College Sports

ACC Kickoff: Area talent may play big role for Deacons; Atlantic Division standouts

Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said wide receiver Sage Surratt, pictured here in Jan. 2017, could have a breakout year for the Demon Deacons. Surratt played three years at East Lincoln and his senior season at Lincolnton.
Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said wide receiver Sage Surratt, pictured here in Jan. 2017, could have a breakout year for the Demon Deacons. Surratt played three years at East Lincoln and his senior season at Lincolnton.

Wide receiver Sage Surratt has yet to make his debut for Wake Forest. But if the comments of his head coach, Dave Clawson, are any indication, it’ll be a sight to see.

Surratt redshirted last season, as the Deacons finished the season 8-5 (4-4 ACC) and won the Belk Bowl in a 55-52 shootout against Texas A&M. Now Surratt — one of the best high school football players in state history — is ready to join a team that returns 16 starters.

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In three years at East Lincoln and one at Lincolnton, Surratt broke every major receiving record in the N.C. High School Athletic Association book. He’s the all-time leader in career catches (366), receiving yards (5,924) and touchdown catches (80). As a senior, he set single-season marks with 129 catches and 2,104 yards.

“He’s a guy that I think is capable of a breakout season,” Clawson said of Surratt at the ACC Kickoff on Thursday. “He’s one of the best athletes on the team. His hand-eye coordination is exceptional. He’s competitive. He’s smart. And we’re very excited to see what he can do this year.”

Sam Hartman
Sam Hartman, formerly of Davidson Day and Oceanside Collegiate, will compete for the Wake Forest starting quarterback job as a true freshman this fall. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Another local player for the Deacons is quarterback Sam Hartman, who played under coach Chad Grier at Davidson Day and Oceanside Collegiate (S.C.). Hartman, the No. 12 pro-style quarterback in the class, enrolled at Wake Forest in January.

With the departure of senior John Wolford, who led the ACC in touchdown passes with 29, Hartman will compete with redshirt sophomore Jamie Newman for the starting job.

Here are six more notes — one for each Atlantic Division team — from the second day of ACC football’s media extravaganza, held at The Westin Charlotte.

FSU-JamesBlackman
Florida State has three serious contenders at quarterback, including James Blackman (1), last year’s fill-in starter. Gerald Herbert AP

Florida State (2017 record: 7-6, 3-5 ACC): It’s up to new coach Willie Taggart to bring the Seminoles back to the elite status they once held.

One big question is at quarterback, where Taggart said he has three serious contenders for the first time in his coaching career: Deondre Francois, who is coming off a serious knee injury; James Blackman, last year’s fill-in starter; and Bailey Hockman.

Syracuse-EricDungey
Syracuse senior Eric Dungey is the only active FBS quarterback with over 6,00 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. Chuck Burton AP

Syracuse (2017 record: 4-8, 2-6 ACC): The Orange were the only Atlantic Division team to finish below .500 on the season. Hopes of a bounce-back year will fall on the shoulders of senior Eric Dungey, the only active FBS quarterback with more than 6,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards.

The Orange will also need to shore up the defense, which allowed 54 points per game over its last three.

Louisvile-Petrino
Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino, left, expects a more balanced Cardinals team this season. At right in linebacker Jonathan Greenard. Chuck Burton AP

Louisville (2017 record: 8-5, 4-4 ACC): Gone is Lamar Jackson — the 2016 Heisman winner, two-time ACC Player of the Year and one of the most electrifying players in recent NCAA history. But coach Bobby Petrino doesn’t seem afraid of what that means for the Cardinals.

“I expect us to be better,” he said. “I expect us to be more balanced, get more guys involved.”

NCState-Roseboro
N.C. State defensive tackle Darian Roseboro (45) enters his senior season with 13.5 sacks, 15th in school history, even though he’s started just two games. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

N.C. State (2017 record: 9-4, 6-2 ACC): The Wolfpack set a school record with seven draft picks in April, including itsentire defensive line. Those losses clear the way for defensive tackle Darian Roseboro to shine.

Roseboro, a four-star recruit who played at Lincolnton, enters his senior season with 13.5 sacks — 15th in school history — even though he’s started just two games.

BC-Dillon
As a true freshman, Boston College running back A.J. Dillon (2) earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors. Michael Dwyer AP

Boston College (2017 record: 7-6, 4-4 ACC): As a true freshman, running back A.J. Dillon became the Eagles’ workhorse. He rushed for 1,589 yards and 14 touchdowns, taking home ACC Rookie of the Year honors.

The 6-foot Dillon will shoulder that load again for Boston College, which has made a bowl game in four of the past five years under coach Steve Addazio.

ClemsonKellyBryant
Clemson’s biggest question is which quarterback will start, but the Tigers are in an envious situation with accomplished senior Kelly Bryant (above) and top recruit Trevor Lawrence. Rainier Ehrhardt AP

Clemson (2017 record: 12-2, 7-1 ACC): The Tigers have run the ACC for the past three years: three conference championships, three College Football Playoff appearances and a national title in 2016.

Those are the expectations for 2018, and rightfully so. When your biggest question is who will start at quarterback, between accomplished senior Kelly Bryant and top recruit Trevor Lawrence, you’re in a good situation.

Correction

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sage Surratt holds an NCHSAA single-season record with 28 touchdown receptions. Mohamed Massaquoi of Independence High School holds the record, with 32 touchdown catches in 2004.

Chapel Fowler: 704-358-5612; @chapelfowler

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