ACC: Rich Gunnell
2009 overall record: 8-5
2009 conference record: 5-3
Offense: 8, defense: 7, punter/kicker: 1
LT Anthony Castonzo, TB Montel Harris, LB Mark Herzlich, LB Luke Kuechly, FS Wes Davis, CB DeLeon Gause, RG Thomas Claiborne, RT Rich Lapham.
WR Rich Gunnell, C Matt Tennant, RE Jim Ramella, LB Mike McLaughlin, DT Austin Giles
2009 statistical leaders (* returners)
Rushing: Harris* (1,457 yards)
Passing: Shinskie* (2,049 yds)
Receiving: Gunnell (880 yds)
Tackles: Kuechly* (158)
Sacks: Ramella (3)
Interceptions: Davis* (3)
1. Shinskie is older (he’s 26 now) and a little wiser. He has become a smarter player since he walked off the minor league baseball bus last year as a 25-year-old pitcher. Coach Frank Spaziani said his quarterback situation has survived a trip to the emergency room, but is still in “intensive care.”
2. The offensive line should live up to the tradition this year. Even with veteran Castonzo out this spring with a broken foot, it was clear this group has the ability to return to its old standards. With four starters returning, this line should pave the way for another outstanding year for Harris.
3. Kuechly still hasn’t reached his potential. The freshman All-America selection finished second nationally in tackles last year, but Spaziani still wants Kuechly to improve. Kuechly thinks he can and he wants to. He practices with a lot of intensity despite leading the ACC in tackles a year ago.
1. At what level will Herzlich be able to play? That’s the great unknown. He’s back and has been conditioning, but he hasn’t done any hitting. There seems to be a fairy tale vision of what it’s going to be like when Herzlich returns -- and anyone who has followed his story should be hoping for that storybook ending -- but it’s a lot more complicated and unclear just how much he’ll look like the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year.
2. Will Shinskie hold onto his job? Despite his progress, the quarterback job is still open heading into summer camp. Will the other two quarterbacks -- Chase Rettig and Joshua Bordner, both who enrolled early -- be able to challenge him for the starting job? Redshirt sophomore Michael Marscovetra is also in the mix.
3. Who will Harris’ backup be? It’s one of the thinnest positions in the conference, as Rolandan Finch, who had mononucleosis last year, tore his ACL in mid-April. Freshman Sterlin Phifer is an option, but it was hard to tell from the scrimmages because there wasn’t a lot of rushing with the hopes of keeping everyone healthy. Phifer had 15 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown in the first two scrimmages.
Strongest position: Linebackers
Key returnees: Mark Herzlich, Luke Kuechly
Key departures: Mike McLaughlin
The skinny: Nobody is quite sure how quickly Herzlich will be back to full speed, but having the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year alongside freshman phenom Kuechly could make this linebacker corps one of the best in the ACC. The Eagles will also have Alexander DiSanzo, who started three games last year, junior Dominick LeGrande, who had six starts, and Mike Morrissey, who started seven. Morrissey finished the season as the starter, so he could be the front-runner to replace McLaughlin.
Weakest position: Wide receiver
Key returnees: Billy Flutie, Colin Larmond Jr.
Key departures: Rich Gunnell, Justin Jarvis
The skinny: The Eagles lose three of the four on their final two-deep from 2009. Larmond is expected to start, and he was the second-leading receiver on the team behind Gunnell with 29 catches for 596 yards and five touchdowns. BC made use of its young tight ends last year and might have to do so again. The next leading receiver returning aside from Larmond is Flutie, and he had just five catches. Ryan Lindsey will be a senior and led the fundraising efforts for Herzlich, but he hasn’t played much.
Quarterback: The Eagles can’t afford to be in another situation where nobody on the roster has had a snap of collegiate experience like they were heading into 2009. This is the class where coach Frank Spaziani can build the future of the program at this position.
Running back: Montel Harris is one of the best running backs in the ACC, but he’s not invincible. After the transfer of backup Josh Haden midway through last season, the Eagles were forced to depend on Harris and only Harris. It’s time to bring in some help.
Wide receiver: BC will graduate three seniors from the two-deep in Justin Jarvis, Clarence Megwa and record-setter Rich Gunnell. Quarterback Dave Shinskie will be better in Year 2, but now he’ll have to help usher in a new supporting cast.
Wide receiver: The Tigers will have to replace standout Jacoby Ford in 2010, but they’ll also have to prepare for the losses of Xavier Dye and Terrance Ashe, who will be seniors in 2010. It was a position of concern heading into 2009 and will be again.
Defensive backs: Two of the most experienced starting cornerbacks in the conference -- Chris Chancellor and Crezdon Butler -- have to be replaced, but the staff also has to look ahead. Next year, the Tigers will lose All-American safety DeAndre McDaniel, free safety Marcus Gilchrist and cornerback Byron Maxwell.
Linebacker: FSU’s biggest loss here will be Dekoda Watson, but two other players on the two-deep are juniors. The Noles were hurting at every position defensively, and while the bulk of players return, they need an overall upgrade in talent.
Defensive line: Save for defensive end Markus White, who will be a senior, and Budd Thacker, who will have to be replaced, this was a relatively young group. Still, the Noles struggled to stop the run and fluster quarterbacks most of the season, and it all starts up front.
Secondary: FSU will lose cornerback Patrick Robinson, Korey Mangum and Jamie Robinson. The addition of Lamarcus Joyner should give this unit an immediate boost.
Secondary: Three starters -- Anthony Wiseman, Jamari McCollough and Terrell Skinner -- were all seniors, and standout Nolan Carroll, who was injured, will also have to be replaced. It’s time to usher in the next wave of talent here.
Linebackers/ends: The staff needs to find players here who can better fit defensive coordinator Don Brown’s scheme. Some of those linebackers could end up being defensive end/hybrid players, but the Terps need some speed off the edge.
Linemen: The Pack will lose three starters on the offensive line and all four on the defensive line. Those positions are what almost half of the staff’s commitment list is comprised of so far, and the depth at those positions had to be completely rebuilt under Tom O’Brien. Some junior college transfers could help.
Halfback: With the news that Toney Baker decided to forgo his sixth year of eligibility, and the graduation of fifth-year senior Jamelle Eugene, it couldn’t hurt the Pack to start to reload at this position.
Offensive line: Seven members on the two-deep roster were redshirt seniors in 2009, and one, starting center Russell Nenon, was a redshirt junior. Three starters will have to be replaced in 2010.
Tight end: This position will be very thin, but the staff has added two in this year’s recruiting class. Wake could also help itself by adding a fullback or two to help with the blocking.
Linebackers: It was a unit comprised mainly of redshirt seniors and juniors in 2009, so the Deacs will have immediate holes there, as well as the need to restock for the future.
QB: E.J. Manuel, Florida State: The Gator Bowl MVP completed 17 of 24 passes for 189 yards, had 73 rushing yards on 14 carries and one touchdown with zero turnovers. He led the Noles to 415 total yards in their 33-21 win over No. 18 West Virginia.
RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech: Williams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Tennessee. He finished the season with 1,655 rushing yards and broke Kevin Jones' single-season school record (1,647).
RB: Jermaine Thomas, Florida State: He had 121 yards rushing on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He also had one catch for nine yards and posted his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He led FSU back from a 14-3 first quarter deficit against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.
WR: Rich Gunnell, Boston College: Gunnell finished with six catches for 130 yards, breaking Pete Mitchell's school record for yards receiving with 2,659 in his career. His 61-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter closed the gap to 14-13 against USC in the Emerald Bowl.
WR: Greg Little, UNC: He finished with seven catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Pitt in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
WR: Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech: His 64-yard reception to the Tennessee 3 in the final seconds of the first half was a major turning point in the game. The Vols had already begun to head to the locker room, but officials determined there were still two seconds left on the clock. The play led to Matt Waldron’s 21-yard field goal and a 17-14 halftime lead. Boykin finished with four catches for 120 yards.
TE: Jimmy Graham, Miami: He had three catches for 30 receiving yards against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl and became the seventh Hurricane to record at least 200 receiving yards this season. Graham closed out his only season with the Canes with 15 catches for 213 yards and five touchdowns.
OL: Ed Wang, Virginia Tech: In his final performance, Wang paved the way for a career-day for Williams, and helped the Hokies rack up 438 total yards of offense.
OL: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech: Like Wang, Render was impressive in his final performance as a Hokie, and helped Virginia Tech use a balanced offense and gave quarterback Tyrod Taylor the time he needed to make plays.
OL: Rodney Hudson, Florida State: The All-American returned to the lineup after missing two games with knee sprain and helped FSU rack up 415 total yards, 37 minutes time of possession and he did not allow a sack.
OL: Andrew Datko, Florida State: He teamed with Hudson on the left side (where two of three rushing touchdowns came) and kept a WVU team averaging 2.6 sacks per game without one.
OL: Dalton Freeman, Clemson: He graded out at 80 percent with seven knockdowns. Freeman was key to Clemson averaging 5.5 yards per rush and a Clemson bowl record 6.8 yards per play against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.
K: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State: He tied a school bowl record converting 4 of 5 field goal attempts and scoring a season-high 15 points on a windy day. His 42-yarder at the end of the first half pulled FSU within 14-13.
P: Chandler Anderson, Georgia Tech: He had a career-high seven punts with an average of 49.1 yards and a long of 59 yards. Three of his punts were downed inside the 20 and only one was returned.
Spc: C.J. Spiller, Clemson: Spiller finished his career with 172 all-purpose yards (68 rushing, 57 receiving), giving him an ACC record 2,670 for the season and 7,588 for his career. He finished his career in second place in FBS history in all-purpose yards.
DL: John Graves, Virginia Tech: He sacked Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton in the second quarter for the first sack of his career. He also recovered a fumble, forced a fumble and finished with three solo tackles.
DL: E.J. Wilson, North Carolina: He forced two first-half fumbles and posted five on the season after registering just one over his first three years at Carolina. He finished with five tackles and one sack for a loss of eight yards.
DL: Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech: Morgan's individual stats weren't all that impressive for his final game as a Jacket, but the Tech defense (surprise!) kept the Yellow Jackets in the game, allowing just seven points after the first quarter. Morgan did have three tackles and a half-tackle for loss, but he was double- and triple-teamed all night.
LB: Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech: The defensive MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl finished with seven tackles, including three tackles for loss and one sack.
LB: Luke Kuechly, Boston College: He had 16 tackles (6 solos, 10 assists), and 0.5 TFL in the Emerald Bowl.
LB: Darryl Sharpton, Miami: He recorded a career-high 15 tackles (10 solo, five assists). It marked the third straight game that Sharpton recorded double-digit tackles.
LB: Kavell Conner, Clemson: He had 15 tackles, including a sack and a forced fumble, which was the key play of the game. The fumble came with Clemson leading 14-13 and it set up Spiller’s touchdown to put the Tigers ahead 21-13.
CB: Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech: He intercepted Crompton’s pass in the first quarter and returned it to the Tennessee 44, setting up the Hokies’ first score of the game. The interception marked the sixth of the season for Carmichael, a team-high.
CB: Jerrard Tarrant, Georgia Tech: He returned an interception for a touchdown -- Tech's first points of the game against Iowa in the Orange Bowl -- and Tarrant's fourth non-offensive touchdown of the season. He also forced a fumble, broke up a pass and had six solo tackles.
S: Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech: He had a team-high eight tackles, all of them solo tackles, and he forced a fumble.
S: DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson: He had 15 tackles, including two tackles for loss. He was a big reason Kentucky had just 277 yards total offense and just one touchdown, their second lowest figure of the year in terms of points in the 21-13 Clemson win.
Turning point: Shinskie was intercepted with 12:22 left in the game, and it was another costly turnover in his fledgling career, as Barkley completed a 48-yard pass on the following play to the BC 1-yard line. Barkley punched it in on the next play, and finally gave the Trojans some separation with a 24-13 lead. It would be the score that won the game.
Stat of the game: Boston College had just 23 yards of offense in the third quarter. After a solid performance in the first half, in which Shinskie did a good job of managing the offense without turning it over, he had a string of five straight incompletions in the third quarter.
Unsung hero of the game: BC running back Montel Harris. Despite a bruise to his backside in the third quarter, Harris continued to forge ahead and give the Eagles some offense. Considering Shinskie’s penchant for turnovers and inconsistency, Harris was their best hope in the fourth quarter. He finished with 102 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries.
What it means: Despite the loss, Boston College should take some pride back to the East Coast for keeping things interesting, and approaching USC with respect, not awe, for its tradition. It was yet another reminder, though, that the program isn’t yet where first-year coach Frank Spaziani wants it to be, but it is headed in the right direction. The brief injury scare to Harris was a reminder of the depth that still needs to be built, and the offensive improvements that still need to be made.
Record performance: Senior wide receiver Rich Gunnell’s 61-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter gave him 91 in the game and 2,420 in his career, which is the new BC career receiving record. He surpassed Pete Mitchell’s 2,388 yards that he gained from 1991-94. It was the second longest reception of Gunnell’s career. He caught a 68-yard pass on December 28, 2007 in the Champs Sports Bowl against Michigan State. Gunnell finished with 117 yards and one touchdown on five catches.
This year, though, there were plenty of legitimate reasons to doubt. Boston College entered the season with a first-year coach, two new coordinators, a 25-year-old quarterback who hadn’t played football since high school, and a host of new faces on defense. Star linebacker Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer before summer workouts began, and the backup quarterback and running back both decided to transfer midseason.
It’s no wonder the Eagles were picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division.
In typical BC fashion, though, they were still in the hunt to win it all in November, and for the ninth straight season, the Eagles won eight games. That’s thanks in large part to Herzlich’s inspirational story and sideline coaching, the emergence of freshman Luke Kuechly at linebacker, and the help of wide receiver Rich Gunnell and running back Montel Harris, who helped ease the transition for quarterback Dave Shinskie. Despite his age, which earned him the nickname “Uncle Dave,” Shinskie often played like a true freshman, and was inconsistent. The one constant for BC this year was the outpouring of support from ACC opponents in honor of Herzlich at each road game, as over $132,000 was raised in the “Beat Cancer Campaign.”
Herzlich never quit, and has since been declared cancer-free. His teammates, as always, followed his lead.
First-year coach Frank Spaziani’s experience on defense and long tenure with the program made for a smooth coaching transition, and BC’s defense remained one of the best in the country despite the youth and inexperience. The Eagles were 15th in rushing defense and 18th in scoring defense.
Still, there were many growing pains and it wasn’t until Nov. 14 that BC picked up its first road win of the season, a 14-10 win at Virginia. The Eagles were undefeated at home until a loss to North Carolina sealed their fate in second-place in the Atlantic Division and assured Clemson the division title.
A far cry from finishing last in the division, BC played well enough to earn its 11th straight bowl bid and will face USC in the Emerald Bowl.
Offensive MVP: Wide receiver Rich Gunnell. He was voted the team MVP by his teammates, and for good reason. Gunnell was BC’s first wide receiver captain since 1990, and ranks second on the all-time BC receptions list (175), third in receiving yards (2,329) and fourth in touchdown catches (17). He is the ACC active leader in career catches, receiving yards and punt return touchdowns. This season, Gunnell leads the team in catches (54), yards (750), touchdowns (6) and average yards per game (62.5).
Defensive MVP: Linebacker Luke Kuechly. He averaged 11.83 total tackles per game -- the highest average by any rookie since the NCAA began tracking tackles in 2003. He made 10 tackles in eight straight games, and is second in the nation in tackles.
Turning point: The overtime win against Wake Forest helped the Eagles rebound from an embarrassing loss to Clemson in which they only mustered 54 yards of total offense. It was a key Atlantic Division win, followed by another against Florida State, that kept BC in the hunt for the ACC title through November.
What’s next: The Eagles have an uphill battle in the Emerald Bowl against USC, even though the Trojans have taken a few steps back this year and aren't as intimidating as their rich history would suggest.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Unlike in previous seasons, Boston College senior safety Marcellus Bowman understood why outsiders might doubt the Eagles this year.
The best defensive player in the ACC, linebacker Mark Herzlich, had been diagnosed with cancer. Their top two defensive tackles had graduated to the NFL. Their best remaining linebacker and leader, Mike McLaughlin, suffered an Achilles injury that would keep him out for almost all of September. Fullback James McCluskey is still out with an Achilles injury. They were playing for their fourth different head coach in as many seasons, and welcomed in a new offensive coordinator.
|AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain|
|BC coach Frank Spaziani is finding ways to win.|
And none of the quarterbacks on the roster had ever thrown a collegiate pass.
“Going through it, I mentioned to a couple of my teammates, ‘If I’d seen this happen to another team, I’d think, geez, it’s going to be a down, rebuilding year for them,’ too,” said Bowman.
But this didn’t happen to another team. It happened to Boston College. And by looking at the Eagles’ 3-1 record, you’d never know it. Boston College heads into Saturday’s home game against Atlantic Division opponent Florida State with less speed and athleticism, but it didn’t matter in last year’s 27-17 road win over the Noles, and odds are it won’t matter on Saturday.
Over the past four seasons, Boston College has proven that it doesn’t seem to matter who the coach is -- or the quarterback for that matter -- the Eagles continuously find a way to prove their doubters wrong. They did it with Tom O’Brien and Matt Ryan, they did it with Jeff Jagodzinski and Chris Crane, and now they’re doing it again with first-year coach Frank Spaziani and a 25-year-old quarterback who came out of left field. (Or, more specifically, off the pitchers’ mound.)
“We have confidence in ourselves,” said senior wide receiver Rich Gunnell, who, like his team is too often overlooked, despite the fact he entered this year as the ACC’s active leader in career receptions and receiving yards. “We know every year coming in that we’re the underdogs, we’re under the radar. No one really pays attention to us, but we work hard week in and week out and win games.
“When we win games it always seems to be a surprise, but it’s not a surprise to us, because we work so hard during the summer, during the offseason and during the winter. So when it comes time to game time, we’re prepared.”
It’s still too early to determine how good the Eagles can be, and Spaziani is quick to point out they haven’t proven anything yet -- not with wins against pushover teams like Northeastern and Kent State. The 27-24 overtime win over Wake Forest this past Saturday, though, opened some eyes.
“I’ve found out that we have a little bit more emotion in us than we have shown in the past,” Spaziani said. “I found out there is a little bit more leadership there than we have seen. We knew it was there but we finally have seen it.
“We expect to win every week,” he said, “and that’s how we play.”
It’s a blue collar, go-to-work mentality that’s trademark of BC football. The Eagles play smart and tough, and more often than not find a way to win with what they’ve got -- even if it isn’t necessarily the better talent that particular Saturday. It’s not like the staff isn’t recruiting solid football players, they just tend to find the guys who genuinely love the game, work hard, and want to be in Chestnut Hill.
“We have a certain type of niche school here,” Spaziani said. “We’re not anybody else. We are who we are, therefore we have to profile the type of people who fit in and obviously want to be here because of what we have to offer. Institutional motivation is a tremendous thing to have. Those are the type of people we’re looking for.”
People like Bowman, a first-year starter who is playing extremely well this year and on the verge of a breakout season.
“They purposely recruit mature players,” Bowman said. “By doing that, mature players generally get the big picture. They understand what expectations are going to be when they come to Boston College, but they also know our tradition as far as being successful. We get doubts and things like that on a yearly basis. It’s nothing new. We handle it like mature athletes.”
No other type of person or athlete could’ve handled it. They rallied together this summer, after Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, and injuries were a severe blow to an already undermanned defense.
“We just made sure all the younger guys stepped up,” Gunnell said. “As senior leaders we have to bring them along so they understand what it takes to win games.”
It’s a lesson that continues to be passed on to each class at Boston College.
Around the ACC we go ...
Finally! Good news for the Hokies. Their trio of injured tailbacks will return to practice today.
Duke's secondary is taking shape, and sophomore safety Matt Daniels said the young group is ready to be tested.
Wake Forest had its third and final preseason scrimmage today, and the coaching staff is hoping it answered some questions about lingering position battles.
Maryland left guard Andrew Gonnella was lightly recruited and didn't hesitate when Maryland offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on. That might never have happened, though, if it weren't for a phone call to the Terps from his uncle, a former Maryland tackle.
Boston College receiver Rich Gunnell will be catching from his third quarterback in as many seasons this fall, but this season could present his biggest challenges.
Virginia's Chris Cook and Ras-I Dowling might be the best cornerback tandem during the Al Groh era, but can they be the best in the ACC? Well, they certainly think so.
Here's one for NC State fans regarding their season opener: South Carolina will be without one of its starting defensive ends.
Seven former players who helped Miami Northwestern win a national title have vowed to do the same at Miami, and their promise -- and their bond -- continues.
There's a huge shadow looming over Tallahassee, and it's the ghost of FSU past.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Thanks for the questions, everyone, here's your weekly Mailblog:
Evan in Atlanta, Ga. writes: Hey Heather, do you know what games you'll be visiting this season? Like to see you come to Atlanta for homecoming, because if I remember right you've been good luck when you show up (weren't you at the FSU and Miami game last year?).
HD: Yep. Every Georgia Tech game I was at last year they won -- except for one. The Virginia Tech game. Which games I go to depends on how the season unfolds, so I don't know until the week of where I'm headed. It's more fun that way (and much tougher to get a hotel room). But I'm sure at some point I'll see the Jackets. Last year, I saw 11 of the 12 teams play live, only missing NC State. I'm making up for that this year by starting out in Raleigh on Thursday night. Speaking of that game ...
Matt in Lynchburg, Va., writes: Hey HD, the ACC plays 7 against the SEC this season...and the first one is NC State vs. South Carolina. How do they match up? Seems like a win would be a big first step for the Pack.
HD: That's going to be a close game because the teams are so similar, starting with how thin they are in the secondary. Here's a mini scouting report on South Carolina: There's nobody remotely ready to play quarterback behind Stephen Garcia, and they don't have any proven big-time threats at receiver or running back. Still there's a lot of good young talent in the program. They'll be strong at linebacker, good at defensive end. They'll look like an SEC defense, but will have to start one or two true freshmen in the secondary. Like NC State, they can't afford for anyone to get hurt. They were terrible at pass protecting last year, gave up a lot of sacks, and didn't run the ball well. Their defense will have to be the rock for them.
Evan King in Okeechobee, Fla. writes: Do you think FSU could be a 2010 BCS contender with all the young talent on this years team?
HD: Yes, but only if the intangibles are there -- staff continuity, no off-field distractions, no me-first, no NFL attitudes, and the work ethic to maximize their talent and potential.
CJ Fitz in College Park, Md., writes: Hey HD, heard you were in the area. Great post on Tate, any chance you can give me a little bit more of an insider on the team... how the o-line did in your opinion and how the defense is coming along under coach brown?
HD: Yes, I was, CJ, and while I'd like to say I saw anything worth reporting, the practice was closed to the media. Having talked to the players and coaches, though, the o-line is still a work in progress and a concern, and the defense is definitely ahead of the offense at this point. I think the hire of Don Brown will be an upgrade, and the scheme will baffle some ACC offenses.
Bob K in Atlanta writes: Heather, who is the most under-rated player in the ACC? Obviously someone who didn't make your top 30 list.
HD: Well, my first instinct is to say Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis, because from a national perspective, he doesn't get the credit he deserves. He was, however, on my Top 30 list. So, I'll go with Chris DeGeare, an offensive lineman at Wake Forest. He was academically ineligible last year, but should be the anchor of that line this fall. You could also look at BC's roster for some underrated players. Safety Wes Davis, or receiver Rich Gunnell come to mind.
Anthony Burke in Orlando, Fla. writes: What is the likelihood that the ACC will be represented in the National Title? I have it that it will be Florida vs. someone from the ACC and Florida getting upset. I am a Miami fan and I believe they will comeout of September and October smelling like Rose's because they are a better team than last year. The toughest team they will play will be Georgia Tech and they can win that game. I believe that The U is back, and I think this team will prove me right, because they have reminenses of the young canes team back in 2000. Go Canes
HD: This year? I'd say pretty slim. Why? Because I don't think Virginia Tech is going to beat Alabama, and I don't think they'll escape the ACC undefeated. And right now, the way everything is set up, the Hokies are the ACC's best hope -- even without Darren Evans. Now, if your Canes start off 4-0, then Florida better look out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Another Monday, another day of links. Here we go, ACC fans ...
There wasn't too much to like from BC's quarterbacks in the first scrimmage, leaving coach Frank Spaziani still unsure of who his starter will be this fall.
BC receiver Clarence Megwa's comeback story has been put on hold, thanks to an injured right hand. The Eagles still have a leader at receiver in Rich Gunnell, who was named captain, making him the first receiver captain in 19 years.
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney thinks the benefit to keeping C.J. Spiller on special teams outweighs the possibility he might get hurt.
UNC has some problems on the offensive line, and it's going to force some players to tackle more than one position.
Virginia's new offensive coordinator was used to being in the spotlight as head coach at Bowling Green. Now Gregg Brandon's role has changed, but it's just as important.
FSU's receivers could be a lot better than people expected a few months ago. Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel gives a worst case/best case scenario for each player.
The injury to Georgia Tech backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw is significant enough it could play a role in the Coastal Division race, writes Tony Barnhart.
Wake Forest might not be ready for Baylor yet, but quarterback Riley Skinner is.
Former Maryland backup quarterback Josh Portis has found a new home in California, Pa. It might not be the biggest town on the map, but it offers Portis a chance to play.
Former NC State player Edrick Smith was killed in a car crash early Sunday morning.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Last Friday night, Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich and defensive end Jim Ramella hit the town for a teammate's birthday. It seemed like a typical weekend in Chestnut Hill, and that's exactly how Herzlich -- who was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma -- is trying to keep it.
"Going out and talking to him, you wouldn't know that he has cancer, you really wouldn't," said Ramella. "He's totally normal about it. He doesn't mope around and feel sorry for himself. He'll have a good time. From what I've heard, everything is going well with his treatments."
That doesn't mean Herzlich -- and others like him with rare diseases -- don't need your support. This afternoon is a good chance to show it, as the Boston College chapter of Uplifting Athletes will host its inaugural event, the "Lift For Life," at 6 p.m. Fans are encouraged to attend this strength and conditioning competition to show their support. At least 60 football players are expected to participate, including Montel Harris, Wes Davis, Matt Tennant, Rich Gunnell and incoming freshmen. Donations can be made online at www.upliftingathletes.org.
"That will be a great event," Ramella said. "Each player has an online site to raise money and I think we're close to $10,000. And then the event is pretty much like a strong-man competition. There will be about six or eight different events people can come and watch. It's really good for us because it's a way to help our Mark. What else can we do? It's good to do it for him."
Herzlich hopes to be able to attend.
"It's humbling for me to learn that not only are my teammates supporting me, but that my situation has inspired them to do something that will help a lot of people facing similar challenges," Herzlich said in a prepared statement. "I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at Lift For Life and personally thanking them."
Uplifting Athletes chapters are run by current football players on college campuses across the country, including Colgate University, Maryland, Ohio State and Penn State -- each benefiting a rare disease relevant to their team.
Current Eagles responsible for planning their chapter's Lift For Life event include Ryan Lindsey, James McCluskey, Damik Scafe, Billy Flutie, Thomas Claiborne, Wes Davis, Mark Spinney, Marcellus Bowman and Darius Bagan. That's exactly the kind of leadership this team needs right now, so congrats to those players who took the initiative to get this event going.
Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said he hopes Herzlich will continue to be an encouraging presence throughout the season.
"Whatever his doctors and his medical situation will allow, and his physical status will allow, we want him around as much as possible," Spaziani said. "I know he wants to be around."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Tuesday we broke down the quarterbacks in the ACC, so let's figure out who the best targets are in the conference:
1. Miami -- No doubt this is the deepest group in the ACC, and it comes with a wide range of abilities. Seven freshmen were introduced last season, and five of them -- Travis Benjamin, LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier and Davon Johnson -- scored touchdowns. Both Tommy Streeter (wrist surgery) and Kendall Thompkins (shoulder surgery) redshirted last year but should be factors this fall. Leonard Hankerson, a junior, is the veteran of the group.
2. Maryland -- The Terps had nine different scholarship wideouts show promise this spring, so replacing Darrius Heyward-Bey should be a smooth transition. Quintin McCree was the star in the spring game, but all of them have had their moments and should excel in the second season under offensive coordinator James Franklin. Torrey Smith and Ronnie Tyler should build upon last year's success, especially with a veteran quarterback throwing to them in Chris Turner.
3. Virginia Tech -- There are plenty of talented options here, but this was a young group a year ago and it's still a young group. The Hokies have something to prove on offense, and this is the year to do it. They started to turn the corner in the last two or three games of 2008 and can build on that momentum. Jarrett Boykin, Xavier Boyce, Danny Coale, Dyrell Roberts, Brandon Dillard ... depth should not be a problem. Boykin earned eight starts as a true freshman and was second with 30 receptions.
4. Boston College -- When the Eagles figure out who their quarterback is, he'll have dependable options to throw to. Rich Gunnell caught a team-high 49 passes and four touchdowns with 551 yards last year. He also returned punts and brought one back 65 yards for a score against Virginia Tech. Justin Jarvis caught 25 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns last season and will work for the other starting job. Ifeanyi Momah will look to prove that he can be more than just a situational receiver while Clarence Megwa is working to return in the fall after suffering a devastating leg injury against Clemson last season.
5. NC State -- Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer are ready to elevate their games as redshirt juniors, and now have one season as starters to build upon. Their chemistry with Russell Wilson should be better and they were No. 3 in the ACC in passing offense a year ago. Williams caught 26 passes for 432 yards and four touchdowns in 2008. Spencer could be a big-play threat if he cuts down on the dropped balls.
6. Clemson -- Jacoby Ford and ... Jacoby Ford. He's one of the fastest athletes in the country and will likely be the best solo receiver in the ACC, but he'll draw all of the coverage until one of his teammates becomes a legitimate concern for opposing defenses. It will be up to Xavier Dye, Marquan Jones and Terrence Ashe to help Ford out.
7. Georgia Tech -- This should be one of the more improved units on the Jackets' roster. It was very thin last year (they started a freshman walk-on at Virginia Tech), but should have better depth this season. Demaryius Thomas should be one of the best wideouts in the conference, and he'll have more help this year with the return of sophomores Tyler Melton and Luke Fisher.
8. Florida State -- It's the Noles' lone question mark on offense, but the cupboard isn't completely bare, and Christian Ponder has plenty of confidence in the players who are there. Louis Givens, Jarmon Fortson and Bert Reed. If Taiwan Easterling heals from his Achilles injury and they get their suspended players back, this group could impress.
9. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons have to replace D.J. Boldin, but they've got enough players that the depth and speed should actually improve overall. Chris Givens and Terence Davis, both redshirts last year, impressed the staff this spring. They'll team with Devon Brown, Marshall Williams and Jordan Williams.
10. Duke -- Zero seniors. Not a good sign for a team trying to win more than one ACC game. It's not like the cupboard is bare, though. The Blue Devils will be led by sophomores Johnny Williams and Donovan Varner, who had six catches for 116 yards in the spring game. Williams finished second on the team last year with 30 catches for 327 yards. Freshmen Conner Vernon, Corey Gattis and Tyree Watkins could all push for playing time.
11. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels took a huge hit in this department and it's obviously their biggest concern heading into summer camp. It's not like they don't have players ready and willing to start, but there's nothing that can compensate for game experience, which only Greg Little has. The next most experienced receiver is Rashad Mason, who played in the Rutgers game.
12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers lost their top four receivers from last year, and coach Al Groh didn't notice that "go-to guy" yet this past spring. Sophomore Jared Green leads the returnees with 12 catches for 144 yards a year ago. Kris Burd caught seven passes as a redshirt freshman last year, and the expectations are obviously higher now.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The quarterback position has easily been the biggest question mark in Chestnut Hill this spring, and with the Eagles' spring game quickly approaching and the competition still close, odds are it's one that will play out in summer camp. But don't underestimate the other factors first-year coordinator Gary Tranquill has to work with:
- BC should have one of the best offensive lines in the ACC. Four starters return there, including senior center Matt Tennant and junior tackle Anthony Costanzo, who has started 28 straight games.
- The staff seems to love sophomore tailback Montel Harris, whose 900 rushing yards last year were the most ever by a BC freshman running back.
- Two of the top three receivers return in seniors Rich Gunnell (49 catches) and Justin Jarvis (25 catches). Expectations are also higher for tight end Lars Anderson, who played in every game last year and caught nine passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.
And that's just the offensive side of the ball. BC's secondary might be one of the best it's had in years, and it never hurts to have the ACC Defensive Player of the Year back for another season in Mark Herzlich.
It's too early to tell how much the surrounding playmakers can compensate for an inexperienced quarterback, but there's no question they will help ease the transition.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Boston College is still looking for a starting quarterback, and Maryland, Virginia and Wake Forest are both looking for backups. Here are a few more reports from scrimmages and spring games from sports information directors around the ACC this past weekend:
The Eagles held their second scrimmage of the spring on Friday, and sophomore quarterback Dominique Davis completed 9 of 20 passes for 123 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshman quarterback Justin Tuggle completed 1 of 4 passes for 17 yards. Sophomore quarterback Codi Boek completed 7 of 9 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns.
The ball was spread around between the wide receivers, with a total of eight players catching passes. Redshirt freshman Clyde Lee led all receivers with four catches for 72 yards and one touchdown. Junior Billy Flutie had a 40-yard touchdown catch from Davis, finishing the day with three catches for 57 yards. Senior Rich Gunnell caught three passes for 23 yards and one touchdown, while senior Justin Jarvis had a 22-yard touchdown reception.
A few younger Eagles got an opportunity to showcase themselves on defense. Redshirt freshman linebacker Alexander DiSanzo led the team with seven tackles. Redshirt freshman defensive end Max Halloway had a great day all around with three tackles, one fumble recovery, one sack, and a blocked extra point. Sophomore defensive end Dan Williams totaled five tackles for the day. Junior defensive tackle Damik Scafe and senior Brendan Deska each recorded sacks.