ACC: Camden Wentz

2012 record: 7-6
2012 conference record: 4-4 ACC (third in Atlantic Division)
Returning starters: offense: 5; defense: 5; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners:

WR Quintin Payton, OT Rob Crisp, OT Tyson Chandler, DE Darryl Cato-Bishop, CB Dontae Johnson PK Niklas Sade, P Wil Baumann

Key losses:

QB Mike Glennon, WR Tobais Palmer, OG R.J. Mattes, C Camden Wentz, CB David Amerson, S Earl Wolff, S Brandan Bishop

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Shadrach Thornton* (694 yards)
Passing: Glennon (4,031 yards)
Receiving: Palmer (781 yards)
Tackles: Wolff (119)
Sacks: Cato-Bishop* (6.5)
Interceptions: Amerson (5)

Spring answers

1. QB Pete Thomas is next in line. Thomas edged out Manny Stocker for the majority of first-team reps this spring, and while the staff isn’t ready to name Thomas the starter, it became clear he is the front-runner to take over for Mike Glennon.

2. Picking up the pace: First-year coach Dave Doeren and his staff didn’t install the entire offense, but the Wolfpack did begin to make the switch to an up-tempo, no-huddle offense this spring. Doeren wants to snap it every 15 seconds, and the players began to adjust to a different pace of play.

3. Solid specialists: If there is one area the Pack shouldn’t be concerned about this fall, it’s the kicking game. The holder, punter and place-kicker are all true juniors who have been playing since they were true freshmen. Doeren said all of them had a great spring.

Fall questions

1. Unproven quarterbacks: While Thomas took the majority of reps, Doeren has stressed this remains an open competition into summer, and none of them have yet to compose a résumé comparable to Glennon’s.

2. Shuffling on the offensive line: NC State has to replace three starters up front, and the new staff spent this spring experimenting with different combinations to try and find the best fits. The linemen have also had to adjust to different blocking schemes in the faster-paced offense.

3. New faces at safety. It’s been almost three and a half years since anyone besides Wolff and Bishop had to play safety at NC State. Replacing that experience will be difficult. Hakim Jones was a backup last year who has been penciled in as a starter, and Jarvis Byrd, a fifth-year redshirt senior who has been injured for most of the past two seasons and was a former cornerback, is another top option. Finding a rotation at safety will be a priority this summer.

ACC announces players of the week

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

OFFENSIVE BACK: Michael Rocco, QB, Virginia. Rocco completed 29 of 37 passes for 300 yards, four touchdowns, and had no interceptions to help Virginia to a 41-40 upset of Miami. Rocco tossed a 10-yard throw to TE Jake McGee in the back of the end zone with six seconds left to produce the go-ahead score for the Cavaliers. Rocco’s passing numbers included a school record streak of 18 consecutive completions and set new career highs in completions (29) and touchdowns (4). Virginia’s final drive saw Rocco direct the Cavaliers 87 yards in 2:32, converting two fourth downs during the drive. Rocco either passed or ran (one QB sneak) for all 87 yards during the drive.

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN: Camden Wentz, C, NC State. Wentz tallied 13 knockdown blocks to help pave the way for the Wolfpack's 428 yards of total offense in the win over Wake Forest. Making his 36th consecutive start at center, Wentz was in for 86 snaps from scrimmage and posted the offensive line's top grade of 88 percent.

RECEIVER: Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State. Greene turned a quick slant pass from quarterback EJ Manuel into the 39-yard game-winning touchdown with 40 seconds remaining in the Seminoles’ 28-22 win at Virginia Tech. Greene finished the night with six receptions for 125 yards -- his first 100-yard receiving game of the season -- and a pair of scores.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: Cornellius Carradine, DE, Florida State. Carradine turned in one of the most productive games of his two-year career in leading the Seminoles with 11 tackles in their 28-22 road win at Virginia Tech. His career-high 11 tackles -- six solos and five assists -- also included his ninth sack and 10th tackle for loss of the season. Carradine has helped the Florida State defense climb to No. 1 nationally in total defense and rank among the top four in each major statistical category. Carradine is currently tied with linebacker Christian Jones for the team lead in tackles with 64.

CO-LINEBACKER: Quayshawn Nealy, Georgia Tech. Nealy registered a career-high two sacks to go with six tackles (four solo tackles) in Georgia Tech’s 68-50 win at North Carolina.

CO-LINEBACKER: Gionni Paul, Miami. Playing in place of injured Denzel Perryman, Paul tallied a career-high 14 tackles -- seven solo -- in Miami’s 41-40 loss at Virginia. It was his second double-digit tackle game of season, and his 14 stops are the most by Hurricane in a game this season.

CO-DEFENSIVE BACK – Maurice Canady, CB, Virginia. A week after his first start and earning ACC Player of the Week honors, Canady had another big game in Virginia’s 41-40 win over Miami. He came up with nine tackles, broke up one pass and forced a fumble that he recovered on the Virginia 2-yard line early in the fourth quarter.

CO-DEFENSIVE BACK: Dontae Johnson, CB, NC State. Johnson matched up against Wake Forest flanker Michael Campanero for most of the game in the Wolfpack’s 37-6 win over the Demon Deacons. In the game for 55 snaps from scrimmage, Johnson limited Campanero to five catches for just 14 yards, shy of his average of 8.5 receptions and 86.3 yards. He tallied five solo tackles, including a three-yard tackle for loss, and forced a fumble in the second half.

SPECIALIST: Jamal Golden, DB/KR, Georgia Tech. Golden returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown – his second kick return for a touchdown over the last three weeks – and he broke a school record with 230 kickoff return yards in Georgia Tech’s 68-50 win at North Carolina. Georgia Tech had not returned a kickoff for a touchdown from 1998 through 2011, but Golden has tied a Tech record with two kickoff returns for scores in one season. His 100-yard kick return on the opening kickoff of the second half was the longest scoring play in the Paul Johnson era.

ROOKIE: Duke Johnson, RB, Miami. Johnson rushed for a career-high 150 yards on 16 carries and also threw for a 9-yard touchdown -- his career-first pass -- in Miami’s 41-40 loss at Virginia. He has three 100-yard rushing games this season, including 100 or more yards in back-to-back games. Johnson amassed a Miami-record 368 all-purpose yards in the game which ranks as the fourth-most in ACC history. He registered 214 kick return yards on four tries, including a 95-yard kick return for a score, his second kick return for touchdown this season -- tied for most in school history. He became only the third FBS player since 2000 with a TD pass and a kickoff return for TD in the same game.

Walter Camp watch list announced

July, 20, 2012
The Walter Camp Football Foundation has announced the names of 50 players to watch for its 2012 Player of the Year award. Here are your ACC representatives:

Walter Camp Award (Presented to the nation’s most outstanding player by the Walter Camp Football Foundation)

The Walter Camp Award watch list was the final watch list scheduled to be announced by the National College Football Awards Association. As promised, I have been keeping a running list of your ACC players who are up for awards this year. Here is a compliation of the awards released over the past two weeks. Best of luck to those who were nominated:

Doak Walker Award (Presented to the nation's premier running back by the PwC SMU Athletic Forum)
Davey O'Brien Award (Presented to the nation's best quarterback by the Davey O'Brien Foundation)
Biletnikoff Award (Presented to the nation's most outstanding receiver by the Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation)
Butkus Award (Presented to the nation's most outstanding linebacker by the Butkus Foundation)
Rotary Lombardi Award (Presented to the college lineman of the year by the Rotary Club of Houston)

Jim Thorpe Award (Presented to the nation's best defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association)
Bronko Nagurski Trophy (Presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive player by the Charlotte Touchdown Club)
Outland Trophy (Presented to the nation's most outstanding interior lineman by the Football Writers Association of America)
Lou Groza Award (Presented to the nation's top place-kicker by the Palm Beach County [Fla.] Sports Commission)
Ray Guy Award (Presented to the nation's best punter by the Augusta [Ga.] Sports Council)
Mackey Award (Presented to the nation’s most outstanding tight end by the Nassau County [N.Y.] Sports Commission)
Rimington Trophy (Presented to the nation’s premier center by the Boomer Esiason Foundation)
Bednarik Award (Presented to the college defensive player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club)
Maxwell Award (Presented to the college player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club)

One good reason: NC State

July, 11, 2012

This series looks at one good reason each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). We’re going in alphabetical order.

The series continues today with one good reason why …

NC State will win the ACC title. The offensive line. This is one of the most experienced groups in the Atlantic Division, and that’s half the battle -- especially when Florida State, Wake Forest, Maryland and Clemson all have question marks up front entering fall camp. Four of five starters return for NC State in center Camden Wentz, guards Zach Allen and Duran Christophe and tackle R.J. Mattes. That group has combined for 96 starts and the starters weigh an average of 312.2 pounds. Their experience will be invaluable for the protection of quarterback Mike Glennon, who has a strong, accurate arm when given the time to make throws. They’ll also have a talented running back to block for in Mustafa Greene, who has since been cleared after missing all of last season with a foot injury. The pieces are in place for this to be one of the more productive offenses in the ACC, and it all starts up front with several players who should be candidates for all-conference honors.

Why it won’t: FSU and Virginia Tech’s defenses are better. I know, NC State doesn’t play the Hokies during the regular season, but should the Wolfpack actually win the division and play for the title, I’d give the edge to Virginia Tech’s defense. And when NC State hosts Florida State on Oct. 6, the Seminoles will have the better defense. It’s not that NC State’s defense is going to be bad – they’ve got one of the best players in the country in cornerback David Amerson, and the depth on the defensive line has improved. It’s simply that FSU has recruited better, faster players and is even deeper, particularly up front. The linebacker position remains a concern for NC State, as all three starters have to be replaced.

Mackey, Rimington watch lists announced

July, 10, 2012
Two more preseason watch lists have been released today by the National College Football Awards Association. (There will be one or two announced every weekday through July 20). I am keeping a master list for you guys that I will publish later this month, but for now I'll just post the most recent.

Here are your ACC representatives:

Mackey Award (Presented to the nation’s most outstanding tight end by the Nassau County Sports Commission)
Rimington Trophy (Presented to the nation’s premier center by the Boomer Esiason Foundation)

It 'starts' up front

June, 18, 2012
One of the biggest reasons to consider NC State a contender this fall is the experience it returns on the offensive line -- more than any other team in the ACC. The Wolfpack have four starters returning in tackle R.J. Mattes, guards Zach Allen (26) and Duran Christophe (14) and center Camden Wentz (26). NC State also returns former starter Andrew Wallace, who missed all of last year with an injury, but has 14 career starts, and junior tackle Rob Crisp, who will likely be the fifth starter this year and has three career starts.

ACC schools from the Research Triangle lead the conference, as North Carolina’s offensive line returns 91 career starts, followed by Duke with 88. According to the ACC, here’s a look at the league’s lines with the most returning starts:

Clemson senior center Dalton Freeman, a three-year starter for the Tigers, leads all returning ACC offensive linemen in number of career starts with 36.

ACC players on Rimington watch list

May, 25, 2012
The ACC had five players represented on the Rimington Trophy's spring watch list. The Rimington Trophy is presented annually to the nation's most outstanding center. In all, there are 50 players on the list. The SEC led all conferences with nine players while the ACC had four:
2011 overall record: 8-5

2011 conference record: 4-4 (4th, Atlantic)

Returning starters

Offense: 7; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

LT R.J. Mattes, LG Duran Christophe, RG Zach Allen, C Camden Wentz, QB Mike Glennon, RB James Washington, WR Tobais Palmer, DE Brian Slay, DE Art Norman, DE Darryl Cato-Bishop, CB C.J. Wilson, CB David Amerson, S Brandan Bishop, S Earl Wolff

Key losses

WR T.J. Graham, WR Jay Smith, TE George Bryan, RT Mikel Overgaard, DT Markus Kuhn, LB Terrell Manning, LB Audie Cole, LB D.J. Green

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: James Washington* (897 yards)
Passing: Mike Glennon* (3,054 yards)
Receiving: T.J. Graham (757 yards)
Tackles: Audie Cole (108)
Sacks: Audie Cole/Terrell Manning/Art Norman*/Darryl Cato-Bishop* (5.5)
Interceptions: David Amerson* (13)

Spring answers

1. Good luck passing against these DBs. All four starters are back, headed by the record-setting David Amerson, whose 13 picks last season were the most in ACC history. Amerson added another in the spring game. Playing keep-away won't be so easy for opposing quarterbacks, who also have to worry about corner C.J. Wilson, who has returned all three of his career picks for scores.

2. Mike Glennon ready to improve. It wasn't always easy playing in the shadow of Russell Wilson, but Glennon had a strong finish to the 2011 season and had the benefit (or is it horror?) of facing his own secondary this spring. Look for him to build off his 3,000-yard debut season.

3. Glennon's targets should be fine. Despite the loss of T.J. Graham, the Wolfpack figure to be OK at wide receiver. Tobais Palmer had five touchdowns last season and should lead a group that, like Glennon, had its work cut out for it this spring going up against a talented secondary.

Fall questions

1. How will the LBs fare? Graduations, early draft departures and suspensions have hurt the unit. Dontae Johnson is the only returner with extensive playing time, but that came at free safety, a position he left behind this spring. Fifth-year senior Sterling Lucas figures to enter camp as the starter in the middle.

2. How will Rodman Noel transition? The athletic Noel has moved from safety to outside linebacker, and a strong jump from him could provide a big boost to the young unit. Look for him to be used all over the field in a hybrid-like role for the Wolfpack.

3. Can Mustafa Greene emerge? Legal problems and injuries have hurt the running back, who would be returning to play behind an experienced offensive line if he can work his way back into playing time. Greene totaled 869 yards and six touchdowns during his true freshman campaign of 2010.

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 11, 2011
Around the ACC we go ...
Ranking offensive linemen is not easy. But hey, either is being an offensive lineman. Here are your best "big uglies."

1. North Carolina: Three starters and one part-time starter return from last year’s team, and this line could be the biggest and best since Butch Davis was hired. Guard Jonathan Cooper (22 starts), center Cam Holland (20) and tackle James Hurst (12) have combined for 54 career starts. Travis Bond has four starts and is the leading candidate to take over at the other guard position.

2. Miami: The Canes return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen including four starters from last year, and Joel Figueroa was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Even with the coaching change, the Canes should be strong up front. Center Tyler Horn is a veteran, Brandon Washington is a difference-maker, and there’s enough competition that Seantrel Henderson spent most of the spring as a backup.

3. Clemson: First-year offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has four returning starters to work with in Landon Walker, Antoine McClain, Dalton Freeman and David Smith. They also have top reserve Mason Cloy, who has 19 career starts and has played in 38 games. There is plenty of depth for a dependable rotation.

4. Virginia Tech: All four returnees started every game last year, and there is enough depth that the Hokies should be able to rotate the most players up front they ever have. It’s a veteran group led by Blake DeChristopher, Andrew Lanier, Jaymes Brooks and Greg Nosal.

5. Florida State: Despite the losses of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon, there’s experience up front. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of tackle Andrew Datko, left guard Bryan Stork or David Spurlock, center Jacob Fahrenkrug, right guard Spurlock or Stork, right tackle Zebrie Sanders. Just how good they’ll be remains to be seen as the majority of them were out with injuries this past spring.

6. NC State: The Pack lost Jake Vermiglio and will be without injured left guard Andrew Wallace for about half of the season, but Zach Allen, Camden Wentz and R.J. Mattes are returning starters. There’s also a lot of talent waiting to emerge with young players like Duran Christophe, Rob Crisp, Tyson Chandler, Torian Box and Andy Jomantas.

7. Virginia: Four players return with a combined 64 career starts in Anthony Mihota, Austin Pasztor, Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, who started the final seven games of the season as a true freshman. Pasztor is in his fourth season as a starter and has 32 career starts.

8. Boston College: Despite the losses of Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham, the Eagles are almost settled up front, it’s the experience behind the starters that’s reason for concern. The No. 2 offensive line is comprised entirely of redshirt freshmen. Mark Spinney returns at center, the projected starting guards are Nathan Richman and Ian White, who started three games as a freshman, and the tackles are Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel.

9. Maryland: It’s been an injury-prone group the past two seasons and that didn’t change this past spring. Left tackle Justin Gilbert, one of the top linemen on the team, reinjured the same knee he had ACL surgery on and will be out until October. R.J. Dill was also injured this spring, though he played in the spring game, and Justin Lewis was rehabbing from offseason surgery. Pete White also missed practices, so the group needs to solidify the two-deep roster.

10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return three starters in guard Omoregie Uzzi, guard Will Jackson and tackle Phil Smith. Sophomore Jay Finch played extensively last season and Ray Beno and Nick McRae were key reserves. Redshirt freshmen Catlin Alford and Morgan Bailey could also work their way into the rotation. Uzzi will be the leader of the line, but they were outplayed by the defense this spring.

11. Wake Forest: Four starters are back, but the Deacs will sorely miss the experience and leadership of former center Russell Nenon. Garrick Williams started the final three games of 2010 -- two at guard and one at center, but he struggled with the snaps towards the end of spring and isn’t where the staff needs him to be yet.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils should take another step forward this season under offensive line coach Matt Luke, and they need to -- Duke’s running game was last in the ACC last year and 104th in the country. Brian Moore replaces a three-year starter at center, but given his experience at right guard the past two seasons, it should be a smooth transition. That will leave a hole, though, at the right guard position, where Laken Tomlinson and John Coleman are the top candidates.

NC State spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
2010 overall record: 9-4

2010 conference record: 5-3

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 8, punter/kicker: 0

Top returners

OT R.J. Mattes, TE George Bryan, LB Audie Cole, S Brandan Bishop, S Earl Wolff, LB Terrell Manning, RB Mustafa Greene, C Camden Wentz, DT J.R. Sweezy

Key losses

QB Russell Wilson, OT Jake Vermiglio, WR Jarvis Williams, WR Owen Spencer, LB Nate Irving, PK Josh Czajkowski

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Greene* (597 yards)

Passing: Wilson (3,563 yds)

Receiving: Spencer (912 yds)

Tackles: Irving, Cole* (97)

Sacks: Irving (6.5)

Interceptions: Bishop (4)

Spring answers

1. Life goes on without Nate Irving. The Pack graduated its top playmaker on defense, but Cole adjusted well this spring to his new role in the middle and Terrell Manning shouldn’t be forgotten after his 75 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season.

2. The situation at running back has improved. At this time a year ago, NC State didn’t have one running back on the roster with starting experience and had to move Dean Haynes over from defense. Now, Greene is the returning leading rusher and a promising young talent when he’s healthy. The staff is also confident in Anthony Creecy, James Washington and Brandon Barnes, who missed all of 2010 with an injury.

3. The secondary is older and wiser. NC State returns all four starters, and four other defensive backs who got significant experience last season will help the depth. So will the return of Jarvis Byrd, who tore his ACL last season, and Rashard Smith, who also redshirted last season after a knee injury.

Fall questions

1. Is Mike Glennon as good as advertised? O’Brien has heaped praise on his new starter this offseason, comparing him to former Boston College standout Matt Ryan. Glennon has a similar build and throwing motion, and is comparable with intangibles such as his attention to detail, his work ethic and leadership, but is he really as good as Ryan? And, more importantly, can he stay healthy long enough to prove it?

2. Will special teams survive its makeover? The new punter, placekicker and snappers are all in the incoming class. It’s an underrated concern for the Wolfpack, which graduated 38 career starts with placekicker Josh Czajkowski.

3. Will the senior wide receivers rise to the occasion? With a first-year starting quarterback, receivers Jay Smith (10 catches), Steven Howard (12 catches) and T.J. Graham (25 catches) will have to step up to the level of their departed teammates (Spencer, Williams, and Darrell Davis). Aside from special teams, it was the one position group O’Brien said wouldn’t be settled until at least summer camp.

Youth movement still strong at NC State

August, 2, 2010
Over 50 of NC State’s scholarship players are still freshmen and sophomores. There are only two seniors on defense -- defensive end Audi Augustin and linebacker Nate Irving. There is only one senior -- left tackle Jake Vermiglio -- on the offensive line.

“It’s not an old football team,” said coach Tom O’Brien.

Nor is it one favored to win the Atlantic Division -- yet. O’Brien is entering his fourth season in Raleigh, and yet the pieces still aren’t in place for the program to be regarded as a serious contender for the ACC title.


“Because you’ve only had three recruiting classes,” O’Brien said. “They’re only redshirt sophomores. You’re working to get those guys who have to be there in your program for three, four and five years to be where you want to be.”

O’Brien said the recruiting class before his arrival included one offensive and one defensive lineman (which in itself is a set-up for failure.) Of the transition class between coaching staffs, there were four offensive linemen signed and only one of them is still in school.

“You had devastation there in the lines,” O’Brien said.

If NC State is going to return to the postseason this year, that has to change. It’s going to be difficult to do, considering the defensive line lost all four starters and the offensive line is banking on three true sophomores.

It has to be a painstakingly slow process for O’Brien, who has a history of working with offensive linemen until his first offensive coordinator job at Virginia in 1991. O’Brien spent the first seven years of his career coaching the tackles and tight ends at Navy before coaching the guards and centers for nine seasons at Virginia.

“Offensive line is always a struggle because it’s such a hard position to play,” O’Brien said.

O’Brien said Vermiglio was better this spring than he was a year ago, and right tackle Mikel Overgaard, a junior college transfer from Snow College in Utah, will be a good addition. Center Camden Wentz played last year as a true freshman backup, and O’Brien can now chuckle looking back on guard Andrew Wallace’s infamous false start at South Carolina.

“We had a lot of young guys make a lot of bad plays last year,” O’Brien said, “but they’ll be older and better this year.”

Just not old enough. Yet.