ACC: Jared Green
Spring practice starts: Feb. 16
Spring game: March 26
What to watch:
- Jim Knowles taking over as defensive coordinator. After coaching the safeties last season, Knowles was promoted in late January following the departure of Marion Hobby to coach Clemson’s defensive line. It’s not a complete overhaul on defense, but for the third time in as many seasons, a different person will be calling the plays. Knowles has also assumed the lead role with Duke’s practice scheduling and weekly preparation.
- New faces at linebacker. Duke graduated its leading tackler from 2010, Abraham Kromah, and freshman All-American Kelby Brown is out while recovering from knee surgery. Those two slots will be wide open this spring and the competition will be among Austin Gamble, C.J. France, Tyree Glover and Kevin Rojas.
- Offensive line shuffling. The Blue Devils return four starters up front, but they’ll be missing the glue of the line in Bryan Morgan, who graduated. Brian Moore, who has started the past two seasons at right guard, will make the transition to center. John Coleman and Laken Tomlinson are expected to compete for the right guard spot.
Spring practice starts: March 28 (tentative)
Spring game: April 23
What to watch:
- Starting quarterback competition. Tevin Washington enters the spring at No. 1 on the depth chart, and it's his job to lose, as he has the most experience after taking over for injured starter Joshua Nesbitt in 2010. Synjyn Days will give him legitimate competition this spring, though, and it will increase this summer with the addition of standout recruit Vad Lee to the roster. For now, though, it’s between Washington and Days, as David Sims is expected to move to B-back.
- Offensive line reshuffling. Georgia Tech will have to replace three starters in all-conference center Sean Bedford, right tackle Austin Barrick and left tackle Nick Claytor, who decided to leave early for the NFL draft. Phil Smith, Barrick’s backup last year, is the only one with any experience at tackle. The staff will likely have to move a player or two from guard to tackle, and only it knows who those candidates might be right now.
- Revamped secondary. Jerrard Tarrant's decision to leave school early and enter the NFL draft left the Jackets without any returning starters in the secondary. Junior cornerback Rod Sweeting, sophomore cornerback Louis Young, redshirt freshman cornerback Ryan Ayers and sophomore safety Fred Holton are front-runners, but they all have a lot to prove this spring. Holton and Young played sparingly as true freshmen and combined for 21 tackles. Sweeting played in all 13 games and had one fumble recovery and eight passes defended, including one interception. Senior cornerback Michael Peterson may help, and safety Jemea Thomas played as a true freshman in 2009 but redshirted last year. There’s some talent, but the inexperience makes it a question mark.
Spring practice starts: March 5
Spring game: April 9 or 16
What to watch:
- New staff, new schemes. Defensively, first-year coordinator Mark D’Onofrio will work with two other assistants who were with him and first-year coach Al Golden at Temple, so there is familiarity there. Linebackers coach Michael Barrow has to learn D’Onofrio’s system, but the players tend to pick it up faster if the majority of the staff is already acclimated to it. Offensively, everyone will be working together for the first time. Jedd Fisch wants to run a pure pro-style offense based on matchups, and the good news is that several of the assistants, because of their respective backgrounds, are already schooled in at least a version of it.
- Quarterback battle. Golden has said he would like to name a starter by the end of the spring, making these practices critical auditions for both Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. Harris has both flourished and flopped as a starter for the Canes, and his injury last year gave Morris the opportunity he needed to win the people’s choice award. Has a new era of quarterback begun, or will Harris finally have the breakout season Miami fans have waited for in his final year as a Cane?
- Corner competition. Following the departures of Ryan Hill, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Brandon Harris, Brandon McGee is the only corner remaining on the roster with any significant experience. He played in 11 games, started one, and had 15 tackles. Redshirt freshman Devont’a Davis, sophomore Kacey Rodgers, and redshirt sophomore Jamal Reid will also compete for playing time. There are also several incoming freshmen who could be immediate contributors.
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 9
What to watch:
- The rookie quarterbacks. There’s no guarantee that Bryn Renner will be the Tar Heels’ starter in 2011, but he enters the spring slightly ahead of the race, as he was No. 2 on the depth chart last season and was pushing T.J. Yates for the starting job at this time a year ago. The staff would also like to see what true freshman Marquise Williams, who enrolled in January, has to offer. Braden Hanson and A.J. Blue will also compete for playing time. Blue was injured two years ago and redshirted last season.
- Running backs race. The Tar Heels graduated three key players from 2010: Johnny White, Anthony Elzy and Shaun Draughn. Ryan Houston is back for his fifth year after redshirting last year and is the most experienced of the returnees. Giovani Bernard was a true freshman last year and had been expected to get some playing time, but he tore his ACL on the third day of training camp. It’s not clear yet how much he’ll be able to participate this spring. Hunter Furr played sparingly last year and true freshman Travis Riley, who enrolled in January, are also in the mix.
- Another strong defensive line. If Quinton Coples was an all-conference selection as a defensive tackle, he could be scary good at his natural position, defensive end. Coples played there as a freshman and sophomore, but switched to tackle out of necessity last season. The defensive line should once again be the strength of the team, but it will be reconfigured again, as Coples’ move will leave a defensive tackle spot up for grabs. Junior college transfer Sylvester Williams, who enrolled in January, could fill that role.
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 2
What to watch:
- The search for a new starting quarterback. With Marc Verica graduated, the lead contenders to replace him are the ones who saw the field last year -- Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny. Neither of them started, but Rocco played in six games and Metheny five. Nobody has thrown the ball more than Rocco’s 25 times. The staff will also look at Michael Strauss, who redshirted last year, Miles Gooch, and David Watford, who enrolled in January.
- Competition at running back. With leading rusher Keith Payne graduated, the question becomes what can Kevin Parks do after redshirting last year? There’s a lot of depth at the running back position, but Parks, the No. 56 running back in his class by ESPN.com and national prep record-setter out of the state of North Carolina, came to Charlottesville facing high expectations. With Payne gone, this could open the door for him to meet them, but returning starter Perry Jones will also be competing for carries.
- Development of the receivers. In January, Jared Green Tweeted that he had decided to transfer after finishing his degree in Charlottesville this spring, according to a school spokesman. His departure, coupled with the graduation of Dontrelle Inman, leaves the Cavaliers without two of their top wideouts from 2010. With Tim Smith coming off an injury, the development of other receivers will be critical -- especially with a new starting quarterback.
Spring practice starts: March 30
Spring game: April 23
What to watch:
- Quarterback Logan Thomas. The Tyrod Taylor era is over, and Thomas is the front-runner to succeed the winningest quarterback in school history. Ju-Ju Clayton is the only other quarterback on the roster who’s ever taken a snap, and he’ll push Thomas this spring. It’s Thomas’ job to lose, but the staff is looking for him to improve his accuracy. He played quarterback in only his final two high school seasons and was projected as a tight end. He’s still raw and learning the position, but physically, he’s a clone of Cam Newton. If he develops some poise in the pocket, look out.
- Competition on the defensive line. The Hokies have to replace starters John Graves (defensive tackle) and Steven Friday (defensive end), who both graduated. They’ve got Antoine Hopkins and Chris Drager back, but it’s possible Drager could move back to tight end after starting 10 games at defensive end last year. Tackle Kwamaine Battle, who started the first two games before he tore his ACL and Hopkins took over, is another front-runner. Hopkins’ younger brother, Derrick, will also be in the mix, along with James Gayle and J.R. Collins. Redshirt freshman defensive end Zack McCray, the cousin of Logan Thomas, has also impressed the staff so far.
- Tight end auditions. The graduation of Andre Smith leaves the Hokies with only one returning tight end who’s caught a pass in a game, Randall Dunn (one). Redshirt freshman Eric Martin was the second tight end when the Hokies used two-tight end sets, but he missed three games mid-season with an injury.
Smith's speed would have been an asset to that offense. He got 16 yards on a reverse at USC that was set up with great blocks, and he might have scored had he not been hurt, because he couldn't accelerate.
Dontrelle Inman and Kris Burd have played so well that Smith was the third option in an offense that uses a lot of two-back sets. Jared Green and Matt Snyder played well against VMI, but they lack Smith's speed. Colter Phillips and Joe Torchia at tight end are both great options, which makes losing Smith hurt less. But if Virginia can't run the ball -- in order to work the play-action pass properly -- it won't matter much who's on the receiving end.
According to school spokesman Annabelle Myers, Russell and his brother spoke at the funeral and told countless stories about their dad waking them to throw baseballs to them, and how the three of them would go out and one would play quarterback, one would play wide receiver, and one would play running back.
These are the moments and memories our dads deserve a big thanks for this weekend. In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a look at some of the ACC’s ‘Famous Fathers,’ and the players who share their legacies. Thanks to the sports information directors in the league and Mike Finn in the Greensboro office for making this post possible:
- Redshirt freshman defensive end Max Holloway’s father (Brian) played 10 seasons in the NFL (with Patriots and Raiders). His maternal grandfather, Johnny McKenzie, played 19 seasons in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins.
- Junior wide receiver Chris Fox’s father (Tim) was an All-American at Ohio State under Woody Hayes and played 10 years in the NFL (with the Patriots, Chargers and Rams).
- Redshirt freshman wide receiver Hampton Hughes’ father played for six years for the Dallas Cowboys.
- Junior linebacker Mike Morrissey’s father (Jim) played nine seasons in the NFL for Chicago and Green Bay.
- QB Mike Wade, LB Chris Richardson and Landon Walker: Their fathers, Mike Wade Sr., Chuckie Richardson and Gary Walker, played on the national championship team in 1981.
- Kicker Paul Asack’s father Phil Asack was a 1971 Duke graduate who lettered for three seasons before joining the San Diego Chargers.
- Redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Conor Irwin’s father Tim Irwin played football at the University of Tennessee and in the NFL from 1981-94 with the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins. As an aside, his uncle, King Irwin, played football at Georgia Tech.
- Wide receiver Matt Pridemore’s father Tom Pridemore played at West Virginia and for the Atlanta Falcons.
- Receiver Brandon Braxton’s father David Braxton played for the Minnesota Vikings, Phoenix Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals.
- QB Christian Ponder's father, David, was a defensive lineman at FSU from 1980-83.
- Redshirt freshman defensive end Dan Hicks’ father is former FSU standout and NFL veteran Dan Footman.
- Incoming freshman linebacker Christian Jones’ father, Willie Jones Sr., was a standout defensive end for the Seminoles (1975-78) and a second-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders in 1980 and returned to FSU as a graduate assistant football coach in 1988.
- Quarterback Clint Trickett, who enrolled as a freshman in January and took part in spring practice, is the son of FSU assistant head coach/offensive line coach Rick Trickett. Travis Trickett, another son who has been a videographer in the FSU football program, will be the graduate assistant on offense this season.
- Junior safety Cooper Taylor’s father, JimBob Taylor, played quarterback at Tech.
- Senior wide receiver Kevin Cone’s dad, Ronnie, played running back at Tech.
- Senior running back Lucas Cox’s brother, Michael, was a three-year starter at fullback for Tech and now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Defensive lineman Joe Vellano’s father, Paul, played for Maryland (1971-73). He was an All-American defensive lineman in 1972 and All-ACC in 1972-73.
- Defensive back Austin Walker and defensive lineman Alex Walker are the sons of Doc Walker, who starred at UCLA from 1974-77 before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. He also started at tight end from 1980-85 for the Washington Redskins, playing for the 1982 Super Bowl championship team. Their father is currently a local sports-talk radio host for Sportstalk 980 and also covers ACC football for Raycom television.
- Running back Davin Meggett’s father, Dave, played in the NFL for three different teams -- the New York Giants (1989-1994), the New England Patriots (1995-1997) and the New York Jets (1998).
- Backup quarterback A.J. Highsmith’s father, Alonzo Highsmith, and running back Damien Berry’s father, Kenny Berry, played for Miami. Highsmith played at Miami from 1983-86 and in the NFL for seven years. Berry was at Miami from 1987-89.
- Backup quarterback Spencer Whipple is the son of assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.
- Punter C.J. Feagles’s father, Jeff, is currently the New York Giants punter and has played 21 seasons in the NFL.
- Backup quarterback Bryn Renner’s father, Bill, was a punter at Virginia Tech and for the Green Bay Packers.
- Offensive tackle Brennan Williams’ father, Brent, played in the NFL from 1986-93 with the Patriots, Seahawks and Jets.
- Linebacker Shane Mularkey’s father, Mike, is the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
- R.J. Mattes' father, Ron, played at Virginia, where as a senior in 1984 he was an all-ACC defensive tackle for George Welsh. He also played offensive tackle in the NFL for the Seahawks, the Bears and the Colts. He is now coaching at Virginia as offensive line coach.
- Wide receiver Jared Green is the son of Darrell Green, who was a standout cornerback for the Washington Redskins and a 2008 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jared gave his father’s induction speech at the ceremony.
- Cornerback Chase Minnifield is the son of Frank Minnifield, a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Cleveland Browns, playing from 1984-92.
- Zac Evans is the son of George Evans, who was a starter on the Hokies’ offensive line and lettered from 1979-82.
- Kenny Lewis, Jr., is the son of Kenny Lewis, Sr., a standout running back for the Hokies who is enshrined in the Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
- Beau Warren’s father, Donnie Warren, played 14 years in the NFL for the Washington Redskins.
- Freshman linebacker Chase Williams, who entered school in January, is the son of Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator of the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.
- Linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow is the son of Kurt Gouveia, who was also a starter for the Redskins.
- Wiley Brown’s father, Chuck Brown was deemed the Godfather of GoGo music.
- Quarterback Brendan Cross is the son of former 49ers center Randy Cross.
- Linebacker Joey Ehrmann is the son of Joe Ehrmann, who played for the Colts and Lions.
- Center Chance Raines’ father, Mike, was an All-American at Alabama under Bear Bryant.
- Quarterback Ted Stachitas’ father, Len, is vice president of the National Football Foundation and the executive director of the NFF’s Play It Smart Program, a highly successful youth development program.
It's for a good cause, as this is the same group that organized the fundraising efforts for Ewing Sarcoma Cancer this past season with BC linebacker Mark Herzlich. Virginia raised $8,194.94 for the "Hoos for Herzlich 94" campaign that benefited Uplifting Athletes.
If you're in Charlottesville, the event will take place at Buffalo Wild Wings from 3 to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 in advance and $10 at the door. Funds will go toward Uplifting Athletes' mission to align college football players with the rare disease cause.
The Cavaliers will compete head-to-head against each other to determine a campus champion who will then face the winners from the other five schools to determine an overall winner. The Cavalier players participating are Ras-I Dowling, Paul Freedman, Dom Joseph, Marc Verica, Bobby Smith, Jared Green, Kevin Royal and Mike Ahunamba. Dontrelle Inman will emcee the event.
Participation in the event is part of first-year coach Mike London's "Hoos in the Ville" program that involves members of the Virginia football team in various community service activities.
"It is important that our players get involved in community activities," London said in a prepared statement. "It is a tremendous opportunity to not only benefit some great causes, but to have our players understand they can have a positive impact with many individuals and groups. Our hope is that "Hoos in the Ville" becomes a starting point and that they will continue to be involved in their respective communities well after they graduate from UVa."
OUT FOR SEASON
LB Mark Herzlich (illness)
FOR MARYLAND GAME
RB Rolandan Finch (illness) – DOUBTFUL
LS Jack Geiser (foot) – DOUBTFUL
OG Thomas Claiborne (leg) – QUESTIONABLE
DE Alex Albright (ankle) – QUESTIONABLE
DT Kaleb Ramsey (ankle) – QUESTIONABLE
They're "all in." (Sorry, too easy.)
QB Thaddeus Lewis (leg) -- Probable
RB Re'quan Boyette (leg) -- Questionable
DT Vince Oghobaase (leg) -- Questionable
WR Johnny Williams (knee) -- Questionable
RB Kyle Griswould (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON
OG Mitchell Lederman (foot) -- OUT FOR SEASON
QB Sean Renfree (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON
WR Tyree Watkins (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON
S Anthony Young-Wiseman (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON
76 OT Garrett Faircloth (hip)
70 OT Antwane Greenlee (knee)
51 LB Aaron Gresham (knee)
44 LB Maurice Harris (neck)*
62 OG Rodney Hudson (knee)
97 DT Demonte McAllister (knee)
81 TE Caz Piurowski (knee)*
7 QB Christian Ponder (shoulder)*
74 OT John Prior (knee)
27 CB Xavier Rhodes (thumb)
11 LB Vince Williams (back)
9 WR Richard Goodman (groin)
30 ROV Jajuan Harley (hamstring)
94 DT Justin Mincey (knee)
* - out for the season
Austin Barrick, r-Jr., OT (heel)
Kevin Cone, r-Jr., WR (ankle)
Malcolm Munroe, r-Fr., LB (knee)
Sean Bedford, r-Jr., C (ankle)
Omoregie Uzzi, r-Fr., OL (back)
Anthony Barnes, r-Jr., LB
Out For Season
Robert Hall, r-Jr., DE (knee)
Kyle Jackson, r-So., LB (foot)
Cooper Taylor, So., S (undisclosed)
RB Lee Chambers – Lower Extremity
WR Thearon Collier – Lower Extremity
DB Sam Shields – Lower Extremity
OL Jason Fox – Illness
FB Patrick Hill – Lower Extremity
Surgery and Out for the Season
DL Dyron Dye – Lower Extremity
DL Marcus Forston – Lower Extremity
LB Jordan Futch – Lower Extremity
TE Richard Gordon – Upper Extremity
LB Shayon Green – Lower Extremity
DE Gavin Hardin – Upper Extremity
DB Ryan Hill – Upper Extremity
DB JoJo Nicolas – Upper Extremity
DE Adewale Ojomo – Jaw
Audi Augustin, DE - elbow
Mike Glennon, QB - clavicle
DeAndre Morgan, CB - concussion
OUT FOR SEASON
Mario Carter, TE - knee
Ryan Cheek, LB - hip
Denzelle Good, OL – shoulder
T.J. Graham, WR – stress fracture/leg
Steven Howard, WR - knee
Nate Irving, LB - leg
Colby Jackson, FB – knee
R.J. Mattes, OG - knee
Everett Proctor, QB – shoulder
Jeff Rieskamp, DE – sports hernia
Rashard Smith, CB - knee
Javon Walker, S – knee
James Washington, HB - knee
Joshua Adams WR Shoulder
AJ Blue RB/QB Knee
Curtis Campbell DB Wrist
David Collins OL Foot
Shaun Draughn TB Shoulder
Carl Gaskins OT Knee
Matt Merletti S Knee
Trevor Stuart DS Knee
Ryan Taylor TE Knee
Jamal Womble RB Wrist
Anthony Elzy RB Ankle
Devon Ramsay FB Ankle
Gene Robinson CB Back
Isaac Cain (foot)
Raynard Horne (back)
Torrey Mack (ankle)
Darren Childs (ankle)
Jared Green (shoulder)
Mikell Simpson (leg)
Daniel Childress (ankle)
Matt Conrath (ankle)
Connor McCartin (shoulder)
Jameel Sewell (shoulder)
Patrick Slebonick (leg)
Beau Warren (knee)
Ed Wang (knee)
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Virginia walk-on wide receiver Matt Snyder won’t believe it until he sees it. As in, when he’s on the field Saturday. And William & Mary is lined up across from him. And the whistle has blown.
Only then is his place in the starting lineup official.
Snyder, who joined the team as a walk-on in 2007 and didn’t play in any games last year, didn’t even know he was in the starting lineup for the season opener until Wednesday morning, when a few reporters on a teleconference informed him of it.
“I actually wasn’t aware of that,” he said with a chuckle. “If that’s what it says, that’s great. Nothing is certain until that whistle blows at 6 o’clock, but I’m sure whoever is starting at receiver, whether it be myself or any of the other receivers, I’m sure they’re going to play well and play hard.
“I just tried to keep my nose to the grindstone and keep working and not really worry about where I was or where I wasn’t on the depth chart. Until Saturday, nothing is certain. If I get in the game on Saturday, I’ll be very pleased and feel very blessed. If not, I’ll keep working and go from there.”
Those are modest words from a redshirt sophomore who not only didn’t receive any scholarship offers from FBS schools, but also wasn’t even offered a chance to walk on at any Division I-AA schools. The knock on him was that he wasn’t fast enough, and even now Snyder still doubts his speed, but he’s grateful to Virginia for giving him a chance.
“You know, it feels good to say it now, it didn’t feel so good back then, but I had no scholarship offers,” he said. “… I’m so gracious to Virginia for giving me this opportunity. Like any walk-on, I came here with a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, trying to prove to people I could actually play. It’s been a little bit of motivation."
And it’s obviously paid off.
Virginia enters this season looking for players who can help replace their top five pass catchers a year ago. Coach Al Groh said Snyder had an “excellent camp,” and Snyder was listed as a starter for Saturday, along with Jared Green. Snyder had an impressive spring game, and is expected to also contribute on special teams. Coach Al Groh said he's watched Snyder progress over the past two years.
"Right from the start he was a player that made constant improvement," Groh said. "Every job that he was given, starting with the lowest level job on the scout team when he was a true freshman, progressing through that, he takes maximum advantage of every opportunity to take information, to get coaching, to move forward with what he's doing. He really epitomizes the attitude that real football players have."
Snyder, who grew up in Glen Allen, Va., and was a receiver at Deep Run High School for coach Lenny Pritchard, who lettered at Virginia in 1988. He used to go to Virginia games with his parents and brothers, Jake and Will.
“I was in the stands like, ‘Wow,’ and looking at those guys running out of the tunnel,” he said. “It was always a dream of mine. Not even a goal, but a dream. Through the whole recruiting process, I wasn’t getting recruited by anybody, was confused a little bit. And Mike Groh really came in and gave me that opportunity. He reached out when no one else was. You read all these stories about walk-ons becoming starters, whether it’s at Virginia or any school, that’s motivation for any kid that doesn’t really get any scholarship offers or get many looks at the collegiate level.”
And now Snyder's story can add to that motivation.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Where to begin with this group? How about at the top, since that's where it all starts anyway? Some think Al Groh is on the hot seat, and believe a second straight losing season could -- or even should -- cost him his job. I beg to differ. Groh's contract isn't up until Dec. 31, 2011. If Virginia makes it to a bowl, considering how much turnover there was in both staff and personnel this offseason, it should be considered a heck of a coaching job in a transition year. If Virginia doesn't make it to a bowl game, how many people will really flinch?
The best thing this team has going for it is some experience at quarterback, which wasn't an option last year. Vic Hall, formerly a cornerback, enters summer camp as the first-string quarterback, but will continue to be pushed by 2007 starter Jameel Sewell and 2008 starter Marc Verica. There are definitely worse scenarios. And all of them will be working behind an offensive line that returns four starters -- another strength that was a concern a year ago.
There haven't been anything but positive reviews on the hire of first-year offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon, but only time will tell how long it will take the players to adjust to the spread offense. Only five starters return on offense and six on defense. The positions that took the biggest hits were receiver and linebacker, where both groups must replace three starters from a year ago. Let's get to that now:
1. Who will catch the ball? The three leading receivers from 2008 -- Maurice Covington, Cary Koch and Kevin Ogletree -- were ranked 1-4-5 in receptions last year and combined for 121 receptions. This spring didn't reveal an answer, but maybe the summer will. The front-runners are Jared Green, Dontrelle Inman, Kris Burd and Javaris Brown.
2. How do you replace such an impressive trio of linebackers? You don't. Antonio Appleby, Jon Copper and Clint Sintim ranked 1-2-3 in tackling and combined to start 123 games in their careers. Virginia's leading returning tackler, Hall, is now playing quarterback. Steve Greer, a redshirt freshman, caught Groh's attention this spring, and is listed on the preseason depth chart as a starting inside linebacker along with senior Darren Childs. Groh runs a 3-4 defense, and senior outside linebacker Denzel Burrell is back as a returning starter, so he'll be the leader and the face of the group. Senior Aaron Clark is listed as the starting outside linebacker.
3. Can tailback Mikell Simpson be the player he was in 2007? Quite frankly, he doesn't have much choice. Simpson is a player Groh will depend heavily upon, as there's not much other experience to turn to. But Simpson faded into the background last year after making a name for himself in 2007. That season, he rushed for 570 yards and caught 43 passes for 402 more. Last year, his rushing total fell to 262 yards and he caught just 15 passes. He was also injured in the ninth week against Miami and missed the remainder of the season. Simpson will be the X-factor for Virginia this year.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Tuesday we broke down the quarterbacks in the ACC, so let's figure out who the best targets are in the conference:
1. Miami -- No doubt this is the deepest group in the ACC, and it comes with a wide range of abilities. Seven freshmen were introduced last season, and five of them -- Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier and Davon Johnson -- scored touchdowns. Both Tommy Streeter (wrist surgery) and Kendall Thompkins (shoulder surgery) redshirted last year but should be factors this fall. Leonard Hankerson, a junior, is the veteran of the group.
2. Maryland -- The Terps had nine different scholarship wideouts show promise this spring, so replacing Darrius Heyward-Bey should be a smooth transition. Quintin McCree was the star in the spring game, but all of them have had their moments and should excel in the second season under offensive coordinator James Franklin. Torrey Smith and Ronnie Tyler should build upon last year's success, especially with a veteran quarterback throwing to them in Chris Turner.
3. Virginia Tech -- There are plenty of talented options here, but this was a young group a year ago and it's still a young group. The Hokies have something to prove on offense, and this is the year to do it. They started to turn the corner in the last two or three games of 2008 and can build on that momentum. Jarrett Boykin, Xavier Boyce, Danny Coale, Dyrell Roberts, Brandon Dillard ... depth should not be a problem. Boykin earned eight starts as a true freshman and was second with 30 receptions.
4. Boston College -- When the Eagles figure out who their quarterback is, he'll have dependable options to throw to. Rich Gunnell caught a team-high 49 passes and four touchdowns with 551 yards last year. He also returned punts and brought one back 65 yards for a score against Virginia Tech. Justin Jarvis caught 25 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns last season and will work for the other starting job. Ifeanyi Momah will look to prove that he can be more than just a situational receiver while Clarence Megwa is working to return in the fall after suffering a devastating leg injury against Clemson last season.
5. NC State -- Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer are ready to elevate their games as redshirt juniors, and now have one season as starters to build upon. Their chemistry with Russell Wilson should be better and they were No. 3 in the ACC in passing offense a year ago. Williams caught 26 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns in 2008. Spencer could be a big-play threat if he cuts down on the dropped balls.
6. Clemson -- Jacoby Ford and ... Jacoby Ford. He's one of the fastest athletes in the country and will likely be the best solo receiver in the ACC, but he'll draw all of the coverage until one of his teammates becomes a legitimate concern for opposing defenses. It will be up to Xavier Dye, Marquan Jones and Terrence Ashe to help Ford out.
7. Georgia Tech -- This should be one of the more improved units on the Jackets' roster. It was very thin last year (they started a freshman walk-on at Virginia Tech), but should have better depth this season. Demaryius Thomas should be one of the best wideouts in the conference, and he'll have more help this year with the return of sophomores Tyler Melton and Luke Fisher.
8. Florida State -- It's the Noles' lone question mark on offense, but the cupboard isn't completely bare, and Christian Ponder has plenty of confidence in the players who are there. Louis Givens, Jarmon Fortson and Bert Reed. If Taiwan Easterling heals from his Achilles injury and they get their suspended players back, this group could impress.
9. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons have to replace D.J. Boldin, but they've got enough players that the depth and speed should actually improve overall. Chris Givens and Terence Davis, both redshirts last year, impressed the staff this spring. They'll team with Devon Brown, Marshall Williams and Jordan Williams.
10. Duke -- Zero seniors. Not a good sign for a team trying to win more than one ACC game. It's not like the cupboard is bare, though. The Blue Devils will be led by sophomores Johnny Williams and Donovan Varner, who had six catches for 116 yards in the spring game. Williams finished second on the team last year with 30 catches for 327 yards. Freshmen Conner Vernon, Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins could all push for playing time.
11. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels took a huge hit in this department and it's obviously their biggest concern heading into summer camp. It's not like they don't have players ready and willing to start, but there's nothing that can compensate for game experience, which only Greg Little has. The next most experienced receiver is Rashad Mason, who played in the Rutgers game.
12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers lost their top four receivers from last year, and coach Al Groh didn't notice that "go-to guy" yet this past spring. Sophomore Jared Green leads the returnees with 12 catches for 144 yards a year ago. Kris Burd caught seven passes as a redshirt freshman last year, and the expectations are obviously higher now.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
From the outside looking in, Virginia is in store for another long season: The top three linebackers from 2008 are gone. The top four receivers are gone. The leading rusher is gone.
But, receiver Jared Green said, they each left something behind.
"They left something in us, that same work ethic, that same drive and people will see that it's new players but it's the same attitude that coach [Al] Groh has instilled into all of us," said Green. "It just continues to be the same attitude, that we just don't crack and we go hard."
When spring practices concluded in Charlottesville, Groh said that he was still looking for that go-to receiver. Next month will be the time to find one, and Green is the leading returning receiver from a year ago with 12 catches for 144 yards, but said he is working like nothing has been promised to him. Kris Burd caught seven passes last year and will need to produce more this fall. Dontrelle Inman finished with 17 receptions as a true freshman two years ago, but saw his total fall to two catches in 2008, while Staton Jobe saw his catches drop from 17 to one.
"There's a burden over the shoulders of the receivers this year and there's a lot we need to do to accomplish and really establish ourselves," Green said. "We need to be the guys they can call on and they can count on. As long as we do our job, I think the coaches will be pleased."
Green said the players are "very hungry" after the disappointing finish to last season and called first-year offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon "a genius." This spring was spent learning the new offense and continuing that progress this summer will be critical.
"I don't think it's so much I had to learn, but I think it's that I had to challenge myself to change the way that we operate," Green said. "It's a different type of offense, but I don't think it's the learning of the offense, it's the attitude of the West Coast-type offense. It's a little different. It's more fast paced. You just need to be ready for that and that's why this summer is so important; the training and getting ready for a fast-paced season.
"I feel like, and I can speak for all the receivers, we all have a lot to do," he said. "There's a lot of numbers we need to make as well as the quarterbacks, the running backs, all the skill positions, there's a lot of work for us to do. I feel like the sky is the limit."
When Green first met Groh, one of the first things his coach taught him was to never give in or feed in to the outside speculation. That's why Green chose to look at what the Cavaliers have coming back instead of what they lost.
"He always says we just don't crack," Green said. "I think that really speaks to the whole program, no matter what's going on, no matter how the situation is looking, no matter what the people are saying, we just don't crack. I really use that and apply it in a lot of different areas."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here are a few more worthwhile links for you to check out today:
- Despite the recent turmoil Miami has gone through, it's still a top destination for recruits.
- Boston College is letting some good coaches get away, and Tom Dienhart says athletic director Gene DeFilippo is to blame. Might former coach Jeff Jagodzinski wind up as offensive coordinator of the 49ers?
- Maryland got some additions to its roster.
- Virginia receiver Jared Green has high hopes for this season -- and an NFL legacy to live up to.