ACC: Antoine McClain

One good reason: Clemson

July, 2, 2012
7/02/12
4:30
PM ET
We’re taking a look at one good reason each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order.

The series continues today with one good reason why

Clemson will defend its ACC title: It’s oozing talent at the offensive skill positions. Heisman-caliber quarterback? Check. 1,000-yard rusher? Check. All-American receiver? Check. The trio of quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receiver Sammy Watkins will make the Tigers one of the toughest teams in the country to defend. They’ve got options. Lots of them. And they’re not rookies anymore. Last year, under offensive coordinator Chad Morris, those guys helped Clemson score an ACC-best 470 points – the seventh-highest total in ACC history. Ellington’s 5.78 per-carry average is the second-highest in the ACC among returnees who have more than 1,000 career rushing yards (Georgia Tech’s Orwin Smith leads with 9.87). Boyd set a single-season ACC record by running and throwing for 38 touchdowns last year. And Watkins broke both the Clemson and ACC records for most receptions by a freshman with 82 catches.

Why it won’t: Clemson loses six starters from its offensive and defensive lines. The Tigers must replace three starters on the offensive line and three starters on the defensive line from 2011. Left tackle Philip Price, right tackle Landon Walker, and right guard Antoine McClain graduated, along with defensive tackle Andre Branch, the team’s leading pass rusher last year, defensive tackle Rennie Moore (43 tackles, 4 sacks) and nose guard Brandon Thompson (46 tackles, 2.5 sacks). Including tight end Dwayne Allen and cornerback Cody Sensabaugh, the Tigers will lose a combined 232 career starts. Also factor in the new-look defensive line will be under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables, and that’s almost an entirely new look for the defense.

More in this series
As mentioned in lunch links, Clemson announced the signings of undrafted lineman Landon Walker (Cincinnati Bengals) and punter Dawson Zimmerman (Atlanta Falcons). And a couple of generous readers have passed along a few more signings from ACC schools.

Virginia Tech guard Blake DeChristopher signed with the Cardinals, and Hokies defensive back Cris Hill signed with the Bills.

Big thanks to Matt from Alexandria, Va., Ben in Blacksburg, Va., and Lynn in Blacksburg, Va., for the head's up.

The updated, working list is below. Feel free to pass along any oversights.

BOSTON COLLEGE
CB Donnie Fletcher: New York Jets

CLEMSON
DE Kourtnei Brown: San Francisco 49ers
FB Chad Diehl: Baltimore Ravens
OL Antoine McClain: Baltimore Ravens
DT Rennie Moore: Houston Texans
OT Landon Walker: Cincinnati Bengals
P Dawson Zimmerman: Atlanta Falcons

DUKE
S Matt Daniels: St. Louis Rams

FSU
WR Bert Reed: Cleveland Browns
S Terrence Parks: Kansas City Chiefs
P Shawn Powell: Buffalo Bills

MARYLAND
CB Cameron Chism: Indianapolis Colts
RB Davin Meggett: Houston Texans

MIAMI
WR LaRon Byrd: Arizona Cardinals
OL Joel Figueroa: Miami Dolphins (rookie camp tryout)
TE Chase Ford: Philadelphia Eagles
DL Marcus Forston: New England Patriots
LB Jordan Futch: Tampa Bay Bucaneers
G Harland Gunn: Dallas Cowboys
QB Jacory Harris: Miami Dolphins (rookie camp tryout)
C Tyler Horn: Atlanta Falcons
S JoJo Nicolas: New York Giants
DL Adewale Ojomo: New York Giants
DT Micanor Regis: Atlanta Falcons

UNC
CB Charles Brown: Baltimore Ravens
C Cam Holland: Kansas City Chiefs
WR Dwight Jones: Houston Texans
S Matt Merletti: Indianapolis Colts
DT Tydreke Powell: Minnesota Vikings

NC STATE
TE George Bryan: Dallas Cowboys
FB Taylor Gentry: Kansas City Chiefs

VIRGINIA
CB Chase Minnifield: Washington Redskins
OG Austin Pasztor: Minnesota Vikings
S Rodney McLeod: St. Louis Rams
DT Matt Conrath: St. Louis Rams

VIRGINIA TECH
WR Jarrett Boykin: Jacksonville Jaguars
OT Jaymes Brooks: Green Bay Packers
G Blake DeChristopher: Arizona Cardinals
CB Cris Hill: Buffalo Bills
S Eddie Whitley: Dallas Cowboys

WAKE FOREST
TE Cameron Ford: Green Bay Packers
S Cyhl Quarles: Baltimore Ravens
Thirty-one players from ACC schools were drafted this past weekend, but many more signed free-agent deals with NFL teams in the aftermath of the draft.

The following is a list of ACC players, by school, who have signed undrafted free agent deals with NFL teams. It was compiled largely from NFL.com, along with official releases from NFL teams and ACC schools. Georgia Tech is the only ACC school currently without an undrafted free-agent signing.

By all means, feel free to let me know if I have overlooked anyone.

BOSTON COLLEGE
CB Donnie Fletcher - New York Jets

CLEMSON
DE Kourtnel Brown - San Francisco 49ers
FB Chad Diehl - Baltimore Ravens
OL Antoine McClain - Baltimore Ravens
DT Rennie Moore - Houston Texans

DUKE
S Matt Daniels - St. Louis Rams

FSU
WR Bert Reed - Cleveland Browns
S Terrence Parks - Kansas City Chiefs
P Shawn Powell - Buffalo Bills

MARYLAND
CB Cameron Chism - Indianapolis Colts
RB Davin Meggett - Houston Texans

MIAMI
WR LaRon Byrd - Arizona Cardinals
TE Chase Ford - Philadelphia Eagles
DL Marcus Forston - New England Patriots
LB Jordan Futch - Tampa Bay Bucaneers
G Harland Gunn - Dallas Cowboys
C Tyler Horn - Atlanta Falcons
S JoJo Nicolas - New York Giants
DL Adewale Ojomo - New York Giants
DT Micanor Regis - Atlanta Falcons

UNC
CB Charles Brown - Baltimore Ravens
C Cam Holland - Kansas City Chiefs
WR Dwight Jones - Houston Texans
S Matt Merletti - Indianapolis Colts
DT Tydreke Powell - Minnesota Vikings

NC STATE
TE George Bryan - Dallas Cowboys
FB Taylor Gentry - Kansas City Chiefs

VIRGINIA
CB Chase MinnifieldWashington Redskins
OG Austin Pasztor - Minnesota Vikings
S Rodney McLeod – St. Louis Rams
DT Matt Conrath – St. Louis Rams

VIRGINIA TECH
WR Jarrett Boykin - Jacksonville Jaguars
OT Jaymes Brooks - Green Bay Packers
S Eddie Whitley - Dallas Cowboys

WAKE FOREST
TE Cameron Ford - Green Bay Packers
S Chyl Quarles - Baltimore Ravens

The Hurricanes also announced that quarterback Jacory Harris and offensive lineman Joel Figueroa have both been invited to rookie camp tryouts with the Miami Dolphins.

Mocks aplenty on NFL draft eve

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
3:30
PM ET
It's NFL draft eve, and it's the last Wednesday before the event, meaning one last chance for our team of analysts to predict how this weekend will unfold.

Mel Kiper Insider and Todd McShay Insider reveal their final draft boards, and each has a mock Insider, with McShay and the rest of the Scouts Inc. team going seven rounds full Insider.

Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, naturally, tops the list, going No. 5 to the Buccaneers. North Carolina end Quinton Coples is next off the board at No. 19, to the Bears, with wideout Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech going two spots later to the Bengals.

How do the rest of the ACC's draft-eligible players stand? Let's take a look:

ROUND 2
No. 36, Buccaneers: RB David Wilson (Virginia Tech)
No. 50, Bears: OLB Zach Brown (UNC)
No. 58, Texans: DE Andre Branch (Clemson)
No. 59, Packers: RB Lamar Miller (Miami)

ROUND 3
No. 64, Colts: DT Brandon Thompson (Clemson)
No. 68, Buccaneers: CB Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech)
No. 72, Dolphins: OT Zebrie Sanders (FSU)
No. 76, Texans: TE Dwayne Allen (Clemson)
No. 80, Cardinals: DE Olivier Vernon (Miami)
No. 82, Titans: WR Chris Givens (Wake Forest)
No. 91, Ravens: G Joe Looney (Wake Forest)
No. 95, Raiders:
DE Cam Johnson (Virginia)

ROUND 4
No. 100, Browns: OLB Nigel Bradham (FSU)
No. 124, Bills: OLB Sean Spence (Miami)
No. 125, 49ers: CB Chase Minnifield (Virginia)
No. 128, Vikings: OLB Terrell Manning (NC State)
No. 129, Raiders: OLB Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest)
No. 130, Ravens: WR Danny Coale (Virginia Tech)

ROUND 5
No. 154, Jets: WR Tommy Streeter (Miami)
No. 157, Falcons: WR TJ Graham (NC State)
No. 159, Steelers: G Brandon Washington (Miami)
No. 162, Saints: CB Coty Sensabaugh (Clemson)

ROUND 6
No. 176, Jaguars: DT Marcus Forston (Miami)
No. 178, Bills: ILB Audie Cole (NC State)
No. 188, Broncos: DE Rennie Moore (Clemson)
No. 191, Bengals: WR Travis Benjamin (Miami)
No. 197, Packers: OT Andrew Datko (FSU)
No. 205, Browns: G Antoine McClain (Clemson)

ROUND 7
No. 209, Rams: WR Dwight Jones (UNC)
No. 240, Steelers: DE Matt Conrath (Virginia)
No. 242, Jets: TE George Bryan (NC State)
No. 243, Packers: RB Davin Meggett (Maryland)
No. 245, Browns: DT Markus Kuhn (NC State)
No. 250, Chargers: CB Donnie Fletcher (BC)

Here's a breakdown by school of the 37 ACC players that Scouts Inc. thinks will be drafted:

Miami: 7
Clemson: 6
NC State: 5
Virginia Tech: 3
UNC: 3
Virginia: 3
Wake Forest: 3
FSU: 3
BC: 2
Georgia Tech: 1
Maryland: 1
Duke: 0

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 23, 2012
2/23/12
12:00
PM ET
No shortage of news today, guys ...

Offseason spotlight: Clemson

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
3:30
PM ET
Our offseason spotlight series continues today with Clemson. A reminder: This series features individual players, position groups and coaches who really need to have big offseasons — starting this spring.

Spotlight: Offensive line.

2011 summary: The senior-laden group comprised of Phillip Price, Brandon Thomas, Dalton Freeman, Antoine McClain and Landon Walker fared remarkably well with a new offensive line coach, a new offensive coordinator, a first-year starting quarterback, and a new system. The Tigers paved the way for the nation’s No. 24 scoring offense at 33.57 points per game. They were integral in blocking for a 1,000-yard rusher (Andre Ellington), 1,000-yard receiver (Sammy Watkins) and 3,000-yard passer (Tajh Boyd).

The skinny: You can argue the defensive line needs an equally big offseason, but consider this: At this time in 2008, coming off of the 2007 season, Clemson ranked in the top 25 and had James Davis, C.J. Spiller, Cullen Harper and Aaron Kelly — all of whom were returning from fantastic seasons. The Tigers were a top-10 preseason pick, but had to replace four starters on the offensive line. Clemson finished 7-6 and midway through the season, Tommy Bowden was fired. Even with all of those outstanding skill position players returning, Clemson couldn’t get it done up front, and it was a major factor in the team’s implosion that year. This spring, the Tigers have to replace three starters up front, as Freeman and Thompson are the only two returning starters. The staff moved Tyler Shatley from defensive tackle to offensive guard. He’s a 6-foot-3, 295-pound redshirt junior who is a quick athlete and could play a role in 2012.

More in this series:
They were superstars, a heralded recruiting class carrying high expectations before they even set foot on campus. Miami's Class of 2008 was ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN.com, but after a final review, it shaped up more like the No. 20 class. There were a few standout individuals like Sean Spence, but overall, the Canes fell out of the top 10 of RecruitingNation's re-rank. Clemson didn't receive quite as harsh of a demotion, falling from No. 2 to No. 4.

Here's a look back at how the ESPNU 150 Class of 2008 fared:

Nos. 1-25 (Da'Quan Bowers, Arthur Brown, Jamie Harper, Sean Spence)

Nos. 26-50: (Ryan Williams, Marcus Forston, Brandon Harris, Mike Glennon, Kyle Parker, Terrance Parks, Brandon Thompson, Spencer Adams, Andre Ellington, Jermaine Thomas)

Nos. 51-75: (EJ Manuel, Ramon Buchanan, Nigel Bradham, Aldarius Johnson, Xavier Brewer, Davon Johnson, Nigel Carr)

Nos. 76-100: (Jordan Futch, Antoine McClain, Dwayne Allen, Brandon Barnes, Marcus Robinson)

Nos. 101-125: (C.J. Holton, Taylor Cook, Christian Wilson, Kyle Long)

Nos. 126-150: (Kenny Tate, Kerry Boykins, Travis Benjamin)
A look back at the ACC's weekend scrimmages, according to each team's practice reports:

BOSTON COLLEGE

The Eagles had their third scrimmage of summer camp on Sunday evening at Alumni Stadium.

Offensive highlights:
  • Quarterback Chase Rettig completed 11 of 22 passes for 180 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
  • Rettig’s touchdown was a 44-yard pass to wide receiver Alex Amidon. Amidon finished with three receptions for a scrimmage-high 91 yards.
  • Tailback Rolandan Finch carried the ball 13 times for 44 yards while Andre Williams recorded seven rushes for 42 yards, including an 18-yard gain in the scrimmage’s opening series. Tahj Kimble rushed five times for 13 yards. Williams participation was cut short after seven carries because of an ankle injury.
  • Receiver Colin Larmond, Jr. had three receptions for 48 yards, and sophomore Bobby Swigert caught three passes for 22 yards.
Defensive highlights:
  • Linebacker Nick Clancy highlighted the team’s defensive effort, recording five tackles -- including four tackles for loss -- and one pass break-up.
  • Linebacker Andre Lawrence also had five tackles while sophomore defensive back C.J. Jones recorded four. Junior end Max Holloway had two sacks and linebackers Luke Kuechly, Jake Sinkovec and Will Thompson all finished the scrimmage with three tackles apiece.
Special teams highlights:
  • Sophomore kickers Nate Freese connected on a 52-yard field goal attempt. Freese also connected from 27 yards while his opening attempt of the scrimmage (from 39 yards) missed.
CLEMSON

The Tigers had a 75-play scrimmage on Saturday morning.

Offensive highlights:
  • Quarterback Tajh Boyd completed 8-of-14 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, a 19-yard pass to redshirt freshman tight end Sam Cooper. Boyd had one interception, his first of the August scrimmages in Memorial Stadium.
  • Backup quarterback Cole Stoudt, who played against the first-team defense the entire day, was 4-of-12 for 57 yards. He threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Ford. It was the third straight scrimmage that Ford caught a touchdown pass.
  • D.J. Howard was the top rusher in the scrimmage, carrying eight times for 53 yards, and Andre Ellington finished with 37 yards on four attempts. He did not play after the opening drive.
  • Fifteen different players caught at least one pass and no one caught more than two. Dwayne Allen and DeAndre Hopkins both had two catches for 29 yards. Will Harrison had the longest catch of the day, a 31-yard reception from Tony McNeal.
Defensive highlights:
  • The first-team defense allowed just one touchdown, and that came in an overtime simulation.
  • Andre Branch had four tackles, including three tackles for loss, and a sack. Defensive end Mallicah Goodman added two sacks.
  • Tig Willard and Kantrell Brown had interceptions, and Cortez Davis caused a fumble.
Special teams highlights:
  • Sophomore kicker Chandler Catanzaro was 6-for-6 kicking field goals and extra points.
Notable:
  • Sammy Watkins missed the scrimmage with a hip injury. He is expected to return to practice on Monday. Brandon Thompson and Mike Bellamy also missed the scrimmage with minor injuries and are expected to return on Monday. Running back Demont Buice missed the scrimmage with a foot injury. Starting offensive guard Antoine McClain missed the scrimmage because of a death in his family and Bryce McNeal was out with the flu.
DUKE

The Blue Devils held a 100-snap scrimmage on Friday night at Wallace Wade Stadium.

Offensive highlights:
  • Running back Josh Snead carried the ball seven times for 45 yards with a 13-yard touchdown run and a 13-yard touchdown reception. Juwan Thompson led the team with 71 yards on five carries, including a 47-yard touchdown run. Junior Desmond Scott added 35 yards on five attempts.
  • Sean Renfree completed 16-of-25 throws for 155 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. After making just one of his first five attempts, Renfree reeled off 11 consecutive completions, including the 13-yard touchdown toss to Snead and a 15-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wideout Brandon Braxton.
  • Receiver Conner Vernon had three receptions for a scrimmage-best 51 yards with all three catches producing first downs.
Defensive highlights:
  • Redshirt freshman defensive end Dezmond Johnson returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown.
  • Linebacker Kyler Brown recovered a fumble.
Special teams highlights:
  • Redshirt senior kicker Will Snyderwine made three field goals covering 26, 37 and 47 yards.
GEORGIA TECH

Offensive highlights:
  • The Yellow Jackets scored three touchdowns on rushing attempts by three different quarterbacks. Tevin Washington directed the first-team offense and his scoring play -- a 36-yard scamper after faking the pitch -- was one of the offensive highlights of the day. Redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days also scored a touchdown on an eight-yard run and true freshman Vad Lee plunged in the end zone from the 1-yard line.
Defensive highlights:
  • Sophomore Isaiah Johnson intercepted a Vad Lee pass. Senior outside linebacker Steven Sylvester forced and recovered fumbles. Linebacker Malcolm Munroe also had a fumble recovery and linebacker B.J. Machen recorded a sack.
Notable:
  • Paul Johnson indicated that David Sims, a converted quarterback, has played himself into contention to start at B-Back.
  • Sophomore B.J. Bostic is out for four weeks with an undisclosed injury.
  • Saturday was Paul Johnson's birthday. Just before the team broke its final huddle of camp, the Yellow Jacket players sang "Happy Birthday" to the head coach.
WAKE FOREST

The Deacs held a 90-minute scrimmage on Friday morning at BB&T Field.

Offensive highlights:
  • Joshua Harris scored on a 96-yard run and had 112 yards rushing on just nine carries.
  • Quarterback Tanner Price completed 18 of 26 passes and threw one touchdown, hitting Danny Dembry on a 21-yard score.
  • Wake Forest’s first offensive line did not allow a sack on Friday.
Defensive highlights:
  • Three of the first four offensive possessions ended with punts after three plays. The offense managed just one first down on its first eight possessions.
  • The defense did accumulate four sacks but none against the first team. Derricus Ellis had a pair of sacks and Zachary Allen and Kris Redding each contributed one sack.
  • Linebacker Justin Jackson led all defenders with 10 tackles. Defensive backs Jason Green, A.J. Marshall and Duran Lowe all had six tackles apiece.
Special teams highlights:
  • Jimmy Newman made all four of his field goal attempts during the scrimmage and three extra points. Freshman Chad Hedlund was successful on four PATs.
Ranking offensive linemen is not easy. But hey, either is being an offensive lineman. Here are your best "big uglies."

1. North Carolina: Three starters and one part-time starter return from last year’s team, and this line could be the biggest and best since Butch Davis was hired. Guard Jonathan Cooper (22 starts), center Cam Holland (20) and tackle James Hurst (12) have combined for 54 career starts. Travis Bond has four starts and is the leading candidate to take over at the other guard position.

2. Miami: The Canes return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen including four starters from last year, and Joel Figueroa was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Even with the coaching change, the Canes should be strong up front. Center Tyler Horn is a veteran, Brandon Washington is a difference-maker, and there’s enough competition that Seantrel Henderson spent most of the spring as a backup.

3. Clemson: First-year offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has four returning starters to work with in Landon Walker, Antoine McClain, Dalton Freeman and David Smith. They also have top reserve Mason Cloy, who has 19 career starts and has played in 38 games. There is plenty of depth for a dependable rotation.

4. Virginia Tech: All four returnees started every game last year, and there is enough depth that the Hokies should be able to rotate the most players up front they ever have. It’s a veteran group led by Blake DeChristopher, Andrew Lanier, Jaymes Brooks and Greg Nosal.

5. Florida State: Despite the losses of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon, there’s experience up front. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of tackle Andrew Datko, left guard Bryan Stork or David Spurlock, center Jacob Fahrenkrug, right guard Spurlock or Stork, right tackle Zebrie Sanders. Just how good they’ll be remains to be seen as the majority of them were out with injuries this past spring.

6. NC State: The Pack lost Jake Vermiglio and will be without injured left guard Andrew Wallace for about half of the season, but Zach Allen, Camden Wentz and R.J. Mattes are returning starters. There’s also a lot of talent waiting to emerge with young players like Duran Christophe, Rob Crisp, Tyson Chandler, Torian Box and Andy Jomantas.

7. Virginia: Four players return with a combined 64 career starts in Anthony Mihota, Austin Pasztor, Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, who started the final seven games of the season as a true freshman. Pasztor is in his fourth season as a starter and has 32 career starts.

8. Boston College: Despite the losses of Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham, the Eagles are almost settled up front, it’s the experience behind the starters that’s reason for concern. The No. 2 offensive line is comprised entirely of redshirt freshmen. Mark Spinney returns at center, the projected starting guards are Nathan Richman and Ian White, who started three games as a freshman, and the tackles are Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel.

9. Maryland: It’s been an injury-prone group the past two seasons and that didn’t change this past spring. Left tackle Justin Gilbert, one of the top linemen on the team, reinjured the same knee he had ACL surgery on and will be out until October. R.J. Dill was also injured this spring, though he played in the spring game, and Justin Lewis was rehabbing from offseason surgery. Pete White also missed practices, so the group needs to solidify the two-deep roster.

10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return three starters in guard Omoregie Uzzi, guard Will Jackson and tackle Phil Smith. Sophomore Jay Finch played extensively last season and Ray Beno and Nick McRae were key reserves. Redshirt freshmen Catlin Alford and Morgan Bailey could also work their way into the rotation. Uzzi will be the leader of the line, but they were outplayed by the defense this spring.

11. Wake Forest: Four starters are back, but the Deacs will sorely miss the experience and leadership of former center Russell Nenon. Garrick Williams started the final three games of 2010 -- two at guard and one at center, but he struggled with the snaps towards the end of spring and isn’t where the staff needs him to be yet.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils should take another step forward this season under offensive line coach Matt Luke, and they need to -- Duke’s running game was last in the ACC last year and 104th in the country. Brian Moore replaces a three-year starter at center, but given his experience at right guard the past two seasons, it should be a smooth transition. That will leave a hole, though, at the right guard position, where Laken Tomlinson and John Coleman are the top candidates.

Clemson spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
11:00
AM ET
2010 overall record: 6-7

2010 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 5, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR DeAndre Hopkins, RT Landon Walker, DE Andre Branch, DT Brandon Thompson, P Dawson Zimmerman, RB Andre Ellington, WR Jaron Brown, C Dalton Freeman, OG Antoine McClain, TE Dwayne Allen, MLB Corico Hawkins, S Rashard Hall

Key losses

DE Da’Quan Bowers, DT Jarvis Jenkins, FS DeAndre McDaniel, CB Marcus Gilchrist, RB Jamie Harper, QB Kyle Parker, LT Chris Hairston

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Harper (760 yards)

Passing: Kyle Parker (2,213 yds)

Receiving: Hopkins* (637 yds)

Tackles: McDaniel (84)

Sacks: Bowers (15.5)

Interceptions: McDaniel (4)

Spring answers

1. Cole Stoudt is the backup quarterback. Until true freshmen Stoudt and Tony McNeal enrolled in January and arrived on campus, Tajh Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster. With Boyd the undisputed starter, the main competition was for his backup. Stoudt won the job over McNeal, who also played well and is a good runner, but Stoudt had the stronger arm.

2. Phillip Price will replace Chris Hairston at left tackle. The Tigers have four starters returning on the offensive line but big shoes to fill at left tackle, where Hairston was a three-year starter. Price, who joined the team as a walk-on tight end and moved to offensive line last year, beat Brandon Thomas for the job.

3. Players bought into the system. First-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris brought an up-tempo offense from Tulsa that is similar to what Auburn runs, and the players not only embraced it, they had fun with it this spring. Whether or not they can execute it on Saturdays? See below …

Fall questions

1. Execution of the offense. With a brand new scheme, a first-year starting quarterback and new offensive coordinator, the entire offense is a question mark heading into the fall. The Tigers also lost their leading rusher in Jamie Harper, who decided to leave early for a shot at the NFL. Can the Tigers get it together quickly enough to be a contender in the Atlantic Division again?

2. Will there be enough pressure on quarterbacks? With the departure of Bowers and his 15.5 sacks -- not to mention and 21 quarterback pressures -- the Tigers will have a lot of ground to make up. Bowers was a big reason Clemson was in top 20 in the nation in both scoring defense and total defense last year. With him gone, who’s going to step up and get after the quarterbacks? Malliciah Goodman and Andre Branch are expected to.

3. Will the Tigers find consistency in the kicking game? Clemson lost five games by a touchdown or less last year, including the overtime loss to Auburn, which slipped away with a missed field goal in overtime. Will Chandler Catanzaro pick up where he left off at the end of last season and show some consistency? He made six of his final seven field goals last year, but he also started slow this spring before finishing strong.
Clemson fans saw more out of the Tigers' offense in this year's spring game than they did a year ago -- literally.

Last year, the Tigers ran 108 total plays in their spring game. On Saturday, the Tigers ran a total of 130. And yes, it was balanced, with 69 rushing and 61 passing plays. Clemson, which is under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris, snapped the ball with 16-20 seconds left on the play clock on most plays.

“People saw that we will run a fast paced offense this coming season, but we really would like to go faster,” coach Dabo Swinney said, according to the team's practice report. “I was pleased with what I saw in the running game today. All three of our backs ran well. And Tajh Boyd ran well. He made some good decision today and most importantly, he did not have a turnover.”

While Boyd was in the spotlight for the first time, Clemson's rushing attack was the highlight, as two players ran for at least 100 yards each. Demont Buice had 18 carries for 102 yards and Rod McDowell rushed 12 times for 100 yards for the Orange team. D.J. Howard had 11 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown for the White team.

Boyd threw for one touchdown (to tight end Dwayne Allen) and rushed for one. He completed 8 of 24 passes for 114 yards and had eight carries for 43 yards. His Orange offense averaged 6.2 yards per carry. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson’s top receiver last year as a freshman with 52 catches, had four for 54 yards. Allen had three catches for 43 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown.

Freshman quarterback Cole Stoudt was 6-of-22 passing for 118 yards. Marquan Jones led the White team with three catches for 71 yards.

Desmond Brown led the Orange team with seven tackles. Spencer Shuey and Andre Branch each had two sacks. Justin Parker had the only interception of the game.

The White defense was led by Jonathan Meeks with seven tackles and two pass breakups. Garry Peters, a redshirt freshman, had six stops, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Quandon Christian had five tackles and a forced fumble. Freshman Corey Crawford, who entered Clemson in January, had two sacks.

Clemson offensive starters Andre Ellington (RB) and Antoine McClain (OG) were injured and did not play.

Notes from Clemson practice

April, 4, 2011
4/04/11
7:48
PM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- For those of you who don’t follow @ESPN_ACC on Twitter (shame on you), I’m at Clemson, learning more about how the spring has gone with a new quarterback and new offense. In short: so far, so good. Here are some highlights from what coach Dabo Swinney had to say after the Tigers’ closed practice this evening:
  • Defensive end Andre Branch returned to practice after returning home this past weekend to be with his family after the death of his grandfather.
  • Offensive lineman Antoine McClain could not practice because of a sprained MCL and is questionable for this weekend’s spring game.
  • The Tigers did some live work at the end of practice, working on second-and-long and third-down situations.
  • Swinney said there were a few players the staff was a little frustrated with going into this past weekend's scrimmage who “showed some life.” He called them “stagnant guys.”
  • Swinney said Clemson got some good film to study from this past weekend’s scrimmage, and while the offense has been a focus, the team continues to stress the fundamentals and technique such as pad level, ball security and lining up properly. “For us to have the kind of team we want to have,” Swinney said, “we’ll have to do the little things better than everybody else. … The scheme will come.”

I’ll have more videos and interviews for you from Death Valley later this week.
Clemson offensive line coach Brad Scott isn’t quite ready to say his group is “there yet,” but he saw definite signs this past spring that the Tigers’ front should be better than it was a year ago.

It’s going to have to be.

[+] EnlargeChris Hairston
Cliff Welch/Icon SMILeft tackle Chris Hairston has evolved into the leader of Clemson's veteran offensive line.
The roles have reversed at Clemson, where the superstar skill players have graduated, and the offensive linemen are now among the most experienced players on the field. With four starters returning, they’ll be depended upon heavily this fall to usher in a new duo of running backs while the offense could possibly also be under the direction of a rookie quarterback, should Kyle Parker decide to pursue his baseball career.

“We’re the veteran bunch now,” Scott said. “We lost Jacoby [Ford] out there at receiver, we lost C.J. [Spiller] at running back. ... We need to be able to load the team up on our shoulders. We don’t need to be the weak link. I think that our guys understand that. Even though we’re young at running back, we’re talented there still. They know that both of those backs have gotten some experience last year and are good players. This spring there was evidence these guys are going to do what they need to do to accept that role and that responsibility.”

It starts with left tackle Chris Hairston, who will be in his third season as a starter and has become the leader of the group. Hairston has started 23 of the past 27 games and was missed when he was out of the lineup. Clemson was 9-3 last year when he started and 0-2 when he was out with an injury. His performance in the Tigers’ 40-37 overtime win against Miami was key, as Hairston graded out at 85 percent and had seven knockdown blocks.

Landon Walker is also a returning two-year starter at tackle. He started 12 games last year and had 33 knockdown blocks, including five against TCU when he held All-American Jerry Hughes without a sack and just two tackles.

Dalton Freeman is the returning starter at center, a position he took over for the final nine games of 2009. His first start came against Wake Forest, the school his father played for. The Tigers also have Mason Cloy, who started five games last year at center but suffered a broken leg in the ACC title game.

Junior Antoine McClain started all 14 games last year and was second on the team with 68 knockdown blocks. He had 12.5 against Georgia Tech in the regular season and 10 more in the ACC title game.

Scott said the most progress has been seen in run blocking, but the overall communication has been better, as is their ability to know the calls and techniques that need to be executed in a split second against ever-changing defenses. Both Hairston and Walker’s pass protection also continues to improve. That will be vital if rookie Tajh Boyd will be taking over at quarterback.

“Certainly we think we’ll be a solid group again,” Scott said. “They made great strides last year and by the end of the year were playing pretty doggone good. The kids have matured, they’re more confident, certainly understand the system, and had a pretty good spring. The depth is always the issue, developing the young players, but I think we’re gaining from the experience most of these young men have had over the last two years.”
For the past few years, the Atlantic Division has been the weaker of the two divisions and nobody has been afraid to say it.

The same is expected this fall, but there's one area where the teams in the Atlantic Division appear to be stronger, and that's on the offensive line.

Here's a look at the top three contenders in each division and how their lines look after this spring:

ATLANTIC

Florida State: All five starters return, and they have combined for 142 career starts -- the most of any line in the ACC. Guard Rodney Hudson was an All-America selection last year, and he'll be back along with center Ryan McMahon, guard David Spurlock, and tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders.

Clemson: Four starters return to a group that got progressively better last year and should finally be reaching its peak. Tackle Chris Hairston was a second-team all-conference selection last year, and he'll be joined by tackle Landon Walker, guard Antoine McClain and center Dalton Freeman.

Boston College: The Eagles return four starters, including Anthony Castonzo, an Outland Trophy candidate who has made 41 career starts, guard Thomas Claiborne, tackle Rich Lapham and guard Nathan Richman. That's three seniors and a junior, all of whom have started at least 25 career games. This group should get the Eagles back to their rich tradition of powerful offensive lines.

COASTAL

Virginia Tech: Left tackle is a position of concern. The Hokies turned to sophomore Nick Becton this spring and he did well in place of Ed Wang. Virginia Tech also has to replace Sergio Render, who had 52 career starts.

Miami: The Canes have to replace three starters up front, and center was one of the biggest concerns for coach Randy Shannon this spring. Tyler Horn took over for A.J. Trump there and brings some experience. Orlando Franklin moved to left tackle and will be the leader of the group.

Georgia Tech: The Jackets have to replace three starters, including the transfer of Joseph Gilbert. New faces are working their way into the rotation, and the second team was composed entirely of freshmen in the spring game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Clemson starts practice this evening with a semi-new coach, new coordinators, and much of the same talent that a year ago made this program seem invincible. Will the Tigers be at their best when less is expected of them? Here are three reasons they will, and three reasons they won't:

Why Clemson will win the Atlantic Division

1. The offensive line will be better. The Tigers return all five starters, including veteran leader Thomas Austin. He is slated to start at guard and Mason Cloy will start at center. Cloy started all but one game last year. Sophomore Antoine McClain was the most-improved offensive lineman this past spring and will start at right guard. Chris Hairston and Landon Walker are two returning starters at tackle.

2. The defense will be one of the best in the conference. There are high expectations for this group under the direction of first-year coordinator Kevin Steele. The defensive line returns three of four starters and could be the strength of the entire team. The cornerback duo of Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor is one of the most experienced pairs in the ACC.

3. C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford. The potential to have a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver is something most coaches probably envy. This could be the nation's fastest receiver/running back combination. Both have been All-Americans for Clemson's track team the past three years. With James Davis and Aaron Kelly gone, it's their show now.

Why Clemson won't win the Atlantic Division

1. Inconsistency at quarterback. It's bound to happen, especially considering we don't know who the quarterback will be, or whether both Kyle Parker and Willy Korn will be used. Korn has the most experience, but neither has gone through an entire season shouldering the responsibility of full-time starter, and that can take some time to get used to.

2. Unproven head coach and OC. At the age of 30, Billy Napier will be the youngest offensive coordinator in school history. Only time will tell if it was wise to promote the wide receivers coach to head coach and the tight ends coach to offensive coordinator. Together Napier and Dabo Swinney helped lead the Tigers to a bowl game last season, but now they're facing the same pressures Tommy Bowden once did -- win the ACC title. It's not like either of them has a similar FBS experience to draw from.

3. Unproven receivers. Somebody is going to have to help Ford out, and right now the staff doesn't know who will come through. Xavier Dye, Marquan Jones and Terrance Ashe all return, but none had more than six catches a year ago.

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