Biggest Holes to Fill for ACC Teams in 2022
Boston College Offensive Line
The Eagles lost a majority of their starting offensive line from 2021. Guard Zion Johnson ended up being a first-round pick and Tyler Vrabel, Alec Lindstrom, and Ben Petrula have all moved on to the next level as well. That means BC will be dealing with a freshman center, a right side comprised entirely of underclassmen, and a left side of special teamers.
Trenton Simpson returns after finishing third on the team in tackles last season, but both James Skalski and Baylon Spector depart. Both Skalski and Spector were high-motored, hard-hitting tough guys with fantastic instincts and leadership skills. It's difficult to put their impact on the team into words and LaVonta Bentley and Barrett Carter are projected to replace them.
Jalon Calhoun is the undisputed WR1 for the Blue Devils, but the team will have a hard time making up for the loss of Jake Bobo, who transfers to UCLA and actually finished with slightly more receiving yards than Calhoun last season. Eli Pancol and Darrell Harding Jr are the top options to join the lineup, but both will have plenty of work to do to prove their worth.
Another one of those Duke transfers was quarterback Gunner Holmberg, who started 18 games for the Blue Devils and threw for over 2,500 yards. He heads to Florida International for his final college season, while iuke will choose between Jordan Moore, Gavin Spurrier, and Riley Leonard as his replacement.
Duke Running Back
Mateao Durant was a first-team All-ACC player and ran for over 2,500 yards in his career--including 1,241 last season. Redshirt junior Jordan Waters was RB2 in 2021 and appears poised to grab the starting job despite only 305 career rushing yards. Nonetheless, this position should be considered wide open for now.
Florida State Running Back
Jashaun Corbin broke through for almost 1,000 yards during his final year in Tallahassee as the leader of a rushing attack that averaged 177 yards per game. Quarterback Jordan Travis was second on that list, but the Seminoles will need someone else to break through this season. Treshaun Ward makes the most sense at this point and could garner national attention if his production level remains consistent with an increased workload.
Miami Wide Reciever
As I've stated before, new coaching staffs often experience a heavy amount of attrition during their first season at a new school. The Hurricanes lose their top two receivers from last season (Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley), leaving Keyshawn Smith and Xavier Restrepo to pick up the slack in 2022. Both those players have promise but also have less than 500 career receiving yards each. Clemson transfer Frank Ladson Jr has similar numbers and figures to be part of the equation as well.
The Miami defense was not spectacular in 2021 but the team will be starting an almost entirely new group of players in 2022. Standouts such as Bubba Bolden, Zach McCloud, and Nesta Jade Silvera are now elsewhere, and the team is only expected to have four defensive starters from last year's season opener to begin 2022.
Kenny Pickett had a phenomenal year for the Panthers last season and became the top quarterback prospect in the draft class. He leaves as the top passer in program history and led the team to its highest win total since 1981. Now that he's gone, USC transfer Kedon Slovis will take over the offense. While Slovis is an accomplished college starter, he still has to follow up one of the best careers in program history.
Pitt Wide Receiver
This was a late addition to the list after Jordan Addison decided to transfer, Losing Addison-- a future first-round pick-- is a huge blow to the Pitt offense as it looks to replace three of its top four receivers and its best receiving tight end. Senior Jared Wayne is now the top returning option at the position with many inexperienced players vying for the other spots.
North Carolina Quarterback
Sam Howell wasn't drafted until the fifth round, but his college career would have you thinking otherwise. While he did struggle more in his final year in Chapel Hill, Howell set 27 program records and ranks as a top-10 passer in the history of the ACC. The primary candidates to succeed him and follow that performance are Jacolby Criswell and Drake Maye.
North Carolina Running Back
In 2020, North Carolina had two NFL-caliber running backs in Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. In 2021, they replaced the duo with record-setting Tennessee back Ty Chandler. In one year for the Tar Heels, Chandler ran for over 1,000 yards with 13 touchdowns and was named Second-Team All-ACC. Ourlads.com projects former walk-on, British Brooks, to take over starter duties.
North Carolina Linebacker
This looked like a big question mark with three veteran linebackers departing Chapel Hill, but two major contributors and part-time starters from last year's team remain, and the third spot will be filled by Virginia transfer Noah Taylor-- who has been one of the best defensive players in the ACC throughout his career. Some unknowns here, but the corps has been retooled nicely.
North Carolina State Running Back
Bam Knight and Ricky Person Jr both leave the team after combining for over 1,300 yards and eight touchdowns. Knight had one of the highest yards per carry averages in Wolfpack history for most of his career and was one of the top returning rushers in the ACC ahead of the 2021 season, whereas Person amassed nearly 2,000 career rushing yards and rebounded after missing the 2020 season. Junior Jordan Houston (83 yards in 2021) and an assortment of freshmen will compete for the job in 2022.
North Carolina State Guard
Ickey Ekwonu was a top ten selection in April's draft. No matter what the rest of the o-line looks like, his absence will be difficult to overcome-- not to mention the versatility of being able to play both guard and tackle. To make matters slightly worse, the man tasked with following him (Chandler Zavala) has only played five games at the FBS level.
Syracuse Wide Receiver
Although the numbers weren't there in 2021 because he only played three games, Taj Harris was the best weapon the Orange had in the passing game. Unfortunately, the fifth-best receiver in program history is now playing for Rutgers and none of the returning players have more than 389 yards in a season. Garrett Shrader desperately needs multiple guys to step up as reliable targets.
Virginia Offensive Line
The Cavaliers lost their entire starting line from last season and are now projected to start three freshmen and two redshirt juniors along the offensive line in 2022. It may sound good to have those juniors in the lineup, but Jonathon Leech and Derek Devine have just one start between them. Uphill climb at a crucial position.
Virginia Tight End
Jelani Woods was finally used correctly last year and wound up with career-highs across the board and worked his way into the second round of the NFL draft. His athletic ability and massive frame make him an ideal player at the tight end position and Virginia will have to turn somewhere else in 2022. Senior Grant Misch seems like the most logical candidate to take his place.
Virginia Tech Running Back
Leading rusher Raheem Blackshear is gone, and quarterback Braxton Burmeister (also gone) was the team's second-best rusher in 2021. Jalen Holston and Malachi Thomas have shown promise in spurts, but neither has carried a heavy workload or been totally consistent from year to year. We'll see if Brent Pry gets that to change.
Wake Forest Left Tackle
While the Demon Deacons' offensive line enters 2022 as a veteran group, there is one key player missing: left tackle Zach Tom. Tom had a standout career at Wake with 37 starts (over 3,000 snaps) throughout the course of three years and only gave up two sacks. This year, the left tackle is projected to be DeVonte Gordon, who was outstanding on the right side last season. Changing sides is not always as easy as it sounds, and many players have actually struggled trying to do so.