ACC: Chase Minnifield

One good reason: Virginia

July, 13, 2012
7/13/12
2:30
PM ET
VIRGINIA

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

The series continues today with one good reason why …

Virginia will win the Coastal Division. Knowledge of the system. After two full years under coach Mike London, the players are now much more knowledgeable about his 4-3 defense and understand the pro style philosophies of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. There hasn’t been any staff turnover, and London said the continuity made for a much smoother spring. Virginia finally has a dependable starting quarterback in Michael Rocco (although he will be challenged by Alabama transfer Phillip Sims this fall), and the Hoos are coming off their best record and first bowl appearance since 2007. Last year’s surprising success, which included a shot at the Coastal Division title against rival Virginia Tech, was something the Hoos could learn from and build upon.

Why it won’t: Too much talent and experience was lost on defense. A total of seven starters from 2011 who combined for 221 career starts are gone. Only four starters return, and three starters have to be replaced in the secondary and on the defensive line. The linebackers should be an area of strength, but the defensive backs are a major question mark. Demetrious Nicholson, who started as a true freshman last year, is now the veteran of the group. The secondary lost more than 90 career starts from the other three starters, including standout corner Chase Minnifield. Virginia's offense threw for more than 400 yards in the spring game, revealing some weaknesses in the secondary that must be addressed during fall camp.

More in this series

Virginia spring wrap

May, 8, 2012
5/08/12
7:00
AM ET
2011 overall record: 8-5
2011 conference record: 5-3 (T-2nd, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 4; kicker/punter: 0

Top returners
WR Tim Smith, LT Oday Aboushi, RT Morgan Moses, RG Luke Bowanko, TE Colter Phillips, QB Michael Rocco, RB Perry Jones, DE Jake Snyder, OLB LaRoy Reynolds, MLB Steve Greer, CB Demetrious Nicholson

Key losses
WR Kris Burd, G Austin Pasztor, C Anthony Mihota, FB Max Milien, DT Matt Conrath, DT Nick Jenkins, DE Cam Johnson, OLB Aaron Taliferro, CB Chase Minnifield, SS Rodney McLeod, FS Corey Mosley

Spring answers

1. Ground game should be fine. Three starters are back on the offensive line, and Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Clifton Richardson will all be lining up in the backfield again following a campaign that saw the trio combine for 1,990 rushing yards and 21 total touchdowns.

2. Rocco steps up. Michael Rocco beat out three competitors to win the starting quarterback job in 2011. The process has been a whole lot easier this spring, and the junior will look to build off a strong debut season that featured a 60 percent completion rate. Returning starter Tim Smith will likely be Rocco's top target following the departure of Kris Burd.

3. Jake McGee ready to fill tight end role. A converted quarterback, McGee stood out in the spring game, hauling in a pair of passes for 81 yards. He has said that he wants to be the next Heath Miller. Boosting a unit that combined for just 20 catches last season would be a nice start.

Fall questions

1. What to do with Phillip Sims? The former Alabama quarterback announced his transfer to Virginia after the spring season. It remains to be seen whether he will even be eligible for the 2012 season. If he is, however, he could make things interesting if Rocco underperforms this fall.

2. Where will the secondary help come from? Demetrious Nicholson returns at corner after a strong freshman campaign, but the unit loses more than 90 career starts from the other three starters, led by corner Chase Minnifield. Virginia's offense threw for more than 400 yards in the spring game against the re-tooling secondary, which has a long way to go after spring.

3. Can the line get enough pressure to help the secondary? Cam Johnson and two other starters are gone from last year. The Cavaliers gave up 81 points over their final two games of 2011 and lose seven starters. Junior end Jake Snyder is the only returning starter up front.
Our series continues today with the Cavaliers, who are looking for answers in their defensive backfield after an 8-5 season in 2011.

For a complete recap of the series, click here.

Virginia: CB Demetrious Nicholson

2011 stats: Nicholson notched two picks, two tackles for loss, eight pass breakups, a forced fumble and 60 total tackles as a true freshman.

What he means to the Cavaliers: This is a secondary re-tooling, and coach Mike London said entering the spring that he would keep a close eye on both the defensive backs and wide receivers, looking to see which side would come out on the winning end of downfield throws. Nicholson, who played nearly every snap in his first year in 2011, ended up being named the most distinguished freshman this spring, but that hardly justifies his importance. With Chase Minnifield gone, Nicholson will probably be responsible for covering the opposition's No. 1 receiver this season, and he will have to be the leader of a group facing some questions given its lack of experience. Sophomores Brandon Phelps and Drequan Hoskey could start opposite him after seeing action mostly on special teams last season. Another option is converted running back Brendan Morgan. Regardless, the onus is on a true sophomore to lead this group in 2012, and after a strong debut season, he looks capable of filling the role.
As mentioned in lunch links, Clemson announced the signings of undrafted lineman Landon Walker (Cincinnati Bengals) and punter Dawson Zimmerman (Atlanta Falcons). And a couple of generous readers have passed along a few more signings from ACC schools.

Virginia Tech guard Blake DeChristopher signed with the Cardinals, and Hokies defensive back Cris Hill signed with the Bills.

Big thanks to Matt from Alexandria, Va., Ben in Blacksburg, Va., and Lynn in Blacksburg, Va., for the head's up.

The updated, working list is below. Feel free to pass along any oversights.

BOSTON COLLEGE
CB Donnie Fletcher: New York Jets

CLEMSON
DE Kourtnei Brown: San Francisco 49ers
FB Chad Diehl: Baltimore Ravens
OL Antoine McClain: Baltimore Ravens
DT Rennie Moore: Houston Texans
OT Landon Walker: Cincinnati Bengals
P Dawson Zimmerman: Atlanta Falcons

DUKE
S Matt Daniels: St. Louis Rams

FSU
WR Bert Reed: Cleveland Browns
S Terrence Parks: Kansas City Chiefs
P Shawn Powell: Buffalo Bills

MARYLAND
CB Cameron Chism: Indianapolis Colts
RB Davin Meggett: Houston Texans

MIAMI
WR LaRon Byrd: Arizona Cardinals
OL Joel Figueroa: Miami Dolphins (rookie camp tryout)
TE Chase Ford: Philadelphia Eagles
DL Marcus Forston: New England Patriots
LB Jordan Futch: Tampa Bay Bucaneers
G Harland Gunn: Dallas Cowboys
QB Jacory Harris: Miami Dolphins (rookie camp tryout)
C Tyler Horn: Atlanta Falcons
S JoJo Nicolas: New York Giants
DL Adewale Ojomo: New York Giants
DT Micanor Regis: Atlanta Falcons

UNC
CB Charles Brown: Baltimore Ravens
C Cam Holland: Kansas City Chiefs
WR Dwight Jones: Houston Texans
S Matt Merletti: Indianapolis Colts
DT Tydreke Powell: Minnesota Vikings

NC STATE
TE George Bryan: Dallas Cowboys
FB Taylor Gentry: Kansas City Chiefs

VIRGINIA
CB Chase Minnifield: Washington Redskins
OG Austin Pasztor: Minnesota Vikings
S Rodney McLeod: St. Louis Rams
DT Matt Conrath: St. Louis Rams

VIRGINIA TECH
WR Jarrett Boykin: Jacksonville Jaguars
OT Jaymes Brooks: Green Bay Packers
G Blake DeChristopher: Arizona Cardinals
CB Cris Hill: Buffalo Bills
S Eddie Whitley: Dallas Cowboys

WAKE FOREST
TE Cameron Ford: Green Bay Packers
S Cyhl Quarles: Baltimore Ravens
Thirty-one players from ACC schools were drafted this past weekend, but many more signed free-agent deals with NFL teams in the aftermath of the draft.

The following is a list of ACC players, by school, who have signed undrafted free agent deals with NFL teams. It was compiled largely from NFL.com, along with official releases from NFL teams and ACC schools. Georgia Tech is the only ACC school currently without an undrafted free-agent signing.

By all means, feel free to let me know if I have overlooked anyone.

BOSTON COLLEGE
CB Donnie Fletcher - New York Jets

CLEMSON
DE Kourtnel Brown - San Francisco 49ers
FB Chad Diehl - Baltimore Ravens
OL Antoine McClain - Baltimore Ravens
DT Rennie Moore - Houston Texans

DUKE
S Matt Daniels - St. Louis Rams

FSU
WR Bert Reed - Cleveland Browns
S Terrence Parks - Kansas City Chiefs
P Shawn Powell - Buffalo Bills

MARYLAND
CB Cameron Chism - Indianapolis Colts
RB Davin Meggett - Houston Texans

MIAMI
WR LaRon Byrd - Arizona Cardinals
TE Chase Ford - Philadelphia Eagles
DL Marcus Forston - New England Patriots
LB Jordan Futch - Tampa Bay Bucaneers
G Harland Gunn - Dallas Cowboys
C Tyler Horn - Atlanta Falcons
S JoJo Nicolas - New York Giants
DL Adewale Ojomo - New York Giants
DT Micanor Regis - Atlanta Falcons

UNC
CB Charles Brown - Baltimore Ravens
C Cam Holland - Kansas City Chiefs
WR Dwight Jones - Houston Texans
S Matt Merletti - Indianapolis Colts
DT Tydreke Powell - Minnesota Vikings

NC STATE
TE George Bryan - Dallas Cowboys
FB Taylor Gentry - Kansas City Chiefs

VIRGINIA
CB Chase MinnifieldWashington Redskins
OG Austin Pasztor - Minnesota Vikings
S Rodney McLeod – St. Louis Rams
DT Matt Conrath – St. Louis Rams

VIRGINIA TECH
WR Jarrett Boykin - Jacksonville Jaguars
OT Jaymes Brooks - Green Bay Packers
S Eddie Whitley - Dallas Cowboys

WAKE FOREST
TE Cameron Ford - Green Bay Packers
S Chyl Quarles - Baltimore Ravens

The Hurricanes also announced that quarterback Jacory Harris and offensive lineman Joel Figueroa have both been invited to rookie camp tryouts with the Miami Dolphins.

Mocks aplenty on NFL draft eve

April, 25, 2012
4/25/12
3:30
PM ET
It's NFL draft eve, and it's the last Wednesday before the event, meaning one last chance for our team of analysts to predict how this weekend will unfold.

Mel Kiper Insider and Todd McShay Insider reveal their final draft boards, and each has a mock Insider, with McShay and the rest of the Scouts Inc. team going seven rounds full Insider.

Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, naturally, tops the list, going No. 5 to the Buccaneers. North Carolina end Quinton Coples is next off the board at No. 19, to the Bears, with wideout Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech going two spots later to the Bengals.

How do the rest of the ACC's draft-eligible players stand? Let's take a look:

ROUND 2
No. 36, Buccaneers: RB David Wilson (Virginia Tech)
No. 50, Bears: OLB Zach Brown (UNC)
No. 58, Texans: DE Andre Branch (Clemson)
No. 59, Packers: RB Lamar Miller (Miami)

ROUND 3
No. 64, Colts: DT Brandon Thompson (Clemson)
No. 68, Buccaneers: CB Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech)
No. 72, Dolphins: OT Zebrie Sanders (FSU)
No. 76, Texans: TE Dwayne Allen (Clemson)
No. 80, Cardinals: DE Olivier Vernon (Miami)
No. 82, Titans: WR Chris Givens (Wake Forest)
No. 91, Ravens: G Joe Looney (Wake Forest)
No. 95, Raiders:
DE Cam Johnson (Virginia)

ROUND 4
No. 100, Browns: OLB Nigel Bradham (FSU)
No. 124, Bills: OLB Sean Spence (Miami)
No. 125, 49ers: CB Chase Minnifield (Virginia)
No. 128, Vikings: OLB Terrell Manning (NC State)
No. 129, Raiders: OLB Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest)
No. 130, Ravens: WR Danny Coale (Virginia Tech)

ROUND 5
No. 154, Jets: WR Tommy Streeter (Miami)
No. 157, Falcons: WR TJ Graham (NC State)
No. 159, Steelers: G Brandon Washington (Miami)
No. 162, Saints: CB Coty Sensabaugh (Clemson)

ROUND 6
No. 176, Jaguars: DT Marcus Forston (Miami)
No. 178, Bills: ILB Audie Cole (NC State)
No. 188, Broncos: DE Rennie Moore (Clemson)
No. 191, Bengals: WR Travis Benjamin (Miami)
No. 197, Packers: OT Andrew Datko (FSU)
No. 205, Browns: G Antoine McClain (Clemson)

ROUND 7
No. 209, Rams: WR Dwight Jones (UNC)
No. 240, Steelers: DE Matt Conrath (Virginia)
No. 242, Jets: TE George Bryan (NC State)
No. 243, Packers: RB Davin Meggett (Maryland)
No. 245, Browns: DT Markus Kuhn (NC State)
No. 250, Chargers: CB Donnie Fletcher (BC)

Here's a breakdown by school of the 37 ACC players that Scouts Inc. thinks will be drafted:

Miami: 7
Clemson: 6
NC State: 5
Virginia Tech: 3
UNC: 3
Virginia: 3
Wake Forest: 3
FSU: 3
BC: 2
Georgia Tech: 1
Maryland: 1
Duke: 0

Biggest shoes to fill: Virginia

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
5:00
PM ET
Our series continues today with the Cavaliers, who are looking to replace an NFL-bound cornerback.

OUT: Chase Minnifield. Bypassing the NFL Draft to return for his senior season, the Jim Thorpe Award finalist notched three picks, 1.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, 50 tackles, eight pass break-ups and a blocked kick for Virginia in 2011. He also received the Pop Warner National College Football Award, which recognizes a Pop Warner alumnus for the difference he made on the field, in the classroom and in the community. The son of former Cleveland Browns Pro Bowl defensive back Frank Minnifield, Chase Minnfield had 13 career interceptions for Virginia and is projected by most to be an early-to-mid-round pick during next month's draft.

IN: Demetrious Nicholson. As a true freshman last season, Nicholson played nearly every single down. He had two interceptions, two tackles for loss, eight pass break-ups, a forced fumble and 60 total tackles. Having started every all 13 games in 2011, Nicholson is now the elder statesman of a re-tooled secondary. The Gatorade Player of the Year in Virginia in 2010 and an ESPNU 150 prospect coming out of Bayside (Va.) High School, Nicholson has a chance to be the Hoos’ No. 1 corner this season -- meaning he will probably get the top wide receiver.

Offseason spotlight: Virginia

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
5:00
PM ET
Our offseason spotlight series continues today with Virginia. A reminder: This series features individual players, position groups and coaches who really need to have big offseasons -- starting this spring.

Spotlight: Secondary

2011 summary: This was a senior-laden group led by CB Chase Minnifield, SS Rodney McLeod, and FS Corey Mosley. They took true freshman Demetrious Nicholson under their wings as he made an immediate impact in a starting role. Virginia’s pass efficiency defense was No. 32 in the country last year and the pass defense ranked No. 45, allowing 212.23 yards per game. Nicholson and McLeod were two of the team’s top five tacklers, and McLeod led the team with four interceptions.

The skinny: This position group will be filled with players who didn’t get a lot of meaningful snaps last year or redshirted. With his 13 starts, Nicholson is now the elder statesman in the secondary. This spring, the staff will most likely turn to Anthony Harris, Brandon Phelps, Rijo Walker, Kameron Mack, and Drequan Hoskey. Phelps, Mack and Harris all played as true freshmen last year on special teams and occasionally in the secondary, including against Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Overall, it’s a wide open competition and spring practice will be a good chance for these young players to assert themselves in the pecking order.

Coastal Division spring previews

February, 14, 2012
2/14/12
10:00
AM ET
DUKE

Spring practice start date: Feb. 22
Spring game: March 31

What to watch:
  • The defense in the second season under coordinator Jim Knowles. The Blue Devils should be more comfortable in the 4-2-5 alignment that uses three safeties, but they lost their top safety, Matt Daniels. Will the comfort level of the rest of the defense help compensate for the departure of the team’s top defensive playmaker? More players have a better understanding of the system and philosophy.
  • The health of the team. For Duke to stand a chance at reaching a bowl game, it must have its top players healthy. Guys like defensive end Kenny Anunike, linebacker Kelby Brown and safety Lee Butler have all proved they can make plays, but how quickly will they regain their form?
  • The running game. The offensive line should be deeper, more athletic and more competitive than in past years, and the running game should follow suit. Two of the highest-rated recruits in Duke’s 2012 class were running backs, but will the Blue Devils have to wait until summer camp to see a difference?
GEORGIA TECH

Spring practice start date: March 26
Spring game: April 20

What to watch:
  • The quarterback competition. There’s no question that Tevin Washington is the undisputed starter heading into the spring, but coach Paul Johnson has said he expects backups Vad Lee and Synjyn Days to push Washington. Finding the No. 2 will be a priority this offseason, but will either play well enough to unseat Washington?
  • The status of LB Julian Burnett. He has been the Jackets’ leading tackler, but he also has a medical condition or injury that Johnson won’t comment on publicly. Johnson has said he’ll leave it up to Burnett, but signs are pointing toward his inability to play.
  • The defensive progress. Some Georgia Tech fans were expecting more in the second season of Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, and Johnson is also among those hoping to see more progress this offseason. Groh has to replace two of three starters on the defensive line.
MIAMI

Spring practice start date: March 3
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • The offensive overhaul. The coordinator is the same; it’s the players who will change. How do you replace eight starters on offense? How will the young players contribute and where? The Canes need to replace their leading rusher from a year ago, Lamar Miller, and their starting quarterback, Jacory Harris.
  • The quarterback competition. Is Stephen Morris ready to take over the offense, or will Ryan Williams, Gray Crow or Preston Dewey win the job from him? Morris is the most experienced quarterback in the system, but Williams probably would have pushed Harris for the starting job last year if he didn’t have to sit out for a season per NCAA transfer rules.
  • The new leader on defense. Miami will lose five starters on defense, but none of them had quite the leadership impact as linebacker Sean Spence. Who will be the new coach on the field for the Canes, not to mention compensate for the loss of Spence’s playmaking abilities?
NORTH CAROLINA

Spring practice start date: March 14
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Buying in. It shouldn’t take much longer than spring practice to know whether the Tar Heels have bought in to first-year coach Larry Fedora, his staff and the changes they plan to make. Fedora has said he’s changing just about everything within the program, including offensive and defensive schemes.
  • How the defense will look in the new scheme with new faces. UNC will switch to a 4-2-5 scheme, which will allow it to have multiple fronts and looks and go from four down linemen to three without subs. The Heels will need more defensive backs and more hybrid players who can play linebacker/safety and linebacker/defensive end. Will they find them this spring?
  • An exciting offense. As good as the offensive line was last season, it should be even better this season with four starters returning and untapped potential at center. And if quarterback Bryn Renner had a 3,000-yard, record-setting season with bone spurs in his ankle, how much better can he be after his surgery?
VIRGINIA

Spring practice start date: March 19
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Kicking competitions. They’re all gone -- the placekicker, punter and kickoff specialist. When you lose all three of them, it’s a question mark. The Hoos have some options but no answers.
  • Defensive replacements. Virginia has to replace seven starters on defense, including veterans like defensive end Cam Johnson and cornerback Chase Minnifield. Two of the three starting linebackers return, but the secondary is filled with guys who played sparingly or redshirted last year.
  • The next go-to receiver. Virginia has several young, talented receivers, but which one of them will emerge as the go-to player for quarterback Michael Rocco? Kris Burd leaves the biggest shoes to fill on the offense.
VIRIGNIA TECH

Spring practice start date: March 28
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Life without David Wilson. Virginia Tech begins the spring in search of its next great running back, as Wilson left early for the NFL draft, and his backup, Josh Oglesby, has graduated. True freshman J.C. Coleman and redshirt freshman Michael Holmes will be the top two options, as Tony Gregory will be out to recover from surgery on his knee.
  • New-look offensive line. Adding to the offensive uncertainty is the fact that Virginia Tech must replace four starters on the offensive line. All four were redshirt seniors, and there are likely to be growing pains while trying to compensate for the loss of their leadership and knowledge.
  • Secondary replacements. The Hokies will be challenged to find replacements for Jayron Hosley and Eddie Whitley in the secondary. Whitley had played cornerback, rover, outside linebacker and free safety during his career. Hosley, who led the nation in interceptions in 2010, decided to leave early for the NFL draft.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 7, 2012
2/07/12
5:00
PM ET
The official invite list for the NFL combine is out. Every school but Duke is represented, and there are a total of 43 former players from the conference who will participate, including Miami's entire starting lineup from 2011. Well, ok, not really, but it's a pretty big hit for the Canes. Best of luck to all of these guys at the next level.

Here are your ACC representatives:

BOSTON COLLEGE (1)
CLEMSON (6)
FLORIDA STATE (6)
GEORGIA TECH (1)
MARYLAND (1)
MIAMI (8)
NORTH CAROLINA (6)
NC STATE (5)
VIRGINIA TECH (4)
VIRGINIA (2)
WAKE FOREST (4)
We’ve already taken a look at what the recruiting needs were for the Atlantic Division. Let’s shift our attention to the Coastal Division. Here’s a look at where each school’s biggest holes will be in 2012 or are anticipated to be in the near future:

DUKE


Offensive skill positions: After last year’s rare class that didn’t include either a quarterback or running back, both positions are needed in this group. Quarterback Thomas Sirk -- the MVP of the 57th annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Football Classic last December -- has already enrolled in school while Shaquille Powell -- a PARADE All-American running back from Las Vegas -- has committed to the program. In addition, with David Cutcliffe’s offense, wide receivers and tight ends also are a priority.

Kicker: Will Snyderwine, who earned first team All-America honors as a junior before struggling through a sub-par season in 2011, graduated, but Duke has a commitment from Ohio native Ross Martin, considered the No. 2 placekicking prospect in the country by ESPN.com.

Safety: With the transition to a 4-2-5 alignment that utilizes three safeties, this becomes an annual point of emphasis. The Blue Devils lose All-American Matt Daniels to graduation.

GEORGIA TECH


Defensive line: This is the most glaring need in the current class. The Yellow Jackets have to replace senior starters Logan Walls (DT) and Jason Peters (DE), but return Izaan Cross (DE) and solid backups T.J. Barnes (DT), Emmanuel Dieke (DE) and Euclid Cummings (DE). The Jackets are expected to sign about 18 players in this year’s class, and five of them should be defensive linemen.

Wide receiver:This is another glaring need after the departures of Stephen Hill, who decided to leave early for the NFL draft, and Tyler Melton. Darren Waller and Jeff Greene, who both played last season as true freshmen, have lots of potential, but the position still needs depth.


MIAMI

Defensive backs: There’s still a lot of depth with this group, and the return of Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque helps, but the Canes have to replace two starters in the secondary and have six commits in the current class to help do that.

Defensive line: The Canes have to replace Adewale Ojomo, Micanor Regis, Andrew Smith and Olivier Vernon from last year’s two-deep. The defensive end position was a particular focus in this class.

Receiver: This position lost a lot with the departures of Tommy Streeter, LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin. Allen Hurns is now the veteran of the group, along with redshirt senior Kendal Thompkins. There are five receivers currently committed in this class.

Quarterback: Beyond Stephen Morris, Miami has a lot of questions at the position and not a lot of experience. True freshmen Gray Crow and Preston Dewey are already on the roster, along with redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams.

NORTH CAROLINA

Defensive line: This is one of the biggest areas of concern after the departures of Quinton Coples and Tydreke Powell.

Receivers: Larry Fedora’s offense will make good use of this group, but he needs to replace standout Dwight Jones.

Linebackers: This group was thin to begin with in 2011, and now the Heels need to replace outgoing senior Zach Brown. Kevin Reddick is now the main man.

Safety: UNC will have to replace two starters in Matt Merletti, Charles Brown and Jonathan Smith, so this position will have to be rebuilt for the future.

VIRGINIA

Defensive back: This should be the main priority in this class. The Cavaliers will lose four DBs, including two starting safeties in Rodney McCleod and Corey Mosley, and standout cornerback Chase Minnifield. They’ll also miss Dom Joseph, who came in for the nickel packages. Demetrious Nicholson, who started as a true freshman last year, is suddenly the veteran of the group.

Offensive line: The Hoos will have to replace their starting center and left guard. Redshirt freshman center Cody Wallace could get a promotion, and sophomore right guard Luke Bowanko started in the bowl game. They’ve got some big bodies waiting in the wings, but they’ll have some questions to answer here this spring.

Kickers: This position needs to be rebuilt, as the Cavaliers lose Robert Randolph, who finished sixth all time in scoring at UVa, kickoff specialist Chris Hinkebein, and four-year punter Jimmy Howell. The position is wide open heading into the spring.

VIRGINIA TECH

Running back: This one is a no-brainer, as the Hokies have lost four players here in the past two years. David Wilson and his backup, Josh Oglesby, were the latest to depart, and Tony Gregory just had ACL surgery and is out for the spring. The staff likes Michael Holmes, who redshirted last year, and J.C. Coleman enrolled last week.

Receiver: The Hokies will miss Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, and next year’s class has three seniors in Dyrell Roberts, D.J. Coles, and Marcus Davis. The future of the position is young, and the staff is still going after several uncommitted players pretty hard.

Defensive line: This year’s class already includes at least five committed defensive linemen, and the Hokies will be particularly thin at noseguard. They had some players graduate early who didn’t play a lot, but at least provided depth.

Linebacker:The Hokies have four committed, and are still chasing another just to build the depth. The staff missed on some recruits at this position last year and would like to make up for it in this class.

ESPN.com's ACC all-conference team

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
10:30
AM ET
Editor’s Note: Tune into the “AT&T ESPN All America Team Show” on Saturday (ABC, 1:30 p.m. ET) to see who ESPN’s writers and experts selected.

ESPN.com is announcing its all-conference teams today, and there was only one change here from the all-conference ACC team that the members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Associated voted on in late November. Offensively, the biggest toss-up was Wake Forest receiver Chris Givens vs. UNC’s Dwight Jones, but Givens did more with fewer catches. Defensively, it was difficult. I can understand why Virginia Tech and Florida State coaches and players felt slighted, but in the end, there were better individual performances elsewhere. Here’s a look at ESPN.com’s All-ACC team:


ACC's lunchtime links

December, 6, 2011
12/06/11
12:00
PM ET
Chat!

ACSMA announces all-conference team

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
3:20
PM ET
The 2011 All-ACC football team, as voted on by 45 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, was released on Monday. A first-team vote was worth two points and second-team vote one. Unanimous selections are marked with an asterisk. Disclaimer: I did not vote for this team. The only all-conference team I participate in is the one I compile for ESPN.com, which hasn't been released yet. Here is the team as voted on by the members of ACSMA:

FIRST TEAM

Offense

QB-Tajh Boyd, Clemson (71)

RB-David Wilson, Virginia Tech (90)*

RB-Giovani Bernard, North Carolina (66)

WR-Sammy Watkins, Clemson (86)

WR-Chris Givens, Wake Forest (69)

OT-Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech (86)

OT-Zebrie Sanders, Florida State (46)

OG-Austin Pasztor, Virginia (49)

OG-Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (45)

C-Dalton Freeman, Clemson (44)

TE-Dwayne Allen, Clemson (78)

K-Dustin Hopkins, Florida State (75)

Spec.- T.J. Graham, NC State (45)

Defense

DE-Andre Branch, Clemson (79)

DE-Quinton Coples, North Carolina (64)

DT-Joe Vellano, Maryland (68)

DT-Matt Conrath, Virginia (55)

LB-Luke Kuechly, Boston College (90)*

LB-Sean Spence, Miami (82)

LB-Zach Brown, North Carolina (48)

CB-David Amerson, NC State (86)

CB-Chase Minnifield, Virginia (47)

S-Matt Daniels, Duke (80)

S-Josh Bush, Wake Forest (41)

P-Shawn Powell, Florida State (85)

SECOND TEAM

Offense

QB-Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech (49)

WR-Dwight Jones, North Carolina (58)

WR-Conner Vernon, Duke (34)

RB-Lamar Miller, Miami (62)

RB-Andre Ellington, Clemson (26)

OT-Oday Aboushi, Virginia (43)

OT-James Hurst, North Carolina (30)

OG-Jaymes Brooks, Virginia Tech (35)

OG-Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (31)

OG-Joe Looney, Wake Forest (31)

C-Tyler Horn, Miami (32)

TE-George Bryan, NC State (29)

K-Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson (37)

Spec.-Sammy Watkins, Clemson (33)

Defense

DE-Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (51)

DE-James Gayle, Virginia Tech (25)

DT-Brandon Thompson, Clemson (43)

DT-Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest (30)

LB-Terrell Manning, NC State (44)

LB-Julian Burnett, Georgia Tech (34)

LB-Steve Greer, Virginia (23)

CB-Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (36)

CB-Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech (34)

S-Eddie Whitley, Virginia Tech (33)

S-Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State (23)

P-Alex King, Duke (22)
If there is any concern on the part of Virginia fans about their team getting wrapped up in the Coastal Division title that’s at stake and not concentrating entirely on Saturday's game at Florida State, consider this perspective from senior cornerback Chase Minnifield:

[+] EnlargeChase Minnifield
AP Photo/Steve HelberCornerback Chase Minnifield says Virginia is focused on Saturday's game against Florida State.
“We’ve never even been in the conference race since we’ve been here,” Minnifield said. “It’s always been one game at a time for us, whether the game was just to get to five wins or whatever it is. Around here, we haven’t been playing for championships, so all we know is one game at a time.”

Next up: Florida State.

This is unfamiliar territory for the Cavaliers, who can clinch the Coastal Division title by winning their final two games of the regular season. If Virginia Tech beats North Carolina tonight, Virginia cannot afford to lose to the Seminoles on Saturday, or the Hokies will clinch the division title. Any other scenario between Virginia and Virginia Tech will set up a showdown in Charlottesville in the regular-season finale to determine the division winner.

And you better believe the Hoos will be watching tonight.

Quarterback Michael Rocco said there is no official team plan, but many of the players will get together at each other’s houses to watch the Hokies and the Heels.

“It’s going to be a good ACC game, so we’ll be watching it and keeping a close eye on it,” Rocco said.

Aside from the obvious awareness of their place in the ACC standings, Virginia coach Mike London said the staff hasn’t used the Coastal Division race as motivation.

“We don't talk about that,” London said. “We talk about the options that are presented to us right now. That's a Florida State team, I mean, they're truly outstanding in the last four or five games we've seen them play. At their place they have a lot of things going on themselves. We just have to worry about taking care of ourselves and what we do in order to execute because defensively they're outstanding, offensively they have so many playmakers, and even in the kicking game they're dynamic.

“We don't think ahead of anything that's out there,” he said. “We just have to think what's clear and present right now, and that's FSU.”

Virginia has never defeated Florida State in Tallahassee, where the Noles are 8-0 in the series. FSU is 14-2 overall against Virginia. The Cavaliers, though, have been hitting their stride and finding an identity in the past three wins. During that span, Rocco has 724 yards passing with six touchdowns and one interception. Perry Jones is averaging 139.7 all-purpose yards (419) per game, and opponents are averaging 67.7 rushing yards per game.

They’re cautiously optimistic they can keep it up against the No. 25 team in the country.

“Like it says in the bible, pride comes before a fall,” Rocco said. “We’re trying to keep our minds level-headed and keep focused on the game ahead of us, because once you let your guard down, bad things happen.”

The players have said there is a sense of pride in becoming the first bowl eligible team the program has had since 2007, but they are also in agreement that they’re not satisfied with that.

“Keeping it consistent has kind of been our motto all season, and we’ve been pretty consistent as of late, so we’re not going to make it bigger than what it is, but we all know it’s a big game for us,” Minnifield said. “We just want to go out there and play hard. We understand what things look like -- the coaches brought it up -- but at the end of the day, don’t let that matter more than the game on the schedule.”

It’s an approach they’ve gotten a little too familiar with in recent years.
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