December 29, 2011; Orlando, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles quarterback EJ Manuel (3) eludes the tackle of Notre Dame Fighting Irish linebacker Carlo Calabrese (44) in the second half at the Champs Sports Bowl at Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
2012 Preseason ACC Awards
Kickoff week is officially upon us! Summer is quickly coming to a close and classes at colleges across the country are beginning and that means one thing: FOOTBALL. No matter what happened last season, and as Terps fans I think we are all trying to block 2-10 from our memories, every school and their respective fan base’s have reason to hope that this is their year. It is what makes college sports so great. So without further ado let me present to you my 2012 ACC Preseason Awards.
Player of the Year: Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech
This one could have gone either way between Thomas and Clemson speedster Sammy Watkins. I am giving Thomas the nod here for two reasons. First, Watkins had some offseason transgressions that landed him a new nickname as well as a two game suspension to start the year significantly hampering the Tigers in their opener against Auburn University. The other reason lies in the fact that without a doubt QB is the most important position on the football field and Logan Thomas is a beast of a quarterback standing 6’7” and weighing in at 262 pounds. As a redshirt-sophomore Thomas finished a shade less than 3500 yards of total offense and scored a combined 30 touchdowns in 14 starts. In watching Thomas in his first season as a starter last year I found it extremely impressive as to how hard it was for opposing defenses to stop him from doing whatever he wanted on the football field. The Hokies will go as far as Logan Thomas can take them this year and I know that everyone in Blacksburg hopes that will be a trip to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game followed by another BCS berth for the boys playing Beamer ball.
Coach of the Year: Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
Outside of having the best first name of any coach in the ACC regardless of sport, Fisher has built Florida State back into a national championship contender. The Seminoles had fallen back to the rest of the pack in the ACC during the twilight of coaching legend Bobby Bowden’s career going 30-22 in his last four seasons at the helm in Tallahassee. That all changed when Fisher took over in 2010, since taking the reins from Bowden Fisher has led FSU to a 19-8 record with two bowl victories. Coming into 2012 Fisher has FSU primed for a potential National Championship run were they to live up to expectations and have a couple of dominos fall their way during the season. With what should be a stout defense and a veteran QB in E.J. Manuel the Seminoles could very well be the class of the league this season.
Newcomer of the Year: Stefon Diggs, Maryland
Because these are my awards therefore making me the law in this article I am selecting Maryland Terrapins freshman wide receiver Stefon Diggs as the preseason newcomer of the year to the ACC. Diggs was a top 10 prospect out of Good Counsel High School according to numerous recruiting pundits. What turned into being a massive recruiting coup for the Terrapins could also end up being a massive headache for ACC defenses. Diggs possesses elite speed and playmaking ability which will be showcased by the Terrapins early and often on offense as well as special teams where Diggs will serve as both the top punt returner and kick returner. Elite playmakers make a quarterback’s job easier and thankfully for true freshman QB Perry Hills he will have a great weapon at his disposal on the outside. Expect for Diggs to be a major bright spot in what could otherwise be a very average Terrapins offensive attack.
Contenders: Florida State, Virginia Tech, Clemson
There are three programs in the ACC that can make the claim of being at the head of the class as we head into this season. Not surprisingly, all three of these teams find themselves inside of the top 20 of the AP Preseason poll that was recently released. It remains to be seen whether any of these three schools will challenge the SEC to end their run on National Championship’s, however, inside of the conference I expect them all to battle for the coveted BCS berth.
Florida State: While E.J. Manuel will receive a lot of the headlines as offensive numbers are much sexier than the big guys in the trenches I am of the opinion that it is the defensive line that will take the Seminoles to wherever they end up this season. Brandon Jenkins (Second Team All-American in 2011) and the 13.5 sacks he accumulated in 2011 anchor a front four that finished last year ranked second in the nation in rush defense and led the ACC in both sacks and pass defense. The offensive line woes that hampered the Seminoles last season should be lessened as those O-Linemen have a year of seasoning under their belt now. Florida State fans need to hope this is the case or E.J. Manuel will be forced to break out of the pocket to try and make plays down the field to his receivers.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies finished the 2011 season with a crushing defeat in the Sugar Bowl to the Michigan Wolverines. They return seven of their front eight on defense in 2012 and should prove to be very stout on that side of the ball. Losing RB David Wilson to the NFL will present some challenges but all reports out of Blacksburg say that freshman J.C. Coleman has looked up to the task of handling those duties. Logan Thomas, as I noted earlier, is an absolute freak and will more than likely keep many a defensive coordinator awake at night this season as teams try to formulate game plans to slow him down. Should Thomas provide the Hokie faithful with a repeat performance in 2012 they will be one tough team to beat in the ACC.
Clemson: While any hopes at a potential run at a National Championship more than likely “went up in smoke” when Sammy Watkins got arrested this offseason the Tigers still have more than enough talent to be a sleeper contender for another ACC championship. Returning with Watkins on offense are QB Tahj Boyd and Mackey Award winning TE Dwyane Allen which should provide them with some real firepower on that side of the ball. In order to make it back to Charlotte for the ACC title Clemson will have to make it through rivals Florida State and Virginia Tech. Personally, I think their tough will have them taking a bit of step back from last season as I cannot see them beating Auburn, FSU, VT or South Carolina at this point in time. That is why they play the games on the field and not on paper though so maybe Dabo and Co. will prove me wrong, we’ll have to wait and see.
Coaches on the Hot Seat:
Every single season there are coaches who find themselves on the dreaded “Hot seat” for one reason or another. This year there are two coaches in the ACC that have found themselves on many a media members list as coaches that need to turn things around or they could be getting a pink slip from their respective universities. Those two coaches are Frank Spaziani from Boston College and Randy Edsall from our Maryland Terrapins.
Frank Spaziani: The Boston College Eagles have seen a steady decline in their win total over the course of the three years that Spaziani has been at the helm in Chestnut Hill. With the recent departure of the AD who hired Spaziani it is hard to think that his seat is not hotter than any other coach in the country heading into this season. I would imagine it would take quite the turnaround of BC’s fortunes for Spaziani not to be referred to as the “Former Boston College head coach” after 2012.
Randy Edsall: Edsall poses an interesting case as an addition to this short list. As it is only his second season leading the Terrapins and he just lost his starting QB in C.J. Brown expectations aren’t overly high in College Park, MD. Fan support on the other hand is diminishing at an alarming rate. Season ticket sales are down again for the University of Maryland football program and it appears as if another long season is in the cards for the Terrapins. I highly doubt Edsall is let go no matter what happens with the Terps this year as the athletic department isn’t in great shape and having to buy him out of his contract and then hiring a new coach would cost a pretty penny. Should things not improve for Edsall and his Terps this year however I would venture to guess that he would head into 2013 not feeling overly great about his job security.
So Who Wins The ACC?
Florida State: The Seminoles will take another step towards their return to the “Glory years” this season by winning the ACC. With E.J. Manuel back and the seventh best WR corp in the country according to ESPN FSU should be tough to beat. Their defense will be the difference however as teams should struggle to keep pace with the Seminoles offense en route to a conference championship and a subsequent BCS berth.