ACC: Kevin Alexander

Clemson spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
11:00
AM ET
CLEMSON

2009 overall record: 9-5

2009 conference record: 6-2, Atlantic Division champs

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

DE Da’Quan Bowers, FS DeAndre McDaniel, LT Chris Hairston, RT Landon Walker, QB Kyle Parker, DT Jarvis Jenkins, LB Brandon Maye, RB Andre Ellington, RB Jamie Harper

Key losses

RB C.J. Spiller, WR Jacoby Ford, LG Thomas Austin, TE Michael Palmer, DE Ricky Sapp, LB Kavell Conner, CB Chris Chancellor, CB Crezdon Butler, LB Kevin Alexander

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Spiller (1,212 yds)

Passing: Parker* (2,526 yds)

Receiving: Ford (779 yds)

Tackles: Conner (111)

Sacks: Sapp (5)

Interceptions: McDaniel* (8)

Spring answers

1. Meet Dwayne Allen. The Tigers appear to have a capable replacement for former first-team all-conference tight end Michael Palmer, who set a school record for receptions (43) and reception yards (507) for a tight end last year. Allen had three catches for 83 yards in the spring game. He could be a centerpiece of the offense next year.

2. Liking the linebackers. The graduation of Alexander and Conner hurt, but coach Dabo Swinney liked what he saw from this group this spring. The Tigers are deeper and more versatile here and will have the ability to increase the number of plays per linebacker.

3.Holding their own. Heading into the spring, the punter and place-kicking jobs were open, but punter Dawson Zimmerman and kicker Richard Jackson both retained their spots. Jackson was inconsistent last year and missed two extra point attempts, but he tied for second in the ACC with 20 field goals.

Fall questions

1. Will Parker return? The dual-sport quarterback won’t determine his future until baseball season has ended. As his spring home run total increases, it becomes more of a question. His batting average and home run totals -- Parker leads the ACC in home runs -- continue to be a factor.

2. Spiller’s replacements. What four people will combine to do what Spiller did last year? Kick returns, catching the ball out of the backfield, the ground game -- Mr. Versatility will be missed. Ellington had a good spring with 13 carries for 86 yards in the spring game, and expectations are high for Harper.

3. Reaching at receiver. With Ford’s graduation, Clemson is looking for a new go-to player. Swinney liked what he saw from the group, as Xavier Dye and Terrence Ashe both had productive springs. Brandon Clear was one of the most improved players on the roster and will be given a chance to make some plays this summer.

Clemson's Taylor signs free agent contract

May, 5, 2010
5/05/10
2:58
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Former Clemson fullback Rendrick Taylor has signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Bucs and will report to mini-camp May 17. He will work as a fullback and tight end, but also played receiver during his career at Clemson.

Taylor, who will graduate on Friday, played in 38 games for the Tigers over the past five years, 10 as a starter. He finished his career with 54 receptions for 533 yards and a touchdown and had 15 carries for 36 yards as a fullback.

Taylor is the fifth member of last year's team to sign a free agent contract and five other players were drafted two weeks ago. That's a significant bit of talent gone from last year's Atlantic Division champs:

Still, Clemson returns enough talent on both sides of the ball to repeat as division champs. The Tigers will have six starters back on defense, including four of the top five tacklers and three defensive linemen. Even though Chancellor and Butler are gone, Clemson's secondary returns players who accounted for 19 of last year's 21 interceptions.

Atlantic Division on the line in Death Valley

November, 7, 2009
11/07/09
5:55
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- The tailgating is in full swing here in Death Valley, and it’s a beautiful evening for it -- finally. It has rained at some point during each of the first five Clemson home games this year. If the game lives up to the pregame excitement and buzz, it should be a great one. The Atlantic Division standings are on the line, and it’s Clemson’s division to lose. FSU has some momentum, though, and can still sneak in. The Noles will move into second place with a win.


Here are three keys to this game:

1. Pressure on Ponder. This is the biggest key. Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder has been one of the top performers in the country in recent weeks, but only he knows how much pain he’s truly in from the bruised ribs he suffered in last week’s win over NC State. Clemson’s defensive line is one of its deepest units and biggest strengths. Their backup defensive ends are good enough to start for some other ACC teams. Guys like Kevin Alexander, Malliciah Goodman and Andre Branch are still going to bring the heat. Clemson leads the ACC in sacks.

2. Turnovers and penalties. These could be the X factor. Clemson is the least penalized team in the ACC. Florida State is the worst. All Florida State needs in this kind of game is a little bit of help from a fumble or an interception. Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker has shown marked improvement over the past couple of weeks, but he’s also got eight interceptions and 10 touchdowns this year. FSU has a plus-four turnover margin, but Clemson is one of the best teams in the country when it comes to interceptions with 15.

3. Will FSU’s defense show up? It was an emotional week with the announcement of Mickey Andrews’ retirement, so you’d think the Seminoles would be driven to play for him in one of their most critical games of the season. You don’t morph from one of the country’s worst defenses, though, into one of the best in a matter of four quarters. What the Noles need to do is stay fundamentally sound, make their tackles, stay away from penalties, and limit the big plays from Jacoby Ford and C.J. Spiller.

Swinney on Bowers

November, 1, 2009
11/01/09
6:57
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said defensive end Da'Quan Bowers is "very doubtful" for Saturday's game against FSU.

“I would say he’s probably doubtful right now for this week,” Swinney said. “If he’s not able to play, that’s a big blow to us. There’s not many Da’Quan Bowers walking around out there, so it will be a challenge for our other guys to step it up.”

Swinney said the backups have played as many snaps as Bowers, and that Malliciah Goodman had his best game on Saturday. Kevin Alexander, who usually plays strongside linebacker, switches back to end in nickel and dime situations.

“(Goodman) will have to step it up along with (Andre) Branch and Kevin Alexander, who are also in that role, too,” Swinney said. “All those guys have to step up and replace Da’Quan if he can’t play. We’ve got good depth there and good players, so we’ll be OK, you just hate to lose a good one like Da’Quan. I hate it for him, too, I know he would’ve like to play in this game. We’ll get him back as soon as possible.”

Swinney said he’s not sure of the timetable for Bowers’ return.

“I hope he’s just out this ball game, but you never know,” Swinney said. “It could be a couple of games. It could be just one, I don’t know. It’s hard for me to speculate on that.”

ACC injury reports: Week 7

October, 16, 2009
10/16/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


BOSTON COLLEGE

OUT FOR SEASON

LB Mark Herzlich (illness)

FOR NC STATE GAME

WR Ifeanyi Momah (knee) – OUT

TE Jordon McMichael (hip) – DOUBTFUL

LB Will Thompson (shoulder) – DOUBTFUL

FB James McCluskey (Achilles) – QUESTIONABLE

FS Okechukwu Okoroha (leg) – PROBABLE

DT Austin Giles (back) – PROBABLE

CB Roderick Rollins (Leg) – PROBABLE

DE Alex Albright (ankle) – PROBABLE

DT Damik Scafe (neck/shoulder) – PROBABLE

CLEMSON

I don't have an injury report, but I do have the following lineup changes:

After practice Thursday coach Dabo Swinney announced that Dalton Freeman would start at center. Scotty Cooper will miss the game while still recovering from a concussion suffered at Maryland. Daniel Andrews will move up to second-team strongside linebacker behind Kevin Alexander.

GEORGIA TECH

Out

Kevin Cone, r-Jr., WR (ankle)

Robert Hall, r-Jr., DE (knee)

Questionable

Anthony Egbuniwe, Jr., DE (illness)

Cooper Taylor, So., S (undisclosed)

Out For Season

Kyle Jackson, r-So., LB (foot)

MARYLAND

Out for season:

Tyler Bowen (foot)

Nolan Carroll (leg)

Out:

Travis Baltz (ankle)

Masengo Kabongo (leg)

Da’Rel Scott (wrist)

Questionable:

Bruce Campbell (leg)

Demetrius Hartsfield (hand)

MIAMI

Probable

RB Lee Chambers – Lower Extremity

RB Graig Cooper – Lower Extremity

Doubtful

OL Joel Figueroa – Lower Extremity

Out

FB Patrick Hill – Lower Extremity

DL Josh Holmes – Lower Extremity

WR Aldarius Johnson – Upper Extremity

DL Eric Moncur – Lower Extremity

DB JoJo Nicolas – Upper Extremity

DB Randy Phillips – Upper Extremity

Surgery and Out for the Season

DL Dyron Dye – Lower Extremity

DL Marcus Forston – Lower Extremity

LB Jordan Futch – Lower Extremity

TE Richard Gordon – Upper Extremity

LB Shayon Green – Lower Extremity

DE Gavin Hardin – Upper Extremity

DB Ryan Hill – Upper Extremity

DE Adewale Ojomo – Jaw

NC STATE

OUT FOR SEASON

Mario Carter, TE - knee

Ryan Cheek, LB - hip

Denzelle Good, OL - shoulder

Nate Irving, LB - leg

Colby Jackson, FB - knee

Everett Proctor, QB - shoulder

Javon Walker, S - knee

OUT

Jeff Rieskamp, DE – hip

Jesse Riley, DB - knee

VIRGINIA

Out

Javaris Brown (ankle)

Doubtful

Mikell Simpson (neck)

Questionable

none

Probable

Landon Bradley (knee)

BJ Cabbell (ankle)

Patch Duda (flu)

Mike Parker (knee)

Zane Parr (ankle)

Brandon Woods (foot)

VIRGINIA TECH

Out for Season

Darren Evans (ACL)

Probable

Marcus Davis (ankle)

Mark Muncey (knee)

Sergio Render (pec strain)

Eddie Whitley (ankle)

Ryan Williams (illness)

Out

Brandon Dillard (ankle)

Clemson's Alexander adjusts to new hybrid role

August, 27, 2009
8/27/09
4:58
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

When the game is on the line for Clemson -- when the Tigers have four plays left to win -- first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele takes comfort in knowing that defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp will be on the field.

What he doesn't want, though, is for senior Kevin Alexander to be standing next to him.

"You just feel a little better if you look out there and see Kevin, Da'quan AND Ricky," Steele said.

Unless, of course, you're lining up on offense.

When the Tigers' defense lines up in their nickel and dime packages, Alexander will be used as a defensive end, the position he's played most of his career at Clemson. But when they're in regular calls, Alexander will morph into another bandit end that's used exactly like a strongside linebacker. The new responsibilities Alexander had to learn were only about 20 percent more than he was used to, Steele said. The bandit end is an outside linebacker/defensive end depending on the call.

Prior to Steele's arrival, Clemson's defense had been heavily a nickel package defense, using five defensive backs and two linebackers. Because of that, the linebackers were good athletes, but didn't have much size. In some of Steele's calls, he said he needs a strongside linebacker to "create a telephone post on the end of the line of scrimmage."

"Obviously a 220-pound telephone post is not quite as effective as a 265-pound telephone post," Steele said. "If the tight end blocks down and you've got to take a pulling guard on, obviously he's a pretty massive fellow running in there."

The 6-foot-3 senior emerged from the shadow of former Tiger Phillip Merling, who he played behind as a freshman and sophomore. Alexander has never missed a game, and started 10 last year. He saw increased playing time after Sapp tore his ACL at Virginia.

Alexander, who started his career at Clemson as a backup inside linebacker in 2006, said he's about "halfway" to where he needs to be to master both defensive end and outside linebacker at the same time. He goes to the linebacker position meeting first, and then joins the defensive ends.

"I feel like both of them are my home, because I played linebacker all my life," Alexander said. "I got moved to defensive end when I came to college."

Alexander said he thinks this move will give him the best chance to make a name for himself and catch the attention of some NFL scouts. He and Sapp had been rotating at the bandit end spot, but he's hoping this new role at outside linebacker will increase his playing time.

"I think it's a good opportunity for me," he said. "It benefits me more. NFL teams are playing more of a 3-4 and a 4-3. I can go from a down defensive end to a linebacker, so I can play both of them."

And that's exactly what Steele is asking him to do.

Clemson releases its depth chart

August, 24, 2009
8/24/09
9:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich Clemson released its depth chart on Sunday evening, though some caution not to put too much stock into it. As Clemson beat writer Paul Strelow pointed out in his blog, the most telling names on there are that Marcus Gilchrist is the projected starter at free safety, and Kevin Alexander, a previous starter at defensive end, will play at strongside linebacker. Look out for Kevin Steele's defense, though. Not only will this group be one of the stingiest defenses in the conference, it will also show a lot of different looks with different formations and guys moving around. Offensively, the Tigers are clearly going to make the most out of Kyle Parker's arm strength, and he really could be one of the surprise players to emerge in the ACC this fall. Jacoby Ford, will need some help out there, and the early indications are that Xavier Dye and Terrance Ashe are the frontrunners, though coach Dabo Swinney said several times throughout camp the receivers hadn't exactly separated themselves. (I'm told Ford, by the way, is expected to return to practice this week after missing the bulk of the summer with a hamstring injury. Most of that was just precautionary.) The depth chart also indicates the use of two-tight end sets.

ACC's (late) lunchtime links

August, 10, 2009
8/10/09
1:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

  • Since I'm in Atlanta today, let's start with the Jackets, where coach Paul Johnson would like kicker Scott Blair to hand the punting duties over to either Chandler Anderson or Sean Poole.
  • Speaking of specialists, it was the one group that stood out in NC State's first scrimmage -- for better or for worse.
  • Alabama isn't considering Virginia Tech "a pushover," despite the fact that's exactly what the ACC looked like in last year's Chick-fil-A Kickoff.
  • Virginia Tech freshman David Wilson has impressed just about everyone who's seen him on the field, and on Saturday he even stunned teammate Darren Evans.
  • Florida State defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews waited so long to become the Noles' next head coach that FSU officials deemed him too old for the job. And he was never told along the way not to bother holding out hope for a promotion that would never come.
  • After losing 30 seniors, Maryland will have a whole new look when it starts practice today.
  • Boston College also starts practice today, and the Eagles begin with looking for a new quarterback. They'll start with David Shinskie.
  • Miami offensive lineman Matt Pipho has just as much brains as he does brawn, and he's looking to show off both this fall.
  • Clemson defensive end Kevin Alexander is a great example of why redshirting decisions need to be made with caution.

Clemson practice report

August, 6, 2009
8/06/09
10:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here are a few excerpts from Clemson's second practice, as reported by the sports information office:

Clemson is in the five-day NCAA mandated acclimatization period. The Tigers will have practice each evening on Thursday through Saturday, then take Sunday off. Monday morning's practice will be the first in full pads. Clemson will practice twice that day, the first of four two-a-day practices during the pre-school schedule.

"It was a good day of practice," said coach Dabo Swinney. "I told the team that this was how championship teams practice. There was energy like there was the first day, but they played smarter today."

Swinney mentioned a few of his players in his postgame meeting with the media.

"Ricky Sapp looked like Ricky Sapp today and I am anxious to see him with the full pads on this coming Monday," Swinney said. "I was very impressed with Rendrick Taylor. He caught the ball out of the backfield, and from tight end, and ran very well, also.

"Byron Maxwell worked hard all summer. He worked out twice a day and I am proud of what he has done these first two days. Kevin Alexander also looked good at defensive end."

Jacoby Ford [hamstring] and J.K. Jay were both in yellow jerseys and missed the practice. Ford suffered the injury while fielding punts in Tuesday's first practice. Jay has a back injury.

Jaron Brown and Bryce McNeal were two receivers who missed the practice to take a final exam for the summer session.

"Today was the last day of summer school finals so we get them for all football now until Aug. 19."

Ranking the ACC units: Defensive lines

July, 20, 2009
7/20/09
5:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

1. Clemson -- The Tigers return three starters up front, and first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's pressure defense is the perfect fit for guys like Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp. Sapp was having a good season last year before he tore his ACL at Virginia and missed the rest of the season. Defensive end Kevin Alexander is a returning starter who had 34 tackles last year, and nose guard Jarvis Jenkins tied Sapp for the team lead with 10 tackles for loss. Opposing quarterbacks won't have time to think against this bunch.

2. Miami -- Anyone watching the Virginia Tech game last year saw what this group is capable of, and of the nine linemen who started at least one game for Miami last year, seven are back. Allen Bailey has moved from end to tackle, but he sometimes played there in third-down situations. He led the team with five sacks. Marcus Robinson is a solid pass rusher, Marcus Forston could also be an impact and Eric Moncur is entering his sixth season and if he plays like he did in 2007 (11.5 tackles for loss) could really give this line a boost.

3. Virginia Tech -- Depth is the only question mark here, as Jason Worilds, John Graves, Cordarrow Thompson and Nekos Brown are more than capable of continuing Bud Foster's tradition of nationally ranked defenses. Nobody is questioning Worilds' toughness, that's for sure, and Graves and Thompson both started every game last year. They're still looking for another defensive end, though, and will keep an eye on what Chris Drager adds to the position after moving from tight end.

4. North Carolina -- Not only do all four starters return, but the depth is the best it's been in recent years. Last year, defensive end Robert Quinn became a starter in the second game of the season, and defensive tackle Cam Thomas had one of his his best season at UNC. Marvin Austin and E.J. Wilson played well, and should be even better this year. Reserves Quinton Coples and Michael McAdoo had solid rookie seasons and will push Wilson and Quinn for playing time this year. Aleric Mullins and Tydreke Powell are interchangeable with Austin and Thomas as starters at tackle.

5. Florida State -- The end position is reason for concern, as the Noles have to replace both Everette Brown and Neefy Moffett, who were first and second, respectively, on the team in sacks. Markus White will be tasked with filling the shoes of Brown, but he had a good transition season from junior college last year to build off of. Kevin McNeil, who had four sacks last year, is the favorite to replace Moffett. The interior should be solid with the return of Budd Thacker, Kendrick Stewart, Moses McCray and Justin Mincey.

6. NC State -- Defensive tackle Alan-Michael Cash and end Willie Young have combined for 46 starts and should be two of the best linemen in the conference. The other two players penciled in as starters -- Shea McKeen and Leroy Burgess -- were both junior college transfers who earned starting time last year. Backup tackles will be a concern, but Markus Kuhn could wind up playing a bit of both until the staff decides where he can help the most.

7. Wake Forest -- Tackles John Russell and Boo Robinson will highlight a defense that recently bid farewell to some of the best seniors to come through the program. It should be one of the Deacs' most experienced groups in recent years, which is important considering the new faces behind them at linebacker. Defensive end Kyle Wilbur showed a lot of promise as a redshirt freshman with three sacks in only seven starts, and Tristan Dorty played in 10 games as a redshirt defensive end last year.

8. Virginia -- It's one of the few units on this team that didn't get a complete makeover, as seven of the top eight linemen return. Sophomore Matt Conrath, who had 35 tackles and four sacks last year, returns at end. There's a lot of experience next to him at nose tackle, where senior Nate Collins and sophomore Nick Jenkins split time last season. Collins' 35 tackles are the top among the returning linemen, while Jenkins finished with 25. Junior John-Kevin Dolce proved himself in the pass rush package with five sacks among his nine total tackles last year.

9. Boston College -- Replacing tackles B.J. Raji and Ron Brace is obviously one of the biggest concerns for this team, but they've got several options. Damik Scafe, Nick Rossi and Brendan Deska were each second-stringers at the tackle position and are the early favorites to replace the NFL draft picks. The Eagles also signed a pair of defensive tackles in the offseason, including highly touted recruit Dillon Quinn, who could make an immediate impact. Austin Giles replaced the injured Alex Albright last year for 12 starts, and Jim Ramella started all 14 games at the other end position.

10. Georgia Tech -- The Yellow Jackets have to replace three of four starters up front, and until they prove they found dependable replacements, they're going to be stuck down here. The lone returning starter is junior end Derrick Morgan, and there's no doubt about his capabilities, but the Jackets will sorely miss the three starters who combined for 100 career starts and 100 tackles for loss. Ben Anderson, Robert Hall and T.J. Barnes are all candidates to start.

11. Duke -- The Blue Devils took a step forward last year and should improve again with the return of tackle Vince Oghobaase and end Ayanga Okpokwuruk, who started five games and had 6.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. They combined for 9.5 sacks last year. Oghobaase ranks second in the ACC in both career tackles for loss (29.0) and quarterback sacks (11.5). They'll need new starters at nose guard and right end.

12. Maryland -- The Terps have to fill a void left by Jeremy Navarre and Trey Covington, and so far it looks like that will be up to Derek Drummond, Dion Armstrong, Travis Ivey and Jared Harrell, though Armstrong was dealing with some academic issues. The arrival of De'Onte Arnett, Zachariah Kerr, and Cody Blue this past spring should help with the depth.

Fully loaded in the ACC

May, 28, 2009
5/28/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There are some teams in the ACC that are stacked at a particular position or positions -- meaning there's not just depth there, but depth and legitimate all-conference talent. Here's a quick look at who in the conference is simply loaded:

UNC front seven: All four starters return on the defensive line, and there is outstanding depth both there and in the secondary. On the line, tackle Cam Thompson is coming off his best season at UNC, tackle Marvin Austin and end E.J. Wilson both started the majority of games last season, and Robert Quinn had 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

Linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant both started every game last season, and the position is the deepest it's been in recent years. Carter led the team with 11 tackles for loss and Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles.

Georgia Tech running backs: Jonathan Dwyer, Roddy Jones, Anthony Allen, Marcus Wright -- so many players, only one football.

Georgia Tech secondary: Morgan Burnett, Rashaad Reid, Mario Butler, Dominique Reese, and Cooper Taylor all have experience, and the group also welcomes back Jerrard Tarrant from a suspension.

Virginia Tech running backs: Darren Evans and Ryan Williams are all the Hokies will need, but they've also got Josh Oglesby and Kenny Lewis Jr. as players they can count on.

Boston College secondary: The Eagles return DeLeon Gause, Wes Davis and Roderick Rollins, who have combined for 32 career starts. This should be the best group BC has had in a while.

Clemson defensive line: The Tigers return three starters across the front, and coach Dabo Swinney has said this unit could be the strength of the entire team. Ricky Sapp is the leader, senior Kevin Alexander is a returning starter, and there are really three starters returning for the two defensive end positions, including DaQuan Bowers, who started six games last year and finished with 47 tackles, the most among the linemen.

Miami wide receivers: Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier, LaRon Byrd, Kendal Thompkins, Tommy Streeter ... the Hurricanes could field a team that consists entirely of receivers.

Florida State offensive line: The Noles are oozing with talent here. Tackle Andrew Datko, guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon combined to start all but one game last season. What was the youngest offensive line in the FBS last season could be one of the best this year. For the first time since 2004, all five starters return.

Wake Forest offensive line: The Demon Deacons return eight offensive linemen with a total of 118 career starts among them. Jeff Griffin and Joe Birdsong are Wake's returning starters at tackle while Barrett McMillin and Joe Looney each started at guard in 2008. Russell Nenon, who started the season at guard, moved to center at midseason following an injury to Trey Bailey. Bailey returns after fully healing from a broken ankle. The Deacons also welcome back Chris DeGeare who missed the 2008 season while getting his academics in order.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 4, 2009
5/04/09
12:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

They're dwindling, but they're not gone yet ...

Butch Davis was right, and everyone else was wrong. That's not necessarily a good thing, considering the way his scholarship equation was finally balanced: One troubled teen was released from his letter of intent, four players were dismissed from the team, and a few recruits are likely heading to prep school.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is scheduled to face his former team, Georgia Southern, in 2015.

Clemson's defense is going to be good -- dare I say very good -- but there are a few issues the Tigers still have to work out. Like making the transition from a base nickel package to three linebackers, and figuring out whether moving defensive end Kevin Alexander will help.

What goes around comes around, all the way from College Park to Berkeley. The Golden Bears had to play a football game at 9 a.m. their time when they visited Maryland last year. This fall, the Terps will be kicking off in California at 10 p.m. their time.

Virginia Tech lured both of the Peak brothers in their latest recruiting classes.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 3

September, 12, 2008
9/12/08
8:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

In a word, quarterbacks. They're the plotline of the week. Check it out:

1. Virginia Tech's quarterbacks: The staff has kept this under wraps all week, and neither Tyrod Taylor nor Sean Glennon were available for interviews. With the offensive line's pass protection still struggling (they've allowed six sacks so far), will Taylor get more snaps than Glennon again?

2. NC State QB Russell Wilson: How Wilson responds in his first game back since suffering a concussion will go a long way in determining how long the Pack can hang with Clemson. Wilson threw just five passes against South Carolina, so this will be like his season opener again, only in Death Valley.

3. Virginia QB Marc Verica: He's never thrown a pass in a college game before, but will start on the road against Connecticut in place of Peter Lalich. He played one series against USC, but is said to be the most athletic of the Cavaliers' three quarterbacks.

4. Clemson DE Da'Quan Bowers: The standout freshman has impressed Tommy Bowden enough to earn his first career start and will bring some pressure on Wilson. He's the only one on the team who has recorded a sack.

5. Duke WR Eron Riley: He's listed as probable with a "leg" injury, but he will need to be 100 percent if the Blue Devils are going to have a chance against Navy. His connection with quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is how the Blue Devils "almost won" this game a year ago.

6. Florida State's offensive line: This is the last chance for Rick Trickett to figure out who goes where before Wake Forest rolls into town, and he hasn't been entirely pleased so far. An injury to backup center A.J. Ganguzza has forced right guard Will Furlong to practice as a second center.

7. Former track stars in College Park: Cal's Jahvid Best and Maryland's Da'Rel Scott should provide some highlight-worthy runs. Both rank in the top seven nationally in rushing yardage. Scott has had two straight 100-yard rushing performances and Best had two runs of at least 80 yards against Washington State.

8. Tough tacklers in Death Valley: Clemson safety Michael Hamlin and NC State linebacker Nate Irving are tied for the conference lead in tackles with 11.5 per game. Hamlin had a career-high three interceptions against The Citadel and Irving had 13 tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery against William & Mary.

9. Clemson's do-it-all Jacoby Ford: Tommy Bowden said Ford had his best week of practice catching the ball and wants to be known as a receiver as much as he is as a returner and a runner. The staff wants to get the ball in his hands this week.

10. Georgia Tech's defensive scheme: Enough about the offense. Check out what the Yellow Jackets are doing under first-year coordinator Dave Wommack and how he has tweaked the scheme. It allows the front four a little more freedom. And those guys are very good.

ACC in the morning: UNC on national stage tonight

September, 11, 2008
9/11/08
7:02
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Caulton Tudor says this is the time for Butch Davis to shine. The Tar Heels lost this game two seasons ago, but a win tonight could "turn UNC's fortunes around." This game will be about more than just football, though.

- Elsewhere in the state of North Carolina, Wolfpack quarterback Russell Wilson said he's ready to make his comeback against the Clemson Tigers.

- It looks like Da'Quan Bowers has earned the starting nod for this game, and Kevin Alexander has moved to the "bandit end" position to replace injured starter Ricky Sapp. All of that can be found at the end of this story about Durrell Barry. Clemson is expected to use three redshirt freshmen offensive linemen on Saturday.

- What's up with suspended Florida State defensive lineman Budd Thacker? Something, but Bobby Bowden won't tell. If he's back for Wake Forest, it will definitely help the Noles.

- Georgia Tech is still working on learning the triple option, but once they figure it out, look out.

- In case you missed it last night, Peter Lalich will not play against Connecticut. Two thoughts on this -- well, OK, three: 1. Good move. 2. Should've done it last week. 3. I love the line in this story "seldom used" to describe Marc Verica, whose bio in the media guide reads: 2007 -- Did not appear in any games. 2006 -- Redshirted. Yeah, I'd say that's seldom.

- I watched the Miami/Florida game last weekend on a TV. Apparently most of you did, too.

- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has left his spot in the tower and is getting in a few faces at practice this week. And Bryan Stinespring is "challenging their manhood." Where is highly touted RB Ryan Williams? It looks like he might steal Tyrod Taylor's redshirt.

- It looks like leather lungs will be starring in the next Under Armour commercial for the Terps.

Bowden looking for more from Clemson defense

September, 8, 2008
9/08/08
10:25
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Clemson opens its conference play on Saturday against NC State, and before it does, coach Tommy Bowden said his defense needs to put more pressure on quarterbacks. The Tigers didn't have any sacks against Alabama and just one against the Citadel. After just two weeks of football, the Tigers rank last in the conference in total defense, allowing 423 yards per game.

NC State quarterback Russell Wilson is expected to return for the Wolfpack after suffering a concussion in the season opener against South Carolina, and he should be able to run the ball out of the read-option scheme better than Daniel Evans or Harrison Beck.

"We're still playing too high -- linebackers, defensive ends, defensive line -- are all playing too high," Bowden said. "We're not a very fundamentally sound football team right now up there at those three positions. We've got to work hard on that as we get into conference play."

Bowden said he wants to see more from his veteran players, but has been pleased with freshman standout Da'Quan Bowers, who was credited with the Tigers' lone sack for a loss of eight yards against the Citadel.

Bowden said Bowers is closing the gap with veteran Kevin Alexander at the strongside end position.

"He's the best pass rusher we've got," Bowden said of Bowers.

Bowden is expecting a report on injured defensive end Ricky Sapp (knee) today.

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