ACC: Keith Payne

Summer summary: Virginia

August, 26, 2011
Our series looking back at the highlights of summer camp for each team in the ACC continues today with Virginia:

  • Coach Mike London’s mantra regarding his highly touted recruiting class has been “they came here to play.” So expect several true freshmen to play this fall. London threw Demetrious Nicholson right into the mix with the first team this month, and he has a good chance to start opposite Chase Minnifield at cornerback. In the past, there have always been one or two impressive freshmen at Virginia, but this month, there have been about nine or 10 whose talent could be an immediate help to the team’s depth.
  • The return of receiver Tim Smith from injury has really helped the offense offset the loss of production from Dontrelle Inman. Smith’s speed and sure hands will help whomever is named the team’s starting quarterback. All of the receivers as a group are not only healthier, but haven’t dropped as many balls this summer. It’s now a matter of getting some of the younger players to run the right routes.
  • Many have wondered how the team is going to replace Keith Payne, as Virginia returns only three rushing touchdowns from a year ago, including one from the kicker. Running back Perry Jones has looked stronger and faster and has shown he can explode through holes. Kevin Parks, although undersized, has been efficient in some goal-line situations, and the staff has liked what it has seen from fullback Max Milien.
  • Defensively, the Hoos have been visibly more comfortable now that they’re entering their second season in the 4-3 system.
  • London hasn’t named a starting quarterback, but Michael Rocco has been getting most of the first-team reps. The bigger question might be whether London uses true freshman David Watford. If he thinks Watford can help them win, he’ll play. In the most recent scrimmage, Rocco got most of the first-team snaps and always played behind the first-team offensive line. Watford, though, was the second quarterback in, and he showed a lot of athleticism and brings another dimension. London is just looking for a quarterback who can manage the game -- not win it alone.
  • Ausar Walcott was reinstated to the team at the bottom of the depth chart at defensive end, but he has since moved back to linebacker. As a player with starting experience, he’ll no doubt help the depth as a backup.
There are two second-year coaches in the ACC this season who, despite their similar tenures, are at totally different points in their careers. Expectations are soaring for Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and tempered for Virginia coach Mike London. Here’s a closer look at how far the ACC’s Year 2 coaches have come and what to expect in their second seasons:


[+] EnlargeJimbo Fisher
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireExpectations are high for Florida State's Jimbo Fisher after a successful rookie campaign.
Rewind: There’s not much that the Seminoles didn’t do in Fisher’s first season. They ended a six-game losing streak to rival Florida, and Fisher became the first FSU coach to beat the Gators in his first season. Fisher finished with a 10-4 record, the Atlantic Division title and a Chick-fil-A Bowl win over SEC East champ South Carolina. FSU finished the season ranked No. 16 by the Associated Press. The 10 wins were the most the program had seen since 2003, and Fisher’s record was the third-best in ACC history for a first-year head coach. He built upon that success with the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class, which bodes well for the future. Speaking of which ...

Fast-forward: Considering Florida State’s head-coach-in-waiting plan and the success he had last season, it seems that Fisher is in his fourth season instead of his second. As a member of Bobby Bowden’s staff, Fisher had the luxury of recruiting players he knew were going to be his, and this is the first season fans will see his first hand-picked quarterback, EJ Manuel. If Manuel flourishes in his first season as full-time starter, the sky is the limit for these Noles. FSU returns 17 starters, including what could be the top punter/kicker duo in the country in Dustin Hopkins and Shawn Powell. FSU is loaded at the skill positions, and there is plenty of talent in the freshman class that could contribute immediately if needed. Manuel has already started in the ACC championship game. He and his teammates know what it takes to get there. Last month, the media picked the Noles to win this year’s ACC title. The question this season is whether they’re capable of even more.

Quotable: “I think we’re very capable,” Fisher said of winning the ACC title. “I think it’s our goal. We want to have a winning season, we want to be a state champion, we want to be the division champion, we want to be the ACC champion and a BCS bowl and hopefully a national championship. I think we’re very capable, and I’m anxious to see how our team takes that challenge.”


[+] EnlargeMike London
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIAfter a tough rebuilding season, Mike London returns the most starters of any ACC team.
Rewind: It was a rebuilding year for Virginia, where London finished 4-8 overall and 1-7 in the ACC. The lone conference win, though, was a big one. Virginia knocked off No. 22-ranked Miami, 24-19, in a game that changed the course of Miami’s season. Three of Virginia’s losses last season were by seven points or fewer, including a three-point loss at No. 16 USC. Off the field, what separated London from his predecessor was his gregarious personality and how approachable he was not only within the football building, but also within the community. He made a concentrated effort to rebuild bridges with in-state high school coaches, made dozens of public appearances, spoke at clinics and was readily available to the media. He also placed an emphasis on academics, and in his first spring, the team posted its best cumulative GPA in a decade. He also lured in the No. 20 recruiting class in the nation, according to ESPN Recruiting.

Fast-forward: Nobody in the ACC returns more starters than Virginia (19), but that experience has been overshadowed by the lack of a proven quarterback. The biggest storyline moving forward for Virginia is who will replace Marc Verica, and four candidates entered summer camp with an equal opportunity: Ross Metheny, Michael Rocco, Michael Strauss and David Watford. How that position unfolds will determine how much closer the Cavaliers can get to the postseason. They also need to find a playmaker to compensate for the loss of production from Keith Payne, who led the ACC in touchdowns last season with 16 and was the league leader in scoring. Defensively, the front seven should be strong and show significant improvement from a season ago. The Hoos also have one of the top players in the country in cornerback Chase Minnifield, who tied for fifth nationally last year in interceptions. Virginia’s schedule is conducive to improvement, as a road trip to Indiana is the toughest nonconference game, but until consistent playmakers emerge and a dependable quarterback is named, a bowl season will be out of reach.

Quotable: "Every year you’re a different team, you’re a new team. And after having gone through a season of changes, personnel-wise and schemes and things like that, we have the same staff back basically intact, the same terminology, the same things are being talked about over and over again, concepts, techniques and things we want to see in terms of improving play and also self-evaluating ourselves as coaches, the schemes we use, the plays we call. Are we utilizing our best players? We spent an extensive amount of time addressing that, so as we go into this season, a new season, hopefully we’ll put those things together. With the familiarity of the coaches and everything we’ve done, improvement will be made in all areas just because of that fact. We all know there’s a tremendous amount of things that can be accomplished with continuity, and going into the second year we’ve experienced that, and now we’ll have an opportunity to capitalize on it." -- Mike London
Last week we looked at how the quarterbacks stacked up in the ACC. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the running backs. Again, the position rankings by team put heavy weight on the depth of the position -– hence the team ranking, not individual. Just because Virginia Tech has one of the best running backs in the ACC doesn’t mean that collectively, as a group, Virginia Tech is the best team in the league at the position. Florida State? Loaded. Wake Forest? Not. These are based on the best combination of talent, experience and depth.

Here’s a look at how each team ranks in the position:

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIChris Thompson averaged 6.4 yards per carry for the Seminoles last season.
1. Florida State: Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas combined for 1,862 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, and 17 touchdowns last year. Thompson had 1,000 yards combined from both rushing and receiving last year, and Thomas enters his senior season with 1,084 career yards -- the second most of any active ACC runner, behind only Montel Harris (3,600).

2. Boston College: Montel Harris could break a 33-year-old ACC rushing record this fall, and his backup, Andre Williams, is a bigger back who has proven more than capable of shouldering the load himself. Together they’re one of the best one-two combos in the league.

3. Miami: The transfer of Storm Johnson hurt, but Lamar Miller should be one of the best in the ACC, and Mike James was ahead of Johnson on the depth chart. The Canes also have Darion Hall, Maurice Hagens and incoming freshman Kevin Grooms.

4. Clemson: Andre Ellington will be the leader of the pack, but true freshman Mike Bellamy could also make an immediate impact, and the group runs deep with Roderick McDowell, D.J. Howard and Demont Buice.

5. Virginia Tech: Had Ryan Williams and Darren Evans returned, this would have been one of the premier groups of running backs in the country. Instead, it will be the David Wilson show (and Josh Oglesby). Not that the Hokies will have any problem with that.

6. Maryland: Davin Meggett and D.J. Adams are a talented duo, but depth should be a concern. Meggett posted a team-high 720 rushing yards in 2010, while Adams had a freshman school-record 11 rushing touchdowns.

7. NC State: The Wolfpack are in a much better position at running back than they were a year ago, when nobody with starting experience returned. Mustafa Greene, James Washington and Brandon Barnes should make NC State’s running game a bigger factor this fall.

8. Georgia Tech: Coach Paul Johnson isn’t concerned about his B-back position because it’s one of the deepest on the team. There isn’t one superstar like in recent years, but Richard Watson, Charles Perkins and Preston Lyons will work together to keep the Jackets one of the top rushing teams in the country.

9. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace three tailbacks who accounted for 96 percent of their rushing last year. Ryan Houston is back for his sixth season of eligibility, but he is the only one who has seen significant playing time. Giovani Bernard, Hunter Furr and Travis Riley help the depth.

10. Wake Forest: Josh Harris could crack the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy, and Brandon Pendergrass is a capable backup. There are three true freshmen at the position, and it’s one area coach Jim Grobe can’t afford any injuries.

11. Virginia: Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are talented, but the Cavaliers will miss the production of Keith Payne, who accounted for 14 of the team’s 17 rushing touchdowns. Jones started all but one game last year, but only scored one touchdown.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils’ running game is starting to show progress, but last year it still ranked 104th in the country. Depth isn’t a problem, as Desmond Scott, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson should help make it a more productive group this year.

Stay tuned for the top 10 ACC running backs for 2011 ...

Virginia spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
2010 overall record: 4-8

2010 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 9, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR Kris Burd, OT Morgan Moses, G Austin Pasztor, TB Perry Jones, DT Matt Conrath, DT Nick Jenkins, DE Cam Johnson, CB Chase Minnifield, SS Rodney McLeod, LB Steve Greer

Key losses

WR Dontrelle Inman, QB Marc Verica, DE Zane Parr, RB Keith Payne, LB Darnell Carter

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Payne (749 yards)

Passing: Verica (2,799 yds)

Receiving: Burd* (799 yds)

Tackles: LaRoy Reynolds* (66)

Sacks: Cam Johnson* (6.5)

Interceptions: Minnifield* (6)

Spring answers

1. Good move for Gooch. Miles Gooch made the move from quarterback to receiver this spring, and because of the numerous injuries to the wideouts, he got significant reps. Whether that translates into game snaps remains to be seen, but with a crowded competition at quarterback, his odds are better at receiver.

2. No move for Mathis. Jeremiah Mathis moved from defensive end to tight end last year, and he stayed there this spring. Coach Mike London has said Mathis has a huge upside on the offensive side of the ball. Mathis caught three passes in 10 games last year, but that number could increase this fall with the departure of Joe Torchia.

3. Another step forward on defense. With nine starters returning in the second season in the 4-3 scheme, the Cavaliers showed improvement this spring. London said the defense is well ahead of where it was this time a year ago because of the transition and coaching change.

Fall questions

1. Who’s the quarterback? Michael Rocco, Ross Metheny, Michael Strauss and true freshman David Watford will continue their competition in summer camp, as none of them separated themselves this spring. While it’s limited, Metheny and Rocco have the most experience, but that hasn’t guaranteed them anything, according to London.

2. Who will compensate for the loss of production with the departure of Keith Payne? Perry Jones, Kevin Parks and Khalek Shepherd will likely share the carries, but the latter two are redshirt freshmen with no game experience. Jones ran for 646 yards last year.

3. Roster cuts. London needs to trim the roster to meet the NCAA’s 85-scholarship limit, and he has not determined how he plans to do that yet. If Devin Wallace does not return from his suspension, that will make one less -- and one less starter on defense. London has not yet released a number on how many fifth-year seniors will be invited back. Different scenarios could transpire in the next few months to get this question answered, as some players might not qualify and will have to attend prep school.

Spring shoes to fill: Virginia

April, 25, 2011

Biggest shoes to fill: Quarterback Marc Verica

The Cavaliers will miss Keith Payne, but he shared time at running back, while Verica touched the ball on every offensive play and was more of a leader to the offense. Verica finished his career sixth on the school’s career passing list with 4,992 career yards. He passed for a career-high 2,799 yards and 14 touchdowns last year and ranked fourth in the ACC in passing yards, fifth in total offense and sixth in pass efficiency.

Spring replacement:With no separation occurring among the four quarterback candidates this spring, Verica so far hasn’t been replaced. Virginia released its latest depth chart and not surprising there is no answer at quarterback, where the starter could be Ross Metheny, Michael Rocco, Michael Strauss or David Watford.

Summer outlook: The competition will continue this summer, but coach Mike London has said the time between now and summer camp will help separate the quarterbacks because he wants to see who best takes on the leadership role of organizing the voluntary workouts, who spends the most time in the film room, and who makes the best use of the time before official practices begin again.

More in this series:

Spring preview: Coastal Division

February, 15, 2011
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:


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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Season recap: Virginia

December, 7, 2010
With a new staff, new schemes and new philosophies, first-year coach Mike London knew his team would be a work in progress this year, but he still had hoped for a better finish. The Hoos surprised almost everyone with their upset of then-No. 22 Miami, but couldn’t build on it and ended the season with four straight losses. There were still individual highlights, as formerly unheralded players like running backs Keith Payne and Perry Jones emerged as dependable options, and Chase Minnifield was a major factor with standout corner Ras-I Dowling injured most of the season. Turnovers and penalties were a problem the entire season, though, as was Virginia’s defense. The Cavalier ranked No. 101 in the country in turnover margin, allowed an average of 28 points per game, and ranked 117th in the nation in fewest penalties per game with 98. Virginia has now lost 13 straight November games, including a seventh-straight loss to rival Virginia Tech in the season finale. London wasn't able to change the postseason fate of Virginia in one year, but he did change the culture.

Offensive MVP: Running back Keith Payne. He led the ACC in scoring at 8.7 points per game with a league-best 16 total touchdowns. His 14 rushing touchdowns ranks No. 3 all-time at UVA and second-most since the end of World War II. He led the team with 749 yards and had three 100-yard games, including 114 yards in his 2010 debut against Richmond - his first action since 2008. Payne also equaled the record for most rushing touchdowns in a game during the modern UVA era with four.

Defensive MVP: Cornerback Chase Minnifield. He finished the regular season No. 2 in the ACC and No. 6 nationally with six interceptions. Twice during the season he was named honorable mention for the Jim Thorpe Defensive Back of the Week honor. He also shared ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors on Nov. 1 with teammate Corey Mosley after two interceptions in Virginia’s 24-19 upset of Miami. He finished the season No. 8 on the team with 48 tackles. He also broke up four passes and recorded 0.5 sacks.

Turning point: London had to start over, and he had to start at the beginning by doing something that hadn’t been done at Virginia in five years – win the season opener. It was an important win because it came against London’s former team, Richmond, and Virginia had lost to an FCS team in 2009. In order for things to be different, it had to start there.

What’s next: The staff will get to work in recruiting and try to build on the early success it has already had. Virginia has lured in two ESPNU 150 prospects and three four-star athletes for the No. 18 class in the nation. With at least 17 starters returning, and some depth built through redshirting, a foundation has been laid. Quarterback Marc Verica is graduating, though, so developing his replacement will be critical.

ACSMA All-conference team announced

November, 29, 2010
The 2010 All-Atlantic Coast Conference football team as voted on by 61 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association was announced today. A first-team vote was worth two points and second team vote one.



QB Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech (77)
RB Montel Harris, Boston College (122)
RB Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech (108)
WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami (118)
WR Torrey Smith, Maryland (96)
TE George Bryan, NC State (92)
OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (79)
OT Chris Hairston, Clemson (69)
OG Rodney Hudson, Florida State (116)
OG Brandon Washington, Miami (50)
C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech (91)
K Chris Hazley, Virginia Tech (100)
Spc. Tony Logan, Maryland (69)

DE Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson (120)
DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State (101)
DT Quinton Coples, North Carolina (101)
DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson (63)
LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College (112)
LB Nate Irving, N.C. State (105)
LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland (78)
CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech (112)
CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia (57)
S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson (99)
S Kenny Tate, Maryland (78)
P Matt Bosher, Miami


QB Russell Wilson, NC State (75)
RB Damien Berry, Miami (37)
RB Keith Payne, Virginia (30)
WR Conner Vernon, Duke (70)
WR Owen Spencer, NC State (41)
TE Dwayne Allen, Clemson (31)
OT Orlando Franklin, Miami (65)
OT Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech (39)
OG Jaymes Brooks, Virginia Tech (41)
OG Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech (35)
OG Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina (35)
C Ryan McMahon, Florida State (47)
K Will Snyderwine, Duke (38)
Spc. David Wilson, Virginia Tech (61)

DE Allen Bailey, Miami (51)
DE Steven Friday, Virginia Tech (42)
DT John Graves, Virginia Tech (46)
DT Joe Vellano, Maryland (33)
LB Bruce Carter, North Carolina (43)
LB Bruce Taylor, Virginia Tech (41)
LB Sean Spence, Miami (37)
CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State (49)
CB Brandon Harris, Miami (45)
S Davon Morgan, Virginia Tech (48)
S Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami (25)
P Brian Saunders, Virginia Tech (48)

ACC's Super Seniors for 2010

November, 26, 2010
As the regular season comes to a close this week, I thought it would be a good time to honor the ACC’s Super Seniors, players who have made key contributions to the program on and off the field. There's more than one at every school, and all of them will be missed, but say farewell, ACC fans, to this year’s class of Super Seniors:

[+] EnlargeMark Herzlich
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireMark Herzlich rejoined his teammates in 2010 after missing the '09 season because he had a rare form of cancer.
Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich. He beat Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer and is now the third-leading tackler on the team with 54. He also has four pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and three interceptions, and 3.5 tackles for loss. It has to be the most remarkable comeback story in college football.

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel. His 15 career interceptions rank him second in Clemson history and third among active FBS players. He’s the top tackler on Clemson’s defense with 47 and has six pass breakups and 4.5 tackles for loss.

Duke center Bryan Morgan. He’s been a role model on and off the field, and was one of 22 players selected to the All State AFCA Good Works team for his community service. He’s a third-year starter at center for the Blue Devils, is an amazing musician and has dedicated his time to helping hospital patients with serious illnesses and promoting reading and education to elementary school students.

Florida State guard Rodney Hudson. Some might call him the “big ugly” version of Christian Ponder. Hudson, a four-year starter, 2010 Outland Finalist and likely consensus All-American, was offensive line coach Rick Trickett’s first signee and has been a mainstay in the lineup since his arrival. It’s likely he’ll be a four-time All-ACC selection, only the second lineman in league history to earn that distinction. He’s been a calming force and mentor in the locker room and is a relentless blocker on the field.

Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. It was unfortunate to see an injury prematurely end Nesbitt’s career, but he still went out as a record-setter. With 2,806 career rushing yards, Nesbitt has rushed for more yards than any quarterback in ACC history and over 1,000 yards more than any quarterback in Tech history. He has rushed for 35 career touchdowns -- six more than any quarterback in the history of the ACC and 16 more touchdowns than any quarterback in Yellow Jacket history.

Maryland linebacker Alex Wujciak. He has started a team-best 36 straight games. He is one of 11 active linebackers in the FBS with two career interceptions returned for a touchdown. UNC's Bruce Carter is the only other ACC player. He had 10 tackles against Florida State, giving him 105 on the season. The senior has at least 100 tackles in three straight seasons and is just the sixth player in school history to accomplish that feat.

[+] EnlargeLeonard Hankerson
Andrew Weber/US PresswireLeonard Hankerson is just 42 yards away from breaking 1,000 yards for the season.
Miami receiver Leonard Hankerson. Hankerson’s 9-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against Virginia Tech was his 12th of the season, breaking the single-season record held by Michael Irvin (11) in 1986. Hankerson became just the fourth Miami receiver to record 900 yards in one season, joining Eddie Brown (‘84), Andre Johnson (‘02), and Wesley Carroll (‘90). Only Brown and Johnson have recorded 1,000 yards in a season and Hankerson needs just 42 yards to join that club. Hankerson has scored a touchdown in six straight games and nine of Miami’s 11 games this season.

North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates. He’ll finish his career as Carolina’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions and attempts. He also holds the single-season mark for passing yards. Yates has 231 completions this year and needs four to break Darian Durant’s single-season record of 234 set in 2003.

NC State linebacker Nate Irving. Against Wake Forest, in the last home game of his career, he had a school-record eight tackles for loss. That mark broke the previous mark of six held by Mario Williams, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NFL draft. Irving now ranks third nationally in tackles for loss for 2010. This year he has 89 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss. That single-season tackles-for-loss currently ranks sixth in school history. He has tallied 37.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage for his career, the eighth-best mark ever by a Wolfpack defender.

Virginia running back Keith Payne. After a year away from the team, Payne has done everything coach Mike London has asked of him and then some. He leads the ACC and is tied for 16th nationally with 15 touchdowns. Payne has a team-high 741 rushing yards this season, an average of 4.8 yards per carry. He needs just four yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for his career.

Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He has started 39 games and has won 32 of them, the most wins for a starting quarterback in school history. He needs 153 passing yards to surpass Bryan Randall (6,508) as the all-time passing leader at Virginia Tech.

Wake Forest center Russell Nenon. The three-year starter started at guard in 2008, then moved to center where he has been a fixture since (though he did start two games at guard this fall due to injuries). His 36 career starts are currently the most on the team.

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 16, 2010
Is it wrong to be thinking about turkey already? ...

What to watch in the ACC: Week 11

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running back rotations. NC State’s Dean Haynes is back after missing the Clemson game with a head injury, but coach Tom O’Brien did not say which of his top three tailbacks will start against Wake Forest. At Miami, Lamar Miller had the best performance of any Miami running back this season against the Terps, but Damien Berry returned to practice. He is still listed as questionable, and Miller, Mike James and Graig Cooper should again carry the load. UNC’s running back situation remains a question, and Ryan Williams and Darren Evans will carry the load without No. 3 tailback David Wilson.
First-year Virginia coach Mike London had been hearing it all season -- how the Cavaliers would only win three games this year, how the first FBS win came against an Eastern Michigan team that wasn't very good, how the program had lost nine straight conference games …

"On and on and on and on," London said after the game on Saturday, his voice still hoarse from the excitement of the day.

[+] EnlargeLondon
Andrew Shurtleff/US PresswireMike London celebrated as Virginia ended a nine-game losing streak in ACC play by beating Miami.
It all came to a screeching halt on Saturday when Virginia intercepted Miami five times en route to a 24-19 win against the No. 22-ranked Hurricanes. It was the first ACC win for London, who was hired from the FCS ranks to resurrect a program that has had three losing seasons in the past four years.

It was one of several upsets in yet another wild, unpredictable week in the ACC. On Thursday night, NC State knocked off the ACC's top-ranked team, No. 16 Florida State, 28-24. On Saturday, Boston College earned its first conference win by surprising Clemson, 16-10. Duke, which hadn't won since its season opener against Elon, beat Navy on the road, and North Carolina almost lost to William & Mary on homecoming.

The biggest surprise, though, came in Charlottesville, where Virginia earned its first win against a ranked opponent in two years.

"To see those guys play hard, not give up, even when they scored their last touchdown, all those guys collectively as a team, you're overwhelmed with emotion," said London, who fell to his knees after the game. "Because no one wants to throw an interception. No one wants to miss a tackle. These guys all want to win. Sometimes you put a game together where you do better things than the other team. We were in position to make plays, get five turnovers, things like that. This was a signature win for us because it's a ranked team."

Don't tell London he won because Miami didn't have injured starting quarterback Jacory Harris for much of the game.

"Well you know what? I'm missing Joe Torchia, Ras-I Dowling didn't play, Tim Smith, our starting receiver is out," he said. "Football is football. You've got to play the game with who you've got, and at the end of the day hope your score is better than theirs."

Virginia did more than hope. It played defense. Miami was held scoreless in the opening quarter -- with Harris on the field -- and he was hit while throwing an interception. Harris' absence had nothing to do with Miami's defense getting run over, either. Keith Payne ran for two touchdowns and 81 yards, and the Cavaliers didn't allow a sack.

Virginia started the season with a 2-4 record, but has never once quit on London.

"That was the way it was before," London said. "That was then, this is now. I will not allow players to attach their self-worth to their record."

Nor will he allow anyone to lessen the value of this win because Harris was hurt.

"This is a big win for the community and for the fans," said junior corner Chase Minnifield, who had two interceptions. "This win helps us recruit, and it is great to get a win on the national stage. We needed the win and we worked hard for it. One thing no one can say is that we did not work hard this week."

Instead, you can go "on and on and on" about what Virginia finally did do.

Virginia wraps up Eastern Michigan

October, 23, 2010
That's more like it.

After getting a scare from Eastern Michigan, Virginia pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 48-21 win. The Cavaliers outscored Eastern Michigan 31-7 in the second half.

Virginia quarterback Marc Verica redeemed himself from three interceptions a week ago, throwing for 203 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Keith Payne added two rushing touchdowns, and Virginia snapped a three-game losing streak with its first FBS win of the season. It was a small step, but an important one for Mike London and his team in this rebuilding year. The next step? Getting the first conference win of the season. With Miami looming next, the best shot is likely Nov. 6 at Duke.

ACC's lunchtime links

October, 22, 2010
It's Friday!

What to watch in the ACC: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
In no particular order, here are 10 things to watch this week in five ACC games:

Bowl eligibility: Both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech can become bowl eligible this weekend if they win. So far, Florida State is the only ACC team to have reached the six-win mark. NC State is also one win away, but the Pack have a bye week.

Turnovers in Miami. They’ve been the Hurricanes’ downfall in three straight losses to UNC, as Miami has 10 turnovers to UNC’s one during that span. But UNC isn’t the only team that can force mistakes. If UNC quarterback T.J. Yates is finally going to slip up again, there’s a good chance it happens on Saturday against a defensive line that helped Miami lead the nation in tackles for loss and rank fourth in the country in sacks.

The red zone in Miami. North Carolina leads the ACC in red zone offense having converted on 22 of 24 trips inside the 20-yard line. The Tar Heels have scored 16 touchdowns and made 6-of-7 field goal attempts. UNC is the only team in the ACC that hasn’t turned it over in the red zone this season. Miami hasn’t been as fortunate. The Canes have lost possession six times inside the 20, including three turnovers. Miami has scored 15 touchdowns in 26 trips in the red zone, but UNC and Miami have the No. 2 and No. 3 red zone defenses in the ACC, respectively.

[+] EnlargeTorrey Smith
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireTorrey Smith is Maryland's best player on offense but is fighting an ankle injury.
Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith. He’s their best player on offense. They need him. But his ankle isn’t 100 percent and he’s having trouble cutting on it. If BC is going to take away the Terps’ running game -- which it is expected to do -- Danny O’Brien is going to need some help in the passing game. Smith is also 49 yards shy of setting an ACC career record for kickoff returns.

BC running back Montel Harris. He needs just 65 more yards to reach 3,000 in his career and only three BC players before him have ever reached that number. Derrick Knight, BC’s all-time leading rusher, was the last to do it in 2003. Harris will be the first player in school history to reach it as a junior. The milestone could be an early birthday gift, as he turns 21 on Oct. 30, the day the Eagles host Clemson at Alumni Stadium. He ran for 142 yards in last year’s 19-17 win over the Terps, and he ran for 191 yards in the loss at Florida State last weekend while averaging 7.3 yards per carry. FSU was able to keep him out of the end zone, though, and the Terps will be challenged to do the same.

Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. He needs 44 more rushing yards to break the ACC career record of rushing yards by a quarterback. After rushing for 106 yards against Middle Tennessee, Nesbitt has 2,718 yards. The record is held by former Clemson standout Woodrow Dantzler (2,761, 1998-2001). How long can the Tigers’ D protect their record books?

Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Georgia Tech’s offensive line will have its hands full with this guy. He’s leading the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.

Quarterbacks in the Commonwealth. Duke quarterback Sean Renfree can’t afford five interceptions against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and Virginia quarterback Marc Verica is looking to shake off the three picks he threw last week against UNC and rebound against Eastern Michigan. And Tyrod Taylor? Well, he can move into fourth place in career passing yards at Virginia Tech with 144 more yards.

Virginia Tech’s secondary against Duke’s receivers. The Hokies’ pass defense hasn’t exactly been stellar this year, and it’s no secret that Duke is going to throw the ball. The Blue Devils have three of the ACC’s top receivers in Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner and Austin Kelly. The Hokies’ Jayron Hosley leads the ACC with four interceptions.

Virginia’s running game. The Cavaliers’ rushing defense hasn’t been very good, but Eastern Michigan’s is worse. Expect Keith Payne and Perry Jones to boost their stats. Eastern Michigan is allowing 228 rushing yards per game.