ACC: Chase Rice

Chase Rice just chasing his dream

August, 21, 2014
Sports have a distinct way of teaching important, lasting life lessons: Teamwork, selflessness in the quest for the greater good, the value of sacrifice and hard work and perseverance, triumph, failure, passion and the like. Those lessons are forever. They apply in the classroom and the in boardroom and in the living room.

I thought about this for a long time after chatting with Chase Rice. His story is a real-life "Forrest Gump" script, one born from that sports-as-life premise.

Rice is a successful country music singer. He has a song on the radio. That, in itself, means he beat overwhelming odds. For every Kenny Chesney, there are a thousand honky-tonk heroes. Rice also co-wrote one of the most successful commercial country music songs of all time, played major college football, almost won the TV reality show "Survivor" and tossed aside a potential career in NASCAR with the sport's super team because his heart was in Nashville.

He is 27 years old.

To read Marty Smith's full story, Click here.

ACC, Chase Rice

Wake Forest, ACC, poised for huge splash in NFL draft

March, 13, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

If there's one thing the ACC can brag about when it comes to competing against the other BCS conferences, it's NFL draft picks, and this year should be no exception. Over the past three years, the ACC has led all conferences with 25 players chosen in the first round of the NFL draft and the most players drafted overall (115). Half of the ACC could be represented in the first round this year.

The ACC has three of the top five NFL draft prospects, according to Scouts Inc.'s ranking of the top 32 draft-eligible players:

1. Aaron Curry, linebacker, Wake Forest

2. Michael Crabtree, wide receiver, Texas Tech

3. Jason Smith, offensive tackle, Baylor

4. B.J. Raji, defensive tackle, Boston College

5. Eugene Monroe, offensive tackle, Virginia

Florida State defensive end Everette Brown isn't far behind at No. 13, North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks is No. 26 and Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is No. 27. Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith made the cut at No. 32.

The fact that two Wake Forest players are even on the list -- let alone a possible No. 1 overall pick -- is evidence that the coaching staff has an eye for talent, and it is possible to lure players like Smith and Curry to Winston-Salem. Same with Boston College. Never in the history of the program has Wake Forest had a No. 1 overall pick. (Norm Snead was No. 2 in 1961). Their last first-round pick was defensive end Calvin Pace in 2003. In fact, Curry would be only the third player ever from Wake to be chosen in the first round.

Only Wake Forest and East Carolina showed an interest in Curry. At just over six feet, he was undersized, but ran really well. The staff liked his work ethic and love for the game. They took a chance on him because of those two qualities. There were a few other linebackers in the state that year -- Chase Rice went to UNC and Chase Bullock went to Maryland. Obviously neither of them had a career like Curry.

Detroit seems to be torn between former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith and Curry. The Rams will probably take a lineman because they just cut Orlando Pace, so Curry probably won't go there, and could fall to No. 3, Kansas City. Regardless, it will be a huge paycheck for Curry and will pay dividends in recruiting and exposure for Wake Forest.

UNC's Rice has a newfound confidence the Heels will need

December, 22, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Not much has gone right the past two seasons for North Carolina linebacker Chase Rice. He suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter of the 2007 season opener and was told he'd miss the entire season. His father passed away in May, making it difficult to concentrate on anything, let alone working his way into the 2008 starting lineup.

At the beginning of this season, Rice was behind Bruce Carter and mainly used in nickel packages and on special teams. As a senior, he was frustrated with his lack of playing time, but made winning the greater priority and helped out where he could. Rice, usually a strongside linebacker, bounced around and played all three linebacker positions against NC State.

Now, as North Carolina prepares to face West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, Rice is back in the starting lineup and confident from one of his best performances. In his first start since taking over for leading tackler Mark Paschal, who suffered a career-ending spine injury against NC State, Rice had a career-high 10 tackles in the Tar Heels' win over Duke.

"At the Duke game they finally gave me an opportunity to play and show what I could do and I feel like I did that," Rice said. "That's all I wanted, was a shot, and they gave that to me in the Duke game and I proved I can step in and play football. That's all I really wanted, was an opportunity and I took advantage of it. That helped me with my confidence, helped me get back into playing in a game situation. I feel confident about where I'm at, how I'm playing and know that I can do the job."

UNC will certainly need Rice -- and the entire defense -- to be sharp against the Mountaineers. UNC started the season with a bang and went out with somewhat of wimper, losing two of its last three games. They're looking to make a statement against the No. 12 rushing offense in the Big East. West Virginia, led by the tandem of quarterback Pat White and running back Noel Devine, is averaging 217.17 rushing yards.

"They make a lot of good decisions," said UNC safety Trimane Goddard. "They're very quick, elusive. You have to do your job. ... It's almost similar to Georgia Tech. It's a different style offense, but the discipline that you need is about equal."

North Carolina's defense, while it has excelled at scoring off turnovers, is 62nd in the nation in total defense and 58th in rushing defense.

"At the beginning of the year we were playing with a swagger, playing with a lot of confidence, having a lot of fun, and we're trying to get back to completely doing that," Rice said. "The way we've been practicing is definitely going to help us do that during the bowl game because we're getting back to having fun playing football, and that's the way the defense plays the best, especially."

What to watch in the ACC: Week 14

November, 26, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

It's the final week of the regular season, and there's no lack of things to keep an eye on, starting with the most important: Who's going to Tampa?

1. The Atlantic and Coastal Division crowns. If Boston College wins, it's in. Same with Virginia Tech. Both of those teams have home-field advantage. If they lose, Georgia Tech and Florida State will win their respective divisions.

2. Bowl eligibility. Last call for anyone still interested in extending their season. NC State, Virginia and Clemson all have that opportunity. If any one of them succeeds, it will be the first time in league history the ACC has had nine teams qualify for a bowl game.

3. SEC vs. ACC. Here it is, the ACC's chance to go 4-0 against the SEC (quit laughing) with wins over Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. There's a decent chance the league represents at 2-2, with its best win being over Georgia. In order for that to happen, though ...

4. Watch how the Bulldogs defend the triple option. They had a bye week to prepare for it, and will have home-field advantage, but will they have the discipline? Georgia has the No. 10 scoring defense in the SEC but is holding opponents to 104.5 rushing yards per game.

5. FSU defensive end Everette Brown vs. Tim Tebow. Brown has been a man on a mission this season, and three times this year has had at least three sacks in a game. Will he be able to get to the Heisman Trophy winner?

6. Boston College quarterback Dominique Davis. How he fares in place of injured starter Chris Crane will go a long way in determining how far the Eagles can go.

7. Miami's defense. Can the Hurricanes regroup from their embarrassing performance against Georgia Tech in time to stop a surging NC State offense, led by quarterback Russell Wilson?

8. UNC linebacker Chase Rice. He'll take over for injured linebacker Mark Paschal, the Tar Heels' leading tackler whose season ended with a spine injury in the 41-10 loss to NC State.

9. Duke's offense. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is expected to return, so the Blue Devils should be more productive than they were last week at Virginia Tech.

10. How Clemson fares without injured bandit end Ricky Sapp. The Tigers' pass rush struggled to begin with, and it is likely to struggle even more without Sapp.

UNC injury report

September, 19, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich


Cooter Arnold, WR, ankle

Charles Brown, DB, ankle

Bobby Rome, RB, ankle

LeCount Fantroy, DB, hand


Linwan Euwell, LB, thigh

Vince Jacobs, DL, abdomen

Brett Long, WR, thigh

Chase Rice, LB, wrist,

Scott Mincey, OL, ankle


Darius Massenburg, DL, knee

Withers the right man for the job at UNC

August, 13, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

 Jeff Gross/Getty Images
 Everett Withers was the defensive backs coach with the Tennessee Titans from 2001-2006.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- First-year defensive coordinator Everett Withers was a good hire for North Carolina.

He's got connections all over the place -- he grew up in Charlotte, he worked for Mack Brown at Texas, and he wanted to play at UNC but "wasn't good enough" and instead played defensive back at Appalachian State.

But that's not the reason he seems to be the right man for the job, and it only took 12 minutes in his office today to draw that conclusion. Mainly because of how he answered my non-question about his 2007 Minnesota defense, which ranked 119th out of 119 programs in total defense. With Withers as their defensive coordinator, the Golden Gophers allowed a whopping 518.67 yards per game.

"Don't take this the wrong way," I said, "but Minnesota's defense last year ..."

"Awful," he said, finishing my sentence.

Withers took some blame, saying he might have tried to compensate for a lack of talent with a complicated defense, but probably confused the players instead of helping them. He's not the first defensive coordinator tasked with trying to turn around Minnesota's defense, and the Texas secondary improved from 75th in the nation in pass defense in 1997 to first in 2000, so it's not like he hasn't had results before.

The bottom line is this: Withers thinks he has more talent to work with at UNC and is convinced it's enough for the Tar Heels to be a legitimate contender in the ACC.

"This place is on the right track," he said. "It's on the right track, getting the talent you need to compete and be a BCS team. This program is on that track."

Withers is not trying to change things drastically, rather he's trying to simplify things for a defense that, as linebacker Chase Rice put it, doesn't want to "have to think when we're out there, because when we think, that's no good for any defense."

Especially one with so many questions at cornerback.

"Everett, his attention to detail has been very, very good in the secondary because he's got a huge challenge, not only being the defensive coordinator, but it's an area of enormous scrutiny with this football team," coach Butch Davis said. "We feel very comfortable with the safeties. We think we've got four, maybe five safeties who are pretty good players. But corner is truly really an unsettled situation. I think his experience is giving those guys confidence, having coached the corners an awful lot. They trust him, they believe in him. He did it in the NFL. There's that willingness to listen to him."

So far, Kendric Burney has one starting spot, but there is tough competition between Jordan Hemby and Charles Brown at the other spot. Hemby, a junior, is finally healthy after being injured each of the past two seasons, and Brown is a sophomore who made nine starts as a true freshman in 2007 at either cornerback or nickel back.

"The kids are working hard," Withers said. "All of those kids have gotten better since we ended in the spring. I've gotta help them some and not put them in situations where they're going to be exposed all the time, but they're working hard and they're competing. We've got our hands full, but we'll compete and fight."

Bowling for Butch

August, 13, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina's football players were unexpectedly called to an 8 a.m. meeting today. It raised a few eyebrows -- and a few spirits -- when coach Butch Davis announced the team was going bowling instead of to practice.

It's a tradition Davis started last year when he took the team swimming about 10 practices into summer camp. Last year's delivery of the change in plans was a little more entertaining, according to safety Trimane Goddard.

"They showed a slide of a beach on the screen and coach Davis was talking and then coach (John) Blake came in with a swimming suit on and said is somebody ready to go to the beach?" Goddard said.

The bowling worked well today, since it's raining here.

"We have nobody that's going to threaten to be Dick Weber, but we had a great time," Davis said. "Guys were laughing, we had a competition -- offense against the defense -- the 10 best bowlers. It was a hard-fought match. The defense won, 93-88. That tells you how good the bowling was.

"As a coach you walk a fine line all the time during training camp. How do you get your team prepared physically, do the work you need to work and yet stay as healthy as you possibly can?"

The players seemed to enjoy it. Well, everyone except Greg Little. He was just plain bad. Came in last with a 24.

"Twenty-four?" asked linebacker Chase Rice. "That's bad. That's really bad. I'm sure he had a lot of gutter balls. Thank God I didn't get a chance to see it."

ACC in the morning: Improvement since expansion?

August, 12, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But first Friedgen has to name a starting quarterback.

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

ACC position rankings: linebackers

July, 18, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

1. Virginia: Senior captain Clint Sintim started all 37 games in his career and was third on the team with 77 tackles last season. His nine sacks last year were the most of any linebacker in the nation. Inside linebacker Jon Copper is UVA's active leader in tackles with 200, and Antonio Appleby is third on that list with 155.

2. Wake Forest: All three returning starters are back, including strongside linebacker Aaron Curry, a two-time defensive player of the week who had three interception returns for touchdowns and led the nation in interception return yards with 256. He also led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss. Middle linebacker Stanley Arnoux also returns, along with weakside linebacker Chantz McClinic, who had 42 tackles.

 Ned Dishman/Getty Images
 Senior linebacker Brian Toal, who has 180 career tackles despite missing last season, is healthy again for Boston College.

3. Boston College: The Eagles lost two key starters, but senior Brian Toal's shoulder is healed and he has 180 career tackles despite missing last season with a medical redshirt. His primary competition at weakside linebacker will come from senior Robert Francois, who finished last season with 39 total tackles. Junior Mark Herzlich, who started all 14 games last year and finished second in total tackles with 97 should anchor this unit. Junior Mike McLaughlin started three games at middle linebacker last season when Jo-Lonn Dunbar was injured and is the heir apparent there.

4. Maryland: This could be one of the Terps' deeper positions, even with the loss of Erin Henderson to the NFL. Seniors Dave Philistin and Moise Fokou each started all 13 games last season, and Adrian Moten, who played all three positions as a freshman, tied for the team lead in sacks (5.5) and had 50 tackles even though he didn't start a game. Philistin ranked fourth in the ACC with 9.5 tackles per game.

5. Florida State: These guys have talent, it's just a matter of when it will all come together. Geno Hayes is gone, and so is Marcus Ball, who was expected to fill in for Hayes but was booted off the team. Still, the Seminoles' leading tackler is back. Underrated middle linebacker Derek Nicholson made 99 stops last year and was the only linebacker to start all 13 games. Strongside linebacker Dekoda Watson started every game but the bowl game because of the academic scandal and will miss the first three, leaving the job to sophomore Kendall Smith. The 'Noles are also excited about freshman Nigel Bradham.

6. Miami: The Hurricanes lost their leading tackler in Tavares Gooden, a third-round NFL draft pick by the Ravens, but are still better off than the way they ended last season -- with three healthy linebackers. Senior Glenn Cook is back after missing last season with a foot injury, and the freshmen -- Arthur Brown and Sean Spence -- didn't waste any time impressing the staff while Coin McCarthy was out this spring. Darryl Sharpton and Spencer Adkins are possible starters in the middle.

7. Virginia Tech: The Hokies will obviously miss Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, but middle linebacker Brett Warren played well last year when Hall got hurt and earned the confidence of defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Purnell Sturdivant is No. 1 heading into the fall, but should be challenged by veteran Jonas Houseright and redshirt freshman Hunter Ovens. Redshirt junior Cam Martin started 13 of 14 games last season at weakside after being moved from free safety and finished fifth on the team with 78 tackles and was third in sacks with 4.5.

8. Duke: Senior Michael Tauiliili is the top active player in the league in terms of career tackles, and finished last season with 108. He also had four sacks and three interceptions. Vincent Rey led the Blue Devils with 111 tackles. The third slot will be between Marcus Jones and Adam Banks. There's not a lot of depth here, but there's talent.

9. Clemson: This is the least experienced unit on the Tigers' defense. Josh Miller is the only senior in the group and is competing for the starting middle linebacker job. Tommy Bowden was impressed with freshman Stanley Hunter this spring, but Brandon Maye had the top spring among the newcomers and is listed as first team in the middle entering the fall. Junior Kavell Connor is the top option at weakside linebacker and had a career high 15 tackles in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. He had 46 stops for the year, tops among linebackers on the spring depth chart. Sophomore Scotty Cooper also started the Chick-fil-A Bowl at strongside linebacker. He had 33 stops for the season in 183 plays on defense.

10. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace leading tackler Durell Mapp, but return sophomore Bruce Carter and sophomore Quan Sturdivant. Carter played in all 12 games and started seven. He made 18 of his 25 tackles in the final five games. Sturdivant's experience is similar, having played in all 12 games, but started just five. He finished the season with 47 tackles, but also added an interception and a blocked punt. Senior Mark Paschal played in all 12 games and started four at middle linebacker, and Chase Rice was still recovering this spring from a torn tendon in his left ankle. He was the starter in 2007, but got hurt in the season opener and missed the rest of the season.

11. NC State: There's not a lot of experience, as the top candidates have combined for five starts and only four guys have played in a collegiate game. Nate Irving is the lead candidate at weakside linebacker, having started four games. Ray Michel started one game in the middle, and strongside should be wide open. Robbie Leonard, a converted walk-on defensive back, is the starter heading into summer camp. He played in eight games as a strong safety and has seen most of his action on special teams the past two seasons. Thomas Barnes got valuable experience as a backup middle linebacker last season, playing the last 10 games and scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery in only his third career play from scrimmage.

12. Georgia Tech: Two of the three stars from last year -- Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton -- are now on NFL rosters. Junior Shane Bowen started nine games last season, but sophomore Anthony Barnes has the most potential and started three. Two young rookies, sophomore Brad Jefferson and redshirt freshman Kyle Jackson, are good enough that Bowen may lose his starting job.

UNC position battles

July, 17, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

We're moving down the alphabet here as I break down the remaining position battles to watch during summer camp. Here's a look at the jobs still open at North Carolina (you know, the place with that really pretty stadium, ha!)

Offensive guard -- Aaron Stahl and Calvin Darity started every game last year at guard. Darity returns and Stahl is moving to center. That leaves the other guard spot up for grabs between senior Byron Bishop, sophomore Alan Pelc and redshirt freshman Kevin Bryant.

Defensive tackle -- Kentwan Balmer is gone, but the Tar Heels have a lot of options at defensive tackle. Aleric Mullins is a returning starter at the other tackle position, so that leaves Marvin Austin, Cam Thomas, Tavares Brown and Tyrdreke Powell battling for the position. Butch Davis has a history of rotating several players along the defensive line, particularly at defensive tackle, so all of those guys will likely see significant playing time.

Defensive end -- E.J. Wilson returns, but Hilee Taylor does not. Replacing Taylor's production will be difficult. The competition for that spot is not as deep as at defensive tackle, but Darrius Massenburg (broke his wrist and didn't participate in spring), Darius Powell (more of a third down guy), Greg Elleby, and Vince Jacobs (a converted tight end) are in the mix with several freshmen.

Linebacker - Seniors Mark Paschal and Chase Rice and sophomores Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter return. True freshmen Zach Brown, Kevin Reddick could make an impact.