ACC: Greg Nosal
2011 conference record: 7-1 (1st, Coastal)
Returning starters: Offense: 3; defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1
QB Logan Thomas, WR Marcus Davis, C Andrew Miller, DE James Gayle, DE J.R. Collins, DT Derrick Hopkins, DT Antoine Hopkins, ILB Bruce Taylor, ILB Tariq Edwards, OLB Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, CB Kyle Fuller, S Antone Exum
WR Danny Coale, WR Jarrett Boykin, TE Chris Drager, LT Andrew Lanier, RT Blake DeChristopher, RG Jaymes Brooks, LG Greg Nosal, RB David Wilson, CB Jayron Hosley, FS Eddie Whitley
2011 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: David Wilson (1,709 yards)
Passing: Logan Thomas* (3,013 yards)
Receiving: Danny Coale (904 yards)
Tackles: Antone Exum* (89)
Sacks: James Gayle* (7)
Interceptions: Jayron Hosley (3)
1. Logan Thomas: The ACC is loaded with talented quarterbacks in 2012, and Thomas is among the top returners. He accounted for 30 total touchdowns last season and threw for more than 3,000 yards. He is the unquestioned leader and centerpiece of the Hokies' offense, and a strong season could result in a handshake from Roger Goodell at Radio City next April.
2. Defensive line: This unit has the potential to be the best in the conference, as it will play eight or nine men on a regular basis and be the foundation for a defense among the best in the ACC. This group led the conference in sacks a year ago and has looked every bit as capable this spring of doing that again in 2012.
3. Security: The Hokies were faced with a similar position last season, only the exact opposite: Loads of offensive talent came back and the defense had some uncertainties. Virginia Tech still reached the ACC title game and a BCS bowl, extending its nation-best streak of 10 or more wins to an eighth straight season. Entering his 26th season and first as the longest-tenured FBS coach, Frank Beamer has an established track record and knows how to get the most out of his pieces. The hard part right now is finding them on offense.
1. Who will replace David Wilson? Wilson is off with the Giants, a first-round draft pick following a campaign in which he ran for more yards than any running back in Virginia Tech history. Michael Holmes figures to be the No. 1 back entering preseason camp, with J.C. Coleman pushing him for time. The Hokies welcome three new backs this fall, along with Tony Gregory, who missed spring while recovering from knee surgery.
2. Who will protect the newcomer? Holmes or any of his fellow backfield mates won't have the chance to accomplish anything replicating Wilson's production if they don't get the chance. The Hokies return just one starting offensive lineman from last season and will have to adjust quickly if the offense wants to resemble last year's.
3. Secondary help. Second-team all-ACC corner Kyle Fuller is back, along with leading tackle Antone Exum. Sophomore Detrick Bonner has moved from cornerback to free safety, sophomore Kyshoen Jarrett is now at safety and Exum is now at corner. Secondary coach Torrian Gray likes to build versatility, but he will have his hands full trying to replace Eddie Whitley (graduation) and cornerback Jayron Hosley (draft).
1. North Carolina: Three starters and one part-time starter return from last year’s team, and this line could be the biggest and best since Butch Davis was hired. Guard Jonathan Cooper (22 starts), center Cam Holland (20) and tackle James Hurst (12) have combined for 54 career starts. Travis Bond has four starts and is the leading candidate to take over at the other guard position.
2. Miami: The Canes return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen including four starters from last year, and Joel Figueroa was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Even with the coaching change, the Canes should be strong up front. Center Tyler Horn is a veteran, Brandon Washington is a difference-maker, and there’s enough competition that Seantrel Henderson spent most of the spring as a backup.
3. Clemson: First-year offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has four returning starters to work with in Landon Walker, Antoine McClain, Dalton Freeman and David Smith. They also have top reserve Mason Cloy, who has 19 career starts and has played in 38 games. There is plenty of depth for a dependable rotation.
4. Virginia Tech: All four returnees started every game last year, and there is enough depth that the Hokies should be able to rotate the most players up front they ever have. It’s a veteran group led by Blake DeChristopher, Andrew Lanier, Jaymes Brooks and Greg Nosal.
5. Florida State: Despite the losses of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon, there’s experience up front. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of tackle Andrew Datko, left guard Bryan Stork or David Spurlock, center Jacob Fahrenkrug, right guard Spurlock or Stork, right tackle Zebrie Sanders. Just how good they’ll be remains to be seen as the majority of them were out with injuries this past spring.
6. NC State: The Pack lost Jake Vermiglio and will be without injured left guard Andrew Wallace for about half of the season, but Zach Allen, Camden Wentz and R.J. Mattes are returning starters. There’s also a lot of talent waiting to emerge with young players like Duran Christophe, Rob Crisp, Tyson Chandler, Torian Box and Andy Jomantas.
7. Virginia: Four players return with a combined 64 career starts in Anthony Mihota, Austin Pasztor, Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, who started the final seven games of the season as a true freshman. Pasztor is in his fourth season as a starter and has 32 career starts.
8. Boston College: Despite the losses of Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham, the Eagles are almost settled up front, it’s the experience behind the starters that’s reason for concern. The No. 2 offensive line is comprised entirely of redshirt freshmen. Mark Spinney returns at center, the projected starting guards are Nathan Richman and Ian White, who started three games as a freshman, and the tackles are Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel.
9. Maryland: It’s been an injury-prone group the past two seasons and that didn’t change this past spring. Left tackle Justin Gilbert, one of the top linemen on the team, reinjured the same knee he had ACL surgery on and will be out until October. R.J. Dill was also injured this spring, though he played in the spring game, and Justin Lewis was rehabbing from offseason surgery. Pete White also missed practices, so the group needs to solidify the two-deep roster.
10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return three starters in guard Omoregie Uzzi, guard Will Jackson and tackle Phil Smith. Sophomore Jay Finch played extensively last season and Ray Beno and Nick McRae were key reserves. Redshirt freshmen Catlin Alford and Morgan Bailey could also work their way into the rotation. Uzzi will be the leader of the line, but they were outplayed by the defense this spring.
11. Wake Forest: Four starters are back, 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.
12. Duke: The Blue Devils should take another step forward this season under offensive line coach Matt Luke, and they need to -- Duke’s running game was last in the ACC last year and 104th in the country. Brian Moore replaces a three-year starter at center, but given his experience at right guard the past two seasons, it should be a smooth transition. That will leave a hole, though, at the right guard position, where Laken Tomlinson and John Coleman are the top candidates.
- B-back Anthony Allen tried to be modest about his record-setting history with Middle Tennessee, but Roddy Jones called him out on it.
- Greg Nosal -- and his pinky finger -- have written themselves into Virginia Tech lore.
- Duke is feeling good after its bye week, but a tough stretch lies ahead. There has been some mental and physical healing needed in Durham.
- Nine straight road trips without a win. Can the Terps really turn that around in Death Valley? Maryland will get some help from the return of tight end Devonte Campbell, who spent so much time recovering on an exercise bike he named it.
- Virginia's defense has been plagued by missed assignments -- not missed tackles.
- Three blocked punts this season have given NC State confidence and more blocked punts than the program has seen since 2005.
- Opposing defenses are keen to the fact that Clemson doesn't have any downfield receiving threats.
- Kicking defensive tackle Marvin Austin off the team was a necessary move.
- Forget throwing up the U. Reading this take from former Canes should make Miami fans want to throw up.
- Hey Mister! What a name. But it keeps Mister Alexander MR -- Mentally Ready.
- Speaking of the Noles, Florida State is out to prove it can handle success.
- Still have that Hurricane hangover? Miami coach Randy Shannon is taking the blame.
- The Tar Heels are 0-2 -- against the NCAA. The careers of Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn are over. They should've just gone to the NFL when they had the chance since they couldn't wait to live the life. Will UNC have to vacate wins because fullback Devon Ramsay played?
- While UNC is up to its eyeballs in allegations, rival Duke is putting on a display of character.
- The mistakes are decreasing for Georgia Tech. Attribute that to a better focus.
- Boston College hasn't been this bad since 1998.
- More offensive changes are underway for Clemson, starting with Andre Ellington getting more carries.
- Virginia knew what it was up against in Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh but didn't get the results it was looking for on offense.
- Eww. Sick. Greg Nosal lost the tip of his pinky finger.
- The competition is on to replace former Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett.
- Clemson has a few players who could emerge as "post-hype sleepers" this season.
- Boston College defensive coordinator Bill McGovern is once again faced with the task of ushering young players along quickly.
- Duke center Bryan Morgan is the conductor of the Blue Devils' offensive line. Literally.
- When the game is on the line, Aldarius Johnson is the man for the Canes.
- Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has five quarterbacks to choose from , and they all had their moments this past weekend.
- Oh, to be a left guard and be able to hit the buffet like Virginia Tech's Greg Nosal.
- Opposing quarterbacks might want to stay away from FSU cornerback Greg Reid's side of the field.
- Storm Johnson's name fits his running style perfectly.
- Here's what Virginia's running backs race looks like so far.
- Maryland running back Davin Meggett is playing the best football of his career, according to coach Ralph Friedgen.
Unless the offensive line comes together, though, the duo will be about as productive as former Clemson running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller were in 2008.
That season, Clemson ranked 99th nationally in rushing offense, and the offensive line was one of the major contributors to the meltdown that was Tommy Bowden's final season. The Tigers ranked 103rd in the nation that year in sacks allowed.
Last year, Virginia Tech was able to run the ball well with Williams, but the pass protection has to continue to improve. The Hokies ranked No. 83 in the country in sacks allowed, and that was with Sergio Render and Ed Wang. This year, the group has to replace those veterans and the three established players returning -- Blake DeChristopher, Jaymes Brooks and Beau Warren -- combined for 35 starts last year. Nick Becton impressed the staff this spring at left tackle and should be a capable starter there. At guard, Greg Nosal played in all 12 games last year and got some much-needed experience rotating in at right and left guard.
How quickly this group can become a cohesive unit will help determine how long the Hokies hang onto their high preseason expectations. For Clemson in 2008, those hopes were all but dashed in Week 1 against Alabama. The Tigers had zero yards rushing in that game -- a painful reminder that even Thunder and Lightning won't get far without help from a solid front.
ATLANTA -- First, it's cold here. Georgia Tech students were bundled up in sleeping bags waiting for the gates to open earlier. It finally feels like football season.
As for lineup changes, Georgia Tech is waiting to decide whether or not Ben Anderson will start at defensive tackle. Anderson's ankle hurts, so they might go with T.J. Barnes. Depends on how he feels in warmups. Virginia Tech doesn't have any lineup changes, but Greg Nosal looked jacked up in warmups should he need to play for Sergio Render. Render is still expected to start, but was listed as probable for this week with a pec strain. Ryan Williams was on the field for warmups and from this distance, I couldn't tell he was sick. We'll see if that's the case in the fourth quarter.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
If Virginia Tech's offensive line appears a little more athletic in Saturday's spring game, that's because it is -- but not because of the reason right tackle Blake DeChristopher first surmised:
"I guess it's not eating sloppy food," he joked. "No, I think we're starting to recruit more athletic guys. It helps a lot, having the wind to get through a game, not getting winded easily, that plays a huge part in it."
Four of the five offensive linemen who have been taking the majority of reps with the first team this spring are former tight ends. It's part of a recent change in recruiting philosophy that could help the root of the Hokies recent offensive problems.
"With the zone play and those types of things, we've gone the last few years in trying to find more athletic guys," said offensive line coach Curt Newsome. "A while back it was a bigger, heavier type of guy. We kind of like to grow our own, get 'em in here, let them get in the strength program, have the good feet and be able to move around. And I feel good about where we're at right now. We've got four starters back from the bowl game. We've had a real good spring."
The Hokies needed progress at tackle, and improved their depth inside this spring, albeit at the expense of guard Sergio Render, who sat out this spring following shoulder surgery. Render is entering his fourth season as a starter, but his absence allowed for Greg Nosal to take a step forward. Nosal, a converted tight end, was a "big surprise" this spring, Newsome said. He made the transition from tackle to guard, and his improvement will help the staff with its overall goal of rotating more players up front. Too often they were hesitant to take players out for a series because of a lack of confidence in the backups. That appears to have started to change.
"I feel pretty comfortable with everybody right now," said left tackle Ed Wang, another converted tight end who finished last season with impressive performances in the ACC championship and Orange Bowl. "I feel like we're getting better every day. We are a lot more athletic than we were. We just have to keep working to get better. It was a work in progress. We just have to pick up where we left off last year."
If the Hokies are going to contend for more than the ACC championship, they know the offense needs to take a significant step forward. Even though there were an unusual amount of young players at the skill positions, improvement has also been needed up front.
"We've got a lot of weight on our shoulders right now as an offensive line, but we're doing good this spring," said DeChristopher. "We're all focused. We all want to do the right thing and lead the offense because it all starts up front and that's what we're trying to do right now."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
This can obviously change -- that's what the offseason is for -- but the Hokies released their pre-spring depth chart on Sunday. I'll have more on this after coach Frank Beamer's teleconference Monday, but thought Hokies' fans might want to take a look:
SE Jarrett Boykin -- Austin Fuller
LT Ed Wang -- Nick Becton
LG Greg Nosal -- Will Alvarez
C Beau Warren -- Michael Via OR Richard Graham
RG Jaymes Brooks -- Vinston Painter
RT Blake DeChristopher -- Andrew Lanier
TE Greg Boone -- Chris Drager OR Sam Wheeler
QB Tyrod Taylor -- Ju-Ju Clayton
RB Darren Evans -- Josh Oglesby OR Ryan Williams
FB Kenny Jefferson -- Kenny Younger
FL Danny Coale -- Dyrell Roberts
DE Nekos Brown -- Steven Friday
DE John Graves -- Isaiah Hamlette
DT Demetrius Taylor -- Kwamaine Battle OR Courtney Prince
DT Cordarrow Thompson -- Antoine Hopkins OR Dwight Tucker
OLB Cody Grimm -- Jeron Gouveia-Winslow OR Alonzo Tweedy
ILB Barquell Rivers -- Bruce Taylor
ILB Jake Johnson -- Quillie Odom
FC Rashad Charmichael -- Cris Hill
FS Kam Chancellor -- Lorenzo Williams
ROV Dorian Porch -- Davon Morgan OR Matt Reidy
BC Stephan Virgil -- Eddie Whitley
FG Matt Waldron -- Justin Myer
KO Justin Myer -- Tim Pisano
P Brent Bowden -- Brian Saunders
LS Colin Carroll -- Matt Tuttle
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.