ACC: Bud Foster
Maybe that is not such a bad idea.
While it is true outgoing AD Steve Pederson helped usher Pitt into the ACC, it also is true he had an uneven track record when it came to hiring football coaches. Though Chryst's departure for Wisconsin after three years on the job cannot be placed on Pederson's shoulders, the next hire Pitt makes will be absolutely crucial for the program. Pitt cannot swing and miss on this hire the way Pederson did with Todd Graham and Mike Haywood, the two men brought in after he fired Dave Wannstedt.
Bill Fralic, a Pitt All-American lineman, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review of Pederson:
"He could not hire a good football coach. And he fired a loyal Pitt guy who averaged nine wins his last three years, and they haven't come close to that since. He meddled with everything. He was a control freak. Hopefully, we can recover from what he's done there."
Pitt is ready to win right now. It must hire a coach who can take what Chryst did and run with it. Make no mistake -- Pitt must hire a coach who will continue on with the blue-collar tradition Pitt fans have come to expect. All the high-octane mumbo jumbo Graham sold in the one year he was in Pittsburgh is just not going to fly. An offense predicated on a strong run game must remain a priority.
Many have already laid out their lists of potential candidates. Greg Schiano and Pat Narduzzi are among the two most intriguing names. They both have recruiting ties to the area, and both would presumably emphasize a power-run game. Double plus right there. Returning running back James Conner has the potential to be a 2,000-yard rusher with the right coach calling the plays.
Having been burned so many times in the recent past, Pitt would obviously be looking for a coach to put down roots in Pittsburgh for the long-term. Whether Pitt is that type of job may be in the eye of the beholder. In any case, Pitt should not concern itself with that idea right now.
It should hire the best available coach, plain and simple. Several outlets reported that Pederson had made contact with Schiano before being removed as AD. Though Pederson is gone, Schiano should remain on the list. At least he has proven he can win on the collegiate level, though he did fail to deliver in the clutch several times at Rutgers.
It is safe to say Pitt is brimming with potential. That is why this hire has to be the right hire. Pitt cannot afford to take any more steps backward.
Here are a few more links to start your morning:
A week later, I still have a hard time understanding how Roberto Aguayo did not win the Lou Groza Award. Now, more puzzlement: the FWAA All-America team does not have Aguayo on it, either. None of this is meant to take away from the year Brad Craddock had at Maryland. He was terrific, too. But there is no real doubt Aguyao is the hands down best kicker in the country, is there?
- Congrats to the Clemson football players set for graduation today.
- Is this Georgia Tech's toughest four-game stretch ... ever?
- The Louisville Courier-Journal grades the Cards' 9-3 finish. They get an A from AA.
- Miami quarterback Ryan Williams is preparing to start a new chapter in his life.
- Bowl-bound NC State is happy not to be home for the holidays.
- Syracuse has signed the first member of its 2015 class.
- Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has not had contact with any other schools.
USA Today released a comprehensive list of college football assistant coaches' salaries Wednesday, and there is a name familiar to readers of this space at the top.
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster took home more than any other assistant across the country this past year, clearing a total of $1,369,500. He is not alone near the summit, as three of the nation's six highest-paid assistants come from the ACC: Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris -- who was hired as SMU's head coach last week -- is No. 5 ($1.3 million), while Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is No. 6 ($975,000).
Foster's ranking this year comes with some fine print: The longtime Hokies defensive coordinator will receive an $800,000 longevity payment for four-plus years of service if he remains in his position through Dec. 31, according to the paper.
It's important to note that most of this information comes from public records request, which private schools don't have to abide by. So you won't see any numbers from the staffs of Boston College, Duke, Miami, Syracuse or Wake Forest. The same goes for Pitt, which is covered under state law exempting it from releasing such information.
Another way of looking at this may be through the salary pool programs afford their assistant coaches.
Those ACC rankings, with the national ranking in parantheses, are:
1) Clemson $4,448,225 (4th)
2) Virginia Tech $3,583,250 (8th)
3) Florida State $3,386,000 (11th)
4) Louisville $3,225,000 (18th)
5) Virginia $2,908,670 (24th)
6) NC State $2,692,560 (32nd)
7) Georgia Tech $2,233,600 (44th)
8) North Carolina $2,051,667 (53rd)
Here are the rest of your Thursday links:
- Our Chris Mortensen clears up any confusion about David Cutcliffe and Michigan.
- Deshaun Watson will undergo knee surgery Friday and miss Clemson's bowl. Watson's predecessor, Tajh Boyd, shares his thoughts on Watson playing on a torn ACL.
- On the subject of former Clemson quarterbacks: Chad Kelly tweeted that he is Ole Miss-bound.
- With BC readying to play Penn State, the (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' David Jones thinks out loud about what could have come from the Northeastern sports league that Joe Paterno had once dreamed up.
- Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is critical of UNC, his alma mater, in the school's academic fraud scandal, CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd writes.
- The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Jerry DiPaola says AD Steve Pederson should extend Paul Chryst's contract in light of the Wisconsin job opening again.
Some may have wondered: What took so long?
Johnson had his biggest game of the season because Miami made a strong commitment to him and the run game, pounding and pounding away against what is normally a stout Virginia Tech group. Miami opened the game with seven straight runs from Johnson. By the end of the night, he had 29 carries for a career-high 249 yards -- the most for an opponent in Lane Stadium history.
It also was the first time a Miami running back went over 200 yards since Willis McGahee rushed for 205 against Virginia Tech in 2002.
Nobody ever doubted Johnson was the best player on the Miami offense. But now, we are seeing a different, much better version of him.
“What can you say about what Duke is doing right now?” coach Al Golden said. “What you could see two years ago is how talented he was, but now you’re seeing somebody that’s very talented but also very skilled. He’s trusting everything and then when he gets in the second level, he does his thing. We’ve got to keep finding ways to get him the ball.”
Perhaps Miami did not get him the ball as much as it should have early in the season, though there are various reasons for that. Miami had turnover issues and played from behind in a few games. Johnson was terrific against Georgia Tech, but the Canes could not get him the ball more because they failed to sustain drives. Early on, teams were loading up the box, placing all of their emphasis on slowing down Johnson to make true freshman Brad Kaaya beat them.
But as Kaaya has grown, teams have had to begin to respect the pass -- especially with such a talented group of receivers. The Miami offensive line also is playing much better, and it had its best game of the season against the Hokies.
What stood out in the game, however, was the way Miami did not give up on the run after going three-and-out on the first drive. The Canes came back with Johnson in the Wildcat, and he got 15 yards. His next three carries led to a first down, and away Miami went.
“You pound the ball for the first quarter, the second quarter, second half, the big runs will come,” Johnson said. “That’s all Coach Golden was telling us all day, just keep doing what you’re doing and the big runs will come.”
Johnson ended up with eight runs that went 10 yards or longer. Only one of those came out of the Wildcat. His first big run while lined up at tailback came on the final play of the first quarter -- on his ninth carry on a handoff.
Given the opponent Saturday -- a North Carolina defense giving up an average of 210 yards per game -- a similar strategy could be used. Because Johnson has proven he is incredibly hard to tackle. Even Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster admitted after the game, “I was scared to death of Duke Johnson and he proved why.”
“We have the privilege of watching him every day,” Golden said. “He’s so much more mature right now, and I’m really happy for him because he deserves it. He’s working really hard. He’s finishing his runs really well, his pad level, not too many cuts in the backfield, second level, he’s doing his thing. He’s so smart down the field -- he protected the ball. All the little things that he did, he did it perfectly. He had a good mindset going into the game.”
Golden and teammates have seen a different Johnson since fall practice, when he was finally full go after a broken ankle against Florida State last year sidelined him. Johnson got bigger and stronger in the offseason. Though he is down to about 204 pounds now, the added strength is beginning to show itself now that Miami is in its final stretch of the season.
Johnson is averaging a career-high 7.5 yards per carry -- third-best in the country among running backs with 100 or more carries.
“I’ve been seeing it in him since he came back, just working at a different level,” Golden said. “These long runs he’s making, he’s doing it every day in practice. He’ll take the ball and go 30 yards, and the rest of the team will just look at him.”
Now everybody is looking at him. Because he is hitting his stride -- and that makes Miami a much more difficult team to stop.
The game screamed trap! -- and letdown! -- in the week leading up to kickoff.
Yet Virginia Tech failed to see all the signs, failed to heed all the warnings -- and fell into the same pothole that has become all too common after big wins.
The No. 17 Hokies saw all that they earned in a victory over Ohio State last week come falling down in one big heap following a 28-21 home loss to East Carolina on Saturday afternoon.
Virginia Tech has now lost four of its last five games immediately after beating a ranked team. What was particularly galling about this loss was the way it happened.
East Carolina blitzed the strongest part of the Virginia Tech defense right from the start, daring the Hokies' supposedly top-notch secondary to slow down Shane Carden & Co.
Cornerback Brandon Facyson had a particularly brutal day, getting beaten on several long plays, and before the first quarter was over, the Pirates were ahead 21-0 -- all on touchdown passes.
Meanwhile, the Virginia Tech offense reverted back to its familiar ways. No run game. Dropped passes galore. Terrible decisions from its quarterback. Michael Brewer, the picture of poise against Ohio State, had a difficult time getting the offense going for most of the game. Virginia Tech had two first downs and 14 yards in the first quarter. But even when Brewer came around in the fourth quarter, it was too late.
The Hokies tied the game at 21 with 1:20 left, and there was hope because Virginia Tech had not allowed a point in nearly 45 minutes. Surely the highly touted defense would come through.
Yet the defense was exposed again -- giving up the game-winning drive on three plays that took just more than a minute.
So many times last season, Virginia Tech failed to win games because its offense failed to deliver. On Saturday, Virginia Tech had equal parts fail on offense and defense. Given the returning players in the secondary, it is inexcusable for Virginia Tech to allow Carden to throw for 427 yards -- the most against Virginia Tech since 1993.
Last week, the Hokies won as an entire team. This week, they lost as an entire team, and now there are serious questions about what exactly we saw against Ohio State and whether the Buckeyes are any good at all.
And that schedule that appeared as if it laid out so perfectly for Virginia Tech? It cannot lay out perfectly without victories. Today, all that premature playoff talk goes the way Virginia Tech does.
Out the door.
Miami receiver Stacy Coley is out against Arkansas State on Saturday with a shoulder injury. The announcement is not a huge shock, considering Coley was in a non-contact jersey during practice this week after getting hurt against Florida A&M. Still, Coley has not gotten off to the start the Hurricanes anticipated after a breakout freshman season.
He only has three catches for 9 yards, all in the opener against Louisville, as the Miami offense has struggled to find consistency and production in the passing game. Coley was a major deep threat for Miami a year ago, averaging 17.9 yards per catch. But with freshman quarterback Brad Kaaya, Miami has not been able to get its downfield passing game going the way it did with Stephen Morris, who excelled at the deep ball.
The season is early, and Coley is not seriously injured. Perhaps he will be back next week when the Hurricanes travel to Nebraska. But there's no doubt Miami is going to need a Kaaya-to-Coley connection to develop for the passing game to be seen as a serious threat. Miami does have depth at the position with Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Lewis, freshman Braxton Berrios, and Herb Waters. But Coley is the most dynamic player in that group.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech defensive tackle Corey Marshall is questionable for the East Carolina game with a sprained ankle. Marshall was hurt last week against Ohio State, and would be a pretty big loss for the group up front. As the Roanoke Times notes, Marshall has six quarterback hurries already this season and was the MVP of the spring for the Hokies. Facing a veteran quarterback in Shane Carden, the Hokies will want to keep the pressure on to disrupt his timing in the pass game.
If he can't play, Woody Baron would get the start. Tight end Kalvin Cline also is out for his third straight game.
Finally, North Carolina announced it had concluded its investigation into an alleged hazing incident between football players last month. But that is basically all the school said. No details were provided on what exactly happened; on the players involved; or whether what happened was, indeed, a hazing incident. The information gathered has been given to the student attorney general, who will decide whether any player will be charged through the honor court.
Strangely enough, the Raleigh News & Observer reported earlier this week that a police report on the alleged incident was riddled with errors. The truth, it seems, remains elusive.
Now here's a look at what else is happening in the ACC:
- Florida State has opened as a 17-point favorite against Clemson.
- Finally in the right spots, Issac Blakeney and Max McCaffrey are flourishing for Duke.
- These would work great as a #tbt on Paul Johnson's days at Georgia Southern.
- Louisville has to prepare for two quarterbacks.
- Pittsburgh running back James Conner is still waiting for his defensive opportunities.
- Syracuse guards Omari Palmer and Nick Robinson have the green light to play against Central Michigan.
- Canaan Severin has stepped into a bigger role for Virginia.
- Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster remains at the top of his game.
* There’s plenty of credit to go around for Virginia Tech’s huge win at The Horseshoe on Saturday, but it should start with the defensive front. Ohio State had three drives with a chance to tie the game at 28 in the fourth quarter that included 14 total plays. Two resulted in incompletions, six in sacks and two more in interceptions.
* The Hokies were particularly strong up the middle. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Ohio State had 14 designed runs between the tackles that netted the Buckeyes a total of 42 yards, only four of which came before contact. Virginia Tech defenders hit Ohio State’s ball carrier at or behind the line of scrimmage on nine of those 14 runs.
* Of course, plenty of credit also goes to defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who had an exceptional game plan. Knowing that his secondary could operate in man coverage, he brought the blitz on 79 percent of Ohio State’s dropbacks. Those 20 dropbacks resulted in more sacks (7) than completions (6).
* And here’s just how important all that was: From the start of the second quarter on, Ohio State’s starting field position was its own 41-yard line (including 10 drives that started at its own 30 or better). On four of those drives, Ohio State went backward. On three more, the Buckeyes failed to pick up a first down. On only two did they score — and one of those was a drive that began at the Tech 15. In other words, Ohio State spent virtually the entire game with advantageous field position and did nothing with it.
* It’s been tough to get too excited about NC State’s 2-0 start to the season, given that the Wolfpack trailed in the second half against both Georgia Southern and Old Dominion. But while the defense has been concerning (106th nationally, surrendering 6.24 yards-per-play), quarterback Jacoby Brissett has been impressive.
Through two weeks, Brissett’s passer rating (158.25) and touchdown passes (5) lead the ACC, and his completion percentage (71 percent) and yards per attempt (7.9) are second in the conference. In fact, erase a shaky start in the first half of NC State’s opener and here’s what Brissett has done in his last six quarters of action: 39-of-52 (75 percent) for 466 yards (9.0 YPA) with five touchdowns and no picks. NC State has scored on 10 of 14 drives during that stretch.
* It’s not that Cole Stoudt has struggled, but Clemson fans are still getting antsy to see their highly touted freshman get more work. Both Stoudt and Deshaun Watson had some early success against Georgia before struggling, and both put up gaudy numbers against South Carolina State last week. Here are their total numbers from two games:
Stoudt: 38-of-60 (63 percent) for 446 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Watson: 10-of-13 (77 percent) for 213 yards, 4 TD, 0 INT
Both benefitted from easy competition last week, and both made at least one or two throws that might have been picked off by better opposition. Watson, too, has had the luxury of a small sample size, while Stoudt had to endure the bulk of that awful second half in Athens, Georgia.
But there’s also this: On Stoudt-led drives, the Tigers are averaging 5.1 yards per play and have cashed in for points nine of 21 times. On Watson-led drives, Clemson averages 9.5 yards per play and has scored touchdowns on five of seven drives.
* Watson isn’t the only true freshman getting work at quarterback this year, but he’s certainly performed a bit better than the others.
Miami’s Brad Kaaya has completed 57 percent of his throws, averaged 6.9 yards per attempt, tossed three TDs and four interceptions in two games, while Wake Forest’s John Wolford has completed 70 percent of his throws for 388 yards with two TDs and four interceptions.
Both saw marked improvement from Week 1 to Week 2, but both also played more accommodating opposition, too.
* How good has Pitt’s James Conner been? The sophomore has 366 yards rushing so far, which leads the ACC and is 179 yards more than any other running back in the conference (Duke Johnson is second with 187 yards). That difference between Conner and Johnson accounts for more yards than all but one other ACC running back has mustered thus far (Louisville’s Dominique Brown, 183 yards).
* Johnson has the second most rushing yards in the conference by a tailback, but Conner’s closest competition on the ground is actually Boston College QB Tyler Murphy, who has racked up 210 yards rushing and averaged 7.2 yards per carry so far. In fact, Murphy’s rushing and passing (307 yards) account for 66 percent of all of the Eagles’ offense.
* It’s not surprising that Jamison Crowder is again among the ACC’s leading receivers. His 14 catches is tied for second in the conference behind FSU’s Rashad Greene. But what’s encouraging for Duke is that the Blue Devils seem to have identified a true second option in 6-foot-6 senior Issac Blakeney. Before the season started, QB Anthony Boone described Blakeney as “Kelvin Benjamin-like” and so far, that’s looked accurate. Blakeney’s three receiving touchdowns matches Pitt’s Tyler Boyd for the most by an ACC receiver.
* Blakeney has hauled in 82 percent of his targets this season, which ranks third among receivers with at least 10 targets in the ACC. Ahead of him? NC State true freshman Bo Hines (93 percent) and UNC sophomore Ryan Switzer (82.4 percent).
* Last season, Virginia Tech targeted its tight ends just 41 times (with 26 receptions). Through two games this year, Ryan Malleck and Bucky Hodges have already been targeted a whopping 22 times (17 catches) and the Hokies’ tight ends are on pace for 143 targets this season. So, Frank Beamer wasn’t kidding when he said the lack of tight end options last season limited what the Hokies wanted to do offensively.
* Michael Brewer hasn’t been lauded for his arm, but no ACC QB has more completions on throws of 10 yards or more than he does (17).
* He got benched in Week 1, but oddly enough, Virginia’s Greyson Lambert leads the ACC and is second in the nation in completion percentage (76.3 percent). Of course, 29 of his 38 attempts (and 24 of his 29 completions) have come on throws that traveled 5 yards or less. Lambert’s percentage of attempts that traveled 5 yards or less is by far the highest in the ACC (Brissett is next at 65 percent), while no one in the conference has a lower percentage of short passes than Clemson’s Watson (23.1 percent).
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The program has been there before, and Frank Beamer still expects his Virginia Tech team to act like it.
But after a couple years out of the spotlight, maybe the Hokies deserve a little bit of slack when their exuberance spills over and their emotions catch the attention of the officials.
That won’t really be determined until an early morning meeting Wednesday, when Beamer will sit down with his Shmoney-dancing tight end Bucky Hodges. Saturday night and the wee hours of Sunday morning were reserved for an old-fashioned Virginia Tech party, even if the program happened to get started too early before officially thrusting itself back in the national picture by upsetting Ohio State 35-21 at the Horseshoe.
Hodges couldn’t resist flashing them after snagging the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, an athletic grab in the corner of the end zone that was merely one of many eye-popping plays that were a callback to Virginia Tech's heyday under Beamer.
There hasn’t been nearly as much for the Hokies to feel good about, coming off consecutive seasons with at least five losses, disappointing campaigns that kept them out of the preseason polls and far removed from any conversations about the College Football Playoff after long being a fixture in the Bowl Championship Series. But almost from start to finish, it was the Hokies who looked every bit the part of a national contender and not the Buckeyes, who were playing in front of a record-breaking crowd, hadn’t lost a regular-season game under Urban Meyer and still hadn’t lowered their expectations despite the loss of star quarterback Braxton Miller.
They couldn’t resist cutting loose and having a some fun while reminding the country the program is alive and well.
“It had had been on my mind, and when I finally scored, I just felt like I had to hit the dance,” Hodges said. “The coaches were hot, and they were letting me have it. ... Was it worth it, though? Yeah.”
The Hokies clearly weren’t intimidated by the noise or the long win streak, and there was nothing the Buckeyes did on the field that appeared to really bother them, either.
Quarterback Michael Brewer was harassed throughout the game by a talented Ohio State defensive front, but he weathered every hit, kept rattling off third-down conversions and never looked fazed. There was no true standout at the skill positions, but the Hokies found a way to manufacture four scoring drives by giving touches to 16 different players as either rusher or receiver.
That was more than enough to complement another virtuous performance by the defense, with coordinator Bud Foster ruthlessly unleashing his full array of pressure packages and racking up seven sacks of Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett.
“Yeah, the last couple years haven’t been what we wanted,” Foster said. “But I think every program goes through that at some point in time. We had been on a stretch of pretty special years and putting them back-to-back-to-back-to-back. You look at every program in the history of football, even this program, there are down years here and there.
"But this was a credit to the kids and our staff. We had a good plan, they were well-prepared, and they played really hard.”
They even seemed to dial it up when the stakes were highest, looking every bit like a program that played in six BCS bowl games should.
The Hokies were challenged late after Barrett delivered a touchdown strike in the face of a blitz and Ezekiel Elliott tied the game by slicing through a handful of defenders for a 15-yard scoring run. But Brewer and Hodge answered with the throw that launched a dance party, and the defense supplied repeated uppercuts with six sacks in the fourth quarter before Donovan Riley landed the knockout blow by nabbing Virginia Tech’s third interception and returning it 63 yards for a touchdown.
Of course, there was also an unsportsmanlike penalty after that play, but by then there was no stopping the celebration for the Hokies.
A coming-out party? No. More like a welcome-back affair.
“The last two seasons, they were not bad seasons,” cornerback Brandon Facyson said. “Some things didn’t go our way, but I feel like everybody has overlooked us. When it comes to big games now, they still overlook us.
“I hope this win has really opened up some eyes. We are still a dominant team. We are not out of it by any means. We are still a team to be reckoned with.”
The Hokies have obviously been on the big stage before. Now they’re acting again like they belong there.
Miami held a scrimmage Monday night in which true freshman Brad Kaaya continued to impress, throwing two touchdown passes. Transfer Jake Heaps, competing for the starting job, sat out the scrimmage to rest his arm. Coach Al Golden has repeatedly said he would name his starter following both scrimmages. Kevin Olsen is suspended for at least the opener; Kaaya played in both scrimmages; Heaps in just one. Do we read anything into where this leads headed into the opener against Louisville?
Meanwhile in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, coach Larry Fedora said he will not publicly announce his starter before kickoff against Liberty on Aug. 30. Returning starter Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky have been in a dogged competition. The Tar Heels will begin game prep Wednesday.
"We'll make a decision before the 30th," Fedora said. "I mean, you guys won't know it. But we will make a decision before the 30th. We'll start as we get into the game-planning, we'll have a plan what we're going to do and how we're going to implement it and those guys will be aware of it.
"It won't be like we walk out there on the 30th and I flip a coin and throw one of them out there."
Finally, the race to start at Virginia Tech is down to Michael Brewer and Mark Leal. Brenden Motley, who left the spring No. 1 on the depth chart, has been dealing with back issues throughout fall camp and has fallen out of the competition. Brewer and Leal split first-team reps during a weekend scrimmage, but a decision remains up in the air.
Now here is quick look at other headlines across the ACC:
- Good news for Clemson: Receiver Charone Peake is back on the field.
- Bowl projection time! How about Florida State vs. Ohio State in one semifinal? Except the Seminoles are not ranked No. 1 in this prediction.
- Speaking of Florida State, is the Noles' game against Florida one of the 25 most intriguing games in all of college football?
- Louisville running back Dominique Brown is a real gamer.
- Pitt linebacker Matt Galambos has quite a unique family story.
- Syracuse has named team captains.
- Will Bud Foster succeed Frank Beamer? That's anyone's guess.
- Good luck to former Virginia Tech running back David Wilson, who wants to make the Olympic team in the triple jump.
- What was a tennis player doing on the Wake Forest practice field?
Of course, if a certain job in College Station, Texas, were to open up -- as our Travis Haney wrote about this week -- it certainly would seem like a good fit for Morris, who is a Texas A&M graduate. But Morris also earned $1.3 million last season, which makes it a bit easier to stay comfortable in a coordinator role, and though he is smart enough to know when the right situation comes around, I think he is also sincere when he says he is not looking to leave.
And Morris isn’t the only ACC assistant would could be a hot commodity at some point in the next couple years. A few other names to watch for bigger jobs:
Bud Foster, Virginia Tech: The offense has been down over the past few years for the Hokies, but Foster's defense has been as good as ever. Foster has turned down lucrative offers elsewhere in the past, so he is clearly not looking to leave, but he will nevertheless remain on the radar for a lot of other programs looking to bring in a proven commodity.
Jay Graham, Florida State: He is young, has NFL experience and SEC ties, and he is a recruiting whiz. He also presided over the first 1,000-yard back at Florida State in 16 years last season. Graham is going to be a hot name very soon.
Chip West, Virginia: How does a team that finishes 2-10 and has a head coach constantly mired in hot-seat rumors still land a solid recruiting class, including five ESPN300 members? Chalk it up to West, one of the best recruiters in the nation.
Scottie Montgomery, Duke: He will get his first crack at a coordinator job this year as he takes over for Kurt Roper, who left for Florida. Montgomery has NFL experience as a wideouts coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, and he is a terrific recruiter. If Duke’s offense continues to shine, he is going to get a lot of credit -- and a lot of long looks from other programs.
Brent Venables, Clemson: Morris gets all the buzz because offense is fun and the Tigers’ defense has played second fiddle for years. But look, everyone remembers that Orange Bowl loss to West Virginia to conclude the 2011 season, and what Venables has done for the Tigers’ defense since then -- 29.3 ppg in 2011, 24.8 in 2012, 22.2 in 2013 -- has been impressive, and this year’s unit could be his best yet. More importantly, the Clemson defense is finally climbing out of the shadow of its prolific offense.
Athlon has a look at recruiting in the Tidewater, Virginia area, and how the region has become a key battleground for programs like Florida State and Virginia.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has a piece on how colleges are bringing in outside help to sell tickets.
The Daily Progress is looking at Virginia’s opponents and wonders if this is the golden age of Duke football.
A new play-calling system should help Terrel Hunt run Syracuse’s up-tempo offense, according to Syracuse.com. We wrote plenty about up-tempo offenses yesterday, if you missed it.
Georgia Tech’s special teams should be a strength, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The Courier-Journal wonders why Bobby Petrino isn’t having more success on the recruiting trail at Louisville.
Of course, seeing Bud Foster and Chad Morris on the list is no surprise. They have established themselves as among the most consistently good coordinators in the country. What is perhaps more interesting is who isn’t on the list: Namely, no one from the defending national champion. In fact, ex-Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt (now at Georgia) does make the cut, but that is as close as the Seminoles got to landing a name on the list.
Given that Jimbo Fisher doesn’t employ an offensive coordinator and is on his third defensive coordinator in as many years, it is probably not a surprise, but as our Travis Haney noted during a recent trip to a Texas coaching clinic, FSU’s Charles Kelly has made a really good early impression since taking over for Pruitt.
Pruitt, quite fairly, received a lot of credit for last year’s championship defense, so now there are concerns about what his loss will mean for Florida State. Those concerns, however, are probably a bit misplaced.
First off, remember the chaos that followed the 2012 season at FSU? Seven assistants left the staff for other jobs, including both coordinators. Mark Stoops had engineered a defense that ranked in the top three nationally in consecutive years and was widely regarded as one of the best assistants in the country. Fisher couldn’t possibly replace all that, right?
Even in the wake of Stoops’ departure, fans clamored for a big name -- Foster, perhaps, or someone with NFL experience -- but he hired an obscure secondary coach from Alabama with just three years of college coaching on his resume. But he knew Pruitt, knew what he was capable of doing, knew the system he wanted to run, and the hire proved a stroke of genius.
So now, it’s a lot easier to believe Fisher knew what he was doing when he promoted Kelly from linebackers coach to DC, and the transition promises to be much smoother this time. Pruitt’s biggest impact on the team last season was the scheme he put in place, but that doesn’t figure to change much under Kelly. The players already know what they are doing, there is no change in vocabulary and virtually no change in the Xs and Os. Moreover, Kelly is as well-liked and respected as any coach on the staff. He will do just fine.
But that doesn’t mean there is no room for worries for Florida State’s defense. It’s just that losing Pruitt probably shouldn’t be the primary concern. The biggest void is the leadership lost with the departures of Lamarcus Joyner, Terrence Brooks, Timmy Jernigan and Telvin Smith. That was a rare breed of leaders that had been through the battles and suffered the losses that taught tough lessons -- lessons they continually reminded their younger teammates about during last season’s championship run. Finding voices on defense that carry as much weight in the locker room this year won’t be easy.
“I think it’s feeling comfortable taking on the roles of the guys who have left, that you feel comfortable stepping up and taking that responsibility,” Fisher told me this month. “All of them play hard, but what you have to have is guys stepping up and taking on the leadership. There’s a responsibility of how you have to conduct yourself as a teammate to affect the other guys on the team. That’s where teams grow, and summer and fall camp is so important.”
Fisher reeled off a bunch of names on the offensive side of the ball who will fill that role -- Rashad Greene, Cameron Erving, Karlos Williams, Tre Jackson, Josue Matias and, of course, Jameis Winston -- but the candidates on defense weren’t quite so established.
Fisher said sophomore Jalen Ramsey has been perhaps the most vocal leader throughout the spring and early summer, and fellow defensive backs P.J. Williams and Tyler Hunter have shouldered some of the leadership burden, too. The rest of the unit, though, is still developing.
“Last year’s team wasn’t on a journey. They were on a mission,” Fisher said. “They understood what they really wanted. The trial-and-error they had, they learned from their mistakes over time.”
Terrance Smith learned under Telvin Smith last season, but he’s not nearly as vocal as his predecessor. Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman “are growing into the role,” Fisher said, but they haven’t proven they are as good at galvanizing a group around them as Jernigan did last year.
FSU has ample talent on defense, and it should again have an exceptional coordinator calling the shots, but it’s just really difficult to replace the battle scars and lessons learned that Joyner, Brooks, Smith and Co. used to such great effect in 2013.
- Injured Miami quarterback Ryan Williams said he is still aiming to be ready for the opener, writes the Miami Herald.
- Sports on Earth wants to know if Miami can finally have a breaththrough in the ACC this season.
- Athlon put together a list of 20 defensive players on the rise for 2014, with a number of well-regarded ACC names on the list.
- Florida State has a pair of ESPY nominations, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.
- Syracuse assistant coach Bobby Acosta had some good stories from the recruiting trail for The Post-Standard.
- RamblinWreck.com talked with senior associate athletics director Ryan Bamford about the difficulty of filling out Georgia Tech’s schedule each year. It’s an interesting behind-the-scenes of how the schedule is put together and the difficulties of bringing in top-tier opponents.
- TigerNet writes that, while Clemson’s first three games (including at Georgia and FSU) have everyone talking, it might be the Tigers’ next three contests (at home against UNC, NC State and Louisville) that defines the season.
- And lastly, if you’re like me and going through “Game of Thrones” withdrawal, allow this to brighten your weekend TV viewing.
It is not a very long list.
Only 37 of 1,152 full-time assistants meet that standard. Four are from the ACC. Three are from one school: Virginia Tech.
- Bud Foster, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator, 1987
- Bryan Stinespring, Virginia Tech tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator, 1990
- Charley Wiles, Virginia Tech defensive line/run game coordinator, 1996
- Odell Haggins, Florida State defensive tackles, 1994
Stinespring and Haggins break the typical assistants mold, making their stories especially remarkable. Neither has ever worked for another FBS school. Haggins played at Florida State from 1986-89, then began his coaching career there in 1994. He was recently promoted to associate head coach and is going into his 21st season with the Seminoles.
Stinespring started at Virginia Tech as a graduate assistant, working his way up to offensive coordinator. After the 2012 season, he remained on staff as recruiting coordinator/tight ends coach despite losing his offensive coordinator duties.
Foster and Wiles both played for Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer; Foster has spent his entire coaching career with Beamer, turning down opportunities to become defensive coordinator elsewhere. His name has been linked to head coach openings in the past, and there is no doubt he would love the opportunity to run his own program one day. But until that day comes, Foster remains committed to both Beamer and Virginia Tech. The reverse is true as well.
What is clear about all four: they have gotten on-the-field results and have benefited from being at programs with long-tenured head coaches. Beamer has been at Virginia Tech since 1987. Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher worked with Haggins under Bobby Bowden, and Fisher decided to retain him on staff. Fisher also retained two other assistants who remain in Tallahassee: offensive line coach Rick Trickett and receivers coach Lawrence Dawsey. Both are going into their eighth seasons at Florida State -- not quite a decade but quite a solid tenure at one place.
Looking to build off his strong recent run, and looking to add more weight, the redshirt junior has a chance to be the next in line on a defensive front that has annually been among the best in the ACC.
ESPN.com caught up with Marshall to talk about his changes.
Corey Marshall: That's another milestone I'm happy to accomplish. The big thing with this defense is replacing parts, and when you can be viewed for a period as the MVP on a defensive spot where there's going to be a lot of overall (talent), I think it's a big deal that people think you can be a catalyst at that position. I was just happy to get that recognition.
What worked for you this spring? What did you improve on? What were your goals?
CM: I think it was a culmination of things. I think most importantly it was getting bigger, stronger, faster. The old clichés. Grinding, staying at it. But most importantly it was just getting back in shape. That was the biggest thing. And I always knew I could play -- it was just getting that light switch to flip on. And there's a track record of guys here. They tell you all the time -- some of the older guys, James Gayle, now an NFL player, some of the other guys -- it's just a maturation process you go through. And I'm at those waning stages where you really start to pick up your game and elevate your play. So it's just nice seeing all that stuff come together.
You mentioned the light clicking on. How do you think that happens? I know it doesn't come overnight.
CM: Just repetition and muscle memory. Finally clicking. I think the biggest challenge for most guys coming out of high school is just the drastic change in talent; everybody's talented. You can't just coast on your raw ability; you have to be professional and go about it every day and improve at your craft. And I think that was where I just elevated off the field, was just doing extra work. Really getting that drive and that inner (focus) back. I think I got complacent once I got here, and that kind of left me in limbo. Once I got refocused I was able to do the things I know I'm capable of doing.
What do you like playing better: end or tackle?
CM: I think I'm a defensive weapon, honestly. However (defensive line) Coach (Charley) Wiles sees fit to use me, that's how I'm going to go about it, approach it. You've got to be a team guy. You have to have those elements. But I think what I really respect (about) him and (defensive coordinator) Bud Foster is they really know how to exploit talent. They understand I have that type of natural defensive end body and they let me rush in those pass-rush packages, those 30 packages, and let me exploit that on the outside, to get after the quarterback a little after I do the dirty work inside. So it's just keep on (building) that relationship and understanding that if you do your job every day, they're going to look out for you.
How important is it to you to help carry on the standard this defense has set over the years?
CM: It's massively important. It's the lunch-pail mentality. I think we all come to the conclusion that you've got to be blue-collar guys. You can't be about yourself. You've got to play within the Xs and Os, and I think where we excel, Bud Foster over his tenure here, is that he had guys that could play outside of the Xs and Os. After they completed their assignments, they went above and beyond. And to be a championship-caliber defense like we were last year, we have to have 11 souls with that mentality that, "I'm going to make the play. I'm going to change momentum in our favor when things get out of whack and adversity hits." And I think we've got a lot of guys with that mentality. I think we've got a chance to do something special.
What did you get out of redshirting? How are you better off for it in the long term?
CM: I think the wear-and-tear aspect of it is really underrated. I got, I think, about three months there where there was just no beating, there was no grinding, there was no wearing or lasting effects on me, and I was just able to get healthy in all aspects -- the little nicks and knacks that come along with the business. So I was able to get back right in that aspect, and that really just let me attack everything just (at) 100 miles an hour, and I really got better from that aspect. But I've been in this defense three years, so mentally it was just picking up where I left off and playing fast. I think that's what the coaches will tell you if you ask them -- just the intensity I came with every play. And that's just being a product of the system and understanding where you can excel and understanding how to read blocks. I think I got smarter in the nuances of the game.
Were there times last year where you would see something happen on the field and think you could've been there to help?
CM: There were a lot of sleepless nights watching those games, not being able to help your brothers. I kind of equate it to your brother getting in a fight and you're on the other side of the fence and you can't do anything about it. It kind of eats at you as a competitor. I think that UCLA game was kind of the culmination of that. There were a lot of plays where I think if I'm out there, we can turn those around and get stops and put our offense in a position to try to generate some plays to kind of shift the momentum. Because you saw it get away from us. We came out, had a couple competitive series, and as the game wore on -- as a defense it's bend-but-don't-break, but if you're out there all game you're going to break eventually. So just working on that and staying focused.
What does it mean to have the kind of turnaround you've had get noticed by the coaching staff publicly? Is that a sense of personal validation?
CM: It is, because I've had a lot of trials and tribulations, and I didn't want to have those situations be a blanket or an indictment on my character. I think at certain points you develop bad habits when you get complacent, and that's what I kind of fell into freshman year. And at a certain point if you know better, you do better. And I'm kind of at that point in my development where just maturity-wise I've taken a couple steps -- leaps and bounds from where I was Day 1. I know how to handle people and situations, and just as a man understanding that things aren't going to go your way but you need to fight through them, you need to keep your head up. All that just goes back into being a professional. Once you do some of those things, you get to reap the benefits. I didn't come here, work 17 years of my life for it to all fall away at the end. I take pride in being one of the best guys out there. I was blessed to play this game and I want to play it to the best of my abilities.
What do you see as the ceiling for you personally now?
CM: For a lot of guys, if you're not Jadeveon Clowney, people project your ceiling to be a lot shorter. But I think one of the benefits of not being just crazy royal gifted like that is that you continually get to shape your game and be very polished, as opposed to some of these others guys that don't take the fundamentals as seriously. You can really be an elite player because you do all the little things that build up to what you see on Saturdays or Fridays or whatever the case may be if you go out to play. So I think my ceiling is pretty high. I don't think I've touched it yet. I think once I put this weight on, in the season the double-teams will come even easier. Because a lot of guys will tell you I don't play like I'm 250. I play like I'm 270 already, so once I get that added weight on, there's a chance to be very, very disruptive, and that's something I look forward to getting to.
Is that a goal for you, to get to about 270?
CM: Yeah, to get to 270. We just started this offseason program. I've gained about five to seven pounds back on. So I'm right on course to be there sometime around the summer, so I'm not too concerned about it. But it's just getting bigger, faster, stronger.
And you were about 250 coming into offseason conditioning?
CM: I was about 247. I'm up to like 255 now, and it's still coming on easy, so I see that. But the biggest thing is it's not fat. You're putting on good weight that's going to help you be explosive and help you be fast and be strong out there.
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.
- This news is just peachy.
- Clemson has gone local for its latest commitments.
- The Tiger paw strikes again.
- Florida State is still basking in the glow of its championship.
- A big crowd of recruits is expected for the Georgia Tech spring game.
- Is Louisville still an undervalued collegiate athletics property?
- North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham stung some members of the athletic department with recent comments to Forbes Magazine.
- NC State defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen chats about the Wolfpack's progress during spring.
- Pitt is pulling its weight for a new strength coach.
- Setting the stage for the Syracuse spring game.
- Inexperience could be a factor on the UVa offensive line.
- A smaller defense is no big deal to Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster.
- Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson wants to see improvements in the pass game during the team's scrimmage tonight.
- Athlon Sports ranks the top coaching jobs in the ACC. Can't argue with the top 2.
- Is Clemson capable of becoming the No. 1 defense in college football?
- Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris spent time in Columbus, Ohio, talking football with Ohio State and Texas A&M assistants.
- Two Florida State football players got into a dispute that led to an alleged shooting.
- Louisville coach Bobby Petrino is in no hurry to choose a starting quarterback.
- Former Miami football player JoJo Nicolas was laid to rest this weekend.
- Pitt's oldest known living football letterman turned 100 Saturday.
- Highly-touted recruit Andrew Brown eases into spring practice at Virginia.
- Recruiting forced Virginia Tech coordinators Bud Foster and Scot Loeffler to join Twitter.
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State