ACC: Jonathan Dwyer
2009 overall record: 11-3
2009 conference record: 7-1, ACC champions
Offense: 7, defense 8: punter/kicker: 2
QB Josh Nesbitt, RB Anthony Allen, RB Roddy Jones, C Sean Bedford, WR Tyler Melton, WR Stephen Hill, LB Brad Jefferson, CB Mario Butler, S Dominique Reese, PK Scott Blair
WR Demaryius Thomas, RB Jonathan Dwyer, OG Cord Howard, DE Derrick Morgan, LB Sedric Griffin, S Morgan Burnett
2009 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Dwyer (1,395 yards)
Passing: Nesbitt* (1,701 yards)
Receiving: Thomas (1,154 yards)
Tackles: Jefferson* (95)
Sacks: Morgan (12.5)
Interceptions: Burnett (4)
1. Who’s No. 2. Tevin Washington earned the No. 2 quarterback job behind Josh Nesbitt, who was out this spring recovering from minor ankle surgery. Washington ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in the Jackets’ spring game. He made the most of Jaybo Shaw's transfer to Georgia Southern and beat David Sims and Jordan Luallen for the job.
2. Receiver by committee. Yes, Stephen Hill has the chance to be the program’s next elite receiver, but there were signs the passing game will have some more help this fall. Look for the Jackets to make an effort to throw more to the A-backs, or slot backs, this year.
3. Finding homes on defense. Georgia Tech won’t solve all of its defensive problems in one spring, but the transition to Al Groh’s 3-4 defense helped a few players who were in between positions find a spot. Anthony Egbuniwe, who was a defensive end last year, is now an outside linebacker. And Anthony Barnes, who was a nomad last year, seems to have found a home at the other outside linebacker spot. Jason Peters, who has bounced between defensive tackle and end, showed significant improvement at end this spring.
1. How much better can the defense be? Overall, the transition under Groh remains a question. Specifically, the biggest concern on the line is the nose tackle position. T.J. Barnes played there in the spring, and Ben Anderson missed all of spring recovering from a knee injury he suffered late last season. When Anderson comes back in August, he’ll compete with Barnes for that job. There were too many runs up the middle during the spring game to stop a team like Virginia Tech or Miami.
2. Nesbitt’s health. The ankle injury was minor -- he could have participated this spring had he wanted to -- but Nesbitt’s health will be a concern this year. There is still a big difference between Nesbitt and Washington, and Nesbitt has to stay healthy if the Jackets are going to defend their ACC crown.
3. Unsettled offensive line. There are a lot of new players working their way into the rotation, and competition will continue. Georgia Tech lost three starters, including the transfer of guard Joseph Gilbert. The second team was composed entirely of freshmen in the Jackets’ spring game.
Bob in Arlington, Va., writes: Hey Heather- did I see you in Atlantic City this past weekend?
HD: Haven't been there in a few months, but when I go, you can find me at Nero's with my parents and their comp points. Don't forget Mother's Day, BTW.
Daniel in Atlanta writes: Heather,Do you think Dwyer's draft stock was affected by the, um... 'interesting' headline on ESPN about his 'testing positive' at the combine or do you think he went so late because of something else? Or did he go when he should have gone?
HD: Daniel it seems as if even the NFL scouts were divided on how highly Dwyer should have gone, and I doubt much of it had to do with any headlines. Everyone in the NFL knew Dwyer was taking approved prescription medication. He really did get some mixed reviews, though. I think the Steelers got a great deal and I expected Dwyer to be gone by the third round. He'll get his chance to prove his doubters wrong as the No. 2 guy and a short-yardage back.
Mark in College Park, Md., writes: What did you see out of the terps during their spring game? I need some good news after a 2 and 10 season.
HD: So does Ralph Friedgen. Overall, he liked what he saw. I think the most important thing was the progress of the offensive line, which Friedgen said "vastly improved." They've got enough running backs, and with a more mobile quarterback and the play of WR Torrey Smith, the Terps should be able to do some things on offense this year. Maryland fans should be encouraged by the spring practices.
Nathan in Roanoke, Va., writes: People still seem to be concerned with Defensive Depth for VT this year. I follow recruiting big time and keep up with player stats. People seem to forget that Nick Dew is coming in the fall and Zack McCray as well each will be playing positions that lack depth. What do you think the chances will be of them contributing from day 1?
HD: Did you mean Nick Acree, a defensive tackle, and not Nick Dew, an OLB? There is help on the way up front, but considering how demanding coordinator Bud Foster and defensive line coach Charley Wiles are, it's going to be difficult for a true freshman to come in in August, learn the system and be ready to play. The coaches like John Graves and Kwamaine Battle as the two defensive tackles with Antoine Hopkins as a backup. They're still looking for a fourth defensive tackle. At defensive end, former tight end Chris Drager and Steven Friday had good springs, but again, they're still looking for depth. That could be J.R. Collins or James Gayle.
Matt in Orlando writes: Have you heard about the white unis and helmets FSU is planning on wearing at the Oklahoma game? Why can't we learn not to mess with the traditional colors? (For an example, look up our recent record for when we wear "special" unis).
HD:I checked with FSU's sports information department, and there is no truth to the notion that the ‘Noles will be wearing a white helmet at Oklahoma. The equipment manager had one made up at the coaching staff’s request for recruits to see a wide variety of uniform options FSU can mix and match. They dressed up for mannequins in the locker room in different garb. One recruit took a picture and posted it on a website, leading to an instant rumor. Jimbo Fisher wants to stick with tradition (gold helmets), but he wouldn't be opposed to using the Nike unis worn against Maryland last season on a rare occasion.
Matt in Atlanta writes: With Jordan Luallen unlikely to get any play-time in the next year at least, is there any chance he moves to wide reciever? He's got the build and we need more tall guys out there catching balls.
HD: Doubtful, Matt. Luallen will enter the fall battling David Sims for the No. 3 quarterback job. You're right, though, his odds of any significant playing time are slim. He'll have to make large strides in August to pass Tevin Washington as the No. 2 QB. And even though the Jackets will be without Demaryius Thomas, they've still got five or six skilled receivers to turn to.
Horace from the 757 writes: HD,How about the Steelers snagging three Hokies! Taco Thompson could be a nice sub for the NT position with his girth. Jason Worilds will have a tough time cracking the rotation with Harrison, Woodley, and Timmons in front of him. Demetrius Taylor most likely won't break the practice squad ranks, but still getting paid! I like Dwyer's chances of catching on with the guaranteed run based offense for the first 6 games.
HD: Here we go Steelers, here we go ...
Eric in Tallahassee writes: Any notable ACC player go undrafted that you felt should of? Overall how do you think the ACC did in the draft this year?
HD: One player I would've liked to see get a shot as a free agent was Wake quarterback Riley Skinner. I thought somebody would have given him a chance, and that he deserved one.
- Full disclosure: I'm from Pennsylvania. Born on the Western side. That makes me a Steelers fan. Welcome to the club, Jonathan Dwyer. The surprising news, though, was how long Dwyer had to wait to get there.
- Former Maryland offensive tackle Bruce Campbell also went later than many expected, falling to the fourth round.
- It took until the final day for a trio of Miami players to hear their names called -- not that Jason Fox minded.
- Former Wake Forest offensive lineman Chris DeGeare was surprised he wound up with Minnesota.
- There are a few remaining concerns for the Carolina schools heading into the summer.
- Virginia Tech and FSU have been deemed the ACC's early front-runners by at least one media outlet already.
- Here are seven storylines worth watching in the conference this year.
- Former FSU safety Myron Rolle convinced the Tennessee Titans he was worthy of a pick, even if it didn't come until the sixth round.
- FSU coach Jimbo Fisher answered a few of the media's questions on this week's ACC teleconference.
- Michael Vick received a mostly warm welcome back to Virginia Tech this past weekend.
- Former Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas' success has inspired Stephen Hill to aim for the same.
Here are a few notes to tie it all together for you:
- For the sixth straight year, the ACC had more than 30 players selected.
- Since 2005, the ACC and the SEC are the only two leagues in the nation to have had 30 players selected in each of the past six years.
- Atlantic Division champion Clemson (C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, Ricky Sapp, Crezdon Butler, Kavell Connor) and Coastal Division runner-up Virginia Tech (Jason Worilds, Kam Chancellor, Ed Wang, Brent Bowden, Cody Grimm) led all ACC schools each with five players chosen in the draft.
- ACC champion Georgia Tech (Derrick Morgan, Demaryius Thomas, Morgan Burnett, Jonathan Dwyer) and Miami (Jimmy Graham, Darryl Sharpton, Jason Fox, Dedrick Epps) were next, each with four players chosen.
- The ACC maintained its streak of having at least one top-10 selection in each of the past five years. Since 2006, the ACC is the only conference in the country to have had a top-10 selection in each year.
- In all, 18 NFL teams selected players from the ACC.
Georgia Tech's Derrick Morgan was chosen No. 16 by the Tennessee Titans, and former Jackets receiver Demaryius Thomas followed soon after with the No. 22 overall pick to Denver. The Jackets were one of eight schools to have more than one player chosen in the first round. It was also the first time since 1979 that the school had two players selected in the first round.
And finally, just like FSU coach Jimbo Fisher had predicted, former cornerback Patrick Robinson snuck into the first round with the 32nd pick to the New Orleans Saints. He was the program's first first-round draft pick since 2007.
ESPN's Todd McShay listed Morgan's move to Tennessee as one of his top five "Best marriages of need and value." Former Georgia Tech B-back Jonathan Dwyer and safety Morgan Burnett are both still waiting, but that's not a surprise, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper and McShay, both who left those players off of their final first-round mock drafts.
Two main points stand out from these picks:
- Message to Georgia Tech recruits: Yes, you can be a first-round draft pick at receiver in Paul Johnson's run-based offense -- if you're good enough.
- Any doubts about Spiller's ability should finally be erased. He's had his critics his entire career, but the vote of confidence from the NFL in his abilities should confirm what Spiller proved in 2009 -- he's one of the best players in the country.
Dwyer didn't have much choice but to reveal his condition after his name was reported among the high-profile players who tested positive. It's nothing to be ashamed of -- that should be saved for all of us who jumped to any conclusions about Dwyer's character. According to the AJC, Dwyer said one of the NFL doctors mistakenly forgot to put his name on the exempt list.
The good news is that Jeff Schultz is right -- Dwyer, from what I've learned through interviewing him, is a likable, well-spoken and hard-working player who has a bright future. Both his talent and his personality should easily outweigh any temporary embarrassment and negative publicity associated with a positive drug test. It was the NFL's system that failed Dwyer, not the other way around.
In just two seasons, Johnson managed to win the school’s first outright ACC title since 1990, take the program to its first BCS bowl game since 1967, and repeat as the ACC’s Coach of the Year.
In a matter of months this offseason, though, several of the leading contributors to that instant success have departed, leaving Johnson right back where he started when he entered the conference -- facing some serious doubts and ready to answer them head-on.
While four early departures for the NFL draft left the Jackets with a shortage of star quality this spring, there certainly isn’t a lack of confidence their replacements can maintain the Jackets’ spot atop the Coastal Division standings.
“The confidence level is definitely high,” said Anthony Allen, who will take over for leading rusher Jonathan Dwyer at B-back. “I can tell you firsthand, we don’t think of ourselves as the replacements. That’s how college football goes -- players come, then they go. This is an opportunity for a new guy to step up and make himself a name, make himself a big-time player. We’re definitely confident in our abilities. We feel like we can go out and probably produce more than we did last year.”
That sense of security comes from the top, where Johnson said he prefers to look at what he has coming back, not what he lost.
“I think that we lost some really good players, but I think as a whole we’ve got more good players,” Johnson said. “I don’t know that we have great players, but we’ve got more good players. I don’t know that you get a Derrick Morgan that often. I don’t know that we have another Derrick Morgan right now. But I think we’ve got more depth and some good, young players. We’re excited about the young guys that people haven’t really seen.
“We lost an awful lot of good players, but my experience has been somebody else will step up,” he said. “That’s what needs to happen.”
Georgia Tech’s championship roster isn’t depleted -- the Jackets only lose five starters on offense and three on defense. It’s who they lost -- wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and Dwyer, who combined to account for 22 of the team’s 58 passing and rushing touchdowns, Morgan, who had 12.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, and Burnett, who led the team with four interceptions.
Offensively, there should be a smooth transition this spring with Allen, a former A-back, taking over for Dwyer at his natural position. There are high expectations for receiver Stephen Hill to eventually be as productive as Thomas.
“In this offense, when you learn one position, you have to learn them all in order to know how it works, and how everything clicks together,” Allen said.
Defensively, though, Georgia Tech will be in transition. The fact that Groh and Johnson were recently two headstrong head coaches on opposing sidelines in the Coastal Division is only part of the subplot. The Jackets will have a nose guard for the first time. Some defensive ends will move to outside linebacker. Groh and the defensive staff have reviewed film from every game in 2009 and penciled in players at certain positions based on their past performances and winter workouts.
“We lined up in a bunch of different ways last year,” Johnson said. “It will take some time, but our guys are excited about it.”
If Georgia Tech can put it together on defense quickly enough, the Jackets will be one of the more difficult teams to prepare for in the country, as both the offensive and defensive schemes are unique to prepare for in a week’s time.
Georgia Tech has grown used to proving its doubters wrong.
“It wasn’t a fluke we were the ACC champs,” said Allen. “We were the champs for a reason. We’re definitely going to defend our title.”
- Move over Myron Rolle, you've got some company. BC lineman Anthony Castonzo has been nominated for a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Congrats to Castonzo, who is a well-spoken, hard working player who deserves a shot at both the NFL and the scholarship.
- Former Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer's failed drug test at the NFL combine was the result of prescription medication to treat a pre-existing condition.
- Clemson has elbowed its way into a three way race against the SEC for quarterback Christian LeMay, who has narrowed his choices to Clemson, Auburn and Georgia.
- Marc Verica appears to be the front-runner to be Virginia's quarterback, but can the Cavaliers win with any of their QBs this year?
- Former FSU cornerback Patrick Robinson should be a valuable commodity in this NFL draft.
- Optimism has returned for Virginia Tech defensive backs coach Torrian Gray.
- Wake Forest's offense stepped it up a notch in Saturday's spring game.
- NC State's receivers lived up to the hype against a secondary still struggling to find its identity.
For the first time in its 57-year history, the conference will have five returning players who each gained over 1,000 yards rushing in a single season:
- Virginia Tech redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams -- His 1,655 yards last fall was the third-best single-season mark in ACC history.
- Boston College junior Montel Harris -- His 1,457 yards last fall was the sixth-best single-season mark in league history.
- Virginia Tech redshirt junior Darren Evans -- He ran for 1,265 yards in 2008 before sitting out all of 2009 with a torn ACL.
- Maryland senior Da’Rel Scott -- He ran for 1,133 yards in 2008 before missing the majority of 2009 with a broken wrist.
- Georgia Tech senior quarterback Josh Nesbitt -- He ran for 1,037 yards and passed Clemson’s Woodrow Dantzler for the second-most single-season rushing yards by an ACC quarterback.
The biggest question for this group is what kind of numbers Evans and Williams will produce when used together and sharing the carries. We've seen what they can do when they're not sharing the spotlight. Of the aforementioned players, Harris should have the best offensive line to work with.
Here are the ACC's top three backs with the best chance to join the 1,000-yard club in 2010:
- Georgia Tech B-back Anthony Allen -- He will take over for Dwyer in an offense geared to produce another 1,000-yard rusher.
- Clemson running back Andre Ellington -- If Ellington would have had the 216 carries Spiller got last year, he would have racked up 1,555 yards based on his 7.2 yards per carry average.
- Florida State running back Jermaine Thomas -- FSU was 3-1 when Thomas ran for 100 yards or more, and he racked up four 100-yard rushing performances in his final six games.
- Of the four Georgia Tech players expected to be taken early in the NFL draft, the one who will have the most impact might be the one who was on crutches at Monday's pro day.
- Former Jackets B-back Jonathan Dwyer was so nervous about running the 40 again he couldn't sleep.
- Of course, Dwyer's 40 time does pale in comparison to some of the speedsters Miami has, like Travis "the blur" Benjamin.
- Former Clemson running back C.J. Spiller said it "was the best decision" to return for his senior season, and he improved his draft stock by doing so.
- UNC started spring practice on Monday with a sense of urgency, thanks to a televised spring game and the season opener against LSU.
- NC State coach Tom O'Brien has a plan to improve the program, and turnovers and field position are a part of it.
- Virginia coach Mike London had his first practice in Charlottesville on Monday, and he scoped out every position and picked up the intensity.
- When Florida State takes the field for its first spring practice today, the tower former coach Bobby Bowden occupied will be empty, signifying a change in leadership and direction.
- Here's a breakdown of FSU's spring practices.
It's good to see Dwyer show improvement, but there was probably too much made about his combine time in the first place. Anyone who has paid attention to Georgia Tech over the past two seasons knows what Dwyer can do, and he'll probably be even more successful in a more traditional NFL offense.
Morgan Burnett, Derrick Morgan and Demaryius Thomas all participated on Monday, though Morgan didn't run the 40 and Thomas, who broke his foot while training for the combine, only did the measurements. He'll have his own pro day later this month.
Offensive lineman Cord Howard, who did not participate in the NFL combine, was also tested, along with linebacker Sedric Griffin and defensive back Martin Frierson.
Burnett posted an unofficial time of 4.42 in the 40-yard dash. Frierson ran it in 4.57, Griffin in 4.83 and Howard in 5.12. Howard had the most reps (25) in the 225-pound bench press, followed by Griffin (24) and Morgan (21).
Burnett had a vertical leap of 39.5 inches and a standing broad jump of 11 feet.
Coach Paul Johnson was careful not to put too much stock into the combine results from earlier this month. Instead, he said, NFL scouts will likely lean more heavily on game film for his four former juniors -- Derrick Morgan, Jonathan Dwyer, Morgan Burnett and Demaryius Thomas.
“The combine I think has kind of turned into a made-for-tv-deal," Johnson said. "I’m not sure how much emphasis those people put on that stuff, just like the mock drafts and all that stuff. If they don’t change them every day, nobody looks. They’ve got to have something to talk about, but I would imagine the NFL people are going to look at the tape. There’s a lot of tape on those guys, and that’s going to far outweigh whatever happened at the combine."
Morgan really doesn't have much more prove, and will probably just work out, but Dwyer will likely be tested again in the 40-yard dash. Here's what NFL.com analyst Bucky Brooks had to say about Dwyer's performance:
The Yellow Jackets' workhorse was expected to make a push for first-round consideration with a strong performance over the weekend, but Dwyer's slow 40-yard dash time and soft body build has undoubtedly hindered his chances. Additionally, Dwyer repeatedly dropped passes throughout the workout.
"I know Jon can run better than that," Johnson said.
Burnett tweaked his hamstring at the combine, so he'll likely run again. Thomas injured his ankle and couldn't participate in the combine drills. Johnson said he had been texting with Thomas, and his cast was off, but he would attend another pro day in April.
Strongest position: B back
Key returnees: Anthony Allen, Preston Lyons, Lucas Cox
Key departures: Jonathan Dwyer
The skinny: Allen is penciled in to take over for Dwyer and was the team's third-leading rusher last year. Cox moves from A back, making this an even deeper group despite the fact Lyons will miss spring drills after surgery. Richard Watson, who was a third-string B back last year, returns, and the staff likes the potential of true freshman Charles Perkins, who’s already in school. With sophomore Daniel Drummond, the Jackets go five-deep at the position.
Weakest position: Wide receiver
Key returnees: Stephen Hill, Tyler Melton
Key departures: Demaryius Thomas
The skinny: Hill has potential before he graduates to be as good as Thomas, but Melton is the returning starter. Georgia Tech last year completed a total of 78 passes, and 46 were caught by Thomas; 20 other receptions were caught by A backs and B backs. Hill, Melton, Daniel McKayhan and Quentin Sims combined to catch 12 passes last year.
• Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. on Virginia CB Chris Cook:
Virginia CB Chris Cook turned some heads at the Senior Bowl, and he's doing the same in Indianapolis. At 6-2 and 212 pounds Cook posted an unofficial 4.43 seconds. That's an excellent size-speed combination for a safety and rare to see in a corner. Cook also recorded a jaw-dropping 11-0 broad jump.
• Muench on former Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm:
Virginia Tech's Cody Grimm is an interesting prospect. Grimm appears instinctive and relentless on film, but he played outside linebacker in college and is just not big enough to line up there in the NFL. He measured just 5-10^ and 203 pounds and would be a better fit at safety, where he would have the potential to develop into an adequate reserve and special-teams contributor. Grimm's 4.54 time in the 40 is encouraging because the average time for safeties last year was 4.63 seconds and in 2008 was 4.55 seconds.
• What to make of Jonathan Dwyer? He was listed as one of the 10 most polarizing players in the combine by Bruce Feldman:
There were a bunch of fast backs in Indy; Dwyer was not one of them. His size is good (228 pounds) and he looks dynamic on film, but some skeptics will wonder if much of that is due to the frenetic nature of the triple option scheme he played in at Tech. He didn't test as a particularly explosive guy, and he looked shaky in the position drills and didn't seem comfortable as a receiver.
• Here's an excerpt from Todd McShay on former FSU safety Myron Rolle:
Purely from a football standpoint, Rolle has the tools of a potential third-round pick who could be developed into an adequate starter two or three years down the road. However, while NFL teams love the Rhodes scholar's intelligence and work ethic, there is a growing concern regarding his long-term dedication to football. Rolle is in a truly unique situation and has a lot of convincing to do between now and the draft.
• The Sporting News listed Miami's Jimmy Graham, Maryland's Bruce Campbell and Clemson's Jacoby Ford among its offensive combine winners. Russ Lande of TSN listed Derrick Morgan and Virginia Tech's Jason Worilds among the defensive winners, but it doesn't sound good for Duke's Vince Oghobaase.
• Campbell really turned some heads with his 40 time. Chad Reuter of NFLDraftScout.com wrote:
Campbell also has 36.5-inch arms and bench-pressed 225 pounds 34 times. Said one scout said, "He has the best body of anyone I've ever seen."
• Of course, the question is whether he can block. Said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, "If there's a star so far in the combine, it's him. What he's going to have to overcome is the tape."
• Reuter on Miami's Graham:
Miami (Fla.) tight end Jimmy Graham ran a 4.56, according to NFL.com. Graham played only one season of football for the Hurricanes, but his basketball background intrigues scouts and his blistering 40 time could lift Graham as high as the second round.
12:00 PM ET 16 Georgia Tech 9 Georgia 12:00 PM ET Kentucky 22 Louisville 12:00 PM ET South Carolina 21 Clemson 12:30 PM ET Syracuse Boston College 12:30 PM ET North Carolina State North Carolina 3:30 PM ET Florida 3 Florida State 7:00 PM ET Wake Forest Duke 7:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Miami (FL)