ACC: Charlie Hatcher

Duke spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
10:30
AM ET
2011 overall record: 3-9
2011 conference record: 1-7 (6th, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 9; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
WR Conner Vernon, WR Brandon Braxton, RT Perry Simmons, RG Laken Tomlinson, C Brian Moore, QB Sean Renfree, DE Justin Foxx, DT Sydney Sarmiento, DE Kenny Anunike, LB Kelby Brown, LB Austin Gamble, CB Ross Cockrell, S Jordon Byas, S Walt Canty

Key losses
WR Donovan Varner, LT Kyle Hill, NG Charlie Hatcher, CB Johnny Williams, S Matt Daniels, PK Will Snyderwine, P Alex King

2011 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Juwan Thompson* (457 yards)
Passing: Sean Renfree* (2,891 yards)
Receiving: Conner Vernon* (956 yards)
Tackles: Matt Daniels (126)
Sacks: Kenny Anunike* (4)
Interceptions: Matt Daniels (2)

Spring answers

1. Sean Renfree keeps improving: Coach David Cutcliffe has talked about a pro future for Renfree. Getting to pick the brain of Cutcliffe's pupil, Peyton Manning, probably doesn't hurt. Neither does turning in another strong spring, as Renfree returns for his third year as a starter hoping, once again, to help the program take the next step.

2. Offensive line is cohesive: Much of the production from last season's unit is back, and the group will only grow closer with an offseason volunteer trip to Ethiopia, where 11 of Duke's offensive linemen currently are. The unit could help pave the way for a talented incoming running back class, along with returning starter Juwan Thompson.

3. Conner Vernon ready to make plays: Cutcliffe has said it will take playmakers for Duke to take the next step, and he certainly has one in Vernon, who enters 2012 within striking distance of the ACC receiving record. Having an experienced quarterback such as Renfree throwing to him should help him in the pursuit.

Fall questions

1. Will the defense step up? It is Year 2 under coordinator Jim Knowles and his 4-2-5 scheme, and plenty of talent is back. Still, the unit loses safety Matt Daniels and ranked near the bottom of most defensive categories among ACC schools last season.

2. Can the Blue Devils handle this schedule? FIU and Stanford aren't exactly nonconference cupcakes, especially for a school that has traditionally been an ACC bottom-feeder. Time will only tell if those first two games, regardless of outcome, serve the Blue Devils well before jumping into their conference slate.

3. Is this The Year? Duke holds the longest current bowl-less drought, having not played in the postseason since 1994. Three of Duke's nine losses last season came by a combined seven points, perhaps suggesting that the team was closer to breaking through than many would think. There is plenty of returning talent in key spots, but a tough schedule and recent history suggest that it will still take a huge effort for the Blue Devils to extend their season.

Week 3: Did you know?

September, 16, 2011
9/16/11
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Thanks to the sports information directors throughout the league for this week’s nifty notes:

ACC: The top two tacklers in the nation and three of the top four are currently from the ACC. Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly leads the nation in tackles with 17.5 per game, but Maryland linebacker Darin Drakeford is right behind him, after making 14 hits in the Terps’ 32-24 win over Miami on Labor Day. Terps’ linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield is in a four-way tie for fourth, having made 13 tackles against the Hurricanes. – ACC game notes

BOSTON COLLEGE: Boston College’s defense has so far faced opponents who have run the ball 67 percent of the time. Northwestern and Central Florida combined to record 99 rushing attempts times out of 148 total plays called. They combined for 462 yards on the ground, six touchdowns and averaged 4.7 yards per carry and 231 yards per game. The Eagles led the nation in rushing defense last season. – BC game notes

CLEMSON: When Clemson hosts Auburn on Saturday, it will be just the third time the defending national champion has come to Clemson and the ACC Tigers have won each of the previous two occasions. Clemson defeated Georgia in 1981 (13-3) after the Bulldogs won the 1980 title and downed Georgia Tech (9-7) in 1991 after Bobby Ross’s team won the 1990 UPI National Championship. Each of those two previous meetings with the defending champ at Clemson took place in the third game of the season. When the Tigers downed Georgia Tech in 1991, Georgia Tech was 19th in the nation entering the game, the same ranking for Auburn this weekend.- Tim Bourret

DUKE: Led by redshirt senior nose guard Charlie Hatcher, Duke is using an 11-man rotation along its defensive line. Hatcher is the lone lineman playing his final season of eligibility as the group includes six redshirt freshmen, two redshirt sophomores and two redshirt juniors. – Art Chase

FLORIDA STATE: FSU is 3-3 at home when ESPN’s College GameDay crew is on campus, including the only previous time the Seminoles have hosted a top-ranked team at home. That was in 1996, when No. 2 Florida State knocked off No. 1 Florida, 24-21, securing a Sugar Bowl berth and a shot at the national championship. That victory remains the Seminoles’ lone win against an AP top-ranked opponent. FSU is 1-5 all-time against teams ranked No. 1. – Bob Thomas

GEORGIA TECH: Quarterback Tevin Washington’s pass efficiency rating is currently 329.7. He has completed 13 of 21 passes for 473 yards and five touchdowns. Washington leads the ACC this week in pass efficiency rating, but falls nine pass attempts short of the NCAA minimum to qualify. – ACC game notes

MARYLAND: After going 41 games without scoring via a fumble return or interception return (Erin Henderson in 2006 vs. Virginia), Maryland has scored eight defensive touchdowns in the past 17games, including a pair against Miami in the Terps’ 31-24 Labor Day win. Joe Vellano returned a fumble 30 yards for a score and Cameron Chism had a 54-yard interception return for a touchdown. – Shawn Nestor

MIAMI: Miami’s 172 rushing yards at Maryland was the Hurricanes’ most in a road opener since also rushing for 172 in a win on Sept. 23, 2004 at Houston.- Miami game notes

NORTH CAROLINA: North Carolina leads the ACC and ranks third in the country in rushing defense, allowing just 30 yards per game. Virginia Tech is second at 51 yards per game. Last week, Carolina’s defense held Rutgers to just 1 yard rushing. The Scarlet Knights had five different players rush a combined 21 times for 18 net yards, but quarterback Chas Dodd was sacked four times for 17 yards. The 1 yard rushing is the fewest by an opponent since Wake Forest rushed for minus two yards in 2000. – Kevin Best

NC STATE: The Wolfpack’s shorthanded D gave up 337 passing yards and 438 yards of total offense to Wake Forest. In the opener, Liberty gained 406 yards of total offense. The good news? NC State is tied for second in the nation this week with five interceptions. - NCSU game notes

VIRGINIA: On Sept. 7, Virginia offensive lineman Oday Aboushi was one of 12 Muslim-American athletes invited to Washington, D.C. by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Department of State to commemorate Eid ul-Fitr, the three-day celebration at the end of Ramadan, Islam’s holy month of fasting. Other athletes at the reception included Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried, former NFL offensive lineman Ephraim Salaam and professional boxer Amir Khan. A 6-6, 310-pound junior from Staten Island, N.Y., Aboushi’s parents are Palestinians who immigrated to the United States. “I was very humbled to be there,” said Aboushi, who had the chance to meet and talk with Clinton at the event. “Hearing everybody else’s stories of being Muslim athletes around the nation was really inspiring and will help me to get better.” – Jim Daves

VIRGINIA TECH: Opponents have been charged with a just one penalty during the first two games. – Hokies’ game notes

WAKE FOREST: Wake Forest’s offensive line starters, weighing in at a collective 1,570 pounds, is the biggest line in school history. Guards Joe Looney (320) and Mike Hoag (305), tackles Dennis Godfrey (315) and Doug Weaver (320) and center Garrick Williams (310) are all over 300 pounds. The five starters average 314 pounds per man. The next largest line in school history was the 1998 line consisting of guards Brian Wolverton (310) and Sam Settar (328), tackles Jeff Flowe and Michael Collins, and center Marlon Curtis (287), who combined for 1,568 pounds of 313.6 per man. – Steve Shutt

Coaching 'em up: Duke

July, 15, 2011
7/15/11
3:30
PM ET
Our series taking a look at one assistant coach whose position group will be in the spotlight this fall continues today with Duke.

Coach: Rick Petri

Position: Defensive line

Experience: Petri has 36 years of college coaching on his résumé, including six years with Duke coach David Cutcliffe at Ole Miss (1998-2004). At Ole Miss, Petri coached the defensive tackles and helped the Rebels to a 44-29 record and four bowl wins. Petri was hired at Duke after one season at Miami. From 2005-09, Petri coached at Kentucky, where he helped the Wildcats to four consecutive bowl game appearances that included wins over Clemson (2006 Music City Bowl), Florida State (2007 Music City Bowl) and East Carolina (2009 Liberty Bowl). He began his career at Pittsburg State, and spent a decade at Arkansas State before heading to Ole Miss. After one season at Louisiana Tech (1992), Petri coached three seasons at Miami (1993-95) as the Hurricanes went 27-7, won two Big East championships, finished all three seasons ranked in the Associated Press national poll and played in both the Fiesta and Orange Bowls. From 1996-98, Petri coached the defensive ends at South Carolina.

Of note: Petri helped make significant improvements to Miami’s defense last year. He estimated the sacks created by Miami’s offensive linemen last year increased from 18 to 29.5. The Canes ranked among the league’s leaders in pass defense (1st), pass defense efficiency (1st), opponent third down percentage (2nd), opponent first downs (2nd) total defense (3rd), sacks (3rd), and scoring defense (5th). He said in January that similar numbers should be a realistic goal for Duke:
“No, I think it’s realistic. You’ve got to recruit athletes, like you’re saying. There’s so much about the game that’s pre-snap. You look at pre-snap tendencies, are you studying the opponent? A guy can be a really good football player just by what he works on during the week — studying film, studying the scouting report, studying the opponent, understanding splits, understanding stances, understanding backfield tendencies, all those things. If you have a pre-snap clue, a key that helps you understand which way they’re turning in protection, what type of protection you see, all those things are going to help you become more productive, and none of that depends on what you are physically. That’s what you’re willing to do away from the practice field and willing to do in the classroom, in the meeting room, or in the weight room. Those are things anyone can handle with the desire to do that. … Those are things you can do to help players.”
His challenge: Improve one of the worst defenses in the country. It all starts up front, and one of Duke’s biggest weaknesses has been getting after quarterbacks and creating pressure. Duke ranked 113th in the country last year in sacks and last in the ACC with one per game. They finished No. 109 in tackles for loss. Charlie Hatcher (24 career starts) is the only member of the entire line entering his final season of eligibility. He’ll have to be the anchor from a playmaking and leadership standpoint. Redshirt freshman Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo has good speed off the edge, but the entire group will need to take another step forward in the first season under Petri.

Friday mailblog

July, 1, 2011
7/01/11
2:00
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Every now and then, I get one right ...

Boyd in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Dear Heather, Thanks for ranking Jayron Hosley the #1 CB in the ACC. I always knew you were smart.-Boyd

HD: You're smart, too. Figured out a way into the mailblog.


Padigan in Charleston, SC, writes: Russell Wilson's move to Wisconsin reminds me of the parity in college football coverage: it seems he's gotten more attention in two weeks of flirting with a Big 10 program than his entire three seasons under center at State. If Wilson's to have a stellar season, is there any hope for State to get some trickle-down attention? (something along the lines of, "Where did this guy come from?!") Or should State fans just hold out for, at best, another notch on TOB's pedigree of developing great QBs? That said, here's to Glennon! Thanks for all the work, HD.

HD: That was my point exactly in the video this week about underrated players. If Wilson has a stellar season at Wisconsin, unfortunately I think the only trickle-down effect to NC State will be, 'Man, how did Tom O'Brien let this guy get away?' With that being said, who knows? Maybe Mike Glennon will help State fans forget.


Gavin in Boone, NC, writes: Heather, you keep saying this is Duke's year to surprise many and make a bowl, and yet looking at your position rankings Duke seems to be dead last in a lot of categories. Do you just have that much respect for the Devil's coaching staff?

HD: Well, first, yes, I have a ton of respect for that coaching staff. Second, just because they're last in a lot of categories doesn't mean they're bad. Somebody has to be last, but there is still a talent gap at a lot of positions between Duke and the rest of the ACC. I'm not going to fawn over Duke's defense. It's been atrocious. Those guys at all of those positions have been a part of that and have to earn their way up the rankings. Charlie Hatcher? Yeah, one of the best defensive linemen in the ACC. Probably No. 11 or 12. Kelby Brown? He'll be there soon enough. The running game? It MUST improve. So yeah, there are some good players on that roster, but they must play better.


Shawn in Va., writes: Simple question here. In your opinion, will Miami and Virginia Tech both be undefeated when they play in Blacksburg on October 8th?

HD: Simple answer: Yes. Initial reaction: For Miami, that Maryland game is going to be tough, especially if the Canes' roster is shortened by suspensions that haven't been confirmed. Second, the home game against Clemson is going to be tough for the Hokies. But if Virginia Tech starts out 4-0 -- as it should with that friendly noncon schedule, they should continue that momentum against a Clemson team coming off a tough game against Auburn. I like Miami against the Terps and Ohio State, so yes, I think it's a great possibility.


Anthony in Raleigh, NC, writes: Heather, what is your take on NC State's recent flood of commitments from players that have mostly been lightly recruited. I don't believe you need a team full of 5 stars, but if you are getting players that would otherwise only played 1-AA, I think you are kidding yourself if you think you can compete for championships.

HD: You've heard the saying, 'You are what you eat,' right? Well I believe you are what you recruit, too. I agree teams don't need to load up on five stars if they've got good staffs that can develop talent like Virginia Tech has, but in order to win more than the ACC, then yes, you need elite talent. I think NC State fans should trust the judgement of Tom O'Brien and his staff. They're filling needs -- especially at quarterback -- and they've got a four-star athlete. At ESPN.com, if a player isn't ranked, that doesn't mean he isn't good, it just means our guys haven't broken down film on him yet.


Fred from the moon writes: How come you posted James Gayle at 10 on your defensive end rankings? He only started 2 games last season but only has 2 less sacks than some people who started way more. Whats up with HD?

HD: Because of what Charlie Wiles had to say about him this spring. Expecting big things from VT's revamped defensive line this year. Depth could be an issue, though.

ACC team position rankings: Defensive lines

June, 27, 2011
6/27/11
3:30
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As the title indicated ...

[+] EnlargeQuinton Coples
Mark Dolejs/US PresswireUNC returns a veteran defensive line led by end Quinton Coples.
1. North Carolina: This is a deep and talented group that returns all four starters including Donte Paige-Moss, Jared McAdoo, Quinton Coples and Tydreke Powell. Junior college transfer Sylvester Williams joins three other players who started at least one game: Kareem Martin (three starts), DT Tim Jackson (five starts) and DT Jordan Nix (two starts).

2. Florida State: All four starters return in juniors Brandon Jenkins, Jacobi McDaniel, Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins. Jenkins finished sixth nationally with 13.5 sacks. This group should take another step forward in the second season under coordinator Mark Stoops, but it already has an outstanding base to build on as the Noles ranked third nationally in sacks and 21st in tackles for loss last season.

3. Miami: The Canes should have one of the better rotations in the ACC. They return starters Olivier Vernon, Micanor Regis and Marcus Forston, who combined for 12 sacks and 30.5 TFLs. It’s a deep group, as DE Adewale Ojomo (seven starts), DT Luther Robinson (five starts), DE Marcus Robinson (10 games), DT Curtis Porter (one start), DE Andrew Smith (11 games) and DE Dyron Dye (six games) all have experience.

4. Virginia: Like Florida State, this is another group that should benefit from being in the second season under the same coordinator. Jim Reid switched the scheme back to a traditional 4-3, and the Hoos return a veteran group led by Matt Conrath (33 starts), DT Nick Jenkins (29 starts), and DE Cam Johnson (22 starts).

5. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have a better understanding of what is expected from them in their second season in Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, and all three starters return in ends Izaan Cross (41 tackles) and Jason Peters (52 tackles), and tackle Logan Walls. Defensive tackles Shawn Green, T.J. Barnes and J.C. Lanier will also compete for playing time along with DE Anthony Williams.

6. Maryland: The Terps should be solid up front with the return of Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis and Justin Anderson. Francis is the veteran of the group (19 career starts) and had 44 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season, but Vellano is also an all-conference candidate. The Terps have good depth with Zachariah Kerr, Isaiah Ross and Bradley Johnson.

7. Virginia Tech: This is a group that could and should jump a few spots by the end of the season. On paper, they’ve got to replace three starters, but this spring the group proved capable of getting the Hokies back to their days of dominating on defense. Based on potential, they should be ranked higher, but based on lack of dependable, proven depth, they could even fall lower.

8. Clemson: It will be difficult for the Tigers to replace the production of Da’Quan Bowers, but the defensive line is in capable hands with Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson, and Malliciah Goodman has embraced the challenge of taking Bowers’ spot. Branch was second on the team with five sacks last season and 8.5 tackles for loss. Thompson had 40 tackles, including six for losses. Defensive tackle Rennie Moore, DE Kourtnei Brown and DT Tyler Shatley also have experience.

9. NC State: Defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy is one of the underrated players in the ACC, and he returns along with defensive end Jeff Rieskamp. Several players got significant snaps last season, though, including DE Darryl Cato-Bishop (13 tackles), DT Markus Kuhn (17 tackles, and DT Brian Slay (20 tackles, two TFLs).

10. Wake Forest: The Deacs return three starters including Tristan Dorty, Kyle Wilber and Zack Thompson. Thompson only started five games last season, but after spring practices, coach Jim Grobe said Thompson has all-conference potential.

11. Boston College: Starters Max Holloway and Kaleb Ramsey return, along with four other linemen (DTs Dillon Quinn and Conor O’Neal, and DEs Dan Williams and Kasim Edebali) who each started at least two games last fall.

12. Duke: Until proven otherwise, this is where the Blue Devils belong, but Rick Petri was hired to change that. He’ll have veteran nose guard Charlie Hatcher (24 career starts) to work with, and sophomore Sydney Sarmiento, who started 11 games last season. Junior Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx and DEs Desmond Johnson and Jamal Wallace could also see playing time.

Duke spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
10:30
AM ET
2010 overall record: 3-9

2010 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR Conner Vernon, WR Donovan Varner, QB Sean Renfree, TE Cooper Helfet, PK Will Snyderwine, S Matt Daniels, NG Charlie Hatcher, LT Kyle Hill, C Brian Moore.

Key losses

LB Abraham Kromah, DE Patrick Egboh, WR Austin Kelly, C Bryan Morgan

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Desmond Scott* (530 yards)

Passing: Renfree* (3,131 yds)

Receiving: Vernon* (973 yds)

Tackles: Kromah (129)

Sacks: Egboh (4.5)

Interceptions: Ross Cockrell* (3)

Spring answers

1. Sean Renfree has a chance to be a special quarterback. Coach David Cutcliffe said repeatedly this spring that his quarterback had a great spring, not a good one. Renfree has a chance to flourish in his second season as a full-time starter, especially in a division filled with rookies at the position and one of the top receiving corps in the ACC.

2 New talent emerging. Brandon Braxton showed this spring that he has the potential to be an excellent fit with Varner and Vernon as Blue Devils’ top three wideouts. Duke will also have a new face at center, where Moore takes over for graduated three-year starter Morgan. His move from guard paid off this spring.

3. Duke will be more athletic on defense. It remains to be seen if the Blue Devils will stop anyone this fall, but they’ll at least look better trying to. Duke was more athletic and faster this spring, and part of that has to do with the commitment to a 4-2-5 defensive scheme to get a third safety on the field. Duke dabbled in it a bit last season but will use it exclusively this year under first-year coordinator Jim Knowles.

Fall questions

1. How much better will the defensive line be? Hatcher is the only member of the entire line entering his final season of eligibility. He’ll have to carry the load from a playmaking and leadership standpoint. Redshirt freshman Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo has good speed off the edge, but the entire group will need to take another step forward in the first season under assistant Rick Petri.

2. Will the running game finally be a factor? Duke made strides on the ground last season, but still ranked 104th in the country in rushing offense. All of the running backs return, and offensive line coach Matt Luke has his group looking like an ACC offensive line, but he only has one starter in his final season of eligibility in Hill at left tackle. It’s still a young group, but they’ve got more size and athleticism than in the past. Josh Snead is the fastest of the backs, Scott is the most well-rounded, and Juwan Thompson has the most upside.

3. Can Duke get to the quarterback? Duke ranked 113th in the country and last in the league in sacks last season with one per game. Knowles likes to blitz, but his players have to have confidence to make it work.

Duke's defense making strides

March, 15, 2011
3/15/11
5:00
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Duke’s defenders are well aware of where they ranked nationally in the NCAA’s major statistical categories -- among the worst. In particular, the Blue Devils have struggled up front, and ranked No. 109 in tackles for loss, and No. 113 in sacks. Redshirt senior nose guard Charlie Hatcher said in an interview today that the defense is making progress this spring, despite being under the direction of its third coordinator in as many seasons. Jim Knowles has taken over the defense this year, and Rick Petri was hired to coach the defensive line.

[+] EnlargeCharlie Hatcher.
Mark Dolejs/US PresswireNose tackle Charlie Hatcher says Duke's defense will improve this fall under new coordinator Rick Petri.
Duke returned to spring ball this week after its spring break. Here's what Hatcher had to say about the state of the defense:

How are things going under Rick Petri?

Charlie Hatcher: Rick Petri is doing a great job. He’s bringing in a lot of new fundamentals for us that are different from what we’re used to. It’s breaking old habits, which is pretty difficult for an old guy, but it’s going really well.

New techniques? Can you give me any specific examples?

CH: Before we were doing a lot of ripping off of blocks. We’ve changed that now to doing more swipes and two-gapping.

Do you like the new changes?

CH: I do like them, I think they’re going to help a lot for making more plays and put us in better positions. I’m not liking how difficult it is to break the old habits.

Why do you think you guys have struggled so much in the stats everyone seems to key in on, in terms of getting pressure on quarterbacks?

CH: I’m not really sure. We’ve always had a great D-line coach, we’ve always had great schemes coming in. We just haven’t executed up front as players in the front seven. A bust here, a bust there on blitzes that you can’t bust on, because that’s how big plays happen for the offense. Just minimizing busts would help us a lot when we’re pressuring quarterbacks. They’re putting a lot of focus on that this year. We’re doing a lot of blitz pick-up periods and we’re doing a lot of working on getting to the quarterback and being violent upfield.

How big of a deal has the revolving door been at coordinator?

CH: It’s always difficult to adapt to a new coach, but coach Cut does a great job of bringing in new guys who have the same drive and same vision. It’s always the same type of people. Coach Cut prides himself on having a great staff and great family environment, and he really does a good job of that with all of the new defensive guys we’ve been getting in over the past several years.

How determined are you guys as a D-line or the front seven to improve those numbers, and how much do they bother you, or do you not pay attention to the stats?

CH: Oh, we pay attention to the stats. We talked about that on Day 1. That’s one of our main goals, obviously. Improving those results in wins directly. If we can get to the quarterback more, and get off the field more, you’re going to end up with our offense, which has done really well, to have more time on the field and score more points.

How much progress do you feel like you guys have made so far this spring?

CH: I feel we’ve made leaps and bounds. We came in with a lot of talented guys but not a lot of experience. They’re still learning, but when they know what they’re doing, it’s amazing what they can do because of how athletic they are and how talented they are physically.

How much better do you guys think you can be as a defense this year?

CH: We believe we can push into one of the top defenses in the ACC and that’s our goal, that’s what we’re working on.

Do you feel like expectations should be higher from the outside looking in because it’s Cutcliffe’s fourth season?

CH: Expectations should be higher. We’re putting the expectations on ourselves to be higher. We’re doing a lot, working a lot harder in practice, which is shocking to me, being here for three years with coach Cut already. I didn’t think it could get any harder, but we really stepped it up. We’ve really focused on our own expectations, but with that being said, expectations should rise for us once people see what we’ve been doing and how hard we’re working.

Weekend rewind: Duke scrimmage

February, 28, 2011
2/28/11
9:00
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Attention: There was actual ACC football played on Saturday -- 75 snaps in Wallace Wade Stadium.

Duke, the first ACC team to start spring practices, had its first spring scrimmage on Saturday, and the offense was the highlight. While it should be noted that five projected defensive starters were out with injuries, this is the kind of offensive progress Duke needs to see this spring, particularly in the running game. Defensively, it was a chance for some younger players to get some significant snaps.

OFFENSIVE HIGHLIGHTS: Quarterback Sean Renfree, who could be the lone returning full-time starting quarterback in the Coastal Division, accounted for three touchdowns and running back Patrick Kurunwune had 154 yards on eight carries. Renfree completed 7 of 13 passes for 129 yards with touchdowns of 18 yards to tight end Cooper Helfet and 55 yards to wideout Brandon Braxton. Renfree also rushed for a 3-yard touchdown. Kurunwune took off on runs of 27, 37 and 75 yards en route to averaging an impressive 19.3 yards per attempt. Fellow running backs Desmond Scott and Juwan Thompson added 50 and 41 yards on the ground, respectively.

Thompson (62 yards) and wideout Conner Vernon (42 yards) led all receivers with three catches each while tight end Braxton Deaver finished with two catches for 63 yards.

DEFENSIVE HIGHLIGHTS: Safety Jordon Byas led the defense with two pass breakups, one caused fumble and one fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Jamal Bruce chipped in a tackle for loss while linebacker C.J. France and defensive end Nick Sink combined on one quarterback sack. Duke is missing three injured players this spring -- linebacker Kelby Brown, safety Lee Butler and defensive end Kenny Anunike -- and noseguard Charlie Hatcher and safety Matt Daniels didn't dress for the scrimmage because of minor injuries.

QUOTABLE: “I thought we ran the ball really well today,” Renfree said, according to the team's scrimmage report. “I think it has to do with being multiple, and mostly it has to do with the performance of our offensive line. They did a great job. We’ve got a lot of good running backs and if you get holes for them, they’re dangerous. That was lot of fun to see.”
This morning we looked at the main recruiting needs for the Atlantic Division. Here are the priorities for each team in the Coastal Division:

DUKE

Offensive line: The Blue Devils will have to replace one starter in center Bryan Morgan, and it’s still a relatively young group, but with several redshirt sophomores on the roster, the staff wants to load up two grades behind them to fully stock the position for the future.

Defensive line: This has always been Duke’s deficiency, which means it will always be a priority to catch up and build depth. The Blue Devils will have to replace two starters in Wesley Oglesby and Patrick Egboh. Noseguard Charlie Hatcher will be a redshirt senior.

Cornerback: Duke only loses one starter, cornerback Chris Rwabukamba, but it’s another position that has been weak and needs better athletes.

GEORGIA TECH

Offensive line: The early departure of Nick Claytor to the NFL didn’t help the depth, but there were still several young players who gained valuable experience and others who redshirted to help the depth. While no true freshman is likely to make an immediate impact, the staff is still looking to build the numbers up front.

Linebacker/defensive line: The Jackets need to find more athletes who are suited for Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. Fast athletes who are versatile enough to play a hybrid role, with the ability to move in space, will be a priority in this class.

MIAMI

Quarterback: With Jacory Harris being a senior, A.J. Highsmith moving to defense, and Spencer Whipple struggling in what little time he has played, the position needs a boost. It didn’t help that Teddy Bridgewater reneged on his commitment.

Linebacker: This is a position former coach Randy Shannon had put an emphasis on building, and there are young players and depth, but it was also a veteran group in the 2010 two-deep, with mainly juniors and seniors.

Wide receiver: The upperclassmen did all of the work in 2010, with Leonard Hankerson leading the way. Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson and Laron Byrd will all be seniors. An influx of young talent is needed.

Defensive end: The staff is looking to improve the depth here, get stronger up front, and build upon the success from 2010. Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, and Micanor Regis will all be seniors.

NORTH CAROLINA

Tailback: Injuries depleted this group in 2010, and Anthony Elzy, Johnny White and Shaun Draughn were both seniors. Ryan Houston was able to redshirt and will return as a fifth-year senior, but the Tar Heels need more dependable runners and a foundation for the future.

Defensive line: The Tar Heels have to prepare for some departures, especially on the interior, where all four players on the two-deep roster in 2010 were juniors.

Secondary: UNC will have to replace three starters in the secondary this spring, and three backups this year were juniors. Because of the NCAA investigation, this is a group in which backups had to develop quickly, so there are some experienced younger players, but the group still needs to reload.

Tight end: The loss of Zach Pianalto and his backup, Ed Barham, leaves the position thin.

VIRGINIA

Offensive line: With starting right guard B.J. Cabbell gone, starting center Anthony Mihota a senior, and starting left guard Austin Pasztor a senior, the staff has to prepare for some departures. Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi are talented young players, but the rotation needs more of them.

Defensive line: End Zane Parr’s decision to leave early for the NFL draft hurt the position’s depth, and the Cavs will also have to replace John-Kevin Dolce at tackle. Three other players in the two-deep will be rising seniors, and with Virginia switching back to a 4-3 defense under Mike London, the Cavs have to rebuild up front.

Secondary: Cornerback is of particular concern, as Chase Minnifield will be a senior, and starter Mike Parker will graduate.

VIRGINIA TECH

Running back: The early departures of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans to the NFL left David Wilson as the only tailback with any significant experience. Overall, the Hokies have four tailbacks on their current roster.

Defensive line: The Hokies will have to replace redshirt senior starters Steven Friday and John Graves, and starting left end Chris Drager will be a redshirt senior this year.

Wide receiver/tight end: Starters Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale will be seniors, and tight end Andre Smith will graduate.

Secondary: Half the players on the two-deep roster against Stanford were either juniors or seniors, and the Hokies will have to replace rover Davon Morgan and cornerback Rashad Carmichael.

Midseason review: Duke

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
10:30
AM ET
The 62-13 loss to Alabama wasn’t a setback, it was a reality check. The program still has a long way to go under coach David Cutcliffe. The Blue Devils haven’t won a game since the season opener against Elon, and it can be attributed to a porous defense, inconsistent offense and one of the worst turnover margins in the country. The offensive struggles are to be expected with a first-year starting quarterback, but Sean Renfree has proven capable of winning games and should eventually develop into one of the league’s top passers. Duke still has some of the best receivers in the ACC in Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner. The defense, though, is in need of some help. Duke ranks 115th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing almost 40 points per game. The bright spot has been some semblance of a running game, which was last in the country in 2009. Desmond Scott has been a huge help, averaging 58.2 yards per game. And If Duke can cut down on its turnovers the second half of the season, the team should see instant improvement.

Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Conner Vernon. He leads the ACC in receptions and receiving yards, and he has had three 100-yard games (and one of 99 yards). Vernon ranks fifth in the country with 109.6 yards per game and is tied for 13th with 6.8 receptions per game.

Defensive MVP: Nose guard Charlie Hatcher. He has 16 tackles, including three tackles for loss, and he has one pass breakup. He makes everyone around him better by doing his job.

ACC practice reports

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
8:00
AM ET
Here's a quick recap of the latest practices, with information and quotes provided by the sports information directors at each school who releases them:

CLEMSON

The Tigers had their first scrimmage on Tuesday and got in about 100 snaps in a little over two hours.

Offensive highlights: Kyle Parker completed 9 of 18 passes for 114 yards. He did not throw and interception and ran for a score on a 14-yard run. Tajh Boyd completed 7 of 18 passes for 71 yards. He had a 13-yard run for a score that culminated a 75-yard drive early in the scrimmage.

Rod McDowell was the top rusher with 76 yards on 12 carries. He had a 22-yard run and a 34-yard run on the same drive. Andre Ellington gained 45 yards in 11 carries, while Jamie Harper had seven carries for 35 yards. Ellington had the only rushing touchdown among the running backs with a 15-yard score.

Five different receivers had two catches apiece. Dwayne Allen had 2-49, including a 36-yard completion from Parker. Drew Traylor had 2-29, Terrance Ashe had 2-28 and Marquan Jones had 2-11. Jaron Brown had 2-14 and also had an 18-yard run.

Defensive highlights: Andre Branch intercepted a tipped pass and raced 25 yards for a score. Tig Willard was the top tackler with seven, while Brandon Maye, Coty Sensabaugh and Scotty Cooper all had five apiece. Jonathan Meeks had two tackles for loss. Freshman Tra Thomas had the only fumble recovery.

Special teams: Richard Jackson was 4-4 on field goals attempts, including a pair from 42 yards. Spencer Benton was 3-4 and Chandler Catanzaro made 2-3 with his only miss from 56 yards.

Dabo Swinney said: “It was a better scrimmage than I expected for the first scrimmage. We had a lot of new guys in action in Death Valley for the first time and we did a lot of mix and matching during the scrimmage. We need to perform better in the red-zone on both sides of the ball.

“Defensively, Andre Branch had the big play of the day with an interception return for a touchdown I thought he was a consistent player last year. But, he has become a physical player who is a team leader. Opposing teams will talk about 93 [Da’Quan Bowers], but they better pay attention to number 40 [Branch].

Injured: All-American safety DeAndre McDaniel, who suffered an injury near his tailbone. He was able to walk off the field on his own. I'll try and get an update for you on this today. Freshman running backs D.J. Howard and Demont Buice both missed the scrimmage as they recover from a concussion suffered this past Saturday. Da’Quan Bowers missed the scrimmage as he is home with his family after the sudden death of his father last Sunday.

DUKE

The Blue Devils held their second practice on Tuesday night.

Defensive highlights: Johnny Williams, who moved from receiver this past spring, showed that he is grasping the cornerback position well as he intercepted a deep pass down the sideline during 7-on-7 drills and also made two nice plays to force incompletions during the 1-on-1 period against the receivers.

The defense has emphasized forcing turnovers early in the preseason and came up with three on Tuesday. Along with Williams' interception, junior safety Lee Butler returned an interception for a score off a tipped ball and redshirt junior Charlie Hatcher recovered a fumble. The defense had several other pass breakups on the day, including a couple by sophomore safety Walt Canty.

Offensive highlights: Redshirt freshman wide receiver Tyree Watkins made several big plays, and senior wide receiver Austin Kelly ran two good routes during team drills to provide redshirt sophomore quarterback Sean Renfree with some wide open looks. The offensive line did a good job in both pass and run blocking during the first session of team drills.

MARYLAND

The Terps opened camp on Tuesday in temperatures in the upper-90s, and spent much of the practice working on individual drills to help acclimate 21 newcomers and refresh veterans. Maryland has 24 preseason workouts scheduled.

Ralph Friedgen says: “The kids showed they worked hard over the summer. We’re a little further along in some areas than I thought. I think it got hot out there at the end and they got a little tired, but overall I thought it was a good first day.”

Jamarr Robinson, who proved to be a dangerous dual-threat quarterback while filling in for an injured Chris Turner last year, enters camp atop the depth chart. The Terps also have a pair of talented redshirt freshmen in Danny O’Brien and C.J. Brown, who spent a year learning offensive coordinator James Franklin’s system and look ready to contribute.

“I saw more of a leadership role by Jamarr [today],” said Friedgen. “I thought his fundamentals were better. I thought his reads were better. The guy that kind of showed some improvement was C.J. Brown. I thought he did some things better than he did in the spring. I sat in a meeting with him and to me he was a lot sharper than he has been, so maybe he’s starting to mature a little bit.”

Notable: Avery Murray, who was the listed as the backup at Mike linebacker behind Alex Wujciak, has left the team for personal reasons. Sophomore Ryan Donohue moves up a spot on the depth chart. Redshirt freshman De’Onte Arnett, a reserve defensive tackle, will also miss preseason camp. He was diagnosed with a cyst on his ankle and will be out of action about six weeks. Taylor Watson is the only other member of the two-deep who will not be a part of the 105-man preseason roster. Watson had knee surgery in the spring and is not expected back until next month.

MIAMI

The Canes had a walk-through practice Tuesday morning on the Greentree Practice Fields. They spent just under an hour on the practice fields sharpening up for the first fall scrimmage Wednesday night. After working through positional drills, the team came together and spent the rest of the session in 11-on-11, two-minute drill work.

Defensive highlights: In the two-minute drill, the first-team defense forced a quick three-and-out, and only allowed one score the rest of the session. Among the highlights were a DeMarcus Van Dyke pass breakup, a Marcus Forston quarterback hurry and a Luther Robinson sack.

Offensive highlights: Tight end Chase Ford may have turned in his best showing of camp on Tuesday. Ford caught a first down pass over the middle on a third a long before later scoring the session’s only touchdown on a 40-yard catch-and-run down the right sideline.

Up next: Wednesday’s scrimmage is closed to the public. Following the scrimmage, the team will take its first day off from camp on Thursday before returning to the practice fields for its first two-a-day on Friday.



WAKE FOREST

The Deacs practiced in pads for the first time.

Jim Grobe says: “We didn’t have the greatest practice mentally but it was a good night effort wise. The guys are working real hard, flying around and bumping into each other. We have a lot in right now offensively and defensively and the young guys are a little flustered but at least when they're making mistakes, they’re making them in a hurry.”

On the competition: “We have nine seniors and quite a bit of juniors but some of our most talented guys at spots are freshmen and sophomores. So there is quite a bit of competition right now and there are number of spots were you can feel comfortable at the top of the depth chart one day and be at the bottom of the chart the next. It’s a good position for us because we don’t just have guys that are talented at the top and there’s no one pushing them. We have talent at every position and guys know they have to come out to practice each day and get after it.”

On the quarterbacks: “We have a great group of guys right now at quarterback. I think you get a little concerned if you don’t have any talent back there but we have three or four guys that have enough talent to win. What we’re looking for right now is a guy who makes very few mental mistakes and does not turn the football over. That’s going to be the key. The flashiest guys, the fastest guy, the guy with the best arm may not end up being our quarterback. It’s going to be the guy that doesn’t get us beat. The guy that takes care of the ball the best and makes the fewest mental mistakes is probably going to be the guy.”

Up next: The Deacons continue to practice this week as they prepare for their first intra-squad scrimmage on Saturday at 2 p.m. at BB&T Field. The team will practice again Wednesday evening from 8-10 p.m. at the Doc Martin Practice Complex on campus.

Duke spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
10:30
AM ET
DUKE

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR Donovan Varner, WR Conner Vernon, WR Austin Kelly,T Kyle Hill, RB Desmond Scott, C Bryan Morgan, DE Patrick Egboh, P Kevin Jones, PK Will Snyderwine

Key losses

QB Thaddeus Lewis, DE Ayanga Okpokowuruk, DT Vince Oghobaase, LB Vincent Rey, CB Leon Wright, SS Catron Gainey


2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Scott* (262 yards)

Passing: Lewis (3,330 yards)

Receiving: Varner* (1,047 yards)

Tackles: Rey (98)

Sacks: Okpokowuruk (6)

Interceptions: Wright (5)

Spring answers

1. Depth at receiver. The Blue Devils found enough helping hands that they were able to move Johnny Williams, who caught 31 passes last year, to defensive back. Tyree Watkins, who didn’t lose last year’s eligibility despite an injury, had an impressive spring, as did Cory Gattis, who redshirted last year.

2. More multiple on defense. The defense will be a little different under Marion Hobby, who will take over the play-calling for Mike MacIntyre, now the head coach at San Jose State.

3. The need for Snead. The running game got a much needed boost from rookie Josh Snead, who graduated early and enrolled in January. He’s a compact, explosive player who came physically prepared to play. He had a handful of runs of 50 or more yards in scrimmages throughout the spring that showed he can be a contributor.

Fall questions

1. Renfree’s health. All indications are that quarterback Sean Renfree is healing from a torn ACL on schedule and will be the starter this fall, despite missing the contact portion of spring drills. He’s the only player who has taken a snap in a game, and the staff is encouraged by him, but he’s still a rookie who hasn’t been tested since his injury.

2. Defensive line concerns. Can the defensive line be productive and deep enough to have a positive impact? Overall it’s thin and inexperienced. Patrick Egboh and Wesley Oglesby, two fifth-year seniors, need to lead the way. It will be Charlie Hatcher’s first year seeing significant playing time after helping out on the interior last year. True freshmen could help immediately because of the low numbers.

3. Bowling, anyone? Coach David Cutcliffe made noticeable strides in the win column his first two seasons, but Duke is still searching for that bowl bid. How Duke will fare in its toss-up games against conference opponents will answer that. If the Blue Devils can get wins against Wake Forest, Maryland and Virginia, the postseason will be within reach.

Duke spring game rosters set

March, 26, 2010
3/26/10
1:40
PM ET
Duke coach David Cutcliffe announced his spring game roster Friday morning, a day before the Blue Devils take the field for the annual spring game.

Sean Schroeder will start at quarterback for the White team. He'll have Austin Kelly and Conner Vernon to throw to at receiver and Brett Huffman at tight end. Tackle Kyle Hill and center Bryan Morgan will also suit up for the White team.

Freshman quarterback Brandon Connette will lead the Blue team with running backs Patrick Kurunwune and Desmond Scott. He'll have Danny Parker as a target at receiver.

Five returning starters on defense will be in Blue during Saturday's game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. and is free of charge.

Those will include defensive end Wesley Oglesby, safety Matt Daniels, tackle Charlie Hatcher, linebacker Abraham Kromah and cornerback Chris Rwabukamba.

The day will begin with the Blue Devil team walk at 11 a.m., starting at the Duke Chapel.

ACC position superlatives: Duke

March, 3, 2010
3/03/10
3:30
PM ET
We continue our series in breaking down the strongest and weakest positions for each team today with Duke:

Strongest position: Wide receiver

Key returnees: Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, Austin Kelly


Key departures: No starters lost.

The skinny: The staff moved Johnny Williams to corner, which says a lot about how much confidence they’ve got in this group, considering Williams was a player who caught 31 passes last year. They should be confident, as Vernon and Varner were both among the ACC’s top six receivers last year. The group should only get better with the progress of Tyree Watkins, a freshman last year who saw some playing time but was injured and earned a medical redshirt.

Weakest position: Defensive line

Key returnees: NG Charlie Hatcher, DE Patrick Egboh

Key departures: DT Vince Oghobaase, DE Ayanga Okpokowuruk

The skinny: Redshirt senior Wesley Oglesby has starting experience at defensive end, but the line’s depth took a hit with the dismissal of DT John Drew, who played in all 12 games in 2009, including one start. He was expected to be a contributor this year. Egboh had 34 tackles with a team-high six quarterback pressures while Hatcher contributed 39 tackles with seven tackles for loss and a fumble return for a touchdown in Duke's win at Virginia.

What to watch in the ACC this spring

February, 15, 2010
2/15/10
10:00
AM ET
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Spring practice starts: March 18

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• How linebacker Mark Herzlich progresses. Herzlich, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer last May, has been going through winter conditioning with his teammates, and he plans on participating in spring drills. How quickly he regains his form will be worth watching, as he and sophomore Luke Kuechly could give the Eagles one of the most formidable linebacking corps.

• The quarterback battle. After one season, Dave Shinskie has the most experience on the roster, but he’ll get some competition from Josh Bordner and Chase Rettig, two early enrollees. There were times last season when Shinskie looked like the future of the position and there were others when he looked like any other freshman.

• Defensive linemen. For the second straight year, BC is looking for some stability up front. The Eagles have to replace left tackle Austin Giles and defensive end Jim Ramella. They return Kaleb Ramsey, Giles’ backup, and Brad Newman, Ramella’s reserve, but some young faces are likely to be seen in the rotation.

CLEMSON

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Life without C.J. Spiller officially begins. The backs behind him had a pretty good year, so there’s no need for full panic mode. Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington actually combined for a higher yards per carry average (6.1 to 5.6 yards). Clemson will also be looking to replace Spiller’s lost kickoff return yardage. The Tigers had a 13-yard advantage in average starting field position, as their start was their own 37-yard line compared to opponents’ 24-yard line. Ellington is a candidate in the return game.

• Kyle Parker’s batting average. No, really. How well Parker does this spring with the baseball team will help determine whether he remains Clemson’s quarterback or turns to the MLB draft. He didn’t have a great 2009 season, but he was still the fastest player to 25 home runs in school history. It remains to be seen this spring if he’ll become a high enough draft choice to give up college football.

• Secondary shuffling. It seems like eons ago since Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor weren’t the Tigers’ starting corners, as Butler started 40 straight games and Chancellor started 42. Butler finished his career second in school history in interception return yards. Now it’s time for a new duo. Will Marcus Gilchrist move to corner, which he’s capable of doing? Might Rashard Hall move to safety with DeAndre McDaniel?

DUKE

Spring practice starts: Feb. 14

Spring game: March 27

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Somebody has to take over for the graduated Thaddeus Lewis, but his backup – Sean Renfree – will miss the spring with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Sean Schroeder should be heavily in the mix to be the starter, pending Renfree’s recovery.

• Defensive line makeover. It’s wide open. Charlie Hatcher is entrenched at nose guard, but it’s really anyone’s game. The staff might move redshirt senior Wesley Oglesby, who played the majority of his career at defensive end, inside. Other options are defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento, a redshirt freshman, and Curtis Hazelton, who played sparingly last season.

• Johnny Williams’ move from wide receiver to cornerback. He had 31 catches in 2009 – the fourth-best on the team. Now they need his help in the defensive backfield. Duke will lose starter Leon Wright and his 10 career interceptions, and the pass defense, which allowed 215.75 yards per game, could use a boost.

FLORIDA STATE

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Christian Ponder’s return from shoulder surgery. Ponder is expected to practice this spring, though it could be on a limited basis, at least early. He’s ahead of schedule, but the coaches won’t subject him to any risks now. Yes, E.J. Manuel is talented and played well at the end of the season, but make no mistake – Ponder is FSU’s starter and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

• The defense under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. His secondary, in particular, will be interesting to watch, as will how quickly he can help the front seven generate a pass rush and plug the middle. Stoops has been a secondary coach, and the Noles lost three starters there. The fourth, Ochuko Jenije, could be pushed to retain his job.

• New faces, new opportunities. In addition to the fab freshmen who are coming in, FSU has a handful of unfamiliar players already on the roster who played sparingly or not at all. We'll see how they fit in this spring. RS-So DT Anthony McCloud and RS-So RB Debrale Smiley are both junior college transfers and former teammates. Physically, freshman linebacker Jeff Luc is already a man, but how quickly can he mature on the field? Two young wide receivers worth watching are Rodney Smith and Willie Haulstead.

GEORGIA TECH

Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The defensive transformation. The Jackets will switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under first-year coordinator Al Groh. In addition to learning the new scheme, the staff has to figure out who goes where. Linebackers might play defensive end and vice versa, safeties might play outside linebacker. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this team lines up in the spring.

• The replacements. From Georgia Tech’s coaching staff to the new faces who will be tasked with filling in for the Fab Four -- Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett and Demaryius Thomas -- the Jackets will need some “Hello My Name Is” tags this spring.

• The offensive line. Three offensive linemen redshirted who could start, and Georgia Tech might need them to, especially if guard Joseph Gilbert decides to transfer to pursue his MBA. The Jackets lose two starters on the offensive line, and Gilbert, who graduates this spring, would be a third if he leaves. Center Sean Bedford and tackle Austin Barrick return as seniors.

MARYLAND

Spring practice starts: March 23

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. Chris Turner has graduated, leaving Jamarr Robinson the top option going into the spring, but he has limited experience. The staff liked what he did when Turner was injured, but Danny O’Brien, Miami (Ohio) transfer Clay Belton and C.J. Brown will all be given an opportunity. Look for O’Brien to start the spring at No. 2 on the depth chart.

• Cornerback: Cameron Chism is the only returning starter in the secondary, but right now the staff has fewer concerns about the safeties. Maryland will have to find some bodies at corner, and Dexter McDougle, who redshirted as a true freshman last year, is one option. Michael Carter and Trenton Hughes, who was the third corner last year, are also among a handful of candidates.

• The offensive line. Losing Bruce Campbell to the NFL hurt, but the Terps also lost starter Phil Costa. Justin Gilbert, a redshirt sophomore, could inherit Campbell’s job. And there’s always Mr. Versatility -- Paul Pinegar. He has helped the Terps at both tackle spots and left guard, and this spring he’ll likely be given a shot at center.

MIAMI

Spring practice starts: Feb. 23

Spring game: March 27 (tentative)

What to watch:

• Tight end/offensive line: Jimmy Graham is gone, and the Canes don’t return any tight ends with any experience other than Richard Gordon, who was injured the majority of last season. Miami signed four tight ends in this recruiting class, but none of them were early enrollees. Miami has to replace three starters up front, including both tackles and the center.

• How the two young quarterbacks perform: The health of Jacory Harris was precious last year, as he had nobody behind him with any experience after the transfers of Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith. The depth has improved a bit with A.J. Highsmith, who played sparingly last year, and Stephen Morris, one of the early enrollees.

• Upgrade on the d-line? Progress up front began with the hire of Rick Petri as defensive line coach, and it’s up to Petri to help the Canes become better pass rushers. Miami will depend upon its two mainstays -- Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes. The right end position was a group effort last year, and Miami has to replace Joe Joseph and Eric Moncur.

NORTH CAROLINA

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback T.J. Yates. It’s his job to lose, and the coaching staff still has confidence in him, but Bryn Renner is waiting in the wings, and Braden Hanson will also be given an opportunity. The staff is looking for the offense to improve its passing efficiency and cut down on turnovers.

• The offensive line. It was a patchwork effort in 2009, thanks to injuries and inexperience, and will be a major key in how much UNC improves offensively this year. The Heels have to replace two starters, and Jonathan Cooper is likely to move from guard to center, and right guard Alan Pelc will miss spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery.

• Defensive line tweaks. There aren’t many questions on a defense that should be one of the best in the country, but somebody has to replace Cam Thomas and defensive end E.J. Wilson. Tydreke Powell is the frontrunner to take over at defensive tackle and Quinton Coples at defensive end. Both were backups last year at their respective positions.

NC STATE

Spring practice starts: March 9

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• Backup quarterback Mike Glennon. Russell Wilson is the starter, but he’s going to be playing baseball all spring. Keep an eye on his backup to see if Glennon can make it any more of a competition in Wilson’s absence.

• Chris Ward at punter. No, it’s not usually, the highlight of the spring, but in this case, it’s necessary. Ward is it -- he’s their only option right now, and it’s a position the Pack struggled with last year. Ward was expected to be the starter last season, but he was inconsistent. He’s definitely got the talent to be the guy.

• The recovery of linebacker Nate Irving. After being severely injured in a one-car crash last summer, Irving is hopeful he can go through spring drills. He has been lifting with the team and running with the sports medicine staff, but it’s still uncertain how limited his contact will be.

VIRGINIA

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Marc Verica is the only one with any experience, and first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor hasn’t been in Charlottesville long enough to evaluate any of the candidates. That’s what the spring is for, and true freshman Michael Strauss is the lone incoming quarterback on campus, so he’ll have a head start on the playbook. Of the four quarterbacks Virginia signed in this year’s class, Strauss is the only one listed as a true quarterback. The Cavs also have Ross Metheny, who redshirted last year, and Riko Smalls, who redshirted in ‘08 and was No. 2 on the depth chart when Verica was out with a concussion.

• Coaching transition. First-year coach Mike London has hired almost an entirely new staff, and they’ll bring changes in philosophy and scheme. London has said he wants to get the defense back to the traditional 4-3, and revert to the tradition of featuring the tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs.

• Running back. The Cavs will have the help up front, but they need to replace their four leading rushers in Mikell Simpson, Rashawn Jackson, Vic Hall and Jameel Sewell. The staff will look at true freshman Kevin Parks, but also have Torrey Mack and Dominique Wallace, who had just seemed to be coming on at Southern Miss when he was injured and missed the rest of the season.

VIRGINIA TECH

Spring practice starts: March 31

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• Revamped defensive line. The Hokies have to replace three of four starters up front. The only defensive ends with significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. Redshirt freshmen will be given a chance – Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins – but they’ve never played. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other end who’s played and that was a skinny minute. At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the frontrunner to replace Cordarrow Thompson.

• Darren Evans’ comeback. Evans, the team’s leading rusher in 2008, is working his way back from a season-ending ACL injury, and one of the biggest questions in Blacksburg is how the staff will divide the carries in such a talented backfield that includes Ryan Williams. With two returning 1,000-yard rushers, will David Wilson decide to redshirt? The spring will help him in that decision.

• The evolution of Tyrod Taylor. He’s going to be a senior, and with so many questions on defense heading into the season, the offense will be leading the way. This should be a breakout year for Taylor, who by now should have mastered the offense and should consistently be a passing threat to compliment his running abilities.

WAKE FOREST

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. It’s the most glaring hole the Deacs have to fill this spring, as they’re tasked with replacing the winningest quarterback in school history, Riley Skinner, and his backup, Ryan McManus. Redshirt sophomores Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones, and sophomore Brendan Cross, will compete with rookie Tanner Price for the top spot.

• Offensive line. The Deacs will take a huge hit here, as seven players in the two-deep depth chart were redshirt seniors, including all four tackles. Three starters have to be replaced.

• The interior defensive line. Nose guard Boo Robinson and John Russell have graduated, and Russell’s backup, Michael Lockett, was also a redshirt senior. The Deacs are in good shape at the ends, but will need some help inside.
Tags:

Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Cavaliers, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Coastal Division, Atlantic Division, Miami Hurricanes, Wesley Oglesby, Alan Pelc, Russell Wilson, Darren Evans, Christian Ponder, Ochuko Jenije, Chris Drager, Cam Thomas, Demaryius THomas, Justin Gilbert, Isaiah Hamlette, Marc Verica, Rashawn Jackson, A.J. Highsmith, Boo Robinson, Torrey Mack, Trenton Hughes, Quinton Coples, Chris turner, Phil Costa, Cannon Smith, Jamarr Robinson, Al Groh, Mike Glennon, Tyrod Taylor, David Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Cameron Chism, Jamie Harper, CHris Chancellor, Michael Carter, Ryan McManus, Joseph Gilbert, Brad Newman, Antoine Hopkins, Sean Renfree, Dave Shinskie, Cordarrow Thompson, Richard Gordon, Mikell Simpson, Austin Barrick, Johnny Williams, Morgan Burnett, E.J. Wilson, Paul Pinegar, Tydreke Powell, Bryn Renner, Jacory Harris, Riley Skinner, Joe Joseph, Skylar Jones, Derrick Morgan, T.J. Yates, Braden Hanson, Sean Bedford, Jonathan Dwyer, C.J. Brown, John Russell, Jameel Sewell, Allen Bailey, Mike London, Nate Irving, Rodney Smith, Marcus Gilchrist, Mark Herzlich, Taylor Cook, Willie Haulstead, Andre Ellington, Josh Holmes, Thaddeus Lewis, E.J. Manuel, Leon Wright, Crezdon Butler, Ryan Williams, C.J. Spiller, Kaleb Ramsey, Vic Hall, James Gayle, Eric Moncur, Jonathan Cooper, Bruce Campbell, Ted Stachitas, Jim Ramella, Danny O'Brien, Luke Kuechly, Sean Schroeder, Tyrel Wilson, Dominique Wallace, Austin Giles, Jeff Luc, Mark Stoops, Brendan Cross, Stephen Morris, Rick Petri, Bill Lazor, Chase Rettig, Michael Strauss, Tanner Price, Anthony McCloud, Debrale Smiley, Josh Bordner, Kyle Paker, Rahsard Hall, DeAndrew McDaniel, Charlie Hatcher, Sydney Sarmiento, Chris Hazelton, Clay Belton, Dexter McDougle, Chris Ward, Ross Metheny, Roko Smalls, Kevin Parks, Duan Perez-Means, J.R. Collins, Michael Lockett

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