ACC: Devon Brown

Stedman Bailey J. Meric/Getty ImagesStedman Bailey and West Virginia made a loud statement on their way out of the Big East.

MIAMI -- There is being disrespected. And then there is the Big East.

Er, the Big Least.

The league everybody wants to diss and dismiss. The league that does not deserve its automatic qualifying status. The league that nobody wants to invite to the party.

As much as the ACC has stunk up nearly every one of its BCS games, it is the Big East that gets derisively mocked. It is the Big East that does not belong. It is the Big East without a marquee national team.

Consider what happened Wednesday night.

No Big East team has been embarrassed in a BCS game the way West Virginia embarrassed Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl. What was supposed to be an offensive shootout certainly was on the West Virginia side of the field. Clemson delivered duds in the form of turnovers, missed tackles and blown assignments.

The Mountaineers turned a first-quarter deficit into a rout behind a 35-point spree in the second period, scoring often and at will in a 70-33 victory. No team has ever scored that many points in a bowl game. Quarterback Geno Smith teamed with nationally unheralded Tavon Austin to shred the Tigers. Smith, named the game's MVP, set a BCS and Orange Bowl record with six touchdown passes, and set an Orange Bowl record with 401 yards passing.

Know which quarterbacks he surpassed? A couple guys named Matt Leinart and Tom Brady. Not bad for Smith. Or West Virginia. Or the Big East, guaranteed to finish with a winning bowl record. Come to think of it, the Big East will have a winning bowl record in six consecutive seasons.

But before we get carried away with this Big East redemption story, there is one little problem.

West Virginia is headed out the door for the Big 12. So is this a West Virginia story, or a Big East story? Can it be both, with so much bad blood between the two?

It absolutely should be, for one final glorious night.

Just ask West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen, who sounds just as perturbed as a perpetually disregarded fan base when asked about the bad rap the Big East gets, and whether this win says anything about his league.

"I've only been there a year, I know, but West Virginia has won three BCS games in the last six years, which is a pretty good track record," Holgorsen said. "West Virginia has been in the Big East for the last six years, last time I checked. So I think that's a pretty good track record.

"Then going through the Big East schedule one year, we had some pretty tough games. We lost a couple of those, and then the ones that we won were tough. So the product at West Virginia was out there. There was a lot of teams in the Big East that gave us all we wanted."

Clemson -- not so much. It is not lost on many Big East fans that West Virginia has more BCS wins (three) than the entire ACC (two). But again, the same sentiment follows -- what happens to this league when its best representative finally leaves?

Teams like Cincinnati, Connecticut and Louisville have played on this stage, but none impressed the way the Mountaineers did on Wednesday night. There was no doubting which team had the best quarterback, and the best wide receiver. National pundits wanted to talk Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins. Nobody wanted to talk Smith and Austin.

So yes, even though West Virginia is about to bid adieu, this team feels just as disrespected as everybody else in the Big East. The players saw that few national media members picked them to win. In an ESPN SportsNation poll, 73 percent of the country picked Clemson to win.

"That was huge for me," said Austin, who finished with a BCS and Orange Bowl record four touchdown catches and 280 all-purpose yards. "Me and Devon Brown were in the hotel, and it's the first time I'd seen it. I kind of got mad and turned the TV off and went to sleep. Coach Holgorsen got us together in our meeting and told us just to believe in ourselves and believe in the people in this room, and that's what we did. We bought into what he said, and we got the job done."

Let's just throw around the disrespect card a little bit more. All three Big East co-champions were underdogs going into their bowl games: NC State was favored to beat Louisville; Vanderbilt was favored to beat Cincinnati; and Clemson was favored to beat West Virginia.

The Cardinals faltered. But West Virginia and Cincinnati finished with identical 10-3 records as the two best teams in the Big East. These two teams have been tied together since Nov. 12, when West Virginia beat the Bearcats 24-21 after knocking starting quarterback Zach Collaros out for the rest of the regular season. That win ultimately decided the BCS representative in this game; Collaros returned to guide the Big East to yet another win over the SEC. You can understand why a few Cincinnati players were a bit salty on Twitter while they watched West Virginia dismantle the Tigers.

No word on whether commissioner John Marinatto felt just as salty. To root or not to root had to be the question. There is resentment and bitterness on both sides, but the Big East absolutely needed to have one of its teams deliver this type of performance on a national stage.

Even if it is one that is saying goodbye.

ACC lunchtime links

June, 9, 2011
6/09/11
3:09
PM ET
How about a late lunch today, folks?

Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
6:00
AM ET
WAKE FOREST

2010 overall record: 3-9

2010 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense: 9, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

WR Chris Givens, G Joe Looney, DE Tristan Dorty, DE Kyle Wilber, SS Cyhl Quarles, PK Jimmy Newman, QB Tanner Price, RB Josh Harris, NG Nikita Whitlock

Key losses

C Russell Nenon, RB Josh Adams, WR Marshall Williams, WR Devon Brown, LB Hunter Haynes, LB Matt Woodlief, P Shane Popham

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Harris* (720 yards)

Passing: Price* (1,349 yds)

Receiving: Brown (302 yds)

Tackles: Hunter Haynes (77)

Sacks: Wilber* (6)

Interceptions: Alex Frye (3)

Spring answers

1. Solidified secondary. All four starters return in CB Josh Bush, SS Cyhl Quarles, FS Daniel Mack and CB Kevin Johnson, and the Deacs are two-deep at every position. It’s a much better scenario than it was a year ago, when Wake had to start two true freshmen corners. The Deacs will also have Dominique Tate, who missed all of last year for academic reasons, and two players who redshirted last year in Desmond Cooper and Merrill Noel. The Deacs ranked 11th in the ACC in pass defense last year, but saw signs this spring of that improving.

2. Sold on the 3-4 defense. The staff is confident in the defensive tackles and committed to the scheme, which it began using last year. Nose guard Ramon Booi, the backup to Nikita Whitlock, might have been the most improved player on the roster this spring, and is a good contrast to Whitlock, who is 5-foot-10 and more of a speed guy. Booi is a 6-foot-6, 300-pound man-wall. At tackle, Grobe singled out defensive end Zach Thompson as a possible all-ACC candidate, and Tristan Dorty moved from linebacker to defensive end.

3. Staff changes were a positive. Without disrespecting former defensive coordinator Brad Lambert, who left to become head coach of the fledgling Charlotte program, Grobe said he was pleased with the promotions of Tim Billings and Brian Knorr to co-defensive coordinators, and Lonnie Galloway, who was hired to coach the wide receivers. Knorr’s knowledge of the 3-4 scheme has been an added bonus.

Fall questions

1. Which running back will take over? Josh Harris is the most talented back on the roster, but he missed several spring practices with a hamstring injury he suffered while competing in the 100-yard dash with the track team. He’ll have to get healthy and earn the starting job this summer despite competition from senior Brandon Pendergrass. Harris, though, scored the only touchdown of the spring game.

2. Will dependable receivers emerge? The Deacs didn’t chart every one, but there were about eight or 10 dropped passes by wide receivers in the spring game. Wake Forest is looking for a playmaker to emerge like Kenny Moore did in ’07 and D.J. Boldin in ’08. Chris Givens, Michael Campanaro, Danny Dembry and Terence Davis are lead candidates, but redshirt freshmen Matt James (6-foot-6) and Brandon Terry (6-5), could both work their way into the rotation.

3. Will the offensive line improve? Four starters are back, so it looks better on paper, but the Deacs will sorely miss the experience and leadership of former center Russell Nenon. Garrick Williams started the final three games of 2010 -- two at guard and one at center, but he struggled with the snaps towards the end of spring and isn’t where the staff needs him to be yet.

Week 9: Did you know?

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
9:00
AM ET
Thanks as usual to the sports information directors throughout the league for these notes:
  • Clemson kicker Spencer Benton has five special teams tackles this year and 14 in his career. He is just a sophomore and has played in only 21 games. He is already Clemson’s career leader in tackles by a kicker. All 14 of his tackles have taken place on kickoffs. Benton’s nine tackles on kickoff returns last year was a single season record (special teams tackles date to 1986), and more than twice the previous record of four, set by Stephen Furr in 2002 and Mark Buchholz in 2007.
  • FSU quarterback Christian Ponder scored two rushing touchdowns in a 28-24 loss to NC State, marking the first time in his career he scored multiple rushing touchdowns in a single game.
  • NC State quarterback Russell Wilson rushed for three touchdowns in the win. The last NC State quarterback to rush for three touchdowns in a game was Preston Poag, who ran for three against Western Carolina in 1988. He is now responsible for 80 career touchdowns, second in school history and fifth in the ACC.
  • Wake Forest is the only FBS team to have three plays of 80-plus yards on the year. The three plays also mark the first time in school history the Deacons have had three plays of 80 yards or longer in the same season. Josh Harris' 87-yard touchdown run at Virginia Tech is tied for the fifth-longest rush in the country this season, while Devon Brown's 85-yard touchdown run against Presbyterian is tied for the seventh-longest rush in the nation. Marshall Williams' 81-yard scoring pass to Chris Givens is tied for the 11th-longest toss of the season
  • The Terps entered the BC game last in the ACC in third-down conversions (18 of 71/25.4 percent). Their best mark so far this season was 5-of-13 (38.5 percent) against Morgan State (9/11). Maryland converted on 10 of 19 chances (52.6 percent) against BC. The Terps had started the game just 1-of-5, but converted nine of their final 14 attempts.
  • Saturday’s game was originally scheduled as Carolina’s 2010 opener, but was moved to later in the season after the Tar Heels agreed to play LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game.
  • Fourteen different players have at least one reception this season for UNC, including OG Jonathan Cooper. For the first time since 2005, Carolina has five different receivers with more than 200 yards.
  • UVA is 0-4 all-time against ranked Miami squads, including a loss last year to the then-No. 16 Hurricanes.
  • Boston College running back Montel Harris needs 223 rushing yards in his final five regular season games to run for more yardage than any junior in league history. North Carolina’s Amos Lawrence holds the record, having rushed for 3,273 yards in his first three seasons en route to his ACC career runner-up total of 4,391 yards. NC State’s Ted Brown, who holds the ACC career standard of 4,602 yards, a mark that has stood for 32 years since 1978, had 3,112 yards at the end of his junior season.
  • Despite playing in only five games and starting three, Duke rookie linebacker Kelby Brown is tied for second in the ACC with two fumble recoveries. He is one of 10 players in the league with two or more fumble recoveries. Brown had one fumble recovery in his collegiate debut against Alabama and another against Miami. Through five games, Brown has 32 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and one sack.
  • Georgia Tech ranks second nationally in rushing offense (317.4 ypg). Only four teams on the BCS level are rushing for more than 300 yards per game. The Yellow Jackets rushing average is the second-highest in Tech history. Only the 1975 team (329.7 ypg) had a higher average.
  • Damien Berry is one of only eight players nationally and seven running backs to record four straight games with 100 yards rushing. The Belle Glade native and three others share the distinction of having the longest active streak among FBS players. Berry will look to extend his streak to five games at Virginia on Saturday, which would tie it for the longest streak in NCAA FBS in 2010. The senior running back is one of only four players in Miami history -- NFL & UM stars Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis and Willis McGahee are the others -- to rush for 100 yards in four straight games.
  • For the first time in the modern history of the Virginia football program, a punter threw a touchdowns pass. Against Eastern Michigan, Jimmy Howell threw a 56-yard touchdown to safety Trey Womack. Howell, a former high school quarterback, became the first UVa punter to complete a pass since 2002. He also becomes the fourth Cavalier this season to throw a touchdown pass.
  • Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor is one of just two active FBS quarterbacks in the career 2,000 rushing/5,000 passing yard club. Taylor has rushed for 2,064 yards and passed for 5,876. He is joined by Nevada’s Colin Kapernick, who has rushed for 3,575 yards and passed for 8,556 yards. Taylor is fourth nationally in passing efficiency, third nationally in yards per attempt passing and has thrown 10 touchdown passes since his last interception.

Week 8: Did you know?

October, 22, 2010
10/22/10
9:00
AM ET
Here’s your weekly dose of ACC factoids, thanks to sports information directors throughout the league. Did you know ….
  • Duke place-kicker Will Snyderwine, a former walk-on, has now connected on 87.5 percent (28-of-32) of his career attempts to rank first in Duke history while standing fourth among active NCAA kickers. He has made all 41 of his career PAT attempts, marking the sixth-longest streak in school history. Through six games, Snyderwine ranks first in the ACC in field goal percentage (.917), second in field goals per game (1.83) and third in overall points per game (8.3).
  • Only Duke, North Carolina and Florida State have red zone conversion percentages of over 90 percent. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels are the only schools who have failed to score less than three times inside the 20-yard line.
  • Virginia turned the ball over five times against North Carolina -- all via interceptions. The last time UVa was intercepted five times in a game was in 1981 against then-No. 9 UNC -- the last time the Tar Heels won in Charlottesville prior to Saturday. The Cavaliers have five interceptions in the red zone this year.
  • Fourteen different players have scored touchdowns for the Wolfpack this season, the third-highest in the nation. Four players have scored four times each, while nine have scored two or more touchdowns. Wide receivers (6), halfbacks (3), fullbacks (1), tight ends (1), defensive backs (2) and a quarterback (1) have been responsible for the Wolfpack’s 31 touchdowns this season. In 25 of the 57 years since the ACC was formed, NC State has scored less touchdowns for the season than the Pack has already scored in seven games in 2010. Here’s a look at the national leaders in number of players scoring touchdowns: 1. Stanford (16), 2. Oregon (15) 3. NC State (14), Boise State (14), Fresno State, (14), Utah (14).
  • Only 12 Wake Forest players have ever had a run of 76 or more yards from scrimmage during their careers, and four are currently on the roster. Josh Adams ran 83 yards for a touchdown against Florida State in 2007, Brandon Pendergrass had a 76-yard score against Boston College in 2009, Devon Brown went 85 yards for a touchdown against Presbyterian in the 2010 season-opener, and Josh Harris put his name in the record book with an 87-yard touchdown run against Virginia Tech on Oct. 16.
  • Carolina is outscoring its opponents 83-32 in the second half this season. The Tar Heels have outscored their opponents in four of six games, including second-half shutouts vs. LSU (14-0) and Virginia (17-0). Carolina allowed just three second-half points to both Rutgers and ECU.
  • Maryland's Tony Logan is one of only five FBS players in the past eight years to return two punts of at least 80 yards for touchdowns in the same season. He is joined by Quinton Jones of Boise State (2005), DeSean Jackson of Cal (2006), Javier Arenas of Alabama (2008) and LaVon Brazill of Ohio (2009). In ACC history there have been only two occurrences of back-to-back games with 80-plus yard punt returns for touchdowns. Logan did it this season (85 yards vs. FIU, 9/25; 84 yards vs. Duke, 10/2) and Willie Reid of Florida State was the first league player to perform the feat (83 vs. Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game on 12/3/05; 87 vs. Penn State in the Orange Bowl on 1/3/06).
  • Georgia Tech has played Clemson more frequently than any other opponent except Georgia (104 meetings), Auburn (92) and Duke (77). The past three meetings have been decided by a combined 12 points In his three seasons at Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson has compiled a record of 11-2 in games decided by five points or less.
  • One of the most unusual statistical occurrences in Clemson history took place during Clemson’s 33-12 victory over Georgia Tech in 1987 at Clemson. Clemson entered the game with a streak of 999 consecutive combined punt returns and kickoff returns without a touchdown dating to 1970. Then, on the 1000th return, Donnell Woolford raced 78 yards with a punt return for a touchdown. Then, later in the game, Joe Henderson returned a kickoff return 95 yards for a touchdown. It is one of just two games in Clemson history that the Tigers have returned a punt return for a touchdown and a kickoff return for a touchdown . The other took place in 2009 when Clemson defeated Middle Tennessee State.
  • Virginia Tech has scored more than 40 or more points in three straight games for the first time since 2005.
  • Miami senior running back Damien Berry enters the game against UNC having recorded three straight 100-yard rushing games after tallying 111 yards on 25 carries against Duke. Berry is one of just five players in school history to record three straight 100-yard rushing games, joining Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis and Frank Gore as the only five players to accomplish the feat at Miami. Not bad company.
  • The ACC has already tied a season record with 15 scoring plays each of 80 or more yards. The ACC has recorded the 15 plays this year in just 59 games. It took 104 games to set the record last year.
  • BC junior tight end Lars Anderson has a popular name in the Boston area. The Boston Red Sox have a first baseman named Lars Anderson who played 12 games this year. He made his MLB debut on Sept. 6. There is also a Larz Anderson Park four miles away in Brookline. BC’s national champion men’s ice hockey team occasionally practices outside at the rink located at the park. The Eagles’ Anderson has caught six passes for 55 yards this year.

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
12:30
PM ET
Here we go ...
  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney says quarterback Kyle Parker has a faster path to the pros in football.
  • Agent Gary Wichard is the key to the NCAA investigation, not former player Kentwan Balmer, writes Caulton Tudor.
  • While many teams across the country are playing creampuffs, Virginia Tech will have a lot at stake in Week 1.
  • Virginia linebacker Steve Greer will be required to play more in space in the 4-3 defense, and he's working hard on his new role.
  • Bigger story in Florida -- replacing Tim Tebow or Bobby Bowden? No contest.
  • Miami has bumped up redshirt freshman Jermaine Johnson to the first team as a result of injury to Joel Figueroa, but coach Randy Shannon isn't concerned.
  • Georgia Tech is beginning to turn its attention to South Carolina State.
  • Duke cornerback Chris Rwabukamba has more to accomplish at Duke before he sets off in search of a pro career.
  • The injury to Wake Forest receiver Devon Brown isn't as bad as they thought -- he's bruised, but back.
  • Duke center Bryan Morgan is passionate about both football and music, and he doesn't want to let either one of them go.
  • BC's injuries are piling up, but at least the Eagles know who their quarterback is.

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
12:30
PM ET
See you in the chat later? ...

  • Injuries are taking their toll at Wake Forest, as wide receiver Devon Brown injured his MCL in Thursday's scrimmage.
  • UNC coach Butch Davis is expecting to name his starting quarterback after Saturday's scrimmage. T.J. Yates only holds a slight edge because of his experience.
  • Georgia Tech backup quarterback Tevin Washington is making progress this summer.
  • So far, BC kicker Nate Freese is in the lead to replace Steve Aponavicius (aka Sid Vicious).
  • The NCAA investigation is an issue for UNC's preparation for LSU says Kirk Herbstreit.
  • Virginia is going to be in a time crunch soon once school starts.
  • Miami has been quiet about its quarterbacks this summer.
  • Maryland backup linebacker Ben Pooler is out for the season with a torn ACL.
  • Clemson's linebackers might have the greatest potential on the team.
  • Remember that list I made of players I wouldn't want to be hit by? Um, yeah, go ahead and add James Wilder Jr. to that list. What is he, 28?

Weekend rewind: Scrimmage highlights

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
8:00
AM ET
Ahh, scrimmages. They're almost like real games, right? Nope. Still, something to hold us over.

Here's a look back at the weekend scrimmages for schools that provided scrimmage reports:

BOSTON COLLEGE

There's a running back other than Montel Harris capable of making some plays. True freshman Andre Williams led the running game with seven carries for 59 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown run.

Quarterback Dave Shinskie completed 9 of 14 pass attempts for 81 yards and a touchdown. Senior tight end Jordon McMichael led all receivers with four catches for 23 yards.

Defensively, true freshman linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis led the Eagles with five tackles. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dillon Quinn made three sacks, which should be an encouraging sign to a line in need of some help.

Redshirt freshman kicker Nate Freese went 2-for-3, making from 24 and 44, but missing a 46-yarder off the left upright. Junior Ryan Quigley made from 33 and missed from 34.

CLEMSON

Quarterback Kyle Parker threw three touchdowns passes -- two to running back Andre Ellington -- in Clemson’s two-hour scrimmage in Death Valley on Saturday morning. It was the second scrimmage for the Tigers.

Parker completed 10-of-14 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns. He led the first-team offense to four touchdowns overall. Roderick McDowell led the rushers with 12 carries for 127 yards on the ground, including a 12-yard touchdown run and a 53-yard run early in the scrimmage.

Terrance Ashe led the receivers with five catches for 76 yards, including a 44-yard completion from Parker.

The defense was led by Brandon Maye, who had six tackles, including a tackle for loss and a diving backwards interception from his linebacker position.

GEORGIA TECH

Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt was the highlight of the Jackets' scrimmage. He opened the scrimmage with a 70-yard scoring drive and had a two-yard touchdown run and a six-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Hill. Defensively, true freshman Louis Young and sophomore linebacker Julian Burnett had interceptions.

VIRGINIA TECH

The kickers were the highlight of the second scrimmage, as the offense didn't score a touchdown. Part of that was because the coaching staff stopped drives inside the 20, because the staff hasn't installed its entire red-zone package. The staff is expected to make a decision on its backup quarterback situation soon.

Here are the Hokies' stats leaders from Saturday:

RUSHING
Darren Evans 12-60
David Wilson 6-33
Ryan Williams 4-18

PASSING
Logan Thomas 9-17-0-82
Tyrod Taylor 5-7-0-42
Ju-Ju Clayton 3-8-0-36

RECEIVING
Marcus Davis 2-15
Austin Fuller 2-20

FIELD GOALS
Chris Hazley made four: 29 yards, 43, 48 and 31

TACKLES
Derek DiNardo, 6

WAKE FOREST

The Deacs scrimmaged for 90 minutes on Saturday in the first of three scrimmages, and the quarterback race continues.

RUSHING
Josh Harris 5-76 and 1 TD
Skylar Jones 10-44
Patrick Thompson 7-29

PASSING
Tanner Price 8-13 for 82 yards
Patrick Thompson 3-10 for 61 yds and an INT
Ted Stachitas 5-of-8 for 95 yds and 1 TD
Skylar Jones 4-of-7 for 27 yds
Brendan Cross 2-of-3 for 16 yds

RECEIVING
Devon Brown 4-67
Marshall Williams 3-79

FIELD GOALS
Jimmy Newman made three, 27 yards, 38 and 25

TACKLES
Justin Jackson, 7

Freshman Joe LaBarbera intercepted Thompson late in the scrimmage and returned it 25 yards.

Duke receivers confident in continued success

May, 17, 2010
5/17/10
10:30
AM ET
It’s been a long 21 years since Duke has had a receiver reach the 1,000-yard mark in a single season.

Donovan Varner helped change that.

His 1,047 yards last year were the most since Clarkston Hines recorded a school-record 1,149 yards in 1989.


Tim Steadman/Icon SMIDuke wide receiver Donovan Varner's 1,047 yards in 2009 were the most for a Blue Devils receiver since 1989.
There are a lot of talented receivers returning throughout the ACC this fall, but none of them were able to match what Varner did for Duke last year. He led the conference in receptions per game (5.42), overall receptions (65), and yards per game (87.2), averaging 16.1 yards per catch. Of course, it helped that he had one of the program’s most productive quarterbacks throwing to him in Thaddeus Lewis, who has since graduated and moved on to the NFL. Although the Blue Devils will experience a change at quarterback this year, Donovan and the receivers aren’t expecting any drop-off in the passing game.

Sean Renfree, who is expected to be the starting quarterback this fall, missed spring drills to recover from a torn ACL. He has since resumed throwing during seven-on-seven drills.

“I don’t think it’s really going to be an issue,” Varner said. “We’re going to miss Thad, but Sean Renfree is a great quarterback and he’s going to be able to carry the team. We’re not really worried about it at all.”

Varner conceded this year will be more difficult because opposing defenses now know who he is.

“They know we’re capable of making plays now,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a lot tougher.”

Especially since Varner isn’t the only wideout on the roster with big-play capabilities.

Varner, Conner Vernon and Austin Kelly combined for 174 pass receptions last fall -- more than any other trio in the ACC. The next closest was Wake Forest’s Devon Brown, Marshall Williams and Chris Givens, along with Florida State’s Rod Owens, Bert Reed and Jarmon Fortson. Both of those groups combined for 166 catches.

“I think we’re definitely capable of making a bowl game," Varner said. "Our mentality is different. Our work ethic has risen a lot. I’m pretty confident in making a bowl this year. I see the younger guys stepping up, making big plays. The older guys, we have a lot more leaders this year. I just see a lot of confidence, more trash talking and more plays being made. I think that gives our team a lot of confidence.”

So does Varner and his surrounding cast of receivers.

Wake Forest spring wrap

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

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

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

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

Top returners

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

Key losses

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

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Adams* (541 yards)

Passing: Skinner (3,160 yds)

Receiving: Williams* (867 yds)

Tackles: Dominique Midgett (79)

Sacks: Russell (4.5)

Interceptions: Okoro* (3)

Spring answers

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

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

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

Fall questions

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

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

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

Wake Forest spring game review

April, 19, 2010
4/19/10
1:00
PM ET
Wake Forest's offense had looked shaky during earlier spring scrimmages, but had a pretty good day in Saturday's spring game.

The big play was Devon Brown's 65-yard score on an option pitch from quarterback Skylar Jones. Willie Dixon ran for a 3-yard touchdown, and kicker Jimmy Newman converted three field goal attempt.

Jones started at quarterback, while Brendan Cross, Ted Stachitas, Turner Faulk and Patrick Thompson also saw time under center. Jones went 4-of-5 for 38 yards and also ran seven times for 21 yards. Cross had the best passing numbers, completing 9 of 12 passes for 73 yards.

"Consistency is the key," coach Jim Grobe told reporters. "Sky has a leg up, just from durability. He went every day [this spring] and didn't miss anything. But you could see that Brendan and Ted both have ability, they did some things pretty well. We've got talent at quarterback and the guy who takes the first snap against Presbyterian [in the season opener] will be the most durable guy and also the guy who develops the most consistency."

The defense didn't blitz much, which may be one reason the offense performed a little better.

"We really don't want to call a blitz or call a defense that stops a play because of a good defensive call from the coach," Grobe said. "We wanted guys just hitting offensive players and getting off blocks and making plays, and that's what we looked for today."

ACC position superlatives: Wake Forest

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

Strongest position: Wide receiver

Key returnees: Marshall Williams, Devon Brown

Key departures: None

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

Weakest position: Offensive line

Key returnees: LG Joe Looney, C Russell Nenon

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

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

Mistakes prove costly for Wake Forest

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
8:09
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. –- Now Wake Forest knows how it feels.

The program that led the nation in turnovers last year found out how costly it is to be on the giving end, and while Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin was indeed impressive, the Demon Deacons know their four turnovers contributed to Baylor’s 24-21 win.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said the Deacs “got what we deserved.”

“When you turn the ball over as many times as we did, and then you give up as many big plays -- a couple of them for scores on defense -- it’s hard to beat a good football team,” Grobe said. “We deserved what we got today and I give Baylor credit for that. I’m not saying that Baylor didn’t play very well.”

Just that Wake could’ve played much better.

The defense, which had to replace seven starters, also made mistakes, but it improved as the game progressed, and in the fourth quarter gave the offense a chance at a comeback win. It was an uncharacteristic, undisciplined performance under Grobe, and it was hardly only because of the new faces on defense or at wide receiver. It was a combination of mistakes that ultimately undid the Deacs.

“There were a couple of times offensively and defensively we had mistakes,” said wide receiver Devon Brown. “Missed tackles on defense, not lining up the right spots on offense, having false starts. We could have eliminated the penalties and made plays, had less turnovers then it easily could have gone the other way.”

Asked after the game how he evaluated his own performance, quarterback Riley Skinner scoffed and said, “I think the interceptions speak for itself.

“That’s not the way I want to play,” he said. “It’s pretty much as simple as that. I expect myself to play better, the coaches expect me to play better. When it’s your offense and you have a performance like this, you feel it more at the quarterback position. You want to take it upon yourself because you have pride in your offense and how you play on Saturdays. That’s just not the way we wanted to start the season.”video

Wake's Brown bright spot in bad day

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
5:54
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Wake Forest wide receiver Devon Brown, a redshirt sophomore receiver, has provided a spark for an otherwise dreary offensive day. Brown is currently the Deacs' leading rusher with seven carries for 44 yards, and his 19-yard touchdown reception just kept Wake in the game. The Deacs trail 24-14. Brown also has three catches for 32 yards.

A bad back hampered Brown for most of last season, but it's only fitting he made his first collegiate catch last year against Baylor. He seems to have found a comfort zone against the Bears, and Wake's offense needs all the help it can get right now. One of the questions facing Wake on offense entering this season was who would compensate for the loss of leading receiver D.J. Boldin, and Brown has proven today he's capable of being a difference maker.

Wake Forest's Grobe going back to roots

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
4:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- When all else fails, resort to confusion.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe just mustered the Deacs' lone touchdown of the game with the help of some single wing offense, what he used to run during his days at Ohio. On Wake's first and only scoring drive so far, the Deacs lined up with three backs, one of whom was wide receiver Devon Brown.

Brown's ability to carry the ball proved handy, as his two carries in the second quarter helped sustain the scoring drive to keep the Deacs within 10-7 and make this a game afterall. Brown's 8-yard rush up the middle Wake up on the two-yard line, and fullbick Mike Rinfrette punched it in on the next play.

It works for Paul Johnson, why not Grobe?

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