Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ACC [Print without images]

Friday, August 14, 2009
Around the ACC: FSU offense shines in first day with pads

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here's your daily dose of practice reports from around the ACC, as reported by each school's information office:

FLORIDA STATE

Cloud cover kept the temperature from climbing Thursday morning as the Florida State football team donned full pads for the first time this preseason. It didn't take long, however, for the action to heat up as the Seminoles' offense made the lion's share of big plays.

Of course, a big day for the offense also comes with drawbacks.

"The hitting was pretty good, but too many big plays popped out of there," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden. "As a head coach you don't know who to root for, your defense or your offense. It scares me when big plays come out of there."

Quarterback Christian Ponder connected on long passes with wideouts Jarmon Fortson, Rodney Smith and Taiwan Easterling, as well as tight end Caz Piurowski, during the first five-minute period of 11-on-11 work.

"A lot of that came against the blitz and we've been working on that all week," Ponder said, offering a hint at the developing mindset on offense. "The blitz for us means big plays and that's what we've been working on and things opened up.

"We definitely didn't have enough big plays last year and stretch the field as much as we wanted to. Things are starting to open up and that's a good thing."

It should come as no surprise that Ponder had ample time to step up in the pocket created by the seasoned offensive line and deliver the football. Improving pass protection has been a point of emphasis since the conclusion of last season.

Junior center Ryan McMahon, who helps anchor the unit along with guard Rodney Hudson, was encouraged by the performance of the unit in its first real test of the preseason.

"Overall we felt we had a better practice today than we did the other day, but I'm sure there's plenty of room for us to improve," McMahon said. "Everybody's attitude was good and it was fun."

"It all starts with them," Ponder said of his offensive line. "If they give me time the deep ball is there. We're a lot further along that we were last year. ... Now I can sit in the pocket and feel more comfortable."

The running game doesn't appear to be suffering as a result of the improved pass blocking. Tailback Jermaine Thomas scored on runs of 10 and 6 yards during 11-on-11 action. Freshman tailback Lonnie Pryor also scored on a 10-yard run.

While the defense lapsed at times, it wasn't void of big plays. Cornerback Ochuko Jenije collected an interception and ran it back for a score; the beneficiary of a broken route by a wide receiver. Defensive end Everett Dawkins dropped Prior for a 4-yard loss. Walk-on defensive end Craig Yarborough recovered a fumble following a bad handoff exchange. Cornerback Patrick Robinson had a pass breakup, defensive end Brandon Jenkins registered a sack and safety Jamie Robinson had a tackle-for-loss.

"We kind of came out pretty slow," Patrick Robinson said after the first of two Thursday practice sessions. "I think we're going to be a lot better in the second practice."

The morning session ended with the customary goal-line drill, with the first-team offense going against the first-team defense from 3 and 1 yards out in a four-play series before turning it over to the second-team.

Senior linebacker Dekoda Watson ran Thomas out of bounds on the first play for a miniscule gain, before junior defensive end Markus White dropped him for a 1-yard loss on second down. Thomas, however, made amends, with a 3-yard touchdown run before Ponder hooked up with tight end Ja'Baris Little on a 1-yard touchdown pass play.

"It was the first day in pads, but that's not an excuse," said senior defensive tackle Budd Thacker. "The defense has got to go out there and fight to the end. We can't let them get in the end zone at any time. We've got to stop them every time."

The second-team offense converted just 1 of 3 opportunities - a 1-yard run by Pryor. Redshirt freshman safety Ed Imeokparia blew up the first play, dropping Prior for a 7-yard loss. Quarterback EJ Manuel threw incomplete on the final play of the morning session.

FSU will practice again Friday afternoon.

Injury report: DT Justin Mincey (left knee) and RB Chris Thompson (right ankle) will be further evaluated by the medical staff after suffering practice injuries. S Justin Bright (mild concussion) was also treated.

CLEMSON

Clemson had one full-pads practice on the fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center on Thursday. It was a two-hour and 20 minute practice for most of the team, a little longer for others.

"It was a good practice today," said coach Dabo Swinney. "Wednesday's two-a-day might have been the best two-a-day practice session I have been around in coaching. So I might have seen a let down from the team after we went so long last night. We all got off the field at nearly 10:00 PM on Wednesday night. But, the team had good tempo today."

Swinney felt everything went well with the exception of some poor quarterback-center exchanges.

"We worked on situations a lot today....coming off the goal line and trying to score from the one. The offense got off the goal line a couple of times, but the defense had a pair of safeties. The most disappointing thing with the entire practice was some fumbles on quarterback/center exchanges when we were in goal line drills.

Both quarterbacks Willy Korn and Kyle Parker had fumbles in that goal line situation. Both quarterbacks worked with centers Mason Cloy and Dalton Freeman for considerable time after practice.

"That is something we have to get corrected. We have zero tolerance for fumbles in that situation."

Also noteworthy in the goal line drill was the presence of Chad Diehl at an inside linebacker position. "We experimented with that some in the spring and we tried it today. Chad is a train wreck waiting to happen. He gives us some size in there in that short yardage situation." Diehl continues to work at fullback as well.

Swinney also announced after practice that he hopes to redshirt defensive end Kourtnei Brown this season. Brown is a junior from Charlotte, NC. He has played 24 games and 404 plays at defensive end over the last two years and has 33 career tackles. "We are going to try to redshirt Kourtnei Brown if we can this year. If there is an injury that could certainly change.

"Kourtnei has a chance to be a great player and we would like to have him for two more years (after this year) instead of just one."

Seven players were in yellow jerseys due to injury and did not go through the full practice on Thursday. Jamie Cumbie (shoulder), Rennie Moore (concussion) and Wilson Norris (knee) were injured in Wednesday evening's second practice and missed Thursday's practice. The injuries are not serious.

Spencer Benton (groin) and Andre Ellington (knee) were also on the list with injuries that are not serious. Jacoby Ford (hamstring) and Brandon Clear (ribs) continued to miss practice due to previously announced injuries.

MARYLAND

Armstrong Leaves Team: Sophomore Dion Armstrong has decided to leave the team, coach Ralph Friedgen announced after Thursday's practice. The defensive tackle informed Friedgen of his decision earlier in the day. "Dion came in this morning and thanked me," Friedgen said. "He said he was sorry he disappointed me and decided he was going to transfer." Armstrong sat out spring practice to concentrate on his academics. He did participate in the first three preseason practices, though his eligibility for the 2009 season was in question. "I've been pleased with the way we've been working (as a team) and that's what I'm going to concentrate on," Friedgen said. Armstrong played in all 13 games last season, posting 22 tackles, though he was not listed on the depth chart entering preseason camp. Senior Travis Ivey and redshirt freshman A.J. Francis are atop the depth chart at tackle. Zachariah Kerr, Ian Davidson and Joe Vellano are the top backups on the interior of the line. Kerr and Vellano are redshirt freshman, while Davidson is a sophomore.

Practice Tidbits: Sophomore defensive back Cameron Chism displayed good coverage on Thursday, particularly on one play. On a quick slant route, Chism matched the receiver step for step and although the pass hit the wideout right in the chest, Chism timed his hit perfectly, reached in and knocked the ball away. Chism is part of a strong cornerback unit that also includes Nolan Carroll, Michael Carter, Trenton Hughes and Brandon Jackson-Mills ... defensive lineman Obum Akunyili reacted quickly to a fumble, diving to the ground and recovering the loose ball ... after missing nearly all of last season with a foot injury, wideout LaQuan Williams is beginning to round into form. The junior is running good routes and was able to pick up good yardage after the catch in 11-on-11 drills ... Gary Douglas again showed he has great potential at the running back position. The redshirt freshman's overall athleticism and cutback ability gives the Terps a dangerous weapon to go along with Da'Rel Scott, Morgan Green and Davin Meggett ... senior safety Jamari McCollough, who tweaked his hamstring Wednesday, did not practice Thursday. He is not expected to miss much time.

Linebacker Play: Adrian Moten seemed to be all over the field Thursday, making several good plays. On a play when the linebacker was in zone coverage, Moten read the QBs eyes perfectly, anticipated and made an interception. Later, on a blitz, he burst through the line and got to the QB quickly, causing an errant throw that was picked off by Kenny Tate. Teamed with Drew Gloster, Demetrius Hartsfield and Alex Wujciak, the Terps should have a formidable set of versatile LB's. "Kenny Tate picked off another pass and scored," said Friedgen. "He keeps showing up and making plays. Moten and Wujciak and Hartsfield are all playing pretty well. I'm a little more concerned with our second team. The competition is very good right now. And the effort is very, very good. Some plays the offense wins and some plays the defense wins."

MIAMI

Miami completed its first two-a-day of fall camp Thursday, with an early morning practice in full pads before a late afternoon session in shells at the Greentree Practice Fields.

The morning session was highlighted by a strong showing by the defense, including several stops in the red zone. Ramon Buchanan had a good morning session, recording an interception, a sack and a handful of tackles.

Offensively, a Jacory Harris to Jimmy Graham connection that resulted in a 60-65 yard gain proved to be one of the top plays in the morning. The two hooked up again in the afternoon session in 7-on-7 drills.

In the afternoon session, Tommy Streeter made a couple of long receptions - his last coming from Cannon Smith for a 35-40 yard gain. The defense held the offense to one score in red zone action.

After six straight days of practice to open camp, including Thursday's two-a-day, the Hurricanes will take the day off on Friday before returning to the practice field on Saturday.

Practice Highlights

Morning Session:

· Ramon Buchanan recorded an interception in red zone drills and made several big stops, including a sack, in 11-on-11 action.

· Jacory Harris hooked up with Jimmy Graham (60-65 yards) and Travis Benjamin (35-40 yards) in 11-on-11 play.

· Olivier Vernon recorded two sacks, with one coming in third down drills and the other in red zone work.

· Mike James had a handful of plays of 10+ yards, including a few catch and runs in third down situations.

· Defense held the offense three straight plays on a 1st-and-goal from the three-yard line.

Afternoon Session:

· Tommy Streeter made two long receptions in team passing situations and had another nice grab in 7-on-7 drills.

· The defense held the offense to one TD in red zone drills. Aldarius Johnson had the touchdown catch.

· Linebacker Kylan Robinson intercepted a tipped pass for the defense.

· Running back Lee Chambers had a nice long run to convert a third down.

· Safety Vaughn Telemaque had a fumble recovery.

WAKE FOREST

The Wake Forest football team completed its first two-a-day session of training camp with a two hour practice on Thursday evening at the Doc Martin Football Practice Complex.

The team opened the day with a two and a half hour morning practice, before the two hour session in the evening. Coach Jim Grobe continued to be happy with the team's energy and attitude.

"For two practices, there was a chance that the guys would be a little worn out this evening, but I thought they came out with energy," Grobe said. "I like the attitude of our football team right now. I think we have a group of guys that like to work and are excited about the opportunity to play. Everybody out here knows they have a chance to play so there's a lot of good competition going on."

For the second straight day, the Demon Deacons practiced under near perfect conditions with clear skies and comfortable temperatures in the 70's.

Position drills and special teams work was the main focus in the early part of the evening session. Grobe
continued to be pleased with the work of his kickers.

"I thought we got some great work on our kicking game this evening," Grobe said. "I think we're getting all that installed right now. We haven't been able to do much live, but we'll try to do some full speed work at the stadium during Saturday's scrimmage."

Several periods in the second half of practice were spent on 7v7 and 11v11 drills. The 11v11 drill was highlighted by a 50-plus yard touchdown pass from Riley Skinner to Devon Brown.

Thursday's practice also marked the end of the first full week of practice for the Demon Deacons. Grobe said that overall he's pleased with where the team is after the first week.

"I feel like we're in a pretty good position right now," Grobe said. "We've got a lot of installation done and I think we're right where we would want to be. We've also been pretty good on injuries. We've had some little bumps and bruises, but nothing that's going to keep anybody out for an extended period of time."

However, Grobe believes there are some areas that need improving.

"We're not real sharp yet," Grobe added. "We're making too many mistakes offensively and defensively. We have a lot in right now. It's going to be fun when we quit installing and we can compete against each other a little more."