ACC: Markus White
2010 overall record: 10-4
2010 conference record: 6-2
Offense: 8, defense: 8, punter/kicker: 2
QB EJ Manuel, WR Bert Reed, WR Taiwan Easterling, LT Andrew Datko, RG David Spurlock, RT Zebrie Sanders, RB Chris Thompson, RB Jermaine Thomas, DE Brandon Jenkins, DT Jacobi McDaniel, LB Nigel Bradham, CB Greg Reid, CB Xavier Rhodes, PK Dustin Hopkins, P Shawn Powell
LG Rodney Hudson, C Ryan McMahon, QB Christian Ponder, DE Markus White, LB Kendall Smith, LB Mister Alexander
2010 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Thompson* (845 yards)
Passing: Ponder (2,044 yds)
Receiving: Reed* (614 yds)
Tackles: Bradham* (98)
Sacks: Jenkins* (13.5)
Interceptions: Rhodes* and Mike Harris* (4)
1. Depth on both sides. Florida State returns all three leading rushers from last year, each of whom had at least 400 rushing yards in 2010. All of the Noles’ top receivers are back, but coach Jimbo Fisher was also pleased with young receivers like Jared Haggins and Greg Dent. The defensive line is deep, and the staff learned that Lamarcus Joyner can play safety at the collegiate level. The kicking game will be a strength, as FSU might have the best punter/kicker combo in the country. Dustin Hopkins booted a 60-yard field goal in the spring game.
2. Defensive improvement: The defense really made some strides in terms of knowing what it has to do, and has become more comfortable in the second season under coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles found more depth on defense, as playmakers emerged even with players sidelined with injuries. The young linebackers were a particularly promising group.
3. It’s EJ’s offense now. In what was the first spring session he was healthy enough to participate in, quarterback EJ Manuel emerged as a leader heading into his first season as a full-time starter. He showed he can take command of the offense and goes into summer camp with nobody looking over his shoulder. He’s 4-2 as a starter and was able to take another step forward this spring.
1. Backup quarterbacks: Clint Trickett and Will Secord will take their competition into the summer, but Trickett got more opportunities in the spring game and made the most of them. He completed 13 of 22 passes for 137 yards. Secord completed 3 of 9 passes for 25 yards, but a clear No. 2 has yet to be named.
2. What will the offensive line really look like? It was a patchwork group this spring, as left tackle Andrew Datko was out with a shoulder injury, right tackle Zebrie Sanders was out after abdominal surgery, and left guard David Spurlock, who started the first seven games of 2010 before suffering a concussion, was only about 50 percent because of a hand/wrist injury. Key reserves like Rhonne Sanderson (foot injury) and Blake Snider (ankle injury) were missing. Jacob Fahrenkrug was supposed to take over at left guard, but finished the spring starting at center. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of LT Datko, LG Bryan Stork or Spurlock, C Fahrenkrug, RG Spurlock or Stork, RT Sanders. Despite the losses of Hudson and McMahon, there is experience up front, but building depth remains an issue.
3. How good is the defensive line? There’s no doubting Florida State’s defensive line will be good, but with the offensive line riddled with injuries, it was impossible to tell how good it can be. Newcomer Tank Carradine didn’t get a chance to go against Sanders or Datko, leaving for an unfair assessment.
1 12 Christian Ponder, Florida State, QB Vikings
1 14 Robert Quinn, North Carolina, DE Rams
1 22 Anthony Castonzo, Boston College, T Colts
2 33 Ras-I Dowling, Virginia, CB Patriots
2 38 Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech, RB Cardinals
2 40 Bruce Carter, North Carolina, LB Cowboys
2 41 Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson, DT Redskins
2 46 Orlando Franklin, Miami, OL Broncos
2 50 Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson, CB Chargers
2 51 Da’ Quan Bowers, Clemson, DE Buccaneers
2 52 Marvin Austin, North Carolina, DT Giants
2 55 Rodney Hudson, Florida State, C-G Chiefs
2 58 Torrey Smith, Maryland, WR Ravens
2 59 Greg Little, North Carolina, WR Browns
2 60 Brandon Harris, Miami, CB Texans
3 67 Nate Irving, NC State, LB Broncos
3 79 Leonard Hankerson, Miami, WR Redskins
3 81 DeMarcus Van Dyke, Miami, CB Raiders
3 86 Allen Bailey, Miami, DE Chiefs
4 100 Da’Norris Searcy, North Carolina, S Bills
4 109 Colin McCarthy, Miami, ILB Titans
4 122 Chris Hairston, Clemson, T Bills
4 127 Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech, CB Texans
4 130 Jamie Harper, Clemson, RB Titans
5 133 Johnny White, North Carolina, RB Bills
5 152 T.J. Yates, North Carolina, QB Texans
6 171 Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina, LB Cardinals
6 173 Byron Maxwell, Clemson, DB Seahawks
6 180 Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, QB Ravens
6 181 Richard Gordon, Miami, TE Raiders
6 192 Matt Bosher, Miami, P-PK Falcons
7 218 Ryan Taylor, North Carolina, TE Cowboys
7 221 Da’Rel Scott, Maryland, RB Giants
7 224 Markus White, Florida State, DE Redskins
7 225 Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech, RB Ravens
ACC Selections by Rounds
ACC Selections by Teams
North Carolina 9
Florida State 3
Virginia Tech 3
Boston College 1
Georgia Tech 1
NC State 1
Here are the players who will represent the ACC:
BOSTON COLLEGE (3)
- Anthony Castonzo
- Rich Lapham
- Mark Herzlich
- Da'Quan Bowers
- Marcus Gilchrist
- Chris Hairston
- Jamie Harper
- Jarvis Jenkins
- Byron Maxwell
- DeAndre McDaniel
- Rodney Hudson
- Christian Ponder
- Markus White
- Anthony Allen
- Mario Butler
- Jerrard Tarrant
- Allen Bailey
- Damien Berry
- Matt Bosher
- Orlando Franklin
- Graig Cooper
- Leonard Hankerson
- Brandon Harris
- Colin McCarthy
- DeMarcus Van Dyke
- Marvin Austin
- Kendric Burney
- Bruce Carter
- Greg Little
- Shaun Draughn
- Robert Quinn
- Da'Norris Searcy
- Quan Sturdivant
- Johnny White
- Deunta Williams
- T.J. Yates
- Nate Irving
- Owen Spencer
- Danny Aiken
- Ras-I Dowling
1. Stop the run. Florida State has been much better against the run this year -- No. 25 in the country and third in the ACC -- but it showed some weaknesses against Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game that the Gamecocks can exploit. Marcus Lattimore has run for 1,198 yards and 17 touchdowns this year, and quarterback Stephen Garcia has scored six rushing touchdowns this year.
2. Pressure Garcia. Florida State is No. 2 in the country and first the ACC in sacks with 3.54 per game. The Noles have had 46 sacks this season, and Garcia makes mistakes under pressure. South Carolina’s ability to pick up the rush and handle defensive ends Markus White and Brandon Jenkins will play a huge role in the outcome of the game.
3. Establish the run. Florida State’s tailbacks have been banged up this year, but this could be the healthiest they’ve all been in a while. Ty Jones, Chris Thompson and Jermaine Thomas will force the Gamecocks to be disciplined, but South Carolina has a knack for finding the ball and has also improved against the run this year, ranking ninth in the country and leading the SEC with 104.31 yards per game.
Turning point: In the first quarter, Virginia Tech linebacker Bruce Taylor came up with a big defensive play when he tipped E.J. Manuel's pass into the hands of Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, who ran it back 24 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead. In a game that has been lacking big defensive plays, that one could come back to haunt Florida State. It was less a mistake by Manuel than it was an impressive play by Taylor and Gouveia-Winslow. In an otherwise even game, turnovers will make the difference.
Stat of the half: Virginia Tech is 6-of-8 on third-down conversions. The Hokies' ability to sustain drives could eventually wear out Florida State's defense, but time of possession has been about even. It was not until the Hokies' final possession of the half that the Seminoles started to come up with some big stops, none bigger than a sack by Markus White on third-and-10.
Best player in the half: Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He continues to make plays with his ability to scramble and buy time so that the wide receivers can get open. He has completed 9 of 14 passes for 93 yards and a touchdown.
Ponder, who sustained an injury to his right bursa sac in the Boston College game, is wearing what looks like a soft brace almost the entire length of his arm. He's still got plenty of zip of the ball and looks accurate.
Defensively, starting end Markus White was bouncing up and down, getting the defense fired up. The Seminoles gathered together and raised their gold helmets, players yelling and hollering in the huddle. The game hasn't even started yet, and Florida State has already shown more emotion.
- Through the first three games of the season, Florida State’s defense has rediscovered its pass rush. The Seminoles lead the ACC with 13 sacks for an average of 4.33 per game, which ranks third nationally. That’s well ahead of last season’s pace, when the ‘Noles finished the season with 26 in 13 games (2.0 pg). First-year FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops’ unit has received a significant boost in production from the defensive ends. FSU’s top four ends - Brandon Jenkins, Markus White, Bjoern Werner and Dan Hicks - have combined for 6.5 sacks and already eclipsed that position’s total from the 2009 season (four).
- Georgia Tech has won seven consecutive ACC games, not including a win against Clemson in the 2009 ACC championship game, and is 9-1 in its past 10 league games. Georgia Tech has won six consecutive ACC home games and has not lost a home league game since Oct. 25, 2008 (24-17 to Al Groh’s Virginia team).
- Maryland’s defense, which ranked 24th nationally in points allowed (16.0 per game) has been more aggressive through three games this season than at the same point last year. So far the Terps have forced seven fumbles and recovered five. They have also picked off three passes, one of which was returned for a touchdown. After three games a year ago, the first under coordinator Don Brown, the Terrapins did not force a fumble, recovered just one, and had two interceptions.
- Duke’s crowd of 39,042 against Alabama was the largest since Nov. 19, 1994 when 40,103 fans showed up for a 41-40 North Carolina victory against the Blue Devils. Duke added 3,904 seats with temporary bleachers for the game with the Crimson Tide, increasing capacity to 37,845. Since the beginning of 2001, Duke has recorded 10 crowds of 30,000 or more with seven of those coming under coach David Cutcliffe.
- Boston College has outscored opponents in Chestnut Hill by an average of 16 points per game in its past 11 home games. BC gained nearly 400 yards per game against its opponents at home in 2009 while allowing slightly over 320 yards. The Eagles had a +6 turnover margin in the seven games at home last season and scored 30 touchdowns while allowing just 13.
- Quarterback T.J. Yates has not thrown an interception in his past 89 attempts, dating back to last season’s bowl game against Pittsburgh. He has thrown 70 passes without an interception this year. That is the longest streak in his career. His previous best was 67 attempts in 2008. The school record for attempts without an interception is 154 by Oscar Davenport in 1996-97. Yates’ 46 attempts without an interception against LSU was a school record for a single game. The previous record was 42 by Darian Durant vs. NC State in 2003.
- NC State enters the Georgia Tech game tied for sixth nationally in turnover margin, with seven takeaways to just two turnovers for a +5 mark. The Wolfpack didn’t turn the ball over in its first two games, but fumbled twice in the win against Cincinnati. Quarterback Russell Wilson has thrown 101 passes this season without an interception, and even though the Pack is playing two freshmen at halfback, there have only been two lost fumbles. The Pack’s success in holding onto the ball is even more impressive considering that in 2009, NC State finished the season ranked 114th nationally in turnover margin, with 25 turnovers to just 14 takeaways.
- Virginia has run a well-balanced offense through two games – perfectly balanced, to be exact. Against Richmond, Virginia rushed 35 times and passed 35 times. At USC, the Cavaliers rushed 36 times and passed 36 times. On the season, UVA has rushed 71 times and passed 71 times for 142 total plays.
- As expected, Clemson has needed three players to help compensate for the loss of C.J. Spiller’s all-purpose total yardage. Andre Ellington is second in the ACC in rushing with 91 yards per game and a 7.4 average, above Spiller’s averages of 86.6 rushing yards and a 5.6 average. Jamie Harper, Clemson’s other starting running back, has already caught three touchdown passes, including two at Auburn. He was the first Clemson running back to catch two scoring passes in the same game in 24 years. And Marcus Gilchrist is sixth in the nation in punt return average with an 18.3 average.
- The Demon Deacons have visited the red zone eight times this season and have come away with seven scores. That is an average of 88 percent. In those eight trips, Wake has reached the end zone six times and has kicked a 36-yard field goal. Under Jim Grobe, the Deacons have had 409 red zone chances and have come away with points on 321 of those chances for an average of 78.5 percent. Of those 321 scores, 223 of them have been touchdowns.
- Virginia Tech has been outscored 50-26 in its past two losses at BC and hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown there since the fourth quarter of the 2002 game. Virginia Tech is an impressive 38-10 in conference games since joining the ACC in 2004, including a 19-5 mark in road games, but two of the Hokies’ five road losses are to Boston College.
Virginia Tech: That's right, the whole team gets one this week for overcoming a 10-0 deficit at home against ECU and scoring 28 unanswered points in the second half -- without injured running back Ryan Williams, who pulled his hamstring in the second quarter. The Hokies are banged up, but they avoided an 0-3 start with a complete effort in the second half, winning 49-27.
NC State quarterback Russell Wilson: Rusty? Nah. Not this time. He threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-19 Thursday night win over Cincinnati. He completed 26 of 40 passes, including an 8-yard touchdown to Taylor Gentry with about 7½ minutes left to make it 30-7. He also ran for 33 yards.
NC State's defense. The Pack has shown measurable improvement. The Wolfpack finished with five sacks, hurried quarterback Zach Collaros four times and came up with a big fourth-and-1 stop in the fourth quarter. NC State is 3-0 for the first time in eight years.
Florida State's defense: The Seminoles showed some needed improvement in their 34-10 win over BYU. FSU's defense yielded only 191 total yards. The Seminoles had eight sacks; the most in a game since registering nine against Miami in 2005. FSU's top four defensive ends -- Markus White, Brandon Jenkins, Bjoern Werner and Dan Hicks -- combined for five sacks. The Noles had just four from the defensive end position last season.
Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt: He completed 75 percent of his passes (3 of 4), for 76 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for 104 yards and another touchdown on 26 carries in the 30-24 win over North Carolina. He also led the Jackets on a 44-yard scoring drive that ended in a field goal for the 27-24 lead.
- Florida State's consideration for entrance into the SEC remains a feasible concept, though nobody seems in any hurry to go anywhere now that the expansion dust has settled.
- As mentioned earlier, Corey Marshall decided to become a Hokie.
- A Miami recruit who had planned to commit to the Canes instead put himself back on the market.
- Here's an interesting take on the Nagurski Trophy candidates: FSU's offense will be facing 16 of them.
- Duke has added two more players to its 2011 class.
- UNC quarterback T.J. Yates headlines Rivals.com's list of 12 athletes who need to bounce back in 2010. Maryland's Da'Rel Scott and FSU's Markus White also made the cut.
- NC State linebacker Nate Irving isn't himself since his car accident, but he's grateful for a second chance.
2009 overall record: 7-6
2009 conference record: 4-4
Offense: 10, defense 6: punter/kicker 2
QB Christian Ponder, LG Rodney Hudson, C Ryan McMahon, WR Bert Reed, CB/PR Greg Reid, RB Jermaine Thomas, DE Markus White, LB Kendall Smith, LB Nigel Bradham, CB Ochuko Jenjie
CB Patrick Robinson, S Jamie Robinson, LB Dekoda Watson, WR Rod Owens
2009 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Thomas*(832 yards)
Passing: Ponder* (2,717 yds)
Receiving: Owens (729 yds)
Tackles: Bradham* (93)
Sacks: Watson (6)
Interceptions: J. Robinson, Jenjie* (4)
1. Tailor-made defense. We don’t know yet how much better it will be, but the new defensive scheme will create more playmaking opportunities under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles will use more zone coverage and be more suited for the personnel. That should lead to some improvement.
2. Ponder will be 100 percent. He took every meaningful snap with the first team offense this spring and there didn’t seem to be a difference since he injured his shoulder last year. That means Florida State could have a Heisman contender this year.
3. Staff cohesion. The five new on-field assistants and first-year strength coach brought a new philosophy to Tallahassee and they clicked well together in their first practice sessions. Coach Jimbo Fisher does things differently than his predecessor. Both the offensive and defensive staffs met a lot together to look at film, and there was good feedback across the board between players and coaches.
1. Consistency at receiver. With the exception of Reed, dependability was sorely lacking in this group. Plenty of plays were made, but not continuously. Fisher said the execution is not where he wants it to be. Jarmon Fortson is one of the players who needs to step it up.
2. Tailback talk. Who’s going to win the tailback job, or will it be by committee? Chris Thompson passed Jermaine Thomas on the unofficial depth chart, but there’s also Lonnie Pryor, Tavares Pressley, Ty Jones and junior-college transfer Debrale Smiley, who is a fullback/tailback like Pryor. They all had their moments this spring.
3. Unsecure secondary. FSU has four good corners to count on in this scheme with Jenjie, Reid, Dionte Allen and newcomer Xavier Rhodes, but the two safety spots and depth remain in flux. Jenjie is the only returning starter in the secondary.
Quarterback: The Eagles can’t afford to be in another situation where nobody on the roster has had a snap of collegiate experience like they were heading into 2009. This is the class where coach Frank Spaziani can build the future of the program at this position.
Running back: Montel Harris is one of the best running backs in the ACC, but he’s not invincible. After the transfer of backup Josh Haden midway through last season, the Eagles were forced to depend on Harris and only Harris. It’s time to bring in some help.
Wide receiver: BC will graduate three seniors from the two-deep in Justin Jarvis, Clarence Megwa and record-setter Rich Gunnell. Quarterback Dave Shinskie will be better in Year 2, but now he’ll have to help usher in a new supporting cast.
Wide receiver: The Tigers will have to replace standout Jacoby Ford in 2010, but they’ll also have to prepare for the losses of Xavier Dye and Terrance Ashe, who will be seniors in 2010. It was a position of concern heading into 2009 and will be again.
Defensive backs: Two of the most experienced starting cornerbacks in the conference -- Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler -- have to be replaced, but the staff also has to look ahead. Next year, the Tigers will lose All-American safety DeAndre McDaniel, free safety Marcus Gilchrist and cornerback Byron Maxwell.
Linebacker: FSU’s biggest loss here will be Dekoda Watson, but two other players on the two-deep are juniors. The Noles were hurting at every position defensively, and while the bulk of players return, they need an overall upgrade in talent.
Defensive line: Save for defensive end Markus White, who will be a senior, and Budd Thacker, who will have to be replaced, this was a relatively young group. Still, the Noles struggled to stop the run and fluster quarterbacks most of the season, and it all starts up front.
Secondary: FSU will lose cornerback Patrick Robinson, Korey Mangum and Jamie Robinson. The addition of Lamarcus Joyner should give this unit an immediate boost.
Secondary: Three starters -- Anthony Wiseman, Jamari McCollough and Terrell Skinner -- were all seniors, and standout Nolan Carroll, who was injured, will also have to be replaced. It’s time to usher in the next wave of talent here.
Linebackers/ends: The staff needs to find players here who can better fit defensive coordinator Don Brown’s scheme. Some of those linebackers could end up being defensive end/hybrid players, but the Terps need some speed off the edge.
Linemen: The Pack will lose three starters on the offensive line and all four on the defensive line. Those positions are what almost half of the staff’s commitment list is comprised of so far, and the depth at those positions had to be completely rebuilt under Tom O’Brien. Some junior college transfers could help.
Halfback: With the news that Toney Baker decided to forgo his sixth year of eligibility, and the graduation of fifth-year senior Jamelle Eugene, it couldn’t hurt the Pack to start to reload at this position.
Offensive line: Seven members on the two-deep roster were redshirt seniors in 2009, and one, starting center Russell Nenon, was a redshirt junior. Three starters will have to be replaced in 2010.
Tight end: This position will be very thin, but the staff has added two in this year’s recruiting class. Wake could also help itself by adding a fullback or two to help with the blocking.
Linebackers: It was a unit comprised mainly of redshirt seniors and juniors in 2009, so the Deacs will have immediate holes there, as well as the need to restock for the future.
S DeAndre McDaniel – Mel Kiper ranks him the No. 4 safety in his class. Scouts Inc. has him the No. 6 player at his position and the No. 64 overall.
QB Christian Ponder, OG Rodney Hudson and DE Markus White – They’re all staying. Hudson is the No. 1 guard in his class, according to Mel Kiper, and Ponder’s injury had a lot to do with his return.
S Morgan Burnett – He didn’t live up to the hype this season and could probably improve his stock with another year. Kiper still has him the No. 2 junior safety.
B-Back Jonathan Dwyer – Rated the No. 3 junior running back in his class by Mel Kiper.
QB Josh Nesbitt – Not ranked in ESPN’s Scouts Inc. database.
DE Derrick Morgan – Kiper has him the No. 1 end in his class, and he’s No. 9 on Kiper’s latest Big Board. It would be a surprise if he returned.
WR Demaryius Thomas – He told me after the ACC championship game he’s staying, but that was before he received his draft evaluation. Georgia Tech fans should hope he sticks with it. Kiper has him the No. 4 junior WR.
OL Bruce Campbell – His career has been marred by injuries, and he could use another year to get more experience, not to mention a better contract. Scouts Inc. has him at No. 4 in his position and No. 27 overall.
None of the following players were ranked by Scouts Inc.:
DE Allen Bailey – Kiper has him the No. 5 end in his class.
WR Leonard Hankerson
LB Colin McCarthy
OL Orlando Franklin
RB Graig Cooper
LB Quan Sturdivant – Kiper ranks him the No. 2 junior inside linebacker.
DT Marvin Austin – Kiper ranks him the No. 3 tackle in his class.
LB Bruce Carter – Has publicly stated he will return.
TB Toney Baker – He was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA, but hasn’t said yet whether or not he’d take it. He is currently not ranked in the draft prospect database by ESPN’s Scouts Inc.
QB Tyrod Taylor and DE Jason Worilds – Both staying.
CLEMSON, S.C. -- First, an injury update. Chris Chancellor has a lower leg injury. He’s being reevaluated during the break. Now, a quick look at what happened in the first half here in Memorial Stadium.
Turning point: It was first and goal from the FSU 5-yard line, when Kyle Parker was sacked by Markus White for a loss of a yard and fumbled. Dekoda Watson recovered it, and Clemson’s chance at heading to the locker room with a lead took a hit. The defense gave Parker and Co. another opportunity on the ensuing drive with an interception, but Richard Jackson missed a 38-yard field goal. That fumble on the five-yard line was as close as the Tigers would get to reasserting themselves in the first half.
What Clemson needs to do: Eliminate the penalties and capitalize on their red zone scoring chances. Clemson has five penalties for 40 yards. That’s surprising, considering the Tigers entered this game averaging just 4.6 penalties per game, which was fourth best in the country. Earlier in the year, when Clemson was struggling, it was in the red zone. That appears to be the case again tonight.
What Florida State needs to do: Continue to run the ball and limit the mistakes. Jermaine Thomas has been a bright spot for the Noles, and his success helps Ponder with the play-action passes and opens up other options in the passing game. Right now, though, FSU has only been successful on 1 of 2 third downs. Their three turnovers have kept them out of a rhythm. Ponder’s two interceptions are uncharacteristic, but Clemson’s defense deserves some credit for that.
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."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Good news for the Noles, in the return of defensive end Kevin McNeil, whose academic status was previously in question.
McNeil, who was projected as a starter, was never actually ineligible, the staff was just waiting for grades to be posted and McNeil is in the clear. He's expected to replace Neefy Moffett opposite Markus White, who will be taking over for Everette Brown.
McNeil has played in 22 career games, and leads all current Seminoles with six career sacks. He enters the season with 26 total tackles, 9.5 of which have come behind the line of scrimmage. Almost 37 percent of his career tackles have been for negative yardage. So he should be a huge help in trying to replace two ends who combined for 19 sacks and 32.5 tackles for loss last year.
11:00 AM ET Nevada Louisiana-Lafayette 2:20 PM ET Utah State UTEP 3:30 PM ET 22 Utah Colorado State 5:45 PM ET Western Michigan Air Force 9:15 PM ET South Alabama Bowling Green
6:00 PM ET Marshall Northern Illinois 9:30 PM ET Navy San Diego State
12:00 PM ET Central Michigan Western Kentucky 8:00 PM ET Fresno State Rice
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State