ACC: John PHillips

Virginia motivated to avoid repeat of last season

August, 16, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia coach Al Groh looked at his watch, sarcastically noting that it's 2009, not 2008, and that's what he wants to talk about.

You can't blame him.

Last year was a rough season for Virginia, as the Cavaliers dealt with the academic suspensions of two key players in quarterback Jameel Sewell and cornerback Chris Cook, there was no experienced quarterback to turn to in the season opener against USC, two players were arrested for trying to steal beer from a bar refrigerator, and a four-game losing streak capped the end of a miserable season that could have been salvaged but instead ended one win shy of a bowl bid.

"The 2008 team had to endure more things probably than any team that I've been associated with," Groh said. "And to remain strong in the face of all of that, they did that, and for that I have a great appreciation for what they did. It's like in boxing. The less amount of body punches they can take over the course of the fight, probably the better off you are and the fresher you are at the end. That team and those players took some body punches and they shook them off, but they still take their toll at certain points. Right now we've been free of those particular things."

And it's made a difference.

In fact, the entire program looks different -- literally. New linebackers, new receivers, a new offensive coordinator, and a newfound desire to win some football games. While Groh doesn't want to spend too much time dwelling on the past, it's served as an inspiration to his team this year.

Senior linebacker Denzel Burrell said he can still picture the disappointed looks on the faces of former linebackers Clint Sintim and John Phillips, and how heartbroken they were after Virginia Tech ended their season with a 17-14 loss.

"To me that's all motivation," he said. "We want to get out there and prove ourselves and prove everybody wrong. We want to make our fans happy, our coaches and ourselves."

Defensive end Nate Collins agreed.

"No one wants to have that season," he said. "No one wants to end the season without making a bowl game. That was a huge loss for us. I feel like everyone on our team realizes that. No one wants to be in that position again. No one wants to be home for a whole month in December when you're watching all these bowl games, teams you might have beat during the season, and you're like, 'We're better than them.' Everyone is buying in. we want to have a better season and I feel like we will have a better season this year."

The reality of the situation is that it's a work in progress, and nobody knows how Virginia will look until it takes the field on Sept. 5 against William & Mary. Outside expectations are low because of the high amount of transition the program is going through. Offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon said some players have learned his offense quicker than others, but the staff has yet to determine who its starting quarterback will be, let alone the wide receivers. Still, those within the program believe they have the pieces in place to improve upon last year's 5-7 season.

"We've got something to prove this year," said offensive tackle Will Barker. "I think we've got all of the right guys and the right system to do it."

At the very least, they've got the determination.

"What I like about the players so far is they have demonstrated a very strong resolution towards what they want to get accomplished," Groh said. "We see ourselves making a lot of progress in developing the mental strength that's necessary to have the resilience and positive energy and confidence to take on all the things that happen during the course of a season."

So far, Virginia is already ahead of where it was last year in that the Cavaliers are only answering questions about football -- not distracting off-field issues.

Virginia spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Virginia Cavaliers
2008 overall record: 5-7

2008 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 5, defense: 6, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

C Jack Shields, QB Marc Verica, QB Jameel Sewell, CB/QB Vic Hall, CB Ras-I Dowling, T Will Barker, TB Mikell Simpson

Key losses

WR Maurice Covington, WR Kevin Ogletree, WR Cary Koch, T Eugene Monroe, TB Cedric Peerman, TE John Phillips, OLB Antonio Appleby, ILB Jon Copper, OLB Clint Sintim

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Cedric Peerman (774 yards)
Passing: Marc Verica* (2,037 yards)
Receiving: Kevin Ogletree (723 yards)
Tackles: Jon Copper (101)
Sacks: Clint Sintim (11)
Interceptions: Ras-I Dowling* (3)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sept. 5 William & Mary
Sept. 12 TCU
Sept. 19 at Southern Miss
Oct. 3 at North Carolina
Oct. 10 Indiana
Oct. 17 at Maryland
Oct. 24 Georgia Tech
Oct. 31 Duke
Nov. 7 at Miami
Nov. 14 Boston College
Nov. 21 at Clemson
Nov. 28 Virginia Tech

1. Quarterback, not cornerback. Yes, Vic Hall really is playing offense. Al Groh has committed to getting Hall involved on the offensive side of things, whether it's at quarterback or other situational plays and opportunities. That's where he spent the entire spring -- not in the defensive meetings.

2. In good hands. With the departure of the top four receivers, one of the questions this spring was who would step up. The players felt like Kris Byrd and Javaris Brown answered that question, and they're also confident in sophomore Jared Green.

3. Buzz about Brandon. Make no mistake -- the offense isn't where it needs to be yet. But there is an excitement about Gregg Brandon's scheme, and it was well-received by the players. It's no-huddle, and they're trying to get the plays in fast to keep the defenses on their heels. Just remember -- nobody thought Georgia Tech's offense would flourish in its first season, either.

Fall questions

1. Ah, quarterback. The emphasis this spring was not to determine who the starter was, but to let all of them get enough reps so the coaches could start to judge who could best manage the team in the new offense. Just because Hall and Sewell are versatile athletes doesn't mean the other candidates won't be involved in the offense in some capacity.

2. Looking for linebackers. It's not easy replacing veterans like Antonio Appleby, Clint Sintim and Jon Copper. There's not a lot of playing experience to choose from, and it will take some time for the young players to grow into those spots. The staff was pleased with Darren Childs, Steve Greer, Aaron Taliaferro, Cam Johnson, and Darnell Carter.

3. Kicking game. Yannick Reyering couldn't get through spring practice because of knee problems and is no longer with the team. The staff is looking for someone to take over that position. Robert Randolph and sophomore Chris Hinkebein were effective in the spring scrimmage, but neither has won the job.

ACC's unheralded NFL draft picks

April, 21, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

With the NFL draft scheduled for 4 p.m. ET Saturday, much attention will be paid to the ACC's highest round picks like linebacker Aaron Curry. Over the past three years, the ACC has seen more of its players taken in the first round (25) than any other league, as well as more of its players drafted (115) than any other conference.

Just because a player isn't drafted in the first three rounds, though, doesn't mean he isn't destined for a successful NFL career, and this year the ACC has plenty of such players. There are several who are borderline third- and fourth-round picks, but even more who are relative unknowns capable of making names for themselves at the next level.

Don't forget about Miami's little used linebacker, Spencer Adkins, who has been getting a fair share of attention from scouts lately. He was used in a lot of third down situations as a pass-rusher. Aside from Bruce Johnson, he is the Canes' top prospect. North Carolina tight end Richard Quinn is ascending the draft boards quickly. He could conceivably be a third-rounder.

Here are three players who aren't expected to be drafted in the first three rounds, but will still be quality players in the NFL:

1. Victor "Macho" Harris, CB, Virginia Tech -- A potential late third-round, early fourth-round pick, Harris is a hard-hitter with exceptional ball skills. He reads blocks well and is a scoring threat, especially in the open field.

2. Anthony Hill, TE, NC State -- He doesn't drop many balls, he stays tough in traffic, and is efficient getting into his routes. He's a strong blocker who would have been much more productive had his career not been marred by injuries.

3. Aaron Kelly, WR, Clemson -- He uses his height to his advantage for jump balls, can create separation and be a threat for yards after catch. He is an average blocker, but was underutilized in Clemson's offense last year.

Other potentially late ACC picks worth keeping an eye on:

UNC receivers looking for edge this spring

March, 2, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Speaking of replacing receivers ... North Carolina has some issues. The Tar Heels bumped back the start of their spring practices from Monday to Wednesday (it doesn't affect the date of their spring game). Obviously coach Butch Davis will need to find a few guys who can catch the ball this spring, but the bulk of the competition at the position is expected to come during summer camp. The players who are on campus now, though -- like freshman Joshua Adams -- will obviously have a head start.

UNC only lost eight starters from its 2008 bowl team, but five of them were on offense, including the top three receivers. Last year's group of Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster and Hakeem Nicks accounted for 114 receptions, 1,932 yards and 17 of the 21 receiving touchdowns. The Tar Heels return just 18.1 percent of their receiving yards from 2008. The only other ACC school with a smaller returning percentage is Virginia, with 17.6 percent (the Cavaliers lost Kevin Ogletree, Cedric Peerman, John Phillips, Maurice Covington and Cary Koch).

Here's a look at who will be in the mix in Chapel Hill this spring to try to account for that lost yardage:

Joshua Adams -- has Adams rated as the No. 36 wide receiver in the class of 2009, although he committed to UNC on signing day with the class of 2008. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Adams played both receiver and defensive back in high school. He is from Cheshire, Conn., but played his first three years at Cambridge (Mass.) Rindge & Latin before transferring to Cheshire for his final season. He had 56 catches for 1,131 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.

Todd Harrelson, rs. Fr. -- He was considered to be the No. 60 receiver in the class of 2008, and has the potential for that fun YAC (yards after catch) stat. Our experts say he's got the ability to turn a short catch into a long gain. Harrelson is from Chesapeake, Va., where he caught 46 receptions for 892 yards and 13 touchdowns while leading Oscar Smith High to a 13-1 record as a senior.

Dwight Jones, soph. -- He was an outstanding recruit three years ago, and it's his second year in the program. Jones signed with UNC in the class of 2007, but failed to qualify and went to Hargrave Military Academy in 2007-08. He played sparingly last year, and is still waiting for his first collegiate catch, but is a big, physical receiver who can create some mismatches.

Rashad Mason, rs. soph. -- He redshirted in 2007, and didn't make any catches last year. Mason finished his senior season with 26 catches for 610 yards and 13 touchdowns at Pearl-Cohn High School in Tennessee.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 3, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

The official invitation list for the NFL scouting combine is out, and there are plenty of ACC players who will participate in the four-day job interview in Indianapolis from Feb. 18-24. Just because a player didn't make the list doesn't mean he won't be drafted, but here are the ACC players by school who were invited to the combine:


Kevin Akins, cornerback/linebacker

Ron Brace, defensive tackle

B.J. Raji, defensive tackle


Chris Clemons, safety

James Davis, running back

Michael Hamlin, safety

Cullen Harper, quarterback

Aaron Kelly, receiver

Dorell Scott, defensive tackle


Everette Brown, defensive end

Graham Gano, punter/placekicker


Andrew Gardner, offensive tackle

Michael Johnson, defensive end

Darryl Richard, defensive tackle

Vance Walker, defensive tackle

Jahi Word-Daniels, cornerback


Kevin Barnes, cornerback

Moise Fokou, outside linebacker

Dan Gronkowski, tight end

Darrius Heyward-Bey, wide receiver

Jaimie Thomas, offensive guard

Edwin Williams, center


Bruce Johnson, cornerback


Brooks Foster, wide receiver

Hakeem Nicks, wide recevier

Richard Quinn, tight end

Garrett Reynolds, offensive tackle

Brandon Tate, wide receiver


Andre Brown, running back

Anthony Hill, tight end


Eugene Monroe, offensive tackle

Kevin Ogletree, wide receiver

Cedric Peerman, tailback

John Phillips, tight end

Clint Sintim, linebacker


Victor "Macho" Harris, cornerback

Orion Martin, defensive end


Stanley Arnoux, linebacker

Aaron Curry, linebacker

Alphonso Smith, cornerback

Sam Swank, punter/placekicker

Chip Vaughn, safety

Virginia's recruiting needs

January, 15, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Virginia is having more success in the Tidewater area than in the past and some of that has been attributed to head defensive coach Bob Pruett, who used to be a high school coach in Virginia and is entering his second season on Al Groh's staff. Regardless of where they come from, the Cavaliers will need to bring in some wide receivers and linebackers in this class.

With recent hires of offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon and receivers coach Latrell Scott, Virginia will need some receivers for the spread offense the Cavaliers will implement in 2009.

The staff isn't really looking for anyone who will play immediately, but with the new offense, the departure of wide receiver Kevin Ogletree for the NFL draft and starter Maurice Covington graduated, freshmen receivers will have a chance to get on the field if they're capable.

The staff recently took an interest in receiver Bobby Smith (Richmond, Va.), and has three commitments from receivers. The other glaring holes on offense will be left by the graduation of tailback Cedric Peerman, tight end John Phillips and left tackle Eugene Monroe.

Virginia will also have to re-stock the linebacker position, where three of the four starters will have graduated and the fourth starter -- Denzel Burell -- will be a senior. Virginia will sorely miss starting linebackers Antonio Appleby, Jon Copper and Clint Sintim.

ACC will have 18 in Under Armour Senior Bowl

January, 12, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

I just received the final list of ACC players who will participate in the Under Armour Senior Bowl on Jan. 24 in Mobile, Ala., and the newest release includes four players from Virginia. It's only fitting that more than half of these bowl-bound players are defenders.

Here is the final list:

Boston College: defensive tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace

Clemson: Cullen Harper, quarterback; James Davis, running back; Michael Hamlin, safety

Georgia Tech: Vance Walker, defensive tackle; Michael Johnson, defensive end

North Carolina: Brooks Foster, wide receiver

North Carolina St.: Anthony Hill, tight end; Andre Brown, running back

Virginia: Eugene Monroe, left tackle; Cedric Peerman, running back; John Phillips, tight end; Clint Sintim, linebacker

Virginia Tech: Macho Harris, corner

Wake Forest: Aaron Curry, linebacker; Alphonso Smith, cornerback; Chip Vaughn, safety

Virginia season review

December, 16, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Overview: The Cavaliers managed to morph from a downright bad football team into one capable of winning the ACC title before finishing the season the way they started -- poorly. A tumultuous offseason that included the loss of starting quarterback Jameel Sewell to academic troubles contributed to a second 5-7 record in three seasons for embattled coach Al Groh. Virginia was 1-3 in September, 4-0 in October, and 0-4 in November. Part of the problem was up front, where Virginia had three first-time starters on the offensive line tasked with protecting a new quarterback.

Not only did Virginia lose Sewell, but it also lost his backup, Peter Lalich, who transferred after his own off-field troubles became a distraction. Turnovers were costly throughout the entire season, and Marc Verica's 16 interceptions were the most by an ACC quarterback and the second-most during a single season in school history. The Cavaliers ended the season on an all-too familiar note -- with a loss to rival Virginia Tech -- and offensive coordinator Mike Groh was not retained by his father.

Offensive MVP: Tight end John Phillips. He was the ACC's leading receiver among tight ends with 48 catches for 384 yards. Phillips led the Cavaliers in receptions in four games this season, and caught seven against Miami. His ability to block, though, is what makes him a complete player.

Defensive MVP: Linebacker Clint Sintim. He was one of the most dominating rush linebackers in the ACC, and had a streak of five games with a sack. Nearly a quarter of his tackles were behind the line of scrimmage and nobody on the team came close to his 24 quarterback pressures.

Turning point: The 24-17 home loss to Miami halted the four-game winning streak and proved to be costly in the Coastal Division standings. It snowballed into a four-game losing streak.

What's next: Groh needs to make a few hires and finish recruiting -- two critical jobs for a coach who is already on the hot seat for next season. The fact that athletic director Craig Littlepage didn't extend Groh's contract this season is evidence of that. Establishing an identity on offense will help, and that will start with a new coordinator.

All-ACC 2008

December, 10, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich


QB -- Russell Wilson, NC State
RB -- Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
RB -- C.J. Spiller, Clemson
TE -- John Phillips, Virginia
OL -- Eugene Monroe, Virginia
OL -- Matt Tennant, Boston College
OL -- Andrew Gardner, Georgia Tech
OL -- Edwin Williams, Maryland
OL -- Rodney Hudson, Florida State
WR -- Hakeem Nicks, UNC
WR -- D.J. Boldin, Wake Forest
K -- Graham Gano, Florida State


LB -- Clint Sintim, Virginia
LB -- Michael Tauiliili, Duke
LB -- Mark Herzlich, Boston College
LB -- Aaron Curry, Wake Forest
DL -- Everette Brown, Florida State
DL -- Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech
DL -- B.J. Raji, Boston College
DB -- Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest
DB -- Victor Harris, Virginia Tech
S -- Trimane Goddard, North Carolina
S -- Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech


C.J. Spiller


Travis Baltz, Maryland

ACSMA All-Conference ACC team announced

December, 1, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

The Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association announced its All-Conference teams today. Please note that this is not's list. This is the 2008 Associated Press all-ACC football team as voted on by 67 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

NOTE: A first-team vote was worth two points and second team vote one. An asterisk denotes unanimous selection.

QB: Russell Wilson, N.C. State (106)
RB: Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (134)*
RB: Da'Rel Scott, Maryland (76)
WR: Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina (130)
WR: D.J. Boldin, Wake Forest (76)
TE: John Phillips, Virginia (88)
OT: Eugene Monroe, Virginia (117)
OT: Andrew Gardner, Georgia Tech (107)
OG: Rodney Hudson, Florida State (99)
OG: Cliff Ramsey, Boston College (78)
C: Edwin Williams, Maryland (62)

QB: Thaddeus Lewis, Duke (28)
RB: Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (58)
RB: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (50)
WR: Eron Riley, Duke (57)
WR: Aaron Kelly, Clemson (56)
TE: Ryan Purvis, Boston College (45)
OT: Garrett Reynolds, North Carolina (42)
OT: Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (41)
OG: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech (48)
OG: Cord Howard, Georgia Tech (45)
C: Thomas Austin, Clemson (48)

DE: Everette Brown, Florida State (131)
DE: Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech (99)
DT: B.J. Raji, Boston College (103)
DT: Vance Walker, Georgia Tech (62)
LB: Mark Herzlich, Boston College (118)
LB: Michael Tauiliili, Duke (110)
LB: Aaron Curry, Wake Forest (106)
CB: Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest (134)*
CB: Victor Harris, Virginia Tech (125)
S: Trimane Goddard, North Carolina (105)
S: Michael Hamlin, Clemson (89)

DE: Orion Martin, Virginia Tech (61)
DE: Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech (39)
DT: Ron Brace, Boston College (52)
DT: Darryl Richard, Georgia Tech (50)
LB: Clint Sintim, Virginia (79)
LB: Alex Wujciak, Maryland (43)
LB: Mark Paschal, North Carolina (40)
CB: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia (49)
CB: Tony Carter, Florida State (34)
CB: Kendric Burney, North Carolina (34)
S: Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech (85)
S: Myron Rolle, Florida State (55)

K: Graham Gano, Florida State (127)
P: Travis Baltz, Maryland (105)
Specialist: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (66)

K: Matt Bosher, Miami (34)
P: Matt Bosher, Miami (60)
Specialist: Michael Ray Garvin, Florida State (41)


OFFENSE: Riley Skinner, qb, Wake Forest (26); Antone Smith, rb, Florida State (33); Cedric Peerman, rb, Virginia (30); Darius Heyward-Bey, wr, Maryland (34); Kevin Ogletree, wr, Virginia (32); Dan Gronkowski, te, Maryland (41); Scott Burley, ot, Maryland (34); Thomas Claiborne, og, Boston College (38); Calvin Darity, og, North Carolina (34); Jaimie Thomas, og, Maryland (33); Nick Marshman, og, Virginia Tech (24); Ryan McMahon, c, Florida State (35); Matt Tennant, c, Boston College (33); Ryan Shuman, c, Virginia Tech (23).

DEFENSE: Derrick Morgan, de, Georgia Tech (26); Willie Young, de, N.C. State (25); Vince Oghobaase, dt, Duke (40); Boo Robinson, de, Wake Forest (31); Jeremy Navarre, dt, Maryland (29); Nate Irving, lb, N.C. State (28); Paul Anderson, s, Boston College (35); Anthony Reddick, s, Miami (23).

SPECIAL TEAMS: Dustin Keys, k, Virginia Tech (25); Brandon Tate, spec., North Carolina (33); T.J. Graham, spec., N.C. State (31).

ACC in the afternoon: Senior moments

November, 21, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Sorry for the late links today, guys, but with the travel back from Atlanta and another name surfacing in the Clemson search, it's already been a full day.

Here's what's going on in the rest of the league:

* There are times when a "senior moment" isn't necessarily a bad thing for Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen. In fact, five of them might have been the difference in the season.

* Meet the "Fresh Deacs," who are no longer freshmen, but will be honored this weekend for bringing a fresh take to Wake Forest football.

* The ACC football schedule hasn't exactly made life easy for Virginia tight end John Phillips and his family, especially when Parents' Day is at the same time on Saturday for Virginia and William & Mary, where his brother is also a senior captain.

* After missing last season because of academic issues, this year has been about redemption for Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji, and his NFL stock has been rising as a result.

* Virgina Tech offensive tackle Blake DeChristopher has been a microcosim of the Hokies' offensive line -- impressive at times, inconsistent at others.

ACC internal affairs: Week 13

November, 19, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

VIRGINIA -- It will be a family affair this weekend for tight end John Phillips, who will celebrate his senior day at the same time his older brother, Jake, does at William & Mary. Jake is the Tribe's starting quarterback and a team captain. Phillips' mom, Susan, is going to Williamsburg and his dad, Gene, will be in Charlottesville. Phillips is one of 24 seniors who will be recognized before Saturday's game against Clemson. He has been an integral part of the Cavaliers' offense, as he has had at least two catches in every game. He ranks first among ACC tight ends in receptions per game with 4.6.

GEORGIA TECH -- The health of both quarterbacks is a concern. A real one. Tech is hoping both Josh Nesbitt and his backup, Jaybo Shaw, will be ready, but they've both been practicing in a limited capacity this week. Shaw has a leg injury and Nesbitt a sprained ankle. The good news is that neither one has worn the red jersey injured players typically wear during practice and neither are listed as "out" on this week's injury report. Coach Paul Johnson isn't putting a lot of stock into the Yellow Jackets' past success against Miami, considering how different the teams are this season.

FLORIDA STATE -- With safety Darius McClure on crutches this week, the odds of him actually playing on Saturday are slim, but nothing is official until Thursday's injury report comes out. McClure tore cartilage in his left knee last Saturday while celebrating his first career interception, which came against Boston College. Meanwhile, junior Jamie Robinson expects to start in place of Myron Rolle, who will miss part of the game to interview for a Rhodes Scholarship. And Kenny Ingram, who has played significantly at linebacker this season, has reportedly been moved to safety to help with the depth there.

CLEMSON -- The question this week has been whether defensive tackle Dorell Scott will return after suffering a knee injury in the second quarter against Florida State. He missed the Duke game and is listed as questionable for Saturday's game at Virginia, but has been upgraded from a yellow jersey to a green jersey at practice. Scott and defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson are the Tigers' two best interior linemen, but they have played together for only 10 plays this season. Jackson hurt a tendon in his knee in preseason practice and missed the first eight games. The only game they played in together was against Florida State.

NORTH CAROLINA -- Butch Davis has opened up his starting quarterback job and probably won't reveal it until later in the week, if he does at all before kickoff. Cam Sexton wowed and surprised just about everyone with his win at Miami -- his first game in taking over for the injured T.J. Yates -- but his production has slowly decreased since then. He wasn't the only one who could have played better at Maryland last week, but his mistakes were costly. He and Yates have been splitting the reps with the first team this week at practice.

ACC's Internal Affairs: Week 10

October, 29, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON: Entering Saturday's game at Boston College, the Tigers have a chance to be as healthy as they've been all year, and that's saying a lot. Clemson has had 12 injured players miss games and seven are offensive or defensive linemen. As a result, Clemson has started five different offensive line combinations in the first seven games and it could have another different lineup in Chestnut Hill. Starting defensive tackle Rashaad Jackson, a team leader who hurt his knee during summer camp and hasn't played a down all year, has been practicing this week. Running back C.J. Spiller, who hasn't played the past seven quarters, has looked pretty mobile at practice, and starting guard David Smith, who hasn't played since he sprained his ankle in the first half against South Carolina State, could also be back. The bye week might have been the best thing to happen to the Tigers this season.

FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles' run-based offense took a hit last weekend when leading rusher Antone Smith and his backup, freshman Jermaine Thomas, were both injured against Virginia Tech. Smith's biggest concern right now seems to be his ribs, but he is expected to play. Thomas, though, had a concussion and his availability is less certain even though he practiced this week. Depending on how much they've healed, it's possible that receiver Preston Parker could be used more in the running game like he was last year against Maryland. He was forced into the starting role after all three of the Noles' scholarship runners were injured. Both Smith and Thomas, though, seemed determined to play at Georgia Tech. Smith is the fourth-leading rusher in the ACC with 77.1 yards per game, but leads with 11 touchdowns.

VIRGINIA: Virginia coach Al Groh said this week that he expects tight end John Phillips to be among the leading tight ends in the nation before the season is over. Last year, with receiver Kevin Ogletree injured and the production from the receivers down, three Cavs' tight ends combined to catch 93 passes. Some of those plays this year have gone to Ogletree and Maurice Covington. This year, Groh said he expects his tight ends to get 50-55 passes. Phillips has shown his versatility this season and is second on the team and tied for fifth in the ACC with 35 catches for 300 yards and a touchdown. That's more production than he had in his first three seasons combined (21 catches for 285 yards and three touchdowns).

DUKE: The Blue Devils' coaching staff faces an interesting challenge this week. For the first six games of the season, Wake Forest ran a spread offense, and then last week, the Deacs made a sudden change to the I-formation and surprised Miami by throwing the ball just eight times. Duke's staff is now forced to prepare for two different offensive styles. While the Blue Devils are comfortable with their base defense, they're expecting to have to make adjustments. Duke's defense has been inconsistent this season, looking good against Navy's run, but unable to stop anything at Georgia Tech. Odds are Duke will see a more balanced Wake Forest offense on Saturday.

WAKE FOREST: Filming for the movie "The 5th Quarter" will take place during Saturday's home game against Duke. The movie is based on the Demon Deacons' 2006 championship season during which linebacker Jon Abbate was driven by the death of his 15-year-old brother, Luke. The crew purchased about 150 tickets for the game and will sit in section five, where Abbate's parents used to sit. The actors will be reacting to the game as it goes on, but since some scenes take place in September and others in November, they're going to have to change from short-sleeves to parkas during the game.

Final analysis: Virginia 35, East Carolina 20

October, 11, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Virginia's turnaround this season has been simply remarkable. From their formerly fourth-string quarterback to their once-on-the-hot-seat coach, everyone within the program deserves credit.

No, it wasn't a flawless performance, but the Cavaliers are looking like a much more respectable team than they were in the first few weeks of the season, and this win proved they have made significant strides. As the second half of the season progresses, so will Virginia, and it's very possible we'll look back on the Maryland game as the turning point in their season.

Virginia looks capable of winning more games in the ACC, but like every other team in the Coastal Division, will have a tough time knocking the Hokies off their perch. Then again, that Commonwealth Cup game suddenly seems more interesting now, doesn't it?

First they've got to get through the rest of their schedule, and next up is North Carolina, followed by a road trip to Georgia Tech. A month ago both of those teams could have walked right over Virginia. Now they've got to work for the win.

ECU's defense stuffed Cedric Peerman on a fourth-quarter fourth-down, but the Cavaliers got it right back when they finally got some pressure on Patrick Pinkney again and forced him to fumble. That shows that Virginia hasn't just learned how to win this season, it has learned how to play with a lead.

They even faked a field goal and scored on a pass from backup quarterback Scott Deke to tight end John Phillips. The play was a microcosm of Virginia's season -- getting contributions from everyone, third and fourth-string quarterbacks included.

Best of the kickoff

July, 21, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, Ga. -- So this is how they do it: each coach sits at a table and calmly answers question after question, most often the same answer repeatedly. It's July, they just played a round of golf, and most of them are in fairly good moods. The reporters wander from table to table, with free range to ask whomever whatever.

Tommy Bowden's table was literally standing room only. Butch Davis' the same. At one point, there were only four reporters -- including myself -- talking to Randy Shannon. Every now and then, though, over the past two days, somebody said something that made you laugh, or raise your eyebrows. You can't be everywhere at once, but here were a few snippets from the players and coaches:

  •  "It's a pain in the butt." -- Ralph Friedgen on Paul Johnson's offense.
  •  "We need to move on." -- Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski on how sick he is of answering questions about his Matt Ryan-less offense.
  •  "What's the point of dipping your feet in the water? You may as well jump in." -- Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim on the season opener against USC.
  •  "Until we win some BCS bowl games like you just talked about, the perception is always going to be we're not as strong, and we aren't." -- Clemson coach Tommy Bowden on the strength of the ACC compared to other conferences.
  • "He's a freak." - Miami linebacker Eric Moncur on defensive end Allen Bailey
  • "You could tell who the quarterbacks are because they always have a knack for getting along with everybody." -- UNC safety Deutna Williams
  •  "I'm sure that left a bad taste in their mouth. I'm sure they'll be gunning for us, but that's good, you get the best out of everybody." -- Virginia tight end John Phillips on their win over Miami last season.

Check back tomorrow for lots more on what the coaches had to say, and any news from the commissioner's breakfast.