ACC: Matt Kushner

NC State quarterback Wilson to start

October, 2, 2008
10/02/08
7:31
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

NC State's chances of beating Boston College just became, well, realistic. According to the Wolfpack's injury report, quarterback Russell Wilson is cleared to play, and coach Tom O'Brien told reporters Thursday that Wilson will start. It looks like tight end Anthony Hill might play, too. Talk about perfect timing for NC State.

Here is NC State's entire injury report:

PROBABLE: TE Anthony Hill -- Pectoralis strain

OUT: DT Alan-Michael Cash -- knee surgery; OG Curtis Crouch -- foot injury; LB Nate Irving -- ankle injury; WR Geron James -- ankle injury; LT Julian Williams -- shoulder injury.

OUT FOR THE SEASON: HB Toney Baker -- knee surgery; WR Donald Bowens -- lower-back stress fractures; TE Matt Kushner -- knee injury; S Javon Walker -- knee surgery

NC State's Bryan exceeding expectations

September, 26, 2008
9/26/08
11:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

NC State tight end George Bryan doesn't rattle easily, as evidenced by the ball python named "Louie" he keeps as a pet.

So when the Wolfpack needed their third-string tight end most last weekend against East Carolina, it's no surprise Bryan came through in the clutch. His touchdown catch with just over a minute left in regulation sent the game into overtime and helped the Wolfpack to a shocking 30-24 upset of the then-ranked No. 15 Pirates.

Bryan was thrust into the top spot against Clemson because starter Anthony Hill has been out indefinitely since the season opener with a pectoralis strain, and his backup, Matt Kushner, left the William & Mary game after 24 snaps and is now out for the season with a knee injury.

Now, Bryan is one of just two healthy scholarship tight ends left on the roster. The other, true freshman Mario Carter, will likely be redshirted. So far, it hasn't been a problem, as Bryan heads into Saturday's game against South Florida leading NC State in catches (13), and is third in yards (127), and tied for first with two touchdowns.

"We had no idea that he would be able to play and perform the way he did," NC State coach Tom O'Brien said. "He's gotta do it again this week against another great defense coming in. He's been a pleasant surprise, but I don't want to be in this situation [in which] I see all these surprises."

Who can blame him? It's the second straight season O'Brien's roster has been hindered by an absurd amount of injuries to key players. In 2007, 13 players who were starters at some time (or in the case of Hill, a projected starter), missed a total of 44 games. Six of those starters missed multiple games. In all, the program's medical staff performed 10 knee surgeries between the spring of 2007 and the end of the year.

Four players on this year's roster have already been lost for the season, and the Wolfpack will also be without top linebacker Nate Irving on Saturday, and quarterback Russell Wilson is listed as doubtful.

The plethora of injuries, though, has allowed athletes like Bryan, a redshirt freshman, to shine.

"It was a big role," Bryan said. "I was ready for it, I thought, because I have two great guys ahead of me, Matt Kushner and Anthony Hill, and coach [Jim] Bridge that prepared me very well for just about anything. They basically were saying this could happen, you never know what could happen so you've always got to be ready. They prepared me well. It was a big challenge but I think I handled it well."

Agreed. He caught his first career touchdown against William & Mary, but his second touchdown obviously caught him the most recognition. He called it the high point of his career so far.

"It was an awesome feeling," he said. "It was great to catch that ball in a big situation. That was a real big touchdown."

Bryan said he now has a lot of friends on Facebook he didn't have before, and got tons of text messages, two things he welcomed with a smile. He said his family has helped him stay humble, and that he can't wait for his teammates to return.

Meanwhile, he's got a job to do.

"I just go out there and do what I'm coached," Bryan said. "I trust my coaches and everybody else on my team. We just all do our jobs and it turns out good."

NC State injury report

September, 25, 2008
9/25/08
6:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

PROBABLE: Clem Johnson, S

DOUBTFUL: Russell Wilson, QB (and no, there are no specifics, already checked)

OUT: Alan-Michael Cash, DT -- knee surgery; Curtis Crouch, OG -- foot injury; Anthony Hill, TE -- pectoralis strain; Nate Irving, LB -- ankle injury; Geron James, WR -- ankle injury

OUT FOR THE SEASON: Toney Baker, HB -- knee surgery; Donald Bowens, WR -- lower back stress fractures; Matt Kushner, TE -- knee injury; Javon Walker, S -- Knee surgery

The ACC's bedazzling backups

September, 25, 2008
9/25/08
4:59
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Listening to Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson praise backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw this week, and in talking to NC State coach Tom O'Brien about the success of his third string tight end, it got me thinking.

There have been a lot of backups making differences in the ACC this season. Some, like Virginia Tech's Darren Evans, have simply stolen the spotlight from the starter. Others, like the Hokies' Tyrod Taylor, have stolen the starting job. And many have gotten their opportunity at the unfortunate expense of an injured -- or suspended -- teammate.

Here's a look at the ACC's best backups through the first four weeks:

Boston College: True freshman running back Montel Harris wasn't even on the two-deep when the season started, but after filling in for injured starter Josh Haden (ankle), Harris is the Eagles' leading rusher with 133 yards in two games.

Clemson: Freshman defensive tackle Brandon Thompson was supposed to redshirt, but couldn't after the news Rashaad Jackson would be out for 10 weeks and Jamie Cumbie was lost for the season after the first game. Thompson leads Clemson in tackles for loss with four, and his playing time will only increase.

Duke: Running back Clifford Harris assumed the starting role after a preseason knee injury to Re'quan Boyette. He has rushed 49 times for 203 yards (4.1 YPC) and three touchdowns. He leads Duke and is sixth in the ACC with 67.7 yards per game.

FSU: Linebacker Kenny Ingram filled in for Dekoda Watson while he was suspended and recorded seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, three pass break-ups and had a forced fumble and recovered one. He also batted down a Riley Skinner pass on fourth and one from the FSU 10 which was one of two Skinner passes he batted down in last week's game.

Georgia Tech: In the absence of starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt, Jaybo Shaw has completed 6 of 10 passes for no interceptions, 91 yards and a touchdown in the two games he played in. He also rushed 18 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

  • Tyler Melton, a true freshman wide receiver, stepped in for injured Correy Earls (hamstring) before the season opener and is the Yellow Jackets' second-leading receiver (five catches, 53 yards), and primary punt returner.
  • Sedric Griffin, a junior linebacker, made his first career start at Boston College after two starting linebackers (Brad Jefferson, Anthony Barnes) went down in the season opener. Paul Johnson recently called Griffin their "most consistent linebacker" and he is the third leading tackler with 25 tackles and one tackle for loss.

Maryland: Running back Morgan Green took over for the ACC's injured leading rusher, Da'Rel Scott, and scored two touchdowns last weekend against Eastern Michigan.

  • Quarterback Chris Turner started the season as second string behind Jordan Steffy, but inherited the offense after Steffy injured his thumb. Since throwing three interceptions in a loss to Middle Tennessee, Turner has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 368 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Miami: Senior running back Derron Thomas. He's filled in the role that Graig Cooper had when Cooper was 1b to Javarris James. Thomas has 19 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown, and a 34-yard run against Texas A&M. He's got 121 all-purpose yards in three games.

UNC -- Robert Quinn, a true freshman, started the past two weeks after defensive end Darrius Massenburg went down with a knee injury. Quinn has six tackles, three tackles for losses, one sack and two pressures.

NCSU -- Tight end George Bryan. He was the only option after injuries to Anthony Hill and Matt Kushner. Now he leads the team in catches (13), is third in yards (127) and tied for first with two touchdowns.

Virginia Tech: Darren Evans, the Hokies' No. 2 tailback, leads the team with 264 yards and four touchdowns.

  • Tyrod Taylor -- He's a work in progress, as he hasn't thrown a touchdown yet, but there's no question his playmaking abilities have helped the offense. He's second on the team in rushing with 221 yards and leads with 73.7 yards per game.

UNSUNG HERO

Wake Forest: Ryan McManus, a fourth-year walk-on and the holder for PATs and field goals gets the unsung hero award so far. He saw the play clock running down as the Demon Deacons were lining up for the game-winning field goal against Ole Miss and very alertly called time out. The third-string quarterback does whatever he can to get on the field, including helping out on the punt and punt-return teams. His father was a starting quarterback at Wake Forest in the 1970s and is now an assistant coach at Kent State.

NEXT MAN UP

Here are the three most notable opportunities for players to join the list:

UVA: Quarterback Marc Verica. He was a respectable 22 for 30 (1 INT) for 158 yards in the loss to UConn, but now it's officially his offense. Let's see what he can do now that he's had time to prepare as the starter.

UNC: Quarterbacks Cam Sexton and Mike Paulus. Both are expected to play at Miami this weekend, and will have to carry the offense in the absence of T.J. Yates, who is out for six weeks.

NCSU: Freshman Dwayne Maddox is taking over at weakside linebacker for Nate Irving, the Wolfpack's top playma
ker on defense.

A few more injury updates

September, 19, 2008
9/19/08
10:07
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

NC STATE

Probable: Jamelle Eugene, HB, ankle injury

Out: Alan-Michael Cash, DT, knee surgery; Curtis Crouch, OG, foot injury; Anthony Hill, TE, pectoralis strain; Geron James, WR, ankle injury; Clem Johnson, S, broken jaw; Jeff Rieskamp, DE, shoulder injury

Out for the season: Toney Baker, HB, knee surgery; Donald Bowens, WR, lower back stress fractures; Matt Kushner, TE, knee injury; Javon Walker, S, knee surgery

CLEMSON

Jamie Cumbie, DT, broken wrist, out
Rashaad Jackson, DT, knee, out
Chris Hairston, OT, Knee, out
Barry Humphries, OG, knee, out
Terrance Ashe, WR, sprained ankle, probable
Scotty Cooper, LB, flu, probable
Dawson Zimmerman, P, pulled hamstring, probable

VIRGINIA TECH

Blake DeChristopher, OL, leg -- probable
Barrett Mears, C, ankle -- out

ACC in the morning -- UNC wins, the Lalich's lose?

September, 12, 2008
9/12/08
7:33
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Not only did the Tar Heels snap a 20-game out-of-state losing streak, but UNC also made Rutgers look bad in the process. There were all kinds of firsts for North Carolina under Butch Davis in Thursday night's nationally televised game, but it wasn't the first time the team couldn't have done it without Brandon Tate.

Odds are it won't be the last.

UNC proved in the second half it's a better team than what it showed in the season opener against McNeese State.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming ... "Peter's Story" ...

Todd Lalich, the father of UVA quarterback Peter Lalich, called Jerry Ratcliffe of the Charlottesville Daily Progress and gave a public vote of support for UVA coach Al Groh. Said Todd Lalich:

"I would tell any parents out there that has a football recruit that Virginia is interested in, that if they want their boy to turn into a man, they should send them to Al Groh," Todd Lalich said. "Fans might not like [Groh's] X's and O's, or the way he deals with the media sometimes, but I am incredibly impressed with the way Al handles his players."

Lalich also told Ratcliffe that the decision to leave Lalich behind for the UConn game came from "on high," not from Groh. In this story, though, it sounds like Groh made the call. Regardless of who made it, Ratcliffe disagrees with this decision, and said "this just isn't right."

There is more to this story (there always is). It's important to remember that urine tests reportedly support Lalich's statement that he did not use drugs or alcohol while on probation. (It's also possible that he was dehydrated on the day he was scheduled to take the test and couldn't, um, produce the sample).

Nonetheless ...

UVA's starting quarterback -- its team leader -- was on probation. Yes, it was for something some of us may be all-too familiar with -- underage possession or purchase of alcohol (not that I'm condoning it, just saying welcome to college) and athletes have played football while accused of far worse. They've also been suspended for far less.

If you ask me, this whole disaster couldn't have worked out any better for Virginia. The coach gets a pat on the back, the administration looks like it won't tolerate wayward behavior, and the quarterback got to play against USC and beat Richmond.

And now, it's out of their hands because the court will likely decide whether or not Lalich plays against Duke.

For now, it's Marc Verica's turn. What do we know about UVA's new starter, other than he hasn't thrown a pass yet for UVA?

Moving on ...

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