The groundhog told us to expect an early spring this year.

It’s a forecast several ACC football teams are taking literally.

Even though it’s still just February, a full month before the seasons officially change, several are already jumping the gun and heading out onto the field for their annual spring practice.

NC State and newbie SMU will be the 1st to break the ice – figuratively, of course – by kicking things off on Tuesday. Clemson will follow suit a day later before everyone finally gets into the act.

NCAA rules allow each team up to 15 spring practices to get a head start on preparations for the fall. For some teams, it’s an opportunity to finetune and polish. For others, it’s a chance to work 1st-time starters, transfers and other newcomers into the lineup. And for a few, it’s a time to become familiar with a new coordinator or staff.

Some are more anxious to get started than others. If Punxsutawney Phil says it’s okay, then who’s to argue?

While each team has its own set of goals to accomplish, their spring practices will go a long way toward setting the tone for their 2024 season.

Here’s a look at the top priority for each of the ACC’s 17 teams as they strap their helmets and pads back on and begin their work:

Boston College

First practice: TBA
Spring game: Saturday, April 13, Time TBA

Jeff Hafley’s abrupt departure to the NFL has thrown the Eagles’ spring schedule askew. Practice was supposed to begin this Friday. But because newly hired coach Bill O’Brien is still in the process of hiring assistants, evaluating the talent he has on hand and looking for new additions on the transfer portal, he has announced that it will now be delayed until after BC’s spring break next week. As of now, the previously announced April 13 date for the spring game is still the target. That means O’Brien and his newly assembled staff will have a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time to make up for their late start. Regardless of specific areas of need, getting everyone on the same page headed into the fall is Job 1.


First practice: Monday, March 18
Spring game: Saturday, April 20, Time TBA

The Bears improved from 96th nationally to No. 52 in scoring offense on the way to an Independence Bowl bid in 2023. But with coordinator Jake Spavital leaving for Baylor after the season, it will be up to his replacement, offensive line coach Mike Bloesch to continue the momentum in Cal’s debut ACC season. He’ll have the advantage of 1,300-yard rusher Jaydn Ott to build around. But Bloesch will have to find a quarterback capable of running his system from a group that includes incumbent starter Fernando Mendoza, North Texas transfer Chandler Rogers and top incoming freshman EJ Caminong.


First practice: Wednesday, Feb. 28
Spring game: Saturday, April 6, 1 pm ET

The Tigers’ offense has fluctuated greatly, depending on the quarterback, during Dabo Swinney’s 16-season run of excellence. But the 1 constant through it all has been an aggressive, physical defense stocked with future NFL draft picks. That may or may not be the case in 2024 after the loss of all 4 defensive line starters, All-American linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and 2 key contributors to the secondary. According to ESPN’s Bill Connelly, Clemson returns only 49% of its defensive production from last season. That means a lot of young players are going to have to make the most of the spring reps they get from Swinney and coordinator Wes Goodwin.


First practice: TBA
Spring game: Saturday, April 20, 6 pm ET

New Blue Devils coach Manny Diaz has had more time to get settled in and prepare for spring practice than his counterpart O’Brien at BC. But he and his staff are also fighting a time crunch. While there are massive holes to fill on both sides of the ball because of graduation and transfer, the most pressing task will be deciding on a quarterback to succeed Riley Leonard – who became the 2nd former ACC passer in as many seasons poached by Notre Dame. Sophomore Grayson Loftis showed a strong arm and good leadership skills while going 3-2 as a starter last year. Henry Belin IV, who was ahead of Loftis on the depth chart before getting hurt, will also be in the mix as will highly-touted Texas transfer Maalik Murphy.

Florida State

First practice: Tuesday, March 19
Spring game: Saturday, April 20, Time TBA

There are plenty of holes to fill from last year’s undefeated ACC champions. But Mike Norvell and his staff have experience with the transfer portal and have been successful at building chemistry and blending new players in with their returning talent. Particular attention will be placed on getting new quarterback DJ Uiagalelei up to speed on the offense. But the most important task this spring is making sure everyone in the program puts the past behind them and channels the anger and disappointment of the Seminoles’ Playoff snub and subsequent Orange Bowl beatdown by Georgia into positive energy moving forward.

Georgia Tech

First practice: Monday, March 11
Spring game: Saturday, April 13, 1 pm ET

The Yellow Jackets took a major step forward in Brent Key’s first full season as coach by winning 7 games and earning bowl eligibility for the 1st time since 2018. The biggest jump came on offense, thanks to the play calling of coordinator Buster Faulkner and the passing of Texas A&M transfer Haynes King. The next step in the process is building a defense to match. That was an issue last season, so much so that Key changed coordinators in midstream. Addressing it will be a spring priority for Key’s newest coordinator Tyler Santucci, who helped transform Duke’s defense into 1 of the ACC’s best last season.


First practice: Tuesday, March 19
Spring game: Friday, April 19, 7 pm ET, ACC Network

Jeff Brohm made an immediate splash in his 1st season back at his alma mater by leading the Cardinals to their first ACC Championship Game appearance. In order to have a shot at a repeat performance, he’s going to have to find replacements for his quarterback, top 2 running backs and most productive receiver, as well as the leader of his offensive line. Louisville returns only 59% of its offense. The encouraging news is that the transfer class Brohm has brought in is ranked among the nation’s best by multiple recruiting sites.


First practice: Monday, March 4
Spring game: Friday, April 13, Time TBA

For the first time in 3 years, the Hurricanes return the same head coach (Mario Cristobal) and both coordinators (Shannon Dawson on offense and Lance Guidry on defense). That in itself should help set the stage for a productive spring. That continuity is especially important, at least from a defensive perspective, considering the rebuild that’s needed in the secondary, where Guidry will have to find replacements for starting safeties Kam Kinchens and James Williams – both of whom are projected to be high-round NFL Draft picks.

North Carolina

First practice: Tuesday, March 19
Spring game: Friday, April 20, 3 pm ET

Perhaps no one in the ACC has as much work to do this spring than Mack Brown and his staff. On defense, his new coordinator Geoff Collins will have to begin the process of improving a unit that has been the Tar Heels’ Achilles heel since Brown’s return in 2019. The task on offense is just as tall, if not more so, with both All-ACC quarterback Drake Maye and top receiver Tez Walker having moved on to the NFL.

NC State

First practice: Tuesday, Feb. 27
Spring game: Saturday, April 6, 2 pm ET

The Wolfpack knocked on the door of their elusive 10-win season for the 4th time in the past 7 years in 2024 before getting turned away again, this time by Kansas State in the Pop Tarts Bowl. In order to finally get over the hump, Dave Doeren and his staff are going to have to find or develop some additional offensive weapons to complement last year’s freshman sensation KC Concepcion. He and offensive coordinator Robert Anae will have plenty of options from which to choose after loading up on receivers and running backs off the portal to go along with transfer quarterback Grayson McCall from Coastal Carolina.


First practice: Monday, March 4
Spring game: Saturday, April 13, 2 pm ET

The Panthers rode the arm of All-ACC quarterback Kenny Pickett to their 1st ACC championship in 2021. Since then, coach Pat Narduzzi has swung and missed on 2 straight transfers brought in to continue the success. At least Kedon Slovis was able to get Pitt to a bowl game in 2022. Phil Jurkovec didn’t make it to the midway point in last season before getting benched as the Panthers struggled to a 3-9 finish. This year’s candidates are holdovers Christian Veilleux and Nate Yarnell, redshirt freshman Ty Dieffenbach and former 4-star prospect Eli Holstein, a transfer from Alabama who hasn’t played a snap of college football yet but was good enough to be recruited by Nick Saban. The pressure will be on Narduzzi to make the right choice. Because as everyone knows, 3 strikes and you’re out.


First practice: Tuesday, Feb. 27
Spring game: TBA

The Mustangs were among the nation’s highest-scoring FBS teams at 38.7 points per game while also ranking among the leaders in scoring defense while allowing only 17.7 per game. It was a performance that helped propel them to the American Athletic Conference championship in their final season in the league. But coach Rhett Lashlee’s team received a rude early welcome to the ACC in a Fenway Bowl loss to future league rival Boston College. Getting his program better prepared for the step up to the higher level of competition this season will be high on Lashlee’s list of spring objectives.


First practice: Monday, April 1
Spring game: Saturday, April 20, 1 p.m. PT

After winning only 3 games in his debut season with the Cardinal, coach Troy Taylor is still working to build a foundation for his program as it prepares to enter the ACC. That means establishing a culture as much as it does evaluating talent. It’s a big job. But Taylor has a history that suggests he’s got a shot. In 3 seasons at FCS Sacramento State, his teams went a combined 30-8 with 3 consecutive Big Sky Conference championships.


First practice: Thursday, March 21
Spring game: Saturday, April 20, Time TBA

New coach Fran Brown has already given a glimpse of his chops as a recruiter by bringing in a standout transfer class, including several newcomers he brought with him from 2-time national champion Georgia. He’s also been blessed by the return of the Orange’s best returning player on both sides of the ball in tight end Oronde Gadsden II and linebacker Marlowe Wax. Now all he has to do is start the process of installing his offensive and defensive systems and building excitement for what’s shaping up as a promising fall.


First practice: Saturday, March 16

Spring game: Saturday, April 20, 2 pm ET

Next season is likely a win-or-else proposition for Tony Elliott. That puts the pressure on the 3rd-year coach and his staff to get the most out of their 15 spring practices as possible. On both sides of the ball. It also means settling on a quarterback as quickly and decisively as possible. Graduate Tony Muskett and freshman sensation Anthony Calandrea both saw extensive action and had their share of success in 2023. And transfer Gavin Frakes has been brought in from New Mexico State to add to the competition. The last thing Elliott needs at this point in his tenure is a quarterback controversy. And he’s got the makings of a major one if he doesn’t handle things well this spring.

Virginia Tech

First practice: Saturday, March 16
Spring game: Saturday, April 13, 2 pm ET

Brent Pry and his staff are in a great spot heading into their 3rd spring in Blacksburg. According to ESPN’s Connelly, the Hokies have more returning production than any team in the nation with 95% of their offense and 86% overall from a team that made a 4-win improvement and earned its first bowl victory since 2016. Although some tweaks are always a good idea, even with all that experience and talent. But for the most part, the staff can concentrate on the small details and building depth by giving plenty of reps to their backups and newcomers.

Wake Forest

First practice: Tuesday, March 19
Spring game: Saturday, April 20, 2 pm ET, ACC Network

This is an unusual spring for Dave Clawson and his Deacons. For the first time in 8 years, they’re coming off a losing season in which they didn’t qualify for a bowl game. That’s led to plenty of offseason introspection and some admitted changes in the way the veteran coach goes about his business. For one thing, he’s hit the transfer portal harder than previously – thanks to the help of a newly bolstered NIL cooperative. There may also be some scheme alterations afoot. While a high priority will be finding a quarterback capable of returning the Deacons to their usual high-scoring ways, an even more pressing need is improving an offensive line that allowed an ACC-high 49 sacks in 2023.