CFB DFS: ACC Spring Report
When college football season begins months from now, we’re going to be hearing names we’ve never heard. And these guys will be studs. College football is unique in that the turnover is very fast. We see it more and more where players are leaving after their third season and a freshman replaces them. For this reason, I’m here to tell you what happened during each of the power five conferences’ spring practices.
Let’s take a look at the ACC, a conference with two to three very good teams and a lot of average to bad ones.
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The Eagles played an open scrimmage this season instead of a traditional spring game so there wasn’t a whole lot to talk about. The scrimmage lasted 45 minutes, but there were some interesting takeaways from it. The running backs had some success with Tyler Rouse and Myles Willis scoring touchdowns, but it doesn’t sound like they have any idea who will be the main guy or if that’s even going to be a thing. I found myself more intrigued in another battle on the offensive side of the ball.
“He did it! He did it! He did it!” That’s what we’ll all be saying if Troy Flutie can win the quarterback battle over Darius Wade this summer. Flutie threw a touchdown but only attempted six passes while Wade threw 13 times for 45 yards and one interception. Steve Addazio, Boston College’s head coach, has said the race is wide open, but Wade seems to be the guy he likes the most from everything I’ve read. Flutie will have to earn it and beat out a more talented and athletic quarterback in Wade to be the guy in the fall. (We’ve never heard that before about a Flutie, right?)
This Tigers offense could be the best in the conference as long as Deshaun Watson is fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered at the end of last season (which he should be). The wide receiver group is crazy deep with returners like Mike Williams, Artavis Scott and Germone Hopper mixing with star freshman Deon Cain. At the running back position, it sounds like we have a legitimate number one guy in Wayne Gallman, confirming most people’s beliefs that he was the best back of that bunch.
What I really think is key is the kind of tempo they are going with this spring. While Watson wasn’t participating this spring, they had the first team offense still running a very quick tempo that should be dynamite for CFB DFS. Nick Schuessler ran the offense in the spring showing he can hit targets from intermediate levels and closer, but I fear his inability to throw the deep ball will have a major impact on Mike Williams’ potential if Watson was to go down again this season.
Florida State’s offense has the potential to go in two different directions this season: a complete mess due to bad quarterback play or an extremely efficient offense. I don’t think we’ll see the Seminoles be a team that can’t put up a good amount of points due to the talent they have on the team, but their offensive line is returning just one starter and they’ll be replacing Jameis Winston at quarterback. With Maguire at quarterback, and the emergence of Jacques Patrick, I think the offense will be built around the run first. Dalvin Cook is obviously a beast at the running back position, but the addition of a big running back like Patrick could give FSU a really nice two-headed monster.
One surprising thing I read about was the lack of approval the wide receivers got from Jimbo Fisher. Fisher called them soft and said they needed to grow up. There is clearly plenty of talent, but how they perform in games isn’t necessarily talent based. One wide receiver that has caught more than passes this spring is George Campbell. He has received many compliments from Fisher and others and had a solid spring game as well. One player on the offensive side of the ball who has been described as tough is Marvin Saunders, a possible tight end replacement for Nick O’Leary. His blocking needs to improve (whose doesn’t?), but he has receiving skills that FSU will need in the fall. In the spring game, he went for 6/91/1.
The Cardinals have a lot of questions regarding two major positions in DFS college football: quarterback and wide receiver. We didn’t get a lot of answers at receiver, but the quarterback position might have been all but won by Reggie Bonnafon during the spring game. Sure, Will Gardner will return by the fall, but I don’t see a guy who barely practiced in the offseason as a real competitor in this battle when he wasn’t all that impressive in 2014 to begin with. Bonnafon went 15 for 19 for 238 yards and one touchdown/interception. He also added 37 rushing yards on the ground showing us CFB DFS players that he wants to be owned in our leagues. He only played the first half and was followed up by some solid QB play by Kyle Bolin and Tyler Ferguson.
At wide out, the Cardinals are going to be lacking after the loss of Devante Parker, but James Quick might have shown himself as a more than an adequate slot receiver. He finished the game with seven catches for 127 yards, six for 123 in the first half with Bonnafon as his quarterback.
North Carolina State
The NC State spring game sounded like a complete mess due to spring injuries and just pure ineffectiveness on the offensive side of the ball. More than a few running backs had solid numbers, but the game ended with a low score of 16-3. This team seems to be deep at running back with two to three more than capable guys, but is thin at wide receiver.
While nobody jumped out and impressed this spring, there is one incoming freshman that is oddly talked about a decent bit even though he isn’t even at school yet. Nyheim Hines is an in-state product and four-star running back/receiver. He’s a smaller guy (5’9, 181), but could be used well in the slot position. With a solid tight end in David Grinnage and a bunch of running backs who can catch the football, Hines as a slot guy seems like the right fit to help out returning quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
In 2014, this offense was a mess and I expect more of the same in 2015. It all starts with the quarterback in college football and Terrell Hunt is technically a quarterback – I guess. He is the kind of guy that needs help around him, but sadly I don’t think we see any of that this upcoming season. The receiver group is a bunch of unknowns while the running back group lost its leading rusher for the second season in a row.
Under a new offensive coordinator, this offense should be pretty basic and irrelevant for CFB DFS. Hunt is a quarterback that could be a matchup-based play as he does run it a little bit, but he isn’t that accurate in the passing game. He also has a group of receivers that showed more of an ability to drop the football than catch it in the spring game. Erv Phillips and Devante McFarlane are the two running backs that will be splitting time unless something big happens over the next few months, and as we all know, having two guys split carries is terrible for Fantasy college football. A bright spot here though is a possibility for a relevant and fun name in CFB DFS this season. Trey Dunkelberger is a tight end who showed off some hands in the spring game and with a basic offense we might see Hunt dump off enough passes to make him a relevant player in 2015.
Things have turned sour between the ACC and myself. I wasn’t a big fan of anything at Syracuse and now I have to talk about Wake Forest. Well, for starters there’s not a whole lot going on for us CFB DFS players at Wake. They averaged just over 216 yards of offense last season.
John Wolford led the White team to a 22-3 win in the spring game throwing 33 passes for two touchdowns and one interception. It seems like Dezmond Wortham is the number one running back going into the season. He ran 13 times for 51 yards and also caught a TD pass showing off some hands in the game. In the end though, this team averaged less than 40 yards rushing in 2014. I don’t see anything that has me believing they’ll be anything better than below average offensively in 2015.
Duke returns 15 starters to the squad in 2015, but they don’t return their quarterback. Thomas Sirk is the guy headed into the fall and I think the guy who should be our main focus in 2015. To me, he’s a mix of Brandon Connette and Anthony Boone in that he can run and pass the football. I don’t think he’ll be as good at each individual skill set, but should be able to do both well enough to warrant consideration in CFB DFS this season.
The running back group is very crowded at Duke, and it gets deeper with the return of Jela Duncan. He was a freshman in 2012 and ran for 553 yards and a 5.1 average. In 2013 he put up almost identical numbers, rushing for 562 yards and a 5.0 average. He was great out of the backfield, catching 32 passes total in those two seasons. I think with Duncan, Shaquille Powell and Shaun Wilson we’ll see a lot of issues picking the right running back from week-to-week. Powell ran 29 times for over 100 yards and racked up over 50 receiving yards and a touchdown in the bowl game last season, so this hurts his stock the most going into the 2015 season.
Just as I was about to start writing this section, some extremely relevant Georgia Tech football information popped onto my screen. This news was none other than Patrick Skov transferring to Georgia Tech to play football. He’ll be eligible immediately due to graduate school rules. While Skov’s rushing stats at Stanford were limited, he had some success in goal line and short yardage situations. He ran for four touchdowns in 2014 and really fits the mold of the “B” back for the Yellow Jackets unique offense. He’s a big running back built for this style of downhill, no-cut running. With Zach Laskey and Synjyn Days graduating, there is a giant hole in this offense and Skov should fill it very nicely.
Call me crazy, but I’m not very high on Brad Kaaya as a CFB DFS star in 2015. I think most people are in on him as an NFL prospect but don’t let that confuse you. Miami’s offense is going to struggle out of the gate this season. They lose their top three pass catchers (Dorsett, Walford and Duke Johnson), their star running back (Johnson) and don’t have a whole lot of proven talent to replace those guys. The offensive line lost three starters and not surprisingly looked rough in the spring replacing those guys. I don’t think this bodes well for Kaaya or Joe Yearby, the likely Duke Johnson replacement. And to make matters worse for Miami’s CFB DFS potential, Yearby should win the running back job, but has a high likelihood of being vultured by big goal-line back Gus Edwards.
This offseason the Tar Heels really focused on defense and Gene Chizik changed up the defense from a 4-2-5 to a 4-3. That move makes a lot of season due to the style of play the ACC has (slower, less tempo, bigger backs). They looked very impressive in the spring scrimmage, allowing just one touchdown in the first 10 drives. This might be due to the fact that Mitch Trubisky was the only quarterback on the field who had real game experience. Marquise Williams is coming off a torn labrum (hip), which is not a good sign at all. A versatile and mobile quarterback like Williams will see his value decrease a good bit if he isn’t effective on the ground in 2015. The receivers aren’t very deep and that’s before top receiver Quinshad Davis broke his leg in the bowl game. Williams is going to need not only himself to recover fully, but his top receiver to become a CFB DFS threat this upcoming season.
There isn’t a whole lot to report out of Pittsburgh when it comes to CFB DFS potential. The typical suspects will be the guys to target in the fall, but there is some reason to think Chad Voytik might have a little more help out wide this season. Dontez Ford, a junior wide receiver, won the most improved offensive player this spring. He’s a transfer from Syracuse who only tallied three catches and one touchdown in 2014, but there is precedence to talent opposite Tyler Boyd having success. Devin Street was a very successful receiver on the opposite side of Boyd in 2013 totaling 51 catches for 854 yards. Ford is a 6’2, 205 pound receiver who started the final three games of the season after Mannaseh Garner went down due to an injury.
Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: Greyson Lambert has announced he is transferring, so the job is squarely on Matt Johns’ shoulders in 2015.
This Virginia team might have a real shot at putting up some good passing games if they can get better production out of the quarterback position. Matt Johns has won the job, but Greyson Lambert shouldn’t be too far behind him. Johns could be a nice threat in the offense if he can use his legs to buy time to find his targets. The reason why I feel encouraged about this offense is that their wide receiver group received a nice boost when T.J. Thorpe transferred from UNC to them last season. He’s eligible in 2015 and showed off his talent in the first drive of the spring game totaling 79 totals from scrimmage.
Thorpe is a playmaker as we can determine from him being a finalist as the nation’s top returner way back in 2011. If you add him along side top receiver, Canaan Severin, you have yourself a very solid top two receivers. Severin had touchdowns in three of the last four games and caught four-plus balls in eight games in 2014. Considering the quarterback issues they had and lack of other playmakers out wide, those are some very solid numbers.
The Hokies main focus over the offseason was on offense and with good reason. Injuries didn’t help, but they struggled for most of the season to put up points. This season they return just about everyone, including their star tight end Bucky Hodges. There’s very good reason to believe he could be a tight end eligible player that is used as wide receiver this season. Andy Bitter covers the Hokies all season long and here are his thoughts on the topic.
Michael Brewer is going to benefit mightily from the quality of the top receiving weapons, but there isn’t much depth out wide beyond that. Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips are the other two options that are coming off solid first seasons. Virginia Tech has two running backs that were at the top of the depth chart last season, but could be redshirted in 2015. Frank Beamer hinted at the possibility of Marshawn Williams (coming off ACL surgery) and Shai McKenzie (if reinstated) redshirting because of the depth they have at the running back position. This could leave the offense relying more on the receivers if things don’t go as planned for the Hokies.
Check out Chris’ Spring Reports for the other power conferences:
What players or teams do you have your eye on for the upcoming CFB DFS season?