ACC: Cary Koch

Scouting Virginia

August, 7, 2009
8/07/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Where to begin with this group? How about at the top, since that's where it all starts anyway? Some think Al Groh is on the hot seat, and believe a second straight losing season could -- or even should -- cost him his job. I beg to differ. Groh's contract isn't up until Dec. 31, 2011. If Virginia makes it to a bowl, considering how much turnover there was in both staff and personnel this offseason, it should be considered a heck of a coaching job in a transition year. If Virginia doesn't make it to a bowl game, how many people will really flinch?

The best thing this team has going for it is some experience at quarterback, which wasn't an option last year. Vic Hall, formerly a cornerback, enters summer camp as the first-string quarterback, but will continue to be pushed by 2007 starter Jameel Sewell and 2008 starter Marc Verica. There are definitely worse scenarios. And all of them will be working behind an offensive line that returns four starters -- another strength that was a concern a year ago.

There haven't been anything but positive reviews on the hire of first-year offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, but only time will tell how long it will take the players to adjust to the spread offense. Only five starters return on offense and six on defense. The positions that took the biggest hits were receiver and linebacker, where both groups must replace three starters from a year ago. Let's get to that now:

1. Who will catch the ball? The three leading receivers from 2008 -- Maurice Covington, Cary Koch and Kevin Ogletree -- were ranked 1-4-5 in receptions last year and combined for 121 receptions. This spring didn't reveal an answer, but maybe the summer will. The front-runners are Jared Green, Dontrelle Inman, Kris Burd and Javaris Brown.

2. How do you replace such an impressive trio of linebackers? You don't. Antonio Appleby, Jon Copper and Clint Sintim ranked 1-2-3 in tackling and combined to start 123 games in their careers. Virginia's leading returning tackler, Hall, is now playing quarterback. Steve Greer, a redshirt freshman, caught Groh's attention this spring, and is listed on the preseason depth chart as a starting inside linebacker along with senior Darren Childs. Groh runs a 3-4 defense, and senior outside linebacker Denzel Burrell is back as a returning starter, so he'll be the leader and the face of the group. Senior Aaron Clark is listed as the starting outside linebacker.

3. Can tailback Mikell Simpson be the player he was in 2007? Quite frankly, he doesn't have much choice. Simpson is a player Groh will depend heavily upon, as there's not much other experience to turn to. But Simpson faded into the background last year after making a name for himself in 2007. That season, he rushed for 570 yards and caught 43 passes for 402 more. Last year, his rushing total fell to 262 yards and he caught just 15 passes. He was also injured in the ninth week against Miami and missed the remainder of the season. Simpson will be the X-factor for Virginia this year.

Virginia spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009
5/07/09
9:10
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Virginia Cavaliers
2008 overall record: 5-7

2008 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 5, defense: 6, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

C Jack Shields, QB Marc Verica, QB Jameel Sewell, CB/QB Vic Hall, CB Ras-I Dowling, T Will Barker, TB Mikell Simpson

Key losses

WR Maurice Covington, WR Kevin Ogletree, WR Cary Koch, T Eugene Monroe, TB Cedric Peerman, TE John Phillips, OLB Antonio Appleby, ILB Jon Copper, OLB Clint Sintim

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Cedric Peerman (774 yards)
Passing: Marc Verica* (2,037 yards)
Receiving: Kevin Ogletree (723 yards)
Tackles: Jon Copper (101)
Sacks: Clint Sintim (11)
Interceptions: Ras-I Dowling* (3)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sept. 5 William & Mary
Sept. 12 TCU
Sept. 19 at Southern Miss
Oct. 3 at North Carolina
Oct. 10 Indiana
Oct. 17 at Maryland
Oct. 24 Georgia Tech
Oct. 31 Duke
Nov. 7 at Miami
Nov. 14 Boston College
Nov. 21 at Clemson
Nov. 28 Virginia Tech

1. Quarterback, not cornerback. Yes, Vic Hall really is playing offense. Al Groh has committed to getting Hall involved on the offensive side of things, whether it's at quarterback or other situational plays and opportunities. That's where he spent the entire spring -- not in the defensive meetings.

2. In good hands. With the departure of the top four receivers, one of the questions this spring was who would step up. The players felt like Kris Byrd and Javaris Brown answered that question, and they're also confident in sophomore Jared Green.

3. Buzz about Brandon. Make no mistake -- the offense isn't where it needs to be yet. But there is an excitement about Gregg Brandon's scheme, and it was well-received by the players. It's no-huddle, and they're trying to get the plays in fast to keep the defenses on their heels. Just remember -- nobody thought Georgia Tech's offense would flourish in its first season, either.

Fall questions

1. Ah, quarterback. The emphasis this spring was not to determine who the starter was, but to let all of them get enough reps so the coaches could start to judge who could best manage the team in the new offense. Just because Hall and Sewell are versatile athletes doesn't mean the other candidates won't be involved in the offense in some capacity.

2. Looking for linebackers. It's not easy replacing veterans like Antonio Appleby, Clint Sintim and Jon Copper. There's not a lot of playing experience to choose from, and it will take some time for the young players to grow into those spots. The staff was pleased with Darren Childs, Steve Greer, Aaron Taliaferro, Cam Johnson, and Darnell Carter.

3. Kicking game. Yannick Reyering couldn't get through spring practice because of knee problems and is no longer with the team. The staff is looking for someone to take over that position. Robert Randolph and sophomore Chris Hinkebein were effective in the spring scrimmage, but neither has won the job.

UNC receivers looking for edge this spring

March, 2, 2009
3/02/09
10:44
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Speaking of replacing receivers ... North Carolina has some issues. The Tar Heels bumped back the start of their spring practices from Monday to Wednesday (it doesn't affect the date of their spring game). Obviously coach Butch Davis will need to find a few guys who can catch the ball this spring, but the bulk of the competition at the position is expected to come during summer camp. The players who are on campus now, though -- like freshman Joshua Adams -- will obviously have a head start.

UNC only lost eight starters from its 2008 bowl team, but five of them were on offense, including the top three receivers. Last year's group of Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster and Hakeem Nicks accounted for 114 receptions, 1,932 yards and 17 of the 21 receiving touchdowns. The Tar Heels return just 18.1 percent of their receiving yards from 2008. The only other ACC school with a smaller returning percentage is Virginia, with 17.6 percent (the Cavaliers lost Kevin Ogletree, Cedric Peerman, John Phillips, Maurice Covington and Cary Koch).

Here's a look at who will be in the mix in Chapel Hill this spring to try to account for that lost yardage:

Joshua Adams -- ESPN.com has Adams rated as the No. 36 wide receiver in the class of 2009, although he committed to UNC on signing day with the class of 2008. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Adams played both receiver and defensive back in high school. He is from Cheshire, Conn., but played his first three years at Cambridge (Mass.) Rindge & Latin before transferring to Cheshire for his final season. He had 56 catches for 1,131 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.

Todd Harrelson, rs. Fr. -- He was considered to be the No. 60 receiver in the class of 2008, and has the potential for that fun YAC (yards after catch) stat. Our experts say he's got the ability to turn a short catch into a long gain. Harrelson is from Chesapeake, Va., where he caught 46 receptions for 892 yards and 13 touchdowns while leading Oscar Smith High to a 13-1 record as a senior.

Dwight Jones, soph. -- He was an outstanding recruit three years ago, and it's his second year in the program. Jones signed with UNC in the class of 2007, but failed to qualify and went to Hargrave Military Academy in 2007-08. He played sparingly last year, and is still waiting for his first collegiate catch, but is a big, physical receiver who can create some mismatches.

Rashad Mason, rs. soph. -- He redshirted in 2007, and didn't make any catches last year. Mason finished his senior season with 26 catches for 610 yards and 13 touchdowns at Pearl-Cohn High School in Tennessee.

ACC in the morning -- Ponder edition

September, 4, 2008
9/04/08
7:14
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Let's start in Tallahassee, where Jimbo Fisher named Christian Ponder his starting quarterback on Wednesday. And yes, Drew Weatherford was disappointed. But Fisher had a "gut feeling" about Ponder. He also had several other reasons. Still, it sounds like more than one quarterback might play in Saturday's season opener against Western Carolina. And the second name Fisher mentioned wasn't Weatherford.

That's where most of the attention in the league was Wednesday evening, but there is plenty to talk about elsewhere:

ACC in the morning: Quarterbacks edition

August, 19, 2008
8/19/08
7:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Let's start with the Terps, since the news of their latest quarterback, Jordan Steffy, had fans absolutely losing their minds on the message boards Monday.

Chris Turner wasn't available to talk to the media on Monday, which is completely understandable considering his father said the family was "shell-shocked." And no, that's not some clever Terrapin marketing scheme that might suggest team unity.

The staff yesterday spoke about how it had all of the statistical data to name Steffy Maryland's starter for this season, but if you're looking for numbers to compare Steffy and Turner, check out this chart.

Regardless of the numbers, coach Ralph Friedgen wants to make sure he has credibility with his team for rewarding the best practice players.

While the competition is over in Maryland, NC State's trio of quarterbacks have one more scrimmage -- today -- to impress Tom O'Brien. This is nothing new for Daniel Evans.

It is a somewhat unusual situation, though, for Miami, where no matter which quarterback Randy Shannon chooses, none of them will have taken a snap in a college game. So far, all indications are that Robert Marve is the frontrunner. No surprise there.

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden can't remember the last time he had three quarterbacks take reps with the first team during a scrimmage -- until Saturday, that is.

Not only does Drew Weatherford have Christian Ponder pushing him, but it's now official: D'Vontrey Richardson is equally in the mix.

At North Carolina, it's not about the quarterback anymore. It's about T.J. Yates wanting to win the close games this season instead of watching them slip away. Caulton Tudor says this is the first season for Butch Davis to correct the program's past mistakes.

Speaking of past mistakes ... did first-year Virginia defensive coordinator Bob Pruett make a big one? Pruett is being accused of academic fraud and overpayment of players while head coach at Marshall.

Just what Al Groh needs right now ... although it's not like he doesn't have any playmakers. And, Groh might find some help this season in wide receiver Cary Koch.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer needs all the help he can get at wide receiver after losing Zach Luckett.

Not that Clemson coach Tommy Bowden needs another running back this season, but highly touted freshman Jamie Harper was going to add to this year's offense -- before he put on a walking boot for his low ankle sprain. Will he be ready to go against Alabama?

Miami receiver Jermaine McKenzie is ready to stay healthy and play some football.

Like just about every other coach in the league, Jim Grobe is trying to add depth to his offensive line. And just like O'Brien, he stole a player from the defense to do it.

ACC in the morning: Improvement since expansion?

August, 12, 2008
8/12/08
7:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- I'm not sure how Clemson will do this year, but I think I'm gonna have a heckuva season. I ran down The Hill on Monday and touched Howard's Rock. (Well, technically I touched the protective case around the rock. It's been there since 1992, when some South Carolina fans tried to chip the rock off its base).

There's plenty going on here -- and I'll get to it throughout the day -- but first let's check out what's going on around the rest of the league:

Why not start with the entire ACC, which SI.com says has improved during expansion. The ACC has produced more NFL draft picks than the Pac-10 and Big 12, but Stewart Mandel writes that "the ACC's premier teams have not stacked up with their counterparts from around the country."

Let's get back to the state of South Carolina, where NC State nabbed another recruit? Tom O'Brien is still trying to figure out what to do with the players he already has, namely at quarterback.

Life's a beach at Georgia Tech for one too many players. The Beach is what they call the spot on the practice field for injured players. As for the guys who are actually healthy? It's an infusion of youth on defense.

The same can be said for Florida State's offensive line, where just two starters -- both talented sophomores -- return. Can Will Furlong make an immediate impact? If you don't think the Noles have a chance this season, then guess what? Defensive tackle Bud Thacker says "Poop on you."

Wake Forest doesn't have to worry about youth when it's got a defensive end nicknamed "grandpa." Matt Robinson is 24, in his sixth season of eligibility, and said he feels old. Ha.

Everyone at Virginia is tired of talking about Kevin Ogletree's knee. Now that he's healthy, he should play an integral role this season. Ogletree isn't the only receiver making a comeback. Cary Koch is healthy for the first time since he transferred from Tulane.

Miami's Antonio Dixon practiced on Monday, as did Eric Moncur and a few freshmen who were facing NCAA Clearinghouse issues. Meanwhile, Randy Shannon snagged another key recruit out of his backyard. And safety Anthony Reddick is due a break.

Maryland players are taking what coach Ralph Friedgen says to heart. If they don't win big, they're at least gonna go down swinging.

But first Friedgen has to name a starting quarterback.

Don't read this one unless you feel like crying in your coffee. It's going to be hard not to root for UNC linebacker Chase Rice this season.

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