ACC: CHris Chancellor

Clemson spring wrap

May, 7, 2010

2009 overall record: 9-5

2009 conference record: 6-2, Atlantic Division champs

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

DE Da’Quan Bowers, FS DeAndre McDaniel, LT Chris Hairston, RT Landon Walker, QB Kyle Parker, DT Jarvis Jenkins, LB Brandon Maye, RB Andre Ellington, RB Jamie Harper

Key losses

RB C.J. Spiller, WR Jacoby Ford, LG Thomas Austin, TE Michael Palmer, DE Ricky Sapp, LB Kavell Conner, CB Chris Chancellor, CB Crezdon Butler, LB Kevin Alexander

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Spiller (1,212 yds)

Passing: Parker* (2,526 yds)

Receiving: Ford (779 yds)

Tackles: Conner (111)

Sacks: Sapp (5)

Interceptions: McDaniel* (8)

Spring answers

1. Meet Dwayne Allen. The Tigers appear to have a capable replacement for former first-team all-conference tight end Michael Palmer, who set a school record for receptions (43) and reception yards (507) for a tight end last year. Allen had three catches for 83 yards in the spring game. He could be a centerpiece of the offense next year.

2. Liking the linebackers. The graduation of Alexander and Conner hurt, but coach Dabo Swinney liked what he saw from this group this spring. The Tigers are deeper and more versatile here and will have the ability to increase the number of plays per linebacker.

3.Holding their own. Heading into the spring, the punter and place-kicking jobs were open, but punter Dawson Zimmerman and kicker Richard Jackson both retained their spots. Jackson was inconsistent last year and missed two extra point attempts, but he tied for second in the ACC with 20 field goals.

Fall questions

1. Will Parker return? The dual-sport quarterback won’t determine his future until baseball season has ended. As his spring home run total increases, it becomes more of a question. His batting average and home run totals -- Parker leads the ACC in home runs -- continue to be a factor.

2. Spiller’s replacements. What four people will combine to do what Spiller did last year? Kick returns, catching the ball out of the backfield, the ground game -- Mr. Versatility will be missed. Ellington had a good spring with 13 carries for 86 yards in the spring game, and expectations are high for Harper.

3. Reaching at receiver. With Ford’s graduation, Clemson is looking for a new go-to player. Swinney liked what he saw from the group, as Xavier Dye and Terrence Ashe both had productive springs. Brandon Clear was one of the most improved players on the roster and will be given a chance to make some plays this summer.

Clemson's Taylor signs free agent contract

May, 5, 2010
Former Clemson fullback Rendrick Taylor has signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Bucs and will report to mini-camp May 17. He will work as a fullback and tight end, but also played receiver during his career at Clemson.

Taylor, who will graduate on Friday, played in 38 games for the Tigers over the past five years, 10 as a starter. He finished his career with 54 receptions for 533 yards and a touchdown and had 15 carries for 36 yards as a fullback.

Taylor is the fifth member of last year's team to sign a free agent contract and five other players were drafted two weeks ago. That's a significant bit of talent gone from last year's Atlantic Division champs:

Still, Clemson returns enough talent on both sides of the ball to repeat as division champs. The Tigers will have six starters back on defense, including four of the top five tacklers and three defensive linemen. Even though Chancellor and Butler are gone, Clemson's secondary returns players who accounted for 19 of last year's 21 interceptions.

Clemson's secondary should remain strong

March, 8, 2010
On paper, it looks like one of Clemson's biggest question marks this fall will be in the secondary, where the Tigers will have to replace what might have been their top cornerback duo in about two decades. Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler had combined for 20 career interceptions and 85 passes defensed over the past four years. And it was no coincidence that Clemson ranked in the top 20 in the nation in pass defense during that time.

Despite the graduation of Butler and Chancellor, though, those within the program are expecting the secondary to yet again be a strength of the defense. Here's why:

  • The leader of the defense returns: Safety DeAndre McDaniel led the ACC and ranked third in the nation in interceptions with eight last year, tied for the most in school history. He had 102 tackles to rank fourth on the team and was the only player in college football last year with at least eight interceptions and 100 tackles.
  • Marcus Gilchrist to cornerback: It's a good experiment for the spring, and Gilchrist can handle it. He was second on the team with 107 tackles as a starting safety last year. Gilchrist has played cornerback before, and the confidence the staff has in freshman Rashard Hall at safety would allow Clemson to make this move.
  • Depth and options: If Gilchrist locks up one starting cornerback job, the other is wide open. One front-runner would be senior Byron Maxwell, who had 36 tackles last year and two interceptions as a reserve cornerback. He was also the top special-teams tackler with 15. Other candidates include Coty Sensabaugh, who had 14 tackles and an interception, and Xavier Brewer, who had 15 tackles in 2009.

What to watch in the ACC this spring

February, 15, 2010
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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, 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, 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, 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, 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

ACC recruiting needs: Atlantic Division

January, 25, 2010
You might be familiar with the date Feb. 3. (Heck, some of you probably even take off work or ditch class for it.) Contrary to popular belief, though, it’s not a national holiday. It’s national signing day. And it’s coming up quickly. Every team has holes to fill after graduation and the NFL draft, but some are more pressing than others. Here’s a quick look at the Atlantic Division’s top areas of concern for this year’s class:


Quarterback: The Eagles can’t afford to be in another situation where nobody on the roster has had a snap of collegiate experience like they were heading into 2009. This is the class where coach Frank Spaziani can build the future of the program at this position.

Running back: Montel Harris is one of the best running backs in the ACC, but he’s not invincible. After the transfer of backup Josh Haden midway through last season, the Eagles were forced to depend on Harris and only Harris. It’s time to bring in some help.

Wide receiver: BC will graduate three seniors from the two-deep in Justin Jarvis, Clarence Megwa and record-setter Rich Gunnell. Quarterback Dave Shinskie will be better in Year 2, but now he’ll have to help usher in a new supporting cast.


Wide receiver: The Tigers will have to replace standout Jacoby Ford in 2010, but they’ll also have to prepare for the losses of Xavier Dye and Terrance Ashe, who will be seniors in 2010. It was a position of concern heading into 2009 and will be again.

Defensive backs: Two of the most experienced starting cornerbacks in the conference -- Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler -- have to be replaced, but the staff also has to look ahead. Next year, the Tigers will lose All-American safety DeAndre McDaniel, free safety Marcus Gilchrist and cornerback Byron Maxwell.


Linebacker: FSU’s biggest loss here will be Dekoda Watson, but two other players on the two-deep are juniors. The Noles were hurting at every position defensively, and while the bulk of players return, they need an overall upgrade in talent.

Defensive line: Save for defensive end Markus White, who will be a senior, and Budd Thacker, who will have to be replaced, this was a relatively young group. Still, the Noles struggled to stop the run and fluster quarterbacks most of the season, and it all starts up front.

Secondary: FSU will lose cornerback Patrick Robinson, Korey Mangum and Jamie Robinson. The addition of Lamarcus Joyner should give this unit an immediate boost.


Secondary: Three starters -- Anthony Wiseman, Jamari McCollough and Terrell Skinner -- were all seniors, and standout Nolan Carroll, who was injured, will also have to be replaced. It’s time to usher in the next wave of talent here.

Linebackers/ends: The staff needs to find players here who can better fit defensive coordinator Don Brown’s scheme. Some of those linebackers could end up being defensive end/hybrid players, but the Terps need some speed off the edge.


Linemen: The Pack will lose three starters on the offensive line and all four on the defensive line. Those positions are what almost half of the staff’s commitment list is comprised of so far, and the depth at those positions had to be completely rebuilt under Tom O’Brien. Some junior college transfers could help.

Halfback: With the news that Toney Baker decided to forgo his sixth year of eligibility, and the graduation of fifth-year senior Jamelle Eugene, it couldn’t hurt the Pack to start to reload at this position.


Offensive line: Seven members on the two-deep roster were redshirt seniors in 2009, and one, starting center Russell Nenon, was a redshirt junior. Three starters will have to be replaced in 2010.

Tight end: This position will be very thin, but the staff has added two in this year’s recruiting class. Wake could also help itself by adding a fullback or two to help with the blocking.

Linebackers: It was a unit comprised mainly of redshirt seniors and juniors in 2009, so the Deacs will have immediate holes there, as well as the need to restock for the future.

Final East-West Shrine Game rosters out

January, 14, 2010
The ACC will have 13 players among the 106 selected to play in the 85th annual East-West Shrine Game. The only problem with this game is that it's being held on the same field that provided the worst conditions of the bowl season -- the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. We'll assume they've cleaned it up.

It's a prestigious all-star game, as 90 percent of the players from last year's roster were either drafted or signed as free agents. It's sort of like a final audition for the NFL, as the game is directed by an NFL-affiliated coaching staff, NFL officials and rules.

The ACC players will be coached by Romeo Crennel, who spent four seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Browns and has won five Super Bowls as an assistant coach.

This year's game will be Jan. 23 (3 p.m. ET/ESPN2). The following players will represent the ACC on the East team:

LB Mike McLaughlin, Boston College

OG Thomas Austin, Clemson

CB Chris Chancellor, Clemson

OLB Kavell Conner, Clemson

OG Cord Howard, Georgia Tech

RB Javarris James, Miami

C A.J. Trump, Miami

DE Willie Young, NC State

DT Nate Collins, Virginia

FS Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech

OG Sergio Render, Virginia Tech

CB Stephan Virgil, Virginia Tech

OG Chris DeGeare, Wake Forest

Clemson's Chancellor out

November, 7, 2009
Posted by's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. - Chris Chancellor is out for the rest of the game with a lower leg injury. This is a significant hit to the Tigers' defense, as Chancellor is a veteran who ranks among the top four active ACC players in terms of total career interceptions. Still, the Tigers have lots of talent in their secondary with Crezdon Butler and DeAndre McDaniel.

Halftime: Florida State 17, Clemson 14

November, 7, 2009
Posted by’s Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- First, an injury update. Chris Chancellor has a lower leg injury. He’s being reevaluated during the break. Now, a quick look at what happened in the first half here in Memorial Stadium.

Turning point: It was first and goal from the FSU 5-yard line, when Kyle Parker was sacked by Markus White for a loss of a yard and fumbled. Dekoda Watson recovered it, and Clemson’s chance at heading to the locker room with a lead took a hit. The defense gave Parker and Co. another opportunity on the ensuing drive with an interception, but Richard Jackson missed a 38-yard field goal. That fumble on the five-yard line was as close as the Tigers would get to reasserting themselves in the first half.

What Clemson needs to do: Eliminate the penalties and capitalize on their red zone scoring chances. Clemson has five penalties for 40 yards. That’s surprising, considering the Tigers entered this game averaging just 4.6 penalties per game, which was fourth best in the country. Earlier in the year, when Clemson was struggling, it was in the red zone. That appears to be the case again tonight.

What Florida State needs to do: Continue to run the ball and limit the mistakes. Jermaine Thomas has been a bright spot for the Noles, and his success helps Ponder with the play-action passes and opens up other options in the passing game. Right now, though, FSU has only been successful on 1 of 2 third downs. Their three turnovers have kept them out of a rhythm. Ponder’s two interceptions are uncharacteristic, but Clemson’s defense deserves some credit for that.

Miami passing game faces tough Clemson secondary

October, 23, 2009
Posted by’s Heather Dinich

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris remembers Clemson cornerback Chris Chancellor from their days as high school opponents. Chancellor was at Edison High, and Harris at Miami Northwestern. They were in 10th grade, and Harris wasn’t even the starter yet.

 Getty Images
 Miami quarterback Jacory Harris will be a strong test for Chris Chancellor and Clemson's secondary.
“They almost beat us in that game,” Harris recalled.


Considering the past two games between Miami and Clemson have gone into overtime, the storyline should be equally as interesting on Saturday when Harris and Chancellor meet again, this time both as star players for their respective teams. It will be the first time the two programs have played each other since Miami came away with a 36-30 win in triple overtime at Clemson in 2005.

Harris, who was sacked six times last weekend against Central Florida, will face an aggressive pass rush and his receivers will face man-to-man coverage from the Tigers, who have one of the best defenses in the ACC. Miami’s offensive line will be tasked with giving Harris more time to think on his feet, while Clemson’s secondary will face one of the deepest receiving corps in the conference. The Tigers are No. 2 in the ACC in pass defense, allowing 147.8 yards per game. Harris is averaging 253.

“On film they have a lot of talent, a lot of speed,” Chancellor said. “They have guys who can make plays in space. Jacory Harris has a tremendous arm. He’ll probably be one of the best ACC quarterbacks we’ve played against thus far this year.

“Guys just have to go out there and do their 1-11. That means each guy is handling their own job on the field. If I have a wide receiver I’m supposed to cover, I have to go out there and cover him. If a nose tackle has a three-technique, he’s supposed to get in the right gap. It’s going to rely on everybody going out there and doing their own job each and every play.”

Harris currently ranks eighth nationally and second in the ACC in passing efficiency (157.3), and is a big reason why the Canes are off to a 5-1 start, the best under coach Randy Shannon. Harris has passed for 1,518 yards with 11 touchdowns, seven interceptions and a 64.8 completion percentage this year.

“One thing about facing their secondary, they’re going to play you man, and they’re just going to say, ‘You beat us,’” Harris said. “I guess [it’s] because they believe in their front seven. Their front seven is really good. We just have to go out there and execute. I think we have talented enough wide receivers to go against their man-to-man corners.”

By Saturday night, Miami, Clemson and Washington will have been the only programs in the country to have faced three opponents ranked in the top 15 within the first seven games of the season. The difference, though, is that the Canes have come out on the winning end all but once -- against Virginia Tech -- and the Tigers are looking for their first marquee win after losses to TCU and Georgia Tech.

“We get another shot at a top 15 team,” Chancellor said, “and we have to go out there and execute and try to show the world that we belong up there where all those other guys are.”

On Saturday, the separation between he and Harris should narrow considerably, just like it did the last time they faced each other.

ACC's lunchtime links

October, 23, 2009
Posted by's Heather Dinich

The critics have gotten a little quieter in Tally, if only for a week.
  • What should have been a celebration for the Tar Heels ended in a cloud of disappointment, and UNC's hopes for the season might already be lost.
  • Here's the good and the bad from the FSU sideline.
  • The number of Florida recruits flowing into the ACC has dropped 30 percent over the past decade, according to a report by Travis Sawchik.
  • Tony Barnhart says that if Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt continues to play like he has, the Jackets can't lose this weekend. He also has a few other picks for you. According to Barnhart, the ACC is the third best conference in all the land.
  • There will be an awe factor that has to be tackled on Saturday when BC quarterback Dave Shinskie visits Notre Dame.
  • The bad news for Virginia? Defensive end Matt Conrath is out with an ankle sprain. The good news? The Cavs should have 'Juice' back against the Jackets.
  • It will be an emotional game for Clemson cornerback Chris Chancellor, who will bury and honor one of his closest friends this weekend in addition to facing Miami.
  • Maryland hasn't played Duke since 2004. It seems like eons ago -- long enough for Duke to get good enough to beat the Terps.

ACC players to honor Connecticut's Howard

October, 22, 2009
Posted by's Heather Dinich

The Connecticut program was stunned and saddened recently by the tragic death of cornerback Jasper Howard, who was stabbed near the campus student union, but the effects of this tragedy have rippled throughout college football, including the ACC.

Clemson starting cornerback Chris Chancellor will wear No. 6 during Saturday’s game at Miami in honor of Howard. Chancellor and Howard were teammates at Miami Edison Senior High School in Miami.

Boston College junior cornerback DeLeon Gause will also wear Howard’s No. 6 when the Eagles face Notre Dame in South Bend this Saturday.

Gause, a Miami native, played against Howard in high school and later became friends with him.

“We played against each other in high school and at the Kickoff Classic,” Gause said. “All I remember is that he was talking about me before the game. He kept saying, ‘tell (Gause) that it’s going to be a big game.’ And he came out there to play. We kept going back and forth.”

Believing that he needed to show his support for Howard, Gause searched for some way to keep his spirit close by when the Eagles play on Saturday.

“I talked with another guy who played with (Jasper), a cornerback at Clemson, Chris Chancellor. It was on his heart to (wear Jasper’s No. 6) and I thought of anything that I could do. I felt like I had to do something.”

Gause asked for and received permission to wear No. 6 from the BC coaching staff. Running back Jeff Smith will continue to wear No. 6 as well in Saturday’s game (the two play on opposite sides of the ball).

ACC Mailblog

August, 14, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

You asked, I answered:

Henri in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Hey Heather, any comments on Jonathan Dwyer getting listed by Mel Kiper as the best running back in the draft?

Heather Dinich: At seven yards per carry, Dwyer should be one of the best backs in the draft, but Jackets fans don't have to worry about Dwyer's focus this fall. I asked him about his NFL aspirations recently and he said it's a huge dream for him -- huge -- but that he's not thinking about it this season. I still think, though, that C.J. Spiller will finally have the season that gets him some recognition.

Bill in Boston writes: Hey, love the blog updates, keeps me going at work during the offseason! Quick question: regarding all of the safety talk, where is Kam Chancellor in the national discussion? He had a bit of an off-year last year, but before last year there was a lot of attention surrounding him, and he was learning a new position. I think he is poised to break out in a big way, so wheres the love?

HD: Well, every safety in the nation right now is overshadowed by the hype surrounding Tennessee's Eric Berry and USC's Taylor Mays. They're the ones dominating the national discussion, and rightfully so. Don't forget that Chancellor moved into the starting free safety job for 2008 after spending his sophomore season as Tech's rover. He'll be playing the same position for more than one season for the first time in his Tech career, and that should make a difference in his consistency this year.

Treigh in Clemson, S.C., writes: HD i see your All ACC team is missing a few tigers on the defensive side of the ball. I take nothing away from young, worilds, robinson, or virgil but i think that Sapp and Bowers will prove they are the best ends in the ACC. And then our corners Chancellor and Butler both of who could be all americans this year. I dont think they all should have made it but one or two of them definatly should be on there. Thanks for all the great work HD keep it up

HD: Thanks for reading, Treigh, and no doubt you named players who are among my Top 30 in the ACC, and who got significant consideration. Both Bowers and Sapp should really flourish under Kevin Steele's defense, and you're right -- that duo at corner should be one of the best in the ACC. It was a tough call, trust me.

Bubba in Atlanta writes: HD, on of the members posted a comment that a starting UMD DT quit the team today. Would you, please confirm or refute that info?

HD: No doubt, Bubba, it's true. Dion Armstrong is out.

Neal in New York writes: Heather,I am a huge fan of your blog. However, I have to question your article, "Virginia Tech's medical staff not to blame." I believe the standard in VA for legal liability in medical malpractice is harm that is reasonably foreseeable for a person in a similarly situated position - i.e. whether other physicians of a like training/community would have acted the same or differently in a similar situation. I am unsure how other physicians would react to a report of a sprained knee and that it appears to be stable (e.g. it is possible that an expert orthopedic would order an MRI for a superior athlete because he or she knows, or should know, that strong quadriceps will strengthen a knee despite injury). I don't want to draw a conclusion one way or the other - I simply want to point out that there's not enough information out there to draw a conclusion that physicians/staff are NOT to blame. Neal

HD: You make some great points, Neal, and I'm about as close to being a doctor as I am the Hokies' next quarterback, so I'm probably not qualified to evaluate the medical staff's performance. But running backs coach Billy Hite told me that Darren Evans' knee was so strong it completely hid the real problem. I just find it hard to lay blame in such an unfortunate incident, so in this case, I won't.

Adam in Atlanta writes: Hey Heather, I completely understand the expectation that GT's defense will be a little down this year after losing 3 NFL caliber defensive lineman, but doesn't having the other 8 starters return just mean that our defensive strength shifts the the LB's and backfield? Can they make up for the loss of Johnson, Walker and Richard?

HD: Yes, Georgia Tech's linebackers and secondary will no doubt be the strength of the defense, and I don't think Jackets fans should panic too much over the departures up front. The guys replacing them have experience, it's just a matter of transitioning into a starting role. And having Derrick Morgan up there will go a long way in helping that transition.

Robert in Blacksburg writes: Hey HD, Thanks for all the updates on Darren Evans. It's such an unfortunate, freak accident but I think he'll come back better than ever with increased drive and intensity. My question is, will he be able to get a medical redshirt for this season, or will he lose a year of eligibility?

HD: Unfortunately, Evans will lose this year of eligibility because he has already redshirted. Not that I understand this, but Evans would have to be hurt again and miss another season in order to earn the medical hardship. The reality of the matter is this: When Evans comes back, if he has another season like he did in 2008, he'll be in the NFL anyway, so it won't be an issue. So Hokies fans, enjoy every carry while you have him. Evans has a son, and if he's projected a high draft pick, Hite will be one of the first people pushing him out the door -- sadly, of course.

Seth in Muscle Shoals, Ala., writes: Heather, I know most people predict a 8-4 season for the Miami Hurricanes. How realistic is a 10-2 season? I'll give you Georgia Tech and Oklahoma, but we beat Va Tech last year and should have beaten FSU. The only game after the first fearsome foursome that i'd be worried about is going to UNC. Level with me HD.

HD: Seth, I'll level with you: I think a nine-win season would be a success for the Canes, and that includes a win at FSU.

Peter in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Why are the Hokies ranked so high in the pre-season every year?!??! they always bomb out! So overrated.

HD: Hmm, three ACC titles and an Orange Bowl win in five seasons. Yeah, sounds like a real underperformer.

Around the ACC: FSU's Givens earns scholarship

August, 8, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

A few odds n' ends from Friday practice reports around the league to get you through until Monday ...


FSU opened practice on Friday, and a pair of former walk-ons, senior wide receiver Louis Givens and grad student long-snapper Zach Aronson, have earned scholarships for the 2009 season. Bowden made the announcement at the conclusion of the first practice.

"It's a great feeling," said Givens, a Jacksonville native. "I have always felt like I was a part of the team since I got here because the coaches and players treat you right. The staff is great at making you feel welcome. But now that it's official that I am on scholarship, it's a great feeling to not have to worry about paying for school. Now I can focus more on class and football and not have to worry about that in the back of my mind."

Givens caught four passes for 44 yards and rushed three times for 32 yards as a reserve last season. He also recorded 13 special teams tackles.

Aronson handled all the Seminoles special teams snaps last season -- a job he's expected to hold -- and was virtually flawless.

Also good news for the Noles, as reported by Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel, wide receiver Taiwan Easterling and running back Tavares Pressley participated at full strength.


Clemson had its fourth practice of the preseason on Friday evening on the practice fields behind the Jervey Athletic Center. Saturday night's practice will be the final day of the NCAA mandated five-day acclimatization period.

"I was encouraged by the way the team worked today," said coach Dabo Swinney. "They have been a focused group and that is important. Champions are not born, they are made and you have to have a daily commitment . They have to be focused on every play. I have talked to the team time and again about six seconds. Each play is giving full effort for six seconds at a time."

Swinney talked about the play of his defense after practice. "The defensive side of the ball has played well. There were oame great thuds out there today. DeAndre McDaniel had a great thud on Andre Ellington towards the end of the practice. He has really played well in the preseason. Marcus Gilchrist had a strong day in the secondary as well."

Gilchrist had two interceptions during the drills.

"I think we can be special in the secondary this year. Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler are both on the Thorpe Award Watch List (announced today) and we are the only team in the country with both of our starting cornerbacks on that list. They are having a great camp as well.

"And, I am very pleased with what I see from Ricky Sapp. He looks like he is wide open to me. We will have some physical practices coming up in full pads and it will be interesting to see how he does."

Swinney also commented on the fact that Clemson was not ranked in the preseason top 25 of the USA Today Coaches poll. "That doesn't bother me one bit. I have said many times before whether we are ranked in the preseason or not really doesn't matter. It will all be decided by the end of the year when we play the games on the field."

Jacoby Ford and J.K. Jay continued to miss practice and were both in yellow jerseys due to injury.


Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe put the Demon Deacons through a two-hour practice on Friday afternoon at the Doc Martin Football Practice Complex.

The team wore shorts and jerseys along with helmets. The majority of the practice was spent going through station drills.

"I thought we flew around pretty good for a first practice," said Grobe. "The guys had a pretty good feeling of what to do. Typically, when you have as many young guys as we do, you think they won't have much recall. We didn't put too much in on the first day but their recall from spring practice was really good."

The team will practice in shorts and jerseys through the weekend before going to shells on Monday. The first practice in full pads is set for Wednesday, August 12.

ACC well-represented on Thorpe watch list

August, 7, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Eight players and five ACC schools were represented on the 2009 Jim Thorpe Award preseason watch list, which is presented annually to the nation's top defensive back.  Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Clemson each have two players on this list, and they're all deserving, considering it's going to be a position of strength for each of those programs. Here is the full list:

Javier Arenas, SR, Alabama

Duke Ihenacho, SR, San Jose State
Aaron Berry, SR, Pittsburgh

Reshad Jones, JR, Georgia
Eric Berry, JR, Tennessee

Jordan Lake, SR, Baylor
Ahmad Black, JR, Florida

Myron Lewis, SR. Vanderbilt
Morgan Burnett, JR,  Georgia Tech

Trevard Lindley, SR,  Kentucky
Kendric Burney, JR, North Carolina

Taylor Mays, SR, Univ. of Southern California
Crezdon Butler, SR, Clemson

Amari Spievey, JR, Iowa
Kam Chancellor, SR,  Virginia Tech

Darrell Stuckey, SR, Kansas
Chris Chancellor, SR, Clemson

Earl Thomas, SO, Texas
Barry Church, SR, Toledo

Syd'Quan Thompson, SR, California
Kurt Coleman, SR, Ohio State

Walter Thurmond, SR, Oregon
Parrish Cox, SR, Oklahoma State University

Alterraun Verner, SR, UCLA
Ras-I Dowling, JR, Virginia

Stephen Virgil, SR,  Virginia Tech
Van Eskridge, SR, East Carolina

Deunta Williams, JR, North Carolina
Dominique Franks, JR, Oklahoma

Kyle Wilson, SR, Boise State
Joe Haden, JR, Florida

From the release:

The Jim Thorpe Award "watch list" is determined by analysis of the pre-season All-American teams listed in at least six pre-season college football annual magazines. Four points are awarded for first team, three points for second team, two points for third and one point for honorable mentions. This procedure determines approximately 30-40 players on the pre-season watch list. This list is not final and players who have outstanding seasons are added as the season progresses.

A "Screening Committee" of Jim Thorpe Association members follows these players throughout the season, watching games and researching information sources to grade Thorpe Award candidates on the basis of performance on the field, athletic ability and character. The committee meets on the first Monday in November to narrow the field to 10 or 12 semi-finalists.

The committee meets again on the Monday before Thanksgiving to select the three finalists. The names of these finalists are submitted to a national panel of about 50 sports writers, sportscasters, coaches and former players who vote to determine the winner. The three finalists are invited to the ESPN College Football Awards Show, and the winner is announced during the show.

Can Clemson shine when the spotlight isn't on?

August, 4, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Clemson starts practice this evening with a semi-new coach, new coordinators, and much of the same talent that a year ago made this program seem invincible. Will the Tigers be at their best when less is expected of them? Here are three reasons they will, and three reasons they won't:

Why Clemson will win the Atlantic Division

1. The offensive line will be better. The Tigers return all five starters, including veteran leader Thomas Austin. He is slated to start at guard and Mason Cloy will start at center. Cloy started all but one game last year. Sophomore Antoine McClain was the most-improved offensive lineman this past spring and will start at right guard. Chris Hairston and Landon Walker are two returning starters at tackle.

2. The defense will be one of the best in the conference. There are high expectations for this group under the direction of first-year coordinator Kevin Steele. The defensive line returns three of four starters and could be the strength of the entire team. The cornerback duo of Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor is one of the most experienced pairs in the ACC.

3. C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford. The potential to have a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver is something most coaches probably envy. This could be the nation's fastest receiver/running back combination. Both have been All-Americans for Clemson's track team the past three years. With James Davis and Aaron Kelly gone, it's their show now.

Why Clemson won't win the Atlantic Division

1. Inconsistency at quarterback. It's bound to happen, especially considering we don't know who the quarterback will be, or whether both Kyle Parker and Willy Korn will be used. Korn has the most experience, but neither has gone through an entire season shouldering the responsibility of full-time starter, and that can take some time to get used to.

2. Unproven head coach and OC. At the age of 30, Billy Napier will be the youngest offensive coordinator in school history. Only time will tell if it was wise to promote the wide receivers coach to head coach and the tight ends coach to offensive coordinator. Together Napier and Dabo Swinney helped lead the Tigers to a bowl game last season, but now they're facing the same pressures Tommy Bowden once did -- win the ACC title. It's not like either of them has a similar FBS experience to draw from.

3. Unproven receivers. Somebody is going to have to help Ford out, and right now the staff doesn't know who will come through. Xavier Dye, Marquan Jones and Terrance Ashe all return, but none had more than six catches a year ago.