ACC: Jerrard Tarrant

Georgia Tech spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
5/05/11
9:30
AM ET
GEORGIA TECH

2010 overall record: 6-7

2010 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense 5

Top returners

WR Stephen Hill, AB Roddy Jones, AB Orwin Smith, G Omoregie Uzzi, DE Jason Peters, DT Logan Walls, OLB Steven Sylvester, ILB Julian Burnett, OG Will Jackson, DE Izaan Cross

Key losses

QB Joshua Nesbitt, RB Anthony Allen, C Sean Bedford, CB Dominique Reese, CB Mario Butler, ILB Brad Jefferson, S Jerrard Tarrant, PK Scott Blair

2011 Schedule

Sept. 1 Western Carolina

Sept. 10 at Middle Tennessee

Sept. 17 Kansas

Sept. 24 North Carolina

Oct. 1 at NC State

Oct. 8 Maryland

Oct. 15 at Virginia

Oct. 22 at Miami

Oct. 29 Clemson

Nov. 5 Open

Nov. 10 Virginia Tech

Nov. 19 at Duke

Nov. 26 Georgia

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Allen (1,316 yards)

Passing:Nesbitt (674 yds)

Receiving: Hill* (291 yds)

Tackles: Burnett (89)

Sacks: Jefferson (4)

Interceptions:Tarrant (3)

Spring answers

1. A new attitude. There were some disgruntled players on the roster last year, but that disenchantment has been replaced by charismatic leaders like Jason Peters and Roddy Jones. The sense of complacency has been replaced by a stronger work ethic, as the players now realize that ACC championships don’t come without offseason dedication.

2. An improved defense. The Jackets aren’t exactly going to pitch shutouts, but despite losing six starters, the defense had a good spring. The entire front seven had the advantage for most of the spring, all three starters return on the defensive line, and the linebackers showed progress. It was obvious the players are more comfortable in the second season of Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme.

3. A-back is a strength.Georgia Tech has at least six players who can play the position, including Jones, a senior leader, Orwin Smith, a big-play candidate, and Embry Peeples, who may be one of the best receivers on the team. The Jackets are also confident in B.J. Bostic, who impressed Johnson as a true freshman. Those four players combined to run for 1,283 yards last year, and Georgia Tech could get additional yardage from redshirt freshman Tony Zenon, who also had a good spring.

Fall questions

1. Will Tevin Washington keep his job?Washington still has the edge and is the starter heading into summer camp, but there are some lingering questions after his performance in the spring game. He threw three interceptions, lost two fumbles, was sacked three times and completed 10 of 26 passes. Backup Synjyn Days ran for 112 yards and led his team to a 21-7 win. Add to the mix a pair of true freshmen, including highly-touted Vad Lee, and it could make for an interesting August.

2. Will the offensive line be better?It’s not for a lack of experience -- Omoregie Uzzi was a second-team all-conference lineman last year, Phil Smith is a returning starting tackle and sophomore guard Will Jackson has nine career starts. It’s simply that the group didn’t play very well this spring and depth is a question. Jay Finch is expected to take over for Bedford at center, but Uzzi will be the leader of the line.

3. Special teams concerns. It was an area of emphasis for coach Paul Johnson this spring, as it should have been. The Jackets need to solidify their starting kicker and punter, and all three field goal attempts were missed in the spring game, though two were distances of 47 and 49 yards. Kicker Justin Moore, the lone scholarship kicker competing this spring, hasn’t distanced himself from the four walk-ons who played in the spring game. Punter isn’t as much of a concern, where Sean Poole had nine starts last year, but the return games also need improvement.

ACC NFL prospects still in limbo

May, 4, 2011
5/04/11
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As the NFL lockout still continues, the professional careers of several former ACC players remain in limbo. Any players hoping to extend their playing days as undrafted free agents must wait until the NFL's labor issues are resolved. There is significant, proven talent on this list -- names I've typed countless times for their accomplishments in the ACC -- but don't forget that the NFL is based more on potential than it is on past production. I searched all of these players' names in ESPN.com's NFL player database, and North Carolina's Kendric Burney and Clemson's DeAndre McDaniel received the highest grades (over 60, which is considered fourth-round equivalent). Most of them were graded in the 30s, which means they are considered a borderline draft prospect. Regardless of where they wind up in the future, their contributions in the past certainly won't be forgotten.

These are the players who were invited to the combine but not drafted, according to the NFL's draft tracker:

Anthony Allen satisfied with Ravens

May, 2, 2011
5/02/11
3:00
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Former Georgia Tech b-back Anthony Allen had expected to hear his name called sooner, but as the 225th player chosen in this year's NFL draft, Allen said it was a strong finish to a slow day. He became the third running back drafted from Georgia Tech since 2008, joining Tashard Choice (2008 by the Cowboys) and Jonathan Dwyer (2010 by Pittsburgh).

“Seriously, it was a long day, but I had faith, and I couldn’t be happier about the place I’m going," Allen said, according to the school's release. "The Baltimore Ravens are a great organization.”

Since 2000, no NFL team has drafted more Georgia Tech players than Baltimore. In 2006, the Ravens drafted running back P.J. Daniels and safety Dawan Landry. The Ravens also drafted former Yellow Jackets linebacker Ron Rogers in 1998.

Several former Yellow Jackets still hope to sign NFL free agent contracts, including defensive backs Jerrard Tarrant, Mario Butler and Mario Edwards. The NFL lockout must first be resolved.

Overall, it was a quiet weekend for the Jackets, as Georgia Tech had its fewest number of players drafted since no Yellow Jackets were taken in 2005.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 2, 2011
3/02/11
12:00
PM ET
It's quiet out there today, guys ...

Spring preview: Coastal Division

February, 15, 2011
2/15/11
10:00
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We've already looked at who and what to watch in the Atlantic Division this spring. Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program in the Coastal Division:

DUKE

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.
GEORGIA TECH

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.
MIAMI

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.
NORTH CAROLINA

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.
VIRGINIA

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.
VIRGINIA TECH

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.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
9:00
AM ET
The official list for the NFL combine has been released. A total of 48 players from the ACC have been invited to audition for the NFL from February 23 – March 1. When categorized by school, it's somewhat of a reality check to see how many of the best players in the conference are moving on, and which programs will take the biggest hit. It's impossible not to wonder how good North Carolina could have been had all of the following players remained eligible. The Tar Heels will send the most players to the combine with 11.

Here are the players who will represent the ACC:

BOSTON COLLEGE (3)
  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Rich Lapham
  • Mark Herzlich
CLEMSON (7)
  • Da'Quan Bowers
  • Marcus Gilchrist
  • Chris Hairston
  • Jamie Harper
  • Jarvis Jenkins
  • Byron Maxwell
  • DeAndre McDaniel
FLORIDA STATE (3)
GEORGIA TECH (3)
MARYLAND (3)
MIAMI (9)
NORTH CAROLINA (11)
NC STATE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
  • Danny Aiken
  • Ras-I Dowling
VIRGINIA TECH (5)

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 14, 2011
1/14/11
12:30
PM ET
New coaches everywhere in the ACC ...

What are they thinking?!

January, 14, 2011
1/14/11
10:00
AM ET
Maybe I'm the one who's a little off. I've got plenty of friends, family, colleagues -- and readers -- who can vouch for that. But ...

This has been a curious offseason in the ACC:
  • Two coaches with winning records, clean programs and bowl-bound players were fired. North Carolina's Butch Davis, who is still tangled up in an NCAA investigation that derailed the season for at least half his starting lineup, continues to coach.
  • Maryland AD Kevin Anderson made a "business decision" to fire the ACC's Coach of the Year and replaced him with the Big East Coach of the Year.
  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney fired his young offensive coordinator and hired one with one year of collegiate experience. He fired a running backs coach and replaced him with a former receivers coach who has never coached running backs.
  • Miami coach Al Golden hired an offensive coordinator -- Seattle Seahawks quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch -- with the same amount of collegiate experience as Clemson's new coordinator, and even most NFL experts don't know a thing about him. (And P.S., that one season Fisch was Minnesota's offensive coordinator? The Gophers ranked No. 111 in rushing offense, No. 109 in total offense, and No. 100 in scoring offense).
  • Wait, Miami hired Temple's coach?
  • Boston College has a chance to inject some life into its offense, but instead it is more likely to promote somebody from within as its offensive coordinator.
  • Three players -- Georgia Tech offensive tackle Nick Claytor, safety Jerrard Tarrant, and Clemson running back Jamie Harper have all decided to leave school early to enter the NFL draft. If you're not a first-round pick, stay in school -- unless you're Darren Evans and have a wife and kid, or some other special circumstance. If any of those guys do, I apologize because I'm not aware of it.

Am I the only one really scratching my head over these moves? Now, I could be wrong and all of these decisions and hires might raise the ACC to unprecedented heights. Two new head coaches, four new offensive coordinators -- maybe they'll be just the spark the conference needs to push it into national relevance. Maybe all of those unheralded NFL hopefuls will go on to have long, lucrative professional careers and donate to my kid's college fund.

Right now, though? One word comes to mind: Gamble.

Paul Hornung watch list announced

August, 17, 2010
8/17/10
2:28
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The watch list for the inaugural Paul Hornung Award that will be given annually to the most versatile player in major college football was announced Tuesday.

From the release:
The Watch List, comprised of 48 players, was compiled by a panel of college football experts based on 2009 statistics and expectations heading into the 2010 season. The list will be updated during the course of the season based on players' performances.

Nearly half of the players -- a total of 23 -- do not appear on any major college football award watch list published to date. Most candidates had a minimum of three different "touches" in 2009 -- catching, running, passing, returning kicks, returning punts, holding for placements, tackling, deflecting / intercepting a pass or recovering a fumble.

Here are the ACC's representatives:

Graig Cooper, Miami

Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech

Greg Reid, Florida State

Dyrell Roberts, Virginia Tech

Da'Norris Searcy, North Carolina

Torrey Smith, Maryland

Jerrard Tarrant, Georgia Tech

All-ACC bowl team

January, 12, 2010
1/12/10
11:02
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Bowl season deserves more than just helmet stickers. It deserves its own team. Regardless of whether they won or lost, these ACC players had an impact this postseason. Here is your 2009 All-ACC bowl team:

[+] EnlargeRyan Williams
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIRyan Williams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Offense and Special Teams

QB: E.J. Manuel, Florida State: The Gator Bowl MVP completed 17 of 24 passes for 189 yards, had 73 rushing yards on 14 carries and one touchdown with zero turnovers. He led the Noles to 415 total yards in their 33-21 win over No. 18 West Virginia.

RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech: Williams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Tennessee. He finished the season with 1,655 rushing yards and broke Kevin Jones' single-season school record (1,647).

RB: Jermaine Thomas, Florida State: He had 121 yards rushing on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He also had one catch for nine yards and posted his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He led FSU back from a 14-3 first quarter deficit against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

WR: Rich Gunnell, Boston College: Gunnell finished with six catches for 130 yards, breaking Pete Mitchell's school record for yards receiving with 2,659 in his career. His 61-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter closed the gap to 14-13 against USC in the Emerald Bowl.

WR: Greg Little, UNC: He finished with seven catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Pitt in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

WR: Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech: His 64-yard reception to the Tennessee 3 in the final seconds of the first half was a major turning point in the game. The Vols had already begun to head to the locker room, but officials determined there were still two seconds left on the clock. The play led to Matt Waldron’s 21-yard field goal and a 17-14 halftime lead. Boykin finished with four catches for 120 yards.

TE: Jimmy Graham, Miami: He had three catches for 30 receiving yards against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl and became the seventh Hurricane to record at least 200 receiving yards this season. Graham closed out his only season with the Canes with 15 catches for 213 yards and five touchdowns.

OL: Ed Wang, Virginia Tech: In his final performance, Wang paved the way for a career-day for Williams, and helped the Hokies rack up 438 total yards of offense.

OL: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech: Like Wang, Render was impressive in his final performance as a Hokie, and helped Virginia Tech use a balanced offense and gave quarterback Tyrod Taylor the time he needed to make plays.

OL: Rodney Hudson, Florida State: The All-American returned to the lineup after missing two games with knee sprain and helped FSU rack up 415 total yards, 37 minutes time of possession and he did not allow a sack.

OL: Andrew Datko, Florida State: He teamed with Hudson on the left side (where two of three rushing touchdowns came) and kept a WVU team averaging 2.6 sacks per game without one.

OL: Dalton Freeman, Clemson: He graded out at 80 percent with seven knockdowns. Freeman was key to Clemson averaging 5.5 yards per rush and a Clemson bowl record 6.8 yards per play against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.

K: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State: He tied a school bowl record converting 4 of 5 field goal attempts and scoring a season-high 15 points on a windy day. His 42-yarder at the end of the first half pulled FSU within 14-13.

P: Chandler Anderson, Georgia Tech: He had a career-high seven punts with an average of 49.1 yards and a long of 59 yards. Three of his punts were downed inside the 20 and only one was returned.

Spc: C.J. Spiller, Clemson: Spiller finished his career with 172 all-purpose yards (68 rushing, 57 receiving), giving him an ACC record 2,670 for the season and 7,588 for his career. He finished his career in second place in FBS history in all-purpose yards.

Defense

DL: John Graves, Virginia Tech: He sacked Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton in the second quarter for the first sack of his career. He also recovered a fumble, forced a fumble and finished with three solo tackles.

DL: E.J. Wilson, North Carolina: He forced two first-half fumbles and posted five on the season after registering just one over his first three years at Carolina. He finished with five tackles and one sack for a loss of eight yards.

DL: Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech: Morgan's individual stats weren't all that impressive for his final game as a Jacket, but the Tech defense (surprise!) kept the Yellow Jackets in the game, allowing just seven points after the first quarter. Morgan did have three tackles and a half-tackle for loss, but he was double- and triple-teamed all night.

LB: Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech: The defensive MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl finished with seven tackles, including three tackles for loss and one sack.

LB: Luke Kuechly, Boston College: He had 16 tackles (6 solos, 10 assists), and 0.5 TFL in the Emerald Bowl.

LB: Darryl Sharpton, Miami: He recorded a career-high 15 tackles (10 solo, five assists). It marked the third straight game that Sharpton recorded double-digit tackles.

LB: Kavell Conner, Clemson: He had 15 tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, which was the key play of the game. The fumble came with Clemson leading 14-13 and it set up Spiller’s touchdown to put the Tigers ahead 21-13.

CB: Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech: He intercepted Crompton’s pass in the first quarter and returned it to the Tennessee 44, setting up the Hokies’ first score of the game. The interception marked the sixth of the season for Carmichael, a team-high.

CB: Jerrard Tarrant, Georgia Tech: He returned an interception for a touchdown -- Tech's first points of the game against Iowa in the Orange Bowl -- and Tarrant's fourth non-offensive touchdown of the season. He also forced a fumble, broke up a pass and had six solo tackles.

S: Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech: He had a team-high eight tackles, all of them solo tackles, and he forced a fumble.

S: DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson: He had 15 tackles, including two tackles for loss. He was a big reason Kentucky had just 277 yards total offense and just one touchdown, their second lowest figure of the year in terms of points in the 21-13 Clemson win.

Halftime analysis: Iowa 14, Georgia Tech 7

January, 5, 2010
1/05/10
9:55
PM ET
MIAMI, Fla. -- This game is far from over, but so far Iowa has controlled most of the game, and the Hawkeyes' defense has been the highlight. Here's a quick breakdown of the first half:

Turning point: Jerrard Tarrant's 40-yard interception return for a touchdown with 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter single-handedly changed the momentum of the game and kept the Jackets in it.

Stat of the half: Iowa's defense has held the Yellow Jackets to just 32 yards of total offense in the first half. That's the fewest the program has produced in the first half in at least 20 years.

Best player in the half: Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi. He's made an impressive comeback after missing the final two and a half regular season games with an ankle injury. Although he's thrown one interception -- and a costly one at that -- he's done the Hawkeyes more good than harm. Stanzi has completed 12 of 17 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns, and he's beat the Yellow Jackets deep on several occasions.

Pregame notes from the Orange Bowl

January, 5, 2010
1/05/10
7:34
PM ET
MIAMI, Fla. -- It's almost showtime here at Land Shark Stadium, where the temperature is supposed to drop to the 30s tonight and set a record-low for the city. It's already the coldest Orange Bowl in history, as the record low was 57 degrees for the game between Kansas and Virginia Tech two years ago (I was here for that one, too, go figure). Regardless, it will probably feel like spring time to Iowa, and right now, watching the crowd fill up, Iowa fans could care less if it were a blizzard here. They're already on their feet, waving their gold pom poms, and far outnumber Georgia Tech fans.

There are no lineup changes for Georgia Tech, but Jerrard Tarrant will start at corner over Rashaad Reid. I'm still waiting on Iowa's lineup changes. The officials are an SEC crew.

With Georgia Tech ranked No. 9 and Iowa No. 10, it's the first time the Jackets have played in a game involving two top 10 teams since 1999, when No. 1-ranked Florida State beat No. 10 Georgia Tech, 41-35, in Tallahassee. That helps put into perspective just how big this game is for the program, which is making its first appearance in a major bowl since 1967.

The underlying matchup we've talked about at length is Iowa's defense against Georgia Tech's offense, but there are a few intangibles at play here, too. How rusty will Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi be after missing the last two games with an ankle injury? How much progress has Georgia Tech's defense made during this long layoff? With both teams proven winners in close, fourth-quarter games, who has the edge if it's close? All questions that will soon be answered. We should know early who sets the tone in this game. If Iowa's defense doesn't figure out Paul Johnson's offense quickly, it could be a long night for the Hawkeyes.

Pregame notes

December, 5, 2009
12/05/09
7:49
PM ET
TAMPA, Fla. -- Raymond James Stadium is starting to fill up, and while there might be more Clemson fans here, the Georgia Tech fans are making themselves heard with their "Yellow-Jackets" chant.

The lone roster change is on Georgia Tech's sideline, where cornerback Rashaad Reid will start in place of Jerrard Tarrant.

The question is which defense shows up tonight. Both teams have showed their vulnerabilities this season. The key stat is is that Clemson is holding its opponents to 19.5 points per game, while Georgia Tech is scoring 35. One player who could be an X-factor in this game is safety DeAndre McDaniel. His ability to move up and give help could be key in stopping the option game. Guys like Jonathan Dwyer and C.J. Spiller are going to get their yards today, though.

It could be yet another record-setting weekend for Spiller:
  • He needs one punt or kickoff return for a touchdown to set the NCAA record for kick returns for touchdowns.
  • He needs three touchdowns to set the Clemson single-season record.
  • He needs one touchdown to tie the school record for consecutive games with a touchdown.
  • He needs 88 yards rushing and 60 receiving to become the first player in school history to reach 1,000 yards rushing and 500 receiving in the same season. He would also be the first player in the nation to do it this year.

For Georgia Tech, junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt needs two touchdowns to tie the ACC single-season record of 19. Junior Demaryius Thomas averages 24.5 yards per reception, which would be the highest in ACC history.

Both teams threw fans for a loop with their subpar performances last week against their respective SEC rivals, but this is the game that counts. If Georgia Tech and Clemson go back to what they were doing prior to last weekend, it should be a great game. Both teams have improved since they met earlier during the regluar season. It's time to find out which one has made the biggest strides.

Did you know?

September, 23, 2009
9/23/09
3:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


Here are a few fun facts from sports information directors throughout the league that will make you seem smarter around your football buddies this week:

NC State's Wilson in good company
  • NC State quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown eight touchdown passes in the past two games. The only other quarterback in school history to throw that many in back-to-back games is? Who else but Philip Rivers. He did it in the first two games of his career, throwing three in his debut against Arkansas State and five in his second game against Indiana. He threw one interception in those two games. Rivers matched that feat as a senior, throwing four touchdowns each in games against Virginia and Florida State. He had no interceptions in those contests. No interceptions ... sounds familiar ...
Punt return party
  • The ACC returned four punts for touchdowns in 2008. This year, the ACC matched its 2008 season total on the first weekend of the season and now has had seven punts returned for scores including two by Georgia Tech’s Jerrard Tarrant in his first two games of his collegiate career. Tarrant leads the nation in punt returns this week, averaging 43.0 yards a return.
Clemson D ancient history to TCU
  • Clemson’s defense has given up just three touchdowns in three games (including one rather unforgettable, somewhat controversial pass on a fake field goal) and held Boston College to just four first downs last week, the fewest by a Clemson FBS opponent since TCU had just two in a 3-0 loss to the Tigers in 1965.
Spurrier back to Duke -- for a visit
  • Despite being less than four miles apart, Duke and N.C. Central will play for the first time Saturday in the inaugural Bull City Gridiron Classic. (Hey, there's a first for everything.) South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, whose team plays on Thursday night, is expected to attend as part of the 20th anniversary celebration of Duke's 1989 ACC championship season.
Meet Bobby Bowden, now lose
  • Bobby Bowden is 30-1 against opponents he has faced for the first time. South Florida will be one of those opponents. Oh, and since you asked, the lone loss came at No. 5 Michigan in 1986, 20-18.
Georgia Tech's passing fancy
  • Georgia Tech might not pass that often -- 42 attempts in three games -- but the Yellow Jackets are averaging 24.2 yards per completion. Credit junior wide receiver Demaryius Thomas for a lot of that. He leads the ACC in reception yardage per game (109.0) and is averaging an ACC-best 25.2 yards per catch this year.
Miami vs. the Commonwealth
  • Miami is 28-11 all-time against the state of Virginia. After beating both Virginia Tech and Virginia in 2008, the Hurricanes now own a .725 winning percentage against the state. In the series against ACC members Virginia and Virginia Tech, Miami seems to be at its best when it scores 20 or more points. UM is a combined 15-2 against Virginia Tech (11-2) and Virginia (4-0) when it scores 20 or more points in a game. The Hurricanes are 6-9 when they fail to score at least 20 points against the Cavaliers (0-2) and Hokies (6-7).
UNC D in lockdown mode
  • North Carolina has held its three opponents this season to six (Citadel), 10 (Connecticut) and 17 (East Carolina) points. The last time UNC held three consecutive opponents to 20 or fewer points was 2000 vs. Virginia, Pittsburgh, Maryland. The 33 points allowed by the Tar Heels are the fewest in any three-game span since the final two games in 1999 and the first game of 2000. In 1999, Carolina held NC State to six points and shutout Duke. Tulsa scored nine points against UNC in the 2000 opener.

ACC's lunchtime links

September, 15, 2009
9/15/09
12:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


Are you ready for Thursday night?
  • Jerrard Tarrant is leading the nation in punt returns for Georgia Tech, and might be the best the staff has had at it since Paul Johnson arrived. Here's a quick Miami 101 for Georgia Tech fans.
  • Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has turned into quite a leader for the Canes, and all players -- past and present -- are noticing.
  • FSU has given its defensive end position a boost by using linebacker Dekoda Watson there part-time, and it's paid off.
  • UNC will be looking for "a little bit of payback" when it faces ECU this weekend, having lost to the Pirates in 2007. ECU could be without its leading rusher. Then again, the Tar Heels have been pretty bruised lately.
  • NC State coach Tom O'Brien is expecting more from Gardner-Webb than the Pack got from Murray State, so he's cautioning his players not to get overconfident. O'Brien likes what he sees so far from the young players in the secondary. As for quarterback Russell Wilson? He insists the knee brace he's been wearing hasn't slowed him down.
  • Virginia coach Al Groh insists the season is not over yet, that the only thing that counts is what's between the white lines. Problem is, that's where the problem lies. And his superiors are watching.
  • Maryland's offense appears to be relegated to dink-and-dunk plays this fall.
  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was ready to buy kicker Richard Jackson a "bus ticket out of town" last year, but he's starting to redeem himself.
  • The Virginia Tech-Nebraska game is a tough ticket to get.

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