ACC: Joe Birdson

Wake Forest spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009
5/07/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Wake Forest Demon Deacons
2008 overall record: 8-5

2008 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 4, kicker/punter 1

Top returners

QB Riley Skinner, TE Ben Wooster, LT Joe Birdsong, C Russell Nenon, RT Jeff Griffin, RB Brandon Pendergrass, DT John Russell, NT Boo Robinson, CB Brandon Ghee, P Shane Popham, TB Kevin Harris, TB Josh Adams.

Key losses

DE Matt Robinson, LB Aaron Curry, LB Stanley Arnoux, LB Chantz McClinic, CB Alphonso Smith, FS Chip Vaughn, PK Sam Swank, WR D.J. Boldin, WR Chip Brinkman, SS Kevin Patterson

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Brandon Bendergrass* (528 yards)
Passing: Riley Skinner* (2,347 yards)
Receiving: D.J. Boldin (848 yards)
Tackles: Aaron Curry (105)
Sacks: Boo Robinson* (5)
Interceptions: Kevin Patterson (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sept. 5 Baylor
Sept. 12 Stanford
Sept. 19 Elon
Sept. 26 at Boston College
Oct. 3 NC State
Oct. 10 Maryland
Oct. 17 at Clemson
Oct. 24 at Navy
Oct. 31 Miami
Nov. 7 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 14 Florida State
Nov. 28 at Duke

1. Stepping up in the secondary. Cornerbacks Josh Bush and Kenny Okoro both looked impressive this spring while competing for Alphonso Smith's old position. They got a lot of reps with injured starter Brandon Ghee out and began to establish themselves as capable replacements.

2. Strength in numbers. Seven players with starting experience return to the offensive line and they have combined for 95 career starts. Russell Nenon, who moved to center after Trey Bailey broke his ankle last year, has solidified the position, and Jeff Griffin, who had been a starting tackle, is now comfortable at right guard. It will help tremendously to have Chris DeGeare back at left tackle, and Barrett McMillin returns at guard.

3. Better depth and speed at receiver. The Deacons have to replace D.J. Boldin, but they've got more options and more speed to do it this year. Chris Givens and Terence Davis, both redshirts last year, impressed the staff this spring. They'll team with Devon Brown, Marshall Williams and Jordan Williams.

Fall questions

1. Another loaded backfield. Like several other teams in the ACC, Wake has three capable tailbacks, and the staff will have to figure out how to distribute the carries. Josh Adams, Brandon Pendergrass and Kevin Harris each had a 100-yard game last year.

2. Healing power. Brandon Ghee sprained his knee on the first day of spring practice and did not return, and Boo Robinson has had some disc problems and didn't participate in any spring drills. Their absence didn't help a defense trying to replace seven starters. Aaron Curry is the kind of player who can't be "replaced," but four candidates will continue to try this fall.

3. Looking for No. 2. Backup quarterback Ryan McManus earned a slight lead as the No. 2 behind Riley Skinner -- so slight you might even call it a three-way tie -- but the coaches aren't ready to put it in ink yet. Skylar Jones and Ted Stachitas will continue to push McManus this fall.

ACC internal affairs

October, 8, 2008
10/08/08
9:56
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON -- Clemson's usually mild-mannered offensive coordinator, Rob Spence, has been getting in the players' faces this week and getting creative with the playbook. The Tigers are known for their dink-and-dunk passes, but Spence also has a chapter of trick plays he rarely uses. That might change on Thursday. This time, he might want to get James Davis and C.J. Spiller more involved in the offense, and the running game should be given a boost by the return of left tackle Chris Hairston. He played just one series against Maryland after his scooter accident, but is much closer to his old form. It's also possible Hairston could help the pass protection and give the Tigers more time for more downfield passes.

WAKE FOREST -- The Demon Deacons have been pleased with their practices this week, and have put an emphasis on two things: Bringing the pass rush on Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper, and establishing their own running game. There is an 80 percent chance of rain for Thursday's game, and that usually favors the better running team, which has been Clemson. Wake Forest is 11th in the ACC with just 84.8 rushing yards per game, despite boasting the 2007 ACC Rookie of the Year in Josh Adams. The offensive line got some work during the bye week, particularly Joe Birdsong, who was ejected in the first half against Navy. Coach Jim Grobe made sure Birdsong got some extra conditioning.

NORTH CAROLINA -- Notre Dame coach Charlie Weiss has toned down his sentiments regarding UNC running back Greg Little's decision to decommit. "Any time you're involved in recruiting, any time you're involved in recruiting, the toughest thing to do is to get a guy to leave his home state," Weiss said at his weekly press conference. "We're a national recruiting school. And at the end of the day he felt more comfortable staying home. And, hey, do I like that happening? No, but at the end of the day the kid wanted to stay home. Who can really shun a guy who wants to stay home." Little had committed to the Irish after former UNC coach John Bunting was fired mid-season, but was heavily recruited by Butch Davis and changed his mind on the final day.

VIRGINIA -- Those within the program don't want to be the ACC's version of a one-hit wonder, and are confident about their chances of beating East Carolina this weekend. They're still trying to put the win over Maryland into perspective, but know that a loss to the Pirates would negate that progress. Coach Al Groh said he is looking for consistency, but added that as good as the Cavaliers played last weekend, it still won't be good enough to beat some of the teams remaining on their schedule.

GEORGIA TECH -- Starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt returned to practice with limited contact on Tuesday after straining his hamstring in the second series against Mississippi State, but that doesn't mean there's a quarterback controversy in Atlanta. At least those within the program are downplaying it. Backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw, who played an outstanding game against Duke last week, was listed at the top of the depth chart as of Monday afternoon, but acknowledged that if Nesbitt returns, it's his job. Coach Paul Johnson said he hopes Nesbitt will be 100 percent by Saturday and would like for him to get a little bit of playing time before the Clemson game. Shaw was held out of contact drills for a precautionary reason -- Johnson said Shaw was "dinged" on his head against Duke. Basically, Gardner-Webb will provide an opportunity for everyone who can play to get reps, Nesbitt included.

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