ACC: Ben Pooler

Spring preview: Atlantic Division

February, 15, 2011
2/15/11
9:00
AM ET
It's that time of year, ACC fans. Duke kicks off the ACC's spring football schedule with practice tomorrow, so it's time to take a look at three storylines to watch for each program. We'll start with the Atlantic Division:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • The progression of quarterback Chase Rettig. As a true freshman, Rettig replaced Dave Shinskie as starter against Notre Dame on Oct. 2. He’ll only get better with more experience, and there’s room for improvement, as he threw nine interceptions and six touchdowns. He completed 51.3 percent of his passes for 137.6 yards per game. Two of those picks came in the 20-13 loss to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl, but he’s expected to take an important step forward this offseason and will need to if BC is going to graduate from the nation’s 109th best offense.
  • The offense under a new coordinator. Kevin Rogers replaced Gary Tranquill, who retired after the bowl game, and the Eagles will have to adjust to a new scheme and system, starting this spring. Rogers said he'll adapt his system to the personnel he has to work with, but considering he was hired on Monday, there hasn't been much time for him to evaluate film.
  • The revamped offensive line. BC has to replace three starters up front, including left tackle Anthony Castonzo, right guard Thomas Claiborne and right tackle Rich Lapham. Emmett Cleary and center Mark Spinney are returning starters, and left guard Ian White started a few games at the end of the year. Bryan Davis, Claiborne’s backup at right guard, and John Wetzel, Castonzo’s backup, are frontrunners to earn starts.
CLEMSON

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 9

What to watch:
  • Quarterback Tajh Boyd. Prior to the arrival of two early enrollees, Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, and his experience alone -- albeit limited -- makes it his job to lose. The staff wants him to become a little more accurate and consistent this spring. His education was accelerated at this time a year ago when former quarterback Kyle Parker spent the spring playing baseball, but that was under former offensive coordinator Billy Napier. He’s got a new coordinator -- and a new offense to learn.
  • The new offensive scheme. First-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris brings an up-tempo style similar to that of Auburn’s, and the Tigers will have to learn it as quickly as he’ll want them to execute it. Morris has said Boyd is suited just right to lead it. Morris will want to stretch the field in every direction, depend on a strong running game and include long pass plays. He’s tasked with improving an offense that ranked No. 10 in the ACC in both scoring offense and total offense.
  • Defense up the middle. It starts up front, where the Tigers have to replace defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins. Linebacker Brandon Maye, who played in the middle a lot, decided to transfer, and safety DeAndre McDaniel, who controlled the middle of the field in the secondary, has also graduated. The Tigers have the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 1 outside linebacker in the country in this year’s recruiting class, but they won’t arrive until the summer. For now, Corico Hawkins returns as a starting middle linebacker, while Quandon Christian is likely to stay on the outside. Rennie Moore will replace Jenkins, but McDaniel’s spot is up for grabs.
FLORIDA STATE

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Big holes on the offensive line. There’s depth, experience and incoming talent, but there are also big shoes to fill with the graduation of left guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon. Right guard David Spurlock has been seen snapping on the sidelines at practices, indicating he could move to center, while recovering from concussions and going through rehab. McMahon’s backup was Jacob Stanley. Henry Orelus, Bryan Stork and Rhonne Sanderson all started at right guard for Spurlock when he was out. Junior college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug, the No. 4 overall junior college prospect, could have an immediate impact at left guard.
  • Backup quarterback battle. With EJ Manuel a lock as the starter, the attention turns to the No. 2 spot. Clint Trickett, a redshirt freshman and son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, and Will Secord, a redshirt sophomore, are the top two candidates. Secord was named the most improved quarterback of the spring at this time a year ago. Neither of them have thrown a collegiate pass.
  • Linebackers. The Seminoles will have to replace two starters in Kendall Smith and Mister Alexander. Nigel Bradham is the only returning starter. This spring will feature competition among Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and Jeff Luc. It’s a more talented crop waiting in the wings, but inexperience is a factor. It’s a chance for Luc and Jones -- two of FSU’s top recruits in the 2010 class -- to remind everyone why they were rated the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 2 outside linebacker, respectively, in the country.
MARYLAND

Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • New staff, new schemes. First-year coach Randy Edsall wants to be multiple, get vertical and take advantage of quarterback Danny O’Brien’s strengths. The departure of former defensive coordinator Don Brown to Connecticut was a surprise and a blow to the defense, which will now have to make a transition under a new coordinator who has yet to be hired.
  • Competition at linebacker. Two starters have to be replaced in Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten, who were also both leaders of the defense. Demetrius Hartsfield returns as a starter, but the new staff will have to figure out who else fits into what slots. Ben Pooler has had knee trouble, but he is expected to compete with Darin Drakeford and Ryan Donohue, who were both No. 2 at their respective positions in 2010.
  • Special teams. Not only did the Terps lose a four-year starter in punter/placekicker Travis Baltz, they also have to replace their top kick returner and conference leader in all-purpose yards in receiver Torrey Smith, who left early for the NFL. Nick Ferrara handled kickoffs last year and was No. 2 behind Baltz at both kicker and punter, but he’s a placekicker first, and has to get back on track with consistency. He’ll be the only scholarship kicker on the roster until incoming freshman Nathaniel Renfro joins the team this summer. Dexter McDougle has returned kickoffs in the past, and Trenton Hughes is another option, but with a new staff, it could be a clean slate.
NC STATE

Spring practice starts: March 17

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Mike Glennon. The team is moving forward as if starter Russell Wilson won’t return, promoting Glennon to No. 1 on the depth chart. The offense will have a new look, as the plays will be suited to Glennon’s strengths. At 6-foot-7, he’s much taller than Wilson, a more prototypical drop-back passer with a strong arm. While the plays might look different to the fans, they’re the same ones Glennon has been practicing since the day he arrived on campus. He’s a smart, unflappable player scheduled to graduate this May, but we haven’t seen enough of him to know just how good he is.
  • A new crop of receivers. NC State will have to replace three seniors in Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis. Spencer and Williams led the Pack in receiving last year, combining for nine touchdowns and over 1,600 yards. NC State will turn to Jay Smith, who had 10 catches in 12 games, Steven Howard, Quintin Payton, and T.J. Graham, who had four touchdowns and played in all 13 games. Payton played a little more toward the end of the year, and he’s a tall, big target (about 6-foot-4) and comparable to Williams. Bryan Underwood, who redshirted last year, could also contribute.
  • Running back competition. James Washington had taken over the starting job at the end of 2010, but he’ll be pushed this spring by Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene, who led the team in rushing in 2010 as a true freshman. They’ll also be under the direction of a new assistant coach, as Jason Swepson is now the head coach at Elon. It will be the first time Greene has been in a spring practice, and Washington, who was hurt last year, is finally healthy.
WAKE FOREST

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Progress of quarterback Tanner Price. The maturation of Price, who started nine games as a true freshman last year, will be crucial to the Deacs’ hopes of returning to the postseason. Price was forced to play earlier than expected and finished with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,349 yards.
  • A defense in transition. Coach Jim Grobe has said the staff is committed to making the transition to a 3-4 defense. The Deacons used that scheme to defend the triple option against Georgia Tech and Navy, and continued to experiment with it as the season progressed. This linebackers in this year’s recruiting class were brought in specifically with the 3-4 defense in mind.
  • Redshirt offensive linemen. There were three true freshmen who redshirted last year who are expected to give four returning starters some legitimate competition -- Colin Summers, Dylan Heartsill and Daniel Blitch. The Deacs will also have to replace starting center Russell Nenon. Chance Raines was his backup last year.

Maryland-Duke injury reports

October, 1, 2010
10/01/10
8:12
AM ET
Good news for the Terps in that top offensive player Torrey Smith is listed as probable, along with starting quarterback Jamarr Robinson. If Robinson is healthy and coach Ralph Friedgen goes with Danny O'Brien, that's a change based on performance, not injury. As for Duke, three players usually in the rotation -- cornerback Johnny Williams, safety Taylor Sowell and tight end Brett Huffman -- are out. Huffman, the starting tight end when the season opened, is missing his third straight game.

DUKE

LB Adam Banks (leg) – QUESTIONABLE
NG Tevin Hood (foot) – QUESTIONABLE
LB Damian Thornton (leg) – QUESTIONABLE
TE Brett Huffman (leg) – OUT
S Taylor Sowell (leg) – OUT
CB Johnny Williams (head) – OUT
S Quan Stevenson (leg) – OUT FOR SEASON

MARYLAND

Probable:

OL 77 Andrew Gonnella (leg)
WR 83 Emani Lee-Odai (leg)
QB 11 Jamarr Robinson (shoulder)
WR 82 Torrey Smith (leg)

Out:
DB 39 Desmond Kearse (leg)
LB 59 David Mackall (head)

Out for season:
QB 16 C.J. Brown (shoulder)
OL 75 Justin Gilbert (knee)
LB 42 Ben Pooler (knee)
TE 80 Lansford Watson (knee)
DL 41 Marcus Whitfield (knee)

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
12:30
PM ET
See you in the chat later? ...

  • Injuries are taking their toll at Wake Forest, as wide receiver Devon Brown injured his MCL in Thursday's scrimmage.
  • UNC coach Butch Davis is expecting to name his starting quarterback after Saturday's scrimmage. T.J. Yates only holds a slight edge because of his experience.
  • Georgia Tech backup quarterback Tevin Washington is making progress this summer.
  • So far, BC kicker Nate Freese is in the lead to replace Steve Aponavicius (aka Sid Vicious).
  • The NCAA investigation is an issue for UNC's preparation for LSU says Kirk Herbstreit.
  • Virginia is going to be in a time crunch soon once school starts.
  • Miami has been quiet about its quarterbacks this summer.
  • Maryland backup linebacker Ben Pooler is out for the season with a torn ACL.
  • Clemson's linebackers might have the greatest potential on the team.
  • Remember that list I made of players I wouldn't want to be hit by? Um, yeah, go ahead and add James Wilder Jr. to that list. What is he, 28?

ACC position superlatives: Maryland

March, 5, 2010
3/05/10
5:00
PM ET
We'll check out the Terps before the series resumes on Monday with Miami.

Strongest position: Linebackers

Key returnees: Alex Wujciak, Adrian Moten, Demetrius Hartsfield

Key departures: None.

The skinny: All three starters and their backups return. The only missing player from the group will be Drew Gloster, who is moving to defensive end to help with speed on the outside. Last year’s backup linebackers showed potential -- especially Ben Pooler, Avery Murray, and Darin Drakeford. Moten and Wujciak were the most productive players on defense last year.

Weakest position: Offensive line

Key returnees: RT R.J. Dill, LG Paul Pinegar and Bennett Fulper.

Key departures: C Phil Costa and LT Bruce Campbell

The skinny: The position took a significant hit from the decision of Campbell to leave early for the NFL draft. It’s a young group, but it’s in better shape than it was a year ago as far as guys at least having minimal experience. The Terps have six players who started at least one game. Fulper was a true freshman the staff liked last year, and Pinegar will take over for Costa at center. Justin Gilbert will be promoted to starting left tackle in place of Campbell.

REWIND

Around the ACC

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here are the reports that came in from Wednesday's practices around the league, as reported by each school's sports information office:

CLEMSON

Clemson had its second day of two-a-day practices on Wednesday. The Tigers worked for two hours and 15 minutes in the morning and for an hour and a half in the evening.

Much of the day was spent reviewing the film from Tuesday's scrimmage and correcting mistakes. Coach Dabo Swinney felt better about his team after watching the film on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

"We played better than I thought," said Swinney. "I was very disappointed with the penalties [on offense] and a lack of attention to detail immediately after the scrimmage. And I still feel that way about those mistakes. But after watching the film we played better overall than I thought."

Swinney was impressed with the performance of his defense after the scrimmage on Tuesday and he was still happy with that performance on Wednesday.

"We have a chance to be pretty salty on defense. I look out there and really can't tell the difference between the units. I was talking to Jamie Cumbie yesterday and he said it doesn't make any difference who starts, they are just waiting to have their name called.

"There is great depth on the defensive front and the secondary. The linebackers are doing well also. I was really impressed with Kavell Conner's performance on Tuesday. He has had a terrific preseason."

(Read full post)

Maryland's Wujciak tackles new role as leader

June, 25, 2009
6/25/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

With former players like E.J. Henderson and D'Qwell Jackson, Maryland has quietly developed some of the ACC's elite middle linebackers during coach Ralph Friedgen's tenure, and Alex Wujciak could be the next in line now that he's finally fully recovered from a torn left ACL that sidelined him the entire 2007 season.

Wujciak, a junior, started all 13 games at middle linebacker last year and then missed the spring because he had his knee scoped to clean out some lingering scar tissue. With the loss of four linebackers and a new defensive coordinator, the Terps will look to Wujciak for more than just tackles this fall.

"I'm feeling really good," said Wujciak, who finished second in the ACC with 133 tackles last year. "It's not really a problem right now. It should be 100 percent by summer camp."

The loss of Dave Philistin, Moise Fokou, Chase Bullock and Rick Costa means the Terps have to replace experience that totaled 144 games, including 54 starts. With Wujciak and Ben Pooler out this spring, Adrian Moten was the only returning linebacker who had played in a game at that position. The two-deep featured three freshmen, junior Drew Gloster, who moved from tight end, and Hakeem Sule, who had been limited to special teams. Moten has played in 23 career games, but didn't get his first start until the Humanitarian Bowl. With the abundance of inexperience at linebacker, much will fall on Wujciak's shoulders.

"I think we need to find one or two who can help us," Wujciak said. "It's funny, because I was a young guy for a while, and now me and Moten have to take on a little more responsibility."

Wujciak brings a blue-collar work ethic from his home state of New Jersey, and said his goal this year is to make more momentum-swinging plays for his team. He's been a tackling machine -- he's the fifth-leading returning tackler in the country -- but he wants to get his hand on the ball more and disrupt the passing lanes. He had two pass breakups last year, one fumble recovery and one blocked kick. He's very strong and athletic and has the potential to make those game-changing plays.

"Last year being my first year, the first few games were fast," he said. "Hopefully heading into this year the game will start to slow down for me so can make more plays."

Wujciak said the team has welcomed first-year coordinator Don Brown's attacking defense.

"A lot of guys are eager to see how well we perform during games," he said. "Our offense has seen enough of it."

Maryland spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009
5/07/09
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Maryland Terrapins
2008 overall record: 8-5

2008 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters: Offense: 6, defense: 4, punter/kicker: 1

Top returners: QB Chris Turner, RB, Da'Rel Scott, OL Phil Costa, WR Torrey Smith, LB Alex Wujciak, CB Anthony Wiseman, FS Terrell Skinner, P Travis Baltz

Key losses: C Edwin Williams, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, CB Kevin Barnes, DT Jeremy Navarre, LG Jaimie Thomas, TE Dan Gronkowski, LB Dave Philistin, DE Mack Frost, LB Moise Fokou, PK Obi Egekeze

2007 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Da'Rel Scott* (1,133 yards)
Passing: Chris Turner* (2,516 yards)
Receiving:
Darrius Heyward-Bey (609 yards)
Tackles:
Alex Wujciak* (133)
Sacks:
Moise Fokou (5)
Interceptions:
Jamari McCollough* (4)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 at California
Sept. 12 James Madison
Sept. 19 Middle Tennessee
Sept. 26 Rutgers
Oct. 3 Clemson
Oct. 10 at Wake Forest
Oct. 17 Virginia
Oct. 24 at Duke
Nov. 7 at NC State
Nov. 14 Virginia Tech
Nov. 21 at Florida State
Nov. 28 Boston College

Spring answers

1. Leader on the line. Phil Costa has been tasked with taking over at center for Edwin Williams, and although he has never played in a game at center, it was the position of least concern on the offensive line this spring. Costa proved capable of being the leader of an otherwise inexperienced group (see below).

2. New additions at linebacker. One of the concerns coming into the spring was the depth at linebacker, and the staff was pleased with the addition freshmen Darin Drakeford and Avery Murray. With Alex Wujciak and Ben Pooler out with injuries, others proved dependable, including former tight end Drew Gloster and Demetrius Hartsfield.

3. What can Don Brown do for you? Brown's new defensive scheme earned rave reviews from the players and coaching staff this spring. The corners stepped up to the challenge of the press coverage and picked off Chris Turner six times in two scrimmages.

Fall questions

1. The rest of the offensive line. The Terps lost three starters, and will have four players in new positions. Bruce Campbell is the only player returning to his old spot at left tackle. The two starting guard spots are up for grabs, as Lamar Young and Andrew Gonnella flip-flopped all spring on the left side. Justin Lewis played better toward the end at right guard.

2. Separation at receiver. There are nine who can play, and every one of them seemed to have his moment at a different time this spring. Still, nobody grabbed hold of the "go-to" guy, previously held by Darrius Heyward-Bey. The staff is still looking for consistency from this young but talented group.

3. Replacing the placekicker. The Terps still don't know who will fill the placekicking shoes of Obi Egekeze. Walk-ons Mike Barbour and Nick Wallace will continue to compete this summer, and highly touted incoming kicker Nick Ferrara will have a chance to win the job.

Maryland practice update

March, 30, 2009
3/30/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Maryland practiced in pads for the first time on Saturday, and with several players out this spring because of injuries, others have had the chance to impress coach Ralph Friedgen.

According to the team's latest practice report, one of the better competitions has been at fullback, where three-year starter Cory Jackson is out after offseason knee surgery. Sophomore Taylor Watson and junior Haroon Brown are getting a lot of reps to earn the No. 2 spot.

The linebacker position is another area where Maryland is young this spring, as the two-deep currently features three freshmen, former tight end Drew Gloster, and Hakeem Sule, whose primary role has been with special teams. With Alex Wujciak and Ben Pooler out, Adrien Moten is the only linebacker currently practicing who has played that position in a game. Freshman Avery Murray, who enrolled in January, has showed some promise.

As expected, the defense has been going through some growing pains as they transition to first-year coordinator Don Brown's system, but the offense should be better in the second year under offensive coordinator James Franklin. The Terps begin their second week of practice on Tuesday morning.

FSU, Maryland and Virginia Tech injury reports

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
7:43
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

FLORIDA STATE

Out for the year:
DB Ed Imeokparia (right knee)
LB Aaron Gresham (right knee)
RB Tavares Pressley (left knee)
OL Evan Bellamy (blood clot)
DT Emmanuel Dunbar (back)
DB Nick Moody (shoulder)

Out this week:
DE Toshmon Stevens (calf strain) and DE Jamar Jackson (knee)

Questionable:
WR Richard Goodman (knee)

MARYLAND

Out for season:
WR Kevin Dorsey (foot)
LB Dominique Herald (knee)
RB Paul Lariviere (knee)
OL Ben Pooler (knee)
DB Richard Taylor (knee)
DL Joe Vellano (shoulder)

Out:
LB Louis Berman (leg)
OL Tyler Bowen (leg)
DB Nolan Carroll (leg)
DL Ricardo Dacosta (leg)
TE Matt Furstenburg (leg)
LB Adrian Moten (arm)
QB Jordan Steffy (hand)
WR LaQuan Williams (leg)
OL Lamar Young (leg)

Questionable:
DL Mack Frost (leg)
DL Travis Ivey (leg)

VIRGINIA TECH

OL Barrett Mears (ankle) -- Out

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