ACC: Cedric Peerman

Ranking the ACC units: Running backs

July, 16, 2009
7/16/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This one will probably be the toughest ranking of them all because the position is so loaded. But somebody's has to be the best, right?

1. Georgia Tech -- This is the deepest, most proven group in the conference, and it's only expected to be better in Year 2 of Paul Johnson's offense. Reigning ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer led the league in rushing last year with 1,395 yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. Louisville transfer Anthony Allen and sophomore Roddy Jones, along with Embry Peeples and Marcus Wright give the staff a bundle of options.

2. Virginia Tech -- Ryan Williams and Darren Evans have stolen the spotlight, but don't forget about Josh Oglesby and Kenny Lewis Jr., whose status after a torn Achilles last season will be re-evaluated at the end of the summer. Oglesby can be a threat to catch the ball, but this is still Evans' show. Williams had a great spring game, but Evans is coming off a record-setting freshman season.

3. Miami -- Graig Cooper is the team's leading returning rusher and one of the most versatile players on the roster. He and Javarris James make a tough 1-2 punch, but Cooper has his sights set on a 1,000-yard season. They've also got a great recruit in Mike James, and Lee Chambers and Damien Berry give the position added depth.

4. Wake Forest -- Wake has three capable tailbacks in Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass and Kevin Harris, who each had a 100-yard game last year and started at least one game. They'll have an improved offensive line blocking for them this year.

5. Boston College -- Josh Haden and Montel Harris were two of the most productive freshmen in the country last year, as they combined for 106 yards per game. They'll benefit tremendously from that experience, plus be working behind one of the best offensive lines in the ACC.

6. Florida State -- The Noles lost their leading rusher in Antone Smith, but Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones have the skills to compensate for it and the FSU running game shouldn't miss a beat. Thomas lost only 10 yards rushing all of last year, and had a breakout freshman season. Jones showed his potential in the Champs Sports Bowl with 55 yards and a touchdown on four carries.

7. Maryland -- The Terps have a solid group in Da'Rel Scott, Davin Meggett and Morgan Green, who ran for a career-high 72 yards in the Humanitarian Bowl. Scott is their star, as he rushed for 1,133 yards and eight touchdowns last year, but he's got to work on running lower and tougher between the tackles. He could be more of a complete back if he got better at running routes and improved his pass protection.

8. Clemson -- The Tigers have the most accomplished, versatile back in the ACC right now in C.J. Spiller, and he's going to get the bulk of the carries without James Davis to share it with this year. The question is if he can handle it. Sophomore Jamie Harper has been working hard this offseason for an increased role, but the Tigers definitely don't have the depth of the other teams, leaving the job almost entirely to Spiller.

9. NC State -- Just as the Wolfpack welcomed back Toney Baker, Jamelle Eugene went down with a shoulder injury and missed spring drills. Brandon Barnes and James Washington benefited from Eugene's absence, but the Pack will need to keep their top two backs healthy this fall. It will be interesting to see how effective Baker is considering he hasn't played in full pads since he was injured in the season opener two years ago.

10. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels return all of their running backs from a year ago, and should see more consistency now that everyone knows their roles. Shaun Draughn became the starter midway through last season and rushed for 866 yards, and Ryan Houston gave a powerful push off the bench, leading the team with eight touchdowns, including six from just a yard out. Freshman Jamal Womble impressed the staff this spring.

11. Duke -- The return of Re'quan Boyette will help the Blue Devils tremendously, and they're in a much better position than they were a year ago. While Boyette was out, Jay Hollingsworth led the team in rushing with 399 yards while catching 25 passes for an additional 188 yards and two touchdowns. Tony Jackson, a converted safety in his second year with the program, rushed for 259 yards while catching 12 passes for 106 yards and one touchdown.

12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers have to replace their leading rusher and team leader in Cedric Peerman, which means Mikell Simpson is going to have to revert to his 2007 form. Simpson was hampered by injuries and missed three games as a result last year. He ran for 570 yards in 2007 before dropping to 262 last year.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 21, 2009
5/21/09
12:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There's not a lot out there today, folks, but you can always count on ESPN for a little ACC news. Bruce Feldman caught up with Miami coach Randy Shannon recently and posted this Q&A.

The Sporting News named four programs on the rise, and four on the decline, and included two ACC schools. Can you guess who's in and under which category they fell?

Florida State's wait to hear back from the NCAA's committee on infractions just got longer. The committee now has until June 2 to respond to FSU's appeal.

Former Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman has a knack for shining as a person as much as he does a player, and he's taken that humble approach to the next level. The Baltimore Sun's Kevin Cowherd writes that Ravens fans should be cheering so hard for Peerman their "lungs turn to sandpaper."

Here's an older one I missed before ... Former Wake Forest kicker Sam Swank hasn't gone to Plan B just yet -- he's still trying to kick in the NFL, and the Eagles are giving him a chance.

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.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 29, 2009
4/29/09
12:51
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Around the ACC we go ...

  • Is North Carolina being too selective in its recruiting?
  • Andy Staples of SI.com named the top 25 teams this spring, and three ACC teams made his cut.
  • Injuries hampered their college careers, but a few players from Georgia Tech still have high hopes for the next level. 
  • Former Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman was selected later than he expected in the NFL draft, but on that Sunday, "Preacher Peerman" still felt blessed.
  • Maryland is holding its own with the rest of the ACC when it comes to the NFL draft -- something it didn't do for a period of time Patrick Stevens like to call "the 1990s."
  • Virginia Tech looked better this spring, but that doesn't mean the Hokies don't have a few questions left to answer this summer.

ACC's unheralded NFL draft picks

April, 21, 2009
4/21/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

With the NFL draft scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday, much attention will be paid to the ACC's highest round picks like linebacker Aaron Curry. Over the past three years, the ACC has seen more of its players taken in the first round (25) than any other league, as well as more of its players drafted (115) than any other conference.

Just because a player isn't drafted in the first three rounds, though, doesn't mean he isn't destined for a successful NFL career, and this year the ACC has plenty of such players. There are several who are borderline third- and fourth-round picks, but even more who are relative unknowns capable of making names for themselves at the next level.

Don't forget about Miami's little used linebacker, Spencer Adkins, who has been getting a fair share of attention from scouts lately. He was used in a lot of third down situations as a pass-rusher. Aside from Bruce Johnson, he is the Canes' top prospect. North Carolina tight end Richard Quinn is ascending the draft boards quickly. He could conceivably be a third-rounder.

Here are three players who aren't expected to be drafted in the first three rounds, but will still be quality players in the NFL:

1. Victor "Macho" Harris, CB, Virginia Tech -- A potential late third-round, early fourth-round pick, Harris is a hard-hitter with exceptional ball skills. He reads blocks well and is a scoring threat, especially in the open field.

2. Anthony Hill, TE, NC State -- He doesn't drop many balls, he stays tough in traffic, and is efficient getting into his routes. He's a strong blocker who would have been much more productive had his career not been marred by injuries.

3. Aaron Kelly, WR, Clemson -- He uses his height to his advantage for jump balls, can create separation and be a threat for yards after catch. He is an average blocker, but was underutilized in Clemson's offense last year.

Other potentially late ACC picks worth keeping an eye on:

Virginia's o-line gives new offense stability

April, 7, 2009
4/07/09
2:46
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's tough to find faces that aren't new on Virginia's offense this spring -- the Cavaliers have a new offensive coordinator in Gregg Brandon, they'll likely make a switch at quarterback, and they've got to find new leading receivers and rushers. The stability, though, can be found where college offenses usually need it the most -- up front.

With the exception of NFL-bound left tackle Eugene Monroe, Virginia returns four starters on the offensive line, including senior right tackle Will Barker. Barker enters his fourth season with 37 career starts. Next to him is junior B.J. Cabbell at right guard. Cabbell proved to be an effective blocker last season in his first year as the starter. Fellow junior Jack Shields was another first-time starter a year ago who improved throughout the season.

Sophomore Austin Pasztor moved into the starting line-up in the fifth week against Maryland and remained there the rest of the season.

"Everything seems to be going real smooth," Shields said. "We've been picking up the new offense really well, even into the two-and three deep, everyone has a good grasp on it. It looks really promising. It really does look like everything is going the way we want it."

Sophomore Landon Bradley backed up Monroe and while he lacks game experience, Bradley has been getting the bulk of the reps there this spring.

"With everyone getting a lot of experience last year and Landon, he's been around for a while, so he's gotten a lot of experience at practice being around some of the older guys," Barker said. "We're all ready to go, especially in this new offense. We're really excited about it.

"There's a lot of new things we've had to learn, but there's also been a lot of carryover from our old offense," he said. "We were able to use some of the same communication, language, terminology. I think we're all pretty happy about it. We feel pretty comfortable after a couple of weeks to learn it, we feel pretty solid about it now.

While the starters have somewhat cemented their roles, depth is usually an issue and Virginia is no exception. Sophomore center Anthony Mihota is the only other lineman who has seen any significant playing time, as he started in place of an injured Shields in last season's finale against Virginia Tech.

Without hesitation, Shields said the area the line needs to make the most improvement is in the running game. Despite talented tailback Cedric Peerman lining up almost every game, Virginia ranked 108th in the country and last in the ACC in rushing offense last year.

"We definitely need to make drastic improvement there," he said. "We're just watching a lot of film and focusing hard on the techniques ... we're just drilling and drilling. Drills that might seem pointless to some people but in reality once you get the hang of them it becomes second nature and that's what you need in the run game -- coming off the ball with the right speed, fitting on the linebackers the right way."

They did well in protecting the quarterbacks, though, and led the ACC in fewest sacks allowed. (1.33 per game).

"Obviously we want to score a lot more points this year, and I think we will," Barker said. "The pass protection has been pretty good for us. If we get this run game going we'll be pretty good too."

Virginia's offense in midst of makeover

March, 27, 2009
3/27/09
3:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Welcome to 2009, Virginia.

"I feel as though this offense, it creates more modern-day football," senior running back Mikell Simpson said of the Cavaliers' new offense. "A lot of teams are converting to the spread offense, and they've had a lot of success with it. If you look at the national championship teams, they've pretty much been running the spread offense. So it's just making changes to the modern-day game."

 
  Andrew Weber/Icon SMI
  New offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon brought his version of the spread with him from Bowling Green.

There were sweeping changes to Virginia's staff following its 5-7 finish in 2008, among them the hiring of Gregg Brandon as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. After finishing in the bottom third of the ACC in offense the past three seasons, it was time for a change.

Simpson said the players are excited about the new offense, in large part because they're all starting from a clean slate and Brandon wants the best five skill players on the field, regardless of what position they play.

Virginia lost its leading rushers and receivers, but four starters return on the offensive line and the Cavaliers still have offensive leaders like Simpson and quarterback Jameel Sewell.
It's a no-huddle offense designed to keep defenses off guard and create mismatches, and if the players notice a defense is lined up to stop a particular play, they can check out of it.

"Now it's get to the line, look over, get the signal and go," Simpson said. "It's not that difficult. The thing that will catch you off-guard is you have to look at your coach to get the signal and you can't miss the sign. If you miss the sign, you're eventually going to mess the play up, but everybody has been paying attention and getting the signals down."

Simpson said Brandon is as up-tempo as his offense. Brandon spent six seasons as head coach at Bowling Green, where he compiled a 44-30 record and led the Falcons to three bowl appearances. His 2004 team was one of the most potent offenses in Mid-American Conference history, finishing second in the country in total yards per game (506.3) and fourth in scoring (44.3 points per game).

"He knows his offense in and out, and he tells us the best five skill players are going to play, not according to position, so everyone is real excited about that," Simpson said. "Everybody is starting off new, whatever five guys are the best -- it doesn't matter what position they play -- he'll have five wide receivers out there or five running backs, it doesn't matter."

The practices are scripted where a few periods are focused on running the ball, and others are devoted entirely to running routes. Simpson said the running backs are practicing with the receivers half the time.

"Whatever they do, we do," Simpson said. "We're catching on just as much as they are."

Simpson said coach Al Groh has given Brandon the keys to the offense, that he can call any play and run any offensive set he wants to run.

"He just brought the whole Bowling Green system with him," Simpson said.

That's why they've been watching plenty of film of Bowling Green. In four of his six seasons as head coach, Brandon's teams averaged more than 400 yards of offense per game. Still, they need to find the players to execute it.

With Cedric Peerman gone, Simpson is No. 1 on the depth chart this spring. He's the most experienced returning ball carrier, but was hindered by injuries last year and missed the last three games as a result.

He ran for 570 yards in 2007 and 262 last year. In this offense, it sounds like he'll have more of a chance to get on the field.

"With the new offense, anybody can be in the game at the same time," he said. "So sometimes we can have two tailbacks in, and one lined up in the backfield and one out wide or in the slot, or we can go to three tailbacks. It really doesn't matter. So everybody is real energetic about this offense because everybody knows they have a chance to play, as opposed to the old offense, where it was just one running back in the game, and even if you were good enough to play, that one running back was on the field.

"Everything we're doing I pretty much love right now," Simpson said. "I'm excited to get back out on the field. Last year I had a down year. I'm trying to get back out here and prove to people I can still play."

Making a point in the ACC

March, 2, 2009
3/02/09
3:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

If you don't score, it's hard to win, which is why it's worth taking a look at how much scoring returns for each team this spring. Expectations are high for Florida State in the Atlantic Division, but the Seminoles took the biggest hit, as they lost the ACC's top two overall scorers in kicker Graham Gano and running back Antone Smith. FSU had the best scoring offense in the ACC last year with an average of 33.4 points per game. Note the past tense.

These percentages don't mean teams won't find playmakers to compensate for the scoring production they lost, but it's an indicator of how much work needs to be done this spring and summer.

Here's a look the percentage of points coming back in the ACC this spring, with a quick note on each:

Georgia Tech -- 93.7 percent
Jonathan Dwyer was second in the ACC last year with 13 touchdowns and an average of 6.2 points.

Miami -- 91.5 percent
• Eighteen different players scored last year for Miami, and 13 of them return. Matt Bosher made 18 of 20 fields goals last year and accounted for 7.2 points per game. Running back Graig Cooper scored a team-high six touchdowns.

Boston College -- 73.1 percent
• The Eagles return three of their top four scorers from last year's Atlantic Division championship team, including Steve Aponavicius, who made 14 of 21 field goals, and running back Montel Harris, who scored six touchdowns.

NC State -- 72.5 percent
• The Pack will have to replace Andre Brown, who scored nine of their 37 touchdowns. Receiver Owen Spencer could help, as will the return of tailback Toney Baker.

North Carolina -- 65.6 percent
• Former receiver Hakeem Nicks accounted for 13 touchdowns last year, including 12 touchdown receptions. Kicker Casey Barth and tailback Ryan Houston, who combined for 111 points, return.

Wake Forest -- 57.9 percent
• The Demon Deacons will sorely miss kicker Sam Swank, but they learned to live without him when Swank was injured last year. Running back Brandon Pendergrass returns, and there will be plenty of competition this spring at running back and wide receiver.

Virginia Tech -- 57.6 percent
Darren Evans scored 11 rushing touchdowns last year, and the Hokies have plenty of playmakers, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor, returning. Four defenders scored last year, and only one -- Stephan Virgil -- returns.

Duke -- 52.7 percent
• They'll miss Eron Riley and his eight touchdowns, and running back Clifford Harris and his six touchdowns, but the return of previously injured running back Re'quan Boyette should help.

Virginia -- 50.3 percent
• Kicker Yannick Reyering, tailback Cedric Peerman and Kevin Ogletree, the team's top three scorers from '08, are gone. It should help, though, to have Jameel Sewell back.

Maryland -- 47.3 percent
• The Terps will have to replace kicker Obi Egekeze, but quarterback Chris Turner and running back Da'Rel Scott return, along with running backs Morgan Green and Davin Meggett.

Clemson -- 40.4 percent
C.J. Spiller scored 11 touchdowns last year (seven rush, three pass, one return), and averaged 5.5 points per game).

Florida State -- 29 percent
• Carlton Jones or Jermaine Thomas will have to compensate for the loss of Smith, but both are talented enough to do that, and they'll be behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.

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 ready to run in '09

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
5:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

I made a small mistake during my recent interview with Georgia Tech running back Anthony Allen, who also happens to have a black belt in taekwondo. I confessed I was having a hard time deciding who would have the best backfield in the ACC this fall -- Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech.

Whoops.

"You say what?!" he asked, incredulously.

"It's a toss-up."

"A toss-up? How are you gonna talk to me on the phone and say it's a toss-up?"

"Well, gimme a reason."

"I'll give you one reason for one player," he said. "We have the ACC Player of the Year right now. Then we have a guy who holds records at another Division I college."

(Allen set the single-game rushing record when he was at Louisville, and ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer led the ACC with 107.3 rushing yards per game last year).

Fair enough.

Allen and Dwyer, not to mention Lucas Cox, Roddy Jones, Josh Nesbitt and Richard Watson make six good reasons why Georgia Tech will have the best backfield in the ACC next season. Virginia Tech will make a strong case with the return of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, Darren Evans and rookie Ryan Williams. Despite much of the hype, though, Williams is still unproven, and there is a lot of experience returning elsewhere in the ACC.

In fact, eight of the top 10 rushers from 2008 return. Four of them, though, are Dwyer, Nesbitt, Taylor and Evans. The two seniors were Virginia's Cedric Peerman, and Antone Smith at FSU.

With so much experience returning, the running game appears to be an early strength of the ACC -- Duke included. As of right now, though, it's hard to argue against Allen -- Georgia Tech looks the strongest.

Pre-spring ACC power rankings

February, 9, 2009
2/09/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

With the NFL departures announced, and signing day officially over, it's time for a re-ranking heading into spring football. Keep in mind things change during spring practice -- some players get hurt, some win position battles, but here's the first early peek at how the ACC might fare in 2009:

1. Virginia Tech -- The ACC and Orange Bowl champs return 16 starters, and there are high expectations for an offensive backfield that will contain shifty quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and tailbacks Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. If the defense maintains its tradition without Victor "Macho" Harris, the Hokies could be a top 10 team.

2. Florida State -- The defense took some hits -- the most notable being the loss of defensive end Everette Brown -- but should have enough experience to compensate for it. The offensive line should be one of the best in the conference and give returning quarterback Christian Ponder and tailback Jermaine Thomas plenty of help. The question is the depth at receiver after the loss of Preston Parker, Greg Carr, and probably Corey Surrency. FSU also loses Lou Groza award winner Graham Gano.

3. Georgia Tech -- Overall, this team will be experienced and deeper -- it will return every starter at the skill positions -- but the Yellow Jackets must reload on the defensive front and improve on the offensive line. There will be three new starters on the defensive line, and Tech lost two senior starters on the offensive line. There are 25 players on the roster, though, who have at least one career start.

4. Miami -- Coach Randy Shannon brought in yet another outstanding recruiting class, and playing so many true freshmen in 2008 should help this season. There shouldn't be any quarterback drama this season, and Jacory Harris should only improve under first-year coordinator Mark Whipple. Defensive coordinator is still a question mark, though.

5. North Carolina -- Never count out a Butch Davis-coached team, but the Tar Heels will be a question mark until a new batch of receivers proves otherwise. Brooks Foster, Brandon Tate and Hakeem Nicks accounted for 114 receptions in 2008, and all three have left for the NFL. Safety Trimane Goddard is arguably the biggest loss on defense.

6. NC State -- If the Pack stay healthy -- something they haven't been able to do for the past two seasons -- NC State could be the sleeper in the Atlantic Division. It has to replace tight end Anthony Hill and running back Andre Brown, though, and 2007 leading receiver Donald Bowens will miss spring practice because of knee surgery.

7. Clemson -- Speedy playmakers C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford are back, but they'll be under the direction of a new quarterback and a new offensive coordinator. Let's see how the Tigers do without any expectations for a change.

8. Maryland -- The Terps graduated 30 seniors and junior receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey left for the NFL. One of the biggest question marks is how they'll fare up front after the graduation of three starting offensive linemen, including All-ACC center Edwin Williams. The defense, which loses four starters from its front seven, will be led by first-year coordinator Don Brown.

9. Wake Forest -- The good news for the Deacs is the offensive line should better, and they return veteran quarterback Riley Skinner. The bad news is they'll sorely miss some of the best defensive players the program has had in recent years, along with kicker Sam Swank.

10. Virginia -- If quarterback Jameel Sewell makes a smooth transition back into the lineup and quickly learns the new offense, the Cavs could surprise some people this season. They'll have to replace all three starters at linebacker, though, and will miss starting receivers Kevin Ogletree and Maurice Covington, as well as leading rusher Cedric Peerman.

11. Boston College -- Consider this a rebuilding year for the Eagles. The loss of defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace will have an effect up front. With a new staff, a small recruiting class and a young starting quarterback, the only direction for BC to head is up.

12. Duke -- The Blue Devils have arguably one of the league's top quarterbacks in Thaddeus Lewis, but he won't have Eron Riley to throw it to this season. Duke also loses ACC-leading tackler Michael Tauiliili at linebacker. Still, the Blue Devils should take another step forward in their second season under David Cutcliffe.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 3, 2009
2/03/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The official invitation list for the NFL scouting combine is out, and there are plenty of ACC players who will participate in the four-day job interview in Indianapolis from Feb. 18-24. Just because a player didn't make the list doesn't mean he won't be drafted, but here are the ACC players by school who were invited to the combine:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Kevin Akins, cornerback/linebacker

Ron Brace, defensive tackle

B.J. Raji, defensive tackle

CLEMSON

Chris Clemons, safety

James Davis, running back

Michael Hamlin, safety

Cullen Harper, quarterback

Aaron Kelly, receiver

Dorell Scott, defensive tackle

FLORIDA STATE

Everette Brown, defensive end

Graham Gano, punter/placekicker

GEORGIA TECH

Andrew Gardner, offensive tackle

Michael Johnson, defensive end

Darryl Richard, defensive tackle

Vance Walker, defensive tackle

Jahi Word-Daniels, cornerback

MARYLAND

Kevin Barnes, cornerback

Moise Fokou, outside linebacker

Dan Gronkowski, tight end

Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver

Jaimie Thomas, offensive guard

Edwin Williams, center

MIAMI

Bruce Johnson, cornerback

NORTH CAROLINA

Brooks Foster, wide receiver

Hakeem Nicks, wide recevier

Richard Quinn, tight end

Garrett Reynolds, offensive tackle

Brandon Tate, wide receiver

NC STATE

Andre Brown, running back

Anthony Hill, tight end

VIRGINIA

Eugene Monroe, offensive tackle

Kevin Ogletree, wide receiver

Cedric Peerman, tailback

John Phillips, tight end

Clint Sintim, linebacker

VIRGINIA TECH

Victor "Macho" Harris, cornerback

Orion Martin, defensive end

WAKE FOREST

Stanley Arnoux, linebacker

Aaron Curry, linebacker

Alphonso Smith, cornerback

Sam Swank, punter/placekicker

Chip Vaughn, safety

Weekend rewind: Senior Bowl

January, 26, 2009
1/26/09
2:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

For those of you who missed the Under Armour Senior Bowl this past weekend, here's a quick look at how some of the ACC players fared:

Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman: Led the North team with five carries for 34 yards, and had a fumble

NC State running back Andre Brown: 10 carries, 31 yards and a 1-yard touchdown run; caught two passes for 41 yards. Led South team with 72 all-purpose yards.

Clemson running back James Davis: Nine carries, 32 yards

Florida State running back Antone Smith: Two carries, 7 yards

Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper: Completed 2 of 5 passes for 44 yards (one was 32 yards long) and made one tackle

FSU receiver Greg Carr: Caught one pass for 9 yards

Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim: Five unassisted, one assisted tackle (fourth on the North team). Had one tackle for a loss of 2 yards.

Boston College defensive tackle Ron Brace: Two assisted tackles

Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji: One unassisted tackle

Clemson safety Michael Hamlin: Four unassisted, one assisted tackle

Wake Forest safety Chip Vaughn: Two tackles

Virginia Tech corner back Victor "Macho" Harris: One punt return for 10 yards

Peerman, Brown, Raji, Harris, Vaughn and Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith were all starters.

Best of luck to these guys and the other ACC seniors in this year's class, whether their next step is on the field or off.

Virginia's recruiting needs

January, 15, 2009
1/15/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Virginia is having more success in the Tidewater area than in the past and some of that has been attributed to head defensive coach Bob Pruett, who used to be a high school coach in Virginia and is entering his second season on Al Groh's staff. Regardless of where they come from, the Cavaliers will need to bring in some wide receivers and linebackers in this class.

With recent hires of offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon and receivers coach Latrell Scott, Virginia will need some receivers for the spread offense the Cavaliers will implement in 2009.

The staff isn't really looking for anyone who will play immediately, but with the new offense, the departure of wide receiver Kevin Ogletree for the NFL draft and starter Maurice Covington graduated, freshmen receivers will have a chance to get on the field if they're capable.

The staff recently took an interest in receiver Bobby Smith (Richmond, Va.), and has three commitments from receivers. The other glaring holes on offense will be left by the graduation of tailback Cedric Peerman, tight end John Phillips and left tackle Eugene Monroe.

Virginia will also have to re-stock the linebacker position, where three of the four starters will have graduated and the fourth starter -- Denzel Burell -- will be a senior. Virginia will sorely miss starting linebackers Antonio Appleby, Jon Copper and Clint Sintim.

ACC will have 18 in Under Armour Senior Bowl

January, 12, 2009
1/12/09
4:02
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

I just received the final list of ACC players who will participate in the Under Armour Senior Bowl on Jan. 24 in Mobile, Ala., and the newest release includes four players from Virginia. It's only fitting that more than half of these bowl-bound players are defenders.

Here is the final list:

Boston College: defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace

Clemson: Cullen Harper, quarterback; James Davis, running back; Michael Hamlin, safety

Georgia Tech: Vance Walker, defensive tackle; Michael Johnson, defensive end

North Carolina: Brooks Foster, wide receiver

North Carolina St.: Anthony Hill, tight end; Andre Brown, running back

Virginia: Eugene Monroe, left tackle; Cedric Peerman, running back; John Phillips, tight end; Clint Sintim, linebacker

Virginia Tech: Macho Harris, corner

Wake Forest: Aaron Curry, linebacker; Alphonso Smith, cornerback; Chip Vaughn, safety

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