The Atlantic Coast Conference changed drastically last season, with Pitt winning the league title, Wake Forest taking the Atlantic Division and conference powerhouse Clemson out of the mix by mid-October.
Panthers coach Pat Narduzzi and Damon Deacons coach Dave Clausen believe their teams worked hard this spring to stay on top. Pitt defeated Wake Forest 45–21 in the ACC title game, ending Clemson’s run of six straight championships.
Narduzzi spent the spring looking for a successor to Kenny Pickett, who was expected to be one of the first quarterbacks picked in the NFL’s draft.
“I was glad we worked a lot,” Narduzzi said. “We’ve seen enough in 14 practices that we know who we are and I’m happy.”
The Panthers saw Nick Patti compete with Southern Cal transfer Kaydon Slovis for the starting spot. Slovis, who threw 30 touchdowns as the Trojans’ freshman, called it a “no-brainer” to join his new team.
Wake Forest, the first team other than Clemson to win the Atlantic since Florida State in 2014, won an event record-tying in 11 games last year. Clausen took some off-season moves to improve the defense last season, finishing 10th in points (28.9) and yards (413.2) in the ACC.
Clausen appointed Brad Lambert as defensive coordinator. Lambert was the linebackers coach at Wake Forest under Jim Grob in 2006, only the second time Deacon was 11-3.
“I get encouraged by some things, and I’ve got a pit in my stomach about others,” Clausen said. “Were we better on defense because we’re better on defense? Or because we didn’t play aggressively.”
He will know for sure in about five months.
Tigers coach Dabo Swinney was pleased with what he saw this spring, especially with starting quarterback DJ Uigalelli, who struggled early with injuries and off-target throws.
Uiagalelei went 17 of 36 for 175 yards At the Tigers spring game earlier this month. Still, his body of work was good enough to keep him a starter on the renewed Cade Klubnik.
Uiagalelei “has been a great spring,” Swain said. “He hasn’t done anything to not be a starter. Cade is a really talented player. We’ve got two guys, I think, who can win at a higher level, just like when Trevor (Lawrence) and DJ spring out. Were coming” in 2020.
It helps that receiver Joseph Nagata has an injury-free spring. He took four catches for 50 yards in the spring game.
All four new ACC coaching moves to Higher Coastal after last season, highlighted by Miami bringing in Mario Cristóbal of Oregon. For Manny Diaz. Cristobal was a former Miami offensive tackle who was part of two national title teams. He is accused of bringing “The You” back to prominence.
The first spring under Cristóbal ended on April 16, with a commitment to the small details that the new coach regularly promoted would determine how far the storm headed this fall.
“There’s no more excuses,” said quarterback Tyler Van Dyke.
Other first-year coaches are former Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko who is taking over at Duke for longtime coach Dave Cutcliffe; Former Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry will replace Justin Fuente at Virginia Tech; And Clemson moved to Virginia after offensive coordinator Tony Elliott Bronco Mendenhall’s surprise move.
The Cavaliers had ACC’s final spring game last Saturday and Elliott looked to see what he expected in four months.
“I thought most people were going shopping, but I still had a couple doubts and was like a foot in the water,” Elliott said. “And I have some of them.”
In the Atlantic Division, Boston College, Louisville and North Carolina State all have experienced, playing quarterbacks.
Eagles hope for a healthy Phil Jurkovec, Notre Dame transfer, who played just six games last year due to a broken bone in his throwing arm. He completed 8 of 17 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown in the Boston College Spring game.
Malik Cunningham of Louisville threw 2,941 yards and ran for 1,034 yards last season. The Cardinals have lost three of the last four years and are hoping Cunningham can lead a turnaround.
The Wolfpack features Devin Leary, who threw 35 touchdowns last season to break Phillip Rivers’ school record. As well as finding the receiver, Leary has just five picks from 431 attempts.
Associated Press Sports Writers Charles Odum in Atlanta and Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.
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