ACC: Mike Archer
- Colleague Ryan McGee looks at why the ACC is poised to rise to an elite level .
- Scouts Inc. says Aaron Donald's and Morgan Moses' draft stocks are rising, while the ACC's quarterbacks' stocks are falling . The gang is also keeping a close eye on Russell Bodine.
- Sammy Watkins, Timmy Jernigan, Eric Ebron are the ACC players featured on the draft boards of both Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. (McShay's 32-man board -- as opposed to Kiper's 25-man board -- also includes Lamarcus Joyner, Donald and Moses.)
- As our guy Brett Edgerton reminds us, Thursday was the two-year anniversary of the greatest tweet ever, courtesy of Mark Herzlich.
- Our Kevin Van Valkenburg and Kate Fagan each pen good stories on Russell Wilson in advance of Super Sunday.
- Former Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen will likely find himself facing his old team next year in the Big Ten, as he is expected to be named Rutgers' new offensive coordinator, our Brett McMurphy writes.
- AthlonSports' Braden Gall ranks the top 10 ACC defensive linemen of the BCS era.
- Warren Sapp is not exactly pleased with the coaching staff at Miami.
- The State looks at former Wolfpack players in this weekend's Super Bowl.
- Paul Chryst reflects on his year with Russell Wilson, Sam Werner writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette."
- The (Syracuse) Post-Standard's Nate Mink talks about the Orange's latest recruiting efforts.
- Virginia completed its staff by hiring former LSU head coach Mike Archer as a defensive assistant, making him the fourth Cavaliers assistant who has head-coaching experience, Mark Giannotto writes in the Washington Post.
- Whit Babock is ready to take charge at Virginia Tech, Mike Barber writes in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
- Cincinnati Elder tight end Devin Pike has flipped his commitment from Louisville to Wake Forest.
- BC coach Frank Spaziani talks Miami.
- Final preparations are under way for Brent Venables and the overhauled Clemson defense.
- Duke has selected its football captains. The Blue Devils have drawn inspiration from Blair Holliday.
- Pep talks from teammates helped Florida State cornerback Nick Waisome win the starting job.
- The B-back position is still unsettled for Georgia Tech.
- Maryland quarterback Perry Hills also happens to be a state champion wrestler.
- Miami offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson will not travel to the opener against Boston College.
- NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer has studied game tape from last year to learn about Tennessee.
- More insight from North Carolina coach Larry Fedora on the evolution of his offense.
- A healthy Steve Greer is ready to lead the Virginia defense.
- Virginia Tech will be more prepared to handle lightning strikes should they happen again, the way they did when the Hokies and Georgia Tech opened the season in 2000.
- Tanner Price is now right for Wake Forest.
- Florida State's seniors have experienced just about everything -- academic scandal, retirement of Bobby Bowden -- but never a win over rival Florida.
- If Miami quarterback Jacory Harris doesn't start against South Florida this weekend, coach Randy Shannon can expect a call from Harris' father.
- Virginia Tech tight end Andre Smith and offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring's "five-year marriage" is coming to a close.
- Despite the dwindling statistics and production from Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker, the staff insists he has not regressed.
- Georgia Tech hasn't forgotten what it's like to have a dose of its own medicine.
- NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer doesn't seem to mind that the credit for the defensive turnaround is going to the arrival of Jon Tenuta.
- Virginia coach Mike London almost joined Frank Beamer's staff.
- If there's a silver lining to North Carolina's off-field troubles this fall, it would be the growth of the players who were called upon to lead who might not otherwise have gotten the playing time.
- BC's Ifeanyi Momah has turned into one of Chase Rettig's favorite targets, but don't be surprised if he lines up on defense again at Syracuse.
- Maryland secondary coach Kevin Lempa helped the Terps lure in a prep school DB.
With under a minute to play and UCF trailing by a touchdown, the Knights were on NC State’s 31-yard line when quarterback Jeff Godfrey completed a 20-yard pass. Safety Brandan Bishop put his helmet on the ball to force a fumble and linebacker Terrell Manning recovered at the 10-yard line.
It’s those kinds of game-changing plays that have been missing for NC State, and the kind that could be the difference in whether or not the Pack is an Atlantic Division contender and bowl team this year. NC State coach Tom O’Brien and defensive coordinator Mike Archer both agreed that the defense is still a work in progress with much bigger tests ahead, starting tonight against Cincinnati, but the Pack enters the game holding opponents to just 14 points and 90.5 rushing yards per game. It’s a noticeable difference from last year, when NC State finished 11th in the ACC, allowing 31.2 points per game.
Can it keep it up?
“I think it’s too early to tell,” Archer said. “Don’t get me wrong, we’re encouraged by the fact that for two games we’ve made improvement and last week we had to win it. We had to pull it out at the end. Our kids are older, they’re wiser, they’re a little stronger, but we have a little ways to go.”
The defense is still extremely young, particularly in the secondary, where three of the four starters are either true or redshirt sophomores, and three of their backs are true freshmen. That bodes well for the future, but boundary corner is still a concern, especially with Cincinnati’s quarterback-receiver combo of Zach Collaros and Armon Binns, who are capable of stretching the field.
Granted, it’s only played two games, but the Pack is leading the ACC in total defense (248.5 yards per game), and also leads the league in turnover margin. NC State has created six takeaways and hasn’t lost the ball once.
Last year, the defense intercepted a total of eight passes in 12 games. Against UCF, it had three, including C.J. Wilson’s return for a touchdown. NC State forced five turnovers in that game.
The question is whether or not the Pack can keep it up.
“I think we've made improvement,” O’Brien said. “Whether it's significant or not, I'm not going to buy in for a while. We've only played two games, so there is a lot of football left to play. We'll be severely challenged with Collaros here on Thursday night.
“Each week, I think, will present a different challenge to our defense,” O’Brien said. “We're certainly not going to think that we're a finished product by any stretch of the imagination.”
UNC defensive end Robert Quinn is still No. 3 and tops in the ACC. BC's Anthony Castonzo is the ACC's other representative in the top 10 at No. 10. Kiper says Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams, who is ranked No. 21, is "off to a terrible start" but the skills are still there. Virginia cornerback Ras-I Dowling, UNC linebacker Bruce Carter and UNC DT Marvin Austin all made the cut.
Kiper also listed his top five seniors by position, and the ACC is well-represented. The only positions without an ACC player are centers, tight ends, fullbacks and -- gasp -- running backs. FSU quarterback Christian Ponder is still No. 2, and UNC wide receiver Greg Little is still listed. Among the numerous ACC players listed are linebackers Mark Herzlich and Nate Irving. I spoke with NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer this week and he told me Irving still isn't 100 percent and doesn't quite look like he did in 2008. That's to be expected.
Kiper also listed his top five non-seniors by position. There aren't any quarterbacks, but you'll find Ryan Williams and BC running back Montel Harris. There are no wide receivers, no offensive guards, no centers, no defensive tackles, no linebackers, no safeties and no kickers or punters.
Enjoy this senior class while you still have it.
Here’s a look at how the conference pecking order shakes out after yet another disastrous weekend in the ACC:
1. Miami (1-1, last week: No. 1): At least the Hurricanes lost to the No. 2 team in the country on the road. It wasn’t pretty, though. Quarterback Jacory Harris threw four interceptions and Ohio State’s defense had the Canes looking dazed and confused. Miami is the lone team representing the ACC in this week’s Top 25.
2. Clemson (2-0, LW: No. 6): The Tigers will have their chance on the national stage this weekend when ESPN’s "College GameDay" crew travels to Auburn. Clemson has yet to be tested in routs of North Texas and Presbyterian, but the defending Atlantic Division champs also haven’t done anything yet to screw up.
3. NC State (2-0, LW: No. 7): It’s the first 2-0 start for the Wolfpack since 2002, when the team won its first nine games behind quarterback Philip Rivers. If Mike Archer’s defense continues to create turnovers and stifle the run, NC State could make a run at the division title and a bowl game.
4. Florida State (1-1, LW: No. 3): The Seminoles’ caliber of opponent plays a factor here, as does the fact they faced the Sooners on the road, where Oklahoma boasts the nation’s longest home winning streak. Still, in order for FSU to remain in the upper half of the rankings, it will have to show significant improvement.
5. Boston College (2-0, LW: No. 8): The Eagles are undefeated, but there’s nothing there worth bragging about in home wins over Weber State and Kent State. Quarterback Dave Shinskie still frustrates coach Frank Spaziani, but the Eagles have a bye week to prepare for a 0-2 Virginia Tech team.
6. Wake Forest (2-0, LW: No. 11): The Deacs took a huge jump from last week because they won the first conference game of the season. The defense, though, is suspect after allowing 487 yards to Duke.
7. Maryland (2-0, LW: No. 9): The Terps are right where they should be heading into a tough trip to West Virginia -- the best team in the state after wins over Navy and Morgan State. The road trip to Morgantown suddenly looks more manageable after the way West Virginia played in a narrow overtime win against Marshall.
8. Virginia (1-1, LW: No. 12): If Mike London’s team plays with the effort it did against USC (minus the mistakes), there’s no reason the Cavaliers can’t get to a bowl game this year, or at the very least play the role of spoiler. This team can win if it doesn’t beat itself, as evidenced by a 17-14 loss to USC. And yeah, their win over an FCS team is enough to push them ahead of the Hokies -- for now.
9. Georgia Tech (1-1, LW: No. 4): What to make of the Jackets? They lost to a struggling Kansas program that was riding an eight-game losing streak, including a season-opening loss to an FCS opponent. The defense struggled like it did last year, the blocking and tackling were poor and the passing game stuttered.
10. Virginia Tech (0-2, LW: No. 2): The Hokies aren’t this bad, but they’ve got to earn their way back to the top. As Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said, Virginia Tech let Boise State beat it twice. The Hokies can’t let those losses snowball, because the schedule doesn’t get any easier than an FCS team.
11. North Carolina (0-1, LW: No. 5): The Tar Heels didn’t drop in the rankings because they had a bye week, they dropped because another layer of the NCAA investigation was peeled back and revealed more problems that are likely to lead to more problems. Things are getting ugly for Butch Davis.
12. Duke (1-1, LW: No. 10): The Blue Devils couldn’t stop Wake Forest, and now they’re tasked with stopping the No. 1 team in the nation? David Cutcliffe could beat Alabama, but I’m not sure his team can. Duke’s bowl hopes to a significant hit with the loss to Wake Forest.
Irving, who fell asleep at the wheel, can remember passing an 18-wheel truck, and then nothing else until the light in the hall of the emergency room.
“Where am I at?” he said he remembered thinking. “After I found out, I was real scared. I had a neck brace on and tubes in me. … I was fortunate enough to come out alive.”
And now he’s fortunate enough to have been given a second chance to play football.
After months of painstaking rehab to repair the open fibia and tibia fractures in his left leg, the punctured lung, the broken rib and the separated AC joint in his left shoulder, NC State’s best player has returned to the field in full capacity. As Irving eases his way back into the game this spring, he does so with a newfound perspective and maturity that can only benefit him and the players around him. The Wolfpack not only need him to be the playmaker he was in 2008, when he led the team with four interceptions, they need him to be a leader to a defense that struggled mightily without him last year.
“That’s something I embrace,” Irving said. “Last year we missed a little bit of that. This year I think I can provide that.”
Archer has already witnessed it.
“Just from an emotional standpoint and a psychological standpoint, I see a difference around our team,” Archer said. “Just seeing him around the players, to see his eyes light up, and he’s got his weight back up, he’s around the players knowing he’s going to be a participant now, as opposed to last fall, he was rehabbing, he was in the training room, but he wasn’t the same Nate. It was the Nate Irving who was injured. Now it’s the Nate Irving who has to become a leader and a guy who our young players look up to.”
Irving’s three-day stay in the hospital and inability to contribute on the field last year helped change his priorities. Because of the severity of his injuries, Irving wasn’t even allowed on the sideline for the majority of the season. He was extremely limited in what he could do in the trainer’s room until about November, and lost 20 pounds during that stretch. He couldn’t even walk on his leg. It wasn’t until the final two road games of the season that coach Tom O’Brien welcomed Irving back to the sideline.
Still, Irving said he has no regrets about his decision to drive home in the wee hours of the morning.
The expectations for Irving this spring are tempered, but come fall, NC State will need him in top shape. NC State and Maryland tied for the worst scoring defense in the conference last year, allowing 31.2 points per game. Irving finished the 2008 season tied for third on the team with 84 tackles despite missing a third of the season with an injury. His four interceptions were the highest total ever by a Wolfpack linebacker. This year, he’ll be under the direction of first-year linebackers coach Jon Tenuta, and is working out at both middle and weakside linebacker this spring.
“In the times that I’ve talked to him, I’ve just said, ‘I just want you to be Nate,’” Archer said. “I want you to be the Nate Irving that I saw in 2008, the Nate Irving that Jon Tenuta sees when he watches film. I just want you to be that guy. If you’re not quite ready physically to be that guy in the spring, so be it. Get the rust off, get your legs under you and most important is by the time we play in September you’re as close to being the old Nate.’ Now, will he be? I don’t know. That’s a good question. He had a serious leg injury. Even if he’s not the old Nate, if he’s close, he’s still going to be awfully good.”
Irving said he isn’t sure how quickly he’ll be able to get back to his old form.
“I’ve lost some of my strength, and maybe some speed and quickness,” Irving said, “but I don’t think I’ve lost anything I can’t gain back.”
Instead, he’s added perspective.
In fact, it sounds like it's going to be a good arrangement for NC State's struggling defense.
“Jon is a great football coach," Archer said. "We’re very fortunate that he would come join us. In spending time with him these last two weeks, talking about scheme and how we can help our players, I think he’s going to do a great job with those kids, and they’re going to flourish in what he’s teaching them."
One thing that's helped smooth the transition is the fact that both Archer and Tenuta have learned from former LSU coach Bill Arnsparger. Their coaching ties go back to 1984. Archer coached at LSU and Tenuta went to Arnsparger's camp.
"His roots go back to my roots," Archer said. “When John and I started talking, all of our trigger terms and the terminology were things we learned from Bill Arnsparger. It’s been very refreshing for me to come in and sit down and talk football and he knows everything I’m talking about and I know what he’s talking about. That’s been tremendous. It’s been better than I ever thought.
"His vast knowledge and his ability to pressure quarterbacks -- everybody in the ACC knows what he’s done. If we can take concepts and ideas and give them to our players yet make them simple -- most importantly make them simple -- because he’s got a system and I’ve got a system. Now what we’re doing is trying to get the kids to understand the simple trigger terms that will help them learn. I’m fired up about it. I’m excited. The last two weeks we’ve spent talking football has been really good.”
Here's Round 1. Get your questions in for Friday's Round II:
Robert in Gainesville, Ga., writes: Do you think it would be the preception of the media that the ACC is weak if Miami, Virginia Tech or FSU were in the position that Georgia Tech is in now? Would they also be higher ranked in the polls and BCS?
Heather Dinich: Yes, they would be ranked higher in the poll. Just look at Week 6 for proof. Virginia Tech was No. 4 in the country in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches' polls with a 5-1 record -- ahead of undefeated Boise State, TCU, Iowa and Cincinnati. As to the league-wide perception, I think it would be about the same with only one team ranked in the top 10 of the BCS standings and five teams with losing records. That being said, the schools you mentioned tend to draw more national attention.
Chris in New York writes: While the chances of Maryland making the ACC Championship Game are incredibly slim, what would happen if Maryland wins out, everything else falls into place, and Maryland wins the ACC Championship Game? Would the then 6-7 Terps be in the Orange Bowl? Would they even be bowl eligible when the conference championship game loser can only fall so far in the ACC bowl pecking order?
HD: It's nice to see a Maryland fan keeping the faith, as misguided as it might be. Yes, the 2-7 Terps can still technically make it to the Orange Bowl. I believe at the beginning of the season, I said that if Maryland is the best team in the Atlantic Division, I would do up-downs until Ralph Friedgen told me I could stop. That bet still holds.
Tommy in Arlington, Va., writes: As a part of the debacle of Washington/Metro area teams, I just wanted to gauge your assessment of Maryland head coach Ralph Friedgen's chances of remaining with the Terrapins next season. I know his contract runs is finished in 2012, but with a 12-12 conference record in the past 3 years, I'm wondering if this is enough to keep him around after a 2-7 start in 2009. Offensive Coordinator James Franklin is the heir apparent to his Fridgeness, but do you foresee this transition happening before 2012?
HD: It wouldn't surprise me, but how much good would it really do? Maryland would owe Friedgen money for his buyout, and Franklin would inherit the same players and problems, and the program would struggle again in a year of transition under a new staff. If Franklin didn't keep defensive coordinator Don Brown on, the defense would have to learn another entirely new system in as many seasons. Debbie Yow has to weigh the cost of a buyout for Ralph vs. the cost of keeping him. Tough call. Very tough. Regardless of what she decides, it won't be a quick fix either way.
Scott in Spring Hope, N.C., writes: Heather, as a N.C. State alum, our season has been a disappointment to say the least. Our lack of discipline on both offense and defense seems troubling because of Coach O'Brien's reputation as a disciplined football coach. How much is this bothering him personally? Should we expect to see any changes in the staff next year? Also, do you think Russell Wilson will return for his junior year? Thanks. You do a great job.
HD: Thanks for reading, Scott. As much as it bothers O'Brien, he's not one to let it show. He keeps moving forward with a poker face. I would be surprised to see any staff changes because O'Brien knows how much injuries have been a factor, especially on the defensive side, but if there has to be a scapegoat, I would think Mike Archer would be it. Not that I agree with that, because I don't. As for Wilson, I really don't know. It's a realistic chance he would turn to baseball, but it's not something he's going to talk about now.
Will in Fairfax, Va., writes: Hey heather. Depressed FSU fan here. Do you think Ponder's injury will increase or decrease the chances of him leaving for the draft?
HD: Keep your chin up, Will. Ponder has said that because of the injury, he's more likely to return.
Gregory in Los Angeles writes: Hi Heather.After experiencing the now infamous Paul Johnson 'Goferit' call from the stands this past weekend, I'm looking for you to provide some real perspective regarding how big this decision was.Clearly, if Tech does not win a BCS game this year, the call will quickly be forgotten...BUT...if Tech does win out, will PJ's decision forever be part of Georgia Tech lore? Will this be a play that in 40 years I tell my grandkids I was there during the game, which was played during a blizzard with no lights and Coach Paul Johnson made the call by simply smirking at Nesbitt and not saying a word? Again, not saying it is that important now, but there's been a lot of talk about it and I need your wisdom to figure out how big this is in the grand scheme of things.Cheers!
HD: Hahaha yes! I believe you will be able to tell your grandkids a story almost as good as Nesbitt will. In retrospect, that was a money call -- literally (bowl payout, coaches' bonuses, etc.). Conversely, if it busted it could have been equally as costly. The Coastal Division crown was on the line. An appearance in the ACC championship game. A chance at the Orange Bowl. I have a terrible memory, but that was one call I won't forget.
NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer hasn’t exactly been sleeping too well these days, and he knows he’s not winning the People’s Choice award right now in Raleigh. But he’s working tirelessly nonetheless to improve NC State’s defense. He’s certain the problem isn’t effort. Long story short, it’s a combination of injuries, inexperience and, at this point, a lack of confidence.
NC State’s defense has given up an average of 482 yards of total defense in its four ACC games, the worst mark in the league by almost 30 yards. In conference games, the Wolfpack ranks last in the league in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense and ranks 11th in rushing defense. The only position on defense that has started the same unit in every game is the defensive line.
|Tim Steadman/Icon SMI|
|Willie Young has been one of the mainstays on the NC State defense this season.|
Here are the highlights of our recent conversation:
Man, another tough year for the D.
Mike Archer: It is what it is. You and I talked this summer, we got off to a rough start with what happened to Nate [Irving]. And then Dominique [Ellis] left the team and Jimmaul Simmons left the team, and Javon Walker, who started five games for us in 2007, and got injured in the Miami game, we were very hopeful he would be back for this year. We were counting on him being one of the safeties and he’s done with football.
You take those four guys, and three of them played on one side of the field, it’s been tough. But it’s part of the game. No one feels sorry for us. Everybody has injuries. It’s been frustrating and it’s been hard. The way we started, the South Carolina game, we played very well and held them to seven points, but realistically they weren’t quite sure of what we were going to do. We played with a true freshman corner and a redshirt freshman corner in that game, and we played a lot of Cover 2. But as the year goes on and that film goes out, people find them. When we were in Tallahassee, I look out there Saturday and we have a true freshman corner, a true freshman safety, a redshirt freshman safety and a junior corner on the field with two freshman linebackers.
It is what it is. You’re not going to be just stoning people when you’re playing young kids. We have to understand that and continue to move forward and keep improving. That’s our job as players and as coaches.
I remember last year when the defense was struggling, you challenged them. Remember that? It was a pretty public thing. Have you guys had a talk like that, or is this not the case for it?
MA: I’ve thought about that and we’ve talked. During the open date after the BC game, we sat down and looked everything we’ve done and it really comes down to execution. We’ve got a good system in place when our guys execute it. When we have the right guys out there, we’re pretty good. We have to execute. That’s what’s been frustrating.
It started in the second half of the Wake Forest game. We were not very good on third downs against Riley Skinner and it ended up costing us the game. The following week at Duke, third downs just killed us. They were 13-of-19 and could not get off the field on third down and picked us apart. Those two quarterbacks are awfully good. They were smart. They went after our freshman corners and our freshman safety. That’s their job as coaches. They get paid, too. They’re on scholarship. But third down has not been what it was early in the season. We were good in the South Carolina game, we were pretty good in the third down against Pitt. But we’ve lost our execution edge and the biggest thing in my opinion, we’ve lost confidence, obviously. It’s become mental.
On the bright side, I would think Willie Young has been one of the guys who has played consistently.
MA: Our front four kids, the four seniors, Alan- Michael Cash, Willie, Shea McKeen and Leroy Burgess have really done a good job all year. All year. When you look at us on defense, there are four seniors and everyone else is freshmen and sophomores. There’s a big age gap there. They’ve done a good job of being positive leaders and keeping everyone’s chins up. Nobody feels sorry for us and we don’t want anybody to feel sorry for us. It is what it is. It’s part of sports. It’s like [head coach] Tom O'Brien] said, we’ve lost 11 guys this year for the year. We thought we had it bad last year. It’s worse this year.
Why? Why does that happen to you guys?
MA: If I knew, I wouldn’t be coaching. I’d be a doctor or a sports psychologist. I’d have your job. ... Everyone says it’s a curse. It’s the way it is. I wish I knew so we could prevent it, but like Todd Rice says, if we knew, we’d prevent it.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Around the ACC we go ...
- Has Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor shied away from what makes him most dangerous? Frank Beamer said that after watching film, he didn't see any instances where Taylor should have run and didn't. No doubt the Hokies didn't waste any time reviewing their game film, and Taylor was one of the first players next to sit down with Bryan Stinespring.
- UNC is trying to establish itself as a strong running team, and so far, so good.
- Duke's players and coaches have been searching for answers to explain their flat performance against Richmond, and they'll have to find them quickly with a road trip to Army looming.
- TCU coach Gary Patterson is expecting a different -- and better -- Virginia team this weekend. Patterson thinks the Cavaliers are a "good football team in waiting."
- Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post graded Miami's performance in the FSU game, and ranked Jacory Harris' performance among the top 5 he's seen.
- Florida State has four days to recover from its loss to Miami, and the Noles are pushing forward.
- NC State's defense was one of the bright spots in the Pack's loss to South Carolina. Ken Tysiac checked in with defensive coordinator Mike Archer for his take on it.
- Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said he doesn't expect any lineup changes for Saturday's game against Stanford.
- The weaknesses Cal exposed weren't much of a surprise to those who have been paying attention to the Terps' woes during summer camp. It was only the first week of the season, but the players felt it necessary to call a players-only meeting to make sure the Terps weren't sulking.
- Unfortunately for Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, it's not the first time he's had to cram for the Georgia Tech game. One thing he can count on is C.J. Spiller, who clarified his injury situation and was limited to some light jogging on Sunday.
- Georgia Tech's defensive line will get a better test Thursday night against the Tigers.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
RALEIGH, N.C. -- Wow. NC State is giving South Carolina plenty of opportunities to put this game away. And the Gamecocks are blowing it. Credit the Pack's defense for a strong stand on the last drive.
The Gamecocks got as close as the 11-yard line and couldn't punch it in (um, red zone offense at practice this summer?). A missed field goal by Spencer Lanning from 27 yards out epitomized this entire game -- sloppy.
NC State can still win this game because South Carolina has shot itself in the foot one too many times. NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer is starting to load up the box and dare the Gamecocks to throw, and we saw on the last drive that, well, they should probably stick to running.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Since NC State is one of the schools that reports first this weekend, let's start in Raleigh.
- Without linebacker Nate Irving in the lineup, "This becomes Dwayne Maddox's time," says defensive coordinator Mike Archer. No doubt expectations are a little higher for the Pack this year. NC State is playing UNC in the final week of the season and Tom O'Brien thinks it's dumb. Ha.
- And don't forget about Georgia Tech. Tech is one of four FBS schools to begin preseason practice on Monday. Only Troy, which begins practice today, starts earlier than the Yellow Jackets. And they aim to confuse everyone this fall -- again.
- Things are going as well as they can for BC linebacker Mark Herzlich.
- Miami's offensive line is set with Matt Pipho on the right side -- or is it?
- FSU welcomed back Deion Sanders on Wednesday. Ah, the glory days.
- The folks at the Chick-fil-A Bowl are hoping UNC-LSU is the next great kickoff to the season. Meanwhile, Maryland is adding bad boy Rhode Island to the schedule.
- Why even play this season? Virginia Tech has already been crowned the winner.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
This would be an entirely different list if the top two linebackers in the league -- Mark Herzlich and Nate Irving -- weren't sidelined right now. There are still a lot of standout linebackers in the conference, but this season just won't be the same without those two guys, not that Irving's return has been completely ruled out yet. Having spoken with NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer Wednesday, though, it's simply a miracle that Irving is even alive. In looking at the rest of the conference, it's tough to find teams that are deep at this position. It's a question mark for a lot of teams, and there's a lot of inexperience.
Here's a shot at ranking the best linebacking corps in the ACC:
1. Miami -- Sean Spence was one of the hardest hitters in the conference as a true freshman and will only be better this year, but the key to this group will probably be the return of a healthy Colin McCarthy, who injured his shoulder in the first half of the season last year. Darryl Sharpton, Arthur Brown and Jordan Futch still have something to prove.
2. North Carolina -- Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter started every game last year, and there are high expectations for sophomore Zach Brown. Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles last year and ranked third in the ACC in total tackles per game. This is one of the deepest groups the Tar Heels have had recently, but they are lacking some experience.
3. Virginia Tech -- Cam Martin and Cody Grimm combined to play all but nine plays at the whip linebacker spot, but they've got to replace Purnell Sturdivant and Brett Warren. Barquell Rivers proved he's up to the task when he filled in in the Orange Bowl, and Jake Johnson will have an increased role, too. There's a lot of potential in this group.
4. Clemson -- The Tigers return two starters plus a third player with starting experience. Kavell Connor started all 13 games last year and was the team's top tackler with 125. Brandon Maye had an impressive season as a redshirt freshman, and finished with 87 tackles. Scotty Cooper was a part-time starter at strongside linebacker.
5. Georgia Tech -- Even with Kyle Jackson possibly out for the whole summer with an injured right foot, the Yellow Jackets till have plenty of depth with Sedric Griffin, Brad Jefferson, Anthony Barnes and Steven Sylvester. Barnes and Jefferson are both finally healthy after injury-plagued seasons and there should be good competition for starting jobs. This group can't afford anymore injuries though.
6. Florida State -- With the graduation of Derek Nicholson and Toddrick Verdell, the Noles lose their top two tacklers. Dekoda Watson will be back from elbow surgery this spring, but it's a young group counting on sophomores like Nigel Bradham and Nigel Carr. Junior Kendall Smith is the only other upperclassman on the two-deep roster.
7. Maryland -- Alex Wujciak could be a star at this position for the Terps, and he'll definitely need to be a leader there this fall. Maryland lost four linebackers who combined to play 144 games and 54 starts. Adrian Moten is one of the few experienced faces in the group, and he earned his first start last year in the Humanitarian Bowl.
8. Duke -- The Blue Devils have to replace the ACC's leading tackler in Michael Tauiliili, but they've still got Vincent Rey, who made 109 tackles last year. The problem is, Rey is the only experienced linebacker they've got. Competition remains among Damian Thornton, Abraham Kromah, and Adam Banks.
9. NC State -- It's not clear when Nate Irving will return, but for as long as he's out, the Wolfpack will be missing their best player on both sides of the ball. The Pack still have senior Ray Michel, who is a returning starter in the middle, and Dwayne Maddox started in place of Irving when he was out last year. But this is an entirely different group -- and defense -- without Irving.
10. Boston College -- The Eagles' linebacking corps took a huge hit when Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, and they still don't know when Mike McLaughlin will be cleared to play from a torn Achilles. BC has a reputation for its defense, so odds are this group will be OK, but there are too many unknowns right now.
11. Wake Forest -- All three starters from last year are gone, and the Demon Deacons have big shoes to fill after the departure of Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry. It's going to have to be a group effort, but there's still some athleticism and depth to work with. Matt Woodlief and Hunter Haynes are the most experienced players retuning.
12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers graduated the veteran group of Jon Copper, Clint Sintim and Antonio Appleby, and because they were so good, their backups didn't see much playing time. This group is the feature in Al Groh's 3-4 defense, and it's going to have a whole new look. There were good reports about Steve Greer this spring, and Groh said Greer tried to mimic his game after Copper, which is reason for hope.