ACC: Cody Grimm

Virginia Tech spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
2009 overall record: 10-3

2009 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 5, punter/kicker 0

Top returners

QB Tyrod Taylor, TB Ryan Williams, TB Darren Evans, FL Danny Coale, SE Jarrett Boykin, DT John Graves, CB Rashad Carmichael, ROV Davon Morgan, LB Barquell Rivers

Key losses

TE Greg Boone, OT Ed Wang, OG Sergio Render, DE Jason Worilds, LB Cody Grimm, DT Cordarrow Thompson, DE Nekos Brown, CB Stephan Virgil, FS Kam Chancellor

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Williams* (1,655 yards)

Passing: Taylor* (2,311 yds)

Receiving: Boykin* (835 yds)

Tackles: Grimm (106)

Sacks: Brown (6.5)

Interceptions: Carmichael* (6)

Spring answers

1. Thomas makes a statement. Backup quarterback Logan Thomas -- at least according to the statistics -- had a better spring than Joseph “Ju-Ju” Clayton. Based on his performances, it would seem Thomas is the front-runner to back up Taylor this season, but coach Frank Beamer wasn’t ready to solidify that after the spring game. In six spring scrimmages, Thomas had no interceptions and Clayton threw five.

2. Evans can run -- over defenders. If Evans is suffering any lingering effects from last year’s torn ACL, it wasn’t evident during his first carry of the spring game when he ran over teammate and safety Antone Exum. Evans told reporters he’s feeling the best he has since he was injured. Beamer said he has no concerns about Evans being 100 percent this fall.

3. Strong secondary. It was one of the highlights this spring on a defense tasked with replacing six starters, including two in the secondary. Exum was one of the players who stood out in the spring game, as he had three pass breakups.

Fall questions

1. How will Evans and Williams be used? The spring game was a time to evaluate younger players, and with Williams sidelined for a bruised knee, there were no answers as to how the Hokies’ backfield might look this fall with two 1,000-yard rushers.

2. Will David Wilson redshirt? Wilson is a talented athlete in a crowded backfield, but he didn’t want to redshirt last season and played sparingly as a true freshman. Beamer said after the spring game that the coaches will make a decision “at the proper time.” That wasn’t this spring.

3. Groundhog’s Day in the kicking game. For the third straight year, the Hokies need a new place-kicker. If the season started tomorrow, Chris Hazley would handle field goals, Justin Myer kickoffs and Brian Saunders would punt, but the competition will continue this fall when freshmen join the team.

NFL draft rewind

April, 26, 2010
Good morning, ACC fans, hope you guys had a good NFL draft weekend. The ACC put together a good wrap-up of this past weekend's draft activity for the conference. The ACC ranked third this year among conferences with 31 players chosen. The SEC led with 49, followed by the Big Ten (34). The Big 12 had 30, the Pac-10 29, the Big East 18 and the Mountain West 13.

Here are a few notes to tie it all together for you:

  • For the sixth straight year, the ACC had more than 30 players selected.
  • Since 2005, the ACC and the SEC are the only two leagues in the nation to have had 30 players selected in each of the past six years.
  • Atlantic Division champion Clemson (C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, Ricky Sapp, Crezdon Butler, Kavell Connor) and Coastal Division runner-up Virginia Tech (Jason Worilds, Kam Chancellor, Ed Wang, Brent Bowden, Cody Grimm) led all ACC schools each with five players chosen in the draft.
  • ACC champion Georgia Tech (Derrick Morgan, Demaryius Thomas, Morgan Burnett, Jonathan Dwyer) and Miami (Jimmy Graham, Darryl Sharpton, Jason Fox, Dedrick Epps) were next, each with four players chosen.
  • The ACC maintained its streak of having at least one top-10 selection in each of the past five years. Since 2006, the ACC is the only conference in the country to have had a top-10 selection in each year.
  • In all, 18 NFL teams selected players from the ACC.
Before the calendar even hit March, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster and his staff had already met with each of the players individually as part of their weekly academic meetings. Before spring practices began, Foster spoke to the defense as an entire group, so everyone got the same message: in Blacksburg: “Defense is king.”

After losing six starters from last year’s 10-3 team, there are plenty of young players on the roster this year who will be expected to uphold that tradition this fall.

“We make sure right up front, we want them to know we’ve got a tradition here, an expectation here, and those expectations aren’t going to change,” Foster said. “They’ve got to come up to our level, and the thing about us here, defense is king. As good as we’ve been, we also went through a stretch there where we won 10 or 11 games with 100th-ranked offense. I want them to know we’ve won games around here just by playing great defense, and that’s not going to change. It’s their responsibility to carry the torch, so to speak.”

[+] EnlargeRashad Carmichael
Bob Donnan/US PresswireVeterans like Rashad Carmichael will be counted on in 2010.
It’s not an easy task, as no other defense in the FBS has played more consistently than the Hokies. Virginia Tech finished nationally in the top 12 in total defense in each of the past six years, five times in the top 7. Over the past six seasons -- a span of 80 games -- Virginia Tech has allowed its opponents an average of just 268.33 yards per game. The next-best team in the country during that span? Alabama.

“We know what it takes,” Foster said. “We’ve been doing it a long time and we’ve had a lot of success. We’ve got the formula for success here, at least I think we’ve got it cornered a little bit. It’s just getting the kids to understand that’s what our expectations are, and you’ve got a certain responsibility to live up to those expectations, and understand this is what it’s going to take for you to be successful, for you to be on the field, your work ethic and how we want you to do certain things a certain way.”

The older players on the team, like boundary corner Rashad Carmichael, take seriously their role in ushering the younger players along.

“It goes back to recruiting and us guys on that defense trying to build a brotherhood more than anything,” Carmichael said. “That’s the kind of player I am. If you put it on the line for your brother, then the game will go a little bit easier. It just feels great when you can look to the left and the right and see guys who are ready. A lot of teams on this level don’t have that chemistry. It’s more of a family here. I’m confident.”

The defensive line, particularly the defensive tackles, is the biggest question mark. Virginia Tech has to replace three of four starters and talented backup tackle Demetrius Taylor. Veteran tackle John Graves returns as the lone starter, and he is expected to be the leader of the entire defense, not just the line. Antoine Hopkins should be the starter opposite Graves, but the staff needs to find quality depth on the interior.

Despite the loss of Cody Grimm, Foster said he is confident in his linebackers, a group that progressed as the year went along, but there will be some competition in the secondary, particularly at safety where Kam Chancellor was the anchor. Free safety is the position that does most of the communication and checks, so he’ll need a leader there. Foster will look at junior Eddie Whitley, and sophomore Antone Exum, a highly recruited player, among others.

Foster doesn’t have much time to prepare the younger players for their Labor Day matchup against Boise State, which will again have one of the most productive offenses in the country. Then again, it’s not like Foster hasn’t had to reload before.

“We’re inexperienced, we’re going to be very inexperienced on the defensive side of the ball,” Foster said. “But at the same time, that’s not a bad thing. I think we’re going to have a good mix of guys who have played. We’ve got a good mix of guys who are leaders, and at the same time we have some young, hungry guys. Sometimes that can really be even better for you than maybe having a bunch of guys come back who think they’re going to be pretty good. I kind of like that challenge a little bit more sometimes. We’ve had some of our best years when people thought we weren’t going to be as good.”

Usually in their best years, though, defense was king.
Virginia Tech is the final ACC team to open spring practice, and you could say the best comes last.

Just don't tell that to Hokies head coach Frank Beamer.

Virginia Tech likely will be a preseason top-10 team and a popular choice to win the league for the third time in the past four years. Beamer's bunch is absolutely loaded at running back with Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. The Hokies also bring back ACC pass efficiency leader Tyrod Taylor and several solid defenders.

It's a strong group, but Beamer has no plans to sit back and relax this spring.

"Any time you're talking about top 10, and you're talking about replacing both kickers, that's a concern ...," Beamer told reporters Monday. "I think the talent level is good. It's just you've got some young guys there."

What are some key areas to watch as Virginia Tech opens spring drills? Here's a quick look:

  • Position changes: Virginia Tech has several of them, most notably Josh Oglesby moving from running back to fullback and Jake Johnson moving from linebacker to defensive end. The Hokies don't normally feature their fullbacks but could look to do more with Oglesby, a highly touted prospect buried on the depth chart.
  • Running back: The Hokies know they have a great option in Williams, but they'll be closely watching how Evans responds this spring after missing all of last season with a torn ACL. Beamer expects Evans to push Williams for the starting job, but you never know how players respond to major knee injuries.
  • Specialists: As Beamer mentioned, both the starting kicker and punter jobs are open after the departures of Matt Waldron and Brent Bowden. Several players are in the mix at kicker, including Chris Hazley and Justin Myer, while Brian Saunders is expected to step in at punter. Special teams are a huge deal at Virginia Tech, so plenty of eyes will be on these two competitions.
  • Defense: Virginia Tech loses seven starters, including three along the defensive line and All-ACC linebacker Cody Grimm. In addition, linebacker Barquell Rivers is out for the spring following quadriceps surgery. Alonzo Tweedy, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Lorenzo Williams are in the mix to fill Grimm's spot at outside linebacker. The Hokies need to build depth along the line and especially at the end spots, where Chris Drager and Steven Friday try to nail down starting spots.
Just when you thought Virginia Tech's defense couldn't get any more depleted, linebacker Barquell Rivers tore his quadriceps tendon on Wednesday during weightlifting testing, according to a report by Darryl Slater in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Rivers is expected to return in time for summer practices in August, but it's a definite hit to a team that already has to replace six starters on defense (seven if you count rover Dorian Porch, who was replaced by junior Davon Morgan for the final four games). Rivers should be the leader of the linebackers this year. As a first-year starter last season, he was second on the team with 96 tackles. Sophomore Bruce Taylor is the next man up.

The good news is that this is a unit Bud Foster had a significant amount of confidence in, though part of that stemmed from the return of Rivers. He's also got starter Lyndell Gibson returning, but the outside linebacker spot is a concern. The competition is wide open to replace Cam Martin and Cody Grimm.
You can find all of the NFL combine tests results here, but I thought I'd point out a few highlights -- and some lowlights -- for some of the former ACC players who participated the past few days.

[+] EnlargeFord
AP Photo/Michael ConroyJacoby Ford had the fastest time in the 40-yard dash of any player at the combine.
C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford showcased their blazing speed, as Ford posted the fasted 40-yard dash time (4.28) and Spiller was second among running backs (4.37). Kam Chancellor had a ball bounce off his hands and Crezdon Butler appeared "stiff in space" according to our Scouts Inc. report. Former Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan didn't do anything to jeopardize his spot as a high first-round pick, but safety Morgan Burnett missed the 40-yard dash with a hamstring injury.

• Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. on Virginia CB Chris Cook:
Virginia CB Chris Cook turned some heads at the Senior Bowl, and he's doing the same in Indianapolis. At 6-2 and 212 pounds Cook posted an unofficial 4.43 seconds. That's an excellent size-speed combination for a safety and rare to see in a corner. Cook also recorded a jaw-dropping 11-0 broad jump.

• Muench on former Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm:
Virginia Tech's Cody Grimm is an interesting prospect. Grimm appears instinctive and relentless on film, but he played outside linebacker in college and is just not big enough to line up there in the NFL. He measured just 5-10^ and 203 pounds and would be a better fit at safety, where he would have the potential to develop into an adequate reserve and special-teams contributor. Grimm's 4.54 time in the 40 is encouraging because the average time for safeties last year was 4.63 seconds and in 2008 was 4.55 seconds.

• What to make of Jonathan Dwyer? He was listed as one of the 10 most polarizing players in the combine by Bruce Feldman:
There were a bunch of fast backs in Indy; Dwyer was not one of them. His size is good (228 pounds) and he looks dynamic on film, but some skeptics will wonder if much of that is due to the frenetic nature of the triple option scheme he played in at Tech. He didn't test as a particularly explosive guy, and he looked shaky in the position drills and didn't seem comfortable as a receiver.

• Here's an excerpt from Todd McShay on former FSU safety Myron Rolle:
Purely from a football standpoint, Rolle has the tools of a potential third-round pick who could be developed into an adequate starter two or three years down the road. However, while NFL teams love the Rhodes scholar's intelligence and work ethic, there is a growing concern regarding his long-term dedication to football. Rolle is in a truly unique situation and has a lot of convincing to do between now and the draft.

• The Sporting News listed Miami's Jimmy Graham, Maryland's Bruce Campbell and Clemson's Jacoby Ford among its offensive combine winners. Russ Lande of TSN listed Derrick Morgan and Virginia Tech's Jason Worilds among the defensive winners, but it doesn't sound good for Duke's Vince Oghobaase.

• Campbell really turned some heads with his 40 time. Chad Reuter of wrote:
Campbell also has 36.5-inch arms and bench-pressed 225 pounds 34 times. Said one scout said, "He has the best body of anyone I've ever seen."

• Of course, the question is whether he can block. Said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, "If there's a star so far in the combine, it's him. What he's going to have to overcome is the tape."

• Reuter on Miami's Graham:
Miami (Fla.) tight end Jimmy Graham ran a 4.56, according to Graham played only one season of football for the Hurricanes, but his basketball background intrigues scouts and his blistering 40 time could lift Graham as high as the second round.

Scouting Virginia Tech's defense

February, 11, 2010
The Hokies' defense will be one of the biggest questions in the ACC this preseason, as Virginia Tech has to replace six starters. Still, expectations are high heading into 2010 that Virginia Tech will be one of the best teams in the country. Much of that confidence comes from defensive coordinator Bud Foster's proven ability to reload.

Can he do it again?

Bud Foster
AP Photo/Steve HelberBud Foster will have some new pieces to work with this season.
Here's a closer look at exactly what Virginia Tech's situation is on defense heading into spring practice, and how much work the Hokies have to do:

  • Overall, Virginia Tech needs to replace three of four starters up front, outside linebacker, cornerback and free safety.
  • The only defensive ends with any significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. There are a few redshirt freshmen you might get to know: Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins. Of course, the only problem with redshirt freshmen is that they haven't played yet. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other defensive end who has played, but that was extremely sparingly. It's possible the staff could move tackle John Graves back to end, where he practiced last spring, or possibly look at moving other players.
  • At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the front-runner to replace Cordarrow Thompson, and he has experience so that shouldn't be too much of a concern.
  • At outside linebacker, Cody Grimm and Cam Martin have to be replaced, leaving a wide open competition.
  • At cornerback, Jayron Hosley or Cris Hill will likely take over for Stephan Virgil. No worries there.
  • At free safety, Eddie Whitley was Kam Chancellor’s backup, and the staff is confident in him. Antone Exum will also be given an opportunity.
  • The good news? Virginia Tech returns cornerback Rashad Carmichael, rover Davon Morgan, Graves at defensive tackle, and Lyndell Gibson at inside linebacker.
It's a lot to ask for a team that faces Boise State's offense on Labor Day, but the Hokies wouldn't be so highly ranked this preseason if people didn't think they could do it.

Tuesday mailblog

February, 2, 2010
Despite the approach of signing day and the release of the ACC schedule, there were some other pressing topics today ...

Victor in Richmond, Va., writes: Heather -I was watching one of your videos and have one question:Do you seriously have a Georgia Tech helmet on your desk?This seems like a conflict of interest especially when you factor in your effusive praise of the Yellow Jackets and Coach Johnson over the past 2 years...Inquiring minds want to know!

Heather Dinich: I can already hear the Georgia Tech fans, who for some reason think I despise the Jackets, ripping you now for saying I give them "effusive praise." So I picked against them a couple of times. They'll live. As for the helmet, it's from the ACC championship game. One side has GT, the other side has Clemson. New game, new helmet. The other one has Atlantic on one side and Coastal on the other. I've also got some blank computer paper lying up there if you're interested.

G in Houston, Texas, writes: With all the expansion talks/rumors/etc surfacing in regards to the Big 10's announcement a month or so back, how do you see this impacting the ACC? Your Big East counterpart has mentioned in a couple BE Mailbag that the BE's best interest would be to go after Maryland or BC. Do you honestly think either of those schools would leave for the BE?

HD: I don't think any other conference's decisions would have any impact on the ACC. The league made its big move when it went through expansion, and it has finally gotten settled with the divisions and is looking to build the championship game into a premier event. And tell Bennett to keep his paws off Maryland and BC. They don't want the Big East. :)

Bob in High Point, N.C., writes: Do you have your eye on any ACC team making a move to overtake the conference leaders next season?

HD: I'm expecting Miami and/or UNC to finally make a move.

Brad in Blacksburg writes: Heather, i have multiple questions but all relate to one player. First was Cody Grimm in any of the post season games like East-West or Senior bowl? And if not why wasnt he invited? To me these games seemed like the perfect opportunity for him?

HD: I spoke with Grimm last week, and no, he said he wasn't invited to any of those games, but he didn't seem all too concerned with it, either. He's a former walk-on who is used to proving himself, and the next level shouldn't be much different.

Josh in Fredericksburg, Va., writes: Hey HD!I know you feel [Ryan Williams] may go pro after next season, assuming all goes well, but there is a decent chance of a nasty labor dispute/lockout for 2011 (what would be his rookie year if he left after next season). I feel like NFL politics are impacting NCAA players a lot in this regard (see all the juniors leaving this year for the same reason), and I think that may eventually be the biggest thing in RW's decision to stay or go. Your thoughts?

HD: Well, first I'm not going to pretend to be an expert on NFL politics, but it would take a lot to deter a college kid from a lucrative NFL contract -- if that's what is on the table. If it turns into a complete mess, sure, that would probably factor into his decision, as would what the Hokies were able to accomplish in 2010, or if he felt there was something left to come back to.

Harrison in Columbia, S.C., writes: Hey Heather,Will the new Paul Hornung Award start this year for the 2009 season or next year from the 2010 season?Thanks,Harrison

HD: Unfortunately for C.J. Spiller, who likely would have been a candidate, it will start in 2010.

Dan in Greenville, S.C., writes: Heather - If I can make it out right, that is a bib from Marine Corps Marathon by your desk, right? What year did you run? Amazing event... Be well.

HD: Yepper, I ran it in 2006. Slowly. My one and only. I've also jumped out of a plane. (The only club I joined at Indiana was the "Falling Hoosiers.") Other than that, I've got nuthin'.

Virginia Tech defensive end Jason Worilds isn't the only Hokie who has received an invitation to the NFL combine. Former linebacker Cody Grimm received an invitation two days ago. I just spoke with Grimm, who is training in Arizona. Grimm said he's hired an agent who said he is "definitely draftable."

"I'm not going to put all my eggs in one basket, but I'm going to give it a shot," Grimm said. "[My agent] said it depends a lot on how I run and how I do at the combine. I hope I run well and get drafted, but at the same time, if I can just get into a camp and get into some practices, I can prove I can make the next level."

If the former walk-on works as hard as he did at Virginia Tech, it shouldn't be a problem. Grimm played larger than he looks this past season, and it earned him a spot on the ACC's all-conference team. He was also named the defensive MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Grimm is a hard hitter, a good tackler, has a great understanding of the game and good instincts. And hardly anyone recruited him.

He has never had a problem, though, with earning his playing time.

Grimm said he's training to be a strong safety, but he'll play whatever position he's given the opportunity. Training in Arizona has also moved him closer to his father, Russ, and brother, Chad, who are both on staff with the Arizona Cardinals. Whether he's a late-round draft choice, or an undrafted free agent, odds are Grimm will continue to exceed expectations.

All-ACC bowl team

January, 12, 2010
Bowl season deserves more than just helmet stickers. It deserves its own team. Regardless of whether they won or lost, these ACC players had an impact this postseason. Here is your 2009 All-ACC bowl team:

[+] EnlargeRyan Williams
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIRyan Williams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Offense and Special Teams

QB: E.J. Manuel, Florida State: The Gator Bowl MVP completed 17 of 24 passes for 189 yards, had 73 rushing yards on 14 carries and one touchdown with zero turnovers. He led the Noles to 415 total yards in their 33-21 win over No. 18 West Virginia.

RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech: Williams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Tennessee. He finished the season with 1,655 rushing yards and broke Kevin Jones' single-season school record (1,647).

RB: Jermaine Thomas, Florida State: He had 121 yards rushing on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He also had one catch for nine yards and posted his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He led FSU back from a 14-3 first quarter deficit against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

WR: Rich Gunnell, Boston College: Gunnell finished with six catches for 130 yards, breaking Pete Mitchell's school record for yards receiving with 2,659 in his career. His 61-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter closed the gap to 14-13 against USC in the Emerald Bowl.

WR: Greg Little, UNC: He finished with seven catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Pitt in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

WR: Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech: His 64-yard reception to the Tennessee 3 in the final seconds of the first half was a major turning point in the game. The Vols had already begun to head to the locker room, but officials determined there were still two seconds left on the clock. The play led to Matt Waldron’s 21-yard field goal and a 17-14 halftime lead. Boykin finished with four catches for 120 yards.

TE: Jimmy Graham, Miami: He had three catches for 30 receiving yards against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl and became the seventh Hurricane to record at least 200 receiving yards this season. Graham closed out his only season with the Canes with 15 catches for 213 yards and five touchdowns.

OL: Ed Wang, Virginia Tech: In his final performance, Wang paved the way for a career-day for Williams, and helped the Hokies rack up 438 total yards of offense.

OL: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech: Like Wang, Render was impressive in his final performance as a Hokie, and helped Virginia Tech use a balanced offense and gave quarterback Tyrod Taylor the time he needed to make plays.

OL: Rodney Hudson, Florida State: The All-American returned to the lineup after missing two games with knee sprain and helped FSU rack up 415 total yards, 37 minutes time of possession and he did not allow a sack.

OL: Andrew Datko, Florida State: He teamed with Hudson on the left side (where two of three rushing touchdowns came) and kept a WVU team averaging 2.6 sacks per game without one.

OL: Dalton Freeman, Clemson: He graded out at 80 percent with seven knockdowns. Freeman was key to Clemson averaging 5.5 yards per rush and a Clemson bowl record 6.8 yards per play against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.

K: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State: He tied a school bowl record converting 4 of 5 field goal attempts and scoring a season-high 15 points on a windy day. His 42-yarder at the end of the first half pulled FSU within 14-13.

P: Chandler Anderson, Georgia Tech: He had a career-high seven punts with an average of 49.1 yards and a long of 59 yards. Three of his punts were downed inside the 20 and only one was returned.

Spc: C.J. Spiller, Clemson: Spiller finished his career with 172 all-purpose yards (68 rushing, 57 receiving), giving him an ACC record 2,670 for the season and 7,588 for his career. He finished his career in second place in FBS history in all-purpose yards.


DL: John Graves, Virginia Tech: He sacked Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton in the second quarter for the first sack of his career. He also recovered a fumble, forced a fumble and finished with three solo tackles.

DL: E.J. Wilson, North Carolina: He forced two first-half fumbles and posted five on the season after registering just one over his first three years at Carolina. He finished with five tackles and one sack for a loss of eight yards.

DL: Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech: Morgan's individual stats weren't all that impressive for his final game as a Jacket, but the Tech defense (surprise!) kept the Yellow Jackets in the game, allowing just seven points after the first quarter. Morgan did have three tackles and a half-tackle for loss, but he was double- and triple-teamed all night.

LB: Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech: The defensive MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl finished with seven tackles, including three tackles for loss and one sack.

LB: Luke Kuechly, Boston College: He had 16 tackles (6 solos, 10 assists), and 0.5 TFL in the Emerald Bowl.

LB: Darryl Sharpton, Miami: He recorded a career-high 15 tackles (10 solo, five assists). It marked the third straight game that Sharpton recorded double-digit tackles.

LB: Kavell Conner, Clemson: He had 15 tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, which was the key play of the game. The fumble came with Clemson leading 14-13 and it set up Spiller’s touchdown to put the Tigers ahead 21-13.

CB: Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech: He intercepted Crompton’s pass in the first quarter and returned it to the Tennessee 44, setting up the Hokies’ first score of the game. The interception marked the sixth of the season for Carmichael, a team-high.

CB: Jerrard Tarrant, Georgia Tech: He returned an interception for a touchdown -- Tech's first points of the game against Iowa in the Orange Bowl -- and Tarrant's fourth non-offensive touchdown of the season. He also forced a fumble, broke up a pass and had six solo tackles.

S: Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech: He had a team-high eight tackles, all of them solo tackles, and he forced a fumble.

S: DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson: He had 15 tackles, including two tackles for loss. He was a big reason Kentucky had just 277 yards total offense and just one touchdown, their second lowest figure of the year in terms of points in the 21-13 Clemson win.

Foster to earn his money in 2010

January, 7, 2010
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster has continuously found ways to reload the Hokies' defense and it make it one of the nation's best, but with the news that defensive end Jason Worilds has decided to forgo his senior season, there should be some legitimate growing pains for Virginia Tech's defense in 2010.

The Hokies will lose six starters on defense, including two in the secondary and their defensive MVP this year, linebacker Cody Grimm. Three of four starters on the defensive line will now have to be replaced (ask Georgia Tech how easy it is to do that, and they had Derrick Morgan).

The only defensive ends with significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the coaches wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. There are some redshirt freshmen the staff is high on -- Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins – but they’ve never played. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other defensive end who’s played, and that was very (very) sparingly. The staff could move defensive tackle John Graves back to end, where he practiced there in the spring.

At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the frontrunner to replace Cordarrow Thompson, and Hopkins earned some significant snaps this year. At outside linebacker, where Grimm and Cam Martin both have to be replaced, it's wide open. Hokies can stay confident in their cornerback, where Jayron Hosley or Cris Hill will take over for Stephan Virgil. At free safety, Eddie Whitely was Kam Chancellor's backup, and the staff has confidence in him.

This defense will be one of the ACC's biggest question marks heading into 2010, as the Hokies try again to be a national title contender.

GT, VT and FSU by the numbers

December, 31, 2009
A few quick numbers for you on the ACC's remaining bowl teams before I head off to Jacksonville:

1 - Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm is tied for first among FBS players with seven fumbles forced this season.

233 - Miles between Tennessee and Virginia Tech. The two schools are only four hours apart.

17 - The number of consecutive postseason bowl games for Virginia Tech. The Hokies’ streak is the third-longest current streak in the nation behind only FSU and Florida (19).

2-0 - Florida State’s record in the Gator Bowl against West Virginia. The Seminoles beat the Mountaineers in 1982 and 2005, and overall is 5-0-1 in six previous trips to the Jacksonville, Fla., postseason game.

18.42 - Florida State redshirt freshman Greg Reid leads the nation in punt returns, averaging 18.42 yards per return. He returned one punt 68 yards for a score against Wake Forest earlier this year.

11 - The number of consecutive bowl games Florida State won from 1985 through 1996, an NCAA record. The Seminoles also put together a 14-game bowl non-losing streak from 1982 through 1996.

66 - Georgia Tech junior wide receiver Demaryius Thomas has been responsible for 66 percent of his team’s passing yardage this year (1,762). He has 46 catches for 1,154 yards this year, the 9th highest total in ACC history.

76.9 - The winning percentage of coach Paul Johnson in his first two seasons at Georgia Tech, it is the sixth-best record for a second-year coach in ACC history. FSU’s Bobby Bowden has the best record in his first two seasons in the ACC, a 23-2 mark.

1967 - The last time Georgia Tech made an appearance in the FedEx Orange Bowl or any current BCS bowl game. The Jackets' last appearance in the Orange Bowl also coincided with the final game coached by the legendary Bobby Dodd, the last of Tech’s three head coaches who are in the college football Hall of Fame.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 30, 2009
What happened to Miami??

  • If you're not a fan of the word swagger, don't read this, but Greg Cote is right -- Miami's gotta earn it back. He's also right, though, in that the loss to Wisconsin doesn't erase the progress the Canes made this season.
  • Miami did lose more than the game, though. It lost the opportunity to assert itself as the new leader in the state.
  • Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wants to win at everything -- just ask his wife and daughter.
  • Clemson offensive coordinator Billy Napier proved this year that age is just a number as the youngest coordinator in the ACC was one of Dabo Swinney's best hires.
  • UNC's juniors are still pondering their NFL futures.
  • Here are five questions facing Clemson in 2010.
  • Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm has been an incredible success story -- and that's a problem for Tennessee.
  • Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams isn't big on the whole ACC-SEC argument.
  • FSU's offense will get a new look from WVU's 3-3-5 stack defense. Will Rick Trickett have his guys up front ready? (Of course.)

ACC's All-Americans

December, 17, 2009
There are a lot of All-America teams to keep track of, but here are the top nationally recognized ones that have included ACC players. Every school but Wake Forest, Virginia, NC State and Maryland is represented here. C.J. Spiller's name shows up repeatedly.

Hopefully this helps you keep them straight:

Associated Press

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, all-purpose player, first-team

Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, first-team

Florida State OL Rodney Hudson, second-team guard

Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, third-team

Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm, third-team

Miami cornerback Brandon Harris, third team

Sporting News

Spiller, first-team kick returner

Derrick Morgan, second-team

Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams, third team

Clemson OL Thomas Austin, third team

Duke DT Vince Oghobaase, third team

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel, third team

FSU PR Greg Reid, third team

Football Writers Association of America

FSU OL Rodney Hudson, first team

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel, first team

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, first team return specialist

Walter Camp Football Foundation

Spiller, first team kick returner

Boston College center Matt Tennant, second team

Spiller, second-team running back

Derrick Morgan, second team DE

American Football Coaches Association

Derrick Morgan, first team DE

C.J. Spiller, first-team all-purpose

FSU OL Rodney Hudson, first-team

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, first-team returns, second-team all purpose

Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan, second team

Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, second team

Miami cornerback Brandon Harris, second team

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel, second team

Honorable mention: Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech B-Back Jonathan Dwyer, Boston College running back Montel Harris, Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams, Georgia Tech wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, BC OL Anthony Castonzo, Miami OL Jason Fox, Georgia Tech OL Cord Howard, UNC DL Robert Quinn, Virginia Tech LB Cody Grimm, UNC DB Kendric Burney, UNC K Casey Barth, FSU KR Greg Reid.

Phil Steele's All-freshman team

Ryan Williams, first team

Greg Reid, first team PR

BC LB Luke Kuechly, first team

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 9, 2009
Six teams down, six to go for the conference wrap-ups. And backwards this time, too, eh? I figured this was a good time to squeeze in a few quick links ...

  • FSU coach Bobby Bowden will be cutting ties with the university and cleaning out his office after the bowl game. Very sad, very sad for FSU.
  • Sleep or celebrate? Georgia Tech opted for the rest, and it'll get plenty before the bowl game.
  • Miami linebacker Darryl Sharpton has his sights set on the NFL.
  • Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm has been named the best FBS player in the state.
  • The first task Virginia coach Mike London faces is recruiting.
  • As a former high school band member (ahem), it is disappointing to read that Boston College will not be bringing the Screaming Eagles to the Emerald Bowl. To that I say scream, Eagles, scream.