ACC: Rod Owens

Duke receivers confident in continued success

May, 17, 2010
5/17/10
10:30
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It’s been a long 21 years since Duke has had a receiver reach the 1,000-yard mark in a single season.

Donovan Varner helped change that.

His 1,047 yards last year were the most since Clarkston Hines recorded a school-record 1,149 yards in 1989.


Tim Steadman/Icon SMIDuke wide receiver Donovan Varner's 1,047 yards in 2009 were the most for a Blue Devils receiver since 1989.
There are a lot of talented receivers returning throughout the ACC this fall, but none of them were able to match what Varner did for Duke last year. He led the conference in receptions per game (5.42), overall receptions (65), and yards per game (87.2), averaging 16.1 yards per catch. Of course, it helped that he had one of the program’s most productive quarterbacks throwing to him in Thaddeus Lewis, who has since graduated and moved on to the NFL. Although the Blue Devils will experience a change at quarterback this year, Donovan and the receivers aren’t expecting any drop-off in the passing game.

Sean Renfree, who is expected to be the starting quarterback this fall, missed spring drills to recover from a torn ACL. He has since resumed throwing during seven-on-seven drills.

“I don’t think it’s really going to be an issue,” Varner said. “We’re going to miss Thad, but Sean Renfree is a great quarterback and he’s going to be able to carry the team. We’re not really worried about it at all.”

Varner conceded this year will be more difficult because opposing defenses now know who he is.

“They know we’re capable of making plays now,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a lot tougher.”

Especially since Varner isn’t the only wideout on the roster with big-play capabilities.

Varner, Conner Vernon and Austin Kelly combined for 174 pass receptions last fall -- more than any other trio in the ACC. The next closest was Wake Forest’s Devon Brown, Marshall Williams and Chris Givens, along with Florida State’s Rod Owens, Bert Reed and Jarmon Fortson. Both of those groups combined for 166 catches.

“I think we’re definitely capable of making a bowl game," Varner said. "Our mentality is different. Our work ethic has risen a lot. I’m pretty confident in making a bowl this year. I see the younger guys stepping up, making big plays. The older guys, we have a lot more leaders this year. I just see a lot of confidence, more trash talking and more plays being made. I think that gives our team a lot of confidence.”

So does Varner and his surrounding cast of receivers.

Florida State spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
10:00
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FLORIDA STATE

2009 overall record: 7-6

2009 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 10, defense 6: punter/kicker 2

Top returners

QB Christian Ponder, LG Rodney Hudson, C Ryan McMahon, WR Bert Reed, CB/PR Greg Reid, RB Jermaine Thomas, DE Markus White, LB Kendall Smith, LB Nigel Bradham, CB Ochuko Jenjie

Key losses

CB Patrick Robinson, S Jamie Robinson, LB Dekoda Watson, WR Rod Owens

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Thomas*(832 yards)

Passing: Ponder* (2,717 yds)

Receiving: Owens (729 yds)

Tackles: Bradham* (93)

Sacks: Watson (6)

Interceptions: J. Robinson, Jenjie* (4)

Spring answers

1. Tailor-made defense. We don’t know yet how much better it will be, but the new defensive scheme will create more playmaking opportunities under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. The Noles will use more zone coverage and be more suited for the personnel. That should lead to some improvement.

2. Ponder will be 100 percent. He took every meaningful snap with the first team offense this spring and there didn’t seem to be a difference since he injured his shoulder last year. That means Florida State could have a Heisman contender this year.

3. Staff cohesion. The five new on-field assistants and first-year strength coach brought a new philosophy to Tallahassee and they clicked well together in their first practice sessions. Coach Jimbo Fisher does things differently than his predecessor. Both the offensive and defensive staffs met a lot together to look at film, and there was good feedback across the board between players and coaches.

Fall questions

1. Consistency at receiver. With the exception of Reed, dependability was sorely lacking in this group. Plenty of plays were made, but not continuously. Fisher said the execution is not where he wants it to be. Jarmon Fortson is one of the players who needs to step it up.

2. Tailback talk. Who’s going to win the tailback job, or will it be by committee? Chris Thompson passed Jermaine Thomas on the unofficial depth chart, but there’s also Lonnie Pryor, Tavares Pressley, Ty Jones and junior-college transfer Debrale Smiley, who is a fullback/tailback like Pryor. They all had their moments this spring.

3. Unsecure secondary. FSU has four good corners to count on in this scheme with Jenjie, Reid, Dionte Allen and newcomer Xavier Rhodes, but the two safety spots and depth remain in flux. Jenjie is the only returning starter in the secondary.

Highlights from FSU's pro day

March, 18, 2010
3/18/10
4:30
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Former FSU cornerback Patrick Robinson and linebacker Dekoda Watson both improved their 40 times from the NFL combine and clocked the fastest performances at this morning's pro timing day in Tallahassee.

Robinson ran a 4.38 and Watson a 4.4.

“I was definitely interested in posting a better number, because I didn’t feel like I ran like I was supposed to at the combine," Watson said in a release. "I wasn’t comfortable with the surroundings and the setting and looking at the film from the combine, I noticed that my knee lift wasn’t where it was supposed to be and knocked my 40 time down at the combine. That’s what I worked on and it really helped me out. … As long as it was in that 4.4 range, I can’t be mad.”

There were about 30 representatives from NFL and CFL teams, including San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Singletary. In all, 14 total players participated. Drills included the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, standing broad jump, bench press and agility drills.

A few other highlights:

  • Jamie Robinson had a 10-foot, 2-inch standing broad jump, which barely beat receiver Rod Owens’ 10-foot, 1 -inch effort. Owens also had a 34 -inch vertical jump.
  • Defensive tackle Budd Thacker led the way in the bench press with 31 repetitions at 225 pounds.

Additional participants included: deep snapper Zack Aronson, receiver Louis Givens, receiver Richard Goodman, defensive tackle Justin Mincey, tight end Caz Piurowski, defensive tackle Kendrick Stewart and linebacker Recardo Wright. One-time FSU linebacker Jae Thaxton and receiver Preston Parker also participated.

Q&A with FSU's Rod Owens

October, 30, 2009
10/30/09
2:10
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

FSU senior receiver Rod Owens is in the midst of his best season at Florida State, as he has already established single-season career bests for receptions (29) and yardage (425) through seven games. He enters Saturday’s game against NC State as the Noles’ second-leading receiver. He caught everyone’s attention last week with his performance in the Seminoles’ Thursday night 30-27 road win over North Carolina. He finished with a career-high nine receptions for a career-high 199 yards. His total included a school record-tying 98-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter of the game which drew the Seminoles to within four points. Here are the highlights of our recent conversation:

 
 Tim Steadman/Icon SMI
 Rod Owens had a breakout game against North Carolina, catching nine passes for 199 yards.
A lot of people are expecting a shootout down there. Do you see it shaping up like that this weekend?

Rod Owens: The only thing we’re trying to do is worry about what we can control. We can’t control what’s going to happen, the only thing we can do is prepare for anything, expect the unexpected, practice hard and focus, zone in every time you come to practice, and if the situation presents itself we’ll be ready for it because we practiced for it.

What’s your take on Christian Ponder so far this year? How much better has he gotten?

RO: It’s the maturity -- he’s very, very mature. I saw him mature right in front of my eyes, from last year to this summer you could see a lot of improvement, faster reads, getting the ball out faster, very accurate, reads coverages very well. That shows he put in a lot of work off the field, and he’s intelligent. Also, his leadership. He’s keeping everybody’s poise, and he’s keeping his own poise. He’s very good under pressure.

Can you try and put into words for me just how invaluable he’s been to the whole team this year?

RO: I think he took on a leadership role, and it’s so hard to be a leader, just knowing where we needed to be. He knew his role and everything he needed to do. In all actuality, he’s the quarterback, and that’s the commander of our offense, so if he doesn’t go, we don’t go. I really think he knows that and he’s figured it out. It’s very good to figure it out on your own. I really think he figured it out on his own. He just took it upon himself, wanted to change, wanted to do better for his team, because when you’re a competitor you don’t want to lose. You try to do anything you can in order to put your team in the best situation possible to be winners.

Does it give you guys confidence to look at NC State’s secondary and see how much they’ve struggled this year?

RO: Well, it gives me confidence to have a great quarterback. Once again, coach says control what you can control. Just practice hard, be efficient, be consistent. You pay a team respect by giving them your A-game. Everybody’s good. If they weren’t good, they wouldn’t be playing in college. I approach everybody as if they were the best, and I have to prove myself every game. That’s how we approach every game as a team. We want to win every game, so you can’t cut slack on anybody, even though people may say they’re not good, but I think they’re a pretty good team. We think they’re a pretty good team. You never let down on anybody, you never let your guard down on anybody, because the unexpected will happen.

How much better do you feel like the receiving corps has been this year?

RO: It’s a lot better. And once again, it starts with Ponder. Everything starts with Ponder. Just having a great quarterback, a great line, a great offense, you don’t worry about things you’re not supposed to worry about. You worry about your individual responsibilities in order to make your team better. It’s the route-running and the blocking assignments. We have a lot of faith that Ponder’s going to put the ball where it needs to be, so it makes you play faster because that’s a lot less thinking that you have to do on the field. You worry about your assignments and carry out your assignments and trust and know that the ball is going to be where it needs to be. At the same time, when it’s downfield blocking, you do the same.

In terms of the frustrating of you guys getting it done on offense, and not getting the help from the other side of the ball -- I’m not asking you to sell out your defense -- but how frustrating has it been having the offense this year and not coming up on the winning side of things?

RO: See, that’s a team. It’s a family. Win or lose, we’re always together. We’re always sticking together. There are a lot of times where the offense hasn’t played well and the defense picked us up. Because we’re a team, we have to pick each other up. So even as an offense, we have to find a way to get it done. It’s adversity, that’s what happens. We just have to be there for one another and pick up the slack for each other.

Do you guys realize there are still opportunities ahead, the season isn’t over and there’s still a lot to play for?

RO: The opportunity is the next game. You never know what the future holds, so you play every game like it’s your last game.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 8

October, 25, 2009
10/25/09
10:07
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here are the ACC's top five performers for this week:

FSU quarterback Christian Ponder: He threw for a career-high 395 yards and three touchdowns to help Florida State overcome an 18-point deficit and beat North Carolina 30-27 on Thursday night. Ponder's 98-yard touchdown pass to Rod Owens tied the school record for longest pass play in school history, and Florida State outscored UNC 24-3 over the game's final 22 minutes. Ponder completed his final 16 attempts of the game.

Georgia Tech A-back Anthony Allen: He finished with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, and his 20-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the Jackets up 27-9 to put the game out of reach. On one play, he broke four tackles and proved his toughness on each run.

Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis: For the third straight game, Lewis racked up over 300 passing yards, and he led the Blue Devils to a 17-13 win over Maryland and their first back-to-back wins over conference opponents since 1994. He finished with 371 yards and two touchdowns.

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller: He finished with 81 yards rushing, 104 yards receiving, including a 56-yard touchdown, and a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was the third kickoff return for a touchdown this season for Spiller, an ACC single-season record. He finished with a school-record 310 all-purpose yards.

Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker: His 26-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Ford in overtime led the Tigers to a 40-37 upset road win over No. 10 Miami. He completed 25 of 37 passes for 326 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

FSU offensive coordinator encouraged by summer camp

September, 4, 2009
9/04/09
9:00
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Florida State enters Monday's Miami game as the front-runner to win the Atlantic Division (and last night's subpar performance by NC State's offense further validated that early pick, at least for now.) FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher has liked what he's seen this summer from every facet of his offense. And yes, the head-coach-in-waiting is keeping a watchful eye on the entire team, not just his offense. Here's the first part of our recent conversation:

Going into the summer, you had so many questions at wide receiver, but then guys started to shake out their legal issues. How confident are you in that group now?

Jimbo Fisher: Pretty confident. The challenge is how consistent will they perform, week in and week out, and keeping that focus, but we’ve got a good group of guys, and we’ve got a talented group of guys. You’re still always looking for consistency, but we’re seeing it more and more in practice every day.

Who do you think is going to be your go-to guy there? Any indications?

JF: It’s funny, there’s been a lot of guys. Rod Owens has had a super camp. Him and Rich Goodman have played well. [Jarmon] Fortson had some big scrimmages. Taiwan Easterling, he’s gotten back. There is no sign of his Achilles. He hasn’t missed a day. He hasn’t missed anything. He’s been good. [Louis] Givens coming back and doing some things. There’s a good group. Those first three guys have been the most consistent, but Bert Reed has had his big plays at times. They all bring a little something different to the table.

How good did it feel for you to be able to give Givens a scholarship?

JF: It was awesome, because he deserved it. He worked his tail off. He’s a great guy on special teams, and the numbers worked out. As people know, your numbers get screwed up sometimes to give a scholarship. There’s all kinds of legal implications, but it was super to be able to give it to him, and it was very well deserved.

How much more are you expecting out of your running game because the offensive line should be so much better, but they’re still young guys back there?

JF: They are, they’re still young. Jermaine has had a great camp, Ty’s gotten healthy now, and is really starting to come on, kept his weight up. There should be a good group. We feel very confident we’ll be able to run the football, and we have to be able to run the football.

You guys made a lot of strides in that area last year. I think it was some of the best numbers you’ve produced in a while. Is that because of the development of the offensive line? How do you see that growth continuing there?

JF: I see it continuing. I think our line grew, they got very good. Rick Trickett did a great job, and two, if you look at it, the ability for the receivers to have nice runs, the receivers did a good job running the football and the quarterback. You added a lot of yards, hidden yards people didn’t really see as much to a lot of different guys. The diversity helps, too.

What about Christian [Ponder]? You mentioned quarterback. I know last year he was banged up with his back, ribs, and all kinds of stuff. How much better can he be this year?

JF: I think he can be a lot better. I think he will be better. Especially as the consistency around him grows, you’re going to see his development grow. His confidence and his decision-making to know what people do and how they do it is going to grow. I think he’ll have a fine year, I really do.

Where did he make the biggest strides since last season?

JF: I think in just pure confidence. I think he knows he belongs here and he could be a heck of a player. When you’re confident in things, he really grabs ahold and his ability to learn and process information is very good.

Check back in a bit for Fisher's take on the Miami game and the NCAA's sanctions against coach Bobby Bowden.

Weekend rewinds: Scrimmage wrap-ups

August, 24, 2009
8/24/09
10:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich Here's a recap of the scrimmages that happened this weekend, with the help of the sports information directors, and the local newspapers that covered them: BOSTON COLLEGE As if things couldn't get worse for coach Frank Spaziani's quarterback situation in his first year, leading candidate Dave Shinskie was injured in Sunday's scrimmage. It might be a bruised rib. Here's how the rest of the team fared without him: All four quarterbacks played and redshirt freshman Justin Tuggle went 8-for-16 for 84 yards. Junior Codi Boek threw for 74 yards on a 6-for-12 day while freshmen Michael Marscovetra and Shinskie both had three completions. Junior Jordon McMichael and sophomore Colin Larmond Jr. both had three receptions for 18 and 33 yards, respectively. Sophomore Montel Harris was the leading rusher with 46 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown. Senior Steve Aponavicius went 2-for-4 in his field goal attempts, hitting from 42 yards both times. A 44-yard attempt went awry following a bad snap and his 37-yard try was blocked by sophomore Isaac Johnson. Redshirt freshman Alexander DiSanzo shined on defense with seven tackles, a forced a fumble and an interception. Senior Roderick Rollins and freshman Luke Kuechly both had a team-high nine tackles. DUKE Quarterbacks Thaddeus Lewis, Sean Renfree and Sean Schroeder combined to complete 25 of 39 passes for 240 yards. Renfree threw for a team-high 93 yards by hitting on 11 of 18 throws while Lewis was 7-of-12 for 86 yards. Freshman running back Desmond Scott led all receivers with six catches for 39 yards while rookie wideout Conner Vernon had three grabs for 42 yards. Redshirt sophomore running back Cameron Jones picked up a scrimmage-best 49 yards on just three rushing attempts. Defensively, sophomore safety Matt Daniels caused and recovered one fumble while redshirt sophomore cornerback Colin Jones registered one interception. Junior kicker Will Snyderwine booted a 27-yard field goal and successfully converted his lone PAT attempt. FLORIDA STATE Quarterback Christian Ponder had another good day, but with no interceptions, did the defense? Ponder wasn't thrilled with the results and said it might have been because guys were too eager to end their two-a-days. Jimbo Fisher said overall it was far too inconsistent. To read the Noles' entire practice report, click here. MARYLAND The Terps' scrimmage was a mixture of good and bad, and it was the latter that kept coach Ralph Friedgen going. There was one player, though, who made a name for himself in Friedgen's book -- redshirt freshman running back Gary Douglas. Douglas rushed 17 times for a scrimmage-high 122 yards, including four runs of 15 or more yards. He didn't score a touchdown but almost single-handedly led the offense down the field for a score on one drive, accounting for 72 of the 80 yards. Quarterback Chris Turner completed 13 of 20 passes for 113 yards. Backup Jamarr Robinson didn't fare quite as well as he had in previous scrimmages, hitting on just 5 of 14 passes for 59 yards, though he did direct two scoring drives. Mike Barbour looked sharp early, capping off two drives with field goals. The redshirt freshman, who had a leg up on the No. 1 place-kicker job, hit from 30 and 36 yards out. "Barbour started off pretty good, and then he missed his last three," Friedge
n said. "He kind of looked like he had solidified the job and then he opens it up again." Defensive back Eric Franklin, a true freshman, made a scrimmage-best eight tackles and picked off Turner on the sixth possession. MIAMI The Canes wrapped up their final two-a-day of fall camp on Sunday, and coach Randy Shannon said everything -- that's right, everything -- is still up for grabs. Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post had a couple of notes for you off Sunday's practice. Morning Practice Highlights -- (pads) Joe Joseph and Marcus Robinson each had a sack in 11-on-11 drills. Randy Phillips (INT, pass break-up) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (two pass break-ups) stood out in the secondary. Lee Chambers and Damien Berry each broke off a couple runs of 15+ yards. Javarris James caught several passes in both 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 sessions Afternoon Practice Highlights -- (shells) Sam Shields (red zone), Chavez Grant (7-on-7) and C.J. Holton (11-on-11) all recorded interceptions. Grant returned his for a touchdown while Holton caught his off a tipped pass. A.J. Highsmith connected with Tommy Streeter (11-on-11) and LaRon Byrd (7-on-7) for significant yardage. Damien Berry took a short pass in the flat from Taylor Cook for a long gain. Other highlights include a near interception by Randy Phillips, a pass break-up by Ramon Buchanan and a sack by Micanor Regis. Red zone touchdowns included Jacory Harris to Richard Gordon and Taylor Cook to Jimmy Graham. VIRGINIA TECH So ... add Ryan Williams to the list of VT running backs who are banged up. Williams sprained his ankle, and Josh Oglesby has "the worst infection" coach Billy Hite has ever seen on a foot. Also, the coaches want to redshirt Logan Thomas, and Kenny Lewis Jr.'s recovery has been delayed. Not a lot of happy news coming out of Blacksburg these days. To read Virginia Tech's entire scrimmage report, click here. Tyrod Taylor completed 8 of 11 passes for 78 yards. Xavier Boyce led all receivers with two catches for 47 yards. Freshman running back Tony Gregory rushed 18 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns. Williams rushed just five times for 22 yards before spraining his ankle and sitting out the rest of the scrimmage. He did score on a 4-yard run and he returned several punts. Matt Waldron was 4-for-4 on his field goal attempts. (31, 32, 43, 30) Defensive tackle Cordarrow Thompson led the defense with seven tackles, four for a loss, and one sack.

ACC's scrimmage stars

August, 17, 2009
8/17/09
3:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

More than half of the teams in the ACC held scrimmages this past weekend, and no, I didn't forget about them. Instead of giving you the entire practice reports, though, I decided to highlight a few scrimmage stars for each team. (Virginia also scrimmaged on Saturday but it was closed and they do not release stats.)

In some cases, like at Maryland and Boston College, the defense looked much sharper than the offense. At others, like Wake Forest, the offense lived up to the preseason expectations. And Virginia Tech looked good on special teams. The teams that have veteran quarterbacks took advantage of them, while others -- like Clemson and BC -- struggled. Here are a few of the top performers from Saturday:

MARYLAND
The defense had 12 sacks including two each by Derek Drummond and Obum Akinyili. Drummond, who is expected to be a key player at one of the end positions, also had the first scoring play of the day, sacking Jamarr Robinson in the end zone for a safety on the third series, which began at the 5-yard line.

BOSTON COLLEGE
The defense stole the show, and cornerback Isaac Johnson led the way with five tackles. Redshirt freshman defensive end Max Holloway had two quarterback sacks and returned an interception for a touchdown.

WAKE FOREST
The Deacs might have lost their leading receiver, but there are plenty of young players eager to take over, as 13 players caught at least one pass. Chris Givens finished with four catches for 50 yards and two touchdowns. Redshirt freshman Terence Davis led the receiving corps with six catches for 75 yards, including a gain of 25 yards. Riley Skinner completed 12 of 16 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns.

CLEMSON
Defensive ends Da'Quan Bowers and Ricky Sapp combined for five quarterback sacks. Malliciah Goodman, a freshman, also had a pair of sacks in the scrimmage that was played with no tackling the quarterback, so it was much easier to record sacks. Brandon Maye led the defense in tackles with seven, while Marcus Gilchrist had two tackles for loss and a 60 yard fumble return.

DUKE
The quarterbacks shone in the 60-play scrimmage with backup Sean Renfree completing 11-of-18 passes for 120 yards and 1 touchdown. Can't wait to see him play. Veteran Thaddeus Lewis completed 9-of-18 for 96 yards and an interception.

VIRGINIA TECH
Not a bad day for Beamerball. Matt Waldron made all four of his field-goal attempts, 42, 25, 46 and 25 yards, and Ryan Williams returned a punt for a touchdown. Lyndell Gibson intercepted a pass to go with five tackle. Logan Thomas completed 6-of-14 for 128 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.

FLORIDA STATE
Christian Ponder put up some no-nonsense numbers, completing 15 of 20 attempts for 287 yards and four touchdowns. Jarmon Fortson made three receptions for 106 yards, while Rod Owens added three for 84, including a touchdown. Markus White led the defense with six tackles.

ACC's lunchtime links: VT's Thomas pushing for No. 2 QB

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
12:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Whoa! All kinds of movement at Virginia Tech. Now Logan Thomas is tied with Ju-Ju Clayton as the No. 2 quarterback. 

  • Last year it was Florida State's offensive line. This year it's Maryland's defensive line. Somehow my position rankings have managed to inspire (and, uh, infuriate) players all over the conference. The coaches? I'm sure they don't mind. It only makes the players better. Just look at the magic I worked on FSU last year. 
  • If there's one defensive line to keep an eye on this fall, it's Wake Forest's, and Kyle Wilbur appears to be a rising star there.
  • Clemson's kicker is earning back the trust of his teammates and coaches this summer.
  • Speaking of Clemson, "Girdle-gate" is now over, but that didn't stop Duke coach David Cutcliffe from having a little fun with it.
  • Miami forward/tight end Jimmy Graham has quite a story to tell, and he's made several transitions along the way -- from an angry teenager to a polite young man, and from a forward to a tight end.
  • Virginia cornerback Chris Cook has gotten a second chance, and "it just feels right."
  • While Virginia Tech has lost a player to a torn ACL, they've also gotten one back.
  • UNC tight end Zack Pianalto appears poised to be the next great player at the position under Butch Davis.
  • FSU wide receiver Rod Owens has started to focus, and his inspiration came from an unfamiliar source -- Rick Trickett.
  • And, lastly, I was torn about including this one or not because there are so many errors in it, but it is a legitmate web site (you know, NFL.com), and it does highlight a decent amount of ACC linebackers for the 2010 draft. That is, of course, if Myron Rolle moves up from safety and Ricky Sapp moves back from bandit end. (And Rolle, for the record, went to FSU, not Miami. That error in itself was almost worth posting). But hey, Rolle was listed twice. I guess he's that good. And no, Dekoda Watson hasn't transferred to K-State.

Around the ACC

August, 13, 2009
8/13/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here are the reports that came in from Wednesday's practices around the league, as reported by each school's sports information office:

CLEMSON

Clemson had its second day of two-a-day practices on Wednesday. The Tigers worked for two hours and 15 minutes in the morning and for an hour and a half in the evening.

Much of the day was spent reviewing the film from Tuesday's scrimmage and correcting mistakes. Coach Dabo Swinney felt better about his team after watching the film on Tuesday afternoon and evening.

"We played better than I thought," said Swinney. "I was very disappointed with the penalties [on offense] and a lack of attention to detail immediately after the scrimmage. And I still feel that way about those mistakes. But after watching the film we played better overall than I thought."

Swinney was impressed with the performance of his defense after the scrimmage on Tuesday and he was still happy with that performance on Wednesday.

"We have a chance to be pretty salty on defense. I look out there and really can't tell the difference between the units. I was talking to Jamie Cumbie yesterday and he said it doesn't make any difference who starts, they are just waiting to have their name called.

"There is great depth on the defensive front and the secondary. The linebackers are doing well also. I was really impressed with Kavell Conner's performance on Tuesday. He has had a terrific preseason."

(Read full post)

FSU's Goodman wants to be 'first option'

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
4:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Instead of speaking with reporters following an inconsistent performance at practice on Tuesday, Florida State sophomore receiver Jarmon Fortson managed to sneak out without saying a word.

Fifth-year senior Richard Goodman, however, stuck around to address his role as a "second coach" on the field this fall and how his maturity helped him get through some off-field distractions this summer.

It was a visible example of how Goodman has become the leader and voice of a group that's bursting with young, yet immature talent. The problem is, Goodman hasn't played in a game since Oct. 27, 2007. More will be needed of him this season, and so far he's shown the potential to deliver.

"He's the experienced guy that can deal with the highs and lows and keep on pushing," offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher said.

(Read full post)

ACC power rankings

August, 10, 2009
8/10/09
10:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Summer camp has officially begun in the ACC, and there's a sense of urgency throughout the entire conference as the opening kickoffs are less than a month away. Things have changed since spring ball ended -- Nate Irving's status is questionable, Boston College found a quarterback, and FSU's receivers have been cleared by the law. Here's the latest ACC power ranking:

1. Virginia Tech -- Until somebody unseats them, the Hokies are the team to beat. Virginia Tech's opener against Alabama will determine whether or not it is a legitimate national title contender. There are no excuses for the offense not to improve, and the defense should again reload.

2. Georgia Tech -- Don't forget they were the co-Coastal Division champs a year ago, and return a league-high 19 starters from last year's nine-win season -- including nine on offense. The backfield is the deepest in the conference, and the offensive line should be better, but not even Paul Johnson knows what to expect from his defensive line.

3. Florida State -- One by one, the receivers have started to come back. Felony battery charges against Richard Goodman have been dismissed, Bert Reed should have completed his community service by the end of August, and Rod Owens' DUI case has been closed.

4. North Carolina -- Until we see how the passing game unfolds with the new receivers, the Tar Heels will have to work their way up the ranking, especially with three positions on the offensive line still unsettled. The defense will be the strength of the team while the offense literally catches up. 

5. NC State -- The Pack is already better than it was a year ago because of its quarterback situation, but this year it needs to start strong instead of making a desperate push at the end. The absence of Irving and the transfer of safety Jimmaul Simmons leaves question marks for the defense.

6. Miami -- It's simply impossible to ignore the fact the Canes are under the direction of a third defensive coordinator in as many seasons, are learning a new offensive scheme, have a brutal schedule, and are still young. But Jacory Harris has matured as the team leader, and he's surrounded by speed and skill.

7. Clemson -- Yes, the offensive line will be better, but how much better remains to be seen. It's the same group that paved the way for a whopping four yards against Nebraska in the bowl game. The starting quarterback has yet to be named, and the defense will be depended upon to win some games.

8. Wake Forest -- This is my darkhorse candidate in the Atlantic Division (last year it was Maryland). The offense is in place. The defensive line is in place. It's the linebackers and secondary that remain a question mark. You can't go wrong with the winningest quarterback in school history, but replacing those defensive playmakers will take time.

9. Maryland -- They think they're better. They're confident. But if Maryland couldn't do it last year with a senior-laden team or in 2006 when it was one win away, why should anyone outside the program have confidence it can do it with such a young, typically inconsistent team?

10. Boston College -- They found a quarterback. The question is, can he throw? The reports from Chestnut Hill say yes, but Dave Shinskie hasn't done it in a college game yet. Is the 25-year-old minor league pitcher the answer? He's got the supporting cast.

11. Duke -- Coach David Cutcliffe said he won't be satisfied with anything less than a bowl game, and this man means business. He's got one of the best quarterbacks in the league to work with, a dynamic rusher in Re'quan Boyette, and some big-name players on D. But you don't turn around two decades of losing in just two years.

12. Virginia -- The linebackers are gone. The receivers are gone. The leading rusher is gone. The offensive coordinator is gone. This is going to be a big transition year, and a bowl game should be considered a good season.

FSU receivers catch another break

August, 5, 2009
8/05/09
5:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Florida State wide receiver Rod Owens is the latest in a line of Noles receivers to resolve off-field legal issues before the start of summer camp.

Brian Landman of the St. Petersburg Times is reporting that Owens, who was arrested and charged with DUI in April, resolved his case on Wednesday afternoon. Owens could still face a one-game suspension from FSU, and if he does, we all know it will be a big one. Clearly, though, Florida State's situation at receiver is looking much brighter than it did in the spring.

FSU receivers ready for redemption

June, 4, 2009
6/04/09
2:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's only June, but Florida State's wide receivers are working with a sense of urgency and purpose not usually detected until August. They're lifting in the mornings, running in the afternoons, and participating in individual seven-on-sevens. They're catching about 100 balls from the JUGS machine every day.

And most importantly, they're trying to stay on their best behavior.

"It seems like the receivers are trying to get into trouble, and it's not like that," said walk-on Louis Givens, who is expected to be a major contributor this fall. "All of us are good guys, but we get caught in the wrong situation at the wrong time."

Rod Owens was suspended earlier this spring for a DUI charge, and Preston Parker was kicked off the team in February for multiple incidents. Richard Goodman, Bert Reed and Cameron Wade are all facing charges for their involvement in an on-campus fight last season. And to top it all off, Corey Surrency was denied an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.

After making headlines for all the wrong reasons, this group is intent on cleaning up their image -- starting now.

"Our mentality is to set the right impression," said Reed, who added his priorities this offseason start with being accountable to his teammates and coaches. "That's what our main focus is right now. Coach wouldn't have recruited us if we weren't good guys. We're all good guys. We just made mistakes and we were making mistakes at the wrong time -- back to back to back.

"We're making too many mistakes and hurting our team, obviously. It's hurting us at the same time but it's building up so much it's starting to hurt our team. I really feel like it's got to be dealt with. The athletic department is dealing with things, and we're kind of putting them in a bind right now."

Both Reed and Givens insist, though, that the off-field incidents haven't put the Noles in a bind on it. They point to Jarmon Fortson, Avis Commack and freshman Josh Gehres as players who made significant progress this spring. Tight end Caz Piurowski should also have an increased role in the passing game, and it would help dramatically for FSU to get Taiwan Easterling back from a ruptured Achilles.

"I wouldn't say we really lost a step," said Givens. "All these guys who backed up the guys from last year are here now, and they could have played last year and not missed a step. The spring was really strong."

Plus, the Noles have Reed, whose 23 receptions last year leads all returning receivers, and Givens, who caught two passes for 33 yards against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Reed has bulked up from 166 to 178 and has made the weight room a priority. He said part of the problem last year was that receivers weren't holding their blocks long enough to spring a big play.

"I've been working hard in the weight room," he said. "I want to block, I want to get in somebody's grill. That's been one of my main goals, if not my main goal, is just to put on some more weight, knowing you're going to take a little bit more pounding being in on every play, and playing outside receiver, I feel like guys can jam you, so I have to be prepared for that."

The receivers have also benefited from the steady progress of quarterback Christian Ponder, who is entering his second season as a starter.

"Ponder is putting it on the money," Reed said. "It doesn't really matter who the receiver is. That's what he's showing us -- it doesn't matter who it is out there running the route, he's going to put it in your chest. It's up to you to catch the ball, and all of us guys can catch the ball. We catch 100 balls a day from the JUGS. We have enough talent to play."

Their talent was never a question. Now they're out to prove discipline isn't one either.

ACC rewind: offseason troubles

June, 1, 2009
6/01/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

I'm ba-ack. I know, I know, some of you were hoping for a permanent vacation. Sorry, you're stuck with me. You'll live. Here's a quick recap of last week's ACC news and how it really will -- or won't -- affect this season:

  • FSU receiver facing felony battery charge: A witness identified Richard Goodman as the person who swung a chair and hit a female in the face during a brawl near the student union last November. Goodman is facing a second-degree felony charge and has been suspended indefinitely. Bobby Bowden is running out of receivers. Rod Owens was also suspended indefinitely for a separate incident. How this affects FSU's offense obviously depends on how long they are suspended for, and how quickly Taiwan Easterling recovers from an injury to his Achilles.
  • Clemson reserve Humphries suspended for first two games: This hurts the Tigers' depth and leadership, but won't cost them any wins. All five starters return to the offensive line, and it should still be a strength of the team. Barry Humphries started seven games in 2007 and was second on that team in knockdown blocks. He probably would have played more than 42 snaps last year had he not torn his ACL in a scooter accident. Humphries was arrested on a DUI charge in early May while driving his motor scooter in Clemson (hence the suspension). He was expected to be one of the team's top leaders. Now he's out for the games against Middle Tennessee and Georgia Tech.
  • Duke's Asack dismissed from the program: If Zack Asack had remained the Blue Devils' backup quarterback, it might have been more of a concern, but Asack moved to safety prior to the start of spring ball, and Sean Renfree proved more than capable of leading Duke's offense behind Thaddeus Lewis.

Congrats to Miami for not making this list. Randy Shannon is doing his job when it comes to discipline and changing the culture in Coral Gables, and South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde wrote an excellent column recognizing this.

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