I missed last Thursday, folks, I was doing some little thing with the NFL draft, my apologies. It was just, you know, 15 hours of live streaming video talking about all the picks. Nothing big or anything. Anyway, I'm back and ready for action. You all have questions, I have a lot of bottled up rage from not being in the South last week and, also, football answers.
Gah, this is a tough one. The Clemson defense was not very good last year, even though it allowed the third-fewest points in the ACC. Giving up 25 a game is not the hallmark of a quality defense, but Clemson is going into Year 2 with defensive coordinator Brent Venables, and that's a big plus.
After a year of learning his scheme, understanding some of the principles that he is looking to employ and going from knowing assignments to comprehending the scheme, I think they will get better. After finishing right in the middle of the ACC in total defense, I think they can get to the top quarter of the league this season.
That also depends on health, most notably Tony Steward, the former 5-star linebacker recruit. He's a kid who's been itching to get back on the field and will provide an instant upgrade if he can play for the Tigers this year.
Clemson will have a good defense, near the top of the league, but I don't expect it to be among the nation's elite, the way Florida State was a season ago.
Bryn Renner as the ACC's top quarterback? I'm going to go with no. Look, I love Bryn, I think he's a good ballplayer, but looking around the league there are some guys who are just better. First and foremost, Tajh Boyd at Clemson. Boyd's the best quarterback in the league and, quite honestly, it's not that close from a production and skills standpoint.
After Boyd, I'm partial to Boston College's Chase Rettig. Folks can hate on that decision if they like, but Rettig's going to be a better pro, when he has talent around him, than he was a college guy. He can make all the throws and people at the next level who have seen Rettig are already all over his game.
After those two, it gets a little interesting. Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas is a top talent in the league, but he has not actually materialized as a consistent player. Miami's Stephen Morris has shown real skills, but he's been inconsistent. Renner does not have as much talent as those two, but he has been more consistent in stretches.
Renner has a boatload of experience and has the Tar Heels poised to make a run at the Coastal Division title, which, if you ask me, is a good thing. It's OK that he is not the top quarterback in the league. He has great pieces, an offense that fits him and a chance to really put up some points.
More UNC! Well, the issue here is that UNC was set to compete on a national level in 2010, prior to the big undressing by the NCAA. What you're seeing as "spitting out all these pros" is the remnants of that era finally passing through the system. There is one more major Butch Davis class to go, then it will be on Larry Fedora.
As for the national level talk, it's North Carolina, and that is a place where winning eight games is doing your job in a big way. The steps between eight and 10-plus wins are huge, and we'll have to see if Fedora is ready to lead them that way. Butch Davis got close with some tight losses in eight-win seasons and now, doing it another way, Fedora hopes to have things go his way.
UNC is a team that has not won double-digit games since 1997, but keeps putting guys into the league. In other words, it has good players, but the team has not elevated its level of play. Davis was on the way there. Now Fedora has to start a lot of that process over.
Whew, at the start of May, who do I think wins the East? I like Florida and expect it to get better on offense, but it has so many pieces to replace on defense. The same goes for South Carolina, and even Georgia, too.
So, with that in mind, I'm going with Georgia, right now. I think of all the teams that absorbed big losses on defense, the Dawgs are the ones who will rebound in a big way. Physically, they added big bodies who will play immediately. They have a young safety who should be a star and another animal hybrid linebacker-safety who can roam the field.
But, more importantly, the Dawgs look to get an attitude adjustment with Jordan Jenkins as the leader. Jenkins is a thumper, a guy who wants to make all of the workman-type linebacker plays, and I think with a lunch-pail mentality this defense can improve upon the flash of a year ago.
Depends on what "better" means. I think he grows up in this offense, becomes a more efficient passer and hits more of his late reads. Which, to me, means he is better than he was a year ago. However, if you're looking for more highlight-reel plays and big rushing stats, I'm not sure where he falls in all of that.
Johnny Manziel did a lot of those things because he had to in 2012. I think in 2013, with a firmer grasp of the offense, we'll see him get more players involved, especially the running backs in the pass game. He'll be safer in the pocket, just as dangerous with the threat of the run and Texas A&M fans will not have to hold their breath as much.
In short, I expect better passing numbers out of Manziel, lower rushing numbers, but overall a year that proves he's growing in his command of this modified Air Raid scheme.
Um, no. I think the reason there are not as many quarterbacks who are considered "NFL ready" is because playing quarterback in the NFL is really freaking hard.
First and foremost, we have seen a gang of guys come into the NFL in the last few years from spreads, pro-style and hybrid offenses and looked quite alright. Sam Bradford, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Andy Dalton and Ryan Tannehill all can play in the NFL. Other guys have struggled.
But look at the league history, as a whole. Outside of a couple of classes of really good quarterbacks, most years the bulk of quarterbacks drafted "flame out" in the league. It is hard to play quarterback in the NFL, and most people, most quarterbacks can't do it. The same goes for every other position. The only difference is only one quarterback plays at a time, and they say his name about eleventy times a possession.
Playing in the NFL is hard. Most people don't make it—quarterbacks are no different. That's not a coaching thing, that's just a "the NFL is hard" thing.