ACC: Cord Howard

Georgia Tech spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
9:30
AM ET
GEORGIA TECH

2009 overall record: 11-3

2009 conference record: 7-1, ACC champions

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense 8: punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

QB Josh Nesbitt, RB Anthony Allen, RB Roddy Jones, C Sean Bedford, WR Tyler Melton, WR Stephen Hill, LB Brad Jefferson, CB Mario Butler, S Dominique Reese, PK Scott Blair

Key losses

WR Demaryius Thomas, RB Jonathan Dwyer, OG Cord Howard, DE Derrick Morgan, LB Sedric Griffin, S Morgan Burnett

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Dwyer (1,395 yards)

Passing: Nesbitt* (1,701 yards)

Receiving: Thomas (1,154 yards)

Tackles: Jefferson* (95)

Sacks: Morgan (12.5)

Interceptions: Burnett (4)

Spring answers

1. Who’s No. 2. Tevin Washington earned the No. 2 quarterback job behind Josh Nesbitt, who was out this spring recovering from minor ankle surgery. Washington ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in the Jackets’ spring game. He made the most of Jaybo Shaw's transfer to Georgia Southern and beat David Sims and Jordan Luallen for the job.

2. Receiver by committee. Yes, Stephen Hill has the chance to be the program’s next elite receiver, but there were signs the passing game will have some more help this fall. Look for the Jackets to make an effort to throw more to the A-backs, or slot backs, this year.

3. Finding homes on defense. Georgia Tech won’t solve all of its defensive problems in one spring, but the transition to Al Groh’s 3-4 defense helped a few players who were in between positions find a spot. Anthony Egbuniwe, who was a defensive end last year, is now an outside linebacker. And Anthony Barnes, who was a nomad last year, seems to have found a home at the other outside linebacker spot. Jason Peters, who has bounced between defensive tackle and end, showed significant improvement at end this spring.

Fall questions

1. How much better can the defense be? Overall, the transition under Groh remains a question. Specifically, the biggest concern on the line is the nose tackle position. T.J. Barnes played there in the spring, and Ben Anderson missed all of spring recovering from a knee injury he suffered late last season. When Anderson comes back in August, he’ll compete with Barnes for that job. There were too many runs up the middle during the spring game to stop a team like Virginia Tech or Miami.

2. Nesbitt’s health. The ankle injury was minor -- he could have participated this spring had he wanted to -- but Nesbitt’s health will be a concern this year. There is still a big difference between Nesbitt and Washington, and Nesbitt has to stay healthy if the Jackets are going to defend their ACC crown.

3. Unsettled offensive line. There are a lot of new players working their way into the rotation, and competition will continue. Georgia Tech lost three starters, including the transfer of guard Joseph Gilbert. The second team was composed entirely of freshmen in the Jackets’ spring game.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
12:30
PM ET
If you've got the need to read ...

  • You've probably heard -- four NC State football players are facing misdemeanor charges after police found some drug paraphernalia in their apartment this past weekend.
  • There were plenty of excuses for former wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to let his life get off track. Instead, he's going to be a millionaire.
  • Former Virginia Tech offensive lineman Ed Wang made history when he was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft.
  • Former Georgia Tech offensive lineman Cord Howard has been reunited with his former coach, Chan Gailey of the Buffalo Bills.
  • Maryland has recruited a "manimal" at offensive tackle.
  • As BC's quarterback competition continues through the summer, don't count outMike Marscovetra.
  • Good news for FSU fans: the defense is getting better.
  • Former FSU tight end Caz Piurowski is hoping for a shotwith the Bucs.

Jackets' pro day results

March, 16, 2010
3/16/10
10:30
AM ET
Seven former Georgia Tech players participated in Monday's pro timing day on campus, including the four juniors who left school early to enter the NFL draft. The most interesting storyline was that B-back Jonathan Dwyer improved on his 40-yard dash time, which was clocked around a high 4.6 at last month's NFL combine in Indianapolis. On Monday he ran it in 4.52.

It's good to see Dwyer show improvement, but there was probably too much made about his combine time in the first place. Anyone who has paid attention to Georgia Tech over the past two seasons knows what Dwyer can do, and he'll probably be even more successful in a more traditional NFL offense.

Morgan Burnett, Derrick Morgan and Demaryius Thomas all participated on Monday, though Morgan didn't run the 40 and Thomas, who broke his foot while training for the combine, only did the measurements. He'll have his own pro day later this month.

Offensive lineman Cord Howard, who did not participate in the NFL combine, was also tested, along with linebacker Sedric Griffin and defensive back Martin Frierson.

Burnett posted an unofficial time of 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. Frierson ran it in 4.57, Griffin in 4.83 and Howard in 5.12. Howard had the most reps (25) in the 225-pound bench press, followed by Griffin (24) and Morgan (21).

Burnett had a vertical leap of 39.5 inches and a standing broad jump of 11 feet.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 26, 2010
2/26/10
12:15
PM ET
Good thing it's Friday. It's quiet out there ...
  • If anyone has the scouting report on Georgia Tech's fab four at this year's NFL combine, it's former Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey.
  • If you're going to be a running back at FSU, you "better have some crud in you."
  • Miami defensive end Adewale Ojomo is back after he suffered a broken jaw last year when a player punched him in the locker room. Hey, at least it happened in the locker room.
  • Former Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis came to the NFL combine to prove he's a quarterback.
  • Former Georgia Tech guard Cord Howard wasn't invited to the combine, but that doesn't mean he's given up on his dream.
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
With Monday's news that Georgia Tech juniors Jonathan Dwyer, Morgan Burnett and Derrick Morgan have decided to leave school early to enter the NFL draft, consider the ACC's Coastal Division officially up for grabs.

The top two front-runners heading into 2010 --- defending ACC champ Georgia Tech and Coastal Division runner-up Virginia Tech -- have significant losses they'll have to replace. The Hokies will lose six starters on defense, and the Yellow Jackets -- in a span of four days -- have lost their leading rusher, leading receiver and top defender. Georgia Tech will have to replace seven starters from this year's impressive 11-3 season, including linebacker Sedric Griffin, guard Cord Howard, offensive tackle Brad Sellers and junior receiver Demaryius Thomas, who announced on Friday he would enter the NFL draft.

At Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson thrives on proving his doubters wrong. At Virginia Tech, defensive coordinator Bud Foster has built his reputation on consistently reloading and producing top-ranked defenses each year. But both coaches are facing significant challenges that can't be ignored heading into next season. Georgia Tech will also have a new defensive coordinator, and possibly a new defensive scheme.

Enter Miami and North Carolina.

It will be as good a time as any for either or both of these programs to reassert themselves in the standings. It will be the fourth season for both Butch Davis and Randy Shannon, and expectations should be higher for both programs. This season, UNC proved it could beat the Hokies. And Miami proved it could defend Georgia Tech. With the growing pains expected in both Blacksburg and Atlanta, 2010 would be the time for UNC and Miami to make wins like that add up to more than just a bowl appearance.

ACC's All-Americans

December, 17, 2009
12/17/09
10:16
AM ET
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

SI.com

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

ESPN.com's All-ACC team

December, 8, 2009
12/08/09
3:07
PM ET
There were a lot of outstanding players in the ACC this year, but the following players rose above the rest and made ESPN.com’s All-ACC team:

Offense

QB -- Christian Ponder, Florida State

RB -- Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech

RB -- Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech

WR -- Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech

WR -- Donovan Varner, Duke

TE -- George Bryan, NC State

TE -- Michael Palmer, Clemson

OL -- Jason Fox, Miami

OL -- Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

OL -- Rodney Hudson, Florida State

OL – Sergio Render, Virginia Tech

OL -- Cord Howard, Georgia Tech

K -- Matt Bosher, Miami

Spc -- C.J. Spiller, Clemson

Defense

DL -- Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech

DL -- Robert Quinn, North Carolina

DL -- Nate Collins, Virginia

DL -- Ricky Sapp, Clemson

LB -- Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech

LB -- Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB -- Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina

LB -- Alex Wujciak, Maryland

CB -- Kendric Burney, North Carolina

CB -- Brandon Harris, Miami

S -- DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

S -- Deunta Williams, North Carolina

P -- Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech

ACC all-conference team announced

November, 30, 2009
11/30/09
4:19
PM ET
Here is the ACC's all: conference team, as voted upon by 40 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Please keep in mind that this is not the ESPN.com list.

FIRST TEAM

Offense

QB: Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech (50)

RB: Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (67)

RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech (63)

WR: Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech (63)

WR: Donovan Varner, Duke (50)

TE: George Bryan, NC State (39)

TE: Michael Palmer, Clemson (39)

OT: Jason Fox, Miami (57)

OT: Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (53)

OG: Rodney Hudson, Florida State (54)

OG: Cord Howard, Georgia Tech (47)

C: Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech (45)

K: Matt Waldron, Virginia Tech (27)

K: Matt Bosher, Miami (27)

Spc: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (76)

Defense

DE: Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech (76)

DE: Robert Quinn, North Carolina (69)

DT: Nate Collins, Virginia (47)

DT: Allen Bailey, Miami (38)

LB: Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech (65)

LB: Luke Kuechly, Boston College (53)

LB: Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina (44)

LB: Alex Wujciak, Maryland (44)

CB: Kendric Burney, North Carolina (59)

CB: Brandon Harris, Miami (41)

S: DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (57)

S: Deunta Williams, North Carolina (53)

P: Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech (57)

SECOND TEAM

Offense

QB: Thaddeus Lewis, Duke (18)

RB: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (62)

RB: Montel Harris, Boston College (39)

WR: Torrey Smith, Maryland (25)

WR: Jacoby Ford, Clemson (24)

TE: Greg Boone, Virginia Tech (16)

OT: Ed Wang, Virginia Tech (31)

OT: Chris Hairston, Clemson (26)

OG: Thomas Austin, Clemson (39)

OG: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech (37)

C: Matt Tennant, Boston College (29)

K: Casey Barth, North Carolina (21)

K: Will Snyderwine, Duke (21)

Spc: Torrey Smith, Maryland (17)

Defense

DE: Ricky Sapp, Clemson (29)

DE: Willie Young, NC State (24)

DE: Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech (24)

DT: Marvin Austin, North Carolina (32)

DT: John Russell, Wake Forest (29)

LB: Vincent Rey, Duke (29)

LB: Darryl Sharpton, Miami (21)

LB: Bruce Carter, North Carolina (17)

LB: Colin McCarthy, Miami (17)

LB: Dekoda Watson, Florida State (17)

CB: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia (26)

CB: Patrick Robinson, Florida State (26)

S: Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech (51)

S: Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech (24)

P: Matt Bosher, Miami (37)

ACC announces Players of the Week

November, 16, 2009
11/16/09
1:30
PM ET
Here are the weekly ACC honors, straight from the league office in Greensboro:

OFFENSIVE BACK – C.J. Spiller, Clemson, RB, Sr., 5-11, 195, Lake Butler, Fla. (Union County)

Clemson senior running back C.J. Spiller had a hand in a Tiger touchdown in three different fashions in a 43-23 win at NC State. Spiller threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to teammate Xavier Dye in the second quarter that gave Clemson a 16-point lead. He then scored on a 16-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from freshman quarterback Kyle Parker in the fourth quarter to become the first player in school history to rush for a touchdown, catch a touchdown pass, and throw a touchdown pass in the same game against a Football Bowl Subdivision team. Spiller piled on 158 all-purpose yards in the game, with 97 rushing yards, 48 receiving yards, and 13 kickoff return yards.

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN – Cord Howard, Georgia Tech, G, Sr., 6-5, 308, Phenix City, Ala. (Central)

Georgia Tech senior guard Cord Howard garnered his second Offensive Lineman of the Week selection of 2009 in helping the seventh-ranked Yellow Jackets to a Coastal Division-clinching win at Duke. Howard helped anchor an offensive line that cleared space for 519 total yards of offense, including 306 rushing yards in Georgia Tech’s 49-10 win over the Blue Devils. Howard and the Yellow Jacket offensive line have paved the way for 300 or more rushing yards nine times this season, including the last six games in a row—all wins.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN – Ben Anderson, Georgia Tech, DT, Jr., 6-2, 274, Aiken, S.C. (South Aiken)

Georgia Tech junior defensive tackle Ben Anderson recorded five tackles, three for loss, and two sacks -- all career-highs -- against Duke. Despite allowing 10 first-quarter points to the Blue Devils, Anderson helped the Yellow Jacket defense blank Duke for the final three stanzas. Additionally, Georgia Tech limited Duke’s high-powered passing attack to just 256 yards and gave up only 25 rushing yards, while the defensive line pressured the Blue Devil offense for four sacks in the game.

DEFENSIVE BACK – Kendric Burney, North Carolina, CB, Jr., 5-9, 190, Jacksonville, N.C. (Southwest Onslow)

Junior cornerback Kendric Burney intercepted three passes and broke a 29-year old ACC single-game record with 170 interception return yards, including a 77-yard touchdown, in North Carolina’s 33-24 win over No. 12 Miami. Burney’s 170 yards also broke the school-record for interception return yards in a season and upped his career mark to 317, also a new school record. The junior returned his second interception of the game for a 77-yard touchdown, his second career interception return for a score. The 77-yard return is the seventh-longest in school history, while the touchdown tied him with six former Tar Heels who had two career interceptions returned for touchdowns, another school record. Burney returned his third interception of the day 46 yards before losing a fumble to teammate Melvin Williams, who ran the remaining 44 yards for the touchdown.

SPECIALIST – Casey Barth, North Carolina, PK, So., 5-11, 180, Wilmington, N.C. (Hoggard)

North Carolina junior place-kicker Casey Barth extended his streak of made field goals to 13 with boots of 22, 42, 32, and 33 yards against Miami. His 42-yarder in the second quarter matched a career-long and extended the Tar Heels’ lead to six points. Barth has connected on eight field goal attempts in the last two weeks.

ROOKIE – E.J. Manuel, Florida State, QB, Fr., 6-4, 225, Virginia Beach, Va. (Bayside)

In his first career start, Florida State freshman quarterback E.J. Manuel completed 15 of 20 passes for 220 yards in the Seminoles’ 41-28 win at Wake Forest. Manuel directed Florida State to three touchdowns and a field goal in its first four possessions, including a one-yard touchdown run of his own. In addition to his 220 passing yards, Manuel rushed for 45 yards on 10 carries, and threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to teammate Jarmon Fortson in the fourth quarter that put the Seminoles ahead by 19 points.

ACC announces Players of the Week

October, 12, 2009
10/12/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


Here are this week's ACC Players of the Week, straight from the conference office:

OFFENSIVE BACK: Thaddeus Lewis, Duke, QB, Sr., 6-1, 215, Opa-Locka, Fla. (Hialeah Miami Lakes)

Duke senior quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, in addition to earning Walter Camp Foundation National Player of the Week honors, etched his name into several record books in helping the Blue Devils to a 49-28 victory over NC State. Lewis completed a school single-game record 40 passes in 50 attempts for 459 yards and five touchdowns against a Wolfpack defense that came into the game leading the league allowing just 239.2 yards of total offense per game. Lewis’ 459 passing yards is the fourth-highest single-game total in school history and 18th-best passing performance in league annals, while his five touchdown passes tied the second-best mark in Blue Devil history. Lewis also scored with his feet on a two-yard run in the first quarter, giving him responsibility for six touchdowns in the game, matching an ACC single-game record. Additionally, Lewis became Duke’s all-time leader in touchdown passes with 59 and achieved 8,000 passing yards for his career, becoming just the 16th player in the ACC to accomplish the feat.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Cord Howard, Georgia Tech, G, Sr., 6-5, 308, Phenix City, Ala. (Central)

Georgia Tech senior guard Cord Howard was credited with 13 knockdowns and was the top performer on an offensive line that paved the way for Georgia Tech to amass 532 yards of total offense, including 401 on the ground, the fourth-highest and second-highest totals in the ACC this season, respectively, in a 49-44 win against Florida State. Despite a 78-minute delay due to lightning, the Yellow Jacket offense operated like a well-oiled machine throughout the evening, as the punt team was not asked to take the field in the game.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN: John Russell, Wake Forest, DT, Sr., 6-4, 280, Jacksonville, Fla. (The Bolles School)

Wake Forest senior defensive tackle John Russell matched his career-high with six tackles and recorded two sacks for losses totaling 15 yards in a 42-32 win over visiting Maryland. Russell also helped anchor a defensive front that limited Maryland to just 62 rushing yards—a season-low for Demon Deacon opponents. In addition, Russell had a nine-yard sack late in the second quarter during a Maryland drive that crossed midfield. His second sack came on a fourth down-and-five when he dropped Maryland quarterback Chris Turner for a six-yard loss.

DEFENSIVE BACK: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia, CB, Jr., 6-2, 200, Chesapeake, Va. (Deep Creek)

Virginia junior cornerback Ras-I Dowling highlighted a Cavalier defense that did not allow a point through the first 51 minutes of a 47-7 win against visiting Indiana. In addition to a forced fumble on the Hoosiers’ first possession and a second-quarter interception, both of which led to Cavalier touchdowns, Dowling recorded a team-high nine tackles, including seven solo stops, and the first sack of his career. Dowling also anchored a defensive secondary that limited the Indiana offense to just 190 passing yards in 36 attempts, and did not allow the Hoosiers to convert a third-down until the third quarter.

SPECIALIST: Torrey Smith, Maryland, WR, So., 6-1, 200, Colonial Beach, Va. (Stafford)

Maryland sophomore wide receiver and kick returner Torrey Smith totaled a career-high 194 yards in six kickoff returns (32.3 yards per return), including an 85-yarder on his first return, in a 42-32 loss to Wake Forest. Only in his second season, Smith entered the game against the Demon Deacons ranked 16th in league history with 1,732 career kickoff return yards. By the end of the game, Smith had climbed eight spots to sit in eighth place with 1,926 yards. Offensively, Smith hauled in a career-high 10 passes—tied for the second most in the conference this season -- for 70 yards and a touchdown reception to finish the game with 267 all-purpose yards. Smith now owns the top two, and four of the top five, all-purpose performances in the league in 2009, and leads the nation with 236.7 all-purpose yards per game.

ROOKIE: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech, RB, Fr. 5-9, 205, Manassas, Va. (Stonewall Jackson)

Virginia Tech freshman running back Ryan Williams went over the 100-yard rushing mark for the fourth time this season to set a Hokie freshman mark with four 100-yard rushing performances. Williams rushed for 158 yards in 18 attempts (8.2 yards per rush) and a touchdown in a 48-14 win against Boston College in a rematch of the last two ACC Championship games. Williams totaled 138 rushing yards in the first half, while sitting out most of the second half. He also caught a 23-yard pass to finish the day with 182 total yards of offense. Williams owns three of the top-10 rushing performances in the league to date, and leads the ACC and is sixth nationally with 122.3 rushing yards per game.

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.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It was a downright miserable 20th birthday for Georgia Tech offensive tackle Nick Claytor, who spent April 1 in an Ohio hospital where he underwent surgery for a ruptured disc in his back. It was still better, though, than going through another season with the scary pain and numbness on his left side.

Claytor was in the hospital for about four days, and he wasn't the only starting offensive lineman at Georgia Tech who spent more time this offseason recovering than he did playing football. Center Dan Voss, who fell awkwardly on his shoulder against Mississippi State last year and said "it just popped out," was also held out of spring drills, along with senior guard Cord Howard, who missed most of the practices.

Even though Georgia Tech featured the No. 4 rushing offense in the country last year, there was still room for improvement up front, and the offensive line remains a concern heading into summer camp. Some of the progress was slowed by the absences caused by injuries, but those within the program say it gave the backups some valuable reps that will in turn make the unit better and deeper in 2009.

"Last year we didn't play nearly as well as we needed to and had a lot of room for improvement," Voss said. "It was almost like there was nowhere to go but up for us. In the spring we really built a lot of depth, and although Nick and Cord and I were out for a lot of it, we were getting better in the film room, just by watching plays and taking a different point of view. And the guys who did play definitely got better with the reps. I think overall it will be a lot better offensive line next year."

The last thing Claytor is worried about is healing.

"I really, really, really want a championship," he said. "Getting healthy and getting back in shape, that's not even a goal -- that's going to happen. The goal is to win games."

Because Claytor's injury kept him sidelined for so long, though, he said he might be a little tentative until he gets hit for the first time this summer.

"When it's time to start hitting again, it will probably take a day, or one good shot from a linebacker or one of our ridiculous D-linemen," said Claytor, who has been lifting again, but isn't back to a full sprint yet. "Our D-linemen are so good. It will probably take one good shot from one of them to get me angry and back into it."

Voss wasn't allowed to do any lifting with his left arm, and spent most of the spring wearing a red jersey running on the practice field sideline affectionately known as "muscle beach." He said he expects to shake off the rust within the first two weeks of summer camp, and that he benefited from his time as a "player-coach" this offseason.

"With coach [Paul] Johnson, you're going to get better, especially during the spring," Voss said. "The O-line improved a lot. There were some people who didn't play much last year that got a lot of reps this spring. You could see a difference in how people move and how people react. It was bad for us to get hurt; it's never fun to get injured like that and get surgery, but the fact the rest of the line got better, it's good for everybody."

It's not like Georgia Tech's offensive line couldn't execute at all last year -- the Jackets averaged 273 rushing yards. But the front five didn't always give quarterback Josh Nesbitt enough time to throw, wasn't consistent about protecting him well or cutting down the linebackers and opening up lanes for the talented backfield.

Jonathan Dwyer can make defenders miss, but if the line makes its blocks, he can be that much better. Voss said there's no ceiling for the Yellow Jackets this fall, as long as everyone executes their assignments, starting up front.

"As an offensive line, the team will go as we do," he said. "If the offensive line plays well, we could have one of the great seasons at Georgia Tech. And if we don't do well, it could be a huge disappointment. We understand that."

SOS in the ACC

May, 26, 2009
5/26/09
9:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Each team is going to need a little bit of help this fall (some more than others). Here's a look at where everyone in the ACC needs the most help heading into summer camp:

BOSTON COLLEGE -- Quarterback. It's easily the biggest question mark in Chestnut Hill, and it will also be one of Frank Spaziani's first major decisions as head coach. Regardless of whom he picks -- Dominique Davis, Codi Boek or Justin Tuggle -- experience will be at a minimum.

CLEMSON -- Wide receivers. Somebody needs to help Jacoby Ford, and Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham are no longer around to do it. Xavier Dye didn't quite have the consistency he'd hoped for this spring. Marquan Jones and Terrence Ashe could also be factors.

DUKE -- Offensive line. The Blue Devils lost three starters there and moved a fourth (Kyle Hill from left guard to left tackle), so it will have an entirely new look. The one player back in his original position is center Bryan Morgan.

FLORIDA STATE -- Receivers. FSU is waiting until the legal process unfolds to determine the length of Rod Owens' suspension, and it's uncertain how quickly Taiwan Easterling will be cleared to play after an injury to his Achilles. Bert Reed, Louis Givens and Jarmon Fortson will be heavily depended upon.

GEORGIA TECH -- Linemen. The Yellow Jackets have to replace three of four starters on the defensive line, and injuries to Cord Howard, Dan Voss and Nick Claytor slowed the progress on the offensive line this spring.

MARYLAND -- Offensive line. The Terps lost three starters and will have four players in new positions. Phil Costa should be the leader of an otherwise inexperienced group.

MIAMI -- Linebacker depth. There were a few position changes, and Colin McCarthy missed the spring. Sean Spence is proven, but depth remains a concern.

NORTH CAROLINA -- Receivers. This group had to be completely rebuilt, as UNC lost players who accounted for 17 of 21 receiving touchdowns last year. Greg Little had a good spring and should be the leader now, and freshman Joshua Adams benefitted from enrolling early.

NC STATE -- Safety. This is coach Tom O'Brien's biggest concern, and the Pack need Javon Walker, who tore his ACL and missed the spring, back and healthy. Clem Johnson played well last year despite being hindered by several injuries. O'Brien is looking for more from Jimmaul Simmons and Justin Byers.

VIRGINIA -- Linebackers. The backups to Antonio Appleby, Jon Copper and Clint Sintim rarely played, as Al Groh wanted to keep his best players on the field. Darren Childs, Steve Greer, Aaron Taliaferro, Cam Johnson, and Darnell Carter will have to grow up quickly.

VIRGINIA TECH -- Kicker. For the third straight year, Frank Beamer is in search of a new kicker, this time to replace Dustin Keys. Matt Waldron was the leading candidate out of the spring, but the competition is wide open.

WAKE FOREST -- Linebackers. Gone are Aaron Curry, Stanley Arnoux and Chantz McClinic. Introducing Gelo Orange. Yes, that's his name. Orange, along with Hunter Haynes, Jonathan Jones and a host of others have some big shoes to fill.

Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech

May, 19, 2009
5/19/09
10:59
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

After winning nine games and beating Georgia on the road in Paul Johnson's first season, it would seem on the surface that Georgia Tech should be getting as much attention as Virginia Tech in the offseason and preseason. After all, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech were technically Coastal Division co-champions in 2008.

The Jackets don't deserve it, though -- at least not yet.

That's because the difference is up front.

What separates Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech right now (in addition to the Hokies' 20-17 win last year in Blacksburg) is their offensive and defensive lines. Even though the Jackets had the No. 4 rushing offense in the country last year, they didn't have the best offensive line.

Progress was slow in that area this spring, as senior guard Cord Howard missed most of the spring, starting center Dan Voss missed all of the spring after shoulder surgery, and Nick Claytor, who started at tackle last year after David Brown went down with an injury, missed all of spring and had back surgery. And they've got to replace three of four starters on the defensive line. Derrick Morgan, though, is extremely talented and was overshadowed by his senior teammates last year.

In Blacksburg, the offensive line should finally be a strength, and the coaching staff seems excited about having more athletic players up front, many who were former tight ends. Defensive end is probably Bud Foster's biggest question mark heading into the summer, as there's just not a lot of depth there. What the Hokies don't have this year is Dustin Keys, and they needed him last year for the game-winning 21-yard field goal against Georgia Tech. (Well, they needed Keys and two costly 15-yard penalties on that drive.)

Both of these teams will be contending for the Coastal Division title again, but if Georgia Tech is going to improve upon last season, it's going to have to make significant strides this summer in the trenches -- something Virginia Tech began to do this spring.

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