ACC: 2012 spring wrap

Boston College spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
11:30
AM ET
2011 overall record: 4-8
2011 conference record: 3-5 (5th, Atlantic)

Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
LT John Wetzel, RT Emmett Cleary, LG Bobby Vardaro, RG Ian White, TE Chris Pantale, QB Chase Rettig, RB Rolandan Finch, RB Tahj Kimble, RB Andre Williams, WR Coin Larmond, WR Bobby Swigert, DE Kasim Edebali, DT Kaleb Ramsey, DT Dominic Appiah, DT Dillon Quinn, LB Kevin Pierre-Louis, LB Steele Divitto, LB Sean Duggan, CB Jim Noel, SS Spenser Rositano

Key losses
C Mark Spinney, TE Lars Anderson, DE Max Holloway, LB Luke Kuechly, CB Donnie Fletcher, FS Hampton Hughes, P Ryan Quigley

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Rolandan Finch* (705 yards)
Passing: Chase Rettig* (1,960 yards)
Receiving: Colin Larmond* (528 yards)
Tackles: Luke Kuechly (191)
Sacks: Max Holloway (2.5)
Interceptions: Luke Kuechly (3)

Spring answers

1. Chase Rettig makes strides: Rettig was thrown into the fire early, and he has endured plenty since, with injuries, new schemes and last year's 4-8 campaign. Now a junior, and playing for another new offensive coordinator, Rettig has the command of the offense and should benefit from playing behind an experienced offensive line.

2. More running back depth than BC probably hoped for: Montel Harris and Andre Williams couldn't go in the spring game. Then Tahj Kimble injured himself early in the contest. Finch, who played a lot last season with Harris sidelined, ended up shouldering the load, and it will take a group effort this season with Harris out of the picture. Injuries and a dismissal gave BC a better look at its backfield talent than it had probably hoped for, but the group effort this spring should benefit the Eagles come fall.

3. Defense looking to build off 2011 finish: Coach Frank Spaziani said the worst thing about last season was that it ended. BC is hungry to build off its 4-8 campaign, as the team hopes to carry the momentum from winning two of its final three games. A long offseason gave the defense time to think about that finish, which was keyed by a unit that held each of the final three opponents to fewer than 20 points.

Fall questions

1. Who will replace Luke Kuechly? The short answer is no one. Kuechly's legend will only continue to grow with each passing day. But the Eagles do return plenty of talented linebackers, led by Steele Divitto and Kevin Pierre-Louis. It will take a collective effort and then some for the linebackers to make up for the loss of Kuechly, but their attitude in trying can certainly rub off on the rest of the defense.

2. What happened with Harris? The school's all-time leading rusher was dismissed from the team after the spring for a repeated violation of team rules. The backfield is used to playing without him after his injury-plagued 2011 campaign, but the suddenness of Harris' departure -- which Spaziani will not get into -- has to have some effect on his former teammates, especially with Harris having been primed to chase the ACC's career rushing record this season.

3. How will the offense transition under Doug Martin? Spaziani said he was impressed with the unit coming out of the spring, but a fifth offensive coordinator in five years has to be challenging for the players. Martin has said he is looking to increase the pace, and he'll have nine starters back to work with come preseason camp.

Clemson spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
11:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 10-4
2011 conference record: 6-2 (1st)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins, WR DeAndre Hopkins, RB Andre Ellington, C Dalton Freeman, DE Malliciah Goodman, LB Corico Hawkins, LB Jonathan Willard, FS Rashard Hall

Key losses

T Phillip Price, G Antoine McClain, T Landon Walker, NG Brandon Thompson, DT Rennie Moore, DE Andre Branch, TE Dwayne Allen

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Andre Ellington* (1,178 yards)
Passing: Tajh Boyd* (3,828 yards)
Receiving: Sammy Watkins* (1,219 yards)
Tackles: Rashard Hall* (89)
Sacks: Andre Branch (10.5)
Interceptions: Jonathan Meeks* (3)

Spring answers

1. Boyd more consistent: Quarterback Tajh Boyd looked more comfortable and had a better handle of offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ wide-open spread offense in his second season in the system. The Tigers were red-hot out of the gates in 2011 but struggled with consistency and turnovers in the second half of the season. Clemson had only eight turnovers while starting the season with an 8-0 record, but had 16 in its 2-4 finish.

2. Venables takes over defense: New defensive coordinator Brent Venables, who was hired from Oklahoma to replace fired defensive coordinator Kevin Steele, installed a 4-3 defense with simpler terminology. The Clemson defense was shredded in a 70-33 loss to West Virginia in the Discover Orange Bowl. Venables opened up every starting job on defense this spring.

3. Two is better than one: Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins was the country’s top freshman last season, catching 82 passes for 1,219 yards with 12 touchdowns. But junior DeAndre Hopkins showed this spring he might be just as good. Hopkins caught 72 passes for 978 yards with five touchdowns in 2011. With tight end Dwayne Allen moving on to the NFL, the Tigers need another big-play weapon.

Fall questions

1. Sammy Watkins: Watkins, an All-American receiver during his freshman season in 2011, was arrested last week on misdemeanor drug charges. Coach Dabo Swinney hasn’t yet announced what punishment, if any, Watkins will face. If Watkins misses any game action, his absence might really hurt the Tigers in their season opener against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.

2. Offensive line overhaul: After losing three starting offensive linemen and five seniors who played in the line rotation in 2011, the Tigers had to rebuild the unit this spring. Morris feels good about his starting five after moving nose tackle Tyler Shatley to right guard. Morris said Shatley brings some toughness to the offensive line. The rest of the line looks like this going into preseason camp: left tackle Brandon Thomas, left guard Kalon Davis, center Dalton Freeman and right tackle Gifford Timothy. It has to hold up for the offense to be effective.

3. Defensive line: The Tigers lost a trio of standout defensive linemen in tackles Brandon Thompson and Rennie Moore and end Andre Branch. Clemson brings back all of its starting linebackers and most of its secondary, but Venables will have to rebuild his defensive front with young players.

Duke spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
10:30
AM ET
2011 overall record: 3-9
2011 conference record: 1-7 (6th, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
WR Conner Vernon, WR Brandon Braxton, RT Perry Simmons, RG Laken Tomlinson, C Brian Moore, QB Sean Renfree, DE Justin Foxx, DT Sydney Sarmiento, DE Kenny Anunike, LB Kelby Brown, LB Austin Gamble, CB Ross Cockrell, S Jordon Byas, S Walt Canty

Key losses
WR Donovan Varner, LT Kyle Hill, NG Charlie Hatcher, CB Johnny Williams, S Matt Daniels, PK Will Snyderwine, P Alex King

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Juwan Thompson* (457 yards)
Passing: Sean Renfree* (2,891 yards)
Receiving: Conner Vernon* (956 yards)
Tackles: Matt Daniels (126)
Sacks: Kenny Anunike* (4)
Interceptions: Matt Daniels (2)

Spring answers

1. Sean Renfree keeps improving: Coach David Cutcliffe has talked about a pro future for Renfree. Getting to pick the brain of Cutcliffe's pupil, Peyton Manning, probably doesn't hurt. Neither does turning in another strong spring, as Renfree returns for his third year as a starter hoping, once again, to help the program take the next step.

2. Offensive line is cohesive: Much of the production from last season's unit is back, and the group will only grow closer with an offseason volunteer trip to Ethiopia, where 11 of Duke's offensive linemen currently are. The unit could help pave the way for a talented incoming running back class, along with returning starter Juwan Thompson.

3. Conner Vernon ready to make plays: Cutcliffe has said it will take playmakers for Duke to take the next step, and he certainly has one in Vernon, who enters 2012 within striking distance of the ACC receiving record. Having an experienced quarterback such as Renfree throwing to him should help him in the pursuit.

Fall questions

1. Will the defense step up? It is Year 2 under coordinator Jim Knowles and his 4-2-5 scheme, and plenty of talent is back. Still, the unit loses safety Matt Daniels and ranked near the bottom of most defensive categories among ACC schools last season.

2. Can the Blue Devils handle this schedule? FIU and Stanford aren't exactly nonconference cupcakes, especially for a school that has traditionally been an ACC bottom-feeder. Time will only tell if those first two games, regardless of outcome, serve the Blue Devils well before jumping into their conference slate.

3. Is this The Year? Duke holds the longest current bowl-less drought, having not played in the postseason since 1994. Three of Duke's nine losses last season came by a combined seven points, perhaps suggesting that the team was closer to breaking through than many would think. There is plenty of returning talent in key spots, but a tough schedule and recent history suggest that it will still take a huge effort for the Blue Devils to extend their season.

Florida State spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
10:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 9-4
2011 conference record: 5-3 (t-3rd)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners:
QB EJ Manuel, CB Greg Reid, LB Telvin Smith, DE Brandon Jenkins, DE Bjoern Werner, WR Rashad Greene

Key losses:
T Zebrie Sanders, WR Bert Reed, LB Nigel Bradham

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Devonta Freeman* (579 yards)
Passing: EJ Manuel* (2,666 yards)
Receiving: Rashad Greene* (596 yards)
Tackles: Nigel Bradham (86)
Sacks: Brandon Jenkins* (8)
Interceptions: Lamarcus Joyner* (4)

Spring answers

1. Erving steps in: The Seminoles have to replace both starting offensive tackles, but coach Jimbo Fisher believes he has found a future NFL starter in converted defensive tackle Cameron Erving. The 6-foot-5, 304-pound sophomore from Colquitt, Ga., has good feet and long arms. He stepped in at left tackle, and sophomore Bobby Hart and junior Bryan Stork are battling to start at right tackle entering preseason camp.

2. Deep receiving corps: With big-play wideouts such as Rashad Greene, Kenny Shaw and Christian Green coming back, the Seminoles were already loaded on the perimeter. Throw Willie Haulstead and redshirt freshman Kelvin Benjamin into the mix, and it might be the deepest receiving corps in the country. Haulstead missed all of last season with a concussion, and Benjamin was redshirted. Fisher said the pair might be his team’s best wideouts, which is saying a lot.

3. Defensive line is stocked: Defensive end Bjoern Woerner and tackles Timmy Jernigan and Jacobbi McDaniel missed the spring because of injuries, but their replacements showed FSU will be pretty deep in its defensive front. End Cornellius “Tank” Carradine and nose tackle Anthony McCloud had nice springs.

Fall questions

1. The running game: Florida State struggled to run the ball last season, finishing next-to-last in the ACC at 112.2 yards per game. Injuries were a big part of the problem. The Seminoles didn’t find many answers in the spring. Top returning rushers Devonta Freeman and Chris Thompson missed spring practice because of injuries, and promising sophomore James Wilder Jr. miss a big chunk after he was arrested for resisting arrest in February.

2. Punter: The Seminoles are really going to miss departed punter Shawn Powell, who averaged 47.1 yards per punt and helped FSU’s defense by putting opponents in bad field position. Freshman Cason Beatty, a former high school quarterback, enrolled in classes at FSU in January and participated in spring practice. He struggled with consistency, but FSU coaches like his strong leg and hang time.

3. Backup quarterback: Senior EJ Manuel needs to stay healthy for the Seminoles to reach their potential, but there are a couple good backups behind him. Clint Trickett has added weight and threw the ball well in the spring. He’s still battling redshirt freshman Jacob Coker for the No. 2 job. FSU will also hold its breath to see if highly regarded quarterback recruit Jameis Winston of Hueytown, Ala., enrolls in school or signs a professional baseball contract this summer.

Georgia Tech spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
9:30
AM ET
2011 overall record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 5-3 (t-3rd)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Tevin Washington, LB Jeremiah Attaochu, RB Orwin Smith, G Omoregie Uzzi, C Jay Finch, G Will Jackson, CB Rod Sweeting

Key losses
WR Stephen Hill, RB Roddy Jones, DT Logan Walls, DE Jason Peters, RB Embry Peeples, LB Julian Burnett

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Tevin Washington* (987 yards)
Passing: Tevin Washington* (1,652 yards)
Receiving: Stephen Hill (820 yards)
Tackles: Julian Burnett (120)
Sacks: Jeremiah Attaochu (6)
Interceptions: Three players (3)

Spring answers

1. Tevin Washington is still the guy: Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson gave backup quarterbacks Synjyn Days and Vad Lee plenty of opportunities to challenge Washington during spring practice. Washington was the Yellow Jackets’ leading rusher and passer last season and makes pretty good decisions running Johnson’s triple-option spread offense. But Days is a more electrifying runner and Lee is a more polished passer. Neither one proved to be a better quarterback than Washington in the spring.

2. Offensive line is good: The Yellow Jackets bring back four starting offensive linemen, and it might be the deepest and most talented group in Johnson’s tenure at Tech. The only loss was Phil Smith, a two-year starter at right tackle who was dismissed from the team after being suspended twice for violations of team rules. He plans to transfer to Central Florida.

3. Shotgun: Johnson experimented with pistol and shotgun formations during the spring, which would add a new wrinkle to his triple-option spread offense. Days and Lee were really good running plays out of the formations, which will give opponents something else to think about this coming season.

Fall questions

1. Who’s going to catch the ball? It’s a good thing Tech doesn’t throw the football very much. The Yellow Jackets lost top receivers Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton, who combined for 45 catches and 1,083 yards. They were the only Tech receivers to catch a pass last season (running backs accounted for the rest of the team’s receptions). There wasn’t a receiver who really stepped up in the spring, but Tech’s coaches like the potential of Jeff Green and Darren Waller.

2. Special teams: The Yellow Jackets were so bad on special teams last season that Johnson hired David Walkosky as his team’s new special-teams coordinator. Walkosky, a former Canadian Football League assistant, is the first full-time special-teams coach Johnson has had at Tech. The Yellow Jackets struggled on field goals, punting and kickoff returns last season. Kicker Justin Moore remains a work in progress.

3. Defensive line: The Yellow Jackets are about to embark on their third season in defensive coordinator Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. To this point, they haven’t had the kind of nose tackle a team really needs to flourish in a 3-4 alignment. Worse, end Jason Peters and tackle Logan Walls both departed. Tackles Shawn Green and T.J. Barnes showed improvement in the spring. Barnes, a 6-foot-7, 347-pound senior, has dropped 40 pounds, and coaches want him to lose about 15 more.

Maryland spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
9:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 2-10
2011 conference record: 1-7 (6th, Atlantic)
Returning starters: Offense: 5; defense: 10; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
LG Pete White, RG Josh Cary, C Bennett Fulper, TE Matt Furstenburg, WR Kevin Dorsey, DE Marcus Whittifield, DE Keith Bowers, NG Andre Monroe, DT Joe Vellano, LB Demetrius Hartsfield, LB Darrin Drakeford, LB Lorne Goree, LB Kenny Tate, CB Dexter McDougle, S Eric Franklin, S A.J. Hendy

Key losses
LT R.J. Dill, RT Max Garcia, LG Andre Donnella, QB Danny O'Brien, RB Davin Meggett, WR Quintin McCree, CB Cameron Chism

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Davin Meggett (896 yards)
Passing: Danny O'Brien (1,648 yards)
Receiving: Kevin Dorsey* (573 yards)
Tackles: Demetrius Hartsfield* (108)
Sacks: Andre Monroe* (5)
Interceptions: Dexter McDougle*/Cameron Chism (3)

Spring answers

1. Defense has come a long way: The unit passed with flying colors in its first public test under new coordinator Brian Stewart and his 3-4 scheme. It overpowered the offense in the squad's spring game despite missing Joe Vellano and Kenny Tate. Both players should be back for the fall, giving the defense 10 returning starters.

2. Who is there and who isn't: Spring No. 2 is in the books and the remaining players are on board with Randy Edsall, giving the program a chance to push forward with less doubt regarding those who may not be all-in. After the Terrapins' spring game, senior Justin Gilbert told the Fredericksburg Free Lance-Star: "I hate saying it, but now that the guys who don't want to be here are gone, we can really focus on next season. We don't have any distractions anymore. Everybody who's here wants to be here. I really saw that this spring with guys. The chemistry was better. There was no cancers on the team. Everybody was all together."

3. C.J. Brown holding steady: Brown was the only quarterback this spring who had any actual game experience, so he received most of the attention. With five starts under his belt, Brown, whom colleague Heather Dinich has labeled the conference's most indispensable signal-caller, survived the spring and enters the fall as the No. 1 guy.

Fall questions

1. Will anyone challenge Brown? Despite said strengths, Brown, who rushed for more than 500 yards last season, is switching from a spread attack to new coordinator Mike Locksley's pro-style system. Recruits Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe enter this summer and, depending on Brown's transition, could challenge for some snaps.

2. How will the new coordinators transition? We said this earlier with Wake Forest: Things have gone smoothly this spring, but the ultimate test comes in game action this fall. How Locksley, Stewart and Andre Powell (special teams) adjust in-season will ultimately affect the ruling on the reshuffled staff.

3. Everything else … It would appear, at this moment, that the defections have subsided. Two dozen players have left Maryland since Edsall arrived, none bigger than quarterback Danny O'Brien. Some were calling for Edsall's job after Year 1, and a debut season that featured just one win over an FBS team didn't do the program any favors. The spotlight is on College Park this season for the wrong reasons, and how the program adjusts this fall can possibly dictate its fate.

Miami spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
8:30
AM ET
2011 overall record: 6-6
2011 conference record: 3-5 (T-4th, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 4; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
WR Allen Hurns, TE Clive Walford, RT Jon Feliciano, RG Brandon Linder, DE Anthony Chickillo, DT Darius Smith, LB James Gaines, LB Denzel Perryman, CB Brandon McGee, S Vaughn Telemaque

Key losses
WR Travis Benjamin, WR Tommy Streeter, LT Brandon Washington, LG Harland Gunn, C Tyler Horn, QB Jacory Harris, RB Lamar Miller, DE Marcus Robinson, DT Adewale Ojomo, LB Sean Spence, CB Mike Williams, S JoJo Nicolas

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Lamar Miller (1,271 yards)
Passing: Jacory Harris (2,486 yards)
Receiving: Tommy Streeter (811 yards)
Tackles: Sean Spence (106)
Sacks: Anthony Chickillo*/Marcus Robinson (5)
Interceptions: JoJo Nicolas (2)

Spring answers

1. Ryan Williams can challenge Stephen Morris: Williams received most of the spring reps with Morris sidelined, and the Memphis transfer should enter preseason camp with a chance to overtake Morris for the No. 1 spot. That's all the Hurricanes can hope for with Morris recovering from back surgery.

2. The defense should be OK: Yes, some of that ugly 7-6 final from the spring game has to be blamed on putrid offense, but the defense deserves plenty of credit for forcing five turnovers. The unit also forced 10 sacks and picked off three passes in the team's March 30 scrimmage. The Canes return six starters from a defense that ranked 17th nationally in scoring in 2011.

3. Running backs stepping up: Al Golden has praised Mike James and Eduardo Clements this spring for both their performances on the field and their leadership off it. A strong showing from the duo will certainly ease the loss of Lamar Miller, but that could depend more on the progress of the offensive line than anything else.

Fall questions

1. What will Morris be like upon return? No one wants to lose his job to injury, and Morris surely noticed the performance of Williams this spring. Morris was able to take reps toward the end of spring without pads, which is certainly encouraging, but how he fares against defenses remains to be seen.

2. How soon can newcomers contribute? Golden landed the nation's No. 8 recruiting class for 2012, and many of the rookies can't get to campus soon enough. Miami lost 30 players this past season and has questions at receiver, in the secondary and along the offensive line. Spots could be there for the taking, so seeing which newcomers step up early will be interesting.

3. About that elephant in the room … Coaches and players will repeat that they only worry about what they can control, but the black cloud from the Nevin Shapiro scandal won't stop looming over the program until the NCAA delivers its ruling. The day that comes will be a welcome relief for the program, dark as that day may be. But if Golden could lure the No. 8 recruiting class despite the scandal, imagine what he could do once it subsides.

North Carolina spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
8:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 7-6
2011 conference record: 3-5 (T-8th)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 5; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Bryn Renner, RB Giovani Bernard, G Jonathan Cooper, G James Hurst, K Casey Barth, KR T.J. Thorpe, DT Sylvester Williams, LB Kevin Reddick, S Tre Boston

Key losses
LB Zach Brown, DE Quinton Coples, T Carl Gaskins, WR Dwight Jones, CB Charles Brown

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Giovani Bernard* (1,253 yards)
Passing: Bryn Renner* (3,086 yards)
Receiving: Dwight Jones (1,196 yards)
Tackles: Zach Brown (105)
Sacks: Quinton Coples (7.5)
Interceptions: Two players (3)

Spring answers

1. Renner fits spread: New North Carolina coach Larry Fedora’s spread offense might not be the perfect fit for quarterback Renner. But Renner ran a spread offense while playing high school football for his father and has adjusted well. Renner set a UNC single-season record with 26 touchdown passes last season while working in a pro-style offense. He completed 23 of 28 passes for 295 yards with two touchdowns in the spring game.

2. Hurry up: Fedora and his staff spent most of the spring teaching their new players how to run a hurry-up offense. The Tar Heels huddled under former coach Butch Davis. Fedora wants the Tar Heels to run about 80 plays per game, meaning they’ll have to be lined up for the next play as soon as an official spots the ball. It will be a big adjustment for the offense, especially for the linemen, but they adapted pretty well in the spring.

3. Barth is back: Senior kicker Casey Barth is a big weapon for the Tar Heels and showed good leg strength after missing most of last season with a groin injury. He was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Barth, who made 41 of 48 field goal attempts over the past three seasons, kicked two field goals in the spring game.

Fall questions

1. Defensive overhaul: The UNC offense isn’t the only thing undergoing a makeover in Chapel Hill. Co-defensive coordinators Dan Disch and Vic Koenning are installing a 4-2-5 scheme, which employs two hybrid positions (bandit and ram). The defense will allow the Tar Heels to have five defensive backs on the field most of the time, which should help them against pass-happy offenses.

2. Wide receiver depth: UNC lost leading receiver Dwight Jones and had only five scholarship receivers during spring practice. Fedora likes to have about 10-12 receivers at his disposal to run in and out of games. There’s some help coming in the incoming freshman class, but the Tar Heels will have to develop some receivers quickly. Senior Erik Highsmith and sophomore T.J. Thorpe are both big playmakers and seniors Jheranie Boyd and Todd Harrelson showed signs of being able to help during the spring.

3. Motivation: The Tar Heels are ineligible to play in a bowl game this coming season because of probation for violations committed during Davis’ tenure. How will Fedora and his staff keep the players motivated this fall? The Tar Heels are saying all the right things, but how will they react when they face adversity this coming season? This team has been through so much the past two seasons, they’ll have plenty of experience in dealing with problems.
2011 overall record: 8-5

2011 conference record: 4-4 (4th, Atlantic)

Returning starters

Offense: 7; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

LT R.J. Mattes, LG Duran Christophe, RG Zach Allen, C Camden Wentz, QB Mike Glennon, RB James Washington, WR Tobais Palmer, DE Brian Slay, DE Art Norman, DE Darryl Cato-Bishop, CB C.J. Wilson, CB David Amerson, S Brandan Bishop, S Earl Wolff

Key losses

WR T.J. Graham, WR Jay Smith, TE George Bryan, RT Mikel Overgaard, DT Markus Kuhn, LB Terrell Manning, LB Audie Cole, LB D.J. Green

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: James Washington* (897 yards)
Passing: Mike Glennon* (3,054 yards)
Receiving: T.J. Graham (757 yards)
Tackles: Audie Cole (108)
Sacks: Audie Cole/Terrell Manning/Art Norman*/Darryl Cato-Bishop* (5.5)
Interceptions: David Amerson* (13)

Spring answers

1. Good luck passing against these DBs. All four starters are back, headed by the record-setting David Amerson, whose 13 picks last season were the most in ACC history. Amerson added another in the spring game. Playing keep-away won't be so easy for opposing quarterbacks, who also have to worry about corner C.J. Wilson, who has returned all three of his career picks for scores.

2. Mike Glennon ready to improve. It wasn't always easy playing in the shadow of Russell Wilson, but Glennon had a strong finish to the 2011 season and had the benefit (or is it horror?) of facing his own secondary this spring. Look for him to build off his 3,000-yard debut season.

3. Glennon's targets should be fine. Despite the loss of T.J. Graham, the Wolfpack figure to be OK at wide receiver. Tobais Palmer had five touchdowns last season and should lead a group that, like Glennon, had its work cut out for it this spring going up against a talented secondary.

Fall questions

1. How will the LBs fare? Graduations, early draft departures and suspensions have hurt the unit. Dontae Johnson is the only returner with extensive playing time, but that came at free safety, a position he left behind this spring. Fifth-year senior Sterling Lucas figures to enter camp as the starter in the middle.

2. How will Rodman Noel transition? The athletic Noel has moved from safety to outside linebacker, and a strong jump from him could provide a big boost to the young unit. Look for him to be used all over the field in a hybrid-like role for the Wolfpack.

3. Can Mustafa Greene emerge? Legal problems and injuries have hurt the running back, who would be returning to play behind an experienced offensive line if he can work his way back into playing time. Greene totaled 869 yards and six touchdowns during his true freshman campaign of 2010.

Virginia spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
7:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 5-3 (T-2nd, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 4; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
WR Tim Smith, LT Oday Aboushi, RT Morgan Moses, RG Luke Bowanko, TE Colter Phillips, QB Michael Rocco, RB Perry Jones, DE Jake Snyder, OLB LaRoy Reynolds, MLB Steve Greer, CB Demetrious Nicholson

Key losses
WR Kris Burd, G Austin Pasztor, C Anthony Mihota, FB Max Milien, DT Matt Conrath, DT Nick Jenkins, DE Cam Johnson, OLB Aaron Taliferro, CB Chase Minnifield, SS Rodney McLeod, FS Corey Mosley

Spring answers

1. Ground game should be fine. Three starters are back on the offensive line, and Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson will all be lining up in the backfield again following a campaign that saw the trio combine for 1,990 rushing yards and 21 total touchdowns.

2. Rocco steps up. Michael Rocco beat out three competitors to win the starting quarterback job in 2011. The process has been a whole lot easier this spring, and the junior will look to build off a strong debut season that featured a 60 percent completion rate. Returning starter Tim Smith will likely be Rocco's top target following the departure of Kris Burd.

3. Jake McGee ready to fill tight end role. A converted quarterback, McGee stood out in the spring game, hauling in a pair of passes for 81 yards. He has said that he wants to be the next Heath Miller. Boosting a unit that combined for just 20 catches last season would be a nice start.

Fall questions

1. What to do with Phillip Sims? The former Alabama quarterback announced his transfer to Virginia after the spring season. It remains to be seen whether he will even be eligible for the 2012 season. If he is, however, he could make things interesting if Rocco underperforms this fall.

2. Where will the secondary help come from? Demetrious Nicholson returns at corner after a strong freshman campaign, but the unit loses more than 90 career starts from the other three starters, led by corner Chase Minnifield. Virginia's offense threw for more than 400 yards in the spring game against the re-tooling secondary, which has a long way to go after spring.

3. Can the line get enough pressure to help the secondary? Cam Johnson and two other starters are gone from last year. The Cavaliers gave up 81 points over their final two games of 2011 and lose seven starters. Junior end Jake Snyder is the only returning starter up front.

Virginia Tech spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
6:30
AM ET
2011 overall record: 11-3
2011 conference record: 7-1 (1st, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 3; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
QB Logan Thomas, WR Marcus Davis, C Andrew Miller, DE James Gayle, DE J.R. Collins, DT Derrick Hopkins, DT Antoine Hopkins, ILB Bruce Taylor, ILB Tariq Edwards, OLB Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, CB Kyle Fuller, S Antone Exum

Key losses
WR Danny Coale, WR Jarrett Boykin, TE Chris Drager, LT Andrew Lanier, RT Blake DeChristopher, RG Jaymes Brooks, LG Greg Nosal, RB David Wilson, CB Jayron Hosley, FS Eddie Whitley

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: David Wilson (1,709 yards)
Passing: Logan Thomas* (3,013 yards)
Receiving: Danny Coale (904 yards)
Tackles: Antone Exum* (89)
Sacks: James Gayle* (7)
Interceptions: Jayron Hosley (3)

Spring answers

1. Logan Thomas: The ACC is loaded with talented quarterbacks in 2012, and Thomas is among the top returners. He accounted for 30 total touchdowns last season and threw for more than 3,000 yards. He is the unquestioned leader and centerpiece of the Hokies' offense, and a strong season could result in a handshake from Roger Goodell at Radio City next April.

2. Defensive line: This unit has the potential to be the best in the conference, as it will play eight or nine men on a regular basis and be the foundation for a defense among the best in the ACC. This group led the conference in sacks a year ago and has looked every bit as capable this spring of doing that again in 2012.

3. Security: The Hokies were faced with a similar position last season, only the exact opposite: Loads of offensive talent came back and the defense had some uncertainties. Virginia Tech still reached the ACC title game and a BCS bowl, extending its nation-best streak of 10 or more wins to an eighth straight season. Entering his 26th season and first as the longest-tenured FBS coach, Frank Beamer has an established track record and knows how to get the most out of his pieces. The hard part right now is finding them on offense.

Fall questions

1. Who will replace David Wilson? Wilson is off with the Giants, a first-round draft pick following a campaign in which he ran for more yards than any running back in Virginia Tech history. Michael Holmes figures to be the No. 1 back entering preseason camp, with J.C. Coleman pushing him for time. The Hokies welcome three new backs this fall, along with Tony Gregory, who missed spring while recovering from knee surgery.

2. Who will protect the newcomer? Holmes or any of his fellow backfield mates won't have the chance to accomplish anything replicating Wilson's production if they don't get the chance. The Hokies return just one starting offensive lineman from last season and will have to adjust quickly if the offense wants to resemble last year's.

3. Secondary help. Second-team all-ACC corner Kyle Fuller is back, along with leading tackle Antone Exum. Sophomore Detrick Bonner has moved from cornerback to free safety, sophomore Kyshoen Jarrett is now at safety and Exum is now at corner. Secondary coach Torrian Gray likes to build versatility, but he will have his hands full trying to replace Eddie Whitley (graduation) and cornerback Jayron Hosley (draft).

Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
6:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 6-7

2011 conference record: 5-3 (T-2nd, Atlantic)

Returning starters

Offense: 3; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Tanner Price, WR Michael Campanaro, C Garrick Williams, DE Zach Thompson, NG Nikita Whitlock, OLB Joey Ehrmann, ILB Scott Betros, ILB Riley Haynes, CB Merrill Noel, FS Kenny Okoro

Key losses

WR Chris Givens, T Dennis Godfrey, T Doug Weaver, G Joe Looney, G Michael Hoag, TE Cameron Ford, RB Brandon Pendergrass, DE Tristan Dorty, DE Kyle Wilber, SS Cyhl Quarles, FS Josh Bush

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Brandon Pendergrass (823 yards)

Passing: Tanner Price* (3,017 yards)

Receiving: Chris Givens (1,330 yards)

Tackles: Cyhl Quarles (101)

Sacks: Kyle Wilber/Nikita Whitlock* (3.5)

Interceptions: Josh Bush (6)

Spring answers

1. Tanner Price: As a sophomore last season, Price threw for more than 3,000 yards to go with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions. Coach Jim Grobe has challenged Price to improve on his accuracy, especially on underneath passes, and if the quarterback can build off last season's 60-percent completion rate, the Demon Deacons should be just fine under center.

2. Skill players: Michael Campanaro is sliding into the go-to target shoes left behind by Chris Givens, shifting the focus to who will be the Deacs' No. 2 receiver. Josh Harris has been healthy all spring and should add a boost to a backfield that returns Orville Reynolds and DeAndre Martin. Deep? Not exactly. But Wake knows what it has in its skill-position players, and has enough weapons around Price for the quarterback to make a jump in his junior year. This spring has helped ease some concerns.

3. Front seven: The Deacs return a majority of their front-seven, including second-team All-ACC nose guard Nikita Whitlock. Grobe has praised the overall speed and depth of the defense as a whole, and he expects the team to be better on that side of the ball. Look for more pressure this season in new outside linebacker coach Derrick Jackson's first year on staff.

Fall questions

1. Offensive line: There's no sugar-coating this one: If Wake wants to repeat its surprising 2011 season -- one that saw it come within a field goal of playing for the ACC title -- it needs to find some answers up front. The line is replacing four starters. Grobe said coming out of spring that he feels comfortable about three spots at the moment, but the Deacs will need more than that if they want to get the most out of their skill players.

2. New staff: Grobe has had little turnover in his 11 years at Wake Forest, but he hired three new assistants this offseason -- Jackson, Jonathan Himebauch (offensive line) and Tim Duffie (secondary). The fresh blood, Grobe said, led to much more energy this spring, but the biggest tests will obviously come in-season.

3. Secondary. Speaking of Duffie, he'll have his work cut out for him in Year 1. Both safeties are gone, including Josh Bush, now with the Jets. Experience at cornerback will help ease the transition for the secondary, but building depth at safety could be an issue.

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