ACC: Ryan Shuman
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Position rankings today will include who has what up front. While it's not exactly glamorous, it wins games.
Let's start with the offensive lines.
1. Florida State -- Ah, it's amazing what a year can do, no? At this point last season, I had the Noles ranked No. 12. That's right, and I'd do it again. There wasn't a senior in the group, and they were the youngest O-line in the FBS with a lot to prove. It was a work in progress, and the tight ends had to help out, but Rick Trickett did a heck of a job, and I take partial credit for the motivation. You're welcome, coach. Now this group, led by Rodney Hudson, Ryan McMahon and Andrew Datko could be one of the best in the country.
2. Boston College -- Four starters return who started all 14 games last year, including potential All-ACC candidates Anthony Castonzo and Matt Tennant. It took some time for this group to come together after Castonzo moved from right tackle to left, Thomas Claiborne was a defensive lineman who moved to the right guard spot and Rich Lapham came off the bench in nine games in 2007. Once they got comfortable, they were a major factor in the success of true freshmen running backs Montel Harris and Josh Haden. It should only be better this year.
3. Wake Forest -- This should be a much-improved group, and deeper, especially with the return of Chris DeGeare, who missed last fall for academic reasons, at left tackle. Seven players with starting experience return to the offensive line and they have combined for 95 career starts. Russell Nenon, who moved to center after Trey Bailey broke his ankle last year, has solidified the position, and Jeff Griffin, who had been a starting tackle, is now comfortable at right guard. Barrett McMillin returns at guard.
4. Clemson -- This is where the problems began last year, and it should be part of the solution in 2009. In 2008, Clemson had to replace four starters. This year, all five starters return. Since 1963, Clemson has had a winning percentage of 76 percent when it returns five starters on the offensive line. Thomas Austin has starting experience at center and guard and should be one of the top offensive linemen in the 2010 NFL draft.
5. Virginia Tech -- The Hokies should be more athletic up front, and this unit goes eight deep, which might be the best depth they've had in the past two seasons. Ed Wang, who is entering his third season as a starter and Sergio Render, who is entering his fourth, are the veterans of a group that includes seven redshirt freshmen and sophomores on the two-deep. Beau Warren is expected to replace Ryan Shuman at center and Jaymes Brooks took over the right guard position and played well in the Orange Bowl in place of an ineligible Nick Marshman.
6. Miami -- Depth remains a concern, but veteran tackle Jason Fox is as dependable as they come, with 36 career starts. There were some tweaks to the line this past spring, as Matt Pipho will be the new starter at right tackle, and the staff is eager to see how he handles that role. A.J. Trump moved from right guard to center, and Joel Figueroa took over at right guard. The health of the starters will be key through the tough stretch to start the season.
7. Georgia Tech -- There is definitely potential here, but first the Jackets have to replace Andrew Gardner and David Brown, which they started to do last season when that duo got hurt. Then they have to keep everyone healthy, which didn't happen this spring. With Dan Voss, Nick Claytor and Cord Howard back for summer camp, and Joseph Gilbert having started 12 games last year, this group should improve and be more consistent this fall, but it will get even better as Paul Johnson's staff begins to recruit more athletic linemen.
8. Virginia -- There are no athletic freaks on the line like coach Al Groh usually finds, but it should still be a solid group. Four starters return, including senior right tackle Will Barker, who has 37 starts. Junior B.J. Cabbell at right guard was a solid blocker last year in his first season as starter, as was Jack Shields, who improved as the season progressed. Sophomore Austin Pasztor moved into the starting lineup against Maryland and sophomore Landon Bradley was Eugene Monroe's backup.
9. NC State -- The good news is that the Pack have plenty of upperclassmen to depend on, and four of the five starters have combined to start 60 games. The only player listed as a current starter who has never started is redshirt senior Andy Barbee, who has spent the previous three years as a reserve center but has now moved to guard. Behind those veterans are several players who redshirted last year and will be given an equal opportunity for playing time.
10. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels took a hit early last month when starter Aaron Stahl decided to forgo his final year of eligibility to "move forward with the next phase of [his] life." His experience will be tough to replace, but there are a handful of players who had a good spring and will compete for his spot. Kyle Jolly, who is entering his third year as a starter, Alan Pelc, who earned a starting job at guard last year, and Lowell Dyer, who has started at center each of the past two seasons, will be the leaders of the line.
11. Maryland -- The Terps lost five of their top seven offensive linemen, including three starters, and the development of their replacements will go a long way in determining how their season unfolds. Despite the graduation of longtime center Edwin Williams, it's the position of least concern as the staff is confident in the leadership and playing abilities of Phil Costa. There are also high expectations for left tackle Bruce Campbell, a physically gifted athlete.
12. Duke -- This has been a trouble spot for the Blue Devils for years, and it's a work-in-progress for coach David Cutcliffe. This year should be another challenge as Duke has to replace three starters after making some progress last year. Center Bryan Morgan is the anchor of the group and enters his second season as a starter and is the only player back in his original position. Kyle Hill moved from left guard to left tackle, so this group will have a whole new look.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Did somebody say Bama? Frank Beamer plays horseshoes?
How early did you guys start looking at Alabama film as a coaching staff?
Bryan Stinespring: I'm not going to kid you. We've already taken a look. There's been some breakdowns already. I'm sure on their part, too. Once the game was signed, both schools exchanged film the day after, I think. Most of us understand the significance of this ball game. We certainly understand Alabama and how good they are and what this means for an early game. You want to be as prepared as you possibly can, but again, you're calling at a time of the season where you just come off recruiting, and you're gearing up to start recruiting the next class, and also still going back and still scouting yourself.
What's the state of your offensive line? How do they look going into the spring?
BS: Obviously we've got to replace Ryan Shuman. I think Ryan Shuman without question was our most improved player. That's a tremendous attribute to say about a young man because most of the time you're talking about a guy who's improved from his freshman to sophomore, sophomore to junior, which Ryan did, but really his greatest improvement was from his junior to his senior year and what he put into it. I think we lost our best player, our most consistent player.
We've got a lot of confidence in Beau Warren who had to start some games when Ryan was hurt. When he stepped in and filled that void, we felt very good about it because you've got guys like Blake DeChristopher, Ed Wang, Sergio Render, Jaymes Brooks -- who I thought did a fantastic job in his first start in the Orange Bowl. Those guys returning, with some guys like Nick Becton ... depth already you're talking about and looking for. Will Alvarez was a top prospect coming out of high school, redshirted. We feel like there's a mixture of good experience, guys who played a lot of snaps, and some really promising guys behind them.
We feel like in some regards, we're in good shape going into the spring. There's a couple of depth questions, but there always are. We feel pretty good about it. When you've got four starters coming back who played in the Orange Bowl, and played well for you down the stretch. They went from a Boston College game in Chestnut Hill to four or five weeks later in a championship game. You marveled at how far they had come along. When you've got four of the five back, and the guys that have started some games, it gives you at least an optimistic approach to how good this group can be.
Speaking of the Orange Bowl, you guys win ACC titles like it's nothing ...
BS: Oh this one right here wasn't like it was nothing, (he laughed) this one was a grinder.
Yeah, you're right, but you're making a habit out of it.
BS: It's gone well. We've had success in the Big East conference. We've been able to win some conference championships in the ACC. It's a terrific conference. You go back and look at how it is from top to bottom. Some people ask about the bowl record, with each game the ACC was involved in I think it was a play, a point.
The system and the way that we approach things, from recruiting, to coaching and practice, what the expectations are. They're all understood and you just continuously work towards that. It's a hungry football team. It's a staff that stays very competitive in terms of meeting our goals. We understand what we're trying to accomplish. Our goal is to go to a bowl game. Our goal is to win an ACC championship. And every day that you go to work you continuously work towards that. The fact you've won one, or had a chance to win a Big East championship, or gone to a BCS game, that doesn't calm anything. It only strokes the fire.
That starts with coach Beamer. His competitive mode is as high as I've ever seen. And I've competed against him in everything from golf to racquetball, and horseshoes to understand the competitive mode he has. That carries over to all of us.
But are you guys ready to take the next step? The national title?
BS: I've been here when we played for a national title. I've been in a situation where we've probably been in an opportunity to work our way back into it.
Is it time for that again though?
BS: To have those things happen, to talk about them in March, February ... talking about it in March and February doesn't do any good. It's what we do in March and February, April, May, June and July. When it gets right down to it, you've got to play lights out. You've got to stay as healthy as you can, and every now and then the ball has got to bounce your way. We'll talk about that some other time. The very first thing to do is make sure that when we start in September that we're not just a year older, but we're a year better and we've approached it from that standpoint. Then we'll see how things go. The goal is to win the first one, and get the second one.
BS: I promise you that's what it is. Anything less than that and you're setting yourself up for failure.
That's true, worry about Alabama first.
BS: I'm worried about the spring game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Blacksburg should be an easy sell to recruits after a second straight ACC title, a FedEx Orange Bowl win over Cincinnati and the program's fifth straight 10-win season.
With an abundance of youth on offense, the staff's biggest recruiting needs were on defense. The Hokies wanted to lure in some defensive linemen in this class, particularly defensive ends. They'll miss Orion Martin at that position, and his backup, Nekos Brown, will be a senior. The coaches were pleased with inside linebackers Brett Warren and Purnell Sturdivant, both of whom played very well in the Orange Bowl and will graduate.
With the departure of cornerback Victor "Macho" Harris, the staff also made defensive backs a priority, especially corners.
Offensively, Virginia Tech always likes to sign a great tailback, and as many tight ends as possible because they can be moved around a lot. On the offensive line, everyone returns but Nick Marshman and center Ryan Shuman.
With the departure of Sean Glennon and not much depth behind Tyrod Taylor, the Hokies are still looking to add another quarterback to the roster. Place-kicker Dustin Keys had a strong season in his first and final year as a starter and will leave another vacancy that needs to be filled with this recruiting class.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The bottom line is this: We likely won't know any more about which team is playing in which bowl until Sunday, after the ACC championship game. Until then, there's no harm in guessing:
Is Florida State a frontrunner for the Champs Sports Bowl? Maybe, but don't count out Virginia Tech.
The Miami Hurricanes would be a logical choice for the Emerald Bowl -- and they're wanted in it -- but with the way things are going, nothing is guaranteed.
Boston College do-it-all Billy Flutie walks by the statue dedicated to his uncle every day. There are a lot of expectations that come with his last name, but there's no place he'd rather be than BC.
BC and Virginia Tech have seen each other so often in the past two years that center Ryan Shuman said "it's almost boring."
Virginia's season might be over, but receiver Maurice Covington is hoping his career isn't.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
From the ACC office, as voted on by the media ...
OFFENSIVE BACK -- Cameron Sexton, North Carolina, QB, 6-1, 190, Jr., Laurinburg, N.C.
Sexton came off the bench to lead the Tar Heels to a 28-24 victory at Miami. He was 11 of 19 for 242 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner with 46 seconds. Sexton came in on Carolina's third possession of the game and led the Tar Heels on a 58-yard scoring drive. In the second half, with Carolina trailing by 10, he hit Hakeem Nicks in stride for a 74-yard touchdown play. It was the longest pass completion of Sexton's career. Finally, with time winding down and Carolina trailing by three, he led the Tar Heels on a 56-yard scoring drive, going 3 for 4, including a perfectly thrown pass in the corner of the end zone to Brooks Foster for the game-winning touchdown.
OFFENSIVE LINEMAN -- Ryan Shuman, Virginia Tech, Center, 6-3, 313, R-Sr., Fork Union, Va.
Shuman had a season-high seven knockdown blocks in helping lead a line that opened holes for Tech's offense in the road win at Nebraska. Tech rushed for 206 yards as a team and put up a season-high 377 yards of total offense on the evening.
DEFENSIVE LINEMAN -- Michael Tauiliili, Duke, MLB, 5-11, 235, Sr., Houston, Texas
Tauiliili led Duke to a 31-3 win over Virginia by collecting a career-high 16 total tackles. He was named the National Defensive Player of the Week by the Walter Camp Football Foundation. He had a hand in three of the six turnovers forced by the Duke defense, a fumble recovery in the second quarter, an interception in the fourth quarter and a forced fumble recovered by teammate Catron Gainey in the fourth quarter. He spearheaded the Duke defense that allowed just three points and 304 total yards including just 178 yards over the final three quarters. Tauiliili leads the ACC in tackles (46) and tackles per game (11.5). He has reached double figures in tackles twice in 2008 and 14 times in his career. In 38 career games, he has been credited with four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and seven caused fumbles while ranking eighth on Duke's all-time tackles chart with 340 career stops.
DEFENSIVE BACK -- Trimane Goddard, UNC, S, 5-11, 195, Sr., Robersonville, N.C.
Goddard posted a team-high eight tackles, intercepted two passes and broke up another in Carolina's come-from-behind 28-24 victory at Miami. On the final play of the game, Goddard picked off a pass in the back of the end zone, knocking it out of the hands of the intended receiver and holding on for his second interception of the day as the game ended. Earlier, he returned an interception 35 yards. It was the second time in his career Goddard had two interceptions in a game at Miami (2005).
CO-SPECIALIST -- Travis Baltz, Maryland, Punter, 6-2, 200, So., Whitehouse, Ohio
Baltz punted seven times for an average of 43.9 yards per attempt in Saturday's win over Clemson. Three of those punts landed inside the Tigers' 20-yard line and his hang time allowed just two returns for 11 yards. The sophomore was especially sharp in the first half when the Terps found themselves behind early. His first punt went just 36 yards, but was not returned. His second one was fumbled and set up a Maryland field goal. His final punt of the half came from his own end zone, traveled 48 yards and was returned just five yards. Baltz currently ranks second in the ACC and 13th nationally in punting average (44.3).
Michael Ray Garvin, Florida State, KR, 5-8, 182, Sr., Upper Saddle River, N.J.
Garvin earned his first career touchdown on a kickoff return as he gave the Seminoles a 25-14 fourth quarter lead over Colorado lead with a career-long 94-yard return. His return was the first kickoff returned for a touchdown by a Seminole player since Leon Washington returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against Clemson on Oct. 3, 2002. Garvin's 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown is tied for the 10th longest in school history. For the game, Garvin earned a career-high 119 kickoff return yards and increased his career total to 1,195 yards.
ROOKIE -- Montel Harris, Boston College, RB, 5-10, 192, Fr., Jacksonville, Fla.
The true freshman had 18 carries for a career-best 143 yards and three touchdowns in Boston College's 42-0 win over Rhode Island, as the Eagles rushed for 289 yards on a rain-soaked day in Alumni Stadium. Harris averaged 7.9 yards per carry. Saturday's performance followed last week's game vs. UCF in which he had 13 carries for a game-high 113 yards and caught three passes for 23 yards.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here they are, the unheralded linemen. The guys who do the dirty work and make their teammates look good. Check out who's got the best:
1. Maryland -- The Terps have just one starting job open here and five of the top six linemen are seniors. The experience younger players like Bruce Campbell and Paul Pinegar gained last year at the misfortune of injured teammates should pay dividends this season. The Terps' depth is why they're ahead of the Hokies.
2. Virginia Tech -- Four starters are back, including Ed Wang, who moved from right to left tackle; left guard Nick Marshman, who at 6-foot-5, 357-pounds was the largest man on the roster but dropped 25 pounds in the offseason; center Ryan Shuman, who missed the spring because of offseason knee surgery; and right guard Sergio Render, who has already caught the eye of NFL scouts. Wang's backup, Greg Nosal, is a redshirt freshman moving from tight end. Marshman's reserve is Hivera Green, who hasn't played.
3. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels have struggled in the past, but with four starters returning and the second season under Butch Davis, it should see improvement. Senior tackle Garrett Reynolds and junior tackle Kyle Jolly -- who missed the spring with an injured left foot -- lead a group that has 67 total starts.
4. Wake Forest -- This group should be better than people think, despite having to replace center Steve Justice. Barrett McMillin has starting experience at right guard, and left tackle Joe Birdsong and right tackle Jeff Griffin both split time at one of the tackle spots last season. Left guard Russell Nenon didn't start but picked up a lot of playing time toward the end of the season. Center is a question mark. Because he was stuck behind Justice, center Trey Bailey has the most catching up to do.
5. Boston College -- There are still two spots up for grabs. Sophomore Anthony Castonzo, who holds the distinction of becoming the school's first offensive lineman in a decade to start as a true freshman, moved from right to left tackle to replace Gosder Cherilus. Matt Tennant is back at center along with returning staritng guard Clif Ramsey. Former defensive lineman Thomas Claiborne moved to right guard this spring.
6. NC State -- Moving defensive linemen Ted Larsen to center and John Bedics to left guard will only help this football team, but neither of them has taken a snap on offense yet in a college game. Jake Vermiglio, a hulking tackle who played well against Chris Long as a freshman last year, moved to guard behind Bedics (which shows Tom O'Brien's confidence in that move). Andy Barbee, a redshirt junior, was a longtime backup at center. Depth is a question mark, but the Wolfpack has three returning starters in right tackle Meares Green (who played at guard, center AND tackle last year), right guard Curtis Crouch, and Julian Williams, who is in his second full year starting at left tackle.
7. Miami -- The Hurricanes are looking for a starting center but have two starters back in Jason Fox and Reggie Youngblood. They've got experience in Orlando Franklin, Joel Figueroa (a key reserve) and Chris Rutledge (split time as a starter).
8. Virginia -- The loss of Branden Albert and two other starters left a gaping hole. The best thing the Cavaliers have going for them is senior Eugene Monroe, who might be the best offensive lineman in the ACC. He didn't allow a sack last year at left tackle. There's also experience at right tackle, where Will Barker has 25 career starts.
9. Georgia Tech -- The good news is that left tackle Andrew Gardner came back instead of heading for the NFL. The bad news is the cohesiveness of this unit is mostly gone because Gardner is the lone full-time returning starter. Cord Howard missed the spring because of foot surgery, but he and Dan Voss, who started the final seven games of last season at left guard, at least have starting experience.
10. Clemson -- Finally. A flaw. Tommy Bowden had to replace four starters, and named all but the two guard spots. Still, Cory Lambert has never started a game at left tackle and three of the four players competing to be guards are redshirt freshmen. Freshman Antoine McClain, who was ranked the No. 6 offensive tackle prospect [Insider] in the country by ESPN.com, could help.
11. Duke -- The Blue Devils have three starters back, including both tackles -- Fred Roland and Cameron Goldberg -- and guard Rob Schirmann. The reason they're not last? They've got one more body with experience than the 'Noles.
12. Florida State -- For the first time in school history, there's not one junior or senior on the line. That doesn't mean there's not talent, but much of it is unproven. What the Seminoles do have is sophomores Ryan McMahon and Rodney Hudson. McMahon was the only freshman or sophomore in the FBS to take every offensive snap for his team at center. Redshirt freshman Antwane Greenlee, a bulky 302-pound tackle who was very highly recruited, still hasn't played. A true freshman will most likely start somewhere, but first the coaches have to find the best one they have.