ACC Friday mailblog

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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Hope everyone has a Happy Easter ...

JD in State College, Pa., writes: Where do you think Pitt sophomores James Conner and Tyler Boyd rank among ACC running back/wide receiver combos?

HD: I'm looking at every team in the league and it's tough to find one that compares. Some of them have half the equation, such as Jamison Crowder at Duke. But when you consider that Clemson has to replace its leading rusher and top two receivers from a year ago, FSU lost Kelvin Benjamin, James Wilder Jr. and Devonta Freeman ... Pitt has to be near the top -- if not No. 1 -- and last season was only the beginning for them. Based on potential, though, they could be surpassed by Miami's combo of Duke Johnson and Stacy Coley, especially with Johnson healthy again. And don't forget that FSU reloads. Karlos Williams and Rashad Greene could state their case. Here's a sleeper for you: UNC's T.J. Logan and Quinshad Davis. Logan drew rave reviews from the coaching staff this spring.


Tim in Blacksburg writes: HD, did you say no hope for Virginia Tech on offense!? The QB spot is up in the air, and in transition -- no doubt. Michael Brewer should have a say in that spot when he arrives. Beyond that however, your analysis of the offense is lacking, to say the least. The OL should be much improved this year. Have you seen Augie Conte and Wyatt Teller... Alston Smith... and it's the most experienced group we've seen in a number of years. Our top tight end, who missed all of last year -- returns, as does Kalvin Cline and newcomer to the position Bucky Hodges. BTW, have you seen Bucky Hodges? Bucky has a chance to be a HUGE playmaker for VT. The run game needs a big-time boost in production. That may be by committee again this year between [Trey] Edmunds, [J.C.] Coleman and newcomer Marshawn Williams, who has been turning heads and nearly breaking them so far this spring.

HD: No hope? I'd never say no hope. Hapless maybe, but not hopeless. Here's the scoop on VT's offense this spring: The Hokies are better everywhere on offense this spring. Every position is deeper and better. Except quarterback. It's still a huge question, and one that won't be answered until this summer when the entire roster is practicing. There's plenty of talent on that roster, but until they find an answer at quarterback, I'm not picking them to win the Coastal Division.


Josh in Palm Bay, Fla., writes: The other day, you were talking about Clemson as the best defense in the ACC. I was shocked that you would take such a stand for them! You saw they got flat-out destroyed in many games last year despite how good they played in their previous bowl vs LSU, I believe? FSU lost a few players, true, but in some cases, their replacements might be better (not [Timmy] Jernigan's). The new DC last year didn't stop us with a whole new system; a new DC this year with the same system won't either. Sorry ACC, Dabo, HD, AD... gonna still be a fantastic D at FSU, still gonna be better than Clemson, and still gonna be doubters, I guess!

HD: Yep, I'm pretty sure I said that one, though technically I think I said it could be the best D in the ACC, even better than Florida State's. Look, I know everyone is not used to Clemson's defense being a strength, just like you're not used to Duke being a contender in the Coastal Division race, but stay with me here. FSU's defensive line has been depleted in the past two years by the NFL draft, whereas Clemson's defensive line finally has a veteran look. I'm not going to make too much out of the turnover at the coordinator position because there's still continuity there for the Seminoles, but Clemson enters this fall with fewer questions on defense.


Jeremy Lambert in South Hill, Va., writes: Virginia's basketball success in recent years has clearly demonstrated the school's athletics potential across the board. Its resources to attract talent and fan support are on display for all to see in the basketball program. Having said that, UVa's football woes are extremely frustrating to watch. Its failures are excruciating. It is difficult for me to point to a specific factor, but it is hard to think that a lot of the Hoos' football woes could not be solved by having a good quarterback. Matt Schaub -- 10 years ago -- was the last good quarterback Virginia had. What is it about Virginia's program that a good quarterback is not compelled to commit to playing there? Or should Virginia's expectations be lower than I think?

HD: I don't think the overall expectations should be lower -- but maybe the expectations about routinely bringing in an elite quarterback should be. Granted, much of Virginia's woes can be traced to inconsistency, indecisiveness and underwhelming performances from that position. But look across the ACC, not to mention college football, and how often does a Matt Ryan come along? Philip Rivers? There are more of the likes of Logan Thomas, Chase Rettig and Tanner Price. You're right that UVa football is capable of more than what we've seen, especially with the increased commitment to facilities, recruiting and staff salaries. It should be a regular bowl-bound team, and every now and then make some noise in the Coastal Division race, but is it going to be the next Clemson? Probably not.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
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Wishing everybody a great holiday weekend!
There are only two ACC spring games this weekend, as Georgia Tech and Syracuse wrap up on Friday and Saturday, respectively. Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will end spring practices next week, the final teams in the ACC to close out the spring.

Here’s a quick preview of this weekend’s games:

GEORGIA TECH

When: 7 p.m. on Friday (ESPN3)

Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium

Format: Four quarters with shortened halftime and a running clock at some point in the second half.

One thing to watch: The new 4-2-5 defensive scheme. In his second season as coordinator, Ted Roof has switched from a base 4-3 to the 4-2-5, a scheme they used frequently last season because of the offenses they faced. More importantly, the change was made in an effort to get their best athletes on the field. Georgia Tech has tried this spring to get more of a pass rush on the edge, and the switch in scheme allowed junior Jabari Hunt-Days to move from linebacker to defensive end to help with that aspect.

SYRACUSE

When: 1 p.m. on Saturday (ESPN3)

Where: Carrier Dome

Format: The offense will earn points the traditional way while the defense will score off interceptions, three-and-outs, turnovers on downs and touchdowns. At halftime, the trailing team will get a chance to earn points thanks to sophomore punter Riley Dixon. If Dixon can land the ball inside the 15-yard line, the team will earn a point. Inside the 10-yard line is worth two, and inside the five-yard line is worth three points.

One thing to watch: The receivers. All spring, the coaching staff has been looking for a few dependable receivers to emerge because the position collectively wasn’t as productive as it needed to be last season. In order for Syracuse’s offense to improve, the receivers have to improve, and there are plenty of options. Ashton Broyld returns, along with Jarrod West, Adrian Flemming, Alvin Cornelius, Corey Winfield, Sean Avant and Jeremiah Kobena. With so much depth at running back, the next step is for some receivers to emerge to give quarterback Terrel Hunt some options and open things up in the running game.
Scottie Montgomery returned to Duke last year from an NFL world where quarterbacks were never, ever hit in practice.

So when his quarterbacks started begging him to go live this spring, his first reaction was, ‘No way!’ He was in protection mode, the way he was as a Steelers assistant. But veterans Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette persisted, and he slowly relented -- only a few times, and with clear instructions to the defense.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston, Jimbo Fisher
AP Photo/Phil SearsFlorida State coach Jimbo Fisher had Jameis Winston go live last spring when he was dueling Jacob Coker for the starting job.
“My initial feel is, ‘Don't ever let anybody get touched, so I have to fight myself at times, because I want to protect these guys and these guys want to compete for jobs,” said Montgomery, the offensive coordinator.

His is a dilemma that many coaches across the league have faced this spring. Do you allow your quarterbacks to get hit in practice to help simulate game situations and foster competition, knowing you have increased their injury risk? Or do you never even broach the subject because the priority should always be to protect the quarterback?

Four ACC teams allowed their quarterbacks to go live at some point during spring practice, more than any other power-five league. Clemson did it for the first time under offensive coordinator Chad Morris, believing he would see more out of the three quarterbacks vying for the starting job. Early enrollee freshman Deshaun Watson ended up getting hurt and missing the spring game.

Florida State allowed its younger quarterbacks to go live this spring. Coach Jimbo Fisher said he did the same last year, when Jameis Winston was a redshirt freshman competing to win the starting job.

“They’ve got to be able to feel things around them and react,” Fisher said. “They get in a false security blanket sometimes.”

Does that cause him extra worry?

“It’s no different than when we run the running backs, and I get nervous in the scrimmages when the backs are running and get tackled,” Fisher said. “Our guys know if they’ve got a kill shot, not to. There’s a certain limit of how we practice with each other. You know those shots that everyone wants to have? We won’t take those on each other even if we’re in a live scrimmage because it’s not productive to the organization. Tough to me is when you’re eyeball to eyeball, not when a guy’s exposed and you can do that.”

The coaches are not the only ones who wrestle with the idea. NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett was not live this spring. But when he was competing for the starting job at Florida with Jeff Driskel back in 2012, both were allowed to go live early on in fall practice. The first day they were allowed to take hits, Driskel hurt his shoulder.

[+] EnlargeDeshaun Watson
AP Photo/Anderson Independent-Mail/Mark CrammerClemson freshman Deshaun Watson was injured in practice and missed the spring game.
“There's a right time and wrong time for quarterbacks to be live,” Brissett said. “We haven't done live practices, but in the fall sometimes we will have a live scrimmage on a Saturday. It helps out with the game speed reps.”

For a running quarterback such as Brissett, that helps. Same for the Duke quarterbacks. Georgia Tech has its quarterbacks live during practice for that reason.

Some coaches believe going live helps separate the competition. But Clemson was the only school with an open quarterback competition to allow its quarterbacks to go live during scrimmage situations. North Carolina, for example, has Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky battling to win the starting job, but offensive coordinator Seth Littrell does not believe it is necessary to allow quarterbacks to get hit. “I’ve never done it,” he said.

Virginia Tech also is in the middle of an intense competition, but quarterbacks have been off limits so far this spring. Veteran Mark Leal would have no problem if the coaches changed their minds.

“Honestly, I'd like to be live,” he said. “I think the rest of the quarterbacks would, too, because it gives more of a game feel. If you're not live, sometimes the whistle gets blown early when you don't think you should have been sacked or the play gets messed up because when there's a rush around you, the first thing the coaches want to do is blow the whistle, rather than you continue to play or go through your reads and progressions and finish the play.”

Depth concerns often dictate what coaches do. Pitt only had two scholarship quarterbacks this spring, so there was no way they were going live. Virginia Tech only has three quarterbacks on the roster this spring.

Still, all the protections most coaches take are not enough to keep their quarterbacks injury-free. Miami quarterbacks were off limits this spring, but Ryan Williams tore his ACL during a scrimmage.

It was a noncontact injury.
In spite of Andrew Brown’s injury-shortened spring, there is still plenty of optimism for Virginia’s top recruit heading into summer camp.

Brown, the No. 1-ranked defensive tackle in the Class of 2014, No. 5 overall recruit and the top player in the state of Virginia, suffered turf toe in March and missed most of spring practices. He is expected to return in time for summer camp, but was getting some first-team reps at the time of his injury. Expectations within the program are still high that Brown can be a contributor in his first season and supplement the talent returning up front.

“He’s a very intelligent young man,” said defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. “Obviously the No. 1 thing is he likes football, so that’s a plus. He was fun at practice because every day you could see the young man work knowing, ‘I’m playing college football now against bigger, stronger, faster guys than I played in [high school]. It’s a shame what happened to him, but health-wise, once he comes back and gets himself 100 percent ready to go, he’s going to make a lot of strides here come camp and going into the season. I just like his whole demeanor.”

At 6-foot-4, 300 pounds, Brown is a physically gifted athlete who enrolled early already looming larger than many of his older teammates. He still attended all of the position meetings this spring and was constantly learning off the field even though he wasn’t always on it. Virginia has significant shoes to fill on the defensive line, as defensive end Jake Snyder and defensive tackle Brent Urban both have to be replaced, but there is enough experience on the roster that Brown doesn’t have to come in and be a superstar.

He just has to stay healthy.

Video: Gruden's QB Camp with Boyd

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
3:00
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video
Former Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd goes through Gruden's QB Camp as he prepares for the 2014 NFL draft.
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Duke offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery described his final meeting with quarterback Brandon Connette as one of the most emotional meetings of his career.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Connette
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesDuke will be looking for experienced quarterback depth after Brandon Connette decided to transfer.
Understandably so. Playing thousands of miles away from his ailing mother had weighed heavily on Connette for months. Finally, he decided he could not take the burden any longer. Connette was granted a transfer to be closer to his mother in California.

It was the right decision to make on all fronts. Now, Duke has to try and defend its Coastal Division crown without a key part of its offensive game plan. The good news is veteran starter Anthony Boone returns. The bad news is there is no experienced depth behind him, and nobody ready to take all the snaps Connette would have received in 2014.

“It never is our approach to train a guy for a certain role,” Montgomery said in a phone interview. “What we're going to do is train the quarterback position, and it has nothing to do with splitting time or roles. We’re just trying to get the best possible quarterbacks we can have, one behind another or one adjoined or aligned with each other. Anthony is our starter, no question about that, and we're trying to develop young men behind him.”

What made Duke function so well as an offense last fall was the way Boone and Connette effectively split time. Connette proved he was more than just a Wildcat quarterback, too, when Boone was out with an ankle injury and missed a few games.

In 13 games, Connette was in on 246 plays -- 101 rushing and 145 passing. He finished second on the team in total offense (119.2 yards per game), right behind Boone (224.9). He led the team with 14 rushing touchdowns and was second in scoring. He leaves school as the all-time leader in rushing touchdowns with 31.

All that production will have to come from somewhere else now, whether from the running backs or other quarterbacks. Thomas Sirk and Parker Boehme will now be put into “more of a heated situation” Montgomery says, in order to get them prepared for more competition.

“Thomas Sirk may be one of the better athletes we have on our team,” Montgomery said. “He has to be more consistent with who he is as a player. He's a young quarterback, and he had a good spring. He developed in a lot of ways, but when you’re at the No 3. spot, it's a lot different than when you're at the No. 2 spot.”

Boehme was injured for a good portion of the spring, so Montgomery wants to see more from him during fall practice. Duke also has true freshman Johnathan Lloyd, an early enrollee who went through spring practice, and welcomes four-star dual-threat freshman quarterback Nico Pierre this summer.

“We're prepared to move forward and get guys ready,” Montgomery said. “There may be a guy who comes out of the middle of nowhere at the quarterback position and plays lights-out and moves into that role, not necessarily fill the shoes of Brandon, but also create their niche in the offense.”
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The Freedom From Religion Foundation has lodged a letter of complaint to Clemson, charging coach Dabo Swinney and his staff with "unconstitutional behavior" at the public university.

Among the concerns outlined in the complaint by the FFRF, based on information obtained from an open records request: Swinney personally invited James Trapp to become team chaplain, in violation of the Constitution and university guidelines on hiring chaplains; the coach schedules team devotionals and has organized transportation to take coaches and players to "Church Days;" and has given Trapp access to the entire team for Bible studies.

University spokeswoman Cathy Sams issued a statement saying the school would evaluate the complaints raised but believes Swinney and his staff are not violating the Constitution.

"Participation in religious activities is purely voluntary, and there are no repercussions for students who decline to do so," the statement said. "We are not aware of any complaints from current or former student-athletes about feeling pressured or forced to participate in religious activities."

Swinney is not being made available to comment, but he has been outspoken in his religious views. In December, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that Swinney tells recruits on visits, "I'm a Christian. If you have a problem with that, you don't have to be here."

The report itself presents in great detail how religion and the program are entwined.

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April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
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Well, this rule ought to make games more interesting.
It was halftime of the Little Caesars Bowl when Pitt running back James Conner approached backup quarterback Chad Voytik in the Panthers’ locker room and gave him a vote of confidence that continues to resonate.

With starting quarterback Tom Savage sidelined with a rib injury, and Pitt clinging to a 17-10 lead over Bowling Green, the unproven Voytik had to take over the offense in the second half, and he conceded he was “nervous as all get-out.”

“I told him, ‘Man, I trust you,’” Conner said. “Let’s go out and win this thing.”

That’s exactly what they did.

Conner had an MVP performance, rushing for an astounding 229 yards and a touchdown, and Voytik put Pitt ahead 27-20 with a five-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. He completed 5 of 9 passes for 108 yards in the 30-27 win, made plays with his legs, and more importantly, managed the offense without any turnovers. It was a snapshot of Voytik’s potential, and it earned him the trust and respect of his teammates as he prepares to take over for Savage full time this season.

“For me, the overall performance, it was just nice to get out there again and play because I hadn’t played in a serious game since high school,” he said. “You kind of forget a little bit what it feels like and that you can still do it. For me, personally, it was very reassuring and kind of boosted my confidence a little bit in myself, just knowing I could go in there and compete at this level.”

Now he just has to do it on a regular basis.

Voytik is quick to point out that he hasn’t officially been named the starter yet, but as the heir apparent, he has been preparing like one all offseason. This spring, Voytik and Trey Anderson were the only quarterbacks on the roster. It’s an extremely different role for Voytik, as he only played in four games last season behind Savage, and saw his most extensive snaps in the bowl game. All but eight of his passing yards and two of his attempts for the season were against Bowling Green. Because of his limited playing time, the reps with the first-team this spring were invaluable. One of his priorities has been tweaking his footwork.

[+] EnlargeChad Voytik
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesPitt signal-caller Chad Voytik gained valuable experience in the Panthers' Little Caesars Bowl win over Bowling Green.
“I’ve always prided myself in being an accurate quarterback and I want to continue to grow in that area because mechanically I’ve always had a pretty good throwing motion, but now I’m starting to find some things with my feet that have slacked a little bit over the years,” he said. “I’ve developed a few small habits I’m trying to fix. I think accuracy as a result of that will improve. That’s my project right now, that will be my project this summer. Just a few small tweaks, but I think they can help me in big ways.”

While there is still plenty for the third-year sophomore to learn, those within the program have been encouraged by what they’ve seen so far.

“I think he’s always had confidence in his athletic ability, and now I think through this spring he’s really starting to gain a lot of confidence in his knowledge base and in his understanding and comfort of the offense, which is awesome,” said offensive coordinator Joe Rudolph. “That’s what you want. He’s worked at it. He’s taken an approach where he’s been truly competitive in the film room, where he’s gone in there and tried to grind through it until it made sense to him.”

One of the biggest differences between Savage and Voytik is Voytik’s ability to run. On Pitt's game-winning field goal drive in the bowl game against Bowling Green, Voytik had a 19-yard rush, the longest run by a Pitt quarterback since 2011.

“I think teams have to have some awareness in his ability to pull the ball down and take off with it,” Rudolph said. “He definitely has that, and I think he has confidence in that. It’s a different skill set. I think he can make the throws. It’s not like you don’t have someone who can get the ball down the field by any means. He’s more than capable there. He just adds another dimension.”

Conner said Voytik’s performance in the bowl game was just a sample.

“We have a lot of confidence in him,” Conner said. “He’s continued to get coached up, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table this year.”
One year ago, Teddy Bridgewater was the unquestioned top quarterback prospect in the 2014 draft. Since then, he led Louisville to 12 victories, posted career highs for passing yards, completion percentage, completions, yards per attempt and touchdown passes while tossing just four interceptions.

Yet Bridgewater has gone from unquestioned to repeatedly questioned -- about his size, his decision not to throw or run the 40 at the combine, his “average” performance at pro day, his missing glove, his reportedly shaky performances during private workouts and his ability to lead.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
AP Photo/Timothy D. EasleySome spotty workouts, plus a year of analysis of every aspect of his game, seems to have lowered Teddy Bridgewater's NFL stock a bit.
Scrutiny always follows the top prospects in the draft, most especially potential franchise quarterbacks. Geno Smith could write a novel on the topic. One negative comment turns into two negative comments, smokescreens become reality, and the truth lies obscured in game tape that has seemingly lost its value.

Bridgewater is still projected as a first-round pick; but the praise heaped on him during his college career has nearly vanished. The draft process has overshadowed his various accomplishments, which explains why former Pitt quarterback Tom Savage generated more hype in a day than Bridgewater has in a month.

“What’s being said in the media is not necessarily being said in draft rooms by people who are being paid to be in the know and who need to do their due diligence and homework,” says Texas assistant Shawn Watson, who served as Bridgewater’s quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Louisville. “I just know in the end, he has all the traits for a can’t-miss player. I’ve seen his accuracy. I’ve seen his competitiveness, his decision making. I’ve seen how he’s been such a great student, learning how to enhance his game, to use his eyes as a weapon, develop his feet, develop his pocket awareness, learn to be a full-field read guy, take us to the line of scrimmage and put us in the right play or spin our protection to pick up the blitz.

“He is what every college football coach dreams for, and I think the same could be said for the NFL because he can process a lot of information and keep it in the simplest form and make you right. I know he’s got ‘it.’ The ‘it’ factor is just innately in his DNA.”

In the three years they worked together, Watson and Bridgewater became as close as father and son, so yes, Watson is biased. But he also knows Bridgewater better than anybody doing the evaluating. When NFL executives have called to ask him about Bridgewater, he tells them simply: Turn on the tape.

“I said, ‘Listen, take out the big games in our program,” Watson says. “Then look at the film. Look at both sides. When you walk away from the film, answer the question: How did that happen? Why did that happen? And you’re going to go back to No. 5.”

Turn to his true freshman season in 2011, on the road at No. 24 West Virginia, in just the sixth start of his career. Bridgewater went 21-of-27 for 246 yards with a score in the Louisville upset win.

Turn to his sophomore season in 2012. Playing with a broken wrist and sprained ankle, Bridgewater delivered a performance for the ages on the road against Rutgers in the regular-season finale, leading a victory that clinched a BCS berth. In that BCS game -- the Allstate Sugar Bowl -- Bridgewater exposed No. 3 Florida in a 33-23 win, sending his stock soaring.

Turn to the final game of his career, the Russell Athletic Bowl in 2013. Playing against his hometown Miami Hurricanes, Bridgewater threw for a career-high 447 yards with four total touchdowns.

Watson has been asked about Bridgewater’s size recently. Bridgewater checked into the combine at 214 pounds. He played his sophomore year around 220, but jaw surgery in the summer of 2013 set him back and he has not fully recovered. Watson is convinced Bridgewater can get there.

As for the uncharacteristic showing at pro day, Watson has an answer at the ready.

“In the end, if you’re a football coach, it comes down to what I get on tape,” Watson says. “His resume is on his film. Pro day -- or like me when I’m watching a high school kid throw -- you will get certain things out of it, but the ability to play in that world where 100 million things are happening, it’s like being in the eye of the hurricane, the poise, the calm and delivering to make plays, he’s put that all over film. That’s why he had all the talk and the chatter as it began and that’s why the interest was there.

“So that’s why I think the people who get paid to make those decisions, they’re going to look at that stuff because that’s the stuff that counts. I know this about Teddy, he shows up big when the lights go on.”

No matter where he goes, or when he goes, that much seems to be a lock. Just turn on the tape.
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Former Clemson quarterback Chad Kelly, who was dismissed from the team this week, apologized for his behavior, according to the Associated Press.

It was a family affair, as Kelly issued a statement Wednesday through his uncle, Dan Kelly, the vice president of Jim Kelly Inc. Chad Kelly is a nephew of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.

According to the Associated Press, Kelly said he apologized to Clemson's coaches and said he let "emotions get the best of me."

Kelly was benched in the second half of Clemson's spring game last week after arguing with the coaches over their decision to punt on a fourth-and-short. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney confirmed he will name Cole Stoudt as the team's starting quarterback next Monday.
Virginia Tech shook up its depth chart this week, putting Brenden Motley ahead of Mark Leal at quarterback.

The news did not appear to faze Leal much. While Leal was sidelined from a scrimmage last week with a sore knee, Motley took advantage of the opportunity and performed well, going 12-for-20 for 163 yards and a touchdown.

Leal said in a phone interview Wednesday that his knee is feeling much better, and he plans on playing in a scrimmage set for this weekend. As for his standing on the depth chart, Leal said, "Motley and Andrew Ford both had really good scrimmages. I'm not surprised that happened, but I have to keep going out there and competing."

Leal went into spring camp atop a three-way competition to replace Logan Thomas. The knee has set him back some, but the injury is not considered to be serious. When he has been healthy enough to practice, Leal and Motley have split reps with the first team. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler told reporters in Blacksburg that the depth chart would continue to change from now through fall camp.

"So far, it's been pretty good competition," Leal said. "I love the competition because it always brings out the best in you no matter what. When you're competing, you're giving it your all, you're giving it your best and you're making sure every rep counts. I wouldn't have it any other way."

The mindset this spring also has been different. Last year, he knew he was the backup to Thomas. And he also had to learn a new system. Now, he has a shot to be the starter in an offense that he knows much better.

But no matter what happens this spring, Virginia Tech will add Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and freshman Chris Durkin into the quarterback competition this fall. So the depth chart today hardly matters. Leal and all the quarterbacks know that.
Syracuse and LSU will play a home-and-home series beginning in 2015, the schools announced Wednesday.

The first game between the two will take place Sept. 26, 2015 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. LSU will host the second game at Tiger Stadium on Sept. 9, 2017.

“We are thrilled to enter into this home-and-home agreement with a premiere program like LSU. Student-athletes come to Syracuse to play on the biggest stage possible, and this gives our coaches and young men the chance to battle one of the standard-bearers of the SEC on our home turf,” Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross said in a statement.

Syracuse has not been shy about scheduling tough nonconference games, facing the likes of Penn State, Northwestern, USC, Notre Dame and Washington in recent years. And it is no secret league athletic directors want to be more proactive in helping boost strength of schedule in the College Football Playoff era. To that end, the league has discussed a scheduling model that would feature an annual game against an SEC opponent.

Though that is just one idea among many that have been tossed around, it is interesting to note that a total of eight league teams now have at least one SEC game scheduled into the future. Four belong to Georgia Tech, Florida State, Clemson and Louisville, all with annual SEC rivalry games. But it does appear that steps have been taken across the league to "schedule up." Not only are there more future games against SEC opponents, ACC schools have scheduled schools like Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Baylor, Michigan State and Oklahoma State.

The boost in nonconference scheduling should be quite the topic during the spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., next month. Athletic directors are set to debate the merits of an eight- or nine-game league schedule once again.

Future SEC opponents

Clemson -- Georgia (2014), South Carolina (annual)

Florida State -- Florida (annual)

Louisville -- Kentucky (through 2016)

NC State -- LSU (2017, 2020)

Syracuse -- LSU (2015, 2017)

Georgia Tech -- Georgia (annual), Vanderbilt (2016), Ole Miss (2017, 2018)

North Carolina -- South Carolina (2015)

Virginia Tech -- Tennessee (2016)
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ACC's lunchtime links

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
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Never forget.

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