ACC: Blair Holliday

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 5, 2013
7/05/13
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Hope you had a happy and safe 4th of July.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 14, 2013
5/14/13
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Stay tuned for updates from the spring meetings.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 13, 2013
5/13/13
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Headed to the ACC spring meetings in Amelia Island, Fla.
Last spring, Duke’s Brandon Braxton made the move from receiver to safety, where he finished with 38 tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and a pass breakup, in eight games. This spring, Braxton will return to his original position to help the Blue Devils at wide receiver, coach David Cutcliffe said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

Duke’s receiver position was thin following the graduations of Conner Vernon and Desmond Scott, not to mention the absence of Blair Holliday, a player filled with potential whose career was cut short by a serious jet ski accident last summer.

Braxton could be part of the answer.

“He’s pretty excited about it,” Cutcliffe said. “I felt like it was in his best interest and in our best interest as a program and as a team to do that, and I don’t just jump in there and tell him. We had conversations, but he certainly agreed with me. He’s a fine young man and a team player. He had to have some shoulder surgery, and all the way around the board, it’s going to be better for him as we move forward and our program that he plays receiver as a senior.”

It’s uncertain if Braxton will be able to fully participate in spring drills because of his shoulder injury, but Duke has three practices prior to spring break, and the staff is hoping to get a clearer picture of its injury list for the fourth practice.

Duke was also looking to get more physical at tight end, and moved former defensive tackle Nick Sink to the position during the bowl game preparations. Issac Blakeney, Erich Schneider and Braxton Deaver are expected to shift among the slot, wideout and tight end positions to make for a more versatile rotation.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 22, 2013
1/22/13
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Rooting for a guy named Harbaugh.

ACC's best moments of 2012

January, 14, 2013
1/14/13
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It was a rough year for the ACC, but in retrospect, there were too many highlights to narrow it down to 10. From Blair Holliday’s return, to the ACC’s impressive performances during bowl season, to individual performances and games, the conference had plenty of memorable moments in 2012.

The following is a list of 10 moments and memories that best captured the 2012 ACC season, according to ESPN.com. ACC fans are bound to have more, and we’d love to hear them. What did we miss? Feel free to drop us a note in the mailbag, and we’ll highlight the best nominations in a separate mailblog. Until then, here are your top 10 moments from 2012, starting with the best:

1. Chandler Catanzaro's game-winning field goal versus LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl: It was the ACC’s biggest win of the season, and the highest-ranked team Clemson has beaten in a bowl game since the 2004 (2003 season) Chick-fil-A Bowl, when the Tigers defeated sixth-ranked Tennessee 27-14. Catanzaro’s 37-yard field goal as time expired gave No. 14 Clemson a wild 25-24 win against No. 8 LSU, and it was the highest-ranked SEC team an ACC team has beaten in the past nine years.

2. Duke becomes bowl eligible for the first time since 1994: Sean Renfree's 5-yard touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder on fourth down with 13 seconds left lifted Duke past North Carolina 33-30 and made the Blue Devils bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. Renfree converted three third-and-longs during the game-winning, 87-yard drive.

[+] EnlargeGiovani Bernard
Bob Donnan/US PresswireGiovani Bernard's 74-yard game-winning punt return to lift UNC past rival NCSU was a play to remember.
3. Giovani Bernard versus NC State: Bernard returned a punt 74 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left, helping North Carolina stun rival NC State 43-35 to end a five-year losing streak in the series. That day, Bernard also ran for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and had eight catches for 95 yards.

4. Karlos Williams' tip and interception in the ACC title game: In what turned out to be the final game for FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, FSU's D came up big against Georgia Tech, and no play was bigger than Williams'. The game wasn't decided until Williams intercepted Tevin Washington with less than a minute remaining. It was FSU's first ACC title since 2005.

5. The ACC posting its first winning bowl record since 2005: With marquee wins over LSU and USC and a victory in the Discover Orange Bowl, the ACC finally came out on the right end of bowl season, and will enter 2013 will some much-needed positive momentum. The Noles took another step toward national relevance with a 31-10 win against No. 15 Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl -- their first BCS bowl win since they beat Virginia Tech in 2000.

6. FSU quarterback EJ Manuel’s performance versus Clemson: It was Manuel’s one true Heisman moment of the season, as he completed 27 of 35 passes for a career-high 380 yards while rushing for another 102 to become the first Seminoles quarterback since Charlie Ward in 1992 to pass for more than 300 yards and run for more than 100 in a game.

7. Clemson QB Tajh Boyd accounts for eight touchdowns: The ACC Player of the Year set school and ACC records when he scored five passing and three rushing touchdowns in a 62-48 win over NC State. The Tigers gained 754 yards and ran 102 plays, the most in school history. Boyd was responsible for every Clemson touchdown. Boyd was 30-for-44 for 426 yards and ran for 105 yards -- the combined 531 yards set another school record.

8. Johnson leads Canes to Coastal title: In the regular-season finale against Duke, Miami freshman Duke Johnson rushed for season highs of 176 yards and three touchdowns. He scored on runs of 18, 6 and 65 yards. He finished his freshman year with 947 yards rushing, easily surpassing Clinton Portis' 13-year-old school freshman rushing record of 838 yards.

9. NC State’s game-winning TD in its upset of No. 3-ranked FSU. This isn’t a “best moment” for FSU fans, but it was by far one of the most memorable plays in the ACC and a highlight for the Wolfpack. Quarterback Mike Glennon found Bryan Underwood for a 2-yard touchdown pass on fourth down with 16 seconds left, helping the Wolfpack beat the Seminoles 17-16 on Oct. 6.

10. Duke receiver Conner Vernon rewrites the record books: In a 42-17 win against Virginia, Vernon surpassed Clemson's Aaron Kelly as the ACC's all-time leader in career receptions when he made a catch for minus-2 yards in the first quarter. In the 42-24 loss to Georgia Tech, Vernon became the ACC's all-time leader in yards receiving, passing former Florida State star Peter Warrick's record of 3,517 yards.

TOP 3 OFF-FIELD MOMENTS

[+] EnlargeBlair Holliday
Courtesy of Duke Sports InformationBlair Holliday (No. 8) walks with his Duke teammates in his return to the field following a terrible jet ski accident that sidelined the wide receiver.
So as not to trivialize these moments by tossing them in with touchdowns, here are three more memories you won't want to forget:

1. Blair Holliday joins his Duke captains for the coin toss against NC Central: It was a miraculous recovery, and the most inspirational story in the conference. Holliday, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a jet ski accident on July 4 that left him in critical condition, led the team on the Devil Walk in what was an emotional comeback for the entire team.

2. Clemson receiver Daniel Rodriguez leads the Tigers on Military Appreciation Day: The Army veteran led the team down the hill carrying the American flag prior to the Virginia Tech game on Military Appreciation Day at Clemson on Oct. 20.

3. The ACC adds Louisville: The ACC's presidents and chancellors voted to add Louisville to replace Maryland, a move that looked better and better as the Cardinals' football season ended with a win against Florida in the Allstate Sugar Bowl. ACC officials conceded the move was an athletics-first, academics-second decision, but it was one the conference should eventually benefit from.
There is little doubt that the Duke receivers are one of the biggest keys for the Blue Devils headed into the Belk Bowl against Cincinnati on Thursday.

But what has turned into a position of strength was actually a huge question mark back in July, following the tragic jet ski accident that seriously injured Blair Holliday and also involved Jamison Crowder. All of a sudden, Duke had one proven player at the position in Conner Vernon.

More than that, though, receivers coach Matt Lubick worried about how the accident would impact Crowder, whose jet ski collided with the one Holliday was riding.

"Those two were the best of friends, and Jamison, I can’t say enough about the type of person he is, and the type of family he comes from," Lubick said in a recent phone interview. "I was more worried -- not necessarily about football -- but how he was going to overcome the accident, and just being able to cope and just to get on with his life. We really didn’t know, there were so many uncertainties. The comforting thing that helped the transition because it was a horrific accident, was that he was involved in saving his life. He pulled him out of the water, and making sure that he knew that.

"The biggest thing that helped that process was Blair’s parents being unbelievable and taking Jamison and giving him a big hug and telling him how much that meant to him, and how important it was that he understood that and how they love him. That was huge. You could see him go from a kid who was completely broken to someone who got life put back into him."

[+] EnlargeDesmond Scott
Peter Casey/USA TODAY SportsUnder coach Matt Lubick's guidance, Desmond Scott moved from RB to receiver this season and finished with 61 catches.
The accident served as a great motivation -- to work harder for Holliday, who has since had a near miraculous recovery.

"Jamison worked like a possessed person on a mission and it was easy to point out. It was obvious the way he attacked every single rep. It was something special," Lubick said. "It was an increased intensity, an increased awareness. He was a machine. He was our best effort guy, our most valuable player coming out of camp and I think a lot of what was driving him was his focus on football and competing so hard and being successful helped him block some of the negative aspects of the accident out of his head."

With Holliday recovering, Duke had to find another receiver. The Blue Devils decided to move starting running back Desmond Scott to the position just before camp opened, hoping his athleticism would allow him to make a smooth transition.

Scott took to the position right away, and the result surprised outside observers. To complement Vernon -- a first-team ACC selection with 75 catches for 955 yards and seven touchdowns -- Crowder had a career year with 70 catches for 1,025 yards and eight touchdowns. Scott ended up with 61 catches for 606 yards and two scores.

The result -- these three players form the only trio in the nation with more than 60 catches each. Lubick got some national recognition for his work, as he was named one of three finalists for the AFCA Assistant Coach of the Year award.

"He made it that much easier to transition from running back to receiver," Scott said. "He let me be experimental, trying things that work for me. He’s very into football and the people that he coaches. You couldn’t ask for a better coach."

A coach that nearly became a dentist.

Lubick, the son of legendary Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick, initially tried to stay away from coaching. His father encouraged him to seek out another profession, given all the volatility associated with this one. Matt Lubick played at Western Montana College, then transferred to Colorado State to take chemistry and physics classes he needed for his degree. He had internships at dentists offices and seemed all set to travel down that career path.

But his last year, he got burned out from school. Coaching lingered in his mind.

"I said I would take a year off and coach, and dental school would always be there," Lubick said. "Now I’m on my 15th year off."

He began working for his dad's coach, Dave Baldwin, at Cal State Northridge. His career eventually landed him on the same staff as his father for four seasons at Colorado State, followed by stops at Ole Miss and Arizona State before landing in Durham. His work this season has been among the finest of his career. Another fine day by his receivers would put an exclamation point on it all.

And you know who will be there watching in Charlotte: Holliday.

Holliday nominated for Courage Award

November, 23, 2012
11/23/12
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Duke receiver Blair Holliday has been nominated for the 2012 Discover Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award.

Holliday is recovering from a traumatic brain injury sustained during a jet-ski accident last summer. The accident left him in a coma, and then pneumonia set in. Doctors did not know whether Holliday would live.

After a month at the University of North Carolina Trauma Center, he was transferred to the Sheppard Center in Atlanta, which specializes in rehabilitation of brain injuries. He had to relearn almost every physical activity, including walking and talking, but his recovery quickly accelerated. A month later, he left the Sheppard Center, though he continued the rehabilitation on an outpatient basis.

Holliday served as an honorary team captain before the Blue Devils’ game with NC Central on Sept. 15, leading them into Wallace Wade Stadiu. He plans to return to classes at Duke in January. He hopes to play football again, though if it doesn’t happen, he told The Sporting News, “I won’t be bummed.”

“I’ve come far, I can go farther,” Holliday told The Sporting News. “I realize if I’m maybe a quarter of the way there, I need to be 100 percent. Maybe I’m not the best I can be now, but I can get to that point.”

A blue-ribbon panel will determine the winner from all of the nominees for the award. The winner will be announced in December and presented with the trophy during the week of the 2013 Discover BCS national championship Game.

Week 12 injury reports

November, 16, 2012
11/16/12
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Here are the ACC injury reports for Week 12 from the schools that emailed them:

CLEMSON

Probable
Out for the season
DUKE

Probable
Doubtful
Out
Out for the season
FLORIDA STATE

Out
Out for the season
MARYLAND

Out for the season
Questionable
Probable
MIAMI

Out
Surgery/Out for the season:
NC STATE

Out for season
Out for game

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
12:00
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It's gaaaaame day!

ACC injury reports: Week 10

November, 2, 2012
11/02/12
11:00
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Here are the ACC injury reports, from the schools that released them:

CLEMSON

Out for season
Probable
DUKE

Probable
Doubtful
Out
Out for season
MARYLAND

Out for season
Out
Questionable
Probable
NC STATE

Out for season
Out
VIRGINIA

Out for season
Out
Doubtful
Questionable
Probable

ACC injury report: Week 9

October, 26, 2012
10/26/12
11:00
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Here are the ACC injury reports for Week 9 from the schools that emailed them:

DUKE

Probable
Questionable
Doubtful


Out
Out for season


FLORIDA STATE


Out


Out for season
MARYLAND

Probable
Questionable
Out
Out for season

NORTH CAROLINA

Out
NORTH CAROLINA STATE

Out for season

ACC injury report: Week 8

October, 19, 2012
10/19/12
11:00
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Here are the ACC injury reports for Week 8 from the schools that emailed them:

CLEMSON

Out for the season
DUKE

Probable
Questionable
Out
Out for season


FLORIDA STATE


Out


Out for season
MARYLAND

Probable
Questionable
Doubtful
Out
Out for season

MIAMI

Doubtful
Surgery/Out for season
NORTH CAROLINA

Out
NORTH CAROLINA STATE

Probable
VIRGINIA

Probable
Questionable


Out
Out for season
VIRGINIA TECH

Probable
Out
Out for season

Week 6 injury reports

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
11:00
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Here are the ACC injury reports from the schools that emailed them:

CLEMSON

WILL PLAY

WR Sammy Watkins (virus)

C Dalton Freeman (thumb)

PROBABLE

OG Kalon Davis (hamstring)

OUT

WR Martavis Bryant (groin)

RB D.J. Howard (shoulder)

OUT FOR SEASON

DB Martin Jenkins (hernia)

CB Tony McNeal (torn ACL)

LB Justin Parker (groin)

DUKE

PROBABLE

LB David Helton (leg)

QUESTIONABLE

CB Lee Butler (lower body)

QB Sean Renfree (arm)

DT Jamal Wallace (lower body)

OUT

CB Jared Boyd (leg)

S Brandon Braxton (upper body)

LB Kelby Brown (leg)

NG Jamal Bruce (foot)

TE Braxton Deaver (leg)

DE Justin Foxx (hand)

S Chris Tavarez (leg)

OUT FOR SEASON

TE Jack Farrell (leg)

WR Blair Holliday

DE Allen Jackson (shoulder)

S Corbin McCarthy (shoulder)

S Taylor Sowell (leg)

FLORIDA STATE

OUT

DB Justin Bright (head)

LB Ukeme Eligwe (hand)

OL Garrett Faircloth (hip)

OL Daniel Foose (back)

DT Moses McCray (head)

DT Derrick Mitchell (back)

OL Trey Pettis (head)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

DB Colin Blake (shoulder)

DE Chris Casher (knee)

TE Dan Hicks (knee)

DE Brandon Jenkins (foot)

DT Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)

RB Mario Pender (sports hernia)

MARYLAND

PROBABLE

WR Kerry Boykins (hamstring)

LB Kenneth Tate (knee)

DL Joe Vellano (foot)

QUESTIONABLE

DB Matt Robinson (groin)

OUT

PK/P Nick Ferrara (hip)

OUT FOR SEASON

QB C.J. Brown (knee)

DL Andre Monroe (knee)

MIAMI

OUT

DL Curtis Porter (upper extremity)

DB Rayshawn Jenkins (upper extremity)

DL Olsen Pierre (upper extremity)

OL Ben Jones (lower extremity)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

WR Malcolm Lewis (lower extremity)

LB Ramon Buchanan (lower extremity)

LS Sean McNally (lower extremity)

NORTH CAROLINA

OUT

RB Connor Gonet

OL T.J. Leifheit

LB Darius Lipford

RB Travis Riley

PK Miller Snyder

WR T.J. Thorpe

NC STATE

OUT

OT Rob Crisp (lower back)

OG Andrew Wallace (foot)

RB James Washington (ankle)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

OG Zach Allen (foot)

DT Jacob Kahut (knee)

LB Michael Peek (knee)

VIRGINIA

PROBABLE

OT Oday Aboushi (upper extremity)

DT Will Hill (medical)

S Brandon Phelps (upper extremity)

DOUBTFUL

WR Tim Smith (lower extremity)

OUT

DE Billy Schautz (lower extremity)

DT Buddy Ruff (medical)

S Darius Lee (lower extremity)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

S Pablo Alvarez

LB Adam Caplinger

DT Marco Jones

S David Marrs

WR Mario Nixon

VIRGINIA TECH

PROBABLE

DT Luther Maddy (ankle)

WR Christian Reeves (hamstring)

G David Wang (ankle)

DOUBTFUL

RB Tony Gregory (knee)

OUT

WR Joshua Stanford (knee)

OUT FOR SEASON

OT Nick Acree (knee)

WR D.J. Coles (knee)
Duke is ahead of Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division standings this week.

Let that sink in for a minute.

At 4-1, the program is off to its best start since 1994. Duke has won three straight heading into Saturday’s game against Virginia, and it’s only two wins away from being bowl eligible for the first time in almost two decades.

Nobody in Durham, though, is doing backflips just yet. Those within Duke’s program know better than to celebrate in October.

“Last year we were 3-2 and proceeded to lose seven games in a row,” said redshirt junior cornerback Ross Cockrell. “We understand how quickly the tide can change during the course of a season. We have to keep working hard and stay level-headed because we haven’t reached our goals yet.”

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Liz Condo/US PresswireDavid Cutcliffe has led Duke to a 4-1 start.
This season, though, is already a special one by Duke’s standards. Consider that it’s only the third start of 4-1 or better for the program in the past 30 years. Duke has also opened the season with three straight home wins for the first time since 1994. Duke is -- gasp! -- favored this weekend against a Virginia team that has lost three straight.

“I will say this about this team: Regardless of the results of the rest of the games that we play, this is a very special team with tremendous character, leadership and they have just been amazing in keeping their eye on the bull's-eye,” coach David Cutcliffe said. “Since all of the incidents of the summer, obviously the biggest with Blair [Holliday], the way that happened, and then so many injuries occurring -- our team looks nothing like it did at the end of spring, and I have not heard anybody here complain. I’m very proud of that. They have focused on what we have and not what we don’t have. I admire the perseverance of the staff and the squad.”

One of the most noticeable differences for Duke this year has been the evolution of the program’s depth. At least eight starters or projected starters heading into this season have missed time with injuries, but unlike in years' past, there hasn’t been as much of a drop-off in talent between the first and second string. That’s a credit to the recruiting, and proof that it is improving.

The defense has also made significant strides in the second season under coordinator Jim Knowles. The players look much more comfortable in the 4-2-5 scheme, and the Blue Devils are better up front. Duke is averaging 2.8 sacks per game -- second in the ACC only to Florida State. Duke averaged 1.58 sacks a year ago. There was a three-week span (Weeks 2-4) in which Duke’s run defense held three straight opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards. That hadn’t happened since 1965.

“The biggest difference is the experience we have on the team,” said Cockrell, who is tied for second nationally with 11 passes defended. “We have a lot of guys who played a lot of snaps for us, especially on the D-line, and the linebackers and defensive backs. So I think we’ve learned to roll with the punches and the ebbs and flows of the game and we continue to fight hard throughout those.”

There’s also something to be said for having a fifth-year senior starting at quarterback. Quarterback Sean Renfree has completed at least 70 percent of his passes in all five games this season. The move of Desmond Scott from running back to receiver has also helped the passing game without taking anything away from the running game. Scott is averaging 6.6 receptions and 65.6 yards. Duke is averaging 114.8 rushing yards per game -- its highest average since 2005.

All of those factors have added up through the month of September.

When Duke beat Wake Forest last weekend, it snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Demon Deacons. It was a sign that the program has turned the corner under Cutcliffe in his fifth season, and Duke now knows how to come out on the winning end of close games.

“We’ve got a lot of guys who have been on the wrong side of those tight games for so long and we know which plays need to be made,” Cockrell said. “We’ve seen it the last few years, a play here, a play there can turn the whole game around. This year we’ve been making those plays.”

The key now is to make them through November.

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