Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Best of spring
By Matt Fortuna
Spring practice is in the books for the ACC, so let's look back at the best and worst from the conference's dozen teams.
Best spring game performance: It may have come almost four weeks before Sammy Watkins' arrest, but DeAndre Hopkins' performance in Clemson's Orange and White game had to have eased the concerns of Tigers fans wondering if Watkins could be sitting the first week (or weeks) of the season. Hopkins had seven catches for 120 yards and a touchdown. Five of those catches, for 100 yards, came in the first quarter alone. Coach Dabo Swinney labeled Hopkins the team's spring MVP, and the junior was honored for both his spring improvements as a receiver and for his offseason strength training after putting on nearly 20 pounds since 2011.
Best overall unit: Virginia Tech's offensive line may have its question marks, but going against the defensive line it has faced every day this spring can only help it once live game action begins. The Hokies are stacked up front, and a unit that led the conference in sacks a year ago should be able to go eight- or nine-deep to stay fresh come fall. NC State's secondary, which returns interception king David Amerson and three other starters, gives the Hokies' line a good challenge for this distinction.
Best quarterback battle: There can only really be one, right? Miami's Stephen Morris sat this spring to recover from back surgery and is technically the incumbent, but Memphis transfer Ryan Williams made some strides toward getting on the field in his first eligible season with the Hurricanes, dominating in the team's first spring scrimmage before coming back down to earth a little bit in the team's next scrimmage and subsequent spring game. If Alabama transfer Phillip Sims is granted immediate eligibility, things could get interesting at Virginia between Sims and Mike Rocco.
Biggest surprise: Whenever a potential record-breaking player is booted from his team, it's big shocking (and big) news. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani dismissed Montel Harris from the team for a repeated violation of team rules. Harris is the school's all-time leading rusher and would have entered 2012 less than 1,000 yards away from breaking the ACC career record.
Biggest relief: North Carolina received its NCAA sanctions March 12, two days before the Tar Heels kicked off their first spring practice under new coach Larry Fedora. For a roster that has largely dealt with a cloud of uncertainty for two years, the timing couldn't have been better. Yes, it's rough for the seniors to know that their college careers will end Nov. 24 no matter how they fare this season, but the relief of having this chapter of the program's history in the rearview mirror is invaluable, especially for a new coach installing a new system.