn Chicken. Back to the game.

7:51 – And there it is. 64 yard touchdown pass on his first play at Kyle Field. 14-3 Tigers.

7:50 – Trevor Lawrence comes out in the third series. Best freshman QB in the nation. Let’s see how good this kid is.

7:49 – A terrible series by the Aggies. They lose 10 yards and have to punt. They need to get some positive momentum here. A Clemson touchdown could take the air out of Kyle Field.

7:45 – End of the 1st quarter with the Tigers up 7-3. A word from our sponsors – Orthodontics Practice in Raleigh, NC Gladwell Orthodontics.

7:39 – Another 3rd and long picked up. A few missed tackles by A&M let Clemson get inside the 5. Likely a Clemson touchdown here. And there it is. Bryant runs it in on a read option. 7-3 Clemson.

7:37 – Huge pass play on third and long. 64 yard pass. Clemson is in the red zone.

7:35 – The 12th man is actually affecting the Clemson offense. Delay of game to start their second drive.

7:30 – Aggies march down the field again but have to settle for another field goal. Clemson is bending but not breaking on defense. Aggies are up 3-0.

7:18 – 3 and out for the Tigers with the Aggies getting a sack on 3rd down. Didn’t see that coming.

7:14 – The announcer jinx. Rece mentions the A&M kicker was 14-14 inside of 40 last year. He pushes this one right and the game remains tied 0-0.

7:11 – The A&M quarterback, Mond, is looking good early. Aggies inside the red zone on their first drive. Rain will be an issue as footing has been dodgy already.

7:08 – A&M running the ball early on this “amazing” Clemson front 4. Not sure if this can continue.

7:03 – Time for a word from our sponsors – River Run Dental of Richmond, Virginia.

7:02 – If you have never been to Kyle Field for a football game, go yesterday. It is an amazing experience; even if the Aggies are not playing well. The three decks of students are surreal.

7:01 – Rece Davis and Kirk Herbstreit will be calling this one. The good ole days of Thursday Night Football past.

7:00 – The final line was Clemson -12.5.

6:58 – Waiting for Sling to update so I can start watching the pregame show on ESPN. By the way, UNC got destroyed by ECU. They are down 41-19 late in the 4th quarter. The same ECU that lost to NC A&T last week. Ummm, yeah.

2017 UNC Men’s Soccer Preview

While it may be a ‘rebuilding’ year for our men’s football team, the same cannot be said for the Men’s soccer team who has been voted as the preseason favorite to win the ACC title. This is a big complement to the Tar Heels given ACC men’s soccer is a true powerhouse in Division 1 soccer. 9 ACC teams made the NCAA tournament last year with 8 out of that 9 making it to the Sweet 16. Half of the entire Sweet 16 pool was from ACC teams, so being regarded by ACC coaches as the impending ACC champion is no small feat. Wake Forest, Clemson, UVA and Notre Dame represent the rest of the top 5.

In addition to being the preseason favorite for winning the ACC tournament, Carolina was voted as pre-season No. 4 in the United Soccer Coaches Preseason poll. The ACC comes in strong yet again, lending the most teams from a single conference to the pre-season top 25 by a long shot. 6 schools are ranked in the top 10, with Carolina, Wake Forest, Clemson, Syracuse, Louisville and Notre Dame being ranked respectively. In addition to those teams, UVA and Virginia Tech are also ranked within the top 25.

UNC is bringing in a strong and large freshman class with no less than 11 freshman.

  • John Nelson- The Ohio recruit was ranked the No. 1 player in the 2017 class by College Soccer News, and he has been a U.S. National team participant since the age of 14.
  • Lucas del Rosario was ranked the No. 15 player in the 2017 class by College Soccer News, and he too has been a National Team Participant since the age of 14. He grew up in Durham, North Carolina, so is as local as they come.
  • Alex Rose was a nominee for the Top Drawer Soccer National Player of the Year. He was called up to the U19 U.S. National team, and he is known for being one of the best goal scorer’s in the country with over 90 career academy goals. Rose too is a local product of Cary, N.C.
  • Liam Williams is not a local product, hailing from Taupo, New Zealand. Williams was a member of the U20 New Zealand World Cup team.
  • Mark Sales is a Dallas, TX native who was the No. 52 Top Drawer Soccer prospect for the 2017 class. He has participated in US Men’s National Team camps.
  • Raul Aguilera Jr. is ranked the No. 19 player in the 2017 class by College Soccer News, and he is a NSCAA All-American. He too has participated in U-15, U-16 and U-18 U.S. National teams. Aguilera is from Sanford, Florida.
  • Alec Smir is an incoming keeper and enrolled at UNC in January of 2017. He has attended U.S. Men’s National Team camps from 2015-2017, and he is from Greensboro, NC.
  • Julius Momkus is a native of Vilnius, Lithuania where he was a top scorer for his club team averaging 20 goals per season.
  • Mason Wittman is a Palo Alto, California native whose club coach on the San Jose Earthquakes Academy team was Chris Leitch, former 2001 UNC Men’s Soccer National Champion.
  • Charlie Forecast was the Captain of the U18 Wigan athletic side and is from Melton Mowbray, England. He is a versatile athlete, having also played Rugby and Track & Field.
  • Prince Agyie is a Takoma Park, MD native and has played on a variety of teams inclusive of D.C. United Academy, Barca FC, and Maryland United.

Our 2017 recruiting class is filled with players who have been on national teams, are top ranked in the country, and have a diverse set of playing backgrounds. It is not surprising UNC has been a pre-season favorite, so now we will see if this freshman class is as good on the field as they are on paper.

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Seminoles Scramble For The Panic Button

This is a guest article by Ryan Nelson.  We thank him for his contribution!

In the preseason, the Florida State Seminoles were ranked 4th in the country, received some first-place votes and were one of the favorites to make the ACC championship and perhaps the College Football Playoff.

Then Derwin James got hurt, the defense got shredded week after week and Florida State is a road underdog in its sixth game of the season, perhaps on the precipice of dropping out of the Top 25 rankings entirely.

James is doing all he can from the sidelines to help his teammates, but there remains no concrete timeframe for his return from a knee injury. With him out, the Seminoles have been atrocious. According to ESPN, against FBS opponents, the Seminole defense is on the field less than any other Power 5 school yet is allowing a national-worst 42.3 points per game. It is also dead last among Power 5 teams allowing 6.98 yards per play. Outside of injury, “issues of misalignments, missed assignments and a lack of communication” are pointed to as culprits for the unit’s fall. It certainly isn’t a lack of talent. Recruiting and building a talent base have never been issues for Florida State or Jimbo Fisher, and much was expected of this group prior to the season. Getting elite execution out of his players apparently is instead the issue.

Giving up 63 points to Lamar Jackson and Louisville was perhaps the worst statistical performance that could have transpired for this squad, but it wasn’t rock bottom. Losing on the road to a Top-10 team is nothing to be disappointed with. The game was noncompetitive pretty quickly. At that point, it is only natural to pack it in and bring down your level of effort. That’s how 63 points happens.

What is harder to explain is how FSU could give up 37 points at home to North Carolina in a back-and-forth game that came down to the final score. UNC scored nine points in the final 2:31 of the ballgame. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky encountered little to no resistance all game on his way to completing 81.5 percent of his passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns. If the Louisville game was the eye-opener, the Carolina game was the panic button.

When there is talent on the field, a lack of effort is still a death sentence; it doesn’t matter how naturally talented players are if they are not using those abilities. This group is filled with four- and five-star recruits but seems to lack discipline, attitude and other intangibles that lead to cohesive football. Compounded with the mental mistakes this defense is making pre-snap and in recognition, it is hard to be successful no matter how many stars stood by your name coming out of high school.

Some former players blame the coaching staff for the issues, saying such mistakes come from a lack of leadership, direction and culture. Others say it is on the players to correct such shortcomings. Either way, the performance has been putrid and isn’t showing any signs of being turned around.

According to Coach Fisher, there is no issue with the scheme being played. It is the same defensive scheme Florida State has been using to much success the past three years. Instead, it is about getting the new players to execute the plays as they were intended. Fisher even went as far as blaming the coaches for not teaching said scheme well enough. None of it bodes well for defensive coordinator Charles Kelly.

But removing Kelly is no guarantee of a turnaround, especially with 10th-ranked Miami and Brad Kaaya on the horizon this weekend. Then comes a game against Clemson before the month is out. If something doesn’t change on the defensive side, Florida State will find itself outside the Top 25, below .500 and a far cry from a berth in the playoff.

ACC Roundtable of the Confidential Correspondents: Week 1/2

Welcome to the ACC Roundtable of the ACC Correspondents!  As is and will be the plan for the remainder of the football season, some of the Confidential correspondents will discuss the Week that was (week 1) and the Week that will be (Week 2) for the ACC and their respective schools.

Q1: What stands out about your school’s performance last week?
Harrison Huntley (NC State): The emergence of Ryan Finley was the big story of Week 1. The biggest question mark State had was at QB. The coaching staff wouldn’t name a starter, and made it clear that the battle would be decided on the field. I don’t know if it’s been announced yet, but Finley has to get the nod after his performance last week. He went 17-21 with 174 yards and 2 TD’s. Contrast that with Jalen McClendon’s 6-9, 88 yd and an interception, Finley seems to have ended the debate.
Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): The fact that Syracuse was able to play so fast in their first game under Dino Babers.  Although he claimed it was slow, it was fast enough for Bobby Petrino to make comments that drew the ire of numerous Syracuse blogs.  See e.g. here.  Look, Syracuse offense has been an “issue” for most of the post-Pasqualoni era.  Under Greg Robinson, getting first downs was exciting.  The latter part of the Doug Marrone era was a pro-style offense that moved the ball decently, but there were other times when wins came by defense.  Scott Shafer’s offenses had some moments, but also had some not so great moments, but remained a defense-first program.  The idea of having an offensive-first philosophy has not been the case in a long, long time.  That it also happens to be fast paced and tailored to the Carrier Dome is exciting.  That it worked pretty well against Colgate stood out.
Q2: What are you looking to see out of your school this week?
Harrison Huntley (NC State): Wolfpack fans have made it clear that the team needs to leave Greenville with a win. There doesn’t seem to be any expectations in terms of stats, all that will matter is what is on the scoreboard. It’s the risk you take playing these kinds of games. A win over ECU won’t make many headlines, but a loss certainly would.
Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): Well, the offense looked good (not great) against Colgate.  How will it look against bigger, stronger, faster, smarter athletes?  A few Dungey passes were just missed by Colgate defenders.  Against Louisville, that will be a Pick Six.  A few other passes were caught because of superior athleticism.  That will not happen in any other game.  So… how good will Syracuse’s offense be against a very good opponent?  We’ll be looking at that very closely.
Q3: Did any other ACC team impress you this week?  If so, who and why?
Harrison Huntley (NC State): I was pleasantly surprised with how well Florida State played, especially after trailing by so much. They seem to have solved their QB problem as well with Francois, and the defense played on another level in the second half. I still think NC State will win that one in Raleigh, but they looked very impressive in that second half.
Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): Miami.  I do not  care who the opponent is, when you put up points like that, you are doing something right.  And, for Miami, it is all the more important that they get some swagger back.  If the conference is going to be FSU, Clemson, and a diminutive dozen, so be it.  But Miami being an elite program would be good for the ACC by both restoring balance to the divisions and making the conference look better to outsiders.  Miami has had good moments in the past, to be sure.  The issue is whether Richt will carry it through week after week.  We will see.
Q4: As of the season to date, who are you projecting in the college football playoff? 
Harrison Huntley (NC State): Alabama, Clemson/FSU, Michigan/Ohio State, Houston.
Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson, and Oregon.  Florida State, Michigan, and Houston are all in the hunt obviously.  But Houston was upset by UConn last year–there is little room for error this year.  If it comes down to 1-loss teams from major conferences–unless Houston’s only loss is to a Louisville team that is also in the playoffs, it is hard to see Houston making it in.  Florida State and Michigan would be excluded based on head-to-head results.

What do you think?  How would you answer these questions?

The Confidential’s ACC Football Roundtable: Week 1

Every week, some or all of the Confidential’s correspondents will “roundtable” issues regarding the ACC, as well as recapping the week that was and previewing the week to come.  As we are just hours away from the season starting, we are looking forward exclusively this week.

Q1: Which ACC team is the biggest risk for being an upset victim in Week 1?

Steve Callahan (Notre Dame):  Pittsburgh Panthers.  Many ACC teams play weak competition in week 1, with teams like Charlotte, Liberty, William & Mary, and Florida A&M lined up to face ACC teams. I’ll go with the Pittsburgh Panthers to possibly falling victim an upset to the Villanova Wildcats. Even though they are a FCS team, the Wildcats have talent on the offensive side of the ball and will looking to upset their in-state opponent to send a message in week one.

Harrison Huntley (NC State): Hard to say what is and isn’t an upset this early in the season, but we do know that Clemson is in a lot of playoff projections, and this isn’t a gimme with Auburn. This is an SEC team that runs the kind of offense that is tough to prepare for. Sure they had the whole offseason, but the Tigers probably have other things to worry about.

Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): Syracuse better be very, very ready for Colgate, an experienced team.  Not a gimme.  I disagree with Villanova only because I think Pitt under Narduzzi is the real deal.  They may not win the Coastal, but this is not the typical mediocre Pitt coaching hire.  So I will go with Tulane over Wake Forest.  Assuming the former Georgia Southern coaches can implement some semblance of what they did before at Tulane, Wake Forest may get itself into a shootout.  If so, could be trouble.

Q2: What are the three things your school’s team must do to win in Week 1?

Steve Callahan (Notre Dame): With Notre Dame kicking the season off at Texas, the Fighting Irish must take the excitement out of the crowd and score first. If they can build an early lead and have the Longhorns play catch up, they will be in better position to win. The second key to victory is to put pressure on true freshman quarterback Shane Buechele early and often. The third key is to get the ball in the hands of captain Torii Hunter Jr.’s hands, as he will set the stone for the otherwise young receiving corps the Irish have.

Harrison Huntley (NC State): 3 things? I hope it doesn’t take 3 things to beat William and Mary. They beat State in basketball, so I guess it isn’t out of the question, but there’s no reason this shouldn’t be a win. I’m a big FCS guy, and W&M isn’t North Dakota State. More than 3 things would have to go horribly wrong for this to be a loss.

Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): Syracuse is many years past where it could look past an FCS school.  This is just reality.  Villanova should have beaten Syracuse and Colgate may be more primed to pull an upset.  Syracuse will need to avoid turnovers–which give instant life to an opponent.  While most will be concerned about Syracuse looking past Colgate, what is even more important is that Syracuse use its superior athletes–bigger players should push around smaller players, faster players should play faster than slower players–and so on.  Up to the coaches to use the size and speed advantages.  And then, of course, fundamentals…block, tackle, hang on to the ball, avoid penalties…. amazing how often that matters.

Q3: What would have to happen for your school to lose in Week 1?

Steve Callahan (Notre Dame): The Fighting Irish would have to come out unfocused and nervous to lose in week one, as a defense with six starters should feast against a true freshman quarterback in his first start.

Harrison Huntley (NC State): There’s no QB1 or QB2 on the depth chart, so both would have to play terrible. Add on some injuries to the running game, and the defense would just have to implode.

Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): It would not take much, sadly.  If Syracuse is turnover prone or allows a special teams touchdown, it could be game on.  If Syracuse starts slow, Colgate will stay in the game that much longer.  In the end, if you give an FCS team reason for hope, expect them to run with it.  We have seen it far too many times at Syracuse–from Coach P losing to Rutgers/Temple when they were miserably awful… to Doug Marrone allowing Maine to hang in there… to Scott Shafer nearly losing to Villanova.  And, of course, we see it every year during the Big Dance (looking at you, Middle Tennessee State).

Well, that is what these correspondents think.  What do you think?  Please feel free to share below.  And if you are interested in being a correspondent, see here.

Notre Dame Season Preview: Wide Receivers

This year the Notre Dame wide receiving corps will have to step it up due to the loss of their best player last season. Wide receiver Will Fuller left Notre Dame for the NFL after an outstanding junior season in which he recorded 62 receptions, 1,258 yards, and 14 touchdowns in 13 games. Over his three-year career with the Fighting Irish, Fuller was good for 144 receptions, 2,512 yards, and 30 touchdowns over 32 career games. Fuller left Notre Dame with the receiver with the second most career touchdowns (Michael Floyd 37), 5th all-time in receptions, and 4th all-time in receiving yards. The Houston Texans drafted Fuller with the 21st overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft.

So who will fill in Fuller’s huge shoes? The first man up will be redshirt-junior Torii Hunter Jr. Hunter is a two-sport athlete (baseball, obviously), who caught 28 balls last year for 363 yards and two touchdowns. Hunter was recently named one of the four captains for the Fighting Irish for the 2016 season.

Hunter witnessed leadership as a college athlete from players like Nick Martin, Sheldon Day, and Jaylon Smith, but also from his father. Hunter has said

“I take a lot of the stuff that he done with a lot of ball clubs, and him being an older guy in a lot of younger clubhouses. That’s one of the biggest things I try to stress is keep it fun, joke around but also go out there and get work done. I think that’s one of the biggest things my dad does well is keep it chill, keep it lose and make guys go out there and play.”

Head coach Brian Kelly is counting on Hunter saying,

“He is a veteran on our team, hasn’t played maybe as much but he’s played big roles for us. He’s a guy that I think this year will be counted on to do quite a bit. But again, again, a guy that walks the walk and talks the talk and back it up both on and off the field will be a great mentor to a lot of young receivers.”

Hunter will be leading a young, inexperienced receiving corps that will be highlighted by Miles Boykin. Boykin is a former four-star recruit who redshirted last season. He comes in at 6’3”, 225 pounds with good hands, but according to wide receiver coach Mike Denbrock, Boykin needs be more aggressive.

Another young wide receiver who will make his debut this season is Equanimeous St. Brown, also known ESB. ESB will be the deep threat in the Irish offense given his height (6’5”) and ability to track the ball in the air. Cj Sanders, who has kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns last season, but rarely saw the field in any offensive sets will also likely make an impact this season. Sanders has the speed and playmaking ability to play slot, especially with Hunter and ESB on the outside.

The Notre Dame offense has high expectations. With Hunter returning in a leadership position, Mike McGlinchey holding down the offensive line, and Tearean Folston returning in the backfield, this offense is ready to go, regardless of whom the quarterback is. Hunter is obviously the player to watch in his senior year, but players like Boykin, St. Brown, and Sanders will have the opportunity to be playmakers this season as well.

The Confidential’s ACC Football Roundtable: Preseason 2016

Every week, some or all of the Confidential’s correspondents will “roundtable” issues regarding the ACC, as well as recapping the week that was and previewing the week to come.  As we are still in the preseason, we are looking forward exclusively this week.

Q1: OK, with the football season right around the corner, who are the 5 best teams in the ACC (including Notre Dame) in order?  Which two are playing in the ACC Championship Game?  And who, if anyone, from the ACC will make the playoffs?

Steve Callahan (Notre Dame):  The Clemson Tigers are the best team in the ACC. Following them, is Florida State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and the Miami Hurricanes.  ACC Title Game: FSU vs UNC. Playoffs: FSU

Harrison Huntley (NC State): Clemson, FSU, Miami, UNC, Louisville. Clemson and Miami playing in Charlotte.  I think any ACC champ would make the playoff assuming they only have a loss or two

Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): 1, Clemson; 2, FSU; 3. Notre Dame; 4. Miami; 5. Louisville.  Clemson vs Miami, with Clemson in the playoffs.

Q2: Looking objectively at your team, which team is your team most likely to upset?  And which team is most likely to upset your team?

Steve Callahan (Notre Dame): With an early home game and the Spartans having holes to fill in their starting offensive line, the Irish have a very good chance of beating Michigan State at home in the third week of the season. Since the Fighting Irish’s schedule doesn’t give them many opportunities to pull off an upset, Michigan State would be my choice, even if they are close in the rankings.  With only three away games this season, Notre Dame will avoid hostile environments and be less likely to get upset. I will pick the Miami Hurricanes as one team who can upset the Irish this season. Quarterback Brad Kaaya is special and will be looking to increase his draft stock with a big win in South Bend.

Harrison Huntley (NC State): That’s easy: FSU. It’s in Raleigh, and for whatever reason, NC State always does well against the Noles at home. I think Syracuse has the best chance to pull an upset, just because it’s on the road. Normally I’d say BC or Wake, but both are at home this year so State SHOULD be ok against these guys.

Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): Most Syracuse fans will say Virginia Tech because it is a home game.  But in Week 2, Louisville will have very little film to scout (and Colgate may not provide a preview of the entire offense), a Syracuse team without depth may be as healthy as it will be for any game all year, Louisville will still be “green” on its own, Syracuse is at home, etc.  I would not bet your kids’ lunch money on an upset, but it is my pick.  As for upsetting Syracuse, it is difficult with so few games to choose from. UConn is likely to be an underdog if Syracuse starts strong, so look for that as a potential loss in the same spirit as the USF win over Syracuse last year.  Sadly.  Frankly, it would be better for the ACC if B.C. or Wake Forest is the answer to this question–but both may be favored.

Q3: Who is one offensive player from your school for fans of other schools to keep an eye on in 2016?

Steve Callahan (Notre Dame): I know it may be cliché to choose the starting running back, but Tarean Folston is ready to be the star of the Notre Dame offensive attack. Folston was all set to be the starter last season but tore his ACL after three rushing attempts in the season opener. In 2014, Folston had four 100-yard rushing games, including 120 yards and a touchdown at #2 Florida State. Keep an eye out for the senior running back, who will be playing with a chip on his shoulder.

Harrison Huntley (NC State): You won’t see Jaylen Samuels on many watch lists, but that’s because he has no position. He can play RB, WR, TE, and anywhere in the backfield. He’s big and fast, a great combination.

Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): In this Dino Babers system, gotta go with the QB: Eric Dungey.  If he stays healthy and grasps the system, Dungey could put up huge numbers.  But those are some big “ifs” to watch for.  With a fairly decent compliment of skill players (relative to past seasons), we really may see Syracuse play fast and be fast.

Q4: Who is one defensive or special teams player for fans of other schools to take notice of?

Steve Callahan (Notre Dame): Cole Luke will be the leader in the secondary. The senior is coming off a little disappointing season after his breakout sophomore season. Luke only had 6 passes defended last year meanwhile he had 11 in 2014. Watch the 5’11” senior come back to form in his last year with the Fighting Irish.

Harrison Huntley (NC State): Nyheim Hines is a guy that’s so fast, he lines up at RB and WR. This speed is what makes him a great option when returning kicks and punts

Anthony Caffrey (Syracuse): After 7 years of Scott Shafer as defensive coordinator and head coach, and with a very inexperienced and not-so-deep defense, this could be a struggle.  All the more reason that Syracuse will need to score a lot and actually convert turnovers (however many) into points.  With linebacker perhaps the area with most returning depth, and Zaire Franklin the junior that was a captain last year as a sophomore MLB likely to anchor that unit, watch Franklin.

Well, that is what these correspondents think.  What do you think?  Please feel free to share below.  And if you are interested in being a correspondent, see here.

2016 Syracuse Football–Are Any Prognosticators Optimistic?

The Confidential has already disclosed its over-under for Syracuse, placing it at 4.5 regular season wins.  Turns out, many are projecting Syracuse to win 3 or fewer games, and perhaps even finish last in the ACC Atlantic.  Well, for whatever its worth, Las Vegas used an over-under of 4 wins for Syracuse.  But, most of the feedback to the Confidential was that 4.5 regular season wins was a fair estimate given the new coaching staff, existing talent, and the typical overscheduling by the Orange.  But any prognosticators projecting Syracuse to go “over” the 4.5 regular season win total?  Did some research today.  Turns out there are some:

TodaysU predicts that the Orange will go 5-7, beating Colgate, South Florida, UConn, Wake Forest, and Boston College.

CollegeFootball News was more optimistic for the Orange, predicting 6-6.  They have Syracuse beating Colgate, South Florida, UConn, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina State.

CampusInsiders, similarly, has Syracuse at 6-6 by beating Colgate, South Florida, UConn, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina State.

Way back in January, Brent Axe predicted 5-7, with wins over Colgate, UConn, Wake Forest, Boston College, and NC State.

The NunesMagician blog also did some “fuzzy math” projections in January, coming up with 4.6 wins.  Hey, it’s “over” the 4.5 over-under!

SB Nation had a TON of analysis of the 2016 Orange football team, settling on 5.5 wins.  Definitely check out that article.

So… Syracuse fans… not everyone is doom and gloom.  There is some reason to not already look ahead to 2017 and instead see the very real possibility of a bowl game in 2016.

Did we miss anyone’s positive preview/projection?  What do you think?

 

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