ACC: Brandon Thomas

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 8, 2014
Apr 8
12:00
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First prediction I've gotten right all tourney.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 21, 2014
Feb 21
12:00
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Because in Florida, anything is possible.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 11, 2014
Feb 11
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The NFL draft combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis will be held from Feb. 19-25 and will feature workouts, medical examinations, psychological testing and interviews for the 335 invited prospects. The ACC has a total of 46 players who will participate, including at least one player from every school (we included Maryland and not Louisville in this post, because it is from the 2013 season). National champion Florida State led the league with eight players heading to the combine, but UNC was right behind with seven. Don't cry ... you're gonna miss some of these names next year. Good luck to these guys.

Here is the official list of the ACC attendees:

BOSTON COLLEGE (5)
CLEMSON (4)
DUKE (1)
FLORIDA STATE (8)
GEORGIA TECH (2)
MARYLAND (1)
MIAMI (5)
NORTH CAROLINA (7)
NC STATE (1)
PITTSBURGH (3)
SYRACUSE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
VIRGINIA TECH (4)
WAKE FOREST (1)
Some are can't-miss prospects, such as Jameis Winston. The Florida State quarterback was ESPN's No. 1 QB in the Class of 2012, won the Heisman Trophy in his first season as the Seminoles' starter and added a national championship to cap his redshirt freshman year.

Others are not so easy to find.

Andre Williams, who finished three spots behind Winston in the 2013 Heisman Trophy voting, was a two-star prospect in the Class of 2010. All the Boston College running back did this past fall was tally the fifth-highest rushing total in FBS history (2,177 yards).

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston, Andre Williams
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty ImagesAndre Williams and Jameis Winston came from opposite ends of the recruiting spectrum.
With national signing day coming Wednesday, we figured this is a good time to revisit where our All-ACC players stood when they signed with their schools. The results, as usual, offer some surprises.

Just one ESPN.com All-ACC player from this past season entered college as a five-star prospect. Williams was one of two two-star prospects. There were 11 four-star prospects and eight three-star prospects. Two players, both of whom are from the high school Class of 2009, don't have star ratings, as ESPN didn't start using star ratings until 2010. Kickers and punters have no ratings, rankings or grades.

(All rankings and information are from ESPN's Recruiting Nation.)

Offense

  • QB Jameis Winston, Florida State via Hueytown (Ala.) High: Four stars, No. 14 overall prospect, Class of 2012. Scout grade: 84
  • RB: Andre Williams, Boston College via Allentown (Pa.) Parkland High: Two stars, No. 152 RB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 73
  • RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State via Miami Central High: Four stars, No. 15 RB, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson via South Fort Myers (Fla.) High: Four stars, No. 39 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 82
  • WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Four stars, No. 125 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke via Monroe (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 65 WR, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • TE: Eric Ebron, North Carolina via Greensboro (N.C.) Smith High: Four stars, No. 8 TE, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 80
  • T: Cameron Erving, Florida State via Colquitt County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 83 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 76
  • T: Brandon Thomas, Clemson via Dorman (S.C.) High: No. 60 OG, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
  • G: Laken Tomlinson, Duke via Chicago Lane Tech High: Three stars, No. 65 OG, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • G: Tre’ Jackson, Florida State via Wayne County (Ga.) High: Three stars, No. 50 DT, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 78
  • C: Bryan Stork, Florida State via Vero Beach (Fla.) High: No. 45 TE, Class of 2009. Scout grade: 76*
Defense

  • DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson via Adairsville (Ga.) High: Four stars, No. 19 ATH, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DE: Kareem Martin, North Carolina via Roanoke Rapids (N.C.) High: Three stars, No. 59 DE, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 80
  • DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt via Pittsburgh Penn Hills High: Four stars, No. 22 DT, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • DT: Timmy Jernigan, Florida State via Lake City (Fla.) Columbia High: Four stars, No. 17 overall prospect, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 84
  • LB: Telvin Smith, Florida State via Valdosta (Ga.) Lowndes High: Four stars, No. 107 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 81
  • LB: Kelby Brown, Duke via Charlotte (N.C.) Christian High: Three stars, No. 88 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 75
  • LB: Kevin Pierre-Louis, Boston College via Stamford (Conn.) The King & Low Heywood Thomas School: Four stars, No. 20 OLB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 79
  • CB: Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State via Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Saint Thomas Aquinas High: Five stars, No. 6 overall prospect, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 87
  • CB: Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech via Baltimore Mount St. Joseph High: Three stars, No. 43 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 77
  • S: Terrence Brooks, Florida State via Dunnellon (Fla.) High: Three stars, No. 21 CB, Class of 2010. Scout grade: 70
  • S: Anthony Harris, Virginia via Cheesterfield (Va.) Lloyd C. Bird High: Two stars, No. 203 ATH, Class of 2011. Scout grade: 72
Special Teams

  • K: Nate Freese, Boston College via Strongsville (Ohio) High: Class of 2009
  • P: Pat O’Donnell, Miami via Palm Beach (Fla.) Central High: Class of 2009
  • SP: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina via Charleston (W.Va.) George Washington High: Four stars, No. 59 WR, Class of 2013. Scout grade: 80

ACC players in the Senior Bowl

January, 21, 2014
Jan 21
10:30
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Senior Bowl practices are underway this week, and wouldn't you know it -- scouts have their eyes on the quarterbacks.

That means Stephen Morris, Logan Thomas and Tajh Boyd are firmly in the spotlight this week among featured ACC players participating in the college all-star game, a critical first step in evaluations for the NFL draft in May. Scouts Inc. lists Thomas as the highest rated quarterback among the three and broke down what each has to accomplish this week.

For Thomas: The need to "thrive with an even playing field."

For Morris: More consistency with footwork and ball placement as a passer.

For Boyd: "Show improvement throughout the week with pro-style progressions and anticipation as a pocket passer."

Scouts Inc. also lists Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson and Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses as having the most to prove.

Here is a look at all the ACC players participating in the Senior Bowl, with the game set for Saturday. Boston College running back Andre Williams was invited but pulled out so he can continue to rehab his injured shoulder.

ESPN.com's All-ACC team

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
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Florida State’s undefeated season is reflected in the Seminoles’ 10 all-conference selections by ESPN.com. Quarterback Jameis Winston was the highlight of the group, along with Boston College running back Andre Williams, who was also a Heisman candidate this year. This list differs just slightly from the choices of the coaches and writers, with the toughest decisions coming on defense.

Offense
Defense
Special Teams
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was voted the ACC Player of the Year, Offensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year by the ACC's head coaches.

Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players, and ballots were worth three points for each first-team, two points for second-team and one point for third-team selections.

Winston was one of three unanimous first-team selections to the All-ACC team (named on all 13 possible ballots). He was joined by national rushing leader and fellow Heisman finalist Andre Williams of Boston College and Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins, a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award.

Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner Aaron Donald of Pitt was voted the ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Duke’s David Cutcliffe was voted the ACC Coach of the Year by his peers for the second straight season, and Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller picked up ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

2013 ACC Coaches All-ACC Football Team

(Voting points in Parentheses)

First Team

Offense

QB—Jameis Winston, Fr.-R, Florida State (39)

RB—Andre Williams, Sr., Boston College (39)

RB—Devonta Freeman, Jr., Florida State (28)

WR—Sammy Watkins, Jr., Clemson (39)

WR—Rashad Greene, Jr., Florida State (31)

WR—Jamison Crowder, Jr., Duke (31)

TE—Eric Ebron, Jr., North Carolina (38)

T—Cameron Erving, Jr.-R, Florida State (31)

T—Brandon Thomas, Sr.-R, Clemson (23)

G—Laken Tomlinson, Jr.-R, Duke (26)

G—Tre’ Jackson, Jr., Florida State (23)

C—Bryan Stork, Sr.-R, Florida State (38)

Defense

DE—Vic Beasley, Jr., Clemson (35)

DE—Jeremiah Attaochu, Sr., Georgia Tech (29)

DT—Aaron Donald, Sr., Pitt (35)

DT—Timmy Jernigan, Jr., Florida State (33)

LB—Telvin Smith, Sr., Florida State (37)

LB—Denzel Perryman, Jr., Miami (30)

LB—Kevin Pierre-Louis, Sr., Boston College (28)

CB—Lamarcus Joyner, Sr., Florida State (38)

CB—Kyle Fuller, Sr., Virginia Tech (32)

S—Terrence Brooks, Sr., Florida State (33)

S—Anthony Harris, Jr., Virginia (22)

Special Teams

PK—Roberto Aguayo, Fr.-R, Florida State (28)

P—Pat O’Donnell, Sr.-R, Miami (31)

SP—Jamison Crowder, Jr., Duke (27)
The watch list for the Rotary Lombardi Award, which is presented to the college lineman of the year by the Rotary Club of Houston, was announced today. Here are your ACC candidates:
Two big names left off the list: Syracuse NT Jay Bromley and Miami OT Seantrel Henderson. Both have a chance to be among the ACC's best this fall.
The Football Writers Association of America today announced the watch list candidates for the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the best interior lineman in college football. The ACC tied the Pac-12 for the second-most nominees with 12 players. The SEC led the watch list with 16 players.

Here are your ACC representatives:
The FWAA also today announced the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, presented annually to the national defensive player of the year by the FWAA and the Charlotte Touchdown Club. The ACC (12) had the fourth-most players on the list behind the SEC (16), Pac-12 (14), and Big Ten (13).

Here are your ACC reps:

Clemson Tigers spring wrap

May, 7, 2013
5/07/13
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2012 record: 11-2
2012 conference record: 7-1 (Atlantic Division co-champs)
Returning starters: offense: 6; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners:

QB Tajh Boyd, WR Sammy Watkins, T Brandon Thomas, WR Charone Peake, WR Martavis Bryant, DE Vic Beasley, DE Corey Crawford, LB Stephone Anthony, S Travis Blanks, LB Spencer Shuey; K Chandler Catanzaro

Key losses:

WR DeAndre Hopkins, RB Andre Ellington, TE Brandon Ford, C Dalton Freeman, WR Jaron Brown, DE Malliciah Goodman, CB Xavier Brewer, CB Rashard Hall, SS Jonathan Meeks, LB Tig Willard, P Spencer Benton

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Ellington (1,081 yards)
Passing: Boyd* (3,896 yards)
Receiving: Hopkins (1,405 yards)
Tackles: Willard (95)
Sacks: Beasley* (8)
Interceptions: Hall (4)

Spring answers

1. Freshman phenom at tight end: Jordan Leggett enrolled in January, and not a moment too soon. Sam Cooper tore his ACL, an injury that opened the door for Leggett, who had a fantastic spring. He had seven catches for 97 yards and a touchdown in the spring game, and he was impressive in the last two scrimmages. He’s not listed as the starter yet, but he is good enough to get there by the opener against Georgia.

2. Beasley’s a beast. He led the team with eight sacks last year, but really showed consistency in the spring. Twice had interceptions of Boyd where he made athletic plays, and he had 10 sacks in the three scrimmages. Clemson is in need of a big-play guy on defense, and Beasley could be it.

3. Solid behind Boyd. Clemson has found a No. 2 quarterback in Cole Stoudt, who threw for 304 yards in the first half of the Tigers’ spring game. He hardly played in the second half. The depth of the position took a hit when Chad Kelly was injured, but now the backup quarterback question has an answer.

Fall questions

1. Unsettled secondary. The cornerback position is a particular area of concern, but with eight true freshmen joining the team this August, the entire group could look different this summer. It wouldn’t be surprising to see at least four of those rookies earn playing time this fall, especially prized recruit Mackensie Alexander, who was the program’s highest-rated signee since former defensive end Da'Quan Bowers.

2. Center of attention: The Tigers will miss Dalton Freeman, who started 49 straight games at center. Ryan Norton is the new starter, but there’s no replacing the experience Freeman had with making all of the blocking calls and the chemistry he developed with Boyd.

3. Spotlight on Sammy: Watkins is moving to Hopkins’ old position, and all eyes will be watching to see if he looks like the same player who caught the nation’s attention as a true freshman in 2011. So far, so good. Watkins had 156 receiving yards in the spring game and looked like old Sammy.
The ACC coaches have unveiled their inaugural All-ACC football team and award winners, and it looks nearly identical to the media winners announced last week.

Both the coaches and media are in agreement on the players of the year: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd as player of the year and offensive player of the year; Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner as defensive player of the year; and Miami running back Duke Johnson as rookie of the year and Offensive Rookie of the Year; Florida State cornerback Ronald Darby as defensive rookie of the year; and Duke coach David Cutcliffe as coach of the year.

Boyd won player of the year and offensive player of the year more comfortably on the coaches' ballots, getting four more votes than North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard. In media voting, Boyd beat out Bernard by one point.

Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own players. First-team selections earned two points; second-team selections got one.

Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina each had five players chosen to the first team, though the Tar Heels actually had six first-team picks as Bernard was named to the first-team offense as a running back, while also earning first-team specialist accolades. All of Clemson’s first-team honorees were on offense, while four of FSU’s five were on defense.

The coaches' All-ACC first-team differed from the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association team only at three positions: choosing Duke receiver Conner Vernon over Boston College’s Alex Amidon; North Carolina offensive tackle James Hurst over Clemson’s Brandon Thomas; and Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler instead of Virginia’s Steve Greer. Amidon, Thomas and Greer were all second-team picks.

In all, there were four unanimous first-team selections in Boyd, Bernard, Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Florida State defensive end Cornellius Carradine on defense.

Here are the complete teams.

Tajh Boyd headlines All-ACC team

November, 26, 2012
11/26/12
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Clemson had the best offense in the ACC this season, so it comes as no surprise that the Tigers dominated the All-ACC first team released Monday.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd and five teammates won first-team honors on offense, the first time Clemson has ever place six players on the All-ACC first-team offense and the first time any team has done it since Florida State in 1995.

Florida State and North Carolina each placed five players on the all-conference team, determined by a vote of 46 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

Boyd is joined on the first team by running back Andre Ellington, receiver DeAndre Hopkins, tackle Brandon Thomas, center Dalton Freeman and tight end Brandon Ford. Boyd led the ACC with 34 touchdown passes while Hopkins had league-bests of 16 total touchdown catches and an average of 104 yards receiving.

Nine teams had at least one first-team selection. There were no unanimous picks to the first team, but North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard was chosen as a first-teamer on 45 ballots. Bernard, who had an ACC-leading 1,228 yards rushing and 12 rushing touchdowns, joins Boyd as repeat first-team selections.

Bernard, a punt returner who also was picked as the first-team specialist, was joined by guard Jonathan Cooper, linebacker Kevin Reddick and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams.

Four Florida State defensive players -- ends Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and safety Lamarcus Joyner -- join kicker Dustin Hopkins on the first team.

Boston College (receiver Alex Amidon and linebacker Nick Clancy), Virginia (offensive tackle Oday Aboushi and linebacker Steve Greer) and Duke (cornerback Ross Cockrell and punter Will Monday) were the only other schools with multiple first-team picks.

You also should note that Virginia Tech and Miami did not have a first-team selection for the first time since they joined the ACC in 2004. Defensive end James Gayle, linebacker Jack Tyler and cornerback Antone Exum made the second team for Virginia Tech; Miami's Duke Johnson made the second team as a running back and specialist.

The league coaches will announce their all-conference team next week.

FIRST-TEAM OFFENSE
  • QB-Tajh Boyd, Clemson
  • RB-Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
  • RB-Andre Ellington, Clemson
  • WR-DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson
  • WR-Alex Amidon, Boston College
  • OT-Oday Aboushi, Virginia
  • OT-Brandon Thomas, Clemson
  • OG-Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
  • OG-Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech
  • C-Dalton Freeman, Clemson
  • TE-Brandon Ford, Clemson
  • K-Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
  • Specialist- Giovani Bernard, North Carolina
FIRST-TEAM DEFENSE
  • DE-Bjoern Werner, Florida State
  • DE-Cornellius Carradine, Florida State
  • DT-Joe Vellano, Maryland
  • DT-Sylvester Williams, North Carolina
  • LB-Nick Clancy, Boston College
  • LB-Kevin Reddick, North Carolina
  • LB-Steve Greer, Virginia
  • CB-Xavier Rhodes, Florida State
  • CB-Ross Cockrell, Duke
  • S-Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State
  • S-Earl Wolff, NC State
  • P-Will Monday, Duke

For the second-team and honorable mention selections, you can click here.

ACC announces players of the week

November, 5, 2012
11/05/12
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Here are the ACC players of the week, as announced by the league office Monday.

OFFENSIVE BACK: Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson. Boyd completed 16-of-23 passes for 344 yards and five touchdowns in the Tigers’ 56-20 win over Duke. He guided the Clemson offense to 718 yards of total offense, the second most in school history and the most by an ACC team this year. Boyd threw all five of his touchdown passes in the first half and also scored on a 21-yard run, giving him six TDR, the most by an ACC player in a game this year. He finished with 416 yards of total offense and a passing efficiency rating of 240, the third best in school history given a minimum of 20 attempts.

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Brandon Thomas, OL, Clemson. Thomas graded 95 percent for his 62 snaps in the win over Duke and had five knockdown blocks in helping the Tigers score 56 points, the most in the program’s history in Wallace Wade Stadium. The 95 percent grade was the highest of his career and the highest for a Clemson starting offensive lineman in a game this year. His blocking was a big reason Clemson rushed for 334 yards and a 6.5 yards per carry average on 52 attempts. Clemson finished the game with 718 yards of total offense, second most in Clemson history, 10th most in ACC history and the most by an ACC team this year.

RECEIVER: Michael Campanaro, WR, Wake Forest. Campanaro set a school record and tied the ACC mark with 16 receptions in Wake Forest’s 28-14 win over Boston College. He had 123 receiving yards and tied the school record with three touchdown catches. His touchdown receptions were on passes of 5, 27 and 16 yards from Tanner Price. Campanaro broke the previous Wake Forest record of 15 which was shared by three players. The ACC mark of 16 was last accomplished by Alvin Pearman of Virginia in 2003.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: Chris Brathwaite, DT, Virginia. Brathwaite helped the Cavalier defense hold NC State to a season low 216 yards of offense (19 rushing yards) in Virginia’s 33-6 victory in Raleigh. The Wolfpack entered the game averaging 429.2 yards per game. Brathwaite had five tackles, two sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss while also forcing a fumble. The six points and 19 rushing yards were season lows for NC State.

LINEBACKER: Jeremiah Attaochu, LB, Georgia Tech. Attaochu matched a career-high with three sacks, forced a fumble and recovered a fumble in Georgia Tech’s 33-13 win at Maryland. Attaochu joins Derrick Morgan as the only Tech players over the last five seasons to record three sacks in one game. Attaochu, playing in his hometown, upped his career totals to 22 tackles for loss and 14 sacks.

CO-DEFENSIVE BACK: Maurice Canady, CB, Virginia. Canady started his first game and led Virginia’s defense with seven tackles and had an interception with a return of 39 yards in the Cavaliers’ 33-6 win over NC State. He helped limit the Wolfpack passing game to just 197 yards, a season low. The Wolfpack entered the game averaging 306.9 yards per game. NC State’s longest reception during the game was 14 yards. The last time NC State did not have a reception in a game for at least 15 yards was its season opener in 2006, a streak of 84 games. The Cavaliers also ended NC State’s Bryan Underwood’s streak of catching a touchdown in eight straight games this season, preventing him from tying Virginia’s Herman Moore’s streak of nine straight games with a touchdown catch in 1990.

CO-DEFENSIVE BACK: Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest. Johnson was second on the team with seven tackles in Saturday’s 28-14 win over Boston College. Johnson had five solo tackles and two assists. He also intercepted a pass for the third time in the last four games and broke up two passes.

SPECIALIST: Gabe Terry, LB, Miami. Terry blocked a Virginia Tech punt that led to the Miami Hurricanes’ first score of the night during their 30-12 win Thursday over the Hokies. On the Virginia Tech 41, Terry blocked the punt and it was recovered by Rayshawn Jenkins at the Virginia Tech 16 to set up the Miami score two plays later. It was Miami’s first blocked punt since 2008 against UCF and first in ACC play since 2004, also against Virginia Tech.

ROOKIE: Duke Johnson, RB, Miami. Johnson notched his second 100-yard rushing game of the season, collecting 100 yards and one touchdown on 11 carries in Miami’s 30-12 win over Virginia Tech. Sixty-five of his 100 yards came in the first half on one rush, a new career long. Johnson later added a fourth quarter touchdown, his sixth rushing score of the season and first since Sept. 29 vs. NC State. He finished the night with 217 all-purpose yards, his fourth 200 yard all-purpose game of the season. Johnson had 118 returning yards on two returns, including an 81-yard scamper. He now has 13 plays of 25-plus yards, including seven for 50 or more yards.
Heading into this season, the offensive lines at both Florida State and Clemson were two of the biggest question marks in the ACC. The Tigers had to replace three starters up front, and the Seminoles were coming off a Champs Sports Bowl win against Notre Dame in which four true freshmen were in the starting lineup.

You’d never know it by looking at the stats so far this season, as deceptive as some could be.

As No. 10 Clemson and No. 4 Florida State prepare to face each other in Tallahassee on Saturday, both offensive lines have shown significant improvement through the first three games of the season. Florida State is No. 2 in the country in scoring offense, racking up its stats against two FCS opponents and an overmatched Wake Forest team. Clemson is No. 23 in the country in scoring offense, with its most impressive win coming against Auburn. Both Clemson and Florida State are allowing fewer than two sacks per game.

[+] EnlargeGifford Timothy
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesGifford Timothy and Clemson's offensive line could hold the key to victory against Florida State.
Both groups, though, still have something to prove -- particularly at Clemson. The Tigers’ offensive line will arguably get its biggest test of the season Saturday when it faces Florida State’s defensive line. The Noles are tied for No. 10 in the country with 3.67 sacks per game. How Clemson fares up front could be the key to the entire game.

“It’s going to be a tough challenge, no doubt about it,” said Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. “But we’re going to find out Saturday night one way or another.”

Clemson’s starting lineup against Auburn was Dalton Freeman, David Beasley, Gifford Timothy, Brandon Thomas and Tyler Shatley. Timothy was injured on the last offensive play of the game and missed the Ball State game. That opened the door for redshirt freshman Shaq Anthony to start and also play the first half against Furman.

Beasley was injured against Ball State, allowing Kalon Davis to play most of that game and all of the Furman game. Shatley was injured against Furman and missed the second half. Redshirt freshman Ryan Norton played the second half of that game.

Swinney said his offensive line was “pretty average” in last week’s 41-7 win against Furman.

“Nothing great,” he said, “just OK.”

“They are a question mark; they’re still a question mark,” Swinney said. “I don’t think that’s changed. … We’re a long ways away from being a great offensive line right now.”

The good news for Clemson fans is that the starting lineup used against Auburn should be healthy and ready to play at Florida State. And the backups have now had some significant experience. Entering the FSU game, Clemson has eight different offensive linemen who have played at least 98 snaps.

Florida State’s improved pass protection has been measurable. So far, the line has allowed three sacks in 194 snaps and 84 pass attempts. All three sacks, though, came against the best competition they’ve played -- a Wake Forest team that was missing one of its top defensive linemen in injured nose guard Nikita Whitlock.

It’s still a foreshadowing of improvement since last season, when the Noles allowed 41 sacks in 820 offensive snaps, which amounts to one every 20 plays. Only eight teams in the nation yielded more sacks than FSU in 2011.

There’s no question that FSU is also running the ball better. In 2011, the Seminoles produced just 112.2 rushing yards per game -- their lowest average since 2006 -- and managed 1,458 yards on the ground. Through three games the Noles are averaging 279 rushing yards.

The numbers are skewed because they’ve been racked up against unheralded FCS competition in Murray State and Savannah State, but FSU coach Jimbo Fisher said he likes what he has seen so far.

“I think they’re very good players,” Fisher said. “They’re all very talented. It took a little bit of time to learn, and that’s a position that’s very hard to adapt to, and we loved them because of their size and athleticism. I think that’s where you’ve got to control both lines of scrimmage -- that’s where it’s got to start.

“I’ve been very pleased with them, but I don’t think we are close to where we can be,” Fisher said. “I think each challenge is bigger and bigger each week.”

This one, of course, might be the biggest of the season.

Clemson's offensive line grows up

September, 4, 2012
9/04/12
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Andre EllingtonScott Cunningham/Getty ImagesClemson's offensive line performed well against Auburn, allowing Andre Ellington to run for 231 yards.
When Clemson opened its game against Auburn, some of the major concerns about a revamped offensive line were played out.

Missed assignments. Pre-snap penalties -- one that cost the Tigers a fourth-and-goal attempt at the 1. Way too many Auburn defenders coming free, forcing Tajh Boyd to avoid the pressure on numerous occasions. At the end of the first half, Clemson had given up four sacks -- that only happened twice all of last season.

But a funny thing happened on the way toward writing off the offensive line. All five guys started playing much better, together. And their superior conditioning in the spread hurry-up started paying off. Center Dalton Freeman, tackles Brandon Thomas and Gifford Timothy, and guards David Beasley and Tyler Shatley had their way with the Auburn defensive front, which was clearly exhausted and having a hard time keeping up.

The end result? No second-half sacks allowed, no more procedure penalties and a hard-fought victory.

"We knew coming in that we were inexperienced but we weren’t going to let that be an excuse for us," Freeman said after the game. "I was impressed with our poise. We did a good job of handling adversity. We’re very happy with where we were … Early on, we were beating ourselves, probably trying to do a little too much. Once we calmed down, we played pretty well.”

Freeman and Thomas are the only two starters returning from a year ago. Beasley, Timothy and Shatley had a combined 75 plays on the offensive line entering the Auburn game. (Shatley played 317 snaps in 2011, but all were on defense.)

After the rough start, the offensive line helped Andre Ellington run for 228 yards, and a 320 total yards on the ground. That was the highest rushing total for Clemson since gaining 323 against Georgia Tech in the 2009 ACC Championship game. Clemson is now 107-4-1 when it gains at least 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing in the same game.

What's more, all five starters played every single snap but the final one -- only because Timothy got banged up and had to leave the game. Freeman was so good, he was selected as one of the ACC Players of the Week on Tuesday. Coach Dabo Swinney said during his news conference Tuesday he expects Timothy to play Saturday against Ball State, and he also hopes to get some of his reserves more involved.

Still, it was an impressive performance after a shaky start. Despite the result, both Swinney and Morris cautioned there is plenty more work to do.

“I think we all saw same thing, they’ve still got a lot of room for improvement,” Morris told reporters in Clemson on Monday. “We’re not ready to name them the ‘Seven Blocks Of Granite’ or ‘Four Horsemen’ yet. Those guys have earned some respect on this football team.”

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