ACC: Desmond Brown

With half of the conference playing spring games this weekend, here’s a look at what to watch if you’re keeping an eye on the ACC as spring ball comes to a close:

CLEMSON

When: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPN3)

What to watch:
  • Quarterbacks of the future. You know Tajh Boyd is good. Expect Cole Stoudt and Chad Kelly to take most of the snaps. Boyd played just four snaps in the last scrimmage. Let's see his backups.
  • The tight ends. Clemson tight ends Dwayne Allen and Brandon Ford have been the first team All-ACC tight ends the past two years. Clemson tight ends have 118 receptions and 21 touchdowns the past two years, perhaps the most underrated area in Chad Morris’ offense. So who moves in there this year? Sam Cooper is the most experienced, but freshman Jordan Leggett has been impressive this spring.
  • How much better is the defense? All eyes will be on Brent Venables' group to see how much progress it has made this spring. If the D gets better, it could be a special season in Death Valley.
FLORIDA STATE

When: 2 p.m. Saturday, (ESPN3)

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. It's been one of the hottest topics this spring in the ACC and arguably the biggest position battle in the conference. Check out Clint Trickett, Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston as they all battle to replace starter EJ Manuel.
  • The defensive line. The competition is on to replace Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine. Mario Edwards Jr. is ready to jump in, along with Giorgio Newberry.
  • Don't forget the kicker. It's big at FSU. The Noles have to replace Dustin Hopkins, the ACC's all-time leading scorer and the NCAA's all-time kick scorer. It's your chance to see Roberto Aguayo, who was one of the nation's top kickers coming out of high school.
MARYLAND

When: 7 p.m. on Friday in Byrd Stadium

Parking/admission: Free

What to watch:
  • The running backs. Both Brandon Ross and Albert Reid have had strong springs and will be competing for playing time come the fall.
  • The receivers. This group should be a strong point for the team this year, as Stefon Diggs, Deon Long and Nigel King are a talented trio.
  • New faces on defense. The Terps have to replace six starters on defense, including some of their best leaders in Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis.
DUKE

When: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday (ESPN3) in Wallace Wade Stadium

Parking/admission: Free

What to watch:
  • Booooooone. Anthony Boone takes over at quarterback, and there have been rave reviews about him from within the program all spring. He's got a strong arm and is mobile.
  • New faces at safety. Some big names are gone, as Duke has to replace graduates Jordon Byas and Walt Canty, and Brandon Braxton, who moved back to receiver. Jeremy Cash, eligible now after transferring from Ohio State and sitting out last fall, headlines the group that includes sophomore Dwayne Norman (60 tackles in 2012 as true freshman) and redshirt freshman Corbin McCarthy.
  • Front and center: There is one hole to fill on the offensive line and Matt Skura takes over at center for Brian Moore.
MIAMI

When: 3 p.m. ET at Sun Life Stadium (ESPN3)

Gates open: 12:30 p.m.

Parking/admission: Free

What to watch:
  • Defensive improvement. Is there any? The Canes were one of the worst in the country last year, but they return every starter up front.
  • The No. 2 QB. Who is it? Gray Crow started the last scrimmage as the backup to Stephen Morris and completed 8 of 13 passes for 73 yards, with a touchdown and interception. Ryan Williams, who entered the spring as the expected No. 2, completed only six of his 12 passes with a touchdown and an interception. The coaches will be watching these guys closely on Saturday, so should you.
  • Running back Dallas Crawford. You know Duke Johnson. It's time to get to know this guy. Those within the program have said Crawford has had a great spring and could be a rising star this fall. He scored two touchdowns in a scrimmage in Naples earlier this month.
NORTH CAROLINA

When: 3 p.m. ET on Saturday at Kenan Stadium (ESPN3)

Admission: Free

Parking: $5/vehicle

What to watch:
  • Gio's replacement(s). A.J. Blue and Romar Morris have been working to ease the loss of leading rusher Giovani Bernard. Can they be as effective as he was, how much progress have they made and who will replace Bernard in the return game?
  • The O-line. Former guard Jonathan Cooper should be a first-round draft pick later this month, and it won't matter how good Blue and Morris are if they can't find anyone to help block for them. A total of three starters have to be replaced on the offensive line.
  • Replacing big names on D. Cooper and Bernard aren't the only big names that will be missing. The defense is going to miss tackle Sylvester Williams, who could be another first-round draft pick, and linebacker Kevin Reddick (85 tackles, 8.5 for loss). How does the D look without them?
PITTSBURGH

When: 7 p.m. ET on Friday at Bethel Park High School (ESPN3)

Gates open: 5:30 p.m.

Admission: Free

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Fifth-year senior Tom Savage has taken most of the reps with the first team, and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik appears to be the backup, but coach Paul Chryst has yet to name a starter.
  • The running backs. Earlier this month, it was announced that Rushel Shell has decided to transfer. Since then, the bulk of the carries have gone to junior Isaac Bennett, sophomore Malcolm Crockett and senior Desmond Brown. How they fare will go a long way in determining how Pitt fares in its first season in the ACC.
  • The offensive line. It's been problematic for the Panthers in each of the past two seasons, and Pitt now has to break in two new starters in Gabe Roberts and Adam Bisnowaty.
Some of you might remember the contender-pretender series we did recently.

We thought Pitt was a contender. Until now.

Running back Rushel Shell, who was expected to be the Panthers' starting running back this fall, has decided to transfer, the school confirmed on Tuesday.

“Rushel and I met on Tuesday morning and he informed me of his final decision to transfer," coach Paul Chryst said in a prepared statement. "I wish him only the best moving forward. Out of respect for Rushel, his family and his privacy, this will be my final comment on the matter.”

This is a huge loss to the program as it enters its first season in the ACC’s Coastal Division.

Expectations were high for Shell heading into this season, as he entered this spring as the leading candidate to replace Ray Graham, one of the most productive running backs in school history. As a true freshman, Shell was the team’s second-leading rusher with 641 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries (4.5 avg.). He ran for 157 yards in a 35-17 upset of No. 13 Virginia Tech.

Shell’s decision to transfer isn’t much of a surprise, as there were multiple reports that he had been considering it. Last week, Pittsburgh announced that Shell was taking some time away from football to “work through some challenges,” according to Chryst. His decision to transfer leaves the position lacking experience.

The bulk of the carries will now go to junior Isaac Bennett, sophomore Malcolm Crockett and senior Desmond Brown. Bennett has the most career production with 378 yards and five touchdowns on 87 carries (4.3 avg.). Crockett had 50 yards on 12 carries (4.2 avg.) as a redshirt freshman last season, and Brown’s contributions came on special teams.

Chryst said Bennett and Crockett both have their strengths.

“They’re different,” he said, according to the team's practice report. “They both have similarities. They both run hard. They like the game. Malcolm … can continue to learn to tempo his runs. Sometimes he has just one speed. They seem to have different styles.

“All that matters is playing their strengths,” Chryst said. “There are guys who are strong in a lot of areas. You can play to each player’s strength.”

Crockett said he has been waiting for this opportunity.

“When a man goes down, the next one has to step up,” he said, according to the team's practice report. “It’s something I’ve been preparing for. I know my time will come. It’s here, so every rep, every second I’m just going hard to the fullest. Eventually, I’m going to try to start.”

Crockett and Bennett are already having fun with their new roles. Crockett said he’s the faster of the two and would win a race against Bennett.

“Let him believe what he wants to believe,” Bennett said with a laugh. “He’s fast, not faster than me.”

One of them is going to have to make their move into the starting lineup -- quickly.
Pitt running back Rushel Shell, who was expected to be the Panthers' starting running back this fall, is taking time away from football, according to a statement released today from coach Paul Chryst.

“Like many college freshmen, Rushel is working through some challenges right now," Chryst said. "As it is for all members of our team, my most important concern is his personal well-being. Rushel and his family have our full support. We are giving him time away from football to work through this situation, but he very much remains a part of our family on a daily basis. We want to be sensitive and respectful of Rushel, and I would ask others to do the same.”

There have been several reports that Shell is considering transferring, but hasn't formally requested the paperwork to do so.

Expectations are high for Shell heading into this season, as Pitt is looking for a replacement for Ray Graham, one of the most productive running backs in school history. Graham finished his four-year career with 3,271 rushing yards, second only to Tony Dorsett.

Shell entered this spring as the leading candidate to step in for Graham, but Chryst has been looking for more consistency from him. Shell was less productive in the final five games of the season than he was through the first seven. As a true freshman, Shell was the team’s second-leading rusher with 641 yards and four touchdowns on 141 carries (4.5 avg.). In a 35-17 upset of No. 13 Virginia Tech, he ran for 157 yards.

His commitment to the team will be critical for Pitt's offensive success this fall, but there are others waiting for their shot.

Junior Isaac Bennett, sophomore Malcolm Crockett and senior Desmond Brown all have some experience, but Bennett has the most career production with 378 yards and five touchdowns on 87 carries (4.3 avg.). Crockett had 50 yards on 12 carries (4.2 avg.) as a redshirt freshman last season, and Brown’s contributions came on special teams.

Clemson freshman dismissed from team

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
8:42
PM ET
Clemson freshman safety Desmond Brown has been permanently dismissed from the team, the school announced on Wednesday.

“Desmond Brown has been permanently dismissed from the Clemson football team for a violation of team rules,” coach Dabo Swinney said in a prepared statement. “ He will remain in school through the end of the semester and then transfer to another institution.”

Brown came to Clemson from Cherokee Country High School in Centre, Ala. He redshirted the 2010 season, then played on special teams in each of Clemson’s nine games so far this year.
Clemson fans saw more out of the Tigers' offense in this year's spring game than they did a year ago -- literally.

Last year, the Tigers ran 108 total plays in their spring game. On Saturday, the Tigers ran a total of 130. And yes, it was balanced, with 69 rushing and 61 passing plays. Clemson, which is under the direction of first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris, snapped the ball with 16-20 seconds left on the play clock on most plays.

“People saw that we will run a fast paced offense this coming season, but we really would like to go faster,” coach Dabo Swinney said, according to the team's practice report. “I was pleased with what I saw in the running game today. All three of our backs ran well. And Tajh Boyd ran well. He made some good decision today and most importantly, he did not have a turnover.”

While Boyd was in the spotlight for the first time, Clemson's rushing attack was the highlight, as two players ran for at least 100 yards each. Demont Buice had 18 carries for 102 yards and Rod McDowell rushed 12 times for 100 yards for the Orange team. D.J. Howard had 11 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown for the White team.

Boyd threw for one touchdown (to tight end Dwayne Allen) and rushed for one. He completed 8 of 24 passes for 114 yards and had eight carries for 43 yards. His Orange offense averaged 6.2 yards per carry. DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson’s top receiver last year as a freshman with 52 catches, had four for 54 yards. Allen had three catches for 43 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown.

Freshman quarterback Cole Stoudt was 6-of-22 passing for 118 yards. Marquan Jones led the White team with three catches for 71 yards.

Desmond Brown led the Orange team with seven tackles. Spencer Shuey and Andre Branch each had two sacks. Justin Parker had the only interception of the game.

The White defense was led by Jonathan Meeks with seven tackles and two pass breakups. Garry Peters, a redshirt freshman, had six stops, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Quandon Christian had five tackles and a forced fumble. Freshman Corey Crawford, who entered Clemson in January, had two sacks.

Clemson offensive starters Andre Ellington (RB) and Antoine McClain (OG) were injured and did not play.

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