ACC: Johnny White

North Carolina spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
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2010 overall record: 8-5

2010 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR Dwight Jones, WR Erik Highsmith, OT James Hurst, OG Jonathan Cooper, C Cam Holland, DE Quinton Coples, DT Jared McAdoo, DE Donte Paige-Moss, DT Tydreke Powell, LB Kevin Reddick, CB Charles Brown

Key losses

QB T.J. Yates, TE Zack Pianalto, TB Johnny White, LB Quan Sturdivant, LB Bruce Carter, CB Kendric Burney, S Deunta Williams, S Da’Norris Searcy

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Johnny White (720 yards)

Passing: T.J. Yates (3,418 yds)

Receiving: Dwight Jones* (946 yds)

Tackles: Kevin Reddick* (74)

Sacks: Quinton Coples* (10)

Interceptions: Da'Norris Searcy (4)

Spring answers

1. The offensive line should be the best since Butch Davis arrived in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels had to replace two starters in OT Mike Ingersoll and OG Alan Pelc, but Travis Bond has earned the starting job at right guard and Brennan Williams at right tackle. The left side of the line will be particularly strong with guard Jonathan Cooper (22 career starts), and OT James Hurst. This is also a large group, averaging 319 pounds.

2. There’s depth on the defensive line. There was enough depth this spring to move Coples from tackle back to end, his natural position. The Tar Heels have Paige-Moss at right end, Jordan Nix and Powell at tackle, and junior college transfer Sylvester Williams was pushing Nix for the starting job. Jared McAdoo has played both positions, and the staff has four tackles it feels good about.

3. Bryn Renner has taken over. Heading into the spring, Davis wouldn’t anoint Renner his 2011 starter just yet. Now, there’s no question it’s Renner’s job, as none of the other candidates came close to him this spring. True freshman Marquise Williams went through a major learning curve, and A.J. Blue and Braden Hanson didn’t close the gap.

Fall questions

1. Looking for a linebacker. Outside linebacker Zach Brown and middle linebacker Kevin Reddick have starting jobs locked up, but Herman Davidson and Darius Lipford will take their competition into summer camp.

2. Helping hands at tight end. Last year, 79 of the receptions were to tight ends, and Ryan Taylor and Zack Pianalto were two of the top three receivers on the team (combined for 66 catches last year). The staff recruited well at the position, but those players didn’t enroll early. Nelson Hurst, Christian Wilson and Sean Fitzpatrick were the lead candidates this spring.

3. Revamped secondary. All four starters must be replaced, but Jabari Price started the final four games at corner last season. There are six candidates for the safety positions, but Brown, Jonathan Smith and Brian Gupton all missed last season because of the NCAA investigation. Senior Matt Merletti emerged as a leader last year, safety Gene Robinson is in the mix, and safety Josh Hunter had a good spring game with six tackles and an interception. Tre Boston moved from corner to safety.

UNC has school-record 9 players drafted

May, 2, 2011
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A school-record nine North Carolina players were selected in this year's NFL draft, including five on Saturday. Safety Da'Norris Searcy, running back Johnny White, quarterback T.J. Yates, linebacker Quan Sturdivant and tight end Ryan Taylor were picked in final four rounds of the draft.

“I’m thrilled for the guys who were selected and I’m hopeful a few others will get an opportunity as free agents," coach Butch Davis said in a prepared statement. "I think several of our players, like T.J. , Johnny and Ryan, benefited from playing in our pro-style offense. It should make their transition to the NFL that much easier. Our assistant coaches and our program did a great job preparing our players for the next level.”

Talk about taking advantage of a situation to make a recruiting pitch.

Betchya it works, too.

North Carolina and USC tied for the most picks in the country. It is the highest total for UNC since seven players were chosen in the 1998 draft.

Yates became the first Carolina quarterback taken since Ronald Curry in 2002. Yates passed for a single-season record 3,418 yards and led the Tar Heels to the Music City Bowl win against Tennessee as a senior.

“I was sitting at home and it gets annoying watching it and not knowing when or if you are going to be picked,” Yates said, according to the school's release. “My oldest brother, my nephew and I finally decided to watch a movie, but I kept getting calls from my friends asking me about the draft. Finally, my agent called and said Houston was going to take me. The GM called and asked me if I was ready to be a Texan. It feels really good.”

Yates became the first North Carolina player selected by the Houston Texans. White became the first Tar Heel tailback taken in the NFL draft since Jonathan Linton in 1998.

NFL draft rewind: ACC basics

May, 2, 2011
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ACC Players Taken in the NFL Draft

1 12 Christian Ponder, Florida State, QB Vikings
1 14 Robert Quinn, North Carolina, DE Rams
1 22 Anthony Castonzo, Boston College, T Colts
2 33 Ras-I Dowling, Virginia, CB Patriots
2 38 Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech, RB Cardinals
2 40 Bruce Carter, North Carolina, LB Cowboys
2 41 Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson, DT Redskins
2 46 Orlando Franklin, Miami, OL Broncos
2 50 Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson, CB Chargers
2 51 Da’ Quan Bowers, Clemson, DE Buccaneers
2 52 Marvin Austin, North Carolina, DT Giants
2 55 Rodney Hudson, Florida State, C-G Chiefs
2 58 Torrey Smith, Maryland, WR Ravens
2 59 Greg Little, North Carolina, WR Browns
2 60 Brandon Harris, Miami, CB Texans
3 67 Nate Irving, NC State, LB Broncos
3 79 Leonard Hankerson, Miami, WR Redskins
3 81 DeMarcus Van Dyke, Miami, CB Raiders
3 86 Allen Bailey, Miami, DE Chiefs
4 100 Da’Norris Searcy, North Carolina, S Bills
4 109 Colin McCarthy, Miami, ILB Titans
4 122 Chris Hairston, Clemson, T Bills
4 127 Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech, CB Texans
4 130 Jamie Harper, Clemson, RB Titans
5 133 Johnny White, North Carolina, RB Bills
5 152 T.J. Yates, North Carolina, QB Texans
6 171 Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina, LB Cardinals
6 173 Byron Maxwell, Clemson, DB Seahawks
6 180 Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, QB Ravens
6 181 Richard Gordon, Miami, TE Raiders
6 192 Matt Bosher, Miami, P-PK Falcons
7 218 Ryan Taylor, North Carolina, TE Cowboys
7 221 Da’Rel Scott, Maryland, RB Giants
7 224 Markus White, Florida State, DE Redskins
7 225 Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech, RB Ravens

ACC Selections by Rounds

First 3
Second 12
Third 4
Fourth 5
Fifth 2
Sixth 5
Seventh 4

ACC Selections by Teams

North Carolina 9
Miami 8
Clemson 6
Florida State 3
Virginia Tech 3
Maryland 2
Boston College 1
Georgia Tech 1
NC State 1
Virginia 1

Butch Davis looking for more than one RB

April, 21, 2011
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Despite the return of veteran Ryan Houston, North Carolina coach Butch Davis said on Thursday's spring coaches' teleconference that he wants more than one running back to carry the load this fall.

"You have to have a stable of running backs," he said. "I don’t know that I even want to have one guy you say this guy is going to take 95 percent of the reps. I think it’s a detriment to the kid."

Davis said that when he was at Miami, he always played two and possibly a third running back and would like to do the same this fall. Last year, because of injuries, he didn't have much choice. This year, he doesn't have much experience to choose from after the departures of Johnny White, Shaun Draughn and Anthony Elzy.

Houston was the leading rusher in 2009 but redshirted last year after his season was disrupted by the NCAA investigation. He's the most experienced of the group, as Hunter Furr played sparingly last year and Giovani Bernard and true freshman Travis Riley have yet to see the field.

"There’s plenty enough work to get two good quality players a lot and maybe a third," Davis said. "We’ve got to have more than one running back and we’ve got an awful lot of unproven guys."

Spring preview: Coastal Division

February, 15, 2011
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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
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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)
This morning we looked at the main recruiting needs for the Atlantic Division. Here are the priorities for each team in the Coastal Division:

DUKE

Offensive line: The Blue Devils will have to replace one starter in center Bryan Morgan, and it’s still a relatively young group, but with several redshirt sophomores on the roster, the staff wants to load up two grades behind them to fully stock the position for the future.

Defensive line: This has always been Duke’s deficiency, which means it will always be a priority to catch up and build depth. The Blue Devils will have to replace two starters in Wesley Oglesby and Patrick Egboh. Noseguard Charlie Hatcher will be a redshirt senior.

Cornerback: Duke only loses one starter, cornerback Chris Rwabukamba, but it’s another position that has been weak and needs better athletes.

GEORGIA TECH

Offensive line: The early departure of Nick Claytor to the NFL didn’t help the depth, but there were still several young players who gained valuable experience and others who redshirted to help the depth. While no true freshman is likely to make an immediate impact, the staff is still looking to build the numbers up front.

Linebacker/defensive line: The Jackets need to find more athletes who are suited for Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme. Fast athletes who are versatile enough to play a hybrid role, with the ability to move in space, will be a priority in this class.

MIAMI

Quarterback: With Jacory Harris being a senior, A.J. Highsmith moving to defense, and Spencer Whipple struggling in what little time he has played, the position needs a boost. It didn’t help that Teddy Bridgewater reneged on his commitment.

Linebacker: This is a position former coach Randy Shannon had put an emphasis on building, and there are young players and depth, but it was also a veteran group in the 2010 two-deep, with mainly juniors and seniors.

Wide receiver: The upperclassmen did all of the work in 2010, with Leonard Hankerson leading the way. Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson and Laron Byrd will all be seniors. An influx of young talent is needed.

Defensive end: The staff is looking to improve the depth here, get stronger up front, and build upon the success from 2010. Marcus Robinson, Adewale Ojomo, and Micanor Regis will all be seniors.

NORTH CAROLINA

Tailback: Injuries depleted this group in 2010, and Anthony Elzy, Johnny White and Shaun Draughn were both seniors. Ryan Houston was able to redshirt and will return as a fifth-year senior, but the Tar Heels need more dependable runners and a foundation for the future.

Defensive line: The Tar Heels have to prepare for some departures, especially on the interior, where all four players on the two-deep roster in 2010 were juniors.

Secondary: UNC will have to replace three starters in the secondary this spring, and three backups this year were juniors. Because of the NCAA investigation, this is a group in which backups had to develop quickly, so there are some experienced younger players, but the group still needs to reload.

Tight end: The loss of Zach Pianalto and his backup, Ed Barham, leaves the position thin.

VIRGINIA

Offensive line: With starting right guard B.J. Cabbell gone, starting center Anthony Mihota a senior, and starting left guard Austin Pasztor a senior, the staff has to prepare for some departures. Morgan Moses and Oday Aboushi are talented young players, but the rotation needs more of them.

Defensive line: End Zane Parr’s decision to leave early for the NFL draft hurt the position’s depth, and the Cavs will also have to replace John-Kevin Dolce at tackle. Three other players in the two-deep will be rising seniors, and with Virginia switching back to a 4-3 defense under Mike London, the Cavs have to rebuild up front.

Secondary: Cornerback is of particular concern, as Chase Minnifield will be a senior, and starter Mike Parker will graduate.

VIRGINIA TECH

Running back: The early departures of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans to the NFL left David Wilson as the only tailback with any significant experience. Overall, the Hokies have four tailbacks on their current roster.

Defensive line: The Hokies will have to replace redshirt senior starters Steven Friday and John Graves, and starting left end Chris Drager will be a redshirt senior this year.

Wide receiver/tight end: Starters Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale will be seniors, and tight end Andre Smith will graduate.

Secondary: Half the players on the two-deep roster against Stanford were either juniors or seniors, and the Hokies will have to replace rover Davon Morgan and cornerback Rashad Carmichael.

UNC's tailback situation worsens

December, 27, 2010
12/27/10
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Yes, it could get worse at UNC, and it did.

Starting tailback Anthony Elzy won't play in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl "after failing to meet his obligations as a student-athlete at UNC."

This has been one of the thinnest positions for the Tar Heels all year, but Elzy had really risen to the occasion. He started the final three regular-season games at tailback in place of Johnny White and had 531 all-purpose yards (176.7 yards per game) against Virginia Tech, NC State and Duke. He had a career-high 118 yards rushing in his final game at Duke and had a career-high 178 yards receiving versus NC State.

He was one of just two proven runners entering the bowl game, the other being Shaun Draughn, the 2009 starter. Draughn missed the first game of the year while the university worked with the NCAA to determine his eligibility, then twisted his ankle late in the year against FSU. He played sparingly against Virginia Tech, but has returned to full strength entering the Music City Bowl. He is second on the team with 477 rushing yards and five touchdowns.

Season recap: North Carolina

December, 7, 2010
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Many thought the season was over before it even began, but the Tar Heels proved otherwise, becoming bowl eligible despite a roster decimated by injuries and suspensions from a two-pronged NCAA investigation. North Carolina was ranked No. 18 in the preseason Associated Press bowl, but fell out of contention for the Coastal Division after a total of 14 players were lost for at least one game and seven were out for the entire season. Standout defensive tackle Marvin Austin, a projected first-round draft pick at the time, was dismissed from the team, and an 0-2 start had the situation looking bleak. UNC responded with a four-game winning streak that put it in contention to win the division. The obstacles kept coming, though, as tight end Zack Pianalto, the team’s leading receiver, suffered a season-ending broken fibula, and Johnny White, the team’s leading rusher, was lost with a broken clavicle. The season was highlighted by performances from players who might not otherwise have had the chance, like White, and his backup, Anthony Elzy. One thing UNC could not overcome, though, was NC State, as the Tar Heels lost for the fourth straight time to coach Tom O’Brien.

Offensive MVP: Quarterback T.J. Yates. He was one of the most improved players in the conference this year, and his leadership and poise were major reasons the program didn’t suffer on the field as much as it did off of it. Yates ranks second in the league in passing yards, pass efficiency and total offense. He also led the league with a 67.6 percent completion rate. Yates finished the regular season completing 259 of 383 attempts for 3,184 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Defensive MVP: Defensive tackle Quinton Coples. He is the only defensive tackle in the league in the top 10 in both sacks (8.5) and tackles for losses (14.0). He also ranks fourth on the team with 53 tackles and has 10 quarterback pressures.

Turning point: The 17-13 win at Rutgers on Sept. 25 gave the Tar Heels the confidence they needed to know they could win, and it started a four-game winning streak that essentially ensured the program of its third straight bowl appearance. Heading into the game, UNC was ravaged by suspensions and unsure of itself after an 0-2 start.

What’s next: The Tar Heels will face Tennessee in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. It’s the third straight bowl appearance under coach Butch Davis, but his future remains uncertain as the NCAA has yet to impose any sanctions for the university’s academic violations and improper dealings with agents and athletes receiving impermissible benefits. UNC officials so far have voiced their support for Davis.

Hokies looking ahead, not back

November, 13, 2010
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has usually been one to support the current BCS system.

“This particular year,” he said with a smile, “a playoff wouldn’t be bad.”

After two losses to start the season, there’s nothing Virginia Tech can do to change its fate in the national picture. The Hokies are doing everything imaginable, though, to redeem themselves and change the perception of them after their 0-2 start.

With its 26-10 road win over North Carolina, Virginia Tech has now won eight straight games. The Hokies have left no doubt they are the best team in the ACC, even if the watered-down conference isn’t giving them any ranked competition. They are the only team still undefeated in conference play heading into Saturday’s game at Miami, and with a two-game lead in the division, are heading towards the best-case scenario: their third appearance in the ACC title game in the past four years.

[+] EnlargeTyrod Taylor
Bob Donnan/US PresswireVirginia Tech has had much to celebrate since dropping its first two games of the season.
“I think we’re getting to be a really good football team right now,” Beamer said. “At the beginning of the year, we were just a little too young to be a real, good, consistent football team. Too young.”

Consistency over the long haul, though, is the one thing that has separated Beamer’s program from the rest of the pack. Virginia Tech is now 44-10 in conference games since joining the ACC in 2004, including a 22-5 road record. The Hokies are 22-2 in November games since 2004 (20-2 against the ACC).

They’re even dependable in slow starts and fast finishes. The Hokies have come from behind to win four times this season. Virginia Tech trailed 10-9 at the half on Saturday, but outgained the Tar Heels 141-19, and outscored them 17-0 in the third quarter.

If there was any benefit to the way the season started for this team, it’s that Virginia Tech learned a lesson: Not to get complacent. Despite its control of the Coastal Division, the Hokies did not clinch the title on Saturday because Miami beat Georgia Tech. Though unlikely, it's still possible Virginia Tech can close the season with two losses to Miami and Virginia, leaving the Hurricanes atop the Coastal Division.

“I don’t think there’s a time when you can get comfortable because when you’re comfortable, that’s the time when you’re most vulnerable of getting beat,” said linebacker Bruce Taylor. “I feel good with the lead we have. It’s in our control. If we win out, we’re in the ACC championship game. It’s in our hands. That’s the fun part about it. Everyone is going to give us their best shot, that’s what I love, playing against the best competition.”

Sure, quarterback Tyrod Taylor said, he thinks about what could have been had the Hokies won their first two games. But he said he spends more time thinking about the possibilities that still remain -- an ACC title and Orange Bowl win.

“I think that we’re playing at a high level right now, and as long as we continue to play that way, people will eventually respect it,” he said. “Some people won’t. All we can do is go out there and win games every week. It’s your choice if you’re going to respect us or not.”

It’s hard not to considering how well the Hokies played against a gritty North Carolina team that refuses to quit. The Tar Heels were without leading rusher Johnny White, and a plethora of other injured players, but so were the Hokies. Virginia Tech missed a lot of speed without David Wilson and Dyrell Roberts on the field, and they likely lost another kick returner, Tony Gregory, for the season with a knee injury.

The Hokies were also without starting defensive end Chris Drager, and yet the defense shut out North Carolina in the second half. Standout receiver Dwight Jones, who had 28 catches for 612 yards and three touchdowns in the past four games, was held to just one catch.

North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates, who had thrown four interceptions all season entering the game, threw four against the Hokies. Prior to facing Virginia Tech, UNC had not turned the ball over more than three times in a game. They gave it up six times to Bud Foster’s defense.

There’s not much more Virginia Tech could have done over the past 10 weeks -- or against UNC -- to prove it’s a different team than the one that started the season.

“I think a key factor is having great kids,” Beamer said. “I’ve said that a bunch, but I really mean it. I think if you’ve got bad guys on your team, they just fall apart when you have two tough losses in a week. … It wasn’t even a whole week. Two losses that stay with you. I think our leadership, our kids, they went right back to work and here we are. I’m proud of what we accomplished.”

And he should be -- even if the BCS isn’t going to recognize it.

UNC tailback situation update

November, 13, 2010
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Anthony Elzy will start at tailback, Shaun Draughn will go out in warm-ups and see how much he can do despite his ankle injury, and Hunter Furr will be the first man off the bench. Ryan Houston is dressed, but he's not expected to play.

Many UNC fans are walking around Kenan Stadium wearing T-shirts that read "I support Butch." An airplane trailing the sign "Supportbutchdavis.com" also flew by.

Most coaches have their fans' support when they're winning, and so far -- despite a total of 31 players missing at least one game this year because of either injuries or the NCAA investigation -- Butch Davis has managed to win six games and stay in the hunt for the Coastal Division title.

Today will determine if the Tar Heels can continue their success without injured leading rusher Johnny White against a Virginia Tech team that is still undefeated in league play.

There's obviously a lot of interest here in the outcome of the Miami-Georgia Tech game, as a Georgia Tech win will help the Hokies clinch the Coastal title with a win over UNC here.

Can the Hokies clinch the Coastal?

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
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Enjoy today, ACC fans, because we're quickly running out of college football Saturdays, and if Virginia Tech wins today and Miami loses, the Coastal Division will be wrapped up early.

Can the Hokies pull it off?

That depends, since half of the equation is out of their control. Can Georgia Tech get its offense going without injured quarterback Joshua Nesbitt? Both rookie quarterbacks -- Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington and Miami's Stephen Morris -- have great potential but lack experience. They're going to wow you and frustrate you, which will leave the outcome in the hands of veteran defenders. Somebody on defense will make a play that will change the game or, one defense won't be able to make the stops when it matters most.

In Chapel Hill, both Virginia Tech and North Carolina have to overcome injuries to starters, and the loss of UNC leading rusher Johnny White (collar bone) and Virginia Tech starting defensive end Chris Drager and kickoff returner/tailback David Wilson could be a difference in what should be a close game.

Having seen the Hokies last week against Georgia Tech, they didn't do anything spectacular that made them seem that much better than anyone else in the Coastal Division. What they do have, though, are two talented tailbacks, which immediately gives them an edge over the depleted Heels heading into this game.

There's no reason Virginia Tech can't end the day as Coastal Division champs, but in the ever-unpredictable ACC, it also wouldn't surprise me in the least if UNC and Miami both won. I'll stick with my Thursday prediction, though, and say the Hokies are kings of the Coastal once again by this evening.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 11

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
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Here’s a look at the top 10 things to keep an eye on this week in the ACC, in no particular order:

Pass-rushers in Tallahassee. Clemson at Florida State will feature two of the ACC’s top pass-rushers in Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and FSU defensive end Brandon Jenkins. They’re No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the ACC in both sacks and tackles for loss. FSU’s offensive line has allowed 2.11 sacks per game (19 total), while Clemson has allowed nine total.

[+] EnlargeSophomore QB Tevin Washington will make his first career start against Miami.
Geoff Burke/Getty Imagestbd by editor
Rookie quarterbacks in Atlanta. Miami rookie Stephen Morris and Georgia Tech backup Tevin Washington will both take center stage Saturday in Bobby Dodd Stadium at the expense of injured starters. Morris already has one start under his belt and played well in last week’s win over Maryland, but Washington has been in the system longer and took the first-team reps this spring when starter Joshua Nesbitt was out with an ankle injury.

Replacements in Chapel Hill. There will be plenty of them. With UNC tailback Johnny White out for the rest of the season, the Tar Heels’ tailback situation remains a question as of now. Will Ryan Houston redshirt? Will Shaun Draughn (ankle) be cleared to play? The Hokies have their own problems, as defensive end Chris Drager, tailback/returner David Wilson and receiver Dyrell Roberts are all out. All of the backups will be forced into key roles.

Scoreboards in Chapel Hill and Atlanta. These are the two games to watch, as a Virginia Tech win coupled with a Miami loss will lock up the Coastal Division for the Hokies. The Atlantic Division race is more complicated, as no outcome will determine the division winner, but a Clemson win in Tally opens the door for a four-team race.

Turnovers in Durham. The one thing that’s been going right for Duke in its two-game winning streak is it hasn’t been turning the ball over like it was in its losses. That could change against a BC defense that ranks third in the country in turnovers gained with 26. The Blue Devils have turned it over just one time in the past two games compared with an average of three per game in the previous seven.

Virginia Tech’s secondary vs. T.J. Yates & Co. Yates has thrown for over 400 yards twice this season, and the Tar Heels are No. 33 in the country in passing offense (258.44 yards per game). Virginia Tech is No. 22 in the country in passing defense (187 yards per game).

Keith Payne and Perry Jones against Maryland’s rushing D. Virginia has two of the ACC’s top 10 leading rushers, as Payne is No. 7 (74.8) and leads the ACC with 14 rushing touchdowns, and Jones is No. 10 (61.9). Maryland is holding ACC opponents to just 2.6 yards per carry, the best in the league.

Virginia receiver Dontrelle Inman. Against Duke, he caught 10 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown. On the season, Inman is sixth in the ACC with 66 receiving yards per game. He’ll face an underrated Maryland secondary that features playmakers Kenny Tate and Antwine Perez.

Cursed kickers. Clemson missed two field goals last week, Florida State’s wide right curse continued in the loss to North Carolina, and NC State will be without senior Josh Czajkowski for the rest of the season after he injured his hamstring in the loss to Clemson. Sophomore Ellis Flint and freshman Chris Hawthorne were competing for the job this week.

Running back rotations. NC State’s Dean Haynes is back after missing the Clemson game with a head injury, but coach Tom O’Brien did not say which of his top three tailbacks will start against Wake Forest. At Miami, Lamar Miller had the best performance of any Miami running back this season against the Terps, but Damien Berry returned to practice. He is still listed as questionable, and Miller, Mike James and Graig Cooper should again carry the load. UNC’s running back situation remains a question, and Ryan Williams and Darren Evans will carry the load without No. 3 tailback David Wilson.

ACC predictions: Week 11

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
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Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

A 3-2 record last week keeps me in the Atlantic Division race, but then again, who’s not a contender in this league? Clemson and North Carolina proved me wrong, bringing my season record to 54-20 (72.9 percent). I’m slipping, but just like Virginia Tech, I’ve got some margin for error. Will the Hokies need it? I sure do …

Boston College 24, Duke 21: The Eagles are too well-coached on defense, and it will be the difference in the game against a Duke defense that ranks last in the ACC in scoring defense, allowing 38.9 points per game. BC will force the Blue Devils into a few turnovers, create a short field, and Montel Harris will do his part to control the clock.

Clemson 21, Florida State 20: This was one of the toughest picks of the week, but I’m going with the Tigers because their defense is better. Just ask NC State. Clemson held the Pack to 63 rushing yards and 13 points. FSU held the Pack to 189 rushing yards and 28 points. Christian Ponder’s health is a question, but regardless of who starts the game, Clemson will shut down the offense and do just enough things right to find a way to win.

Maryland 21, Virginia 17: The Terps’ defense is holding opponents to 20.4 points per game and will put a damper on the seniors’ final game in Scott Stadium. Turnovers and penalties will once again doom the Cavaliers, as the Terps rank fifth in the nation in turnover margin. Maryland will snap its three-game losing streak in the series.

NC State 35, Wake Forest 14: It’s going to be another rough weekend for the Deacs’ injury-laden defense. The Wolfpack still have something to play for, and with all three running backs cleared to play, NC State’s offense will be clicking again. Russell Wilson leads the ACC’s top pass offense while Wake is No. 10 in pass defense.

Georgia Tech 28, Miami 24: In a battle between two rookie quarterbacks, both will make mistakes, leaving the defenses the deciding factor. Miami allowed Florida State 298 rushing yards. It’s not going to get much better against an offense that leads the nation with 320 rushing yards per game.

Virginia Tech 21, North Carolina 17: The Hokies’ secondary will come out on top against quarterback T.J. Yates and his talented receivers, especially if UNC turns one-dimensional because of the lack of depth at tailback without leading rusher Johnny White. The Hokies will miss the production of kick returner David Wilson, but the tailback duo of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans will open things up for Tyrod Taylor and the Heels won’t be able to stop the high-scoring Hokies.

UNC TB rotation could be game-time decision

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
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North Carolina coach Butch Davis said today that his tailback rotation for Saturday's game against Virginia Tech could be a game-time decision.

With leading rusher Johnny White out for the rest of the season with a broken collar bone, the staff is deciding whether or not to redshirt Ryan Houston. Some of that depends on whether or not Shaun Draughn (ankle) is healthy, but there is no update on his status.

"We haven't decided any of those right now," Davis said. "Certainly I've had some conversations with Ryan. That will probably be a potential game-time decision. ... We're working with the guys who played in last week's game."

That would include Hunter Furr, who has since been promoted from the scout team. Furr entered last weekend's Florida State game on the Tar Heels’ final drive and had three carries for 27 yards. Davis said Furr's practice time has increased "a lot" this week, and is getting about 20-30 percent of the practice reps.

"Obviously the whole team was ecstatic for Hunter," Davis said. "He's been very unselfish in his willingness to play whatever role we've given him. He's played on a lot of the special teams this season. Because we had four senior running backs, he knew this probably wasn't going to be the year he was going to get an awful lot of opportunities at running back, but he continued to practice hard, study, know the game plans, and ... clearly the team was very happy with what he did."

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