ACC: Ju-Ju Clayton

It was a busy weekend in the ACC. Here's a look back at the highlights from the scrimmages, according to the sports information departments of the teams that provided reports:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Coach Frank Spaziani told reporters after the 70-minute scrimmage that there were some good things, but "it's like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces in the box; they're not connected yet."

Offensive highlights:
  • Quarterback Chase Rettig completed 12 of 19 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. “I think Chase showed the progress he's been making,” Spaziani said. “The obvious things were fine; there were some subtle things he needs to work on.”
  • Rettig connected on passes of 10 yards six times, including a 30-yard pass to Colin Larmond, Jr., a 24-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field to receiver Bobby Swigert and a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior captain Ifeanyi Momah.
  • Larmond (3 receptions for 53 yards), Swigert (3-for-33), junior receiver Donte Elliott (3-for-37) and redshirt freshman tight end Jarrett Darmstatter (3-for-16) led a total of 12 receivers that registered at least one reception each.
  • Rettig and fellow quarterbacks Mike Marscovetra and Dave Shinskie combined for four touchdowns as Marscovetra went 6-for-9 for 30 yards and a touchdown pass of five yards to junior receiver Hampton Hughes and Shinskie connected on 4-of-5 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown to sophomore tight end Mike Naples.
  • Tailback Rolandan Finch carried the ball 10 times for a total of 30 yards to lead all running backs while sophomore Andre Williams broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run during red zone drills. Williams finished with five attempts for 21 yards and redshirt freshman Tahj Kimble accounted for 20 yards on five carries.
Defensive highlights:
  • Linebacker Nick Clancy and defensive back Sean Sylvia led the team with four tackles each.
  • Sophomore linebacker Jake Sinkovec had one interception and one fumble recovery.
CLEMSON

Quarterback Tajh Boyd had an impressive performance, as he completed 10 of 12 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown to highlight the new offense in Clemson’s 75-play scrimmage in Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning.

Offensive highlights:
  • Boyd completed each of his final eight passes to six different receivers. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to receiver DeAndre Hopkins, then connected on a 3-yard score to Dwayne Allen in a goal-line situation.
  • Allen had three receptions for 66 yards, including a diving catch over the middle for 14 yards and a first down. Brandon Ford had three receptions for 37 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cole Stoudt.
  • Stoudt was 4-of-14 passing, but threw for 71 yards and two touchdowns, one to Ford and one to Bryce McNeal (23 yards).
  • Rod McDowell was the leading rusher with four carries for 68 yards, including a 39-yarder on his first carry of the day. Andre Ellington had five rushes for 41 yards and added two receptions, while freshman Mike Bellamy had five carries for 40 yards.
Defensive highlights:
  • The first-team defense did not allow a scoring drive.
  • Martin Jenkins led the team with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss.
  • Corico Hawkins had five tackles and a fumble recovery, while freshman defensive end Corey Crawford had five stops, including a sack.
Special teams highlights:
  • Clemson’s three kickers, Chandler Catanzaro, Ammon Lakip and Brian Symmes were a combined 16-of-16 on the day in field goal attempts and extra points against a live rush.
Notable:
  • Three Tigers missed the scrimmage because they were going through graduation exercises across the street from Memorial Stadium in Littlejohn Coliseum. Starting offensive tackle Landon Walker, starting safety Rashard Hall and reserve defensive end Kourtnei Brown all graduated from Clemson on Saturday. It was especially noteworthy for Hall, who has been at Clemson just three years. He joins Nick Eason (now in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals) as the only scholarship football players to graduate with two years of athletic eligibility remaining.
  • Four players missed the scrimmage due to injury. Those players were defensive back Xavier Brewer (sprained foot), defensive back Garry Peters (bruised calf), Andre Branch (head injury), DeShawn Williams (sprained ankle).
GEORGIA TECH

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson had mixed reviews after the Yellow Jackets' first scrimmage, which ran 90 minutes inside Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday morning.

"It was like a lot of first scrimmages, there were way too many balls on the ground and way too many penalties," Johnson said. "But we hit some big plays. When you play against each other there's positives and negatives on both sides. It's a starting place and we'll look at it and try to make some improvements."

Offensive highlights:
  • While no official statistics were kept, quarterback Tevin Washington passed for well over 100 yards, including a 63-yarder to senior A-back Roddy Jones. Redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days threw the only touchdown of the day, to true freshman Jeff Greene.
  • Greene ran with the first unit Saturday as most of the veterans -- junior Stephen Hill, senior Tyler Melton, sophomore Jeremy Moore and junior Daniel McKayhan -- all sat out with injuries.
  • Washington scored the only other touchdown Saturday on a 1-yard QB keeper.
Defensive highlights:
  • Defensive end Emmanuel Dieke had a sack, true freshman Jamal Golden intercepted a Vad Lee pass, and Steven Sylvester and Isaiah Johnson both recovered fumbles.
Special teams highlights:
  • Sophomore Justin Moore booted a 45-yard field goal on his only attempt.
  • David Scully's 52-yard attempt was long enough, but just wide left.
MIAMI

The most important news out of Miami's first scrimmage was that quarterbacks Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris combined for five touchdown passes and only one interception. That sounds like improvement. Miami's quarterbacks combined for 407 passing yards on 38-of-52 passing for six touchdowns and only one interception.

Offensive highlights:
  • Receiver Tommy Streeter had the best offensive day for the Canes, catching five passes for 71 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came from Harris.
  • Lamar Miller had runs of 16 and 31 yards on the opening drive.
Defensive highlights:
  • Senior defensive back JoJo Nicolas led all defenders with eight tackles (six solo), with two tackles for loss.
  • Ramon Buchanan and freshman Gionni Paul and each had six total tackles, with Paul also recording a tackle for loss.
  • The defense totaled eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total loss of 29 yards
VIRGINIA TECH

The Hokies' offense was the highlight, but what does that mean for the defense? Coach Frank Beamer pointed out that there were some long plays allowed, as the offense racked up 398 yards of total offense in the 78-play scrimmage at Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The touchdowns came against Tech's second- or third-team defense, though, so the jury is still out.

"I thought it was a good first scrimmage -- better than most," Beamer said, according to the team's scrimmage report. "You take into consideration that you're trying to get everyone some work, people who don't know quite what they're doing, and that makes things a little ragged. I thought overall, though, it was a sharp scrimmage. The quarterbacks made some nice plays and Wilson got a couple of long plays against the defense, and we need to see what's going on there. Overall, the effort was good and the play was good."

Offensive highlights:
  • Backup quarterback Mark Leal led the quarterbacks with 116 yards passing, completing 6 of 13. He also threw an interception. Beamer said Leal is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Logan Thomas. Ju-Ju Clayton, who has dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart, completed 6 of 10 for 51 yards, while starter Thomas completed 4 of 8 for 79 yards, with an interception, in limited action.
  • Tailback David Wilson scored against the Hokies' second-team defense on a 22-yard run. Wilson led all rushers with 57 yards on five carries. Freshman Michael Holmes added 54 yards rushing on a game-high 11 carries.
Defensive highlights:
  • Freshman tackle Luther Maddy led the team with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. Freshman Michael Cole added six tackles, while Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler each finished with four.
  • Barquell Rivers had three tackles and an interception.
  • Jayron Hosley and freshman Ronny Vandyke also had interceptions. Hosley intercepted a Logan Thomas pass, while Vandyke intercepted a Trey Gresh attempt.
Special teams highlights:
  • The kickers connected on 5-of-6 attempts. Cody Journell hit from 35, 22 and 35 yards, while Justin Myer drilled a 52-yarder and a 28-yarder. "Cody's kicking extremely well," Beamer said. "Myer has a load of potential, and he needs to win some of the kicking contests during the week. That shows consistency, and that's where he is right now. Cody is usually winning it or right in the running at the end."
We’ve already taken a look at the ACC’s Dream Team, which was comprised of the top position groups across the league. Now it’s time to go a little bit deeper and rank every position group for each team. We’ll start with the most difficult position -- the quarterbacks. More than half of the teams in the conference will usher in quarterbacks who are in their first season as a full-time starter, and many of the teams in the ACC are struggling with depth and experience at the position. This is not solely a ranking of the best quarterbacks in the ACC (stay tuned for that, it will look different), so backups are an important part of the equation.

Bottom line: Who's got the depth and talent to make it through a full season -- and win -- if more than one quarterback is needed?

Here’s a look at who’s stocked and who’s not at quarterback this year:

1. Miami: The Hurricanes have a proven albeit embattled option in Jacory Harris, and Stephen Morris also has significant starting experience. Whoever doesn’t win the job will be a more than capable backup. The Canes still need to add depth to the position, but they landed transfer Ryan Williams from Memphis.

2. Boston College: Starter Chase Rettig should be better in his second season as starter, but he’s not the only one on the roster with playing experience. Dave Shinskie has started 13 games, and Mike Marscovetra should be a familiar name to BC fans by now.

3. Duke: It’s possible coach David Cutcliffe could use three quarterbacks this year. He’s got one of the best in the league in starter Sean Renfree, backup Brandon Connette has seen significant playing time, and the emergence of redshirt freshman Anthony Boone this offseason could give the offense yet another option.

4. Wake Forest: Tanner Price is the undisputed starter, but Ted Stachitas had a better spring than coach Jim Grobe had anticipated, and Brendan Cross has always been in the mix to earn some playing time.

5. Florida State: The Seminoles haven’t settled yet on a backup to EJ Manuel, but depth isn’t a problem with both Clint Trickett and Will Secord competing for the No. 2 spot. It’s not like it was last year, though, when there was a Gator Bowl MVP sitting on the bench.

6. North Carolina: Not only is Bryn Renner unproven, so are his backups. Renner clearly distanced himself from the rest of the competition this spring. True freshman Marquise Williams will continue to compete with Braden Hanson and A.J. Blue, who was injured two years ago and redshirted last season, for the No. 2 spot.

7. Virginia Tech: Logan Thomas had an impressive spring and drew rave reviews from those within the program, but the backup situation remains a question. Redshirt freshman Mark Leal really pushed Ju-Ju Clayton for the No. 2 job and that competition will continue this summer.

8. Georgia Tech: It’s Tevin Washington’s job to lose, but Synjyn Days had the better spring game and made the competition a bit more interesting heading into fall camp. True freshmen Vad Lee and Demontevious Smith would have to have stellar performances in camp to make a move, but there’s definitely talent in the wings.

9. Clemson: Tajh Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback even on the roster until the early enrollees, Cole Stoudt and Tony McNeal, joined the team. The good news for Clemson fans is that Cole Stoudt, the son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, had a productive spring and earned the No. 2 job.

10. Virginia: If there’s one problem the Hoos don’t have, it’s depth at the quarterback position. Mike London has yet to name a starter, and all of them lack significant game experience. Ross Metheny, Michael Rocco, Michael Strauss and David Watford all have a shot. Since they’re all preparing as starters now, they should all have a good grasp of the offense if needed.

11. Maryland: First-year coach Randy Edsall had five quarterbacks to work with when he was hired, and now he’s down to two. He’s got one of the best quarterbacks in the league to work with in Danny O'Brien, but he’s got to keep him healthy. C.J. Brown and walk-on Troy Jones are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

12. NC State: If Mike Glennon gets hurt, the Wolfpack is in trouble. Redshirt freshman Tyler Brosius has a strong arm but no experience, and he’s not ready for prime time yet. The departure of Russell Wilson might not affect the win-loss record, but it definitely hurt the depth.

Virginia Tech spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
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2010 overall record: 11-3

2010 conference record: 8-0

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 6, kicker/punter: 0

Top returners

SE Danny Coale, FL Jarrett Boykin, RT Blake DeChristopher, DT Antoine Hopkins, LB Bruce Taylor, CB Jayron Hosley, FS Eddie Whitley

Key losses

QB Tyrod Taylor, RB Darren Evans, RB Ryan Williams, C Beau Warren, TE Andre Smith, DT John Graves, CB Rashad Carmichael, ROV Davon Morgan, PK Chris Hazley

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Evans (854 yards)

Passing: Tyrod Taylor (2,743 yds)

Receiving: Boykin* (847 yds)

Tackles: Bruce Taylor (91)

Sacks: Steven Friday (8.5)

Interceptions: Hosley* (9)

Spring answers

1. A new Fab Four: Virginia Tech’s defensive line is oozing with talent and potential -- the kind that can resurrect the Hokies’ defense to the standard Bud Foster and fans are used to. All four projected starters are underclassmen, and redshirt sophomores J.R. Collins and James Gayle had a phenomenal spring. Derrick Hopkins couldn’t be blocked, and he, Collins and Gayle took their games to another level this spring.

2. Logan Thomas is ready. The first-year starting quarterback erased any lingering doubts about his ability to take over the offense and replace the winningest quarterback in school history. He’ll have some growing pains, but he’s got veteran receivers, four senior offensive linemen in front of him and an exceptional running back who can catch the ball out of the backfield in David Wilson.

3. Linebacker Tariq Edwards has replaced Lyndell Gibson. Edwards could have a breakout season, thanks in part to Gibson’s decision to transfer prior to spring practices. Foster has compared Edwards to Xavier Adibi as far as his size and speed. The redshirt sophomore is about 6-foot-2, runs well and is athletic.

Fall questions

1. Who’s the No. 2 QB? It’s still unsettled, as coach Frank Beamer praised redshirt freshman Mark Leal this spring, and Ricardo Young will increase the competition this summer when he returns from a foot injury he suffered during one of the scrimmages that caused him to miss the rest of the spring. Ju-Ju Clayton was the front-runner for the job entering the spring, but it could turn into a three-player battle this summer.

2. Defensive depth. The staff is excited about its starting lineup, but the lack of experience behind it remains a concern, particularly at linebacker where injuries depleted the group, and in the secondary, where Detrick Bonner and Theron Norman haven’t played a collegiate snap yet.

3. Kicking game. Will Danny Coale really be the Hokies’ starting receiver AND punter? He will if none of the other candidates beat him out for the job this summer. If Coale wins the job -- and it’s a very real possibility -- the logistics also remain a question. Will he warm up with the punters or run routes as a receiver? Will he run routes in his punting shoe? Beamer would prefer if Scott Demler and Ethan Keyserling win the job so it’s not an issue, but Beamer will go with the senior who has game experience if he’s the best choice. Cody Journell enters the summer as the No. 1 place-kicker, but it’s not a lock.

Spring shoes to fill: Virginia Tech

April, 22, 2011
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VIRGINIA TECH

Biggest shoes to fill: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor

This one is a no-brainer. Taylor was the winningest quarterback in school history, the ACC’s 2010 Player of the Year, and set school records last year for career total offense, career passing yards, career rushing yards by a quarterback, career wins by a starting quarterback, career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and touchdown passes in a season.

Spring replacement: Logan Thomas

At 6-foot-6, Thomas will give the Hokies some advantages in the passing game, but he’s not the scrambler Taylor was. Despite their physical differences, the staff doesn’t expect the offense to change much.

“He’s had a great spring,” coach Frank Beamer said. “He’s done everything you’d want him to do to really become an excellent quarterback. He’s really made good decisions, has thrown the ball exceptionally well. We’ve had more offensive production this spring than most springs we’ve been through.”

Summer outlook: There is no question Thomas is the heir to Taylor, but it’s worth watching the backup competition evolve. Beamer said on Thursday he was particularly impressed this spring with redshirt freshman Mark Leal, who has pushed Ju-Ju Clayton for the No. 2 spot and will continue to do so this summer.

More in this series:

Hokies' backup QB being pushed

April, 21, 2011
4/21/11
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Virginia Tech backup quarterback Ju-Ju Clayton shouldn't be too comfortable with his spot on the depth chart. Coach Frank Beamer said on Thursday's ACC spring teleconference that redshirt freshman Mark Leal has been pushing Clayton for the No. 2 job, and that will continue into the summer.

"The guy who's really come along is Mark Leal," Beamer said. "I've really been impressed with him the last couple of scrimmages. Last night we did some scrimmage work and he's calm, he's got a good arm, he's made some people miss, kept plays alive. I look forward to seeing him in a game. Ju-Ju Clayton has been a steady guy for us."

"There's always competition," Beamer said. "We want them to challenge Logan [Thomas], too. Competition at every position, everyone gets better. That's the way we want it."

Scouting the backup QBs

April, 20, 2011
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With so much attention on the quarterbacks this year, their backups tend to get lost in the shuffle. But, as the coachspeak goes, they’re just one play away. (See: Tevin Washington, Stephen Morris circa 2010). Here’s a look at who’s in good shape at No. 2, and who has reasons for concern:

GOOD SHAPE

Boston College -- It’s Mike Marscovetra's turn. Dave Shinskie was the starter before he was benched in the Notre Dame game last year in favor of Chase Rettig, but he’s since been demoted another spot. Marscovetra has played in 10 games in his career.

Duke -- Brandon Connette is the unquestioned backup, and he’s performed well enough that David Cutcliffe has used Connette’s running abilities to add a different dimension to the offense. Connette played in all 12 games last season and ran for 321 yards and a team-high eight rushing touchdowns.

Miami -- The Canes might not know who their starter is, but whichever one doesn’t win the job will be a more than capable backup. Morris was already thrown into the fire when he had to replace injured starter Jacory Harris last season in the Virginia game.

Wake Forest -- Ted Stachitas had a good spring and threw better than coach Jim Grobe had expected. Stachitas has played before, and his ability to run could help the Deacs in the option offense if they need a spark. Stachitas started three games last season.

NAME, BUT NO EXPERIENCE

Maryland -- The Terps are set on C.J. Brown, who has played well enough this spring to push starter Danny O'Brien, according to coach Randy Edsall. Brown only has one collegiate pass attempt in one game, though.

North Carolina -- Braden Hanson is the undisputed backup to Bryn Renner, but he hasn’t seen the field since 2009, when he played in three games and completed 2 of 6 passes with two interceptions.

Virginia Tech -- Ju-Ju Clayton was outplayed by Logan Thomas for the No. 2 job last spring, but now he’s the unquestioned backup. He hasn’t seen the field since 2009 when he was 1-for-5 passing.

Clemson -- Cole Stoudt, the son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, won a battle of January freshman enrollees. At 6-foot-5 and because of his pedigree, Clemson fans wonder if he can be the next Charlie Whitehurst.

QUESTIONS REMAIN

Virginia -- Like Miami, the Hoos have yet to name a starter, but unlike the Canes, all of the quarterbacks lack meaningful experience.

Florida State -- Clint Trickett and Will Secord are still competing for the No. 2 spot. Trickett had better numbers in the spring game, so he may go into the fall with a slight edge, but keep in mind that the offensive lines they played with weren’t full strength.

Georgia Tech -- Entering summer camp, Synjyn Days is expected to be listed as the backup to Tevin Washington. True freshmen Vad Lee and Demontevious Smith would have to be especially impressive to move up, but there could be some good competition between now and the season opener.

NC State -- Technically, NC State might have one of the best backups in the country if former starter Russell Wilson decides to return. Let’s take the Wolfpack’s approach, though, and assume he doesn’t. It’s up to redshirt freshman Tyler Brosius, who has a strong arm but no experience.

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.

Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas named No. 2 QB

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
11:24
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Virginia Tech redshirt freshman Logan Thomas has been named the No. 2 quarterback behind senior Tyrod Taylor, the school announced on Monday. Redshirt sophomore Ju-Ju Clayton will be the No. 3 signal-caller.

"We're fortunate to have two quality backups at quarterback, both of whom are at a stage that they can go in and win a game for us," coach Frank Beamer said in a prepared statement. "We felt the decision needed to be made at this time to give our No. 2 quarterback more reps in practice."

The decision isn't a surprise, considering Thomas has had an edge in performance since this past spring, when Clayton threw five interceptions and Thomas didn't throw any in six spring scrimmages. It was only a matter of time before the staff made the decision public. This year, the staff is much more confident in its backup situation than it was last season, and that could lead to Taylor running the ball a bit more this fall. The staff had to have held him back a bit last year for fear of him getting hurt with no experience behind him.

Weekend rewind: Scrimmage highlights

August, 16, 2010
8/16/10
8:00
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Ahh, scrimmages. They're almost like real games, right? Nope. Still, something to hold us over.

Here's a look back at the weekend scrimmages for schools that provided scrimmage reports:

BOSTON COLLEGE

There's a running back other than Montel Harris capable of making some plays. True freshman Andre Williams led the running game with seven carries for 59 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown run.

Quarterback Dave Shinskie completed 9 of 14 pass attempts for 81 yards and a touchdown. Senior tight end Jordon McMichael led all receivers with four catches for 23 yards.

Defensively, true freshman linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis led the Eagles with five tackles. Redshirt freshman defensive tackle Dillon Quinn made three sacks, which should be an encouraging sign to a line in need of some help.

Redshirt freshman kicker Nate Freese went 2-for-3, making from 24 and 44, but missing a 46-yarder off the left upright. Junior Ryan Quigley made from 33 and missed from 34.

CLEMSON

Quarterback Kyle Parker threw three touchdowns passes -- two to running back Andre Ellington -- in Clemson’s two-hour scrimmage in Death Valley on Saturday morning. It was the second scrimmage for the Tigers.

Parker completed 10-of-14 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns. He led the first-team offense to four touchdowns overall. Roderick McDowell led the rushers with 12 carries for 127 yards on the ground, including a 12-yard touchdown run and a 53-yard run early in the scrimmage.

Terrance Ashe led the receivers with five catches for 76 yards, including a 44-yard completion from Parker.

The defense was led by Brandon Maye, who had six tackles, including a tackle for loss and a diving backwards interception from his linebacker position.

GEORGIA TECH

Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt was the highlight of the Jackets' scrimmage. He opened the scrimmage with a 70-yard scoring drive and had a two-yard touchdown run and a six-yard touchdown pass to Stephen Hill. Defensively, true freshman Louis Young and sophomore linebacker Julian Burnett had interceptions.

VIRGINIA TECH

The kickers were the highlight of the second scrimmage, as the offense didn't score a touchdown. Part of that was because the coaching staff stopped drives inside the 20, because the staff hasn't installed its entire red-zone package. The staff is expected to make a decision on its backup quarterback situation soon.

Here are the Hokies' stats leaders from Saturday:

RUSHING
Darren Evans 12-60
David Wilson 6-33
Ryan Williams 4-18

PASSING
Logan Thomas 9-17-0-82
Tyrod Taylor 5-7-0-42
Ju-Ju Clayton 3-8-0-36

RECEIVING
Marcus Davis 2-15
Austin Fuller 2-20

FIELD GOALS
Chris Hazley made four: 29 yards, 43, 48 and 31

TACKLES
Derek DiNardo, 6

WAKE FOREST

The Deacs scrimmaged for 90 minutes on Saturday in the first of three scrimmages, and the quarterback race continues.

RUSHING
Josh Harris 5-76 and 1 TD
Skylar Jones 10-44
Patrick Thompson 7-29

PASSING
Tanner Price 8-13 for 82 yards
Patrick Thompson 3-10 for 61 yds and an INT
Ted Stachitas 5-of-8 for 95 yds and 1 TD
Skylar Jones 4-of-7 for 27 yds
Brendan Cross 2-of-3 for 16 yds

RECEIVING
Devon Brown 4-67
Marshall Williams 3-79

FIELD GOALS
Jimmy Newman made three, 27 yards, 38 and 25

TACKLES
Justin Jackson, 7

Freshman Joe LaBarbera intercepted Thompson late in the scrimmage and returned it 25 yards.

Hokies' Tyrod Taylor to run more?

July, 27, 2010
7/27/10
10:30
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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor is at his best when his feet are part of his game. Last year, that dimension of the offense was stifled -- not because of opposing defenses, but for fear of Taylor getting injured.

Taylor rushed for 370 yards a year ago compared to 738 rushing yards in 2008. Coach Frank Beamer said that could change this fall, as the staff has grown more confident in its backup quarterbacks, Logan Thomas and Ju-Ju Clayton.

"We're much better equipped for our backup quarterback this year than we were last year at this time," Beamer said. "No. 1, Ju-Ju's had a lot of reps. No. 2, Logan's been there the whole time at spring practice. We're much more ready for a second quarterback to come in there than we were. The other side of it is you do what you do in your offense what gives you the best chance to move the chains."

The staff still has to determine its No. 2 quarterback this summer, though Thomas seemed to have the edge coming out of spring ball.

"I think going into the fall we'll try to get that determined fairly quickly," Beamer said. "I think you've got the right two people there to be quarterbacks. They're leaders, good kids, good talent. We'll clear that up."

ACC's irreplaceable players

June, 8, 2010
6/08/10
10:00
AM ET
This week, ESPN’s “College Football Live” is revealing the most irreplaceable players heading into the 2010 season. These are the guys who are not only invaluable to their team, but have a question mark behind them. As good as NC State quarterback Russell Wilson is, he’s got a capable backup behind him in Mike Glennon, who took all of the first-team reps this spring while Wilson was playing baseball. Same can be said at Florida State, where E.J. Manuel was the MVP of the Gator Bowl in Christian Ponder’s absence. So who would they miss most?

Here’s a look at who the most irreplaceable players are on each roster:

BOSTON COLLEGE: Montel Harris, RB -- His health is of the utmost importance, as Harris IS the Eagles’ running game. Rolandan Finch, who had mononucleosis last year, tore his ACL in mid-April. Freshman Sterlin Phifer is an option, but it was hard to tell how much he might be able to help from spring scrimmages because there wasn’t a lot of rushing with the hopes of keeping everyone healthy. Phifer had 15 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown in the first two scrimmages.

CLEMSON: DeAndre McDaniel, CB -- Quick: name his backup. Exactly. Why would you take an All-American off the field if you didn’t have to? McDaniel is the star of a defense that lost two veterans in the secondary. If McDaniel goes down, sophomore Jonathan Meeks is the next man up. He had 54 snaps last year and played on special teams.

DUKE: Sean Renfree, QB -- Even though Renfree is only entering his first season as a full-time starter for the Blue Devils, there is even less experience behind him. Renfree has at least taken a snap in a game. Freshman quarterback Brandon Connette enrolled in January and Sean Schroeder was running the scout team offense a year ago.

FLORIDA STATE: Rodney Hudson, OG -- He didn’t allow a sack or quarterback pressure all season. Now there’s a guy Ponder won’t want to be missing this fall. Hudson only missed four assignments all season and had a team-high average grade of 88 over 11 starts. He missed the last two regular-season games with a knee sprain.

GEORGIA TECH: Joshua Nesbitt, QB -- The Jackets settled on Tevin Washington as their backup quarterback this spring, but there is still a significant gap between he and Nesbitt. Nesbitt has mastered the spread-option offense and the timing needed to perfect it. Washington has six carries and one pass attempt.

MARYLAND: Torrey Smith, WR -- He’s unmatched on the roster when it comes to all-around contributions. He’s a kick returner, a receiver and a team leader. He’s also the most explosive player the Terps have.

MIAMI: Jacory Harris, QB -- Coach Randy Shannon has said he can win a national title with Harris as his quarterback, but in order to have any chance at doing that, the Canes obviously have to keep him healthy. A.J. Highsmith played in three games last year, but road trips to Pitt and Ohio State are no places for introductions.

NORTH CAROLINA: Robert Quinn, DE -- It’s not easy to replace a guy who has 11 sacks and 19 tackles for losses. The players behind him are good -- Quinton Coples and Michael McAdoo -- but they have yet to start a college game and prove dependable for the number of plays the staff asks of Quinn.

NC STATE: Nate Irving, LB -- The Wolfpack saw how devastating it was to lose Irving a year ago, when he missed the whole season after injuries he sustained in a summer car accident. Some within the program say he is the best player on the roster, and the defense definitely wasn’t the same without him last year.

VIRGINIA: Marc Verica, QB -- There’s no shortage of quarterbacks for Mike London to choose from in his first year as head coach, but Verica is the only one who has attempted a collegiate pass. Ross Metheny and Michael Strauss were the only other quarterbacks available this past spring, and they were competing for the No. 2 spot.

VIRGINIA TECH: Tyrod Taylor, QB -- The Hokies will need their veteran healthy to keep their championship hopes alive this fall. The No. 2 job has yet to be solidified, but Logan Thomas made the strongest case this spring over Ju-Ju Clayton.

WAKE FOREST: Russell Nenon, C -- He has started 25 games, including the past 19, at center. Nenon is one of just two starters returning to an offensive line in need of some help. The Deacs were shorthanded up front this spring, as Nenon was injured. Garrick Williams, Whit Barnes and Chance Raines all got some valuable reps, but only Raines has actually snapped the ball in a game and it was maybe one or two plays in a win at Baylor.

video

What we learned this spring

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
2:30
PM ET
Just because we're not in season doesn't mean there aren't a few lessons to be learned across the ACC. Here's a look at what spring practices revealed throughout the conference:

[+] EnlargeA.J. Highsmith
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireA.J. Highsmith is next in line if Jacory Harris is injured again.
1. Veteran quarterbacks must stay healthy, as the lack of experience behind them was revealed: With starters Josh Nesbitt, Sean Renfree and Jacory Harris sidelined with injuries, competition at backup quarterback was a theme throughout the conference this spring. Fans got a glimpse of their programs' futures, but with the exception of NC State and North Carolina, there wasn't exactly overwhelming confidence in the No. 2s. Only Georgia Tech solidified its backup situation, as Tevin Washington won the job behind Nesbitt, but a significant gap still remains between them. A.J. Highsmith appeared to be the front-runner at Miami, and Logan Thomas seemed to edge Ju-Ju Clayton at Virginia Tech, but competition will continue this summer.

2. Miami could have the deepest backfield in the ACC: Last season this award went to Georgia Tech. This season it could go to Virginia Tech. But Miami -- even without injured starter Graig Cooper -- proved this spring it should be in the running -- literally. The Canes have plenty of options in Lamar Miller, Storm Johnson, Damien Berry and Mike James.

3. Plenty of defensive questions remain: Florida State, Virginia, Duke and Georgia Tech began their transitions under new coordinators, but with players still figuring out their new roles, it will take more time to adjust to the schemes and evaluate their progress. NC State found some young talent it liked up front to help replace four starting defensive linemen, but is also in transition with first-year linebackers coach Jon Tenuta. Virginia Tech was pleased with its defense this spring, despite having to replace six starters, but only the Boise State opener will reveal how far the Hokies have come.

4. The stars of 2008 are eager to shine again: NC State linebacker Nate Irving, who was injured last summer in a severe car accident; BC linebacker Mark Herzlich, who was diagnosed with cancer last May; and Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans, who tore his ACL last summer, all returned to practices this spring. Irving and Herzlich approached their returns more gingerly than Evans, though, and it's still unclear how much of an impact they'll have this fall. Evans will be sharing carries with Ryan Williams, Irving played in only half the spring game, and nobody knows whether Herzlich can reclaim his 2008 Defensive Player of the Year title.

5. Players aren't the only ones coaches must recruit: First-year coaches Mike London and Jimbo Fisher spent much of this spring networking with their state high school coaches and trying to work their way into the good graces of the fans. It was easier for London, as he wasn't tasked with replacing one of college football's winningest and friendliest coaches. Fisher nixed the golf in favor of the office on his spring booster tour and there was a reluctance among some of the older fans to embrace Fisher's businesslike approach.

Virginia Tech spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
6:30
AM ET
2009 overall record: 10-3

2009 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 5, punter/kicker 0

Top returners

QB Tyrod Taylor, TB Ryan Williams, TB Darren Evans, FL Danny Coale, SE Jarrett Boykin, DT John Graves, CB Rashad Carmichael, ROV Davon Morgan, LB Barquell Rivers

Key losses

TE Greg Boone, OT Ed Wang, OG Sergio Render, DE Jason Worilds, LB Cody Grimm, DT Cordarrow Thompson, DE Nekos Brown, CB Stephan Virgil, FS Kam Chancellor

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Williams* (1,655 yards)

Passing: Taylor* (2,311 yds)

Receiving: Boykin* (835 yds)

Tackles: Grimm (106)

Sacks: Brown (6.5)

Interceptions: Carmichael* (6)

Spring answers

1. Thomas makes a statement. Backup quarterback Logan Thomas -- at least according to the statistics -- had a better spring than Joseph “Ju-Ju” Clayton. Based on his performances, it would seem Thomas is the front-runner to back up Taylor this season, but coach Frank Beamer wasn’t ready to solidify that after the spring game. In six spring scrimmages, Thomas had no interceptions and Clayton threw five.

2. Evans can run -- over defenders. If Evans is suffering any lingering effects from last year’s torn ACL, it wasn’t evident during his first carry of the spring game when he ran over teammate and safety Antone Exum. Evans told reporters he’s feeling the best he has since he was injured. Beamer said he has no concerns about Evans being 100 percent this fall.

3. Strong secondary. It was one of the highlights this spring on a defense tasked with replacing six starters, including two in the secondary. Exum was one of the players who stood out in the spring game, as he had three pass breakups.

Fall questions

1. How will Evans and Williams be used? The spring game was a time to evaluate younger players, and with Williams sidelined for a bruised knee, there were no answers as to how the Hokies’ backfield might look this fall with two 1,000-yard rushers.

2. Will David Wilson redshirt? Wilson is a talented athlete in a crowded backfield, but he didn’t want to redshirt last season and played sparingly as a true freshman. Beamer said after the spring game that the coaches will make a decision “at the proper time.” That wasn’t this spring.

3. Groundhog’s Day in the kicking game. For the third straight year, the Hokies need a new place-kicker. If the season started tomorrow, Chris Hazley would handle field goals, Justin Myer kickoffs and Brian Saunders would punt, but the competition will continue this fall when freshmen join the team.

ACC mailblog

March, 19, 2010
3/19/10
4:00
PM ET
It's casual Friday in my office today.

Jessica in Coral Gables, Fla., writes: How about Randy Shannon's smart recruiting last year with avoiding the Bryce Brown fiasco, as news comes out of Tennessee that he is no longer a part of the Volunteer's team?

HD: I think most Miami fans realized that in the end, it wasn't worth it. For better or for worse, most coaches know more about the athletes they recruit than they let on. Miami's staff knew what it was doing. Coaches want players who want to be there, period. That's why a Seantrel Henderson probably wouldn't be the best fit anyway, regardless of how highly rated he is.


John in Canestown, Fla., writes: With all these highly rated D players from UNC on Mel's board, curious how these recruiting classes ranked overall by the "experts" at the time they signed. Hoping it proves my thesis that these "stars" assigned to HS kids are about as meaningful as a star on a homework paper.

HD: Well, I think ESPN Recruiting did a pretty good job labeling UNC's class of 2007 as the No. 11 class in the country. I took a look back at the ESPN Recruiting ratings for the five UNC players who made Kiper's list:
  • Marvin Austin: Rated the No. 1 DT and No. 10 player overall in the ESPNU 150 class of 2007.
  • Zach Pianalto: Rated the No. 19 TE in his class.
  • Quan Sturdivant: Rated as the No. 12 safety and No. 121 in the ESPNU 150. Was also evaluated as an outside linebacker.
  • Bruce Carter: In the class of 2006, Carter was rated the No. 42 safety. Evaluated as an athlete who could play almost anywhere on either side of the ball.
  • Deunta Williams: Also a member of the 2006 recruiting class, Williams was rated the No. 63 safety in the country, but was also evaluated as a linebacker.

Eric C. in Rhode Island, writes: I'm a bit worried Heather. For years now, VT has had a solid QB prospect waiting in the wings for their chance to run the show. I don't get that good feeling about the untested folks there now. What are your thoughts about the post-Tyrod Taylor era?

HD: Well, the good news is that Ju-Ju Clayton played in five games last year. He completed 1 of 5 passes -- and 80-yard touchdown. Logan Thomas hasn't gone anywhere. Of course, given the limited experience at backup, it should be a concern and a question mark, just like it is for several other teams in the conference this year. So I guess my thoughts are simply that they're unproven and we have to wait and see. All the more reason to make the most of what they have to work with this year.


Jeremy in Atlanta writes: whats up with everyone immediately ruling tech out of everything this year. we still have nesbitt who is a great leader of the team, anthony allen who will make a good transition to the b-back spot, and stephen hill who has been living under the radar in the shadow of baybay thomas. also tech should have a better year defencively with a new defencive coordinator. this is similar to when everyone said the option wasnt going to do anything at tech and coach paul johnson proved them all wrong. every year tech has players that step up and fill the holes. like when tchoice left dwyer stepped up and when calvin johnson left baybay thomas stepped up. be ready to see more of the same stuff this year from tech.

HD: There are enough questions facing the program that -- at least now, from the outside looking in -- can open the door for another team to win the ACC title this year. You're right, though -- Johnson's forte is proving folks wrong, and last I talked to him, he wasn't too concerned about who's no longer on the team or in the program. He likes what he has and is still confident. And Al Groh took that job with the hopes that he could win a national title with Georgia Tech. That's a pretty big vote of confidence in the direction the program is headed. I don't think anyone doubts Georgia Tech's ability to win the ACC again -- I certainly don't -- but it does have inexperience and transition to overcome.


Scott in Baltimore writes: Hey HD! I'm a huge fan or your blog and of the ACC. I think you have on of the best jobs on the planet. So tell me - what's the best part? What makes you get up and love to go to work every day? Is it interviewing football players and coaches, getting a chance to write every day, travelling, watching the fans get all jazzed up before a big game? Inquiring minds gotta know . . .

HD: Well, thanks. I do love my job. The best part about it is the Saturdays -- the conference race, and the new hope that comes for each team every season. The anticipation builds from the time the season ends to the opening kickoff. It's like reading the same book every year with a different ending to it each time.

It's not a shutout

October, 10, 2009
10/10/09
2:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BLACKSBURG, Va. -- At this point, that was the new goal for BC, or at least it should've been -- to avoid a shutout. Mission accomplished, as Mike Marscovetra completed a 48-yard touchdown pass to Colin Larmond Jr. Of course, the Hokies responded with an 80-yard touchdown from Ju-Ju Clayton to Marcus Davis, the longest pass play in an ACC game for Virginia Tech.

The Eagles now trail 41-7 in the fourth quarter.

It's a long time -- too long -- until the Georgia Tech-Florida State game.

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