1.) Florida State

HEADLINER: Christian Ponder, quarterback


The junior, who missed the last four games of Florida State's 2009 season with a shoulder injury, will lead the Seminoles' offense in his third season as the starting quarterback in Tallahassee.

TOP NEWCOMER: Christian Jones, linebacker

A massive linebacker with off-the-charts strength and agility, Jones will provide needed help to a defense that finished last in the ACC in yards per game.


While many programs struggle after changing coaches, expect Florida State's transition from Bobby Bowden to be seamless when former head-coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher takes over. The Seminoles return all five starters on the offensive line and just enough athleticism on defense to win the Atlantic. 2.) Clemson

HEADLINER: Da'Quan Bowers, defensive end

The No. 1 overall high school football prospect in 2008, Bowers has the size and speed to terrorize opposing quarterbacks in the backfield.

TOP NEWCOMER: Josh Watson, defensive tackle

After spending a year at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy, Watson could make an immediate impact on the Tigers' front line.


Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker is considering giving up his remaining years of college football eligibility in favor of the MLB draft. If he returns to Clemson, expect the Tigers to be Florida State's main competition for the Atlantic title.

3.) Boston College

HEADLINER: Mark Herzlich, linebacker

Herzlich was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year in 2008, but missed the entire 2009 season while undergoing treatment for bone cancer. Incredibly, the heavy hitter plans to return to the field in 2010.


TOP NEWCOMER: Shakim Phillips, wide receiver

A thick receiver with massive hands, Phillips isn't afraid of running routes over the middle of the field.


With quarterback Dave Shinskie and running back Montel Harris leading the offense and linebackers Herzlich and Luke Kuechly anchoring the defense, the Eagles have the star players needed to make some noise in the ACC. The biggest question mark is whether they have the athletes across the board to stay with Florida State and Clemson.

4.) Maryland

HEADLINER: Torrey Smith, wide receiver

Torrey Smith burst onto the scene in 2009 with 61 receptions and more than 1,300 return yards. Even more so than running back Da'Rel Scott, Smith is the Terps' most dangerous offensive playmaker.

TOP NEWCOMER: David Mackall, defensive end

Despite receiving interest from several other programs during his prep season at Fork Union (Va.) Military Academy, Mackall, a freak athlete with tremendous upside, decided to stay with Maryland and ultimately signed his letter of intent to play for the Terps.


All indications out of College Park are that Maryland has a renewed focus after suffering through its worse season under Ralph Friedgen. Quarterback Jamarr Robinson will bring change to the Terps' offense, and the defense appears to be much more athletic under second-year coordinator Don Brown. Still, Maryland is one year away from really challenging for the top spot in the Atlantic.

5.) Wake Forest

HEADLINER: Marshall Williams, wide receiver

Although Williams will mainly be used in the Deacons' passing attack, expect the speedy slot receiver to also get carries in Jim Grobe's new option-style offense.

TOP NEWCOMER: A.J. Marshall, defensive backs

One of the nation's top cornerbacks, Marshall brings 4.45 speed to Winston-Salem. He could start immediately on Wake's special teams units and may see time in the secondary.


While Wake Forest has several offensive playmakers, the biggest question is whether new quarterback Skylar Jones can get the ball to them. The defense won't be terrible, but it will be up to Wake Forest's offense to win games in 2010.

6.) North Carolina State

HEADLINER: Russell Wilson, quarterback

Like Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker, there is speculation that Wilson may give up football depending on where he is picked in the MLB draft. If he returns to Raleigh, however, Wilson will once again bring great playmaking ability to the Wolfpack offense.

TOP NEWCOMER: Robert Crisp, offensive line

Among the nation's Top 20 overall players and arguably the best lineman in the class, Crisp is Tom O'Brien's biggest pickup at N.C. State. The 6-foot-7, 300-pound lineman could get significant playing time as a true freshman if he improves his pass protection.


It isn't spring practice in Raleigh without disciplinary issues for the Wolfpack. This time, four players, including star tight end George Bryan, were arrested on misdemeanor drug charges at the end of the spring. N.C. State has some nice pieces in place, and quarterback Mike Glennon is a serviceable backup if Wilson leaves the team, but this program continually struggles to put it all together and win enough games to be competitive in the ACC.

Matt Berger is a two-week intern at The Baltimore Sun. A senior at Gilman, Berger played volleyball and basketball for the Greyhounds and has served as sports editor for the school newspaper. He will attend Tufts University in the fall.