ACC: Rennie Moore
The series continues today with one good reason why …
Clemson will defend its ACC title: It’s oozing talent at the offensive skill positions. Heisman-caliber quarterback? Check. 1,000-yard rusher? Check. All-American receiver? Check. The trio of quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receiver Sammy Watkins will make the Tigers one of the toughest teams in the country to defend. They’ve got options. Lots of them. And they’re not rookies anymore. Last year, under offensive coordinator Chad Morris, those guys helped Clemson score an ACC-best 470 points – the seventh-highest total in ACC history. Ellington’s 5.78 per-carry average is the second-highest in the ACC among returnees who have more than 1,000 career rushing yards (Georgia Tech’s Orwin Smith leads with 9.87). Boyd set a single-season ACC record by running and throwing for 38 touchdowns last year. And Watkins broke both the Clemson and ACC records for most receptions by a freshman with 82 catches.
Why it won’t: Clemson loses six starters from its offensive and defensive lines. The Tigers must replace three starters on the offensive line and three starters on the defensive line from 2011. Left tackle Philip Price, right tackle Landon Walker, and right guard Antoine McClain graduated, along with defensive tackle Andre Branch, the team’s leading pass rusher last year, defensive tackle Rennie Moore (43 tackles, 4 sacks) and nose guard Brandon Thompson (46 tackles, 2.5 sacks). Including tight end Dwayne Allen and cornerback Cody Sensabaugh, the Tigers will lose a combined 232 career starts. Also factor in the new-look defensive line will be under the direction of first-year defensive coordinator Brent Venables, and that’s almost an entirely new look for the defense.
More in this series
Virginia Tech guard Blake DeChristopher signed with the Cardinals, and Hokies defensive back Cris Hill signed with the Bills.
Big thanks to Matt from Alexandria, Va., Ben in Blacksburg, Va., and Lynn in Blacksburg, Va., for the head's up.
The updated, working list is below. Feel free to pass along any oversights.
CB Donnie Fletcher: New York Jets
DE Kourtnei Brown: San Francisco 49ers
FB Chad Diehl: Baltimore Ravens
OL Antoine McClain: Baltimore Ravens
DT Rennie Moore: Houston Texans
OT Landon Walker: Cincinnati Bengals
P Dawson Zimmerman: Atlanta Falcons
S Matt Daniels: St. Louis Rams
WR Bert Reed: Cleveland Browns
S Terrence Parks: Kansas City Chiefs
P Shawn Powell: Buffalo Bills
CB Cameron Chism: Indianapolis Colts
RB Davin Meggett: Houston Texans
WR LaRon Byrd: Arizona Cardinals
OL Joel Figueroa: Miami Dolphins (rookie camp tryout)
TE Chase Ford: Philadelphia Eagles
DL Marcus Forston: New England Patriots
LB Jordan Futch: Tampa Bay Bucaneers
G Harland Gunn: Dallas Cowboys
QB Jacory Harris: Miami Dolphins (rookie camp tryout)
C Tyler Horn: Atlanta Falcons
S JoJo Nicolas: New York Giants
DL Adewale Ojomo: New York Giants
DT Micanor Regis: Atlanta Falcons
CB Charles Brown: Baltimore Ravens
C Cam Holland: Kansas City Chiefs
WR Dwight Jones: Houston Texans
S Matt Merletti: Indianapolis Colts
DT Tydreke Powell: Minnesota Vikings
TE George Bryan: Dallas Cowboys
FB Taylor Gentry: Kansas City Chiefs
CB Chase Minnifield: Washington Redskins
OG Austin Pasztor: Minnesota Vikings
S Rodney McLeod: St. Louis Rams
DT Matt Conrath: St. Louis Rams
WR Jarrett Boykin: Jacksonville Jaguars
OT Jaymes Brooks: Green Bay Packers
G Blake DeChristopher: Arizona Cardinals
CB Cris Hill: Buffalo Bills
S Eddie Whitley: Dallas Cowboys
TE Cameron Ford: Green Bay Packers
S Cyhl Quarles: Baltimore Ravens
The following is a list of ACC players, by school, who have signed undrafted free agent deals with NFL teams. It was compiled largely from NFL.com, along with official releases from NFL teams and ACC schools. Georgia Tech is the only ACC school currently without an undrafted free-agent signing.
By all means, feel free to let me know if I have overlooked anyone.
CB Donnie Fletcher - New York Jets
DE Kourtnel Brown - San Francisco 49ers
FB Chad Diehl - Baltimore Ravens
OL Antoine McClain - Baltimore Ravens
DT Rennie Moore - Houston Texans
S Matt Daniels - St. Louis Rams
WR Bert Reed - Cleveland Browns
S Terrence Parks - Kansas City Chiefs
P Shawn Powell - Buffalo Bills
CB Cameron Chism - Indianapolis Colts
RB Davin Meggett - Houston Texans
WR LaRon Byrd - Arizona Cardinals
TE Chase Ford - Philadelphia Eagles
DL Marcus Forston - New England Patriots
LB Jordan Futch - Tampa Bay Bucaneers
G Harland Gunn - Dallas Cowboys
C Tyler Horn - Atlanta Falcons
S JoJo Nicolas - New York Giants
DL Adewale Ojomo - New York Giants
DT Micanor Regis - Atlanta Falcons
CB Charles Brown - Baltimore Ravens
C Cam Holland - Kansas City Chiefs
WR Dwight Jones - Houston Texans
S Matt Merletti - Indianapolis Colts
DT Tydreke Powell - Minnesota Vikings
TE George Bryan - Dallas Cowboys
FB Taylor Gentry - Kansas City Chiefs
CB Chase Minnifield – Washington Redskins
OG Austin Pasztor - Minnesota Vikings
S Rodney McLeod – St. Louis Rams
DT Matt Conrath – St. Louis Rams
WR Jarrett Boykin - Jacksonville Jaguars
OT Jaymes Brooks - Green Bay Packers
S Eddie Whitley - Dallas Cowboys
TE Cameron Ford - Green Bay Packers
S Chyl Quarles - Baltimore Ravens
The Hurricanes also announced that quarterback Jacory Harris and offensive lineman Joel Figueroa have both been invited to rookie camp tryouts with the Miami Dolphins.
Mel Kiper and Todd McShay reveal their final draft boards, and each has a mock , with McShay and the rest of the Scouts Inc. team going seven rounds full .
Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly, naturally, tops the list, going No. 5 to the Buccaneers. North Carolina end Quinton Coples is next off the board at No. 19, to the Bears, with wideout Stephen Hill from Georgia Tech going two spots later to the Bengals.
How do the rest of the ACC's draft-eligible players stand? Let's take a look:
No. 36, Buccaneers: RB David Wilson (Virginia Tech)
No. 50, Bears: OLB Zach Brown (UNC)
No. 58, Texans: DE Andre Branch (Clemson)
No. 59, Packers: RB Lamar Miller (Miami)
No. 64, Colts: DT Brandon Thompson (Clemson)
No. 68, Buccaneers: CB Jayron Hosley (Virginia Tech)
No. 72, Dolphins: OT Zebrie Sanders (FSU)
No. 76, Texans: TE Dwayne Allen (Clemson)
No. 80, Cardinals: DE Olivier Vernon (Miami)
No. 82, Titans: WR Chris Givens (Wake Forest)
No. 91, Ravens: G Joe Looney (Wake Forest)
No. 95, Raiders: DE Cam Johnson (Virginia)
No. 100, Browns: OLB Nigel Bradham (FSU)
No. 124, Bills: OLB Sean Spence (Miami)
No. 125, 49ers: CB Chase Minnifield (Virginia)
No. 128, Vikings: OLB Terrell Manning (NC State)
No. 129, Raiders: OLB Kyle Wilber (Wake Forest)
No. 130, Ravens: WR Danny Coale (Virginia Tech)
No. 154, Jets: WR Tommy Streeter (Miami)
No. 157, Falcons: WR TJ Graham (NC State)
No. 159, Steelers: G Brandon Washington (Miami)
No. 162, Saints: CB Coty Sensabaugh (Clemson)
No. 176, Jaguars: DT Marcus Forston (Miami)
No. 178, Bills: ILB Audie Cole (NC State)
No. 188, Broncos: DE Rennie Moore (Clemson)
No. 191, Bengals: WR Travis Benjamin (Miami)
No. 197, Packers: OT Andrew Datko (FSU)
No. 205, Browns: G Antoine McClain (Clemson)
No. 209, Rams: WR Dwight Jones (UNC)
No. 240, Steelers: DE Matt Conrath (Virginia)
No. 242, Jets: TE George Bryan (NC State)
No. 243, Packers: RB Davin Meggett (Maryland)
No. 245, Browns: DT Markus Kuhn (NC State)
No. 250, Chargers: CB Donnie Fletcher (BC)
Here's a breakdown by school of the 37 ACC players that Scouts Inc. thinks will be drafted:
NC State: 5
Virginia Tech: 3
Wake Forest: 3
Georgia Tech: 1
Here are your ACC representatives:
BOSTON COLLEGE (1)
- Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
- Dwayne Allen, TE, Clemson
- Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
- Antoine McClain, OG, Clemson
- Rennie Moore, DT, Clemson
- Coty Sensabaugh, DB, Clemson
- Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson
- Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State
- Andrew Datko, OT, Florida State
- Mike Harris, CB, Florida State
- Shawn Powell, P, Florida State
- Beau Reliford, TE, Florida State
- Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State
- Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
- Davin Meggett, RB, Maryland
- Travis Benjamin, WR, Miami
- Marcus Forston, DT, Miami
- Jacory Harris, QB, Miami
- Lamar Miller, RB, Miami
- Sean Spence, LB, Miami
- Tommy Streeter, WR, Miami
- Olivier Vernon, DE, Miami
- Brandon Washington, OT, Miami
- Charles Brown, CB, UNC
- Zach Brown, LB, UNC
- Quinton Coples, DE, North Carolina
- Dwight Jones, WR, UNC
- Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina
- Tydreke Powell, DT, UNC
- Audie Cole, LB, NC State
- T.J. Graham, WR, NC State
- Markus Kuhn, DT, NC State
- Terrell Manning, LB, NC State
- J.R. Sweezy, DT, NC State
- Jarrett Boykin, WR, Virginia Tech
- Danny Coale, WR, Virginia Tech
- Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
- David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
WAKE FOREST (4)
He didn’t have to, either.
“All I heard was a roar,” Hawkins said. “I turned around and Rennie was celebrating. It was amazing. It couldn’t have happened to a better guy.”
“It was great being able to be on the field when the game was on the line and be able to stop them, that’s it, no more, as opposed to standing on the sideline, watching for the offense to make a play,” Hawkins said. “It’s always good to end the game on defense.”
It wasn’t until last Saturday that Clemson’s defense started to turn the corner, play more fundamentally sound, and start to close the gap a bit with its high-flying offense. Part of the early struggles can be attributed to the high number of substitutions and younger players who saw snaps in the first two games of the season, but more was expected from a defense that typically reloads. Clemson’s defense has put up pedestrian numbers this season, but against Florida State, the Tigers proved they are capable of more heading into Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech.
“I thought we made a lot of progress,” said coach Dabo Swinney. “We didn't have any critical errors, missed assignments in that game. We did a much better job with being in our gaps. But the biggest improvement is we tackled better. We were really poor the first few games, so it was good to see us tackle better. We had a couple of really key stops with some one-on-one tackles. That was good to see. We did a better job in coverage. We had a couple of busts, but we turned a couple of guys loose. We still gave up three or four big plays, which is the biggest area of concern. Where their guy made a play on our guy, and we've got to win more of those match-ups.
“We're not even close to what we want to be defensively,” he said, “but we are making progress, and it's still early in the season, and they found a way to make some key plays and we've got to continue to do that.”
Clemson’s defense still has a long way to go. The Tigers are No. 90 in the country in total defense and No. 66 in scoring defense, allowing 25 points per game. Against FSU, though, Clemson held the Seminoles to just 29 rushing yards and 3-of-10 third-down conversions. It was the fewest rushing yards that Florida State has had against Clemson since 2003, when the Tigers held the Seminoles to just 11 yards rushing. FSU was only in the red zone twice.
Still, Clemson continues to allow too many big plays for defensive coordinator Kevin Steele’s liking.
Opposing offenses collectively have 19 plays of 20 yards or more and six have gone for touchdowns in four games this year. Last year, Clemson allowed a total of 48 plays of 20 yards or more and only eight went for touchdowns.
“Our standard is excellence,” Steele said. “We’re not an excellent defense yet, but I don’t know that we ever have been and it’s sure hard to get there. But we are improving. It’s just about doing our job and being effective. We’ve made improvement there, but we’ve got a long way to go. The test there Saturday, we’d like to have a little bit more time to get some of those things ironed out before you have to face a team like Virginia Tech, but they’re on the schedule this week, so we better grow up fast.”
Welcome back, Clemson and Georgia Tech. Two programs which had losing seasons last year are 4-0 and look capable of returning to the ACC championship game, where they met in 2009. The big game this weekend will be in Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech will host Clemson in a battle of two of the league’s three remaining undefeated teams. Much like the latest bowl predictions, there have been some major changes in the power ranking this week. You’ve got a new leader, ACC fans:
1. Clemson (4-0, 1-0 ACC; Last week: No. 3): The Tigers’ offense has gotten most of the credit, but it was a key defensive play -- Rennie Moore’s sack on FSU quarterback Clint Trickett -- that helped seal the win for the Tigers on Saturday. Clemson has now defeated back-to-back ranked opponents, but will play its first road game of the season when it travels to Virginia Tech this weekend.
2. Georgia Tech (4-0, 1-0; LW: No. 5): North Carolina’s defense gave Georgia Tech the most problems of any opponent this season, but the Tar Heels couldn’t stop receiver Stephen Hill, and the Jackets found a way to win their first Coastal Division game. The reason for the inconsistency here and in the bowl projections is because Chick-fil-A officials would probably choose the Hokies' fan base and their travel money over the hometown team, even if the Jackets win the head-to-head in the regular season.
3. Virginia Tech (4-0, 0-0; LW: No. 2): This has to be one of the least convincing undefeated teams left in the country, but it is still undefeated. An interception, a missed field goal, a fumble -- all mistakes that could prove costly against better competition, which starts on Saturday. We’ll find out more about the Hokies against Clemson, but their consistency is what has separated them in the past.
4. Florida State (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 1): It was an impressive performance by backup quarterback Clint Trickett in his first career start, but he didn’t get enough help from his teammates in the loss to Clemson. This is not the end for the Noles. Once healthy, this is a team that can still make a push for the Atlantic Division title, but now they need Clemson to trip up twice.
5. North Carolina (3-1, 1-1; LW: No. 4): The Tar Heels had a chance to win, but poor execution on their final drive negated the opportunity. Much like FSU, UNC is still a good team that can contend for the division, but now the Heels have to hope Georgia Tech loses twice. UNC can’t afford to let this one beat them twice when they face East Carolina this weekend.
6. Wake Forest (2-1, 1-0; LW: No. 8): The Deacs had a bye week, but they move up on account of the poor performances by Miami and Maryland. Wake Forest lost a respectable game to Syracuse in overtime and has a conference win. The Deacs could take another step towards bowl eligibility this weekend with a win against Boston College, but they have to do it on the road.
7. Miami (1-2, 0-1; LW: No. 6): With the game on the line, Miami couldn’t score from two yards out. That calls into question Miami’s desire, its heart and its toughness. Miami fans will blame quarterback Jacory Harris, because he was the one holding the ball, but he didn’t lose the game for the Canes. Then again, he didn’t win it, either. Bottom line: There’s no excuse for Miami letting this one get away.
8. Maryland (1-2, 1-0; LW: No. 7): It was a pitiful performance by the Terps. They were beaten soundly in a 38-7 loss to Temple that looked worse than the final score. Temple running back Bernard Pierce said “there were rude things said” by Maryland during pregame warm-ups. Pierce got the last word with his school-record five rushing touchdowns. Yeah, Maryland beat Miami. But that’s not carrying much weight anymore.
9. Duke (2-2, 1-0; LW: No. 11): The Blue Devils looked good in their win against Tulane and have now put together back-to-back wins. That should give them some confidence heading into this weekend’s road trip to FIU. Duke’s defense, which had gone five quarters without allowing a touchdown, has shown significant improvement, and the offense is rolling again under quarterback Sean Renfree.
10. Virginia (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 10): The Hoos’ loss to Southern Miss was evidence that this program isn’t quite ready for a bowl game in Mike London’s second season. Part of the problem is at quarterback, where Michael Rocco threw three interceptions. Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis didn’t throw one. Virginia needs to rebound this weekend with a win against Idaho.
11. NC State (2-2, 0-1; LW: No. 9): The Wolfpack’s defense is riddled with injuries, but that can’t explain the three turnovers on offense, the seven sacks allowed, or the fact they rushed for minus-26 yards. A home game against a ranked Georgia Tech team looks daunting, and a bowl bid already looks out of reach.
12. Boston College (1-3, 0-1; LW: No. 12): The Eagles rallied together for their first win of the season and in the process made the statement that they haven’t given up. The next step is to get their first conference win, and they’ll have home-field advantage on Saturday against Wake Forest.
In January, offensive coordinator Chad Morris was hired. In February, Clemson signed one of the most talented recruiting classes in the country. In March, an offensive overhaul began. And this past summer, quarterback Tajh Boyd said, some veterans on Clemson’s roster got together and decided this season would be different.
With its 35-30 win over No. 11 Florida State on Saturday, Clemson proved it is.
“We hear Clemson can’t win two games back-to-back, Clemson can’t do this, Clemson can’t do that,” Boyd said. “It’s really fine because we have everything we need in this stadium right here.”
In a span of two weeks, Clemson found ways to beat defending national champ Auburn, and a Florida State team that was lauded by many as a national title contender for 2011. For Clemson, a program widely regarded as one of the most inconsistent in the country, its 4-0 start proves the Tigers are capable of consistency. After all, it’s only the second time in 23 years that Clemson has defeated Top 25 teams on back-to-back weekends and the first time they’ve done it at home. More importantly for the Tigers, though, Saturday’s win came against a Florida State team heavily favored to win the Atlantic Division.
If you thought Florida State was “back,” you might want to reconsider.
“We’re back,” said Clemson offensive lineman Dalton Freeman. “A lot of people have been doubting us and saying it’s the same old team. In the past we’ve been very inconsistent, but a lot of things have changed and we’re just hoping to keep the ball rolling. ... We’re just clicking right now. If we can keep it rolling and continue to get better, we have a chance to be pretty special.”
Now, as Clemson prepares to travel to Virginia Tech for its first road test of the season, it does so undefeated, with confidence, and with an early lead in the Atlantic Division race. While it’s still very early in the conference schedule, Clemson’s chances at returning to the ACC title game for the first time since 2009 look even better considering how Atlantic Division opponents Maryland, NC State and Boston College have struggled this month.
“The biggest thing, it’s not 4-0, it’s the first ACC game,” defensive coordinator Kevin Steele said. “In this league, if you don’t win that first one, it puts you behind the eight-ball. In that regard, it helps us to win that first one, because it makes it difficult if you don’t. Somebody else is driving when that happens, particularly when it’s a divisional game.”
All of the hype in the ACC this past offseason belonged to Florida State -- in retrospect, probably a year too early. The Seminoles, whose misfortune with injuries to key players continued against the Tigers, struggled to run the ball and sustain drives against Clemson. They couldn't key in on any one playmaker for the Tigers, as eight different players caught passes and four different players scored.
Florida State was just 3-of-10 on third-down conversions, was only in the red zone twice, and had just 29 rushing yards -- its fewest against Clemson since 2003. The Seminoles’ defense, which entered the game allowing an average of only 11 points, was gashed for 455 yards. It was the first time Clemson ever passed for more than 300 yards against Florida State. The up-tempo offense under Morris cranked out 33 more plays than Florida State and had the ball almost 10 minutes longer.
If there were any questions about whether or not Morris was a good hire, the output against the Noles should answer them.
“There’s a lot of teams with talent that don’t win,” Morris said. “It’s about guys buying into what you’re doing. There’s nothing more common in this world than unsuccessful people with talent. We’ve got the talent, and we’ve got the scheme, and these guys are believing. It’s like a puzzle -- it fits together.”
Talent has never been the problem at Clemson. Whatever was missing, the Tigers seem to have found it in the past two games, though nobody can pinpoint it.
“There’s something different here at Clemson, man,” said Rennie Moore, whose sack on FSU backup quarterback Clint Trickett helped seal the win for Clemson. “I know everyone feels it. I’m proud of my team, man, I’m proud of the coaching staff, I’m proud of Clemson. We’re 4-0, we’re in the driver’s seat, it’s time to keep doing what we’re doing, man.”
Despite Clemson’s win over Auburn in Week 3, doubts about Clemson’s No. 21 ranking in the Associated Press still remained, as critics pointed out Auburn’s abysmal defense. Coupled together with the win over Florida State, though, Clemson validated the offseason changes both on and off the field.
Still, Boyd isn’t holding his breath that Clemson has made a believer out of everyone just yet.
“There’s never going to be a point where you silence everybody, and that’s fine,” Boyd said. “We really do feed off that. It is what it is. We believe in ourselves as a team and a unit.”
And so far, they’ve gotten everything they needed out of Death Valley.
Penalties plagued Florida State throughout the entire game, and Clemson fans erupted as Moore threw down Trickett to end the potential comeback drive.
You might have been able to hear Clemson fans spelling out C-L-E-M-S-O-N in Anderson as the Tigers beat the Seminoles 35-30. Clemson now has control of the Atlantic Division and has made a case as the best team in the ACC right now. I'm heading down to the locker room for interviews. Check back more more later on this game and the others wrapping up now.
2. Florida State: All four starters return in juniors Brandon Jenkins, Jacobi McDaniel, Anthony McCloud and Everett Dawkins. Jenkins finished sixth nationally with 13.5 sacks. This group should take another step forward in the second season under coordinator Mark Stoops, but it already has an outstanding base to build on as the Noles ranked third nationally in sacks and 21st in tackles for loss last season.
3. Miami: The Canes should have one of the better rotations in the ACC. They return starters Olivier Vernon, Micanor Regis and Marcus Forston, who combined for 12 sacks and 30.5 TFLs. It’s a deep group, as DE Adewale Ojomo (seven starts), DT Luther Robinson (five starts), DE Marcus Robinson (10 games), DT Curtis Porter (one start), DE Andrew Smith (11 games) and DE Dyron Dye (six games) all have experience.
4. Virginia: Like Florida State, this is another group that should benefit from being in the second season under the same coordinator. Jim Reid switched the scheme back to a traditional 4-3, and the Hoos return a veteran group led by Matt Conrath (33 starts), DT Nick Jenkins (29 starts), and DE Cam Johnson (22 starts).
5. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have a better understanding of what is expected from them in their second season in Al Groh’s 3-4 defense, and all three starters return in ends Izaan Cross (41 tackles) and Jason Peters (52 tackles), and tackle Logan Walls. Defensive tackles Shawn Green, T.J. Barnes and J.C. Lanier will also compete for playing time along with DE Anthony Williams.
6. Maryland: The Terps should be solid up front with the return of Joe Vellano, A.J. Francis and Justin Anderson. Francis is the veteran of the group (19 career starts) and had 44 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season, but Vellano is also an all-conference candidate. The Terps have good depth with Zachariah Kerr, Isaiah Ross and Bradley Johnson.
7. Virginia Tech: This is a group that could and should jump a few spots by the end of the season. On paper, they’ve got to replace three starters, but this spring the group proved capable of getting the Hokies back to their days of dominating on defense. Based on potential, they should be ranked higher, but based on lack of dependable, proven depth, they could even fall lower.
8. Clemson: It will be difficult for the Tigers to replace the production of Da’Quan Bowers, but the defensive line is in capable hands with Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson, and Malliciah Goodman has embraced the challenge of taking Bowers’ spot. Branch was second on the team with five sacks last season and 8.5 tackles for loss. Thompson had 40 tackles, including six for losses. Defensive tackle Rennie Moore, DE Kourtnei Brown and DT Tyler Shatley also have experience.
9. NC State: Defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy is one of the underrated players in the ACC, and he returns along with defensive end Jeff Rieskamp. Several players got significant snaps last season, though, including DE Darryl Cato-Bishop (13 tackles), DT Markus Kuhn (17 tackles, and DT Brian Slay (20 tackles, two TFLs).
10. Wake Forest: The Deacs return three starters including Tristan Dorty, Kyle Wilber and Zack Thompson. Thompson only started five games last season, but after spring practices, coach Jim Grobe said Thompson has all-conference potential.
11. Boston College: Starters Max Holloway and Kaleb Ramsey return, along with four other linemen (DTs Dillon Quinn and Conor O’Neal, and DEs Dan Williams and Kasim Edebali) who each started at least two games last fall.
12. Duke: Until proven otherwise, this is where the Blue Devils belong, but Rick Petri was hired to change that. He’ll have veteran nose guard Charlie Hatcher (24 career starts) to work with, and sophomore Sydney Sarmiento, who started 11 games last season. Junior Kenny Anunike, Justin Foxx and DEs Desmond Johnson and Jamal Wallace could also see playing time.
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- The progression of quarterback Chase Rettig. As a true freshman, Rettig replaced Dave Shinskie as starter against Notre Dame on Oct. 2. He’ll only get better with more experience, and there’s room for improvement, as he threw nine interceptions and six touchdowns. He completed 51.3 percent of his passes for 137.6 yards per game. Two of those picks came in the 20-13 loss to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl, but he’s expected to take an important step forward this offseason and will need to if BC is going to graduate from the nation’s 109th best offense.
- The offense under a new coordinator. Kevin Rogers replaced Gary Tranquill, who retired after the bowl game, and the Eagles will have to adjust to a new scheme and system, starting this spring. Rogers said he'll adapt his system to the personnel he has to work with, but considering he was hired on Monday, there hasn't been much time for him to evaluate film.
- The revamped offensive line. BC has to replace three starters up front, including left tackle Anthony Castonzo, right guard Thomas Claiborne and right tackle Rich Lapham. Emmett Cleary and center Mark Spinney are returning starters, and left guard Ian White started a few games at the end of the year. Bryan Davis, Claiborne’s backup at right guard, and John Wetzel, Castonzo’s backup, are frontrunners to earn starts.
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 9
What to watch:
- Quarterback Tajh Boyd. Prior to the arrival of two early enrollees, Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, and his experience alone -- albeit limited -- makes it his job to lose. The staff wants him to become a little more accurate and consistent this spring. His education was accelerated at this time a year ago when former quarterback Kyle Parker spent the spring playing baseball, but that was under former offensive coordinator Billy Napier. He’s got a new coordinator -- and a new offense to learn.
- The new offensive scheme. First-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris brings an up-tempo style similar to that of Auburn’s, and the Tigers will have to learn it as quickly as he’ll want them to execute it. Morris has said Boyd is suited just right to lead it. Morris will want to stretch the field in every direction, depend on a strong running game and include long pass plays. He’s tasked with improving an offense that ranked No. 10 in the ACC in both scoring offense and total offense.
- Defense up the middle. It starts up front, where the Tigers have to replace defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins. Linebacker Brandon Maye, who played in the middle a lot, decided to transfer, and safety DeAndre McDaniel, who controlled the middle of the field in the secondary, has also graduated. The Tigers have the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 1 outside linebacker in the country in this year’s recruiting class, but they won’t arrive until the summer. For now, Corico Hawkins returns as a starting middle linebacker, while Quandon Christian is likely to stay on the outside. Rennie Moore will replace Jenkins, but McDaniel’s spot is up for grabs.
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Big holes on the offensive line. There’s depth, experience and incoming talent, but there are also big shoes to fill with the graduation of left guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon. Right guard David Spurlock has been seen snapping on the sidelines at practices, indicating he could move to center, while recovering from concussions and going through rehab. McMahon’s backup was Jacob Stanley. Henry Orelus, Bryan Stork and Rhonne Sanderson all started at right guard for Spurlock when he was out. Junior college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug, the No. 4 overall junior college prospect, could have an immediate impact at left guard.
- Backup quarterback battle. With EJ Manuel a lock as the starter, the attention turns to the No. 2 spot. Clint Trickett, a redshirt freshman and son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, and Will Secord, a redshirt sophomore, are the top two candidates. Secord was named the most improved quarterback of the spring at this time a year ago. Neither of them have thrown a collegiate pass.
- Linebackers. The Seminoles will have to replace two starters in Kendall Smith and Mister Alexander. Nigel Bradham is the only returning starter. This spring will feature competition among Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and Jeff Luc. It’s a more talented crop waiting in the wings, but inexperience is a factor. It’s a chance for Luc and Jones -- two of FSU’s top recruits in the 2010 class -- to remind everyone why they were rated the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 2 outside linebacker, respectively, in the country.
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 30
What to watch:
- New staff, new schemes. First-year coach Randy Edsall wants to be multiple, get vertical and take advantage of quarterback Danny O’Brien’s strengths. The departure of former defensive coordinator Don Brown to Connecticut was a surprise and a blow to the defense, which will now have to make a transition under a new coordinator who has yet to be hired.
- Competition at linebacker. Two starters have to be replaced in Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten, who were also both leaders of the defense. Demetrius Hartsfield returns as a starter, but the new staff will have to figure out who else fits into what slots. Ben Pooler has had knee trouble, but he is expected to compete with Darin Drakeford and Ryan Donohue, who were both No. 2 at their respective positions in 2010.
- Special teams. Not only did the Terps lose a four-year starter in punter/placekicker Travis Baltz, they also have to replace their top kick returner and conference leader in all-purpose yards in receiver Torrey Smith, who left early for the NFL. Nick Ferrara handled kickoffs last year and was No. 2 behind Baltz at both kicker and punter, but he’s a placekicker first, and has to get back on track with consistency. He’ll be the only scholarship kicker on the roster until incoming freshman Nathaniel Renfro joins the team this summer. Dexter McDougle has returned kickoffs in the past, and Trenton Hughes is another option, but with a new staff, it could be a clean slate.
Spring practice starts: March 17
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Mike Glennon. The team is moving forward as if starter Russell Wilson won’t return, promoting Glennon to No. 1 on the depth chart. The offense will have a new look, as the plays will be suited to Glennon’s strengths. At 6-foot-7, he’s much taller than Wilson, a more prototypical drop-back passer with a strong arm. While the plays might look different to the fans, they’re the same ones Glennon has been practicing since the day he arrived on campus. He’s a smart, unflappable player scheduled to graduate this May, but we haven’t seen enough of him to know just how good he is.
- A new crop of receivers. NC State will have to replace three seniors in Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis. Spencer and Williams led the Pack in receiving last year, combining for nine touchdowns and over 1,600 yards. NC State will turn to Jay Smith, who had 10 catches in 12 games, Steven Howard, Quintin Payton, and T.J. Graham, who had four touchdowns and played in all 13 games. Payton played a little more toward the end of the year, and he’s a tall, big target (about 6-foot-4) and comparable to Williams. Bryan Underwood, who redshirted last year, could also contribute.
- Running back competition. James Washington had taken over the starting job at the end of 2010, but he’ll be pushed this spring by Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene, who led the team in rushing in 2010 as a true freshman. They’ll also be under the direction of a new assistant coach, as Jason Swepson is now the head coach at Elon. It will be the first time Greene has been in a spring practice, and Washington, who was hurt last year, is finally healthy.
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Progress of quarterback Tanner Price. The maturation of Price, who started nine games as a true freshman last year, will be crucial to the Deacs’ hopes of returning to the postseason. Price was forced to play earlier than expected and finished with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,349 yards.
- A defense in transition. Coach Jim Grobe has said the staff is committed to making the transition to a 3-4 defense. The Deacons used that scheme to defend the triple option against Georgia Tech and Navy, and continued to experiment with it as the season progressed. This linebackers in this year’s recruiting class were brought in specifically with the 3-4 defense in mind.
- Redshirt offensive linemen. There were three true freshmen who redshirted last year who are expected to give four returning starters some legitimate competition -- Colin Summers, Dylan Heartsill and Daniel Blitch. The Deacs will also have to replace starting center Russell Nenon. Chance Raines was his backup last year.
- The deadline for quarterback Kyle Parker to sign a contract with the Colorado Rockies is midnight tonight. Parker was a first-round selection of the Rockies in June. The deadline for all college players to sign with a Major League team is Monday night. Parker completed the morning practice, then left to be with his family in Augusta, Ga., to work out the contract with the Rockies. Parker will miss Monday night’s practice and Tuesday morning’s scrimmage.
“This is a very important decision for Kyle and he has a lot of things to work out, so he has the rest of today and Tuesday off,” coach Dabo Swinney said, according to the team's practice report. “I told him he could take all of Monday off, but he wanted to be here for this morning practice.
“He has done a great job focusing on football since he came back to school. He had a great scrimmage on Saturday. I know he is looking forward to getting this contract settled. We won’t have practice Wednesday, because it is the first day of school, so we will see him Thursday.”
- Swinney said his kicking situation is "cloudy at the moment."
"If we played today, the kicker would be Chandler Cantanzaro, a red-shirt freshman from Greenville, S.C. He has made 94 percent of his field goal attempts inside the 40 so far in the preseason, the best of our three kickers.”
- Starting defensive end Da’Quan Bowers was not at Monday morning’s practice, but is scheduled to return to practice for the Monday evening practice. Bowers has missed the past week following the sudden death of his father, Dennis Bowers, a week ago Sunday.
- Five players were in yellow jerseys on Monday because of injury. Those players were DeAndre Hopkins (shoulder), Rennie Moore (thigh), D.J. Howard (ankle), Ben Ramsey (ankle) and Xavier Brewer (hamstring). Freshman linebacker Justin Parker missed will miss both practices on Monday as he returned home to be with his mother, who is ill.
The Tigers have grown more comfortable with Swinney and his system on both sides of the ball, and he hopes that means he'll see a smarter team on Saturday and through the summer into fall.
"We've hopefully got a better understanding of not just what were doing but why were doing it and how to do it properly," Swinney said. "And become more consistent."
That consistency is something Swinney hoped spreads to his second and third units.
"We competed hard last year, grew closer as a team and became tougher, but we really wanted to come out of spring and believe we could be more consistent in our execution," he said. "That’s something with our first group, that’s been apparent. First group has good grasp of what were doing."
Swinney tagged his defensive linemen as a group that's exceeded his expectations in the spring, despite being a likely strength for the Tigers next season. The reason has been the younger linemen like Rennie Moore, Kourtnei Brown and Miguel Chavis.
"We really solidified our front. We have most of our starters back inside, but we feel like we have two groups of starters," Swinney said.
Kyle Parker has spent much of his spring on the baseball diamond, giving way to some inconsistencies throughout the spring, but Swinney was thankful for the extra look given to Tajh Boyd this spring. The same has been true for his offensive line, which has lacked depth with two starters sidelined by offseason surgery, and will become even shallower when the team splits in two for the spring game.
Saturday, he'll get another chance to see who he can rely on in game situations.
"Even though the team is divided, we want to see who can fly around and make plays," Swinney said. "Hopefully, we come out of it healthy"
First, good for Swinney setting a no-tolerance example in his first full season. Second, you never know how suspensions will affect a team. Just look at Maryland last year in the Humanitarian Bowl. Ralph Friedgen suspended several players for missing curfew, including leading rusher Da'Rel Scott. Scott came back in the second half after sitting out the first and rushed for 174 yards, a Maryland bowl record, on just 14 carries and led Maryland to a 42-35 victory over Nevada.
The loss of Cumbie and Moore will hurt Clemson's depth, but the Tigers have other players who are capable of taking on more responsibility. The bigger question for the Tigers right now is focus, which Swinney insists is not an issue. It was, though, in 2006, and considering the Tigers already enter the game off of two disappointing losses, they didn't need any more distractions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here's your daily dose of practice reports from around the ACC, as reported by each school's information office:
Cloud cover kept the temperature from climbing Thursday morning as the Florida State football team donned full pads for the first time this preseason. It didn't take long, however, for the action to heat up as the Seminoles' offense made the lion's share of big plays.
Of course, a big day for the offense also comes with drawbacks.
"The hitting was pretty good, but too many big plays popped out of there," said FSU coach Bobby Bowden. "As a head coach you don't know who to root for, your defense or your offense. It scares me when big plays come out of there."
Quarterback Christian Ponder connected on long passes with wideouts Jarmon Fortson, Rodney Smith and Taiwan Easterling, as well as tight end Caz Piurowski, during the first five-minute period of 11-on-11 work.
"A lot of that came against the blitz and we've been working on that all week," Ponder said, offering a hint at the developing mindset on offense. "The blitz for us means big plays and that's what we've been working on and things opened up.
"We definitely didn't have enough big plays last year and stretch the field as much as we wanted to. Things are starting to open up and that's a good thing."
It should come as no surprise that Ponder had ample time to step up in the pocket created by the seasoned offensive line and deliver the football. Improving pass protection has been a point of emphasis since the conclusion of last season.
Junior center Ryan McMahon, who helps anchor the unit along with guard Rodney Hudson, was encouraged by the performance of the unit in its first real test of the preseason.
"Overall we felt we had a better practice today than we did the other day, but I'm sure there's plenty of room for us to improve," McMahon said. "Everybody's attitude was good and it was fun."