ACC: Chris Brathwaite


Breaking down the spring in the ACC Coastal division:

Duke

Spring practice over

What we learned:
  • Momentum rolls on. It's hard to believe the Blue Devils are already done with spring ball, but coach David Cutcliffe opted to open practice in February to capitalize on the momentum that was created last season. After the spring game ended Saturday, he praised the way his players handled the practices. There was a great deal of retention and not a lot of re-teaching, so coaches were able to get much more out of their players this spring.
  • Max McCaffrey emerges. Jamison Crowder had a spectacular 2013 season, but it was essentially him and then everybody else in the receiver group. That may not be the case this season. McCaffrey earned praise from coaches and teammates for the way he improved during the spring. Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery said McCaffrey made as many plays as anybody else on the offense this spring.
  • Stepping up on the line. The Blue Devils lost three starters on their defensive line -- both ends in Kenny Anunike and Justin Foxx, and defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento. But it appears as if the players behind them are ready to step up and make a seamless transition. Defensive ends Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and Dezmond Johnson each had two sacks in the spring game. Kyler Brown also made the switch from linebacker to defensive end and had a sack in the spring game as well.
Georgia Tech

Spring start: March 24

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:
  • Justin Thomas takes over. After Vad Lee announced his transfer from Georgia Tech, the quarterback reigns fell to Thomas, who played in 10 games this season. The Jackets had their share of highs and lows under Lee, but what the staff is going to be looking for first and foremost is Thomas’ ability to hold on to the football. Georgia Tech had 24 giveaways and ranked No. 12 in the ACC in turnover margin.
  • Defensive line questions. The Jackets lose three starters on the defensive line, including All-ACC defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu -- who had 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Who will step up and fill that type of production? The most experienced backups returning are sophomores Tyler Stargel and Patrick Gamble. Also, Travin Henry will get a look at defensive end after playing wide receiver last season.
  • Offensive line questions. Georgia Tech also loses three starters on the offensive line -- tackles Ray Beno and Will Jackson and center Jay Finch. The trio combined to start 117 games in their careers, so there is no doubt this is going to be a much less experienced unit in 2014. The good news is All-ACC guard Shaq Mason returns to help anchor the new-look line.
Miami

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Quarterback derby. Stephen Morris is gone, but the Canes do have at least one experienced quarterback on the roster in Ryan Williams, a Memphis transfer who has served as Morris’ backup the last two seasons. As a true freshman with the Tigers, Williams started 10 games -- all the way back in 2010. Challenging Williams is redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, who had a bit of a rocky first year in Miami, along with Gray Crow.
  • Defensive improvements. Perhaps more than what happens at quarterback, Miami must see improvements out of its defense this season. Embattled defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio kept his job but the status quo cannot persist. Every single area of the defense must be upgraded. Ranking No. 13 in the ACC in total defense just can’t happen again.
  • Defensive improvements, Part II. To try and help the secondary, Miami already moved Dallas Crawford over to safety, where the Canes could use the help. But Miami must be stronger on the defensive front. The Canes only had 12 sacks in eight conference games. By comparison, BC led the way with 25 sacks in conference games. This is a big opportunity for guys like Al-Quadin Muhammad, Tyriq McCord and Ufomba Kamalu to really step up.
North Carolina

Spring start: Started March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Marquise Williams took over as the starter when Bryn Renner was gone for the season and ended up helping the Tar Heels make a bowl game after a 1-5 start. But coach Larry Fedora said the competition is open this spring. Look for Mitch Trubisky and Kanler Coker to give Williams a major push.
  • Defensive line questions. Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson are both gone, leaving big holes in the North Carolina front. Martin ended up notching 21.5 tackles for loss to rank No. 3 in the ACC. So who are the next guys up? At end, Junior Gnonkonde and Jessie Rogers are the top two contenders, while Shawn Underwood, Devonte Brown and Justin Thomason will compete for one of the tackle spots.
  • Replacing Ebron. Eric Ebron was dynamic at tight end for the Tar Heels last season, leading the team with 62 receptions for 973 yards, while adding three touchdowns. Will the Tar Heels be able to replace that type of production with just one player? Jack Tabb would be next in line among the tight ends, but this is a huge opportunity for the North Carolina receiving group as well. We saw plenty of promise out of young guys like Bug Howard, T.J. Thorpe and Ryan Switzer.
Pitt

Spring start: March 16

Spring game: No spring game. Last day of practice April 13

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Chad Voytik played really well in relief of an injured Tom Savage in the bowl game, but coach Paul Chryst said the competition to win the starting job is open headed into the spring. At this point, Voytik and Trey Anderson are the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. So you can bet the biggest goal of all is to keep them both healthy.
  • Replacing Aaron Donald. One of the biggest surprises in all of college football this past season was the emergence and utter dominance of Donald at defensive tackle. Donald swept every major defensive award after notching 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. Darryl Render is the next man up.
  • Complementary receiver. Devin Street is gone, leaving Tyler Boyd as the only standout receiver on the roster. Not only do the Panthers have to develop a consistent No. 2 receiver, they also have to develop some depth. Watch for Manasseh Garner, a former H-back who moved to receiver late last season when Street got hurt. He is more physical than Boyd, and has some extended playing experience.
Virginia

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. David Watford is not guaranteed to win his starting job back after last season, when he threw eight touchdown passes to 15 interceptions. Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns are also in the mix and reps with the first team will be split. In fact, Lambert got the first-team reps when the Hoos opened spring ball last weekend.
  • Andrew Brown. The highly-touted freshman will have every opportunity to win a starting job at defensive tackle, and it all starts in spring ball. The No. 3-ranked player in the ESPN 300 comes in with tons of hype; now can he translate that into on-field success? He, Donte Wilkins and Chris Brathwaite will be competing to start next to David Dean.
  • Mr. McGee. Jake McGee was the best player the Hoos had among the group of tight ends and receivers a year ago, leading the team with 43 catches for 395 yards. This spring, McGee has now moved over to receiver so the Hoos can take advantage of his athletic ability. Plus, Virginia is lacking playmakers at the position, so we’ll see how much this move benefits both McGee and the offense.
Virginia Tech

Spring start: March 27

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Quarterback. Mark Leal heads into the spring with a leg up in the quarterback competition but make no mistake, there is no set starter. He will get competition from freshmen Andrew Ford and Brenden Motley in the spring, with freshman Chris Durkin and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer arriving in summer. This competition will likely drag on into the fall.
  • Front seven. The Hokies are losing five terrific players up front, including ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, and linebacker Jack Tyler, who racked up 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons. There is no doubt a major priority this spring is finding their replacements and building depth along the line and at linebacker. Who will step up as the leader of this group with Tyler gone?
  • Skill players. This has been an ongoing theme over the last two seasons and will continue to be a theme until the Hokies have consistently good players at running back and receiver. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is excited about the return of tight end Ryan Malleck, and his entire tight end group for that matter. A healthy Malleck and improvement from Kalvin Cline means the Hokies could simultaneously improve their run and pass game.

Virginia season preview

August, 8, 2013
8/08/13
10:18
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Today we look at the Virginia Cavaliers, who look to rebound after finishing last in the Coastal in 2012.

Virginia Cavaliers

Coach: Mike London (40-26 overall, 16-21 at Virginia)

2012 record: 4-8 (2-6)

Key losses: QB Phillip Sims, QB Michael Rocco, RB Perry Jones, DT Chris Brathwaite, LB Steve Greer, LB LaRoy Reynolds

Key returnees: RB Kevin Parks, LT Morgan Moses, WR Darius Jennings, CB Demetrious Nicholson, S Anthony Harris, DE Jake Snyder

[+] EnlargeTaquan Mizzell
Soobum Im/USA TODAY SportsWith questions at quarterback, the Cavaliers may need Taquan Mizzell to help in the run game quickly.
Newcomer to watch: RB Taquan Mizzell. The talented tailback, nicknamed "Smoke" because of his elusiveness on the field, is perhaps the top recruit London has landed at Virginia. With veteran runner Parks on the roster, Mizzell won't need to carry the load in his first season, but given the serious question marks at quarterback, the Cavaliers figure to run the ball often. Mizzell's speed and athleticism should make for a valuable weapon immediately, and if the offensive line can take a step forward, he could be one of the league's top rookies in 2013.

Biggest games in 2013: vs. Oregon, Sept. 7; vs. Clemson, Nov. 2; at Miami, Nov. 23; vs. Virginia Tech, Nov. 30

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: It's London's fourth season at Virginia, and he's facing his fourth quarterback battle. That's an unlikely scenario given the talent on the depth chart at the position just a year ago, but the transfer of Rocco and the dismissal of Sims served to reshuffle the deck once again. Redshirt sophomore David Watford looks to be the favorite to grab the starting job. He's more athletic than redshirt freshman Greyson Lambert, which could be a necessity given last year's woes on the offensive line, and Watford did gain limited playing time in 2011.

Forecast: London's tenure at Virginia started well enough, but the Cavaliers have now lost 10 of their past 14 games, and the hot-seat rumors have begun for the coach. Add in the serious questions at quarterback and a tough early slate that includes nonconference games against BYU and Oregon, and things could get ugly fast for Virginia.

Still, there is reason for optimism. Mizzell may be the most talented runner Virginia has had in a decade, and with Parks back after racking up nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage last season, the running game should be a strength. Meanwhile, the offensive line certainly left ample room for improvement a year ago, but Moses is one of the conference's top blockers and the unit does return four starters.

A massive overhaul of the coaching staff also figures to shake things up in Charlottesville, and none of the new faces will bring as much enthusiasm as new coordinator Jon Tenuta. He has built a reputation for being aggressive, and after finishing 2012 dead last in the ACC in takeaways, that's good news for the Cavaliers. Last year, Virginia defenders managed just four interceptions all season. A strong and experienced secondary should make it easier for Tenuta to use blitz packages liberally, and a solid group of pass-rushers led by Snyder and Eli Harold figure to be an improvement on last year.

Of course, the biggest challenge Virginia may face is not simply improving its own production on both sides of the ball, but the daunting schedule. In addition to the grueling nonconference start, Virginia wraps up the year with November showdowns against Clemson, Miami and Virginia Tech. A loss in 2013 would be the 10th straight to its in-state rival.
2012 record: 4-8
2012 conference record: 2-6 (sixth in the Coastal Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 7; Defense: 7; Kicker/punter: 1

Top returners:

QB David Watford, QB Phillip Sims, RT Morgan Moses, TE Jake McGee, TB Kevin Parks, C Luke Bowanko, WR Tim Smith, WR Darius Jennings, DE Jake Snider, CB Demetrious Nicholson

Key losses:

LT Oday Aboushi, QB Michael Rocco, TB Perry Jones, LB Steve Greer, LB LaRoy Reynolds

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Kevin Parks* (734 yards)
Passing: Michael Rocco (1,917 yards)
Receiving: Darius Jennings* (568 yards)
Tackles: Steve Greer (122)
Sacks: Chris Brathwaite* (3.5)
Interceptions: Maurice Canady*(2)

Spring answers

1. Born to blitz. The defense embraced first-year defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta’s aggressive style with enthusiasm. There were 14 sacks in the spring game. Senior Brent Urban seemed to flourish at defensive tackle. At 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds, he was disrupting the run and creating havoc in the passing lanes with his long reach.

2. Reshuffling the O-line. The staff made some changes up front in order to give the running game a much-needed boost. UVa moved walk-on center Jackson Matteo to the starting spot for the week of practices following the spring game and slid last year's center, Luke Bowanko, to left guard. Sean Cascarano moved from right tackle to right guard and Jay Whitmire took over at right tackle.

3. Morgan Moses is The Man. He decided to return for his senior season, and if this spring was any indication, Moses is on the way to a monster of a finale. The coaching staff was very pleased with his play at left tackle, and he’ll be the anchor of the line.

Fall questions

1. Quarterbacks (again). David Watford, Phillip Sims and Greyson Lambert continue to battle it out. Coach Mike London has said the staff will decide upon a starter in early August. Lambert is more of a drop-back passer, and Sims and Watford are more dual-threat quarterbacks.

2. Linebackers. The loss of Steve Greer, who finished his career with 376 tackles, looms large, but LaRoy Reynolds was also a big-play linebacker who will be missed. Henry Coley switched from the outside to the middle and will be responsible for more line calls. He has big shoes to fill in the tackle department.

3. The running backs. Can Clifton Richardson stay healthy and give UVa a big-back option? UVa lost versatile tailback Perry Jones. Parks returns, along with Khalek Shepherd, but UVa ranked No. 96 in the country in rushing offense last season.
If you’re just joining us, this series is categorizing the unranked teams in the ACC as either contenders or pretenders heading into the 2013 season. We’re leaving out Florida State and Clemson because they are the only two teams from the ACC expected to be ranked this preseason. Those rankings automatically qualify them as contenders. The Hoos are up next.

SportsNation

What do you expect out of Virginia in 2013?

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Discuss (Total votes: 2,882)

Why they're contenders: Virginia returns a majority of its starters on offense and defense, so the Hoos should be a much more experienced team heading into the season. Though Perry Jones is gone from the running backs, a deep and talented group remains with Kevin Parks, Khalek Shepherd and Clifton Richardson having all played significant minutes in games. Then there is the much-anticipated arrival of five-star running back Taquan Mizzell. The receivers should be better, too, with the top five players from a year ago all returning. Yes, there are questions at quarterback, but there is some major talent on this team. A new coordinator in Steve Fairchild should help them put up more than 396 yards of total offense per game. Defensively, the secondary should turn into an area of strength with four returners. The defensive line has an opportunity to build on some of the progress it made toward the end of last season with Jake Snyder back at one end and Eli Harold set to start on the other side after a promising freshman season.

Why they're pretenders: OK, so I downplayed the quarterback questions in the first category. The Hoos have to pick one starter and go with him instead of playing musical quarterbacks if they want to try to find any semblance of consistency at this position. Easier said than done for sure. David Watford, Phillip Sims and Greyson Lambert are all competing for the starting job. Quarterback questions aside, this offense is not going to function the way it wants without a solid running game. The offensive line was not an area of strength last year. With Jones and Oday Aboushi gone, can the Hoos get back to the production they had on the ground in 2011? Defensively, losing Steve Greer in the middle is a huge blow, considering how sure of a tackler he was for this team throughout the course of his career. The pre-spring depth chart has strongside linebacker Henry Coley moving back to the middle. At least the Hoos will have an experienced player there. But linebacker is definitely a question mark heading into the season. Depth at defensive tackle also is an issue, particularly after the loss of Chris Brathwaite, who is no longer on the team.

Final verdict: I expect the Hoos to be much improved this year, but they remain a pretender. First, there are too many unknowns at quarterback. Second, the schedule is difficult. And third, there has been an overhaul to the entire coaching staff. How will this impact the offense and defense?

More in this series
Virginia defensive tackle Chris Brathwaite is ineligible and currently not enrolled at the university, the school announced Wednesday.

Last year, during his sophomore season, Brathwaite played in all 12 games in a reserve role and led the team’s defensive tackles with 41 stops. He led the Cavaliers’ defense with 10 tackles for loss. Brathwaite had a career-high nine tackles against Wake Forest. He played in five games in 2011.

“I am disappointed that Chris did not make the commitment he needed to succeed off of the football field,” coach Mike London said in a prepared statement. “If the time comes where he can return to UVa, and rejoin the team, he must do so with great enthusiasm for the things that we expect and require of our student-athletes.”

ACC injury report: Week 11

November, 9, 2012
11/09/12
11:00
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Here are the ACC injury reports for Week 11 from the schools that emailed them:

Clemson

Probable
Out for the season
Miami

Doubtful
Out
Surgery/Out for the season
North Carolina


Out


NC State

Questionable
Out
Out for the season
Virginia

Probable
Questionable
Doubtful
Out
Out for the season

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