ACC: Paul Pinegar
QB Russell Wilson, NC State: He threw for 275 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in what might have been his final collegiate game. He also ran for 41 yards and earned the Champs Sports Bowl’s MVP award.
RB Da'Rel Scott, Maryland: The MVP of the Military Bowl, Scott rushed for a school bowl-game record 200 yards on 13 carries. His 91-yard TD run in the fourth quarter was the longest in Maryland bowl-game history. It was also the longest Maryland touchdown in seven years and only the eighth 90-plus yard run in ACC history. He also set the school record for yards per carry in the game with 15.4.
RB Chris Thompson, Florida State: He was the Chick-fil-A Bowl's Offensive MVP after he racked up 147 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown run against the SEC's then-top-ranked rushing defense.
WR Jarvis Williams, NC State: His 3-yard touchdown reception with 3:44 remaining sealed the win over West Virginia. He finished with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.
TE Brandon Ford, Clemson: Despite the loss to South Florida, Ford had four catches for 45 yards, including two touchdown receptions. He became the first player in Clemson history with two touchdown catches in a bowl game.
OL Jake Vermiglio, NC State: He helped the Pack score more points against West Virginia than any other opponent had all year. NC State controlled the clock and had 378 total yards.
OL Paul Pinegar, Maryland: He had three big blocks for the Terps, who rolled up season highs in rushing yards (297) and rushing touchdowns (6), including runs of 61 and 91 yards by Da’Rel Scott. The Terps also did not allow a sack to the Pirates, the 11th time the squad surrendered two or fewer on the season.
OL Rodney Hudson, FSU: He graded out at 86 percent against South Carolina and didn’t have any penalties or missed assignments. He also had two knockdowns.
OL Zebrie Sanders, FSU: He graded out at 88 percent in final game and didn’t have any penalties or missed assignments. He helped neutralize South Carolina’s pass rush.
OL Mike Ingersoll, UNC: He graded out as the team's top offensive lineman and was named one of the offensive players of the game by the coaching staff. Carolina had 180 positive rushing yards against Tennessee.
DE Brandon Jenkins, FSU: Despite the fact he missed a series-and-a-half, he finished with a team-leading eight tackles, including two TFLs and a sack.
DE Andre Branch, Clemson: On an off-day for Da’Quan Bowers, Branch stepped up and had two sacks. He finished with six tackles.
DT Quinton Coples, UNC: He finished with six tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced a fumble and had two quarterback hurries in the Heels’ win over Tennessee.
DT Donte Paige-Moss, UNC: He had six tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced a fumble and blocked an extra point attempt. The extra point block was key, as Carolina later kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime.
LB Nate Irving, NC State: He had four solo tackles against West Virginia and finished with one 7-yard sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and quarterback pressure and a pass breakup.
LB Quan Sturdivant, UNC: He had a season-high 12 tackles, including two tackles for losses, and made a key interception in overtime against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. Sturdivant picked off a Tyler Bray pass in the second overtime and Carolina scored on its next possession to win the game.
LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College: He no doubt looked the part of an All-America. Kuechly was the defensive MVP of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl with 12 tackles (8 solos), and one interception he returned 31 yards.
DB Greg Reid, FSU: He was named the defensive MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl and was an obvious choice. He finished with five tackles, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles (one that came with his hit that ended Marcus Lattimore’s night on the first series), and he had two punt returns for 53 yards leading to scores.
DB Antwine Perez, Maryland: He made eight tackles, including a game-high seven solo stops and two tackles for loss, as the Terps clamped down on the seventh-ranked passing offense in the nation. Perez had seven or more tackles in each of the last five games of the season.
DB Kendric Burney, UNC: He finished with six tackles and an 11-yard return on an interception.
DB Brandon Bishop, NC State: His fourth interception of the season was a diving interception at the West Virginia 10 in the fourth quarter. He snagged the pass intended for Jock Sanders, and prevented the Mountaineers from cutting the lead to 16-14 with plenty of time left.
K Dustin Hopkins, FSU: He nailed all four field-goal attempts against South Carolina (29 yards, 48, 35, 45), and he had four touchbacks.
P Shawn Powell, FSU: He had three punts for an average of 51 yards, and gave the Noles winning field position.
KR Greg Reid, FSU: He had one kick return for 18 yards and two punt returns for the Noles. His two punt returns led to scores.
2009 overall record: 2-10
2009 conference record: 1-7
Offense: 7, defense: 5, punter/kicker 2
WR Torrey Smith, C Paul Pinegar, RB Da’Rel Scott, WR Adrian Cannon, LB Alex Wujciak, LB Demetrius Hartsfield, LB Adrian Moten, P Travis Baltz, CB Cameron Chism
LT Bruce Campbell, C Phil Costa, QB Chris Turner, FS Terrell Skinner, CB Anthony Wiseman, SS Jamari McCollough
2009 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Scott* (425 yards)
Passing: Turner (2,069 yds)
Receiving: Smith* (824 yards)
Tackles: Wujciak* (131)
Sacks: Moten* (6)
Interceptions: Chism* (4)
1. Separation at quarterback. Maryland wrapped up spring with Jamarr Robinson as its new quarterback, Danny O’Brien his backup and C.J. Brown No. 3. Robinson made good decisions, threw the ball pretty well and limited his turnovers despite two picks in the spring game. He has a quiet confidence and started to become more of a leader, taking control of the huddle.
2. Growing confidence in the offensive line. The staff feels much better about this group than it did at the start of spring. The lineup isn’t 100 percent settled, but if the Terps played tomorrow, Justin Gilbert would start at left tackle, R.J. Dill at right tackle, Andrew Gonnella at left guard, and Paul Pinegar at center. For the past couple of weeks, Justin Lewis and Bennett Fulper have shared time at right guard. Lamar Young has a chance to work his way into the rotation after missing the spring for offseason shoulder surgery.
3. Potential on the defensive line. Maryland lost three starters to graduation on the defensive line, but found some capable replacements this spring. Defensive tackle Joe Vellano, who missed the first half of 2009 and never quite got back to full speed, was one of the surprises this spring. Coach Ralph Friedgen praised Vellano, but questioned whether or not he can maintain that success on Saturdays this fall. Overall, the staff seemed to settle on Vellano and A.J. Francis at tackle, along with Zachariah Kerr.
1. Depth in the secondary. The Terps will have three new starters, but the safety position remains the biggest concern, enough so that Maryland could turn to a true freshman to help. The staff feels good about safeties Antwine Perez and Kenny Tate, but they need some help behind them and would like to solidify a fourth corner this summer.
2. How will the offensive line hold up? Yes, they made progress this spring, but the group has been a weak link. Part of that can be attributed to inexperience, but it’s an older group this year. Maryland has enough talent at running back to help take some pressure off of Robinson in his first full season as starter, but the offense will only improve as much as the players up front.
3. Will Maryland get back to the postseason? After just one win in conference play, Friedgen’s future at Maryland was in doubt. The pressure is on, but there has been a renewed sense of commitment and determination this offseason. Maryland’s season opener against Navy could set the tone for the whole season.
After all, there’s not much else you can do after a 2-10 season, the Terps worst since 1997.
So, Friedgen has spent the offseason pouring over film and talking to players trying to figure out if there was any deviation from what he had done in his previous nine seasons.
"It's been very strange,” Friedgen said at a news conference before his team opened spring practice Tuesday. “I went back and I looked at things. We didn't really do any things different that we had done in the past.
“I think our team is very determined to show that we're not a 2-10 team, we're much better than that.”
The opportunity to get back on the field and start the process of making things better was something that Maryland players relished. They’ll have 15 practices over a five-week span to get better and to figure out how to win.
The biggest obstacle of last season was youth and inexperience. Injuries forced several players into service before they were ready and the team suffered because of it.
The biggest questions this spring will come on the offensive line. It lost five of its seven members a year ago and failed to adjust in 2009. Last year, the Terps allowed three sacks per game and the running game was almost nonexistent with just 105.75 yards per game.
This year, the line loses Bruce Campbell and Phil Costa, but the Terps should be better apt to deal with filling the holes. Paul Pinegar, a former walk-on who has played guard and tackle, will slide over to center to fill Costa’s shoes.
If the line can protect, quarterback Jamarr Robinson, who started the final four games of last season, can be a playmaker for the offense. Robinson showed flashes of that ability last season and has worked hard this offseason to establish leadership and set an example for the rest of the squad.
"The whole last season has been something everybody has been thinking about while working out and in everything we do,” Robinson said. “We've just been using it as motivation and something to drive us harder. Not complaining and stuff like that. Every day I think about it. With all the people we had and all the weapons we had, going 2-10 was very surprising."
Friedgen is confident that one bad season won’t turn into a streak.
During his film study he saw positives that he’ll try to accentuate this spring and negatives that he’ll try to eliminate. The Terps had 23 fumbles last season and lost 14. Overall, they were -.50 in turnover margin.
But most of all, Friedgen said after losing its final seven games, his team needs to learn how to win again.
“I feel very good about our players and the places they're in right now and their conviction is to be better,” he said. “I feel good about our staff. I looked at our tape and there were a lot of times where we just didn't have good luck. The opportunities we had that we didn't take advantage of and we just didn't make the plays when we had the opportunities to make them. I'm hoping that is going to change.”
Corey in Altamonte Springs, Fla., writes: Heather, what ACC game(in or out of conference) are you looking forward to most? There are so many great choices! Miami/FSU, Ohio St/Miami(notice my slight bias towards Miami? Lol). Tell everyone what you expect to be the ACC game of the year!
HD: Well, the two nonconference games I'm looking forward to most -- Miami at Ohio State and Virginia Tech-Boise State -- might not be the best games. Clemson-Auburn has the potential to be an exciting, down-to-the-wire kind of game. This year's FSU-Miami game could be the conference's game of the year. (It has that potential every season, but this year it should mean more in the conference standings.) But you asked me to pick one, so I'll pick -- Virginia Tech at Miami on Nov. 20. I think the Coastal Division will be a wide-open race between VT, Miami, UNC and GT, but right now, I'll give Miami and the Hokies the most credit in November.
Bo in Atlanta writes: Heather,Now that the Maryland/Notre Dame date has been announced for 2011, what is the likelihood that Ralph Fridgen is even still around to face the Irish?
HD: My guess is he'll be around. I have a hard time believing the Terps could suffer such a fate two years in a row. I think they've got enough talent on their roster to be a bowl team. Six wins isn't asking too much. And if Friedgen goes anywhere, it certainly won't be on his terms.
Danny in College Park, Md., writes: Hey Heather,With Maryland already taking some nice strides in their recruiting for 2011, and a matchup with Notre Dame at FedEx Field, it looks like the Terps are heading in the right direction. Considering their 2010 recruiting class is much better than their 2010 season went, how do you think the Terps wind up doing this year? And more interestingly, who do you think gets the start under center for the Terps when ACC play begins?
HD: What Maryland was able to do with this recruiting class considering its 2009 record was underappreciated. To me, the key to the Terps' season starts with Navy in the season opener. Theoretically, Maryland should win that game and represent in its home state for the first two weekends. But Navy will be -- and should be -- favored in that game. It should set the tone and direction of Maryland's season. As for center, my guess is Paul Pinegar moves over. He's played both tackle spots and left guard, so why not? The staff will give him a shot there this spring.
Dave in Boston writes: Heather,With a SLEW of returning talent this season (17 starters I believe), a strong recruiting class, and a favorable schedule, why hasn't BC gotten more mention as a serious candidate for the Atlantic Division?Clemson could be without it's top 3 offensive weapons, Florida State can't realistically be expected to improve its defense enough in the course of 1 recruiting class, and after that the rest of the division looks pretty weak (will any of the group of NC State, Wake, or Maryland finish better than 6-6?).Among BC's toughest games (VT, FSU, Notre Dame, Clemson) only the 'Noles game is on the road. Assuming the natural progression from Year 1 to Year 2 for Shinskie and barring major injury, how does this team not win at least 10 games?
HD: Considering how weak its nonconference schedule is (and it has Notre Dame at home), there's no reason BC can't win eight or nine, but I wouldn't underestimate the Atlantic Division. Both Maryland and NC State will be better, and if you recall, BC racked up a whopping 54 yards against that Clemson D last year. The Eagles HAVE to get better at quarterback, and I believe they will, whether it's with Dave Shinskie or somebody else.
Anthony in Haymarket, Va., writes: Heather,Saw your superlative for GT. I gotta say I'm surprised you went with B-Back instead of Quarterback. Maybe I didn't read something about the stipulations of your choices, but I'd say returning Josh Nesbitt (who will be missing spring practices unfortunately) is the most important piece to the entire team. He was after all first team all ACC...
HD: I get what you're saying, but right now, the QB position goes one-deep at Georgia Tech, and that's Nesbitt. He's one of the top returning quarterbacks in the league, but I'm looking at entire positions, not just one guy.
Wade in Boston writes: Heather, I missed the live chat today, but I have a burning question for you. Is Willie Korn helping the Clemson team this Spring? If so, how? Thanks as always!
HD: No, Wade, Korn is preparing to transfer to Marshall.
Next mailbag comes up on Friday.
Strongest position: Linebackers
Key returnees: Alex Wujciak, Adrian Moten, Demetrius Hartsfield
Key departures: None.
The skinny: All three starters and their backups return. The only missing player from the group will be Drew Gloster, who is moving to defensive end to help with speed on the outside. Last year’s backup linebackers showed potential -- especially Ben Pooler, Avery Murray, and Darin Drakeford. Moten and Wujciak were the most productive players on defense last year.
Weakest position: Offensive line
Key returnees: RT R.J. Dill, LG Paul Pinegar and Bennett Fulper.
Key departures: C Phil Costa and LT Bruce Campbell
The skinny: The position took a significant hit from the decision of Campbell to leave early for the NFL draft. It’s a young group, but it’s in better shape than it was a year ago as far as guys at least having minimal experience. The Terps have six players who started at least one game. Fulper was a true freshman the staff liked last year, and Pinegar will take over for Costa at center. Justin Gilbert will be promoted to starting left tackle in place of Campbell.
Doug Powell in Cullowhee, N.C. writes: Who do you think is going to win the NC State running back job come fall? and do you think Russell Wilson will be back?
HD: Shoot, am I supposed to have the answers to these questions? I don't even think Tom O'Brien knows those answers yet, but both are worth watching. If there's anyone close to a frontrunner at running back, you might say Curtis Underwood, who redshirted last year so he could play a season out of the shadow of Toney Baker and Jamelle Eugene. James Washington saw some time early last year. Brandon Barnes is another talented player who has been in the system, and Mustafa Greene is a true freshman worth getting excited about, but he won't be on campus until the fall. And yes, I think Wilson will be back. Just a guess.
LucasHokie in Reidsville, NC writes: Do you think this could be the year the ACC beats up on other conferences? I think if Miami can start out like last year, GT can find their November stride in September, and FSU starts playing like FSU we could do it. I think this is the year VT will shake off the Top 5 winning drought against Boise. We have the offense, and more importantly, our offense is built perfect for grinding out the clock. Keep the ball away from Keenum. If not this year, at least it looks like Miami and FSU are finding their A game again. I may not like Miami (as a Hokie), but I would rather any ACC team win over another conference.
HD: I like your positive outlook, man, but this conference has a habit of getting fans' hopes up. There are plenty of reasons for optimism. After speaking with Bud Foster this week, he's confident in the talent he has and says the "cupboard is not bare." Miami and FSU should take significant steps forward, and I like UNC's defense in that matchup against LSU's offense. But when it comes to winning the big nonconference games, I'm now in believe-it-when-I-see-it mode.
Duce in Tampa,Fla. writes: HD, i appreciate the job you do in the off season. You keep FSU fans (lol), as myself, hyped for next season. I have two questions. What are the chances of FSU winning the conference this year and who do you think they would do battle with in the title game.
HD: Well, I like this FSU team and the direction it's headed. I've got them as my frontrunner in the Atlantic right now, but that's where I had them last year, and we all saw how well that turned out. Jimbo Fisher has already raised the expectations there, but there's no denying the Noles have a lot of work to do, starting on defense. I think the Coastal will have some shakeups this year. Looking for UNC or Miami to make a move, but VT is the team to beat. Hokies have less questions than defending champs Jackets.
Jeff in Huntington, N.Y. writes: Hey Heather,Maryland seems to have enough talent at the skill positions on offense but it seems as though the o-line will hold them back again. Is there any hope that they will perform well this year?
HD: Yes, Jeff, there is. Losing Phil Costa might have actually hurt them more than losing Campbell, considering his injuries. Justin Gilbert, a redshirt sophomore, could inherit Campbell’s job. And there’s always Paul Pinegar, who, after this season might have literally played every position up front. You're right, though, this is one area Maryland needs to improve if it's going to get back to the postseason.
Ryan in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Hey Heather! It seems about everyday that FSU is getting a new top caliber recruit to commit for the 2011 class. And this is all coming off an ESPN #6 ranked 2010 recruiting class. This coaching staff seems to be be relentless! What is your impression on what Jimbo and Co. have been able to do on the recruiting trail without even have played one game! Thanks!
HD: Very impressed. This staff has a game plan for recruiting and seems to be much more organized, enthusiastic and aggressive. Once you start getting a few of the top players to commit, it gets easier to convince others. Looks like it's starting to snowball in Tally, which is exactly what they need.
Andrew in Towson, Md., writes: HD --- Love the blog..... I could not imagine sitting through class without it! There is all this talk about the QB battle in Miami this spring, but it is focused mainly on Highsmith and Morris. I understand that they are the big recruits, but besides the article you posted today (2/24) there has been no coverage on Whipple. I would think that with his father being the coach and coming from a program with a similar offense would give him an advantage? And I say his father being the coach meaning he is with him a lot more to discuss the offense (off-season, inbetween semester, family vacations lol, etc).
HD: Glad to help with your education, man. You're right, Whipple is a true student of the game. He loves it, and he wants to be a coach. I love food, but that doesn't mean I'm a good cook. Not to say Whipple Jr. isn't a good quarterback, I'm just saying that book smarts don't always translate to street smarts. He'll have to prove himself just like the other guys, and I think he's got the same chance they do. What impresses me about Whipple is how willing he is to help the other quarterbacks. He seems like a really good kid.
Spring practice starts: March 18
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
• How linebacker Mark Herzlich progresses. Herzlich, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer last May, has been going through winter conditioning with his teammates, and he plans on participating in spring drills. How quickly he regains his form will be worth watching, as he and sophomore Luke Kuechly could give the Eagles one of the most formidable linebacking corps.
• The quarterback battle. After one season, Dave Shinskie has the most experience on the roster, but he’ll get some competition from Josh Bordner and Chase Rettig, two early enrollees. There were times last season when Shinskie looked like the future of the position and there were others when he looked like any other freshman.
• Defensive linemen. For the second straight year, BC is looking for some stability up front. The Eagles have to replace left tackle Austin Giles and defensive end Jim Ramella. They return Kaleb Ramsey, Giles’ backup, and Brad Newman, Ramella’s reserve, but some young faces are likely to be seen in the rotation.
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 10
What to watch:
• Life without C.J. Spiller officially begins. The backs behind him had a pretty good year, so there’s no need for full panic mode. Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington actually combined for a higher yards per carry average (6.1 to 5.6 yards). Clemson will also be looking to replace Spiller’s lost kickoff return yardage. The Tigers had a 13-yard advantage in average starting field position, as their start was their own 37-yard line compared to opponents’ 24-yard line. Ellington is a candidate in the return game.
• Kyle Parker’s batting average. No, really. How well Parker does this spring with the baseball team will help determine whether he remains Clemson’s quarterback or turns to the MLB draft. He didn’t have a great 2009 season, but he was still the fastest player to 25 home runs in school history. It remains to be seen this spring if he’ll become a high enough draft choice to give up college football.
• Secondary shuffling. It seems like eons ago since Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor weren’t the Tigers’ starting corners, as Butler started 40 straight games and Chancellor started 42. Butler finished his career second in school history in interception return yards. Now it’s time for a new duo. Will Marcus Gilchrist move to corner, which he’s capable of doing? Might Rashard Hall move to safety with DeAndre McDaniel?
Spring practice starts: Feb. 14
Spring game: March 27
What to watch:
• Quarterback competition. Somebody has to take over for the graduated Thaddeus Lewis, but his backup – Sean Renfree – will miss the spring with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Sean Schroeder should be heavily in the mix to be the starter, pending Renfree’s recovery.
• Defensive line makeover. It’s wide open. Charlie Hatcher is entrenched at nose guard, but it’s really anyone’s game. The staff might move redshirt senior Wesley Oglesby, who played the majority of his career at defensive end, inside. Other options are defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento, a redshirt freshman, and Curtis Hazelton, who played sparingly last season.
• Johnny Williams’ move from wide receiver to cornerback. He had 31 catches in 2009 – the fourth-best on the team. Now they need his help in the defensive backfield. Duke will lose starter Leon Wright and his 10 career interceptions, and the pass defense, which allowed 215.75 yards per game, could use a boost.
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 10
What to watch:
• Christian Ponder’s return from shoulder surgery. Ponder is expected to practice this spring, though it could be on a limited basis, at least early. He’s ahead of schedule, but the coaches won’t subject him to any risks now. Yes, E.J. Manuel is talented and played well at the end of the season, but make no mistake – Ponder is FSU’s starter and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.
• The defense under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. His secondary, in particular, will be interesting to watch, as will how quickly he can help the front seven generate a pass rush and plug the middle. Stoops has been a secondary coach, and the Noles lost three starters there. The fourth, Ochuko Jenije, could be pushed to retain his job.
• New faces, new opportunities. In addition to the fab freshmen who are coming in, FSU has a handful of unfamiliar players already on the roster who played sparingly or not at all. We'll see how they fit in this spring. RS-So DT Anthony McCloud and RS-So RB Debrale Smiley are both junior college transfers and former teammates. Physically, freshman linebacker Jeff Luc is already a man, but how quickly can he mature on the field? Two young wide receivers worth watching are Rodney Smith and Willie Haulstead.
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
• The defensive transformation. The Jackets will switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under first-year coordinator Al Groh. In addition to learning the new scheme, the staff has to figure out who goes where. Linebackers might play defensive end and vice versa, safeties might play outside linebacker. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this team lines up in the spring.
• The replacements. From Georgia Tech’s coaching staff to the new faces who will be tasked with filling in for the Fab Four -- Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett and Demaryius Thomas -- the Jackets will need some “Hello My Name Is” tags this spring.
• The offensive line. Three offensive linemen redshirted who could start, and Georgia Tech might need them to, especially if guard Joseph Gilbert decides to transfer to pursue his MBA. The Jackets lose two starters on the offensive line, and Gilbert, who graduates this spring, would be a third if he leaves. Center Sean Bedford and tackle Austin Barrick return as seniors.
Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
• The quarterback competition. Chris Turner has graduated, leaving Jamarr Robinson the top option going into the spring, but he has limited experience. The staff liked what he did when Turner was injured, but Danny O’Brien, Miami (Ohio) transfer Clay Belton and C.J. Brown will all be given an opportunity. Look for O’Brien to start the spring at No. 2 on the depth chart.
• Cornerback: Cameron Chism is the only returning starter in the secondary, but right now the staff has fewer concerns about the safeties. Maryland will have to find some bodies at corner, and Dexter McDougle, who redshirted as a true freshman last year, is one option. Michael Carter and Trenton Hughes, who was the third corner last year, are also among a handful of candidates.
• The offensive line. Losing Bruce Campbell to the NFL hurt, but the Terps also lost starter Phil Costa. Justin Gilbert, a redshirt sophomore, could inherit Campbell’s job. And there’s always Mr. Versatility -- Paul Pinegar. He has helped the Terps at both tackle spots and left guard, and this spring he’ll likely be given a shot at center.
Spring practice starts: Feb. 23
Spring game: March 27 (tentative)
What to watch:
• Tight end/offensive line: Jimmy Graham is gone, and the Canes don’t return any tight ends with any experience other than Richard Gordon, who was injured the majority of last season. Miami signed four tight ends in this recruiting class, but none of them were early enrollees. Miami has to replace three starters up front, including both tackles and the center.
• How the two young quarterbacks perform: The health of Jacory Harris was precious last year, as he had nobody behind him with any experience after the transfers of Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith. The depth has improved a bit with A.J. Highsmith, who played sparingly last year, and Stephen Morris, one of the early enrollees.
• Upgrade on the d-line? Progress up front began with the hire of Rick Petri as defensive line coach, and it’s up to Petri to help the Canes become better pass rushers. Miami will depend upon its two mainstays -- Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes. The right end position was a group effort last year, and Miami has to replace Joe Joseph and Eric Moncur.
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 10
What to watch:
• Quarterback T.J. Yates. It’s his job to lose, and the coaching staff still has confidence in him, but Bryn Renner is waiting in the wings, and Braden Hanson will also be given an opportunity. The staff is looking for the offense to improve its passing efficiency and cut down on turnovers.
• The offensive line. It was a patchwork effort in 2009, thanks to injuries and inexperience, and will be a major key in how much UNC improves offensively this year. The Heels have to replace two starters, and Jonathan Cooper is likely to move from guard to center, and right guard Alan Pelc will miss spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery.
• Defensive line tweaks. There aren’t many questions on a defense that should be one of the best in the country, but somebody has to replace Cam Thomas and defensive end E.J. Wilson. Tydreke Powell is the frontrunner to take over at defensive tackle and Quinton Coples at defensive end. Both were backups last year at their respective positions.
Spring practice starts: March 9
Spring game: April 17
What to watch:
• Backup quarterback Mike Glennon. Russell Wilson is the starter, but he’s going to be playing baseball all spring. Keep an eye on his backup to see if Glennon can make it any more of a competition in Wilson’s absence.
• Chris Ward at punter. No, it’s not usually, the highlight of the spring, but in this case, it’s necessary. Ward is it -- he’s their only option right now, and it’s a position the Pack struggled with last year. Ward was expected to be the starter last season, but he was inconsistent. He’s definitely got the talent to be the guy.
• The recovery of linebacker Nate Irving. After being severely injured in a one-car crash last summer, Irving is hopeful he can go through spring drills. He has been lifting with the team and running with the sports medicine staff, but it’s still uncertain how limited his contact will be.
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 10
What to watch:
• Quarterback competition. Marc Verica is the only one with any experience, and first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor hasn’t been in Charlottesville long enough to evaluate any of the candidates. That’s what the spring is for, and true freshman Michael Strauss is the lone incoming quarterback on campus, so he’ll have a head start on the playbook. Of the four quarterbacks Virginia signed in this year’s class, Strauss is the only one listed as a true quarterback. The Cavs also have Ross Metheny, who redshirted last year, and Riko Smalls, who redshirted in ‘08 and was No. 2 on the depth chart when Verica was out with a concussion.
• Coaching transition. First-year coach Mike London has hired almost an entirely new staff, and they’ll bring changes in philosophy and scheme. London has said he wants to get the defense back to the traditional 4-3, and revert to the tradition of featuring the tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs.
• Running back. The Cavs will have the help up front, but they need to replace their four leading rushers in Mikell Simpson, Rashawn Jackson, Vic Hall and Jameel Sewell. The staff will look at true freshman Kevin Parks, but also have Torrey Mack and Dominique Wallace, who had just seemed to be coming on at Southern Miss when he was injured and missed the rest of the season.
Spring practice starts: March 31
Spring game: April 24
What to watch:
• Revamped defensive line. The Hokies have to replace three of four starters up front. The only defensive ends with significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. Redshirt freshmen will be given a chance – Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins – but they’ve never played. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other end who’s played and that was a skinny minute. At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the frontrunner to replace Cordarrow Thompson.
• Darren Evans’ comeback. Evans, the team’s leading rusher in 2008, is working his way back from a season-ending ACL injury, and one of the biggest questions in Blacksburg is how the staff will divide the carries in such a talented backfield that includes Ryan Williams. With two returning 1,000-yard rushers, will David Wilson decide to redshirt? The spring will help him in that decision.
• The evolution of Tyrod Taylor. He’s going to be a senior, and with so many questions on defense heading into the season, the offense will be leading the way. This should be a breakout year for Taylor, who by now should have mastered the offense and should consistently be a passing threat to compliment his running abilities.
Spring practice starts: March 16
Spring game: April 17
What to watch:
• The quarterback competition. It’s the most glaring hole the Deacs have to fill this spring, as they’re tasked with replacing the winningest quarterback in school history, Riley Skinner, and his backup, Ryan McManus. Redshirt sophomores Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones, and sophomore Brendan Cross, will compete with rookie Tanner Price for the top spot.
• Offensive line. The Deacs will take a huge hit here, as seven players in the two-deep depth chart were redshirt seniors, including all four tackles. Three starters have to be replaced.
• The interior defensive line. Nose guard Boo Robinson and John Russell have graduated, and Russell’s backup, Michael Lockett, was also a redshirt senior. The Deacs are in good shape at the ends, but will need some help inside.
The first fact Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is quick to point out about Maryland -- the team with the worst record in the ACC -- is that the Terps beat Clemson, the front-runner to win the Atlantic Division.
“I know they’ve had some tough injuries, and they’ve been close,” said Beamer, whose team will travel to College Park this weekend. “And like I said earlier, they beat Clemson at their place. This is a very, very dangerous football team.”
You just wouldn’t know it by looking at Maryland’s two wins this season.
“I think we’re a lot better, when we’re all healthy and everything,” coach Ralph Friedgen said. “If you look at the way our season has gone, we could very easily be 7-1 or 6-2, but that’s not the case. But I think we’re a lot better than what our record indicates.”
He’s not the only one.
Good teams find a way to win. Great teams find ways to win every weekend. But every now and then, there’s a little bit of luck involved in this game. Sure, you can argue that the good teams make their own luck, and they do. But look at what’s happened to NC State and North Carolina this year in terms of injuries. Look at how close Wake Forest is to a nine-win season right now.
“I think our team has been playing hard, and I don’t think we’re a bad football team, we’ve just been playing a lot of good teams and it doesn’t ever stop,” said Grobe, whose Deacs will host Florida State on Saturday. “There is a concern that after you have so many heartbreaking losses that after a while it’s hard to get the guys back up again, but we’re in a situation now where there’s no other choice. We’ve got two games left against two real good teams and we better bounce back.”
Five ACC teams are currently bowl eligible, but it’s unlikely the conference will fill its nine allotted bowl slots this year. A closer look at the conference, though, shows several of these struggling teams aren’t as bad as their records indicate. They’ve just fallen on some tough luck:
- Maryland has played 24 freshmen (10 true, 14 redshirts) this year, the most ever during Friedgen’s tenure. Seven have been on the defensive line. Paul Pinegar and Phil Costa are the only two offensive linemen to start all nine games. Overall, injuries have kept potential starters out of 32 games.
- At UNC, injuries have accounted for 23 missed starts. Three offensive linemen and the starting tight end have missed at least four games each. Six players on the team have had season-ending injuries, and UNC has missed three tailbacks, two fullbacks, two wide receivers, two tight ends, and three offensive linemen because of injuries. Conversely, only a backup safety has been out for the defense. And Tar Heels fans wonder what's wrong with their offense.
- NC State has had six starters on defense miss games, causing the Pack to start eight different lineups in nine games. This team would’ve been capable of more with the ACC’s No. 3 offense. A dozen players have suffered season-ending injuries. A total of 13 starters have missed a total of 39 games due to injuries.
- The Deacs have lost five games each by three points or fewer, including two games in overtime. It’s a school record. John Mackovic’s 1980 Wake Forest squad lost four games by three points or fewer. Wake Forest lost five games by a combined 13 points. This might be the unluckiest team in the country.
The bottom line is always the win-loss column, but it’s only fair to look at how each team got there. And for a few teams in the ACC, at least some of their struggles can be attributed to factors that were out of their control. All of these teams could've been better, we'll just never know by how much.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
You know the drill. Keep an eye on …
1. Interceptions in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor showed significant progress in the passing game last weekend against Duke, and didn't throw any interceptions in the process, but the Eagles have picked off five passes this year. Both teams have a knack for interceptions. Virginia Tech, in fact, has registered more interceptions (182) since the start of the 2000 season than any program in the country. Oklahoma (174) is second, and BC (173) is third during that time span.
2. Miami running back Javarris James moving up the charts. He’s coming off a career-best 150 yards rushing against Oklahoma and needs just 13 yards to pass Frank Gore for seventh place all-time on Miami’s rushing list and 37 more yards to become just the seventh player in school history to amass 2,000 career rushing yards. With 19 more carries, James (456 career attempts) will pass his cousin Edgerrin (474) to move into sole possession of third place on the school’s all-time rushing attempts list.
3. Maryland’s offensive line. It will make a significant difference if left tackle Bruce Campbell is able to play against Wake Forest’s sturdy defensive line after injuring his MCL against Clemson last week. Campbell has missed practice time this week, but hasn’t been declared “out” for this game. Paul Pinegar has been taking the reps at left tackle, though.
4. Upset alerts. It’s an odd weekend in the ACC, where even the most heavily favored teams -- like, say, No. 5-ranked Virginia Tech -- could lose and it wouldn’t exactly be a shock. So far the home teams have had the advantages, and that works in Florida State’s favor against No. 22 Georgia Tech. Can NC State hold off a feisty Duke team, though, that just played four quarters of competitive football against the Hokies?
5. Another record-setting weekend for Skinner. Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner needs just 81 passing yards to become the school's all-time leader. Skinner has thrown for 1,004 yards over his past three games and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in six straight games, dating back to last season.
6. Virginia’s passing defense against Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell. He threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State last weekend, and the Hoosiers are averaging 233.2 passing yards per game. The Cavaliers pass defense, though, is No. 8 in the country, holding opponents to 156.5 yards per game.
7. Running quarterbacks who are starting to throw. Tyrod Taylor earned his first-ever 300-yard passing game last weekend at Duke, the first time a Hokie quarterback has met that mark since Sean Glennon in 2006. Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt is coming off a career-high 266 passing yards against Mississippi State. Was it just a passing fancy, or can they keep it up?
8. NC State’s new secondary lineup. Tom O’Brien said this week he’s swapping potential for experience at both safety positions, as senior Clem Johnson will replace freshman Brandan Bishop, and senior Bobby Floyd will take over for redshirt freshman Earl Wolff. That’s a smart move against accomplished Duke passer Thaddeus Lewis.
9. Carolina’s quarterback of the future. UNC coach Butch Davis told the Raleigh News & Observer he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing true freshman Bryn Renner, who was expected to redshirt this season. Renner hasn’t taken a snap yet, but if he’s going to burn his redshirt, Georgia Southern would probably be a good time to do it.
10. Florida State’s will to win. If the Seminoles are going to turn this season around, now is the time. A win at home would stop a two-game losing skid and give them some positive momentum heading into the bye week. Georgia Tech will require their full attention and focus, though, and that’s something that might have been tough to gather amidst the controversy surrounding the program this week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Let's get to it ...
- Virginia's win over North Carolina was only half the story for Virginia safety Brandon Woods, who was married during the bye week. And the last line is priceless.
- Bobby Bowden isn't the only one at Florida State whose status is uncertain. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews might retire at the end of the season, too. Of course, if Bowden wants Andrews to come back, doesn't that mean he wants to come back, too?
- Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett expects the Noles to come prepared to play, despite all of the distractions this week.
- Maryland doesn't know whether or not it will have Bruce Campbell back at left tackle in time for Wake Forest, but Paul Pinegar has been getting the reps there this week.
- Wake Forest will be looking for more from its running game on Saturday against the Terps.
- With a full-grown beard and a bald head, Duke receiver Austin Kelly looks like the old man of the group, but now he's starting to play like it.
- Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple's standards are higher than yours, believe it or not, and right now, he says the offense isn't very good.
- Virginia Tech split end Jarrett Boykin has hands so big they rip through his XXXL gloves, the largest size Nike makes. If you're a receiver, that's a good thing.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
It's the season of walk-ons in the ACC. There's Virginia receiver Matt Snyder, who cracked the starting lineup, according to the latest depth chart. There's Maryland offensive linemen Paul Pinegar and Andrew Gonnella, who have earned the starting jobs at right tackle and right guard, respectively. There's FSU receiver Louis Givens, who finally earned a scholarship this summer.
And the latest to join the group of walk-on success stories is FSU defensive end Craig Yarborough, who -- at least to many outside the program -- came out of nowhere when he appeared at the top of the depth chart at left end this week. I got a chance on Wednesday to ask coach Bobby Bowden about that move, and the reason was simple -- Yarborough out-hustled everyone else.
"Craig is a good story because he's a walk-on," Bowden said. "He came over here with a pretty good reputation, just not what people were looking for. What he has done is out-hustled everybody for the job. He has out-hustled everybody for the job. He'll start that ballgame. He got hurt a little bit the other day, with a slight pull, and we're going to let him lay off a couple of days. But if he's healthy, he'll start that doggone ball game."
Bowden explained that just because a player starts, doesn't mean he's got a permanent role.
"He might be on the first down team, and never play second or third down, because you're going to send in pass rushers, and things like that," Bowden said. "But he's the starter.
"Now, the guy that can solve our problem but he hasn't solved it is (Kevin) McNeil," Bowden said. "He has the talent to solve that problem, but he's missed to much and he doesn't hustle like you need to hustle to be a first-teamer. I wish he would."
He'll get a chance on Monday to watch Yarborough to see how it's done.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- It's the one unit that will truly help sway which way Maryland's season will unfold, and with about two weeks left until the daunting season opener at Cal, the Terps' offensive line still has more questions than it does answers.
"We're a work in progress," said offensive line coach Tom Brattan.
"It's not going to be a quick fix there," said Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen.
Not when the Terps lost five of their top seven linemen from a year ago. For a team that lost 30 players to graduation from 2008, the offensive line was hit harder than any other unit. The Terps have 27 career starts up front and the potential for two walk-ons to start in Paul Pinegar and Andrew Gonnella. There are three positions open -- right tackle and both guard spots. Overall, there are only six linemen who have even played in one game, and three are walk-ons.
Brattan said he's had the group "devouring tape," coming to practices early, staying a little later, and doing anything they can to help "speed up the process."
The good news for the Terps is that they're settled at center, where Phil Costa will take over for Edwin Williams after 19 career starts at both left and right guard, and at left tackle, where Bruce Campbell took over as starter midway through last season and could make a name for himself as one of the more astounding athletes in the ACC. After playing as a true freshman and battling injuries since then, the 6-foot-7, 310-pound Campbell is poised to be one of the conference's better linemen, as he's built like a tight end and is one of the strongest players in school history.
"I see him getting more knowledgeable about the offense, more comfortable with it," Brattan said. "Obviously both he and Phil Costa are going to be your mainstays. They've been in the fray. They're the only guys who have seen significant playing time."
Campbell said he knows the responsibility that comes with that.
"I'm being more of a vocal leader this year instead of leading by example, telling them if they have any questions, anything you want to work on, anything after practice, while we're in our dorms or at camp, just come talk to me. I'm always available," Campbell said. "I'm looking to really have depth this year, really try to get our younger offensive linemen to mature and grow a lot faster.
"I know I have to keep my head on right because most of the younger offensive linemen get frustrated really fast," he said. "In experiencing that, I have to tell them, 'Hey, let that play go. Just look forward to the next play.'"
Gonnella and Lamar Young have been leading the competition for the guard positions, and Pinegar and R.J. Dill have been leading the depth chart at right tackle. Pinegar is the only other lineman to see any significant time in his career. Pinegar has played in 12 games at tackle over the last two years.
"We're just going to have to be patient and hope kids develop," Friedgen said. "I'm not disappointed right now. I see us getting better."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here's a quick catch-you-up on practices from around the league, as reported by each school's sports information office:
With tailbacks Tavares Pressley and Ty Jones getting their first extended work since returning from hamstring strains, the Seminoles moved the ball effectively on the ground throughout the second half of Wednesday's afternoon practice.
"We ran 'ol Pressley a lot today just to see what kind of shape he was in," FSU coach Bobby Bowden said. "He ran good, but he gave out."
Pressley was the primary ball carrier for the first-team offense during 11-on-11 work, when the Seminoles started at the 50-yard line. He repeatedly ripped off runs between 6-and-12 yards, displaying power and speed, though he did lose a fumble downfield. That fumble proved costly when Pressley landed on the football, knocking the wind out of him, and ultimately ending his day prematurely.
Still, it was the first significant contact work Pressley has had in more than two years, since transferring from El Camino (Calif.) Community College last fall. He missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, suffered early in preseason camp.
"[Pressley] did some good things and some bad things," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said. "When you hit it up in there now, this ain't junior college. There are men on the other side."
Jones also received significant work with the second-team offense and was largely effective running between the tackles.
While Jermaine Thomas earned a break throughout a large chunk of scrimmage work, 212-pound freshman tailback Lonnie Pryor continued to rip off yardage after initial contact and earn the coaching staff's praise.
"The guy that keeps looking good is Pryor," Bowden said. "Sometimes he looks like he's the best back we've got. He just does better than he's supposed to do. He's supposed to faint every now and then, but he ain't fainted yet."
After Tuesday afternoon's practice turned into an evening session due to a couple of rain delays, the Maryland Terrapins were back on the football field Wednesday morning for the first of two workouts scheduled for the day.
"We had a good, tough practice today," said coach Ralph Friedgen. "It was tough because we went late last night, then we got up this morning. It was hot and humid. We forced them to push themselves out of their comfort zone. Some did it and some didn't."
Despite the short rest, heat and humidity, several players that have stood out in practice so far continued to impress.
"A couple guys really stand out right now," Friedgen said. "Chris Turner -- he's really doing a great job of seeing things, setting the defense, using his cadence, making decisions. I'm very pleased with how he's playing. Kenny Tate is having a sensational camp. He's all over the place. He's intercepting passes, he's sacking guys. [Defensive coordinator Don] Brown's got him blitzing, covering. Every time you look up, he's making a play. You saw that in the scrimmage the other day."
Friedgen like the development the team has made through 11 preseason workouts.
"I think we're getting better," Friedgen said. "We're a long way from where we need to be, but I'm seeing progress."
Now a week and a half in to fall camp, Friedgen is starting to see separation at some positions, while others remain a wait-and-see situation. Parts of the offensive line remain a question, Friedgen said, but the coaching staff is remaining patient with a group that is talented but very young.
"We have [three] redshirt freshmen [Justin Lewis, R.J. Dill and Justin Gilbert] and two regular freshmen [Pete White and Bennett Fulper] and then Maurice Hampton, he's a redshirt sophomore," Friedgen said. "They're very, very young. We knew going in, it is what it is. You just have to be patient and keep working them and keep encouraging them."
Miami held its third two-a-day of fall camp Wednesday, with the team working out in shells in the early morning and late afternoon sessions.
In the morning session, the defense played well in red zone drills and Javarris James led a strong showing by the running backs in 11-on-11 work. In the afternoon, James continued his strong play with a couple big runs to go along with interceptions by Sam Shields and Vaughn Telemaque.
The team continues to focus on kickoff coverage, in addition to the usual work in 11-on-11, 7-on-7 and positional drills.
After five practices in three days, the Canes will take the day off on Thursday before holding a closed scrimmage on Friday.
Morning Practice Highlights -- (shells)
• Randy Phillips stood out defensively, recording a sack and pass deflection in 11-on-11 play.
• In a series of 15-to-20 red zone plays, the defense held the offense to just one touchdown (Taylor Cook to LaRon Byrd for a 20-yard score).
• James had a rush and a reception of over 20 yards in 11-on-11 play.
• Lee Chambers had a few runs of 10-to-15 yards in run drills and in 11-on-11 action.
Afternoon Practice Highlights -- (shells)
• James had runs of approximately 65 and 30 yards in 11-on-11 drills.
• Harris hooked up with Collier (twice) Jimmy Graham and Travis Benjamin for substantial gains in 11-on-11 action.
• Shields recorded an interception in 7-on-7 play.
• Telemaque picked off a pass in the end zone during two-minute drills.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
James Franklin is entering his second season as Maryland's offensive coordinator, and during the offseason, he added the title of head-coach-in-waiting. With the exception of veteran quarterback Chris Turner, Franklin has a young offense to work with this spring. He's excited, though, about its potential and the fact most of the players are more comfortable now with the system.
Here are the highlights of our recent interview:
How are things going for you in the second season with this offense and the guys and the comfort level?
James Franklin: Obviously I'd like to have a little more depth and experience on the o-line, but we've got one of the better line coaches in the country in Tom Brattan. We were talking the other day, although we're young and inexperienced, we're so much further along than we were last year, and that's me, that's the other assistant coaches, that's the players -- everybody involved is so much further along. I have a better feel for what Ralph (Friedgen) wants, I have a better feel for our personnel and what our strengths and weaknesses are. Just the second year being here and developing our philosophy offensively, I've got a much better feel. And really all the assistant coaches do as well.
That's been the thing that's been pretty exciting. There's been more recall, even players that haven't played before, they've still heard these things before. They've heard concepts before. I'm excited about it, especially the fact we have a returning starting quarterback coming back. That helps as well. I'm excited I think it's a really good situation. It's been extremely competitive. The new defensive coordinator we have and what he's doing in practice every day, Ralph is creating a very competitive situation in practice every day. I think we have a chance to be pretty good on both sides of the ball.
Do you feel like people are going to be watching the offense a little more closely this year, now that you've been named head coach in waiting?
JF: That's probably a natural component of this situation. I would say that's probably going to happen, but I'm really not concerned about it. If we do the things that we're supposed to do, we'll be fine, and everybody will be excited and feel good about the future of Maryland football. That's really not a concern of mine. What we have to do is the best job we possibly can with our team and the players we have and make sure we're headed in the right direction and continue to evolve and grow. As long as we do that, I think people will be very pleased.
Is it something you've been talking about now to recruits now that it's all said and done?
JF: Well, to be honest with you, we haven't really been talking about it. It's more from the standpoint it's something that's not talked about. In the past, you'd always have to answer the question of how much longer is Ralph going to be here, and we hear he only has two or three years left on his contract. So instead of there being the conversation about the uncertainly of the program, it's really not brought up anymore. I would say it's the opposite. Rather than people talking about me being the next head coach, it's really just left conversations about what the future holds and how much longer Ralph's going to be here.
How did the scrimmage go on Saturday?
JF: It went OK. It was your typical first scrimmage of spring ball, especially with the young offensive line, but I thought it went fairly well. Chris Turner is doing well. We know what Da'Rel Scott can do. The biggest thing that stands out to me is our new defensive coordinator, and the scheme that we're running. I think our kids are excited about it. We're extremely aggressive. It's a difficult scheme to deal with. Our kids are really enjoying playing in it. That's the main thing that stands out to me right now.
How high are your expectations for Chris this year, give he's a veteran and one of the few senior quarterbacks in the league?
JF: We've been watching him on tape and watching him at practice so far this spring, and the biggest thing I look at, is that there are a probably a lot of teams in this league that would want Chris Turner to be their starting quarterback next year. He's a veteran guy, the game has slowed down for him, he's poised, he's bigger and stronger than people realize. He's been there, done that. Just meeting with him this spring, I know he's so much more confident and so much more relaxed because everything is a review for him, whereas last year was his first year in the offense. We're in year two now. I asked him how he was doing, and he said, 'instead of everything being brand new, it's a review for me now.' He just feels so much more confident, and you can see that. He's going to have to play well, obviously, because we're young and inexperienced at some other positions, but if I had to choose where I'd want to be young at -- the o-line or quarterback -- I'd probably pick the o-line. At least with a veteran quarterback, hopefully the ball is coming out faster and he's making decisive decisions. I think that's going to help us.
Where do you think he's made the most progress?
JF: I think more than anything is, at the quarterback position you have to know what you're doing, where you're going with the ball and why. You have to know the plays and the system inside and out. Last year he knew it fairly well, but it wasn't second nature to him. That's probably the biggest thing now is it's just so much more comfortable for him. His arm looks stronger, his arm probably is a little stronger because it's his second hear and he's bigger and stronger. I think even more than that, he's so much more confident about where he's going with the ball, and he's in rhythm, so he can set and really drive the ball more. I see him so much more comfortable in so many different aspects.
You guys obviously lost one of the best receivers in the conference in Darrius Heyward-Bey, but there seems to be a buzz about the young guys on the roster. What can you tell fans about the young receivers he might be throwing to?
JF: I think even last year we had depth at the wide receiver position. Danny Oquendo, although he had a great career here and played well Ronnie Tyler got in behind him and played very well as a freshman. It wasn't like it was just Danny Oquendo doing it last year. Isaiah Williams was the starter at X, and then as the year went on, Torrey Smith became the starter at the X position. There's another guy who's played significantly, and then at Z, Darrius has played and played well, obviously over the last two to three years here at Maryland, but once again, we had other guys who played. Right now, the way we're doing it, we've got Torrey at X, Ronnie at the slot, what we call F, and then at the Z we have Emani Lee-Odai, who has played on and off for two years here. So it's not like these guys left and no one has played. All of these guys have played significant roles, and we're expecting big things for them. Right now, this spring, they haven't played as consistently as I would've liked, but think they will. I don't think they're used to being the guys. They have to get a little more comfortable in that role.
Kevin Dorsey, the receiver, I've heard a lot of really good things about him. Has he been playing well this spring?
JF: He's another guy we signed and redshirted last year. Last year he sat out the whole year with an injury. He's still not a hundred percent but probably has the best ball skills on our team. If the ball's around him, he's going to catch it. He's a big, physical guy. If we can get him 100 percent healthy, he runs well, he's a guy I can see pushing either Emani Lee for the starting Z position or pushing Tori for the starting X position. But he's going to play a significant role and Tony Logan, another highly recruited guy out of New York, that's playing well right now for us. He started at punt return for Oquendo in the bowl game and did very well, so they're two young guys who are doing very well for us. But Dorsey obviously is doing very well. (Kerry) Boykins is the other guy I was thinking about in the slot. He and Ronnie Tyler are playing in the slot together, but you're right, Dorsey's had a strong spring and I think is going to continue to do well.
What happened to him? What was his injury?
JF: He had a toe issue very similar to what Grant Hill had, it was basically a prolonged, almost turf toe type of condition. He had it his senior year in high school and it never really went away, so he had to have surgery on it. I think the surgery has gone well. He feels better than he's probably felt in three years right now, but he's still not 100 percent.
Tell me a little bit about your offensive line. It seems like center would be a big question mark, but how is everything else looking?
JF: Well center really is not the question mark. It's probably the most solidified position on the offense. Phil Costa has played guard for two years and has been Edwin's backup for two years and has played the position in games and in practice, so that's not an issue. An issue would be depth at the center position. We don't really have a proven backup yet to him, but I do think we have a legitimate all-ACC center in Phil Costa. And then the rest of the positions, obviously the two guard positions, we've got three guys right now that are in a pretty good battle for those positions -- Lamar Young, Andrew Gonnella and Justin Lewis. Justin ended up redshirting last year. But that's three guys that are competing pretty good for the two guard spots. And then the tackle position obviously we have Bruce Campbell and feel good about him, but the other tackle position and a backup is a little bit of an area of concern. Paul Pinegar has played the last couple of years as a backup for us and we have a freshman named R.J. Dill, and those guys are doing fairly well. We've got a kid by the name of Tyler Bowen, who has been injured for the last year and a half. If he comes back and comes on for us, that would really help us.
What's lingering there that you know isn't going to be solidified until summer camp?
JF: Probably the offensive line. We feel pretty good at tight end. Matt Furstenburg is a guy that's coming on really well for us. We redshirted him last year. He's had one of the better springs for us, and is really pushing Lansford Watson for the starting job. Lansford played a significant amount of time last year, so those two guys, Tommy Galt has played sporadically throughout his career as well, and Devonte Campbell, who was a highly recruited kid. So that gives us four guys at tight end we feel pretty good about. But I think the o-line, there's probably going to be two guys that are going to come in as true freshmen and at least need to be in the two deep for us at least as backups, and try to do what we did with Justin Lewis, that they're there if we need them, but we can hold them and redshirt them. That's probably what we'd like to do. But that's probably the position we're still going to need to have more time to get that position ready to go, and have those guys get comfortable playing together. That's just as much a part of it as anything, those guys playing together and knowing who they're working with and why and the communication and all those things.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here they are, the unheralded linemen. The guys who do the dirty work and make their teammates look good. Check out who's got the best:
1. Maryland -- The Terps have just one starting job open here and five of the top six linemen are seniors. The experience younger players like Bruce Campbell and Paul Pinegar gained last year at the misfortune of injured teammates should pay dividends this season. The Terps' depth is why they're ahead of the Hokies.
2. Virginia Tech -- Four starters are back, including Ed Wang, who moved from right to left tackle; left guard Nick Marshman, who at 6-foot-5, 357-pounds was the largest man on the roster but dropped 25 pounds in the offseason; center Ryan Shuman, who missed the spring because of offseason knee surgery; and right guard Sergio Render, who has already caught the eye of NFL scouts. Wang's backup, Greg Nosal, is a redshirt freshman moving from tight end. Marshman's reserve is Hivera Green, who hasn't played.
3. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels have struggled in the past, but with four starters returning and the second season under Butch Davis, it should see improvement. Senior tackle Garrett Reynolds and junior tackle Kyle Jolly -- who missed the spring with an injured left foot -- lead a group that has 67 total starts.
4. Wake Forest -- This group should be better than people think, despite having to replace center Steve Justice. Barrett McMillin has starting experience at right guard, and left tackle Joe Birdsong and right tackle Jeff Griffin both split time at one of the tackle spots last season. Left guard Russell Nenon didn't start but picked up a lot of playing time toward the end of the season. Center is a question mark. Because he was stuck behind Justice, center Trey Bailey has the most catching up to do.
5. Boston College -- There are still two spots up for grabs. Sophomore Anthony Castonzo, who holds the distinction of becoming the school's first offensive lineman in a decade to start as a true freshman, moved from right to left tackle to replace Gosder Cherilus. Matt Tennant is back at center along with returning staritng guard Clif Ramsey. Former defensive lineman Thomas Claiborne moved to right guard this spring.
6. NC State -- Moving defensive linemen Ted Larsen to center and John Bedics to left guard will only help this football team, but neither of them has taken a snap on offense yet in a college game. Jake Vermiglio, a hulking tackle who played well against Chris Long as a freshman last year, moved to guard behind Bedics (which shows Tom O'Brien's confidence in that move). Andy Barbee, a redshirt junior, was a longtime backup at center. Depth is a question mark, but the Wolfpack has three returning starters in right tackle Meares Green (who played at guard, center AND tackle last year), right guard Curtis Crouch, and Julian Williams, who is in his second full year starting at left tackle.
7. Miami -- The Hurricanes are looking for a starting center but have two starters back in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood. They've got experience in Orlando Franklin, Joel Figueroa (a key reserve) and Chris Rutledge (split time as a starter).
8. Virginia -- The loss of Branden Albert and two other starters left a gaping hole. The best thing the Cavaliers have going for them is senior Eugene Monroe, who might be the best offensive lineman in the ACC. He didn't allow a sack last year at left tackle. There's also experience at right tackle, where Will Barker has 25 career starts.
9. Georgia Tech -- The good news is that left tackle Andrew Gardner came back instead of heading for the NFL. The bad news is the cohesiveness of this unit is mostly gone because Gardner is the lone full-time returning starter. Cord Howard missed the spring because of foot surgery, but he and Dan Voss, who started the final seven games of last season at left guard, at least have starting experience.
10. Clemson -- Finally. A flaw. Tommy Bowden had to replace four starters, and named all but the two guard spots. Still, Cory Lambert has never started a game at left tackle and three of the four players competing to be guards are redshirt freshmen. Freshman Antoine McClain, who was ranked the No. 6 offensive tackle prospect [Insider] in the country by ESPN.com, could help.
11. Duke -- The Blue Devils have three starters back, including both tackles -- Fred Roland and Cameron Goldberg -- and guard Rob Schirmann. The reason they're not last? They've got one more body with experience than the 'Noles.
12. Florida State -- For the first time in school history, there's not one junior or senior on the line. That doesn't mean there's not talent, but much of it is unproven. What the Seminoles do have is sophomores Ryan McMahon and Rodney Hudson. McMahon was the only freshman or sophomore in the FBS to take every offensive snap for his team at center. Redshirt freshman Antwane Greenlee, a bulky 302-pound tackle who was very highly recruited, still hasn't played. A true freshman will most likely start somewhere, but first the coaches have to find the best one they have.