ACC: Ike Whitaker

ACC midseason report

October, 15, 2008
10/15/08
11:06
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Three things stand out about the ACC at the midpoint of the season: First, the league isn't as bad as it appeared in Week 1. Second, the defenses are dominating and third, it's time for some separation.

The ACC is 32-10 against its nonconference opponents, and Clemson's woes aside, the loss to Alabama seems less damaging when the Crimson Tide is ranked No. 2 in the nation. No, the ACC is not the best BCS conference, but good luck finding one that's more competitive from one through 12. The league has been impossible to predict, from Maryland's losses to Middle Tennessee and Virginia, to Clemson's utter meltdown.

Youth and quarterback changes have overtaken the league, and Florida State seems to be ahead of Miami in the race to resurrect their once-mighty programs. Still, the Seminoles are one of a handful of teams with a chance to win the Atlantic Division.

None of the teams have emerged as clear frontrunners to win the ACC championship. If the title game were played today, Wake Forest and Virginia Tech would be the Tampa-bound teams, and only the Hokies were predicted as preseason favorites. Even Virginia Tech, though, which holds a comfy 2-0 edge over its Coastal Division opponents, has shown its vulnerabilities. Considering how wide-open the league is, it would have been the perfect opportunity for Clemson to take advantage of it.

Instead, teams like North Carolina and Georgia Tech have. Here's a look at how the league has fared so far:

BIGGEST SURPRISE: Georgia Tech. Paul Johnson is two wins shy of bowl eligibility in his first season (two wins are over FCS opponents, and only one counts towards bowl eligibility). Johnson is winning with a new offense, a new defense and one of the youngest rosters in the ACC. The Jackets were picked by the ACC media to finish fourth, and instead are off to their first 5-1 start since 1990.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Clemson is easily the biggest bust of the year. Once ranked No. 9 in the nation, the Tigers have since lost three games, their head coach and their offensive coordinator. Injuries to the offensive line made an already tough job even more difficult for assistant coach Brad Scott, and it has had an impact on the entire offense.

MIDSEASON OFFENSIVE MVP: UNC wide receiver Brandon Tate. No, this is not a sympathy vote. He earned it with his ACC-leading 163.7 all-purpose yards per game. Tate finished his injury-shortened career as the NCAA's all-time leader in combined kick return yards with 3,523. Through the first six games, Tate had 376 receiving yards, 305 kickoff return yards, 158 punt return yards and 143 rushing yards.

MIDSEASON DEFENSIVE MVP: Georgia Tech defensive tackle Vance Walker. The spotlight is on Michael Johnson, but Walker has been the top performer on one of the nation's best defensive lines, and is a first-round draft pick. He consistently gets the job done, has six tackles for loss and epitomizes the Yellow Jackets' defense -- underrated.

MIDSEASON COACH OF THE YEAR: Frank Beamer. Few realized just how little the Hokies had to work with this season, and in addition to the depleted roster he started with, Beamer also lost running back Kenny Lewis Jr., safety Davon Morgan, receivers Zach Luckett, Ike Whitaker and Brandon Dillard to suspensions and injuries. He made the right call at quarterback in the face of criticism and has Virginia Tech at the top of the Coastal Division once again.

BOWL BOUND: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Florida State, Boston College, Maryland, Clemson, Miami

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This is unfortunate news for Virginia Tech receiver Ike Whitaker, because Whitaker has already gone through alcohol rehabilitation. Hopefully he can get himself back on track again, but the Washington Post reported Whitaker plans to transfer, and quoted Whitaker as saying the suspension was "unfair" and that he was "lied to."

My apologies to Virginia fans for not seeing this on Monday, but I tend to read the sports section, not the news section, of the ACC papers. In addition to beating Maryland, Virginia got more good news when two players were found not guilty of misdemeanor charges.

There is an amazing story behind Wake Forest's incredible run in 2006, and it will be captured in a movie, "5th Quarter," which begins filming on campus this month. In other Demon Deacons' news, quarterback Riley Skinner doesn't have many off-days, and he's working hard to try and forget the last one heading into the Clemson game.

Will Clemson's offense be more exciting against Wake Forest? Clemson beat writer Paul Strelow reports that offensive coordinator Rob Spence has installed some new trick plays designed for James Davis and C.J. Spiller. The question is, will he actually use them?

Florida State's offense is finally helping out its defense.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This just came in from Virginia Tech's sports information office:

Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer announced Thursday that redshirt junior receiver Ike Whitaker has been suspended indefinitely from the football team due to violations of team policy.

In making the announcement, Beamer said there would be no further comment on the situation.

Whitaker, who is from Germantown, Md., has played in three games this season, catching three passes for 14 yards against East Carolina.

News and notes from Virginia Tech

September, 15, 2008
9/15/08
12:33
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Quick hits from Frank Beamer's teleconference Monday:

  • He's asked his quarterbacks not to do interviews again this week.
  • He hopes injured starting right tackle Blake DeChristopher will return for their very important Coastal Division game against North Carolina. "Sure we'd like to have him back. We're going to need everything we've got for this one."
  • The staff will determine this week whether or not highly touted freshman running back Ryan Williams will redshirt or not.
  • Receiver Ike Whitaker is falling behind on the depth chart to freshman Jarrett Boykin. "The situation is we've got some other guys who are playing well and whoever gives us the best practice and the best performance, that's who's going to play. Boykin is coming along. He's coming fast.
  • Running back Kenny Lewis Jr. is going to continue to start, but Darren Evans needs to get in the game, "quite a bit," Beamer said. Evans did that against Georgia Tech, when he led the team with 19 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
 James Lang/US Presswire
 Although Ike Whitaker has only three career catches, he's the veteran in Virginia Tech's receiving corps.

Virginia Tech wide receiver Ike Whitaker headed for the film room early Tuesday. It's where he and his young teammates have been spending extra time this summer -- long before Brandon Dillard's season ended with a ruptured Achilles, and long before Zach Luckett was suspended indefinitely for a second DUI charge.

"It has nothing to do with Zach," Whitaker said Tuesday. "With or without Zach, we're going to need some of those freshmen to step up regardless, so watching extra film has been key ever since the four seniors left this past season. We try to stay in that film room as much as possible because that's where you get better, and also on the practice field."

Whitaker, who switched from quarterback to split end in the 2007 preseason, caught three passes for 17 yards last season. That makes him the most experienced returning receiver on the Hokies' roster.

And it just hit him.

Still, Whitaker, 21, has embraced his new role -- not just as a wide receiver, but as the leader of the unit.

"I didn't think that was the situation I'd be in, but I've taken it in my hands, trying to get these young guys ready," he said. "We're actually watching extra film now. I am the oldest receiver, I do have the most experience, which is odd, but I've taken it into my hands to try and get these guys ready to stay focused and work hard every day."

Whitaker has certainly done his part -- he dropped 20 pounds this offseason, has gotten faster and has had two good scrimmages. He's still working on knowing his plays and getting out of his breaks. His experience as a quarterback has helped him make the transition to receiver, but it was a move that took some getting used to.

"Playing quarterback you touch the ball every play," he said. "As a receiver, you might not touch the ball the whole drive. It's different from that aspect, but I'm over it now. I'm loving wide receiver. I'm getting better at it. I think I have a future at wide receiver so I'm working hard to help this team and this offense as much as possible."

The Hokies certainly need him to, as this group will now have to depend on a few true freshmen. Whitaker said he's been impressed with Dyrell Roberts, who is starting at flanker now, and flanker Xavier Boyce, another "speedster guy" who can help, along with Jarrett Boykin.

"Those three I feel are going to be in the rotation this year for us and can help us win some games," Whitaker said.

They're going to have to. The departure of the top four receivers from last year's roster, coupled with the absences of Dillard and Luckett, make this one of the most unproven groups of receivers in the ACC.

"We're handling it as a team," Whitaker said. "We've got to stay close regardless of the situation. What's between Zach and coach Beamer is between Zach and coach Beamer. I really have nothing to say about that, but as an offense, we know people are underestimating us and we take that into consideration every time we go out on the field to practice."

Trouble for Hokies

August, 18, 2008
8/18/08
10:58
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The last thing Virginia Tech needed to lose this summer was another receiver.

Projected starter Zach Luckett has been suspended indefinitely, after being charged with a DUI offense, the Roanoke Times reported this morning.

Here is the school's official non-statement on it:

Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer announced Monday that redshirt sophomore receiver Zach Luckett has been suspended indefinitely from the football team due to a violation of team policy.

In making the announcement, Beamer said there would be no further comment on the situation.

Luckett, who is from Mays Landing, N.J., played in all 14 games last season, catching two passes for 15 yards and registering 15 tackles on special teams.

This news increases the odds that Beamer will start a true freshman at flanker this year. Dyrell Roberts was listed at No. 2 on the depth chart. Freshman Xavier Boyce should also compete for the job.

Who's left?

Ike Whitaker, a converted quarterback who has been playing well lately, and Danny Coale, who is listed as the starting split end.

This was a particularly big hit for the Hokies, considering they had already lost Brandon Dillard, who was expected to start at flanker before he ruptured his Achilles. Now, Whitaker is the only receiver left who has caught the ball in a college game.

This was reportedly Luckett's second offense.

We know from Branden Ore's situation that there is only so much Beamer will tolerate -- regardless of how desperate he is for a receiver.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

FLORIDA STATE

Seven sacks, an interception, and only one touchdown.

It sounds like it was a good day for the Seminoles' defense, but not if you're talking to defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews.

The biggest play of the afternoon -- and the lone offensive score -- was when Drew Weatherford connected with Greg Carr on a 61 yard touchdown. Carr led the receivers with 101 yards on two catches, Antone Smith was the leader among the backs with 47 rushing yards and FSU's three returning QB's all had over 80 yards passing.

The quarterbacks fumbled three times.

Here are the guys on defense who stood out:

  • Benjamin Lampkin -- 2 sacks.
  • Ochuko Jenije -- 1 pass breakup.
  • Vince Williams -- 1 fumble recovery, TFL, 4 tackles.

QUOTABLE

Despite the numbers on defense, Andrews didn't sound pleased.

"We can't achieve our goals with a performance we had on defense today," Andrews said. "We talked about being disciplined and we weren't very disciplined. We talked about doing your job and we didn't do it. We had too many busts out there where a guy simply did not do his job. We weren't tough enough, we didn't cause many fumbles. I don't recall seeing a hard lick. The important thing is we didn't play hard enough. It felt like it didn't matter to us. I realize that was our first full scrimmage; we hadn't tackled at full speed a whole lot. Our finishing was horrendous at times. We were very good at times and we were horrendous at times. You can't be very effective on defense if you can't do those things. I don't know how many touchdowns the offense scored, but we didn't do a good job on the defensive end. We'll be better the next time we come out here."

VIRGINIA TECH

Tight end Greg Boone scored three touchdowns and stole the spotlight in the Hokies' 96-play scrimmage in Lane Stadium.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • During a goal-line sequence, tailback Kenny Lewis, Jr., scored from two yards out. Lewis finished with 19 yards on seven carries, while he and five other backs competed for playing time.
  • Freshman Ryan Williams led with 23 yards on seven carries, and Dustin Pickle added 22 yards on four carries. Jahre Cheeseman and Darren Evans rushed seven times each for 17 and 13 yards, respectively, and Josh Oglesby had 21 yard on eight carries.
  • The passing game was split evenly between Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor, as Glennon completed 11 of 16 attempts for 63 yards and Taylor went 10-of-14 for 101 yards.
  • Ike Whitaker led the receivers with four catches for 39 yards, and true freshman Dyrell Roberts caught three passes.

QUOTABLE

"We can expect anything if we put our mind to it," Boone said. "Overall as an offense, we've just got to get the ball in the end zone more often. Carrying the ball brought back memories of me having the ball in my hands [in high school] and rushing like I wanted to. It felt great."

Three questions for Virginia Tech

August, 4, 2008
8/04/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Since I'm on my way to Blacksburg, Va., for the Hokies first practice of the season, why not start with them:


1. Who is going to emerge as the go-to wide receiver?

Virginia Tech's speed took a hit when Brandon Dillard went down for the season with a ruptured Achilles' heel. Split end Zach Luckett is the most experienced player returning, but he dropped a few passes this spring and needs to earn the trust of the staff. Ike Whitaker, a former quarterback, moved to the top of the depth chart at split end late in the spring, and Danny Coale had his moments, but none of the receivers showed the consistency they need. There are also six freshmen who could factor into the competition.

2. How will Virginia Tech compensate for the loss of seven starters on defense?

This defense reloads under Bud Foster. Orion Martin is the only returning player on the defensive line who started last season, but he had 6.5 sacks and will be the leader of that group. At linebacker, where Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi have to be replaced, there's Brett Warren, who played a big role last year when Hall was hurt. And the secondary is in the capable hands of Victor "Macho" Harris and Kam Chancellor. It's not the starters the coaches are worried about, it's the depth. The Hokies will have to stay healthy.

3. How will the decision to redshirt Tyrod Taylor (or not) affect the chemistry of the team behind closed doors?

Sean Glennon wants to start, and Tyrod Taylor wants to play. You can't fault either of them for wanting the job. Summer camp will determine how the situation unfolds, but if Taylor's skills weren't considered valuable, he wouldn't have played such an important role in helping the Hokies to the ACC title last year. He adds a running dimension to the game and should have a better grasp of the entire playbook because of the significant snaps he got last year.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

We're almost through the entire league as I break down position battles to watch during summer camp. Here's a look at the spots still open in Blacksburg, Va.:

QUARTERBACK -- It's not a matter of who, it's a matter of how many. Will Sean Glennon have sole responsibility, or will he share the spotlight with Tyrod Taylor again? Frank Beamer says we'll find out this fall whether or not it's a redshirt year for Taylor.

CORNER -- Junior Stephan Virgil ended the spring atop the depth chart at the field corner spot opposite Macho Harris. Virgil was behind Brandon Flowers last season at boundary corner and saw most of his time on special teams. Redshirt freshman Cris Hill also has a chance to earn playing time.

PLACEKICKER -- Redshirt senior Dustin Keys is at the top of the chart, and made a 53-yard field goal during a spring scrimmage, but he isn't a lock yet. Tim Pisano, an invited walk-on, and redshirt sophomore Matt Waldron will be pushing him in August, along with several other invited walk-ons.

RUNNING BACK -- Kenny Lewis Jr. and Jahre Cheeseman both suffered serious injuries this spring, but are expected back in time for summer camp. Lewis is the Hokies' most experienced runner (111 career carries, 420 yards and six touchdowns), but Josh Oglesby and Darren Evans both got a lot of reps this spring. There are also high expectations for true freshman Ryan Williams.

WIDE RECEIVER -- Few, if any, receivers possess the speed of walk-on Brandon Dillard, the frontrunner at flanker coming out of the spring, but Dillard will miss the season with a ruptured Achilles. Beamer said the top candidates here are currently Zach Luckett and Danny Coale, but he's got a lengthy list to choose from which is good -- because he's got to replace his top four receivers. Ike Whitaker, Cory Holt, Patrick Terry and several freshmen are all in the mix.

Check back tomorrow for Wake Forest.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Every team has issues, but these are the overriding questions that seem to be looming heading into the fall:

1. Who will be Virginia Tech's playmaker on offense?

The top four receivers are gone, so are leading rusher Branden Ore and both of his injured backups. It's gotten to the point where Frank Beamer and his staff gave serious consideration this spring to having Victor "Macho" Harris play both sides of the ball. Will freshman Darren Evans be able to carry the running game? Josh Oglesby? Can Ike Whitaker, a former quarterback, build upon a successful spring as a receiver? The defense under coordinator Bud Foster will reload. The offense? It might just have to steal Harris from the defense.

2. How much patience will Miami fans have?

Freshmen like Aldarius Johnson, Sean Spence and Marcus Forston are all oozing with talent, but there has to be some room for growing pains, and Florida isn't going to be the team to give it. The defense needs players to fill the voids left by defensive end Calais Campbell and free safety Kenny Phillips. And who knows how the quarterback role will play out with Robert Marve and Jacory Harris? With the move out of the Orange Bowl and so many talented freshmen, the conditions are perfect for a fresh start. However, the dividends might not be paid for another year.

3. Can Butch Davis take advantage of everyone else's weaknesses?

They beat Miami last year. Maryland, too. They lost by a touchdown to the ACC champs, Virginia Tech. In 2007, the Tar Heels lost six games by an average of four points. If quarterback T.J. Yates shows improvement -- which he should, now that his shoulder has healed -- and everyone else stays healthy, the Tar Heels might be an earlier surprise than expected. They're more experienced than last year and have a better understanding of Davis and his system, but depth remains an issue.

4. How will Georgia Tech fare in its first season under Paul Johnson's offense?

A lot of that depends upon how quickly Josh Nesbitt can grasp it. He has the ability, the problem is he missed half the spring with a groin injury. If he can't do it, a true freshman will have to. The Yellow Jackets should fumble their way through this first season, much like they did this spring. The best thing these guys have going for them is their defensive line, which might turn out to be the best in the league.

5. Will Duke win two games this year?

Well, that's how many the Blue Devils won in the past three seasons combined. Their schedule, one would think, is favorable enough to accomplish this, as the Blue Devils start the season with home games against James Madison, Northwestern (their lone win last season), and a Navy team no longer led by Paul Johnson. David Cutcliffe spent the spring getting these guys conditioned and actually looking like a football team. They appear to have bought into his system and have a talented quarterback in Thaddeus Lewis, but they have to find confidence in order to win.

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