ACC: Ray Beno

ACC lunchtime links

October, 16, 2013
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ACC hoops media days already? Time flies.

ACC lunchtime links

October, 10, 2013
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Is tonight future-league member Louisville's toughest test of the season?
Duke and Miami have the most returning experience on the offensive line in the ACC this year, according to the conference. The Blue Devils return four starters in tackles Perry Simmons and Tacoby Cofield, and guards Laken Tomlinson and Dave Harding, who have combined for a total of 100 starts.

Miami returns all five starters from last year’s team: tackles Seantrel Henderson and Malcolm Bunche, guards Jon Feliciano and Brandon Linder, and center Shane McDermott. They have combined for 97 starts. (Um, yeah, Duke Johnson is set for another great year).

Here's a look at what the rest of the league has returning up front, according to the ACC:


Ouch, Virginia Tech. The Hokies are trying to rejuvenate their offense under first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler, and they've got to do it with one of the least experienced offensive lines in the conference. There are plenty of veteran linemen in the Coastal Division, but few in Blacksburg.

The league's top veteran is actually at Duke, where Simmons is a three-year starter at tackle and leads all returning offensive linemen with 36 career starts.

Here's a look at the returning offensive linemen in the ACC with the most career starts:

1. Perry Simmons, Duke, Sr., Tackle: 36
2. James Hurst, North Carolina, Sr., Tackle: 35
3. Brandon Linder, G, Sr., Miami: 31
3. Morgan Moses, Virginia, Sr., Tackle: 31
5. Brian Stork, Florida State, Sr., Center: 28
6. Dave Harding, Duke, Sr., Guard: 26
7. Macky MacPherson, Syracuse, Sr., Center: 25
7. Luke Bowanko, Virginia, Sr., Center: 25
9. Laken Tomlinson, Duke, Jr., Guard: 24
9. Ray Beno, Georgia Tech, Sr., Center: 24
11. Ian White, Boston College, Sr., Guard: 23
12. Jon Feliciano, Miami, Jr., Guard: 22
Georgia Tech released its post-spring depth chart on Wednesday without a whole lot in the way of big surprises.

Nothing is set in stone of course, as the Jackets use this chart as a starting point for the start of practice come Aug. 1. Among the highlights:
Georgia Tech opens spring practice today with a new defensive coordinator in Ted Roof, and a new starter at quarterback in Vad Lee. I had a chance to catch up with coach Paul Johnson to ask about his expectations of both headed into the spring. Here is a little of what he had to say.

I have to start off by asking -- how are you enjoying Twitter so far?

PJ: My daughter, she said, ‘You’ll be good at that, Dad, you need to do it.’ And, ‘I’m like, I don’t know about that.’ She goes, ‘Oh just try it.’ So it’s been interesting.

What is the No. 1 thing you want to see this spring out of your defense as it starts to get adjusted to playing a different scheme?

PJ: It’s the same regardless of scheme. You want guys that can play fast, play hard and understand what they’re doing. The scheme is there to help them. We try to work the scheme around them rather than trying to fit them into the scheme. And I think our guys are excited about it. Ted’s a fiery guy. He’s going to have a lot of passion, a lot of energy and I think they’re looking forward to that. And it’s not that big of a change from what we did the last half of the season.

You guys showed major improvement the second half. Is the goal to build on some of what you were able to do?

PJ: Yeah I think the second half we simplified things and tried to let guys play fast and understand what they were doing and basically we played a lot of 4-3 tenets the last six games. We got away from the 3-4 a little bit.

Jeremiah Attaochu is going to be playing more at defensive end. What are your hopes for him in that role?

PJ: That’s what he played last year. Very seldom did he drop. He was more our rush guy. We played a field boundary guy and it’s going to be very similar in what we’re doing now, so we’ll try to play to his attributes and his strong suits. He’s a really good pass-rusher and we’ll try to utilize him in that area and line him up on some tight ends and some of that.

[+] EnlargePaul Johnson
Mitch Stringer/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia Tech's Vad Lee is in a QB competition this spring, but coach Paul Johnson said there's no doubting Lee's leadership skills.
How do you see some of the competition playing out along the line with T.J. Barnes and Izaan Cross gone?

PJ: We’ve got some good depth. Euclid Cummings is a guy I’m excited about. I think he’s got a ton of ability. Emmanuel Dieke has played a lot. Adam Gotsis, Shawn Green played. We’ve got a couple guys, Pat Gamble, Rod Chungong, Francis Kallon that we redshirted so we feel like we’ve got depth there and some guys so we’ll probably play six, seven guys up front.

Now that Vad looks to be your starter, have you seen him taking on more of a leadership role?

PJ: Vad’s always been a leader. It’s in his DNA. Usually the good ones in that position are that way. He’s a hard worker and I think that he’s trying to develop a chemistry with everybody and we’ve got another guy named Justin Thomas that we redshirted at quarterback, and that ought to be a heck of a battle this spring. Clearly, Vad’s in front but Justin’s a good player in his own right, so that ought to be some pretty good competition between those two guys.

How will you work the reps?

PJ: Well, Vad will start out at 1 but in the spring, you’re going to run two teams anyway so they’ll probably get an equal number of reps.

Any kind of scenario where you play both like you did with Vad and Tevin Washington last year?

PJ: It’s possible. It will be determined on how it turns out, once we get into the spring and we start playing how it looks and how it unfolds, but I think going into the spring you’d have to say Vad’s the No. 1.

What about at A-back. Orwin Smith was able to do so much, what’s the competition going to look like there?

PJ: We’ve got a lot of guys back there who have played a lot. Synjyn Days played the last half of the season there, we moved from quarterback so we’re excited about him. Robbie Godhigh is the starter that returns. Deon Hill, B.J. Bostic, Dennis Andrews is a guy we redshirted. We have a lot of guys there we feel can be pretty good players.

What are you looking for out of those guys to take the next step?

PJ: Well Robbie’s been a reliable guy, he played well all year and I think the other guys are very capable. I think the more Synjyn plays, hopefully the better he’s going to be. He’s 225 pounds so he’s ideal. He can block, has good speed, hard to tackle. B.J. and Tony (Zenon) both are shifty littler guys, Deon’s in the middle so out of that group of guys we just hope to find a rotation that fits what we need really.

What about Broderick Snoddy? Will he continue to run track this spring?

PJ: Football will override the track part and so he’ll be at practice. Whenever they have meets and those kind of things we’ll try to work it out and let him do both.

Do you envision a bigger role for him?

PJ: Yeah, I would hope so. Every time we got to the point last year where we were trying to get him in, he would get hurt or something would happen and it just didn’t materialize but certainly we’d love for him to have a bigger role. But that’s going to be up to him this spring to earn it.

Who are you looking at to replace Omoregie Uzzie on the offensive line?

PJ: There will be some competition. We were able to redshirt a couple of classes of guys and we feel like we have some depth, so we’ll just work it out. We’ll end up with the best five playing if we have to move some guys around. With Jay (Finch) missing the spring, Catlin Alford, Freddie Burden will get a lot of reps. We’ll slide some guys. We’ve got some guys, Will Jackson has played both guard and tackle. He can slide in there. He and Shaq (Mason) will probably be the starters and then Morgan Bailey and Ray Beno, who both started at tackle all year -- we could still have five guys who started a lot of games.
If you’re just joining us, this series is categorizing the unranked teams in the ACC as either contenders or pretenders heading into the 2013 season. We’re leaving out Florida State and Clemson because they are the only two teams from the ACC expected to be ranked this preseason. Those rankings automatically qualify them as contenders. Georgia Tech is up next ...

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Why they’re a contender: Four starters return on the offensive line. Not bad for a team that finished No. 4 in the country in rushing offense at 311.21 yards per game. The Jackets welcome back left tackle Ray Beno, left guard Shaquille Mason, center Jay Finch, and right tackle Morgan Bailey. The biggest loss will, obviously, be All-ACC right guard Omoregie Uzzi, but overall it will be a veteran and experienced group that should again pave the way for one of the country’s best running games and help out first-year starting quarterback Vad Lee.

Why they’re a pretender: The schedule. Georgia Tech has two Thursday night games, including a road trip to Clemson on Nov. 14, and the Jackets have Virginia Tech at home on Thursday, Sept. 26. They also have back-to-back road trips to Miami and BYU. The good news is that Georgia Tech has a bye week to prepare for the trip to Death Valley. The bad news? That bye week won’t slow Clemson down.

Final verdict: Contender. Even at 5-3 -- and that should be the worst-case scenario, with losses to Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson -- Georgia Tech is still in the mix. (If you follow the ACC regularly, you should know to never count out a 5-3 team.) The defense improved in the second half of the season in 2012, and it should take another step forward under coordinator Ted Roof. The Jackets should also get up an upgrade at quarterback with Lee. Overall, this team should be much better than it was last year -- and even last year, it somehow found a backdoor to the ACC title game.

More in this series

Expectations high for Georgia Tech's OL

July, 17, 2012
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Georgia Tech offensive guard Will Jackson remembers walking off the plane on his way home from the Sun Bowl last year, looking around at his fellow linemen, and thinking, ‘we get everybody back.’

“We’re not losing anybody up front,” he said. “Not just the first team, but guys who were backups. Everybody is back. It was kind of that moment where you’re like, ‘this is going to have to be the unit to kind of carry the team, or at least help build that foundation going into camp.’”

Georgia Tech’s offensive line, with four starters returning, has the chance to be the deepest, most talented group up front that coach Paul Johnson has had since he was hired at the school. Jackson, senior guard Omoregie Uzzi, and center Jay Finch will help pave the way for one of the nation’s top rushing offenses. Last year, the Jackets finished the season No. 2 in the country at 316.46 rushing yards per game.

This year, they’re aiming for No. 1.

“We’re just trying to take it to the next level and dominate everybody across from us,” said Uzzi, who is on the watch lists for both the Rotary Lombardi Award and Outland Trophy. “Coach Johnson has a set plan. We all know what we need to do. We just need to execute.”

The biggest difference this year, they said, is the depth. Jackson said he couldn’t get much of a break as a freshman in 2010 because there wasn’t a lot of depth behind him. Now, he said there are four guards capable of starting.

“We have the expectation that we aren’t going to lose a game this year,” said Jackson, who is entering his third season as a starter. “In terms of our depth, I’m looking around and there are probably 10 guys who are capable of playing at this level. We haven’t had that before. That’s definitely going to help us out.”

The linemen have been meeting for individual drills twice a week for about 35-45 minutes each day to focus on footwork and hand placement, and to make sure they haven’t lost anything since spring. They’ve been running in the heat, lifting, and working on plyometric drills to help with their explosiveness.

Last year, the offense was missing a superstar the likes of Jonathan Dwyer or Anthony Allen, but starting tackle Ray Beno said the Jackets don’t need one -- they can get it done by committee. Beno said the linemen will be taking their blocking “to another level this year” in trying to get the Jackets to the No. 1 spot in the country for rushing yardage.

“We take a lot of pride in it,” Beno said. “It definitely isn’t something that’s given to you. We’re a group that’s up to the challenge to do it again this year.”

And this year, they’ve got both the depth and the talent to do it.

Georgia Tech OT suspended two games

August, 11, 2011
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Georgia Tech starting offensive tackle Phil Smith will miss the first two games of the season for a violation of team rules, according to a school spokesman.

Smith, who has played in 23 career games with 12 starts, is one of the Jackets' most experienced offensive linemen. The good news is that Georgia Tech starts the season against unheralded opponents Western Carolina and at Middle Tennessee, but this is a big hit for an offensive line in desperate need of some cohesion. The group struggled through injuries this past spring and was less-than-impressive overall.

Smith's replacement will be either redshirt freshman Catlin Alford or Ray Beno, who played three games as a redshirt freshman last season. Complicating matters is the fact that a handful of other key linemen, including starting guard Will Jackson, have also been injured.

It's hardly an ideal situation for an offense with a first-year starting quarterback and a team trying to rebound from a losing record. It's not a good start to summer camp for Paul Johnson's offense, as a lack of depth on the offensive line has already been exposed.
Ranking offensive linemen is not easy. But hey, either is being an offensive lineman. Here are your best "big uglies."

1. North Carolina: Three starters and one part-time starter return from last year’s team, and this line could be the biggest and best since Butch Davis was hired. Guard Jonathan Cooper (22 starts), center Cam Holland (20) and tackle James Hurst (12) have combined for 54 career starts. Travis Bond has four starts and is the leading candidate to take over at the other guard position.

2. Miami: The Canes return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen including four starters from last year, and Joel Figueroa was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Even with the coaching change, the Canes should be strong up front. Center Tyler Horn is a veteran, Brandon Washington is a difference-maker, and there’s enough competition that Seantrel Henderson spent most of the spring as a backup.

3. Clemson: First-year offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has four returning starters to work with in Landon Walker, Antoine McClain, Dalton Freeman and David Smith. They also have top reserve Mason Cloy, who has 19 career starts and has played in 38 games. There is plenty of depth for a dependable rotation.

4. Virginia Tech: All four returnees started every game last year, and there is enough depth that the Hokies should be able to rotate the most players up front they ever have. It’s a veteran group led by Blake DeChristopher, Andrew Lanier, Jaymes Brooks and Greg Nosal.

5. Florida State: Despite the losses of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon, there’s experience up front. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of tackle Andrew Datko, left guard Bryan Stork or David Spurlock, center Jacob Fahrenkrug, right guard Spurlock or Stork, right tackle Zebrie Sanders. Just how good they’ll be remains to be seen as the majority of them were out with injuries this past spring.

6. NC State: The Pack lost Jake Vermiglio and will be without injured left guard Andrew Wallace for about half of the season, but Zach Allen, Camden Wentz and R.J. Mattes are returning starters. There’s also a lot of talent waiting to emerge with young players like Duran Christophe, Rob Crisp, Tyson Chandler, Torian Box and Andy Jomantas.

7. Virginia: Four players return with a combined 64 career starts in Anthony Mihota, Austin Pasztor, Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, who started the final seven games of the season as a true freshman. Pasztor is in his fourth season as a starter and has 32 career starts.

8. Boston College: Despite the losses of Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham, the Eagles are almost settled up front, it’s the experience behind the starters that’s reason for concern. The No. 2 offensive line is comprised entirely of redshirt freshmen. Mark Spinney returns at center, the projected starting guards are Nathan Richman and Ian White, who started three games as a freshman, and the tackles are Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel.

9. Maryland: It’s been an injury-prone group the past two seasons and that didn’t change this past spring. Left tackle Justin Gilbert, one of the top linemen on the team, reinjured the same knee he had ACL surgery on and will be out until October. R.J. Dill was also injured this spring, though he played in the spring game, and Justin Lewis was rehabbing from offseason surgery. Pete White also missed practices, so the group needs to solidify the two-deep roster.

10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return three starters in guard Omoregie Uzzi, guard Will Jackson and tackle Phil Smith. Sophomore Jay Finch played extensively last season and Ray Beno and Nick McRae were key reserves. Redshirt freshmen Catlin Alford and Morgan Bailey could also work their way into the rotation. Uzzi will be the leader of the line, but they were outplayed by the defense this spring.

11. Wake Forest: Four starters are back, but the Deacs will sorely miss the experience and leadership of former center Russell Nenon. Garrick Williams started the final three games of 2010 -- two at guard and one at center, but he struggled with the snaps towards the end of spring and isn’t where the staff needs him to be yet.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils should take another step forward this season under offensive line coach Matt Luke, and they need to -- Duke’s running game was last in the ACC last year and 104th in the country. Brian Moore replaces a three-year starter at center, but given his experience at right guard the past two seasons, it should be a smooth transition. That will leave a hole, though, at the right guard position, where Laken Tomlinson and John Coleman are the top candidates.

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