ACC: Derrick Nnadi

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Coming into the season, the defensive line was highlighted as one position group Florida State couldn't stand to suffer any injuries. Of course, three defensive linemen went down in Week 2, and starter Nile Lawrence-Stample was ruled out for the season two weeks later.

Beset with injuries, the No. 3 Seminoles were forced to develop their depth. Three months later, while Florida State still isn't nearly as strong on the defensive line as it has been in years, the unit is in the best shape it has been all season.

Against Oregon's high-powered and uptempo offense, Florida State will need every able body ready to contribute.

"It's really important," defensive tackle Derrick Mitchell Jr. said of Florida State's depth along the line. "We're going to need a lot of guys to sub in when Oregon gives us the opportunity."

Derrick Nnadi is a reserve defensive tackle the coaching staff was high on throughout preseason camp. Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher praised the blue-chip recruit's performance all August, and Nnadi's teammates echoed those sentiments.

The 6-foot-2, 303-pound freshman rose to the occasion in Week 2 after three tackles went down in the first half against The Citadel, but Nnadi's playing time has been sporadic since then. He played in only seven of the Seminoles' 12 regular-season games, and Fisher said, like most freshmen, Nnadi had his good days and his bad days and had to work through mental and physical hurdles.

But, once again, Nnadi was called upon during desperate times. Starter Eddie Goldman, a potential first-round pick, was sidelined early against Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game, and Nnadi was tasked with helping slow down one of the country's best rushing offenses.

"He dominated in spurts," Mitchell said of Nnadi. "When you got a guy like Nnadi, who's mentally focused all week and does his job all week, it's easy once you get in."

The emergence of Nnadi was a necessity against Georgia Tech, but there won't be as much pressure on the first-year player in the Rose Bowl. Lawrence-Stample, who was initially ruled out for the remainder of the season after tearing a pectoral muscle in September, is practicing and expected to play against the Ducks.

"Nile's a heckuva player," Fisher said. "He was fixing to have a great year."

Adding Lawrence-Stample back into the fold gives the Seminoles many more options with their defensive line alignment, too. Star defensive end Mario Edwards Jr. often shifts to tackle because his 300-pound frame can handle playing on the interior. However, two of Edwards' greatest assets are his athleticism and quickness, and it's against spread offenses like Oregon that allows Florida State to best utilize Edwards' talent.

To get a sense of just how disruptive Edwards can be against uptempo and spread offenses, one only has to flip on the tape from last season's national title game. Edwards harassed speedster Nick Marshall much of the night and chased down the Auburn quarterback on a couple of occasions.

"Mario's going to play a big role," linebacker Terrance Smith said. "They're a very big spread team and like to get you out on the open and Mario is a very good open field player. For him to be able to make plays in space is going to big time."

ACC mailblog

November, 14, 2014
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It’s Friday, so let’s dig into the mailbag to see what burning ACC questions you’ve got for us...

Nick in Fort Lauderdale writes: Could an undefeated Florida State actually get left out of the playoffs? … I can see Mississippi State staying in the top four with a loss to Alabama. If the committee will jump Oregon over an undefeated FSU, then why not TCU, and that could push FSU out of the top four altogether.

David Hale: I just don’t buy that talk. Credibility is going to be a concern for the committee in Year 1 for obvious reasons, and leaving out a defending national champ without a loss just seems like it would undermine so much of what the playoff was created to accomplish. I agree with you that a loss might doom FSU’s season, but until that happens, I think the Seminoles are safe. Besides, TCU’s remaining schedule is atrocious, so if the Horned Frogs were going to jump Florida State, it would’ve had to have happened already.


Vinny writes: FSU has always tried to rotate D-linemen, but it seems they aren’t using guys like [Justin] Justin Shanks and [Keith] Keith Bryant as much. Matchup? Scheme? Injuries? Also, do you think Mario Edwards would be more effective from the tackle spot?

David Hale: Scheme has a lot to do with this. When Mark Stoops left for Kentucky, the defensive scheme changed a lot, and the Seminoles have worked so much in nickel packages this year, we’re seeing a lot fewer snaps for the down linemen. Add the fact that you have two stars in Edwards and Eddie Goldman, and the drop-off in talent for those rotations is much more noticeable. With the injuries and inexperience at linebacker, keeping those guys on the field is paramount. Shanks was also banged up early in the year and hasn’t quite recovered that playing time, while Bryant perhaps hasn’t developed quite as quickly as Derrick Nnadi and Desmond Hollin. As for Edwards, he's such a mismatch where he is because of his size-speed combination. I think that's the best spot for him.


Steve in New Jersey writes: Can you tell me what is going wrong with my Hokies? Is it the talent? Bad Coaching? Bad playing? Or all the above?

David Hale: It’s a lot of factors — as it almost always is when a program declines steeply — which makes it harder to isolate one thing that needs to change. I think Virginia Tech has a lot more talent this year than the last few, and I’d credit Frank Beamer for giving so much playing time to young players. You’ve got to take the good with the bad in those scenarios, but in the long run, it will be a big benefit for the Hokies.

Beyond that though, I think there are two big concerns: The first is injuries. Virginia Tech has been devastated by them this year, and the hope should be that the bad luck evens out in 2015. The second is the offensive line, which has been a massive disappointment throughout the last few years. The run-blocking has been really bad, and without a steady run game, the Hokies are going to have a tough time getting back to 10 wins. The recruiting philosophy has shifted a bit and Stacy Searels is a good coach, but that part will take some time.


Dave in VT Land writes: So, it looks like the alphabetical listing of the Coastal Division teams is turning out to be the most accurate prediction! Who'd have thought?

David Hale: Akron is applying for Coastal Division membership as we speak… (And the Zips already have a win over Pitt!)


Jon in Atlanta writes: I cannot say enough on how surprised I am to see Georgia Tech with seven wins. Early in the season, I would have laughed if 7-8 wins this season was even mentioned. With a really good recruiting class coming in, how good do you see GT getting down the road?

David Hale: I’m not sure any team in the country has exceeded my expectations as much as Georgia Tech this season. There were just so many areas of concern entering the season, and to Paul Johnson’s credit, he’s found ways of plugging all of those holes. The D isn’t good, and that remains a big concern, but the offensive philosophy makes up for that in a lot of ways, and Justin Thomas has really added that missing element to the option. The other big knock on Johnson in recent years has been recruiting, and as you said, even that is starting to change. It’s really tough for longtime coaches to turn the tide when a program starts going south (see: Virginia Tech) but Johnson has done a splendid job of it this year.


David Hale: I’ll be surprised if Clemson isn’t the overwhelming favorite in the Atlantic to open next season because Watson is back with a very talented young offense around him. Mike Williams and Artavis Scott have been exceptional this year despite the revolving door at QB, and Wayne Gallman is finally beginning to make some progress for the running game. Yes, a lot of talent will be leaving on the defensive side of the ball, but Mackensie Alexander, Shaq Lawson and Jayson Kearse will be back to ease the transition. Meanwhile, Florida State figures to see a mass exodus of talent after this season, including the entirety of the offensive line, along with Jameis Winston, Rashad Greene and likely Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman.

The bottom line though is that Watson is a star in the making. He’s a perfect fit for Chad Morris’ offense, and he’ll have a good bit of talent around him, so there is plenty of cause for excitement if you’re a Clemson fan. The one big concern though: Can the Tigers keep their two coordinators?
Florida State has had one of the best defensive fronts in the nation in the last two seasons, but the Seminoles will have a major challenger to that claim when 2014 rolls around.

Division rival Clemson has the potential to have one of the best defensive lines in school history, thanks to returning all of its starters -- including sack master Vic Beasley. So that leads us to this question: Which team will have the best defensive front in the ACC this upcoming season? Andrea Adelson and David Hale let the debate begin.

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Which team will have the best defensive line in the ACC in 2014?

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Discuss (Total votes: 4,741)

Andrea says Clemson

The moment Beasley decided to return to Clemson was the moment the Tigers became the favorite to field the best defensive line in the ACC next season.

Now, this is not to slight Florida State, which has dominated up front over the last two seasons. But the Seminoles have key players to replace again. Clemson, on the other hand, returns every starter on the defensive line, plus its top four backups. All told, eight linemen return who played at least 292 snaps a year ago.

Those top eight combined for 65 tackles for loss -- more than half the single-season school-record 122 tackles for loss Clemson had in 2013. They also combined for 26 of the team’s 38 sacks.

Beasley, of course, leads the returning group after making 13 sacks and 23 tackles for loss a season ago, one of the top performances of any defensive end in the country. Had he decided to leave for the NFL, Clemson would have still had plenty of talent returning.

But with him, the Tigers could potentially have the deepest, most talented group of defensive linemen at the school since the 1981 national championship team featured future NFL players Jeff Bryant, William Perry, Andy Headen and Dan Benish in the starting lineup.

Clemson could potentially go 10 deep along the defensive line, especially when you consider the return of Carlos Watkins, expected to be healthy after missing most of last season following a car accident. That means the Tigers have the ability to rotate frequently and keep players fresh, perhaps more than they did last season.

Fresh players mean fresh legs, and fresh legs mean getting into the backfield at a much better clip. Last season, Beasley, starting tackle Grady Jarrett (11), starting end Corey Crawford (10.5) and backup end Shaq Lawson each finished with 10 or more tackles for loss. Now think about some of the best defensive fronts in college football. Florida State has zero defensive linemen returning with double-digit tackles for loss. Alabama? Zero. LSU? Zero. Stanford? Zero. Virginia Tech? One. Michigan State? One. Ohio State? Two.

Clemson leads them all.

Such an experienced group, with the ability to get into the backfield and get after the quarterback, should only get better with another year under Brent Venables, who is entering his third season as defensive coordinator. As Beasley told colleague Heather Dinich after he announced his decision to return, “I feel like we can be the best in the country.”

And, yes, that means the defense could emerge as the strength of this team.

David says Florida State

The track record for Florida State’s defensive front speaks for itself. During the past three seasons, only Alabama has had more success defending the run than Florida State, which has allowed just 2.8 yards per carry since the start of the 2011 season. Those Seminoles teams sent eight players from the front seven to the NFL -- and that number figures to increase by at least four this year -- yet the unit has seen little decline in production. With new personnel, a new scheme and new coaches last season, FSU’s first-team defense didn’t allow a rushing touchdown until the national championship game.

Of course, that’s all in the past, and 2014 comes with some significant questions for Florida State.

Throughout the three-year run of success for the FSU front seven, Christian Jones, Telvin Smith and Timmy Jernigan have been anchors. All are gone now, and that means some significant vacancies on the defensive front, both in terms of on-field talent and off-field leadership. It means there will be questions surrounding the unit for the next few months, but it doesn’t mean the Seminoles don’t have answers.

Of the projected two-deep in the front seven, FSU projects to feature as many as 12 former ESPN 300 recruits. The talent is exceptional.

Mario Edwards Jr. and Eddie Goldman were both top-10 recruits in 2012, and both have two years of experience under their belts. Edwards, in particular, took big steps forward throughout 2013, turning in perhaps his best game against Auburn’s up-tempo ground attack in the VIZIO BCS National Championship.

The linebacker group lacks significant experience, but Terrance Smith is a physical clone of Telvin Smith, and he performed admirably after stepping into a starting role last season. Matthew Thomas and Ukeme Eligwe are both former elite recruits who project nicely in the hybrid role Jones handled so successfully in 2013.

Kain Daub, Demarcus Christmas and Derrick Nnadi lead a stellar 2014 recruiting class that could make an instant impact.

That’s not to say Florida State is prepared to move forward without Jernigan’s presence up front or Telvin Smith’s leadership in the middle of the field without missing a beat. There will be hiccups as the new group gets its feet wet and Edwards and Goldman learn to be leaders. But similar concerns existed a year ago when Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine bolted for the NFL, and after some early missteps, Florida State again proved to be one of the fiercest defensive fronts in the country.

And, of course, the Seminoles have another weapon in this debate, too. No position group succeeds in a vacuum, and FSU’s front seven gets a major boost from a secondary that projects to again be the best in the nation. If the Seminoles’ defensive backs continue to make teams one-dimensional and continue to provide time for the pass rush to get to the quarterback, the odds of FSU’s front seven making a smooth transition into 2014 get even better.

Signing day wrap: ACC

February, 5, 2014
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Signing day is known for the crazy. Condense an entire college football season into 12 hours and that offers a glimpse -- albeit minimally -- into the first Wednesday of February.

It began with ESPN 300 defensive lineman Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield), arms folded and chest out, announcing his intention to sign with Michigan State. His intention to sign. A glare from his parents and whispers in the gym let it be known this saga was not going to end at 10 a.m. in front of a microphone.

Both of McDowell’s parents would like to see their son, No. 60 in the ESPN 300, at any school in his top four not nicknamed the Spartans. Florida State is among those finalists, and several predicted the Seminoles would land McDowell considering his parents' distaste for all things Green. So Jimbo Fisher and those inside Doak Campbell are keeping the fax machine plugged in, offering a few more hours' respite from the storage closet for the condemned technology.

Ultimately, McDowell, whether of his own volition or executing his parents’ will, did not fax a letter of intent to Michigan State as of 8:00 p.m. ET, and the Noles finished signing day with the No. 3 class sans another elite lineman.

Compared to the McDowell drama, the rest of the morning was tame for the ACC. There were some tense moments, but signing day pretty much went the way most expected.

[+] EnlargeDerrick Nnadi
John Albright/Icon SMIGetting ESPN 300 DE Derrick Nnandi on Wednesday helped make national signing day successful for Florida State.
No team had more of an opportunity to close strong than the Noles, and Fisher did a fine job closing. It was unrealistic to expect Florida State to land every recruit on the board, five-star Lorenzo Carter (signed with Georgia) and No. 1 receiver Malachi Dupre (LSU) among them. However, into the fold for Florida State was ESPN 300 linemen Derrick Nnadi (Virginia Beach, Va./Ocean Lakes), Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central) and Derrick Kelly Jr. (Quincy, Fla./East Gadsden), who was poised to sign with Florida but gave his commitment at the 11th hour.

Florida State was involved with a handful of signing day flips, but none that caught the Noles’ staff off-guard. No. 7 dual-threat quarterback Treon Harris (Miami/Booker T. Washington) switched to Florida and Dexter Wideman (Saluda, S.C./Saluda) signed with South Carolina, but the Noles flipped Ja'Von Harrison (Lakeland, Fla./Kathleen), No. 117 in the ESPN 300. Harrison was committed to Virginia Tech for 18 months before his signing day change of heart. Harrison, ranked as an athlete, finalized what could be the best receiver class in the country. It was one of the best classes nationally, too.

“We’ve had large numbers this year, got needs all the way across the board and filled it with great players and everyone position across the board we had somebody in,” Jimbo Fisher said at his signing day news conference. “We were excited about that.”

Miami’s flipping efforts went for naught, but it prevented one of its own from changing allegiances. Local defensive end Chad Thomas (Miami/Booker T. Washington), ranked No. 3 among Hurricanes commits, took late official visits to Alabama and Florida State. There was some panic from fans when Thomas’ fax did not roll through exactly at 9 a.m., but Canes coach Al Golden said Thomas’ mother reassured him the 65th-ranked player in the country would stay near South Beach.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney would scoff at the claim FSU has the best receiver class. The Noles received the signing day pats on the back for landing No. 2 receiver Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead) and Harrison on Wednesday while the Tigers had three four-star receivers already on campus. ESPN 300 receivers Demarre Kitt (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), Artavis Scott (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) and four-star Kyrin Priester (Snellville, Ga./Fork Union) enrolled in early January. ESPN 300 receiver Trevion Thompson (Durham, N.C./Hillside) signed Wednesday.

“It was a critical need for us ... and we are excited about all four,” Swinney said at his signing day news conference.

Mike London had a quiet signing day in his Charlottesville office, but that is all he could have hoped for following a winless ACC campaign. The Virginia coach did most of his 2014 recruiting work before the 2013 season, and he was able to secure the signatures of five-star Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) and ESPN 300 recruits Jeff Farrar (Upland, Calif./Upland), Jamil Kamara (Virginia Beach, Va./Bishop Sullivan) and Steven Moss (Fredericksburg, Va./Chancellor High).

“Obviously keeping the class was important when the season didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to ... but the in-state kids wanted to play together and build a brand together,” London said on the ESPNU signing day telecast.

While the day was quiet for Duke, it was still most the shocking signing day Durham has ever seen. The Blue Devils, coming off a 10-win season and an ACC title game, signed its first ESPN 300 recruit and four four-star recruits overall. Between 2010 and 2013, Duke signed only one four-star prospect -- a kicker.

While the ACC did not touch the SEC in the number of teams toward the top of the class rankings, for the most part the conference as a whole improved, and Florida State went a long way in challenging Alabama to become college football’s next dynasty.

ACC's lunch links

February, 5, 2014
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Welcome to the only day of the year when fax machines are still the nation’s most important technology.

Tomahawk Nation takes a look at Florida State’s potential haul on the offensive line — the one area the Seminoles have struggled to recruit in recent years.

FSU swiped a top defensive tackle from Virginia Tech at the last minute, writes the Roanoke Times.

Derrick Nnadi fills a major need for the Seminoles, writes the Orlando Sentinel.

In-state players are sticking around to attend UNC, Duke and NC State more often, writes the Charlotte Observer.

Not sure this is necessarily a good thing in the longterm, but the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes that Paul Johnson has had more success with his two-star recruits at Georgia Tech than he’s had with his four-star players.

Pitt lost a QB recruit to Vanderbilt at the last minute, writes the Post-Gazette.

Virginia is expecting a stellar signing class when Wednesday is over, writes the Daily Progress.

There’s plenty of pressure on Al Golden and Miami to bring in a solid class, writes the Miami Herald.

Steve Addazio is expected to add an influx of talent at BC today, writes the Boston Herald.

As NC State adds talent today, Backing the Pack takes a look at the early enrollees already on campus.

The Post and Courier runs down Clemson’s full scholarship list in advance of signing day.

USA Today lists its top storylines for national signing day.

Bold predictions: ACC 

February, 4, 2014
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It is becoming a bit cliché, but the saying holds true every year on the first Wednesday of February: Expect the unexpected on signing day.

With the direction signing day and recruiting have been going, a prospect simply signing his letter of intent to the college he has been committed to for months qualifies as a mild surprise.

Here are five bold predictions for ACC signing day.

ACC class rankings analysis 

January, 29, 2014
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National signing day is one week away, so this is the time of the year when schools hope to be trending up in the class rankings. As the final elite uncommitted prospects wrestle with decisions, another highly-rated recruit picking a particular school could influence others to do the same.

Momentum works both ways, and any bad news could snowball in the final few hours.


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Most important targets: ACC 

January, 28, 2014
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This is the time for schools to make final visits and final pitches to recruits. Only a select number of prospects remain uncommitted, as most programs’ classes are close to completion, which means coaching staffs are focusing their attention on the final big pieces to the puzzle.

Here are the top targets remaining for each ACC school:

Boston College
DT Oseh Saine (Worcester, Mass./Worcester)
6-foot-4, 295 pounds
Not rated
It is possible Boston College will add another commitment between now and signing day. Coach Steve Addazio is hoping for a quiet signing day, as his first full class at BC is a good one, and any unexpected news on Feb. 5 could be bad news for the Eagles. Postgraduate defensive lineman Oseh Saine could sign, however, and he made an official visit after the Eagles had offered. There are academic hurdles, but if Saine is playing FBS football next season, it likely will be with the Eagles.


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5 to watch: ACC signing day preview 

January, 21, 2014
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Signing day is a little more than two weeks away, meaning the next 15 days are going to be very interesting. Here are five storylines in the ACC to keep an eye on come signing day on Feb. 5.


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Most important targets: ACC 

January, 8, 2014
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With less than a month until signing day, ACC schools are focused on closing out their 2014 classes before moving onto 2015. Here is the top signing day target for each ACC program.

Boston College
DE Harold Landry (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest)
6-foot-3, 230 pounds

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ACC recruiting storylines: Dec. 19 

December, 19, 2013
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The holiday season is fast approaching, and with it, so too is national signing day.

ACC programs are scrambling to firm up their commitment lists and add to them as well. Here are a few top storylines for the conference:


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Most important targets: ACC 

December, 10, 2013
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A look at the most important recruiting targets remaining for each school in the ACC:

Boston College
DE Harold Landry (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest)
6-foot-3, 230 pounds
Four stars

Boston College is close to done for 2014, and coach Steve Addazio is looking toward taking the next big recruiting jump with the 2015 class. However, the Eagles' 2014 class would be dealt a devastating blow if he cannot hold on to Landry, No. 30 among defensive ends nationally and the second-highest-rated commit in BC's class. Reports in mid-October had Landry decommitting from the Eagles, but it was only for a short while. He made amends with the staff quickly and rejoined BC. But now coaches are coming through schools and homes, so BC will have its work cut out once again.


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ACC ESPN 300 analysis 

October, 29, 2013
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The ESPN 300 has been updated, and the shine on some of the ACC's best football classes seemingly got another layer of wax. Florida State and Miami benefit from the conference's biggest risers in the ESPN 300, and Virginia Tech saw a commitment and a heavy lean debut in the ESPN 300.

Here's a look at how the updated ESPN 300 impacts the ACC.

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Most important targets: ACC 

October, 22, 2013
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A look at the most important recruiting targets remaining for each school in the ACC:

Boston College

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ACC 2014 recruiting scenarios 

October, 8, 2013
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Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. That is what college coaches must do when it comes to recruiting. Every coach would love to land their top target at every position, but coaches are forced to play the what-ifs and continue to recruit prospects lower on the recruiting board. With signing day a few months away and several classes close to completion, college staffs are pushing for those few final targets but also keeping a watchful eye on players down the board.

Here are the best- and worst-case scenarios for each of the ACC schools.


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