ACC: Sam Bradford

Oklahoma looking pedestrian

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
10:13
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


MIAMI -- With Sam Bradford on the sideline in a hat, T-shirt and shorts, Oklahoma doesn't exactly have the look of a team that finished runner-up for the national title a year ago. Yes, Oklahoma is very good, and Landry Jones is doing a respectable job in the injured Bradford's absence, but the No. 8 team in the nation also looks beatable -- especially if the Canes cut down their penalties and turnovers this half.

Oklahoma's defense has done a good job of pressuring Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, but it's not getting away with a shutout today. Jimmy Graham's touchdown reception were the first points the Sooners have allowed in nine quarters (since giving up the game-winning touchdown to BYU with 3:03 left in the season opener). Remember, BYU is the same team that got thumped by a struggling Florida State team this year. If you subscribe to that logic, Miami can keep this lead.

Oklahoma to play without Bradford

October, 1, 2009
10/01/09
4:56
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford will not play on Saturday against Miami, and the Canes will face freshman Landry Jones.

Jones has done his best to fill in for the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, but his lack of success on longer throws will really keep the explosive Oklahoma offense from performing like last season. Check out this comparison between Jones and Bradford, courtesy of ESPN's Stats & Information:

Jones vs Bradford: Throws of 10+ yards
  Jones '09 Bradford '08
Comp-Att 10-26 92-174
Comp pct 38.5 52.9
Yds per Att 9.8 13.5
TD-INT 5-3 21-7

Jacory Harris, on the other hand, has proven capable of throwing the deep ball:

Jacory Harris: Throws 10 yards or more
  First two games vs. VA Tech
Comp-Att 18-25 6-18
Yds per Att 18.0 7.1
TD-Int 5-1 0-1

BYU over Oklahoma has meaning for ACC

September, 5, 2009
9/05/09
10:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich


Two quick thoughts:

If BYU beat Oklahoma, why can't Miami? Sam Bradford suffered a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder, and it's not clear how long he'll be out, but BYU's upset of Oklahoma should serve as some inspiration to the Canes nonetheless. If the Canes start with a win over Florida State -- if -- and make the most out of their bye week heading into the Georgia Tech game, who knows how far their momentum can carry them. Realistically, I don't think they'll beat Oklahoma with a healthy Bradford. Odds are the Sooners use this loss like Florida used the loss to Ole Miss last year. But at least BYU proved Oklahoma's not invincible, and that should give the Canes some confidence.

And if BYU can beat Oklahoma, odds are it can beat FSU. This is suddenly a scarier game for the Noles, and don't forget it's on the road. Much has been made of Miami and Virginia Tech's schedules, but FSU isn't on a cakewalk either.

ACC mailblog

July, 10, 2009
7/10/09
11:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

You asked, I answered ...

Brandon in Columbia, S.C., writes: Heather, Do you believe C.J. Spiller has a legitimate chance to be in the Heisman mix this year? I know it will be hard, considering Tebow, McCoy, and Bradford all returned. However, Spiller is a game changer like no other in college football. What can Clemson do PR-wise to up his stock and get everyone talking?

Heather Dinich: Brandon I think the task falls to Dabo Swinney and the offensive line, not the Tigers' PR department. In order for Spiller to even be in the conversation, he has to get the ball more, which I expect him to do. But because of the very names you mentioned returning, his odds are a long shot.


Bob K in Atlanta writes: Heather, how many ACC games will you be attending this fall? Any involving the Yellow Jackets?

HD: I usually go to a game every weekend, Bob. Last year I doubled up on Thursday/Saturday games a few times, too. There's also a Monday night game this year that has caught my interest. And considering the high expectations for the Jackets this year, I'm pretty sure Atlanta will be one of my destinations unless I catch them on the road somewhere.


Mitchell in Atlanta writes: Hey HD first off great blog, keep up the good work. Quick question, I live in SEC country and I keep telling these fans that in three or less years the ACC will be as good if not better than the SEC, what do you think about that?

HD: I think don't push it, Mitchell. There's no question the ACC is getting better, and much of that is a product of better coaches. The conference is closing the gap, albeit slowly. I think the ACC stands a good chance to be among the top three in the country this year. But as good or better than the SEC? Let's wait til' Florida State and Miami beat Florida, Virginia Tech beats Alabama and anybody knocks off LSU. Kudos to Georgia Tech for taking the first step against Georgia.


Gabe in Wheaton, Ill., writes: Hey HD,I love the blog, it's been my saving grace over the summer so far. I read the article you had today in your lunchtime links about Luckett potentially coming back to the Hokies this next year and it made me wonder, how good can the Hokie's receiving core be? As a VT fan I'm really encouraged to see what they can produce since they are also bringing Dillard back from injury, and all of last years freshman have solid game experience. On top of that you've got a much improved offensive line and a quarterback who has also improved his passing game. How good can they be? Also, who do you think will have the best WRs in the ACC? Thanks again for all your hard work!

HD: No doubt this group should be better, but my expectations for the passing game are somewhat tempered until I see that improvement. Dyrell Roberts had a great spring, but the coaches really liked what Xavier Boyce did, so much so he was named one of the top two newcomers of the spring. And don't forget about Marcus Davis, Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin. There should be some good competition there this summer. With Tyrod Taylor's improvement and their consistency, this group has the potential to be part of one of the most effective offenses in the ACC. There are no excuses this year. As for the best wide receivers in the ACC? My first reaction is to say Miami. Guys like Demaryius Thomas at Georgia Tech and Jacoby Ford at Clemson stand out, but Miami might be the deepest.


Adam in Gaithersburg, Md., writes: Heather,If the NCAA keeps FL. States penalty and Coach B gets the 14 wins knocked from his record, do the other coaches or teams get the wins back on their records?

HD: Nope. Nothing that happens to FSU will affect its opponents' records. That's the difference between vacate and forfeit.

Friday Mailblog

April, 17, 2009
4/17/09
3:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

You asked, I answered:

Michael in Fort Myers writes: HD im a miami fan im curious to see how you think miami will do against oklahoma.Theres alot of hype about the sooners being a national title contender this year but they have lost all of there O-line that protects bradford. If miami can break threw that line and pressure bradford do u think miami could have a good chance at the upset? Also what is wrong with travis benjamin? i havent heard anything about him this spring and im wondering if hes going to be ready for the fall.

Heather Dinich: Actually, there are four new faces on the Sooners' o-line. Getting pressure on Bradford is obviously part of it, Michael, but don't underestimate Oklahoma's defense. If Miami fans want a quick Oklahoma 101 from their spring practices, check out my colleague Tim Griffin's blog post. I think Miami is going to play like it did against Florida last year -- better than people thought, but not quite good enough. Of course, a lot of it also depends on what kind of momentum -- or lack thereof -- they have going into that game. As for Travis Benjamin, he ran track this spring and was hampered a bit by injury, but he's fine now.


Brandon in Charlotte writes: HD - Just wanted to let you know that the UNC staff has been at Florida the last few days watching there practices.

Heather Dinich: Thanks, Brandon, I confirmed this, and was told it was a productive visit.


Kyle in Jacksonville, Fla., writes: Heather, True or False, will the ACC (and the rest of the country for that matter) be ready for GT's new option offense after seeing it for a year? As an FSU fan, I know that we were completely dumbfounded on defense trying to follow all that motion. But now that there is film on the Jackets and teams can better prepare, do you think they will struggle to repeat there wins of a season ago? Love the blog, read everyday. Thanks.

Heather Dinich: I'll let Paul Johnson answer that question for you, since I asked him a few weeks ago.

"Not really," Johnson said. "They'll probably get better ideas maybe or whatever, but we're going to get better doing it, too. It's a tradeoff. We were in a league at Georgia Southern, we won the league all five years. I didn't see a change a lot from Year 1 to Year 2. At Navy we played a lot of the same teams. Some teams played us better than others. The teams with the best players seem to have the best ideas. I don't worry about that. If that was the case, when Navy and Air Force played, it would always be 0-0."


Marsh writes: Heather, what do you think of the quarter back race at Duke? The new freshmen is supposedly looking pretty good in spring practice, any chance of him taking thad's place?

Heather Dinich: Well, there really isn't a quarterback race at Duke, Marsh. Not between Thaddeus Lewis and Greg Paulus, and not between Lewis and Sean Renfree, although you're right -- the staff likes what they see from Renfree. (If that's who you're talking about, but he's a sophomore). Lewis is easily one of the top three quarterbacks in the ACC, and he's a senior. He's not going anywhere.


Andrew in Baltimore writes: What will the Terps do with their running back situation having Scott, Adams, Porzel, and a very underrated Maggett?

Heather Dinich: I don't think it will be much different than it was a year ago, with Da'Rel Scott being the No. 1 guy, and a toss-up between Davin Meggett and Morgan Green, who are like 2a and 2b this spring. The other guys aren't even on campus yet, and they probably won't figure in yet, likely redshirt guys.


Jess in Winston-Salem writes: I know it's a Yahoo story, and he didn't play for Virginia Tech, Clemson, or FSU, but it'd be great if you gave some love to Aaron Curry for this move.

Heather Dinich: Been there, done that.


A random question from Mark in Blacksburg: Hey Heather, Welcome to Blacksburg! Hope our town is treating you right! Quick question that has been bugging me for a long time: why is Boston College the only team in Division-IA football that is sponsored by Reebok? Hope you can shed some light on this.

Heather Dinich: I didn't know that BC was the only FBS team wearing Reebok, Mark, but I can tell you that Reebok is headquartered in Canton, Mass., which might have something to do with it.


A Cane in Hooville writes: HD: I know VTHokielover has respectfully requested you make mention of the tragedy at VT tomorrow and I ask the same. We are attempting to get everyone of the "regulars" to upload the VT logo over the black ribbon tomorrow as their avatar, and I have posed the suggestion that everyone pause from commenting at 9:30 AM tomorrow as our sign of a moment of silence to remember the tragedy and those affected. Thanks HD!

Heather Dinich: Funny, Cane, but you actually answered my question. Because I was on the road this week, I wasn't monitoring the comments closely or checking in as I often do, and I missed this request. I was wondering why everyone switched their avatars. Thanks for helping everyone respectfully pay their tributes on the ACC blog.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

So the ACC doesn't have any McCoys or Bradfords.

It's got Dwyers and Evans and Scotts instead.

We've talked before about how potent some of the ACC backfields have the potential to be this season - namely at Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech -- but check out this tiny tidbit:

In 2008, for the first time in ACC history, three underclassmen surpassed the 1,000 yard rushing mark -- Georgia Tech sophomore Jonathan Dwyer, Maryland sophomore Da'Rel Scott, and Virginia Tech freshman Darren Evans.

In fact, all three of those players topped 1,100 yards.

Considering how young many of the ACC's top backs were, it's not entirely unreasonable to think the conference can develop a running reputation akin to what the Big 12 did last year in the passing game. (With the improvement expected at quarterback, though, odds are offenses will be a little more balanced -- especially in Winston-Salem. And of course, a successful running game tends to open things up for the quarterbacks).

In addition to those three 1,000-yard rushers, don't forget about C.J. Spiller at Clemson, Montel Harris at Boston College, Roddy Jones at Georgia Tech, Graig Cooper at Miami, Jamelle Eugene and Toney Baker at NC State, Mikell Simpson at Virginia, Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston at UNC, Kevin Harris, Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass at Wake Forest, Re'Quan Boyette at Duke ... it seems like every school has a legitimate threat in the ground game.

Florida State should have one of the better offensive lines in the ACC making life easier on whoever steps up to replace leading rusher Antone Smith. Jermaine Thomas averaged seven yards as a reserve last year, so the cupboard isn't empty there, either.

Dwyer, Evans and Scott set the bar high last year, and should only be better this fall. And odds are, they're not the only ones.

The ACC name game

March, 31, 2009
3/31/09
9:14
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Even if you don't want to know or care to know, odds are you know who Tim Tebow is. Soccer moms know who Tim Tebow is. And just about every college football fan across the country knows Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, and Terrelle Pryor. They're what you call household names.

Does the ACC have any this year?

Does the casual college football fan really know who Mark Herzlich is? How about Travis Benjamin? Christian Ponder? More players in the ACC are in the midst of making names for themselves in 2009 than living up to the hype.

Here are the top three big-name players returning to the ACC in 2009, the closest the conference has to "household names:"

1. Tyrod Taylor -- He led the Hokies to a win in the Orange Bowl, so you'd think everyone knows Virginia Tech's No. 1 quarterback by now, but 2009 will be the first full season -- starting with Wednesday's first spring practice -- that Taylor isn't looking over his shoulder to see Sean Glennon waiting in the wings.

2. C.J. Spiller -- He was the "Lightning" half of the backfield that last year included James Davis ("Thunder") and at least in August 2008 was regarded by many as one of the best backfields in the country. He turned down the NFL draft and will now be the focal point of the Tigers' offense.

3. Jonathan Dwyer -- In a little over a season, Dwyer has totaled 1,831 career rushing yards. He surpassed the 100-yard mark 10 times in his career, including nine of 13 games last season when he led the ACC in rushing with 1,395 yards. He was named the ACC's player of the year as a sophomore and averaged 7 yards per carry.

Coming up next ... three players who, by the end of 2009, everyone will know.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

If people are content with the ACC being a defensive league, they will have to be content with it being an average league.

If the conference is going to take the next step, it needs to recruit better quarterbacks.

Yes, defenses win championships, but in college football there are two components essential to winning and winning big -- offensive and defensive line play, and a standout quarterback. Save for Matt Ryan last year, the ACC hasn't exactly been a quarterback factory. Michael Vick and Ken Dorsey don't count.

In this decade, you can count Ryan, Matt Schaub (Virginia, 2004 NFL draft), Philip Rivers (NC State, 2004 draft), Ron Curry (UNC, 2002 draft), Charlie Whitehurst (Clemson, 2006 draft), Adrian McPherson, (FSU 2005 draft), and Joe Hamilton (Georgia Tech, 2000 draft) as the best the ACC had to offer at the position. The last time Florida State was truly great, it had two Heisman Trophy quarterbacks in Charlie Ward and Chris Weinke.

This is the conference that brought Drew Weatherford and Sean Glennon to its media day in August, two quarterbacks who, through no fault of their own, were used as backups this season.

Can Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor, Miami's Jacory Harris, FSU's Christian Ponder or NC State's Russell Wilson emerge as the league's next great quarterback? They're all good and have potential, but none of them seem to have the true wow factor that will bump them up to that elite level. Of course, they're not all running Mike Leach's offense, either. Some of the offenses in the ACC are so simplistic, it's hard for quarterbacks to flourish.

Many of the coaches in the league have committed to a defensive philosophy, and there's nothing wrong with that -- just look at how the Ravens, the Steelers and the Eagles advanced as far as they did. But an elite quarterback backed by, say, a Virginia Tech-caliber defense would do wonders to truly separate a team like the Hokies from the rest of the pack. Florida won the national title because it was ranked among the top 20 FBS schools in offense AND defense.

If you look at the teams that were in contention for the national title this year, they all had one thing in common -- excellent quarterback play. Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy -- all ranked among the top six in the country in pass efficiency. You have to scroll down the list to No. 41 until you find Russell Wilson, the first ACC quarterback listed.

Forget Heisman winner, the ACC needs to start with a legitimate Heisman contender at quarterback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Clemson has interviewed Brent Venables for the head coaching job, Bruce Feldman reported today, confirmation that athletic director Terry Don Phillips isn't quite sold on Dabo Swinney. Swinney told me today that's nothing he's worried about because it's not something he can control. But it can't make the rest of the season much easier on him, considering the Tigers have to win all three of their remaining games to go to a bowl.

As for Venables, his name has also been tied to the opening at his alma mater, K-State, but Clemson is a better job.

Venables is the recruiting closer for the Sooners and word in the business is he's an all-around good guy. He's up-tempo, well-liked and not pretentious.

Still, the defense hasn't been as good as it was a few years ago, and not all Sooners fans would be sad to see him go. Then again, nobody is playing defense like they used to in the Big 12, and that has a lot to do with the evolution of the offense. Does Venables have the resume of Bud Foster? No, but his connection to Bob Stoops helps.

The big question is if Venables would bring the quarterbacks coach with him, Josh Heupel, and make him the offensive coordinator. Heupel has been credited for bringing Sam Bradford along. If there's one thing the ACC could use, it's a Heisman-like quarterback.

The other thing to note would be that Venables would probably be a less expensive choice than Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.

Overall, it sounds like Venables would be a good hire for Clemson.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Congrats on finding the blog's newest feature -- the reader mailbag at the top right of the page. In addition to the comments at the bottom of blog posts, this is a great way for you to ask questions, tell me that I make better cookies than I do predictions, or that I'm the smartest person you know. Either way is fine with me, really. Just be warned: Anything in there is fair game for fodder in here, and if you want me to actually email you back, a real email helps.

P.S. I'm not going to edit you. I don't have time and if you can't spell, you're not gonna learn hear. Just kidding. Here.

Let's rock:

A prediction from Michael, in Hickory, N.C. --

Heather, Thanks for helping keep the sanity during an otherwise dreary sports summer. There are only 44 more days until my beloved Deacs begin the quest...not that anyone is counting. By the way, here's an early prediction for you...Georgia Tech WILL win an ACC title within 5 years. I had the unfortunate opportunities to play against Paul Johnson coached GSU teams. A lot of people scoff at the flexbone as archaic, but GSU ran it at the highest level of I-AA with I-AA's best athletes and NOBODY could stop them...not even UGA. Imagine what he will do with the talent he can get at GT. I expect to see more passing out of the upcoming versions. This offense combined with a decent defense can lead to some lopsided scores. It's hard not to run up a score when the opposition can't stop your running game. One more thing...I'll apologize now if you are a friend of Pat Forde's, but please take his job. You'd be doing us all a favor. I can't read his stuff anymore. I like yours, though, and I'm glad you're covering the ACC...although you are cutting into my work productivity. Keep up the good work. Go Deacs! Michael

Michael, I agree. Paul Johnson's offense has worked in the past against BCS teams and will work now. There's no reason the Yellow Jackets won't eventually be in the hunt. And yes, they will throw the ball on occasion. And poor Pat ...

This came from Chris, in Richmond, Va. --

Heather- The Va.Tech Hokie Fans are giving you a bunch of grief about your comments Re: the Running game!! *LOL* I am also a Hokie Fan But don't get all bent out of shape like these people!! *LOL* Check it out www.techsideline.com then click on forums and Football Board.. Unless we do a better job of blocking our running game won't be worth a damn.. And the fact that Glennon has been there for about 6 years and still does the same crap, that makes it even worse.. Keep Up the Great Work AND Go Hoosiers!! haha :D Chris.

Chris -- Ah, the message boards. The digital dysfunctional families of our universe. Thanks for adopting me, Hokies. Yes, I realize Lewis and Cheeseman will be back, but combined they have one start -- and that's only because Branden Ore was suspended for the first quarter of the Orange Bowl. Together they had 78 carries last year. Are they talented? No doubt. But how long will it take to get this running game going?

Speaking of Hokies, Andrew Churchill from somewhere wrote this:

Heather, In your rankings of ACC running backs, you fail to include Jahre Cheeseman or Kenny Lewis as options at tailback for Virginia Tech. Cheeseman WILL BE BACK PRACTICING FULL SPEED COME AUGUST, and Lewis will be cleared to return by the END OF SEPTEMBER. While these two will be recovering from offseason injuries, they both will be available for most (Lewis) or all (Cheeseman) of the season and should be considered 'options'in the backfield. thanks

Andrew -- Please DON'T SHOUT AT ME! Yes, I know they'll be back, the question is when they'll be 100 percent. It's not like I didn't mention these guys. They'll be considered options once they start practicing again and show they can be. You're welcome.

This one is from somebody in Charlotte, I think his name is Dan:

i think changing your stadium rankings was clever and fun to read through again.

Why thank you, whoever you are.

Another nice guy, this one named Sean in Tallahassee:

Heather, Great job so far on the blog. I look forward to it everyday. You have no idea how ready I am for football season to get hear.

I hear ya.

It's never too early for a little Heisman talk, and Grayson in Clemson, S.C, wants to know if Cullen Harper will get any consideration:

Heather, I just wanted to see if you had anything to say about Cullen Harper for Heisman this year. Last year Matt Ryan was a big candidate and Harper had him beat in almost every statistic. Given this and if he plays as well as last year, what do you think?

Grayson -- Harper is obviously the best in the league, but there are too many other talented QBs in the country. The Big 12 alone is loaded (Chase Daniel, Sam Bradford, Graham Harrell and Colt McCoy). Don't forget about Tim Tebow, Beanie Wells, Michael Crabtree ... tons of options this year.

Here's a fun rant from Courtney, a Boston College fan in Pasadena, CA:

As a faithful Boston College eagle alum, I have to admit I take a little bit of offense at your ranking of BC's stadium. I don't think your point is totally incorrect, because I have been to a couple of BC bowl games and the turnout is pretty embarassing. However, I think parts of your message shortchange BC and its fans a bit. For example, the statement that we couldn't even pack the stadium for FSU on primetime is a little misleading. I happen to have flown from LA to Boston specifically to attend that game, and attend I did, along with a ton of other BC hardcore. However, what you failed to mention/consider is #1) it was POURING rain the night of that game, so take Boston in November + pouring rain = horrendous game watching conditions and #2) up until just a few years ago, BC was in the Big East, which meant we tailgated til halftime, then watched the second half of the game inside Alumni stadium...old habits die hard. And back to the bowl game situation, you have to admit, we get some crappy bowls (if there was one called the toilet bowl, I guarantee BC would get a bid). And seriously, it's a hell of a lot easier to hop in your pickup and drive 2 hours from Virginia/Georgia/North Carolina to one of the million bowls in the southeast so they really shouldn't get THAT much credit. I'd love to see how many Georgia Tech or Virgina fans made it to a bowl in New Hampshire (disregarding the fact that they'd be playing on a foot of snow). OK, hopefully you've made it all the way through my rant, so thanks for listening...and Go Eagles! :-)

Anyone who leaves Pasadena to go to Boston is a true fan, Courtney. Thanks for the note.

So far, so good. Keep em' coming.

hd

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