ACC: Anthony Barnes

Four players, including two projected starters, will not play in Monday’s AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl against Air Force because of various academic issues, the school announced on Thursday.

Senior defensive end Robert Hall and senior linebacker Anthony Barnes are ineligible under NCAA academic guidelines. Sophomore wide receiver Stephen Hill and senior safety Mario Edwards, both listed as starters on the latest depth chart, are both ineligible for not meeting Georgia Tech’s academic requirements.

Hill, though he never quite lived up to the preseason expectations, is still a significant loss. He leads the team in receptions (15) and touchdown receptions (3). He was also averaging 19.4 yards per catch. Edwards started all 12 games, has 36 tackles in the past five games and has 68 tackles and a forced fumble on the season. He's in his third season after transferring from Virginia Tech.

Hall's absence will hurt the depth at defensive end. He has eight tackles and three pass breakups this season. Barnes is a career backup who has played mostly on special teams.

Georgia Tech and Air Force meet Monday at 5 p.m. (ET) on ESPN2.

Georgia Tech spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
9:30
AM ET
GEORGIA TECH

2009 overall record: 11-3

2009 conference record: 7-1, ACC champions

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense 8: punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

QB Josh Nesbitt, RB Anthony Allen, RB Roddy Jones, C Sean Bedford, WR Tyler Melton, WR Stephen Hill, LB Brad Jefferson, CB Mario Butler, S Dominique Reese, PK Scott Blair

Key losses

WR Demaryius Thomas, RB Jonathan Dwyer, OG Cord Howard, DE Derrick Morgan, LB Sedric Griffin, S Morgan Burnett

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Dwyer (1,395 yards)

Passing: Nesbitt* (1,701 yards)

Receiving: Thomas (1,154 yards)

Tackles: Jefferson* (95)

Sacks: Morgan (12.5)

Interceptions: Burnett (4)

Spring answers

1. Who’s No. 2. Tevin Washington earned the No. 2 quarterback job behind Josh Nesbitt, who was out this spring recovering from minor ankle surgery. Washington ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in the Jackets’ spring game. He made the most of Jaybo Shaw's transfer to Georgia Southern and beat David Sims and Jordan Luallen for the job.

2. Receiver by committee. Yes, Stephen Hill has the chance to be the program’s next elite receiver, but there were signs the passing game will have some more help this fall. Look for the Jackets to make an effort to throw more to the A-backs, or slot backs, this year.

3. Finding homes on defense. Georgia Tech won’t solve all of its defensive problems in one spring, but the transition to Al Groh’s 3-4 defense helped a few players who were in between positions find a spot. Anthony Egbuniwe, who was a defensive end last year, is now an outside linebacker. And Anthony Barnes, who was a nomad last year, seems to have found a home at the other outside linebacker spot. Jason Peters, who has bounced between defensive tackle and end, showed significant improvement at end this spring.

Fall questions

1. How much better can the defense be? Overall, the transition under Groh remains a question. Specifically, the biggest concern on the line is the nose tackle position. T.J. Barnes played there in the spring, and Ben Anderson missed all of spring recovering from a knee injury he suffered late last season. When Anderson comes back in August, he’ll compete with Barnes for that job. There were too many runs up the middle during the spring game to stop a team like Virginia Tech or Miami.

2. Nesbitt’s health. The ankle injury was minor -- he could have participated this spring had he wanted to -- but Nesbitt’s health will be a concern this year. There is still a big difference between Nesbitt and Washington, and Nesbitt has to stay healthy if the Jackets are going to defend their ACC crown.

3. Unsettled offensive line. There are a lot of new players working their way into the rotation, and competition will continue. Georgia Tech lost three starters, including the transfer of guard Joseph Gilbert. The second team was composed entirely of freshmen in the Jackets’ spring game.

ACC injury reports: Week 13

November, 27, 2009
11/27/09
9:00
AM ET
If you don't see it here, I didn't get it ...

BOSTON COLLEGE

OUT FOR SEASON

LB Mark Herzlich (illness)

FOR MARYLAND GAME

RB Rolandan Finch (illness) – DOUBTFUL

LS Jack Geiser (foot) – DOUBTFUL

OG Thomas Claiborne (leg) – QUESTIONABLE

DE Alex Albright (ankle) – QUESTIONABLE

DT Kaleb Ramsey (ankle) – QUESTIONABLE

CLEMSON

They're "all in." (Sorry, too easy.)

DUKE

QB Thaddeus Lewis (leg) -- Probable

RB Re'quan Boyette (leg) -- Questionable

DT Vince Oghobaase (leg) -- Questionable

WR Johnny Williams (knee) -- Questionable

RB Kyle Griswould (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON

OG Mitchell Lederman (foot) -- OUT FOR SEASON

QB Sean Renfree (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON

WR Tyree Watkins (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON

S Anthony Young-Wiseman (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON

FLORIDA STATE

Out

76 OT Garrett Faircloth (hip)

70 OT Antwane Greenlee (knee)

51 LB Aaron Gresham (knee)

44 LB Maurice Harris (neck)*

62 OG Rodney Hudson (knee)

97 DT Demonte McAllister (knee)

81 TE Caz Piurowski (knee)*

7 QB Christian Ponder (shoulder)*

74 OT John Prior (knee)

27 CB Xavier Rhodes (thumb)

11 LB Vince Williams (back)

Questionable

9 WR Richard Goodman (groin)

30 ROV Jajuan Harley (hamstring)

Probable

94 DT Justin Mincey (knee)

* - out for the season

GEORGIA TECH

Out

Austin Barrick, r-Jr., OT (heel)

Kevin Cone, r-Jr., WR (ankle)

Malcolm Munroe, r-Fr., LB (knee)

Probable

Sean Bedford, r-Jr., C (ankle)

Omoregie Uzzi, r-Fr., OL (back)

Anthony Barnes, r-Jr., LB

Out For Season

Robert Hall, r-Jr., DE (knee)

Kyle Jackson, r-So., LB (foot)

Cooper Taylor, So., S (undisclosed)

MIAMI

Probable

RB Lee Chambers – Lower Extremity

WR Thearon Collier – Lower Extremity

DB Sam Shields – Lower Extremity

Doubtful

OL Jason Fox – Illness

Out

FB Patrick Hill – Lower Extremity

Surgery and Out for the Season

DL Dyron Dye – Lower Extremity

DL Marcus Forston – Lower Extremity

LB Jordan Futch – Lower Extremity

TE Richard Gordon – Upper Extremity

LB Shayon Green – Lower Extremity

DE Gavin Hardin – Upper Extremity

DB Ryan Hill – Upper Extremity

DB JoJo Nicolas – Upper Extremity

DE Adewale Ojomo – Jaw

NC STATE

OUT

Audi Augustin, DE - elbow

Mike Glennon, QB - clavicle

DeAndre Morgan, CB - concussion

OUT FOR SEASON

Mario Carter, TE - knee

Ryan Cheek, LB - hip

Denzelle Good, OL – shoulder

T.J. Graham, WR – stress fracture/leg

Steven Howard, WR - knee

Nate Irving, LB - leg

Colby Jackson, FB – knee

R.J. Mattes, OG - knee

Everett Proctor, QB – shoulder

Jeff Rieskamp, DE – sports hernia

Rashard Smith, CB - knee

Javon Walker, S – knee

James Washington, HB - knee

NORTH CAROLINA

Out

Joshua Adams WR Shoulder

AJ Blue RB/QB Knee

Curtis Campbell DB Wrist

David Collins OL Foot

Shaun Draughn TB Shoulder

Carl Gaskins OT Knee

Matt Merletti S Knee

Trevor Stuart DS Knee

Ryan Taylor TE Knee

Jamal Womble RB Wrist

Questionable

Anthony Elzy RB Ankle

Devon Ramsay FB Ankle

Gene Robinson CB Back

VIRGINIA

Out

Isaac Cain (foot)

Raynard Horne (back)

Torrey Mack (ankle)

Doubtful

Darren Childs (ankle)

Questionable

Jared Green (shoulder)

Mikell Simpson (leg)

Probable

Daniel Childress (ankle)

Matt Conrath (ankle)

Connor McCartin (shoulder)

Jameel Sewell (shoulder)

Patrick Slebonick (leg)

VIRGINIA TECH

Probable:

Beau Warren (knee)

Ed Wang (knee)
Tags:

Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, Virginia Cavaliers, Miami Hurricanes, Justin Mincey, Darren Evans, Thearon Collier, Christian Ponder, Vince Williams, Anthony Barnes, Garrett Faircloth, Vince Oghobaase, Alex Albright, Rodney Hudson, Adewale Ojomo, Thomas Claiborne, Jack Geiser, Patrick Slebonick, Jamal Womble, Torrey Mack, Caz Piurowski, Kyle Jackson, Marcus Forston, Mike Glennon, Jordan Futch, Raynard Horne, Xavier Rhodes, Jeff Rieskamp, Javon Walker, Matt Conrath, Carl Gaskins, Jared Green, Sean Renfree, Malcolm Munroe, Lee Chambers, Robert Hall, Darren CHilds, Ryan Cheek, Richard Gordon, Mikell Simpson, JoJo Nicolas, Mario Carter, Austin Barrick, Johnny Williams, Antwane Greenlee, Devon Ramsay, Requan Boyette, DeAndre Morgan, Beau Warren, Anthony Elzy, Sam Shields, Ryan Taylor, Sean Bedford, Joshua Adams, Jameel Sewell, Nate Irving, T.J. Graham, Mark Herzlich, Maurice Harris, Tyree Watkins, Thaddeus Lewis, Matt Merletti, Cooper Taylor, Aaron Gresham, Colby Jackson, Kaleb Ramsey, Shaun Draughn, Omoregie Uzzi, James Washington, Richard Goodman, Anthony Young-Wiseman, Demonte McAllister, Rashard Smith, Kyle Griswould, Gavin Hardin, Shayon Green, John Prior, Denzelle Good, Everett Proctor, R.J. Mattes, Isaac Cain, Trevor Stuart, Mitchell Lederman, Patrick Hill, Jajuan Harley, Kevin Cone, Rolandan Finch, David Collins, Curtis Campbell, Gene Robinson, Steven Howard, Daniel Childress, Connor McCartin, Audi Augustin

Georgia Tech linebackers struggle to stay healthy

July, 23, 2009
7/23/09
2:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

When Georgia Tech's starting linebackers began working out together again this summer, Brad Jefferson compared it to "reuniting with an old friend."

After all, the trio hadn't been on the field together in a game situation since the season opener against Jacksonville State last year because they were all hurt at different times. (And because four times Georgia Tech started in a nickel package, with two linebackers.)

The three starters who opened the 2008 season together -- Jefferson, Kyle Jackson, and Anthony Barnes -- never started together again as a unit. Jefferson and Barnes were both hurt in the opener against Jacksonville State, and Sedric Griffin was so good he never came out. Because of the numerous injuries last year, the Jackets played one true freshman, Steven Sylvester, and nearly played another in B.J. Machen.

"When people talk about our linebackers, they've never really seen us play yet," Jefferson said. "That's why they're kind of talking down, like our linebacking corps didn't really show up last year. That was kind of the reason why. Folks don't know that."

Now they might have to wait even longer for a true evaluation of the Jackets' starters after the recent news that Jackson could be out for the summer with a foot injury. Jackson, a versatile player who can play inside our out, is meeting with a specialist today, but so far, doctors haven't been able to determine exactly what's wrong with his foot. He's been in a walking boot for months now, and the staff hopes to learn more about the injury by next week.

It's still a deep group, as there are about eight athletic players to work with. In addition to Jefferson, who is likely to start at inside linebacker, the Jackets can also count on Griffin and Barnes. Their responsibilities were going to increase anyway because of the inexperience in front of them on the defensive line.

"The linebackers, we're going to have to contribute a lot," said Jefferson, who missed four games in 2008 with a dislocated wrist. "Last year we had a good D-line, and I think we have a good upcoming D-line, but they haven't had as many reps. I've gotta pick up all the slack; that's how I feel as a player. I've got to take that responsibility."

And he's got to stay healthy in the process.

Ranking the ACC units: Linebackers

July, 22, 2009
7/22/09
5:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This would be an entirely different list if the top two linebackers in the league -- Mark Herzlich and Nate Irving -- weren't sidelined right now. There are still a lot of standout linebackers in the conference, but this season just won't be the same without those two guys, not that Irving's return has been completely ruled out yet. Having spoken with NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer Wednesday, though, it's simply a miracle that Irving is even alive. In looking at the rest of the conference, it's tough to find teams that are deep at this position. It's a question mark for a lot of teams, and there's a lot of inexperience.

Here's a shot at ranking the best linebacking corps in the ACC:

1. Miami -- Sean Spence was one of the hardest hitters in the conference as a true freshman and will only be better this year, but the key to this group will probably be the return of a healthy Colin McCarthy, who injured his shoulder in the first half of the season last year. Darryl Sharpton, Arthur Brown and Jordan Futch still have something to prove.

2. North Carolina -- Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter started every game last year, and there are high expectations for sophomore Zach Brown. Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles last year and ranked third in the ACC in total tackles per game. This is one of the deepest groups the Tar Heels have had recently, but they are lacking some experience.

3. Virginia Tech -- Cam Martin and Cody Grimm combined to play all but nine plays at the whip linebacker spot, but they've got to replace Purnell Sturdivant and Brett Warren. Barquell Rivers proved he's up to the task when he filled in in the Orange Bowl, and Jake Johnson will have an increased role, too. There's a lot of potential in this group.

4. Clemson -- The Tigers return two starters plus a third player with starting experience. Kavell Connor started all 13 games last year and was the team's top tackler with 125. Brandon Maye had an impressive season as a redshirt freshman, and finished with 87 tackles. Scotty Cooper was a part-time starter at strongside linebacker.

5. Georgia Tech -- Even with Kyle Jackson possibly out for the whole summer with an injured right foot, the Yellow Jackets till have plenty of depth with Sedric Griffin, Brad Jefferson, Anthony Barnes and Steven Sylvester. Barnes and Jefferson are both finally healthy after injury-plagued seasons and there should be good competition for starting jobs. This group can't afford anymore injuries though.

6. Florida State -- With the graduation of Derek Nicholson and Toddrick Verdell, the Noles lose their top two tacklers. Dekoda Watson will be back from elbow surgery this spring, but it's a young group counting on sophomores like Nigel Bradham and Nigel Carr. Junior Kendall Smith is the only other upperclassman on the two-deep roster.

7. Maryland -- Alex Wujciak could be a star at this position for the Terps, and he'll definitely need to be a leader there this fall. Maryland lost four linebackers who combined to play 144 games and 54 starts. Adrian Moten is one of the few experienced faces in the group, and he earned his first start last year in the Humanitarian Bowl.

8. Duke -- The Blue Devils have to replace the ACC's leading tackler in Michael Tauiliili, but they've still got Vincent Rey, who made 109 tackles last year. The problem is, Rey is the only experienced linebacker they've got. Competition remains among Damian Thornton, Abraham Kromah, and Adam Banks.

9. NC State -- It's not clear when Nate Irving will return, but for as long as he's out, the Wolfpack will be missing their best player on both sides of the ball. The Pack still have senior Ray Michel, who is a returning starter in the middle, and Dwayne Maddox started in place of Irving when he was out last year. But this is an entirely different group -- and defense -- without Irving.

10. Boston College -- The Eagles' linebacking corps took a huge hit when Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, and they still don't know when Mike McLaughlin will be cleared to play from a torn Achilles. BC has a reputation for its defense, so odds are this group will be OK, but there are too many unknowns right now.

11. Wake Forest -- All three starters from last year are gone, and the Demon Deacons have big shoes to fill after the departure of Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry. It's going to have to be a group effort, but there's still some athleticism and depth to work with. Matt Woodlief and Hunter Haynes are the most experienced players retuning.

12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers graduated the veteran group of Jon Copper, Clint Sintim and Antonio Appleby, and because they were so good, their backups didn't see much playing time. This group is the feature in Al Groh's 3-4 defense, and it's going to have a whole new look. There were good reports about Steve Greer this spring, and Groh said Greer tried to mimic his game after Copper, which is reason for hope.

Q&A with Georgia Tech DC Dave Wommack

July, 10, 2009
7/10/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Much of the attention Georgia Tech has received this preseason has been focused on Jonathan Dwyer and the Jackets' stable of running backs. If they're going to contend for the Coastal Division title, though, the defense will have to hold its weight, too, and the Jackets have to replace three of four starters up front. I caught up with defensive coordinator Dave Wommack to check in on the defense heading into summer camp.

 
  Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI
  Entering 2009, Dave Wommack has some holes to fill on his defensive line.

Are you changing anything? I've heard some rumblings about maybe a different scheme this year.

DW: We may change up some things a little bit, but I think it may be based [more] on personnel than it will anything else. We'll see when we get into two-a-days, but there's not going to be any drastic changes.

Are there things you saw in the spring on the defensive line that give you concerns that are forcing you to tinker with it?

DW: [He laughed]. Just inexperience. When you lose three guys to the draft, it's just a matter of inexperience. I think we've got some good, young guys that are coming up. They just haven't played very much. That's the biggest thing, but no, that's not why we're changing. It's really our experience is more in the secondary, maybe get more five DBs on the field more than anything else.

Yeah, tell me about that group a little bit. You have a lot of guys coming back, especially with Morgan Burnett.

DW: It kind of flips. Now your most-experienced players are guys that have played one year. I'm looking forward to the secondary. I think it will be a strength for us with Morgan leading the way.

What more can he do? What are you expecting from him this year?

DW: Really that's the thing that concerns me as much as anything, because Morgan wants to make every play. It's really, Morgan, stay within the framework of your defense. Don't let your eyes get you in trouble. The play is going to come your way. You're a featured stop for us on defense, so don't try to do more than what you need to do because the defense will break down. So I don't think it's so much asking him to do more, just really do what you've done. Don't try to do too much.

(Read full post)

Georgia Tech's Barnes progressed in new 'wolf' position

April, 30, 2009
4/30/09
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Georgia Tech wasn't exactly high on linebacker Anthony "A.T." Barnes' list of college choices, despite the fact he grew up about 45 minutes from the campus in Cartersville, Ga.

Actually, the 6-foot-3, 231-pound Barnes wanted to go to Duke. To play basketball.

"I love basketball," he said. "My passion is basketball. I love Duke. I wanted to go to Duke, just because of their basketball atmosphere."

His scholarship offers, though, came from football, so that's what he focused on.

"Georgia Tech just fell in my lap because I had good grades and it was close to home," he said. "It was something good for me and my family."

Turned out to work pretty well for Georgia Tech, too.

Barnes, a redshirt sophomore, has spent much of the spring in the staff's new "wolf" position, which requires the outside linebacker to drop back a little more in coverage. It's designed to help take some pressure off the new defensive linemen because the guys up front won't have to worry about the outside as much and can attack more.

"This year instead of having a player come in on third down and long situations, they want to have the same guy who's in there stay in, but can also stop the run and cover the receivers," Barnes said. "It's like a nickel package. That's going to be our base defense. It's pretty good. It gets me free to roam around, do a little disguising and stuff like that."

As a part-time starter in 2007, Barnes made 29 tackles (20 solo). Barnes is looking for an increased role after he had a string of tough luck in 2008. He was injured in the first and last game of the season, and finished with 16 tackles for the season. He started in the season opener but missed the next two games with a shoulder injury, and then broke his fibula in the season finale at Georgia. He's had trouble making quick cuts and tackling this spring, but said he'll be 100 percent this summer.

"I've been through the struggles," he said. "I've been here through the good and the bad. There's nothing that can happen in my last two years I haven't seen or been through already."

Return of injured linebackers gives Georgia Tech D a boost

April, 20, 2009
4/20/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Georgia Tech linebacker Brad Jefferson laughed out loud when asked how eager he is to play a full season of football after a dislocated wrist kept him out of four games in 2008.

"I'm looking forward to it so much I can't even explain it in words, I'm so excited about it," he said. "It was really hard for me sitting out that long, watching my teammates go battle other teams, but things happen that you just have to deal with. I couldn't do anything but sit on the sideline and support my team until I came back."

The coaching staff is probably equally as excited to have Jefferson back on the field. Both he and Anthony Barnes were injured in the season opener last year and never quite returned to 100 percent. Barnes went on to miss the next two games with a shoulder injury and ended the season with a broken bone in his leg at Georgia.

This spring, their return gave a boost to a much deeper linebacking corps. Cedric Griffin is the only senior of the bunch and was the most consistent linebacker last year. He was somewhat of a surprise, as he came on after Jefferson and Barnes were hurt in the season opener. Griffin made his first career start against Boston College, and now he's one of only six scholarship seniors on the roster.

Kyle Jackson started 2008 at outside linebacker and then moved inside after Jefferson was hurt. He remained the starter there through the ninth game and came off the bench against North Carolina. Steven Sylvester played as a true freshman last season as a backup at outside linebacker in 12 games. B.J. Machen and Malcolm Munroe give the staff seven players they feel comfortable with.

Because it's the second year in coordinator Dave Wommack's defense, there is a greater sense of comfort with the playbook and the defense is expected to have a lot of different looks. (Some of that might be to help compensate for loss of three starters on the defensive line). The staff added the hybrid defensive back/linebacker position in an effort to get the best players on the field, and the strength is in the secondary and with the linebackers.

"The defense changed a little bit for the LBs because we used to go a lot of man, now we're in a lot of zone," Jefferson said. "This spring as a defense we did very well. We've got a lot of spots to fill, and every guy that has a spot to fill is stepping up."

Potential playmakers in the ACC

February, 27, 2009
2/27/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

In addition to the newcomers to watch this spring, there will also be a few players who hinted at their potential last year, but could be on the verge of a breakout season in '09. Here are a few players who might emerge from the shadows this year in the ACC:

UNC safety Da'Norris Searcy -- He had 10 tackles against West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, and is slated to be the starter in place of graduated All-American Trimane Goddard. Searcy spent some time at linebacker and on special teams last year. He finished the season with 25 tackles, including two sacks, three pass breakups and three passes defended.

NC State running back Toney Baker -- Remember him? Think back to '06. Baker had over 1,200 yards heading into his junior season and suffered a season-ending knee injury and missed the rest of the season. A second surgery kept him out for 2008. Baker was cleared to return last fall, is reportedly in amazing shape and "about to have a fit to get back on the field," according to sports information director Annabelle Myers. With Andre Brown gone, Baker's progress will be a huge key to the Pack's success.

Wake Forest running back Kevin Harris -- In just the third start of his career and his first since October 2006, Harris turned in one of the most memorable performances of the inaugural EagleBank Bowl. Harris rushed for a career-high 24 carries and 136 yards. It came as a complete surprise and sparked the start of much-needed improvement in the Deacs' running game. His senior season could be his best.

FSU running back Carlton "Ty" Jones -- He scored his first collegiate touchdown in the Champs Sports Bowl and might even be better than fellow freshman Jermaine Thomas. Jones had four carries for a career-high 55 yards in the bowl game, and set a career-high for the longest rush for scrimmage with a 31-yard run. With the departure of Antone Smith, the Noles enter the spring looking for a dependable go-to back.

Georgia Tech's linebackers -- Both Brad Jefferson and Anthony Barnes played sparingly behind current NFL linebackers Philip Wheeler (Colts) and Gary Guyton (Patriots) as freshmen, and both started the opener last year. Jefferson and Barnes were both also injured in the season opener, missed a game or two, and were never really 100 percent last season. Both should be healthy this year, and could finally emerge from the shadows of their NFL predecessors.

The ACC's bedazzling backups

September, 25, 2008
9/25/08
4:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Listening to Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson praise backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw this week, and in talking to NC State coach Tom O'Brien about the success of his third string tight end, it got me thinking.

There have been a lot of backups making differences in the ACC this season. Some, like Virginia Tech's Darren Evans, have simply stolen the spotlight from the starter. Others, like the Hokies' Tyrod Taylor, have stolen the starting job. And many have gotten their opportunity at the unfortunate expense of an injured -- or suspended -- teammate.

Here's a look at the ACC's best backups through the first four weeks:

Boston College: True freshman running back Montel Harris wasn't even on the two-deep when the season started, but after filling in for injured starter Josh Haden (ankle), Harris is the Eagles' leading rusher with 133 yards in two games.

Clemson: Freshman defensive tackle Brandon Thompson was supposed to redshirt, but couldn't after the news Rashaad Jackson would be out for 10 weeks and Jamie Cumbie was lost for the season after the first game. Thompson leads Clemson in tackles for loss with four, and his playing time will only increase.

Duke: Running back Clifford Harris assumed the starting role after a preseason knee injury to Re'quan Boyette. He has rushed 49 times for 203 yards (4.1 YPC) and three touchdowns. He leads Duke and is sixth in the ACC with 67.7 yards per game.

FSU: Linebacker Kenny Ingram filled in for Dekoda Watson while he was suspended and recorded seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, three pass break-ups and had a forced fumble and recovered one. He also batted down a Riley Skinner pass on fourth and one from the FSU 10 which was one of two Skinner passes he batted down in last week's game.

Georgia Tech: In the absence of starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt, Jaybo Shaw has completed 6 of 10 passes for no interceptions, 91 yards and a touchdown in the two games he played in. He also rushed 18 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

  • Tyler Melton, a true freshman wide receiver, stepped in for injured Correy Earls (hamstring) before the season opener and is the Yellow Jackets' second-leading receiver (five catches, 53 yards), and primary punt returner.
  • Sedric Griffin, a junior linebacker, made his first career start at Boston College after two starting linebackers (Brad Jefferson, Anthony Barnes) went down in the season opener. Paul Johnson recently called Griffin their "most consistent linebacker" and he is the third leading tackler with 25 tackles and one tackle for loss.

Maryland: Running back Morgan Green took over for the ACC's injured leading rusher, Da'Rel Scott, and scored two touchdowns last weekend against Eastern Michigan.

  • Quarterback Chris Turner started the season as second string behind Jordan Steffy, but inherited the offense after Steffy injured his thumb. Since throwing three interceptions in a loss to Middle Tennessee, Turner has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 368 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Miami: Senior running back Derron Thomas. He's filled in the role that Graig Cooper had when Cooper was 1b to Javarris James. Thomas has 19 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown, and a 34-yard run against Texas A&M. He's got 121 all-purpose yards in three games.

UNC -- Robert Quinn, a true freshman, started the past two weeks after defensive end Darrius Massenburg went down with a knee injury. Quinn has six tackles, three tackles for losses, one sack and two pressures.

NCSU -- Tight end George Bryan. He was the only option after injuries to Anthony Hill and Matt Kushner. Now he leads the team in catches (13), is third in yards (127) and tied for first with two touchdowns.

Virginia Tech: Darren Evans, the Hokies' No. 2 tailback, leads the team with 264 yards and four touchdowns.

  • Tyrod Taylor -- He's a work in progress, as he hasn't thrown a touchdown yet, but there's no question his playmaking abilities have helped the offense. He's second on the team in rushing with 221 yards and leads with 73.7 yards per game.

UNSUNG HERO

Wake Forest: Ryan McManus, a fourth-year walk-on and the holder for PATs and field goals gets the unsung hero award so far. He saw the play clock running down as the Demon Deacons were lining up for the game-winning field goal against Ole Miss and very alertly called time out. The third-string quarterback does whatever he can to get on the field, including helping out on the punt and punt-return teams. His father was a starting quarterback at Wake Forest in the 1970s and is now an assistant coach at Kent State.

NEXT MAN UP

Here are the three most notable opportunities for players to join the list:

UVA: Quarterback Marc Verica. He was a respectable 22 for 30 (1 INT) for 158 yards in the loss to UConn, but now it's officially his offense. Let's see what he can do now that he's had time to prepare as the starter.

UNC: Quarterbacks Cam Sexton and Mike Paulus. Both are expected to play at Miami this weekend, and will have to carry the offense in the absence of T.J. Yates, who is out for six weeks.

NCSU: Freshman Dwayne Maddox is taking over at weakside linebacker for Nate Irving, the Wolfpack's top playma
ker on defense.

ACC internal affairs

September, 17, 2008
9/17/08
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

WAKE FOREST -- The Demon Deacons have been working on trying to beat man coverage, which Florida State will play a lot of. Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke is less concerned about how that will affect their passing game than it will their ability to run the ball. FSU's formation allows for an extra blocker to stop the run, and Lobotzke has been scheming to figure out, by formation, how to beat the extra guy in the box.

FLORIDA STATE -- Yes, playmaker Preston Parker is back from his two-game suspension, but the staff is still figuring how to use him most effectively. With freshman running back Ty Jones out with a right ankle injury, don't be surprised to see Parker back in the running game. Jermaine Thomas and Antone Smith have both run well, but the staff is looking for a different dimension, a back who is faster and shiftier. That would be Parker.

NORTH CAROLINA -- Defensive coordinator Everett Withers is scheming to make Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor throw the ball, something he did just 14 times last weekend against Georgia Tech. It's no wonder that's the game plan: Withers' secondary intercepted four passes in UNC's win over Rutgers and the Tar Heels are fourth in the conference in pass defense efficiency (106.8). Said Withers: "Our whole objective in this thing is to try to make him beat us with his arm."

GEORGIA TECH -- Safety Dominique Reese has started the first three games, but as the season has progressed, true freshman Cooper Taylor's playing time has increased. Taylor is now getting between 50-75 percent of the snaps. The Yellow Jackets might get injured starting linebacker Anthony Barnes and starting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas back in time for the Mississippi State game. While coach Paul Johnson downplayed the absence of Thomas in the loss to Virginia Tech, Thomas could help with blocking.

MIAMI -- In addition to scheming for two quarterbacks, Randy Shannon will be watching to see if Texas A&M uses a four-man front or a three-man front and will have to adjust quickly to the Aggies' defense on Saturday in the first half. The Hurricanes have spent the bye week working on forcing turnovers because the defense hasn't had one in the first two games. The coverage teams for punt and kickoff returns also got extra work.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Mississippi State's defense, which is holding opponents to 96 rushing yards and 11.7 points per game, will be the best they have faced this season. It should be an interesting matchup, considering the Yellow Jackets rank ninth nationally in rushing offense with 263 yards per game.

"They are very good on defense," he said at Tuesday's press conference. "I think sometimes their offense gets overlooked a little bit, because they do have good skill guys -- they have good personnel. They just haven't put it together yet, and hopefully they will wait a week."

Johnson is hoping the opposite for his team, which has had a little trouble holding onto the ball the past few weeks. The Yellow Jackets have fumbled the ball 11 times this year and lost it seven.

Johnson said after watching film of the Virginia Tech game, one fumble was caused because a defender knocked the ball out with his helmet. Another was a timing issue on the option mesh. (That's when quarterback Josh Nesbitt pivots right after the snap and puts the ball in Jonathan Dwyers gut).

"We have to try to do a lot of things better to keep that from happening," Johnson said. "We have to protect better, use better judgment and all of those things. You just keep working on it. You can't get the ball ripped out of your hands, which is what happened to Boston College a couple times. It is just the stuff you work on everyday.

"Clearly if you lose the turnover battle three to nothing you are not going to win any games. We have to do a much better job taking care of it. We had done a good job of getting some up until the last game, but those things usually come in cycles."

The problem is, Mississipi State ranks sixth nationally with five recovered fumbles this season. Auburn fumbled three times in last week's 3-2 win over the Bulldogs and lost all of them.

Georgia Tech injury report:

Three sophomores who started the season opener -- LBs Brad Jefferson (arm/wrist) and Anthony Barnes (shoulder), and WR Demaryius Thomas (mild concussion) -- did not play last
week at Virginia Tech.

Also out of action last week were CB Martin Frierson (knee), senior OL A.J. Smith (elbow) and sophomore WR Correy Earls (hamstring).

Barnes practiced Monday.

Jefferson, Frierson and Smith have been ruled out for the Mississippi State game.

ACC position rankings: linebackers

July, 18, 2008
7/18/08
6:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

1. Virginia: Senior captain Clint Sintim started all 37 games in his career and was third on the team with 77 tackles last season. His nine sacks last year were the most of any linebacker in the nation. Inside linebacker Jon Copper is UVA's active leader in tackles with 200, and Antonio Appleby is third on that list with 155.

2. Wake Forest: All three returning starters are back, including strongside linebacker Aaron Curry, a two-time defensive player of the week who had three interception returns for touchdowns and led the nation in interception return yards with 256. He also led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss. Middle linebacker Stanley Arnoux also returns, along with weakside linebacker Chantz McClinic, who had 42 tackles.

 
 Ned Dishman/Getty Images
 Senior linebacker Brian Toal, who has 180 career tackles despite missing last season, is healthy again for Boston College.

3. Boston College: The Eagles lost two key starters, but senior Brian Toal's shoulder is healed and he has 180 career tackles despite missing last season with a medical redshirt. His primary competition at weakside linebacker will come from senior Robert Francois, who finished last season with 39 total tackles. Junior Mark Herzlich, who started all 14 games last year and finished second in total tackles with 97 should anchor this unit. Junior Mike McLaughlin started three games at middle linebacker last season when Jo-Lonn Dunbar was injured and is the heir apparent there.

4. Maryland: This could be one of the Terps' deeper positions, even with the loss of Erin Henderson to the NFL. Seniors Dave Philistin and Moise Fokou each started all 13 games last season, and Adrian Moten, who played all three positions as a freshman, tied for the team lead in sacks (5.5) and had 50 tackles even though he didn't start a game. Philistin ranked fourth in the ACC with 9.5 tackles per game.

5. Florida State: These guys have talent, it's just a matter of when it will all come together. Geno Hayes is gone, and so is Marcus Ball, who was expected to fill in for Hayes but was booted off the team. Still, the Seminoles' leading tackler is back. Underrated middle linebacker Derek Nicholson made 99 stops last year and was the only linebacker to start all 13 games. Strongside linebacker Dekoda Watson started every game but the bowl game because of the academic scandal and will miss the first three, leaving the job to sophomore Kendall Smith. The 'Noles are also excited about freshman Nigel Bradham.

6. Miami: The Hurricanes lost their leading tackler in Tavares Gooden, a third-round NFL draft pick by the Ravens, but are still better off than the way they ended last season -- with three healthy linebackers. Senior Glenn Cook is back after missing last season with a foot injury, and the freshmen -- Arthur Brown and Sean Spence -- didn't waste any time impressing the staff while Coin McCarthy was out this spring. Darryl Sharpton and Spencer Adkins are possible starters in the middle.

7. Virginia Tech: The Hokies will obviously miss Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, but middle linebacker Brett Warren played well last year when Hall got hurt and earned the confidence of defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Purnell Sturdivant is No. 1 heading into the fall, but should be challenged by veteran Jonas Houseright and redshirt freshman Hunter Ovens. Redshirt junior Cam Martin started 13 of 14 games last season at weakside after being moved from free safety and finished fifth on the team with 78 tackles and was third in sacks with 4.5.

8. Duke: Senior Michael Tauiliili is the top active player in the league in terms of career tackles, and finished last season with 108. He also had four sacks and three interceptions. Vincent Rey led the Blue Devils with 111 tackles. The third slot will be between Marcus Jones and Adam Banks. There's not a lot of depth here, but there's talent.

9. Clemson: This is the least experienced unit on the Tigers' defense. Josh Miller is the only senior in the group and is competing for the starting middle linebacker job. Tommy Bowden was impressed with freshman Stanley Hunter this spring, but Brandon Maye had the top spring among the newcomers and is listed as first team in the middle entering the fall. Junior Kavell Connor is the top option at weakside linebacker and had a career high 15 tackles in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. He had 46 stops for the year, tops among linebackers on the spring depth chart. Sophomore Scotty Cooper also started the Chick-fil-A Bowl at strongside linebacker. He had 33 stops for the season in 183 plays on defense.

10. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace leading tackler Durell Mapp, but return sophomore Bruce Carter and sophomore Quan Sturdivant. Carter played in all 12 games and started seven. He made 18 of his 25 tackles in the final five games. Sturdivant's experience is similar, having played in all 12 games, but started just five. He finished the season with 47 tackles, but also added an interception and a blocked punt. Senior Mark Paschal played in all 12 games and started four at middle linebacker, and Chase Rice was still recovering this spring from a torn tendon in his left ankle. He was the starter in 2007, but got hurt in the season opener and missed the rest of the season.

11. NC State: There's not a lot of experience, as the top candidates have combined for five starts and only four guys have played in a collegiate game. Nate Irving is the lead candidate at weakside linebacker, having started four games. Ray Michel started one game in the middle, and strongside should be wide open. Robbie Leonard, a converted walk-on defensive back, is the starter heading into summer camp. He played in eight games as a strong safety and has seen most of his action on special teams the past two seasons. Thomas Barnes got valuable experience as a backup middle linebacker last season, playing the last 10 games and scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery in only his third career play from scrimmage.

12. Georgia Tech: Two of the three stars from last year -- Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton -- are now on NFL rosters. Junior Shane Bowen started nine games last season, but sophomore Anthony Barnes has the most potential and started three. Two young rookies, sophomore Brad Jefferson and redshirt freshman Kyle Jackson, are good enough that Bowen may lose his starting job.

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