ACC: Kavell Connor
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
This would be an entirely different list if the top two linebackers in the league -- Mark Herzlich and Nate Irving -- weren't sidelined right now. There are still a lot of standout linebackers in the conference, but this season just won't be the same without those two guys, not that Irving's return has been completely ruled out yet. Having spoken with NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer Wednesday, though, it's simply a miracle that Irving is even alive. In looking at the rest of the conference, it's tough to find teams that are deep at this position. It's a question mark for a lot of teams, and there's a lot of inexperience.
Here's a shot at ranking the best linebacking corps in the ACC:
1. Miami -- Sean Spence was one of the hardest hitters in the conference as a true freshman and will only be better this year, but the key to this group will probably be the return of a healthy Colin McCarthy, who injured his shoulder in the first half of the season last year. Darryl Sharpton, Arthur Brown and Jordan Futch still have something to prove.
2. North Carolina -- Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter started every game last year, and there are high expectations for sophomore Zach Brown. Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles last year and ranked third in the ACC in total tackles per game. This is one of the deepest groups the Tar Heels have had recently, but they are lacking some experience.
3. Virginia Tech -- Cam Martin and Cody Grimm combined to play all but nine plays at the whip linebacker spot, but they've got to replace Purnell Sturdivant and Brett Warren. Barquell Rivers proved he's up to the task when he filled in in the Orange Bowl, and Jake Johnson will have an increased role, too. There's a lot of potential in this group.
4. Clemson -- The Tigers return two starters plus a third player with starting experience. Kavell Connor started all 13 games last year and was the team's top tackler with 125. Brandon Maye had an impressive season as a redshirt freshman, and finished with 87 tackles. Scotty Cooper was a part-time starter at strongside linebacker.
5. Georgia Tech -- Even with Kyle Jackson possibly out for the whole summer with an injured right foot, the Yellow Jackets till have plenty of depth with Sedric Griffin, Brad Jefferson, Anthony Barnes and Steven Sylvester. Barnes and Jefferson are both finally healthy after injury-plagued seasons and there should be good competition for starting jobs. This group can't afford anymore injuries though.
6. Florida State -- With the graduation of Derek Nicholson and Toddrick Verdell, the Noles lose their top two tacklers. Dekoda Watson will be back from elbow surgery this spring, but it's a young group counting on sophomores like Nigel Bradham and Nigel Carr. Junior Kendall Smith is the only other upperclassman on the two-deep roster.
7. Maryland -- Alex Wujciak could be a star at this position for the Terps, and he'll definitely need to be a leader there this fall. Maryland lost four linebackers who combined to play 144 games and 54 starts. Adrian Moten is one of the few experienced faces in the group, and he earned his first start last year in the Humanitarian Bowl.
8. Duke -- The Blue Devils have to replace the ACC's leading tackler in Michael Tauiliili, but they've still got Vincent Rey, who made 109 tackles last year. The problem is, Rey is the only experienced linebacker they've got. Competition remains among Damian Thornton, Abraham Kromah, and Adam Banks.
9. NC State -- It's not clear when Nate Irving will return, but for as long as he's out, the Wolfpack will be missing their best player on both sides of the ball. The Pack still have senior Ray Michel, who is a returning starter in the middle, and Dwayne Maddox started in place of Irving when he was out last year. But this is an entirely different group -- and defense -- without Irving.
10. Boston College -- The Eagles' linebacking corps took a huge hit when Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, and they still don't know when Mike McLaughlin will be cleared to play from a torn Achilles. BC has a reputation for its defense, so odds are this group will be OK, but there are too many unknowns right now.
11. Wake Forest -- All three starters from last year are gone, and the Demon Deacons have big shoes to fill after the departure of Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry. It's going to have to be a group effort, but there's still some athleticism and depth to work with. Matt Woodlief and Hunter Haynes are the most experienced players retuning.
12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers graduated the veteran group of Jon Copper, Clint Sintim and Antonio Appleby, and because they were so good, their backups didn't see much playing time. This group is the feature in Al Groh's 3-4 defense, and it's going to have a whole new look. There were good reports about Steve Greer this spring, and Groh said Greer tried to mimic his game after Copper, which is reason for hope.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There was plenty of football going on this Saturday, but only one spring game -- Florida State -- so we'll take care of the Noles in a separate post. Here's a quick recap of the other scrimmages, according to information provided by each school's respective sports information director.
In the Eagles' first spring scrimmage, redshirt sophomore quarterback Dominique Davis started and completed 9 of 22 passes for 64 yards with three interceptions. Redshirt freshman quarterback Justin Tuggle completed 9 of 11 passes for 87 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Sophomore quarterback Codi Boek also played several series, completing 7 of 14 passes for 61 yards. Redshirt freshman Alexander Atiyeh completed a pass for 26 yards and a touchdown.
Redshirt freshman Clyde Lee led all receivers with four catches for 59 yards. Junior Ryan Lindsey had three catches for 52 yards, along with a 26-yard touchdown. Junior tight end Jordon McMichael caught Tuggle's 5-yard touchdown, which ended the scrimmage.
Senior running back Jeff Smith led all Eagles in rushing, carrying the ball 13 times for 42 yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore Montel Harris had 12 carries for 33 yards, while sophomore Josh Haden had 12 carries for 32 yards.
"I saw some good things," coach Frank Spaziani said. "The offense is getting better, learning some things and executing. We're making progress, but it's still very early."
The defense looked strong early, as senior Mark Herzlich intercepted Davis and returned the ball 43 yards for a touchdown. Sophomore linebacker Will Thompson made six tackles. Redshirt freshman Nick Clancy was in the right place at the right time totaling four tackles and two interceptions. Junior cornerback DeLeon Gause returned a fumble 42 yards for a touchdown, while also intercepting a pass. Sophomore defensive tackle Kaleb Ramsey recorded two sacks on the day.
The defense had 13 sacks -- three of which came from defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, who also had four tackles -- but don't get too impressed by that stat. It's the one-hand touch rule on quarterbacks, so many of them wouldn't have counted.
"I thought it was a great scrimmage," said coach Dabo Swinney. "I saw great competition and solid performances on both sides of the ball. The wide receivers had their best day of the spring. Brandon Ford had two touchdowns [including goal-line drill] and has really made progress this week. The quarterbacks did well. People better not count out Michael Wade, he had an outstanding day.
"On defense I thought Da'Quan Bowers was outstanding. The defense had a very good day in general.
"We did have some mistakes that were critical, a fumble on the goal line, an offside penalty by the defense that negated a big play that allowed a first down. But, overall I was pleased.
"The kickers also did very well today. Spencer Benton was 7-for-7 on field goals, including a 50-yarder and Richard Jackson had an outstanding day as well."
Jackson made two field goals from 49 yards during the scrimmage.
Wade had the best stats of the quarterbacks as he completed 9-of-12 for 163 yards and two touchdowns. Willy Korn was 8-16 for 96 yards and added a 3-yard scoring pass to Ford in the goal-line drill portion of the scrimmage. Kyle Parker completed 7-of-14 for 87 yards and a touchdown on a 10-yard pass to Terrence Ashe, who made a nice catch in the back of the end zone.
Parker hit a home run for the Clemson baseball team against Duke on Friday night, then was back in Death Valley Saturday morning. He will be back in the starting lineup against Duke on Saturday night.
"We came out today to work on our passing game," said Swinney. "We have had some tough weather this spring so today was the best day we have had to work on pitching and catching. I was pleased with what I saw."
Ford had three catches for 97 yards, including a 60-yard score from Wade, in the regular scrimmage, then added a touchdown catch from Korn in the goal-line portion. Jaron Brown had three catches for 68 yards, including a 26-yard reception from Wade. Ashe had three catches for 20 yards, including the 10-yard score from Parker. Xavier Dye added two catches for 40 yards receiving, and Brandon Clear had a 30-yard catch as well.
Rendrick Taylor was the top rusher with eight carries for 31 yards, while Andre Ellington had eight for 27. There were no rushing touchdowns in the scrimmage until the goal-line drill. Ellington and Jamie Harper both had two touchdowns in the goal-line drill.
Bowers, who was Clemson's top player in the Gator Bowl against Nebraska, had three sacks, a caused fumble, four total tackles for loss and six overall tackles. Brandon Clear had two sacks.
Kavell Conner, Clemson's top tackler last year, had six tackles, as did Jeremy Campbell and Bowers, to lead the defense. Sophomore Coty Sensabaugh had a 53-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Safety Sadat Chambers had the only interception of the scrimmage.
Maryland won't hold its first scrimmage until next week, but the Terps geared up for that by spending about an hour of Saturday's workout in a scrimmage-type setting.
After spending roughly an hour on individual and team work, the first and second team offenses and defenses faced off for a mock scrimmage of eight possessions with each beginning at the 35-yard line.
The offense had scoring opportunities on two of its first five possessions, but the defense ended one drive with an interception and forced two three-and-outs.
Da'Rel Scott keyed the lone touchdown drive in his limited time. With the No. 1 offense and defense squaring off on the second drive, the junior carried four times for 56 yards to move the ball into the red zone.
The offense moved the ball on the ensuing possession, but Jamari McCollough thwarted the scoring chance, picking off Jamarr Robinson's pass at the 4 and returning it 50 yards.
Two possessions later, the offense had a field goal attempt set up by a 26-yard completion from Anthony Green to Matt Furstenburg.
Aided by a stiff wind, Mike Barbour's 50-yard kick had plenty of distance, but sailed just wide right.
Safeties Terrell Skinnner and Antwine Perez were the leading tacklers, posting four stops apiece. Skinner and Perez were also in the backfield quite a bit, combining for 2.5 tackles for loss. Skinner also had a forced fumble.
McCollough also had three solo stops in addition to his interception. The defense had four sacks, including two on the final possession.
"Defensively, we got better as the scrimmage went on," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "We got better at tackling, better pursuit to the ball and we [forced] some turnovers, which is good to see from a defensive standpoint but not from an offensive standpoint."
Turner completed six of his seven passes, but managed only 12 yards. Robinson went 3-for-5 for 37 yards and Green, a defensive back serving as the No. 3 signal-caller this spring, hit all three of his attempts for 33 yards.
Scott, who played on just one possession, was the leading ground gainer with 56 yards on four carries. No receiver had more than two catches, with Furstenburg leading the way, hauling in a pair for 41 yards.
"There were a lot of positives," Friedgen said of Saturday's practice. "We just need to keep on working at trying to get better. I think our attitude is very good, I think they're enjoying themselves and I think they're working hard. As long as we have that and we keep trying to get better every day, one day we're going to be a good football team."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
1. Virginia: Senior captain Clint Sintim started all 37 games in his career and was third on the team with 77 tackles last season. His nine sacks last year were the most of any linebacker in the nation. Inside linebacker Jon Copper is UVA's active leader in tackles with 200, and Antonio Appleby is third on that list with 155.
2. Wake Forest: All three returning starters are back, including strongside linebacker Aaron Curry, a two-time defensive player of the week who had three interception returns for touchdowns and led the nation in interception return yards with 256. He also led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss. Middle linebacker Stanley Arnoux also returns, along with weakside linebacker Chantz McClinic, who had 42 tackles.
|Ned Dishman/Getty Images|
|Senior linebacker Brian Toal, who has 180 career tackles despite missing last season, is healthy again for Boston College.|
3. Boston College: The Eagles lost two key starters, but senior Brian Toal's shoulder is healed and he has 180 career tackles despite missing last season with a medical redshirt. His primary competition at weakside linebacker will come from senior Robert Francois, who finished last season with 39 total tackles. Junior Mark Herzlich, who started all 14 games last year and finished second in total tackles with 97 should anchor this unit. Junior Mike McLaughlin started three games at middle linebacker last season when Jo-Lonn Dunbar was injured and is the heir apparent there.
4. Maryland: This could be one of the Terps' deeper positions, even with the loss of Erin Henderson to the NFL. Seniors Dave Philistin and Moise Fokou each started all 13 games last season, and Adrian Moten, who played all three positions as a freshman, tied for the team lead in sacks (5.5) and had 50 tackles even though he didn't start a game. Philistin ranked fourth in the ACC with 9.5 tackles per game.
5. Florida State: These guys have talent, it's just a matter of when it will all come together. Geno Hayes is gone, and so is Marcus Ball, who was expected to fill in for Hayes but was booted off the team. Still, the Seminoles' leading tackler is back. Underrated middle linebacker Derek Nicholson made 99 stops last year and was the only linebacker to start all 13 games. Strongside linebacker Dekoda Watson started every game but the bowl game because of the academic scandal and will miss the first three, leaving the job to sophomore Kendall Smith. The 'Noles are also excited about freshman Nigel Bradham.
6. Miami: The Hurricanes lost their leading tackler in Tavares Gooden, a third-round NFL draft pick by the Ravens, but are still better off than the way they ended last season -- with three healthy linebackers. Senior Glenn Cook is back after missing last season with a foot injury, and the freshmen -- Arthur Brown and Sean Spence -- didn't waste any time impressing the staff while Coin McCarthy was out this spring. Darryl Sharpton and Spencer Adkins are possible starters in the middle.
7. Virginia Tech: The Hokies will obviously miss Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, but middle linebacker Brett Warren played well last year when Hall got hurt and earned the confidence of defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Purnell Sturdivant is No. 1 heading into the fall, but should be challenged by veteran Jonas Houseright and redshirt freshman Hunter Ovens. Redshirt junior Cam Martin started 13 of 14 games last season at weakside after being moved from free safety and finished fifth on the team with 78 tackles and was third in sacks with 4.5.
8. Duke: Senior Michael Tauiliili is the top active player in the league in terms of career tackles, and finished last season with 108. He also had four sacks and three interceptions. Vincent Rey led the Blue Devils with 111 tackles. The third slot will be between Marcus Jones and Adam Banks. There's not a lot of depth here, but there's talent.
9. Clemson: This is the least experienced unit on the Tigers' defense. Josh Miller is the only senior in the group and is competing for the starting middle linebacker job. Tommy Bowden was impressed with freshman Stanley Hunter this spring, but Brandon Maye had the top spring among the newcomers and is listed as first team in the middle entering the fall. Junior Kavell Connor is the top option at weakside linebacker and had a career high 15 tackles in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. He had 46 stops for the year, tops among linebackers on the spring depth chart. Sophomore Scotty Cooper also started the Chick-fil-A Bowl at strongside linebacker. He had 33 stops for the season in 183 plays on defense.
10. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace leading tackler Durell Mapp, but return sophomore Bruce Carter and sophomore Quan Sturdivant. Carter played in all 12 games and started seven. He made 18 of his 25 tackles in the final five games. Sturdivant's experience is similar, having played in all 12 games, but started just five. He finished the season with 47 tackles, but also added an interception and a blocked punt. Senior Mark Paschal played in all 12 games and started four at middle linebacker, and Chase Rice was still recovering this spring from a torn tendon in his left ankle. He was the starter in 2007, but got hurt in the season opener and missed the rest of the season.
11. NC State: There's not a lot of experience, as the top candidates have combined for five starts and only four guys have played in a collegiate game. Nate Irving is the lead candidate at weakside linebacker, having started four games. Ray Michel started one game in the middle, and strongside should be wide open. Robbie Leonard, a converted walk-on defensive back, is the starter heading into summer camp. He played in eight games as a strong safety and has seen most of his action on special teams the past two seasons. Thomas Barnes got valuable experience as a backup middle linebacker last season, playing the last 10 games and scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery in only his third career play from scrimmage.
12. Georgia Tech: Two of the three stars from last year -- Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton -- are now on NFL rosters. Junior Shane Bowen started nine games last season, but sophomore Anthony Barnes has the most potential and started three. Two young rookies, sophomore Brad Jefferson and redshirt freshman Kyle Jackson, are good enough that Bowen may lose his starting job.