ACC: Rashad Mason

Ranking the ACC units: Wide receivers

July, 15, 2009
7/15/09
5:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Tuesday we broke down the quarterbacks in the ACC, so let's figure out who the best targets are in the conference:

1. Miami -- No doubt this is the deepest group in the ACC, and it comes with a wide range of abilities. Seven freshmen were introduced last season, and five of them -- Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier and Davon Johnson -- scored touchdowns. Both Tommy Streeter (wrist surgery) and Kendall Thompkins (shoulder surgery) redshirted last year but should be factors this fall. Leonard Hankerson, a junior, is the veteran of the group.

2. Maryland -- The Terps had nine different scholarship wideouts show promise this spring, so replacing Darrius Heyward-Bey should be a smooth transition. Quintin McCree was the star in the spring game, but all of them have had their moments and should excel in the second season under offensive coordinator James Franklin. Torrey Smith and Ronnie Tyler should build upon last year's success, especially with a veteran quarterback throwing to them in Chris Turner.

3. Virginia Tech -- There are plenty of talented options here, but this was a young group a year ago and it's still a young group. The Hokies have something to prove on offense, and this is the year to do it. They started to turn the corner in the last two or three games of 2008 and can build on that momentum. Jarrett Boykin, Xavier Boyce, Danny Coale, Dyrell Roberts, Brandon Dillard ... depth should not be a problem. Boykin earned eight starts as a true freshman and was second with 30 receptions.

4. Boston College -- When the Eagles figure out who their quarterback is, he'll have dependable options to throw to. Rich Gunnell caught a team-high 49 passes and four touchdowns with 551 yards last year. He also returned punts and brought one back 65 yards for a score against Virginia Tech. Justin Jarvis caught 25 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns last season and will work for the other starting job. Ifeanyi Momah will look to prove that he can be more than just a situational receiver while Clarence Megwa is working to return in the fall after suffering a devastating leg injury against Clemson last season.

5. NC State -- Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer are ready to elevate their games as redshirt juniors, and now have one season as starters to build upon. Their chemistry with Russell Wilson should be better and they were No. 3 in the ACC in passing offense a year ago. Williams caught 26 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns in 2008. Spencer could be a big-play threat if he cuts down on the dropped balls.

6. Clemson -- Jacoby Ford and ... Jacoby Ford. He's one of the fastest athletes in the country and will likely be the best solo receiver in the ACC, but he'll draw all of the coverage until one of his teammates becomes a legitimate concern for opposing defenses. It will be up to Xavier Dye, Marquan Jones and Terrence Ashe to help Ford out.

7. Georgia Tech -- This should be one of the more improved units on the Jackets' roster. It was very thin last year (they started a freshman walk-on at Virginia Tech), but should have better depth this season. Demaryius Thomas should be one of the best wideouts in the conference, and he'll have more help this year with the return of sophomores Tyler Melton and Luke Fisher.

8. Florida State -- It's the Noles' lone question mark on offense, but the cupboard isn't completely bare, and Christian Ponder has plenty of confidence in the players who are there. Louis Givens, Jarmon Fortson and Bert Reed. If Taiwan Easterling heals from his Achilles injury and they get their suspended players back, this group could impress.

9. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons have to replace D.J. Boldin, but they've got enough players that the depth and speed should actually improve overall. Chris Givens and Terence Davis, both redshirts last year, impressed the staff this spring. They'll team with Devon Brown, Marshall Williams and Jordan Williams.

10. Duke -- Zero seniors. Not a good sign for a team trying to win more than one ACC game. It's not like the cupboard is bare, though. The Blue Devils will be led by sophomores Johnny Williams and Donovan Varner, who had six catches for 116 yards in the spring game. Williams finished second on the team last year with 30 catches for 327 yards. Freshmen Conner Vernon, Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins could all push for playing time.

11. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels took a huge hit in this department and it's obviously their biggest concern heading into summer camp. It's not like they don't have players ready and willing to start, but there's nothing that can compensate for game experience, which only Greg Little has. The next most experienced receiver is Rashad Mason, who played in the Rutgers game.

12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers lost their top four receivers from last year, and coach Al Groh didn't notice that "go-to guy" yet this past spring. Sophomore Jared Green leads the returnees with 12 catches for 144 yards a year ago. Kris Burd caught seven passes as a redshirt freshman last year, and the expectations are obviously higher now.

Hope and Concern: North Carolina

June, 29, 2009
6/29/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Biggest reason for hope -- Defensive front-seven

The Tar Heels return all four starters on the defensive line and have excellent depth, so defensive line coach John Blake should be excited. Defensive tackle Marvin Austin, now a junior, is one of those recruits who lived up to the hype and he tied with E.J. Wilson for the most tackles (38) by a Carolina defensive lineman. Robert Quinn became a starter in the second game of the season, and massive defensive tackle Cam Thomas (6 foot 3, 330), finished the season with 34 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. Those guys, combined with standout linebackers Bruce Carter, Quan Sturdivant and Zach Brown, should give UNC one of the best defensive fronts in the ACC.

Biggest reason for concern -- Wide receivers

This one is a no-brainer. UNC has to rebuild its entire receiving corps, as the Tar Heels lost players that accounted for 17 of their 21 receiving touchdowns in 2008. The only player who returns with any significant playing experience is Greg Little, who moved from running back midway through the season and had just 11 catches. Little is now the veteran of the group, and is one of the most talented athletes on the roster. He'll have to help usher Dwight Jones, Todd Harrelson, Joshua Adams and Rashad Mason along. The inexperience here will force everyone to be even more precise with the timing of patterns and routes, and the yards-after-catch stat is likely to decrease until the comfort zone increases. It will also test quarterback T.J. Yates' accuracy, as he'll need to hit these young players in the numbers.

UNC's Little gives receivers big leadership

April, 8, 2009
4/08/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

North Carolina junior Greg Little has been moved back and forth between running back and wide receiver during his career in Chapel Hill.

This spring, there was little choice.

Considering Carolina lost players who accounted for 17 of its 21 receiving touchdowns last year, Little took on a role of leadership this spring among the inexperienced wide receivers. Little, who moved from running back to receiver midway through last year, had just 11 catches in 2008. More is obviously expected of him this season, as he should be one of the starters this fall.

"I feel like it was a void we had to fill with Hakeem [Nicks] leaving and Brandon [Tate] and Brooks [Foster] graduating," Little said. "I feel like we had to come find some guys who could make plays like they did and I feel like we accomplished that. Just guys working hard and guys competing and me pushing the guys to not have as many mental mistakes, and if you're making mental mistakes, you're still making the play on the ball and finishing downfield.

"You have to practice what you preach," he said. "If I'm telling the guys to catch every ball, then I can't drop anything. I have to be more conscious of my actions and finish downfield and get to practice early and get extra catches in and meet with the quarterbacks on my off time -- anything to help better our receivers."

Little moved back to wide receiver prior to the Virginia game last year following the knee injury to Brandon Tate. He finished the season with 11 catches for 146 yards, including two receptions for 36 yards against West Virginia in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. As a tailback, Little rushed for 339 yards and three touchdowns on 78 carries.

Little said he was more comfortable in the offense now that he's been moved back to his natural position.

"It's just that I've been all over the offensive skills positions," he said. "... I feel I can dominate that position (receiver) with size and speed and strength.

"Entering the third season I know what the offensive guard should be doing, even though I'm playing receiver," he said. "I know what the fullback should be doing. I have a full understanding of where everybody should be and how much time I need to get there."

The Tar Heels recently wrapped up spring practice, and several of the young receivers started to establish themselves. Dwight Jones caught a 46-yard pass from T.J. Yates and took it to the 1-yard line in the spring game. Freshman Joshua Adams, who enrolled in January, started with the second-team offense and caught three passes for 20 yards.

"He did some things I thought said that he could come in and play right away as a freshman," Little said. "You can get him the ball if need be."

Little said Rashad Mason also had a good spring.

"He always had the potential," Little said. "I knew once he finally sat down and studied his playbook, I knew he'd emerge and give us some quality minutes and plays."

Overall, Little said the group made significant strides they can build on in summer camp.

"I feel like the production we had during the spring was real good," he said. "I feel like if we come out and just work hard this summer, that we'll be able to be just as competitive as the receivers in the past were."

Tar Heels begin practice looking for receivers

March, 4, 2009
3/04/09
9:24
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The Tar Heels begin spring practice today and coach Butch Davis and his staff have a lot of work to do in order to improve upon last year's impressive eight-win season. At the top of the list is finding a few players who can catch the ball.

Here are the highlights of our conversation, with the warning that Davis turns around programs faster than he tends to answer questions (not that there's anything wrong with that):

 
  Bob Donnan/US Presswire
  Greg Little will be someone the Tar Heels look to this season.

Everyone knows you have a lot to replace at wide receiver. What can you tell me about the guys who have the potential to step in there this spring?

BD: That will probably be our No. 1 main objective going into the spring, at least from a position standpoint, is replacing those three unbelievably talented wide receivers. And Cooter Arnold was a really significant player when we got into four wide receiver packages, but having said all that, I think that we've got five guys on campus right now that we're excited to find out about. They've had an opportunity to watch for this last year or so. They watched those three guys practice, how hard they practiced, how much film they studied, how much trust and confidence they developed with the quarterback, and certainly Greg Little is probably the most experienced player that we have. He's played wide receiver, and he's started games at wideout, he's played as a running back. He's got pretty significant game experience.

After that, then most of the guys, they're kind of somewhat young, but we think they've got some talent. Dwight Jones was one of the most highly recruited receivers in the country a couple of years ago. We think he is poised to step in and be able to contribute and do some things. We're also very excited about Todd Harrelson, a receiver we recruited last year that redshirted this past season. We think that he's got some things he can certainly bring to the table. One of the most highly recruited kids in last year's class was Josh Adams, that enrolled in midterm. So he's been going through our offseason program and that was part of the recruiting program, knowing a year ago we were going to lose some guys to graduation. We didn't know Hakeem (Nicks) was going to go out early in the draft, but that was one of the things in trying to get Josh. We knew he'd be able to come in at midterm. We've got another kid that's going to be a junior, Rashad Mason.

A lot of these guys have been waiting in the wings, flying under the radar, so to speak, because we had those three guys that did probably 85 percent of the playing over the last two years. So now will be a time for us to really work with some consistency, some continuity in the springtime, and it will be an ongoing process all summer long and certainly into training camp. We think by the start of the season we've got some other kids we signed -- we signed three other receivers to come in in this class that we think they'll have an opportunity to add a little bit to the position.

(Read full post)

UNC receivers looking for edge this spring

March, 2, 2009
3/02/09
10:44
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Speaking of replacing receivers ... North Carolina has some issues. The Tar Heels bumped back the start of their spring practices from Monday to Wednesday (it doesn't affect the date of their spring game). Obviously coach Butch Davis will need to find a few guys who can catch the ball this spring, but the bulk of the competition at the position is expected to come during summer camp. The players who are on campus now, though -- like freshman Joshua Adams -- will obviously have a head start.

UNC only lost eight starters from its 2008 bowl team, but five of them were on offense, including the top three receivers. Last year's group of Brandon Tate, Brooks Foster and Hakeem Nicks accounted for 114 receptions, 1,932 yards and 17 of the 21 receiving touchdowns. The Tar Heels return just 18.1 percent of their receiving yards from 2008. The only other ACC school with a smaller returning percentage is Virginia, with 17.6 percent (the Cavaliers lost Kevin Ogletree, Cedric Peerman, John Phillips, Maurice Covington and Cary Koch).

Here's a look at who will be in the mix in Chapel Hill this spring to try to account for that lost yardage:

Joshua Adams -- ESPN.com has Adams rated as the No. 36 wide receiver in the class of 2009, although he committed to UNC on signing day with the class of 2008. At 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, Adams played both receiver and defensive back in high school. He is from Cheshire, Conn., but played his first three years at Cambridge (Mass.) Rindge & Latin before transferring to Cheshire for his final season. He had 56 catches for 1,131 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior.

Todd Harrelson, rs. Fr. -- He was considered to be the No. 60 receiver in the class of 2008, and has the potential for that fun YAC (yards after catch) stat. Our experts say he's got the ability to turn a short catch into a long gain. Harrelson is from Chesapeake, Va., where he caught 46 receptions for 892 yards and 13 touchdowns while leading Oscar Smith High to a 13-1 record as a senior.

Dwight Jones, soph. -- He was an outstanding recruit three years ago, and it's his second year in the program. Jones signed with UNC in the class of 2007, but failed to qualify and went to Hargrave Military Academy in 2007-08. He played sparingly last year, and is still waiting for his first collegiate catch, but is a big, physical receiver who can create some mismatches.

Rashad Mason, rs. soph. -- He redshirted in 2007, and didn't make any catches last year. Mason finished his senior season with 26 catches for 610 yards and 13 touchdowns at Pearl-Cohn High School in Tennessee.

The ACC's 'Replacements'

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
10:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

As we head into spring football, there will be some pretty big names missing from the rosters -- Clemson needs to replace its starting quarterback, safety and running back, Duke lost the ACC's leading tackler, Virginia lost its leading receiver and rusher, BC lost its starting defensive tackles, Georgia Tech needs to replace three of its four starting defensive linemen, and UNC needs to replace all of its top receivers -- just to name a few. There will also be plenty of replacements within coaching staffs.

Here are the five biggest shoes to fill in the ACC this spring:

 
  Mark Goldman/Icon SMI
  Aaron Curry finished his career at Wake Forest with 332 tackles.

Virginia Tech cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris -- Not only will the Hokies lose one of their top defenders, they'll also lose a true leader. Last season, Harris had 14 passes defended and six interceptions -- including two returned for touchdowns -- and two forced fumbles. One option is to move Stephan Virgil to the other side like the staff did when Brandon Flowers left. Another is to let a few players battle it out. Rashad Carmichael started the game Harris missed due to injury.

Florida State defensive end Everette Brown -- He led the league in sacks and tackles for loss. Brown's season sack total was 13.5 and his career sack total was 23. Markus White, who was Brown's backup in 2008, earned his first sack against Clemson, and is the front-runner to succeed Brown. Kevin McNeil also has experience at the end position.

Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry -- The Butkus Award winner finished the regular season with a team-leading 101 tackles and 15 tackles for loss. Curry finished his career with 332 tackles and a school-record 278 career interception return yards. Jonathan Jones was Curry's backup last season and has some experience there.

UNC receiver Hakeem Nicks -- Nicks set UNC single-season records in 2008 for receiving yards (1,222) and touchdowns (12). In just three seasons, Nicks established 14 school records at UNC, including career receptions (181), career receiving yards (2,580) and career touchdowns (21). The staff recruited several receivers who are expected to compete for time this fall, but Joshua Adams, who enrolled in January, could have a slight edge because he'll be practicing this spring. Sophomore Dwight Jones should also be in the mix, along with Todd Harrelson and Rashad Mason.

Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski -- He took the Eagles to back-to-back ACC title games, including 2008, when little was expected of the Eagles in their first season without Matt Ryan. Jagodzinski left Boston College with a 20-8 record (11-3 in 2007, 9-5 in 2008). Former defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani will be in his first season as a head coach.

Injury reports: Duke and North Carolina

October, 16, 2008
10/16/08
5:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

We've got the first "dental abscess" of the season, folks ...

DUKE

RB Re'quan Boyette (leg) -- OUT
C Marcus Lind (shoulder) -- OUT
WR Johnny Williams (dental abscess) -- Doubtful
DE Wesley Oglesby (leg) -- Questionable
CB Leon Wright (leg) -- Questionable
CB Lee Butler (shoulder) -- WILL PLAY
WR Eron Riley (hand) -- WILL PLAY
WR Austin Kelly (back) -- WILL PLAY

NORTH CAROLINA

Questionable:

Bryan Bishop, OL, back

Greg Elleby, DL, ankle

Linwan Euwell, LB, thigh

Rashad Mason, WR, thigh

Probable:

Quinton Coples, DL, foot

Darrius Massenburg, DL, knee

Tydreke Powell, DL, chest

Out:

Zach Pianalto, TE, ankle

Richie Rich, DB, thigh

Brandon Tate, WR, knee

Randy White, TE, back

T.J. Yates, QB, ankle

UNC injury report

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
6:41
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The surprise here is running back Shaun Draughn, who is listed as probable with an ankle injury he suffered against Connecticut, but it doesn't sound major and he should play.

Here's the rest of the list:

QUESTIONABLE

  • Greg Elleby, DL, ankle
  • Linwan Euwell, LB, thigh

DOUBTFUL

PROBABLE

  • Darrius Massenburg, DL, knee
  • Tydreke Powell, DL, chest

SPONSORED HEADLINES