ACC football 2020 spring schedule, storylines and burning questions

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson Tigers. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images)
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson Tigers. (Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images) /

ACC football spring practices are getting underway. These are the key dates, storylines and burning questions to ponder over the next few weeks and months.

Most of the ACC football teams are off and running with spring practices ahead of the spring games that take place in April. For the fifth year in a row, Clemson was the ACC champion and is the front-runner to make it six years straight.

Everyone else is trying to get on their level, but no one is remotely close. But the competition to see who is the next best is one of the handful of storylines and burning questions to ponder over the next few weeks and months before the 2020 season kicks off in August.

How does Trevor Lawrence respond to his first loss?

For the first time in his college career, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence looked human. Lawrence had the best freshman season ever seen by a college quarterback two years ago when he threw 30 touchdowns and helped guide the Tigers to the national championship. After a slow September, Lawrence picked it up the rest of the season and resembled the player we put on a pedestal after one college season.

Lawrence was sensational against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl win but suffered his first college loss against LSU in the National Championship Game. Lawrence completed 18-of-37 passes for 234 yards and was held without a touchdown pass for only the second time in his college career. And the first was when he was injured in the Syracuse game after 15 pass attempts in 2018.

It was far and away the worst game he’s had and I’m positive that’s been fueling him in off-season workouts as he prepares for his junior season, which is expected to be his last one before entering the NFL Draft. An angry Lawrence burning with the heat of a thousand suns spells disaster for the rest of the ACC and college football. Much like the Hulk, you don’t want to see Lawrence when he’s angry.

Along with Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Lawrence is the front-runner to win the Heisman. He’s going to be a rock star and the No. 1 pick of the 2021 NFL Draft. The only question is if he’ll have another national championship on his resume.

How big of a leap will Sam Howell make as a sophomore?

How good was Sam Howell as a freshman for North Carolina? He broke Lawrence’s freshman record for touchdowns in a season with 38 and only had seven interceptions. Howell was everything for the Tar Heels and Mack Brown in his first year back in Chapel Hill as the team went 7-6.

Expectations weren’t necessarily high last year, more so, intriguing and open-minded to see what Brown’s return to UNC would mean for the football team that languished under Larry Fedora. However, after seeing what Brown and Howell were able to accomplish in their first year together, the expectations have reached a new floor.

There are no reservations in my mind about how great Howell will be this year. I just wonder if the talent level around him is sufficient enough to do some serious damage in the ACC this year. The schedule is a little tricky with a road trip to UCF in the opener and a game with Auburn at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta in the next game. If Howell balls out in those first two games and leads UNC to wins, get ready for the Heisman hype train to leave the station.

Will D’Eriq King bring the Miami offense into the 21st Century?

Miami’s offense has been below average the last two seasons. The Hurricanes ranked 78th in yards per play in 2019 and 75th in 2018. They finished 90th in scoring offense, averaging 25.7 points per game, below Purdue, and ahead of Wyoming. Not exactly the company Miami likes to keep.

Last year was supposed to represent a new-look Miami offense under offensive coordinator Dan Enos who was Alabama’s quarterbacks’ coach in 2018 when Tua Tagovailoa shattered program records. Enos has since been fired and replaced by former Auburn and SMU offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee to provide a spark to a lifeless offense. It’ll help that he’ll have Houston transfer D’Eriq King under center.

King sat out after the first four games last year at Houston to preserve a year of eligibility, but instead of staying there as he said at the time, he left for Miami where he looks to translate his dual-threat success in Coral Gables. King threw for 36 touchdowns and ran for 14 more scores in his final full year at Houston in 2018. If he does that at Miami, they’ll build a statue outside Hard Rock Stadium.

First-year coaches: Mike Norvell at Florida State, Jeff Hafley at Boston College

The Willie Taggart era couldn’t end soon enough for Florida State football fans after going 9-12 in his abbreviated two seasons that resulted in missing a bowl game. That’s just unacceptable at Florida State and why Mike Norvell was hired from Memphis. Norvell’s teams were highly successful at Memphis and were one of the better offenses in the nation. He’ll be expected to lead Florida State back to the top of the ACC that once belonged to them before the Clemson juggernaut took over the league.

Jeff Hafley, 40, left Ohio State after one highly successful year as the Buckeye’s secondary coach and co-defensive coordinator. He brings an NFL background that included stops with three different franchises and a reputation as an ace recruiter to Boston College. The Eagles haven’t won more than seven games in a season since they won eight in 2009 and haven’t finished in the AP Top 25 since 2007. In short, Hafley has a tall order to turn the Eagles into a perennial winner.

Who is the second-best team behind Clemson?

The ACC was a raging dumpster inferno last year outside of Clemson. The conference was so bad that it tried to drag down Clemson in the process, but they managed to avoid too much of the stench sticking to them. But outside of the Tigers who are going to win the ACC in 2020, the question about their biggest challenger remains the biggest question. Could it be Louisville in Year 2 under Scott Satterfield? How about Pitt? Could Virginia make another return to the ACC Championship Game?

Spring practice begins, spring game date and TV info

  • Boston College – Feb. 22, April 4 – ACC Network
  • Clemson – Feb. 26, April 4 – ACC Network
  • Florida State – March 7, April 18 – ACC Network
  • Louisville – Feb. 24, March 28
  • NC State – Feb. 27, April 4 – ACC Network
  • Syracuse – March 8, April 18
  • Wake Forest – Feb. 25, April 4
  • Duke – Feb. 27, April 4 – ACC Network
  • Georgia Tech – March 3, April 10 – ACC Network
  • Miami – March 2, April 11
  • UNC – March 17, April 18 – ACC Network
  • Pittsburgh – March 3, April 11 – ACC Network
  • Virginia – TBA, April 18
  • Virginia Tech – March 21, April 18 – ACC Network

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