ACC: Chris DeGeare

Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
6:00
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Good (very early) morning to you, ACC fans. Today we're taking a look back at each school in the conference, and what we learned (and didn't) from spring ball. (Most teams still have far more questions than they do answers heading into summer camp, but we'll stick with three each.) We'll start at the end of the alphabet for a change (sorry, BC fans).

Here's your spring scouting report on the Demon Deacons:

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

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

Top returners

WR Marshall Williams, WR Devon Brown, RB Josh Adams, G Joe Looney, C Russell Nenon, DE Tristan Dorty, DE Kyle Wilber, LB Matt Woodlief, SS Cyhl Quarles, P Shane Popham , CB Kenny Okoro

Key losses

OT Chris DeGeare, QB Riley Skinner, OG Jeff Griffin, OG Barrett McMillin, DT John Russell, DT Boo Robinson, CB Brandon Ghee

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Adams* (541 yards)

Passing: Skinner (3,160 yds)

Receiving: Williams* (867 yds)

Tackles: Dominique Midgett (79)

Sacks: Russell (4.5)

Interceptions: Okoro* (3)

Spring answers

1. Help for the quarterback. Wake Forest found some playmakers this spring who can help ease the transition for a new starting quarterback. Brown and Chris Givens can both take a handoff on a sweep, and the Deacs have two veterans in Adams and Brandon Pendergrass. Wake’s ground game should get a boost from both the running backs and wide receivers.

2. New quarterback, new offense. Without Skinner, the Deacs are making the transition to a more run-based option offense, and No. 1 on this list will help them do that. Regardless of who wins the quarterback job, he’ll likely bring an added dimension with his ability to run, and Skylar Jones demonstrated that this spring.

3. New staff assignments. Coach Jim Grobe reassigned some of his assistants to better take advantage of their strengths, and those transitions went well this spring. The biggest change was the move of Steve Russ, a former defensive coordinator at Syracuse, from tight ends and fullbacks to linebackers.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. Jones finished the spring atop the depth chart, but part of that decision was based on durability. Jones didn’t miss a day of practice this spring. Historically, that’s been a quality Grobe likes -- guys who can stay healthy in his system. But the staff thinks very highly of incoming freshman Tanner Price, who will be given every opportunity to win the job as well. Regardless of who starts the season opener, they’re all inexperienced.

2. Woe-line. Possibly a bigger concern than who the starting quarterback will be is how the offensive line will come together. The Deacs return Nenon at center, but he missed all of spring and added to the unit’s injury concerns. Wake is missing established tackles, and the group is trying to get back to running the ball the way it did before Skinner. The previous linemen were recruited to be run blockers, but the focused changed when they got a great passing quarterback.

3. Defensive jobs up for grabs. Wake Forest has a lot of young talent, making for some ongoing competition this summer at five or six positions. The interior defensive line, defensive end and linebacker are areas where there are two legitimate potential starters as opposed to two backups trying to earn promotions.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 26, 2010
4/26/10
12:30
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Spring games and the NFL draft made for a busy weekend in the ACC ...

  • Full disclosure: I'm from Pennsylvania. Born on the Western side. That makes me a Steelers fan. Welcome to the club, Jonathan Dwyer. The surprising news, though, was how long Dwyer had to wait to get there.
  • Former Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell also went later than many expected, falling to the fourth round.
  • It took until the final day for a trio of Miami players to hear their names called -- not that Jason Fox minded.
  • Former Wake Forest offensive lineman Chris DeGeare was surprised he wound up with Minnesota.
  • There are a few remaining concerns for the Carolina schools heading into the summer.
  • Virginia Tech and FSU have been deemed the ACC's early front-runners by at least one media outlet already.
  • Here are seven storylines worth watching in the conference this year.
  • Former FSU safety Myron Rolle convinced the Tennessee Titans he was worthy of a pick, even if it didn't come until the sixth round.
  • FSU coach Jimbo Fisher answered a few of the media's questions on this week's ACC teleconference.
  • Michael Vick received a mostly warm welcome back to Virginia Tech this past weekend.
  • Former Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas' success has inspired Stephen Hill to aim for the same.

ACC position superlatives: Wake Forest

March, 12, 2010
3/12/10
5:00
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We wrap up our position superlative series this afternoon with the strongest and weakest positions at Wake Forest:

Strongest position: Wide receiver

Key returnees: Marshall Williams, Devon Brown

Key departures: None

The skinny: The Deacs are deep here, as they also get back Terence Davis, who missed last year with a torn ACL, and both backups in Chris Givens and Jordan Williams. Brown, Marshall Williams and Givens were the top three receivers, respectively, a year ago. Williams was fourth in the ACC in receptions per game (5) and third in receiving yards per game (72.2).

Weakest position: Offensive line

Key returnees: LG Joe Looney, C Russell Nenon

Key departures: LT Chris DeGeare, RG Barrett McMillin, RT Jeff Griffin,

The skinny: Wake has to replace three starters up front, but overall the Deacs graduated five redshirt seniors from the two-deep at this position. There’s room for improvement, as Wake was tied for No. 83 in the country last year in sacks allowed with 2.33. Both tackle positions will be the biggest concern.

Final East-West Shrine Game rosters out

January, 14, 2010
1/14/10
9:00
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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

ACC representatives at the NFL combine

January, 12, 2010
1/12/10
3:30
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The Sporting News published a list of seniors invited to participate in the 2010 NFL scouting combine, Feb. 24 to March 2 at Indianapolis. Here are the ACC's representatives, but keep in mind it's not an official -- or final -- list.

Boston College: LB Mike McLaughlin, C Matt Tennant.

Clemson: OLB Kavell Conner, WR Jacoby Ford, DE Ricky Sapp, RB C.J. Spiller.

Duke: QB Thaddeus Lewis, Vince Oghobaase.

Florida State: CB Patrick Robinson, S Myron Rolle, OLB Dekoda Watson.

Maryland: CB Nolan Carroll.

Miami: TE Dedrick Epps, OT Jason Fox, TE Jimmy Graham, RB Javarris James, LB Darryl Sharpton.

North Carolina: OT Kyle Jolly, DT Cam Thomas.

NC State: C Ted Larsen, DE Willie Young.

Virginia: CB Chris Cook, FB Rashawn Jackson.

Virginia Tech: P Brent Bowden, S Kam Chancellor, CB Stephan Virgil, OT Ed Wang.

Wake Forest: OT Chris DeGeare, CB Brandon Ghee.

ACC mailblog

August, 21, 2009
8/21/09
2:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Thanks for the questions, everyone, here's your weekly Mailblog:

Evan in Atlanta, Ga. writes: Hey Heather, do you know what games you'll be visiting this season? Like to see you come to Atlanta for homecoming, because if I remember right you've been good luck when you show up (weren't you at the FSU and Miami game last year?).

HD: Yep. Every Georgia Tech game I was at last year they won -- except for one. The Virginia Tech game. Which games I go to depends on how the season unfolds, so I don't know until the week of where I'm headed. It's more fun that way (and much tougher to get a hotel room). But I'm sure at some point I'll see the Jackets. Last year, I saw 11 of the 12 teams play live, only missing NC State. I'm making up for that this year by starting out in Raleigh on Thursday night. Speaking of that game ...


Matt in Lynchburg, Va., writes: Hey HD, the ACC plays 7 against the SEC this season...and the first one is NC State vs. South Carolina. How do they match up? Seems like a win would be a big first step for the Pack.

HD: That's going to be a close game because the teams are so similar, starting with how thin they are in the secondary. Here's a mini scouting report on South Carolina: There's nobody remotely ready to play quarterback behind Stephen Garcia, and they don't have any proven big-time threats at receiver or running back. Still there's a lot of good young talent in the program. They'll be strong at linebacker, good at defensive end. They'll look like an SEC defense, but will have to start one or two true freshmen in the secondary. Like NC State, they can't afford for anyone to get hurt. They were terrible at pass protecting last year, gave up a lot of sacks, and didn't run the ball well. Their defense will have to be the rock for them.


Evan King in Okeechobee, Fla. writes: Do you think FSU could be a 2010 BCS contender with all the young talent on this years team?

HD: Yes, but only if the intangibles are there -- staff continuity, no off-field distractions, no me-first, no NFL attitudes, and the work ethic to maximize their talent and potential.


CJ Fitz in College Park, Md., writes: Hey HD, heard you were in the area. Great post on Tate, any chance you can give me a little bit more of an insider on the team... how the o-line did in your opinion and how the defense is coming along under coach brown?

HD: Yes, I was, CJ, and while I'd like to say I saw anything worth reporting, the practice was closed to the media. Having talked to the players and coaches, though, the o-line is still a work in progress and a concern, and the defense is definitely ahead of the offense at this point. I think the hire of Don Brown will be an upgrade, and the scheme will baffle some ACC offenses.


Bob K in Atlanta writes: Heather, who is the most under-rated player in the ACC? Obviously someone who didn't make your top 30 list.

HD: Well, my first instinct is to say Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, because from a national perspective, he doesn't get the credit he deserves. He was, however, on my Top 30 list. So, I'll go with Chris DeGeare, an offensive lineman at Wake Forest. He was academically ineligible last year, but should be the anchor of that line this fall. You could also look at BC's roster for some underrated players. Safety Wes Davis, or receiver Rich Gunnell come to mind.


Anthony Burke in Orlando, Fla. writes: What is the likelihood that the ACC will be represented in the National Title? I have it that it will be Florida vs. someone from the ACC and Florida getting upset. I am a Miami fan and I believe they will comeout of September and October smelling like Rose's because they are a better team than last year. The toughest team they will play will be Georgia Tech and they can win that game. I believe that The U is back, and I think this team will prove me right, because they have reminenses of the young canes team back in 2000. Go Canes

HD: This year? I'd say pretty slim. Why? Because I don't think Virginia Tech is going to beat Alabama, and I don't think they'll escape the ACC undefeated. And right now, the way everything is set up, the Hokies are the ACC's best hope -- even without Darren Evans. Now, if your Canes start off 4-0, then Florida better look out.

Around the ACC: Terps start practice

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Good morning, ACC fans. I'm in Tallahassee, and getting ready to head out to FSU practice, but first I wanted to catch you up on a few Monday practice reports from around the league:

MARYLAND

The Terps started practice on Monday, and coach Ralph Friedgen is a shell of his former self after losing more than 100 pounds. Here are a few tidbits from Monday's practice, as reported by the sports information office:

    • Two-year starter Chris Turner and Jamarr Robinson were the lone quarterbacks on the roster in the spring, but they have been joined by a pair of talented true freshmen in C.J. Brown and Danny O'Brien.

      "I looked at the young quarterbacks and they did pretty good for the first day," Friedgen said. "We put a lot of stuff in and they had the extra meeting today. I thought Chris was very sharp. I though Jamarr showed some signs of improving. I was impressed with the quickness of [Caleb] Porzel, He is a quick little kid. We have to get him and D.J. Adams in on Saturday [for the scrimmage]. I want to see what they can do."

      • Practice Tidbits: Junior WR Adrian Cannon made a number of impressive catches during individual drills, including a one-handed grab along the sidelines. ... During one of the 7-on-7 drills, O'Brien went 6-for-6, including a long completion to Quintin McCree. O'Brien and McCree also connected again in 11-on-11s on a long completion. ... Running back Gary Douglas redshirted last season as a true freshman, but was impressive during fall practice. Douglas continued to show impressive athleticism. He had good runs after the catch Monday and showed some elusiveness.
      • Return Game: Torrey Smith, who set an ACC record for kickoff return yards last season, is penciled in as the primary kickoff return man, but the Terps are in search of a new punt returner with the departure of three-year starter Danny Oquendo. Sophomore Tony Logan, who handled the job in the Humanitarian Bowl, is listed No.1 on the depth chart. Anthony Wiseman and Kenny Tate are backups for new special teams coordinator Charles Bankins heading into the preseason, but Porzel and Travis Hawkins also fielded punts during individual drills.
      • Switching Lines: True freshman Cody Blue, who enrolled in January and participated in spring drills, has moved from the defensive line to the offensive line. Blue was a backup at defensive end, but will slide in at tackle. "Cody has the height and I think he's going to get a lot bigger," Friedgen said. "It's going to take him time to learn it, and we'll see how he does. If he doesn't adapt, we can always move him back to defense. I think this gives him the best chance of playing."

      (Read full post)

      Scouting Wake Forest

      August, 7, 2009
      8/07/09
      1:00
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      Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

      Anyone who has counted out Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe in the past should have learned by now that the man can work some magic.

      The offense, though, won't need any of that.

      It's the defense that's under reconstruction. Defensive coordinator Brad Lambert will spend this summer searching for the players who can replace a pair of All-Americans, the entire linebacking corps and three of four starters in the secondary. Not many teams got hit as hard by the NFL Draft as Wake Forest did (now there's a sentence you once probably never thought you'd read). It's true, though - The Deacs lost Aaron Curry, Stanley Arnoux and safety Chip Vaughn to the NFL. This is the kind of year when Grobe's redshirting pays off, as there are still numerous upperclassmen for Lambert to lean on. The strength of the entire team might be the defensive line, where seniors John Russell and Boo Robinson return.

      For the first time in years, though, roles have reversed and Wake's offense will be helping out the defense. Only two starters are gone from the offense, but they were both receivers in D.J. Boldin and Chip Brinkman. Marshall Williams and Devon Brown topped the preseason depth chart as their replacements. Williams is the top returning receiver from a year ago, as he started two games and made 26 catches for 390 yards.

      Aside from the return of veteran quarterback Riley Skinner, possibly the best news for Wake is that seven players return to the offensive line who have starting experience. The biggest difference there will be the return of Chris DeGeare, who missed last year for academic reasons.

      Another thing that will help is that Grobe has decided on his offensive philosophy. Last year, he said he put too much on Skinner, and then went too run-heavy at Miami. This year, he's looking for a little more balance, and Wake has the speed and talent to make that happen.

      Of course, everyone's got issues:

      1. Who will plug the holes in the secondary? Cornerbacks Josh Bush and Kenny Okoro both looked impressive this spring while competing for Alphonso Smith's old position. They got a lot of reps with injured starter Brandon Ghee out and began to establish themselves as capable replacements. Ghee will be back this summer, though, and is going to be the leader of that group.

      2. Can the Demon Deacons really compete for the Atlantic Division title? Definitely. In fact, because Wake has so much talent returning on offense, it wouldn't surprise me if they had one of the most productive offenses in the conference along with Georgia Tech. Obviously the key is how the defense comes together, but it all starts up front, and Wake's defensive line should be one of the best in the ACC.

      3. How long will it take the linebackers to come together? First let's figure out who they are. Jonathan Jones, Matt Woodlief and Hunter Haynes are the players listed at the top of the preseason depth chart, but combined they've started two career games. Realistically, this is a wide-open contest.

      Ranking the ACC units: Offensive lines

      July, 20, 2009
      7/20/09
      11:07
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      Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

      Position rankings today will include who has what up front. While it's not exactly glamorous, it wins games.

      Let's start with the offensive lines.

      1. Florida State -- Ah, it's amazing what a year can do, no? At this point last season, I had the Noles ranked No. 12. That's right, and I'd do it again. There wasn't a senior in the group, and they were the youngest O-line in the FBS with a lot to prove. It was a work in progress, and the tight ends had to help out, but Rick Trickett did a heck of a job, and I take partial credit for the motivation. You're welcome, coach. Now this group, led by Rodney Hudson, Ryan McMahon and Andrew Datko could be one of the best in the country.

      2. Boston College -- Four starters return who started all 14 games last year, including potential All-ACC candidates Anthony Castonzo and Matt Tennant. It took some time for this group to come together after Castonzo moved from right tackle to left, Thomas Claiborne was a defensive lineman who moved to the right guard spot and Rich Lapham came off the bench in nine games in 2007. Once they got comfortable, they were a major factor in the success of true freshmen running backs Montel Harris and Josh Haden. It should only be better this year.

      3. Wake Forest -- This should be a much-improved group, and deeper, especially with the return of Chris DeGeare, who missed last fall for academic reasons, at left tackle. Seven players with starting experience return to the offensive line and they have combined for 95 career starts. Russell Nenon, who moved to center after Trey Bailey broke his ankle last year, has solidified the position, and Jeff Griffin, who had been a starting tackle, is now comfortable at right guard. Barrett McMillin returns at guard.

      4. Clemson -- This is where the problems began last year, and it should be part of the solution in 2009. In 2008, Clemson had to replace four starters. This year, all five starters return. Since 1963, Clemson has had a winning percentage of 76 percent when it returns five starters on the offensive line. Thomas Austin has starting experience at center and guard and should be one of the top offensive linemen in the 2010 NFL draft.

      5. Virginia Tech -- The Hokies should be more athletic up front, and this unit goes eight deep, which might be the best depth they've had in the past two seasons. Ed Wang, who is entering his third season as a starter and Sergio Render, who is entering his fourth, are the veterans of a group that includes seven redshirt freshmen and sophomores on the two-deep. Beau Warren is expected to replace Ryan Shuman at center and Jaymes Brooks took over the right guard position and played well in the Orange Bowl in place of an ineligible Nick Marshman.

      6. Miami -- Depth remains a concern, but veteran tackle Jason Fox is as dependable as they come, with 36 career starts. There were some tweaks to the line this past spring, as Matt Pipho will be the new starter at right tackle, and the staff is eager to see how he handles that role. A.J. Trump moved from right guard to center, and Joel Figueroa took over at right guard. The health of the starters will be key through the tough stretch to start the season.

      7. Georgia Tech -- There is definitely potential here, but first the Jackets have to replace Andrew Gardner and David Brown, which they started to do last season when that duo got hurt. Then they have to keep everyone healthy, which didn't happen this spring. With Dan Voss, Nick Claytor and Cord Howard back for summer camp, and Joseph Gilbert having started 12 games last year, this group should improve and be more consistent this fall, but it will get even better as Paul Johnson's staff begins to recruit more athletic linemen.

      8. Virginia -- There are no athletic freaks on the line like coach Al Groh usually finds, but it should still be a solid group. Four starters return, including senior right tackle Will Barker, who has 37 starts. Junior B.J. Cabbell at right guard was a solid blocker last year in his first season as starter, as was Jack Shields, who improved as the season progressed. Sophomore Austin Pasztor moved into the starting lineup against Maryland and sophomore Landon Bradley was Eugene Monroe's backup.

      9. NC State -- The good news is that the Pack have plenty of upperclassmen to depend on, and four of the five starters have combined to start 60 games. The only player listed as a current starter who has never started is redshirt senior Andy Barbee, who has spent the previous three years as a reserve center but has now moved to guard. Behind those veterans are several players who redshirted last year and will be given an equal opportunity for playing time.

      10. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels took a hit early last month when starter Aaron Stahl decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to "move forward with the next phase of [his] life." His experience will be tough to replace, but there are a handful of players who had a good spring and will compete for his spot. Kyle Jolly, who is entering his third year as a starter, Alan Pelc, who earned a starting job at guard last year, and Lowell Dyer, who has started at center each of the past two seasons, will be the leaders of the line.

      11. Maryland -- The Terps lost five of their top seven offensive linemen, including three starters, and the development of their replacements will go a long way in determining how their season unfolds. Despite the graduation of longtime center Edwin Williams, it's the position of least concern as the staff is confident in the leadership and playing abilities of Phil Costa. There are also high expectations for left tackle Bruce Campbell, a physically gifted athlete.

      12. Duke -- This has been a trouble spot for the Blue Devils for years, and it's a work-in-progress for coach David Cutcliffe. This year should be another challenge as Duke has to replace three starters after making some progress last year. Center Bryan Morgan is the anchor of the group and enters his second season as a starter and is the only player back in his original position. Kyle Hill moved from left guard to left tackle, so this group will have a whole new look.

      Hope and concern: Wake Forest

      July, 3, 2009
      7/03/09
      9:00
      AM ET

      Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

      Biggest reason for hope -- Quarterback Riley Skinner

      The supporting cast is there. The wide receiving corps is faster and deeper. The running backs go three-deep. The offensive line should be noticeably better than it was in 2008, especially with the return of Chris DeGeare. Everything is in place for Skinner to end his career at Wake Forest with fireworks. He's already the winningest quarterback in school history, but he's chasing several records, and has the ability to help the Demon Deacons sneak into the Atlantic Division race in a year when little is expected of them.

      Biggest reason for concern -- Unproven defense

      Wake Forest lost seven starters on defense, including some of the best defenders ever to come through Winston-Salem in Aaron Curry and Alphonso Smith. Those players helped Wake earn a reputation for forcing turnovers, and while there is still talent on the roster, defensive coordinator Brad Lambert will be on the lookout for aggressive playmakers who strip the ball, recover fumbles and pressure quarterbacks into mistakes.

      Fully loaded in the ACC

      May, 28, 2009
      5/28/09
      9:00
      AM ET

      Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

      There are some teams in the ACC that are stacked at a particular position or positions -- meaning there's not just depth there, but depth and legitimate all-conference talent. Here's a quick look at who in the conference is simply loaded:

      UNC front seven: All four starters return on the defensive line, and there is outstanding depth both there and in the secondary. On the line, tackle Cam Thompson is coming off his best season at UNC, tackle Marvin Austin and end E.J. Wilson both started the majority of games last season, and Robert Quinn had 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

      Linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant both started every game last season, and the position is the deepest it's been in recent years. Carter led the team with 11 tackles for loss and Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles.

      Georgia Tech running backs: Jonathan Dwyer, Roddy Jones, Anthony Allen, Marcus Wright -- so many players, only one football.

      Georgia Tech secondary: Morgan Burnett, Rashaad Reid, Mario Butler, Dominique Reese, and Cooper Taylor all have experience, and the group also welcomes back Jerrard Tarrant from a suspension.

      Virginia Tech running backs: Darren Evans and Ryan Williams are all the Hokies will need, but they've also got Josh Oglesby and Kenny Lewis Jr. as players they can count on.

      Boston College secondary: The Eagles return DeLeon Gause, Wes Davis and Roderick Rollins, who have combined for 32 career starts. This should be the best group BC has had in a while.

      Clemson defensive line: The Tigers return three starters across the front, and coach Dabo Swinney has said this unit could be the strength of the entire team. Ricky Sapp is the leader, senior Kevin Alexander is a returning starter, and there are really three starters returning for the two defensive end positions, including DaQuan Bowers, who started six games last year and finished with 47 tackles, the most among the linemen.

      Miami wide receivers: Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier, LaRon Byrd, Kendal Thompkins, Tommy Streeter ... the Hurricanes could field a team that consists entirely of receivers.

      Florida State offensive line: The Noles are oozing with talent here. Tackle Andrew Datko, guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon combined to start all but one game last season. What was the youngest offensive line in the FBS last season could be one of the best this year. For the first time since 2004, all five starters return.

      Wake Forest offensive line: The Demon Deacons return eight offensive linemen with a total of 118 career starts among them. Jeff Griffin and Joe Birdsong are Wake's returning starters at tackle while Barrett McMillin and Joe Looney each started at guard in 2008. Russell Nenon, who started the season at guard, moved to center at midseason following an injury to Trey Bailey. Bailey returns after fully healing from a broken ankle. The Deacons also welcome back Chris DeGeare who missed the 2008 season while getting his academics in order.

      Wake Forest spring wrap-up

      May, 7, 2009
      5/07/09
      9:00
      AM ET

      Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

      Wake Forest Demon Deacons
      2008 overall record: 8-5

      2008 conference record: 4-4

      Returning starters

      Offense: 9, defense: 4, kicker/punter 1

      Top returners

      QB Riley Skinner, TE Ben Wooster, LT Joe Birdsong, C Russell Nenon, RT Jeff Griffin, RB Brandon Pendergrass, DT John Russell, NT Boo Robinson, CB Brandon Ghee, P Shane Popham, TB Kevin Harris, TB Josh Adams.

      Key losses

      DE Matt Robinson, LB Aaron Curry, LB Stanley Arnoux, LB Chantz McClinic, CB Alphonso Smith, FS Chip Vaughn, PK Sam Swank, WR D.J. Boldin, WR Chip Brinkman, SS Kevin Patterson

      2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

      Rushing: Brandon Bendergrass* (528 yards)
      Passing: Riley Skinner* (2,347 yards)
      Receiving: D.J. Boldin (848 yards)
      Tackles: Aaron Curry (105)
      Sacks: Boo Robinson* (5)
      Interceptions: Kevin Patterson (4)

      Spring answers

      2009 Schedule

      Sept. 5 Baylor
      Sept. 12 Stanford
      Sept. 19 Elon
      Sept. 26 at Boston College
      Oct. 3 NC State
      Oct. 10 Maryland
      Oct. 17 at Clemson
      Oct. 24 at Navy
      Oct. 31 Miami
      Nov. 7 at Georgia Tech
      Nov. 14 Florida State
      Nov. 28 at Duke

      1. Stepping up in the secondary. Cornerbacks Josh Bush and Kenny Okoro both looked impressive this spring while competing for Alphonso Smith's old position. They got a lot of reps with injured starter Brandon Ghee out and began to establish themselves as capable replacements.

      2. Strength in numbers. Seven players with starting experience return to the offensive line and they have combined for 95 career starts. Russell Nenon, who moved to center after Trey Bailey broke his ankle last year, has solidified the position, and Jeff Griffin, who had been a starting tackle, is now comfortable at right guard. It will help tremendously to have Chris DeGeare back at left tackle, and Barrett McMillin returns at guard.

      3. Better depth and speed at receiver. The Deacons have to replace D.J. Boldin, but they've got more options and more speed to do it this year. Chris Givens and Terence Davis, both redshirts last year, impressed the staff this spring. They'll team with Devon Brown, Marshall Williams and Jordan Williams.

      Fall questions

      1. Another loaded backfield. Like several other teams in the ACC, Wake has three capable tailbacks, and the staff will have to figure out how to distribute the carries. Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass and Kevin Harris each had a 100-yard game last year.

      2. Healing power. Brandon Ghee sprained his knee on the first day of spring practice and did not return, and Boo Robinson has had some disc problems and didn't participate in any spring drills. Their absence didn't help a defense trying to replace seven starters. Aaron Curry is the kind of player who can't be "replaced," but four candidates will continue to try this fall.

      3. Looking for No. 2. Backup quarterback Ryan McManus earned a slight lead as the No. 2 behind Riley Skinner -- so slight you might even call it a three-way tie -- but the coaches aren't ready to put it in ink yet. Skylar Jones and Ted Stachitas will continue to push McManus this fall.

      Valentine's Day in the ACC

      February, 13, 2009
      2/13/09
      9:16
      AM ET

      Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

      Ah, love is in the air. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, so I figured today I'd give the ACC a little love. Forget helmet stickers. Today I've got a dozen roses -- one for each team in the conference. In this case, the rose is a reason -- one good reason why each team will have a shot at the 2009 ACC title.

       
        PRNewsFoto/Organic Bouquet, Inc.
        Our ACC blogger shares some Valentine's Day love.

      Happy Valentine's Day, ACC
      Love, your ACC blogger

      BOSTON COLLEGE -- With four starters returning on the offensive line, and running backs Josh Haden and Montel Harris having one year of experience as true freshmen, the running game should better, and that, in turn, will help open things up for whoever wins the quarterback job.

      CLEMSON -- Nine starters return to a defense that finished 13th in the country in scoring defense and 18th in total defense.

      DUKE -- The return of Re'quan Boyette, the Blue Devils' 2007 leading rusher who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will lead a deeper corps of running backs and help compensate for the loss of receiver Eron Riley in the passing game.

      FLORIDA STATE -- The Seminoles could have the best offensive line in the ACC in 2009.

      GEORGIA TECH -- With ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer, a-back Roddy Jones, quarterback Josh Nesbitt and Louisville transfer Anthony Allen on the field, it could be one the most dangerous backfields in the ACC.

      MARYLAND -- The Terps will have a veteran starter returning at quarterback in Chris Turner, and he should be more consistent in his second season in James Franklin's offense.

      MIAMI -- The No. 1 recruiting class in the country a year ago will be even better as sophomores.

      NORTH CAROLINA -- The Tar Heels will have a veteran defense with only two major holes to fill.

      NC STATE -- The Wolfpack have arguably the best quarterback in the ACC in Russell Wilson, and should have a more dependable alternative behind him in Mike Glennon.

      VIRGINIA -- A new offensive coordinator, four returning starting offensive linemen and the possible return of quarterback Jameel Sewell can only help the Cavaliers move up from their final No. 105 ranking in total offense.

      VIRGINIA TECH -- The Hokies have 17 starters returning who have already won the ACC title and an Orange Bowl.

      WAKE FOREST -- The return of Chris DeGeare to the offensive line, coupled with the pleasant surprise of Kevin Harris at running back, gives the Deacons reason to believe their offense won't struggle the way it did last season.

      What to watch in the ACC this spring

      February, 11, 2009
      2/11/09
      9:00
      AM ET

      Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

      With Miami kicking off spring practice on Feb. 24, it's never too early to start thinking about spring football in the ACC. There are plenty of story lines heading into the 2009 season -- like backup quarterbacks and new coordinators.

      Here are a few things to watch for each team in the ACC this spring:

      ATLANTIC DIVISION

      BOSTON COLLEGE
      Spring practice starts:
      March 17
      Spring game: April 25

      What to watch

      • Replacing 325-pound defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace will be a large challenge -- literally. Damik Scafe could be a starter, but beyond him it's anybody's guess.
      • Quarterback Dominique Davis only has three games of experience over everyone else, so it's definitely not a given that it's his job to lose. Davis was thrown into the fire at the end of 2008, but former coach Jeff Jagodzinski and former offensive coordinator Steve Logan liked freshman Justin Tuggle, who redshirted this past season. Whether the new staff is as high on Tuggle remains to be seen.
      • Including former defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani, who was promoted to head coach, the Eagles will have six coaches in new positions this spring. With two new coordinators, a new offensive line coach, tight ends coach and a linebackers coach, this spring will be a chance for a few introductions.

      (Read full post)

      Tags:

      Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Cavaliers, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Coastal Division, Atlantic Division, Miami Hurricanes, Jermaine Thomas, Greg Little, Greg Boone, Eron Riley, Paul Johnson, Damian Thornton, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Florida State Seminoles, Toddrick Verdell, Vince Williams, Barquell RIvers, Miami Hurricanes, Justin Tuggle, North Carolina Tar Heels, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Kyle Parker, Brandon tate, Frank Beamer, Trimane Goddard, Aaron Clark, Logan Thomas, Chris turner, Myron Rolle, Cullen Harper, Willy Korn, Demetrius Hartsfield, Brad Lambert, Cannon Smith, Jamarr Robinson, Robert Marve, Mike Glennon, Nigel Carr, Tyrod Taylor, Adrian Moten, David Cutcliffe, Stephen St. John, Butch Davis, Hakeem Nicks, Tavares Pressley, Duke Blue Devils, Lamar Young, Chris DeGeare, Derek Nicholson, Kevin Harrison, Rashad Carmichael, T.J. Barnes, Josh Portis, Sean Renfree, Carlton Jones, Brett Warren, Nigel Bradham, Darren CHilds, Andre Brown, Edwin Williams, Jeremy Gray, Purnell Sturdivant, Dominique Davis, Johnny Williams, MIchael Tauiliili, Brandon Flowers, Jacory Harris, Anthony Allen, Trent Mackey, Virginia Tech Hokies, Cody Grimm, Gregg Brandon, Derrick Morgan, Vincent Rey, Virginia Cavaliers, Toney Baker, Antone Smith, spring primer 0902, Tyler Grisham, Clint Sintim, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Victor 'Macho' Harris, Jonathan Dwyer, Maryland Terrapins, Coastal Division, Clem Johnson, Atlantic Division, Antonio Appleby, Jacoby Ford, Jameel Sewell, Mark Paschal, Frank Spaziani, Tony Carter, Quan Sturdivant, Damik Scafe, Steve Logan, Bruce Johnson, Antone Exum, Taylor Cook, Boston College Eagles, Cam Martin, Brooks Foster, Dabo Swinney, Austin Kelly, Darius McClure, Michael Wade, Mark Richt, Aaron Kelly, Jeff Jagodzinski, Thaddeus Lewis, Clemson Tigers, Anthony Reddick, Aaron Curry, C.J. Spiller, Alphonso Smith, Jon Copper, Stephan Virgil, Tyler Bowen, Ben Anderson, Alex Wujciak, Zack Asack, Justin Lewis, D\'Vontrey Richardson, Da\'Norris Searcy

      ACC mailblog

      February, 6, 2009
      2/06/09
      9:03
      AM ET

      Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

      Justin in Fredericksburg writes: Do you think with Virginia's strong recruiting class along with the addition of Gregg Brandon as offensive coordinator; that the Cavaliers could be a legitimate contender to win the ACC championship this year?

      Heather Dinich: Virginia had a solid recruiting class, and Al Groh seemed convinced he might have some sleepers in it, but I think the thing that will make the Cavs a contender in the ACC this season is the return of quarterback Jameel Sewell. The ACC really doesn't have an outstanding quarterback, and Sewell is just as good as any of them. If he gets in and learns the new offense, I don't see any reason why they shouldn't be in the mix.


      Steven in Wheaton, Ill., writes: Hi Heather: Is Wake's depth at line getting better next season, with all starters returning and is Chris DeGeare who sat out last year for academic reasons coming back? I realize Wake's 09 class doesn't get any attention, but looking at the size of the kids they're all 6'2, 6/4, etc. and would seemingly become huge once their red-shirting and lifting, etc. Thoughts on Grobe's continuing strategy for recruiting under the radar kids? Thanks. Steven

      Heather Dinich: DeGeare is coming back and that's huge. The offensive line missed him immensely. He's probably an NFL prospect. But yes, you're exactly right about Grobe's recruiting philosophy. It's no secret Wake is what they call a "developmental program," and that the staff doesn't necessarily want some of the highly touted recruits, and a lot of that goes back to character, not stars. So we'll see how this class pans out in about three years.


      Roger writes: hey heather i am a big BC fan and i am wondering how bad the coaching change really hurt this class and how you think coach Spaziani will do going forward? thanks rog.

      Heather Dinich: It hurt, but it could've been a lot worse. They only lost one recruit who was waivering. Once Frank Spaziani solidifies his staff and they start working on the 2010 class as a group, the Eagles will be OK.


      Will in Blacksburg writes: How do you think the Hokies are going to handle all the tailback talent they have with Daivd Wilson coming in, Ryan Williams the #3 RB recruited last year, and incumbent Darren Evans, plus the other running backs they have now and recruited this year?

      Heather Dinich: With a smile? Seriously, it's a good problem to have, especially considering the whole reason they took the redshirt off of Tyrod Taylor last season was to get another playmaker back there. I think Williams and Evans will make a nice one-two punch.


      Someone in Raleigh writes: Tom O'brien announced today that Donald Bowens underwent knee surgery. O'brien won't release any information. Do you know of anything or could you find out?

      Heather Dinich: O'Brien hasn't released anything after the surgery, but I don't think Bowens will be back in time for spring practice.

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