ACC: Nate Irving

NC State feeling super this week

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
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Pop quiz: Name the ACC team with the most players in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Florida State? Nope.

Clemson? Nah.

Miami? Try again.

If you said NC State, give yourself a shiny gold star. The Wolfpack have four former players preparing to start in the Super Bowl -- three on the Seahawks and one on the Broncos. But perhaps more impressive, all four were together on the 2007 NC State team:

  • Quarterback Russell Wilson, who redshirted that year.
  • Defensive lineman J.R. Sweezy, who also redshirted.
  • Linebacker Nate Irving, who became a starter as a redshirt freshman.
  • Kicker Steven Hauschka, a fifth-year graduate transfer from Middlebury College.
[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
AP Photo/John RaouxRussell Wilson was a three-year starter at NC State, throwing for more than 8,000 yards before transferring to Wisconsin for his senior season.
What are the chances? Pretty remote. While Wilson gets all the headlines, each player made his own impact for the Wolfpack -- and each overcame his own bit of adversity. Seeing all their success had former NC State coach Tom O'Brien sounding like a proud papa during a conference call with reporters last week.

"They're all great success stories," said O'Brien, now an assistant at Virginia. "They’ve worked so hard in getting to where they wanted to get to, and that’s what’s so exciting about coaching and being around kids like Nate and Steven and J.R. and Russ, the same way. All of the work they’ve put in off the field to get to be in this situation, that’s the exciting part for a coach."

Sweezy and Wilson were part of the first class O'Brien signed at NC State. While Wilson seemed destined for greatness, the coaching staff was unsure where to play Sweezy initially. He eventually settled in on the defensive line and was selected a team captain his senior year. But he got hurt that season and missed significant time. He was drafted in the seventh round but is now a Seahawks starter -- on the offensive line, protecting Wilson.

Hauschka just wanted a chance to play big-time football. After enrolling at Middlebury as a soccer player, he began playing football for the first time his sophomore year. NC State gave him an opportunity to come in for his final season, and Hauschka led the ACC in kicking and was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. After entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent, he bounced around a few teams before finding his home with Seattle in 2011. So far this season, he has made 33 of 35 field goal attempts and all his extra points.

In another interesting twist, Wilson, Sweezy and Hauschka -- all with the Seahawks -- lived in the same hall at NC State in 2007. Their friendship grew from there.

As for Irving, his chances of making the NFL appeared much dicier in 2009 after a car accident left him seriously injured. In fact, Irving sent O'Brien a text message last week that said, "Ha ha, the doctor said I’d never play football again."

Irving is penciled in to start the Super Bowl at strongside linebacker.

"Everybody looked at the car and said they don’t know how he got out of the car," O'Brien recalled. "I can remember being in the hospital room the next day. They knew he had a broken leg. He was in a neck brace, his lung was collapsed. I think he separated his shoulder. They weren’t sure about a spinal injury. ... What a great story for Nate to have the opportunity to come back and really work his way back. He was really very tentative when he came back, but certainly by the end of his senior year he was really a heck of a player for us."

So was Wilson, but he ended up transferring to Wisconsin for his final season. The two remain on good terms despite O'Brien's controversial decision to release Wilson from his scholarship. Now O'Brien can sit back and watch players he recruited to NC State on the grandest stage of all, knowing he will have coached a Super Bowl winner for the eighth time in the last 11 years.

But he is not the only one showing his pride this week. The current NC State coaching staff has made sure to tell recruits all about how well NC State will be represented on Super Bowl Sunday.
While the departure of former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson has dominated the offseason headlines surrounding the program, the Wolfpack’s defense must also move forward without its top playmaker from 2010.

[+] EnlargeTerrell Manning
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesNC State linebacker Terrell Manning is confident the Wolfpack will field an elite defense this fall.
Despite the loss of linebacker Nate Irving, the team’s second-leading tackler, NC State’s linebackers should still be one of the strongest groups in the ACC.

In fact, if you ask Terrell Manning, he thinks they’ll be one of the best in the country -- again.

“After last year, I will step out on a limb and say we had the top linebacking corps in the nation last year,” Manning said. “I might get criticized for that, but that’s my personal opinion. With the things that me and Audi learned last year, and we’re taking in a great athlete in D.J. Green, I feel like he’ll pick up on it fast and we’ll build upon what we had last year.”

“It’s definitely exciting,” he said. “With the loss of Nate, and Nate being a great player, I would definitely say that Nate was the slowest linebacker we had (he laughed). We’ve gotten a lot faster.”

Manning said Green is the fastest of the group. Green, a true sophomore, moved from safety to strongside linebacker this spring and could make a name for himself this fall after being one of the team’s most consistent special teams players last year. Audie Cole moved to the middle linebacker spot vacated by Irving, and should also be one of the top linebackers in the conference. Last year, Cole tied for the team lead in tackles with 97, and his 10.5 tackles for loss ranked third on the team. Nobody on defense played more snaps (809) than Cole.

Manning ranked fourth on the team in tackles with 76 for the season, tied for second in sacks (5) and had two caused and two recovered fumbles.

Still, he said he can do better.

“I feel like I’ll definitely have a good year,” he said. “I just need to meet the expectations of myself more than anybody. I set the bar pretty high for myself.”

And the rest of the defense.

In 2009, NC State ranked No. 99 in the country in scoring defense, allowing 31.17 points per game. Last year they ranked No. 45, allowing 23.23 points per game. Manning attributed part of the improvement to the hire of Jon Tenuta as linebackers coach. Manning said Tenuta has helped the group “big-time.”

“He’s probably one of the best coaches I’ve been around as far as understanding the game of football,” Manning said. “He’s taught me so much. He’s one of those guys you can’t replace. He definitely has slowed the game down for me.”

While there are plenty of reasons for NC State fans to be excited about the defense this season, it’s the offense and the loss of Wilson that has outsiders wondering if the Pack can repeat and/or build upon last year’s nine-win season. Quarterback Mike Glennon will be in his first season as a starter, but Manning said he likes what he has seen so far from the offensive side.

“I tell the offensive guys, we just need y’all to put up a few points, and the defense will win the games and the championships around here,” Manning said. “I say that jokingly, but we fully expect nothing but greatness out of both sides of the ball. After seeing the offensive guys, they’ve been working probably twice as much as we have, and they’re going to come prepared to play and there won’t be too much of a drop-off. Of course we have a different quarterback, who plays a lot different. He’s a better thrower, but you lose one that was a better runner. I feel as if Mike Glennon is going to make the plays he’s supposed to make.”

Ditto for the defense.

“I think we can be better,” Manning said. “Our secondary has grown intensely, just overwhelmingly they have grown up. They’ve been playing together for a while now. As everybody knows, sometimes it was a question mark whether they were going to come to play. The front seven was always going to play good. This year they’re going to be a very strong asset to our team as well as our front seven. I feel like with the whole defense bringing it, we should definitely be good. Of course you lose Nate, and everybody has to pitch in and make up for the plays we’re losing.”

Including Manning.
You are going to argue about this. How do I know? Because I'm still arguing with myself over it ...

[+] EnlargeLuke Kuechly
Michael Tureski/Icon SMILuke Kuechly leads a deep group of Boston College linebackers.
1. Boston College: Luke Kuechly is one of the best in the country, but he’s not alone. The Eagles also have Kevin Pierre-Louis, who ranked second nationally among all freshmen in tackles per game last season with 7.15 -- ninth in the ACC. It won’t be easy to replace Mark Herzlich, on or off the field, but Steele Divitto played in 11 games last season, and Nick Clancy and Will Thompson both saw time on the second team.

2. Florida State: The Noles had to replace two starters, including Kendall Smith, the team’s second-leading tackler, last season, and Mister Alexander, but the upcoming talent could be even better. Nigel Bradham led the team with 98 tackles and five pass breakups last season, and Christian Jones, Jeff Luc, Telvin Smith and Vince Williams will also be competing for playing time.

3. Miami: Sean Spence, who has 30 career starts, should be one of the best in the country, and Ramon Buchanon, another senior, also returns. The Canes have five other linebackers with experience in Kelvin Cain, who started seven games, Jordan Futch, who had a great spring and will see the field, Tyrone Cornelius, Shayon Green and C.J. Holton.

4. North Carolina: Kevin Reddick, who led the Tar Heels with 74 tackles last season, returns for his third season as starter. Zach Brown is also a returning starter with game-changing capabilities, and there is plenty of depth with Dion Guy, Darius Lipford, Ebele Okakpu and Herman Davidson. Junior college transfer Fabby Desir could also have an impact.

5. NC State: Audie Cole and Terrell Manning have combined for 39 career starts, and Cole fared well this spring moving to the middle to replace Nate Irving. With the return of Sterling Lucas, Dwayne Maddox and Colby Jackson, there is plenty of experience, but not quite as much depth as some other programs.

6. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return both starters in Steven Sylvester and Julian Burnett. There is no shortage of depth with Jeremy Attaochu, Quayshawn Nealey, Brandon Watts, Albert Rocker, Malcolm Munroe and Daniel Drummond.

7. Clemson: This group has a lot of potential, especially if true freshmen Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony make an immediate impact. There’s no question they’ll be given a chance, but the Tigers already have a good group with Corico Hawkins, Quandon Christian and Jonathan Willard.

8. Virginia Tech: It seems like this rotation has been in flux for a while now. The Hokies’ leading tackler returns in Bruce Taylor, Barquell Rivers had 96 tackles as a starter in 2009 but was injured last season, and there are several young players adding to the competition. Chase Williams, Tariq Edwards, Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler are only a few. Whip linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow will have to earn his spot back over Alonzo Tweedy, Dominique Patterson and Nick Dew.

9. Maryland: The Terps were hit hard here with the losses of Alex Wujciak (381 career tackles) and Adrian Moten (14.5 career sacks). Demetrius Hartsfield returns with 20 career starts, and there are four lettermen returning including Darin Drakeford, Isaiah Ross, David Mackall and Bradley Johnson.

10. Wake Forest: Kyle Wilber’s move to outside linebacker will give this position a boost, as he led the Deacs with 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks last season. His backup is Gelo Orange (22 tackles). The Deacs also have Tristan Dorty, Joey Ehrmann, Mike Olsen, Scott Betros, Riley Haynes and Justin Jackson.

11. Virginia: Starters LaRoy Reynolds and Ausar Walcott both return, but neither has started more than 11 career games. Junior Steve Greer has prior starting experience but played mainly as a reserve last season. Adam Taliaferro, Conner McCartin, Tucker Windle and LoVante Battle are also in the mix for playing time.

12. Duke: Kelby Brown is the lone returning starter, but he’s a promising young player who led the nation last season as a freshman in fumbles recovered. He missed spring ball while recovering from a knee injury, but is expected to start with Tyree Glover or Kevin Rojas.
Tags:

Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Cavaliers, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Miami Hurricanes, ACC, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, Vince Williams, Kevin Reddick, Barquell RIvers, Sterling Lucas, Herman Davidson, Tristan Dorty, Steven Sylvester, Demetrius Hartsfield, David Mackall, Jordan Futch, Adrian Moten, Ramon Buchanon, Terrell Manning, Tariq Edwards, Sean Spence, Malcolm Munroe, Kendall Smith, Nigel Bradham, Darin Drakeford, Alonzo Tweedy, Bruce Taylor, Zach Brown, Gelo Orange, Nate Irving, Dwayne Maddox, Steve Greer, Audie Cole, Nick Clancy, Mark Herzlich, C.J. Holton, Colby Jackson, Alex Wujciak, Will Thompson, Tyree Glover, Luke Kuechly, Shayon Green, Ausar Walcott, Julian Burnett, LaRoy Reynolds, Joey Ehrmann, Christian Jones, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Daniel Drummond, Kevin Rojas, Corico Hawkins, Brandon Watts, LoVante Battle, Quandon Christian, Justin Jackson, Chase Williams, Jonathan Willard, Telvion Clark, Kelvin Cain, Riley Haynes, Darius Lipford, Mister Alexander, Kelby Brown, Jack Tyler, Telvin Smith, Stephone Anthony, Tony Steward, Fabby Desir, Dominique Patterson, 2011 ACC position rankings, 2011 ACC summer position rankings, Bradley Johnson, Steele Divitto, Tyrone Cornelius, Ebele Okakpu, Kyle Wisber, Mike Olsen, Scott Betros, Jeremy Attaochu, Quayshawn Nealey, Albert Rocker, Isiah Ross, Adam Taliaferro, Conner McCartin, Tucker Windle

NC State spring wrap

May, 5, 2011
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2010 overall record: 9-4

2010 conference record: 5-3

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 8, punter/kicker: 0

Top returners

OT R.J. Mattes, TE George Bryan, LB Audie Cole, S Brandan Bishop, S Earl Wolff, LB Terrell Manning, RB Mustafa Greene, C Camden Wentz, DT J.R. Sweezy

Key losses

QB Russell Wilson, OT Jake Vermiglio, WR Jarvis Williams, WR Owen Spencer, LB Nate Irving, PK Josh Czajkowski

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Greene* (597 yards)

Passing: Wilson (3,563 yds)

Receiving: Spencer (912 yds)

Tackles: Irving, Cole* (97)

Sacks: Irving (6.5)

Interceptions: Bishop (4)

Spring answers

1. Life goes on without Nate Irving. The Pack graduated its top playmaker on defense, but Cole adjusted well this spring to his new role in the middle and Terrell Manning shouldn’t be forgotten after his 75 tackles and 4.5 sacks last season.

2. The situation at running back has improved. At this time a year ago, NC State didn’t have one running back on the roster with starting experience and had to move Dean Haynes over from defense. Now, Greene is the returning leading rusher and a promising young talent when he’s healthy. The staff is also confident in Anthony Creecy, James Washington and Brandon Barnes, who missed all of 2010 with an injury.

3. The secondary is older and wiser. NC State returns all four starters, and four other defensive backs who got significant experience last season will help the depth. So will the return of Jarvis Byrd, who tore his ACL last season, and Rashard Smith, who also redshirted last season after a knee injury.

Fall questions

1. Is Mike Glennon as good as advertised? O’Brien has heaped praise on his new starter this offseason, comparing him to former Boston College standout Matt Ryan. Glennon has a similar build and throwing motion, and is comparable with intangibles such as his attention to detail, his work ethic and leadership, but is he really as good as Ryan? And, more importantly, can he stay healthy long enough to prove it?

2. Will special teams survive its makeover? The new punter, placekicker and snappers are all in the incoming class. It’s an underrated concern for the Wolfpack, which graduated 38 career starts with placekicker Josh Czajkowski.

3. Will the senior wide receivers rise to the occasion? With a first-year starting quarterback, receivers Jay Smith (10 catches), Steven Howard (12 catches) and T.J. Graham (25 catches) will have to step up to the level of their departed teammates (Spencer, Williams, and Darrell Davis). Aside from special teams, it was the one position group O’Brien said wouldn’t be settled until at least summer camp.

Irving ready to 'wreak some havoc' in NFL

May, 2, 2011
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Former NC State linebacker Nate Irving was chosen by the Denver Broncos with the third pick of the third round in the NFL draft, and he said in a recent teleconference that he was particularly eager to line up alongside the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, Von Miller of Texas A&M.

Irving said he expects to play middle linebacker, though he has no preference.

“I was looking at the earlier pick, and I saw Von Miller, and I’m just looking forward to getting out there and playing alongside him," Irving said. "With me in the middle and him on the edge, we could wreak some havoc on every offensive team in the league.”

Irving played in 34 games with 26 starts over three seasons with the Wolfpack. He finished his career with 233 total tackles, including 39.5 tackles for a loss of 149 yards, seven forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries, four interceptions, nine pass breakups and 11 quarterback pressures.

NFL draft rewind: ACC basics

May, 2, 2011
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ACC Players Taken in the NFL Draft

1 12 Christian Ponder, Florida State, QB Vikings
1 14 Robert Quinn, North Carolina, DE Rams
1 22 Anthony Castonzo, Boston College, T Colts
2 33 Ras-I Dowling, Virginia, CB Patriots
2 38 Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech, RB Cardinals
2 40 Bruce Carter, North Carolina, LB Cowboys
2 41 Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson, DT Redskins
2 46 Orlando Franklin, Miami, OL Broncos
2 50 Marcus Gilchrist, Clemson, CB Chargers
2 51 Da’ Quan Bowers, Clemson, DE Buccaneers
2 52 Marvin Austin, North Carolina, DT Giants
2 55 Rodney Hudson, Florida State, C-G Chiefs
2 58 Torrey Smith, Maryland, WR Ravens
2 59 Greg Little, North Carolina, WR Browns
2 60 Brandon Harris, Miami, CB Texans
3 67 Nate Irving, NC State, LB Broncos
3 79 Leonard Hankerson, Miami, WR Redskins
3 81 DeMarcus Van Dyke, Miami, CB Raiders
3 86 Allen Bailey, Miami, DE Chiefs
4 100 Da’Norris Searcy, North Carolina, S Bills
4 109 Colin McCarthy, Miami, ILB Titans
4 122 Chris Hairston, Clemson, T Bills
4 127 Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech, CB Texans
4 130 Jamie Harper, Clemson, RB Titans
5 133 Johnny White, North Carolina, RB Bills
5 152 T.J. Yates, North Carolina, QB Texans
6 171 Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina, LB Cardinals
6 173 Byron Maxwell, Clemson, DB Seahawks
6 180 Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech, QB Ravens
6 181 Richard Gordon, Miami, TE Raiders
6 192 Matt Bosher, Miami, P-PK Falcons
7 218 Ryan Taylor, North Carolina, TE Cowboys
7 221 Da’Rel Scott, Maryland, RB Giants
7 224 Markus White, Florida State, DE Redskins
7 225 Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech, RB Ravens

ACC Selections by Rounds

First 3
Second 12
Third 4
Fourth 5
Fifth 2
Sixth 5
Seventh 4

ACC Selections by Teams

North Carolina 9
Miami 8
Clemson 6
Florida State 3
Virginia Tech 3
Maryland 2
Boston College 1
Georgia Tech 1
NC State 1
Virginia 1

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 25, 2011
4/25/11
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Thank you, Maryland, for keeping spring ball alive in the ACC ...

Tone different for NC State

April, 18, 2011
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Maybe it's because expectations aren't as high for NC State as they are for Florida State.

Maybe it's because the Wolfpack have a true rookie quarterback, unlike the Seminoles, who have the 2009 Gator Bowl MVP, and Miami, which could have a senior starter.

Maybe it's just me.

Regardless of the reason, Mike Glennon's two interceptions didn't make me cringe like the spring game box scores from Florida State and Miami.

Glennon had two passes tipped near the line of scrimmage that were intercepted by linebackers -- and that's a good thing for NC State's linebackers, which were reshuffled to account for the loss of playmaker Nate Irving. Miami's Stephen Morris threw one right to linebacker Sean Spence.

NC State's offense went nowhere fast. Sixty-two combined net rushing yards. Miami running back Lamar Miller racked up more than that on one touchdown carry. The Wolfpack's first-team offense didn't get into the end zone. There's work to do in Raleigh, no question.

We all know that spring games aren't answers, that the box scores don't tell the whole story, and injuries can change the entire outcome of the game.

Such was the case with Florida State's offensive line.

At Miami, it was the same old story.

At NC State, it's simply a new chapter under Glennon.

NC State LB Cole adjusting to new role

April, 14, 2011
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NC State linebacker Audie Cole said he was “pretty lost” at his new position, middle linebacker, when spring practices began.

“I really had no idea what I was doing,” he said.

That was then, this is now.

“I’m a lot more comfortable,” he said. “I still make a lot of mistakes, but I make less mistakes every day. I figure if I keep doing that, I’ll be alright."

So will NC State's defense.

As the Wolfpack prepares for its annual spring game at 1 p.m. on Saturday, it does so knowing Cole’s move from strongside to middle linebacker was a good one. After leading the team in tackles each of the past two seasons, Cole is ready to emerge from the shadow of Nate Irving and into the spotlight.

“I like it because you’re always in the action,” Cole said. “You always have something to do. A lot of things rely on the middle linebacker. Our middle linebacker and our weakside linebacker are our quarterlinebackers. It’s mostly our job to get everyone lined up and stop the run. It’s an important position. I’m glad I got the chance to play it.”

Cole tied for the team lead in tackles last season with 97, and his 10.5 tackles for loss ranked third on the team. Nobody on the defense played more snaps (809), and Cole was integral in coach Tom O'Brien's fourth straight win over rival North Carolina. Cole tied his career-high with 13 tackles, including a six-yard sack and he also recovered a fumble.

Despite his past success, Cole said he's still "a long ways away" from where he wants to be as a middle linebacker.

“I know the whole playbook, I can tell you everything in the playbook. That’s not the problem," he said. "I have to get more instinctive and picking up on things on the field and knowing what’s going to happen before it does. That’s what Nate was really good at. Nate could see the play before it even happens. It just comes with practicing and watching film. I’m a long ways away, but I’ll be ready by the first game for sure.”

Catching up with Tom O'Brien

April, 13, 2011
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This spring is the first time coach Tom O'Brien's NC State team has had all its scholarship players to work with in the two-deep depth chart. That alone has made it a more enjoyable spring. The biggest question facing NC State heading into the fall will be the wide receivers, but O'Brien can deal with that. "In the past we've had two or three question mark positions," he said. "Now we're down to one."

I caught up with O'Brien on Friday to see how the Pack was doing this spring. Here are some highlights:

[+] EnlargeO'Brien
Brian Utesch/US PresswireNC State coach Tom O'Brien has confidence in quarterback Mike Glennon.
First, the bad news: NC State running back and 2010 leading rusher Mustafa Greene will have foot surgery and miss the rest of the spring, according to The Raleigh News & Observer. Greene had really made strides with his pass protection since last year and O'Brien told me on Friday Greene had "grown up a lot."

The good news: Greene is expected to be back by the fall, and the Wolfpack is in a much better situation than it was this time a year ago, when it didn't have any running backs on the roster with starting experience. Brandon Barnes and James Washington give the position depth.

The move to the middle: Audie Cole's move to middle linebacker has been a successful one this spring. He has taken over the spot vacated by Nate Irving, and O'Brien has been pleased. "I think it’s showing that the move was a good one for us," O'Brien said. "Audie Cole is really a good linebacker, he’s a smart kid. Jon (Tenuta) likes to put his best player at linebacker. Audie has taken the challenge, he’s getting everybody lined up, he understands everything about the defense."

The Mike Glennon era begins: O'Brien has no lack of confidence in Glennon, who has plenty of spring experience running with the first team. "He's much more comfortable doing things. He has the ability to make any throw that has to be made on the football field. It's just a question of getting in and doing it in game experience and gaining the confidence to do it under pressure time in and time out."

The Russell Wilson era ends:What if he comes back? "It really doesn't matter if he does or not," O'Brien said. "We're committed to Michael Glennon, and we're going forward from there. What we've discussed with Russell and Michael, understand where we are and what we have to do. We're all about team building. It's all about continuity. Nobody can say Russell is coming back. You can't count on it."

Improved o-line: This is the first time O'Brien has five players to work with who have game experience. It's been a much better starting point for the Pack this spring.

The lingering question: NC State graduated its top receivers and needs some playmakers to emerge. O'Brien said he's not going to know how many of the young players will fare until they're in a game situation. "I don’t think it’s an area we’re comfortable with yet," O'Brien said. "It’s an area that’s certainly a work in progress and you can certainly tell that T.J. Graham and Jay Smith are ahead of the rest of the pack because they have the most experience. Steve Howard and Quintin Payton had played a little bit last year. They have showed progress. The kids that are intriguing to us right now are Tobais Palmer and Bryan Underwood. They are the guys we redshirted a year ago. They’re doing a little more thinking right now than they are playing. That’s all part of figuring everything out right now. They certainly are talented young guys. Once they get it figured out they’ll be much more in tune with what we have to do to play much faster."

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 24, 2011
3/24/11
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Hard to believe some teams haven't even started practicing yet ...

Revised top 25 countdown: No. 1

March, 21, 2011
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No. 1. Tyrod Taylor, QB, Virginia Tech

Tyrod Taylor
AP Photo/John BazemoreVirginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor was the ACC Player of the Year.
2010 numbers:He led the ACC and was No. 13 in the nation in passing efficiency with 154.8, was fourth in the league in total offense at 243 yards per game, and fifth in passing average per game at 195.9. He completed 59.7 percent of his passes for 2,743 yards, 24 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He also ran for 659 yards and five touchdowns.

Previous ranking: No. 17

Making the case for Taylor:It should come as no surprise that the ACC's Player of the Year landed the No. 1 spot. Not only did he throw the fewest interceptions and gain more rushing yards than any quarterback in the ACC, he was also invaluable as the leader of the team that became the first to go undefeated in conference play since Florida State in 2000. Taylor led the Hokies to the ACC championship game and had one of his best performances of the season in the win over Florida State. His trademark scrambles will be missed this year and impossible to duplicate, and what made him special this year was his improvement in the passing game. Taylor set school records in 2010 for career total offense, career passing yards, career rushing yards by a quarterback, career wins by a starting quarterback, career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback and touchdown passes in a season. Virginia Tech was once again No. 1 in the ACC, and couldn't have done it without this No. 1.

The countdown:

No. 2 Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
No. 3 Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State

No. 4 Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

No. 5 Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

No. 6 Russell Wilson, QB, NC State

No. 7 Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 8 Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami

No. 9 Nate Irving, LB, NC State

No. 10 Greg Reid, CB, Florida State

No. 11 Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland

No. 12 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

No. 13 Quinton Coples, DT, North Carolina

No. 14 Kenny Tate, S, Maryland

No. 15 DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson

No. 16 Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

No. 17 Montel Harris, RB, Boston College

No. 18 T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina

No. 19 Alex Wujciak, LB, Maryland

No. 20 Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson

No. 21 Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson

No. 22 Anthony Allen, RB, Georgia Tech

No. 23 Brandon Washington, OL, Miami

No. 24 George Bryan, TE, NC State

No. 25 Conner Vernon, WR, Duke

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
12:00
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Short n' sweet today ...

Revised top 25 countdown: No. 2

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
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No. 2. Da’Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson

[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesDa'Quan Bowers was the ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
2010 numbers: He led the nation and the ACC with 15.5 sacks, and he led the ACC and was second in the country with 26 tackles for loss. He also had 20 quarterback pressures, two pass breakups, one interception, one forced fumble, and was second on the team with 74 tackles.

Previous ranking: Not ranked.

Making the case for Bowers: There's a reason Bowers wasn't on this list in the preseason. He had yet to live up to the hype he drew in 2008 as the nation's No. 1 recruit. That changed last year, when Bowers had a breakout season that led many to believe he could be the No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft. That's because he was so disruptive in the passing game, he tackled well and was quick to get into opponents' backfields. He tossed blockers aside and also escaped double-teams. He won the Bronko Nagurski and Hendricks Awards, and was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. Had Clemson fared better as a team, Bowers probably would have been No. 1 on this list.

The countdown:

No. 3 Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State

No. 4 Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

No. 5 Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College

No. 6 Russell Wilson, QB, NC State

No. 7 Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 8 Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami

No. 9 Nate Irving, LB, NC State

No. 10 Greg Reid, CB, Florida State

No. 11 Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland

No. 12 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

No. 13 Quinton Coples, DT, North Carolina

No. 14 Kenny Tate, S, Maryland

No. 15 DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson

No. 16 Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

No. 17 Montel Harris, RB, Boston College

No. 18 T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina

No. 19 Alex Wujciak, LB, Maryland

No. 20 Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson

No. 21 Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson

No. 22 Anthony Allen, RB, Georgia Tech

No. 23 Brandon Washington, OL, Miami

No. 24 George Bryan, TE, NC State

No. 25 Conner Vernon, WR, Duke

Revised top 25 countdown: No. 3

March, 17, 2011
3/17/11
10:30
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No. 3. Rodney Hudson, OG, Florida State

[+] EnlargeFlorida State offensive linesman Rodney Hudson
Chuck Cook/US PresswireFlorida State offensive linesman Rodney Hudson didn't allow a single sack last season.
2010 numbers: He started all 14 games at left guard, where he played 904 snaps and posted a team-leading grade of 88 percent. He also led the team with 48 knockdown blocks. He was penalized once all season and missed only four assignments. He was the lone Seminole lineman to not relinquish a sack.

Previous ranking: No. 9

Making the case for Hudson: He’s the most decorated offensive lineman in ACC history. He posted his highest grade -- 97 percent -- when it mattered most, in the ACC championship game against Virginia Tech. He was also a major reason why the Noles were able to rush for 218 yards against the SEC’s top rushing defense.

The countdown:

No. 4 Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College

No. 5 Anthony Castonzo, OT, Boston College
No. 6 Russell Wilson, QB, NC State

No. 7 Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech

No. 8 Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami

No. 9 Nate Irving, LB, NC State

No. 10 Greg Reid, CB, Florida State

No. 11 Torrey Smith, WR, Maryland

No. 12 Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State

No. 13 Quinton Coples, DT, North Carolina

No. 14 Kenny Tate, S, Maryland

No. 15 DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson

No. 16 Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia

No. 17 Montel Harris, RB, Boston College

No. 18 T.J. Yates, QB, North Carolina

No. 19 Alex Wujciak, LB, Maryland

No. 20 Jarvis Jenkins, DT, Clemson

No. 21 Chris Hairston, OT, Clemson

No. 22 Anthony Allen, RB, Georgia Tech

No. 23 Brandon Washington, OL, Miami

No. 24 George Bryan, TE, NC State

No. 25 Conner Vernon, WR, Duke

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