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Pre-Spring Power Rankings: ACC Coastal

By Southern Pigskin Staff
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Early pre-spring power rankings for the ACC Coastal.

1. North Carolina -- Quarterback Sam Howell had one of the very best true freshman seasons in college football history. He, leading the ACC with 280.1 passing yards per game, is the only true freshman this millennium with 35 touchdown passes in a single year. Mack Brown has talent and depth around Howell, including 1,000-yard rusher Michael Carter, two 1,000-yard receivers in Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome and an all-conference linebacker, who just recorded 115 total tackles, in Chazz Surratt. The suddenly-confident and experienced Tar Heels should be nationally-ranked this pre-season.

2. Miami -- The addition of graduate-transfer D'Eriq King has the potential to be a game-changer for the Hurricanes. He scored 50 total touchdowns as a superstar for the Cougars in 2018 and is a downright prolific talent. New offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee will work with him for more big plays. Only Ohio State's Chase Young had more sacks than Gregory Rousseau with 15.5 as a freshman. Throw in Temple-transfer Quincy Roche, 13 sacks in 2019, and Miami has the best collection of pass rushers in all of college football.

3. Virginia Tech -- Young a year ago, the Hokies now have countless standouts returning defensively. Versatile linebacker Rayshard Ashby had a remarkable 2019 season, recording 120 tackles and 17 tackles for loss. He will challenge for All-American honors. This group could develop into one of the nation's best. Quarterback Hendon Hooker was a model of efficiency as a sophomore, scoring 18 total touchdowns and throwing just two interceptions while completing over 61% of his passes. 

4. Pittsburgh -- The Panthers tied for the national lead with 3.92 sacks per game this past season. Once more, the unit will be quite dominant. Lineman Jalen Twyman returns after 10.5 sacks a year ago. He, Patrick Jones II, Kylan Johnson, Deslin Alexandre, Cam Bright and Phil Campbell III combined for 51.5 tackles for loss. Throw in star safety Paris Ford and Pittsburgh's defense should be one of the best around. Senior Kenny Picket is a veteran presence who has seen it all at quarterback.

5. Virginia -- After winning the ACC Coastal Division, there may be some retooling to do, at least on paper, for the defending division champions. Brennan Armstrong will get every opportunity to replace multi-year starter Bryce Perkins at quarterback. On defense, upperclassmen Joey Blount, Charles Snowden, Noah Taylor and Zane Zandler, who combined for 332 total tackles and 43.5 tackles for loss in 2019, will help lead one of the league's better, more balanced groups.

6. Duke -- Former Clemson reserve signal caller Chase Brice, who became a national name after his late 4th down conversion in the Tigers' dramatic win over Syracuse as a true freshman, will now lead the Blue Devils as a high-profile graduate transfer. He immediately becomes the centerpiece of David Cutcliffe's offensive attack. Duke will be able to rush the passer as the defense returns both Victor Dimukeje, 8.5 sacks last season, and Chris Rumph II, 13.5 tackles for loss.

7. Georgia Tech -- Geoff Collins clearly has the Yellow Jackets on the rise, with the program's latest recruiting class offering big picture validation. This is a team still taking shape after the transition away from Paul Johnson's flexbone, a reconfiguration set to take more time. Running back Jordan Mason is the offensive engine, while receiver Ahmarean Brown, 18.8 yards per catch and seven touchdowns as a true freshman, brings the big plays. Linebacker David Curry returns as the defense's leading tackler.