ACC: Kourtnei Brown
Here's a sampling of what you had to say in the mailbag:
FB the Bear (The ACCylum) writes: How about Lamar Millers performance against VT as he rushed for 160+ yards against the vaunted VT defense for 2 years straight. I know as a VT fan I'm glad to see him go pro!!!
Rev. Dodd in Faynam, N.C., writes: Howdy Heather!One more individual standout game I like to salute ... especially since the guy got so little fanfare this year.Korntei Brown, backup DE for Clemson, collected 2 ... count 'em ... 2 touchdowns in th e Tigers' romp over North Carolina. He intercepted a screen pass for the first, then scoop and scored a fumble for the second.Never seen it before by one person, and may never again.ThanksThe Rev.
Matthew in Pensacola writes:Heather, you totally forgot about Florida State safety Lamarcus Joyner's "all aspect" day against Notre Dame in the Champ's Sports Bowl. Not only did he have his end zone interception, but he was a missile in run support. How many tackles did he have in that game? Speaking of tackles, let's talk about the intangible aspects of his hard hitting play that left more than one receiver wobbly and terrified of the middle of the field. Not to mention that when called upon, he seamlessly integrated himself into the CB roll. That should be enough, but let me throw the cherry on top with a 77 yard kick return. Now THAT'S how you finish off a season.
2ACCschools in Elkton, Va., writes:Luke Kuechly's interception in the Miami game, to end his BC career with an exclamation point.
Jack in Durham, N.C., writes:Best individual performances of 2011You forgot Matt Daniels' performance against Virginia Tech! 13 tackles 2 ints - a big reason why Duke was in a position to win.
Mark Jordan in Virginia writes:Are you serious? How is Matt Daniels against Virginia Tech not in the top 10.... He was ALL-ACC and one of the best safties in the country. He had two picks and at a huge break up on Danny Coale that got overturned from an interception. He also put huge hits on Wilson, and had at least 3 third down stops. Im still confused how these other players are on this. Goes to show how Duke is looked at...
Josh in Blacksburg writes:You forgot Bryn Renners week one performance that set the ACC completion percentage record. And the fact that the only time a pass was incomplete was when it was intercepted, so still caught.
Chris in Greenville, N.C., writes:NC State QB Mike Glennon vs. Maryland. 5 TD passes!
Mitch Abbott in Raleigh, N.C., writes:Seriously HD? Seriously? You didn't put Mike Glennon's performance against Maryland. He threw for over 300 yards with 5 TDs 1 pick and a rushing TD in the second biggest comeback in ACC history.
Chad Felts in Winston-Salem, N.C., writes:UVA's Rodney McLeod with 3 int's against Maryland. 2 in the red zone/at the goal line to get UVA bowl eligible for first time in 4 seasons.
Joey Wells in Greensboro, N.C., writes:Rashad Greene vs ND. Without him, I don't think FSU wins that game. The catch he makes along the sideline on 3rd and long turned the game around and made ND's defense back off.
- There isn't much Clemson defensive end Kourtnei Brown hasn't seen in his five seasons with the Tigers.
- Has David Teel learned his lesson picking against the Hokies? Clemson is a tempting upset pick ...
- Clemson defensive end Andre Branch says he can't be locked down.
- The Hokies slowed down Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins once. Can they do it again?
- Bigger matchup: Bud Foster vs. Chad Morris.
- Morris has become a hot commodity this year.
- Watkins, though, has exceeded all expectations as a true freshman.
- How about Bryan Stinespring? His offense will need a wee bit more production this time around.
ACC: ACC players accounted for one-third of the total number of players chosen to be semifinalists for the prestigious Butkus Award, which is presented annually to the nation’s top linebacker. Boston College’s Luke Kuechly, Miami’s Sean Spence, North Carolina’s Zach Brown and NC State’s Audie Cole all made the cut, the most of any league.
BOSTON COLLEGE: Linebacker Luke Kuechly extended his streak of games with 10 or more tackles to 29 in Saturday’s loss at Virginia Tech. Kuechly had 19 stops against the Hokies. He’s not the only Eagle on a streak, as receiver Bobby Swigert has caught at least one pass in 19 straight games.
CLEMSON: Defensive end Kourtnei Brown became only the third player since the NCAA began keeping records on defensive touchdown returns in 2000 to return a fumble and an interception for scores in the same game. Brown returned an interception 20 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter of Clemson’s 59-38 win over North Carolina and added a 26-yard fumble return for a score in the third quarter. He was named the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week.
DUKE: Receivers Donovan Varner and Conner Vernon are both chasing the school’s all-time receptions leader, Clarkston Hines, who set the school record with a then ACC-record 189 catches from 1986-89. Varner is right behind Hines with 180 grabs while Vernon is in third place with 175 receptions.
FLORIDA STATE: Freshman tailback Devonta Freeman has had consecutive 100-yard rushing performances in back-to-back wins by the Seminoles. Freeman, who ran for 109 yards at Duke and 100 on 11 carries against Maryland, is the first FSU true freshman to reach 100 yards in consecutive games since Chris Parker did it in 1988. The Seminoles host NC State on Saturday, where Freeman will try and match Greg Allen, who in 1981 was the last FSU true freshman to eclipse the 100-yard rushing mark in three consecutive games. Allen did it with 202 at LSU, 322 against West Carolina and 109 against Miami.
GEORGIA TECH: With their next ACC win, the Jackets will secure their 17th straight season at .500 or better in the league. That’s a conference record.
MARYLAND: Receiver Quintin McCree established career highs in catches with nine and yardage with 177 against Florida State last weekend. He entered the game with 269 career receiving yards. His total against FSU was the second-highest by a Terrapin in any game in the past decade. Torrey Smith had 224 against NC State last season.
MIAMI: Entering Thursday night’s game against Virginia, receiver Tommy Streeter ranked fifth nationally with 20.4 yards per reception. Of Streeter’s 28 receptions on the season, 12 have gone for 25-yards or more, including catches of 57, 51 and 26 yards against Virginia. The 6-foot-5 speedster also has seven touchdowns receptions on the season, leading the team.
NORTH CAROLINA: Freshman T.J. Thorpe leads the ACC and is 15th in the nation with a 29.3 kickoff return average. He returned a third-quarter kickoff against Clemson 100 yards for a touchdown. It is just the second 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in school history. The other was Tyrell Godwin at Stanford in 1998. It is just the 14th time in ACC history that a player has returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. The last player to do so was Maryland's Josh Wilson against Georgia Tech in 2006.
NC STATE: The last six times that the Pack has played FSU when they were ranked, NC State has pulled off four victories. Florida State was not ranked in 2007, '08 or '09 and State dropped all three of those contests. The series is tied 5-5 in the past 10 matchups, and in nine of those games, the score was decided by 10 points or less. The average margin in those 10 games has been just 7.1 points.
VIRGINIA: Virginia held Miami scoreless in the first quarter. UVa has now held seven of eight opponents in 2011 scoreless in the first quarter. Only Southern Miss managed one touchdown, serving the only points yielded against UVa in the first quarter.
VIRGINIA TECH: Running back David Wilson has five straight 100-yard rushing games; he is the second Hokie (Ryan Williams, 2009) to do so. Wilson has totalled between 123 and 136 yards in all five games. He has seven 100-yard performances on the year. The ACC record is 10, held by Williams in 2009 and North Carolina’s Don McCauley in 1970.
WAKE FOREST: Coach Jim Grobe earned the 100th win of his career last weekend with a 24-23 win over Duke. Grobe posted a 33-33-1 record in six seasons at Ohio University from 1995-2000. He has gone 67-62 in 11 seasons at Wake Forest. Grobe has a record of 36-49 in ACC games during his tenure, a winning percentage of .424. Prior to Grobe’s arrival, Wake Forest had managed just a .282 winning percentage in ACC games. Overall, Grobe’s winning percentage at Wake Forest stands at .519 while his predecessors had managed just a .398 winning percentage.
This will mark the fifth straight week that Clemson has held the No. 1 spot in the ACC power rankings. Yes, these Tigers have proven capable of consistency. The rest of the ACC? Flip a coin. Here’s a look at how the league stacks up heading into Week 9:
1. Clemson (8-0, 5-0 ACC; LW: No. 1) -- It was a complete effort in a 59-38 win over North Carolina, as the defense forced six turnovers, and five different receivers caught touchdown passes. Quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for five touchdowns and he ran for another. Defensive end Kourtnei Brown accounted for two more touchdowns on turnovers. Can they keep it up on the road this weekend against a Georgia Tech program that thrives on beating Clemson?
2. Virginia Tech (7-1, 3-1; LW: No. 2) -- The Hokies got off to a slow start offensively against Boston College, but they bounced back in the second half thanks to a 42-yard touchdown run by running back David Wilson. Virginia Tech has a road trip to Duke, which is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Wake Forest, on Saturday. The Hokies have now won three straight and are atop the Coastal Division standings.
3. Miami (4-3, 2-2; LW: No. 4) -- With their upset win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, the Hurricanes evened the playing field in the Coastal Division race and joined a pack of two-loss teams now chasing Virginia Tech. The Canes have a short week to prepare for a Thursday night game against a completely different team in Virginia.
4. Wake Forest (5-2, 4-1; LW: No. 5) -- The Deacs keep finding ways to win, and it seems to be a different player every game. Wake Forest has quietly put itself in a position to challenge Clemson for the Atlantic Division title, but they’re in a must-win situation on Saturday at North Carolina.
5. Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2; LW: No. 3) -- The Yellow Jackets seem to have gone backwards in each of the past two weeks, as upset losses to Virginia and Miami have them looking up at Virginia Tech in the conference standings. Saturday marked the worst offensive output of the season for Georgia Tech, which will need far more than seven points to beat Clemson this weekend.
6. Florida State (4-3, 2-2; LW: No. 7) -- The Seminoles took another step forward with a win against the Terps, and this time, they got their running game going in the process. Devonta Freeman has now had two straight games of 100 yards rushing. (Where has HE been?) The Noles have home field advantage again this weekend against NC State.
7. NC State (4-3, 1-2; LW: No. 11) -- Coach Tom O’Brien has fared well in the second half of the season during his tenure in Raleigh, and he continued that trend on Saturday with a road win at Virginia. It was the Pack’s first ACC road win of the season. NC State is still three wins shy of bowl eligibility, but it suddenly looks like a much more realistic possibility.
8. North Carolina (5-3, 1-3, LW: No. 6) -- The Tar Heels were beaten soundly by Clemson on Saturday. The secondary was picked apart. The offense turned it over six times and not much went right for UNC, which fell into a hole in the Coastal Division standings that it probably won’t be able to climb out of. And yes, UNC fans should be worried about Wake Forest this weekend.
9. Virginia (4-3, 1-2; LW: No. 8) -- The Cavaliers were unable to build any momentum from their upset win over Georgia Tech and lost at home to NC State. It’s not going to get any easier this week with a Thursday night trip to Miami. The Canes have put together back-to-back wins and now have a roster free of suspensions.
10. Maryland (2-5, 1-3; LW: No. 9) -- The Terps are sinking, but on Saturday, they’ll finally meet up against a team that has fared worse this season in Boston College. Pride will be on the line in this one. The Terps have home field advantage, but BC played Virginia Tech tough on the road this past weekend. Maryland has to win four of its final five games to reach a bowl.
11. Duke (3-4, 1-2; LW: No. 10) -- The Blue Devils gave it everything they had against Wake Forest, but it was too little, too late. Wake Forest almost squandered a 17-point lead, but the defense came through in the clutch and Duke lost its 12th straight to Wake Forest.
12. Boston College (1-6, 0-4; LW: No. 12) -- For the second straight year, BC is off to an 0-4 start in conference play. The Eagles haven’t won since Sept. 24 against Massachusetts, and the next three games are against Atlantic Division opponents. BC doesn’t need to worry about getting to a bowl game, it needs to worry about winning a game. Any game.
CLEMSON, S.C. -- On Monday, Clemson was on fall break and the players were allowed to sleep in before attending an offensive meeting at 10 a.m.
That’s when offensive coordinator Chad Morris woke them up.
“I’ve never seen him that fired up,” center Dalton Freeman said.
Clemson fans might say the same about the Tigers’ offense on Saturday against North Carolina.
Seven different players accounted for touchdowns in Clemson’s 59-38 romp of the Tar Heels, including defensive end Kourtnei Brown, who returned two turnovers for scores. It seemed as if Clemson had more playmakers than North Carolina had defenders on the field. Only one other time in school history -- against Wake Forest in 1981 -- had Clemson scored more points against an ACC opponent. The Tigers’ ability to distribute the ball coupled with the unselfish attitude from playmakers young and old are what has separated the program, now 8-0, from the rest of the ACC this year.
“Today was probably the most complete game we’ve had as far as distributing the ball and sharing the wealth,” quarterback Tajh Boyd said. “There is a lot to go around. If somebody game-plans for this person or that person, we do have other options out there. It’s exciting to see, and that’s probably the most rewarding thing I took from today, was that you come back into the locker room and you see the smiles on these guys’ faces because they are getting shown love. We’ve got too many playmakers. It’s a quarterbacks dream to have those type of players out there.”
Against North Carolina, receiver DeAndre “Nuke” Hopkins was Boyd’s favorite target, with nine catches for 157 yards and a touchdown. He was one of five different receivers who caught touchdown passes, a single-game school record. Even with Watkins drawing the bulk of the attention from UNC’s defense, he still finished with eight catches for 91 yards and a touchdown.
“I think that’s the key to our success,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “First of all we’ve got really, really good players. We’ve hit some home runs with recruits from that standpoint. … The key for us is it’s not like you can just defend one guy. We have a lot of guys who can make plays. We have a lot of backups who can make plays. We’ve got a quarterback who can pull the trigger and make a decision, and the offensive line is playing some really, really good football. That’s a good combination to have.”
And it’s only the beginning. Clemson has 42 freshmen (redshirt or first-year) among the 85 players on scholarship. The Tigers have played 13 true freshmen, none of whom have had more of an impact that Watkins, but Mike Bellamy and receiver Martavis Bryant have also been key contributors this year.
“You’re going to see that distribution continue to spread, especially next year, because these guys are going to be sophomores and even better,” Swinney said. “There’s not a lot of distance between our skill guys from a talent standpoint. There’s just not much difference at all. That’s a big blessing for us. That’s the bottom line, they know that everybody is going to have an opportunity to make a play in this offense. We’re not sitting there throwing to one guy.”
And if there’s anyone on the roster who still feels the need to be THE guy?
“The door’s right there,” Swinney said. “That’s the least of my worries. I am the last guy to coddle guys. This is a team sport. Our guys know that. It’s one team, one dream. You’re going to have a hard time making it at Clemson if you’re not a team guy.”
And opponents are going to continue to have a hard time stopping Clemson without an extra defender or six on the field.
This game has gotten out of control quickly. It's the first time Clemson has scored over 50 points in back-to-back games. UNC's five turnovers have a little something to do with that, but not everything.
Yes, North Carolina has given the Tigers plenty of help in this game, but Clemson deserves credit for taking advantage of the opportunities and also creating its own. Clemson has picked apart North Carolina's secondary all day, including a 42-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins on third-and-18 in this quarter. Clemson came into this game averaging 38 points. They've scored 35 this quarter.
And it's not over yet.
Turning point: Clemson defensive end Kourtnei Brown intercepted a poorly thrown pass by UNC quarterback Bryn Renner and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown for a 24-10 lead. It was the first touchdown scored by a Clemson defensive lineman since 2006, and it finally put some separation between the Tigers and the Tar Heels in what had been an otherwise tight game.
Stat of the half: North Carolina is 0-for-6 on third downs. The Tar Heels entered the game seventh in the ACC in third-down conversions with 41.6 percent. Clemson's third-down defense was fifth in the ACC, allowing opponents to convert 37.9 percent of the time.
Best player in the half: Hopkins. His number has been called today, and so has his name. His nickname, "Nuke," has resounded throughout the stadium like "Nuuuuuuuke" frequently today. He has 118 yards and one touchdown on eight catches.
Coach Frank Spaziani told reporters after the 70-minute scrimmage that there were some good things, but "it's like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces in the box; they're not connected yet."
- Quarterback Chase Rettig completed 12 of 19 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. “I think Chase showed the progress he's been making,” Spaziani said. “The obvious things were fine; there were some subtle things he needs to work on.”
- Rettig connected on passes of 10 yards six times, including a 30-yard pass to Colin Larmond, Jr., a 24-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field to receiver Bobby Swigert and a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior captain Ifeanyi Momah.
- Larmond (3 receptions for 53 yards), Swigert (3-for-33), junior receiver Donte Elliott (3-for-37) and redshirt freshman tight end Jarrett Darmstatter (3-for-16) led a total of 12 receivers that registered at least one reception each.
- Rettig and fellow quarterbacks Mike Marscovetra and Dave Shinskie combined for four touchdowns as Marscovetra went 6-for-9 for 30 yards and a touchdown pass of five yards to junior receiver Hampton Hughes and Shinskie connected on 4-of-5 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown to sophomore tight end Mike Naples.
- Tailback Rolandan Finch carried the ball 10 times for a total of 30 yards to lead all running backs while sophomore Andre Williams broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run during red zone drills. Williams finished with five attempts for 21 yards and redshirt freshman Tahj Kimble accounted for 20 yards on five carries.
- Linebacker Nick Clancy and defensive back Sean Sylvia led the team with four tackles each.
- Sophomore linebacker Jake Sinkovec had one interception and one fumble recovery.
Quarterback Tajh Boyd had an impressive performance, as he completed 10 of 12 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown to highlight the new offense in Clemson’s 75-play scrimmage in Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning.
- Boyd completed each of his final eight passes to six different receivers. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to receiver DeAndre Hopkins, then connected on a 3-yard score to Dwayne Allen in a goal-line situation.
- Allen had three receptions for 66 yards, including a diving catch over the middle for 14 yards and a first down. Brandon Ford had three receptions for 37 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cole Stoudt.
- Stoudt was 4-of-14 passing, but threw for 71 yards and two touchdowns, one to Ford and one to Bryce McNeal (23 yards).
- Rod McDowell was the leading rusher with four carries for 68 yards, including a 39-yarder on his first carry of the day. Andre Ellington had five rushes for 41 yards and added two receptions, while freshman Mike Bellamy had five carries for 40 yards.
- The first-team defense did not allow a scoring drive.
- Martin Jenkins led the team with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss.
- Corico Hawkins had five tackles and a fumble recovery, while freshman defensive end Corey Crawford had five stops, including a sack.
- Clemson’s three kickers, Chandler Catanzaro, Ammon Lakip and Brian Symmes were a combined 16-of-16 on the day in field goal attempts and extra points against a live rush.
- Three Tigers missed the scrimmage because they were going through graduation exercises across the street from Memorial Stadium in Littlejohn Coliseum. Starting offensive tackle Landon Walker, starting safety Rashard Hall and reserve defensive end Kourtnei Brown all graduated from Clemson on Saturday. It was especially noteworthy for Hall, who has been at Clemson just three years. He joins Nick Eason (now in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals) as the only scholarship football players to graduate with two years of athletic eligibility remaining.
- Four players missed the scrimmage due to injury. Those players were defensive back Xavier Brewer (sprained foot), defensive back Garry Peters (bruised calf), Andre Branch (head injury), DeShawn Williams (sprained ankle).
Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson had mixed reviews after the Yellow Jackets' first scrimmage, which ran 90 minutes inside Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday morning.
"It was like a lot of first scrimmages, there were way too many balls on the ground and way too many penalties," Johnson said. "But we hit some big plays. When you play against each other there's positives and negatives on both sides. It's a starting place and we'll look at it and try to make some improvements."
- While no official statistics were kept, quarterback Tevin Washington passed for well over 100 yards, including a 63-yarder to senior A-back Roddy Jones. Redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days threw the only touchdown of the day, to true freshman Jeff Greene.
- Greene ran with the first unit Saturday as most of the veterans -- junior Stephen Hill, senior Tyler Melton, sophomore Jeremy Moore and junior Daniel McKayhan -- all sat out with injuries.
- Washington scored the only other touchdown Saturday on a 1-yard QB keeper.
- Defensive end Emmanuel Dieke had a sack, true freshman Jamal Golden intercepted a Vad Lee pass, and Steven Sylvester and Isaiah Johnson both recovered fumbles.
- Sophomore Justin Moore booted a 45-yard field goal on his only attempt.
- David Scully's 52-yard attempt was long enough, but just wide left.
The most important news out of Miami's first scrimmage was that quarterbacks Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris combined for five touchdown passes and only one interception. That sounds like improvement. Miami's quarterbacks combined for 407 passing yards on 38-of-52 passing for six touchdowns and only one interception.
- Receiver Tommy Streeter had the best offensive day for the Canes, catching five passes for 71 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came from Harris.
- Lamar Miller had runs of 16 and 31 yards on the opening drive.
- Senior defensive back JoJo Nicolas led all defenders with eight tackles (six solo), with two tackles for loss.
- Ramon Buchanan and freshman Gionni Paul and each had six total tackles, with Paul also recording a tackle for loss.
- The defense totaled eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total loss of 29 yards
The Hokies' offense was the highlight, but what does that mean for the defense? Coach Frank Beamer pointed out that there were some long plays allowed, as the offense racked up 398 yards of total offense in the 78-play scrimmage at Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The touchdowns came against Tech's second- or third-team defense, though, so the jury is still out.
"I thought it was a good first scrimmage -- better than most," Beamer said, according to the team's scrimmage report. "You take into consideration that you're trying to get everyone some work, people who don't know quite what they're doing, and that makes things a little ragged. I thought overall, though, it was a sharp scrimmage. The quarterbacks made some nice plays and Wilson got a couple of long plays against the defense, and we need to see what's going on there. Overall, the effort was good and the play was good."
- Backup quarterback Mark Leal led the quarterbacks with 116 yards passing, completing 6 of 13. He also threw an interception. Beamer said Leal is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Logan Thomas. Ju-Ju Clayton, who has dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart, completed 6 of 10 for 51 yards, while starter Thomas completed 4 of 8 for 79 yards, with an interception, in limited action.
- Tailback David Wilson scored against the Hokies' second-team defense on a 22-yard run. Wilson led all rushers with 57 yards on five carries. Freshman Michael Holmes added 54 yards rushing on a game-high 11 carries.
- Freshman tackle Luther Maddy led the team with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. Freshman Michael Cole added six tackles, while Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler each finished with four.
- Barquell Rivers had three tackles and an interception.
- Jayron Hosley and freshman Ronny Vandyke also had interceptions. Hosley intercepted a Logan Thomas pass, while Vandyke intercepted a Trey Gresh attempt.
- The kickers connected on 5-of-6 attempts. Cody Journell hit from 35, 22 and 35 yards, while Justin Myer drilled a 52-yarder and a 28-yarder. "Cody's kicking extremely well," Beamer said. "Myer has a load of potential, and he needs to win some of the kicking contests during the week. That shows consistency, and that's where he is right now. Cody is usually winning it or right in the running at the end."
2. Florida State: All four starters return in juniors Brandon Jenkins, Jacobi McDaniel, Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins. Jenkins finished sixth nationally with 13.5 sacks. This group should take another step forward in the second season under coordinator Mark Stoops, but it already has an outstanding base to build on as the Noles ranked third nationally in sacks and 21st in tackles for loss last season.
3. Miami: The Canes should have one of the better rotations in the ACC. They return starters Olivier Vernon, Micanor Regis and Marcus Forston, who combined for 12 sacks and 30.5 TFLs. It’s a deep group, as DE Adewale Ojomo (seven starts), DT Luther Robinson (five starts), DE Marcus Robinson (10 games), DT Curtis Porter (one start), DE Andrew Smith (11 games) and DE Dyron Dye (six games) all have experience.
4. Virginia: Like Florida State, this is another group that should benefit from being in the second season under the same coordinator. Jim Reid switched the scheme back to a traditional 4-3, and the Hoos return a veteran group led by Matt Conrath (33 starts), DT Nick Jenkins (29 starts), and DE Cam Johnson (22 starts).
5. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have a better understanding of what is expected from them in their second season in Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, and all three starters return in ends Izaan Cross (41 tackles) and Jason Peters (52 tackles), and tackle Logan Walls. Defensive tackles Shawn Green, T.J. Barnes and J.C. Lanier will also compete for playing time along with DE Anthony Williams.
6. Maryland: The Terps should be solid up front with the return of Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis and Justin Anderson. Francis is the veteran of the group (19 career starts) and had 44 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season, but Vellano is also an all-conference candidate. The Terps have good depth with Zachariah Kerr, Isaiah Ross and Bradley Johnson.
7. Virginia Tech: This is a group that could and should jump a few spots by the end of the season. On paper, they’ve got to replace three starters, but this spring the group proved capable of getting the Hokies back to their days of dominating on defense. Based on potential, they should be ranked higher, but based on lack of dependable, proven depth, they could even fall lower.
8. Clemson: It will be difficult for the Tigers to replace the production of Da’Quan Bowers, but the defensive line is in capable hands with Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson, and Malliciah Goodman has embraced the challenge of taking Bowers’ spot. Branch was second on the team with five sacks last season and 8.5 tackles for loss. Thompson had 40 tackles, including six for losses. Defensive tackle Rennie Moore, DE Kourtnei Brown and DT Tyler Shatley also have experience.
9. NC State: Defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy is one of the underrated players in the ACC, and he returns along with defensive end Jeff Rieskamp. Several players got significant snaps last season, though, including DE Darryl Cato-Bishop (13 tackles), DT Markus Kuhn (17 tackles, and DT Brian Slay (20 tackles, two TFLs).
10. Wake Forest: The Deacs return three starters including Tristan Dorty, Kyle Wilber and Zack Thompson. Thompson only started five games last season, but after spring practices, coach Jim Grobe said Thompson has all-conference potential.
11. Boston College: Starters Max Holloway and Kaleb Ramsey return, along with four other linemen (DTs Dillon Quinn and Conor O’Neal, and DEs Dan Williams and Kasim Edebali) who each started at least two games last fall.
12. Duke: Until proven otherwise, this is where the Blue Devils belong, but Rick Petri was hired to change that. He’ll have veteran nose guard Charlie Hatcher (24 career starts) to work with, and sophomore Sydney Sarmiento, who started 11 games last season. Junior Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx and DEs Desmond Johnson and Jamal Wallace could also see playing time.
Brown suffered the injury when he was rushing the punter in a punting drill.
Brown played in 11 games last year for 212 plays and had 17 tackles, including two tackles for loss and four quarterback pressures. He is a veteran of 35 games in his career and has 50 tackles. He missed two games last year due to a high ankle sprain, an injury he suffered on his second snap against Boston College.
The Tigers have grown more comfortable with Swinney and his system on both sides of the ball, and he hopes that means he'll see a smarter team on Saturday and through the summer into fall.
"We've hopefully got a better understanding of not just what were doing but why were doing it and how to do it properly," Swinney said. "And become more consistent."
That consistency is something Swinney hoped spreads to his second and third units.
"We competed hard last year, grew closer as a team and became tougher, but we really wanted to come out of spring and believe we could be more consistent in our execution," he said. "That’s something with our first group, that’s been apparent. First group has good grasp of what were doing."
Swinney tagged his defensive linemen as a group that's exceeded his expectations in the spring, despite being a likely strength for the Tigers next season. The reason has been the younger linemen like Rennie Moore, Kourtnei Brown and Miguel Chavis.
"We really solidified our front. We have most of our starters back inside, but we feel like we have two groups of starters," Swinney said.
Kyle Parker has spent much of his spring on the baseball diamond, giving way to some inconsistencies throughout the spring, but Swinney was thankful for the extra look given to Tajh Boyd this spring. The same has been true for his offensive line, which has lacked depth with two starters sidelined by offseason surgery, and will become even shallower when the team splits in two for the spring game.
Saturday, he'll get another chance to see who he can rely on in game situations.
"Even though the team is divided, we want to see who can fly around and make plays," Swinney said. "Hopefully, we come out of it healthy"
So instead, Dabo Swinney got a chance to check out some of his other signal-callers.
Tajh Boyd ran the first-team offense at quarterback and completed 7 of 14 passes for 52 yards and a 23-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Allen. Mike Wade led the second-team offense and completed 8-of-13 for 105 yards and a 22-yard touchdown strike to Xavier Dye.
"Tajh Boyd is making progress, taking steps forward," Swinney said. "He is learning the offense and will show more improvement as he gets more experience. He made some nice throws, including the touchdown to Dwayne Allen.
“I was also impressed with Mike Wade. He has been playing on defense at safety when Kyle Parker has been at practice and at quarterback when Kyle is with the baseball team. It is almost like cheating for him because he is such a smart guy and he knows both the offense and the defense. So when he plays quarterback he knows exactly what the secondary is suppose to do. “
The story of the 86-play scrimmage, though, was defense, which did not allow a touchdown drive of more than 25 yards. Sack numbers are a little silly since all it takes to get one is to touch the quarterback's jersey. Still, Andre Branch got in the pocket often to get three sacks, while Kourtnei Brown had two. Shawn Leonard-Horwith, Rashard Hall and Spencer Shuey all had fumble recoveries.
“The guys in orange [defense] showed some toughness and execution today,” Swinney said. "We did some good things on both sides of the ball and there was good energy on both sides. But the defense made some plays today. There were very few missed tackles."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here's your daily dose of practice reports from around the ACC, as reported by each school's information office:
Cloud cover kept the temperature from climbing Thursday morning as the Florida State football team donned full pads for the first time this preseason. It didn't take long, however, for the action to heat up as the Seminoles' offense made the lion's share of big plays.
Of course, a big day for the offense also comes with drawbacks.
"The hitting was pretty good, but too many big plays popped out of there," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden. "As a head coach you don't know who to root for, your defense or your offense. It scares me when big plays come out of there."
Quarterback Christian Ponder connected on long passes with wideouts Jarmon Fortson, Rodney Smith and Taiwan Easterling, as well as tight end Caz Piurowski, during the first five-minute period of 11-on-11 work.
"A lot of that came against the blitz and we've been working on that all week," Ponder said, offering a hint at the developing mindset on offense. "The blitz for us means big plays and that's what we've been working on and things opened up.
"We definitely didn't have enough big plays last year and stretch the field as much as we wanted to. Things are starting to open up and that's a good thing."
It should come as no surprise that Ponder had ample time to step up in the pocket created by the seasoned offensive line and deliver the football. Improving pass protection has been a point of emphasis since the conclusion of last season.
Junior center Ryan McMahon, who helps anchor the unit along with guard Rodney Hudson, was encouraged by the performance of the unit in its first real test of the preseason.
"Overall we felt we had a better practice today than we did the other day, but I'm sure there's plenty of room for us to improve," McMahon said. "Everybody's attitude was good and it was fun."