ACC: Ed Wang
What’s new: The offense is ahead of the defense. It doesn’t happen often, but the storyline has switched in Blacksburg. One of the nation’s consistently best defenses is in a rebuilding mode, having to replace six -- and possibly seven starters, if Barquell Rivers is not cleared by the Boise State game. Meanwhile, the offense is loaded with a veteran quarterback in Tyrod Taylor and two 1,000-yard rushers in Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.
Sidelined: Redshirt sophomore backup center Michael Via (knee) and Rivers, who missed spring practices after surgery to repair his left quadriceps tendon. Via is expected back in the next week or two, and a school spokesman said Rivers will be cutting it real close to being cleared in time for the Boise State game.
Key battle: We need not mention the obvious (Williams vs. Evans), so let’s go with defensive tackle. Kwamaine Battle finished spring practice with a slight lead for the job vacated by Cordarrow Thompson, but Antoine Hopkins will keep things interesting this summer. There will also be good competition at field corner between Jayron Hosley and Cris Hill.
New on the scene: Nick Becton at left tackle, where he takes over for Ed Wang. Becton won the starting job this past spring, and the coaches think Becton has the potential to be a three-year starter.
Breaking out: Defensive end Steven Friday. He made plays in every scrimmage this past spring, and is one player defensive coordinator Bud Foster is expecting to be a leader. He was named the most improved defensive player this spring and is capable of game-changing plays like forced fumbles. He was the top backup to Jason Worilds last year.
Don’t forget about: Evans. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, Williams isn’t the only talented back on this roster. Don’t forget Evans became the first Hokies freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in a season, and at the time, his 1,265 yards was the highest season total in ACC history by a freshman. He finished spring ball listed as a co-starter with …
All eyes on: Williams. Until proven otherwise, he is the best player on this roster and has a legitimate shot at the Heisman Trophy this year. He rushed for a school-record 1,655 yards last year, also an ACC freshman record. He scored 22 touchdowns, including 21 rushing, breaking ACC season records in both categories.
Quotable: “Obviously the talent that I have is the best I’ve ever had at Virginia Tech from top to bottom. … The thing we are going to try to do as an offensive staff is to get more than one of them on the field at the same time. I think that will be a big help to us offensively and will stress some defenses.” -- Running backs coach Billy Hite.
2009 conference record: 6-2
Offense: 8, defense: 5, punter/kicker 0
QB Tyrod Taylor, TB Ryan Williams, TB Darren Evans, FL Danny Coale, SE Jarrett Boykin, DT John Graves, CB Rashad Carmichael, ROV Davon Morgan, LB Barquell Rivers
TE Greg Boone, OT Ed Wang, OG Sergio Render, DE Jason Worilds, LB Cody Grimm, DT Cordarrow Thompson, DE Nekos Brown, CB Stephan Virgil, FS Kam Chancellor
2009 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Williams* (1,655 yards)
Passing: Taylor* (2,311 yds)
Receiving: Boykin* (835 yds)
Tackles: Grimm (106)
Sacks: Brown (6.5)
Interceptions: Carmichael* (6)
1. Thomas makes a statement. Backup quarterback Logan Thomas -- at least according to the statistics -- had a better spring than Joseph “Ju-Ju” Clayton. Based on his performances, it would seem Thomas is the front-runner to back up Taylor this season, but coach Frank Beamer wasn’t ready to solidify that after the spring game. In six spring scrimmages, Thomas had no interceptions and Clayton threw five.
2. Evans can run -- over defenders. If Evans is suffering any lingering effects from last year’s torn ACL, it wasn’t evident during his first carry of the spring game when he ran over teammate and safety Antone Exum. Evans told reporters he’s feeling the best he has since he was injured. Beamer said he has no concerns about Evans being 100 percent this fall.
3. Strong secondary. It was one of the highlights this spring on a defense tasked with replacing six starters, including two in the secondary. Exum was one of the players who stood out in the spring game, as he had three pass breakups.
1. How will Evans and Williams be used? The spring game was a time to evaluate younger players, and with Williams sidelined for a bruised knee, there were no answers as to how the Hokies’ backfield might look this fall with two 1,000-yard rushers.
2. Will David Wilson redshirt? Wilson is a talented athlete in a crowded backfield, but he didn’t want to redshirt last season and played sparingly as a true freshman. Beamer said after the spring game that the coaches will make a decision “at the proper time.” That wasn’t this spring.
3. Groundhog’s Day in the kicking game. For the third straight year, the Hokies need a new place-kicker. If the season started tomorrow, Chris Hazley would handle field goals, Justin Myer kickoffs and Brian Saunders would punt, but the competition will continue this fall when freshmen join the team.
The same is expected this fall, but there's one area where the teams in the Atlantic Division appear to be stronger, and that's on the offensive line.
Here's a look at the top three contenders in each division and how their lines look after this spring:
Florida State: All five starters return, and they have combined for 142 career starts -- the most of any line in the ACC. Guard Rodney Hudson was an All-America selection last year, and he'll be back along with center Ryan McMahon, guard David Spurlock, and tackles Andrew Datko and Zebrie Sanders.
Clemson: Four starters return to a group that got progressively better last year and should finally be reaching its peak. Tackle Chris Hairston was a second-team all-conference selection last year, and he'll be joined by tackle Landon Walker, guard Antoine McClain and center Dalton Freeman.
Boston College: The Eagles return four starters, including Anthony Castonzo, an Outland Trophy candidate who has made 41 career starts, guard Thomas Claiborne, tackle Rich Lapham and guard Nathan Richman. That's three seniors and a junior, all of whom have started at least 25 career games. This group should get the Eagles back to their rich tradition of powerful offensive lines.
Virginia Tech: Left tackle is a position of concern. The Hokies turned to sophomore Nick Becton this spring and he did well in place of Ed Wang. Virginia Tech also has to replace Sergio Render, who had 52 career starts.
Miami: The Canes have to replace three starters up front, and center was one of the biggest concerns for coach Randy Shannon this spring. Tyler Horn took over for A.J. Trump there and brings some experience. Orlando Franklin moved to left tackle and will be the leader of the group.
Georgia Tech: The Jackets have to replace three starters, including the transfer of Joseph Gilbert. New faces are working their way into the rotation, and the second team was composed entirely of freshmen in the spring game.
- 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.
Here are a few notes to tie it all together for you:
- For the sixth straight year, the ACC had more than 30 players selected.
- Since 2005, the ACC and the SEC are the only two leagues in the nation to have had 30 players selected in each of the past six years.
- Atlantic Division champion Clemson (C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, Ricky Sapp, Crezdon Butler, Kavell Connor) and Coastal Division runner-up Virginia Tech (Jason Worilds, Kam Chancellor, Ed Wang, Brent Bowden, Cody Grimm) led all ACC schools each with five players chosen in the draft.
- ACC champion Georgia Tech (Derrick Morgan, Demaryius Thomas, Morgan Burnett, Jonathan Dwyer) and Miami (Jimmy Graham, Darryl Sharpton, Jason Fox, Dedrick Epps) were next, each with four players chosen.
- The ACC maintained its streak of having at least one top-10 selection in each of the past five years. Since 2006, the ACC is the only conference in the country to have had a top-10 selection in each year.
- In all, 18 NFL teams selected players from the ACC.
Chris Cook, CB, Virginia
Jacoby Ford, WR, Clemson
Brandon Ghee, CB, Wake Forest
Rashawn Jackson, FB, Virginia
Terrell Skinner, DB, Maryland
Matt Tennant, C, Boston College
Cam Thomas, DL, North Carolina
Ed Wang, OL, Virginia Tech
Jimmy Graham, TE, Miami
Ted Larsen, OL, NC State
Patrick Robinson, CB, Florida State
Myron Rolle, S, Florida State
Darryl Sharpton, LB, Miami
Dekoda Watson, LB, Florida State
Defensive linemen: Redshirt juniors and seniors comprised the bulk of the two-deep depth chart in 2009, and the recent dismissal of backup John Drew plus the graduation of Vince Oghobaase makes it a position of concern. The interior line needs the most help.
Running back: The Blue Devils never quite got their running game going in 2009 and will have to start to make a push at this position to help break in new starting quarterback Sean Renfree. Re’quan Boyette will have to be replaced.
Offensive line: In looking ahead, the Blue Devils will have six redshirt juniors or seniors up front in 2010. While that’s good news for the immediate future, Duke needs to work ahead for what it will lose in 2011.
Defensive backs: The biggest loss is obviously safety Morgan Burnett to the NFL draft, but the Jackets need to look ahead. Safeties Mario Edwards and Dominique Reese will be redshirt seniors this year, and cornerback Mario Butler will be a senior.
Defensive linemen: For the second year in a row it’s a concern, and thanks in large part to the NFL draft. Derrick Morgan will be missed, but overall this group needs an upgrade.
Offensive line: Three starters will have to be replaced, including the Canes’ top veteran, Jason Fox. Both guard positions are also short-timers, as Orlando Franklin and Joel Figueroa will both be seniors this fall.
Linebacker: Darryl Sharpton is the lone senior departing, but this unit could use more depth. It’s been a problem since Randy Shannon took over. And while the staff has made progress, injuries have continuously depleted the group.
Secondary: The Canes will have to replace Chavez Grant and Randy Phillips, and DeMarcus VanDyke will be a senior. Miami improved its interceptions in 2009, but not by much, ranking No. 87 in the country with nine. Of course, it helps to get pressure up front to force quarterbacks into those mistakes.
Offensive line: This is where the Tar Heels’ offensive improvement needs to start, and it didn’t help that this year’s unit was battered and bruised most of the season. Two starters will have to be replaced this year and five more of the top players in the rotation will be seniors in 2010.
Linebacker: UNC needs to reload at this position, and it's taking the right steps in that direction with this class. Although Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter elected to return, it’s only a matter of time before the talented seniors have to be replaced.
Quarterback: The Cavs have a lot of questions about this position heading into 2010 and beyond. The good news is that Michael Strauss has already enrolled this semester, so he’ll get an early start with spring ball.
Playmakers: Vague, yes, but it’s exactly what this program needs. Part of the reason Gregg Brandon’s spread offense didn’t work was because he didn’t have the personnel to execute it. Virginia will lose its most versatile player in Vic Hall, will have to replace fullback Rashawn Jackson, and needs more than just Mikell Simpson.
Linemen: The Hokies will need help on both sides of the ball, particularly interior defensive linemen. Six of the eight players on the 2009 two-deep defensive line were either juniors or seniors. Starters Ed Wang and Sergio Render will have to be replaced on the offensive line this year.
Defensive backs: This unit will be hit hard with departures in the next two seasons, as starters Kam Chancellor and Stephan Virgil have to be replaced in 2010, and Rashad Carmichael and Davon Morgan will be seniors.
Quarterback. With Tyrod Taylor being a senior next year, the staff will have to look ahead. There’s a lot of inexperience and question marks behind him. The one thing they don’t need in Blacksburg? Running backs.
Boston College: LB Mike McLaughlin, C Matt Tennant.
Clemson: OLB Kavell Conner, WR Jacoby Ford, DE Ricky Sapp, RB C.J. Spiller.
Duke: QB Thaddeus Lewis, Vince Oghobaase.
Florida State: CB Patrick Robinson, S Myron Rolle, OLB Dekoda Watson.
Maryland: CB Nolan Carroll.
Miami: TE Dedrick Epps, OT Jason Fox, TE Jimmy Graham, RB Javarris James, LB Darryl Sharpton.
North Carolina: OT Kyle Jolly, DT Cam Thomas.
NC State: C Ted Larsen, DE Willie Young.
Virginia: CB Chris Cook, FB Rashawn Jackson.
Virginia Tech: P Brent Bowden, S Kam Chancellor, CB Stephan Virgil, OT Ed Wang.
Wake Forest: OT Chris DeGeare, CB Brandon Ghee.
QB: E.J. Manuel, Florida State: The Gator Bowl MVP completed 17 of 24 passes for 189 yards, had 73 rushing yards on 14 carries and one touchdown with zero turnovers. He led the Noles to 415 total yards in their 33-21 win over No. 18 West Virginia.
RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech: Williams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Tennessee. He finished the season with 1,655 rushing yards and broke Kevin Jones' single-season school record (1,647).
RB: Jermaine Thomas, Florida State: He had 121 yards rushing on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He also had one catch for nine yards and posted his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He led FSU back from a 14-3 first quarter deficit against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.
WR: Rich Gunnell, Boston College: Gunnell finished with six catches for 130 yards, breaking Pete Mitchell's school record for yards receiving with 2,659 in his career. His 61-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter closed the gap to 14-13 against USC in the Emerald Bowl.
WR: Greg Little, UNC: He finished with seven catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Pitt in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
WR: Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech: His 64-yard reception to the Tennessee 3 in the final seconds of the first half was a major turning point in the game. The Vols had already begun to head to the locker room, but officials determined there were still two seconds left on the clock. The play led to Matt Waldron’s 21-yard field goal and a 17-14 halftime lead. Boykin finished with four catches for 120 yards.
TE: Jimmy Graham, Miami: He had three catches for 30 receiving yards against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl and became the seventh Hurricane to record at least 200 receiving yards this season. Graham closed out his only season with the Canes with 15 catches for 213 yards and five touchdowns.
OL: Ed Wang, Virginia Tech: In his final performance, Wang paved the way for a career-day for Williams, and helped the Hokies rack up 438 total yards of offense.
OL: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech: Like Wang, Render was impressive in his final performance as a Hokie, and helped Virginia Tech use a balanced offense and gave quarterback Tyrod Taylor the time he needed to make plays.
OL: Rodney Hudson, Florida State: The All-American returned to the lineup after missing two games with knee sprain and helped FSU rack up 415 total yards, 37 minutes time of possession and he did not allow a sack.
OL: Andrew Datko, Florida State: He teamed with Hudson on the left side (where two of three rushing touchdowns came) and kept a WVU team averaging 2.6 sacks per game without one.
OL: Dalton Freeman, Clemson: He graded out at 80 percent with seven knockdowns. Freeman was key to Clemson averaging 5.5 yards per rush and a Clemson bowl record 6.8 yards per play against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.
K: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State: He tied a school bowl record converting 4 of 5 field goal attempts and scoring a season-high 15 points on a windy day. His 42-yarder at the end of the first half pulled FSU within 14-13.
P: Chandler Anderson, Georgia Tech: He had a career-high seven punts with an average of 49.1 yards and a long of 59 yards. Three of his punts were downed inside the 20 and only one was returned.
Spc: C.J. Spiller, Clemson: Spiller finished his career with 172 all-purpose yards (68 rushing, 57 receiving), giving him an ACC record 2,670 for the season and 7,588 for his career. He finished his career in second place in FBS history in all-purpose yards.
DL: John Graves, Virginia Tech: He sacked Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton in the second quarter for the first sack of his career. He also recovered a fumble, forced a fumble and finished with three solo tackles.
DL: E.J. Wilson, North Carolina: He forced two first-half fumbles and posted five on the season after registering just one over his first three years at Carolina. He finished with five tackles and one sack for a loss of eight yards.
DL: Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech: Morgan's individual stats weren't all that impressive for his final game as a Jacket, but the Tech defense (surprise!) kept the Yellow Jackets in the game, allowing just seven points after the first quarter. Morgan did have three tackles and a half-tackle for loss, but he was double- and triple-teamed all night.
LB: Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech: The defensive MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl finished with seven tackles, including three tackles for loss and one sack.
LB: Luke Kuechly, Boston College: He had 16 tackles (6 solos, 10 assists), and 0.5 TFL in the Emerald Bowl.
LB: Darryl Sharpton, Miami: He recorded a career-high 15 tackles (10 solo, five assists). It marked the third straight game that Sharpton recorded double-digit tackles.
LB: Kavell Conner, Clemson: He had 15 tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, which was the key play of the game. The fumble came with Clemson leading 14-13 and it set up Spiller’s touchdown to put the Tigers ahead 21-13.
CB: Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech: He intercepted Crompton’s pass in the first quarter and returned it to the Tennessee 44, setting up the Hokies’ first score of the game. The interception marked the sixth of the season for Carmichael, a team-high.
CB: Jerrard Tarrant, Georgia Tech: He returned an interception for a touchdown -- Tech's first points of the game against Iowa in the Orange Bowl -- and Tarrant's fourth non-offensive touchdown of the season. He also forced a fumble, broke up a pass and had six solo tackles.
S: Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech: He had a team-high eight tackles, all of them solo tackles, and he forced a fumble.
S: DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson: He had 15 tackles, including two tackles for loss. He was a big reason Kentucky had just 277 yards total offense and just one touchdown, their second lowest figure of the year in terms of points in the 21-13 Clemson win.
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)
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)
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)
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)
OUT FOR SEASON
LB Mark Herzlich (illness)
FOR MARYLAND GAME
RB Rolandan Finch (illness) – DOUBTFUL
LS Jack Geiser (foot) – DOUBTFUL
OG Thomas Claiborne (leg) – QUESTIONABLE
DE Alex Albright (ankle) – QUESTIONABLE
DT Kaleb Ramsey (ankle) – QUESTIONABLE
They're "all in." (Sorry, too easy.)
QB Thaddeus Lewis (leg) -- Probable
RB Re'quan Boyette (leg) -- Questionable
DT Vince Oghobaase (leg) -- Questionable
WR Johnny Williams (knee) -- Questionable
RB Kyle Griswould (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON
OG Mitchell Lederman (foot) -- OUT FOR SEASON
QB Sean Renfree (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON
WR Tyree Watkins (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON
S Anthony Young-Wiseman (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON
76 OT Garrett Faircloth (hip)
70 OT Antwane Greenlee (knee)
51 LB Aaron Gresham (knee)
44 LB Maurice Harris (neck)*
62 OG Rodney Hudson (knee)
97 DT Demonte McAllister (knee)
81 TE Caz Piurowski (knee)*
7 QB Christian Ponder (shoulder)*
74 OT John Prior (knee)
27 CB Xavier Rhodes (thumb)
11 LB Vince Williams (back)
9 WR Richard Goodman (groin)
30 ROV Jajuan Harley (hamstring)
94 DT Justin Mincey (knee)
* - out for the season
Austin Barrick, r-Jr., OT (heel)
Kevin Cone, r-Jr., WR (ankle)
Malcolm Munroe, r-Fr., LB (knee)
Sean Bedford, r-Jr., C (ankle)
Omoregie Uzzi, r-Fr., OL (back)
Anthony Barnes, r-Jr., LB
Out For Season
Robert Hall, r-Jr., DE (knee)
Kyle Jackson, r-So., LB (foot)
Cooper Taylor, So., S (undisclosed)
RB Lee Chambers – Lower Extremity
WR Thearon Collier – Lower Extremity
DB Sam Shields – Lower Extremity
OL Jason Fox – Illness
FB Patrick Hill – Lower Extremity
Surgery and Out for the Season
DL Dyron Dye – Lower Extremity
DL Marcus Forston – Lower Extremity
LB Jordan Futch – Lower Extremity
TE Richard Gordon – Upper Extremity
LB Shayon Green – Lower Extremity
DE Gavin Hardin – Upper Extremity
DB Ryan Hill – Upper Extremity
DB JoJo Nicolas – Upper Extremity
DE Adewale Ojomo – Jaw
Audi Augustin, DE - elbow
Mike Glennon, QB - clavicle
DeAndre Morgan, CB - concussion
OUT FOR SEASON
Mario Carter, TE - knee
Ryan Cheek, LB - hip
Denzelle Good, OL – shoulder
T.J. Graham, WR – stress fracture/leg
Steven Howard, WR - knee
Nate Irving, LB - leg
Colby Jackson, FB – knee
R.J. Mattes, OG - knee
Everett Proctor, QB – shoulder
Jeff Rieskamp, DE – sports hernia
Rashard Smith, CB - knee
Javon Walker, S – knee
James Washington, HB - knee
Joshua Adams WR Shoulder
AJ Blue RB/QB Knee
Curtis Campbell DB Wrist
David Collins OL Foot
Shaun Draughn TB Shoulder
Carl Gaskins OT Knee
Matt Merletti S Knee
Trevor Stuart DS Knee
Ryan Taylor TE Knee
Jamal Womble RB Wrist
Anthony Elzy RB Ankle
Devon Ramsay FB Ankle
Gene Robinson CB Back
Isaac Cain (foot)
Raynard Horne (back)
Torrey Mack (ankle)
Darren Childs (ankle)
Jared Green (shoulder)
Mikell Simpson (leg)
Daniel Childress (ankle)
Matt Conrath (ankle)
Connor McCartin (shoulder)
Jameel Sewell (shoulder)
Patrick Slebonick (leg)
Beau Warren (knee)
Ed Wang (knee)
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Now is when we need to see just how much improvement quarterback Tyrod Taylor and his receivers have made since last season.
No doubt the group showed significant progress over the final few games of 2008, but with record-setting tailback Darren Evans out for the season, it would certainly help the Hokies if they could depend on their passing game while freshmen David Wilson and Ryan Williams get acclimated to college football games.
I know Virginia Tech fans are excited about the young running backs' potential. I know they're two extremely athletic and talented athletes. But none of them have lined up against Alabama's defense yet, and that will be quite a freshman hazing. I would imagine Josh Oglesby will start that game, just for the simple fact he's got some game experience, but Wilson and Williams are going to get their carries this fall, and it's going to have to start sometime. If Virginia Tech is lucky, Frank Beamer and running backs coach Billy Hite will watch a rerun of last year, when Evans emerged as a record-setter at the expense of injured teammate Kenny Lewis Jr.
The whole reason Taylor was named the starting quarterback ahead of Sean Glennon last year was because the Hokies were in a similar situation -- young, inexperienced skill players who needed a little boost in the backfield from Taylor's feet. It's still a young team -- There are only four seniors on the preseason two-deep offensive depth chart, and two of them -- Ed Wang and Sergio Render -- are offensive linemen. The others are tight end Greg Boone and fullback Kenny Jefferson.
The Hokies will still need Taylor's feet. But this year the receivers should have a better understanding of the playbook and Taylor should be able to make better use of his arm.
We all knew that Virginia Tech's passing game was going to have to improve if the Hokies were going to contend for the national title, and that hasn't changed. Virginia Tech still has an opportunity to be a top 10 team, but if the Hokies show up against Alabama without Evans and without a passing game, that opportunity will disappear quickly.
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
Thanks to reader "Bentongreen" for pointing out a great link in the Wall Street Journal that takes a look at offensive lines throughout the country and makes it easy to see who's got what coming back in the ACC in 2009.
It's no coincidence that the five teams with the most starting experience returning -- Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, Florida State, Boston College and Clemson, respectively -- are probably going to feature the best offensive lines this season. Just because the Hokies have the most starting experience, though, doesn't mean they'll have the best line.
Florida State could very well challenge them for that distinction, and they're good enough that the Noles should have one of their most productive seasons running the ball in recent years, despite the youth at running back. The inexperience and lack of depth at wide receiver can be masked by running the ball, so it wouldn't be surprising if FSU's passing game looked like Virginia Tech's did in 2008.
And Boston College takes great pride in its strong tradition up front, and has two all-ACC candidates in Matt Tennant and Anthony Castonzo. The Eagles return four starters, and like Florida State, will look to the running game for help. And the return of Chris DeGeare from academic struggles at Wake Forest will give the Demon Deacons an immediate boost. As for Clemson, we all know what a patchwork job that line was last season, but it should be a strength of the team in 2009.
Here are some of the ACC's top offensive linemen heading into 2009:
- Anthony Castonzo, Boston College, Jr.
- Chris Hairston, Clemson, Jr.
- Kyle Hill, Duke, Soph.
- Andrew Datko, FSU, Soph.
- Jason Fox, Miami, Sr.
- Kyle Jolley, UNC, Sr.
- Will Barker, Virginia, Sr.
- Ed Wang, Virginia Tech, Sr.
- Thomas Austin, Clemson, Sr.
- Rodney Hudson, FSU, Jr.
- Cord Howard, Georgia Tech, Sr.
- Orlando Franklin, Miami, Jr.
- Aaron Stahl, UNC, Sr.
- Sergio Render, Virginia Tech, Sr.
- Bryan Morgan, Duke, Jr.
- Phil Costa, Maryland, Sr.
- Matt Tennant, Boston College, Sr.
- Ryan McMahon, FSU, Sr.
- Ted Larsen, NC State, Sr.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
12:30 PM ET Virginia Tech North Carolina 3:30 PM ET North Carolina State Clemson 3:30 PM ET Wake Forest 1 Florida State 7:30 PM ET Miami (FL) Georgia Tech 7:30 PM ET Pittsburgh Virginia