ACC: Antone Smith

Final: Florida State 45, Miami 17

October, 9, 2010
10/09/10
11:47
PM ET
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Here's a quick recap of Florida State's 45-17 win over Miami on Saturday night:

How the game was won: Florida State’s defense was better and the Seminoles ran the ball more effectively. The Seminoles disrupted Miami’s passing game, and dared Jacory Harris to beat them with his arm. While he didn’t turn it over, Harris had to play from behind and tried to do too much. Miami’s defense missed too many tackles and FSU executed a balanced offense led by running back Jermaine Thomas.

Turning point: Lonnie Pryor’s 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter put the Seminoles ahead 31-7, and Florida State was in control from that point.

Player of the game: FSU running back Thomas. He ran for 78 yards and scored two touchdowns, and caught two passes for 34 yards and a touchdown.The last person to have three touchdowns here was Antone Smith when FSU won two years ago.

Unsung hero of the game: FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops. This did not look like the defense that rolled out the red carpet for Oklahoma. Jacory Harris completed just 40 percent of his passes, and the Seminoles were better up front. Miami was held to 6 of 18 third down conversions.

What it means: There was no question that Florida State was the better team and played like it wanted it more. Florida State and NC State are the teams to beat in the Atlantic Division, and the Seminoles are now the team to beat in the ACC. With Miami and Florida State the ACC’s only two ranked teams in the Associated Press poll, the Seminoles should now jump the Canes as the ACC’s top team.

Miami DE Moncur out for FSU game

September, 2, 2009
9/02/09
12:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


Miami defensive end Eric Moncur will miss Monday's Florida State game with an injury, coach Randy Shannon said on Wednesday's ACC teleconference.

Defensive end Adewale Ojomo, who will miss at least several weeks after surgery for a broken jaw, will also be out for the Florida State game. Still, Shannon said he is confident in the defensive line, and downplayed the numerous reported nicks the unit has suffered this summer. Miami's official depth chart has not yet been released.

"Everybody else is healthy, fully healthy,'' Shannon said. "They've been healthy for a week. When you look at injuries, we may have an ankle here or maybe I rested a guy. Like sometimes in practice I've rested [defensive tackles] Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes and Joe Joseph some days on different days. ... We're pretty healthy right now."

When I asked Shannon if he thought the Canes would be OK without Moncur and Ojomo, he said, "We'll miss them, their experience and things like that, but we have confidence in [defensive ends] Olivier Vernon, Marcus Robinson, Andrew Smith and Steven Wesley -- who has done a great job for us. We have a lot of guys who played a lot of football last year on this team at that position.''

Miami's defensive line will be tested early against the Noles, as FSU is expected to have one of the best offensive lines in the conference this year, if not the best, and stopping the run will be one of the Canes biggest challenges in that game. Last year, in Florida State's 41-39 win, Antone Smith rushed for a career-best four touchdowns, quarterback Christian Ponder ran for 144, and the Noles racked up 310 rushing yards to Miami's 51.

"You've got to be able to stop the run," Shannon said. "That's what it comes down to. If you can stop the run defensively, you can make it a typical game that you want to be addressing, when you can let your pass rush get after the quarterback, and get them in a long-yardage situation. Last year, we weren't able to do that at certain times in the game, and Florida State did a nice job of running the football with Ponder and mixing it up with their tailbacks."

Ranking the ACC units: Running backs

July, 16, 2009
7/16/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This one will probably be the toughest ranking of them all because the position is so loaded. But somebody's has to be the best, right?

1. Georgia Tech -- This is the deepest, most proven group in the conference, and it's only expected to be better in Year 2 of Paul Johnson's offense. Reigning ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer led the league in rushing last year with 1,395 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Louisville transfer Anthony Allen and sophomore Roddy Jones, along with Embry Peeples and Marcus Wright give the staff a bundle of options.

2. Virginia Tech -- Ryan Williams and Darren Evans have stolen the spotlight, but don't forget about Josh Oglesby and Kenny Lewis Jr., whose status after a torn Achilles last season will be re-evaluated at the end of the summer. Oglesby can be a threat to catch the ball, but this is still Evans' show. Williams had a great spring game, but Evans is coming off a record-setting freshman season.

3. Miami -- Graig Cooper is the team's leading returning rusher and one of the most versatile players on the roster. He and Javarris James make a tough 1-2 punch, but Cooper has his sights set on a 1,000-yard season. They've also got a great recruit in Mike James, and Lee Chambers and Damien Berry give the position added depth.

4. Wake Forest -- Wake has three capable tailbacks in Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass and Kevin Harris, who each had a 100-yard game last year and started at least one game. They'll have an improved offensive line blocking for them this year.

5. Boston College -- Josh Haden and Montel Harris were two of the most productive freshmen in the country last year, as they combined for 106 yards per game. They'll benefit tremendously from that experience, plus be working behind one of the best offensive lines in the ACC.

6. Florida State -- The Noles lost their leading rusher in Antone Smith, but Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones have the skills to compensate for it and the FSU running game shouldn't miss a beat. Thomas lost only 10 yards rushing all of last year, and had a breakout freshman season. Jones showed his potential in the Champs Sports Bowl with 55 yards and a touchdown on four carries.

7. Maryland -- The Terps have a solid group in Da'Rel Scott, Davin Meggett and Morgan Green, who ran for a career-high 72 yards in the Humanitarian Bowl. Scott is their star, as he rushed for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns last year, but he's got to work on running lower and tougher between the tackles. He could be more of a complete back if he got better at running routes and improved his pass protection.

8. Clemson -- The Tigers have the most accomplished, versatile back in the ACC right now in C.J. Spiller, and he's going to get the bulk of the carries without James Davis to share it with this year. The question is if he can handle it. Sophomore Jamie Harper has been working hard this offseason for an increased role, but the Tigers definitely don't have the depth of the other teams, leaving the job almost entirely to Spiller.

9. NC State -- Just as the Wolfpack welcomed back Toney Baker, Jamelle Eugene went down with a shoulder injury and missed spring drills. Brandon Barnes and James Washington benefited from Eugene's absence, but the Pack will need to keep their top two backs healthy this fall. It will be interesting to see how effective Baker is considering he hasn't played in full pads since he was injured in the season opener two years ago.

10. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels return all of their running backs from a year ago, and should see more consistency now that everyone knows their roles. Shaun Draughn became the starter midway through last season and rushed for 866 yards, and Ryan Houston gave a powerful push off the bench, leading the team with eight touchdowns, including six from just a yard out. Freshman Jamal Womble impressed the staff this spring.

11. Duke -- The return of Re'quan Boyette will help the Blue Devils tremendously, and they're in a much better position than they were a year ago. While Boyette was out, Jay Hollingsworth led the team in rushing with 399 yards while catching 25 passes for an additional 188 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Jackson, a converted safety in his second year with the program, rushed for 259 yards while catching 12 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown.

12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers have to replace their leading rusher and team leader in Cedric Peerman, which means Mikell Simpson is going to have to revert to his 2007 form. Simpson was hampered by injuries and missed three games as a result last year. He ran for 570 yards in 2007 before dropping to 262 last year.

FSU running backs hope brotherly bond transfers to field

July, 1, 2009
7/01/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Florida State running backs Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones will be competing for carries this summer and fall, but as roommates, they've developed a friendship that seems will only encourage their progress together.

 
  Dale Zanine/US Presswire
  Jermaine Thomas, who finished last season with 482 yards, is the Noles' leading returning rusher.

On Tuesday nights, they head out for wings, and when they stay in, Thomas has learned that Jones is a pretty good cook. In return for a few "four-course meals," Thomas makes sure Jones, who is a diabetic, takes his medicine and keeps his blood sugar up. They've learned to take care of each other.

"It feels like a family," Thomas said. "It's a bond that we've built and we look out for each other. I couldn't ask for a better roommate."

Teammate Tavares Pressley lives about four houses down, and they've become a close-knit group ready to take on the challenge of leading Florida State's offense. With so many questions surrounding the wide receivers, and a talented offensive line that returns four starters, it would hardly be a surprise to see the Noles depend heavily on their running game this fall.

FSU had the No. 33 rushing offense in the country last season, but two of the top four ball carriers were quarterbacks Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson. Thomas, who finished with 482 yards and three touchdowns on 69 carries, is the team's leading returning rusher.

"I think the running game is going to be a lot better," Thomas said. "It might be the face of the offense. I just think because of the bond me and Ty have with each other and also Tavares Pressley is coming along too from that knee injury, we all have a bond and we treat each other like brothers. We know we have to compete against each and all three of us want to be the best. Us all wanting to have that starting position, it's just going to make us work even harder and want to learn the offense. And the offensive line, I don't think nobody worked as hard as the offensive line. They seemed to be really dedicated. We're just trying to do our part and be counted on when it's time."

Pressley, Jones and Thomas will be responsible for helping to replace Antone Smith's 177 carries and 15 rushing touchdowns from 2008. Without quarterbacks in the equation, Smith's 117 carries accounted for almost 55 percent of the running plays last year. As a true freshman, Thomas was introduced quickly with an average of seven yards per carry on 69 attempts. He finished behind only Sean Jackson and Warrick Dunn for the most yards per carry by a true freshman. Jones showed his potential in the Champs Sports Bowl, when he rushed four times for 55 yards and a touchdown.

One of Thomas' best attributes last season was his ability to constantly get positive yardage. He only lost 10 yards rushing all year.

"I learned a lot," Thomas said. "The game experience, how to run certain plays, ... knowing I have to be more comfortable when I'm in the game. Antone Smith taught me a lot. He told me, 'If it's something you love, you don't have no problem doing it and you're destined to do it, so just go out there and be dedicated.' I just listened to him."

The staff also has high expectations for Pressley, who redshirted in 2008 after suffering an ACL injury in his left knee. He wasn't cleared for full participation this spring, but has begun to get some of his speed back and will be ready for summer camp.

"The guy everybody keeps forgetting about," said offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher, "Tavares Pressley is back. Tavares is a heck of a player. Tavares is 4.4 220 pounds. He has great hands and can do things."

It's still a young, inexperienced group, but they've learned they're pretty productive when they stick together. And it could take all three of them to build upon last year's success.

Lending a helping hand in the ACC

May, 22, 2009
5/22/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There was some progress in the ACC this spring, and each team got a little bit of help at certain positions. Here's a look at who found some help this spring and where:

BOSTON COLLEGE: Marcellus Bowman and Wes Davis are two safeties who should help make the Eagles' secondary one of the best BC fans have seen in recent years. Four players return to the secondary with starting experience.

CLEMSON: It's amazing what a year of experience can do, and the Tigers' offensive line needed it. The only direction for this group to go is up, and it started to do that this spring. All five starters return.

DUKE: The return of running back Re'quan Boyette will give the Blue Devils' running game a more potent punch. He could be a difference maker on the field this fall, and Duke will need him to be.

FLORIDA STATE: Leading rusher Antone Smith is gone, but FSU fans can rest assured Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones can carry the load for the Noles. Both had several breakaway runs this spring.

GEORGIA TECH: On a defense that lost its leaders up front, defensive end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett established themselves as the new captains of the ship this spring, and they should be the Jackets' top two defenders.

MARYLAND: Phil Costa helped ease the transition of the graduation of longtime leader Edwin Williams at center. The Terps lost three starters up front and have four players in new positions, but Costa proved he can be the new leader of the group.

MIAMI: This "got help" award goes to new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. He had an immediate impact on the offense this spring and has Jacory Harris' full attention.

NORTH CAROLINA: Da'Norris Searcy and Melvin Williams gave the staff some confidence in life without Trimane Goddard. Searcy played well in the Meineke Car Care bowl as a fifth defensive back and played with confidence this spring.

NC STATE: Mike Glennon answered the distress signal at backup quarterback, a position that had been exposed far too many times in the past. Glennon completed 23 of 38 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown in the Kay Yow Spring Game.

VIRGINIA: The return of Jameel Sewell at quarterback and addition of Vic Hall no doubt helped the Cavaliers. At this point last year, they didn't have one quarterback who had any starting experience. Now they've got three.

VIRGINIA TECH: Confidence grew in the linebackers this spring, and that's because of the efforts of Barquell Rivers and Jake Johnson. Bruce Taylor and Quillie Odom are still learning, but there was progress at this position.

WAKE FOREST: Kenny Okoro and Josh Bush both proved to be dependable players at a position that just lost Alphonso Smith. Okoro in particular stood out, but both of them got a lot of reps with Brandon Ghee out with an injury.

Florida State spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009
5/07/09
9:40
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Florida State Seminoles
2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 5-3, Atlantic Division co-champions

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 5, punter/kicker 0

Top returners

OG Rodney Hudson, C Ryan McMahon, QB Christian Ponder, DT Budd Thacker, LB Dekoda Watson, TB Jermaine Thomas, WR Bert Reed

Key losses

DE Everette Brown, LB Derek Nicholson, RV Myron Rolle, CB Tony Carter, P/PK Graham Gano, WR Greg Carr, RB Antone Smith, WR Preston Parker

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Antone Smith (792 yards)
Passing: Christian Ponder* (2006 yards)
Receiving: Greg Carr (542 yards)
Tackles: Derek Nicholson (81)
Sacks: Everette Brown (13.5)
Interceptions: Tony Carter (2)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sept. 7 Miami
Sept. 12 Jacksonville State
Sept. 19 at BYU
Sept. 26 South Florida
Oct. 3 at Boston College
Oct. 10 Georgia Tech
Oct. 17 BYE
Oct. 22 at North Carolina
Oct. 31 NC State
Nov. 7 at Clemson
Nov. 14 at Wake Forest
Nov. 21 Maryland
Nov. 28 at Florida

1. Riding solo at quarterback. Ponder finished the spring entrenched as the No. 1 quarterback and leader of the offense, and since his backup, E.J. Manuel missed the whole spring with an injury, it's hard to imagine that's going to change. Manuel has yet to throw a pass in a college game.

2. Run with it. The Noles need to replace their leading rusher, who accounted for almost 55 percent of all the running plays last year that weren't by quarterbacks, and Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones showed this spring that they can be threats. Both made several long runs this spring.

3. Strength up front. The youngest line in the FBS last year should be one of the best in the ACC this fall. All five starters return. The only question is at right tackle, where three players are competing for one spot: Antwane Greenlee, Zebrie Sanders and Garrett Faircloth.

Fall questions

1. Secondary. There's going to be an infusion of freshmen this summer who could challenge for playing time. Greg Reid from Georgia, is a big-time player rated No. 15 on the ESPNU150. The staff is also expecting more from Terrance Parks, who was banged up this spring and didn't get a chance to compete much at rover/safety.

2. Receivers. It hasn't been determined how long Rod Owens will be suspended, or when Taiwan Easterling will be able to return from a ruptured Achilles. Louis Givens, a walk-on, is becoming a dependable option. It's up to Bert Reed, Jarmon Fortson and Richard Goodman to carry the unit.

3. Interior line play. The staff didn't leave the spring with any better idea of who will be the starters at tackle and nose guard. Budd Thacker missed all of spring. Moses McCray, a true freshman, played well, and Justin Mincey, and Kendrick Stewart, are in the mix. Nobody really distinguished themselves.

ACC made history on the ground in '08; poised to repeat in '09

April, 7, 2009
4/07/09
4:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

So the ACC doesn't have any McCoys or Bradfords.

It's got Dwyers and Evans and Scotts instead.

We've talked before about how potent some of the ACC backfields have the potential to be this season - namely at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech -- but check out this tiny tidbit:

In 2008, for the first time in ACC history, three underclassmen surpassed the 1,000 yard rushing mark -- Georgia Tech sophomore Jonathan Dwyer, Maryland sophomore Da'Rel Scott, and Virginia Tech freshman Darren Evans.

In fact, all three of those players topped 1,100 yards.

Considering how young many of the ACC's top backs were, it's not entirely unreasonable to think the conference can develop a running reputation akin to what the Big 12 did last year in the passing game. (With the improvement expected at quarterback, though, odds are offenses will be a little more balanced -- especially in Winston-Salem. And of course, a successful running game tends to open things up for the quarterbacks).

In addition to those three 1,000-yard rushers, don't forget about C.J. Spiller at Clemson, Montel Harris at Boston College, Roddy Jones at Georgia Tech, Graig Cooper at Miami, Jamelle Eugene and Toney Baker at NC State, Mikell Simpson at Virginia, Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston at UNC, Kevin Harris, Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass at Wake Forest, Re'Quan Boyette at Duke ... it seems like every school has a legitimate threat in the ground game.

Florida State should have one of the better offensive lines in the ACC making life easier on whoever steps up to replace leading rusher Antone Smith. Jermaine Thomas averaged seven yards as a reserve last year, so the cupboard isn't empty there, either.

Dwyer, Evans and Scott set the bar high last year, and should only be better this fall. And odds are, they're not the only ones.

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.

ACC ready to run in '09

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
5:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

I made a small mistake during my recent interview with Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen, who also happens to have a black belt in taekwondo. I confessed I was having a hard time deciding who would have the best backfield in the ACC this fall -- Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech.

Whoops.

"You say what?!" he asked, incredulously.

"It's a toss-up."

"A toss-up? How are you gonna talk to me on the phone and say it's a toss-up?"

"Well, gimme a reason."

"I'll give you one reason for one player," he said. "We have the ACC Player of the Year right now. Then we have a guy who holds records at another Division I college."

(Allen set the single-game rushing record when he was at Louisville, and ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer led the ACC with 107.3 rushing yards per game last year).

Fair enough.

Allen and Dwyer, not to mention Lucas Cox, Roddy Jones, Josh Nesbitt and Richard Watson make six good reasons why Georgia Tech will have the best backfield in the ACC next season. Virginia Tech will make a strong case with the return of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Darren Evans and rookie Ryan Williams. Despite much of the hype, though, Williams is still unproven, and there is a lot of experience returning elsewhere in the ACC.

In fact, eight of the top 10 rushers from 2008 return. Four of them, though, are Dwyer, Nesbitt, Taylor and Evans. The two seniors were Virginia's Cedric Peerman, and Antone Smith at FSU.

With so much experience returning, the running game appears to be an early strength of the ACC -- Duke included. As of right now, though, it's hard to argue against Allen -- Georgia Tech looks the strongest.

What to watch in the ACC this spring

February, 11, 2009
2/11/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

With Miami kicking off spring practice on Feb. 24, it's never too early to start thinking about spring football in the ACC. There are plenty of story lines heading into the 2009 season -- like backup quarterbacks and new coordinators.

Here are a few things to watch for each team in the ACC this spring:

ATLANTIC DIVISION

BOSTON COLLEGE
Spring practice starts:
March 17
Spring game: April 25

What to watch

  • Replacing 325-pound defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace will be a large challenge -- literally. Damik Scafe could be a starter, but beyond him it's anybody's guess.
  • Quarterback Dominique Davis only has three games of experience over everyone else, so it's definitely not a given that it's his job to lose. Davis was thrown into the fire at the end of 2008, but former coach Jeff Jagodzinski and former offensive coordinator Steve Logan liked freshman Justin Tuggle, who redshirted this past season. Whether the new staff is as high on Tuggle remains to be seen.
  • Including former defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani, who was promoted to head coach, the Eagles will have six coaches in new positions this spring. With two new coordinators, a new offensive line coach, tight ends coach and a linebackers coach, this spring will be a chance for a few introductions.

(Read full post)

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Weekend rewind: Senior Bowl

January, 26, 2009
1/26/09
2:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

For those of you who missed the Under Armour Senior Bowl this past weekend, here's a quick look at how some of the ACC players fared:

Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman: Led the North team with five carries for 34 yards, and had a fumble

NC State running back Andre Brown: 10 carries, 31 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run; caught two passes for 41 yards. Led South team with 72 all-purpose yards.

Clemson running back James Davis: Nine carries, 32 yards

Florida State running back Antone Smith: Two carries, 7 yards

Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper: Completed 2 of 5 passes for 44 yards (one was 32 yards long) and made one tackle

FSU receiver Greg Carr: Caught one pass for 9 yards

Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim: Five unassisted, one assisted tackle (fourth on the North team). Had one tackle for a loss of 2 yards.

Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace: Two assisted tackles

Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji: One unassisted tackle

Clemson safety Michael Hamlin: Four unassisted, one assisted tackle

Wake Forest safety Chip Vaughn: Two tackles

Virginia Tech corner back Victor "Macho" Harris: One punt return for 10 yards

Peerman, Brown, Raji, Harris, Vaughn and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith were all starters.

Best of luck to these guys and the other ACC seniors in this year's class, whether their next step is on the field or off.

FSU recruiting needs

January, 14, 2009
1/14/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The FSU coaching staff is in a bit of a tricky situation, as it's still waiting to hear from the NCAA about possible scholarship reductions resulting from the academic cheating scandal, which could affect this year's recruiting class. The announcement could come by the end of the week. So far, Florida State has 18 commitments.

The Seminoles' recruiting philosophy has always been to sign the best players available, regardless of position. That said, FSU will take some hits on defense, especially with the loss of both starting defensive ends, linebackers Derek Nicholson and Toddrick Verdell, corner Tony Carter, and safety Myron Rolle. The staff put an emphasis on defensive linemen and defensive backs.

Offensively, the Noles are in good shape, as they had several young playmakers contribute this season who will be back, including their quarterback and all of their offensive linemen. FSU will have to replace leading rusher Antone Smith, starting receiver Greg Carr, and most likely Corey Surrency, who is petitioning the NCAA for another year of eligibility. The Noles are expected to add at least four wide receivers and two running backs.

Possibly the biggest shoes FSU will have to fill are those of Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano. The Noles are hoping Dustin Hopkins, a kicker from Houston, will be able to help.

FSU romps over Wisconsin

December, 27, 2008
12/27/08
7:57
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

North Carolina, even in its losing effort, set the entertainment bar high with an instant classic in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, and the ACC's second game of the day paled in comparison.

Even the officials got caught sleeping in this one.

Florida State's speed beat Wisconsin's power repeatedly, and the Seminoles earned their first nine-win season since 2004. Considering how poorly the Badgers played, though, it wasn't exactly the kind of win that will have everyone proclaiming the program is back. It was a convincing postseason win nonetheless, and Bobby Bowden will take it -- especially considering it didn't happen last year.

The two major factors in this game were Florida State's defense and kicker/punter/Lou Groza award winner Graham Gano. Gano pinned Wisconsin deep in its own territory, as three of his punts dropped inside the 3-yard line in the first half, and once inside the 10. It gave the defense momentum and energy early.

The Seminoles' defense was the difference in the game, as they snagged three turnovers and kept Wisconsin's bruising, powerful backs off the field. Two of those fumbles were returned for touchdowns, and Florida State actually wound up controlling the clock by about 10 minutes. If defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews wanted to retire, he couldn't have asked for a better sendoff from his players, but all indications from within the program are that he'll be back for another season.

FSU quarterback Christian Ponder spent much of the first half on his bad back, but had enough playmakers around him -- namely receiver Greg Carr -- to take advantage of Wisconsin's mistakes on defense.

Ponder struggled with his accuracy in the first half because there was so much pressure on him, but improved in the second half when the offensive line gave him some time to throw. Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has played it safe most of the season with his play calling, keeping Ponder to shorter throws. Ponder's at his best with the play action, when he uses his feet and rolls out of the pocket. Overall, he managed the offense without turning it over and will only get better.

Florida State does have a balanced offense, but the running game has been the backbone, and Wisconsin took that away and forced Ponder to beat them. Antone Smith ran it when it counted, though, and was more effective later in the game. He also got some help from Ty Jones, who will be part of the future of FSU's running game along with Jermaine Thomas.

Even without injured playmaker Preston Parker, one of the team's top receivers, FSU's depth, height and athleticism at the position were too much for Wisconsin to handle.

ACC mailblog

December, 23, 2008
12/23/08
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Michael, writes: Is there any word on Spiller's return to Clemson? He said he'd stay if Swinney was hired as headcoach. Is this true?

Heather Dinich: Yes, that's true. Spiller has said repeatedly that if Swinney got the job, he would stay, and Swinney's recent hires have had a positive influence on him. Never say never, though. Spiller submitted his papers to the NFL draft advisory, and at this time last year, James Davis was holding a news conference to say he was staying, then changed his mind and said he was leaving, and then on the last day to withdraw, took his name out.


Jason, in Tallahassee, writes: FSU is not losing a lot of players but the ones we "may" lose are the playmakers and no matter what we will be losing the best players on each team (Special-Gano/Defense-Brown/Offense-Smith/Parker).With the uncertainty of the returning playmakers for FSU, how do you think it will effect the production of our team as a whole. Any thoughts?

Heather Dinich: Don't forget about Greg Carr. Actually, though, FSU has a strong nucleus returning on offense, so I think they'll be OK there, and Jermaine Thomas has gotten enough experience this season that he should make a smooth transition into Antone Smith's shoes. Plenty of young receivers -- Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling -- got valuable time. I haven't seen anything about Everette Brown making his decision yet. If he has and I missed it, I apologize. Collectively, though, I don't see there being much of a drop-off.


Jack, in Mechanicsburg, Pa., writes: First things first, I know any athlete must fulfill academic requirements in order to play a sport, no matter if they've graduated or not, and Marshman didn't do that. His suspension is his own doing, but I do feel a little bit of sympathy for him considering he'll miss his last game in a Hokie uniform and he had already graduated. Seriously though, I hope his classes were the most difficult Virginia Tech has to offer, because this is embarassing for himself, the team, and the school.

Heather Dinich: I couldn't have put it better myself.


Eric, writes: You say that Stewart Mandel is probably right on by predicting the ACC to go 5-5? Well, Jesse Palmer picked the ACC to go 9-1 on ESPN the other night. I think he also does this for a living. So please don't act like everyone thinks the ACC is going to be "average" in the bowl games. So people are actually going out on a limb and predicting the ACC to represent itself well.

Heather Dinich: Hey, if the ACC goes 9-1, I'll be the first to give the conference credit for it. Promise.

Florida State season review

December, 15, 2008
12/15/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Overview: The Seminoles overcame some growing pains on offense with their standout defense led by Everette Brown, arguably the best defensive end in the ACC. FSU was second in the country in tackles for loss and sixth in sacks. Quarterback Christian Ponder was inconsistent, as to be expected for a first-year starting quarterback, and had 13 interceptions to 12 touchdowns for 150.6 passing yards per game. Still, the Seminoles led the ACC in scoring offense behind an offensive line that grew up quickly. They paved the way for one of the program's best running games in years, as the 4.9 yards per carry was the best since 1995, and the 25 rushing touchdowns were the most since 2000.

Several suspensions of wide receivers, coupled with the news of players involved in an altercation near the student union were an off-field distraction that might have contributed to a devastating home loss against Boston College. But safety Myron Rolle countered the negativity when he won a Rhodes Scholarship the same day he flew to College Park to help the Noles win a critical Atlantic Division road game at Maryland.

Offensive MVP: Antone Smith. Smith scored 14 rushing touchdowns, four more this season than he had in his entire career. It was the most touchdowns in a single season since Warrick Dunn had 16 in 1995, and fourth all-time at FSU for single-season rushing touchdowns. He averaged 62.8 yards per game and scored more touchdowns than any other player in the ACC.

Defensive MVP: Everette Brown. He was the only player in the FBS to rank among the top three in tackles for loss and sacks. His 20.5 tackles for loss is the third-highest in a single season in school history. Brown led all ACC defensive linemen in tackles, and finished fourth all-time at FSU with 12.5 sacks in a season. He had three sacks or more in three different ACC games.

Turning point: Ponder put together an 11-play, 70-yard fourth-quarter drive to lead FSU to a 26-17 comeback win over NC State on Oct. 16. It was a deficit in a Thursday night road win that, in the past two seasons, FSU might not have been able to come back from.

What's next: Florida State will face Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl, and Brown, who has already graduated, will have to decide whether he is returning for his senior season. First, though, Brown and FSU's defense will have to contain P.J. Hill, who has rushed for 1,000 yards three years in a row.

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