ACC: Jim Reid

The entire 2012 season is officially in the books, and there was some movement in the final ACC power rankings for based on the bowl performances. Before we turn the page and look ahead to how the ACC will stack up in 2013, take one look back on the 2012 pecking order:


1. Florida State (12-2, 7-1 ACC; Previous ranking: No. 1) -- Clemson has the more impressive bowl win, but there’s no denying Florida State’s accomplishments this season. The Noles won the program’s first BCS bowl since 2000, defeating Northern Illinois 31-10 in the Discover Orange Bowl. An ACC title and Orange Bowl win make FSU the ACC’s undisputed No. 1 in 2012.

2. Clemson (11-2, 7-1; PR: No. 2) -- The Tigers hung on to beat No. 8 LSU 25-24 thanks to a 37-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro as time expired in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Quarterback Tajh Boyd has yet to announce if he will return for his senior season. Regardless, it was a monumental win for the program and the ACC.

3. Georgia Tech (7-7, 5-3; PR: No. 4) -- The Jackets’ 21-7 win over USC was a huge boost for their program, and it also was significant for the ACC. Georgia Tech’s defense was the highlight against the Trojans. It also was Paul Johnson’s first bowl win as coach at Georgia Tech.

4. North Carolina (8-4, 5-3; PR: No. 5) -- There’s no question the Tar Heels were one of the best teams in the Coastal Division in Larry Fedora’s first season, but they were ineligible for a bowl because of NCAA sanctions. Fedora will be challenged to replace standout running back Giovani Bernard, who left early for the NFL draft, and his lead blocker, Jonathan Cooper.

5. Miami (7-5, 5-3; PR: No. 3) -- The Canes weren’t a great team in 2012, but they overachieved enough to earn respect and could have played for the ACC title had they not self-imposed a bowl ban. The program is still waiting for closure from the NCAA.

6. Virginia Tech (7-6, 4-4; PR: No. 8) -- In what was one of the most painful-to-watch bowl games of the season, the Hokies beat Rutgers 13-10 in overtime of the Russell Athletic Bowl. The program avoided its first losing season since 1992, but didn’t earn any style points in the process. Many questions still face Frank Beamer.

7. NC State (7-6, 4-4; PR: No. 7) -- Under the direction of interim coach Dana Bible, the Pack ended the season the same way it began 2012 -- with an embarrassing performance in a loss to an SEC team. NC State turned it over five times in a 38-24 loss to Vanderbilt in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

8. Duke (6-7, 3-5; PR: No. 6) -- This season will always be remembered as the year Duke got back to a bowl game for the first time since 1994. The Blue Devils, however, lost a 48-34 heartbreaker to Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. With the score tied at 34 and Duke driving to score the game winner, Josh Snead fumbled at the Cincy 5-yard line with 1:20 left.

9. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5; PR: No. 9) -- The Deacs ended their season losing three straight and four of their last five to miss bowl eligibility. Recruiting has been the biggest priority for the Deacs since their season ended with a home loss to Vanderbilt.

10. Virginia (4-8, 2-6; PR: No. 10) -- The Hoos had to win their last two games to become bowl eligible and couldn’t do it, but Mike London wasted no time in making offseason changes. He fired defensive coordinator Jim Reid and has since hired former NC State coach Tom O’Brien and former NC State linebackers coach Jon Tenuta.

11. Maryland (4-8, 2-6; PR: No. 11) -- The Terps put on a respectable performance this past season despite the unbelievable amount of injuries to starting quarterbacks. The biggest news, of course, was that Maryland will play one more season in the ACC before joining the Big Ten.

12. Boston College (2-10, 1-7; PR: No. 12) -- The Eagles hired Steve Addazio to turn things around, and he has hired several of his former assistants from Temple, including former BC assistant Ryan Day as offensive coordinator.

Coaching turnover continues in ACC

December, 18, 2012
ACC fans often search for a big-picture explanation as to why the conference has struggled so much in recent years, but one of the most overlooked answers is obvious: coaching.

That’s not to say the ACC doesn’t have quality coaches -- Virginia Tech’s Frank Beamer is the winningest active coach in the country. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe is underrated, and Duke coach David Cutcliffe finally got the Blue Devils to their first bowl game since 1994. Turnover, though, has run rampant through the league at the head coach and coordinator positions, and this year is no exception. Boston College and NC State -- both in the Atlantic Division -- will be breaking in first-year head coaches and new staffs in 2013. Maryland’s Randy Edsall will be entering his third season, but it will also be the program’s last year in the conference. Florida State has had to replace its defensive coordinator, Mark Stoops, who left to become head coach at Kentucky.

Considering the work that needs to be done in both Raleigh and Chestnut Hill, there’s a good possibility we can see the balance of power shift in 2013 back to the Coastal Division, but even there tenure is hard to come by.

Al Golden at Miami is entering his third season, and Larry Fedora will only be in his second season at North Carolina. Virginia fired defensive coordinator Jim Reid and will be turning to a new, more aggressive philosophy. Every year it seems like there is at least one school starting from scratch. The ACC is certainly not alone in the coaching carousel -- it’s common practice in college football. The conference has made it a trend, though, and there is something to be said for continuity. It takes time to build recruiting classes and develop them. FSU fans should not be so quick to criticize Jimbo Fisher, and Miami fans should be thankful there was nothing to the rumors connecting Golden with other head-coaching vacancies. When trying to get back to national relevance, one of Miami’s biggest setbacks has been a lack of staff stability.

That might be a microcosm of the entire conference.

Take a look at the tenure of current ACC head coaches and their winning percentages:

Steve Adazzio, Boston College: 0 years at school

Dave Doeren, NC State: 0 years at school

Larry Fedora, North Carolina: 1 year at school (.667)

Randy Edsall, Maryland: 2 years at school (.250)

Al Golden, Miami: 2 years at school (.542)

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: 3 years at school (.750)

Mike London, Virginia: 3 years at school (.432)

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: 5 years at school (.650)

David Cutcliffe, Duke: 5 years at school (.350)

Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech: 5 years at school (.606)

Jim Grobe, Wake Forest: 12 years at school (.497)

Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: 26 years at school (.673)
The ACC, historically one of college football’s most inconsistent leagues, had stability at the top from the preseason through the postseason, with Florida State and Clemson holding onto a firm grasp of the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the power ranking, respectively. That hasn’t changed as we head into bowl season.

With the regular season and the championship game officially behind us, here is how the ACC stacks up heading into the new year:

1. Florida State (11-2, 7-1 ACC; LW: No. 1) -- The Seminoles won their first ACC title since 2005 with a 21-15 win over Georgia Tech. It was a disciplined defensive performance against the nation’s No. 3 rushing offense, and the Noles will represent the ACC against Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl.

2. Clemson (10-2, 7-1; LW: No. 2) -- After finishing the regular season with a loss to rival South Carolina, Clemson has a chance to redeem itself against the SEC against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Clemson has won seven of its past eight games and could win an 11th game for the fourth time in school history.

3. Miami (7-5, 5-3; LW: No. 3) -- The Canes will be home for the holidays after their second straight self-imposed postseason ban, but the success this season was something to build on for next year. Running back Duke Johnson was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Year.

4. Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3; LW: No. 4) -- The Yellow Jackets had a chance to upset the Noles in the ACC title game, but an interception with a minute remaining in the fourth quarter ended any hopes of it. Georgia Tech needed a waiver from the NCAA to play in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, where it will face USC.

5. North Carolina (8-4, 5-3; LW: No. 5) -- It was a successful first season for coach Larry Fedora; now it is a waiting game to see if star running back Giovani Bernard will leave school early to enter the NFL draft, and if there is any substance to the coaching rumors surrounding Tennessee’s interest in Fedora.

6. Duke (6-6, 3-5; LW: No. 6) -- The Blue Devils will face Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl as Duke returns to the postseason for the first time since 1994. David Cutcliffe was named the ACC Coach of the Year. Duke is making its ninth bowl trip and has a 3-5 record in postseason games. The Belk Bowl will be the program’s first appearance in a bowl game in North Carolina.

7. NC State (7-5, 4-4; LW: No. 7) -- Athletic director Debbie Yow didn’t waste any time hiring Dave Doeren from MAC champion Northern Illinois. Instead of coaching in the Discover Orange Bowl against FSU with his old team, Doeren immediately began working for NC State, which will play Vanderbilt (8-4) in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Offensive coordinator Dana Bible will coach the Pack in the bowl game.

8. Virginia Tech (6-6, 4-4; LW: No. 8) -- After going 0-2 against the Big East during the regular season with losses to Pitt and Cincinnati, the Hokies will have a chance to redeem themselves against Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

9. Wake Forest (5-7, 3-5; LW: No. 10) -- The Deacs’ main priority now is recruiting, as it was another trying season for coach Jim Grobe and his staff. Wake Forest ended the season with three straight losses.

10. Virginia (4-8, 2-6; LW: No. 9) -- Coach Mike London made sweeping changes following a disappointing season, firing four of his assistants, including defensive coordinator Jim Reid. It’s likely the next coordinator will have a different, more aggressive defensive philosophy and scheme.

11. Maryland (4-8, 2-6; LW: No. 11) -- Anything and everything Maryland did this year on the field was overshadowed by its intent to join the Big Ten for the 2014 season. The ACC announced its intent to sue Maryland in order to force the university to pay the $50 million exit fee in full. As Randy Edsall and his staff recruits this offseason, they will do so looking for athletes to compete in the Big Ten.

12. Boston College (2-10, 1-7; LW: No. 12) -- Coach Frank Spaziani was fired, and first-year BC athletic director Brad Bates hired Temple coach Steve Addazio.

This will be remembered as one of the worst seasons in conference history.

North Carolina was ineligible for the postseason. Miami won the division for the first time since joining it, but self-imposed a postseason ban for the second straight season. Georgia Tech fired defensive coordinator Al Groh midseason, dropped to 6-7 and needed a waiver from the NCAA just to play in a bowl game. Virginia Tech dropped out of the Top 25 only three weeks into the season and needed to beat rival Virginia in the final week of the season to become bowl eligible. Virginia regressed, winning just four games, and coach Mike London fired four of his assistants, including defensive coordinator Jim Reid.

And that was just the Coastal Division.

Two Atlantic Division coaches, BC’s Frank Spaziani and NC State’s Tom O’Brien, were both fired. Wake Forest suspended eight players, including four starters, over a two-week span during the season. Maryland announced it was out, leaving for the Big Ten, and the ACC announced Louisville was in. Clemson lost to South Carolina. Florida State lost to Florida. And the ACC decided it would sue Maryland in an attempt to force the university to pay the league’s $50 million exit fee.

The ACC went 0-4 against its SEC rivals in the final week of the regular season and for the second straight year had three strikes against Notre Dame. The conference had six bowl-eligible teams, two short of filling the league’s bowl tie-ins.

Hooray for Duke!

The Blue Devils, led by ACC Coach of the Year David Cutcliffe, were the first to become bowl eligible in the Coastal Division. Duke finished 6-6, earned its first bowl bid since 1994, and in November still had a legitimate chance to play for the ACC title.

It wasn’t all bad.

Florida State and Clemson put on a September show in Tallahassee for ESPN’s "College GameDay" crew, quarterback EJ Manuel had a Heisman moment in that game, and ACC offenses flourished under veteran quarterbacks this year. New stars, like Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and Miami’s Duke Johnson, emerged, while old stars, like Tajh Boyd and Giovani Bernard, shone brighter.

[+] EnlargeFlorida State's Bjoern Werner
Mitch Stringer/US PRESSWIREFlorida State's Bjoern Werner was the best and most consistent player in the ACC.
Florida State won its first ACC title since 2005, but lost defensive coordinator Mark Stoops to Kentucky the day after the game. The Seminoles had a good season, but left many wondering if it could have been a great season had they not lost on the road in the fourth quarter to NC State.

The good news?

It can only get better.

Offensive MVP: Tajh Boyd, Clemson. Boyd led the ACC in total offense with 376.4 yards per game, throwing for 3,550 yards and 34 touchdowns on the season. Though he won ACC Player of the Year and ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors by a whisker, we both agreed on Boyd as the best player in the league this season.

Defensive MVP: Bjoern Werner, Florida State. Werner quite easily won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors for good reason. He was the best, most consistent player in the league this season, leading the league with 13 sacks and finishing second with 18 tackles for loss. He and teammate Cornellius "Tank" Carradine formed the best duo in the league.

Newcomer of the year: Duke Johnson, Miami. Stefon Diggs was great, too, but Johnson gets the nod here for having a better season. Johnson ended up with 2,070 all-purpose yards, second in school history to Willis McGahee (2,108 in 2002). He was a game-changer not just at running back but in the return game, as he scored 13 total touchdowns this season.

Biggest surprise: Hello, Duke! The Blue Devils are headed to a bowl game for the first time since 1994, and were in contention for the Coastal Division crown until the second-to-last week of the regular season. Easy to see why David Cutcliffe was named the league's coach of the year.

Biggest disappointment: Virginia Tech. Does anybody remember when the Hokies started the season ranked No. 16 in the AP poll? Us neither. Virginia Tech is about to finish up its worst season in 20 years. This is one season removed from being an at-large selection into the BCS. There were breakdowns all over this team, from Logan Thomas to the running game to what was supposed to be a great defense. Now the Hokies need a win in their bowl game to avoid finishing with a losing record for the first time since 1992.

Best game: No. 4 Florida State 49, No. 10 Clemson 37. The first meeting between two Top 10 ACC teams since 2007 did not disappoint. The Tigers jumped out quickly to a 28-14 third-quarter lead but could not withstand the Noles blitz that ensued. Florida State scored 28 straight points to take the win, as EJ Manuel had the best game of his career -- throwing for 380 yards and two touchdowns.
This is getting ugly.

First Virginia coach Mike London fired four of his assistants, including defensive coordinator Jim Reid -- a man London likes very much. Quarterback Michael Rocco decided to transfer (can you blame him?), and now Rocco has blasted London for his use of a two-quarterback system (just like many ACC fans have all season long):
"It's an unhealthy environment for any quarterback at UVa," Rocco told Doug Doughty of the Roanoke Times. "It was hard on all the quarterbacks, not just me."


London's decision to fire Reid was as puzzling as his use of the quarterbacks this year, which leads me to believe it wasn't entirely his decision. If this was an administrative move forced upon London, it was the wrong one, and London is going to take some heat for it. Reid was tasked with coaching a group that had to replace seven starters and was very young. Virginia was No. 31 in the country in scoring defense and showed progress every week. Don't forget the offense in that two-quarterback mess was turning it over every other play and putting the defense back on the field again.

Arguably the biggest disappointment for Virginia was its inability to run the ball, not the defense. Virginia was supposed to have two of the ACC's top offensive tackles in Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi. With Kevin Parks and Perry Jones in the backfield, along with talent up front, there's no reason Virginia should have ranked No. 96 in the country in rushing offense. That certainly doesn't fall on Reid.

London, just one year removed from being named the ACC's Coach of the Year, has a bit of a mess to clean up in Charlottesville, starting with hiring a defensive coordinator. Look for the Hoos to go in a different direction regarding style and philosophy, otherwise it really wouldn't make any sense. And Phillip Sims better be every bit as good as many seem to think he is. Otherwise, we'll have Sims and David Watford repeating the Sims and Rocco storyline, and there will only be one scapegoat left.
It has been quite an eventful day at Virginia.

Coach Mike London announced that quarterback Michael Rocco has been granted his transfer request, and that he has fired four members of his coaching staff. Associate head coach/defensive coordinator Jim Reid, defensive line coach/recruiting coordinator Jeff Hanson, running backs coach Mike Faragalli and tight ends coach Shawn Moore are all out in the wake of a disappointing 4-8 season and last-place finish in the Coastal Division.

London also announced safeties coach Anthony Poindexter will no longer be the Cavaliers’ special-teams coordinator but will remain on staff.

The news on Rocco does not come as a huge shock, considering the way London rotated him and Phillip Sims this season. Rocco entered the year as the starter, then lost his job to Sims, then shared duties with him in the final games of the season. He ended 2012 with 1,917 yards, 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

His 2,671 passing yards in 2011 ranks as the fourth best single-season total in Virginia history. He leaves the Cavalier program ranked eighth on the all-time passing list with 4,731 yards. Sims, who transferred in from Alabama this season, should now enter spring ball as the starter for the Hoos.

"After meeting with Michael and discussing his future with our program and his personal goals and interests, I understand his desire to complete his college football career elsewhere," London said in a statement. "Michael has been an outstanding member of our program on the field, in the classroom and in the community. I appreciate the competitive nature, work ethic and leadership he brought to our program and I wish him the best in his future endeavors."

As for the staff changes, all four coaches have been members of London’s staff since he took over the UVa program in December 2009. Hanson and Faragalli were also members of London’s staff at Richmond during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. We had seen marked improvement from the young UVa defense in the second half of the season, but that wasn't enough to save Reid's job.

"After conducting a complete evaluation of the program and discussing my thoughts with administration, there are a number of areas we need to improve on and it starts with me as the head coach," London said in a statement. "The decision to release these four coaches is very difficult, but one I feel is necessary in order to meet the goals we have set for the Virginia football program. I have coached with some of these men for many years, won a national championship with some, and I truly appreciate their dedication and commitment, and more importantly, their friendships. I wish them all the best."

The total buyout for the four assistant coaches is $1.36 million, though that number could decrease with future employment.

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 28, 2012
Congrats to Mark Stoops, now what's up with expansion ...

UVa ahead of schedule under Mike London

November, 23, 2011
Virginia coach Mike London knows the facts: Virginia Tech has won 11 of the past 12 games in the series, and each of the past seven.

This team, though, is different, London said.

You'd better believe it is.

[+] EnlargeVirginia head coach Mike London
AP Photo/Steve HelberMike London took over a team that went 3-9 in 2009 and has them one victory away from winning the Coastal Division.
For three straight seasons prior to this one, Virginia had a losing record. Now, in only London’s second season, the Cavaliers are heading to a bowl game and playing on Saturday for the Coastal Division title for the first time since 2007. The turnaround is ahead of schedule and has far exceeded expectations for a team that was picked by the media to finish fifth in the Coastal Division standings this year.

So how’d he do it? What, exactly, is different?

London will tell you at length about the off-field process, the effort to get the players more involved in the classroom and in community service, to make them winners off the field before they walked on it. He has done that, and weeded out some players who couldn’t cut it academically or socially. He has changed the culture, and he has changed the mentality on the field, but there are also some big differences on the field that have helped lead to the Cavaliers’ immediate success.

You can point to the defense, which is another year older and wiser and more comfortable in the second year under coordinator Jim Reid. You can point to the quarterback, Michael Rocco, who has been a steady factor over the four-game winning streak, completing 61.2 percent of his passes for seven touchdowns and one interception. You can point to the work of offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, who has dramatically improved the Cavaliers’ offensive numbers. The staff has a good blend of promising young talent it recruited and veteran players who remained from the previous staff. It’s important to remember that Al Groh did not leave the cupboard bare, especially on defense. The staff also has had the same five starters on the offensive line for the past 11 games.

“They're a good football team,” Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. “They're for real. They're good, and they're playing really well and playing with a lot of confidence, as they should. They've done a good job up there.”

UVa has amassed more than 400 yards of total offense in 11-of-23 games since Lazor brought his pro-style philosophy to Charlottesville. The Oct. 22 game against NC State (249 yards) and UVa’s 2010 season finale (291 yards) are the only games during London’s tenure when the Cavaliers failed to reach at least 300 yards of total offense. UVa enters Saturday’s game against the Hokies ranked No. 3 in the ACC and No. 42 in the nation with an average of 411.0 total yards per game.

Defensively, Virginia has forced a turnover in every game this season and is tied for No. 5 in the nation and No. 1 in the ACC in red zone defense. Virginia’s front seven has been a strength, and it should be with the veteran leadership of senior defensive tackles Matt Conrath and Nick Jenkins, and senior defensive end Cam Johnson.

While Virginia has overachieved in the big picture, the expectations from the start were that this was going to be a good defense. All of it, though, has added up to an ACC contender quicker than most expected.

The question now is whether London can finish what he has started. It’s an accomplishment in itself, though, to be in a position to try.

“It's great to know that in November we're still talking about Virginia football being relevant,” London said. “It's great to know that there's a lot at stake here. It's an opportunity to play in the last game of the year that decides whether you have a chance to play for goals that you've set coming into this season. They've been on this side of the ledger for a long time. This is new, unchartered territory for us.

"There doesn't have to be any fake hype or fake talk, anything like that. We don't need any Twitter account stuff, Facebook stuff, going back and forth. We're in-state rivals, and it would be characterized to say that's how they feel about us and we feel about them.

“You know and you respect the men that you're going against, but you also understand that you're the in-state rival. You want to beat the in-state rival in everything that you do. Right now, they've had a number of years of success in that regard. We stand here and get ready to play and want to be able to challenge them in recruiting. We want to be able to challenge them on the football field. And that's what you do. I can't put it any other way.”

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- With about 90 seconds remaining in the game, an announcement was made in Scott Stadium reminding Virginia fans they weren’t allowed to rush the field.

It was the only time they had booed all day.

About ninety seconds later, thousands of fans rushed field.

In yet another wild and unpredictable finish in the ACC, an unheralded Virginia team upset No. 12-ranked and previously undefeated Georgia Tech, 24-21. With the win, the Cavaliers single-handedly opened up the Coastal Division race, and not only helped themselves keep a hand in it, but also gave Virginia Tech’s chances a significant boost. It was a monumental win for coach Mike London in his second season, and one he hopes can be a turning point for his program. The Cavaliers are young and talented, and the recruiting has been strong, but the program had yet to put it all together for four quarters against a high-caliber opponent this season until Saturday night.

When trying to put the win into perspective following the game, London paused and chose his words carefully.

[+] EnlargeVirginia head coach Mike London
AP Photo/Steve Helber"This is one of those wins that can change the perception of what you think about yourself," Virginia coach Mike London said.
“This is one of those wins that can change the perception of what you think about yourself,” he said “Last-second play against Indiana, last-second play against Idaho. This is one of those wins against a good team with a lot of accomplishments that you can try to turn the corner on about how you think about yourself, how people view your program. There’s a long season yet to play but it’s a great start to the second half of the season.”

Yes, this is the same Virginia team that needed overtime to beat Idaho and lost to Southern Miss. The difference against Georgia Tech, in large part, was the preparation. There’s no question Virginia’s bye week absolutely was a factor in the win. Georgia Tech dropped to 5-9 against FBS opponents who have had more than a week to prepare for coach Paul Johnson’s spread option offense.

“I don’t know if we get this outcome without the bye week,” said cornerback Chase Minnifield, who said he watched every one of the Jackets’ games from start to finish, plus their game last year, and brought additional DVDs back to his apartment, just to pass the time. “I don’t think we saw nothing that was new out there.”

Except for maybe a scoreless first quarter for the Jackets for the first time this season, and a season-low 296 yards. This was the nation’s No. 4 rushing offense, and No. 4 total offense.

And Virginia was ready for it.

“We watched film like crazy on them,” said defensive end Matt Conrath. “I had a lot of time to watch a lot of film.”

In addition to the bye week, Virginia also had some help in practice. On Thursday, the offensive scout team ran 86 plays against the first-team defense. All hustle, no breaks for 15 players. The quarterback, senior Jacob Hodges, volunteered for the job, having run the same offense at his high school. A former team manager, Hodges joined the team last year as the holder. He gave the defense all it needed to see.

Hodges wasn’t the only one familiar with the offense.

During his time as head coach at Richmond (1995-2003), Virginia defensive coordinator Jim Reid took an offseason trip in 1999 to visit Paul Johnson at Georgia Southern and learn more about his offense. The following year, Richmond won a championship.

Did Reid’s familiarity help on Saturday?

“Of course,” he said. “We ran it for three, four, five years at different schools I was at.”

The 24 yards passing were the fewest against Virginia since 1979. The best defense Virginia played, though, was its sustained drives by the offense, which kept the Jackets off the field by running for a season-high 272 yards. UVa held onto the ball for the final six minutes, and the players on the bench erupted in celebrations as the clock expired.

It was the highest-ranked opponent Virginia had defeated since UVa beat No. 4 Florida State, 26-21, six years ago on the very same day. It was an important win for Virginia, but it was not groundbreaking. The Cavaliers beat then-No. 22 Miami 24-19 last year.

Last year, though, they weren’t able to build on it. London is hoping this win is different.

“We have to play like we’ve got a lot to prove and we do,” he said. “We haven’t done anything yet, but hopefully we’re moving in the right direction.”

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 4, 2011
It's Virginia's turn to make some headlines. The Hoos had media day yesterday ...

ACC team position rankings: Defensive lines

June, 27, 2011
As the title indicated ...

[+] EnlargeQuinton Coples
Mark Dolejs/US PresswireUNC returns a veteran defensive line led by end Quinton Coples.
1. North Carolina: This is a deep and talented group that returns all four starters including Donte Paige-Moss, Jared McAdoo, Quinton Coples and Tydreke Powell. Junior college transfer Sylvester Williams joins three other players who started at least one game: Kareem Martin (three starts), DT Tim Jackson (five starts) and DT Jordan Nix (two starts).

2. Florida State: All four starters return in juniors Brandon Jenkins, Jacobi McDaniel, Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins. Jenkins finished sixth nationally with 13.5 sacks. This group should take another step forward in the second season under coordinator Mark Stoops, but it already has an outstanding base to build on as the Noles ranked third nationally in sacks and 21st in tackles for loss last season.

3. Miami: The Canes should have one of the better rotations in the ACC. They return starters Olivier Vernon, Micanor Regis and Marcus Forston, who combined for 12 sacks and 30.5 TFLs. It’s a deep group, as DE Adewale Ojomo (seven starts), DT Luther Robinson (five starts), DE Marcus Robinson (10 games), DT Curtis Porter (one start), DE Andrew Smith (11 games) and DE Dyron Dye (six games) all have experience.

4. Virginia: Like Florida State, this is another group that should benefit from being in the second season under the same coordinator. Jim Reid switched the scheme back to a traditional 4-3, and the Hoos return a veteran group led by Matt Conrath (33 starts), DT Nick Jenkins (29 starts), and DE Cam Johnson (22 starts).

5. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have a better understanding of what is expected from them in their second season in Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, and all three starters return in ends Izaan Cross (41 tackles) and Jason Peters (52 tackles), and tackle Logan Walls. Defensive tackles Shawn Green, T.J. Barnes and J.C. Lanier will also compete for playing time along with DE Anthony Williams.

6. Maryland: The Terps should be solid up front with the return of Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis and Justin Anderson. Francis is the veteran of the group (19 career starts) and had 44 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season, but Vellano is also an all-conference candidate. The Terps have good depth with Zachariah Kerr, Isaiah Ross and Bradley Johnson.

7. Virginia Tech: This is a group that could and should jump a few spots by the end of the season. On paper, they’ve got to replace three starters, but this spring the group proved capable of getting the Hokies back to their days of dominating on defense. Based on potential, they should be ranked higher, but based on lack of dependable, proven depth, they could even fall lower.

8. Clemson: It will be difficult for the Tigers to replace the production of Da’Quan Bowers, but the defensive line is in capable hands with Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson, and Malliciah Goodman has embraced the challenge of taking Bowers’ spot. Branch was second on the team with five sacks last season and 8.5 tackles for loss. Thompson had 40 tackles, including six for losses. Defensive tackle Rennie Moore, DE Kourtnei Brown and DT Tyler Shatley also have experience.

9. NC State: Defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy is one of the underrated players in the ACC, and he returns along with defensive end Jeff Rieskamp. Several players got significant snaps last season, though, including DE Darryl Cato-Bishop (13 tackles), DT Markus Kuhn (17 tackles, and DT Brian Slay (20 tackles, two TFLs).

10. Wake Forest: The Deacs return three starters including Tristan Dorty, Kyle Wilber and Zack Thompson. Thompson only started five games last season, but after spring practices, coach Jim Grobe said Thompson has all-conference potential.

11. Boston College: Starters Max Holloway and Kaleb Ramsey return, along with four other linemen (DTs Dillon Quinn and Conor O’Neal, and DEs Dan Williams and Kasim Edebali) who each started at least two games last fall.

12. Duke: Until proven otherwise, this is where the Blue Devils belong, but Rick Petri was hired to change that. He’ll have veteran nose guard Charlie Hatcher (24 career starts) to work with, and sophomore Sydney Sarmiento, who started 11 games last season. Junior Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx and DEs Desmond Johnson and Jamal Wallace could also see playing time.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 14, 2011
Links only a mother could love ...

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 9, 2010
Don't forget about the chat ...

Opening camp: Virginia

August, 6, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts at 3:45 p.m. and the first five are open to the public.

What’s new: Everything. New coach, new coordinators, new schemes, philosophies and attitudes.

Sidelined: Sophomore guard Aaron Van Kuiken is out with a wrist injury but is expected back by September. Redshirt defensive end Brent Urban is coming off knee surgery. Academically, today is the last day of summer school finals, so grades won’t be reported until early next week.

Key battle: Running back. The top four rushers from 2009 are gone. Perry Jones ended the spring at the lead tailback spot, but he faces competition this month from Keith Payne, Torrey Mack, freshman Kevin Parks, and Dominique Wallace, who missed the second half of last season with a foot injury.

New on the scene: The 4-3 defense. First-year defensive coordinator Jim Reid is taking the Cavaliers back to the traditional defense.

Breaking out: Junior inside linebacker Aaron Taliaferro, who got all of Steve Greer’s snaps this past spring while Greer was out with an injury. Taliaferro was previously buried on the depth chart, but he really impressed the coaching staff enough to push Greer this month.

Don’t forget about: Tight end Joe Torchia. Virginia has a great tradition of tight ends, but last year the staff deviated from it by implementing a spread offense. Torchia only had 15 catches in 12 games for what is usually a much more productive spot.

All eyes on: Quarterback Marc Verica and how he fits into the new pro-style offense. Verica said he is much more comfortable in this scheme, but he hasn’t been a dependable starter since 2008, when he threw eight touchdowns and 16 interceptions. He made far fewer mistakes this spring.

Quotable: "This is exactly what I know about him: that as a father, this is who you get down on your knees and pray that your daughter brings home some day. That is the type of character that he is. You would be so proud to call Ras-I Dowling your son, and I've told his family that." -- Defensive coordinator Jim Reid on cornerback Ras-I Dowling.

UVA's London changing atmosphere first

June, 14, 2010
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The McCue Center is a happier place under first-year Virginia coach Mike London – or so I’m told.

It’s not like I haven’t covered Virginia football before.

[+] EnlargeMike London
AP Photo/Steve HelberNew head coach Mike London is bringing a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere to Virginia.
But today, I felt like I was introduced to the program for the first time. That’s because all of the coaches’ office doors were open following their morning staff meeting -- including London’s.

Sit down, defensive coordinator Jim Reid said, before asking about my family and talking about his. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and running backs coach Mike Faragalli stopped their conversation in the offensive meeting room for a quick chat, and recruiting guru Chip West was caught red-handed working with some classic 80s music on in his office. Former standout defensive back Anthony Poindexter leaned back in his office chair, and with an aw-shucks smile deflected the sports information director’s introduction of being the staff “legend.”

Granted, there is less pressure in mid-June and most staffs are a little more relaxed, but possibly the biggest change to Virginia football since London was hired has been the atmosphere. That’s a direct result of London’s gregarious, genuine personality, which is contagious. It’s reflected in the assistants he hired, who are also down-to-earth, approachable people. And it’s visible in the players, who have been urged by this staff to become more involved in their community and try harder in the classroom.

Don’t mistake these “nice guys” for FCS pushovers, though. More than one of London’s ACC opponents have told me, unprompted, that London is the “real deal.” He and his staff want to win in the ACC just as much as Butch Davis and Randy Shannon do. They know it has to be done with blocking and tackling, not handshakes and hugs. But they also realize the importance of relationships – with each other, with the players, within the state high schools, the fan base and the media.

It might not happen as quickly as Virginia fans would like, but this program can win with London. He and his staff have already lured in 14 commitments for the class of 2011, including one ESPN 150 prospect. Eleven of those players are either from Maryland, D.C. or Virginia.

In order to win, you have to have the players. But in order to get the players, you have to win them over with your personality and philosophies.

London is certainly capable of doing both.