ACC: Riley Skinner

ACC Week 14: Did you know?

November, 29, 2013
11/29/13
10:00
AM ET
As always, thanks to ESPN Stats & Info and sports information departments everywhere for these tidbits.

MIAMI: Against Virginia, Miami had 45 points with only 11 first downs. The last time that happened at the FBS level was Sept. 13, 1997, when Minnesota (with 11 first downs) beat Iowa State 53-29.

PITTSBURGH: Tyler Boyd is having one of the most productive seasons by a freshman receiver in school history. With one regular-season game left, Boyd has 68 catches, the most of any freshman in the country and one catch shy of Larry Fitzgerald’s Pitt rookie record of 69.

FLORIDA STATE: Alabama and Florida State are 1-2 in the Championship Drive Ratings, while the only other undefeated team, Ohio State, was three spots back at No. 5. FSU has a Championship Drive Rating of 94.3, OSU has a 93.3. While both teams are 11-0, Florida State has controlled in-game win probability (84.6 percent to 81.2) more and has played a slightly tougher schedule (81st to 86th).

DUKE: At 9-2, Duke has already tied its most wins in season (most recently done in 1941) and will be going for its first 10-win season. Duke is looking for its first conference championship since 1989 (co-champion in ACC). The Blue Devils have won seven straight games for the first time since 1994 and are looking for their first eight-game winning streak since 1941 (won nine in a row).

NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels are 21-2 against Duke in their last 23 meetings, but they dropped last year's contest in Durham, N.C. They have not lost consecutive contests to the Blue Devils since dropping three in a row from 1987-89.

WAKE FOREST: The Demon Deacons will play their final game Saturday at Vanderbilt, but they have a few records worth aiming for. Jim Grobe remains tied with "Peahead" Walker for the most wins as a head coach in school history with 77. And quarterback Tanner Price (64 total TDs -- 52 passing, 11 rushing, one receiving) remains one off the school record of 65 career touchdowns held by Riley Skinner (60 passing, four rushing, one receiving).

MARYLAND: Following Alex Amidon’s 74-yard touchdown reception for BC, linebacker Marcus Whitfield blocked the ensuing point-after attempt. Defensive back Anthony Nixon grabbed the ball and went 98 yards for the defensive extra point. It marked the first time in program history that the Terrapins have scored a defensive extra point and it is the first defensive extra point scored by an ACC team since Duke’s Kyler Brown intercepted a two-point attempt against FIU on Sept. 1, 2012. Whitfield is the first Terp to block a PAT since A.J. Francis did it against Georgia Tech on Nov. 3, 2012.

NC STATE: With the exception of one game (vs. No. 2 Florida State), Wolfpack conference games have been relatively competitive. In the Wolfpack's other ACC contests, the average difference in the score after the third quarter has been just 7.1 points. In only one game (vs. then-No. 3 Clemson) did the Pack trail by more than a touchdown, and that was only by 13 points following the third quarter.

GEORGIA TECH: Senior A-back Robert Godhigh is one of the nation’s most explosive all-around players. The 5-foot-7 former walk-on has 961 yards from scrimmage (623 rush, 338 catch), and his average of 13 yards per play leads all FBS running backs. 55 percent of his offensive touches result in rst downs or touchdowns. Godhigh has 13 plays from scrimmage of 30-plus yards, which is the fth-most among all FBS players. Of Godhigh’s 961 yards, 389 yards (40.5 percent) have come after contact.

BOSTON COLLEGE: Andre Williams has gained 958 of his FBS-leading 2,073 yards after contact, 254 more such yards than any other AQ running back. Only 35 FBS players have more total rushing yards than Williams has after contact. Williams has broken 28 tackles this season, seven more than any other AQ running back.

SYRACUSE: The Orange have played BC 46 times, the fifth-most frequent opponent in school history. Syracuse owns the series record, 28-18, including an 18-6 mark at home. The old Big East rivals have not met since 2010, when the Eagles won 16-7. A win Saturday would make Syracuse bowl-eligible for the third time in four years. Syracuse is one of three teams (Ohio State and Wisconsin) to not allow a 100-yard rusher this season, though it will certainly get a test from Williams.

VIRGINIA TECH: Florida's nation-best streak of 22 straight bowl appearances will be snapped, meaning the Hokies will be the new leaders, as they will go to their 21st straight bowl this postseason. Opponents have failed to gain a first down on 49 percent of their drives against the Hokies, the highest percentage in the nation. Virginia Tech is also fourth nationally in fewest yards allowed before contact per game on designed runs, giving up just 52.5 ypg.

VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers' eight-game losing streak is their longest in a single season since 1975. They actually outgained Miami by a margin of 483-304, but they were hurt by the Hurricanes' two defensive touchdowns. They are 37-52-5 all-time against Virginia Tech, but the important number to keep an eye on is 32, as Virginia has scored at least that much in each of its last seven Commonwealth Cup wins dating back to 1989.

CLEMSON: Tajh Boyd's five touchdown passes in a 52-6 Senior Day win over The Citadel gave him 102 for his career. The only other active quarterbacks in the FBS with 100 career touchdown passes are Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke. But the biggest challenge for Boyd comes Saturday at South Carolina, which is 4-0 against the Tigers during Boyd's career, with Clemson failing to score more than 17 points in any of the contests.

ACC Week 10: Did you know?

November, 1, 2013
11/01/13
10:00
AM ET
Miami and Florida State renew their rivalry in Week 10 in a battle of top-10 teams. For fun facts from that contest and all other ones in the ACC this weekend, we thank the schools' sports information departments and ESPN Stats & Info.

BOSTON COLLEGE: Andre Williams leads the ACC and ranks fifth among FBS players with 144.3 rush yards per game this season. Since joining the ACC in 2005, only one BC player has led the conference in rushing over an entire season: Montel Harris in 2010 (113 yards per game).

CLEMSON: Through five games, Tajh Boyd had thrown 14 touchdowns, two interceptions, notched an 80.9 Total QBR rating and was sacked 11 times. In his three games since, Boyd has thrown just three touchdowns with three interceptions while tallying a 56.5 Total QBR rating and getting sacked eight times. Sammy Watkins, meanwhile, has an AQ-high 516 yards after the catch this season, including a season-high 109 yards after the catch last week against Maryland.

FLORIDA STATE: Jameis Winston has an opponent-adjusted QBR of 92.6 this season, third among FBS players. He leads the country in passing touchdowns per attempt, throwing the highest percentage (12.6) of touchdowns per pass attempt in the nation. Of his 183 pass attempts this season, 23 have gone for touchdowns. The Seminoles have won every game by at least 14 points and are one of only three FBS teams that haven’t trailed yet in the second half this season (Alabama and Oregon).

GEORGIA TECH: The Yellow Jackets have won two in a row after a three-game losing streak. They have rushed for 394 yards in each of their last two games, and only 11.8 percent of their runs went for zero or negative yards. By contrast, during the three-game losing streak, Georgia Tech averaged 234 rushing yards per game and nearly a quarter of its rush attempts (23 percent) resulted in zero or negative yards.

MIAMI: Stephen Morris has a 26.9 third-down Total QBR this season, 106th-best out of 127 qualified FBS quarterbacks. Morris converts a first down on 30 percent of his third-down passing plays (sacks and pass attempts), tied for 95th-best in the FBS and seven percentage points lower than the national average. His opponent, Jameis Winston, has an FBS-high 99.5 third-down Total QBR, on pace to be the highest by any player in the last 10 seasons. Andrew Luck currently has the highest third-down Total QBR for a completed season (98.9, 2010). Duke Johnson, meanwhile, is averaging an ACC-high 3.3 yards after contact per rush (min. 50 rush).

NORTH CAROLINA: Eric Ebron leads the Tar Heels with 35 catches for 599 yards and needs just six catches and 26 yards to eclipse his school-record marks for receptions and receiving yards by a tight end. Ebron caught 40 balls last season for 625 yards.

NC STATE: Shadrach Thornton rushed for a career-high 173 yards in last week's loss at Florida State, the most rushing yards in a game by a Wolfpack player since 2006 and 18th-most all time. He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark for his career, too, as he now sits at 1,051 career rushing yards through 16 games.

PITT: Since its 598-yard effort in a win over Duke in its third game, Pitt has averaged just 279.2 yards per game during its last four games. That's the fewest YPG over that span in the ACC. The third quarter could be the difference when the Panthers play Georgia Tech, as Pitt has a negative-19 scoring margin in the third quarter, worst in the ACC. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, are outscoring opponents by a combined 63 points in the third quarter, second-best in the conference behind Florida State.

SYRACUSE: The Orange have played Wake Forest just twice before, but the most recent contest was a memorable one, as Syracuse scored 22 straight points in the final nine minutes and overtime to rally for a 36-29 win. The Demon Deacons won the other contest, in Winston-Salem, N.C., in 2006.

VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers face No. 8 Clemson, and Virginia’s last win against an AP top-10 team came in 2005 when it knocked off No. 4 Florida State in Charlottesville. Since then the Wahoos are 0-6 vs. AP top-10 teams, including a 59-10 shellacking by Oregon earlier this season.

VIRGINIA TECH: Logan Thomas threw a career-high four interceptions in last week’s loss to Duke. Virginia Tech is 19-4 in starts by Thomas in which he’s thrown one or fewer interceptions, including a perfect 14-0 mark when he’s pick-free. The Hokies are just 5-7 when he throws multiple interceptions. The Hokies lead FBS schools with 17 interceptions this season and have picked off 17 Boston College passes since 2005, tied for their most against any team over that span (Duke).

WAKE FOREST: Coach Jim Grobe is tied with "Peahead" Walker for the most coaching wins all time with the Demon Deacons, at 77. Quarterback Tanner Price is three total touchdowns away from matching Riley Skinner's school career record of 65.
Paul Johnson and Jon Barry will be looking to defend their crown later this month, as the Georgia Tech duo will be one of 10 ACC teams competing in the 16-team Chick-fil-A Bowl Challenge charity golf tournament, with the hope of winning a share of the $520,000 scholarship purse for their respective schools.

The sixth annual tournament will be held April 29 - May 1 at the Reynolds Plantation resort on Lake Oconee outside Atlanta. Florida State's Jimbo Fisher and Terrell Buckley, the 2010 winners, will be competing as well, along with the 2007 winners from Virginia Tech, Frank Beamer and Dell Curry.

Clemson (Dabo Swinney/Steve Fuller), Maryland (Randy Edsall/Stan Gelbaugh), Miami (Al Golden/Gino Torretta), North Carolina (Larry Fedora/Roy Williams), North Carolina State (Tom O'Brien/Tom Gugliotta), Virginia (Mike London/Jim Dombrowski) and Wake Forest (Jim Grobe/Riley Skinner) are the other seven ACC teams participating in the tournament.

The Yellow Jackets' duo of Johnson and Barry won the event last year with an 11-under par, four strokes better than the Seminoles' win from 2010. South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Sterling Sharpe, who won the 2009 and 2008 tournaments with 12-unders, will be participating again this season.

Alabama, Mississippi State, Ohio State, Ole Miss and Tennessee are the other schools competing.

ESPN is taping the event for broadcast in the fall.

Wake reversing its trend of winning close games

October, 13, 2010
10/13/10
5:00
PM ET
Something has changed at Wake Forest.

The Demon Deacons were 17-8 in games decided by four points or less from 2001 to early November 2008. Since then, Wake is 0-9, according to research by Patrick Stevens of D1Scourse.com.

Wake's 28-27 loss to Navy this past Saturday was its ninth straight loss by four points or less.

So what gives?

I asked coach Jim Grobe about it on today's ACC teleconference.

"Obviously we're not making plays late," Grobe said. "Whenever you win, our best teams have been teams that found a way in the fourth quarter to make plays when it counted. We just have not been doing that. One of our problems is, every team we've lost these close games to is a good team. We haven't played one team that we were better than and went out and just messed it up. It's been a deal where all of the teams this is happening with are bowl teams that are good programs. The No. 1 thing is we're not making plays in the fourth quarter, the other thing is we're playing really good teams."

There's one more factor that coincides with his answer, and that's the lack of a player who's willing and able to make clutch plays. Against Georgia Tech, that player was Joshua Nesbitt. Against Navy, it was Ricky Dobbs. For Wake Forest, it used to be Riley Skinner, or Alphonso Smith, or Aaron Curry.

If Wake doesn't have that type of player on its current roster, it needs to recruit one -- quickly -- to help reverse this trend.

Opening camp: Wake Forest

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
2:00
PM ET
Schedule: Practice is from 7:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.

What’s new: With a new face at quarterback, Wake Forest’s offense is likely to run the ball more. Former quarterback Riley Skinner was an excellent passer, but not the swiftest of foot. Expect a different dimension to be added to the Demon Deacons’ offense.

Sidelined: Nobody on the two-deep roster is expected to be missing.

Key battle: Quarterback. No surprise here. Skylar Jones enters practice atop the depth chart, but some of that is simply because he was the healthiest of the group, and offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke likes to say “durability equals dependability.” Ted Stachitas, who had a hamstring injury this spring, will be competing for the job, along with redshirt freshman Brendan Cross, who suffered a concussion in the spring. True freshman Tanner Price has also impressed his teammates in offseason workouts.

New on the scene: Redshirt sophomore receiver Terence Davis. He redshirted in 2008, tore his ACL in 2009 and missed 2010 spring practices. He’s finally back, healthy and ready to contribute.

Breaking out: Cornerback Kenny Okoro. He started each of the final eight games at corner and developed into one of Wake’s top players on defense. He led the team with three interceptions and tied for the team lead with eight pass breakups. He clinched the win over NC State when he intercepted a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone with 2:02 left to play. The kid can move -- he’s getting his minor in dance.

Don’t forget about: Running back Josh Adams. He was the ACC’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2007, but his production has dropped off the past two seasons. The staff is hoping he gets back to his freshman form.

All eyes on: The quarterback, whoever it might be. This is one of the best competitions in the league this summer and will be the main factor in whether or not the Deacs can get back to the postseason.

Quotable: "Durability will be a key because when you go back to running the football you're going to ask your quarterback to run it some. I don't know how much, but probably whoever the guy is, that will depend on how much we run it with the quarterback. He's going to have to be a durable guy. The most durable guy this spring was Skylar Jones. That's why he came out number one. Ted Stachitas had a pulled hamstring in the spring and Brendan Cross missed a few practices with a concussion. I think with what we're going to do with our offense, it wouldn't surprise me if we ended up using more than one guy." -- Coach Jim Grobe

Wake Forest offense seeking answers

August, 4, 2010
8/04/10
4:00
PM ET
Former Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner was one of the best the Deacons’ offense had ever seen. He was a record-setter in numerous categories. He was the winningest quarterback in school history.

And he was also the slowest quarterback this staff had ever coached.

That could change this fall, and so could Wake Forest’s offense.

It’s the first time since 1957 that Wake Forest has had zero passing attempts among its returning quarterbacks. When the Deacs begin practice on Thursday, the most experienced passer on the roster will be wide receiver Marshall Williams, who went 3-for-3 for 52 yards last year, throwing off reverses. Ted Stachitas is the only other quarterback who has taken a snap in a game. He was in for the final six plays of Wake’s 35-7 win over Elon last year.

Offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke said the staff will take about 12 practices and a few scrimmages to figure out who the starting quarterback will be. Only then will it begin to build an offense around him.

“It could be different,” Lobotzke said. “Whoever ends up being that guy is going to drive two things: How much do we do in the run game because of that kid’s mobility and feet? How good of a runner is he? The faster the runner, the bigger the run game. The slower the runner, the smaller the run game, Riley being the bare minimum.”

A fast player who can make all of the throws would obviously be the ideal. A slow player who can’t make the throws?

“Then I’m probably home for Christmas,” Lobotzke said.

Skylar Jones enters Thursday’s practice as the leader by default -- he was the healthiest of the bunch coming out of the spring. If his durability holds up and he continues to progress, it’s his job to lose.

Equally as important is the offensive line, where the Deacs have to replace four-year starter Chris DeGeare at left tackle. Redshirt freshman Steven Chase was moved over from the defense this past spring, where he had about eight practices, but he’s not DeGeare. Dennis Godfrey was expected to be, but he missed some spring ball with a concussion and his weight has been too high.

“I don’t know what the answer is there,” Lobotzke said. “Two-a-days are going to tell me a lot about both of those guys. That’s my big question mark. If I can find that position and keep my other four healthy, I feel pretty good.”

Staying healthy is critical up front for the Deacs, because the offensive line just isn’t dependable enough with the two-deep rotation yet.

Russell Nenon at center has progressed well this offseason after having elective shoulder surgery and missing the spring. Joe Looney is in his third season starting at left guard and the staff is confident in his ability. The right tackle was a carousel position last year with Jeff Griffin and Joe Birdsong. Doug Weaver has emerged as a solid player there and Lobotzke said he now thinks it’s Weaver’s time. At right guard, Lobotzke is waiting to see if Mike Hoag is healthy from a hamstring injury that hampered him this spring.

Unfortunately for Wake Forest, the two biggest offensive concerns are at the two most important positions, but if the Deacs can solidify that this summer, they could surprise some teams this fall.

Video: Best summer quarterback battle

July, 21, 2010
7/21/10
10:30
AM ET

Heather Dinich looks at the ACC’s best summer QB battle -- Wake Forest.

Tuesday mailblog

May, 25, 2010
5/25/10
2:30
PM ET
Looks like last week's mailbag got something started between the Hokies n' the Hoos ...

Ben in Malmstrom AFB, MT writes: In response to the Hoakie's declaration of 2000 days with the Commonwealth Cup: Hoos have 16 NCAA Division 1 titles and counting. Hoakies have....one empty trophy case. Maybe Tech can lease us some trophy space?

HD: Cavman rides again ...


Nick in Washington, D.C. writes: Other than what's being said across the blog hype-machine, is there any reason to believe that Ras-I Dowling will actually be a corner to be reckoned with? Are we sure this isn't just a case of a decent player on a horrible D?

HD: First, I don't think Virginia's D was the problem last year. The passing defense was actually fourth in the ACC. Second, I'd put some stock into what our guys, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay say. They break down film of these guys. Kiper has Dowling at No. 21 in his latest Big Board, and here's what McShay had to say on Dowling:
Dowling has flown under the radar but should garner some national attention in 2010, even on a rebuilding Cavs squad. He displays an excellent combination of size, upper-body strength and athleticism. He's a better overall talent than Chris Cook, whom the Vikings selected with the 34th overall pick in this year's draft.

Van Galloway in Hartsville, S.C., writes: Good morning Heather...I have just one question. Everyone wants to talk about UNC having one of the best defense's in the country this year & the best of the ACC...Being the FSU fan that I am, isn't that pretty much the same UNC defense that allowed 395 passing yards by Christian Ponder?

HD: And three touchdowns and no interceptions. About that Heisman Trophy thing ...


Nate in Raleigh, N.C. writes: Hey Heather! I want to know how in the hell the ACC didn't place Russell Wilson on any of the All-ACC teams?? There aren't 4 QB's in the ACC better than him. Without him, State probably would've won 2 games last year! I am obviously biased, but Russell is, arguably, THE best QB in the ACC. Ponder is up there, and Tyrod is a close 3rd. Jacory threw like 400 interceptions last year, and the only reason he made it before Wilson is because everybody is riding Miami this year. Help me understand this HD! Thanks.

HD: You're right in that nobody in the ACC threw more TDs than Wilson (31) and nobody threw more INTs than Harris (17). But you could make the argument that Ponder accounted for more yardage per game in fewer games, Tyrod Taylor and Riley Skinner both had better pass efficiency ratings, and Thaddeus Lewis had more passing yardage. Not to mention the fact that all of those schools -- including Duke -- won more conference games last year. As for total package, I'm not sure Wilson was it last year.


Vincent in Miami, Fla., writes: Hey Heather, I've been watching College football live and they were talking about the best receiving core in college football and they left out Miami!? Don't you believe that Miami has some of the best receivers in the nation? I do. Whats with that?

HD: I must've missed that episode, Vincent, but I can tell you this: Before Miami's receiving corps is deemed one of the best in the nation, it must first prove it's one of the best in the ACC. There's no question it is deep and talented, and it's a big reason why Miami had one of the top passing offenses in the country last year. But when you break it down on an individual basis, the receivers at Miami (Ohio) made a bigger splash in the national stats last year. And Miami's passing game, as good as it was, was fifth-best in the ACC last fall. And no, not all of those INTs were Harris' fault.


Eric in Blacksburg, Va., writes: Is it fair to say that this is Steinsprings last stand at VT if the offense can't produce? I mean if our offense does not produce with Tyrod, Crash and Burn, and our returning stable of WR's will Beamer have any other choice but to axe his old friend?

HD: No, it's probably not fair, Eric. What would make this year different from any other in which Beamer has stood behind Stinespring?

Have a question for Friday's mailblog? Drop it in my mailbag ...

Wake Forest spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
6:00
AM ET
Good (very early) morning to you, ACC fans. Today we're taking a look back at each school in the conference, and what we learned (and didn't) from spring ball. (Most teams still have far more questions than they do answers heading into summer camp, but we'll stick with three each.) We'll start at the end of the alphabet for a change (sorry, BC fans).

Here's your spring scouting report on the Demon Deacons:

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 7, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR Marshall Williams, WR Devon Brown, RB Josh Adams, G Joe Looney, C Russell Nenon, DE Tristan Dorty, DE Kyle Wilber, LB Matt Woodlief, SS Cyhl Quarles, P Shane Popham , CB Kenny Okoro

Key losses

OT Chris DeGeare, QB Riley Skinner, OG Jeff Griffin, OG Barrett McMillin, DT John Russell, DT Boo Robinson, CB Brandon Ghee

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Adams* (541 yards)

Passing: Skinner (3,160 yds)

Receiving: Williams* (867 yds)

Tackles: Dominique Midgett (79)

Sacks: Russell (4.5)

Interceptions: Okoro* (3)

Spring answers

1. Help for the quarterback. Wake Forest found some playmakers this spring who can help ease the transition for a new starting quarterback. Brown and Chris Givens can both take a handoff on a sweep, and the Deacs have two veterans in Adams and Brandon Pendergrass. Wake’s ground game should get a boost from both the running backs and wide receivers.

2. New quarterback, new offense. Without Skinner, the Deacs are making the transition to a more run-based option offense, and No. 1 on this list will help them do that. Regardless of who wins the quarterback job, he’ll likely bring an added dimension with his ability to run, and Skylar Jones demonstrated that this spring.

3. New staff assignments. Coach Jim Grobe reassigned some of his assistants to better take advantage of their strengths, and those transitions went well this spring. The biggest change was the move of Steve Russ, a former defensive coordinator at Syracuse, from tight ends and fullbacks to linebackers.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. Jones finished the spring atop the depth chart, but part of that decision was based on durability. Jones didn’t miss a day of practice this spring. Historically, that’s been a quality Grobe likes -- guys who can stay healthy in his system. But the staff thinks very highly of incoming freshman Tanner Price, who will be given every opportunity to win the job as well. Regardless of who starts the season opener, they’re all inexperienced.

2. Woe-line. Possibly a bigger concern than who the starting quarterback will be is how the offensive line will come together. The Deacs return Nenon at center, but he missed all of spring and added to the unit’s injury concerns. Wake is missing established tackles, and the group is trying to get back to running the ball the way it did before Skinner. The previous linemen were recruited to be run blockers, but the focused changed when they got a great passing quarterback.

3. Defensive jobs up for grabs. Wake Forest has a lot of young talent, making for some ongoing competition this summer at five or six positions. The interior defensive line, defensive end and linebacker are areas where there are two legitimate potential starters as opposed to two backups trying to earn promotions.

Q&A: Wake Forest QB Skylar Jones

April, 30, 2010
4/30/10
3:00
PM ET
Skylar Jones finished the spring at Wake Forest as the quarterback picked to replace Riley Skinner, a four-year starter for the Demon Deacons.

In the spring game, Jones completed 4-of-5 passes for 38 yards and ran seven times for 21 yards.

David Ubben: Were you at all surprised you came out of the spring with the job?

Skylar Jones: I guess you could say I was sort of surprised, but at the same time, I still know that there's a whole lot of work I need to do to get better, and that what my main thing is: to go out there and compete hard. I try to get better throwing, making reads and just understanding the whole offense and trying to figure out what the defense is trying to do coverage-wise, blitz-wise and everything like that. Most importantly, keep trying to gain the trust of my coaches and teammates.

Where have you grown the most, solely as a passer, since last year ended?

SJ: Everyone knows about my mobility, but they really kind of question my arm. But I really don't think the coaches question my arm too much. If they really questioned my arm, I really don't think I'd be playing quarterback. But everybody looks at strengths and weaknesses and I guess a lot of people consider my arm a weakness. But I really worked diligently on working on my arm, just accuracy and timing of routes and everything like that, and toward the end of spring, I could really tell I was starting to understand more of the offense. And coach [Tom] Elrod, our quarterback coach, tells me all the time, 'Once you go out there, and you know what you're doing plays-wise and know what the defense is doing, talent starts to take over.' And he's been right. So, I definitely believe that my arm is capable of a whole lot.

DU: Feel much pressure following a guy like Riley?

SJ: There is pressure, but at the same time, I really don't believe in pressure, because it's not all about me. There's 10 other guys out there, and more on defense and special teams. So there's 22 guys out there. Riley's done -- words can't even describe what Riley's done for this program, and he's a great guy. He will be truly missed here, but we've got a great group of receivers and a great defense coming back, and those guys take some pressure off of me when they do great things like make plays. All I've gotta do is get the ball to my receivers and they make plays.

DU: What's the best thing you learned from him in your time there?

SJ: Poise. I would say poise and confidence and not getting rattled. Every time I'd see Riley, he was always ready to bounce back. Whether he threw an interception or made a bad play, he was always ready to come back and ready for the next series and the next play. When bad things happen, you've gotta bounce back and make something good, and he's done that throughout his whole career here.

DU: Obviously, the two of you are very different players. How have you tweaked the offense to fit what you do?

SJ: Our offensive scheme right now is completely different than what we did last year. We're a little more run-oriented team so far, but we'll still whip it out there. Our offense, there's a lot of misdirection and getting guys out in open space.

DU: Anything else I should know?

SJ: Yes. I just wanted to say, a lot of people think that we'll probably not be that good this year, or toward the bottom of the ACC, but I really believe that with the core group of guys we have now -- what's different about this team now is the team unity. Everyone's together, everyone's pushing each other in the weight room, out there at practice and in the classroom, pushing each other to make grades so everyone has good academics. That's really all I wanted to say. Our team unity, everybody's just together this year and I really think we can make some noise with the talent we have.

Tuesday mailblog

April, 27, 2010
4/27/10
4:00
PM ET
Remember, the only dumb questions are the ones that aren't asked ...

Bob in Arlington, Va., writes: Hey Heather- did I see you in Atlantic City this past weekend?

HD: Haven't been there in a few months, but when I go, you can find me at Nero's with my parents and their comp points. Don't forget Mother's Day, BTW.


Daniel in Atlanta writes: Heather,Do you think Dwyer's draft stock was affected by the, um... 'interesting' headline on ESPN about his 'testing positive' at the combine or do you think he went so late because of something else? Or did he go when he should have gone?

HD: Daniel it seems as if even the NFL scouts were divided on how highly Dwyer should have gone, and I doubt much of it had to do with any headlines. Everyone in the NFL knew Dwyer was taking approved prescription medication. He really did get some mixed reviews, though. I think the Steelers got a great deal and I expected Dwyer to be gone by the third round. He'll get his chance to prove his doubters wrong as the No. 2 guy and a short-yardage back.


Mark in College Park, Md., writes: What did you see out of the terps during their spring game? I need some good news after a 2 and 10 season.

HD: So does Ralph Friedgen. Overall, he liked what he saw. I think the most important thing was the progress of the offensive line, which Friedgen said "vastly improved." They've got enough running backs, and with a more mobile quarterback and the play of WR Torrey Smith, the Terps should be able to do some things on offense this year. Maryland fans should be encouraged by the spring practices.


Nathan in Roanoke, Va., writes: People still seem to be concerned with Defensive Depth for VT this year. I follow recruiting big time and keep up with player stats. People seem to forget that Nick Dew is coming in the fall and Zack McCray as well each will be playing positions that lack depth. What do you think the chances will be of them contributing from day 1?

HD: Did you mean Nick Acree, a defensive tackle, and not Nick Dew, an OLB? There is help on the way up front, but considering how demanding coordinator Bud Foster and defensive line coach Charley Wiles are, it's going to be difficult for a true freshman to come in in August, learn the system and be ready to play. The coaches like John Graves and Kwamaine Battle as the two defensive tackles with Antoine Hopkins as a backup. They're still looking for a fourth defensive tackle. At defensive end, former tight end Chris Drager and Steven Friday had good springs, but again, they're still looking for depth. That could be J.R. Collins or James Gayle.


Matt in Orlando writes: Have you heard about the white unis and helmets FSU is planning on wearing at the Oklahoma game? Why can't we learn not to mess with the traditional colors? (For an example, look up our recent record for when we wear "special" unis).

HD:I checked with FSU's sports information department, and there is no truth to the notion that the ‘Noles will be wearing a white helmet at Oklahoma. The equipment manager had one made up at the coaching staff’s request for recruits to see a wide variety of uniform options FSU can mix and match. They dressed up for mannequins in the locker room in different garb. One recruit took a picture and posted it on a website, leading to an instant rumor. Jimbo Fisher wants to stick with tradition (gold helmets), but he wouldn't be opposed to using the Nike unis worn against Maryland last season on a rare occasion.


Matt in Atlanta writes: With Jordan Luallen unlikely to get any play-time in the next year at least, is there any chance he moves to wide reciever? He's got the build and we need more tall guys out there catching balls.

HD: Doubtful, Matt. Luallen will enter the fall battling David Sims for the No. 3 quarterback job. You're right, though, his odds of any significant playing time are slim. He'll have to make large strides in August to pass Tevin Washington as the No. 2 QB. And even though the Jackets will be without Demaryius Thomas, they've still got five or six skilled receivers to turn to.


Horace from the 757 writes: HD,How about the Steelers snagging three Hokies! Taco Thompson could be a nice sub for the NT position with his girth. Jason Worilds will have a tough time cracking the rotation with Harrison, Woodley, and Timmons in front of him. Demetrius Taylor most likely won't break the practice squad ranks, but still getting paid! I like Dwyer's chances of catching on with the guaranteed run based offense for the first 6 games.

HD: Here we go Steelers, here we go ...


Eric in Tallahassee writes: Any notable ACC player go undrafted that you felt should of? Overall how do you think the ACC did in the draft this year?

HD: One player I would've liked to see get a shot as a free agent was Wake quarterback Riley Skinner. I thought somebody would have given him a chance, and that he deserved one.

Wake's quarterback search begins

March, 25, 2010
3/25/10
10:00
AM ET
As Wake Forest quarterbacks coach Tom Elrod ventures into the 2010 season without graduated veteran Riley Skinner, the winningest quarterback in school history, he does so seeking one half-joking requirement for the next man up: “Somebody who won’t hyperventilate when they get out there.”

It’s a characteristic that not even spring or summer camp might reveal, as none of the coaches have seen any of this year’s quarterbacks in a relevant game situation. Ted Stachitas has the most experience to offer, and that was one series against Elon last year.

[+] EnlargeRiley Skinner
AP Photo/Nell RedmondFinding a replacement for Riley Skinner will be a tall order for Wake Forest.
“I don’t know that we feel good about them until they get a good, for-real game under their belt,” said coach Jim Grobe. “I like what we’ve got -- I like the kids who are playing quarterback for us, but even in practices, even in scrimmages, it’s just really hard to tell who the guys are until they get in a game that really means something.”

The good news for Grobe and his staff is that there isn’t a shortage of candidates, despite the departure of Skinner and his backup, Ryan McManus.

Stachitas, who succeeded Tim Tebow as the starting quarterback at Nease High School, threw for more than 5,000 yards in two seasons as the starter. He has since had two surgeries on his right shoulder, though, for a torn labrum he suffered his senior year. The first game during his senior year in high school, the second was to clean it out as a freshman at Wake.

Stachitas said it’s “pretty much 100 percent,” and he’s gotten most of his strength back.

“I definitely have a lot to work on,” Stachitas said. “I can get the plays down better, and my pocket presence, leadership, throwing on the run. Nobody’s perfect. I can improve on everything.”

Skylar Jones, a redshirt sophomore, was moved to wide receiver last year. He’s probably the fastest athlete on the team, but Elrod said Jones also throws the ball better than a lot of people realize. He just wasn’t asked to do much of that at Middletown High in Ohio.

At 6-foot-2, Brendan Cross is biggest of the three, and he is the strongest in the weight room, which the coaches like in terms of durability. He’s not as fast as Jones or Stachitas, but is the best pure thrower of the three, according to Elrod. Turner Faulk, a walk-on, is also a dual-threat, and incoming freshman Tanner Price will be given a chance to compete as well. Price compares more to Cross in size and strength.

“I am confident one of those guys will step forward,” Elrod said. “I think they all have a chance. We recruited them thinking they were good players and haven’t been surprised since any of them got here. We’ve got to be really smart as coaches. ... We can’t put as much on the quarterback as we did on a fifth-year senior. We’re confident one of them will step forward. I honestly don’t know which one will because none of them have had a lot of opportunities to do so.”

By necessity, that will change this year.

While the staff will have to be careful with how much they ask of their new starter, the number of dual-threat quarterbacks they have to choose from could also open up their playbook a bit.

“Previous to Riley, we were able to run the quarterback a bit,” Elrod said. “Riley was a better runner than people think, but he wasn’t a pure runner. ... The guys we have now give us another dimension where we’ll be able to carry some quarterback runs, and that’s put stress on the defense because at times you can block the ball when the quarterback is carrying the football. It gives you an extra person to block, on the perimeter or the interior, and we’ll look at that. It’s part of our job to fit personnel to your scheme and then also to say, ‘Hey, let’s make this thing fit who our quarterback is.’”

First, though, they have to figure out exactly who that is.

QB uncertainty looms in the ACC

February, 15, 2010
2/15/10
11:00
AM ET
At Duke, former scout team quarterback Sean Schroeder has been reciting the names of plays so he can spit them out a little easier in the huddle as the No. 1 signal-caller this spring. At Wake Forest, coach Jim Grobe would like nothing more than to say he feels good about his quarterbacks, but he hasn’t seen any of them play significant game time yet. And at NC State, backup Mike Glennon plans on working to unseat his friend and teammate Russell Wilson as the starter this spring.

[+] EnlargeMike Glennon
AP Photo/Gerry Broome Mike Glennon will get extra reps under center this spring while incumbent starter Russell Wilson plays baseball.
Bring on the competition in the ACC.

All across the conference, uncertainty looms at quarterback heading into spring practices. The biggest transitions will occur at Duke and Wake Forest, where two of the ACC’s most accomplished quarterbacks -- Thaddeus Lewis and Riley Skinner -- have graduated. Virginia is also starting from scratch to replace Jameel Sewell, and nobody on the roster but Marc Verica has experience. Maryland's Jamarr Robinson has two starts ahead of the competition. Some schools, like North Carolina and Boston College, have experienced starters returning, but have welcomed an audition from the backups. At NC State and Clemson, the position’s future depends on whether or not starters Kyle Parker and Wilson decide to pursue their baseball careers.

“My goal is to prepare to be the starter, regardless of what decision [Wilson] makes, whenever he has to make a decision,” Glennon said. “… Once spring comes around, I’ll be getting all of those extra reps I wouldn’t have been given if he was there. Every ball I throw is really an advantage to me.”

Florida State is the only school in the Atlantic Division without any questions about who the starter is, as Christian Ponder will return from a shoulder injury and has the potential to factor into the Heisman race. The Coastal Division is a little more secure, with Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt, Miami’s Jacory Harris, and Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor all established and on the brink of their best seasons yet. Whether or not that gives them an edge in the conference race will depend upon how quickly the league’s rookies can catch up.

“It’s always difficult to replace a guy who had the ability [Lewis] had,” said Duke offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper. “He’s obviously very, very talented, and then the experience factor. You don’t have a four-year starter very often ever at many positions, especially at quarterback.”

Boston College is in a much better position than it was this time a year ago, as the staff had no idea who its quarterback would be until 25-year-old Dave Shinskie arrived on campus. Shinskie is the front-runner heading into the spring, but Mike Marscovetra and two true freshmen -- Chase Rettig and Josh Bordner -- are on campus and will be given a chance.

“I think there should always be competition,” said offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Gary Tranquill. “It’s Shinskie’s job, and if they can unseat him, then they can unseat him.”

Duke’s quarterback depth took a hit after Lewis graduated and his backup, Sean Renfree, tore his ACL. Renfree is expected to be the Blue Devils’ starter this fall, but he will miss all of spring drills while he recovers.

Next man up? Schroeder.

“I’m expecting to really get a hold of the offense,” he said. “I’ve got a year under my belt as a redshirt freshman. That helped a lot. I’m looking to grow from that and master the offense and different schemes we have.”

Wake Forest has to replace the winningest quarterback in school history in Skinner. Truth is, there really is no front-runner. Not when the most experienced player, Ted Stachitas, has one series against Elon to fall back on.

“It is legitimately wide open,” said quarterbacks coach Tom Elrod.

The contenders include Skylar Jones, who was moved to wide receiver last year; Stachitas, who has had two shoulder surgeries on his right shoulder but said he feels almost 100 percent; Brendan Cross; walk-on Turner Faulk; and true freshman Tanner Price.

“I can’t tell you that I’m very confident, just because we haven’t seen the guys in live fire,” Grobe said. “I don’t know that we’ll feel good about them until they get a real game under their belt. I like what we’ve got – I like the kids who are playing quarterback for us, but even in practice and the scrimmages, it’s just really hard to tell who the guys are until they get out in games that really mean something.”

The one thing Grobe can take some solace in? He’s hardly alone this spring in the ACC.

What to watch in the ACC this spring

February, 15, 2010
2/15/10
10:00
AM ET
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Spring practice starts: March 18

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• How linebacker Mark Herzlich progresses. Herzlich, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer last May, has been going through winter conditioning with his teammates, and he plans on participating in spring drills. How quickly he regains his form will be worth watching, as he and sophomore Luke Kuechly could give the Eagles one of the most formidable linebacking corps.

• The quarterback battle. After one season, Dave Shinskie has the most experience on the roster, but he’ll get some competition from Josh Bordner and Chase Rettig, two early enrollees. There were times last season when Shinskie looked like the future of the position and there were others when he looked like any other freshman.

• Defensive linemen. For the second straight year, BC is looking for some stability up front. The Eagles have to replace left tackle Austin Giles and defensive end Jim Ramella. They return Kaleb Ramsey, Giles’ backup, and Brad Newman, Ramella’s reserve, but some young faces are likely to be seen in the rotation.

CLEMSON

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Life without C.J. Spiller officially begins. The backs behind him had a pretty good year, so there’s no need for full panic mode. Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington actually combined for a higher yards per carry average (6.1 to 5.6 yards). Clemson will also be looking to replace Spiller’s lost kickoff return yardage. The Tigers had a 13-yard advantage in average starting field position, as their start was their own 37-yard line compared to opponents’ 24-yard line. Ellington is a candidate in the return game.

• Kyle Parker’s batting average. No, really. How well Parker does this spring with the baseball team will help determine whether he remains Clemson’s quarterback or turns to the MLB draft. He didn’t have a great 2009 season, but he was still the fastest player to 25 home runs in school history. It remains to be seen this spring if he’ll become a high enough draft choice to give up college football.

• Secondary shuffling. It seems like eons ago since Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor weren’t the Tigers’ starting corners, as Butler started 40 straight games and Chancellor started 42. Butler finished his career second in school history in interception return yards. Now it’s time for a new duo. Will Marcus Gilchrist move to corner, which he’s capable of doing? Might Rashard Hall move to safety with DeAndre McDaniel?

DUKE

Spring practice starts: Feb. 14

Spring game: March 27

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Somebody has to take over for the graduated Thaddeus Lewis, but his backup – Sean Renfree – will miss the spring with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Sean Schroeder should be heavily in the mix to be the starter, pending Renfree’s recovery.

• Defensive line makeover. It’s wide open. Charlie Hatcher is entrenched at nose guard, but it’s really anyone’s game. The staff might move redshirt senior Wesley Oglesby, who played the majority of his career at defensive end, inside. Other options are defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento, a redshirt freshman, and Curtis Hazelton, who played sparingly last season.

• Johnny Williams’ move from wide receiver to cornerback. He had 31 catches in 2009 – the fourth-best on the team. Now they need his help in the defensive backfield. Duke will lose starter Leon Wright and his 10 career interceptions, and the pass defense, which allowed 215.75 yards per game, could use a boost.

FLORIDA STATE

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Christian Ponder’s return from shoulder surgery. Ponder is expected to practice this spring, though it could be on a limited basis, at least early. He’s ahead of schedule, but the coaches won’t subject him to any risks now. Yes, E.J. Manuel is talented and played well at the end of the season, but make no mistake – Ponder is FSU’s starter and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

• The defense under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. His secondary, in particular, will be interesting to watch, as will how quickly he can help the front seven generate a pass rush and plug the middle. Stoops has been a secondary coach, and the Noles lost three starters there. The fourth, Ochuko Jenije, could be pushed to retain his job.

• New faces, new opportunities. In addition to the fab freshmen who are coming in, FSU has a handful of unfamiliar players already on the roster who played sparingly or not at all. We'll see how they fit in this spring. RS-So DT Anthony McCloud and RS-So RB Debrale Smiley are both junior college transfers and former teammates. Physically, freshman linebacker Jeff Luc is already a man, but how quickly can he mature on the field? Two young wide receivers worth watching are Rodney Smith and Willie Haulstead.

GEORGIA TECH

Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The defensive transformation. The Jackets will switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under first-year coordinator Al Groh. In addition to learning the new scheme, the staff has to figure out who goes where. Linebackers might play defensive end and vice versa, safeties might play outside linebacker. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this team lines up in the spring.

• The replacements. From Georgia Tech’s coaching staff to the new faces who will be tasked with filling in for the Fab Four -- Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett and Demaryius Thomas -- the Jackets will need some “Hello My Name Is” tags this spring.

• The offensive line. Three offensive linemen redshirted who could start, and Georgia Tech might need them to, especially if guard Joseph Gilbert decides to transfer to pursue his MBA. The Jackets lose two starters on the offensive line, and Gilbert, who graduates this spring, would be a third if he leaves. Center Sean Bedford and tackle Austin Barrick return as seniors.

MARYLAND

Spring practice starts: March 23

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. Chris Turner has graduated, leaving Jamarr Robinson the top option going into the spring, but he has limited experience. The staff liked what he did when Turner was injured, but Danny O’Brien, Miami (Ohio) transfer Clay Belton and C.J. Brown will all be given an opportunity. Look for O’Brien to start the spring at No. 2 on the depth chart.

• Cornerback: Cameron Chism is the only returning starter in the secondary, but right now the staff has fewer concerns about the safeties. Maryland will have to find some bodies at corner, and Dexter McDougle, who redshirted as a true freshman last year, is one option. Michael Carter and Trenton Hughes, who was the third corner last year, are also among a handful of candidates.

• The offensive line. Losing Bruce Campbell to the NFL hurt, but the Terps also lost starter Phil Costa. Justin Gilbert, a redshirt sophomore, could inherit Campbell’s job. And there’s always Mr. Versatility -- Paul Pinegar. He has helped the Terps at both tackle spots and left guard, and this spring he’ll likely be given a shot at center.

MIAMI

Spring practice starts: Feb. 23

Spring game: March 27 (tentative)

What to watch:

• Tight end/offensive line: Jimmy Graham is gone, and the Canes don’t return any tight ends with any experience other than Richard Gordon, who was injured the majority of last season. Miami signed four tight ends in this recruiting class, but none of them were early enrollees. Miami has to replace three starters up front, including both tackles and the center.

• How the two young quarterbacks perform: The health of Jacory Harris was precious last year, as he had nobody behind him with any experience after the transfers of Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith. The depth has improved a bit with A.J. Highsmith, who played sparingly last year, and Stephen Morris, one of the early enrollees.

• Upgrade on the d-line? Progress up front began with the hire of Rick Petri as defensive line coach, and it’s up to Petri to help the Canes become better pass rushers. Miami will depend upon its two mainstays -- Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes. The right end position was a group effort last year, and Miami has to replace Joe Joseph and Eric Moncur.

NORTH CAROLINA

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback T.J. Yates. It’s his job to lose, and the coaching staff still has confidence in him, but Bryn Renner is waiting in the wings, and Braden Hanson will also be given an opportunity. The staff is looking for the offense to improve its passing efficiency and cut down on turnovers.

• The offensive line. It was a patchwork effort in 2009, thanks to injuries and inexperience, and will be a major key in how much UNC improves offensively this year. The Heels have to replace two starters, and Jonathan Cooper is likely to move from guard to center, and right guard Alan Pelc will miss spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery.

• Defensive line tweaks. There aren’t many questions on a defense that should be one of the best in the country, but somebody has to replace Cam Thomas and defensive end E.J. Wilson. Tydreke Powell is the frontrunner to take over at defensive tackle and Quinton Coples at defensive end. Both were backups last year at their respective positions.

NC STATE

Spring practice starts: March 9

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• Backup quarterback Mike Glennon. Russell Wilson is the starter, but he’s going to be playing baseball all spring. Keep an eye on his backup to see if Glennon can make it any more of a competition in Wilson’s absence.

• Chris Ward at punter. No, it’s not usually, the highlight of the spring, but in this case, it’s necessary. Ward is it -- he’s their only option right now, and it’s a position the Pack struggled with last year. Ward was expected to be the starter last season, but he was inconsistent. He’s definitely got the talent to be the guy.

• The recovery of linebacker Nate Irving. After being severely injured in a one-car crash last summer, Irving is hopeful he can go through spring drills. He has been lifting with the team and running with the sports medicine staff, but it’s still uncertain how limited his contact will be.

VIRGINIA

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Marc Verica is the only one with any experience, and first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor hasn’t been in Charlottesville long enough to evaluate any of the candidates. That’s what the spring is for, and true freshman Michael Strauss is the lone incoming quarterback on campus, so he’ll have a head start on the playbook. Of the four quarterbacks Virginia signed in this year’s class, Strauss is the only one listed as a true quarterback. The Cavs also have Ross Metheny, who redshirted last year, and Riko Smalls, who redshirted in ‘08 and was No. 2 on the depth chart when Verica was out with a concussion.

• Coaching transition. First-year coach Mike London has hired almost an entirely new staff, and they’ll bring changes in philosophy and scheme. London has said he wants to get the defense back to the traditional 4-3, and revert to the tradition of featuring the tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs.

• Running back. The Cavs will have the help up front, but they need to replace their four leading rushers in Mikell Simpson, Rashawn Jackson, Vic Hall and Jameel Sewell. The staff will look at true freshman Kevin Parks, but also have Torrey Mack and Dominique Wallace, who had just seemed to be coming on at Southern Miss when he was injured and missed the rest of the season.

VIRGINIA TECH

Spring practice starts: March 31

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• Revamped defensive line. The Hokies have to replace three of four starters up front. The only defensive ends with significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. Redshirt freshmen will be given a chance – Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins – but they’ve never played. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other end who’s played and that was a skinny minute. At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the frontrunner to replace Cordarrow Thompson.

• Darren Evans’ comeback. Evans, the team’s leading rusher in 2008, is working his way back from a season-ending ACL injury, and one of the biggest questions in Blacksburg is how the staff will divide the carries in such a talented backfield that includes Ryan Williams. With two returning 1,000-yard rushers, will David Wilson decide to redshirt? The spring will help him in that decision.

• The evolution of Tyrod Taylor. He’s going to be a senior, and with so many questions on defense heading into the season, the offense will be leading the way. This should be a breakout year for Taylor, who by now should have mastered the offense and should consistently be a passing threat to compliment his running abilities.

WAKE FOREST

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. It’s the most glaring hole the Deacs have to fill this spring, as they’re tasked with replacing the winningest quarterback in school history, Riley Skinner, and his backup, Ryan McManus. Redshirt sophomores Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones, and sophomore Brendan Cross, will compete with rookie Tanner Price for the top spot.

• Offensive line. The Deacs will take a huge hit here, as seven players in the two-deep depth chart were redshirt seniors, including all four tackles. Three starters have to be replaced.

• The interior defensive line. Nose guard Boo Robinson and John Russell have graduated, and Russell’s backup, Michael Lockett, was also a redshirt senior. The Deacs are in good shape at the ends, but will need some help inside.
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, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Coastal Division, Atlantic Division, Miami Hurricanes, Wesley Oglesby, Russell Wilson, Darren Evans, Christian Ponder, Ochuko Jenije, Chris Drager, Cam Thomas, Demaryius THomas, Justin Gilbert, Isaiah Hamlette, Marc Verica, Rashawn Jackson, A.J. Highsmith, Boo Robinson, Torrey Mack, Trenton Hughes, Quinton Coples, Chris turner, Phil Costa, Cannon Smith, Jamarr Robinson, Mike Glennon, Tyrod Taylor, David Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Cameron Chism, Jamie Harper, CHris Chancellor, Michael Carter, Ryan McManus, Joseph Gilbert, Brad Newman, Antoine Hopkins, Sean Renfree, Dave Shinskie, Cordarrow Thompson, Richard Gordon, Mikell Simpson, Austin Barrick, Johnny Williams, Morgan Burnett, E.J. Wilson, Paul Pinegar, Tydreke Powell, Bryn Renner, Jacory Harris, Riley Skinner, Joe Joseph, Skylar Jones, Derrick Morgan, T.J. Yates, Braden Hanson, Sean Bedford, Jonathan Dwyer, C.J. Brown, John Russell, Jameel Sewell, Allen Bailey, Mike London, Nate Irving, Rodney Smith, Marcus Gilchrist, Mark Herzlich, Taylor Cook, Willie Haulstead, Andre Ellington, Josh Holmes, Thaddeus Lewis, E.J. Manuel, Leon Wright, Crezdon Butler, Ryan Williams, C.J. Spiller, Kaleb Ramsey, James Gayle, Eric Moncur, Jonathan Cooper, Bruce Campbell, Ted Stachitas, Jim Ramella, Danny O'Brien, Luke Kuechly, Sean Schroeder, Tyrel Wilson, Dominique Wallace, Austin Giles, Mark Stoops, Brendan Cross, Stephen Morris, Rick Petri, Bill Lazor, Chase Rettig, Michael Strauss, Tanner Price, Anthony McCloud, Debrale Smiley, Josh Bordner, Kyle Paker, Rahsard Hall, DeAndrew McDaniel, Charlie Hatcher, Sydney Sarmiento, Chris Hazelton, Clay Belton, Dexter McDougle, Chris Ward, Ross Metheny, Roko Smalls, Kevin Parks, Duan Perez-Means, J.R. Collins, Michael Lockett

Five newcomers to watch

February, 8, 2010
2/08/10
2:00
PM ET
It would be easy -- and accurate -- to name five ESPNU 150 players Florida State just signed as the newcomers to watch in the ACC this year, but let’s spread the wealth a little bit. There will be plenty of opportunities and position battles throughout the conference worth watching this spring and summer, but here are five players who should have a chance to make an immediate contribution:

FSU freshman linebacker Jeff Luc: The Seminoles need an upgrade on defense, and they didn’t bring an influx of talent in to sit and watch. Luc is a five-star player and the No. 1 overall rated inside linebacker by ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc. He’s the No. 11 overall player in the ESPNU 150 class. Anyone who is that good should be tough to keep off the field.

Wake Forest redshirt freshman quarterback Brendan Cross: The competition is open to replace Riley Skinner, and Cross should be considered a front-runner heading into spring ball. Cross finished his career at Chattahoochee High School in Georgia with 3,540 passing yards and 36 touchdown passes.

NC State freshman offensive tackle Robert Crisp: The Wolfpack are looking for some help up front, and Crisp will be given a chance to give some. He is a four-star, 300-pound tackle whose size will help him work his way in early. NC State lost three starters up front.

Miami redshirt freshman running back Lamar Miller: He didn’t play last year because of the talent in front of him, but with Javarris James graduated and Graig Cooper recovering from a knee injury, the chances are good that Miller will work his way into the rotation. He was a member of the ESPNU 150 and was ranked the No. 12 running back in his class by ESPN.com.

Boston College freshman quarterback Chase Rettig: The fact that he’s already on campus and will go through spring drills means that Dave Shinskie will have some competition. The California native is a four-star player and the No. 10 quarterback in his class, according to ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc.

SPONSORED HEADLINES