ACC: Ray Michel

NC State spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
7:30
AM ET
NC STATE

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 7; Defense 5; Punter/Kicker 1

Top returners

QB Russell Wilson, WR Owen Spencer, OT Jake Vermiglio, LB Nate Irving, PK Josh Czajkowski, TE George Bryan, WR Jarvis Williams, LB Dwayne Maddox, LB Audie Cole

Key losses

C Ted Larsen, HB Toney Baker, DE Willie Young, DT Alan Michael Cash, CB DeAndre Morgan, LB Ray Michel

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Baker (773 yards)

Passing: Wilson* (3,027 yds)

Receiving: Ja. Williams* (547 yds)

Tackles: Cole* (73)

Sacks: Young (8)

Interceptions: C. Johnson (2)

Spring answers

1. Wilson will be back, but Mike Glennon is a capable starter. Starter Russell Wilson missed all of spring football to play baseball, but his season didn’t quite take the turn he had probably hoped, as Wilson wasn’t a starter. In his absence, Glennon impressed coach Tom O’Brien and completed 21 of 38 passes for 423 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in the Pack’s spring game. As long as Wilson picks up where he left off in 2009, it should be his job to lose.

2. Irving is back and can play. After missing last season with injuries he sustained in a serious 2009 summer car accident, it was unclear how much Irving would be able to contribute this spring. He moved to middle linebacker and eased his way back into full participation and played in half of the spring game.

3. Defensive linemen emerging. Even though all four starters from last year’s defensive line graduated, there was enough talent there this spring for optimism. Darryl Cato-Bishop, David Akinniyi, and Brian Slay impressed the staff. Their success is critical, as both J.R. Sweezy and Markus Kuhn are facing disciplinary action.

Fall questions

1. Who will run the ball? For the first time since 2005, NC State doesn’t have a running back with any starting experience. Brandon Barnes broke his ankle, and the competition is now between Curtis Underwood, who redshirted last year, and James Washington, who played in six games as a true freshman last year.

2. Punter, please. Nobody on the team has ever punted in a game situation. Chris Ward was the likely top option , but he was suspended for the spring and possibly the fall.

3. How much can the defense improve? With Irving back and former Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta coaching the linebackers, it would seem as if the defense would get a boost. It’s going to have to if the Pack is going to make it to the postseason. NC State was No. 99 in the country last year in scoring defense, and No. 106 in pass efficiency defense. The secondary is lead by freshmen and sophomores.

ACC injury reports: Week 11

November, 13, 2009
11/13/09
9:00
AM ET
Jameel Sewell, Marc Verica, Chris Turner, Christian Ponder and Thaddeus Lewis are all on this list. Not a good week for ACC quarterbacks. Duke will need everyone healthy in order to beat Georgia Tech, and while several key offensive players are listed as probable, they're still listed:

BOSTON COLLEGE

OUT FOR SEASON

LB Mark Herzlich (illness)

FOR VIRGINIA GAME

RB Rolandan Finch (illness) - OUT

DE Alex Albright (ankle) – DOUBTFUL

LS Jack Geiser (foot) – DOUBTFUL

WR Billy Flutie (head) - PROBABLE

OT Rich Lapham (shoulder) - PROBABLE

LB Mike McLaughlin (leg) - PROBABLE

CLEMSON

Out

DaQuan Bowers, DE, knee

Probable

Coty Sensabaugh, CB, toe

Cleared to play

Kantrell Brown, DB, concussion

DUKE

QB Thaddeus Lewis (leg) -- Probable

LB Damian Thornton (neck) -- Probable

WR Donovan Varner (knee) -- Probable

WR Conner Vernon (head) -- Probable

WR Johnny Williams (knee) -- Probable

LB Abraham Kromah (leg) -- Questionable

OG Mitchell Lederman (foot) -- Questionable

LB Vincent Rey (leg) -- Questionable

K Will Snyderwine (leg) -- Questionable

DT Vince Oghobaase (leg) -- Doubtful

RB Kyle Griswould (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON

WR Tyree Watkins (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON

S Anthony Young-Wiseman (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON

FLORIDA STATE

Out

76 OT Garrett Faircloth (hip)

70 OT Antwane Greenlee (knee)

51 LB Aaron Gresham (knee)

44 LB Maurice Harris (neck)*

97 DT Demonte McAllister (knee)

94 DT Justin Mincey (knee)

81 TE Caz Piurowski (knee)*

7 QB Christian Ponder (shoulder)*

74 OT John Prior (knee)

27 CB Xavier Rhodes (thumb)

11 LB Vince Williams (back)

Questionable

28 CB Dionte Allen (thumb)

9 WR Richard Goodman (groin)

Probable

89 WR Louis Givens (hand)

72 DT Budd Thacker (knee)

* - out for the season

GEORGIA TECH

Out

Austin Barrick, r-Jr., OT (heel)

Kevin Cone, r-Jr., WR (ankle)

Robert Hall, r-Jr., DE (knee)

Out For Season

Kyle Jackson, r-So., LB (foot)

Cooper Taylor, So., S (undisclosed)

MARYLAND

Out for season:

Tyler Bowen (foot)

Nolan Carroll (leg)

Bennett Fulper (shoulder)

Isaiah Ross (knee)

Out:

Da’Rel Scott (wrist)

Doubtful

Chris Turner (knee)

Questionable

Ronnie Tyler (upper body)

Austin Walker (lower body)

Probable

Demetrius Hartsfield (hand)

MIAMI

Probable

DL Eric Moncur – Lower Extremity

DB DeMarcus Van Dyke – Lower Extremity

Out

DB Ray-Ray Armstrong – Lower Extremity

FB Patrick Hill – Lower Extremity

DB JoJo Nicolas – Upper Extremity

LB Sean Spence – Lower Extremity

Surgery and Out for the Season

DL Dyron Dye – Lower Extremity

DL Marcus Forston – Lower Extremity

LB Jordan Futch – Lower Extremity

TE Richard Gordon – Upper Extremity

LB Shayon Green – Lower Extremity

DE Gavin Hardin – Upper Extremity

DB Ryan Hill – Upper Extremity

DE Adewale Ojomo – Jaw

NORTH CAROLINA

Out

Joshua Adams WR Shoulder

AJ Blue RB/QB Knee

David Collins OT Foot

Shaun Draughn TB Shoulder

Carl Gaskins OT Knee

Matt Merletti S Knee

Trevor Stuart DS Knee

Ryan Taylor TE Knee

Jamal Womble TB Wrist

Questionable

Brennan Williams OT Wrist

Probable

Cam Holland C Shoulder

NC STATE

OUT FOR SEASON

Mario Carter, TE - knee

Ryan Cheek, LB - hip

Denzelle Good, OL – shoulder

T.J. Graham, WR – stress fracture/leg

Nate Irving, LB - leg

Colby Jackson, FB - knee

R.J. Mattes, OG - knee

Everett Proctor, QB – shoulder

Jeff Rieskamp, DE – sports hernia

Rashard Smith, CB - knee

Javon Walker, S – knee

James Washington, HB - knee

PROBABLE

Ray Michel, LB - ankle

VIRGINIA

Out

Raynard Horne (back)

Quintin Hunter (ankle)

Questionable

Darren Childs (neck)

Jameel Sewell (shoulder)

Marc Verica (head)

Probable

Javaris Brown (ankle)

Aaron Clark (knee)

Matt Conrath (ankle)

Colte Phillips (leg)

VIRGINIA TECH

Out for Season

Darren Evans (ACL)

Doubtful

Beau Warren (knee)
Tags:

Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Cavaliers, Miami Hurricanes, Justin Mincey, Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner, Damian Thornton, Christian Ponder, Vince Williams, Garrett Faircloth, Vince Oghobaase, Rich Lapham, Marc Verica, Alex Albright, Will Snyderwine, Adewale Ojomo, Jack Geiser, A.J. Blue, Jamal Womble, Caz Piurowski, Aaron Clark, Mike McLaughlin, Chris turner, Kyle Jackson, Billy Flutie, DaQuan Bowers, Demetrius Hartsfield, Marcus Forston, Ray Michel, Raynard Horne, Xavier Rhodes, Jeff Rieskamp, Javon Walker, Matt Conrath, Carl Gaskins, Sean Spence, Robert Hall, Darren CHilds, Ryan Cheek, Richard Gordon, JoJo Nicolas, Louis Givens, Javaris Brown, Mario Carter, Austin Barrick, Johnny Williams, Antwane Greenlee, DeMarcus Van Dyke, Nolan Carroll, Budd Thacker, Vincent Rey, Abraham Kromah, Dionte Allen, Ryan Taylor, Joshua Adams, Coty Sensabaugh, Jameel Sewell, Nate Irving, T.J. Graham, Cam Holland, Mark Herzlich, Maurice Harris, Tyree Watkins, Thaddeus Lewis, Matt Merletti, Cooper Taylor, Aaron Gresham, Ryan Hill, Colby Jackson, Ronnie Tyler, Shaun Draughn, James Washington, Eric Moncur, Richard Goodman, Tyler Bowen, Anthony Young-Wiseman, Da\'Rel Scott, Demonte McAllister, Dyron Dye, Ray Ray Armstrong, Rashard Smith, Kyle Griswould, Gavin Hardin, Shayon Green, John Prior, Denzelle Good, Everett Proctor, R.J. Mattes, Trevor Stuart, Mitchell Lederman, Patrick Hill, Kantrell Brown, Kevin Cone, Rolandan Finch, Bennett Fulper Isaiah Ross, Austin Walker, Jordon Futch, David Collins, Brennan Williams, Quintin Hunter, Colte Phillps

Wolfpack dealt 'bad hand' ... again

November, 6, 2009
11/06/09
3:30
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

NC State coach Tom O’Brien has had it with the injuries.

“We thought it was bad last year,” O’Brien said. “It's three times as bad this year as it was last year. It's got to end sometime before I die here. I don't know, one or the other. I hope I'm the next one hurt the way we're going. I'll take a hit for the team if it'll keep somebody else healthy.”

He’s about the only one on the Pack’s roster who hasn’t taken a hit this year.

For the third straight season, NC State (3-5, 0-4 ACC) can point to injuries as a legitimate excuse for a lack of production on the field. No coach will ever call it an “excuse,” but it’s impossible to deny it’s been a factor, just like it was at North Carolina earlier this season.

The latest player to be added to the list of season-ending injuries was wide receiver T.J. Graham, who was added to Thursday's injury report with a stress fracture in his leg. That knews came on the heels of a season-ending injury to freshman offensive guard R.J Mattes, who had started all eight games before he suffered a torn ACL and MCL just five plays into the Florida State game. Andy Barbee will start in his place at guard in Saturday’s game against Maryland.

“Yeah, he was our best first-year guy, a guy we were really excited about,” O’Brien said of Mattes. “He's a natural tackle which is where he'll go back next year, but he helped at guard and he stepped in there, accepted the challenge and kept getting better and better every game. That's another one of those tough losses for us.”

Another one? How about another dozen?

Over O’Brien’s first three seasons, a total of 38 starters have missed a total of 151 games:
  • In 2007, 13 starters missed 44 total games.
  • During the 2008 regular season, 13 starters missed a total of 75 games.
  • This season, 12 (current, projected or past) starters have missed a total of 32 games due to injuries. That number will go up after this weekend without Mattes and Graham.

The defense has been hit the hardest, with six starters missing a total of 23 games and three now out for the season. Most notable is linebacker Nate Irving, who has missed the entire season with injuries he suffered in a horrific automobile accident this summer.

Jeff Rieskamp, who started two games at defensive end a year ago and was expected to battle for a spot this season, has missed every game this year. Ray Michel, who had started 21 straight games at middle linebacker, missed last week’s game with an ankle injury. Cornerback Rashard Smith, a rookie who had moved into the starting lineup, is out of the season with a knee injury. The other starting corner, DeAndre Morgan, missed the first two games of 2009, while safety Clem Johnson also missed a game.

Those numbers don’t even include safety Javon Walker, who sat out last season with a knee injury and has also missed the entire season.

“You can't work around it,” O’Brien said. “You have to understand what's going on. The kids are fine. I think they are excited about the opportunity to come back home and play a football game. That's who you worry about the most. I think they've kind of accepted the fact they've been dealt a bad hand. There's nothing they can do but fight their way out of it, so we are going to continue to fight and play hard and be the best team we can.”

ACC injury reports: Week 9

October, 30, 2009
10/30/09
9:00
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

I think I actually have them all this week ...

BOSTON COLLEGE

Questionable

DE Alex Albright (ankle)

Doubtful

OT Rich Lapham (shoulder)

LB Mike McLaughlin (leg)

Out

WR Ifeanyi Momah (knee)

RB Rolandan Finch (illness)

CLEMSON

Out for Season

J.K. Jay, OT, back

Probable

Scotty Cooper, LB, Concussion

Doubtful

Michael Palmer, TE, Concussion

Out

Kantrell Brown, S, Concussion

DUKE

RB Re'quan Boyette (knee) -- Questionable

CB Lee Butler (leg) -- Doubtful

LB Abraham Kromah (leg) -- OUT

WR Tyree Watkins (leg) -- OUT

RB Kyle Griswould (leg) -- OUT FOR SEASON

S Anthony Young-Wiseman (knee) -- OUT FOR SEASON

FLORIDA STATE

Out for the season

44 LB Maurice Harris (neck)

81 TE Caz Piurowski (knee)

Out

28 CB Dionte Allen (thumb)

76 OT Garrett Faircloth (hip)

70 OT Antwane Greenlee (knee)

51 LB Aaron Gresham (knee)

97 DT Demonte McAllister (knee)

74 OT John Prior (knee)

72 DT Budd Thacker (knee)

11 LB Vince Williams (back)

Questionable

27 CB Xavier Rhodes (thumb)

21 CB Patrick Robinson (ankle)

Probable

9 WR Richard Goodman (groin)

26 RV Korey Mangum (shoulder)

94 DT Justin Mincey (knee)

36 LB Dekoda Watson (groin)

GEORGIA TECH

Out

Kevin Cone, r-Jr., WR (ankle)

Robert Hall, r-Jr., DE (knee)

Cooper Taylor, So., S (undisclosed)

Questionable

Julian Burnett, Fr., LB (knee)

Out For Season

Kyle Jackson, r-So., LB (foot)

MIAMI

Probable

OL Joel Figueroa – Upper Extremity

K Matt Bosher - Illness

Out

DB Ray-Ray Armstrong – Lower Extremity

FB Patrick Hill – Lower Extremity

RB Javarris James – Lower Extremity

DL Eric Moncur – Lower Extremity

DB JoJo Nicolas – Lower Extremity

LB Sean Spence – Lower Extremity

Surgery and Out for the Season

DL Dyron Dye – Lower Extremity

DL Marcus Forston – Lower Extremity

LB Jordan Futch – Lower Extremity

TE Richard Gordon – Upper Extremity

LB Shayon Green – Lower Extremity

DE Gavin Hardin – Upper Extremity

DB Ryan Hill – Upper Extremity

DE Adewale Ojomo – Jaw

NC STATE

OUT FOR SEASON

Mario Carter, TE - knee

Ryan Cheek, LB - hip

Denzelle Good, OL - shoulder

Nate Irving, LB - leg

Colby Jackson, FB - knee

Everett Proctor, QB – shoulder

Jeff Rieskamp, DE – sports hernia

Rashard Smith, CB - knee

Javon Walker, S – knee

James Washington, HB - knee

OUT

T.J. Graham, WR/RET – leg

Ray Michel, LB - ankle

Jesse Riley, DB - knee

Dwayne Maddox will start at middle linebacker in place of Michel; Clem Johnson, Jamelle Eugene and Donald Bowens will return punts/kicks.

VIRGINIA

Out

Aaron Clark (knee)

Matt Conrath (ankle)

Probable

Oday Aboushi (knee)

Landon Bradey (knee)

Darren Childs (leg)

Nate Collins (leg)

Cam Johnson (knee)

Corey Mosley (shoulder)

Brandon Woods (shoulder)

WAKE FOREST

Out for Season

WR Terence Davis (knee)

Questionable

DE Kyle Wilber

O'Brien opens camp looking for three best linebackers

August, 3, 2009
8/03/09
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- As NC State begins summer camp at 5:05 p.m. ET today, coach Tom O'Brien is in search of his three best linebackers without Nate Irving, and on the surface, he appears to have them -- Audie Cole, Ray Michel and Dwayne Maddox.

At least that's how the first team will line up.

Cole was recruited as a high school quarterback, but the coaching staff was looking at him as a safety or linebacker. Cole, who redshirted at linebacker in 2007, had to learn the position from scratch and played well on special teams last year. As the season went on, he learned more but was limited to just 38 snaps all season. This year should prove to be different.
Cole moved to the field linebacker spot this past spring and made such rapid progress that he entered fall camp as the starting strongside linebacker.

"This spring, as we started the spring, he stood out," O'Brien said. "At that time we started with Maddox in the field and him in the boundary, and after a scrimmage or so, he looked like he was the third-best linebacker on the football team. We put him out there to the field, he did a heck of a job out there. He's a big kid -- 6-[foot]-4, 230-some pounds, and he can run very well. Hopefully if he can come through, that would really be a great thing for our football team."

Irving, probably the best player on the entire roster, suffered a collapsed lung that came as the result of a puncture by a broken rib, and a compound fracture in his leg from a one-car wreck in June.

With Irving out indefinitely, Maddox will have the first shot at the weakside linebacker position. Maddox, a true sophomore, played a lot last year when Irving was hurt, but was inconsistent and finished with 32 tackles. He was the only true freshman on defense to start a game last year, and had four starts.

"When Nate came back, and he came back in and spelled Nate, he played much better," O'Brien said. "Obviously he's another kid that learned from his experience. He did well in the spring and it looked like he was much more comfortable. He's got to help out there, and where we go from there, if he can't do it, we've got to look probably to Michel, or [Sterling] Lucas in the middle. You've got to find a way to get your three-best players on the field and then go from there. We have some decisions to make, but we'd like to stay where we are and hope that Dwayne can play the position for us."

Ranking the ACC units: Linebackers

July, 22, 2009
7/22/09
5:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This would be an entirely different list if the top two linebackers in the league -- Mark Herzlich and Nate Irving -- weren't sidelined right now. There are still a lot of standout linebackers in the conference, but this season just won't be the same without those two guys, not that Irving's return has been completely ruled out yet. Having spoken with NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer Wednesday, though, it's simply a miracle that Irving is even alive. In looking at the rest of the conference, it's tough to find teams that are deep at this position. It's a question mark for a lot of teams, and there's a lot of inexperience.

Here's a shot at ranking the best linebacking corps in the ACC:

1. Miami -- Sean Spence was one of the hardest hitters in the conference as a true freshman and will only be better this year, but the key to this group will probably be the return of a healthy Colin McCarthy, who injured his shoulder in the first half of the season last year. Darryl Sharpton, Arthur Brown and Jordan Futch still have something to prove.

2. North Carolina -- Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter started every game last year, and there are high expectations for sophomore Zach Brown. Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles last year and ranked third in the ACC in total tackles per game. This is one of the deepest groups the Tar Heels have had recently, but they are lacking some experience.

3. Virginia Tech -- Cam Martin and Cody Grimm combined to play all but nine plays at the whip linebacker spot, but they've got to replace Purnell Sturdivant and Brett Warren. Barquell Rivers proved he's up to the task when he filled in in the Orange Bowl, and Jake Johnson will have an increased role, too. There's a lot of potential in this group.

4. Clemson -- The Tigers return two starters plus a third player with starting experience. Kavell Connor started all 13 games last year and was the team's top tackler with 125. Brandon Maye had an impressive season as a redshirt freshman, and finished with 87 tackles. Scotty Cooper was a part-time starter at strongside linebacker.

5. Georgia Tech -- Even with Kyle Jackson possibly out for the whole summer with an injured right foot, the Yellow Jackets till have plenty of depth with Sedric Griffin, Brad Jefferson, Anthony Barnes and Steven Sylvester. Barnes and Jefferson are both finally healthy after injury-plagued seasons and there should be good competition for starting jobs. This group can't afford anymore injuries though.

6. Florida State -- With the graduation of Derek Nicholson and Toddrick Verdell, the Noles lose their top two tacklers. Dekoda Watson will be back from elbow surgery this spring, but it's a young group counting on sophomores like Nigel Bradham and Nigel Carr. Junior Kendall Smith is the only other upperclassman on the two-deep roster.

7. Maryland -- Alex Wujciak could be a star at this position for the Terps, and he'll definitely need to be a leader there this fall. Maryland lost four linebackers who combined to play 144 games and 54 starts. Adrian Moten is one of the few experienced faces in the group, and he earned his first start last year in the Humanitarian Bowl.

8. Duke -- The Blue Devils have to replace the ACC's leading tackler in Michael Tauiliili, but they've still got Vincent Rey, who made 109 tackles last year. The problem is, Rey is the only experienced linebacker they've got. Competition remains among Damian Thornton, Abraham Kromah, and Adam Banks.

9. NC State -- It's not clear when Nate Irving will return, but for as long as he's out, the Wolfpack will be missing their best player on both sides of the ball. The Pack still have senior Ray Michel, who is a returning starter in the middle, and Dwayne Maddox started in place of Irving when he was out last year. But this is an entirely different group -- and defense -- without Irving.

10. Boston College -- The Eagles' linebacking corps took a huge hit when Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, and they still don't know when Mike McLaughlin will be cleared to play from a torn Achilles. BC has a reputation for its defense, so odds are this group will be OK, but there are too many unknowns right now.

11. Wake Forest -- All three starters from last year are gone, and the Demon Deacons have big shoes to fill after the departure of Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry. It's going to have to be a group effort, but there's still some athleticism and depth to work with. Matt Woodlief and Hunter Haynes are the most experienced players retuning.

12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers graduated the veteran group of Jon Copper, Clint Sintim and Antonio Appleby, and because they were so good, their backups didn't see much playing time. This group is the feature in Al Groh's 3-4 defense, and it's going to have a whole new look. There were good reports about Steve Greer this spring, and Groh said Greer tried to mimic his game after Copper, which is reason for hope.

NC State spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009
5/07/09
9:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

North Carolina State Wolfpack

2008 overall record: 6-7

2008 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters: Offense: 7, defense: 7, kicker/punter 1

Top returners: QB Russell Wilson, WR Owen Spencer, C Ted Larsen DT Alan Michael Cash, DE Willie Young, LB Nate Irving, PK Josh Czajkowski, TB Toney Baker, WR T.J. Graham, LB Ray Michel, TB Jamelle Eugene, CB DeAndre Morgan

Key losses: TE Anthony Hill, HB Andre Brown, S J.C. Neal, CB Jeremy Gray, DT Keith Willis, OG John Bedics, OG Meares Green

2008 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Andre Brown (767 yards)
Passing: Russell Wilson* (1,955 yards)
Receiving:
Owen Spencer* (691 yards)
Tackles:
Ray Michel* (85)
Sacks:
Willie Young* (6.5)
Interceptions:
Nate Irving* (4)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 South Carolina
Sept. 12 Murray State
Sept. 19 Gardner-Webb
Sept. 26 Pittsburgh
Oct. 3 at Wake Forest
Oct. 10 Duke
Oct. 17 at Boston College
Oct. 31 at Florida State
Nov. 7 Maryland
Nov. 14 Clemson
Nov. 21 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 28 North Carolina

Spring answers

1. Sweet relief. Mike Glennon impressed the coaching staff as the No. 2 quarterback this spring with his poise and arm strength and likely earned himself some playing time this fall. Glennon completed 23 of 38 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown in the Kay Yow Spring Game.

2. Hit me. Baker hadn't played in almost two years, let alone been hit, but he held up physically throughout the spring despite not being entirely 100 percent. He and Jamelle Eugene should help compensate for the loss of Brown.

3. Going the distance. Placekicker Josh Czajkowski could be a difference-maker this fall. He was accurate last year (16 of 19 field goals and 33 of 34 PATs), but improved his distance this spring. Czajkowki made a 52-yarder in one of the scrimmages.

Fall questions

1. Winning in September. NC State has made a push late in the schedule over the past two seasons, and has had a tendency to get off to a slow, injury-laden start. If the Wolfpack is going to be a legitimate contender in Tom O'Brien's third season, they'll have to get off to a faster start.

2. Staying power. Can Russell Wilson stay healthy and handle the spotlight of Year 1 while Glennon is itching to see some playing time? Wilson showed improvement this spring by working through his progressions better, but O'Brien said there could have been more progress had Wilson not spent part of the spring with the baseball team.

3. Walker's return. Can the Pack get safety Javon Walker back in secondary? Walker tore his ACL in the second-to-last game of 2008. As a freshman he was starting, but he missed the spring. He is expected back this fall and could be the best player in secondary.

ACC position rankings: linebackers

July, 18, 2008
7/18/08
6:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

1. Virginia: Senior captain Clint Sintim started all 37 games in his career and was third on the team with 77 tackles last season. His nine sacks last year were the most of any linebacker in the nation. Inside linebacker Jon Copper is UVA's active leader in tackles with 200, and Antonio Appleby is third on that list with 155.

2. Wake Forest: All three returning starters are back, including strongside linebacker Aaron Curry, a two-time defensive player of the week who had three interception returns for touchdowns and led the nation in interception return yards with 256. He also led the team with 13.5 tackles for a loss. Middle linebacker Stanley Arnoux also returns, along with weakside linebacker Chantz McClinic, who had 42 tackles.

 
 Ned Dishman/Getty Images
 Senior linebacker Brian Toal, who has 180 career tackles despite missing last season, is healthy again for Boston College.

3. Boston College: The Eagles lost two key starters, but senior Brian Toal's shoulder is healed and he has 180 career tackles despite missing last season with a medical redshirt. His primary competition at weakside linebacker will come from senior Robert Francois, who finished last season with 39 total tackles. Junior Mark Herzlich, who started all 14 games last year and finished second in total tackles with 97 should anchor this unit. Junior Mike McLaughlin started three games at middle linebacker last season when Jo-Lonn Dunbar was injured and is the heir apparent there.

4. Maryland: This could be one of the Terps' deeper positions, even with the loss of Erin Henderson to the NFL. Seniors Dave Philistin and Moise Fokou each started all 13 games last season, and Adrian Moten, who played all three positions as a freshman, tied for the team lead in sacks (5.5) and had 50 tackles even though he didn't start a game. Philistin ranked fourth in the ACC with 9.5 tackles per game.

5. Florida State: These guys have talent, it's just a matter of when it will all come together. Geno Hayes is gone, and so is Marcus Ball, who was expected to fill in for Hayes but was booted off the team. Still, the Seminoles' leading tackler is back. Underrated middle linebacker Derek Nicholson made 99 stops last year and was the only linebacker to start all 13 games. Strongside linebacker Dekoda Watson started every game but the bowl game because of the academic scandal and will miss the first three, leaving the job to sophomore Kendall Smith. The 'Noles are also excited about freshman Nigel Bradham.

6. Miami: The Hurricanes lost their leading tackler in Tavares Gooden, a third-round NFL draft pick by the Ravens, but are still better off than the way they ended last season -- with three healthy linebackers. Senior Glenn Cook is back after missing last season with a foot injury, and the freshmen -- Arthur Brown and Sean Spence -- didn't waste any time impressing the staff while Coin McCarthy was out this spring. Darryl Sharpton and Spencer Adkins are possible starters in the middle.

7. Virginia Tech: The Hokies will obviously miss Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi, but middle linebacker Brett Warren played well last year when Hall got hurt and earned the confidence of defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Purnell Sturdivant is No. 1 heading into the fall, but should be challenged by veteran Jonas Houseright and redshirt freshman Hunter Ovens. Redshirt junior Cam Martin started 13 of 14 games last season at weakside after being moved from free safety and finished fifth on the team with 78 tackles and was third in sacks with 4.5.

8. Duke: Senior Michael Tauiliili is the top active player in the league in terms of career tackles, and finished last season with 108. He also had four sacks and three interceptions. Vincent Rey led the Blue Devils with 111 tackles. The third slot will be between Marcus Jones and Adam Banks. There's not a lot of depth here, but there's talent.

9. Clemson: This is the least experienced unit on the Tigers' defense. Josh Miller is the only senior in the group and is competing for the starting middle linebacker job. Tommy Bowden was impressed with freshman Stanley Hunter this spring, but Brandon Maye had the top spring among the newcomers and is listed as first team in the middle entering the fall. Junior Kavell Connor is the top option at weakside linebacker and had a career high 15 tackles in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. He had 46 stops for the year, tops among linebackers on the spring depth chart. Sophomore Scotty Cooper also started the Chick-fil-A Bowl at strongside linebacker. He had 33 stops for the season in 183 plays on defense.

10. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace leading tackler Durell Mapp, but return sophomore Bruce Carter and sophomore Quan Sturdivant. Carter played in all 12 games and started seven. He made 18 of his 25 tackles in the final five games. Sturdivant's experience is similar, having played in all 12 games, but started just five. He finished the season with 47 tackles, but also added an interception and a blocked punt. Senior Mark Paschal played in all 12 games and started four at middle linebacker, and Chase Rice was still recovering this spring from a torn tendon in his left ankle. He was the starter in 2007, but got hurt in the season opener and missed the rest of the season.

11. NC State: There's not a lot of experience, as the top candidates have combined for five starts and only four guys have played in a collegiate game. Nate Irving is the lead candidate at weakside linebacker, having started four games. Ray Michel started one game in the middle, and strongside should be wide open. Robbie Leonard, a converted walk-on defensive back, is the starter heading into summer camp. He played in eight games as a strong safety and has seen most of his action on special teams the past two seasons. Thomas Barnes got valuable experience as a backup middle linebacker last season, playing the last 10 games and scoring a touchdown on a fumble recovery in only his third career play from scrimmage.

12. Georgia Tech: Two of the three stars from last year -- Philip Wheeler and Gary Guyton -- are now on NFL rosters. Junior Shane Bowen started nine games last season, but sophomore Anthony Barnes has the most potential and started three. Two young rookies, sophomore Brad Jefferson and redshirt freshman Kyle Jackson, are good enough that Bowen may lose his starting job.

NC State position battles

July, 18, 2008
7/18/08
11:30
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

We're almost through the league, as I break down the remaining spots up for grabs at each school. Today it's the Wolfpack's turn. Here's a look at the position battles to watch this summer in Raleigh:

Quarterback -- Returning starters Harrison Beck and Daniel Evans haven't been counted out just yet, although Evans missed some time this spring after shoulder surgery. Russell Wilson had a promising spring, but has spent his career thus far on the scout team. Justin Burke also got a fair amount of reps in the spring. There are also high expectations for true freshman Mike Glennon, who hasn't taken an official practice snap yet.

Running back -- Yes, there is talent and experience here, but will anyone separate himself? Two guys return with more than 1,000 career rushing yards in Toney Baker and Andre Brown, and Jamelle Eugene rushed for 667 last year with five touchdowns. He started the last six games of the season and averaged 83.8 yards a game in the last seven games.

Offensive line -- There are three returning starters, but it's still a work in progress. Former defensive linemen Ted Larsen (center) and John Bedics (left guard) are penciled in as starters, but neither of them has taken a snap on offense yet in a college game. Jake Vermiglio moved to guard behind Bedics. Andy Barbee, a redshirt junior, was a longtime backup at center.

Linebacker -- All three linebacker spots could be wide open. The surest thing to a lock might be weakside linebacker Nate Irving, who started four of the last five games. Middle linebacker Ray Michel started the last game of 2007 and has played in 24 games in his two years. He has the most game experience of the top six on the depth chart at the three linebacker spots. Thomas Barnes played in 10 games last year as a backup and scored a touchdown on his third collegiate snap (against Wofford on a fumble return).

Safety -- Four players are after two spots. Two redshirt-freshmen -- Justin Byers and Jimmaul Simmons -- are competing with J.C. Neal and Javon Walker, who both have legitimate experience.

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