ACC: Manny Stocker
You're forgiven if this entire exercise seems foreign. But at least 10 of the ACC's 14 teams will start new faces under center when games kick off next week. And there is a good chance that four of those 10 will have quarterbacks who began their college careers elsewhere.
"I really don't know," Miami coach Al Golden said of the surplus of ACC quarterback transfers. "We liked where we were in the spring, and clearly Ryan [Williams] went down the week before the spring game. It's really not a function of not being confident in the guys that are on campus. It's more a function of just wanting to get a guy that has been in the game and has the experience."
Golden acknowledged the quarterback market has been busier than usual, particularly in his league. He brought in former BYU and Kansas quarterback Jake Heaps this summer after Williams, the Hurricanes' No. 1 quarterback, suffered a right ACL injury that will keep him out for an indefinite period of time. (Williams, naturally, began his career elsewhere, at Memphis.)
Heaps, eligible immediately as a graduate transfer, is battling true freshman Brad Kaaya to start Miami's opener.
"I think the quarterback position has grown in terms of talent over the last few years," said Heaps, who set several freshman records at BYU in 2010 before losing his job both with the Cougars and later at Kansas. "There’s a lot of great, quality quarterbacks in college football right now and they all want a chance to play. That’s where you’re seeing a lot of these guys transfer. They’re in their situation but they know they can play somewhere else so they make those moves and try and find the best situation for them and in some cases it works out, in others it doesn’t. Just knowing they have that opportunity is first and foremost.
"Sometimes things just don’t work out. Recruiting is the way it is and sometimes a situation isn’t what you think it will be when you get there. It’s been a unique trend in the last little bit, but I think if a guy has an opportunity to go play, he should go explore that."
Likewise, fellow Coastal member Virginia Tech turned to the free-agent route following an underwhelming spring from its three quarterbacks, welcoming Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer (and two true freshmen) to the race to replace Logan Thomas and kick-start an offense in need of a jolt after just 15 wins in the past two seasons. In an odd twist, Brewer, who has two seasons left to play after graduating from Texas Tech, was recommended to the Hokies' staff by Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris, who coached Brewer back at Lake Travis (Texas) High.
Brewer brings with him a nearly 71 percent completion percentage from his limited action with the Red Raiders, including 440 passing yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
On the other side, in the more daunting Atlantic, a pair of second-year coaches are turning to former Gators quarterbacks to command their offenses.
Boston College coach Steve Addazio goes back with Tyler Murphy, a fellow Connecticut native whom Addazio had initially recruited to Gainesville, Florida, during his time as an assistant there. Jacoby Brissett transferred to NC State shortly after coach Dave Doeren was hired there, sitting out last season and taking enough initiative behind the scenes to earn the starting nod before spring ball this year.
“Last year we brought in Brandon Mitchell [from Arkansas] through the one-year loophole, and then at the end of the year, Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker left to go to [Louisiana-Monroe and UT-Martin]," Doeren said. "While that was going on, Jacoby transferred here from Florida. So I’ve seen about all of it that can go around. It’s just part of what recruiting is now. Guys want to play and people don’t want to wait their turn much anymore."
Murphy, who transferred in January, has one year to add some pizzazz to an Eagles' offense looking to spread the field more after last season's run-heavy approach. He spoke often with Brissett (who has two years left at NC State) back when both were still weighing their options when departing Florida.
The familiarity was more than enough to reunite Murphy with Addazio, who said a guy like Murphy probably should have gone to BC in the first place.
"Being a New England guy and growing up around BC, I watched a lot of BC and Matt Ryan in the early 2000s," Murphy said. "So it feels good to be a part of this institution, this program and I'm looking forward to the season."
Florida State could see a pair of its former quarterbacks start against each other next week, as Jake Coker transferred to Alabama one year after Clint Trickett transferred to West Virginia.
Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher was supportive of both, with Trickett being familiar with WVU (his dad used to coach there before moving to FSU) and Coker heading to his home-state program after backing up Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. Fisher likened the rash of quarterback departures to that of college basketball transfers, because both are possession-dominated athletes.
The graduate-transfer rule, popularized by Russell Wilson three years ago, has only added to that. And, in many ways, it has been a boon for both sides.
"[It] gives some opportunities for guys that are worried about situations like Tyler's," Addazio said, referring to Murphy's injury-shortened 2013. "He's like, 'I've got one shot at this thing. I want to go where I feel like I've got the best opportunity to be the starter.' So you're seeing a lot of this right now. I like this opportunity."
North Carolina State Wolfpack
Coach: Dave Doeren (first year at NC State, 23-4 overall)
2012 record: 7-6 (4-4 ACC)
Key losses: QB Mike Glennon, LG R.J. Mattes, WR Tobais Palmer, LB Rickey Dowdy, S Earl Wolff, CB David Amerson
Key returnees: WR Bryan Underwood, WR Quintin Payton, RB Tony Creecy, DT T.Y. McGill, DE Darryl Cato-Bishop, CB Dontae Johnson
Newcomer to watch: QB Pete Thomas. The redshirt junior sat out all of last season after transferring from Colorado State, but he may be the answer to NC State's gaping need at quarterback this year. A two-year starter before transferring, he threw for 18 touchdowns and completed better than 63 percent of his passes to establish his credentials, then outplayed Manny Stocker this spring to gain an edge on the starting job with the Wolfpack.
Biggest games in 2013: vs. Clemson, Sept. 19; at Florida State, Oct. 26; vs. North Carolina, Nov. 2
Forecast: The Wolfpack won 24 games in the past three seasons, but it wasn't enough to save Tom O'Brien's job. He was fired before a bowl loss to Vanderbilt, and Doeren, the former Northern Illinois coach, was brought in to right the ship. It's a tall order for the new coach.
It's a year of transition across the board for NC State. Not only has Doeren revamped the coaching staff, but the Wolfpack will be looking for a new starting quarterback after sending Glennon to the NFL. They also must replace four offensive linemen and overhaul a significant portion of the defense. That's a lot of transition, but there is room for optimism.
NC State returns ample talent at the skill positions on offense, including its two top rushers from last season in Creecy and Shadrach Thornton, who combined for nearly 1,200 yards rushing in 2012. Doeren has a strong track record of running the football with success, and after finishing 111th nationally in that department last season, there's plenty of room for improvement.
The secondary is a concern defensively, but NC State does return some serious talent on the line of scrimmage -- including all four starters from a year ago. McGill is a rising star, and Cato-Bishop and Art Norman should disrupt plenty of opposing quarterbacks. Whether it's enough to overcome the questionable defensive backfield, however, remains to be seen.
Of course, the swing vote on the season is likely to be Thomas. NC State's schedule is manageable and there are plenty of weapons on offense if Doeren can find a quarterback capable of exploiting them. It's a new era at NC State, but a fourth straight bowl game isn't out of the question.
Opening camp: Monday, Aug. 5
What to watch: One of the biggest issues the Eagles have is a lack of depth heading into the season. With all of his players in the fold now, there is the expectation that coach Steve Addazio will have to rely on true freshmen this year to help shore up several weak spots. Fall camp will determine just how many of these young faces will have to play for the Eagles to begin their climb out of the basement.
Opening camp: Friday
What to watch: There are a few areas to keep an eye on during practice, especially the development of the young players in the secondary. Coach Dabo Swinney has said repeatedly that his team has got to find answers quickly for this position, the weakest spot on the defense. Five-star Mackensie Alexander is the true freshman to watch, as many expect him to play right away. Will he?
Opening camp: Tuesday, Aug. 6
What to watch: The quarterback competition remains open in theory but just about everybody expects Jameis Winston to be the opening-day starter. How will coach Jimbo Fisher handle the reps, and when will he go ahead and name his starter? There also are now concerns over depth at tight end, and the Noles will begin training several players at multiple positions to make up for some of these questions.
Opening camp: Mon., Aug. 5
What to watch: Quarterback C.J. Brown says he is 100 percent and will be full-g0 when practice opens. He was limited in the spring and really only did individual drills, so it is important to see how he does now that he is back and in full control of the offense after sitting out for so long. Running back Wes Brown remains suspended indefinitely, so whether there is any change to his status also is something to watch.
Opening camp: Friday
What to watch: Surprise, surprise -- the quarterback competition. Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell has been added to the mix, and this is the coaching staff's first opportunity to see him in practice. He joins Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker as the most experienced quarterbacks on the roster. Coach Dave Doeren says he is going to begin to adjust reps pretty early in camp so a front-runner can emerge quickly.
Opening camp: Mon., Aug. 5
What to watch: Let's stick with the quarterbacks. Like NC State, Syracuse has welcomed a transfer quarterback in Drew Allen from Oklahoma. Coaches will get their first glimpse at what he can do, as he joins Terrel Hunt and Charley Loeb as the top three players in the competition. Hunt seemed to take the lead after spring practice, but coach Scott Shafer has repeated that the competition remains open.
Opening camp: Friday
What to watch: The offensive line has been a major concern because of injury and depth problems, but coach Jim Grobe says his unit is healthy and he is looking forward to seeing how they do in camp. Their development goes hand in hand with the running back situation, which remains murky at best. Grobe wants somebody to step up and become a workhorse back.
FLORIDA STATE: Not much of an update from coach Jimbo Fisher, who insists his quarterback competition remains open between presumed starter Jameis Winston and Jacob Coker. Fisher did say preparations for the opener will begin a little earlier than usual because the Noles open the season with a conference opponent in Pitt. Otherwise, Fisher reiterated what he has said since Clint Trickett transferred.
"Whoever wins that job, I think you have two guys who are very talented, very capable that the team respects, have arm talent, have leg talent and have mental talent, Fisher said. "They learned to study the game and understand it."
NC STATE: Coach Dave Doeren said five quarterbacks are in the mix to win the starting job. Manny Stocker and Pete Thomas were the only two in the mix after spring practice. Since then, Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell joined the roster, and freshmen Bryant Shirreffs and Josh Taylor have enrolled. Remember, Florida transfer Jacoby Brissett has to sit out a year because of NCAA rules.
"I do like the fact that I got here, and there were two quarterbacks to deal with, and now there's five," Doeren said. "So I have better odds of maybe one of them being good enough to get it done. We'll see how it ends up.
On the possibility of playing a freshman, Doeren said, "It worked for A&M last year. If that's where it ends up, that's where it ends up. I've had two first-year starters the last two years. Playing freshmen is not ideal, but there are examples out there that freshmen can play at this level. I'm not going to rule it out until we see them practice."
PITT: Coach Paul Chryst maintained the stance he has held since the end of spring practice -- nothing with his quarterbacks is a done deal. Tom Savage ended the spring No. 1 on the depth chart, ahead of Chad Voytik, but the competition will remain open in fall camp.
SYRACUSE: Coach Scott Shafer was asked repeatedly about his quarterback competition, which features one more player this fall with Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen. Shafer's answer sounded a lot like what reporters heard from Fisher, Chryst and Doeren -- nothing has been decided.
"I'm concerned about the quarterback position, but I love the character behind each kid that's fighting to become the starter," Shafer said. "I love the passion of the kids that play the game. They love football. They love their football, and they're working hard at it."
VIRGINIA: Of these five schools, UVa is the one that had the most significant news. Coach Mike London said David Watford enters fall camp No. 1 on the depth chart. Furthermore, London does not plan on shuffling quarterbacks this season the way he has done over the last several years.
"Early on in August camp, you’ll know definitively who the starting quarterback is and I would say as we ended spring practice, the guy who has the most experience would be David,” London said. “The rein is not handed to David because Greyson Lambert is gonna be special as well, but we want to be able to, with the new coaches we’ve had on staff ... pick a guy early."
Here is a look at the top eligible transfers in the league with the most potential to turn some heads:
Drew Allen, QB, Syracuse. The Orange actually have three transfers eligible this year -- receiver Quinta Funderburk and defensive tackle John Raymon are the other two. But neither are listed as a starter on the post-spring depth chart. Allen isn't either, but he hasn't yet had an opportunity to show what he can do. Allen will arrive in time for fall practice after deciding to come in from Oklahoma. He has immediate eligibility, and joins the mix to win the starting quarterback job with Terrel Hunt and Charley Loeb his primary competition.
Kellen Jones, LB, Clemson. We all know the Tigers need some help on defense, and they are hoping Jones fits the bill. Jones transferred from Oklahoma and sat out last season because of NCAA rules. During his time at Clemson, Jones has learned all three linebacker spots in order to make himself much more valuable to the team. He is athletic and familiar with coordinator Brent Venables from their time with the Sooners. If he's as good as coaches expect him to be, Clemson's D should be better.
Deon Long, WR, Maryland. The Terps already were expecting an immediate contribution from Long, a junior college transfer who began his career at New Mexico. But you can bet expectations will be even higher now that second-leading receiver Marcus Leak has left the team for personal reasons.
Brandon Mitchell OR Pete Thomas, QBs, NC State. Mitchell is in a similar spot to Allen -- he has immediate eligibility this season for the Wolfpack after transferring in from Arkansas and joins an open quarterback competition. Thomas himself transferred in last year but had to sit out a season because of NCAA rules. In that season, the head coach and offensive style changed, so his pro-style gifts do not necessarily match what Dave Doeren wants to do. Still, Thomas showed some flashes this spring though Doeren is reluctant to give anybody the edge just yet. With Mitchell now joining Thomas and Manny Stocker in the mix, it's anybody's guess who will start the opener.
Pat O'Donnell, P, Miami. Scoff if you must, but O'Donnell is a terrific punter and a workout warrior, and fills a gaping hole on the Hurricanes' roster. Miami may return nearly all its starters on offense and defense, but not on special teams, where the Hurricanes have to replace both punter Dalton Botts and kicker Jake Wieclaw. Getting a punter the caliber of O'Donnell, who transferred from Cincinnati and is immediately eligible, helps ease a big concern.
Matt Patchan, OL, Boston College. The Eagles need major help on the offensive line and could get it in the form of Patchan, who has immediate eligibility after transferring in from Florida. He will be available for fall practice. The only issue to keep in mind is he has been injury prone for his entire career.
Tom Savage, QB, Pitt. It's been a long road back to the football field for Savage, who transferred twice after leaving Rutgers in 2010. Now here he is with one season of eligibility remaining and an opportunity to win the starting job. Though coach Paul Chryst has yet to declare a starter, Savage at least has starting experience. Still, he and Chad Voytik remain in an open competition headed into fall practice. Another Pitt player to watch: Wisconsin transfer tight end Manasseh Garner.
Here's a look back at three lessons learned in the ACC this spring, in no particular order:
1. Virginia Tech's new offense looks a lot like the old offense: It was ugly. Virginia Tech gained a total of 23 yards on the ground. Quarterback Logan Thomas threw three interceptions -- including two that were returned for touchdowns. [Insert cringe here.] While the spring game was hardly a revelation of the playbook under first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler, the Hokies struggled to even execute the basics -- against a second-string defense that was spotted 13 points. Thomas was selected by the coaching staff as one of the most improved players of the spring, but it wasn't reflected in the spring game.
2. Quarterback questions remain. While some separation began to take place across the ACC, the programs with quarterback questions still hesitated to name a starter. At Pittsburgh, Tom Savage took the most reps with the first team, but Chad Voytik was the star of the spring game. At NC State, Pete Thomas received the most meaningful reps this spring, but the staff will let the competition with Manny Stocker play out into the summer. Florida State quarterback Clint Trickett decided to transfer not long after Jameis Winston had a strong performance in the Noles' spring game. Syracuse might have had the least amount of separation, and the transfer of Oklahoma quarterback Drew Allen further muddled the picture. Virginia is still looking for a starter, which has become a theme under coach Mike London.
3. Transfers have changed the picture. Pittsburgh dealt with the transfer of leading returning rusher Rushel Shell, Florida State lost Trickett, and Syracuse was the beneficiary of the transfer of Allen. All three of them affected key positions and the two-deep, if not the starting lineup. Shell was next in line to take over for Ray Graham, Trickett was right in the mix to replace former starter EJ Manuel, and Allen isn't even expected to enroll until the summer. Shell left little experience behind at the running back position at Pitt, but in the long run it could be addition by subtraction, because the players there want to be there. Trickett's departure hurt the depth at the position at FSU, and he did have game experience as Manuel's backup each of the past two seasons. Overall, all three of these transfers should continue to resonate this summer with each team.
2012 conference record: 4-4 ACC (third in Atlantic Division)
Returning starters: offense: 5; defense: 5; kicker/punter: 2
WR Quintin Payton, OT Rob Crisp, OT Tyson Chandler, DE Darryl Cato-Bishop, CB Dontae Johnson PK Niklas Sade, P Wil Baumann
QB Mike Glennon, WR Tobais Palmer, OG R.J. Mattes, C Camden Wentz, CB David Amerson, S Earl Wolff, S Brandan Bishop
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Shadrach Thornton* (694 yards)
Passing: Glennon (4,031 yards)
Receiving: Palmer (781 yards)
Tackles: Wolff (119)
Sacks: Cato-Bishop* (6.5)
Interceptions: Amerson (5)
1. QB Pete Thomas is next in line. Thomas edged out Manny Stocker for the majority of first-team reps this spring, and while the staff isn’t ready to name Thomas the starter, it became clear he is the front-runner to take over for Mike Glennon.
2. Picking up the pace: First-year coach Dave Doeren and his staff didn’t install the entire offense, but the Wolfpack did begin to make the switch to an up-tempo, no-huddle offense this spring. Doeren wants to snap it every 15 seconds, and the players began to adjust to a different pace of play.
3. Solid specialists: If there is one area the Pack shouldn’t be concerned about this fall, it’s the kicking game. The holder, punter and place-kicker are all true juniors who have been playing since they were true freshmen. Doeren said all of them had a great spring.
1. Unproven quarterbacks: While Thomas took the majority of reps, Doeren has stressed this remains an open competition into summer, and none of them have yet to compose a résumé comparable to Glennon’s.
2. Shuffling on the offensive line: NC State has to replace three starters up front, and the new staff spent this spring experimenting with different combinations to try and find the best fits. The linemen have also had to adjust to different blocking schemes in the faster-paced offense.
3. New faces at safety. It’s been almost three and a half years since anyone besides Wolff and Bishop had to play safety at NC State. Replacing that experience will be difficult. Hakim Jones was a backup last year who has been penciled in as a starter, and Jarvis Byrd, a fifth-year redshirt senior who has been injured for most of the past two seasons and was a former cornerback, is another top option. Finding a rotation at safety will be a priority this summer.
Infer what you will, but the new coaching staff isn’t quite ready to name Thomas the starter.
As far as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Matt Canada is concerned, the job remains wide open heading into summer camp.
“Pete Thomas is certainly a guy who’s played a lot by playing at Colorado State,” Canada said. “Experience is certainly a leg-up for him. Manny [Stocker] played here last year and that gives him the advantage of playing in it, but neither one of them has played in our system with our terminology. Both of them had good moments this spring, and both of them have things to work on. That’s something we’ll take through and see how we come out of camp. We have a couple of freshmen coming in, and they’ll have a shot as well, so it’s kind of a work in progress.”
Thomas definitely has the edge in experience, as he was a two-year starter at Colorado State, where he threw for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns and completed 63.5 percent (414-652) of his passes. He also had an efficiency rating of 121.17 and three rushing touchdowns. He broke the CSU single-season record with a .647 completion percentage as a freshman. Stocker played in five career games as Mike Glennon’s backup last year. He ran three times for 32 yards against Wake Forest, but his career-high is 17 snaps against The Citadel.
“Pete’s more of a traditional drop-back quarterback,” Canada said. “Manny has more of an athletic skill set to do some different things. It all works into what we’re going to be, and we continue to say we’ll be whatever our players are. That’s what we spent the spring doing -- what can this quarterback do, what can this wideout do? Just trying to find out what each guy did well and we’ll spend a lot of time this summer deciding exactly what we focus on from there.”
And who is the focus at quarterback.
B-back Matt Connors capped a good spring with a team-high 84 yards on 12 carries to lead the Gold team to a 22-10 win over the White on Friday night.
After the game, coach Paul Johnson said Connors, "plays hard. Matt has a good attitude and I think he'll help us. We had a productive spring. There are always things you'd like to do better. I think we got a good start for fall.
As for the quarterbacks, Justin Thomas and Tim Byerly each scored a rushing touchdown for the Gold team. Thomas went 3-of-7 for 38 yards. Vad Lee led the White team with 62 yards rushing on nine carries and went 4-of-13 for 34 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, Quayshawn Nealy returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown for the Gold team.
Fans got to see the new no-huddle spread offense coach Dave Doeren has installed, though there were plenty of bumps in the road during the annual spring game Saturday.
Quarterback Pete Thomas took reps with the first-team and went 15-of-26 for 168 yards without a touchdown pass as the Red beat the White 20-10. Tony Creecy led the way for the Red team with 75 yards on 20 carries, while Rashard Smith had eight catches for 84 yards.
Manny Stocker, working with the second-team, went 11-of-20 for 96 yards with an interception in the end zone. The teams combined for five fumbles in the game, and had 10 total punts in the first half.
Doeren said afterward, "We are ahead defensively and that’s not a bad thing," Doeren said. "I would rather be ahead on the defensive side than the offense. I think we’ll catch up."
The spring game raised more than $20,000 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.
Terrel Hunt emerged from the spring game as the Orange's top quarterback following an outstanding performance, going 19-of-29 for 209 yards a two touchdown passes to lead the Orange to a 27-10 win over the Blue on Saturday.
Hunt took all the snaps for the Orange team, and coach Scott Shafer said afterward that the junior now has a small lead over Charley Loeb and John Kinder. How that all plays out when Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen arrives remains to be seen, but there is no question Hunt has made the most of his opportunity this spring.
"Just a little bit (of a gap) though," Shafer said afteward. "We have all summer to figure this thing out and see all the new faces that are coming in to wear the blue and orange. I look forward to the competition continuing forward."
Kinder and Loeb combined to go 11-of-20 for 55 yards but they played against the first-team defense and under big-time pressure.
There were not many bright spots for the new Hokies' offense, as quarterback Logan Thomas and the running backs struggled Saturday in the spring game.
Thomas threw three interceptions -- two that were returned for touchdowns -- as his Orange team lost to the White 27-9. In all, Thomas went 16-of-29 for 214 yards as the group worked under new coordinator Scot Loeffler. For the game, the running backs tallied 23 total yards on 41 carries. Those are probably not the results fans wanted to see.
“I think even good golfers have bad shots sometimes, but it’s how you react to those shots, what you do after those shots,” coach Frank Beamer said afterward. “In my opinion, Logan will always be right back every play.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that the defense was the story of the scrimmage as that group returns just about every one of its starters and should be one of the best groups in the league.
The Deacs held a 70-minute scrimmage rather than a game Saturday, and the defense dominated as Chad Hedlund scored the only points on a 39-yard field goal.
Hunter Williams, Ryan Janvion, Merrill Noel and A.J. Marshall each intercepted a pass. Wake Forest's 32 rushing plays netted minus-5 total yards.
"The defense was awesome today," coach Jim Grobe said. "I thought they played great. We really dumbed the defense down, we didn't blitz and we didn't play a lot of different coverages. It's amazing how good they played when they know what to do and didn't have a lot of thinking going on. That ought to be a lesson for our coaches."
Though the offense struggled, the coaches did not have that group do too much. As Nikita Whitlock said afterward, "They didn’t show anything. This was the easiest practice we had all spring. I think they only ran like five plays. Honestly, it was power here, throw here, screen here. They were really vanilla, which was good. We’ll pull it out this season to win some games."
UPDATE: Boston College decided to cancel its spring game, set for Saturday, because of the tragic events that unfolded in the area this week. Though there is no game, these are still three keys for the Eagles as they move into the offseason.
- Chase Rettig. Rettig has been through one coordinator too many during his career with the Eagles, and now he has to learn a new system that is not exactly the pro-style brand more suited to him. Coach Steve Addazio has said he will not force Rettig out of his comfort zone this year, but how Rettig handles yet another change is definitely something to watch.
- The run game. Addazio has placed a heavy emphasis on the run game this spring. Does he have the talent and depth to improve the dreadful numbers from a year ago? With Rolandan Finch gone, senior Andre Williams has been the guy left to shoulder the load this spring. He says, "Bring it on."
- More aggressive D? This will be a good chance to see how Don Brown has gone about revamping the defense. We have all heard how he wants to be more aggressive this year. Let's see it.
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m. (Note: There is a threat of rain so a decision on whether the game will be played as scheduled will be made later today. As of this morning, the game is still on.)
- How does the defense look? The switch to the 4-3 has changed a few things on defense, namely Jeremiah Attaochu moving down to defensive end. The front could be very good this year given the talent that is in that group.
- Vad Lee and Justin Thomas. Coach Paul Johnson has left the quarterback competition open this spring between Lee and Thomas and has said both could play this season.
- The backs. It appears the Jackets have some great depth at both A-back and B-back, but who is going to emerge as a potential star in that group? David Sims, Zach Laskey and Matt Connors have seen the most snaps at B-back, though Charles Perkins and Broderick Snoddy recently returned to practice. With A-back Orwin Smith gone, the competition has centered on B.J. Bostic, Synjyn Days, Robert Godhigh, Deon Hill and Tony Zenon.
When: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., ESPN3
- The quarterbacks. Starting to sound like a theme, right? Coach Dave Doeren has said he will not name a starter after spring practice. Pete Thomas and Manny Stocker are still learning the new system, and Doeren says, "They're getting better. I told somebody the other day: I just don't think it's fair to make a decision on a guy that doesn't know your offense yet. I think we've got to give those kids a chance to play football without thinking. We're not there yet."
- The secondary. This group will have three new starters when fall rolls around, and much less game experience. Juston Burris is listed as the starter at the cornerback spot David Amerson leaves behind, while Hakim Jones and Jarvis Byrd are set to take the open safety spots.
- The defensive ends. There is still open competition at both defensive end spots, according to the depth chart the team released ahead of the spring game. Art Norman and Forrest West are battling for one spot, while Mike Rose and Darryl Cato-Bishop are competing for the other.
When: Saturday, noon.
- Terrel Hunt vs. Charley Loeb. Hunt has reportedly gotten more of the first-team reps as the spring has gone on, but this is a good chance for both quarterbacks to make an impression on their coaches -- especially with Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen headed to Syracuse in the summer.
- Defensive line. There is no question Syracuse has to work on building depth here because of several losses the group has taken. One player to watch is Iowa transfer John Raymon, who has worked at both tackle and end this spring.
- Quinta Funderburk. Funderburk sat out last season after transferring in from Arkansas. He has made a few highlight catches during the spring scrimmages to catch some attention, and with Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales gone, Funderburk has an opportunity to become a go-to receiver on this team.
When: Saturday, 3 p.m., ESPN3
- Logan Thomas and the offense. So, how does Thomas look under new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler? His rebound from a mediocre 2013 is going to be huge for the Hokies this season.
- The running backs. Nobody has really stepped up to take the starting job, although Trey Edmunds has had a good spring, including 86 yards and two touchdowns in the last scrimmage. JC Coleman, also vying for the job, is not expected to play because of a leg injury.
- Brandon Facyson. It's no secret the Hokies need some help in the secondary, and every single report out of Blacksburg points to the freshman cornerback as being the next star on defense.
When: Saturday, 1 p.m., ACC Digital Network
- The receivers. One of the big goals this spring has been to find another receiver to complement Michael Campanaro. Orville Reynolds, who moved from running back, has so far turned some heads with his performance, so keep an eye on him.
- New faces. Two players who have drawn raves on defense this spring are defensive linemen Desmond Floyd and Johnny Garcia. In fact, coach Jim Grobe believes his defensive line has been a bright spot this spring because the group has been able to develop some depth.
- Competition. This will actually be a scrimmage, not a game, because the Deacs simply do not have enough offensive linemen to split the team in two. At last check, Wake had seven healthy offensive linemen after Cody Preble injured his ankle in the last scrimmage.
Those are some of the household names in ACC country, but almost half of the conference (Florida State, NC State, Syracuse, Georgia Tech, Pitt and Virginia) is still in the midst of quarterback competitions. This spring didn’t provide too many answers for programs looking for new starters, as there wasn’t enough separation between the candidates. It will be an ongoing storyline to follow in the ACC this summer, but with seven spring games on tap this weekend, and spring ball wrapping up soon throughout the ACC, here’s an update on the position at each school:
FLORIDA STATE: Clint Trickett has been taking reps with the first team -- but so have Jameis Winston and Jacob Coker. Coach Jimbo Fisher has said he has no timetable in naming a starter. All three of them have fared well this spring, but it’s probably premature to say there is a true front-runner heading into summer camp.
VIRGINIA: David Watford has been the leader of the group, but Greyson Lambert had the better spring game. Watford finished 5-for-10 passing for 55 yards. Lambert completed 21 of 36 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns, and Phillip Sims was 8-for-18 for 89 yards. All three quarterbacks were given a clean slate under first-year coordinator Steve Fairchild.
NC STATE: The competition is still open heading into the summer, but Pete Thomas appears to have a slight edge over Manny Stocker, as coach Dave Doeren told the Raleigh News & Observer that Thomas’ “decision making is a little further along.” Both quarterbacks have taken reps with the first team, but Thomas has gotten more.
SYRACUSE: There are still plenty of questions, but in the most recent scrimmage, Terrel Hunt got the most reps with the first team, while Charley Loeb and John Kinder were with the twos. “We’ve got a good battle going on,” said coach Scott Shafer. “All three of them have been getting a lot of reps.” Shafer said the staff wants to get as many reps as possible on tape and make a decision by the season opener against Penn State, but that they’re not in a hurry to finish. “Some days there’s a little separation,” Shafer said, “other days they narrow the gap back in.”
GEORGIA TECH: The competition will continue into August, but coach Paul Johnson has already said he expects both Vad Lee and Justin Thomas to play this year. In the scrimmage on April 6, Lee ran for a pair of touchdowns, including one 60-yard run, and Thomas rushed for a touchdown he set up with a 40-yard run of his own.
PITT: Fifth-year senior Tom Savage has taken most of the reps with the first team, and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik has mostly worked at No. 2 (with some first-team reps sprinkled in). Pitt has its spring game on Friday night. While coach Paul Chryst might not definitively name Savage the starter, it would appear he has the edge heading into summer camp. Certainly his experience over the rest of the field would give him an advantage.
Manny Stocker and Pete Thomas are your top two candidates.
I had a chance to catch up with new coach Dave Doeren to ask him about a wide variety of topics leading into spring. Quarterback dominated the conversation. Here is a little of what he had to say.
On offense, you have a rebuild job with Mike gone and some questions at receiver, along with a lack of depth at running back. How do you see yourselves developing an offensive identity, knowing you have to find some playmakers?
So how are you going to evaluate the quarterback competition when you have a pro-style guy in Pete Thomas and Manny can be more of a dual-threat?
DD: They’re totally different guys. All the run game we have because we are a Pistol offense, we have the ability to turn around to hand off just like you would under center as a pro-style quarterback, and we also have the ability to read those plays. So nothing will change for the backs, or the o-line or the tight ends or the receivers. It’s just based on what quarterbacks’ in there, it could be a zone read in a zone, it could be a power read. All those things, both quarterbacks will have to know both.
Do you envision having an answer at quarterback at the end of spring?
DD: From a coaching standpoint, it’d be great to know by the end of the spring, but I’m not sure that’s realistic yet, until we go out there and see the guys compete.
What are you looking for out of each guy once you get to see them on the field?
DD: Well, the quarterback has to manage the game. He has to put us in positions not to hurt our defense. Obviously, you want to see him run the offense the way Matt wants it run from an efficiency standpoint, making good decisions, not forcing throws. Just really playing within the system. It doesn’t have to be anything special it just can’t be somebody that screws it up. Until they can let their God given ability take over, sometimes a guy will press and try to do too much and end up hurting the team. Early on, can you manage the game, can you get the ball to the playmakers, and do the things the offense tells you to do based on numbers. Hopefully those guys will be able to do it, but I know it takes time. The last two guys I had didn’t walk in and play great the first day of practice.
Is Pete going to be asked to run a little bit more than he has in the past because of some of the things you like to do?
DD: Possibly. He’s not going to do what Jordan Lynch did. Pete’s not Jordan. They’re different guys. But we’re also going to use defensive numbers and if people want to take everybody out of the box, there’s times when he can run a draw and things like that. It’s more what you saw probably with what Matt had to do as Wisconsin when he had guys who weren’t as agile. We’ll just have to see until we get out there and watch the move around with people chasing him how well he can avoid guys and run the football. Collin Klein wasn’t a guy who ran a 4.5 either and he ran the ball pretty good for K-State. Pete’s a tough kid so if he can help us running the ball some, he will.
The potential rise of dual-threat quarterbacks.
Last season, four teams had true dual-threat signal-callers starting -- EJ Manuel at Florida State, Tajh Boyd at Clemson, Logan Thomas at Virginia Tech, and Tevin Washington at Georgia Tech. Depending on how some of the open quarterback competitions go, the ACC could see as many as nine dual-threat starters at the position.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe explained his decision to shift philosophy in an interview earlier this month with fellow blogger Heather Dinich.
Cutcliffe said of Boone, "He is the new era of quarterback. Anthony is going to change our run game a good bit. He can prolong plays better. Just watch football, I don’t care what level -- it’s not just the zone read. Ben Roethlisberger is not that kind of guy, but he prolongs plays really well for the Steelers through the years. That’s how a lot of big plays occur. That wasn’t Sean’s strength. It is Anthony’s. Anthony is always dangerous back there. I think that adds a little bit of life to your offense."
Here is a look at the type of quarterback each team has across the ACC.
Boston College: Pro-style with Chase Rettig. The Eagles are sure to feature a running quarterback in the future as coach Steve Addazio prefers dual threats to run his spread offense.
Clemson: Dual threat. Boyd is one of the best in the nation.
Duke: Dual threat with Boone. Changed from pro-style.
Florida State: Dual-threat Jameis Winston will compete for the starting job against pro-style QBs Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker.
Georgia Tech: Triple-option, with Vad Lee taking over.
Maryland: Pro-style, C.J. Brown.
Miami: Pro-style, Stephen Morris.
North Carolina: Pro-style Bryn Renner.
NC State: Dual-threat Manny Stocker competing against pro-style Pete Thomas. Dual-threat Jacoby Brissett also transferred from Florida but has to sit out a year.
Pittsburgh: The only school with an open competition featuring two pro-style quarterbacks: Tom Savage and Chad Voytik.
Syracuse: Pro-style Charley Loeb is competing with dual-threat quarterbacks John Kinder and Terrel Hunt.
Virginia: Pro-style Phillip Sims is competing with dual-threat David Watford and pro-style Greyson Lambert this spring.
Virginia Tech: Dual-threat with Thomas.
Wake Forest: Working toward making Price more dual threat.
Why they’re a contender: First-year coach Dave Doeren is a contender. His overall record at Northern Illinois was 23-4 over two years and 17-1 against MAC opponents. Last year, he led the Huskies to a school-record 12-win season that came on the heels of an 11-win season in 2011. Doeren won two straight MAC championships. Yes, the competition is better in the ACC, but NC State has hired a proven winner and he has re-energized the program.
Why they’re a pretender: No Mike Glennon. You know that old saying, "you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone?" Yeah, NC State fans are going to be singing that song this fall. The offense is now in the hands of either Manny Stocker, a sophomore who has yet to take a collegiate snap, or Pete Thomas, a former transfer from Colorado State. At least Thomas has some game experience. He was a two-year starter at Colorado State and threw for 4,269 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Final verdict: Pretender. There are too many new faces in key places -- in the secondary, on the offensive line, at quarterback, at coordinator -- for NC State to challenge FSU or Clemson this year for the division title. With a new quarterback AND a complete staff overhaul, it will be too much for the Pack to overcome.
12:00 PM ET Georgia Tech Virginia Tech 12:00 PM ET Iowa Pittsburgh 12:30 PM ET Maryland Syracuse 12:30 PM ET Tulane Duke 1:00 PM ET Maine Boston College 3:30 PM ET Louisville Florida International 3:30 PM ET Virginia 21 BYU 3:30 PM ET Army Wake Forest 3:30 PM ET North Carolina East Carolina 6:00 PM ET Presbyterian North Carolina State 8:00 PM ET Miami (FL) 24 Nebraska 8:00 PM ET 22 Clemson 1 Florida State