The formats and goals of spring football games might be different depending on where you are. But the idea behind the spring scrimmages is the same for all 18 programs in the ever-expanding ACC.

It’s a 1st opportunity for fans to see what their team might look like during the coming season. And a final opportunity for coaches to see how far their teams have come during their 15 offseason practices before hitting the transfer portal in search of more talent.

This year’s spring “season” wrapped up with 9 games over the weekend, including 2 involving the league’s new West Coast members.

Here’s a look at 1 key takeaway from each:


Coach Justin Wilcox put a premium on identifying young players and transfers without much experience in “competitive” situations as members of the program to “see who could finish plays.” As a result, 1,300-yard rusher Jadyn Ott and several defensive starters – including sacks leader David Reese, top returning tackler Craig Woodson and linebacker Cade Uluave – were held out of Saturday’s Spring Showcase. Among those who made the most of their opportunities were linebacker-turned-tight end Nate Rutchena, who made a contested touchdown catch late in the scrimmage, along with freshman tackle Nick Morrow and redshirt sophomore defensive back Mayze Bryant, who stripped the ball from receiver Marquez Dortch for a red zone turnover. As for the quarterbacks, incumbent starter Fernando Mendoza had a much better day than North Texas transfer Chandler Rogers. But the competition is far from decided.


There’s a lot of new surrounding Duke in 2024. But judging from Saturday’s Blue-White Game performance, there’s at least 1 similarity between the old Mike Elko version of the Blue Devils and the new Manny Diaz edition. They’re both really good defensively. That shouldn’t be a surprise considering Diaz’s credentials as a defensive coordinator. But it was confirmed by the defense’s 24-16 win against its offensive counterparts. The biggest defensive play of the night was an interception by true freshman cornerback Vontae Floyd. As for the quarterback competition, Texas transfer Maalik Murphy firmly established himself as the frontrunner over incumbents Grayson Loftis and Henry Belin IV. Murphy showed off a strong, accurate arm while accounting for the game’s only touchdown on a 40-yard dart to a well-covered Jordan Moore in the end zone.

Florida State

The Seminoles leaned heavily on their defense in the aftermath of quarterback Jordan Travis’ injury late last season. It’s a trend that continued in Saturday’s spring game, despite a massive roster turnover on both sides of the ball. Among the standouts was defensive lineman Sione Lolohea, a transfer from Oregon State. The defensive effort made life difficult for another former Beaver, quarterback DJ Uiagalieli, who was just 12-of-26 for 177 yards in his return to the ACC. None of the quarterbacks who played in the game distinguished themselves. The only touchdown came on a pass from walkon Michael Grant on the final play of the scrimmage. To make matters worse, top wide receiver candidate Malik Benson, a transfer from Alabama, was carted from the field with a leg injury. The only offensive bright spot was provided by running backs Lawrance Toafili and Indiana transfer Jaylin Lucas.


Tyler Shough wasted no time in making a positive 1st impression with the Cardinals. The 25-year-old, 7th-year quarterback, who has played at both Oregon and Texas Tech, connected with Chris Bell for an 80-yard touchdown pass on his very 1st snap in a Louisville uniform. Stough, brought in to replace Jack Plummer, also threw a 45-yard scoring pass to Bell on the way to an 8-of-12, 177-yard effort in leading the offense to a 45-37 win against the defense. The only blemish on his performance was an interception by star cornerback Quincy Riley. One reason for Stough’s successful debut was the solid work of an offensive line that has been the subject of transfer portal departures during the week leading up to Friday night’s game.

North Carolina

All the attention heading into Saturday’s scrimmage centered on the Tar Heels’ revamped defense and the quarterback battle between Texas A&M transfer Max Johnson and holdover Conner Harrell. But it was hard to tell, even for the 5,000 or so fans who were able to watch the game live at Kenan Stadium, how much progress was made in either area this spring. Both quarterbacks had their share of success despite the absence of most of their team’s top receiving threats. But it doesn’t matter which one wins the job if the offensive line in front of them doesn’t do a better job in pass protection. No official stats were kept in the game. But the defense recorded at least 5 sacks and forced Johnson to throw the ball away several times. With only 1 returning starter, guard Willie Lampkin, the offensive line is clearly still a work in progress.


The Cardinal didn’t have a spring game, instead opting for a full practice open to the public as part of their Spring Showcase. While returning players, including quarterback Ashton Daniels, running back Sedrick Irvan and outside linebacker David Bailey and sophomore defensive back Jshawn Frausto-Ramos were the focal point of the festivities, the day was also an opportunity for Stanford fans to get their 1st look at 6 early-enrolling freshmen coach Troy Taylor hopes will help deepen the shallow talent pool he inherited last season. It’s a group that consists of highly-touted quarterback Elijah Brown, wide receiver Emmett Mosley V, defensive linemen Benedict Umeh and Dylan Stephenson, linebacker Sam Mattingly and cornerback Cam Richardson.


Saturday’s scrimmage marked the highly-anticipated Syracuse debut of Ohio State transfer Kyle McCord. And McCord didn’t disappoint. He completed 18 of his 28 passing attempts for 242 yards in leading the White team to a 31-10 win against the White. The highlight of McCord’s performance was a 38-yard touchdown strike to Georgia transfer Zeed Hayes. McCord and Hayes weren’t the only offensive standouts. Freshman running back Yasin Willis had 6 runs of 10 yards or more for the White team while the Orange’s top returning ground gainer, LeQuint Allen, scored a pair of touchdowns for the White. The offensive performance in the 1st public showcase of new coach Fran Brown’s tenure should only add to the buzz surrounding the program since the former Georgia assistant’s hiring last December.


Both experienced quarterbacks, graduate Tony Muskett and sophomore Anthony Colandrea, put up similar numbers. So the competition for the starting job won’t be decided until the fall. The most significant takeaway from Saturday’s game, in which the White team beat the Blue 17-10, was the play of 2 star defenders returning from injuries. All-ACC safety Antonio Clary, who played in only 1 game because of an ankle issue that required surgery, recorded a game-high 8 tackles while playing for the Blue. Graduate edge rusher Chico Bennett, arguably UVa’s best defensive player, led the White with 7 tackles and 2 sacks as he works to rebound from a 2023 season in which his production was adversely affected by a preseason knee injury.

Wake Forest

The Black team, composed of the 2nd-team offense and 1st-team defense, won Saturday’s game 21-13. A big reason for that victory was the play of early enrolling freshman Jeremy Hecklinski. Although Louisiana Tech transfer Hank Bachmeier played well for the White, throwing for 310 yards with a touchdown and an interception, Hecklinski was by far the star of the show. The 3-star prospect completed 12-of-20 passes for 203 yards and 3 scores. Given the Deacons’ quarterback struggles last season and coach Dave Clawson’s history of starting freshmen with both John Wolford and Sam Hartman, Hecklinski’s performance may have thrust him into contention for the starting job in the fall. Between the quarterbacks, Wake’s offense rolled up 571 passing yards. That’s good news considering the issues that contributed to last year’s 4-8 record. But it’s also a sign that the secondary that struggled just as mightily is still a concern.