ACC: Ryan Houston

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 3, 2012

Weekend rewind: ACC

November, 21, 2011
It’s unbelievable that the final week of the regular season is upon us. Here’s a look forward at the top three games of Week 13 and a look back at the highlights and lowlights of Week 12:

The good: Quarterback play. Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas, NC State’s Mike Glennon, Virginia’s Michael Rocco, Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington and Wake Forest’s Tanner Price all had impressive performances in their wins. Washington ran for more than 100 yards and passed for more than 100. Thomas accounted for three touchdowns, Price had 320 yards and three touchdowns, Glennon had three touchdowns and no interceptions, and Rocco’s poise on the final scoring drive was a big difference in the upset of FSU.

[+] EnlargeMike Glennon
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeMike Glennon guided NC State to an upset of Clemson.
The great: NC State’s performance against Clemson. Where has this team been all year? It was the most complete performance of the season for the Wolfpack, and the program’s first win over a top-10 team in five seasons under coach Tom O’Brien.

The bad: Ryan Houston’s fumble on the 5-yard line. With UNC on the verge of taking a 14-0 lead, Virginia Tech’s Antone Exum forced the fumble on the 5-yard line. The Hokies then drove 95 yards to tie the game at 7. What goes around comes around. Remember the last time UNC won in Blacksburg on a Thursday night? Ryan Williams' fumble had a hand in it.

The ugly: Clemson. It was a train wreck. The offense couldn’t get anything going, and the defense couldn’t make any stops. NC State played a terrific game, but Clemson had four turnovers and was just 2-of-14 on third downs.

The bizarre: The end of the FSU-Virginia game. The Hoos thought the game was over. Mike London was trying to get his team to the locker room. He should have hid them in there. A face mask penalty, the review of the incomplete pass, the missed field goal … can’t remember anything like it.

The punishment: Miami gave everything it had to beat South Florida 6-3 and become bowl eligible, only to find out on Sunday that the university decided not to participate in a bowl game this year.

Top three games of Week 13

1. No. 5 Virginia Tech at Virginia: The Coastal Division, the Commonwealth Cup, bragging rights, in-state recruiting -- it will all be on the line on Saturday in Charlottesville. Virginia Tech has won 11 of the past 12 games in the series, including in 2007, the last time the Hokies beat UVa in Charlottesville to win the Coastal Division title. Virginia enters the game on a four-game winning streak.

2. No. 17 Clemson at No. 12 South Carolina: The Tigers have lost each of the past two games against their in-state rival under coach Dabo Swinney, and they haven’t been playing as well as they had earlier in the season. Clemson has lost two of its last three, including an embarrassing 37-13 defeat to NC State this past weekend.

3. No. 13 Georgia at No. 23 Georgia Tech: The SEC East champs have won nine straight games and haven’t lost since Sept. 10 against South Carolina. The Bulldogs’ defense is No. 11 in the country and is holding opponents to 17.8 points per game. Georgia Tech is second in the country with 323.5 rushing yards per game.

ACC power rankings: Week 13

November, 21, 2011
There has been a change at the top. Clemson’s loss to N.C. State, coupled with its underwhelming performances in each of the past three games, now have the Tigers looking up at the Hokies, despite the regular-season game. Here’s a look at your new leader board in the ACC:

1. Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1 ACC; LW: No. 2) – It wasn’t their finest performance of the season, but the Hokies found a way to beat North Carolina in a nationally televised Thursday night game and will play rival Virginia for the Coastal Division title this weekend.

2. Clemson (9-2, 6-2 ACC; LW: No. 1) – It was a meltdown of epic proportions, even by Clemson’s standards. The Tigers couldn’t seem to do anything right against N.C. State and haven’t been in sync recently. It’s a good thing for Clemson that it clinched the Atlantic Division title before it faced N.C. State.

3. Virginia (8-3, 5-2 ACC; LW: No. 4) – The Cavaliers shocked Florida State with a 14-13 win in Tallahassee, the program’s first win at FSU. Virginia has never played in the ACC title game, but can make its first appearance with a win over rival Virginia Tech on Saturday in Charlottesville.

4. Georgia Tech (8-3, 5-3 ACC; LW: No. 5) – The Yellow Jackets are going to have to play much better than they did against Duke if they’re going to stand a chance against rival Georgia this weekend. Seven penalties and two turnovers won’t fly against the SEC East champs.

5. Wake Forest (6-5, 5-3 ACC; LW: No. 6) – The Deacs got off to a slow start against Maryland but pulled away in the second half to earn bowl eligibility for the first time in three seasons. The win snapped a three-game losing streak and gave the players and coaches some relief about their postseason heading into the regular-season finale against Vanderbilt.

6. Florida State (7-4, 5-3 ACC; LW: No. 3) – It seemed like no matter how many second chances the Noles were given on Saturday, they couldn’t seal the deal against Virginia. There were too many mistakes and penalties, and Florida State looked disorganized down the stretch. The good news? The Noles still look better than rival Florida.

7. N.C. State (6-5, 3-4; LW: No. 8) – The Wolfpack beat Clemson in all four phases of the game and can now become bowl eligible by beating Maryland in the regular-season finale on Saturday. There’s only one question remaining: Which N.C. State team will show up? The one that lost to BC and got drubbed by Cincinnati? Or the one that beat UNC for a fifth straight time and knocked off a Top 10 team two weeks later?

8. Miami (6-5, 3-4 ACC; LW: No. 7) – The Hurricanes played their hearts out and became bowl eligible with a 6-3 road win over South Florida. One day later, they learned the university had self-imposed a bowl ban this season. Now the Canes have to pick up the pieces in time for Friday’s game against Boston College.

9. North Carolina (6-5, 2-5 ACC; LW: No. 9) – A fumble by Ryan Houston at the 5-yard line was a costly mistake, but it wasn’t the only one as the Tar Heels fell to Virginia Tech, 24-21, on Thursday night. UNC has lost two straight heading into the regular-season finale against Duke.

10. Boston College (3-8, 2-5; LW: No. 11) – BC pushed Notre Dame to the brink before losing, 16-14, but the Eagles had plenty of opportunities they didn’t capitalize on. BC was just 3-of-13 on third-down conversions, and the offense struggled for most of the second half. BC will try to finish the season on a positive note on Friday at Miami.

11. Duke (3-8, 1-6 ACC; LW: No. 10) – The Blue Devils put up a fight against Georgia Tech before losing 38-31 and have now lost six straight. Despite the fact they beat BC during the regular season, Duke got bumped down a notch because the Blue Devils haven’t shown enough progress to come out on the winning end.

12. Maryland (2-9, 1-6 ACC; LW: No. 12) – And yet despite Duke’s miserable finish to the season, Maryland has fared worse. The biggest problem is the defense, which can’t seem to stop anyone. The Terps haven’t won a game since Oct. 1 against Towson. They’ve lost seven straight.

Week 1: Did you know?

September, 2, 2011
A little dose of ACC notes you hopefully haven't heard already ...

BOSTON COLLEGE: The Boston College defense has allowed just eight 100-yard rushers since 2005, a mark tied with Alabama and Ohio State for best in the country. Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams was the last player to run for 100 yards (or more) against BC. He rushed for 159 yards on 18 carries in a 48-14 win at Lane Stadium on Oct. 10, 2009.

CLEMSON: Since 1977, Clemson quarterbacks are a combined 14-6 when making their first start. Four of the last five Clemson quarterbacks have won their first start with the only loss coming in Dabo Swinney’s first game as head coach against Georgia Tech in October of 2008.

DUKE: Duke’s two quarterbacks, Sean Renfree and sophomore Brandon Connette, combined for 12 of the Blue Devils’ 19 rushing touchdowns last season. Renfree accounted for four scores while Connette led the team with eight. The 12 rushing touchdowns from the quarterback position tied a school record set in 1976 when quarterback Mike Dunn ran for a team-high 12 touchdowns.

FLORIDA STATE: This is the first time since 2004 that Florida State was the highest ranked team from the state of Florida in the preseason AP Poll. FSU was fifth that year and didn't even make it past week two without a loss, en route to a 9-3 season with a final ranking of 15.

MARYLAND: During the past 10 seasons, Maryland has had three full-time punters (Brooks Barnard, Adam Podlesh, and Travis Baltz), three long snappers (Jon Condo, Andrew Schmitt and Tim Downs) and zero blocked punts. The Terrapins’ streak without a blocked punt goes back 137 games, the longest streak in college football.

MIAMI: The opener at Maryland is the first of only three games the Canes will play outside of Florida this season. The others are at Virginia Tech on Oct. 8 and at North Carolina the following week.

NORTH CAROLINA: Tailback Ryan Houston, a native of Charlotte, N.C., has scored 17 touchdowns in his past 25 games. He is tied for second place among all returning ACC runners in career touchdowns with 18. He rushed for a team-best 713 yards on 191 carries and scored nine touchdowns in 2009.

NC STATE: TE George Bryan is tied for the conference’s lead in career receiving TDs among active players (13) and is eight yards short of 1,000 for his career.

VIRGINIA: PK Robert Randolph is 30-for- 37 (.811) in career field-goal accuracy. Randolph, who scored on a fake field goal at Duke on Nov. 20, was one of only two kickers to record a touchdown last season in FBS play. He’s the only ACC kicker to find the end zone since at least the 2005 season.

VIRGINIA TECH: Virginia Tech senior wide receiver Jarrett Boykin needs just four catches to become the school’s all-time leader in receptions (126 by Ernest Wilford, 2000-03).

Summer summary: North Carolina

August, 26, 2011
Snoozing on the Tar Heels? Don’t. They’re strong up front. In case you missed summer camp …

  • Everett Withers has officially taken over, and on the field, there haven’t been many drastic changes since the Butch Davis era ended. The offensive line remains the best it has been in about a decade, and on both sides of the ball, there’s not a true weakness up front. There’s also plenty of talented depth behind them.
  • In addition to a new coach, the Tar Heels have ushered in first-year starting quarterback Bryn Renner. He has been consistently good this summer, but the question remains how he’ll fare in game situations. He’s a high-energy player who might have to curb his enthusiasm a bit to keep the offense under control. Renner needs to stay healthy and play well, because there’s not a lot of answers behind him.
  • The running back situation remains a question, as starter Ryan Houston wore a noncontact jersey all summer because of a fractured scapula he suffered in the spring game, and Giovani Bernard was noncontact about half the time because of a fractured bone in his hand. There is some excitement surrounding Bernard because he has a different style than Houston, but he hasn’t played yet.
  • UNC found it has some good, young tight ends in Eric Albright and Jack Tabb , but there are also veterans like Nelson Hurst and Christian Wilson. UNC likes to feature the tight end in its offense, so the player who emerges from that group will be a factor.
  • Linebackers Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick have already developed a reputation as strong players, but the staff is still trying to figure out who the third linebacker is. Ebele Okakpu has been in the program for four years, but has the light switch finally come on?
  • The biggest questions remain in the secondary, where the one true weakness remains. Charles Brown will miss the season opener because of NCAA issues, and Jabari Price, the other expected starter at cornerback, is out with an injury. Tre Boston moved from safety to cornerback, and the other cornerback is a true freshman, Tim Scott. UNC moved receiver Todd Harrelson to corner and he will help out with the second team, but he hasn’t played the position since high school.
  • The return game and special teams struggled last season, with the exception of kicker Casey Barth, and they remain questions because they can’t be practiced live. Game time will determine how much the Tar Heels have improved in these areas.

The return game and special teams struggled last season, with the exception of kicker Casey Barth, and they remain questions because they can’t be practiced live. Game time will determine how much the Tar Heels have improved in these areas.

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 26, 2011
Did somebody say chat?

UNC secondary ready to reload

July, 21, 2011
When North Carolina lined up against LSU in the season opener last year, the Tar Heels were without their entire starting secondary and top reserve safety, all of whom were held out of the game because of the NCAA investigation. The situation worsened in the first quarter when Mywan Jackson suffered a head injury. The Tar Heels turned to true freshman Tre Boston, and walk-on Pete Mangum was the nickel back.

[+] EnlargeMatt Merletti
Bob Donnan/US PresswireThe Tar Heels' Matt Merletti is part of an experienced secondary that learned on the job last season.
Nothing but experience could have possibly prepared any of them for that game.

“It’s hard to learn all of the signals,” safety Matt Merletti said. “You can’t hear when you’re out there, especially in the Georgia Dome. You can’t hear anything. It’s all hand signals. It’s like sign language. That was one of the hardest parts, making sure everyone knew the play. The first touchdown they scored, we were running two different plays. It was hard to try and get everybody on the same page. That was just inexperience.”

That was then.

On paper, North Carolina’s secondary looks like a concern, as three starters from a year ago must be replaced. On the field, though, there is enough talent and experience returning that the Tar Heels should be able to reload in the secondary, not rebuild. Last year’s disaster has turned into beneficial experience for this year’s group, which has come a long way since the loss to LSU.

“That was a huge, huge growing experience for us,” Merletti said. “Before the LSU game, I had had one play on defense. It was my sophomore year back in 2008. A lot of us, Tre, Jabari (Price), Gene Robinson and myself, we were really thrown into the fire so to speak. Our coaches called it baptism by fire. It’s hard to do at first, but it really does help you in the long run and you develop as players much quicker on defense.”

Last season, Charles Brown, who would have been a starter, missed the entire season because of the NCAA investigation. He returns this fall and is a projected starter. Safety Jonathan Smith, who was the third safety two seasons ago and played about 22-25 snaps a game, also missed last season because of the NCAA investigation, but returns as a projected starter this season. Both spent all of last season on the scout team. Boston, who moved from corner to safety this past spring, and Price, who started the final four games of 2010 at cornerback, are now expected to show even more progress as full-time starters.

Defensive backs coach Troy Douglas said he doesn’t expect Brown or Smith to be rusty this fall.

“I think they’ll be fine,” he said. “They’ll get the speed of the game back. We do a lot of work good on good, so they’ll get the speed of the game back. I worry a little more if they’ve never played before, but they all have played. It’s just a matter of getting back in the flow and getting the speed of the game.”

Douglas said he wants more depth in the secondary, but the Tar Heels are in good shape with Merletti, who was the nickel back last season and will be the first safety in, Jackson, who has limited starting experience, and Robinson, who has played nickel, cornerback and safety. The staff has yet to determine what Robinson’s role will be this season, but he’s proven capable of three.

“The thing I think we’ve done is we’ve gotten bigger,” Douglas said. “I love KB (Kendric Burney) and those guys, but the corners we have now, we’re recruiting bigger kids. Our safeties are big, but by moving a corner to safety, I’m talking about Tre, you probably get a little more athletic. You worry about will he tackle? He proved in the spring, he faced up Ryan Houston several times in the spring, and I don’t expect we’ll play a back any bigger than him at 240. If he’ll stick his face in there against him, I imagine he’ll do it during the season.”

After last season’s surprise initiation, all of the rookie defensive backs should be better prepared to face the competition.

“It definitely made us confident,” Merletti said. “It doesn’t get any bigger than that. It was a good experience to have.”

Heather Dinich discusses the potential impact of running back Ryan Houston.

ACC's top 10 running backs

June, 20, 2011
The ACC position rankings continue today with the running backs.

Montel Harris
Sean Meyers/Icon SMIMontel Harris is the ACC's leading returning rusher, coming off a 1,243-yard season.
1. Montel Harris, Boston College: Until proven otherwise, this record-setter is tops in the ACC. He’s currently the league’s most accomplished back, and has topped the 100-yard mark 21 times.

2. David Wilson, Virginia Tech: He was the team’s third-leading rusher a year ago with 619 yards and 5.5 yards per carry. Now he’s got the spotlight to himself, and has a chance to become an All-American in both track and football.

3. Lamar Miller, Miami: He had one of the best spring games in the conference, and averaged six yards per carry last year with only 108 carries for 646 yards and six touchdowns. He also had 11 catches for 96 yards.

4. Chris Thompson, Florida State: He led FSU with 845 yards and 6.3 yards per carry last year. He also had 19 catches for 155 yards.

5. Andre Ellington, Clemson: He could break 1,000 yards if he stays healthy, but a nagging toe injury has kept him from reaching his potential. He ran for 686 yards, (5.8 ypc), and 10 touchdowns in less than nine full games.

6. Josh Harris, Wake Forest: He ranked fifth in the ACC last year with 65.5 yard per game and finished with 720 yards on 126 carries and seven touchdowns. He made a name for himself with 241 rushing yards against ACC champ Virginia Tech.

7. Davin Meggett, Maryland: He was the Terps’ leading rusher with 720 yards, 5.7 yards per carry, and four touchdowns. He also has 29 career pass receptions for 313 yards and a touchdown.

8. Mustafa Greene, NC State: He led the team in rushing as a freshman with 597 yards and four touchdowns. He also had 30 catches for 272 yards.

9. Ryan Houston, North Carolina: He has broken out of the mold of the Tar Heels’ short-yardage back and is ready to be the every-down guy. Houston sat out last year because of a suspension, but he led UNC in rushing in 2009 with 713 yards and nine touchdowns.

10. Orwin Smith, Georgia Tech: He's an A-back, which is more of a slot back, but he was Tech's third-leading rusher last year with 516 yards and 9.7 yards per carry with four touchdowns. He was also the second-leading receiver on the team with 12 catches for 195 yards and a 16.2 yards-per-play average.
Last week we looked at how the quarterbacks stacked up in the ACC. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the running backs. Again, the position rankings by team put heavy weight on the depth of the position -– hence the team ranking, not individual. Just because Virginia Tech has one of the best running backs in the ACC doesn’t mean that collectively, as a group, Virginia Tech is the best team in the league at the position. Florida State? Loaded. Wake Forest? Not. These are based on the best combination of talent, experience and depth.

Here’s a look at how each team ranks in the position:

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIChris Thompson averaged 6.4 yards per carry for the Seminoles last season.
1. Florida State: Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas combined for 1,862 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, and 17 touchdowns last year. Thompson had 1,000 yards combined from both rushing and receiving last year, and Thomas enters his senior season with 1,084 career yards -- the second most of any active ACC runner, behind only Montel Harris (3,600).

2. Boston College: Montel Harris could break a 33-year-old ACC rushing record this fall, and his backup, Andre Williams, is a bigger back who has proven more than capable of shouldering the load himself. Together they’re one of the best one-two combos in the league.

3. Miami: The transfer of Storm Johnson hurt, but Lamar Miller should be one of the best in the ACC, and Mike James was ahead of Johnson on the depth chart. The Canes also have Darion Hall, Maurice Hagens and incoming freshman Kevin Grooms.

4. Clemson: Andre Ellington will be the leader of the pack, but true freshman Mike Bellamy could also make an immediate impact, and the group runs deep with Roderick McDowell, D.J. Howard and Demont Buice.

5. Virginia Tech: Had Ryan Williams and Darren Evans returned, this would have been one of the premier groups of running backs in the country. Instead, it will be the David Wilson show (and Josh Oglesby). Not that the Hokies will have any problem with that.

6. Maryland: Davin Meggett and D.J. Adams are a talented duo, but depth should be a concern. Meggett posted a team-high 720 rushing yards in 2010, while Adams had a freshman school-record 11 rushing touchdowns.

7. NC State: The Wolfpack are in a much better position at running back than they were a year ago, when nobody with starting experience returned. Mustafa Greene, James Washington and Brandon Barnes should make NC State’s running game a bigger factor this fall.

8. Georgia Tech: Coach Paul Johnson isn’t concerned about his B-back position because it’s one of the deepest on the team. There isn’t one superstar like in recent years, but Richard Watson, Charles Perkins and Preston Lyons will work together to keep the Jackets one of the top rushing teams in the country.

9. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace three tailbacks who accounted for 96 percent of their rushing last year. Ryan Houston is back for his sixth season of eligibility, but he is the only one who has seen significant playing time. Giovani Bernard, Hunter Furr and Travis Riley help the depth.

10. Wake Forest: Josh Harris could crack the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy, and Brandon Pendergrass is a capable backup. There are three true freshmen at the position, and it’s one area coach Jim Grobe can’t afford any injuries.

11. Virginia: Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are talented, but the Cavaliers will miss the production of Keith Payne, who accounted for 14 of the team’s 17 rushing touchdowns. Jones started all but one game last year, but only scored one touchdown.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils’ running game is starting to show progress, but last year it still ranked 104th in the country. Depth isn’t a problem, as Desmond Scott, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson should help make it a more productive group this year.

Stay tuned for the top 10 ACC running backs for 2011 ...

Friday mailblog

May, 27, 2011
After sorting through some angry Carolina mail, I found some questions ...

Chris in Myrtle Beach, S.C., writes:Heather!!! Please answer or address this question in your blog!!!! I'm beggingHow did GT Running Back Anthony Allen's statements about the NFL teams questioning Paul Johnson's offense affect GT's ability to recruit a high caliber running back? Allen basically said he was not drafted because the NFL teams felt his numbers were inflated by the offense he played in. In hindsight, it might have affected Dwyers draft status as well. Your thoughts?

HD: Considering they've only got two recruits so far in the 2012 class, it's a little too early to tell. If I'm a high school running back, though, I see Georgia Tech's offense as a chance to flourish. Who doesn't want to be a 1,000-yard rusher? As for the NFL's take on Paul Johnson's offense, sure, it's bound to affect some recruits. But it's certainly not the first time Johnson has had to go into a kid's living room and explain to recruits and their parents the misconceptions about his offense. Georgia Tech fans should be less concerned about Allen's statements and the NFL's take on Georgia Tech's offense and more concerned about the overall level of talent Johnson and his staff are bringing in.

Luke in Tennessee writes: HD, In the Chat on Tuesday you predicted that Clemson would fall to USC for the 3rd straight year. Doesnt that spell the end for Dabo? Aynthing short of an ACC title coupled with another loss to USC would certainly have the Tiger faitful in an uproar. Am I off track here?

HD: Luke I think the only way Dabo Swinney is done is if the Tigers suffer a second straight losing season. Other than that, I think he's safe and he SHOULD be safe because of the turnover on offense. There has to be some understanding by the administration and fans that a) this is a transition season for the offense and b) It was only two seasons ago that Swinney was playing in the ACC title game.

Brian in Baltimore writes: HD, you seem to be giving the Noles a lot of hype going into this year, and more so because Emanuel will be behind the helm. I feel like you are forgetting the Hokies 'let the dogs out' on FSU in the ACC title game last year, with Emanuel starting. While I know Tyrod is not there for the Hokies this year, we do have LT (who has received some serious hype). When are you and the other Pundits going to stop doubting the Hokies year in and out and realize they own the ACC?

HD: I think Logan Thomas is going to be a fantastic quarterback, and there's a good chance he's better than EJ Manuel. But here's the thing: I'm writing off of what I know right this very second, and Manuel has the edge in experience, particularly in big games. The fact that he's already played in the ACC title game should be a bonus on his résumé, not a reason to knock him.

Travis in Bowling Green, Ky., writes: How come none of FSU's running backs are getting much love? Chris Thompson and Jermaine Thomas are back. Freeman and Wilder Jr are going to get in the mix as well. Don't why people aren't talking them up? This running back core is going to have great depth and skill.

HD: Because so many people are focused on the quarterback. But you're right, it should be the best running backs group in the ACC.

Frank in Cincinnati writes: Do you really think within the next four years, when Al Golden has his players & his philosophy implemented into the psyche of the team. That he will have turned Miami into a National Title contender??

HD: I honestly think it's waaay too early to tell. Let's see how Golden does in his first season in the ACC against tougher competition than what he faced in the MAC, and how he fares in the Xs and Os against veterans like Frank Beamer and David Cutcliffe. When you talk about Miami and the next four years, the first thought that comes to mind is quarterbacks. Golden needs to bring in a star. Now.

A.J.A. in Raleigh, N.C., writes: What do you think the record of UNC will be? Renner is a mystery and I still wonder about Ryan Houston. I think we will have a pretty good good defence and great young recievers this year. Also, will UNC beat NC State? What do they need to be able to beat them?

HD: I think the Heels can have a nine-win season or better if -- IF -- the roster remains intact. Yes, I think UNC will beat NC State this season ... something about the law of averages?

Steve in Knoxville, Tenn., writes: Heather,Don't let my location fool you. I am born and raised in Baltimore, MD and obviously I am a diehard Terps fan. I have read a lot of your recent blogs about the upcoming year and have noticed one major thing consistent in all dont give any love to the TERPS!!!What's your deal? We have the reigning ACC ROY, we were one bad play away in the FSU game last year to play in the ACC Championship, but you dont mention anything about DOB for POY, dont mention anything for must see game with any MD game. I simply dont get how you overlook the Terps so much. I guess you can join the rest of the haters out there and doubt us. See you in the ACC Championship game and we will see what you write.

HD: Here's the thing, Steve: As long as I have been covering the ACC, Maryland has been average at best. You mention the one bad play away, but it wasn't just Florida State, it was Miami, too. Maryland can and will be a contender in the ACC, but until it begins to recruit on par with the likes of Florida State and Clemson, and until it can continue to win the key game against Boston College, its ceiling will be a borderline top-25 team. And as for Danny O'Brien, he's definitely a candidate for ACC's POY.

My vote: 2011 ACC champ

May, 19, 2011
Once again, ACC fans can expect a wide-open conference race. With more than half of the teams introducing new quarterbacks, there are bound to be some close games resulting from rookie mistakes and more than one team pushing league front-runners Virginia Tech and Florida State. But will anyone push hard enough to knock the defending division champs from their respective perches? The majority of ACC fans seem to think not. Florida State was your pick to win the ACC this year with Virginia Tech slightly trailing in last week's poll.

My vote: Florida State

Making the case for the Seminoles: Florida State returns 18 starters from last year's Atlantic Division championship team, including what could be the best kicker/punter combo in the country. First-time starting quarterback EJ Manuel is hardly a rookie, the Noles are deep on both sides of the ball and the one position that lost the most starting experience -- linebacker -- could actually be even better. The question isn't whether Florida State will be good in 2011, it's if the Seminoles can be great.

Give more credit to: North Carolina. First-year starting quarterback Bryn Renner had one of the more impressive spring-game performances, and he will have one of the best offensive lines in the ACC to work behind. He has a potential 1,000-yard receiver in Dwight Jones, a veteran tailback in Ryan Houston and nobody looking over his shoulder. Numerous players gained valuable experience last year because of the suspensions that resulted from the NCAA investigation.
Last week you had a chance to cast your vote on who would be the ACC's most improved player in 2011. It was a tight race, as all of the candidates -- Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro, North Carolina tailback Ryan Houston, Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig and Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington -- are expected to be, and need to be, better this fall. Harris, at last look, was leading the race, but it was difficult this spring to tell just how much improvement he made. We'll find out if and when he's named Miami's starter for 2011. Until then, my vote goes to ...

My vote: Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig.

Making the case for Rettig: With the hire of Kevin Rogers as offensive coordinator, Rettig's improvement seems inevitable. Rogers has worked with Brett Favre, former Virginia Tech quarterbacks Bryan Randall and Marcus Vick, and another great quarterback in Donovan McNabb. Rettig's comfort level in the huddle and as a starter should be much better now that he's entering his second season, and there will be plenty of talent returning surrounding him, especially with the anticipated return of receiver Colin Larmond Jr.

Give the guy credit: Where's the love for Clemson's kicker? Catanzaro made six of his final seven field goals last season, and he also finished strong this spring. If he picks up where he left off, he's bound to improve.
One of Boston College’s biggest obstacles in recent seasons has been finding a dependable quarterback. Dominique Davis transferred to East Carolina, and his backup, Justin Tuggle also transferred. Dave Shinskie, who came in as a 25-year-old minor league baseball player, was benched last season in favor of a true freshman, Chase Rettig. It’s not the only factor, but how much progress Rettig made between Year 1 and Year 2 will go a long way in determining how seriously the Eagles should be taken in this year’s Atlantic Division race.

Rettig is hardly the only player in the conference, though, whose improvement should be noticeable – and needed. Clemson lost five games by a touchdown or less last season, including the overtime loss to Auburn, which slipped away with a missed field goal in overtime. How much more consistent can kicker Chandler Catanzaro be?

At Miami, the Hurricanes are most in need of improved quarterback play, and Jacory Harris will have to make better decisions in order to win his job back this summer. North Carolina tailback Ryan Houston will be expected to carry the running game this season, but can he break out of the mold of a short-yardage back and become the every down guy for the Heels? At Georgia Tech, quarterback Tevin Washington completed only 41 percent of his passes (25 of 61) for three touchdowns and two interceptions. He, too, must show improvement this summer as there are several eager young quarterbacks waiting in the wings.
Despite the return of veteran Ryan Houston, North Carolina coach Butch Davis said on Thursday's spring coaches' teleconference that he wants more than one running back to carry the load this fall.

"You have to have a stable of running backs," he said. "I don’t know that I even want to have one guy you say this guy is going to take 95 percent of the reps. I think it’s a detriment to the kid."

Davis said that when he was at Miami, he always played two and possibly a third running back and would like to do the same this fall. Last year, because of injuries, he didn't have much choice. This year, he doesn't have much experience to choose from after the departures of Johnny White, Shaun Draughn and Anthony Elzy.

Houston was the leading rusher in 2009 but redshirted last year after his season was disrupted by the NCAA investigation. He's the most experienced of the group, as Hunter Furr played sparingly last year and Giovani Bernard and true freshman Travis Riley have yet to see the field.

"There’s plenty enough work to get two good quality players a lot and maybe a third," Davis said. "We’ve got to have more than one running back and we’ve got an awful lot of unproven guys."