ACC: Scott Blair

Georgia Tech spring wrap

May, 5, 2011

2010 overall record: 6-7

2010 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense 5

Top returners

WR Stephen Hill, AB Roddy Jones, AB Orwin Smith, G Omoregie Uzzi, DE Jason Peters, DT Logan Walls, OLB Steven Sylvester, ILB Julian Burnett, OG Will Jackson, DE Izaan Cross

Key losses

QB Joshua Nesbitt, RB Anthony Allen, C Sean Bedford, CB Dominique Reese, CB Mario Butler, ILB Brad Jefferson, S Jerrard Tarrant, PK Scott Blair

2011 Schedule

Sept. 1 Western Carolina

Sept. 10 at Middle Tennessee

Sept. 17 Kansas

Sept. 24 North Carolina

Oct. 1 at NC State

Oct. 8 Maryland

Oct. 15 at Virginia

Oct. 22 at Miami

Oct. 29 Clemson

Nov. 5 Open

Nov. 10 Virginia Tech

Nov. 19 at Duke

Nov. 26 Georgia

2010 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Allen (1,316 yards)

Passing:Nesbitt (674 yds)

Receiving: Hill* (291 yds)

Tackles: Burnett (89)

Sacks: Jefferson (4)

Interceptions:Tarrant (3)

Spring answers

1. A new attitude. There were some disgruntled players on the roster last year, but that disenchantment has been replaced by charismatic leaders like Jason Peters and Roddy Jones. The sense of complacency has been replaced by a stronger work ethic, as the players now realize that ACC championships don’t come without offseason dedication.

2. An improved defense. The Jackets aren’t exactly going to pitch shutouts, but despite losing six starters, the defense had a good spring. The entire front seven had the advantage for most of the spring, all three starters return on the defensive line, and the linebackers showed progress. It was obvious the players are more comfortable in the second season of Al Groh’s 3-4 scheme.

3. A-back is a strength.Georgia Tech has at least six players who can play the position, including Jones, a senior leader, Orwin Smith, a big-play candidate, and Embry Peeples, who may be one of the best receivers on the team. The Jackets are also confident in B.J. Bostic, who impressed Johnson as a true freshman. Those four players combined to run for 1,283 yards last year, and Georgia Tech could get additional yardage from redshirt freshman Tony Zenon, who also had a good spring.

Fall questions

1. Will Tevin Washington keep his job?Washington still has the edge and is the starter heading into summer camp, but there are some lingering questions after his performance in the spring game. He threw three interceptions, lost two fumbles, was sacked three times and completed 10 of 26 passes. Backup Synjyn Days ran for 112 yards and led his team to a 21-7 win. Add to the mix a pair of true freshmen, including highly-touted Vad Lee, and it could make for an interesting August.

2. Will the offensive line be better?It’s not for a lack of experience -- Omoregie Uzzi was a second-team all-conference lineman last year, Phil Smith is a returning starting tackle and sophomore guard Will Jackson has nine career starts. It’s simply that the group didn’t play very well this spring and depth is a question. Jay Finch is expected to take over for Bedford at center, but Uzzi will be the leader of the line.

3. Special teams concerns. It was an area of emphasis for coach Paul Johnson this spring, as it should have been. The Jackets need to solidify their starting kicker and punter, and all three field goal attempts were missed in the spring game, though two were distances of 47 and 49 yards. Kicker Justin Moore, the lone scholarship kicker competing this spring, hasn’t distanced himself from the four walk-ons who played in the spring game. Punter isn’t as much of a concern, where Sean Poole had nine starts last year, but the return games also need improvement.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 28, 2011
Brackets are not good for my heart or my sanity. My Final Four: Florida, Kansas, Syracuse and UConn. Don't get me started on Florida and Kansas. I can't let it go ...

ACC's lunchtime links

October, 22, 2010
It's Friday!

Week 6: Did you know?

October, 8, 2010
Thanks as always to the sports information directors throughout the league for making us (a little) smarter this week. Did you know ...
  • ACC kickers combined to make 16 of 17 field goal attempts on Saturday, a sizzling .940 percentage. To date, ACC kickers have made 62 of 76 field goal attempts (.816) that have come from 49 yards in and are 18 of 24 in field goals in the 40-49 yard range (.750). Duke’s Will Snyderwine leads all ACC kickers with 9 of 10 field goals, while Georgia Tech’s Scott Blair (7-7) is one of seven placekickers in the country who has been perfect this year with a minimum of seven attempts.
  • Boston College true freshman receiver Bobby Swigert caught seven passes for 137 yards and a touchdown last week against Notre Dame. His score was the longest offensive scoring play of the season for the Eagles, a 58-yard reception that came near the end of the first quarter. The pass was thrown by another true freshman, quarterback Chase Rettig. The play is believed to be the only one in the nation where a pair of true freshmen have combined on a scoring pass play this year.
  • Clemson has played four games so far this year and the average length of the contests has been 3:32. That ranks tied for fifth in the nation as far as the longest average length of games. The Tigers had an overtime game at Auburn that took 3:52 to play. Last week’s game against Miami had many replay reviews and the game took 3:54 to play, the longest Clemson non-overtime game on record. By comparison, Clemson’s 14 games last year took an average of 3:16 and the 2008 games took 3:15 on average.
  • Duke redshirt sophomore Sean Renfree has become the first quarterback in Duke history to throw at least one touchdown pass in each of his first five starts.
  • Florida State has not trailed (or been tied) at any point during its current three-game winning streak. The Seminoles scored on a field goal in the first quarter and never trailed against BYU, earned a shutout against Wake Forest, and scored the first touchdown of the game against Virginia
  • Georgia Tech senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt has a chance to become just the eighth player in NCAA history to rush for 3,000 career yards and pass for 3,000 career yards. To reach 3,000 rushing yards this regular season, Nesbitt will need to average 71 yards per game.
  • The Terps lead the ACC and are tied for fourth nationally by allowing opponents to score just 61 percent of the time when they get inside the 20. Out of 23 trips to the red zone, Maryland has stopped the opponent 10 times, including three fumble recoveries, two interceptions and three on downs. Maryland did its best work against Navy (9/6), stopping the Midshipmen on five of its seven trips to the red zone. The Terps’ 10 stops inside the 20-yard line are tied for first nationally.
  • With the exception of Miami’s 49-27 win in 2001, every game in the series with Florida State has been decided by eight points or less in the past decade. Miami leads the series 7-3 during that stretch. Since the 2002 season, an average of 4.1 points was the difference, with Miami’s 38-34 win last year in Tallahassee being the latest in a series full of dramatic endings. In the all-time series between the two programs, Miami owns a 20-9 edge in games decided by 10 points or less and a 12-6 advantage in games decided by five points or less.
  • Fifteen different players have caught passes this season for NC State and five have double-digit reception totals. In three of the five games, passes have been caught by 10 or more different players. Of the top five pass catchers this season, three are wide receivers, one is a halfback and one is a tight end. Nine different players have at least one touchdown catch this season. Surprisingly, the Wolfpack’s most highly-touted wideouts, Jarvis Williams and Owen Spencer, have just two touchdowns between them.
  • Virginia has passed for nine touchdowns this year, surpassing the 2009 total of eight. The Cavaliers have thrown for 1,093 yards through the first four games - the Cavaliers only threw for 717 yards through four games in 2009. A big reason behind the improvement in the passing game is the duo of Kris Byrd and senior Dontrelle Inman. The two have combined for the second-most receiving yards among any ACC receiving duo this year (158.0 yards per game).
  • Though the schools are over 600 miles apart, the two starting centers in Saturday’s Virginia Tech-Central Michigan game know each other quite well. Tech’s Beau Warren and CMU’s Colin Miller both went to Centreville (Va.) High School and played on the same offensive line for several years. They both graduated in 2006 and earned all-state honors as seniors: Miller as the left guard, while Warren earned his honors as the right tackle. Miller’s father, Mike, wrestled at Virginia Tech.
  • Against Georgia Tech, redshirt senior running back Josh Adams became the first Demon Deacon to rush for over 100 yards in game in nearly two years. Adams carried 20 times for 101 yards and one touchdown. It was the first 100-yard effort by a Deac since Kevin Harris rushed for 136 yards against Navy in the EagleBank Bowl in 2008.

ACC's Players of the Week

October, 4, 2010
Here are the ACC's Players of the Week, as announced by the league offices in Greensboro, N.C.:

OFFENSIVE BACK – Leonard Hankerson, Miami, WR, Sr., 6-3, 205, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (St. Thomas Aquinas)

Hankerson had a career day for the Hurricanes against Clemson, hauling in seven receptions for a career-high 147 yards. With a 22-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter, he extended his streak to 17-straight games with a reception. Hankerson hauled in three touchdown catches in the first half – a seven-yard strike, the 22-yarder and a career-long 65-yard TD in the second quarter. It was Hankerson’s second career multi-touchdown game. Hankerson also moved into a tie for sixth place all-time in career touchdown receptions. He now has 15 career touchdown receptions, tying Brian Blades (1984-87). Hankerson’s three receiving touchdowns in the first half marked the first time since 1998 that a ‘Cane has had three touchdown receptions in a game. Santana Moss had three against Rutgers on Oct. 3, 1998.

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN – Ryan McMahon, Florida State, C, r-Sr., 6-5, 284, Savannah, Ga. (Darlington Prep)

McMahon graded out as the Seminoles’ top lineman with his second consecutive outstanding performance. He matched his season-high grade of 87 percent for the second consecutive week in his team-leading 44th consecutive start at center. In 71 snaps he had just one missed assignment and made the blocking calls for the offensive line as the ‘Noles amassed 428 total yards against the Cavaliers, including 256 on the ground. It was the third consecutive rushing performance of 200-plus yards for FSU, a feat the team last accomplished during the 2000 season. McMahon earned a pass-blocking grade of 97 – a season-best - and a run-game grade of 79 as the Seminoles averaged 6.0 yards per play against the Cavaliers.

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN – Marcus Forston, Miami, DL, So., 6-3, 305, Miami, Fla. (Northwestern)

Forston registered three tackles, a half sack, a tackle for a loss and one interception in Miami’s win at Clemson. He also had a quarterback hurry. His first career interception led Miami to its go-ahead touchdown to make the score 20-14. Forston also helped lead a Hurricanes defense that limited Clemson to just seven points in the second half.

DEFENSIVE BACK – Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech, CB, So., 5-11, 170, Delray Beach, Fla. (Atlantic)

Hosley was named the Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week after his big performance against NC State. He played all 82 snaps, recording six tackles, three interceptions and four pass breakups. One interception came in the end zone at the end of the first half and another sealed the win on NC State's last drive.

SPECIALIST – Scott Blair, Georgia Tech, K, Sr., 6-0, 172, Calhoun, Ga. (Calhoun)

Blair kicked three field goals longer than 40 yards, including a critical 42-yarder in the fourth quarter, in Georgia Tech’s win against Wake Forest. Blair, who also kicked his 56th consecutive PAT, improved to 7-of-7 on field goals this season and moved up to eighth on Tech’s all-time career scoring list (193 points).

ROOKIE – Christian Jones, Florida State, LB, Fr., 6-3, 225, Winter Park, Fla. (Lake Howell)

Filling in for starter Mister Alexander, who went down with a second-quarter injury, Jones registered a team-high six tackles. Among those stops was his second career sack from the strongside linebacker position and his first career pass break-up. The rangy true freshman helped hold the Cavaliers to a season-low 25 rushing yards on 26 carries as FSU improved on its ACC-leading run defense (74.8 ypg) and its nation-leading sack total (25/5.0 pg).

ACC's Players of the Week

September, 20, 2010
Here are the ACC's Players of the Week, as announced today by the league offices in Greensboro, N.C.:

OFFENSIVE BACK – Russell Wilson, NC State, QB, r-Jr., 5-11, 201, Richmond, Va. (Collegiate)

Wilson completed 26 of 40 passes against Cincinnati for 333 yards and three touchdowns. Seventeen of his completions resulted in first downs. He completed passes to 11 different receivers and did not throw an interception. It marked the sixth time in his career that Wilson has thrown for 300 yards or more, and the ninth time he has had three or more touchdown passes.

OFFENSIVE LINEMAN – Rodney Hudson, Florida State, OG, Sr., 6-2, 282, Mobile, Ala. (B.C. Rain)

Hudson played extremely well at the point of attack, posting a season-high grade of 94 percent from demanding line coach Rick Trickett as the Seminoles piled up 427 yards in total offense, including 278 on the ground. The 2009 ACC Jacobs Awards winning left guard out of Mobile, Ala., matched a career high with 10 knockdown blocks in a virtually perfect performance. Hudson did not have a missed assignment and was penalty-free against BYU’s huge defensive front. He graded out 95 percent on running plays with 39 plus grades on 41 snaps, and 92 percent on pass plays (22 plus plays out of 24 pass plays).

DEFENSIVE LINEMAN – Izaan Cross, Georgia Tech, DE, So., 6-4, 292, Flowery Branch, Ga. (Flowery Branch)

Cross, who was instrumental in stopping North Carolina’s potential game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, had five tackles, one sack, one tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a pass break-up against the Tar Heels. Cross’ sack of Yates on fourth down late in the fourth quarter was a key play for the Tech defense that blanked UNC in the final quarter.

DEFENSIVE BACK – Rashad Carmichael, Virginia Tech, CB, r-Sr., 5-11, 186, Clinton, Md. (Gwynn Park)

Carmichael overcame a rocky start to help shut down the East Carolina offense in the second half, as the Hokies allowed just 83 yards after intermission. He stretched the lead in the fourth quarter with a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown, then intercepted his second pass of the game on the next drive.

SPECIALIST – Scott Blair, Georgia Tech, K, Sr., 6-0, 172, Calhoun, Ga. (Calhoun)

Blair provided the winning margin with two fourth-quarter field goals and scored 12 points, leading Georgia Tech past North Carolina on Saturday. Blair was 3-of-3 on PATs and 3-of-3 on field-goal attempts, booting kicks of 22, 46 and 36 yards. Blair passed Calvin Johnson on Tech’s all-time career scoring list and now ranks fourth all-time in scoring among Tech kickers.

ROOKIE – Mustafa Greene, NC State, RB, Fr., 6-0, 201, Irmo, S.C. (Irmo)

Greene was NC State’s leading rusher and receiver in the victory against Cincinnati. Greene carried the ball 16 times for 84 yards and a touchdown, and caught five passes for 54 yards. Greene became the first Wolfpack freshman running back since Joe McIntosh in 1981 to rush for a touchdown in each of his first three games.

A few Georgia Tech notes

September, 4, 2010
Georgia Tech beat South Carolina State 41-10 in its tuneup for next week's road trip to Kansas. Here are a few notes for you from the game:
  • No true freshmen started, but at least four played -- safety Isaiah Johnson, outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, running back B.J. Bostic and cornerback Louis Young.
  • Georgia Tech has scored at least one rushing touchdown in 26 of 28 games under Paul Johnson.
  • Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt has rushed for touchdowns in season openers in 2008, 2009 and 2010. He has rushed for two or more touchdowns in a game eight times in his career. With 130 yards rushing, he now has five career 100-yard rushing games.
  • Kicker Scott Blair entered today’s game having made 41 consecutive extra-point attemps. Blair’s streak remains alive as the botched PAT in the second quarter was a “team” attempt.

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 17, 2010
Did somebody say chat today?

Georgia Tech spring wrap

May, 7, 2010

2009 overall record: 11-3

2009 conference record: 7-1, ACC champions

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense 8: punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

QB Josh Nesbitt, RB Anthony Allen, RB Roddy Jones, C Sean Bedford, WR Tyler Melton, WR Stephen Hill, LB Brad Jefferson, CB Mario Butler, S Dominique Reese, PK Scott Blair

Key losses

WR Demaryius Thomas, RB Jonathan Dwyer, OG Cord Howard, DE Derrick Morgan, LB Sedric Griffin, S Morgan Burnett

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Dwyer (1,395 yards)

Passing: Nesbitt* (1,701 yards)

Receiving: Thomas (1,154 yards)

Tackles: Jefferson* (95)

Sacks: Morgan (12.5)

Interceptions: Burnett (4)

Spring answers

1. Who’s No. 2. Tevin Washington earned the No. 2 quarterback job behind Josh Nesbitt, who was out this spring recovering from minor ankle surgery. Washington ran for three touchdowns and threw for another in the Jackets’ spring game. He made the most of Jaybo Shaw's transfer to Georgia Southern and beat David Sims and Jordan Luallen for the job.

2. Receiver by committee. Yes, Stephen Hill has the chance to be the program’s next elite receiver, but there were signs the passing game will have some more help this fall. Look for the Jackets to make an effort to throw more to the A-backs, or slot backs, this year.

3. Finding homes on defense. Georgia Tech won’t solve all of its defensive problems in one spring, but the transition to Al Groh’s 3-4 defense helped a few players who were in between positions find a spot. Anthony Egbuniwe, who was a defensive end last year, is now an outside linebacker. And Anthony Barnes, who was a nomad last year, seems to have found a home at the other outside linebacker spot. Jason Peters, who has bounced between defensive tackle and end, showed significant improvement at end this spring.

Fall questions

1. How much better can the defense be? Overall, the transition under Groh remains a question. Specifically, the biggest concern on the line is the nose tackle position. T.J. Barnes played there in the spring, and Ben Anderson missed all of spring recovering from a knee injury he suffered late last season. When Anderson comes back in August, he’ll compete with Barnes for that job. There were too many runs up the middle during the spring game to stop a team like Virginia Tech or Miami.

2. Nesbitt’s health. The ankle injury was minor -- he could have participated this spring had he wanted to -- but Nesbitt’s health will be a concern this year. There is still a big difference between Nesbitt and Washington, and Nesbitt has to stay healthy if the Jackets are going to defend their ACC crown.

3. Unsettled offensive line. There are a lot of new players working their way into the rotation, and competition will continue. Georgia Tech lost three starters, including the transfer of guard Joseph Gilbert. The second team was composed entirely of freshmen in the Jackets’ spring game.

Mixed results for GT

January, 5, 2010
MIAMI, Fla. -- Whatever Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said to his team during the half, whatever adjustments he made, seemed to work. The Jackets were finally able to sustain a drive and looked like they had all season. Problem is, they couldn't do anything with it, as Scott Blair missed a 41-yard field goal attempt. Georgia Tech fans should be encouraged by the fact that the Jackets were able to move the ball, but in a game where points are at a premium, that could come back to haunt them. Especially when Iowa's offense is controlling the clock.

Scott Blair for title game MVP?

December, 5, 2009
TAMPA, Fla. -- When these two teams met in September, Georgia Tech kicker Scott Blair stole the spotlight with his touchdown pass and game-winning field goal. He's doing it again. Blair seems to have Clemson's number, as Blair has accounted for 12 of the Jackets' points so far on four field goals. That's an ACC championship game record. He's set his career-long twice, first with a 48-yarder then with a 49-yard field goal.

Georgia Tech's offense is rolling

December, 5, 2009
TAMPA, Fla. -- Maybe Clemson defensive coordinator Kevin Steele's inspiring speech in the hotel didn't sink in after all.

Georgia Tech's offense just steamrolled through Clemson's defense. That's been the case for most of the game so far, it's just that the Jackets have stalled in the red zone and had to settle for three field goals in the first half (an ACC championship game record for Scott Blair, by the way.) Georgia Tech is doing its usual amazing job of eating up the clock, as that last scoring drive, which put the Jackets ahead 23-13, took 5:32.

Josh Nesbitt scored his 18th rushing touchdown of the season. He's now one behind the ACC record of 19, which Ryan Williams holds a share of. Da'Quan Bowers has a career-high 10 tackles so far tonight.

Georgia Tech settles for another FG

December, 5, 2009
TAMPA, Fla. -- On its last possession, Georgia Tech looked like it was an eighth grader pushing a fifth-grader in the hallway. Just a few nudges in the chest, making the poor kid backtrack.

And then Georgia Tech started to beat itself up.

Just when the Jackets were ready to bulldoze their way into the end zone again -- they got as close as the 7-yard line -- they racked up four penalties, two holding calls and two false starts. Somehow, though, Scott Blair bailed them out again, with another career-long field, goal, this time 49 yards. The Jackets lead 13-7, and Clemson fans should feel fortunate about that, because it could be a whole lot worse.

Georgia Tech receivers dropping the ball

December, 5, 2009
TAMPA, Fla. -- For the second straight week, a Georgia Tech receiver dropped a key ball that could've prolonged a scoring drive. One week after Demaryius Thomas dropped a fourth-down ball against Georgia on the Jackets' final chance of the game, Roddy Jones just dropped a key pass here in the ACC championship game.

These guys don't get many opportunities to catch the ball, so when they do, they have to hang onto it. Usually, they do. I've been watching Thomas, and he's done a great job of blocking so far in this game. Instead of the chance at the touchdown, though, the Jackets had to settle for a career-long 48-yard field goal by Scott Blair, and trail, 7-3.

Familiarity not necessarily an advantage

December, 3, 2009
When Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was an assistant at Alabama in 1999, the Crimson Tide went to Florida and beat the Gators, and then managed to do it again in the SEC championship game.

It was the only time Swinney had ever faced the same team twice in one season -- until now.

There will be a sense of familiarity when Clemson and Georgia Tech meet on Saturday in the ACC championship game, as Georgia Tech beat the Tigers, 30-27, on Sept. 10 in Atlanta. Whether it will be an advantage for either team remains to be seen, but both teams are better now than they were in the second week of the season, and the coaches expect a few new wrinkles from each other.

[+] EnlargeKyle Parker
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesKyle Parker threw for 261 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions in the Sept. 10 meeting with Georgia Tech.
“This is a little different for them and for us in that I don't think either team really knew what we were getting into back [in the] second game of the season,” Swinney said. “Neither one of us really had a lot to go on from a film standpoint, and there's a lot of new people playing on both sides. You know, our freshman quarterback and we've got some young linemen, and some freshmen playing in the secondary and things like that. So you know, now that you've got a lot of film to really study them throughout the season, and they'll have all of ours and we'll have all of theirs, from a scheme standpoint that's a good advantage this time around.”

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said he can’t remember playing a team twice in the same season since he was at Georgia Southern (1997-2001). Johnson said Appalachian State and Furman would usually make the playoffs, and his team would see them again there.

“I don't think on the 1-A level we've ever played anybody twice in the same season,” Johnson said. “That usually doesn't happen.”

Georgia Tech outscored Clemson 24-0 in the first half earlier this year, but allowed the Tigers to battle back to a 27-24 lead in the fourth quarter. The Jackets’ defense stifled rookie quarterback Kyle Parker to preserve the win, but it was kicker Scott Blair who stole the spotlight with his 34-yard touchdown pass and last-minute, game-winning field goal.

“You know, we know their personnel well,” said Clemson guard Thomas Austin. “We've gone against those guys the last couple years and this season, but from a schematic standpoint, we know what they do, they know what we do, so I think for us it'll just be a matter of not trying to hide things but just doing what we do a little bit better.”

Georgia Tech has won five of its past six games against Clemson, but this time, the Tigers will have had a full week to prepare for that triple-option offense -- again.

“It's six of one, half dozen of the other,” Johnson said. “It probably helps them, but we also know how they lined up the last time. There's no guarantee everybody is going to line up the same way or do the same thing, but at least you have a little bit of familiarity. The first time we played them with a new coordinator, we had no idea what they were going to line up in. Like I said, I'm sure they'll have some tweaks and do a few things differently, but at least you've got some idea.”

The other similarity between these two teams is that they’re both coming off a loss to their respective SEC rivals that raised questions and revealed weaknesses. Clemson’s offense all but disappeared against South Carolina, and Georgia Tech’s defense was more than welcoming to Georgia’s running game. Still, both coaches agree their teams have improved since they last met in September.

“You know, I think they've improved a whole lot offensively since they've played us,” Johnson said. “I hope that we've gotten better, too. If we haven't, it's going to be ugly.”