ACC: Garrett Reynolds
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
As if doubling the win total from four to eight wasn't difficult enough, UNC coach Butch Davis has to now find a way to take the next step, and conquer a nine- or 10-win season.
Considering the Tar Heels return more starters (16) than they've lost (8), it's not an unreasonable goal, but UNC must keep pace in the Coastal with the quick improvement of both Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. One thing this year's group has going in its favor is the intangible taste of near victory. Now they know what it feels like to lose a bowl game 31-30, and to Maryland 17-15, to Virginia 16-13 in overtime, and to Virginia Tech 20-17. If UNC keeps it together for four quarters this fall -- and stays healthy -- the results will be different.
T.J. Yates is an experienced quarterback, and the defense will be loaded. Davis hired three new assistant coaches, but the coordinators remain the same, and it's already been a seamless transition. There's really no reason why UNC shouldn't start the season 3-0 and have some momentum heading into a critical Coastal Division game at Georgia Tech. And three straight October home games will help build some confidence before a daunting road trip to Blacksburg. No doubt it's a favorable schedule, but there are plenty of issues that still need to be addressed.
1. Who is going to catch the ball? Not even Davis knows the answer to this one, and he might not find out until a few games into the season. Carolina lost six receivers from a year ago, including NFL draft picks Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster. In all, UNC lost players who accounted for 17 of 21 receiving touchdowns last year. There are high hopes for freshman Joshua Adams, who enrolled in January and has drawn praise from his teammates and coaches. Greg Little is the most experienced of the group, but it's wide open.
2. How quickly can the new-look offensive line come together? UNC has to replace three-year starters Garrett Reynolds, who was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons, and Calvin Darity. Three-year starting left tackle Kyle Jolly is an all-conference candidate, and Lowell Dyer returns at center, but the other three positions are unsettled. If UNC's running game is going to improve -- and there is definitely room for improvement -- it's got to start up front.
3. Can Da'Norris Searcy replace Trimane Goddard at safety? It's practically the lone question for this defense, and the answer is yes. Goddard led the nation with seven interceptions last year, and he will be missed, but Searcy showed what he is capable of in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, when he made 10 of his 25 tackles. He was also used as a sixth defensive back against Notre Dame and had an important pass breakup on the Irish's final offensive possession. After spending most of the season on special teams and as a reserve safety, much more will be expected of him in '09.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
With the NFL draft scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday, much attention will be paid to the ACC's highest round picks like linebacker Aaron Curry. Over the past three years, the ACC has seen more of its players taken in the first round (25) than any other league, as well as more of its players drafted (115) than any other conference.
Just because a player isn't drafted in the first three rounds, though, doesn't mean he isn't destined for a successful NFL career, and this year the ACC has plenty of such players. There are several who are borderline third- and fourth-round picks, but even more who are relative unknowns capable of making names for themselves at the next level.
Don't forget about Miami's little used linebacker, Spencer Adkins, who has been getting a fair share of attention from scouts lately. He was used in a lot of third down situations as a pass-rusher. Aside from Bruce Johnson, he is the Canes' top prospect. North Carolina tight end Richard Quinn is ascending the draft boards quickly. He could conceivably be a third-rounder.
Here are three players who aren't expected to be drafted in the first three rounds, but will still be quality players in the NFL:
1. Victor "Macho" Harris, CB, Virginia Tech -- A potential late third-round, early fourth-round pick, Harris is a hard-hitter with exceptional ball skills. He reads blocks well and is a scoring threat, especially in the open field.
2. Anthony Hill, TE, NC State -- He doesn't drop many balls, he stays tough in traffic, and is efficient getting into his routes. He's a strong blocker who would have been much more productive had his career not been marred by injuries.
3. Aaron Kelly, WR, Clemson -- He uses his height to his advantage for jump balls, can create separation and be a threat for yards after catch. He is an average blocker, but was underutilized in Clemson's offense last year.
Other potentially late ACC picks worth keeping an eye on:
- Antonio Appleby, LB, Virginia
- Stanley Arnoux, LB, Wake Forest
- Kevin Barnes, DB, Maryland
- Tony Carter, DB, FSU
- Jon Copper, LB, Virginia
- Moise Fokou, LB, Maryland
- Trimane Goddard, S, UNC
- Cameron Goldberg, OT, Duke
- Dan Gronkowski, TE, Maryland
- Kenny Ingram, LB/DB, Florida State
- Orion Martin, DE, Virginia Tech
- Kevin Ogletree, WR, Virginia
- Cedric Peerman, TB, Virginia
- John Phillips, TE, Virginia
- Ryan Purvis, TE, Boston College
- Eron Riley, WR, Duke
- Darryl Richard, DT, Georgia Tech
- Garrett Reynolds, OT, UNC
- Sam Swank, PK, Wake Forest
- Michael Tauiliili, LB, Duke
- Jaimie Thomas, OL, Maryland
- Chip Vaughn, S, Wake Forest
- Edwin Williams, C, Maryland
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The official invitation list for the NFL scouting combine is out, and there are plenty of ACC players who will participate in the four-day job interview in Indianapolis from Feb. 18-24. Just because a player didn't make the list doesn't mean he won't be drafted, but here are the ACC players by school who were invited to the combine:
Kevin Akins, cornerback/linebacker
Ron Brace, defensive tackle
B.J. Raji, defensive tackle
Chris Clemons, safety
James Davis, running back
Michael Hamlin, safety
Cullen Harper, quarterback
Aaron Kelly, receiver
Dorell Scott, defensive tackle
Everette Brown, defensive end
Graham Gano, punter/placekicker
Andrew Gardner, offensive tackle
Michael Johnson, defensive end
Darryl Richard, defensive tackle
Vance Walker, defensive tackle
Jahi Word-Daniels, cornerback
Kevin Barnes, cornerback
Moise Fokou, outside linebacker
Dan Gronkowski, tight end
Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver
Jaimie Thomas, offensive guard
Edwin Williams, center
Bruce Johnson, cornerback
Brooks Foster, wide receiver
Hakeem Nicks, wide recevier
Richard Quinn, tight end
Garrett Reynolds, offensive tackle
Brandon Tate, wide receiver
Andre Brown, running back
Anthony Hill, tight end
Eugene Monroe, offensive tackle
Kevin Ogletree, wide receiver
Cedric Peerman, tailback
John Phillips, tight end
Clint Sintim, linebacker
Victor "Macho" Harris, cornerback
Orion Martin, defensive end
Stanley Arnoux, linebacker
Aaron Curry, linebacker
Alphonso Smith, cornerback
Sam Swank, punter/placekicker
Chip Vaughn, safety
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association announced its All-Conference teams today. Please note that this is not ESPN.com's list. This is the 2008 Associated Press all-ACC football team as voted on by 67 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.
NOTE: A first-team vote was worth two points and second team vote one. An asterisk denotes unanimous selection.
QB: Russell Wilson, N.C. State (106)
RB: Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (134)*
RB: Da'Rel Scott, Maryland (76)
WR: Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina (130)
WR: D.J. Boldin, Wake Forest (76)
TE: John Phillips, Virginia (88)
OT: Eugene Monroe, Virginia (117)
OT: Andrew Gardner, Georgia Tech (107)
OG: Rodney Hudson, Florida State (99)
OG: Cliff Ramsey, Boston College (78)
C: Edwin Williams, Maryland (62)
QB: Thaddeus Lewis, Duke (28)
RB: Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (58)
RB: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (50)
WR: Eron Riley, Duke (57)
WR: Aaron Kelly, Clemson (56)
TE: Ryan Purvis, Boston College (45)
OT: Garrett Reynolds, North Carolina (42)
OT: Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (41)
OG: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech (48)
OG: Cord Howard, Georgia Tech (45)
C: Thomas Austin, Clemson (48)
DE: Everette Brown, Florida State (131)
DE: Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech (99)
DT: B.J. Raji, Boston College (103)
DT: Vance Walker, Georgia Tech (62)
LB: Mark Herzlich, Boston College (118)
LB: Michael Tauiliili, Duke (110)
LB: Aaron Curry, Wake Forest (106)
CB: Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest (134)*
CB: Victor Harris, Virginia Tech (125)
S: Trimane Goddard, North Carolina (105)
S: Michael Hamlin, Clemson (89)
DE: Orion Martin, Virginia Tech (61)
DE: Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech (39)
DT: Ron Brace, Boston College (52)
DT: Darryl Richard, Georgia Tech (50)
LB: Clint Sintim, Virginia (79)
LB: Alex Wujciak, Maryland (43)
LB: Mark Paschal, North Carolina (40)
CB: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia (49)
CB: Tony Carter, Florida State (34)
CB: Kendric Burney, North Carolina (34)
S: Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech (85)
S: Myron Rolle, Florida State (55)
K: Graham Gano, Florida State (127)
P: Travis Baltz, Maryland (105)
Specialist: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (66)
K: Matt Bosher, Miami (34)
P: Matt Bosher, Miami (60)
Specialist: Michael Ray Garvin, Florida State (41)
OFFENSE: Riley Skinner, qb, Wake Forest (26); Antone Smith, rb, Florida State (33); Cedric Peerman, rb, Virginia (30); Darius Heyward-Bey, wr, Maryland (34); Kevin Ogletree, wr, Virginia (32); Dan Gronkowski, te, Maryland (41); Scott Burley, ot, Maryland (34); Thomas Claiborne, og, Boston College (38); Calvin Darity, og, North Carolina (34); Jaimie Thomas, og, Maryland (33); Nick Marshman, og, Virginia Tech (24); Ryan McMahon, c, Florida State (35); Matt Tennant, c, Boston College (33); Ryan Shuman, c, Virginia Tech (23).
DEFENSE: Derrick Morgan, de, Georgia Tech (26); Willie Young, de, N.C. State (25); Vince Oghobaase, dt, Duke (40); Boo Robinson, de, Wake Forest (31); Jeremy Navarre, dt, Maryland (29); Nate Irving, lb, N.C. State (28); Paul Anderson, s, Boston College (35); Anthony Reddick, s, Miami (23).
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Saturday's game between Miami and North Carolina had the potential to be an intriguing Coastal Division matchup between two youthful programs in a race to rebuild under second-year coaches.
The Tar Heels, though, have already tripped.
Miami and UNC shot in completely different directions last weekend, and it's a scenario that bodes well for the baby Canes. Miami, led by its rapidly maturing quarterback, redshirt freshman Robert Marve, had its most productive offensive road performance since 2005 when it manhandled Texas A&M 41-23 on Saturday. North Carolina, on the other hand, seemed to regress in its 20-17 loss to Virginia Tech.
The Tar Heels, picked to finish second in the division, were the media darlings this past summer, and regained the national spotlight with their win over Rutgers. They had a chance to assert themselves as one of the best teams in the Coastal Division against the Hokies, but instead made numerous mistakes and lost their lead, then the game, and then their starting quarterback.
"Anytime you lose it's certainly not the direction you want to take," coach Butch Davis said. "We didn't play well enough to win. I think our players recognize that. ... I think the effort was there. I think we played hard. I don't think we played smart."
When Davis returns to Miami, where he earned a 51-21 record from 1995-2000, he will do so with a 6-9 record at UNC. Randy Shannon is 7-8 entering Saturday's game.
Davis won't be helped by the fact he lost starting quarterback T.J. Yates, who will miss the next six weeks with an ankle injury. Redshirt freshman Mike Paulus will be the starter. It's a significant blow, considering UNC's running game has been struggling, and Yates was second in the league in passing efficiency (166.9) and third in passing average (207.7).
"There's nothing you can change about it," said offensive lineman Garrett Reynolds. "It's football. It happens all the time to teams all around the country. We talked to coach and the one thing he said was we're offensive linemen. We don't throw the ball. We're not doing anything different. He said that about the position groups around the team. The only thing that's changed is T.J.'s hurt. We've got guys behind him who are ready to play and there's nothing to worry about."
Except maybe for Miami's defense, which held Florida to just 123 total yards in the first half and is limiting opponents to just 2.6 rushing yards per carry. The Hurricanes are ranked No. 26 in the nation in total defense, allowing just 277.7 yards per game.
"Knowing coach Davis, he's going to stick to his game plan on what they're trying to do on offense," Shannon said. "They're going to emphasize not turning the ball over. I don't think he'll change the offense because of one player. I know he'll have confidence in his guys like everyone has confidence in their players."
The question is whether Paulus has confidence in himself. Paulus threw an interception to squash Carolina's final scoring drive, and another one on fourth down to seal the game. He finished with 23 yards on 3-of-8 completions.
"After the initial first possession I thought Mike calmed down," Davis said. "It's a tough situation to bring a kid in like Mike did, but he completed a couple of passes in a row. Clearly he made a critical mistake throwing the interception late in the ball game when we were driving down to potentially put ourselves into position to maybe kick a tying field goal, take it into overtime or possibly win it, but I think he'll be better from the experience he went through on Saturday."
Marve, meanwhile, is getting better with each start, and this will be his third. He completed 16-of-22 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the 41-23 win over the Aggies. It was the most points Miami had scored on the road since 2005, a 47-17 win at Wake Forest.
"Obviously I was a little bit calmer in the second game," he said. "I think I did a better job of seeing the defense. The atmosphere wasn't as great as the swamp, but I think the biggest thing I was better at was reading the defense better and staying calm."
Miami, a team that won just two conference games last year, is suddenly in a position to do much more, and Shannon said he is "thrilled."
"I'm thrilled we're going on the right track now, but we've still got a long ways to go," he said. "The bigger thing is just don't let guys slack off.
"We can't look back and just say, we're good," Shannon said. "We're OK. We've got a lot of things we need to improve on offensively and defensively and special teams."
Still, the attitude is different on this roster.
"If you look at last year's team, if anything happened on defense, a big play in the game, the offense would've went in a funk," Shannon said. "Now it didn't even bother them. They just came back and just kept going. It didn't even faze them. That was biggest improvement more than anything. Mentally we're a whole lot better and I think it's a tribute to the quarterbacks, the way they handle certain things."
UNC will have plenty to handle without its top passer, beginning with Miami.
"We are a very young football team," Davis said. "With young teams where's always growing pains. Every experience you go into -- how do you handle all different kinds of adversity, how do you handle success -- there's a lot of steps football programs go though, and that's kind of where we are."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Things haven't exactly gone the way UNC offensive tackle Garrett Reynolds expected when he signed up to be a Tar Heel. The program is 12-23 during his three-year career so far, but likely to improve this season.
One of the most difficult things Reynolds said he has gone through during his career there is three offensive coordinators. Now, though, the entire offense will be in the same system under John Shoop for a second straight season and Reynolds said outsiders might underestimate the importance of that.
"It's been a roller coaster," he said. "I've had to learn three offenses. It's been a little crazy, but it's made me learn fast and stay on my toes. I love the coaches -- they're all great guys and have a lot of enthusiasm. They have more of a player-coach relationship. It's not just you're the player and I'm the coach. It's more of a friendship."
Camaraderie is something that has grown in Chapel Hill. (As Reynolds was speaking, he had to pause for a chest bump from quarterback T.J. Yates as he passed by). The Tar Heels often hung out together this summer at the Chapel Ridge apartment complex, where they used the pool, the grill, played volleyball and just hung out. They also went bowling together at the beginning of the summer.
Reynolds said a lack of leadership and young players contributed to the program's problems in the past.
"I've had a pretty rough college experience in football so far and this year I'm ready to break out and get a bowl ring and leave this place with a bunch of wins," he said.
The team's newfound comfort level with the offense should help. Reynolds is still working on his run blocking, but has improved his pass protection.
"Honestly, I really just like being in the same system for two years," he said. "That's one of the things I'm more excited about is being comfortable and knowing what I'm supposed to do, not being in a rush to learn new stuff."
The senior is in a hurry, though, to win some games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here they are, the unheralded linemen. The guys who do the dirty work and make their teammates look good. Check out who's got the best:
1. Maryland -- The Terps have just one starting job open here and five of the top six linemen are seniors. The experience younger players like Bruce Campbell and Paul Pinegar gained last year at the misfortune of injured teammates should pay dividends this season. The Terps' depth is why they're ahead of the Hokies.
2. Virginia Tech -- Four starters are back, including Ed Wang, who moved from right to left tackle; left guard Nick Marshman, who at 6-foot-5, 357-pounds was the largest man on the roster but dropped 25 pounds in the offseason; center Ryan Shuman, who missed the spring because of offseason knee surgery; and right guard Sergio Render, who has already caught the eye of NFL scouts. Wang's backup, Greg Nosal, is a redshirt freshman moving from tight end. Marshman's reserve is Hivera Green, who hasn't played.
3. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels have struggled in the past, but with four starters returning and the second season under Butch Davis, it should see improvement. Senior tackle Garrett Reynolds and junior tackle Kyle Jolly -- who missed the spring with an injured left foot -- lead a group that has 67 total starts.
4. Wake Forest -- This group should be better than people think, despite having to replace center Steve Justice. Barrett McMillin has starting experience at right guard, and left tackle Joe Birdsong and right tackle Jeff Griffin both split time at one of the tackle spots last season. Left guard Russell Nenon didn't start but picked up a lot of playing time toward the end of the season. Center is a question mark. Because he was stuck behind Justice, center Trey Bailey has the most catching up to do.
5. Boston College -- There are still two spots up for grabs. Sophomore Anthony Castonzo, who holds the distinction of becoming the school's first offensive lineman in a decade to start as a true freshman, moved from right to left tackle to replace Gosder Cherilus. Matt Tennant is back at center along with returning staritng guard Clif Ramsey. Former defensive lineman Thomas Claiborne moved to right guard this spring.
6. NC State -- Moving defensive linemen Ted Larsen to center and John Bedics to left guard will only help this football team, but neither of them has taken a snap on offense yet in a college game. Jake Vermiglio, a hulking tackle who played well against Chris Long as a freshman last year, moved to guard behind Bedics (which shows Tom O'Brien's confidence in that move). Andy Barbee, a redshirt junior, was a longtime backup at center. Depth is a question mark, but the Wolfpack has three returning starters in right tackle Meares Green (who played at guard, center AND tackle last year), right guard Curtis Crouch, and Julian Williams, who is in his second full year starting at left tackle.
7. Miami -- The Hurricanes are looking for a starting center but have two starters back in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood. They've got experience in Orlando Franklin, Joel Figueroa (a key reserve) and Chris Rutledge (split time as a starter).
8. Virginia -- The loss of Branden Albert and two other starters left a gaping hole. The best thing the Cavaliers have going for them is senior Eugene Monroe, who might be the best offensive lineman in the ACC. He didn't allow a sack last year at left tackle. There's also experience at right tackle, where Will Barker has 25 career starts.
9. Georgia Tech -- The good news is that left tackle Andrew Gardner came back instead of heading for the NFL. The bad news is the cohesiveness of this unit is mostly gone because Gardner is the lone full-time returning starter. Cord Howard missed the spring because of foot surgery, but he and Dan Voss, who started the final seven games of last season at left guard, at least have starting experience.
10. Clemson -- Finally. A flaw. Tommy Bowden had to replace four starters, and named all but the two guard spots. Still, Cory Lambert has never started a game at left tackle and three of the four players competing to be guards are redshirt freshmen. Freshman Antoine McClain, who was ranked the No. 6 offensive tackle prospect [Insider] in the country by ESPN.com, could help.
11. Duke -- The Blue Devils have three starters back, including both tackles -- Fred Roland and Cameron Goldberg -- and guard Rob Schirmann. The reason they're not last? They've got one more body with experience than the 'Noles.
12. Florida State -- For the first time in school history, there's not one junior or senior on the line. That doesn't mean there's not talent, but much of it is unproven. What the Seminoles do have is sophomores Ryan McMahon and Rodney Hudson. McMahon was the only freshman or sophomore in the FBS to take every offensive snap for his team at center. Redshirt freshman Antwane Greenlee, a bulky 302-pound tackle who was very highly recruited, still hasn't played. A true freshman will most likely start somewhere, but first the coaches have to find the best one they have.