ACC: Jeffrey Fitzgerald
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Two Virginia players were arrested, according to this report by NBC29. According to the report, the two men, junior offensive lineman Will Barker and redshirt freshman lineman Dave Roberts, admitted to police to "stealing beer from a cooler at the [Club 216] nightclub."
Barker is listed as the starting right tackle on the preseason depth chart -- one of only two starters returning there -- and Roberts is a walk-on who redshirted last year. Virginia coach Al Groh hasn't yet put out a statement, but if he does, I'll post it.
Yes, kids will be kids, and it's easy to forget we're talking about college students sometimes, but how many incidents does it take before off-field issues are considered a problem? Let's consider what's happened so far in Charlottesville:
- Four players, including former quarterback Jameel Sewell, were in academic trouble.
- Defensive end Jeffrey Fitzgerald transferred for personal reasons.
- Junior defensive back Mike Brown is facing criminal charges.
- Barker and Roberts were arrested.
I'd say the Cavaliers have reached the point of concern, and winning football games isn't even the start of it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Lotta questions, keep 'em coming, but feel free to ask them live on Monday at noon if you don't see your answers here. I'm scheduled for a chat. Until then ....
Jon G. from Hope Mills, N.C., writes: Heather, how is it that no one seems to be giving Virginia Tech much love lately? It seems like everyone is only saying they're going to win the Coastal because of the lack of competition. Last time I checked, VT had become the class of the ACC, either winning the championship or being in the championship 3 of the last 4 years. Not to mention how everyone seems to think Clemson will run over VT in Tampa Bay. Am I the only person that remembers the hype behind "Thunder and Lightning" last year before their embarrassing 12 total yards? I know the defense lost some great talent, but can anyone honestly remember the last time Bud Foster didn't put one of the best defenses in college football out there? C'mon! Show us some love.
Heather Dinich: Jon, first of all, the media voted your Hokies No. 1 in the Coastal Division, so I'd say that's showing some love, regardless of the reason behind it. And yes, one of those reasons is the rest of the division, but another very important one is the coaching staff. Here's the thing, though: When you lose your top four receivers, your top running back -- the list goes on. You've got to earn some love, too.
Danet, from Reno, writes: Hi Heather. I know Duke gets really no love or attention in these blogs, and for good reason...But I have a Blue Devil football question. With Thaddeus Lewis coming back and looking like one of the better QB's in the ACC (pathetic isn't it?), I ask you if you'd take over or under 3 wins for the Blue Devils this year. Keep in mind they have James Madison & Northwestern on the schedule.
Heather Dinich: Dante, I've said this before and I'll say it again -- This is an equal opportunity blog. Your Blue Devils will get coverage here. And yes, Thad Lewis is one of the better returning quarterbacks in the ACC. As for your win total, I've said they have the talent to win those first three. I just don't know if they have the confidence.
Todd in Raleigh, writes: Heather: I've enjoyed reading your blog! It's good to let people know the ACC is still an actual football conference, contrary to popular belief. Speaking of the conference, all I have heard about is how down it is. Even though I don't totally agree with that, what is keeping a team like NC State (or maybe a Maryland) from creeping up on everyone this season? Seems like the favorites (esp. VT) are favorites based on history. Won't the ACC be WIDE open this year?
Heather Dinich: Todd, thanks for reading. If the ACC weren't an actual football conference, I'd be looking for a job. People will say the conference is "down" until its 1-9 record in BCS bowl games isn't so lopsided. There is absolutely a chance a team like Maryland will throw somebody off, but I'm telling you -- I've talked to other coaches and assistants throughout the league, and even they admit Clemson is loaded. No excuses this year for the Tigers.
SavannahHOO writes: Why are you laughing because one reporter voted the Wahoos #1 in the Coastal? Your slam against Al Groh and the Wahoo's just shows your lack of in depth team reporting. Weren't they suppose to finish last last year? Looked what happen. They may lose to USC (I don't think so) but they will do alright in the conference. Typical from the VT network.
Heather Dinich: Um, you don't have to be an investigative reporter to know that Virginia lost its quarterback. Lost Chris Long. Lost Jeffrey Fitzgerald. Lost Branden Albert. Not to mention both starting tight ends, three defensive linemen, the place kicker and punter -- from a team that barely won five of its games last year. If Virginia couldn't win the ACC title (let alone beat Virginia Tech) will all of those guys, why on earth would you vote for them to win it without them?
Don in Washington, D.C. writes: I was pretty confident that the Wolfpack are fielding a team this year, but from your articles I can't find anything. Is it really that bad in Raleigh this year?
Heather Dinich: Eh, it could be worse. But Anthony Hill is certainly confident. And Russell Wilson is ready to be quarterback. But Tom O'Brien likes Mike Glennon, too. Not that I've talked to anyone in Raleigh to find out or anything ...
Tom, in Ambridge, Pa., writes: Can Nigel Bradham become an immediate impact player in the Florida State linebacking corps?
Heather Dinich: Yes, especially considering their situation there.
Scott, in Sacramento writes: What should I really be expecting from the Miami Hurricanes this year? Is there a chance they surpise people and go 7-1 in conference and 10-2 overall or is that just a year or two away.
Heather Dinich: Scott, Randy Shannon said he doesn't think this team will be that much better than last year, but it will be more competitive. They're much deeper. My guess is a mediocre bowl game, and eight wins might be pushing it.
Mike writes: Every year BC gets no RESPECT, but since they have been in the Acc they have dominated!!!
Heather Dinich: Sorry, Mike, I must've missed that ACC title. You do have a point, though -- BC is 10-5 against its Atlantic Division opponents, 6-4 against the Coastal. That's a 16-9 record spanning 2005-2007. Not bad.
Patrick, at the Little Rock AFB writes: Heather I am a huge college football fan and I honeslty eat, sleep and breathe it. My question for you is, how do I get in the profession of covering a conference like yourself? I am going ot be honest, I do not want to go to school for journalism or anything like that, but I do know football.
Heather Dinich: No J-school? Try coaching ... I'm sure some jobs will open up after the season.
Somebody in Jacksonville writes: you do a great job..who is the best coach you have ever been around ?
Heather Dinich: That's tough. I've covered Bob Knight, Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Granted, the pool at the Ritz, the lake and the top shelf drinks were somewhat of a distraction this past weekend, but I didn't forget to finish up the remaining position battles left in the ACC. You guys have been doing a great job of reminding me if I'm too heavy on one school or another, so keep keeping me balanced.
All the more reason not to forget the end of the alphabet.
Here's a look at the top spots still up for grabs in Charlottesville, and since there are only 10 returning starters, get comfy:
QUARTERBACK -- This is the most obvious spot, but according to Al Groh, there's not an obvious candidate. It's not like he hasn't dealt with this before. It's the fourth time in Groh's tenure at Virginia that the quarterback job has been contested during fall camp. Scott Deke, Peter Lalich and Marc Verica split time during the spring. Lalich has the most experience, as he completed 35 of 61 passes for 321 yards and two TDs as a true freshman last season. Deke, a senior, played in one game last year and was the starter in the spring game, while Verica, a sophomore, has yet to play.
KICKER/PUNTER -- The most likely replacement for placekicker Chris Gould would be redshirt freshman Chris Hinkebein. The situation at punter is wide open. Senior John Thornton joined the team as a walk-on two years ago but has never played, nor has sophomore Nathan Rathjen, who rejoined the team in the spring after not being on the roster in '07 (he walked on in 2006). Jimmy Howell was one of the team's signees in February and could be in the mix as well. Groh has used true freshmen as punters before (Tom Hagan in 2002, Gould in '04).
DEFENSIVE LINE -- The only thing we're certain of here is who's gone. Junior nose tackle Nate Collins worked with the first unit during the spring in place of the graduated Allen Billyk. Collins has significant experience and is likely to be backed up by redshirt freshman Nick Jenkins, a promising player.
Alex Field, a 6-foot-7, 270-pound senior, is probably going to be Chris Long's replacement at one end. He got the most work there this spring. Redshirt freshman Zane Parr will also be given a chance to get in the rotation.
Sophomore Sean Gottschalk finished with four tackles in nine games last season and will battle redshirt freshman Matt Conrath at the other end spot formerly manned by Jeffrey Fitzgerald. Conrath has good size at 6-foot-7, 269 and is still growing into his body.
OFFENSIVE LINE -- Both tackles are back, including Eugene Monroe, who might be the best left tackle in the league. Center will be contested between sophomore Jack Shields and redshirt freshman Anthony Mihota. Shields, who came to Virginia as a tight end, played in only one game last year. Senior Zak Stair and junior Patrick Slebonick will start out in the competition to replace first-round draft pick Branden Albert at left guard. Stair, previously a tackle, moved inside this spring. Slebonick has made just one appearance in his career. Sophomore B.J. Cabbell took the most snaps at right guard in the spring and is trying to replace the graduated Ian-Yates Cunningham. He's expected to battle redshirt freshman Billy Cuffee.
Check back tomorrow for Virginia Tech, and I'll wrap it up on Friday with Wake Forest.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
1. Georgia Tech: This veteran defense should help take some heat off the offense while it figures itself out. Senior tackles Vance Walker and Darryl Richard, along with defensive end Michael Johnson are legitimate NFL draft picks and should have their best seasons yet under first-year coordinator Dave Wommack.
2. Clemson: Three of the four starters return, including seniors Dorell Scott and Rashaad Jackson, and junior Ricky Sapp, who had 10 tackles for loss, five sacks and 22 quarterback pressures as a sophomore when he started all 13 games. And don't forget freshman Da'Quan Bowers, who will work his way into the rotation at defensive end with Kevin Alexander as they try to fill the void left by Phillip Merling.
3. Boston College: The Eagles had the No. 1 rushing defense in 2007 (75.5 yards per game), and that was without academically ineligible B.J. Raji and injured end Alex Albright, who had 8.5 sacks despite missing the last few games with a broken left forearm. Now they're back, along with senior tackle Ron Brace.
4. Florida State: Defensive end Everette Brown is the leader of this group and could be one of the best in the ACC. He led the team in sacks last year, when he was in a part-time role, and led all linemen in tackles and tackles for loss. Benjamin Lampkin converted from linebacker to end in the Music City Bowl. Budd Thacker started eight games last season and missed four because of an injury. Paul Griffin didn't start a game last year, but had 6.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
5. Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have to replace their top end in Jeremy Thompson, and fifth-year senior Anthony Davis, his backup, will inherit the job. Matt Robinson missed 2006 with a broken kneecap and then suffered a high ankle sprain last season and missed the three games. He was granted a sixth year of eligibility and will play as a grad student. Their strength will be inside with returning starter Boo Robinson at nose guard. John Russell is simmering with potential. Ted Randolph moved from tight end to defensive tackle midseason last year.
6. Virginia Tech: Only three ends with playing experience and one tackle return. Redshirt senior Orion Martin is the only returning lineman who started every game last season. Redshirt sophomore Jason Worilds should be No. 1 at the other end spot heading into fall and Nekos Brown and Steven Friday are competing for the backup spots. Demetrius Taylor has moved inside to tackle and will compete with John Graves, Cordarrow Thompson and a few others.
7. Duke: Junior tackle Vince Oghobaase is the real deal. He had 12 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last season. He's one of four returning starters, along with defensive ends Greg Akinbiyi and Wesley Oglesby, and defensive tackle Ayanga Okpokowuruk.
8. Miami: Hurricane fans have good reason to be excited about freshman Marcus Forston, but there's little that's certain about this line. Allen Bailey's move here from linebacker should help, but this offseason he's been slowed by a pectoral injury. Eric Moncur has struggled to stay healthy, along with Courtney Harris. Senior left tackle Antonio Dixon, Joe Joseph and Dwayne Hendricks are competing with Forston for the tackle spots.
9. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace two of the league's best linemen in tackle Kentwan Balmer and end Hilee Taylor. There are plenty of options at tackle, where Aleric Mullins is a returning starter, but Taylor's absence will be felt. Darrius Massenburg broke his wrist and didn't participate this spring, Darius Powell is more of a third-down guy, and Vince Jacobs is a converted tight end.
10. Maryland: Jeremy Navarre is the veteran of this group, having started a team-high 35 games, and should move from end to tackle. Mack Frost is expected to take Navarre's end position, but he missed this spring because of knee surgery. Trey Covington has plenty of experience at the Terps' LEO position, which is a hybrid defensive end/linebacker. More is expected of nose tackle Travis Ivey, who played sparingly last year mostly in goal-line situations. Walk-on Bemi Otulaja passed him on the depth chart this spring.
11. NC State: Defensive end Willie Young and tackle Alan-Michael Cash are two certainties in an otherwise questionable line. While the move of Ted Larsen and John Bedics helped out the offensive line, it hurt the depth on defense. Markus Kuhn is a viable option at defensive end, and Antoine Holmes could help at tackle.
12. Virginia: With Chris Long and the lone answer to his departure, Jeffrey Fitzgerald, no longer on the team, the Cavaliers have a serious hole to fill, and there's not much experience at end to choose from. Alex Field played sparingly in every game and Sean Gottschalk played in nine.
2:00 PM ET Washington State Colorado State 3:30 PM ET 20 Fresno State 25 USC 5:30 PM ET Buffalo San Diego State 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
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11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State