ACC: Barrett McMillin
Here's your spring scouting report on the Demon Deacons:
2009 overall record: 5-7
2009 conference record: 3-5
Offense: 6, defense: 7, punter/kicker: 2
WR Marshall Williams, WR Devon Brown, RB Josh Adams, G Joe Looney, C Russell Nenon, DE Tristan Dorty, DE Kyle Wilber, LB Matt Woodlief, SS Cyhl Quarles, P Shane Popham , CB Kenny Okoro
OT Chris DeGeare, QB Riley Skinner, OG Jeff Griffin, OG Barrett McMillin, DT John Russell, DT Boo Robinson, CB Brandon Ghee
2009 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Adams* (541 yards)
Passing: Skinner (3,160 yds)
Receiving: Williams* (867 yds)
Tackles: Dominique Midgett (79)
Sacks: Russell (4.5)
Interceptions: Okoro* (3)
1. Help for the quarterback. Wake Forest found some playmakers this spring who can help ease the transition for a new starting quarterback. Brown and Chris Givens can both take a handoff on a sweep, and the Deacs have two veterans in Adams and Brandon Pendergrass. Wake’s ground game should get a boost from both the running backs and wide receivers.
2. New quarterback, new offense. Without Skinner, the Deacs are making the transition to a more run-based option offense, and No. 1 on this list will help them do that. Regardless of who wins the quarterback job, he’ll likely bring an added dimension with his ability to run, and Skylar Jones demonstrated that this spring.
3. New staff assignments. Coach Jim Grobe reassigned some of his assistants to better take advantage of their strengths, and those transitions went well this spring. The biggest change was the move of Steve Russ, a former defensive coordinator at Syracuse, from tight ends and fullbacks to linebackers.
1. Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. Jones finished the spring atop the depth chart, but part of that decision was based on durability. Jones didn’t miss a day of practice this spring. Historically, that’s been a quality Grobe likes -- guys who can stay healthy in his system. But the staff thinks very highly of incoming freshman Tanner Price, who will be given every opportunity to win the job as well. Regardless of who starts the season opener, they’re all inexperienced.
2. Woe-line. Possibly a bigger concern than who the starting quarterback will be is how the offensive line will come together. The Deacs return Nenon at center, but he missed all of spring and added to the unit’s injury concerns. Wake is missing established tackles, and the group is trying to get back to running the ball the way it did before Skinner. The previous linemen were recruited to be run blockers, but the focused changed when they got a great passing quarterback.
3. Defensive jobs up for grabs. Wake Forest has a lot of young talent, making for some ongoing competition this summer at five or six positions. The interior defensive line, defensive end and linebacker are areas where there are two legitimate potential starters as opposed to two backups trying to earn promotions.
Strongest position: Wide receiver
Key returnees: Marshall Williams, Devon Brown
Key departures: None
The skinny: The Deacs are deep here, as they also get back Terence Davis, who missed last year with a torn ACL, and both backups in Chris Givens and Jordan Williams. Brown, Marshall Williams and Givens were the top three receivers, respectively, a year ago. Williams was fourth in the ACC in receptions per game (5) and third in receiving yards per game (72.2).
Weakest position: Offensive line
Key returnees: LG Joe Looney, C Russell Nenon
Key departures: LT Chris DeGeare, RG Barrett McMillin, RT Jeff Griffin,
The skinny: Wake has to replace three starters up front, but overall the Deacs graduated five redshirt seniors from the two-deep at this position. There’s room for improvement, as Wake was tied for No. 83 in the country last year in sacks allowed with 2.33. Both tackle positions will be the biggest concern.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Position rankings today will include who has what up front. While it's not exactly glamorous, it wins games.
Let's start with the offensive lines.
1. Florida State -- Ah, it's amazing what a year can do, no? At this point last season, I had the Noles ranked No. 12. That's right, and I'd do it again. There wasn't a senior in the group, and they were the youngest O-line in the FBS with a lot to prove. It was a work in progress, and the tight ends had to help out, but Rick Trickett did a heck of a job, and I take partial credit for the motivation. You're welcome, coach. Now this group, led by Rodney Hudson, Ryan McMahon and Andrew Datko could be one of the best in the country.
2. Boston College -- Four starters return who started all 14 games last year, including potential All-ACC candidates Anthony Castonzo and Matt Tennant. It took some time for this group to come together after Castonzo moved from right tackle to left, Thomas Claiborne was a defensive lineman who moved to the right guard spot and Rich Lapham came off the bench in nine games in 2007. Once they got comfortable, they were a major factor in the success of true freshmen running backs Montel Harris and Josh Haden. It should only be better this year.
3. Wake Forest -- This should be a much-improved group, and deeper, especially with the return of Chris DeGeare, who missed last fall for academic reasons, at left tackle. Seven players with starting experience return to the offensive line and they have combined for 95 career starts. Russell Nenon, who moved to center after Trey Bailey broke his ankle last year, has solidified the position, and Jeff Griffin, who had been a starting tackle, is now comfortable at right guard. Barrett McMillin returns at guard.
4. Clemson -- This is where the problems began last year, and it should be part of the solution in 2009. In 2008, Clemson had to replace four starters. This year, all five starters return. Since 1963, Clemson has had a winning percentage of 76 percent when it returns five starters on the offensive line. Thomas Austin has starting experience at center and guard and should be one of the top offensive linemen in the 2010 NFL draft.
5. Virginia Tech -- The Hokies should be more athletic up front, and this unit goes eight deep, which might be the best depth they've had in the past two seasons. Ed Wang, who is entering his third season as a starter and Sergio Render, who is entering his fourth, are the veterans of a group that includes seven redshirt freshmen and sophomores on the two-deep. Beau Warren is expected to replace Ryan Shuman at center and Jaymes Brooks took over the right guard position and played well in the Orange Bowl in place of an ineligible Nick Marshman.
6. Miami -- Depth remains a concern, but veteran tackle Jason Fox is as dependable as they come, with 36 career starts. There were some tweaks to the line this past spring, as Matt Pipho will be the new starter at right tackle, and the staff is eager to see how he handles that role. A.J. Trump moved from right guard to center, and Joel Figueroa took over at right guard. The health of the starters will be key through the tough stretch to start the season.
7. Georgia Tech -- There is definitely potential here, but first the Jackets have to replace Andrew Gardner and David Brown, which they started to do last season when that duo got hurt. Then they have to keep everyone healthy, which didn't happen this spring. With Dan Voss, Nick Claytor and Cord Howard back for summer camp, and Joseph Gilbert having started 12 games last year, this group should improve and be more consistent this fall, but it will get even better as Paul Johnson's staff begins to recruit more athletic linemen.
8. Virginia -- There are no athletic freaks on the line like coach Al Groh usually finds, but it should still be a solid group. Four starters return, including senior right tackle Will Barker, who has 37 starts. Junior B.J. Cabbell at right guard was a solid blocker last year in his first season as starter, as was Jack Shields, who improved as the season progressed. Sophomore Austin Pasztor moved into the starting lineup against Maryland and sophomore Landon Bradley was Eugene Monroe's backup.
9. NC State -- The good news is that the Pack have plenty of upperclassmen to depend on, and four of the five starters have combined to start 60 games. The only player listed as a current starter who has never started is redshirt senior Andy Barbee, who has spent the previous three years as a reserve center but has now moved to guard. Behind those veterans are several players who redshirted last year and will be given an equal opportunity for playing time.
10. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels took a hit early last month when starter Aaron Stahl decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to "move forward with the next phase of [his] life." His experience will be tough to replace, but there are a handful of players who had a good spring and will compete for his spot. Kyle Jolly, who is entering his third year as a starter, Alan Pelc, who earned a starting job at guard last year, and Lowell Dyer, who has started at center each of the past two seasons, will be the leaders of the line.
11. Maryland -- The Terps lost five of their top seven offensive linemen, including three starters, and the development of their replacements will go a long way in determining how their season unfolds. Despite the graduation of longtime center Edwin Williams, it's the position of least concern as the staff is confident in the leadership and playing abilities of Phil Costa. There are also high expectations for left tackle Bruce Campbell, a physically gifted athlete.
12. Duke -- This has been a trouble spot for the Blue Devils for years, and it's a work-in-progress for coach David Cutcliffe. This year should be another challenge as Duke has to replace three starters after making some progress last year. Center Bryan Morgan is the anchor of the group and enters his second season as a starter and is the only player back in his original position. Kyle Hill moved from left guard to left tackle, so this group will have a whole new look.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There are some teams in the ACC that are stacked at a particular position or positions -- meaning there's not just depth there, but depth and legitimate all-conference talent. Here's a quick look at who in the conference is simply loaded:
UNC front seven: All four starters return on the defensive line, and there is outstanding depth both there and in the secondary. On the line, tackle Cam Thompson is coming off his best season at UNC, tackle Marvin Austin and end E.J. Wilson both started the majority of games last season, and Robert Quinn had 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant both started every game last season, and the position is the deepest it's been in recent years. Carter led the team with 11 tackles for loss and Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles.
Georgia Tech secondary: Morgan Burnett, Rashaad Reid, Mario Butler, Dominique Reese, and Cooper Taylor all have experience, and the group also welcomes back Jerrard Tarrant from a suspension.
Boston College secondary: The Eagles return DeLeon Gause, Wes Davis and Roderick Rollins, who have combined for 32 career starts. This should be the best group BC has had in a while.
Clemson defensive line: The Tigers return three starters across the front, and coach Dabo Swinney has said this unit could be the strength of the entire team. Ricky Sapp is the leader, senior Kevin Alexander is a returning starter, and there are really three starters returning for the two defensive end positions, including DaQuan Bowers, who started six games last year and finished with 47 tackles, the most among the linemen.
Miami wide receivers: Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier, LaRon Byrd, Kendal Thompkins, Tommy Streeter ... the Hurricanes could field a team that consists entirely of receivers.
Florida State offensive line: The Noles are oozing with talent here. Tackle Andrew Datko, guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon combined to start all but one game last season. What was the youngest offensive line in the FBS last season could be one of the best this year. For the first time since 2004, all five starters return.
Wake Forest offensive line: The Demon Deacons return eight offensive linemen with a total of 118 career starts among them. Jeff Griffin and Joe Birdsong are Wake's returning starters at tackle while Barrett McMillin and Joe Looney each started at guard in 2008. Russell Nenon, who started the season at guard, moved to center at midseason following an injury to Trey Bailey. Bailey returns after fully healing from a broken ankle. The Deacons also welcome back Chris DeGeare who missed the 2008 season while getting his academics in order.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Like most coaches in the ACC, Jim Grobe is a little concerned about his offensive line heading into the season opener against Baylor. One of the biggest questions heading into summer camp was how center Trey Bailey would handle filling the gaping hole left by All-American Steve Justice.
All indications from within the program are that Bailey is finally starting to shake the shadow of his predecessor. Bailey played in seven games last year, but his season-high 10 snaps against Clemson pale in comparison to the role he'll have against the Tigers this year.
"He was a little bit worried about it until we got a few practices in, and now he's so worn out, he can't take the time to worry," Grobe said. "He's just fighting for a chance to protect our quarterback. He's more worried about his assignments right now and doing his job than any of that kind of stuff."
The big question now is who will be Bailey's backup. Right now, there are two freshmen behind him, so odds are Grobe will bump starting left guard Russ Nenon to center.
So far, the Demon Deacons' offensive line looks like this:
LT -- Joe Birdsong
LG -- Russ Nenon
C -- Bailey
RG -- Barrett McMillin
RT -- Jeff GriffinThese guys know they have something to prove.
"Coming in we heard a lot of question marks about us, losing a great player like Steve Justice," Birdsong said. "I mean, he's an All-American. You have a big responsibility to fill those holes. I just think they've done a great job of bringing us slowly along. Trey Bailey has been waiting for two years. He could've been playing in this league since he was a freshman."
Now Bailey has the chance to show it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here they are, the unheralded linemen. The guys who do the dirty work and make their teammates look good. Check out who's got the best:
1. Maryland -- The Terps have just one starting job open here and five of the top six linemen are seniors. The experience younger players like Bruce Campbell and Paul Pinegar gained last year at the misfortune of injured teammates should pay dividends this season. The Terps' depth is why they're ahead of the Hokies.
2. Virginia Tech -- Four starters are back, including Ed Wang, who moved from right to left tackle; left guard Nick Marshman, who at 6-foot-5, 357-pounds was the largest man on the roster but dropped 25 pounds in the offseason; center Ryan Shuman, who missed the spring because of offseason knee surgery; and right guard Sergio Render, who has already caught the eye of NFL scouts. Wang's backup, Greg Nosal, is a redshirt freshman moving from tight end. Marshman's reserve is Hivera Green, who hasn't played.
3. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels have struggled in the past, but with four starters returning and the second season under Butch Davis, it should see improvement. Senior tackle Garrett Reynolds and junior tackle Kyle Jolly -- who missed the spring with an injured left foot -- lead a group that has 67 total starts.
4. Wake Forest -- This group should be better than people think, despite having to replace center Steve Justice. Barrett McMillin has starting experience at right guard, and left tackle Joe Birdsong and right tackle Jeff Griffin both split time at one of the tackle spots last season. Left guard Russell Nenon didn't start but picked up a lot of playing time toward the end of the season. Center is a question mark. Because he was stuck behind Justice, center Trey Bailey has the most catching up to do.
5. Boston College -- There are still two spots up for grabs. Sophomore Anthony Castonzo, who holds the distinction of becoming the school's first offensive lineman in a decade to start as a true freshman, moved from right to left tackle to replace Gosder Cherilus. Matt Tennant is back at center along with returning staritng guard Clif Ramsey. Former defensive lineman Thomas Claiborne moved to right guard this spring.
6. NC State -- Moving defensive linemen Ted Larsen to center and John Bedics to left guard will only help this football team, but neither of them has taken a snap on offense yet in a college game. Jake Vermiglio, a hulking tackle who played well against Chris Long as a freshman last year, moved to guard behind Bedics (which shows Tom O'Brien's confidence in that move). Andy Barbee, a redshirt junior, was a longtime backup at center. Depth is a question mark, but the Wolfpack has three returning starters in right tackle Meares Green (who played at guard, center AND tackle last year), right guard Curtis Crouch, and Julian Williams, who is in his second full year starting at left tackle.
7. Miami -- The Hurricanes are looking for a starting center but have two starters back in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood. They've got experience in Orlando Franklin, Joel Figueroa (a key reserve) and Chris Rutledge (split time as a starter).
8. Virginia -- The loss of Branden Albert and two other starters left a gaping hole. The best thing the Cavaliers have going for them is senior Eugene Monroe, who might be the best offensive lineman in the ACC. He didn't allow a sack last year at left tackle. There's also experience at right tackle, where Will Barker has 25 career starts.
9. Georgia Tech -- The good news is that left tackle Andrew Gardner came back instead of heading for the NFL. The bad news is the cohesiveness of this unit is mostly gone because Gardner is the lone full-time returning starter. Cord Howard missed the spring because of foot surgery, but he and Dan Voss, who started the final seven games of last season at left guard, at least have starting experience.
10. Clemson -- Finally. A flaw. Tommy Bowden had to replace four starters, and named all but the two guard spots. Still, Cory Lambert has never started a game at left tackle and three of the four players competing to be guards are redshirt freshmen. Freshman Antoine McClain, who was ranked the No. 6 offensive tackle prospect [Insider] in the country by ESPN.com, could help.
11. Duke -- The Blue Devils have three starters back, including both tackles -- Fred Roland and Cameron Goldberg -- and guard Rob Schirmann. The reason they're not last? They've got one more body with experience than the 'Noles.
12. Florida State -- For the first time in school history, there's not one junior or senior on the line. That doesn't mean there's not talent, but much of it is unproven. What the Seminoles do have is sophomores Ryan McMahon and Rodney Hudson. McMahon was the only freshman or sophomore in the FBS to take every offensive snap for his team at center. Redshirt freshman Antwane Greenlee, a bulky 302-pound tackle who was very highly recruited, still hasn't played. A true freshman will most likely start somewhere, but first the coaches have to find the best one they have.