ACC: Kyle Parker

They were superstars, a heralded recruiting class carrying high expectations before they even set foot on campus. Miami's Class of 2008 was ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN.com, but after a final review, it shaped up more like the No. 20 class. There were a few standout individuals like Sean Spence, but overall, the Canes fell out of the top 10 of RecruitingNation's re-rank. Clemson didn't receive quite as harsh of a demotion, falling from No. 2 to No. 4.

Here's a look back at how the ESPNU 150 Class of 2008 fared:

Nos. 1-25 (Da'Quan Bowers, Arthur Brown, Jamie Harper, Sean Spence)

Nos. 26-50: (Ryan Williams, Marcus Forston, Brandon Harris, Mike Glennon, Kyle Parker, Terrance Parks, Brandon Thompson, Spencer Adams, Andre Ellington, Jermaine Thomas)

Nos. 51-75: (EJ Manuel, Ramon Buchanan, Nigel Bradham, Aldarius Johnson, Xavier Brewer, Davon Johnson, Nigel Carr)

Nos. 76-100: (Jordan Futch, Antoine McClain, Dwayne Allen, Brandon Barnes, Marcus Robinson)

Nos. 101-125: (C.J. Holton, Taylor Cook, Christian Wilson, Kyle Long)

Nos. 126-150: (Kenny Tate, Kerry Boykins, Travis Benjamin)
There are several matchups in the ACC that always have and always will play a bigger role in the conference race than others. There is one, though, that seems to have taken on a greater importance this fall: Florida State at Clemson. Historically, the winner of the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech game has decided the Coastal Division winner, but ACC fans aren't buying into Georgia Tech's chances this year, according to last week's poll. The spotlight has turned to the Atlantic Division race. Agreed.

My vote: Florida State at Clemson

Making the case for Sept. 24 in Death Valley: This game will define the Atlantic Division race early. The Tigers will have home-field advantage, and they'll have had three games to work out the kinks in first-year coordinator Chad Morris' offense. A Clemson win over Auburn the preceding week will add to the intrigue of this game because momentum can do wonders for a team. Just ask Auburn, which couldn't be stopped after its overtime win against Clemson last year. It's equally as interesting from the Florida State perspective because if the Seminoles are going to live up to the hype and preseason expectations, they can't afford to be derailed so early in the season -- regardless of what happens in the Oklahoma game.

Don't forget about: NC State at Florida State. Did you guys see this game last year? NC State won and it was one of the best games of the fall. I think I referred back to that game for the entire season because it had such an impact on the Atlantic Division race. Just because Russell Wilson is gone doesn't mean the Wolfpack aren't contenders. Christian Ponder is gone, too. So is Kyle Parker. Things have changed, including the fact that NC State is deeper and healthier than it's ever been before under coach Tom O'Brien.

Clemson spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
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2010 overall record: 6-7

2010 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 5, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR DeAndre Hopkins, RT Landon Walker, DE Andre Branch, DT Brandon Thompson, P Dawson Zimmerman, RB Andre Ellington, WR Jaron Brown, C Dalton Freeman, OG Antoine McClain, TE Dwayne Allen, MLB Corico Hawkins, S Rashard Hall

Key losses

DE Da’Quan Bowers, DT Jarvis Jenkins, FS DeAndre McDaniel, CB Marcus Gilchrist, RB Jamie Harper, QB Kyle Parker, LT Chris Hairston

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Harper (760 yards)

Passing: Kyle Parker (2,213 yds)

Receiving: Hopkins* (637 yds)

Tackles: McDaniel (84)

Sacks: Bowers (15.5)

Interceptions: McDaniel (4)

Spring answers

1. Cole Stoudt is the backup quarterback. Until true freshmen Stoudt and Tony McNeal enrolled in January and arrived on campus, Tajh Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster. With Boyd the undisputed starter, the main competition was for his backup. Stoudt won the job over McNeal, who also played well and is a good runner, but Stoudt had the stronger arm.

2. Phillip Price will replace Chris Hairston at left tackle. The Tigers have four starters returning on the offensive line but big shoes to fill at left tackle, where Hairston was a three-year starter. Price, who joined the team as a walk-on tight end and moved to offensive line last year, beat Brandon Thomas for the job.

3. Players bought into the system. First-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris brought an up-tempo offense from Tulsa that is similar to what Auburn runs, and the players not only embraced it, they had fun with it this spring. Whether or not they can execute it on Saturdays? See below …

Fall questions

1. Execution of the offense. With a brand new scheme, a first-year starting quarterback and new offensive coordinator, the entire offense is a question mark heading into the fall. The Tigers also lost their leading rusher in Jamie Harper, who decided to leave early for a shot at the NFL. Can the Tigers get it together quickly enough to be a contender in the Atlantic Division again?

2. Will there be enough pressure on quarterbacks? With the departure of Bowers and his 15.5 sacks -- not to mention and 21 quarterback pressures -- the Tigers will have a lot of ground to make up. Bowers was a big reason Clemson was in top 20 in the nation in both scoring defense and total defense last year. With him gone, who’s going to step up and get after the quarterbacks? Malliciah Goodman and Andre Branch are expected to.

3. Will the Tigers find consistency in the kicking game? Clemson lost five games by a touchdown or less last year, including the overtime loss to Auburn, which slipped away with a missed field goal in overtime. Will Chandler Catanzaro pick up where he left off at the end of last season and show some consistency? He made six of his final seven field goals last year, but he also started slow this spring before finishing strong.
It's still early in the baseball season for "former" NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, but he's off to a slow start at the plate for the Asheville Tourists, the Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

NC State fans should be paying attention to the Tourists this season, as Wilson's performance could influence his decision on whether he comes back for his final season of eligibility.

So far, not so good.

Wilson is last on the team with a .152 batting average, and he's struck out in nearly half of his at-bats (15-in-33). He only has five hits, and in looking at the numbers alone, it's obvious he hasn't seen enough pitching, and that's because of his concentration on football. Not so for former Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker. He should have had a bat in his hand the moment he was drafted in the first round by the Rockies last year. Despite his dedication to football, he's still batting .357.

It's still very early. Anything can happen. But if Wilson plays this entire season in Class A and continues to bat .200 or lower, it should make his decision fairly easy.

Spring preview: Atlantic Division

February, 15, 2011
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It's that time of year, ACC fans. Duke kicks off the ACC's spring football schedule with practice tomorrow, so it's time to take a look at three storylines to watch for each program. We'll start with the Atlantic Division:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • The progression of quarterback Chase Rettig. As a true freshman, Rettig replaced Dave Shinskie as starter against Notre Dame on Oct. 2. He’ll only get better with more experience, and there’s room for improvement, as he threw nine interceptions and six touchdowns. He completed 51.3 percent of his passes for 137.6 yards per game. Two of those picks came in the 20-13 loss to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl, but he’s expected to take an important step forward this offseason and will need to if BC is going to graduate from the nation’s 109th best offense.
  • The offense under a new coordinator. Kevin Rogers replaced Gary Tranquill, who retired after the bowl game, and the Eagles will have to adjust to a new scheme and system, starting this spring. Rogers said he'll adapt his system to the personnel he has to work with, but considering he was hired on Monday, there hasn't been much time for him to evaluate film.
  • The revamped offensive line. BC has to replace three starters up front, including left tackle Anthony Castonzo, right guard Thomas Claiborne and right tackle Rich Lapham. Emmett Cleary and center Mark Spinney are returning starters, and left guard Ian White started a few games at the end of the year. Bryan Davis, Claiborne’s backup at right guard, and John Wetzel, Castonzo’s backup, are frontrunners to earn starts.
CLEMSON

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 9

What to watch:
  • Quarterback Tajh Boyd. Prior to the arrival of two early enrollees, Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, and his experience alone -- albeit limited -- makes it his job to lose. The staff wants him to become a little more accurate and consistent this spring. His education was accelerated at this time a year ago when former quarterback Kyle Parker spent the spring playing baseball, but that was under former offensive coordinator Billy Napier. He’s got a new coordinator -- and a new offense to learn.
  • The new offensive scheme. First-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris brings an up-tempo style similar to that of Auburn’s, and the Tigers will have to learn it as quickly as he’ll want them to execute it. Morris has said Boyd is suited just right to lead it. Morris will want to stretch the field in every direction, depend on a strong running game and include long pass plays. He’s tasked with improving an offense that ranked No. 10 in the ACC in both scoring offense and total offense.
  • Defense up the middle. It starts up front, where the Tigers have to replace defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins. Linebacker Brandon Maye, who played in the middle a lot, decided to transfer, and safety DeAndre McDaniel, who controlled the middle of the field in the secondary, has also graduated. The Tigers have the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 1 outside linebacker in the country in this year’s recruiting class, but they won’t arrive until the summer. For now, Corico Hawkins returns as a starting middle linebacker, while Quandon Christian is likely to stay on the outside. Rennie Moore will replace Jenkins, but McDaniel’s spot is up for grabs.
FLORIDA STATE

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Big holes on the offensive line. There’s depth, experience and incoming talent, but there are also big shoes to fill with the graduation of left guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon. Right guard David Spurlock has been seen snapping on the sidelines at practices, indicating he could move to center, while recovering from concussions and going through rehab. McMahon’s backup was Jacob Stanley. Henry Orelus, Bryan Stork and Rhonne Sanderson all started at right guard for Spurlock when he was out. Junior college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug, the No. 4 overall junior college prospect, could have an immediate impact at left guard.
  • Backup quarterback battle. With EJ Manuel a lock as the starter, the attention turns to the No. 2 spot. Clint Trickett, a redshirt freshman and son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, and Will Secord, a redshirt sophomore, are the top two candidates. Secord was named the most improved quarterback of the spring at this time a year ago. Neither of them have thrown a collegiate pass.
  • Linebackers. The Seminoles will have to replace two starters in Kendall Smith and Mister Alexander. Nigel Bradham is the only returning starter. This spring will feature competition among Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and Jeff Luc. It’s a more talented crop waiting in the wings, but inexperience is a factor. It’s a chance for Luc and Jones -- two of FSU’s top recruits in the 2010 class -- to remind everyone why they were rated the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 2 outside linebacker, respectively, in the country.
MARYLAND

Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • New staff, new schemes. First-year coach Randy Edsall wants to be multiple, get vertical and take advantage of quarterback Danny O’Brien’s strengths. The departure of former defensive coordinator Don Brown to Connecticut was a surprise and a blow to the defense, which will now have to make a transition under a new coordinator who has yet to be hired.
  • Competition at linebacker. Two starters have to be replaced in Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten, who were also both leaders of the defense. Demetrius Hartsfield returns as a starter, but the new staff will have to figure out who else fits into what slots. Ben Pooler has had knee trouble, but he is expected to compete with Darin Drakeford and Ryan Donohue, who were both No. 2 at their respective positions in 2010.
  • Special teams. Not only did the Terps lose a four-year starter in punter/placekicker Travis Baltz, they also have to replace their top kick returner and conference leader in all-purpose yards in receiver Torrey Smith, who left early for the NFL. Nick Ferrara handled kickoffs last year and was No. 2 behind Baltz at both kicker and punter, but he’s a placekicker first, and has to get back on track with consistency. He’ll be the only scholarship kicker on the roster until incoming freshman Nathaniel Renfro joins the team this summer. Dexter McDougle has returned kickoffs in the past, and Trenton Hughes is another option, but with a new staff, it could be a clean slate.
NC STATE

Spring practice starts: March 17

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Mike Glennon. The team is moving forward as if starter Russell Wilson won’t return, promoting Glennon to No. 1 on the depth chart. The offense will have a new look, as the plays will be suited to Glennon’s strengths. At 6-foot-7, he’s much taller than Wilson, a more prototypical drop-back passer with a strong arm. While the plays might look different to the fans, they’re the same ones Glennon has been practicing since the day he arrived on campus. He’s a smart, unflappable player scheduled to graduate this May, but we haven’t seen enough of him to know just how good he is.
  • A new crop of receivers. NC State will have to replace three seniors in Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis. Spencer and Williams led the Pack in receiving last year, combining for nine touchdowns and over 1,600 yards. NC State will turn to Jay Smith, who had 10 catches in 12 games, Steven Howard, Quintin Payton, and T.J. Graham, who had four touchdowns and played in all 13 games. Payton played a little more toward the end of the year, and he’s a tall, big target (about 6-foot-4) and comparable to Williams. Bryan Underwood, who redshirted last year, could also contribute.
  • Running back competition. James Washington had taken over the starting job at the end of 2010, but he’ll be pushed this spring by Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene, who led the team in rushing in 2010 as a true freshman. They’ll also be under the direction of a new assistant coach, as Jason Swepson is now the head coach at Elon. It will be the first time Greene has been in a spring practice, and Washington, who was hurt last year, is finally healthy.
WAKE FOREST

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Progress of quarterback Tanner Price. The maturation of Price, who started nine games as a true freshman last year, will be crucial to the Deacs’ hopes of returning to the postseason. Price was forced to play earlier than expected and finished with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,349 yards.
  • A defense in transition. Coach Jim Grobe has said the staff is committed to making the transition to a 3-4 defense. The Deacons used that scheme to defend the triple option against Georgia Tech and Navy, and continued to experiment with it as the season progressed. This linebackers in this year’s recruiting class were brought in specifically with the 3-4 defense in mind.
  • Redshirt offensive linemen. There were three true freshmen who redshirted last year who are expected to give four returning starters some legitimate competition -- Colin Summers, Dylan Heartsill and Daniel Blitch. The Deacs will also have to replace starting center Russell Nenon. Chance Raines was his backup last year.
It’s time to reload in the ACC. Here’s a look at the position needs for each team in the Atlantic Division for the 2011 signing class:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Offensive linemen: Six players on the final two-deep roster for 2010 were either juniors or seniors, and the Eagles will have to find replacements for Anthony Castonzo, Rich Lapham and Thomas Claiborne. There were two juniors at center in 2011, and the recruiting overall at this position hasn’t been as strong in recent years.

Defensive linemen: The Eagles have been thin at the position to begin with since the departures of Ron Brace and B.J. Raji. The interior line should be a priority, as tackle Damik Scafe will graduate, and Kaleb Ramsey will be a senior. Defensive end Brad Newman will also graduate.

CLEMSON

[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesReplacing Da'Quan Bowers is a top priority for Clemson.
Defensive line: The early departure of defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and the loss of Jarvis Jenkins makes this group a priority. Seven of the eight players up front on the final two-deep roster were either juniors or seniors.

Quarterback: Prior to the early enrollees, Clemson only had one scholarship quarterback on the roster -- projected starter Tajh Boyd. The depth needs to be rebuilt after the loss of starter Kyle Parker and transfer of backup Willy Korn.

Running back: The early departure of Jamie Harper to the NFL left a hole in the Tigers’ lineup. It’s not completely empty, as Andre Ellington remains the best back on the roster and Roderick McDowell was a redshirt freshman backup to Harper.

FLORIDA STATE

Offensive lineman – The departures of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon will leave gaping holes up front, and A.J. Ganguzza and Antwane Greenlee aren’t expected to return. Overall, the staff is looking for bigger, better players. With the exception of right guard, this was a veteran group.

Running back: Despite the current depth, the coaching staff still wanted to sign about three more running backs in this class.

Wide receiver: This would be the third priority for the staff. Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling will both be seniors, but the team has lacked some dynamic playmakers at the position.

Linebacker: The Noles lost two starters from last year’s Atlantic Division championship team, and there are several young players on the rise like Jeff Luc and Telvin Smith, but the staff wants more numbers at the position.

Safety: The Noles need an upgrade at this position.

Defensive line: This is a matter of mostly building depth and size and continuing to get better.

MARYLAND

Kicker/ Punter: Nick Ferrara has the ability to do both, but he also struggled at both in 2010. Travis Baltz was a four-year starter at punter who has to be replaced. The kicking game should be a top priority in this class, and a concern if Ferrara doesn’t become more consistent.

Wide receiver: The early departure of standout Torrey Smith to the NFL leaves quarterback Danny O'Brien without a favorite target. Seven of the nine receivers listed on the most current depth chart for 2010 were either juniors or seniors.

Running back: The Terps have to replace starter Da’Rel Scott, and Davin Meggett will be a senior. There is some talent behind Meggett in D.J. Adams, but the position could use more depth.

Secondary: Six of the top 10 players in the secondary were either juniors or seniors in 2010, including safety Antwine Perez, who will graduate. Kenny Tate and Cameron Chism will both be seniors, and the corner position is the biggest need.

Defensive end: Defensive coordinator Don Brown would like to bring in at least one player who can really bring some speed off the edge.

NC STATE

Kickers: The Wolfpack lost their starting punter and place-kicker, easily making kickers the biggest need in this recruiting class.

Defensive linemen: With the exception of sophomore Brian Slay, the entire 2010 line was comprised of juniors and seniors. The Pack have to replace two starters, and two returning starters, Jeff Rieskamp and J.R. Sweezy, will be seniors.

Linebackers: This was another veteran group for NC State, with five of the six players on the two-deep either juniors or seniors. Nate Irving’s graduation will be a big hit and Audie Cole will be a senior.

Quarterback: If Russell Wilson leaves early, the position will be even thinner, but backup Mike Glennon will be a junior, so the staff needs to build more depth.

WAKE FOREST

Offensive linemen: The Deacs will have four redshirt juniors returning up front, and have to replace redshirt senior center Russell Nenon. The staff is looking to increase the depth and talent up front.

Linebackers: The position hasn’t been the same since the 2008 class (Aaron Curry and Stanley Arnoux). They were both drafted and two of the fastest players the program has ever seen. The staff needs to bring in more talent and speed here.

Russell Wilson still undecided

January, 18, 2011
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NC State quarterback Russell Wilson is turning his attention to baseball, but he has left open the possibility of returning to play football for his senior season.

This should come as no surprise, and NC State fans (and those within the program) should be used to it -- it's similar to what Wilson did last spring, although he was expected to return after spending the offseason playing baseball. Wilson is leaving next month for spring training with the Colorado Rockies, and there's no guarantee he'll come back.

"At this point in my life, the best thing for me is to concentrate fully on baseball in the same way that I concentrated fully on football over the past six months," Wilson said. "It is only fair for everyone involved that I give baseball the same time and attention that I have given football. Ultimately, decisions about my athletic future will be made based on my potential to succeed at the highest professional level."

Wilson is smart for not entering the draft this year and for keeping all of his options open. He's also going to continue to pursue his graduate degree at NC State. Having interviewed Wilson on numerous occasions, and seen him play both sports, there's no question he'll find success in whatever career he chooses.

For NC State's sake, though, the sooner he decides, the better.

This has to be a tiresome storyline for backup quarterback Mike Glennon, who has been waiting patiently to take over the starting job. Last year, coach Tom O'Brien downplayed any concerns he might have about Wilson's loyalty to baseball, saying that the staff knew the situation from the start, which is why they've got Glennon ready and are comfortable in him when the time comes.

Former Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker, a first-round draft pick of the Rockies, gave coach Dabo Swinney and backup quarterback Tajh Boyd enough notice on his decision to return last summer that the team could move forward with its starting quarterback. It would help NC State prepare for another run at the Atlantic Division title if Wilson would do the same, but there's no question Glennon will be preparing this offseason as if it's his job to lose.

Bad day for ACC quarterbacks

December, 31, 2010
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First it was Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker, who broke a rib in the first half of a loss against South Florida, but not before he threw an interception.

Then it was Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, who was benched after he threw three interceptions in the first half of a loss to Notre Dame.

And now, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder threw the ball into the dirt on a fourth-and-1 from the South Carolina 2-yard line.

Expectations were soaring for all three of these guys heading into this season, but for various reasons, including injuries, none of them lived up to the billing. Unfortunately for them and for the ACC, that hasn't changed this bowl season. It has to be particularly disheartening and frustrating for Ponder and Parker, whose collegiate careers are coming to a close.
Here’s a quick recap of South Florida’s 31-26 win against Clemson:

How the game was won: Clemson's final attempt at a comeback fell short when the Tigers touched the onside kick before it went 10 yards, sealing the win for South Florida. Clemson’s inability to run the ball, get anything going on offense and convert third downs ended any hopes the Tigers had at a winning season. Quarterback Kyle Parker left the game early with broken ribs, but even when he was in the game he made poor decisions, including an interception that landed the Bulls on Clemson’s 10-yard line. The turnover led to a field goal and 10-3 lead for South Florida that it never relinquished.

Turning point: Clemson was penalized 11 yards for pass interference in the third quarter, moving South Florida to the Tigers’ 2-yard line. The Bulls scored on the next play, and had all the momentum with a 24-13 lead.

Stat of the game: Clemson converted just 5-of-16 third down conversions.

Player of the game: South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels. He completed 19 of 26 passes for 188 yards, two touchdowns passing, one rushing, and an interception. In a game in which Clemson’s quarterbacks struggled through both injuries and rookie mistakes, Daniels was the difference with both accuracy and timing.

What Clemson learned: The Tigers have a lot of work to do offensively this offseason, starting with some growing pains at quarterback, where the Tajh Boyd era has already begun. Clemson lacks an offensive identity, and needs to find one before the 2011 season begins.

What it means: Clemson’s streak of 10 straight winning seasons came to an end, and the coaching staff will face even more scrutiny heading into an offseason which could bid farewell to some of the top players on the team. Clemson also now has a losing record in bowl games, as the Tigers dropped to 16-17.video

Meineke Car Care Bowl: 3 keys

December, 30, 2010
12/30/10
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Here are three keys for Clemson heading into the Meineke Car Care Bowl against South Florida:

1. Smart quarterback play. Not only from Kyle Parker and Tajh Boyd, but from the coaching staff. There has to be good communication between everyone, regardless of who is on the bench or why. Parker will be starting it off, and it’s up to him to make good decisions. In the past six games, he has completed 108-173 passes (62.4 percent). He has passed for 1,107 yards (184.5 per game) during that stretch, but it’s the interception against South Carolina that many remember.

2. Win the battle up front. Defensively, Clemson should have the edge against South Florida’s offensive line with defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, but the Bulls’ front seven could present some challenges for the Clemson’s interior offensive line. Jamie Harper is going to have to work for his yards, but the Tigers should be able to get to B.J. Daniels if he returns from a bruised quad.

3. Win the one-on-one matchups in the secondary. South Florida’s secondary has been underrated but effective. The Bulls are No. 21 in the country in pass defense, and Clemson is No. 84 in passing offense. The receivers will have to get open and help Parker out.
Here’s a quick preview of Clemson’s game against South Florida:

WHO TO WATCH: Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker. This will be his last game for Clemson before joining the Colorado Rockies as a first-round Major League draft pick, and he wants to go out on a winning note. He and coach Dabo Swinney have been at odds during times this season, but Parker came back because he didn’t want to be perceived as a quitter and because he didn’t want his last collegiate pass to be an interception in a loss to rival South Carolina. Parker has been pushed by backup Tajh Boyd this season, and it’s possible that competition could remain through the bowl game.

WHAT TO WATCH: Clemson’s receivers against South Florida’s secondary. DeAndre Hopkins, Jaron Brown and tight end Dwayne Allen have each developed into more dependable options in the passing game, but the Bulls have the No. 21 pass defense in the country, allowing 187.83 points per game. South Florida will use a lot of man coverage, so it will up to the Tigers to win those battles and help Parker out. Hopkins needs one touchdown reception to set the Clemson single-season freshman record.

WHY WATCH: This game features two of the nation's stingiest defenses, and considering the Bulls beat Miami, nothing is a given. A win would give Clemson an 11th consecutive winning season, and the Tigers are trying to avoid their first losing season since 1999, when the Tigers were 6-6 in Tommy Bowden’s first year as head coach. A win would also give Clemson a bowl victory in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1986-90 era, when Clemson won a bowl game in five straight seasons.

PREDICTION: Clemson 17, South Florida 10: Clemson’s defense will be the difference, especially up front, where the defensive line, led by Da’Quan Bowers, will have the edge. Bowers needs one sack to become Clemson’s single-season record holder.

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 29, 2010
12/29/10
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We'll bid farewell to yet another ACC coach this afternoon, when Maryland's Ralph Friedgen coaches his final game in the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman.

Stepping up in the bowls: Clemson

December, 17, 2010
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Clemson needs to beat South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl to avoid its first losing season since 1998, but as Miami proved in its loss to the Bulls, nobody is invincible.

In order for the Tigers to have a better outcome, who needs to step up?

Parker
Parker
Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker: The last pass Parker threw was an interception in a loss to rival South Carolina. That didn’t exactly sit well. Instead of quitting early on his team, the first-round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies decided to stick around for one more game and give it his best shot to end his career on a positive note. It’s not going to be easy, as South Florida has the nation’s No. 21 pass defense and No. 19 scoring defense. Parker has completed 62.4 percent of his passes over the past six games, but it’s that INT against the Gamecocks that fans will remember if he doesn’t find a way to beat the Bulls.

Checking in with Kyle Parker

December, 17, 2010
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The Kyle Parker era is coming to an end at Clemson, as he will make his final start for the Tigers against South Florida in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. After that, he'll move on to a professional baseball career with the Colorado Rockies as their first-round draft pick. I caught up with Parker earlier this week to get his take on the season:

How much consideration did you really give to not playing in this bowl game?

[+] EnlargeParker
Joshua S. Kelly/US PresswireKyle Parker Parker is leaving Clemson after this season to pursue a professional baseball career.
Kyle Parker: I was obviously frustrated. I really don’t think I gave a whole of consideration at all. It was against my character and personality to quit. The biggest thing that I wanted to tell everyone was that I was coming back, no matter if I was playing or not. I thought it would say a lot for me just to stick it out.

What was the most frustrating part of this season for you?

KP: Obviously whenever you’re not winning it’s extremely frustrating. The biggest thing is not really meeting expectations. That’s probably the biggest of the frustrations. People expected us to do better and we obviously didn’t perform up to expectations.

Do you feel like you got better?

KP: It’s really tough to say. I think I’ve learned some things that can help me out and will hopefully help me out in the future, but with that being said, it’s tough to really improve whenever the team is not doing well.

Do you have any regrets about the decision you made because of the 6-6 record now?

KP: No, not at all. I think there’s a lot of things that went on during negotiations that I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t stick it out and wait and make a decision to come back. If I would’ve taken my first offer I wouldn’t have known if I wasn’t going to get more money, or if my destiny would be to stay in football. With that being said, I don’t have any regrets in my decision to come back.

What do you think went wrong for you guys offensively this year?

KP: It was tough. First off, our receiving corps was extremely young and didn’t have any experience hardly at all. That’s always a big one. Then you look at Andre Ellington getting hurt towards the end of the year, that’s tough, too. With that being said, those are two pretty big things to overcome.

I read some things in the local papers down there about your relationship with Dabo Swinney. Was it really rocky this year?

KP: I don’t think it was as smooth as either of us would’ve wanted it to be. You can really attribute that to the frustrations of not having as successful a year as we had planned.

Where do you go from this point? What’s your attitude heading into the bowl game and how hard have you been working?

KP: I’m working extremely hard. I’ve got a few more weeks to play football and then I’m off pursuing other things. I think it would be big for me personally and for a lot of the things I’ve accomplished and the relationships I’ve built here to try to end them on a positive note and move on and continue on my career.

So what is the quarterback situation heading into the bowl game? I know that you’re the starter, but do you feel like you’re still under pressure, like there’s a lot of competition?

KP: Honestly there’s not a whole lot of pressure for me. No matter what happens out there and in the bowl game, I know what I’m going to be doing next year and I have a lot of things pretty much guaranteed. I’m just coming out every day and enjoying being out there, working hard, obviously helping Tajh [Boyd] out. What they’ve communicated to me is I’m the starter, I’m getting 95-97 percent of the reps in practice with the ones. I think I can only go by that, but in looking at previous games, [Boyd’s] been in there, and I’ve gotten 100 percent of the reps, so no matter what I’m just going to stay positive and do everything in my ability to help the team win.

Growing pains expected at QB in 2011

December, 16, 2010
12/16/10
10:00
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Heading into 2010, the quarterback position was expected to be one of strength. With seven veterans -- Georgia Tech’s Joshua Nesbitt, FSU’s Christian Ponder, Miami’s Jacory Harris, NC State’s Russell Wilson, Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor, Clemson’s Kyle Parker, and UNC’s T.J. Yates, there were seven reasons to believe the ACC would be stronger this year.

It didn’t quite work out that way.

Ponder, a Heisman hopeful, was inconsistent and injured. Nesbitt was injured. Harris was injured and turnover-prone. Parker didn’t have the receivers to throw to and also underperformed.

Brace yourself, ACC fans, because it’s going to be an even bumpier ride in 2011. At least half of the conference will usher in a new starting quarterback, if not more. There will an infusion of youth. Virginia’s quarterback position is wide open after the graduation of Marc Verica. Boston College and Wake Forest will rely on two true sophomores, and they’re practically the veterans of the group. If Wilson decides to return for his senior season instead of joining the Colorado Rockies next year, there’s no question he will be the best returning quarterback in the ACC. Nobody else will come close to his experience level. If not, it’s going to be a wide-open race. Here’s a look at who is expected to return, listed by experience:

DUKE – Sean Renfree: He played in all 12 games this year and started 11 of 17 career games.

FLORIDA STATE – E.J. Manuel: He’s played in 16 career games, including four starts in 2009, when he was the Gator Bowl MVP.

MARYLAND – Danny O'Brien: He’s the ACC’s rookie of the year, and he has played in 12 games.

WAKE FOREST – Tanner Price: He’s played in 11 career games and started nine this year.

BOSTON COLLEGE – Chase Rettig: He’s played in eight games, taking over as starter in 2010.

GEORGIA TECH – Tevin Washington. He’s played in eight career games, and while he’ll head into spring ball leading the depth chart, coach Paul Johnson told me in a recent interview that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be the starter next year.

MIAMI – Jacory Harris or Stephen Morris. Morris has played in five career games and started four. If Harris gets the nod, Miami moves to the top of the list obviously for experience, but Wilson is still the better quarterback.

NC STATE – Russell Wilson or Mike Glennon. If it’s Wilson, he’s obviously at the top of the list. If it’s Glennon, he has played in 10 career games, including three this year.

VIRGINIA TECH – Logan Thomas: He played in seven games this year.

CLEMSON – Tajh Boyd: He’s played in six games, no starts.

NORTH CAROLINA – Bryn Renner: He played in three games this year.

VIRGINIAMichael Rocco (six games) and Ross Metheny (five games) both saw time this year, and Michael Strauss and Miles Gooch are also options.

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