ACC: Jake Heaps

The big takeaways from Monday night’s game will no doubt revolve around the quarterbacks.

Making his first start for Louisville, Will Gardner looked pretty sharp. He completed 20-of-28 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, and if he could’ve done a better job of holding on to the football -- his two fumbles came deep in Louisville territory -- it would’ve been chalked up as a terrific debut.

On the other side, Brad Kaaya wasn’t quite so successful. He completed 17-of-29 passes for 174 yards, tossed one TD and two interceptions. Both of the picks came on particularly bad throws, all of which should've been expected for a true freshman making his first start in a hostile road environment.

But so much of what allowed Gardner to be so good and caused Kaaya to struggle had little to do with the quarterbacks.

Louisville’s Dominique Brown looked like a workhorse out of the backfield. He rushed 33 times -- three more carries than anyone else in the nation had in Week 1 -- for 143 yards and a score. Meanwhile, Miami’s ground game never really got going.

And that might be the real concern for Miami today. It’s not that Duke Johnson wasn’t good. He had 95 total yards, a few big runs and another long reception that was called back due to a silly penalty from an O-lineman who’d wandered too far downfield. Johnson was fine, but that O-line looked bad.

In addition to the flag that thwarted Johnson’s big catch, the line was flagged four other times for holding or false starts. On 12 of Miami’s 25 designed runs, the Hurricanes gained 1 yard or less. There was virtually no running room between the tackles all night. Kaaya was under pressure far more often than any true freshman should need to endure despite few looks downfield.

Gardner’s success came without his No. 1 receiver. The ground game was good without Michael Dyer. Louisville’s D looked exceptional in its first game in a new scheme. It was a good night for the Cardinals.

For Miami, the lessons were tougher, but it’s hard to pin too much of the blame on the freshman QB. Maybe Jake Heaps sees some snaps next week, maybe not. Maybe Ryan Williams comes back soon enough to make a difference, and maybe not. But no matter who is under center, Miami’s line needs to play better, open up running lanes and give the QB a chance to make plays. If not, it could be a long year for the Hurricanes' offense.

Now, a few links to kick off Week 2 ...

Clemson’s offense struggled in the second half against Georgia, but Chad Morris expects to get things jump started in Week 2, writes The State.

Deshaun Watson was calm, cool and collected after his Clemson debut, writes The Post and Courier.

No surprises here, but Marquise Williams is North Carolina’s starting QB for the foreseeable future, writes the Charlotte Observer.

Boston College is replacing Andre Williams with a committee approach in the backfield, writes the Boston Herald.

It was a perfect debut to the 2014 season for NC State’s Jarvis Byrd, writes the Raleigh News & Observer.

Virginia has some QB questions this week, as the Washington Times notes, and in a bit of perfect timing, the Hoos will get a visit from one of their former starters in Richmond QB Michael Rocco, writes the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Georgia Tech has a decision to make with freshman B-back C.J. Leggett, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

And finally, the Orlando Sentinel highlights the triumphant return of Red Lightning.

Miami announces Olsen suspension

August, 30, 2014
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Miami officially announced Sunday that quarterback Kevin Olsen has been suspended from the season opener against Louisville for a violation of team standards.

The suspension was one of the worst kept secrets in college football, initially reported by multiple news outlets in early August. Olsen was the projected starter headed into fall camp, but the suspension changed the quarterback competition. Miami coach Al Golden will start true freshman Brad Kaaya over transfer Jake Heaps.

Olsen is not scheduled to make the trip to Louisville. In addition, receiver Rashawn Scott is out for the game with a shoulder/clavicle injury. Interestingly, Miami did not list injured quarterback Ryan Williams (knee) on the injury report.

The teams play Monday night (8 ET, ESPN).

ACC morning links

August, 27, 2014
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If the first season is usually when a coach gets the benefit of the doubt, Year 2 is when fans want to see improvement so that by Year 3 the coaching staff's plan is coming to fruition.

The ACC has three second-year coaches, each with differing expectations. Athlon Sports took a look at those coaches and what the 2014 outlook is for each coach's program.

Writer Steven Lassan states Boston College's Steve Addazio exceeded expectations in his inaugural season as BC's coach, and there is little doubt Addazio did a great job getting to a bowl game. Without Andre Williams it will be a challenge to get back to a bowl game, but the first half of the schedule sets up pretty nicely.

A bowl game in 2013 and key returners has Syracuse fans believing Scott Shafer will keep the Orange moving in the right direction. There are only two games on the schedule where the Orange will not be given a great chance to win, so there is an expectation for Syracuse to once again be bowl eligible.

At NC State, Dave Doeren is given a partial pass last season after losing his starting quarterback. While the Wolfpack have a long way to go, Doeren has his quarterback in Jacoby Brissett. There is definitely an expectation the Wolfpack will be better, and they can't be much worse after going winless in the ACC last season. Brissett was a highly regarded quarterback coming out of high school, so there is the potential NC State can surprise some teams this season and pull off an upset or two.

Here's a few more links to help you through the day. Remember, we get FBS football tomorrow!

ACC fearless predictions

August, 26, 2014
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The college football season is finally ready to kick off. No doubt all the time we’ve spent studying depth charts and devouring news will be rendered meaningless by September’s end, but that won’t stop us from making a few bold predictions about what’s to come in 2014. If we get half of them right, we’ll call it a success.

1. Jameis Winston will post better numbers -- but won’t win the Heisman.

Much has been made of the depletion of Winston’s receiving corps, but losing Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw won’t spell doom for the Florida State QB. In fact, Winston struggled at times last year when getting too greedy down the field, and a renewed emphasis on a shorter passing game could up his numbers. When throwing to RBs or TEs last year, Winston completed 79 percent of his throws and averaged 11.6 yards per attempt, with 11 of his 86 passes going for touchdowns. Add the likelihood he’ll play more fourth quarters this season, and his numbers could well go up in 2014 -- but, of course, winning back-to-back Heisman Trophies is no easy task, and neither Winston nor coach Jimbo Fisher has ever shown much interest in chasing individual awards.

[+] EnlargeWill Gardner
AP Photo/Garry JonesUnder coach Bobby Petrino, Will Gardner has a chance to flourish as Louisville's starting QB.
2. Louisville’s Will Gardner will be the ACC’s second-best quarterback.

It’s telling that what could’ve been one of the most discussed QB vacancies in the conference was actually among the least interesting this offseason. Coach Bobby Petrino waited until Sunday to make it official, but Gardner was the obvious choice since the spring. Then there’s this: In nine years as a head coach, Petrino’s starting QBs have averaged 63 percent completions, 8.8 yards per attempt, 21 TDs and 8 interceptions -- stats that would’ve rivaled any QB in the league last year, save Winston and Tajh Boyd.

3. Virginia Tech wins 10 again.

The Hokies won at least 10 games in each of their first eight seasons in the ACC, but that streak ended in 2012 and the team is just 10-10 against Power Five conference foes in the past two years. But coach Frank Beamer is giving his young talent a chance to shine, the Week 2 date with Ohio State suddenly looks a lot more winnable and the rest of the schedule shapes up nicely for the Hokies. The offense needs to get a lot better to be a legit College Football Playoff contender, but Virginia Tech will at least be in the conversation.

4. Virginia goes bowling.

The schedule makes this a tough sell. Ten of Virginia’s 12 opponents played in a bowl game last year, and there may not be a single easy win on the slate. But there’s talent in Charlottesville, including 19 four- or five-star recruits inked in the past four years. That’s more than Louisville (16) and just one fewer than Virginia Tech (20). That talent has to translate to wins eventually, right? It’ll take some upsets, but the Hoos will get to six wins.

5. Clemson is a running team.

With Boyd and Sammy Watkins stealing the bulk of the headlines the past three years, Clemson’s passing game got a lot of credit for the team’s success. But the Tigers actually ranked in the top three in the ACC in rushing attempts in each of those three seasons. Now with a new QB and significant turnover at receiver, the passing game is a question, but Dabo Swinney loves his tailbacks. Don’t be surprised if freshman Wayne Gallman tops 1,000 yards -- something a Clemson tailback has done each of the past three seasons.

6. Young runners make a big impact.

Gallman won’t be the only rookie runner to make noise in 2014. The ACC has some impressive veterans in Duke Johnson, Karlos Williams, Kevin Parks and Dominique Brown, but there are plenty of fresh faces eager to make an impact, too. Virginia Tech’s Marshawn Williams, North Carolina’s Elijah Hood and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook could join Gallman as freshman sensations, while sophomores like T.J. Logan, James Conner, Myles Willis, Matt Dayes and Taquan Mizzell could all have big seasons, too.

7. Stacy Coley catches a TD from three different QBs.

If there was a more settled QB situation at Miami, Coley might be a niche pick for Heisman honors as one of the game’s most explosive players. Unfortunately, it could be a revolving door at QB for the Canes. Freshman Brad Kaaya gets first crack, and the hope is that Ryan Williams will return from an ACL injury sooner than later. Don’t be surprised if Jake Heaps or Kevin Olsen gets a shot to start at some point, too. Coley will make them all look better, but he’d benefit from some stability at QB.

8. Jamison Crowder sets the standard.

Crowder had 30 more targets last season than any other ACC receiver, and now Duke is without its second-best pass-catcher in Braxton Deaver. That makes Crowder an even more integral part of the Blue Devils’ passing game, and it means he should cruise past former teammate Conner Vernon’s ACC record for receiving yards. Crowder is just 1,152 yards short entering the season.

9. Tyler Murphy and Jacoby Brissett look good.

Boston College and NC State will both be starting QBs who transferred from Florida, and both have a chance to put up solid numbers. In fact, we're predicting both Murphy and Brissett post better stats this season than Jeff Driskel, the man who kept them both on the bench in Gainesville.

10. The Coastal champ will be ...

Is there really any answer here that would feel remotely safe? Heck, Georgia Tech could win the division or miss out on a bowl game. Anything seems possible. But since it’s prediction time, we’ll ante up, just so you can remind us how wrong we were in December. So, let’s say ... Virginia Tech.

ACC morning links

August, 26, 2014
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ESPN Stats & Information has unveiled its first set of conference power rankings for 2014.

What if I told you the ACC was ranked fifth?

Not surprising in the least.

At this point, it is hard to see the ranking as a huge slap at the league, considering the ACC also was ranked fifth in the final 2013 conference power rankings with a national championship and Orange Bowl win to brag about. The ranking speaks to the state of the entire conference, which we all can agree needs to upgrade its product behind the Noles and Tigers.

The key difference between last season and this season, though, is the College Football Playoff. And conference ranking could come into play when the selection committee begins its evaluations. Because strength of schedule will matter. As our friends at Stats & Info point out in their post:
Among Power Five conferences, the ACC is considered the weakest by both the AP Poll and FPI. That means that if the top four conferences place a team in the playoff, it would leave the ACC on the outside looking in. Yet, there is a lot more that goes into those decisions, including the fact that the ACC has the clear No. 1 team in the country. Florida State received 57 of 60 first place votes in the AP Poll and has by far the best chance (39 percent) to finish the season undefeated according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

However, what if Florida State loses a conference game? Does the relative strength of the ACC come into play?

All fun questions to ponder before the season begins.

Let's take a tour around the rest of the ACC as the games quickly approach:
  • Boston College may use its running backs out of the backfield more than it did a year ago.
  • Clemson has studied tape from its game against Florida State last year for clues on how Jeremy Pruitt will run the Georgia defense.
  • Duke football has come so far, what if it takes a step back?
  • More fun predictions! Stewart Mandel at FoxSports has Florida State in the playoff and Clemson facing Alabama in the Discover Orange Bowl.
  • Louisville running back Michael Dyer remains doubtful for the opener against Miami.
  • Ryan Williams and Jake Heaps talk about Brad Kaaya winning the Miami quarterback job.
  • Joe Giglio has a great read on NC State quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has high expectations for himself headed into the season.
  • Is North Carolina going to be the Coastal champ? One columnist says yes.
  • Apparently, Larry Fedora takes pleasure in tormenting people.
  • Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer compared freshman receiver Isaiah Ford to Antonio Freeman.
  • Could Kevin Johnson and Merrill Noel be Wake Forest's best cornerbacks ... ever?
Miami and Virginia Tech now have their answers at starting quarterback, though they went different routes in making their decisions.

Both brought in transfers in the offseason to compete for the starting job. But only the Hokies went the transfer route, as they announced that Michael Brewer would take over for Logan Thomas when the season opens Saturday.

[+] EnlargeMichael Brewer
Brendan Maloney/USA TODAY SportsMichael Brewer brings a measure of experience to the starting quarterback job for the Hokies.
Miami went the more unconventional route, announcing Sunday that true freshman Brad Kaaya had won the starting job over fifth-year senior Jake Heaps.

Ultimately, those decisions will have a major impact on each team's Coastal Division hopes.

The choice Miami made was slightly more surprising for a few reasons. First, Heaps has valuable game experience, having started at two stops before arriving at Miami in the summer. Second, Miami opens the season on the road at Louisville. Many thought Al Golden would tab Heaps based on these two facts alone.

But Kaaya has intrigued Miami from the moment he committed in 2013. The Canes were the first team to extend him a scholarship offer, and he stuck with them despite the distance (he is from California) and several in-state schools putting on the hard sell. Offensive coordinator James Coley told local reporters after practice Sunday that three months ago he never would have envisioned starting a true freshman on the road to open the season.

Then again, Coley also said Kaaya is "not your regular freshman."

Kaaya has drawn nothing but raves since arriving on campus, and he has drawn particular attention for his unflappable demeanor. Miami has been desperate for a standout at the position for 12 years and counting. His predecessor, Stephen Morris, was solid but never rose to the elite level that people have come to expect from anybody playing the position at Miami. Now Kaaya gets to put that pressure on his shoulders.

Brewer at least has more game experience than Kaaya, having played as a backup at Texas Tech the past two seasons. When he made his decision to transfer to Virginia Tech, many expected him to win the starting job. Mark Leal, who served as the backup to Thomas the past several seasons, struggled in the bowl game and during the spring, opening the door for Brewer.

Where Kaaya has an edge over Brewer, then, is in the talent around him. Miami has the best running back in the ACC in Duke Johnson, one of the deepest and most talented receiver groups in the league, solid tight ends and a good offensive line. Virginia Tech is expected to be better at running back, receiver and tight end as well as on the offensive line, but Miami is better at all four spots headed into the season.

Perhaps that gives Golden and Coley more confidence lining up a true freshman on the road. He has a supporting cast to truly support him. Ultimately, though, both programs and both head coaches will be judged on the quarterback decisions they made this weekend. The Coastal could depend on it.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Bye-bye, Clint and Jacob. Hello, Jacoby, Jake, Michael and Tyler?

You're forgiven if this entire exercise seems foreign. But at least 10 of the ACC's 14 teams will start new faces under center when games kick off next week. And there is a good chance that four of those 10 will have quarterbacks who began their college careers elsewhere.

[+] EnlargeJake Heaps
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerNot long after playing in Kansas' spring game in April, Jake Heaps transferred to Miami.
Two former Florida State quarterbacks could square off in Week 1 in Atlanta during an SEC-Big 12 matchup. Two former Florida quarterbacks are set to start in the ACC's Atlantic Division. Then there are a pair of downtrodden Coastal powers, both of which may be starting quarterbacks who did not even arrive on campus until this summer.

"I really don't know," Miami coach Al Golden said of the surplus of ACC quarterback transfers. "We liked where we were in the spring, and clearly Ryan [Williams] went down the week before the spring game. It's really not a function of not being confident in the guys that are on campus. It's more a function of just wanting to get a guy that has been in the game and has the experience."

Golden acknowledged the quarterback market has been busier than usual, particularly in his league. He brought in former BYU and Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps this summer after Williams, the Hurricanes' No. 1 quarterback, suffered a right ACL injury that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. (Williams, naturally, began his career elsewhere, at Memphis.)

Heaps, eligible immediately as a graduate transfer, is battling true freshman Brad Kaaya to start Miami's opener.

"I think the quarterback position has grown in terms of talent over the last few years," said Heaps, who set several freshman records at BYU in 2010 before losing his job both with the Cougars and later at Kansas. "There’s a lot of great, quality quarterbacks in college football right now and they all want a chance to play. That’s where you’re seeing a lot of these guys transfer. They’re in their situation but they know they can play somewhere else so they make those moves and try and find the best situation for them and in some cases it works out, in others it doesn’t. Just knowing they have that opportunity is first and foremost.

"Sometimes things just don’t work out. Recruiting is the way it is and sometimes a situation isn’t what you think it will be when you get there. It’s been a unique trend in the last little bit, but I think if a guy has an opportunity to go play, he should go explore that."

Likewise, fellow Coastal member Virginia Tech turned to the free-agent route following an underwhelming spring from its three quarterbacks, welcoming Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer (and two true freshmen) to the race to replace Logan Thomas and kick-start an offense in need of a jolt after just 15 wins in the past two seasons. In an odd twist, Brewer, who has two seasons left to play after graduating from Texas Tech, was recommended to the Hokies' staff by Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who coached Brewer back at Lake Travis (Texas) High.

Brewer brings with him a nearly 71 percent completion percentage from his limited action with the Red Raiders, including 440 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Brissett
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeEx-Florida quarterback Jacoby Brissett enters this season as NC State's starter.
"Everyone needs success in their life, and if you're in a place where you're behind somebody or whatever you're not going to have it," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "To me, my whole thing is everyone needs success, and wherever you can do that, some of the guys that come through there, go somewhere where you can have success."

On the other side, in the more daunting Atlantic, a pair of second-year coaches are turning to former Gators quarterbacks to command their offenses.

Boston College coach Steve Addazio goes back with Tyler Murphy, a fellow Connecticut native whom Addazio had initially recruited to Gainesville, Florida, during his time as an assistant there. Jacoby Brissett transferred to NC State shortly after coach Dave Doeren was hired there, sitting out last season and taking enough initiative behind the scenes to earn the starting nod before spring ball this year.

“Last year we brought in Brandon Mitchell [from Arkansas] through the one-year loophole, and then at the end of the year, Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker left to go to [Louisiana-Monroe and UT-Martin]," Doeren said. "While that was going on, Jacoby transferred here from Florida. So I’ve seen about all of it that can go around. It’s just part of what recruiting is now. Guys want to play and people don’t want to wait their turn much anymore."

Murphy, who transferred in January, has one year to add some pizzazz to an Eagles' offense looking to spread the field more after last season's run-heavy approach. He spoke often with Brissett (who has two years left at NC State) back when both were still weighing their options when departing Florida.

The familiarity was more than enough to reunite Murphy with Addazio, who said a guy like Murphy probably should have gone to BC in the first place.

"Being a New England guy and growing up around BC, I watched a lot of BC and Matt Ryan in the early 2000s," Murphy said. "So it feels good to be a part of this institution, this program and I'm looking forward to the season."

Florida State could see a pair of its former quarterbacks start against each other next week, as Jake Coker transferred to Alabama one year after Clint Trickett transferred to West Virginia.

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher was supportive of both, with Trickett being familiar with WVU (his dad used to coach there before moving to FSU) and Coker heading to his home-state program after backing up Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Fisher likened the rash of quarterback departures to that of college basketball transfers, because both are possession-dominated athletes.

The graduate-transfer rule, popularized by Russell Wilson three years ago, has only added to that. And, in many ways, it has been a boon for both sides.

"[It] gives some opportunities for guys that are worried about situations like Tyler's," Addazio said, referring to Murphy's injury-shortened 2013. "He's like, 'I've got one shot at this thing. I want to go where I feel like I've got the best opportunity to be the starter.' So you're seeing a lot of this right now. I like this opportunity."

Miami Hurricanes quarterback Jake Heaps wants to assure everybody his arm is just fine.

It may not have seemed that way Monday night, when word started to spread that he missed the evening scrimmage to rest his sore right arm. Given how much importance coach Al Golden has placed on quarterback performance in the preseason scrimmages, doubts about Heaps started to grow all around the Twitter-sphere to the repeated tune of hmmmmmmm ....

Such is life in the middle of a quarterback competition. One bit of news gets magnified tenfold until another bit of news comes along to tamp it down. So here it is, completely tamped down from Heaps himself:

"Everything is fine," Heaps told ESPN.com Tuesday in a phone interview. "I'm feeling good about everything, and just excited to get to practice Wednesday."

Heaps says he was held out of the scrimmage for precautionary reasons. While he sat on the sideline, true freshman Brad Kaaya threw two touchdown passes to grab a few headlines. But the competition to start at Louisville on Sept. 1 remains open between the two.

"They haven't given us a timetable on a decision," Heaps said. "They've kept everything pretty close to the vest, which I think is good because it just allows us to focus on every day and not worry about where we stand in certain points in time. It's about going out there each and every day and trying to take advantage of one practice and one rep at a time. That's all I'm concerned about, just trying to string a bunch of good days together and see where it falls. We're approaching Louisville here quickly, so I would imagine something would come in the near future, but I'm not concerned about that. I'm just focused on each practice that comes up."

Heaps says he has made the most of his two months on campus, since arriving as a transfer student from Kansas. Though there are no guarantees, he remains hopeful he will win the starting job.

"Obviously I'd be extremely disappointed if I didn't, but it's a long season and anything can happen so you have to have that mentality," he said. "At the end of the day, I don't regret anything. I've gone out and done everything that I could and laid it all on the line. At the end of the day, I have to look in the mirror and know if I gave it my all and I know that I have. I feel good about that. I'm just excited to continue practicing and see how everything ends up unfolding. I'll definitely be excited if I'm the guy."

ACC morning links

August, 19, 2014
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It is nearly time to begin preparing for Week 1 matchups. Does it surprise anybody that there are still unanswered questions at quarterback for three Coastal Division contenders?

Miami held a scrimmage Monday night in which true freshman Brad Kaaya continued to impress, throwing two touchdown passes. Transfer Jake Heaps, competing for the starting job, sat out the scrimmage to rest his arm. Coach Al Golden has repeatedly said he would name his starter following both scrimmages. Kevin Olsen is suspended for at least the opener; Kaaya played in both scrimmages; Heaps in just one. Do we read anything into where this leads headed into the opener against Louisville?

Meanwhile in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, coach Larry Fedora said he will not publicly announce his starter before kickoff against Liberty on Aug. 30. Returning starter Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky have been in a dogged competition. The Tar Heels will begin game prep Wednesday.

"We'll make a decision before the 30th," Fedora said. "I mean, you guys won't know it. But we will make a decision before the 30th. We'll start as we get into the game-planning, we'll have a plan what we're going to do and how we're going to implement it and those guys will be aware of it.

"It won't be like we walk out there on the 30th and I flip a coin and throw one of them out there."

Finally, the race to start at Virginia Tech is down to Michael Brewer and Mark Leal. Brenden Motley, who left the spring No. 1 on the depth chart, has been dealing with back issues throughout fall camp and has fallen out of the competition. Brewer and Leal split first-team reps during a weekend scrimmage, but a decision remains up in the air.

Now here is quick look at other headlines across the ACC:
Miami has not named a starting quarterback, but coach Al Golden has whittled it to a final two.

Senior transfer Jake Heaps and true freshman Brad Kaaya are tied atop the first depth chart of preseason practice. A news release from Miami states it will be either Heaps or Kaaya whoe leads Miami for its Sept. 1 season opener against Louisville.

"I'm not worried about that. I'm focusing on me," Heaps said Thursday morning. "What Coach decides, that's out of my hands."

The quarterback position became an open competition when projected starter Ryan Williams suffered an ACL tear in April. While Williams is practicing in 7-on-7 drills, the plan is for the senior to return during the season.

Redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen was considered to be one of the favorites to replace Williams, but Olsen is reportedly suspended from the season opener.

Both Heaps and Kaaya have been on campus for only a few months.

Heaps signed with Miami on June 15 as a transfer from Kansas. He started nine games for the Jayhawks, throwing for 1,414 yards and eight touchdowns. He began his career at BYU, where he set several freshman passing records, but he transferred after the 2011 season.

Kaaya, a California native, was highly regarded coming out of high school, ranked by RecruitingNation as the fifth-best pocket passer in the country and No. 112 overall in the ESPN 300. The 6-foot-4, 209-pound signal-caller remained committed to the Hurricanes despite late offers from UCLA and USC.

"The first two weeks, what I see from Brad is his maturity," running back Duke Johnson said Thursday morning. "You wouldn't think that Brad is a freshman quarterback, the way he talks, the way he handles the offense, the way he handles the plays, checks. He's able to read defenses. He doesn't do it as well as an older guy like Jake [Heaps], but he does it exceptionally well for a freshman."

Golden is scheduled to meet with reporters Thursday evening after the Hurricanes' second practice of the day.

ACC morning links

August, 14, 2014
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The Roanoke Times reports that Michael Brewer is now considered a co-starter with Mark Leal at Virginia Tech.

Frank Beamer says Brenden Motley is due to return to practice following a back injury next week, but with the Hokies scrimmaging Saturday, all indications point to a two-man race with the winner likely being decided this weekend. Beamer says he wants a decision made sooner than later so the team has time to build a rapport with the new starter.

I talked with Beamer on Wednesday, and he spoke highly of Brewer’s ability to grasp the system in a hurry and command the huddle.

“His personality, who he is, it lends himself to that,” Beamer said. “He’s a take-charge guy, likes being in control. It lends itself to him coming in and feeling at ease with the position he’s in.”

Beamer praised Brewer’s accuracy, too, but he said the key for either QB will be more consistency from the receivers when it comes to route running and drops. And on the subject of the receivers, Beamer absolutely raved about freshmen Cameron Phillips and Isaiah Ford.

“Those are two guys that are going to really help our group,” Beamer said. “They’re two athletic guys.”

A few more links:
  • Dabo Swinney was none too happy with his team after its scrimmage Wednesday, telling reporters, “I thought we hit the wall.” Probably not worth reading too much into the outburst. Good coaches always pick at least one practice to publicly call out their team, and as we hit the midpoint of August, it was probably time for Swinney to give Clemson a minor wake-up call.
  • Sports Illustrated has its preseason All-America teams out, with 14 ACC players making first- or second-team status. Only the SEC (16) had more. A few ACC names not on the list that we wouldn’t be surprised to see at year’s end? Clemson’s Grady Jarrett, FSU’s Karlos Williams and Ronald Darby and Miami’s Duke Johnson.
  • Speaking of Johnson, he looked 100 percent as Miami scrimmaged for the first time, writes the Miami Herald. The QB race, however, remains as murky as ever, with Jake Heaps and freshman Brad Kaaya doing battle Wednesday.
  • With Telvin Smith and Christian Jones gone, Terrance Smith is taking command of the Florida State linebacking crew, writes the Tallahassee Democrat. Smith has 69 career tackles. Reggie Northrup has 55. The rest of the linebacking corps combined has just 71.
  • NC State QB Garrett Leatham wasn’t even one of the top 20 walk-ons to make it into fall camp a year ago. Now, writes the Charlotte Observer, he’s got a scholarship and the No. 2 spot on the Wolfpack’s depth chart. Good for Leatham, of course, but it does suggest just how critical a healthy Jacoby Brissett will be for NC State in 2014.
  • Duke checks in at No. 24 on USA Today’s college football countdown. Their “dream season” scenario for Duke is an 11-1 campaign with the lone loss coming to Virginia Tech. Of course, the Blue Devils beat the Hokies in Blacksburg last year while mustering 198 yards of offense and failing to convert a third down. So, it’s all relative.
  • Breaking news of your impending transfer via Instagram is apparently a thing now, as freshman receiver Corey Cooper announced he was leaving the Orange, writes Syracuse.com. Can recruiting via Tinder be too far off?

Miami Hurricanes season preview

August, 12, 2014
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» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the Miami Hurricanes:

Key returners: RB Duke Johnson, WR Stacy Coley, TE Clive Walford, LB Denzel Perryman, DE Anthony Chickillo

Key losses: QB Stephen Morris, WR Allen Hurns, P Pat O'Donnell, DE Shayon Green

Most important 2014 games: at Louisville, Sept. 1; at Nebraska, Sept. 20; at Virginia Tech, Oct. 23; Florida State, Nov. 15.

Projected win percentage: 62

Over/under Vegas odds: 7 1/2

[+] EnlargeDuke Johnson
Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMIThe Hurricanes are holding out hope that running back Duke Johnson can stay healthy in 2014.
Instant impact newcomer: QB Jake Heaps or QB Brad Kaaya. With starter Ryan Williams out indefinitely while rehabbing a torn ACL and Kevin Olsen reportedly suspended for the opener, Heaps and Kaaya have emerged as the top two quarterbacks in the race to win the staring job. Heaps, a fifth-year transfer, has game experience that seemingly gives him an advantage over Kaaya, who has yet to play in a collegiate game. But Kaaya has impressed from the moment he set foot on campus, and coach Al Golden said Monday the race to start was "tight."

Best-case scenario for 2014: Miami avenges its embarrassing bowl loss to Louisville in the opener, then upsets Nebraska a few weeks later in Lincoln, setting the stage for a triumphant season. Confidence grows, and Miami goes into Blacksburg, Virginia, on a Thursday night in October and pulls the upset. Duke Johnson runs for over 1,500 yards, and Heaps does a terrific job holding down the fort until Williams returns. Miami finally hits double-digit wins and makes its first appearance in the ACC championship game.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: The messy quarterback situation derails the Miami offense, as teams stack the box to contain Johnson. The defensive line is unable to get push up front or pressure on the quarterback. Despite improvements in the secondary, the defense as a whole makes only modest gains. A tough schedule featuring 10 bowl teams takes its toll and Miami barely reaches bowl eligibility.

Best NFL prospects: Perryman and Johnson. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Perryman listed as the No. 2 senior outside linebacker prospect Insider, and Johnson listed among his top five underclassmen at running back Insider. Perryman could have left school early for the draft but elected to return to improve his stock. He will be playing middle linebacker this year, so he should make even more plays than he did a season ago. The biggest key for Johnson this season is staying healthy. He has yet to play an entire season as the unquestioned starter. If he does that this year, he should be a virtual lock for 1,000 yards; then Miami fans will have to worry about losing him to the NFL.

They said it: "There's a standard of excellence at the University of Miami, and you're held to that standard, which we've all accepted by going to the University of Miami. The one thing I think that's different about this team is that they believe in who they are, so they certainly respect the past, but they want to represent who they are and their identity as a football team. There's been nothing about the 2014 team that even resembles the 2013 team. They wanted to be their own team, have their own leadership and really move forward. So I'm excited about these guys saying, 'OK, let's go out and make our own identity’ as opposed to relying on something that happened quite a while ago." -- coach Al Golden

ACC lunchtime links

August, 8, 2014
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Receivers are a dime a dozen according to a football adage, but that saying dates back to before the proliferation of pass-happy offenses. In 2014, it's often not enough for a team to have just one quality receiver. Cornerbacks are bigger and stronger than they used to be, and defensive schemes are becoming more complex, allowing defenses to take away a team's best receiving threat.

That is why it's key for a program to have a deep receiving corps, and it is why several ACC teams are spending the early portions of camp trying to establish a starting lineup at receiver.

Florida State lost Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, and could be forced to rely on a freshman to step into a starting role beginning with the season opener. Miami has a talented duo in Phillip Dorsett and Stacy Coley, but the Canes' offensive staff needs his receivers to be consistent catching the football. Pittsburgh lost it's all-time leader in receptions and might need a freshman to draw coverage away from sophomore star Tyler Boyd. Virginia's receivers have not reached the standard level of play the coaching staff expects. And Clemson is replacing arguably the country's best receiver and the guy who used to throw him the ball. It is going to take some time for the new Tigers quarterback and receivers to get on the same page after such limited playing time the past few years.

The first handful of links Friday focus on the receivers in the ACC.

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 6, 2014
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Kevin Olsen may or may not be suspended, still. Miami has not confirmed the report, and neither has the man himself. But the most telling sign of the Hurricanes' current quarterback situation came Tuesday, when Jake Heaps ran with the first team during the first day of fall practice.

Olsen was there, as were true freshmen Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier. Kaaya looked strong, per the Palm Beach Post's Matt Porter. Original starter Ryan Williams was also at practice, albeit in a very limited capacity, tossing some light throws.

Whether Williams -- who tore his ACL in spring practice and had surgery on April 9 -- can return to full strength at some point this season remains to be seen. Head coach Al Golden has said he plans to cut his current four-man crop of potential starting quarterbacks to two following the Canes' second scrimmage, and right now Heaps looks like a safe bet to make it at least that far.

The former BYU and Kansas quarterback said and did all of the right things, too, per Porter, especially as it relates to potential awkwardness amid a five-man group vying for playing time:
“It’s a great question,” Heaps said. “It definitely could be. It’s definitely an interesting dynamic that is going on right now. But it’s gone extremely well and that’s a testament to the group of guys that are in that room, that quarterback group – all great guys, all guys that understand the situation and just are focused on getting better individually.”

Elsewhere in the ACC ...

ACC lunchtime links

August, 4, 2014
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So who exactly will be starting for Miami when the season opens at Louisville on Sept. 1?

That remains a mystery.

Multiple organizations have reported that quarterback Kevin Olsen has been suspended for one game because of a failed drug test, but Miami coach Al Golden refused to comment on Olsen's status during a radio appearance on Monday in Miami. Golden told Joe Rose of WQAM he would "refrain from commenting on any of that as it relates to any suspension."

If Olsen is indeed out for the opener, the Hurricanes would be down to their third option at quarterback. Ryan Williams, the projected starter, is still rehabbing a torn ACL. Olsen was expected to take the quarterback reins with Williams out. Now, Miami might have to rely on transfer Jake Heaps, who has been on campus only for a handful of weeks and is still working to learn the playbook.

Golden repeated on his radio appearance that four quarterbacks remained in the mix to start -- Olsen, Heaps and freshmen Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier. That group will be narrowed to two following the first scrimmage. When asked specifically about Heaps, Golden said:

"He's in a different place in his life. He's about a 30-game starter in collgee, he's 23 years old, he's basically devoting his life to this. Basically for the last eight weeks he's been studying and since June 28, he's been here throwing and working out with the guys and practicing in our system. We're very pleased with where he is right now and as I said also we're very pleased at the devlepment that Kevin has shown over the summer. Brad Kaaya and Malik Rosier come in and they're competing their tails off, so it's going to be an interesting battle here as we kick off tomorrow."

Interesting is putting it mildly. Olsen has not exactly been a model citizen since he arrived on campus as one of the top-rated prospects Miami signed in the class of 2013. He has gotten into trouble with the law; and he already served a suspension for the bowl game last season for a team rules violation. In retrospect, Duke Johnson's comments about Olsen's lack of leadership at the ACC Kickoff last month seem foreboding.

At this point, Miami has to be extremely grateful it landed Heaps. He has had some hiccups along the way, but he has a background quite similar to Williams -- both are former starters, both transferred to Miami looking for a fresh start, and both are older and married, giving them a level of maturity Olsen does not seem to have, at least not yet.

Now here's a look at other headlines across the ACC:

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