ACC: Matt Ryan

Four ACC quarterbacks named to Manning Award watch list

August, 17, 2009
8/17/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Duke senior Thaddeus Lewis, Wake Forest senior Riley Skinner, NC State sophomore Russell Wilson and UNC junior T.J. Yates were among the 38 players named to the 2009 Manning Award watch list on Monday.

While the preseason watch list includes just 38 quarterbacks, every quarterback in the nation remains eligible for the honor. Additional quarterbacks may be added to the watch list after the start of the season. Ten finalists will be determined by a selected panel of national media covering college football, as well as each of the Mannings. That list will be released on Monday, Nov. 30. The winner will be announced on Thursday, Jan. 14.

The last ACC quarterback to win this award? BC's Matt Ryan, of course.

Hope and concern: NC State

June, 30, 2009
6/30/09
11:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Biggest reason for hope -- Quarterbacks

Unlike coach Tom O'Brien's first two seasons in Raleigh, there's no question who the starting quarterback is -- Russell Wilson. He also happens to be the best quarterback in the ACC, and he finally has a backup who isn't a liability in Mike Glennon. Both of them are going to play, and they bring different strengths to the offense that will keep opposing defenses alert. Wilson is one of the most accurate passers in the conference, and Glennon has already drawn comparisons to Matt Ryan.

Biggest reason for concern -- Injuries

It might have been the program's biggest weakness over the past two seasons. We saw how good a football team NC State had in the second half of 2008 when everyone was healthy, and we also saw it fall apart in the second half of the Papajohns.com Bowl after Wilson hurt his knee. Strength and conditioning coach Todd Rice is slowing rebuilding the Pack's philosophy and approach to training, and in turn there should be fewer injuries this fall. NC State will fall out of the Atlantic Division race again if players like Nate Irving and Alan-Michael Cash don't stay on the field.

Hope and concern series: Boston College

June, 18, 2009
6/18/09
9:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There's always reason for hope -- your team has the best quarterback in the league, it's got a favorable schedule, a great coach, or the defense returns almost everyone. But there's also always a few reasons for concern. I'm stealing an idea from my colleague, Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg, and will go through each team in the ACC's biggest reasons for hope and concern in 2009. Let's start in Chestnut Hill:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Biggest reason for hope -- The running game

Four starters return on the offensive line, which should be one of the best in the ACC, and they'll pave the way for two up-and-coming running backs in Josh Haden and Montel Harris. The two combined for 106 yards per game, which was the second-best true freshmen total in the country. Harris, who wasn't offered a scholarship until two weeks before signing day, set a BC freshmen rushing record with 900 yards to finish 5th in the ACC. It was the 14th-best single-season effort by a freshman in ACC history. Haden started 13 games at tailback and rushed for 479 yards (4 ypc). He also caught 13 passes for 100 yards. The duo will have its chance in the spotlight this year, as Haden and Harris will be needed to take some pressure off of whoever becomes the new quarterback.

Biggest reason for concern -- Missing stars

There is no Matt Ryan, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace have moved on, and there likely won't be any Mark Herzlich. Those within the program aren't even sure when standout linebacker Mike McLaughlin will return from a ruptured Achilles. And everyone will be under the direction of a first-year head coach. It's going to be a team effort in the truest sense of the phrase, but somebody will have to emerge as a leader and a player the Eagles can depend upon in the clutch. Can 25-year-old Dave Shinskie, who hasn't thrown a collegiate pass let alone a football in six years be the face of Boston College football this fall? He might not have a choice.

BC's O-line brings stability to an offense in transition

March, 10, 2009
3/10/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Boston College senior center Matt Tennant and his fellow offensive linemen have made it a tradition to get wings at Buff's Pub in Brighton after wins.

Of course, the burly linemen wouldn't mind eating even more wings in 2009.

While there are plenty of offensive question marks for the Eagles heading into 2009, the heart of the offense returns, and it all starts up front. The Eagles return four starters on their offensive line from last year's nine-win team and should again be one of the top two offensive fronts in the conference. They'll have to replace starting left guard Clif Ramsey, but Tennant, left tackle Anthony Castonzo, right guard Thomas Claiborne and right tackle Rich Lapham -- all juniors -- have combined for 84 career starts.

They're a tight-knit group (Castonzo, Tennant and Lapham are roommates, and Claiborne lives right down the hall), and want to uphold BC's tradition of strong offensive fronts. Tennant said regardless of who wins the starting job at quarterback, or who is running the ball, the linemen want to "go out there and dominate."

"It's definitely a thing of pride for all of us, considering the history of guys that have come through here," he said. "You want to be as good as them if not better. You take pride in how you practice, how you study film and how you play the game."

Tennant has had four different offensive line coaches and three different head coaches during his career at BC. He said he's expecting to learn more new terminology this spring under first-year coordinator Gary Tranquill, and first-year offensive line coach Sean Devine, but found the positive in it.

"If you get the chance to make it to the NFL, you're going to have to learn something new there, too," he said. "I just look at it like it's an opportunity to learn a different system."

Tennant, the lone senior on the line, is looking to take on more of a leadership role this season, but his overriding goal is not to just advance to the ACC title game, as the Eagles have done the past two seasons, but to finally win it. He's studying more film, and will graduate this spring with a communications major, which will give him even more time to concentrate on football.

"We've been there two years in a row, and I want it this year," he said. "I'm tired of coming up second place every year."

He's also tired of being underrated, although Tennant admitted it's become part of the team's identity.

"That's the thing you get at BC," he said. "We are always going to come out -- no matter who we have playing for us -- we're going to come out there and give 100 percent. It doesn't matter if we have Matt Ryan in the backfield, Chris Crane, Dominique ... it doesn't matter if we have a freshman tailback. That's the kind of mentality BC has, a blue-collar thing. We get a lot of it from the city of Boston, that work ethic."

ACC's highly touted '08 QBs in the mix

February, 26, 2009
2/26/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

In reviewing some of ESPN.com's evaluations of the 2008 recruiting class, it was hard not to notice that the ACC had five quarterbacks ranked by ESPN.com among the top 21 in the country, four of whom were ranked among the top 10. Will this be the year they live up to the hype? One thing is for sure -- all of them will be part of the plot line this spring.

Here's a quick refresher, listed by their 2008 quarterback ranking:

No. 3 Mike Glennon, NC State -- He is expected to be the backup to returning starter Russell Wilson this fall, but coach Tom O'Brien isn't the type to shy away from change if it needs to be made. If Glennon is as good as advertised -- O'Brien has already compared Glennon to Matt Ryan -- he should make a tremendous difference in the position's depth.

No. 4 Kyle Parker, Clemson -- First he has to win the starting job from Willy Korn, but when I was in former coach Tommy Bowden's office last summer talking quarterbacks, Parker's name was the one he mentioned, even though Korn was the one fans were clamoring for.

No. 6 E.J. Manuel, Florida State -- Offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher told me there will always be a competition in the spring, and that Manuel is up to about 228-229 pounds, and can run and move well at 6-foot-5. He said both Manuel and Christian Ponder have all the intangibles and he loves the situation he's got with those two guys. He reminded me that Ponder had a cracked rib, a tear in his abdomen and a crack in his lower back last season that might have hindered his performance a bit. Both are looking good this winter.

No. 9 Taylor Cook, Miami -- He's in a battle with Cannon Smith for No. 2 this spring, but he was rated ahead of Miami's returning starter. Cook, of Rice High School in Texas, was also considering Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. Not a bad lineup for your backup quarterback. Cook was ranked No. 108 in the ESPN 150.

No. 21 Jacory Harris, Miami -- He gained valuable experience in the Emerald Bowl, despite the loss and the disastrous final two minutes. He's earned the confidence of his teammates, but he's got to get used to being a leader now. Harris is lanky and built like a receiver, but he can be a dual threat, can pass and should excel in a spread offense. The Miami offense should be fun to watch this season with the addition of first-year offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.

BC's Albright making a comeback

February, 25, 2009
2/25/09
4:04
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Before his neck surgery last October, Boston College defensive end Alex Albright said he used to lose feeling in different parts of his body. Sometimes it would happen in his arms, sometimes his legs. The inconsistency of the numbness made it difficult for doctors to pinpoint the source of the problem, and X-rays turned up negative.

 
  Matt Cashore/US Presswire
  Alex Albright collected a team-high 8.5 sacks in '07.

Albright continued to prepare for the 2008 season and took a few hits last summer and during the start of the season that he said concerned the doctors. Eventually, after further tests, it was determined Albright was bruising his spinal cord. He played the first two games and then was declared done for the season.

"My doctor gave me an ultimatum," Albright said. "He said, 'If you want to continue to play, you have to get this surgery.' It was a no-brainer for me. Football is what I do, it's what I like, so if I have the opportunity to keep playing, I might as well keep doing it or I'll regret it later."

The decision was made easier because his roommate, safety Wes Davis, had undergone a similar procedure and came back to start the 2008 season. Now, Albright is preparing to make the comeback. He is in better health and better spirits, despite the scar that stretches about four or five inches long on the back of his neck.

If anyone can lighten the mood, it's first-year coach Frank Spaziani, who previously coached Albright as the Eagles' defensive coordinator.

"He has a nasty lookin' scar on the back of his neck, then his head spins around all the way now," Spaziani joked at his signing day press conference. "That will be an asset to him."

And Albright should be an asset to the Eagles. Albright finished the 2007 season with 38 tackles (22 solos), a team-high 8.5 sacks for 57 yards, 10 tackles-for-loss (second on the team), a quarterback hurry and two forced fumbles. He missed the final two games of the season after breaking his left forearm in the Clemson game. Albright had started the first 11 games of the season before suffering the injury, but starting in 2009 is not a guarantee. Albright said he "absolutely" has to win his starting job back.

"Every day in practice I feel like I'm fighting for my job," he said. "We've got a great group of guys, and if you make one mistake anyone can step in at any moment. That's just college football, though."

Albright said BC has a policy that injured players aren't allowed on the sidelines, so he spent last season in the stands, watching the games with Mark Herzlich's parents, or his parents or Brad Newman's parents. Instead of his No. 98 jersey, Albright wore his lucky "Matt Ryan for Heisman" T-shirt to every game (until the Eagles lost at home to Clemson, that is).

For two straight seasons, he had to watch his teammates play in the ACC title game.

"I'd like to make it to an ACC championship game and actually play this year," he said.

Following the coaching transition, and back-to-back losses to end last season, there is some uncertainty surrounding the program as the Eagles prepare for spring football with two new coordinators and possibly a new quarterback. Albright said the team is headed in the right direction.

"Ever since Spaz was announced, I always felt like things were in place," he said. "My coach remained the same, coach McGovern was still going to be there, all of the defense stayed the same. It wasn't like when coach O'Brien left and I lost my D-line coach. I've always felt secure with coach Spaz, so that was really big for me. I'm really happy he got appointed head coach."

Albright said he is taking a cautious approach to his recovery this winter, slowly adding weight, but said he feels like he's ready to play.

"It feels really great," he said. "I can't even tell I had the surgery. I have confidence in my coaches. They'll ease me back in but get me back there when I need to get there."

The Mt. Rushmore of BC football

February, 19, 2009
2/19/09
10:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

First of all, thank you all so much for your suggestions. The mailbag is packed, and I've heard from fans at just about every school. There were so many comments that I think I'll post at least one with each entry. There's still time if you want to contribute (that means you, Duke and Wake Forest fans), and even if your program has only been in the ACC for a few years, we're looking at the entire history of the program. I'll do six today and six tomorrow, alphabetically. Don't forget, this is just for football, so no, Mike Krzyzewski won't make the cut.

Let's start with BC:

Robert in Stamford, CT., suggested: Doug Flutie (Heisman Trophy), Art Donovan (Pro Football Hall of Fame), Charlie O'Roarke (led BC to unprecedented success in WWII era) and Matt Ryan (the highest draft pick in school history) Honorable Mention: Mike Ruth (Outland Trophy) (2-3 years is not enough for Frank Leahy, Jags, Coughlin).

Doug Flutie and Matt Ryan were no brainers. The other two weren't so easy.

Here's the final verdict:

Doug Flutie -- Between 1981 and 1984, Flutie set a career record of 11,054 yards of total offense (10,579 of which were passing yards, another national career record). He had a 30-11-1 record as a starter, and in 1984 became the first player from BC to win the Heisman Trophy. Of course, that was the year his storied, last-play, Hail Mary touchdown pass to Gerard Phelan beat Miami.

Matt Ryan -- Ryan was chosen by Atlanta in the first round as the third overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft, the highest draft pick in school history. The ACC's 2007 Player of the Year set the school record for single-season passing yards (4,507), and finished his career third on BC's all-time passing yardage list (9,313), behind Flutie and Glenn Foley. He threw 56 career touchdowns, and is BC's career leader in completions (807). He was 25-7 in 32 career starts.

Mike Holovak -- He is remembered as one of the top running backs in school history, as the Eagles went 26-5 during his career. Holovak scored all three BC touchdowns in the 1943 Orange Bowl and averaged 15.8 yards per carry against Alabama. He was a first-team All-American in 1942, and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

Mike Ruth -- Ruth, a nose tackle, was the only Boston College player to win the Outland Trophy, which is awarded to the nation's best interior lineman. Ruth won it in 1985, despite a losing season. At 6-foot-1, 265 pounds, Ruth was the Eagles' strongest player and quickest lineman. As a sophomore in 1983 he had 80 tackles and 7.5 sacks. The following year he had 102 tackles (76 solo), 6.5 sacks, 20 quarterback pressures and seven other minus-yard plays. The best story about Ruth, though, was how he carried his mother, who had severe arthritis, to her pew in church, and carried her to the alter and back again when it was time for Holy Communion. Now that's a team captain.

BC announces Bicknell's departure

January, 23, 2009
1/23/09
5:40
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

BC officially announced the departure of assistant head football coach and offensive line coach Jack Bicknell Jr. to the New York Giants, where he was hired by former BC coach Tom Coughlin.

In 1991, Coughlin succeeded Bicknell's father, also Jack, as the head coach at Boston College.

"He was the offensive line coach at Boston College for two 10-win seasons," Coughlin said in a prepared statement. "They played in back-to-back ACC championship games with a lot of young guys in his second year.

"I have followed his career closely and I know very well of him and I think he will make an excellent addition to our staff."

Here is more from the release:

"I couldn't be more excited," Bicknell said. "Obviously, the New York Giants are one of the top organizations in the NFL, and I feel like I am going to have a chance to work for one of the top head coaches in the NFL and for one of the top teams in the NFL. It really is exciting and at this point in my career it is something that I am looking to do. I have enjoyed working at the collegiate level, but I have never really had an opportunity to get into the NFL, and this is a chance for me to start to learn the NFL game and what that is all about."

Bicknell is particularly excited about being reunited with Coughlin after more than 25 years.

"He was basically the offensive coordinator," Bicknell said. "He was the guy running the show, for sure, though he didn't have that title. I just had the utmost respect for him. Obviously, we all know he is an unbelievable coach, but also to me he is just a great person. One thing you know about him is he is a very loyal person and very honest, so it was an honor to play for him, and I really look forward to working for him now."

In the recently-concluded season, the line coached by Bicknell helped Boston College finish fifth in the ACC in both scoring (24.7 points a game) and in rushing (143.3 yards per game) and third in sacks allowed (21 in 14 games). In 2007, Bicknell helped mold a young offensive line that protected ACC Player of the Year Matt Ryan -- now the Atlanta Falcons' quarterback -- and helped the Eagles generate nearly 6,000 yards of total offense. The Eagles allowed only 22 sacks in 14 games. Bicknell helped develop Gosder Cherilus, whom the Detroit Lions selected with the 17th overall pick in last year's NFL Draft. BC finished the season ranked 10th in the nation, the team's best final poll finish since Bicknell was a member of the team in 1984.

"It was great to be back at B.C.," Bicknell said. "That is my school and I love the school and we were able to win 20 games in two years, went to two ACC championship games, and we had Matt Ryan, so it was a wonderful two years. I certainly appreciate all the opportunities that (athletic director) Gene DeFilippo and coach Jags (former coach Jeff Jagodzinski) gave me. It was just a great two years, but I am really, really excited about starting in with the Giants."

That '84 team is perhaps the one that is most fondly remembered in Boston College history. The Eagles went 9-2, Flutie won the Heisman and the quarterback and Gerard Phelan hooked up for one of the most famous plays in college football history -- which started with Bicknell's snap.

Bicknell's career highlight was snapping the ball to Flutie when the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback threw the famous Hail Mary pass to beat the University of Miami in 1984.

"Everybody forgets about me," Bicknell said. "They remember about the guy who threw it and caught it, but if I screwed up the snap, it never would have happened."

ACC needs to recruit better quarterbacks

January, 21, 2009
1/21/09
12:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

If people are content with the ACC being a defensive league, they will have to be content with it being an average league.

If the conference is going to take the next step, it needs to recruit better quarterbacks.

Yes, defenses win championships, but in college football there are two components essential to winning and winning big -- offensive and defensive line play, and a standout quarterback. Save for Matt Ryan last year, the ACC hasn't exactly been a quarterback factory. Michael Vick and Ken Dorsey don't count.

In this decade, you can count Ryan, Matt Schaub (Virginia, 2004 NFL draft), Philip Rivers (NC State, 2004 draft), Ron Curry (UNC, 2002 draft), Charlie Whitehurst (Clemson, 2006 draft), Adrian McPherson, (FSU 2005 draft), and Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech, 2000 draft) as the best the ACC had to offer at the position. The last time Florida State was truly great, it had two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks in Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke.

This is the conference that brought Drew Weatherford and Sean Glennon to its media day in August, two quarterbacks who, through no fault of their own, were used as backups this season.

Can Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor, Miami's Jacory Harris, FSU's Christian Ponder or NC State's Russell Wilson emerge as the league's next great quarterback? They're all good and have potential, but none of them seem to have the true wow factor that will bump them up to that elite level. Of course, they're not all running Mike Leach's offense, either. Some of the offenses in the ACC are so simplistic, it's hard for quarterbacks to flourish.

Many of the coaches in the league have committed to a defensive philosophy, and there's nothing wrong with that -- just look at how the Ravens, the Steelers and the Eagles advanced as far as they did. But an elite quarterback backed by, say, a Virginia Tech-caliber defense would do wonders to truly separate a team like the Hokies from the rest of the pack. Florida won the national title because it was ranked among the top 20 FBS schools in offense AND defense.

If you look at the teams that were in contention for the national title this year, they all had one thing in common -- excellent quarterback play. Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy -- all ranked among the top six in the country in pass efficiency. You have to scroll down the list to No. 41 until you find Russell Wilson, the first ACC quarterback listed.

Forget Heisman winner, the ACC needs to start with a legitimate Heisman contender at quarterback.

BC's Logan leaving program

January, 16, 2009
1/16/09
4:14
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's never good to be out one coordinator a few weeks before signing day, and Boston College is now down two after the surprising news offensive coordinator Steve Logan is leaving the program.

It's not quite clear yet what exactly transpired here, but considering how short and sweet the press release was, there doesn't appear to be too much love lost between the two parties.

According to the release, this was Logan's decision, though it did not give any reason why, it didn't quote him, and Logan didn't immediately return a phone call. Because signing day is rapidly approaching, it's a poor time for an assistant to split (Hey Steve, I heard Miami is hiring ...).

It's possible, though, that Logan was simply disappointed with the firing of his friend and the man who hired him, former BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski. Logan and Jagodzinski worked at ECU together as assistants under Bill Lewis from 1989-92. When Logan took over for Lewis, Jagodzinski stayed on staff for another four years.

That said, Boston College's offense did struggle this season, but it certainly wasn't Logan's fault there wasn't any Colt McCoy waiting in the wings behind Matt Ryan (or, for that matter, another Matt Ryan).

Logan did the best he could with what he had to work with. He didn't ask Chris Crane or Dominique Davis to do too much, and he brought head coaching experience to the staff. Both Logan and Spaziani seemed to be well-respected by their colleagues throughout the league.

Frank Spaziani better have somebody -- make that two somebodies -- in mind, because this staff needs to come together quickly for the sake of recruiting.

BC ends season on sour note in Music City

December, 31, 2008
12/31/08
7:35
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This was Vanderbilt's day, Vanderbilt's feel-good story.

Boston College lost to an inspired opponent that won its first bowl game in 53 years.

 
  Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  BC quarterback Dominique Davis struggled in 16-14 loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City bowl.

As good as Boston College played on defense -- a stifling effort in the 16-14 defeat -- the Eagles will remember their mistakes instead.

Boston College had two costly 15-yard penalties in the fourth quarter that led to the game-winning field goal, and three turnovers -- two interceptions and a fumble -- while Vanderbilt didn't surrender the ball once or commit one single penalty.

Vanderbilt needed three quarterbacks and a fluke touchdown to win the game. The Commodores got one of their touchdowns on a fumbled punt that bounced off of safety Paul Anderson's leg and into the end zone, where Vandy recovered it.

It was an unfortunate ending that is likely to overshadow an otherwise impressive season, considering what coach Jeff Jagodzinski had to work with. The Eagles' four-game winning streak in November that led to the Atlantic Division title and a spot in the ACC championship game has since faded into the background and has been replaced by back-to-back season ending losses in arguably the most important games of the season.

With the loss to Vanderbilt, Boston College's streak of eight straight bowl wins came to an end, but this is a team most outsiders never gave a chance to even compete for the ACC title. The Eagles were picked to finish fourth in their division because they lost Matt Ryan. They finished 2007 without a running back on the roster, and had to replace several key starters on defense.

Their offensive struggles and ability to win games on defense defined them this season, but weren't enough to finish the job. Rookie quarterback Dominique Davis has struggled since taking over for injured starter Chris Crane, and his last interception sealed the win for Vanderbilt. It didn't help that center Matt Tennant, arguably the Eagles' top offensive lineman, left in the second quarter with an elbow injury.

Offensive coordinator Steve Logan tried to help Davis out by putting all-conference tight end Ryan Purvis in the backfield and throwing checkdown passes to him. Simple routes, simple throws helped. But they got away from the short passing game, and that pressured Davis into uncomfortable throws. He struggled with his accuracy, just as he did in the ACC championship game.

Still, it was only his third career start, and unlike last year, Jagodzinski will head into spring practice with running backs to choose from.

ACC's lunchtime links: Maryland names interim defensive coordinator

December, 10, 2008
12/10/08
12:58
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Finally, somebody at Maryland said what many in and around the program had been thinking for a while now: Outside linebackers coach Al Seamonson would've made a good choice for defensive coordinator the first time around. Seamonson will take over for Chris Cosh on an interim basis.

"He's the perfect man for the job," linebacker Dave Philistin told the Washington Times. "He's going to come out and show what he does in the bowl game. I really feel the respect he gets from the players and the other coaches [is significant]. It's not my move, but if Coach Friedgen asked what I thought of Coach Seamonson as defensive coordinator, I would have said he should have been defensive coordinator quite a long time ago."

ACC fans might find this article interesting, as it's further proof just how good former BC quarterback Matt Ryan is, and how much the Eagles lost at that position.

FSU kicker Graham Gano went from thinking he might not play at all this season to a Lou Groza award finalist. We'll find out on Thursday if he won it.

Here are some more ACC postseason awards to ponder, courtesy of the Columbia State.

Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry went from being a no-name recruit to the nation's top linebacker.

BC finds winning more with less works

November, 29, 2008
11/29/08
9:10
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
 Elsa/Getty Images
 Billy Flutie, the Boston College backup quarterback and nephew of Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie, threw for a 9-yard touchdown on a fake field goal to help Boston College to a a 28-21 victory over Maryland.

CHESTNUT HILL, Mass. -- Not only isn't this Matt Ryan's team, it's not even Chris Crane's team anymore.

What Boston College doesn't have, though, has never mattered this season, and it didn't matter in Saturday's 28-21 win over Maryland.

Boston College won the Atlantic Division without Ryan, without a veteran running back, and with its backup quarterback. The Eagles did it with one of the nation's stingiest defenses and a group effort on the day it mattered most. For the second straight season, the Eagles will face Virginia Tech in the ACC championship game.

It's the same result, but this year is much different.

There are no Ryan-esque superstars on this Boston College roster, which is why those within the program agreed this year's trip to the ACC title game is even more gratifying than last year's.

It's also why nobody outside the Yawkey Athletics Center expected Boston College to be here.
"That's the best part of it," said coach Jeff Jagodzinski, who is in his second season. "The guys believed they could. That's the whole thing about coaching, getting your guys to believe they can do it. It doesn't matter who's on the field. They're all wearing gold helmets. We had four starters out and it didn't matter. They didn't flinch, they just kept playing.

"When they believe, and the coaches believe, you've got a chance," Jagodzinski said. "Our kids fought. We didn't have to count on anybody this year to help us get into the game. They kept earning themselves into the championship game by winning."

The Eagles closed their regular season with four straight wins. It's the second straight season for Jagodzinski with at least nine wins, as last year's team finished 11-3, the first team to win 11 games since 1940. They can reach that mark again with an ACC title and Orange Bowl win.

As the final seconds ticked off the clock in Alumni Stadium, there was one fan behind the BC bench holding out an orange, a symbol that once seemed highly unlikely for this undermanned offense.

Starting quarterback Chris Crane, a fifth-year senior in his first season leading the offense, broke his collarbone last week in the win at Wake Forest. He was the fourth starter the Eagles lost to injury this season, along with linebacker Brian Toal, defensive end Alex Albright and receiver Clarence Megwa. It was up to backup quarterback Dominique Davis to lead the offense to the Atlantic Division title in his first career start. He managed the offense well without turning the ball over and finished with a career-high 134 yards passing and two touchdowns.

And as usual, he got some help.

BC scored on offense. They scored on defense, and they scored on special teams. There was even a player named Flutie involved. Billy Flutie, the nephew of BC legend Doug Flutie, completed the first pass of his career -- a nine-yard touchdown on a fake field goal. It was something they had practiced all week.

(Read full post)

Georgia Tech, FSU watching their own scoreboards this week

November, 26, 2008
11/26/08
1:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Florida State coach Bobby Bowden does not want to know.

His game against rival Florida kicks off in Tallahassee at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. His program's fate in the ACC this season will be determined at the same time in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and there's not a dadgum thing he can do about it now.

The only chance Florida State has of representing the Atlantic Division in the Dec. 6 ACC championship game is if Maryland beats Boston College, and Bowden said he wants zero score updates from that game while he's facing the Gators.

"I really don't want to hear about it," Bowden said emphatically. "I don't want any distractions in this ball game. It's one of those things I can't control. I'd hate to be playing Florida, and be playing a darn good game, and everybody's got their mind in it, and all of a sudden somebody comes and gives me that score and my kids divert their attention."

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson will also be "a little occupied" on Saturday. His game against rival Georgia is at noon in Athens. At the same time, his program's destiny in the Coastal Division will be determined in Blacksburg, Va. The only way the Yellow Jackets can advance to the ACC title game is if Virginia Tech loses at home to rival Virginia.

"It's going to be what it's going to be," Johnson said. "I learned a long time ago not to worry about things you can't control. In my mind, after the Miami game we guaranteed at least co-champs of the Coastal Division. Of course, we'd like to have a chance to play in the championship game, but we've done all we can in ACC play. We are going to focus on Georgia Saturday at noon and whatever happens, happens."

This year in the ACC, anything can happen, and anything did -- for the past 13 weeks. That's why it's still possible for 11 of the 12 teams to become bowl eligible, and the division winners won't be determined until the final quarters of the regular season.

Despite injuries and inconsistent play at quarterback, Boston College and Virginia Tech have both put themselves in this situation with their stingy defenses. The Eagles have scored a non-offensive touchdown in six straight games, and lead the nation with 23 interceptions. Virginia Tech is 109th in the nation in total offense and eighth in total defense. Both teams have also gotten some help along the way from the inconsistent play of their league counterparts.

Regardless of how they did it, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said the important thing is the Hokies control their own destiny and can play in their third ACC title game in four years.

"It's been a tough schedule, probably the toughest schedule we've had, and probably played with the youngest football team we've had," Beamer said. "Regardless of how we've done it, I think it's been a lot of hard work by this staff and these players, and we're in a position right now if we win one game to get to the championship game. That's what pleases me."

Boston College will turn to backup quarterback Dominique Davis, who took over for Chris Crane last week at Wake Forest after Crane broke his collar bone. He is the fourth starter the Eagles have lost this season, but BC has been able to overcome just about everything this year. It's been an impressive run for a team that had to replace first-round draft pick Matt Ryan, and didn't have one running back to choose from this past spring.

"I'm very satisfied about the status of our program right now," BC coach Jeff Jagodzinski said. "That's the kind of guys we have here. ... I'm really pleased at the way our guys have fought and found a way to win."

And if they do it again this weekend, Bowden might be one of the last to know.

ACC's best quarterback might be in Raleigh

November, 15, 2008
11/15/08
11:11
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's hard to believe there was a time when NC State coach Tom O'Brien had to choose between five quarterbacks, because right now, there is none better than Russell Wilson.

In fact, he might be the best in the league.

 
 G Fiume/Getty Images
 Over his last five starts, Russell Wilson has a 142.4 passer efficiency rating.

Wilson's 10 touchdowns and no interceptions over the past five games should have been good enough to win, but 12 injured starters and a woeful defense have overshadowed his efforts. Wilson has thrown only one interception all season, and completed 56.5 percent of his passes for 1,118 yards. Over his last five starts, Wilson has a remarkable 142.4 passer efficiency rating -- the truest indication of what he is capable of, as he missed two full games, including most of the season opener, with injuries.

Today, Wilson will face the nation's No. 2 team in turnover margin, as Wake Forest has gained 28 turnovers and lost the ball 14 times this season. It is an intriguing matchup considering Wilson has not thrown an interception in 142 straight passes -- a span of five games.

"The thing that makes him so special is he does such a good job improvising outside the pocket," said Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe, who recruited Wilson but already had enough quarterbacks in that class. "He's a good pocket passer, they do a nice job with him getting him out of the pocket, whether it be sprints, or boots, play-action passes. But what makes him remarkable is when he gets pressured and he has to move around and get out of the pocket. I think that's when he's most dangerous.

"And he's doing such a good job taking care of the football. A lot of kids, when they flushed out of the pocket and make mistakes. He doesn't ever do that. He takes really good care of the football."

NC State's staff recognized Wilson's talent early, but he had never played in a college game and his style is different from what the staff was used to coaching in the past (aka Matt Ryan, freshman Mike Glennon).

"If you separate his first two starts on the road at South Carolina and Clemson to his last five starts, it's a completely different guy," O'Brien said. "He's gotten better each and every week."

He's still improving, though. Wilson is comfortable pulling the ball down and running, but O'Brien would like to see him take a few more chances throwing the football. Right now, he only goes through one or two reads, but is able to compensate for that with his ability to scramble and find somewhere to throw it.

As Wilson matures, he will be able to make more reads.

"We would expect that, and as he matures and gets experience he certainly will be able to do that."

Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brad Lambert said Wilson's pocket presence reminds him a bit of his own quarterback, Riley Skinner, but that Wilson is faster than Skinner.

"Hopefully we can get to him a little bit, but he's really playing well for a redshirt freshman," said Lambert. "He's doing a great job taking care of the ball and making the right reads. He's a very athletic kid and so he moves around the pocket."

Wilson has earned the respect in the huddle, and the linebackers and defensive backs seem slower to him, as his vision has widened.

"I think I'm 10 times better," he said. (The experience) definitely helps keep me composed, it helps me understand what I'm trying to do on offense and what our offense is trying to do. It also keeps the tempo of the offense going during the highs and lows of the game."

Despite their struggles this year, a bowl game is still not impossible for the Wolfpack, especially with Wilson at quarterback and everyone healthy.

"We recognize that we're improving, so our hope is not down," Wilson said. "Coach O'Brien does a great job of keeping us motivated. We realize we still have our goal of getting to a bowl game in front of us."

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