ACC: Brenden Motley

There’s not much time for Virginia Tech to reflect on its 6-3 double overtime loss to Wake Forest, writes the Richmond Times-Dispatch, and that’s probably a good thing.

The Hokies probably have no interest in reliving the gory details, of course. And there are much bigger questions ahead.

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
AP Photo/John BazemoreFrank Beamer has a short week and plenty of issues after the Hokies' loss to Wake Forest.
First among them is getting prepared for Virginia. The Hoos’ defense was stellar against Miami on Saturday, and Mike London’s future in Charlottesville might depend on UVA ending its 10-game losing streak to its rival.

The future of many coaches on Virginia Tech’s staff could ride on Friday's outcome, too.

As The Roanoke Times writes, plenty of questions are swirling around the program, chiefly surrounding offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler.

Our Travis Haney suggests changes on the Hokies’ offensive staff seem likely — meaning Frank Beamer would be on his third offensive coordinator in four years.

But the more immediate change could come at quarterback, where Michael Brewer has struggled to ignite the offense.

For the season, Brewer has the second lowest Total QBR in the ACC (ahead of only Wake Forest freshman John Wolford, who bested Brewer on Saturday), and Brenden Motley certainly seemed to provide the only minor spark for the Hokies against the Deacons.

It’s a situation to monitor, and the decision on how Tech handles its QBs could have huge ripple effects for both the Hokies and UVA.

A few more links:

ACC morning links

November, 6, 2014
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Tim Lester has held his new duties for barely a month, but the Syracuse offensive coordinator will return to the position next season, head coach Scott Shafer said this week.

Lester was promoted from quarterbacks coach after George McDonald was demoted from offensive coordinator/assistant head coach to wide receivers coach.

"For me, it's midstream so he's fighting to work with the initial part of the offense," Shafer said when asked to assess Lester's performance through four games, according to Syracuse.com's Stephen Bailey. "When we get to the offseason, his opportunity to rebuild the offense the way we see fit will be key."

Lester was not thrown into the most ideal of situations, as the Orange offense has suffered several key injuries and is currently starting true freshman AJ Long.

Syracuse has its hands full this week as it readies to host 7-1 Duke, as the Orange need to win out to go to a bowl game for the second straight year under Shafer.

Here are the rest of your ACC links:

ACC morning links

August, 14, 2014
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The Roanoke Times reports that Michael Brewer is now considered a co-starter with Mark Leal at Virginia Tech.

Frank Beamer says Brenden Motley is due to return to practice following a back injury next week, but with the Hokies scrimmaging Saturday, all indications point to a two-man race with the winner likely being decided this weekend. Beamer says he wants a decision made sooner than later so the team has time to build a rapport with the new starter.

I talked with Beamer on Wednesday, and he spoke highly of Brewer’s ability to grasp the system in a hurry and command the huddle.

“His personality, who he is, it lends himself to that,” Beamer said. “He’s a take-charge guy, likes being in control. It lends itself to him coming in and feeling at ease with the position he’s in.”

Beamer praised Brewer’s accuracy, too, but he said the key for either QB will be more consistency from the receivers when it comes to route running and drops. And on the subject of the receivers, Beamer absolutely raved about freshmen Cameron Phillips and Isaiah Ford.

“Those are two guys that are going to really help our group,” Beamer said. “They’re two athletic guys.”

A few more links:
  • Dabo Swinney was none too happy with his team after its scrimmage Wednesday, telling reporters, “I thought we hit the wall.” Probably not worth reading too much into the outburst. Good coaches always pick at least one practice to publicly call out their team, and as we hit the midpoint of August, it was probably time for Swinney to give Clemson a minor wake-up call.
  • Sports Illustrated has its preseason All-America teams out, with 14 ACC players making first- or second-team status. Only the SEC (16) had more. A few ACC names not on the list that we wouldn’t be surprised to see at year’s end? Clemson’s Grady Jarrett, FSU’s Karlos Williams and Ronald Darby and Miami’s Duke Johnson.
  • Speaking of Johnson, he looked 100 percent as Miami scrimmaged for the first time, writes the Miami Herald. The QB race, however, remains as murky as ever, with Jake Heaps and freshman Brad Kaaya doing battle Wednesday.
  • With Telvin Smith and Christian Jones gone, Terrance Smith is taking command of the Florida State linebacking crew, writes the Tallahassee Democrat. Smith has 69 career tackles. Reggie Northrup has 55. The rest of the linebacking corps combined has just 71.
  • NC State QB Garrett Leatham wasn’t even one of the top 20 walk-ons to make it into fall camp a year ago. Now, writes the Charlotte Observer, he’s got a scholarship and the No. 2 spot on the Wolfpack’s depth chart. Good for Leatham, of course, but it does suggest just how critical a healthy Jacoby Brissett will be for NC State in 2014.
  • Duke checks in at No. 24 on USA Today’s college football countdown. Their “dream season” scenario for Duke is an 11-1 campaign with the lone loss coming to Virginia Tech. Of course, the Blue Devils beat the Hokies in Blacksburg last year while mustering 198 yards of offense and failing to convert a third down. So, it’s all relative.
  • Breaking news of your impending transfer via Instagram is apparently a thing now, as freshman receiver Corey Cooper announced he was leaving the Orange, writes Syracuse.com. Can recruiting via Tinder be too far off?
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Frank Beamer took a seat before a crowded corner at the ACC Kickoff last week and asked the assembled reporters how they were doing, anticipating exactly what was coming his way.

Then came the first question. About Beamer's quarterback situation. Because of course it did.

"That would be a good start," the longtime Virginia Tech coach quipped, before conceding that, yes, he would rather have that position settled by now, and yes, a decision about a starter will come quickly once fall practice commences.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brewer
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsTexas Tech transfer Michael Brewer could be the front-runner to replace Logan Thomas at Virginia Tech.
Logan Thomas' three-year reign as the Hokies' top signal-caller is over, for better or for worse. Now it is up to a half-dozen other quarterbacks to duke it out for the right to turn around a program beset by a rather uneasy two-year slide following eight straight double-digit-win seasons.

Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer is the most decorated quarterback of a group that also includes freshmen Chris Durkin, Travon McMillian and Andrew Ford, along with upperclassmen Mark Leal and -- if the preseason media poll is to be believed -- ACC player of the year candidate Brenden Motley, who was a surprise entry among the league's five-player contingent receiving votes.

Brewer, Durkin and McMillian all arrived following the spring, so Beamer has not had a chance to watch any of them throw live on campus. But the 28th-year Hokies head coach insists that the supporting cast he has coming back eases the transition that normally comes with finding a starter so late in the game.

"I think we're ahead of the last couple years in the fact that I think we're further along in getting our running game back where it needs to be," Beamer said. "I think last couple of years we haven't been able to run it quite as well as we're used to at Virginia Tech, and I think having some experience on the offensive line, some backups that are really athletic, young kids that are athletic -- I think we're going to be more explosive at wide receiver. I think our tight ends, we've got about three guys that could block you but they can move out and maybe get matched up on the safety.

"I think the running backs are going to be more solid. Trey Edmunds was really coming along great and we expect him to get back, but a couple more guys there. So I think having people around that quarterback makes it a lot easier than what it's been the last few years, so that's the way I see it."

No quarterbacks emerged from the pack during the spring, and Beamer did little to talk around the fact that, despite not seeing Brewer, the former Red Raider who has a leg up on everyone else by almost any measure.

Brewer, whose addition Beamer attributed to second-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, has 13 games of experience in two seasons of play in Lubbock, Texas, completing 41 of 58 passes for 440 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. The acclimation process for him, as Beamer said, is not like that of a freshman.

"We've got a couple freshmen that we're really high on," Beamer said. "But I think it's really hard for a true freshman to come in there. Lot of stuff going on."

Though the same could be said for the quarterback situation itself, receiver Willie Byrn thinks the offense has adjusted to the initial uncertainty that presented itself this summer without familiar faces running the unit.

"This year we've had to work with everyone, from the oldest guy down to the freshmen that just got on campus, and you've got to treat them all the same and you've got to learn all their tendencies and what they want to do," Byrn, a redshirt senior, said. "So it's been fun. It's going to continue to be fun, and I think this competition between them is only going to bring out the best in not only the starter but the backup and the second backup and so on and so forth."

ACC's lunch links: QB roundup

July, 22, 2014
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The most honest man at ACC Kickoff was probably Wake Forest's Dave Clawson. And, to his credit, he even managed to find a little humor in the bleak picture painted by his depth chart this year, as the High Point Enterprise wrote.
Asked to comment about where his first Wake Forest team is predicted to finish in the ACC's tough Atlantic Division, Clawson replied, “Were we picked to win it? I didn't see those. Were we unanimous first? The bull's-eye is on us, right?”

Clawson didn't sugar-coat the team's lack of experience and depth, but he had his most pointed comments regarding the quarterback position, where Tyler Cameron and Kevin Sousa are battling for a job that no one seems eager to win.

“Those two guys who took snaps in the spring, neither did enough, even if we didn't have those [true freshmen] coming in, to take control of the job,” Clawson said.

What was unique from Clawson was his pessimism on the position. What wasn't unique were the questions about the position. Plenty of coaches were asked about their quarterbacks in Greensboro, and for good reason. After talking with each coach and the players in attendance, here's a quick run-down of where each ACC team's QB situation stands.

1. Florida State: Jameis Winston is the returning Heisman winner and his time in Greensboro was, at the very least, a solid first step in FSU's quest to repair its quarterback's image.

2. Duke: Anthony Boone is the only other quarterback in the league with at least 300 attempts last season who is back for 2014, but David Cutcliffe still plans to use two quarterbacks and eagerly talked up Thomas Sirk, who will step into the red zone role manned so well by Brandon Connette last season.

3. Clemson: The biggest worry for Clemson is the potential for a real quarterback controversy (or, at the very least, a lively debate) if Cole Stoudt struggles early. Dabo Swinney offered blanket support for his senior, but the early schedule is difficult, and the immensely talented but completely green Deshaun Watson is waiting in the wings.

4. NC State: Dave Doeren can barely contain his enthusiasm about the addition of Jacoby Brissett, whom the coach described as “everything you recruit in a quarterback.” Doeren did remind reporters, however, that Brissett's on-field experience remains extremely limited.

5. North Carolina: Hey, if Peyton Manning says Marquise Williams is going to be an exceptional passer, who are we to argue? Still, it's not enough to convince Larry Fedora to hand him the starting job just yet, and it sounds more and more like UNC will use two quarterbacks at times.

6. Syracuse: Terrel Hunt has proved he can win and he's taken on a leadership role this offseason, but he still needs to prove he can be a respectable downfield passer. And even Scott Shafer admitted things needed to get better there.

7. Louisville: The depth chart isn't set in stone here either, but Bobby Petrino had plenty of praise for Will Gardner in Greensboro, saying, "He can make all the throws you need to make. He's got the arm strength. He's got a very quick release. ... He's a natural leader that the players have already learned to follow."

8. Pitt: Paul Chryst says Chad Voytik still has a ways to go, but he's pleased with the quarterback's progress and, of course, Voytik will have as dangerous a weapon as any first-year starter in the league in Tyler Boyd.

9. Boston College: The Eagles actually have a relatively experienced and settled QB spot with the arrival of transfer Tyler Murphy, and lineman Andy Gallik said Murphy has grasped the offense and taken on a leadership role. But his problem will be that he doesn't have much in the way of receiving targets or experience in the backfield to help him out.

10. Virginia: Mike London shrugged off the rumors about his job, and one reason he can do that is that he's immensely confident in QB Greyson Lambert, who looks to have cemented his role as the team's starter.

11. Georgia Tech: Paul Johnson smiled at the notion that recently departed QB Vad Lee said the triple-option wasn't for him, noting the situation had become “frustrating” for both sides. With Justin Thomas, however, Johnson said he has the ideal quarterback to run his offense.

12. Virginia Tech: Well, Brenden Motley did get a preseason player of the year vote, even if he's not exactly destined to win the starting job. Frank Beamer said he plans to end the drama soon, even if no one separates himself and “he has to go with a gut decision.”

13. Miami: Ryan Williams would make this a much better scenario, but Al Golden isn't interested in predicting his veteran will be back from a torn ACL any time soon. That leaves Jake Heaps and Kevin Olsen, neither of whom earned a ton of praise in Greensboro.

14. Wake Forest: It's going to be a long year for Clawson, but at least he's got a sense of humor about it.

More links:

Dabo Swinney is confident Clemson will have a chance to win the Atlantic, writes The State.

Swinney has no intention of taking religion out of his football program, writes Sports on Earth.

There are no hard feelings between Swinney and Syracuse coach Scott Shafer, writes The Post-Standard.

Florida State's offensive line will be what sets the Seminoles apart in the ACC, writes Tomahawk Nation.

And your non-sports link of the day: If you don't hear from me for a few months, blame the new Simpsons World from FXX, which looks… amazing.

ACC mailblog

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
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Friday the 13th!

Bruce in Amarillo, Texas, writes: I am scared for Virginia's season. We have a bad schedule. We open vs. UCLA. Has the AD gone nuts! UCLA will win the Pac-12 South and we have gone through QBs like glasses of water. Can Mike London save his job? I am not optimistic.

Andrea Adelson writes: Bruce, not many are optimistic about this season for the Hoos. I think they will be better than last year, but I have a hard time finding six wins on this schedule. Having Florida State as its crossover opponent from the Atlantic is an absolute killer, given the nonconference schedule. I predict going 2-2 in nonconference play and winning between two and three conference games. If Virginia can get to five wins and looks competitive for most of the season, I think London can keep his job given a) the extremely challenging schedule; and b) the young talent he has signed in the last few years. Five wins after that dreadful season should be considered progress, especially because there will be plenty left to build on into 2015.

 




Bruce in Lexington, South Carolina, writes: Riddle me this, Andrea: How can Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia all lose key personnel on offense and defense, including the quarterback for all three schools, yet all the pundits have Clemson barely in the Top 25 and South Carolina and Georgia in the top 10? Do you get an automatic boost just because you play in the SEC? I know the media loves Georgia no matter what, and they are definitely drinking the Spurrier Kool-Aid, so tell me, what gives?

Adelson: You answered yourself. I truly believe consistently successful SEC programs get an automatic boost based on conference perception. How many years in a row now has Georgia underachieved? Makes no difference to voters. Part of the reason, at least in Georgia's case, is the belief that all the success on the recruiting trail translates automatically into great teams year in and year out. As for Clemson, I think voters are still getting used to seeing the Tigers as a perennial 10-win team, and have yet to give Dabo Swinney full credit for his recruiting successes. Still, it's hard to argue this is a program that should be ahead of South Carolina right now. The Tigers have got to end that streak.

 




Kenneth Miller in Georgia writes: I'm getting the feeling that ESPN is not giving Georgia Tech a chance to win the ACC Coastal. But when you look at the ACC schedule, I'm seeing one potential loss between Virginia Tech or Clemson, so who do you think will win the Coastal, and also do you think the victor of the Coastal will have a chance to beat the Atlantic winner (cough, cough, FSU) because two years ago, FSU was projected to destroy Georgia Tech but the Yellow Jackets were one drive away from a meeting with Oklahoma or Northern Illinois.

Adelson writes: I tend to believe Georgia Tech will finish in the bottom half of the Coastal this season. There are far too many questions at key positions and some major depth concerns on the defensive line for me to pencil them in as a Coastal contender right now. I think the division will come down to North Carolina and Duke, and I do not see the Coastal champion beating Florida State in the ACC title game.

 




Roger in Atlanta writes: Andrea, can you give insight on Virginia Tech's QB situation? I can't seem to find anyone saying much about the competition there. From what I've read in the past, Frank Beamer gave Mark Leal the nod at the end of last season, but that was before Michael Brewer was going to be transferring in and before the two incoming freshmen were ever there.What used to be a thin position has now become problematically thick, in my opinion. I guess my questions are: Which QB do you think gives the Hokies the best chance to win, and will Beamer/Scot Loeffler make that decision?

Adelson: There has not been much news on the Virginia Tech quarterback front. Brewer just arrived on campus and has not even taken a snap in practice. Leal was overtaken in the spring by Brenden Motley, but that does not really mean much of anything because the job remains open. Beamer is going to give all three of these players, along with the incoming freshmen, the opportunity to win the starting job once fall rolls around. I know a lot of people believe Brewer is going to ultimately win out. The logic there says Brewer would not have transferred in if Leal was the hands-down No. 1 quarterback. But there are plenty of unknowns about Brewer as well. I think it is too early to say right now who gives the Hokies the best chance to win because I've never seen Brewer in the Virginia Tech offense. But there is no doubt in my mind Beamer and Loeffler will play the guy who can get the job done.
ESPN.com columnist Mark Schlabach is stopping by the ACC blog this week to answer some of your most pressing questions about the league as it enters the 2014 season. You can tweet your questions to Mark here.

Mark: Virginia Tech definitely needs to get things turned around, after losing 11 games combined in the past two seasons. I believe it would take a complete catastrophe for coach Frank Beamer to get run out of town, and I think the Hokies will head into the upcoming season as favorites in the Coastal Division. I think Beamer and his staff will once again put together a squad that is capable of winning 10 games, which has been the standard during his tenure.

The good news: Tech’s offense can’t be any worse than it was last season. In offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler’s first season in Blacksburg, the Hokies ranked 101st among FBS teams in total offense, averaging only 356 yards per game. Departed quarterback Logan Thomas again struggled with turnovers (eight combined in ugly losses to Duke and Boston College), and the Hokies didn’t run the ball effectively to take pressure off him.

The quarterback competition will be wide-open heading into preseason camp. Senior Mark Leal and sophomore Brenden Motley battled for the job during spring practice, but Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer might be the best option. Brewer, who graduated from Texas Tech this spring, will be eligible to play for the Hokies immediately and has two seasons of eligibility remaining. He passed for 375 yards with four touchdowns for the Red Raiders in 2012, but missed most of last season with a back injury. Incoming freshman Chris Durkin might also be a factor this fall.

Whoever starts at quarterback will have plenty of weapons around him. Virginia Tech’s top three wideouts are coming back, along with five players who started on the offensive line. Tech’s coaches were raving this spring about freshman running back Marshawn Williams (224 pounds) and tight end Bucky Hodges, a converted quarterback.

Here’s why I really like Tech’s chances of rebounding in 2014: its schedule. The Hokies don’t play the top three teams from the Atlantic Division (FSU, Clemson and Louisville) and get Miami at home on a Thursday night, which is never an easy assignment.


Clemson coach Dabo Swinney didn't want to do it.

When he met with former quarterback Chad Kelly on the Monday following Clemson's spring game, Swinney said his original plan was to suspend Kelly -- not dismiss him from the team entirely -- but the meeting "just didn’t go well."

"There’s just certain things you can’t tolerate, and that’s just the bottom line," Swinney said. "It wasn’t a good meeting. It was a simple decision that was made. He moved on and we moved on."

So did more than half the ACC this spring, to a new era of quarterbacks.

Cole Stoudt’s tenure began swiftly at Clemson, ending what was one of the most intriguing quarterback competitions in the ACC and capping a spring that was filled with quarterback news throughout the conference.

[+] EnlargeKevin Olsen
Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY SportsKevin Olsen became Miami's first-string quarterback when Ryan Williams tore his ACL.
At Miami, quarterback Ryan Williams tore his ACL, leaving Kevin Olsen the undisputed starter heading into summer camp.

At Duke, Brandon Connette announced his decision to transfer to the West Coast, leaving Anthony Boone in an unfamiliar role of being the lone leader.

Boston College named Florida transfer Tyler Murphy its starter, Syracuse reaffirmed Terrel Hunt as its starter, Justin Thomas is the main man at Georgia Tech, Will Gardner took the lead at Louisville and Chad Voytik became the obvious choice at Pitt.

What began as a position up for grabs in the ACC is largely no longer a mystery, as many schools determined their starting quarterback this spring, or at least had separation occur -- if not by performance, then by default. While most of the quarterbacks throughout the league are still unproven (six schools don’t have any starting experience returning to the position, and four schools brought in transfers to help), many enter summer camp at least sure of where they stand on the depth chart.

"I had my meeting with the coaches before all that happened, and I felt comfortable with where I was," said Stoudt, who will make his first career start in the season opener at Georgia. "They said I was going to be the guy and everything. I know there were some things that happened, but I'm happy with the situation, and I'm happy I'm the guy going into fall camp, so it's exciting."

Nine of the 14 schools in the ACC will introduce a first-year starting quarterback this fall. Of the 11 teams that entered spring with quarterback competitions, eight found answers -- or at least had an obvious front-runner emerge.

At Miami, Williams had distanced himself from Olsen through his decision-making and accuracy, but the torn ACL meant an instant promotion for Olsen. Still, coach Al Golden said his confidence in the position remains high.

"I think we're not going to change what we do," Golden said. "We need to do a really good job of establishing the running game, keeping it simple, doing what we do best. Getting into more third-and-manageables. We were in way too many third-and-longs last year to possess the ball and convert. Clearly the two young men we have here on campus right now can do it. The two coming in will also have an opportunity to compete."

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsVirginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is still looking for a starting quarterback to emerge.
The only three schools that didn’t come close to naming a starter this spring were Virginia Tech, Virginia and Wake Forest. It's not a stretch to say that the Hokies' hopes of returning to the ACC title game hinge on having a dependable quarterback emerge, and as one of the premier programs in the Coastal Division, it will continue to be one of the most-watched storylines of the summer. Those within the program have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and true freshman Chris Durkin. The staff has made it perfectly clear they won’t name a starter until those two are added to the competition this summer.

"The big question really is the quarterback," coach Frank Beamer said. "I think Mark Leal, Brenden Motley and Andrew Ford all have had their moments. Some of it's good; some of it's not as good as you like. I think Michael Brewer coming in, Chris Durkin coming in, will enter into the competition there. We'll see how that ends up. But that's certainly the critical question for our football team right now."

The critical question for the rest of the conference becomes how these new starters will perform when it counts. Now that most of them have earned their starting jobs, there's pressure to keep them.

"I've said that if we were to play tomorrow, [Will Gardner] would run out there as our starter," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "… There will certainly be competition for it in the fall. He’ll have a chance to go out each day and prove that he's either the better quarterback, or someone passes him by."

More often than not, the ACC's new quarterbacks were able to prove it this spring.

Virginia Tech spring wrap

April, 29, 2014
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Three things we learned in the spring about the Virginia Tech Hokies:

1. RB Marshawn Williams and TE Bucky Hodges are players to watch. Williams is the kind of bruising running back the Hokies have been looking for, and assistant coach Shane Beamer said this spring it’s going to be tough to keep him off the field. Hodges, who came in as a quarterback, catches the ball well, is versatile and can be used all over the field.

2. The lunch pail is still packed. In spite of losing five of seven starters up front, there was a confident vibe this spring that the Hokies will again reload. The linebackers and defensive linemen know the expectations. The secondary wasn’t even full strength, and it was still impressive. This could be Bud Foster’s fastest defense in years.

3. Offensive depth is improving. There’s still work to do on the offensive line, but the depth has improved at the skill positions in the second season under coordinator Scot Loeffler. The running back and tight end positions should be better, and there’s no shortage of wide receivers to choose from.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Who’s the QB? This is one of the biggest questions in the ACC this offseason, and the Hokies won’t know who their starter will be until Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and freshman Chris Durkin start practicing. Mark Leal injured his knee this spring, and Brenden Motley got his turn at the top of the depth chart.

2. Is Beamerball back? Virginia Tech’s kicking game hasn’t lived up to its reputation lately, and finding a kicker was coach Frank Beamer’s No. 2 priority this spring. Michael Branthover booted a 52-yarder this spring, but he’s not a lock as freshman Michael Santamaria will join the competition this summer.

3. Who are the Fab Five? The offensive line has five players returning with starting experience -- including three full-time starters -- but the depth chart and positions have changed seemingly every day. There could be some redshirt freshmen in the rotation, but the Hokies finished spring still searching for the right combination under their third offensive line coach in as many seasons.

One way-too-early prediction: The Hokies win eight games. Virginia Tech goes 3-1 against the nonconference schedule and beats ACC opponents Georgia Tech, Miami, Boston College, Wake Forest and Virginia. They’ll benefit from the crossover schedule, take advantage of the Thursday night game against Miami, but will lose the battle on Tobacco Road.
Spring practices have finally wrapped up in the ACC — nearly three months after Duke got them started — and for Wake Forest and Virginia Tech, it wasn’t exactly the rousing conclusion fans might have hoped for.

The major question mark of the spring for both programs was on offense. Last season, the Hokies finished 13th in the conference in total offense. Wake Forest finished dead last. Both lost key starters on that side of the ball, including their quarterbacks. So, if nothing else came of Saturday's spring games, it would’ve been nice to have seen the offenses in Blacksburg, Va., and Winston-Salem, N.C., find a little success and calm some nerves for the long offseason ahead.

But, of course, that’s not how it went.

[+] EnlargeWilliams
AP Photo/Matt GentryVirginia Tech early enrollee Marshawn Williams had six carries in the Hokies' spring game.
For Virginia Tech, Joel Caleb’s 27-yard touchdown run on the first drive of the day was the only touchdown in a game that ended with just 10 points. The QB battle certainly isn’t any clearer now than it was before spring practice began, as Mark Leal (10-of-18 for 90 yards and an INT) and Brenden Motley (6-of-11 for 72 yards and an interception on a end-of-half Hail Mary throw) failed to assert themselves. It could be that Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer is best equipped for the job — but he won’t arrive in Blacksburg for another six weeks.

Even tailback Marshawn Williams — perhaps the most exciting prospect on the Hokies’ offense — didn’t provide much encouragement Saturday, mustering just 11 yards on six carries.

Of course, there were some significant absences on the offense, and a vanilla playbook is common during spring games, but this was hardly the spring sendoff Virginia Tech fans had hoped to see.

At Wake Forest, the offensive shortcomings were at least a bit more expected. When Dave Clawson took over this offseason, he knew he’d have his work cut out for him replacing his starting quarterback, his top runner, his best receiver and his starting tight end.

The Demon Deacons’ first-team offense scored 31 points Saturday, but the first three scores all were set up by interceptions. Overall, the No. 1 unit gained just 252 yards of offense — or 41 fewer than last year’s average, which ranked 120th nationally.

Orville Reynolds, who moved from receiver to tailback because Clawson was down to just one scholarship running back, had a nifty 33-yard run to highlight his afternoon, but he managed just 20 yards on his other 20 carries.

The quarterback race also remains in flux, Clawson said. Kevin Sousa was the clear standout Saturday, completing 16 of 32 passes for 178 yards and gaining another 68 yards on the ground, but he also had two ugly interceptions. Tyler Cameron was even more erratic, completing just 9 of 26 throws for 83 yards with an interception. Both quarterbacks split reps with the first-team offense.

ACC's lunch links

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
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I write the ACC lunch links one week out of every month, and still I was somehow left off Time’s list of its 100 most influential people. Something is seriously wrong with their criteria.

It's all about the QB for VT

April, 21, 2014
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This spring, Virginia Tech’s beleaguered offense finally earned some praise, as those within the program have said the Hokies are better and deeper at every position.

Except one.

Can the Hokies improve as a team if they don’t improve at quarterback?

“Nope,” said offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. “Absolutely not. It all starts with that guy. It’s like coach [Frank] Beamer always says, ‘If you’ve got a really good team and an average quarterback, you’ll be average.’ What we will do is we will find our guy and develop our guy and make sure that we’re ready to have someone out there so we’re not average in the fall.”

The search begins May 28.

[+] EnlargeBrenden Motley
AP Photo/Steve HelberBrenden Motley is the current leader in Virginia Tech's quarterback competition, but it's far from over.
Former Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer and true freshman Chris Durkin will both arrive on campus then, and only when they begin to practice this summer will the staff truly have any idea who will replace Logan Thomas this fall. This spring, there were rave reviews about redshirt freshman tight end Bucky Hodges and excitement about the return of tight end Ryan Malleck from injury. There was buzz about freshman running back Marshawn Williams, an early enrollee who has already shown the capability of contributing immediately. None of it, though, will translate to much this fall if Virginia Tech can’t find a dependable starting quarterback who can orchestrate the offense without turning the ball over.

On the most recent depth chart, Brenden Motley jumped Mark Leal for the top spot (based on performance, not Leal’s knee injury, Loeffler said), but Loeffler cautioned not to put much stock into the depth charts until August.

“The depth chart is going to change constantly, and it’s going to change when those two other guys get here also,” Loeffler said. “It’s going to be a daily grind to see who wants the job. At the end of the day, those guys are going to be battling for the position all the way up until we announce the guy in August.”

While the quarterback will be new, the offense will not.

Loeffler, who is entering his second season with the Hokies, said this spring has been “100 percent different” because the players are more familiar with him, his philosophy and expectations. He said Year 3 should “see the biggest jump.”

“The tight end position in that third year can be really outstanding,” he said. “The wideouts are all back, including the four we just recruited. You’re going to have older quarterbacks in the system. All of the running backs are back. The future is bright; there’s no question at all. That third spring is going to be a totally different feel, completely. We should have it by then, for sure. Not to say we’re throwing in the towel this year -- heck no. The standard is to win every game, but I think it’s even going to be easier.”

After back-to-back pedestrian seasons, Virginia Tech fans are ready to see offensive progress now.

“I think we’ll make headway,” Loeffler said. “It all depends on, in my opinion, the quarterback position. If that position can play well, you’ve always got a chance.”
Virginia Tech shook up its depth chart this week, putting Brenden Motley ahead of Mark Leal at quarterback.

The news did not appear to faze Leal much. While Leal was sidelined from a scrimmage last week with a sore knee, Motley took advantage of the opportunity and performed well, going 12-for-20 for 163 yards and a touchdown.

Leal said in a phone interview Wednesday that his knee is feeling much better, and he plans on playing in a scrimmage set for this weekend. As for his standing on the depth chart, Leal said, "Motley and Andrew Ford both had really good scrimmages. I'm not surprised that happened, but I have to keep going out there and competing."

Leal went into spring camp atop a three-way competition to replace Logan Thomas. The knee has set him back some, but the injury is not considered to be serious. When he has been healthy enough to practice, Leal and Motley have split reps with the first team. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler told reporters in Blacksburg that the depth chart would continue to change from now through fall camp.

"So far, it's been pretty good competition," Leal said. "I love the competition because it always brings out the best in you no matter what. When you're competing, you're giving it your all, you're giving it your best and you're making sure every rep counts. I wouldn't have it any other way."

The mindset this spring also has been different. Last year, he knew he was the backup to Thomas. And he also had to learn a new system. Now, he has a shot to be the starter in an offense that he knows much better.

But no matter what happens this spring, Virginia Tech will add Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer and freshman Chris Durkin into the quarterback competition this fall. So the depth chart today hardly matters. Leal and all the quarterbacks know that.

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Never forget.

Breaking down the spring in the ACC Coastal division:

Duke

Spring practice over

What we learned:
  • Momentum rolls on. It's hard to believe the Blue Devils are already done with spring ball, but coach David Cutcliffe opted to open practice in February to capitalize on the momentum that was created last season. After the spring game ended Saturday, he praised the way his players handled the practices. There was a great deal of retention and not a lot of re-teaching, so coaches were able to get much more out of their players this spring.
  • Max McCaffrey emerges. Jamison Crowder had a spectacular 2013 season, but it was essentially him and then everybody else in the receiver group. That may not be the case this season. McCaffrey earned praise from coaches and teammates for the way he improved during the spring. Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery said McCaffrey made as many plays as anybody else on the offense this spring.
  • Stepping up on the line. The Blue Devils lost three starters on their defensive line -- both ends in Kenny Anunike and Justin Foxx, and defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento. But it appears as if the players behind them are ready to step up and make a seamless transition. Defensive ends Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and Dezmond Johnson each had two sacks in the spring game. Kyler Brown also made the switch from linebacker to defensive end and had a sack in the spring game as well.
Georgia Tech

Spring start: March 24

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:
  • Justin Thomas takes over. After Vad Lee announced his transfer from Georgia Tech, the quarterback reigns fell to Thomas, who played in 10 games this season. The Jackets had their share of highs and lows under Lee, but what the staff is going to be looking for first and foremost is Thomas’ ability to hold on to the football. Georgia Tech had 24 giveaways and ranked No. 12 in the ACC in turnover margin.
  • Defensive line questions. The Jackets lose three starters on the defensive line, including All-ACC defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu -- who had 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Who will step up and fill that type of production? The most experienced backups returning are sophomores Tyler Stargel and Patrick Gamble. Also, Travin Henry will get a look at defensive end after playing wide receiver last season.
  • Offensive line questions. Georgia Tech also loses three starters on the offensive line -- tackles Ray Beno and Will Jackson and center Jay Finch. The trio combined to start 117 games in their careers, so there is no doubt this is going to be a much less experienced unit in 2014. The good news is All-ACC guard Shaq Mason returns to help anchor the new-look line.
Miami

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Quarterback derby. Stephen Morris is gone, but the Canes do have at least one experienced quarterback on the roster in Ryan Williams, a Memphis transfer who has served as Morris’ backup the last two seasons. As a true freshman with the Tigers, Williams started 10 games -- all the way back in 2010. Challenging Williams is redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, who had a bit of a rocky first year in Miami, along with Gray Crow.
  • Defensive improvements. Perhaps more than what happens at quarterback, Miami must see improvements out of its defense this season. Embattled defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio kept his job but the status quo cannot persist. Every single area of the defense must be upgraded. Ranking No. 13 in the ACC in total defense just can’t happen again.
  • Defensive improvements, Part II. To try and help the secondary, Miami already moved Dallas Crawford over to safety, where the Canes could use the help. But Miami must be stronger on the defensive front. The Canes only had 12 sacks in eight conference games. By comparison, BC led the way with 25 sacks in conference games. This is a big opportunity for guys like Al-Quadin Muhammad, Tyriq McCord and Ufomba Kamalu to really step up.
North Carolina

Spring start: Started March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Marquise Williams took over as the starter when Bryn Renner was gone for the season and ended up helping the Tar Heels make a bowl game after a 1-5 start. But coach Larry Fedora said the competition is open this spring. Look for Mitch Trubisky and Kanler Coker to give Williams a major push.
  • Defensive line questions. Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson are both gone, leaving big holes in the North Carolina front. Martin ended up notching 21.5 tackles for loss to rank No. 3 in the ACC. So who are the next guys up? At end, Junior Gnonkonde and Jessie Rogers are the top two contenders, while Shawn Underwood, Devonte Brown and Justin Thomason will compete for one of the tackle spots.
  • Replacing Ebron. Eric Ebron was dynamic at tight end for the Tar Heels last season, leading the team with 62 receptions for 973 yards, while adding three touchdowns. Will the Tar Heels be able to replace that type of production with just one player? Jack Tabb would be next in line among the tight ends, but this is a huge opportunity for the North Carolina receiving group as well. We saw plenty of promise out of young guys like Bug Howard, T.J. Thorpe and Ryan Switzer.
Pitt

Spring start: March 16

Spring game: No spring game. Last day of practice April 13

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Chad Voytik played really well in relief of an injured Tom Savage in the bowl game, but coach Paul Chryst said the competition to win the starting job is open headed into the spring. At this point, Voytik and Trey Anderson are the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. So you can bet the biggest goal of all is to keep them both healthy.
  • Replacing Aaron Donald. One of the biggest surprises in all of college football this past season was the emergence and utter dominance of Donald at defensive tackle. Donald swept every major defensive award after notching 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. Darryl Render is the next man up.
  • Complementary receiver. Devin Street is gone, leaving Tyler Boyd as the only standout receiver on the roster. Not only do the Panthers have to develop a consistent No. 2 receiver, they also have to develop some depth. Watch for Manasseh Garner, a former H-back who moved to receiver late last season when Street got hurt. He is more physical than Boyd, and has some extended playing experience.
Virginia

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. David Watford is not guaranteed to win his starting job back after last season, when he threw eight touchdown passes to 15 interceptions. Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns are also in the mix and reps with the first team will be split. In fact, Lambert got the first-team reps when the Hoos opened spring ball last weekend.
  • Andrew Brown. The highly-touted freshman will have every opportunity to win a starting job at defensive tackle, and it all starts in spring ball. The No. 3-ranked player in the ESPN 300 comes in with tons of hype; now can he translate that into on-field success? He, Donte Wilkins and Chris Brathwaite will be competing to start next to David Dean.
  • Mr. McGee. Jake McGee was the best player the Hoos had among the group of tight ends and receivers a year ago, leading the team with 43 catches for 395 yards. This spring, McGee has now moved over to receiver so the Hoos can take advantage of his athletic ability. Plus, Virginia is lacking playmakers at the position, so we’ll see how much this move benefits both McGee and the offense.
Virginia Tech

Spring start: March 27

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Quarterback. Mark Leal heads into the spring with a leg up in the quarterback competition but make no mistake, there is no set starter. He will get competition from freshmen Andrew Ford and Brenden Motley in the spring, with freshman Chris Durkin and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer arriving in summer. This competition will likely drag on into the fall.
  • Front seven. The Hokies are losing five terrific players up front, including ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, and linebacker Jack Tyler, who racked up 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons. There is no doubt a major priority this spring is finding their replacements and building depth along the line and at linebacker. Who will step up as the leader of this group with Tyler gone?
  • Skill players. This has been an ongoing theme over the last two seasons and will continue to be a theme until the Hokies have consistently good players at running back and receiver. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is excited about the return of tight end Ryan Malleck, and his entire tight end group for that matter. A healthy Malleck and improvement from Kalvin Cline means the Hokies could simultaneously improve their run and pass game.

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