ACC: Brandon Ghee

Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
6:00
AM ET
Good (very early) morning to you, ACC fans. Today we're taking a look back at each school in the conference, and what we learned (and didn't) from spring ball. (Most teams still have far more questions than they do answers heading into summer camp, but we'll stick with three each.) We'll start at the end of the alphabet for a change (sorry, BC fans).

Here's your spring scouting report on the Demon Deacons:

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 7, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

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

Key losses

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)

Spring answers

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.

Fall questions

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.

NFL draft: Round 2

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
4:34
PM ET
ESPN's Mel Kiper has a few ACC players on his radar for tonight's second round of the NFL draft. Here's who made the cut in his second-round mock draft:


The analysts at Scouts Inc. project Cook higher, as the second pick in the second round, and he's the only ACC player they have in the second round. The third round seems to be where the ACC will have some good representation, according to Scouts Inc. That's where to find players like Clemson's Ricky Sapp, Virginia Tech's Jason Worilds, and Miami's Jimmy Graham.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 22, 2010
4/22/10
12:30
PM ET
It's time to talk NFL draft ...

  • For the second straight year, Maryland could have another first-round NFL draft pick, but opinions vary on offensive tackle Bruce Campbell.
  • Former Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas could end up near my area code if he's chosen by the Baltimore Ravens. Welcome to B-more, Bay-Bay.
  • Thomas' big day will mean a lot to his entire community.
  • Here's a look at Georgia Tech's draft prospects.
  • Former Clemson running back C.J. Spiller has the chance to become only the second Tiger chosen in the top 10 of the draft since 1982.
  • Virginia is banking on former cornerback Chris Cook as its lone player with a chance of moving into the opening round.
  • Miami's former hoopster-turned-tight-end could be the Canes' top draft pick.
  • History implies that UNC's Cam Thomas and Wake's Brandon Ghee will spend about five years in the NFL.
  • Will Chris Hazley become the Hokies' next one-year wonder at kicker?
  • FSU's potential draft picks could give the program a boost in recruiting -- not that it needs it.
  • Miami quarterback Jacory Harris is expected to resume throwing in about two weeks.

Senior Bowl rewind

February, 1, 2010
2/01/10
11:00
AM ET
Unfortunately for the ACC, there wasn't much to talk about in this year's Senior Bowl. Former Clemson receiver Jacoby Ford played the most integral role and finished second on the North team in all-purpose yards with 59.

The good news for the ACC? Some of the conference's best players were juniors in 2009. Had it been the Georgia Tech/North Carolina Junior Bowl, this game might have been a different story. But without players like C.J. Spiller, Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Ryan Williams, etc., this game didn't paint a fair picture of what the ACC had to offer in 2009 talent-wise. Not that there weren't some talented seniors. According to Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret, Spiller was invited but chose to heal the turf toe that had been nagging him all season.

The final stats:

  • Ford had one run for 6 yards, one catch for 7 yards and two punt returns for 46 yards.
  • Virginia fullback Rashawn Jackson had one carry for 1 yard, and one catch for 9 yards.
  • Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson was second with six tackles and one pass breakup.
  • FSU linebacker Dekoda Watson had three tackles.
  • Miami linebacker Darryl Sharpton had three tackles.
  • Former FSU safety Myron Rolle had three tackles.
  • Maryland safety Terrell Skinner had three tackles.
  • Virginia cornerback Chris Cook had two tackles.
  • Maryland fullback Cory Jackson had two tackles.
  • UNC defensive tackle Cam Thomas had one sack for a loss of 7 yards.
  • Wake Forest cornerback Brandon Ghee had one tackle.
The best story to come out of the Senior Bowl for the ACC was that of Rolle. Following the week of practice, ESPN's Todd McShay gave Rolle a final grade of an A-minus and wrote that Rolle could be a third-round draft pick. That's impressive, considering Rolle spent the past year in Oxford studying as a Rhodes Scholar. He proved -- once again -- that being a standout athlete and student don't have to be exclusive of each other, and for that, the ACC couldn't have asked for a better representative in this year's Senior Bowl.

Final Senior Bowl rosters released

January, 25, 2010
1/25/10
4:06
PM ET
The final rosters for the Under Armour Senior Bowl have been posted. The game is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 30 at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala. Duke and Georgia Tech are the only ACC schools that aren't represented in the game. The following is a list of ACC players who will participate:

NORTH

Chris Cook, CB, Virginia

Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson

Brandon Ghee, CB, Wake Forest

Rashawn Jackson, FB, Virginia

Terrell Skinner, DB, Maryland

Matt Tennant, C, Boston College

Cam Thomas, DL, North Carolina

Ed Wang, OL, Virginia Tech

SOUTH

Jimmy Graham, TE, Miami

Ted Larsen, OL, NC State

Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State

Myron Rolle, S, Florida State

Darryl Sharpton, LB, Miami

Dekoda Watson, LB, Florida State
The Sporting News published a list of seniors invited to participate in the 2010 NFL scouting combine, Feb. 24 to March 2 at Indianapolis. Here are the ACC's representatives, but keep in mind it's not an official -- or final -- list.

Boston College: LB Mike McLaughlin, C Matt Tennant.

Clemson: OLB Kavell Conner, WR Jacoby Ford, DE Ricky Sapp, RB C.J. Spiller.

Duke: QB Thaddeus Lewis, Vince Oghobaase.

Florida State: CB Patrick Robinson, S Myron Rolle, OLB Dekoda Watson.

Maryland: CB Nolan Carroll.

Miami: TE Dedrick Epps, OT Jason Fox, TE Jimmy Graham, RB Javarris James, LB Darryl Sharpton.

North Carolina: OT Kyle Jolly, DT Cam Thomas.

NC State: C Ted Larsen, DE Willie Young.

Virginia: CB Chris Cook, FB Rashawn Jackson.

Virginia Tech: P Brent Bowden, S Kam Chancellor, CB Stephan Virgil, OT Ed Wang.

Wake Forest: OT Chris DeGeare, CB Brandon Ghee.

Scouting Wake Forest

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Anyone who has counted out Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe in the past should have learned by now that the man can work some magic.

The offense, though, won't need any of that.

It's the defense that's under reconstruction. Defensive coordinator Brad Lambert will spend this summer searching for the players who can replace a pair of All-Americans, the entire linebacking corps and three of four starters in the secondary. Not many teams got hit as hard by the NFL Draft as Wake Forest did (now there's a sentence you once probably never thought you'd read). It's true, though - The Deacs lost Aaron Curry, Stanley Arnoux and safety Chip Vaughn to the NFL. This is the kind of year when Grobe's redshirting pays off, as there are still numerous upperclassmen for Lambert to lean on. The strength of the entire team might be the defensive line, where seniors John Russell and Boo Robinson return.

For the first time in years, though, roles have reversed and Wake's offense will be helping out the defense. Only two starters are gone from the offense, but they were both receivers in D.J. Boldin and Chip Brinkman. Marshall Williams and Devon Brown topped the preseason depth chart as their replacements. Williams is the top returning receiver from a year ago, as he started two games and made 26 catches for 390 yards.

Aside from the return of veteran quarterback Riley Skinner, possibly the best news for Wake is that seven players return to the offensive line who have starting experience. The biggest difference there will be the return of Chris DeGeare, who missed last year for academic reasons.

Another thing that will help is that Grobe has decided on his offensive philosophy. Last year, he said he put too much on Skinner, and then went too run-heavy at Miami. This year, he's looking for a little more balance, and Wake has the speed and talent to make that happen.

Of course, everyone's got issues:

1. Who will plug the holes in the secondary? Cornerbacks Josh Bush and Kenny Okoro both looked impressive this spring while competing for Alphonso Smith's old position. They got a lot of reps with injured starter Brandon Ghee out and began to establish themselves as capable replacements. Ghee will be back this summer, though, and is going to be the leader of that group.

2. Can the Demon Deacons really compete for the Atlantic Division title? Definitely. In fact, because Wake has so much talent returning on offense, it wouldn't surprise me if they had one of the most productive offenses in the conference along with Georgia Tech. Obviously the key is how the defense comes together, but it all starts up front, and Wake's defensive line should be one of the best in the ACC.

3. How long will it take the linebackers to come together? First let's figure out who they are. Jonathan Jones, Matt Woodlief and Hunter Haynes are the players listed at the top of the preseason depth chart, but combined they've started two career games. Realistically, this is a wide-open contest.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
  Mark Goldman/Icon SMI
  Success under Jim Grobe has helped raise expectations for Wake Forest.

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Despite the mounting success under Jim Grobe, the Wake Forest football program is still making "firsts." Last year marked the first time in school history that Wake earned three straight bowl invitations. It also marked the first time the Demon Deacons have won eight or more games in three consecutive seasons.

And yet somehow, eight wins was a disappointment in Winston-Salem.

Consider the bar raised.

"I like feeling dissatisfied after an eight-win season," said defensive tackle John Russell. "It keeps us motivated to work to something better. We knew we could have done some fantastic things, even though we did some good things. It's right there for the taking. We just need this team to come together and do it this season."

It's not going to be easy. The expectations have been tempered for Wake Forest this season in large part because of the mass exodus of some of the most talented defensive players to ever come through the program. Alphonso Smith is the all-time ACC career leader in pass interceptions (21), and Aaron Curry left his mark as the ACC career leader in pass interceptions for touchdowns by a linebacker (3). The Deacs lost their top five leading tacklers.

"I think we like to be challenged," Russell said. "Last year to a degree was a disappointment in some cases because we were this close to making it happen. Our coaches always talk about two or three plays that separate a football game from winning and losing it. You look back at the times we kind of stubbed our toe and missed a tackle, or made a bad throw, or dropped a ball, or did something stupid on defense where we weren't where we were supposed to be. That says, 'Hey, we had great players, but it takes even more than that.' It takes that sense of pushing through the adversity and coming together as a team at times when it's really tough."

Only four starters -- Russell, nose tackle Boo Robinson, defensive end Kyle Wilbur, and cornerback Brandon Ghee -- return. (All of them, though, will be worthy of All-Conference consideration.) Seven of the 10 starters who graduated from last year's team were on defense. The Deacs were picked by the media in Greensboro to finish fourth in the Atlantic Division, but still received seven first-place votes.

"We probably like that a little bit," quarterback Riley Skinner said of the low expectations. "That's when we've always been our best, being the underdog, and people have always expected lil' ole' Wake Forest is going to be a cakewalk, and that's fine with us because then we can kind of sneak up on them. ... It doesn't bother us. We've always kind of been in that role and we've been able to be pretty successful these last three years. So it doesn't bother us one bit."

Even though the Deacs are flying under the radar this fall, there are plenty of reasons they could catch their Atlantic Division opponents off-guard. The offense returns nine starters and has a loaded backfield and an improved offensive line. Plus, this is the kind of year Jim Grobe's redshirting philosophy pays off, as there are still 15 fifth-year seniors on the roster, most of which have seen some starting experience. Two of them -- Robinson and Russell -- are on the defensive line, which should be one of the team's strengths this fall.

"Now everybody is getting on us, like 'You guys better stop somebody,'" Russell said. "I think that's just a testament to the kind of guys we've had who were younger guys who stepped in last year and had to help build our confidence in our offense a little bit. Now they're in that role, they've been there, they've done that, there's talent, there's experience, and there are some guys who can really help do some things. It's just a matter of it all coming together on Saturdays."

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Agree or disagree with it, the ACC's top 30 Players for 2009 was a fun project, and I hope you enjoyed it. I might do another one at the end of the season to give these players a chance to prove me wrong -- or right.

There were tons of other players across the conference who were considered. Virginia Tech fans are wondering why quarterback Tyrod Taylor's name isn't on the list. Well, Taylor still has a lot to prove. He's got what it takes in the potential category -- the receivers and offensive linemen should be better this fall, and so should Taylor. But he comes up short in the past performance category, despite his 13-2 record as a starter.

His performance against Duke -- supposedly lowly Duke -- stuck with me when comprising this list. Taylor completed 2 of 5 passes for 15 yards and two interceptions at home against the Blue Devils. If that's a top-30 player, then I left out a lot of athletes. If it weren't for Macho Harris, the Hokies would have lost that game. It takes more than just quick feet to win football games, and Taylor's performance in losses to Boston College and Miami last year are evidence of that. He scored two rushing touchdowns against the Canes, and got his third career 100-yard rushing game against the Eagles, but he completed just 12 of 17 passes for 90 yards and an interception.

Taylor is a quarterback whose name doesn't appear among the ACC's leaders in passing efficiency or passing yards per game, but young receivers had a lot to do with that and he was able to compensate some with his feet. He was the No. 9 rusher in the conference with 61.5 yards per game, but two touchdowns and seven interceptions didn't cut it for this list.

Maybe next year.

In addition to Taylor, here are the other players who were considered (in no particular order):

Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia
Matt Tennant, OL, Boston College
Kendric Burney, DB, North Carolina
Deunta Williams, S, North Carolina
Marvin Austin, DL, North Carolina
Ricky Sapp, DL, Clemson,
T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina,
Boo Robinson, DL, Wake Forest
Brandon Ghee, DB, Wake Forest,
Jason Fox, OL, Miami
Orlando Franklin, OL, Miami
Graig Cooper, RB, Miami
Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami
Bruce Campbell, OL, Maryland
Alex Wujciak, LB, Maryland
Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland
Roddy Jones, RB, Georgia Tech
Demaryius Thomas, WR, Georgia Tech
Alan-Michael Cash, DL, NC State
Ted Larsen, C, NC State
Allen Bailey, DL, Miami
Ryan McMahon, OL, Florida State
Andrew Datko, OL, Florida State
Markus White, DL, Florida State
Patrick Robinson, DB, Florida State
Jermaine Thomas, RB, Florida State
Mark Herzlich, LB, Boston College
Vincent Rey, LB, Duke

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.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Regardless of whether it was for injuries, suspensions, academics -- whatever -- not everyone was present and accounted for this spring. There were a few players who were missing who will be desperately needed to make a comeback this fall. Each team had at least one:

Boston College: Linebacker Mike McLaughlin -- He is still very questionable for the fall, but his return from an Achilles injury would be a huge boost to a position that lacks depth. Wide receiver Clarence Megwa broke his leg in the Clemson game last year and missed the rest of the year and spring, but could be a key returnee.

Clemson: Bandit end Ricky Sapp -- He missed the Gator Bowl and sat out the spring getting over a torn ACL he suffered in the first half against Virginia. He will be a prime pass-rusher for the Tigers and is Clemson's best player when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback.

Duke: Defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase -- The Blue Devils' leader on the defensive line missed the spring with an injury, but ranks second among active ACC players in both career tackles for loss (29.0) and quarterback sacks (11.5), trailing only N.C. State's Willie Young (32.0 and 12.5). Oghobaase has started all 36 games over the past three years, compiling 128 tackles.

Florida State: Linebacker Dekoda Watson -- He missed the spring after offseason elbow surgery, but should be one of the Noles' top defenders. He ranked fourth on the team with 46 tackles last year.

Georgia Tech: Center Dan Voss -- He was the starter last year, and if his labrum isn't fully recovered (which it should be), aerospace engineer major Sean Bedford moves to the top of the depth chart. Not that there's anything wrong with a super smart center.

Maryland: DT Dion Armstrong -- The Terps had a host of key players miss the spring, but Armstrong, who was out for academic reasons, is at a position in need of some help. It's unclear, though, if Armstrong's academic situation will extend into the summer. Also at defensive tackle for Maryland is Travis Ivey. The coaches raved about his improved play and leadership during the spring, and the offensive line was having a tough time containing him. But he got a concussion in the fourth week and missed the rest of the spring. He also had a scheduled shoulder surgery at the end of the spring.

Miami: LB Colin McCarthy -- Miami needs depth at linebacker and McCarthy was playing well last season before a shoulder injury caused him to miss the remainder of the season, starting with the FSU game. He had shoulder surgery.

North Carolina: Free safety Deunta Williams -- He had wrist surgery in January and missed the spring, but should be ready for the fall. He started all 13 games in 2008 and ranked fifth on the team with 65 tackles (55 solo).

NC State: Strong safety Javon Walker -- He's actually missed the last TWO springs and last season with a knee injury, but will be cleared by the fall and is being counted on very heavily in the secondary.

Virginia: Right guard B.J. Cabbell -- He missed spring ball due to knee surgery, but started 12 games last year. The junior is expected back in August.

Virginia Tech: DE Jason Worilds -- Worilds missed the spring after shoulder surgery for an injury that kept him out of the Orange Bowl. End is one of the few positions the Hokies have that lacks depth. Worilds started in 12 of 14 games last year and had eight sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. The Hokies will also need the return of guard Sergio Render, who missed the spring following shoulder surgery.

Wake Forest: CB Brandon Ghee -- Ghee suffered a sprained knee on the very first day of spring and missed the remainder of practice. The Deacs will need Ghee healthy this fall as he is the only returning starter in the secondary. Starting nose tackle Boo Robinson has also been bothered by a bad back and didn't play this spring.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There were all kinds of story lines this spring, from trouble in Tallahassee to ACC commissioner John Swofford representing the BCS in Congress. New coordinators were introduced, and new players stepped into the spotlight.

There was a particular buzz around the new offenses at Miami and Virginia, and Don Brown's defense earned rave reviews at Maryland as did Kevin Steele's at Clemson. Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams stole the show as far as newcomers go.

Only two players -- Florida State's E.J. Manuel and Wake Forest's Brandon Ghee -- were injured on the first day of practice and missed the whole spring. Other than that, there weren't any major injuries or catastrophes.

There were plenty of things we could take away from the spring in analyzing how the ACC will fare this fall.

Here's a look at a few things we learned in the ACC this spring:

1. This conference can run. Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Maryland, NC State ... the list goes on. The question now is how these coaching staffs will split the carries. Some teams welcomed former leading rushers back from injuries, like NC State's Toney Baker and Duke's Re'quan Boyette. It seems like every team in the ACC has a legitimate difference maker at running back, and it should be a strength of the league this fall, especially considering ...

2. Veteran receivers are at a premium. UNC and Virginia got hit the hardest by graduation and the NFL, but Maryland also lost Darrius Heyward-Bey, Wake Forest lost D.J. Boldin, and Florida State should be holding open tryouts. Young receivers were scrambling to establish themselves all over the ACC this spring. There's talent at the position, it just hasn't been tested anywhere but Miami.

3. Offensive improvement up front. Boston College, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia and Wake Forest are among several teams with at least four starters returning on the offensive line. Virginia Tech's struggles on offense can be traced in part to a lack of athleticism up front, and that appears to have changed. Experience throughout the league should help ease the transition for some skill players and rookie backup quarterbacks.

4. There is improvement from the ground up. And it starts in the Coastal Division with Virginia and Duke. The Blue Devils had nowhere to go but up, and the pressure was on Al Groh to raise the bar after missing the postseason last year. NC State's progress should make the Atlantic Division race interesting. If you thought last year was a wild ride in the ACC, '09 should be even more unpredictable.

5. It's OK to follow your dreams. Former basketball player Greg Paulus was offered a tryout as a receiver with Duke's football team, and Miami forward Jimmy Graham was offered a tryout as a tight end with the Hurricanes, which he accepted. It will be interesting to see how both of their stories end, and whether or not switching sports in the final year of eligibility becomes a more popular trend.

Wake Forest spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009
5/07/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
2008 overall record: 8-5

2008 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 4, kicker/punter 1

Top returners

QB Riley Skinner, TE Ben Wooster, LT Joe Birdsong, C Russell Nenon, RT Jeff Griffin, RB Brandon Pendergrass, DT John Russell, NT Boo Robinson, CB Brandon Ghee, P Shane Popham, TB Kevin Harris, TB Josh Adams.

Key losses

DE Matt Robinson, LB Aaron Curry, LB Stanley Arnoux, LB Chantz McClinic, CB Alphonso Smith, FS Chip Vaughn, PK Sam Swank, WR D.J. Boldin, WR Chip Brinkman, SS Kevin Patterson

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Brandon Bendergrass* (528 yards)
Passing: Riley Skinner* (2,347 yards)
Receiving: D.J. Boldin (848 yards)
Tackles: Aaron Curry (105)
Sacks: Boo Robinson* (5)
Interceptions: Kevin Patterson (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sept. 5 Baylor
Sept. 12 Stanford
Sept. 19 Elon
Sept. 26 at Boston College
Oct. 3 NC State
Oct. 10 Maryland
Oct. 17 at Clemson
Oct. 24 at Navy
Oct. 31 Miami
Nov. 7 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 14 Florida State
Nov. 28 at Duke

1. Stepping up in the secondary. Cornerbacks Josh Bush and Kenny Okoro both looked impressive this spring while competing for Alphonso Smith's old position. They got a lot of reps with injured starter Brandon Ghee out and began to establish themselves as capable replacements.

2. Strength in numbers. 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. It will help tremendously to have Chris DeGeare back at left tackle, and Barrett McMillin returns at guard.

3. Better depth and speed at receiver. The Deacons have to replace D.J. Boldin, but they've got more options and more speed to do it this year. Chris Givens and Terence Davis, both redshirts last year, impressed the staff this spring. They'll team with Devon Brown, Marshall Williams and Jordan Williams.

Fall questions

1. Another loaded backfield. Like several other teams in the ACC, Wake has three capable tailbacks, and the staff will have to figure out how to distribute the carries. Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass and Kevin Harris each had a 100-yard game last year.

2. Healing power. Brandon Ghee sprained his knee on the first day of spring practice and did not return, and Boo Robinson has had some disc problems and didn't participate in any spring drills. Their absence didn't help a defense trying to replace seven starters. Aaron Curry is the kind of player who can't be "replaced," but four candidates will continue to try this fall.

3. Looking for No. 2. Backup quarterback Ryan McManus earned a slight lead as the No. 2 behind Riley Skinner -- so slight you might even call it a three-way tie -- but the coaches aren't ready to put it in ink yet. Skylar Jones and Ted Stachitas will continue to push McManus this fall.

Checking in from Wake Forest

March, 24, 2009
3/24/09
7:54
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A few quick updates from Wake's practice today ...

  • Cornerbacks Brandon Ghee and Josh Bush collided and Ghee could be out for the spring with a torn MCL. It won't require surgery, so the coaches aren't in panic mode, but it's never good to lose a starter on the first day of spring practices.
  • There were a lot of short passes and basics, as the coaches didn't want to overload a lot of the younger players with too much too fast. Wake did a lot of team drills and went after each other pretty good in shorts.
  • All of the quarterbacks are getting significant reps since Brett Hodges decided to concentrate on academics. Quarterbacks coach Tom Elrod told me today he wrote a letter of recommendation for Hodges' application to Purdue. (Not to play, to study forensic computer CSI kind of stuff.) Coach Jim Grobe said Skylar Jones has matured since last season, but he also thinks Ted Stachitas could be a special player.
  • Alphonso Smith and Aaron Curry were both at practice helping out a bit since they were around on Monday for pro day.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Maryland and Wake Forest both start practice today, and they both happen to be in the Atlantic Division, which will be wide open. (Florida State should have a bit of an edge, but hey, everyone's got issues). Here are three keys to Wake and Maryland surprising some people and making a run for the division title this fall:

If Maryland is going to have a chance ...

1. The Terps need to find a dependable replacement for center Edwin Williams. He might have been the most consistent player on offense last year. Maurice Hampton and Danny Edwards will compete for the job, though moving right guard Phil Costa there might be the most likely scenario. The running game should be a strength, but only if the offensive line comes together quickly. The Terps need to replace three starters there.

2. Chris Turner is going to have to play like a senior. No more inconsistent play. Beating ranked teams is great, but it won't get you far if you can't beat Middle Tennessee, too. He's clearly capable of it. Turner is 6-1 against ranked opponents over the past two seasons and completed 63.5 percent of his passes in those games for nine touchdowns and only two interceptions. He'll have several young, talented receivers to throw it to. His experience alone should give the Terps an edge, as there are only three other senior quarterbacks in the league (Riley Skinner, Jameel Sewell and Thaddeus Lewis).

3. Improve significantly on defense. The Terps ranked 10th in the ACC in total defense, ninth in scoring defense, 10th in passing defense, and ninth in rushing defense. First-year coordinator Don Brown has his hands full, but as a previous head coach he knows what needs to be done. First, he'll have to replace seven starters.

If Wake Forest is going to have a chance ...

1. The Deacs need to find somebody to catch the ball. Wake has to replace starters D.J. Boldin and Chip Brinkman, who combined for 40 career starts. Sure, the Deacs have to develop a better running game, but there were hints of that at the end of the season, especially in the EagleBank Bowl, and there is depth at the position, and the offensive line will be better. Receiver is a bigger question mark.

2. Playmakers need to emerge on defense. Seven starters are gone, the most notable being linebacker Aaron Curry and cornerback Alphonso Smith. The defensive line, led by tackles John Russell and Boo Robinson, will have to be the leaders, along with cornerback Brandon Ghee.

3. They must find a replacement for punter/placekicker Sam Swank. The good news is that they have already been tested without Swank, as he was injured last year and missed six games. That gave Shane Popham valuable experience. He made 7 of 12 field goal attempts and averaged 39.2 yards on 54 punts.

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