ACC: Raphael Chestnut

Duke recruiting needs

January, 15, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

As promised, here's the second round of recruiting needs for the ACC. Today we're focusing on the Coastal Division. Let's start with the Blue Devils:

If coach David Cutcliffe is going to turn the Blue Devils' program around, he's going to have to lure a stronger, faster athlete to Durham, and his staff is working hard to do that.

The odds of freshmen playing in 2009 are greatest in the secondary and at the linebacker position, where the recruiting needs were the most pressing, but Duke's entire starting lineup on defense was comprised of juniors and seniors. The graduation of two starting linebackers -- Marcus Jones and ACC leading tackler Michael Tauiliili -- made that position a priority, and five have committed.

Safety Adrian Aye-Darko and corners Jabari Marshall and Glenn Williams are all seniors, and the staff is expecting at least five commitments from defensive backs.

Duke also wanted to build depth up front on both lines, as the staff will have to replace three starters on the offensive line,and the defensive line will graduate two starters and return two seniors. So far, Duke has four linemen on each side of the ball committed.

The Blue Devils will also have to replace receivers Eron Riley and Raphael Chestnut, but there is some youth behind them. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will be a senior, but the staff is excited about Sean Renfree, and isn't too concerned about the depth at quarterback for this recruiting class.

ACC weekend practice update

August, 16, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

RALEIGH, N.C. -- I'm still in Raleigh, but there are a few other things going on in the league worth checking in on. These scrimmage reports just came in:


  • One day after I wrote about Duke's running game taking a hit, the young running backs stood out in today's 80-snap scrimmage in Wallace Wade Stadium.
  • Jay Hollingsworth, Tony Jackson and Patrick Kurunwune combined to rush for 179 yards.
  • Jackson led with 71 yards on 13 carries while Kurunwune added 62 yards on 11 attempts. Hollingsworth picked up 46 yards on 13 rushes and added a one-yard touchdown run.
  • Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis completed six of 12 throws for 69 yards, including an eight-yard touchdown to Raphael Chestnut.
  • Sheldon Bell led all receivers with four catches for 23 yards while Jeremy Ringfield and Johnny Williams had two grabs for 38 and 37 yards, respectively.
  • Defensively, Trent Mackey, Eddie Morgan and Clifford Respress each posted one tackle for loss.
  • The kicking game included field goals by Nick Snyderwine (26 yards) and Joe Surgan (24 yards).


"We absolutely accomplished what we wanted," coach David Cutcliffe said. "We really limited our defense not knowing who is in the stands and we limited our offense some in the passing game. We more strictly limited our defense. It was good for us to find out some things when we are playing straight and how we hold up. I thought the effort was really good. I thought we were pretty crisp throwing and catching the ball. You can see a big difference. Both lines of scrimmage were physical with a lot of crisp hits. I think we got a lot out of this."


Again with the infusion of youth.

  • Three true freshmen scored touchdowns and two sophomore B-backs combined for 174 yards in the Yellow Jackets' 90-minute scrimmage at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
  • True freshmen -- quarterback Tevin Washington, receiver Tyler Melton and safety Cooper Taylor -- combined for three of Georgia Tech's six touchdowns. Washington had a 53-yard TD run, Taylor returned a fumble 39 yards for a score and Melton made an impressive catch in the end zone on a 35-yard pass from another true freshman, quarterback Jaybo Shaw.
  • Shaw took most of the snaps with the first-unit offense as sophomorequarterback Josh Nesbitt remained sidelined with a shoulder injury.
  • Sophomore B-back Anthony Allen, a Louisville transfer not eligible until 2009, ran for a team-high 90 yards on seven carries including a 70-yard touchdown run.
  • Jonathan Dwyer, the sophomore expected to start at B-back, had seven carries for 84 yards including one 55-yard TD run.
  • Senior Calvin Booker was the leading passer on Saturday, completing 8 of 12 passes for 88 yards. Booker did throw the only interception of the day, a short pass picked off by redshirt freshman defensive end Jason Peters.
  • Peters and another redshirt freshman defender, Kyle Jackson, recorded Tech's two sacks. Jackson added one fumble recovery.


"We ran over 100 plays and we're at the point where I know what they can do," coach Paul Johnson said. "Now, we just have toget ready to play."

MIAMI (catching up from Friday)

The Hurricanes went almost 100 plays in their scrimmage on Friday night.

Sophomore running backs Shawnbrey McNeal and Damien Berry, along with redshirt freshman Lee Chambers, handled the bulk of the carries. McNeal scored the scrimmage's first touchdown on the offense's second drive of the night.


"We've got to find some depth at running back," coach Randy Shannon said. "We've got six guys. We can't get caught like last year when we ran out of running backs. The more work we get for those guys, the better off we'll be. If they do a great job picking up the offense, we'll be OK."

Posted by's Heather Dinich

DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke football practice had ended Friday, but it wasn't quite over. The linebackers did 50 sit-ups, followed by 30 more stomach burners. Another group was doing up-downs, and yet another ran 5-yard sprints the length of the field.

It was one of the hottest days of summer camp, but quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and receiver Raphael Chestnut lingered for extra passes.

David Cutcliffe and his staff are pressing the Blue Devils to set new limits.

"They demand so much more out of us, and you never know what your body can take until you push to that limit and go past it and make new limits for yourself," senior linebacker Michael Tauiliili said. "They're never content with a slack practice, no matter how hot it is or how many days we've been going back and forth, whether it's shorts and helmets or full pads, it's full-speed all the time. When they see anything below that, they definitely let us know it's not acceptable."

There is a sign on the floor of the linebackers' team meeting room that reads: "Make no excuses. You either finished your assignment or you failed."

That's what Cutcliffe has been stressing this summer -- finishing anything and everything -- the fourth quarter and practice included.

"We haven't finished a game around here," he said. "If you look at all the players we have, they've never been a part of playing a complete game, start to finish. A big, solid win, start to finish. And they have no idea how to practice start to finish. That's our responsibility as coaches."

Those within the program say this staff has already made a difference. The players look different than they did a year ago, with less body fat and more speed. What they're tasked with changing now, though, is an entire way of thinking.

"We're working on changing the mentality," said safety Glenn Williams. "A lot of people don't respect us, but one thing we've learned is that we have to earn that respect, and we're putting in the necessary work to earn it."

Cutcliffe came here in large part because of the people. It was an opportunity for him to bring former staff members together again. Seven of the nine assistants have worked with him before.

"The one arrogant thing I'll say about Duke football -- this is the best assistant coaching staff in the country," Cutcliffe said. "They're very energetic. It's the way we've coached. I've been with all of these guys before, with the exception of two ... that's just how we do things. That's how we recruit, that's how we have staff meetings.

"The great part of it is they're competitive with each other. That creates intensity out here. Sometimes it gets a little serious, but everybody knows when to back off, and when we leave the field we're definitely a unit."

And equally as important, they've won. A lot. Ole Miss went 44-29 with four bowl game wins in six seasons under Cutcliffe. Duke offensive coordinator Kurt Roper was there for it.

"We all believe that we can win here or none of us would have made this decision," Roper said. "That's the ultimate goal, and we believe in the head football coach and we believe in everybody we're working with."

The hardest part is getting the players to believe in themselves.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Checking in from the heart of ACC country. I'll be talking to Tar Heels tomorrow, but first a look around what happened throughout the rest of the league Tuesday, according to team practice reports:


  • The Blue Devils had a 55-snap situational scrimmage this afternoon.


  • Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis completed nine-of-13 passes for 92 yards and scored on a one-yard run.
  • Backup QB Zack Asack completed six-of-14 throws for 67 yards and one touchdown, and he rushed four times for 55 yards.
  • Freshman running back Jay Hollingsworth had 54 yards on 10 carries, including a 26-yard touchdown.
  • Four Blue Devils -- Raphael Chestnut, Brett Huffman, Tielor Robinson and Johnny Williams -- caught two passes each and Jeremy Ringfield caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from Asack.
  • Adrian Aye-Darko had an interception and Eddie Morgan recovered one fumble.


"Out of this situational scrimmage we got a couple of two minute drills that were pretty dynamic," coach David Cutcliffe said. "We got some short yardage and goal line work. We got a lot of third down work which I thought was good. The offense made some big plays to move the ball down the field and then turned it over on a forced error by the defense. All in all there was a little bit more give and take in this scrimmage than on Saturday. The one glaring thing is we have to find somebody who can run the football. The loss of Re'quan Boyette for the time being has put a damper on our run game."


  • Senior Kevin Akins, who was recently moved from linebacker to corner, had two interceptions.
  • Junior Rich Gunnell scampered for a long touchdown catch down the right sideline, and sophomore Ifeanyi Momah made a leap over the corner for an impressive catch.
  • Freshman Colin Larmond Jr. also grabbed a long reception on the left side with a defender on his hip.


  • There was a torrential rainstorm that made it tough for the offense to handle the ball through 12 periods.
  • New football equipment manager Darin Kerns, a veteran of the Tampa Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs, believes FSU has the best helmet in college football (as do many of the nation's fans, according the's 'Helmet Clash' contest). When he came to Tallahassee and saw the team's practice helmet without a spear on the side he decided to immediately rectify that matter and the spear is now on FSU's practice helmets.
  • The blocking drill was highlighted by Corey Surrency's crushing block on Ochuko Jenije that ended up with the junior receiver being swarmed by teammates and his position coach Lawrence Dawsey.
  • Team inside -- which is usually a running drill and only features everyone but the receivers and DBs -- featured the receivers for one period as Drew Weatherford connected with Taiwan Easterling, something you usually don't see during inside drills. Weatherford ran for a TD and Antone Smith had a nice run as well.
  • Kevin McNeil, who had some academic issues, returned to practice and could contribute on the defensive line.


"Kevin McNeil was back out there today," coach Bobby Bowden said. "Of course they have to go back to the very beginning of the acclimation process -- two days in shorts, two days in shells and then into full (pads). We are going to bring him along slow. I don't think any other new guys got back out there. I'm sure they are all waiting for clearance before they go out there."


  • The offense worked mainly on short-yardage passing and goal-line offense during its team drills today. The defense worked on passing situations, mainly on short-yard coverage. The Yellow Jackets ended practice by working on situations they might face in overtime.


  • Freshman quarterback Jaybo Shaw threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to true freshman Jonathan Lockhart.
  • Sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt returned the favor on his squad's first play with a 25-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman A-back Roddy Jones. After the first-team offense failed an attempted field goal on the ensuing drive, the second team won the game soon after as redshirt junior Mohamed Yahiaoui made a 30-yard field goal.


  • The Hokies had their first of three scrimmages today, and they went 78 plays without any serious injuries.


  • Quarterback Sean Glennon completed 6-of-10 passes for 49 yards and Tyrod Taylor completed 6-of-10 for 20 yards.
  • Running back Josh Oglesby had five carries for 65 yards and one touchdown; Darren Evans: 7-26, and Ryan Williams 7-20.
  • Prince Parker led all receivers with three catches for 19 yards.
  • Defensively, corner Eddie Whitley had six tackles, one sack and one forced fumble. Orion Martin had five tackles, including two tackles for loss.
  • Matt Waldron made three field goals (35 yards, 25, 38).


  • Macho Harris: Two blocked field goals.
  • Oglesby: blocked punt, 34-yard touchdown run.
Posted by's Heather Dinich
 Aaron Kelly is the leading returning receiver in the conference.

Welcome to Day 3 of ACC position rankings. Once again, Clemson is on top. That speaks just as much to the Tigers' talent level this year as it does to the lack of superstars throughout the rest of the league. On Wednesday, I'll check out the unheralded offensive linemen. Here's a look at the ACC's top pass catchers, with depth AND experience being the top two factors considered.

1. Clemson -- Aaron Kelly is the leading returning receiver in the ACC, but he's not the only one with capable hands in this offense. Tyler Grisham had 60 receptions for 653 yards last year, and is also a top blocker. Jacoby Ford was in the midst of a breakout season last year, leading the team with 18.2 yards per catch, but his season was derailed by a broken ankle.

2. Boston College -- The sheer depth here puts these guys up high. Ryan Purvis could be one of the best tight ends in the ACC (54 catches for 553 yards and four touchdowns), and the Eagles also have experience in Rich Gunnell, Justin Jarvis and Clarence Megwa.

3. Florida State -- For the first time in school history, the Seminoles had three receivers over 700 yards each last season and two of them -- Preston Parker and Greg Carr -- will be back. Expectations are soaring for junior college transfer Corey Surrency, the top receiver in the Seminoles' 2008 recruiting class.

4. North Carolina -- The combo of Hakeem Nicks and Brandon Tate justify this spot. Nicks set a single-season school record with 74 catches for 958 yards and five touchdowns last season, while Tate averaged 19.2 yards per catch and scored five touchdowns on 25 receptions.

5. Maryland -- This is the Terps' deepest position as they return Darrius Heyward-Bey, Isaiah Williams, Danny Oquendo and LaQuan Williams. They'll be under the direction of Lee Hull, who joined the staff in March.

6. Duke -- Eron Riley led the league with 20.8 yards per catch and was fourth in the ACC last season with 69.2 receiving yards per game. Sheldon Bell had a strong spring, and if Raphael Chestnut makes a full recovery from last year's torn ACL, it could help take some attention off Riley.

7. NC State -- The Wolfpack welcome back tight end Anthony Hill, the team's leading receiver in 2006, and have depth and experience in Donald Bowens, who led the team with 15 yards per catch last year. Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer both played in every game last year as reserves.

8. Virginia -- The return of Kevin Ogletree, the team's leading receiver in 2006 who missed last season with a torn ACL, will help tremendously. There is plenty of depth behind him.

9. Miami -- Miami was last in the league in pass offense, 11th in scoring offense and 11th in total offense. The return of Jermaine McKenzie, who missed last season because of a neck injury he suffered in a car accident, along with the addition of true freshman Aldarius Johnson, could help that.

10. Wake Forest -- The departure of ACC receptions leader Kenneth Moore leaves the Deacs looking for a go-to guy. Tight end Ben Wooster was the playmaker this spring, but veteran Chip Brinkman and D.J. Boldin must also be dependable options.

11. Georgia Tech -- Depth is an issue here, especially after James Johnson quit during the spring and Greg Smith, who led the team with 37 receptions last year, was moved to running back.

12. Virginia Tech -- The Hokies fell to the bottom here because they have to replace their top four receivers from a year ago, and Brandon Dillard is now out for the season with an injury. That's not to say there isn't talent here, but it's unproven. The top two coming out of the spring were Zach Luckett and Danny Coa