ACC: Jahi Word-Daniels

Georgia Tech spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009
5/07/09
9:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 5-3, Coastal Division Co-Champions

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 8, kicker/punter 2

Top returners

RB Jonathan Dwyer, WR Demaryius Thomas, QB Josh Nesbitt, RB Roddy Jones, C Dan Voss, DE Derrick Morgan, S Morgan Burnett, S Cooper Taylor, K/P Scott Blair

Key losses

OT Andrew Gardner, DE Michael Johnson, DT Darryl Richard, DT Vance Walker, CB Jahi Word-Daniels

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing:
Passing: Josh Nesbitt* (808 yards)
Receiving: Demaryius Thomas* (627 yards)
Tackles: Morgan Burnett* (93)
Sacks: Michael Johnson (9)
Interceptions: Burnett* (7)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Jacksonville State
Sept. 10 Clemson
Sept. 17 at Miami
Sept. 26 North Carolina
Oct. 3 at Mississippi State
Oct. 10 at Florida State
Oct. 17 Virginia Tech
Oct. 24 at Virginia
Oct. 31 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 7 Wake Forest
Nov. 14 at Duke
Nov. 21 BYE
Nov. 28 Georgia

1. Significantly more depth at the skill positions. With the addition of Louisville transfer Anthony Allen, plus Marcus Wright and Embry Peeples, who played as true freshmen, and a few redshirt freshmen wide receivers, the Jackets have a lot of answers off the bench. Unlike last year, the Jackets now go three-deep at quarterback, as Tevin Washington, who redshirted last year, has shown this spring he can play.

2. Leadership on defense. Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett have clearly established themselves as leaders and arguably the top defenders on the roster. Burnett wasn't noticed as much last season because of his supporting cast, but that should change this fall. Both could be among the best defenders in the ACC this fall.

3. Unprecedented depth in the secondary. Jerrard Tarrant was cleared from his suspension, and redshirt freshman Kamaron Riley should give the secondary a boost. Plus, the Jackets have three returning starters in the secondary. Cooper Taylor and Rashaad Reid were impressive as true freshmen and now they've got legitimate experience.

Fall questions

1. The offensive line. It remains the biggest concern, in part because injuries slowed the progress this spring. Senior guard Cord Howard missed most of the spring, starting center Dan Voss missed all of the spring after shoulder surgery, Nick Claytor, who started at tackle last year after David Brown went down with an injury, missed all of spring and had back surgery, and the line was the weak link last year.

2. The kicking game. In the spring game, the kickers were 1 of 5 on field goals, including Blair, who was 0-for-3. There are a few walk-ons, but they are his only competition. Blair handled both kicking and punting duties last year and Chandler Anderson missed all of spring practice after bout with appendicitis.

3. Defensive changes. Because the staff knows it's going to be thin there, it tweaked the defense a little a bit and made one of linebacker positions a hybrid defensive back/linebacker position called the wolf. How the players grasp that will be a question, as will whether or not it will help take some pressure off the new players up front.

Thoughts on Georgia Tech's Tarrant

February, 11, 2009
2/11/09
5:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

First, let's get one thing clear: I have no opinion on the rape charges that were dropped against Georgia Tech defensive back Jerrard Tarrant. If you want the background, here it is. This isn't a courtroom, it's a college football blog, so I'm going to stick to how this affects Georgia Tech's football team.

Tarrant's return will have a positive effect.

Had he not been suspended, Tarrant very well could have been the starting cornerback in 2008 instead of Jahi Word-Daniels. Now that Tarrant is back, he is a strong candidate to replace Daniels. It's not a given, though. Tarrant will have to compete with Mario Butler and Rashaad Reid, who played well last year when Word-Daniels was hurt.

Tarrant is going to be rusty -- he hasn't even put his uniform on since last spring -- but he could definitely have an immediate impact on the Jackets' defense. He's probably not an all-conference player just yet, but by the time his final three years of eligiblity are up, he could be.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 3, 2009
2/03/09
9:00
AM ET

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:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Kevin Akins, cornerback/linebacker

Ron Brace, defensive tackle

B.J. Raji, defensive tackle

CLEMSON

Chris Clemons, safety

James Davis, running back

Michael Hamlin, safety

Cullen Harper, quarterback

Aaron Kelly, receiver

Dorell Scott, defensive tackle

FLORIDA STATE

Everette Brown, defensive end

Graham Gano, punter/placekicker

GEORGIA TECH

Andrew Gardner, offensive tackle

Michael Johnson, defensive end

Darryl Richard, defensive tackle

Vance Walker, defensive tackle

Jahi Word-Daniels, cornerback

MARYLAND

Kevin Barnes, cornerback

Moise Fokou, outside linebacker

Dan Gronkowski, tight end

Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver

Jaimie Thomas, offensive guard

Edwin Williams, center

MIAMI

Bruce Johnson, cornerback

NORTH CAROLINA

Brooks Foster, wide receiver

Hakeem Nicks, wide recevier

Richard Quinn, tight end

Garrett Reynolds, offensive tackle

Brandon Tate, wide receiver

NC STATE

Andre Brown, running back

Anthony Hill, tight end

VIRGINIA

Eugene Monroe, offensive tackle

Kevin Ogletree, wide receiver

Cedric Peerman, tailback

John Phillips, tight end

Clint Sintim, linebacker

VIRGINIA TECH

Victor "Macho" Harris, cornerback

Orion Martin, defensive end

WAKE FOREST

Stanley Arnoux, linebacker

Aaron Curry, linebacker

Alphonso Smith, cornerback

Sam Swank, punter/placekicker

Chip Vaughn, safety

Rosters announced for East-West Shrine Game

January, 6, 2009
1/06/09
4:07
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The East-West Shrine game rosters have been released and the ACC has plenty of representatives. For Seminoles fans wondering why Graham Gano is not in the Senior Bowl, I've got a call in seeking an explanation for that.

Meanwhile, here are the players on the East team:

  • Ron Brace, defensive tackle, Boston College
  • Jaimie Thomas, offensive line, Maryland
  • Aaron Kelly, wide receiver, Clemson
  • Jahi Word-Daniels, defensive back, Georgia Tech
  • Anthony Hill, tight end, NC State
  • Robert Francois, linebacker, Boston College
  • Orion Martin, defensive end, Virginia Tech
  • Graham Gano, punter/placekicker, Florida State
  • Darryl Richard, defensive tackle, Georgia Tech

GT defensive tackle Walker will not start

November, 20, 2008
11/20/08
7:38
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Talk about a bummer for a senior on senior night. It looks like defensive tackle Vance Walker's nagging ankle injury will keep him from starting on senior night, breaking a streak of 23 consecutive starts. Walker is dressed, but if he plays, it will only be because he guts it out. Senior Elris Anyaibe will make his first career start.

Between his ankle and quarterback Josh Nesbitt's, things do not look good for the Yellow Jackets, and the game hasn't even started yet. Here are a few other quick notes before kickoff:

  • Either senior Jahi Word-Daniels or true freshman Rashaad Reid will start at cornerback. That's a game-time decision.
  • Senior Andrew Smith will make his first career start at wide receiver in place of Correy Earls. He will also handle punt return duties.
  • Late arriving crowds aren't uncommon here, but a six-car accident on I-85 might have something to do with this one.
  • The temperature isn't unbearable. It's 48 degrees. I'm ok in my sweater, since I know you were all concerned.
  • Miami's Laron Byrd will start in place of Travis Benjamin at wide receiver. Benjamin will play, only in certain situations, and he won't return kicks. Thearon Collier will handle that.

Tuesday Mailblog: Where, oh where, is the VT offense?

October, 21, 2008
10/21/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Brad, in Charlottesville, writes: Heather -- Heard any rumblings about Stinespring getting the axe after Tech only put up 9 offensive points and 240 off. yards? I think many tech fans believe it is finally time. We currently don't have a lot of offensive weapons, but Evans & Oglesby, Boone & Wheeler, Coale & Roberts, are all up and coming dynamic pairs. On a team with so much talent waiting, how can Tyrod be the only one producing? I think it is great that Beamer tries to retain staff, but at this point, he needs to do what is right for the team/players who put in so much effort.

Heather Dinich: No, I haven't heard any rumblings about OC Bryan Stinespring, but I talked to him today and the last thing he's worried about is the criticism from the fans. He's had to scale back on what he can do because of the youth and inexperience. Don't think Tyrod Taylor is flawless, nor is he the only problem in the passing game. If you watch closely, it's not like the Hokies haven't had receivers open or opportunities to make plays.


Barry, in Blacksburg, writes: Do you think VT can get their passing game going before the season ends? Is Tyrod failing to progress as a passer or are the receivers failing to come up with the catches? Do you think the play calling is suspect?

Heather Dinich: Since we're into the second half of the season, I don't see any dramatic changes coming. Frank Beamer said this week that Tyrod is an accurate passer, but he was about three or four inches off from hitting Danny Coale in the end zone last weekend. I think the staff is putting the players in position to make plays, but the play-calling is limited by their progress. C'mon, you guys know it's not the Xs and the Os, it's the Jimmys and the Joes!


Josh, in Richmond, VA, writes: Like to get your thoughts on the lack of an offensive gameplan at Virginia Tech. The fans are upset, the coaches seem upset at fans asking questions and the players seem frustated.

Heather Dinich: After having talked to Stinespring a fair amount today, I'm convinced this staff is doing the best it can with what it has to work with. Check the blog on Thursday for a more extensive report on the Hokies' offense.


Corey, in Atlanta, writes: Do you see FSU maintaining the number 1 defense in the nation on third down against TT from VT? Dakota Watson being out makes me a bit nervous for the Hokies coming into Tallahassee, especially coming off a loss.

Heather Dinich: I talked to Mickey Andrews today, and no doubt he's concerned about Tyrod Taylor's feet. They've got to play more like they did in the first half against Miami, and less like they did in the first half against NC State.


John, in Reston, VA, writes: Heather, I tried to post this during the chat, but it never came up. What was your impression of Georgia Tech's Offensive line this past week? I was not overly impressed and concerned that unless there is some improvement the jackets do will not need to worry about how VT does because they will lose at least one more conference game. Also how much do you think Jahi Word-Daniels injury will impact a young secondary on Saturday? I have been impressed with the young players from GT's secondary this season and while the injury will hurt I think they are capable of holding their own especially with the D-line we have. What are your thoughts?

Heather Dinich: Sorry I didn't get to you in the chat on Monday, John. Anyway, they played better than they did against Gardner-Webb, but at some point, it is what it is. The good news for GT fans is that they've got playmakers like Nesbitt, Shaw, Thomas, Jones and Dwyer to help compensate for it. As for missing Word-Daniels, they'll be fine in the secondary.


Jody Hogan from FSU writes: I have a question, I am all FSU so GO NOLES!!! do the games we loose against the teams in the coastal count against us getting to the acc championship or just the atlantic teams. such as do we need another team from the atlantic div. beat wake or can any team from the acc help us.

Heather Dinich: Yes, losses to Coastal Division teams hurt Atlantic Division teams, but not as much as losses to their divisional opponents (and vice versa). Yes, FSU fans would want another Atlantic Division team to beat Wake -- namely Boston College on Nov. 22. Basically, Wake has to have a worse ACC record than Florida State when it's all said and done in order for the Seminoles to have a chance. But don't listen to me ...


Ron, from Fort Pierce, Fl, has all the answers: Don't count WF out of the ACC Atlantic. I am a FSU fan but it looks bad unless we win out and WF loses to BC. Maryland is a true wild card too. Its a 4-team race right now. Any team with 2 losses is out. &&&& look for FSU's D to expose the yellowjackets academy offense. speed kills.

Heather Dinich: Not bad, Ron, not bad.


Hokie Fan in ATL writes: Hey Heather! Shouldn't GT be bowl eligible by now? 6 wins, right? This page is missing a critical asterisk! http://sports.espn.go.com/ncf/standings

Heather Dinich: Hey Hokie! No, GT is not bowl eligible and I specifically checked that page to make sure they didn't put an asterisk there. Two of GT's wins were against FCS opponents, and only one of them counts towards bowl eligibility.


Bob, in Durham, writes: Hey Heather, great job with the Blog. I agree that David Cutcliffe's job is daunting and challenging, but at least can you say that real progress, at least at some level, is being made? We need a "leetle" love here!

Heather Dinich: Thanks, Bob. Oh most definitely, and this is a perfect example of how the progress literally cannot be measured in wins and losses. Cutcliffe has done a great job this season.


Gabe, in Clemson, writes: So we looked like Clemson this weekend. I am realistic about things and it's just not pretty. Heather, can you answer me honestly one question? Do you (or ESPN in general) have any respect for Clemson anymore? It is difficult to do so with a team that constantly disappoints.

Heather Dinich: Gabe, I can only answer for myself, and of course I have respect for Clemson. Any player or coach who answers the kinds of tough questions they've been faced with in the past few weeks deserves it. Last week's loss to GT certainly wasn't for a lack of effort.

Georgia Tech's Word-Daniels out for Virginia game

October, 21, 2008
10/21/08
7:29
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Not sure if you guys saw this, but Georgia Tech corner back Jahi Word-Daniels will miss the homecoming game against Virginia, according to the team's injury report released Monday. Also out is freshman receiver Tyler Melton, who has a knee injury.

Both players were injured against Clemson.

Word-Daniels will be replaced by true freshman Rashaad Reid, who has two interceptions this year. Word-Daniels will be missed, but because Reid and another true freshman, Cooper Taylor, are so good, they'll survive until he gets back.

Wommack quietly remodeled Georgia Tech's defense

October, 17, 2008
10/17/08
5:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There was so much focus on Paul Johnson's offense heading into this season that the defensive makeover went almost unnoticed.

Now, as the Yellow Jackets head to Clemson with a defense that ranks fourth in scoring defense, fifth in pass defense and sixth in total defense, it's hard to ignore the job first-year coordinator Dave Wommack has done. And he's done it with eight new starters, an entirely different defensive scheme than his predecessor, and numerous injuries to key players.
Wommack, though, will politely give the credit to the players and the other assistants - not to mention the loads of NFL potential on the defensive line.

"How lucky can you get?" he said. "We're really fortunate. We don't have to bring five and six guys a lot of times because those guys are so talented up front in run and pass plays. We're very fortunate to have those guys."

Wommack, who spent the 2007 season as linebackers coach at Southern Miss but has 28 years of coaching experience, has brought a different philosophy and personality than what Jon Tenuta subscribed to. He has asked his players to drop instead of rush every time, and mixes up zone and man coverages. He has only installed about half the playbook this season.

"We had an inventory of defense, not too complicated that we can choose from week to week," he said. "But I told them also that if we can't execute it then it really doesn't matter."

It was his approachability, though, that got the players to buy into his philosophies.

"Coach Wommack, he's a very straightforward guy but he also knows how to communicate well with each player," said corner back Jahi Word-Daniels. "He's easy to talk to. He really made us feel comfortable with his coaching ability and made all of us really want to hear what he had to say. When he talks, you pay attention.

"With our old coach, everybody was kind of on their toes and didn't know what to expect because he was a really intense figure. It's easier for us to relax around him and hear what he had to say and really get on the same page with him to begin with."

It's paid dividends. Georgia Tech held Boston College scoreless in the fourth quarter, and didn't allow Virginia Tech a touchdown in the second half. Despite starting three sophomores in the secondary, the Jackets are tied for third nationally in pass efficiency defense (92.39).

The defense is allowing just 10.7 points per game.

"We struggled in the spring and I was very concerned going into the first game, but assignment-wise they've done a good job," Wommack said. "We don't have them where we want them to be. We're still working at it."

ACC in the morning - Miami edition

August, 2, 2008
8/02/08
7:27
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It MUST be close to football season if I'm bloggin' on a Saturday morning.

Just didn't want to neglect the Miami fans, as Friday was media day and practice starts today.

And when it does, the main job will be up for grabs. Randy Shannon said he won't name his quarterback until about a week before the opening game, and in the meantime, Robert Marve, Jacory Harris and Cannon Smith will be fighting for it on the field. That doesn't mean these guys can't play nice and be friends, too.

Shannon declined to name a frontrunner on Friday, and said each of the players will get an equal number of snaps. Not even Robert Marve, who was the scout team quarterback late last season, will concede any edge.

There's no question the Hurricanes will be depending on a number of fresh faces to help pull them off the edge of irrelevance. Is Randy Shannon the coach to do it? According to this article, a Sporting News ranking of the 66 BCS coaches released this spring had Shannon ranked, well, 66th.

Just how far has the national respect dropped? When the poll came out yesterday, the Hurricanes were treated like "mutts."

Here are a few of the issues facing the Canes as camp begins today.

Here's a snippet of what Shannon had to say on Friday.

Elsewhere in the ACC ....

While the Hurricanes were nowhere to be found in the polls, Wake Forest came in at No. 23. And they're lovin' it.

Not only is Jahi Word-Daniels the lone senior in Georgia Tech's secondary, he's also the only upperclassman likely to start. That's forced him to be a leader.

A similar responsibility will fall on UNC running back Greg Little this year. Can he run the Tar Heels to a bowl? Butch Davis said they would've had a better shot at it last year had they moved Little, a former wideout, earlier.

Here's another one out of the Triangle I missed yesterday.

The status of Clemson running back Rendrick Taylor is still up in the air, but he was at the Tigers' first practice on Friday.

Virginia Tech is getting a little creative with its recruiting -- twins.

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