ACC: Mike London

ACC mailblog

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
Friday the 13th!

Bruce in Amarillo, Texas, writes: I am scared for Virginia's season. We have a bad schedule. We open vs. UCLA. Has the AD gone nuts! UCLA will win the Pac-12 South and we have gone through QBs like glasses of water. Can Mike London save his job? I am not optimistic.

Andrea Adelson writes: Bruce, not many are optimistic about this season for the Hoos. I think they will be better than last year, but I have a hard time finding six wins on this schedule. Having Florida State as its crossover opponent from the Atlantic is an absolute killer, given the nonconference schedule. I predict going 2-2 in nonconference play and winning between two and three conference games. If Virginia can get to five wins and looks competitive for most of the season, I think London can keep his job given a) the extremely challenging schedule; and b) the young talent he has signed in the last few years. Five wins after that dreadful season should be considered progress, especially because there will be plenty left to build on into 2015.


Bruce in Lexington, South Carolina, writes: Riddle me this, Andrea: How can Clemson, South Carolina and Georgia all lose key personnel on offense and defense, including the quarterback for all three schools, yet all the pundits have Clemson barely in the Top 25 and South Carolina and Georgia in the top 10? Do you get an automatic boost just because you play in the SEC? I know the media loves Georgia no matter what, and they are definitely drinking the Spurrier Kool-Aid, so tell me, what gives?

Adelson: You answered yourself. I truly believe consistently successful SEC programs get an automatic boost based on conference perception. How many years in a row now has Georgia underachieved? Makes no difference to voters. Part of the reason, at least in Georgia's case, is the belief that all the success on the recruiting trail translates automatically into great teams year in and year out. As for Clemson, I think voters are still getting used to seeing the Tigers as a perennial 10-win team, and have yet to give Dabo Swinney full credit for his recruiting successes. Still, it's hard to argue this is a program that should be ahead of South Carolina right now. The Tigers have got to end that streak.


Kenneth Miller in Georgia writes: I'm getting the feeling that ESPN is not giving Georgia Tech a chance to win the ACC Coastal. But when you look at the ACC schedule, I'm seeing one potential loss between Virginia Tech or Clemson, so who do you think will win the Coastal, and also do you think the victor of the Coastal will have a chance to beat the Atlantic winner (cough, cough, FSU) because two years ago, FSU was projected to destroy Georgia Tech but the Yellow Jackets were one drive away from a meeting with Oklahoma or Northern Illinois.

Adelson writes: I tend to believe Georgia Tech will finish in the bottom half of the Coastal this season. There are far too many questions at key positions and some major depth concerns on the defensive line for me to pencil them in as a Coastal contender right now. I think the division will come down to North Carolina and Duke, and I do not see the Coastal champion beating Florida State in the ACC title game.


Roger in Atlanta writes: Andrea, can you give insight on Virginia Tech's QB situation? I can't seem to find anyone saying much about the competition there. From what I've read in the past, Frank Beamer gave Mark Leal the nod at the end of last season, but that was before Michael Brewer was going to be transferring in and before the two incoming freshmen were ever there.What used to be a thin position has now become problematically thick, in my opinion. I guess my questions are: Which QB do you think gives the Hokies the best chance to win, and will Beamer/Scot Loeffler make that decision?

Adelson: There has not been much news on the Virginia Tech quarterback front. Brewer just arrived on campus and has not even taken a snap in practice. Leal was overtaken in the spring by Brenden Motley, but that does not really mean much of anything because the job remains open. Beamer is going to give all three of these players, along with the incoming freshmen, the opportunity to win the starting job once fall rolls around. I know a lot of people believe Brewer is going to ultimately win out. The logic there says Brewer would not have transferred in if Leal was the hands-down No. 1 quarterback. But there are plenty of unknowns about Brewer as well. I think it is too early to say right now who gives the Hokies the best chance to win because I've never seen Brewer in the Virginia Tech offense. But there is no doubt in my mind Beamer and Loeffler will play the guy who can get the job done.

Poll: ACC coach of the year

June, 13, 2014
Jun 13
It is never too early to make predictions, and with the season less than three months away, we are seeking your input on who you think will take home some of the ACC's top honors at season's end.

We continue today with coach of the year.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson: So often, this award goes to the coach who does more with less. And while no one would suggest that Clemson does not have a talented roster, the fact is that the Discover Orange Bowl winners lose their top skill players from last year in quarterback Tajh Boyd and receiver Sammy Watkins, among others. Fair or not, outside expectations for Clemson aren't what they were going into 2013. The Tigers also face a brutally tough schedule early on, so if Swinney can have this group competing for the ACC title, he is sure to receive a lot of credit for keeping his program at an elite level.


Who will be the ACC's Coach of the Year?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,708)

Jimbo Fisher, Florida State: The other side of the "more with less" argument can be seen in coaches like Fisher, who is coming off a national title season but will probably never receive too much credit given the location and prestige of his program. That, of course, is not really fair, but if Fisher didn't win it in either of his last two conference title-winning years, it would probably take nothing less than an undefeated season this year — his second in a row — to truly wow the voters and win this honor in 2014. Just look at Jim Tressel, who won seven Big Ten titles and a national title in his 10 years at Ohio State — but had zero league Coach of the Year awards.

Larry Fedora, North Carolina: If North Carolina can emerge as the Coastal Division champion, Fedora will have a legitimate argument for this honor. For one, he has himself a very big decision to make at the most important position on the field, as Marquise Williams and Mitch Trubisky battle it out for the starting quarterback job. How Fedora handles what could be a delicate situation will undoubtedly have an impact on the kind of season UNC has. And if things work out for the Tar Heels in 2014, that would be a very nice answer to rival Duke's recent success, not to mention an impressive turnaround for Fedora in just his third year in charge.

Paul Chryst, Pitt: Chryst is also in his third year. And he also coaches a team considered to be a darkhorse Coastal Division title contender. (Hey, at this point, who isn't?) The schedule breaks right for the Panthers to have a chance at a strong season. And if that happens — in just their second year in the ACC, after losing key players like Aaron Donald, Tom Savage and Devin Street — you can bet Chryst will receive a ton of credit.

Others: No David Cutcliffe, you say? Well, he did win this award the past two seasons, so the chances of him pulling off a three-peat have to be very slim. (It's never been done before in the ACC.) If Louisville can contend for a league title during its first year in the ACC, Bobby Petrino will receive plenty of votes. Of course, teams that come out of nowhere tend to be pretty popular with voters, so NC State's Dave Doeren and Virginia's Mike London could be in play if either of their squads make huge turnarounds after winless league campaigns in 2013.
Anthony Harris was a bright spot during an otherwise down season for Virginia in 2013. The safety led the nation in interceptions (eight) and was named to a number of All-America teams.

Entering his senior season as a captain, Harris hopes to build off that performance and have it translate to much more team success. caught up with Harris recently to chat about his expectations.

[+] EnlargeAnthony Harris
Rafael Suanes/USA TODAY SportsVirginia S Anthony Harris not only led the nation in INTs, but was also among the Cavs' leading tacklers last season.
How do you go about improving on your play from last season?

Anthony Harris: With the season I had last year, eight interceptions, I think it's pretty tough to go out there and top that. But my goal this season is just to prepare a little bit more than what I did last season, which is preparing against opponents, working techniques, improving my teammates around me, and then my main focus is not going out there trying to get eight interceptions but just (to) eliminate the mistakes that I did make last year and not repeating some of those mistakes.

Leading the nation in interceptions is any defensive back's dream. What did that feel like?

AH: Well, each and every week I just tried to go out there and do whatever I could to get my team the opportunity to come out with the win at the end. And at the end of the season, to see my name up there at the top of the list with a lot of other guys and leading the way, it meant a lot to me. But I know the focus this year is just trying to perform and be an all-around good player and just improve my game not only in the interception category but being physical and attacking the line of scrimmage as well.

(Former Virginia safeties coach) Anthony Poindexter had talked about you learning from your time behind Rodney McLeod. How did Rodney rub off on you?

AH: Rodney was a very sound guy in everything he did. He was very big on communication; he communicated with the guys around him. His work ethic was second to none. He really worked on his technique. And he expanded his knowledge of the game to learn the offensive concepts and route combinations and putting together the down-and-distance to kind of come up with what the offense was going to do based off that. He was very aware of not only his position on the field, but his teammates' positions as well. So being able to play behind him for a year, (I) not only saw how he fit in with the defense, but everybody else, as well as where the offense wanted to attack him.

What's it like playing for Jon Tenuta? How much easier is it going into Year 2 with him?

AH: (Playing for) Coach Tenuta was a great experience right away. His knowledge of the game, he just brings a whole new aspect to being aggressive, and not only just with blitzing but just with different looks. To kind of show what throws them off with what we're doing. But going into Year 2 with him, it feels good when you know what play calls he's about to say on certain downs and distance and stuff like that. When you're starting to speak in his terminology you don't even have to second-guess or raise your hand and ask a question about what he may be talking about. But so far it's been great, and this spring I've been able to use what I learned from last year and help guys around me grow and understand what he's trying to do.

How much have you guys burned to get back on the field after the way last season played out?

AH: Yeah, guys are putting the season behind us. We're just striving, trying to get better each and every day and grow as a team. We're trying to just build that concept of not only just coming together as a team but staying together and working together, and we really believe if we can do all three of those then that will be our best chance for success.

How much have the personal accolades been dulled by the lack of team success?

AH: Yeah, the individual accolades are good but I'm very big on 'team player.' To go out there and make plays but to continue to come up short, it was very frustrating. But each week I went out there and tried to do a little bit more and tried to help my teammates understand a little bit more, and I felt like we got a little bit better as the season progressed, so we're just looking to take all the things that we learned throughout the season and use those positive things we've learned -- and not only positive, but negative as well -- and put it together and come up with a formula to be successful.

Do you feel different since you were named a captain this spring? Do you do change anything, or did you always look at yourself as a leader?

AH: Yeah, I've always prided myself as a leader. I just kind of passed along (knowledge) as I went. But to be named a captain this year, it means a lot, not only to me but I think the guys around me. Not so much wearing a "C" on your chest, but guys just having that person who they could definitely say is a guy who could lead, and just kind of have that image or a name as far as, "These are the guys we can look toward and embody what we feel this team needs to be like or set a great example for the team." So I think it's a great opportunity for me to have more (responsibility) on the team.

I've got to ask: Did you catch Mike London doing the "Cupid Shuffle?"

AH: (Laughs) Yeah, Coach London, he's a great guy, great personality. He was doing his women's camp and at the end he kind of did a little dance for them, and I found myself getting involved as well, not only just teaching them the different drills and stuff like that, but there were a few who weren't that familiar with the song, so just kind of teaching them the rhythm of that and steps to that, it was pretty fun.

Did you see that coming?

AH: Nah, nah I didn't see that coming. When he put it on I thought it was going to be a thing where the women just kind of enjoyed themselves, but when he started dancing it actually brought a little excitement to everybody around.

Does he do anything like that with you guys at practice?

AH: Yeah, he always finds a way to try to keep things light a little bit, so there's been times where he's done stuff like that in the past.

ACC's lunchtime links

June, 3, 2014
Jun 3
Just need to make it through this one last night without NBA or NHL playoffs on TV ...

Second-year stars: Virginia

May, 16, 2014
May 16
The 2013 signing class has already made its mark on the ACC, from Tyler Boyd and Stacy Coley shining on offense to Jalen Ramsey and Kendall Fuller starring on defense to Ryan Switzer racking up All-America honors on special teams. But for most players, the transition from high school to college takes a little time, and it’s not until Year 2 that they truly shine. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at the best candidates for second-year stardom in the conference — the players who didn’t quite hit the big time as true freshmen, but are poised for a breakthrough in 2014.

See our previous projections here.

[+] EnlargeTaquan Mizzell, Nick Miles
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsRunning back Taquan Mizzell is a breakthrough candidate for Virginia.
Class recap: Virginia coach Mike London brought in the nation's No. 34 recruiting class in 2013, the sixth-best among ACC schools. The highlight of that class was four-star running back Taquan Mizzell of Virginia Beach. The 22-man haul also featured four other four-star prospects, in addition to three-star receiver Keeon Johnson, who made his presence felt last season by catching 20 passes for 282 yards and a touchdown in eight games. The Cavaliers played 12 true freshmen in 2013.

Second-year star: Mizzell (5-foot-10, 190 pounds)

Recruiting stock: Mizzell was the only member of Virginia's class who was in the ESPN 300. He was the nation's No. 9 running back and No. 75 overall prospect, and he starred in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, returning a kickoff 72 yards to set up the winning score for the East team. Nicknamed "Smoke," Mizzell rushed for more than 3,500 yards during his high school career and accounted for more than 2,000 all-purpose yards during his senior season.

2013 in review: Mizzell played in 10 of 12 games, rushing 45 times for 184 yards and a touchdown. He caught 29 passes for 164 yards and another score. He also tallied 347 yards on 21 kickoff returns. Mizzell missed two games with a lower extremity injury.

2014 potential: Potential is the perfect word to use when talking about Mizzell. He embraced comparisons to Miami's star tailback, Duke Johnson. Things didn't go so smoothly for Mizzell early on, but he is optimistic that he can take off in 2014, especially now that he is healthy. He ran track this spring, and the football staff raved about his attitude. Can he become one of the best running backs in the ACC? Life could be a little bit more difficult without tackle Morgan Moses, whom the Washington Redskins drafted in the third round last week. And with the Cavaliers returning their top-two rushers from last season in Kevin Parks (1,031 yards) and Khalek Shepherd (304 yards), the big numbers might not be as easy to come by. But Mizzell has taken all of the right steps going into his second season, and is, by all accounts, well on his way to reaching his potential.

Also watch for: You cannot overlook Johnson, who had a reception in all eight games he played in last season and had the most receiving yards by a Virginia true freshman in 14 years. Three-star receiver Andre Levrone could also see some opportunities after redshirting last year, as he impressed on the scout team. Also keep an eye on three-star, 6-foot-6 offensive lineman Eric Tetlow, who appeared in five games in 2013 and emerged this spring as Virginia's front-runner to start at center.
Thanks to everyone for all the great feedback on the ACC coach rankings. Now it's your turn to weigh in. Go!

Jon in Atlanta writes: Hey AA, I agree mostly on your list. However, I rank coaches based on their ability to coach. I think (David) Cutcliffe is No. 1. Why? Because he took basically 2-3 star players and competed with teams full of 4-5 star players. That in my mind, is what coaching is. Getting your players to play above their level. Also, I would rank Paul Johnson higher. We have a great graduation success percentage. In a college, key word college, coach that is what you want.

Brent in Charlotte writes: Really do not understand your criteria about ranking the coaches in the ACC. What I don't understand is how Jimbo (Fisher) gets credit for what he has done lately (which is due to having a great roster of talent) but others like (Dabo) Swinney don't. Prior to last year, you were questioning how good of a coach Jimbo really was since he had all that talent and hadn't gotten "over the hump". Because in your next argument, you talk about (Frank) Beamer's body of work and Cutcliffe's one good season (and throw out his five bad seasons). I think Cutcliffe is a great coach as well but No. 2 in the ACC after one good season in a weak division? Your rankings are all over the map and do not make any sense as to what you are comparing them against. If it's body of work, then it's clearly Beamer. If it's turnarounds, then it's Cutcliffe and (Al) Golden. And arguably Golden since he won at TEMPLE of all places. If it's who is doing the best now, it's Fisher and then Swinney.

Neil in Leland, N.C., writes: Beamer, (Bobby) Petrino AND Cutcliffe ahead of Dabo? Are you serious? Cutcliffe is 16-11 the last two years with bad bowl losses to Texas A&M and Cincinnati. Beamer has been owned by Clemson the last two times out, losing by 61-13. Petrino inherits a Louisville team WITHOUT (Teddy) Bridgewater and several others, and has yet to coach a single game in the ACC. Dabo is 22-4 the last two years, two top 10 finishes, and bowl victories over two top 10 teams. Me thinks you might have something against Clemson or Coach Swinney. It's the only thing I can think of.

Chris Butterick in Nashville, Tenn., writes: Like your list and agree on Cutliffe and Beamer but would think with the quality of player Swinney has recruited, he could have done a better "coaching" job. He is entertainment but just not as good as he is rated -- would put him eighth or ninth and also move Petrino down with Swinney. Honestly, it is about his character or lack thereof, but what has he really done lately? Also might flop Golden and (Larry) Fedora. Thanks for the rankings.

Stevie in Simpsonville, S.C., writes: Seriously? Just when I thought you knew what you were talking about? Swinney below Beamer (who he beat) as well as Cutcliffe (admirable, don't get me wrong) but in a division that has artificially been pumped up as "competitive"? I say do away with the divisions, rotate the games fairly, and let the best teams represent a rising ACC. Yes, rising! That and how about a rule against UNC for these classes I wish I could have taken back in college.

[+] EnlargeDavid Cutcliffe
Ellen Ozier/USA TODAY SportsDavid Cutcliffe is 31-44 in six seasons as Duke coach.
Dana Dill in Cincinnati writes: You can't punish Swinney simply because he recruits well. Recruiting is part of coaching in college football. Swinney has turned the whole culture around at Clemson, not just the football program and it continues to thrive four years into his reign. He is a couple big wins away from a national championship and if Cutcliffe was competing in the same division as Clemson/FSU he wouldn't be playing for the ACC championship.

Will Graham in Liverpool, N.Y., writes: Scott Shafer should of been higher because winning a bowl game and finishing third in your division of the ACC conference where nobody expected them to do either must warrant something.

Yungdungbeetle87 in Chamapaign, Ill., writes: I like the job that Shafer is doing at the Cuse. I realize his body of work as a HC isn't very extensive and that surely is part of the reason why his coach ranking falls near the bottom of the ACC. On the other hand, he has done a lot with comparatively little, recruiting seems to be trending upwards, and the program looks to heading in the right direction despite being in the stronger division. I think that he, among the coaches in the ACC, has a really good chance to move up on that list within the next couple of seasons. I think he could be the biggest mover on this list next year. Thanks for reading (I've never done one of these before).

Robert VT in Blacksburg, Va., writes: Hi Andrea, thanks for your input. However, I do not feel that Bobby Petrino should be ranked in the top 6 for ACC coaches, when he hasn't coached a league game yet. Nothing against Petrino, and I'm happy to see Louisville enter our league on July 1. Granted Petrino has demonstrated in the past his high football acumen, but I think he may be cast a little too high right now. We'll see!

John P in St. Louis, Mo. ,writes: As you mentioned in your article, I believe there is a fairly large qualifier to this ranking. Are you ranking the coaches as they sit today, or as a body of work throughout their entire career? Those two lists would have quite a few differences for me, with Beamer being Exhibit A. For a coaching career, it's hard not to throw him at No. 1 with what he has accomplished, but in May 2014 would I pick him first out of this list to be my coach? Not even close. With that said, I'll assume the rankings are as if I'm picking a coach to run my team tomorrow: 1. Fisher 2. Cutcliffe 3. Swinney 4. Petrino 5. Fedora 6. Beamer 7. Golden 8. Chryst 9. Johnson 10. Doeren 11. Clawson 12. Addazio 13. Shafer 14. London. Go Cards!

Doug Levy in Radford, Va., writes: I get Fisher being up there based on winning a National Championship, but if you look at the body of his work, it may not merit the top spot. Cutcliffe ahead of Beamer just because he took Duke to the ACC championship game? Once? Yeah, it's Duke, but come on ... Name one coach on the list who has changed the way college football is played? There is only one: Frank Beamer. His approach to special teams play changed the game. His body of work is better than most in the nation, not just the ACC. Has he had a few down years? Yup, but who hasn't. Alabama, Texas, etc. have all had their slumps. Beamer is best.

Ranking the ACC coaches

May, 6, 2014
May 6
After Florida State won the national championship, some began to debate where Jimbo Fisher stood among all coaches nationally.

Had he reached an elite level with that title?

The Sporting News has attempted to answer that question in its coaches rankings, released last week. Fisher ranks No. 10 among all head coaches on the list, the highest among all ACC coaches. But that still seems too low for a coach who has two ACC titles, an Orange Bowl victory, a national championship, a Heisman Trophy winner on his roster and a school-record 11 draft picks in 2013 alone. Especially when you consider how much work had to be done to get the Seminoles back into the national conversation.

[+] EnlargeBobby Bowden
AP Photo/Steve CannonA national championship has raised Jimbo Fisher's profile after coaching under Florida State legend Bobby Bowden.
While it is true that Florida State lost games it simply should not have under Fisher, what happened last season should carry more weight. It did for Gus Malzahn, who surprisingly checks in only three spots behind Fisher on the list.

At the very least, Fisher deserves to be ranked ahead of Chris Petersen, David Shaw and Brian Kelly. You could have a great debate on whether Fisher should be ranked ahead of Les Miles or Mark Dantonio, too. Very few teams rival the talent and depth Fisher has assembled over the last few seasons. If the Seminoles contend for another national championship, I expect Fisher to be ranked much higher when the 2015 version comes out next year.

As for the rest of the ACC, here is how the rankings shake out, with overall national ranking:

  • No. 10 Jimbo Fisher, Florida State
  • No. 16 Dabo Swinney, Clemson
  • No. 18 David Cutcliffe, Duke
  • No. 21 Bobby Petrino, Louisville
  • No. 30 Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech
  • No. 31 Larry Fedora, North Carolina
  • No. 32 Al Golden, Miami
  • No. 53 Paul Johnson Georgia Tech
  • No. 60 Paul Chryst, Pitt
  • No. 65 David Clawson, Wake Forest
  • No. 66 Steve Addazio, Boston College
  • No. 68 Dave Doeren, NC State
  • No. 83 Scott Shafer, Syracuse
  • No. 102 Mike London, Virginia

I would make a few tweaks to this list. Swinney has done a great job at Clemson, but I would move Cutcliffe ahead for a few reasons. Nobody ever expected the Blue Devils to compete for an ACC title, but that is exactly what happened last year. Cutcliffe has taken this team to back-to-back bowl games, an ACC championship game and has won consecutive coach of the year honors while having to recruit to a tough academic school. Duke is not bringing in the kind of quality classes Clemson is; Cutcliffe is simply doing more with less.

I also would move Beamer up, but the question is where? Ahead of both Swinney and Petrino? Ahead of Petrino only? Should the last few years take away from all his accomplishments? I understand the Sporting News rankings are a snapshot of how coaches fare year to year, but Beamer should get credit for his long body of work. Beamer has won seven conference titles and made six BCS appearances, including one national championship game. Petrino has a great offensive mind and Swinney has put Clemson back into the Top 25 every year, but neither has come close to Beamer's career accomplishments.

I would also move Chryst down. Doeren did have a disappointing first year at NC State, but he also led Northern Illinois to an Orange Bowl appearance. Chryst is 13-13 overall as a head coach, though he had a rough deal handed to him to fix the Pitt mess he inherited. I feel pretty confident in the top 5. The rest? Flip 'em up, down and all around and you could make arguments to move just about everybody. Taking into account recent success (weighted slightly more), body of work and results at a power-5 job (weighted slightly more), the AA rankings would look something like this:

1. Fisher
2. Cutcliffe
3. Beamer
4. Swinney
5. Petrino
6. Golden
7. Fedora
8. Johnson
9. Addazio
10. Doeren
11. Chryst
12. Clawson
13. Shafer
14. London

Send me your thoughts into the mailbag, and I will publish your responses this Friday. Let the debate begin!
Quarterback has been a black hole of inconsistency at Virginia for years now, a huge reason why coach Mike London faces a critical season in 2014.

He cannot afford another year when he is unsure what he is getting out of the position, not after two straight losing seasons and his seat growing hotter. So perhaps naming a starter right after spring practice will help change the dynamic.

For the first time in four springs, Virginia knows who will lead it going into the offseason. London named Greyson Lambert his starter Monday, choosing the redshirt sophomore over incumbent David Watford. The move is hardly a surprise, considering all the signs that pointed in Lambert’s direction throughout the spring.

[+] EnlargeGreyson Lambert
Dannie Walls/Icon SMIGreyson Lambert had the best spring game among Virginia's three quarterbacks competing for the job.
Not only did he have the best spring game among the three quarterbacks in competition for the job, teammates voted Lambert one of four team captains. And London put Lambert on his 13-player leadership council.

"I don’t think it’s a huge surprise how things worked out," London said on a conference call with reporters. "Greyson did a very good job with his on-the-field performance, his off-the-field performance, the things we’ve asked him to do. He’s done them and he put himself in position to come out of the spring as the guy being named as the starter at this point.”

“At that position you have to have a leader, and in a lot of respects, huddle command, presence -- it was all those things that added up coming out of it that we thought Greyson did a pretty good job at it."

Not once under London has Virginia had a starting quarterback with zero questions surrounding him. When London came in, he inherited a senior that was essentially the starter by default. The following year, he went with Michael Rocco but also played Watford. Then in 2012, Rocco shared time with Phillip Sims. Rocco transferred after the season; Sims had academic troubles and also transferred.

Last year, Watford got his turn as the starter and was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the ACC. Not only did he throw more interceptions than touchdowns, Virginia ranked No. 119 in the nation in pass efficiency offense.

The Hoos had to make a change.

So now Lambert gets his chance. No. 1 on his priority list is accuracy and efficiency. In four seasons, Virginia quarterbacks have combined to throw 69 touchdown passes to 65 interceptions. That is a nearly 1:1 ratio, and clearly unacceptable.

“I believe there’s a presence, whether you talk about his height in the pocket -- he’s a tall guy who can survey the field,” London said of Lambert, who is 6-foot-5. “Not very many balls got batted down at the line of scrimmage, and even the 75-plus attempts he had during his college games, so there’s something physically that’s there that allows him to do some things that can lead to completions. That’s what our need is.”

To make completions, Virginia needs its receivers to step up, especially with Jake McGee gone. Darius Jennings, the top returning receiver to the team, finds himself as a backup on the post-spring depth chart. He needs a big season. Keeon Johnson, who showed flashes as a true freshman, has his starting role secured and has the potential for a big year, too.

Virginia already has a 1,000-yard back in Kevin Parks returning. Amazing, considering how bad Virginia was passing the ball last year. If Lambert can get drives going and sustain them, Parks could be even better.

But the questions at Virginia in recent history have never surrounded the run game. Quarterback remains firmly in the spotlight until somebody takes the job and makes it undeniably his. Lambert has the support of his coaches and his teammates. Now he simply must get the job done.

Virginia spring wrap

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
Three things we learned in the spring about the Virginia Cavaliers:

1. The Cavaliers will lose their top receiver. It was announced last week tight end Jake McGee would be leaving Virginia with plans to transfer to another school. It is a tough blow for Virginia, which leaned on McGee for 43 catches and 395 yards, both team highs.

2. Quarterback Greyson Lambert will likely be the starter this fall. Although nothing official has been announced, Lambert looked strong during the Cavs’ spring game and has the respect of his teammates. The redshirt sophomore will be a captain this fall.

3. The Virginia passing offense could be in trouble again this fall. Without McGee and with Lambert adapting to a starting role, the unit could struggle, especially early on.

Three questions for the fall:

1. Is Taquan Mizzell going to have the breakout season the Cavs need? The sophomore played sparingly last season, but he was one of the top prep running backs in the 2013 class. The expectation is for Mizzell to be one of the conference’s top performers at the position.

2. What is the role for their five-star recruits? One of the biggest questions is not whether five-star signees Quin Blanding and Andrew Brown will see the field, but how often. Brown, a defensive tackle, is already enrolled. Blanding will enter the defensive backfield this summer.

3. Will Mike London last the season? He enters his fifth season at the school on the heels of a winless conference campaign. It would be tough for London to survive another 2-10 season.

One way-too-early prediction:

The Cavs open the season against UCLA at home. London’s players know they are playing for their coach’s job, and a Week 1 win against a likely Top 25 preseason team would reduce the early season heat on London’s seat. Virginia will battle UCLA and offer some promise for the remaining 11 games of the 2014 season.
This was a surprise, and it had to be a punch in the gut to Virginia coach Mike London, who began recruiting prized tight end Jake McGee when London was still head coach at Richmond.

McGee, the Cavaliers' leading pass catcher in 2013, will transfer following his graduation in May, the school announced Friday. McGee led the Cavaliers in receiving last year with 43 catches and 395 yards. This spring, he moved to more of a hybrid wide receiver-tight end position to best utilize his athletic ability.

According to, McGee didn't like the move.

McGee told that he’s “got to be in an offense that’s better fitted for my skill set,” one that will allow him to play tight end “in a more traditional way.”

This is really unfortunate for Virginia, which finally started to see some progress this spring from the wide receivers and liked what it saw from McGee at the position. After last year's 2-10 season, the Hoos need all the help they can get. It's not as if Virginia doesn't have talent and depth at both positions, but McGee is a proven veteran who seemed to be at his best when it mattered most.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 25, 2014
Apr 25
If you haven't read it yet, W.P. Kinsella's take on the 25th anniversary of "Field of Dreams" should kick off your weekend reading.

ACC's lunch links

April, 24, 2014
Apr 24
I write the ACC lunch links one week out of every month, and still I was somehow left off Time’s list of its 100 most influential people. Something is seriously wrong with their criteria.

ACC teleconference notebook

April, 23, 2014
Apr 23
The ACC coaches participated in a teleconference Wednesday to wrap up spring practices, as Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will close out spring in the ACC this weekend with their respective spring games. Here are a few quick highlights from the call:

Eight is enough

As the ACC prepares to debate an eight- or nine-game league schedule at its spring meetings next month in Amelia Island, Fla., the coaches “lean heavily toward eight” conference games, according to Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who is chair of the ACC coaches committee.

“I think it’s going to be debated, I will say that,” Cutcliffe said. “I wouldn’t be being truthful if I didn’t tell you the coaches lean heavily towards eight. That’s where we are. … From a coaching standpoint, we’re real happy with eight games. I think there’s a lot of discussions we’re going to have with the ADs that could be interesting.”

The athletic directors, though, have the final vote, and the last time this topic was debated, the coaches were overruled in favor of nine games.

[+] EnlargeTyler Murphy, Danielle Hunter
Chuck Cook/USA TODAY SportsTyler Murphy's experience in the SEC was a selling point for Boston College coach Steve Addazio.
Boston College names starting QB

Florida graduate transfer quarterback Tyler Murphy has officially earned the starting job at Boston College, coach Steve Addazio said. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Murphy’s history with Addazio and the fact that he was the only quarterback on the roster who has ever started a college game. Murphy started six games last year for the Gators in place of injured starter Jeff Driskel.

Addazio praised Murphy’s pocket presence this spring, said he throws the ball well and is dynamic with his feet.

“You’re talking about a guy who’s been in the heat of the battle,” Addazio said. “He’s a veteran, experienced guy, who’s been a starter in the SEC. My familiarity with him, I recruited him, I coached him, I knew him well. He’s pretty comfortable in terms of our program, our weight room, the way we practice, our terminology. It’s not a foreign animal to him. He had a great spring.”

Syracuse kicker suspended

Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said kicker Ryan Norton was suspended for the spring game because of a violation of team rules. Norton should rejoin the team in the summer, and Shafer praised his player for "taking ownership." Shafer declined to say what caused the suspension.

"It's between Ryan and I, but he'll be back with us shortly and we look forward to that," Shafer said.

Norton served a one-game suspension last season after he was arrested and charged with resisting arrest and underage drinking.

Virginia quarterback still unknown

Virginia coach Mike London said he’ll release a post-spring depth chart by the end of next week, and he’s currently in the process of having exit interviews with every player. He said he still has two quarterbacks to interview before he names his starter. David Watford has been competing with Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns this spring for the top job.

“They’ll know it before anyone else knows it,” London said. “I think that’s the right way to do it.”

ACC's lunch links

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
Because you know you want to see Larry Fedora rapping Drake lyrics

ACC spring games preview

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
Seven ACC teams will play their spring games this weekend, and eight will officially close spring practices in the coming days, as Pitt has opted to have a more fan-friendly event instead of an actual spring game on Sunday before closing practice on Tuesday.

For all of these teams -- including Florida State -- the quarterbacks will be among the most-watched players on the field. In Tallahassee, fans will get a chance to see the Heisman Trophy winner, returning starter Jameis Winston. At every other school, there is an ongoing storyline and competition with the quarterbacks. We’re giving you one additional thing to keep an eye on that might not be so obvious.

Check it out, and enjoy the games this weekend!


When: 4 p.m. on Saturday (ESPNU) and on WatchESPN

Where: Death Valley

One thing to watch: The true freshman wide receivers. Artavis Scott, Demarre Kitt and Kyrin Priester were all highly touted recruits who enrolled early to help Clemson try to replace Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant (a combined 2,292 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns in 2013).


When: 3 p.m. on Saturday (ESPN) and on WatchESPN

Where: Doak Campbell Stadium

One thing to watch: The wide receivers. They haven’t exactly earned high praise from coach Jimbo Fisher, who called the receivers out last week for not getting open and making catches. Rashad Greene is the most experienced option as the Noles try to replace Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw, but the staff also needs to see more from players like Bobo Wilson and Kermit Whitfield.


When: 7:30 p.m. on Friday

Where: Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium

One thing to watch: The safeties. Louisville lost Hakeem Smith, who started 51 straight games, and projected first-round draft pick Calvin Pryor. Jermaine Reve, Gerod Holliman and Chucky Williams are the leading candidates for those spots, but Reve is out for the spring with an injury. Reve and Holliman are the only players with game experience.


When: 6 p.m. on Saturday (ESPN3)

Where: Sun Life Stadium

One thing to watch: Defense, defense, defense. It’s been an area of concern, but the defense showed signs of progress this spring. The Canes return eight starters and 16 players from the two-deep depth chart. Denzel Perryman is now playing middle linebacker, and Dallas Crawford moved to safety to give that position a boost. Those within the program have said repeatedly that the defense has made strides since last season, and overall it was a good spring for the defense. We’ll see if they can punctuate it in the spring game.


When: 3 p.m. on Saturday (ESPN3)

Where: Kenan Stadium

One thing to watch: True freshman running back Elijah Hood. The four-star recruit was rated the nation's No. 9 running back in the Class of 2014 by and No. 80 overall in the ESPN 300. The early enrollee has had such a good spring that he could see some immediate playing time, even though the Tar Heels are deep at the position.


When: 1 p.m. on Saturday

Where: Carter-Finley Stadium

One thing to watch: More young wide receivers. NC State has to replace Quintin Payton and Rashard Smith, both starters from last year. The talent pool to choose from includes a host of sophomores and freshmen, including two early enrollees. The leading sophomore candidates are: Jumichael Ramos, who finished the last three games of 2013 strong; Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who led the team in receiving at one point last year as a true freshman; and Bra'lon Cherry, who suffered a season-ending injury against Duke. Freshmen Bo Hines and Stephen Louis enrolled early, and redshirt freshman Gavin Locklear is also in the mix.


When: 1 p.m. on Saturday

Where: Scott Stadium

One thing to watch: Improved wide receivers. This is a group coach Mike London has praised this spring, for both its height and athleticism, as the staff has moved toward a longer, leaner look. London recently singled out Miles Gooch, Keeon Johnson and Kyle Dockins -- all listed at 6-foot-3 -- as players who have excelled this spring. Unfortunately, fans won’t be able to see starter Jake McGee, the Hoos’ star tight end who moved to receiver this spring, as he’ll be sidelined with a hamstring injury.

PITT (No spring game)

When: From 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, Pitt will host its “Pitt Football Field Pass”

Where: The UPMC Sports Performance Complex

One thing to watch: Instead of a game, Pitt will hold a public event that will include a kids’ clinic, an offensive strategy session with coordinator Joe Rudolph, a defensive strategy session with coordinator Matt House, a recruiting session with coordinator Dann Kabala and a strength and conditioning session with assistant coach Ross Kolodziej.