ACC: Sean Hickey

ACC morning links

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
8:00
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It appears as if Virginia Tech will lose its second defensive starter to a medical redshirt this season.

Starting defensive tackle Luther Maddy said Monday night on Twitter that he needs a second surgery on his knee and will sit out the rest of the season.
Maddy initially tore the meniscus in his right knee against East Carolina in Week 3, but played 48 snaps with the injury against Georgia Tech. He underwent surgery last month, and the timetable for his return was listed as two-to-four weeks. Though he was listed as probable to play against Pitt, Maddy did not and was not scheduled to play against Miami on Thursday night.

His loss is a big one for the Hokies, who have had to make do without him for the last three games. Nigel Williams replaced him in the lineup, but it's tough to make up for Maddy's experience and skill-set. The four-year starter was a preseason All-ACC team selection after he had 6.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hurries a season ago. In four games this season, Maddy had seven hurries.

Virginia Tech also plans on redshirting Brandon Facyson, who started the season at cornerback opposite Kendall Fuller. Facyson has been slow to heal from a stress fracture to his shin and has not played since Week 3.

In one other Virginia Tech injury note, running back Marshawn Williams is expected to play against the Hurricanes after missing last week with a sprained ankle.

Over at Georgia Tech, the Jackets got some tough injury news of their own when coach Paul Johnson said that starting B-back Zach Laskey probably won't play at Pitt on Saturday. Laskey hurt his shoulder late against North Carolina last week and was in a sling Monday. Laskey has been terrific this season, with a team-high 120 carries for 595 yards and five touchdowns.

He gained 70 or more yards in each game this season.

Now let's see what else is making headlines in the ACC:
Ryan Nassib got in front of his teammates, calm and relaxed. Syracuse was just moments away from taking the field against unbeaten Louisville, ranked No. 9 and favored to win.

[+] EnlargeTerrel Hunt
AP Photo/Phil SearsTerrel Hunt and Syracuse hope to solve their red-zone problems Friday night against Louisville.
 Not many gave the Orange a chance. But it was senior night in the Carrier Dome and Nassib – a senior – delivered a powerful pregame speech that offensive tackle Sean Hickey still remembers. “That got everybody fired up, wanting to play for the seniors and go out there and play the best we possibly could.”

Syracuse completely dominated, winning 45-26 and ruining the Cards’ unbeaten season. On the Louisville sideline, players stood in disbelief. “We were undefeated and to see things play out the way they did, it was a shock, period,” Louisville receiver Eli Rogers said.

That was the last time they met, as Big East members in 2012. Though much will be different when they play tonight in the Carrier Dome as ACC teams, both squads return many players with vivid memories of that day.

What happened has not been forgotten. Immediately after Louisville beat Wake Forest last Saturday, the veterans started mentioning Syracuse.

“I asked one of our coaches, ‘What’s that all about?’ and they said, ‘Oh, well, a couple years ago, they were going on their way up there and they were undefeated and lost the game,” said Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, in his first year with the Cardinals. “But really since then, I haven't heard a whole lot. Our focus is really just to get ready to play and go up and do a good job of playing the game right.”

Unlike their last meeting -- featuring Nassib and Teddy Bridgewater -- quarterback play has been up and down for both. True freshman Reggie Bonnafon will make his second career start for the Cardinals, while Terrel Hunt looks to clean up the Syracuse red-zone problems.

Both have had their moments this season, but neither offense is playing with much consistency. Louisville has struggled on the offensive line and has had problems holding onto the football. Its nine lost fumbles are the most in the ACC this season.

Syracuse, meanwhile, has racked up the yards -- ranking No. 4 in the league in total offense. But the Orange rank No. 13 in the ACC in scoring offense, averaging 25.5 points per game. Syracuse cannot afford the same mistakes in the red zone that have plagued it the last two games -- Louisville not only has the top defense in the ACC, it has the No. 2 red-zone defense in the conference as well.

Defense may very well be where the game is determined. Last week, Syracuse forced five turnovers against Notre Dame; Louisville has forced 13 turnovers -- including 10 interceptions. Syracuse has 13 sacks on the season; Louisville has 19. Lorenzo Mauldin has four of them.

“Lorenzo Mauldin is very active with his hands, probably one of the best hand-fighting pass rushers that I’ve seen in college,” Hickey said. “He’s an amazing player. I’m very high on him in terms of the player he is, and it will be a good challenge for the offense line.”

There could be one more intangible at play. Syracuse always does well on nationally-televised, non-Saturday games in the Carrier Dome. Overall, Syracuse is 4-1 since 2011 in home games played on Friday.

Preseason All-ACC team

August, 21, 2014
Aug 21
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Presenting the 2014 ESPN.com preseason All-ACC team:

Offense

WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke. One of the most dynamic receivers in the ACC, Crowder has had consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and gets the nod over Louisville receiver DeVante Parker in a close call. Given Crowder's past production in the offense, he should be in line to break school receiving records this season.

WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State. Perhaps one of the most underrated receivers in the country, Greene is a virtual lock to catch every pass that comes his way. He is the picture of consistency, and as the top returning target for Jameis Winston, should reach 1,000 yards again.

TE: Nick O'Leary, Florida State. One of the best tight ends in the country, O'Leary had 33 receptions for 557 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He should improve on all those numbers this season.

T: Cameron Erving, Florida State. Erving thought about leaving school early last season for the NFL draft but decided to return, and he now anchors the best offensive line in the country.

T: Sean Hickey, Syracuse. Hickey is going into his third season as a starter and has developed into one of the best tackles in the league. He also may be the strongest player in the ACC, too.

C: Andy Gallik, Boston College. Gallik helped spearhead a Boston College run game last season that averaged 212.5 yards on the ground. As a three-year starter, Gallik has grown into the best center in the league.

G: Tre' Jackson, Florida State. One of the best guards in the country, Jackson also opted to return to school for his senior year. He and Erving are the best players on that line.

G: Laken Tomlinson, Duke. A first-team All-ACC player a year ago, Tomlinson will be relied upon even more to lead an offensive line that has to replace two of its best players. If he has another stellar season, Tomlinson could be one of the first guards taken in next year's draft.

QB: Jameis Winston, Florida State. The returning Heisman Trophy winner had a rough season off-the-field but there is no questioning his credentials on the field. After throwing for more than 4,000 yards a year ago, the expectation is he will be even better this year.

RB: Duke Johnson, Miami. Johnson is one of the best backs in the country, averaging 6.6 yards every time he touches the ball. If he can stay healthy for the entire season, he's a virtual lock to gain 1,000 yards.

RB: Kevin Parks, Virginia. Parks is the only returning 1,000-yard back in the ACC and is hoping for more in 2014. Tough call here between Parks and Karlos Williams, the next two best backs in the league behind Johnson.

Defense

DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson. Beasley finished last season with 13 sacks (tops in ACC) and 23 TFL (4th in nation). He’s a preseason All-American and the biggest star on one of the country's top defensive fronts.

DE: Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State. The No. 1 overall recruit in the nation three years ago, Edwards is poised to come into his own in 2014. He was a critical piece of Florida State’s run-stuffing defense a year ago, finishing with 9.5 TFL and 3.5 sacks.

DT: Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech. No returning interior lineman in the ACC had more TFL last year than Maddy’s 13.5, and he was a key for the Hokies' dominant defense. This season, he'll be the centerpiece of a new-look D line.

DT: Grady Jarrett, Clemson. Dabo Swinney calls Jarrett one of the best defenders in the nation, even if he hasn’t gotten much national acclaim. He finished last season with 59 tackles, including 10.5 for a loss, and should be the foundation for a dominant defensive line at Clemson this season.

LB: Denzel Perryman, Miami. Perryman is Miami’s most productive defender, finishing with 108 tackles last season (fifth in the ACC). He’s the lone ACC defender returning for 2014 to have recorded at least 60 tackles in each of the previous three seasons.

LB: Stephone Anthony, Clemson. His 15 TFL last season ranked eighth in the ACC, and no returning linebacker in the conference had more. He added 86 tackles and 4.5 sacks to boot.

CB: Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech. One of the top freshman defenders in the nation last season, Fuller picked off six passes as part of Virginia Tech's exceptional secondary. His 17 passes defended tied for eighth nationally.

CB: P.J. Williams, Florida State. Williams racked up three interceptions and was dominant in coverage for Florida State, which finished with the best pass defense in the nation. He also won defensive MVP honors in the BCS national championship.

S: Anthony Harris, Virginia. Led the nation with eight interceptions last season for Virginia, including picking off at least one pass in five straight games in conference play in October and November.

S: Jalen Ramsey, Florida State. The first true freshman to start at cornerback for Florida State since Deion Sanders, Ramsey made the transition to safety midseason and didn’t miss a beat, finishing with 49 tackles and an INT.

S: Jeremy Cash, Duke. Cash finished last season second in the ACC in tackles (121), fifth in interceptions (4) and recorded 9.5 TFL, tops in the conference among defensive backs.

Specialists

K: Roberto Aguayo, Florida State. The Lou Groza Award winner in 2013, Aguayo broke the national record for points by a kicker in a season with 157 points. He is virtually automatic every time he steps onto the field, missing just one field goal attempt and zero extra points last season.

P: A.J. Hughes, Virginia Tech. A second-team All-ACC selection a year ago, Hughes averaged 44.1 yards per punt. He placed 24 inside the 20, and had 22 punts of 50 yards or longer.

KR: Kermit Whitfield, Florida State. Whitfield led the nation last year in kickoffs, with an average of 36.4 yards per return. His speed makes him extremely difficult to stop, let alone slow down.

PR: Ryan Switzer, North Carolina. Teams have probably learned to kick away from Switzer at all times. Last season, he had five returns for touchdowns, tying an NCAA record.

Syracuse Orange season preview

August, 18, 2014
Aug 18
10:30
AM ET
» More team previews: ACC | Big 12 | Big Ten | Pac-12 | SEC

Previewing the 2014 season for the Syracuse Orange:

Key returners: QB Terrel Hunt, RB Prince-Tyson Gulley, WR Ashton Broyld, LT Sean Hickey, LG Rob Trudo, DT Eric Crume, LB Dyshawn Davis, LB Cameron Lynch, CB Brandon Reddish, S Durell Eskridge

Key losses: RB Jerome Smith, C Macky MacPherson, LB Marquis Spruill, DT Jay Bromley, CB Ri'Shard Anderson, S Jeremi Wilkes

Most Important 2014 games: Sept. 27 vs. Notre Dame (in East Rutherford, New Jersey), Oct. 3 vs. Louisville, Nov. 8 vs. Duke, Nov. 22 at Pitt, Nov. 29 at Boston College

Projected win percentage (from ESPN Stats & Information): 51 percent

Over/under Vegas odds: 5.5

[+] EnlargeTerrel Hunt
AP Photo/Phil SearsTerrel Hunt passed for 1,638 yards and 10 touchdowns last season. He added another 500 yards rushing with seven touchdowns on the ground.
Instant impact newcomer: John Miller best fits this bill, as he is a junior college transfer who saw just limited time last season, his first with the Orange. Now the former Los Angeles Harbor College player looks to build off a spring that saw him emerge as one of the team's most improved players and as a leader on offense. Miller is the front-runner to start at center for Syracuse and should allow others around him to stay in their natural positions.

High point from 2013: Terrel Hunt hit Josh Parris for an 8-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the regular-season finale to top rival Boston College 34-31 and earn win No. 6. This was a major boost for Syracuse, which ended up beating Minnesota in the Texas Bowl to finish 7-6 in Year 1 of both the Scott Shafer and the ACC eras. It might have been a watershed moment for Hunt, too, as he enters 2014 looking to take the next step as a leader of this offense.

Low point from 2013: Losing big to heavyweights Florida State and Clemson is one thing. But a 56-0 loss at Georgia Tech, a team that went just 7-6 and enters 2014 with major questions, is pretty much inexcusable. It stands out even more considering the Orange entered the game coming off a win at NC State and won two straight contests right after the Atlanta trip. (It also stands out after Shafer made his thoughts known about Atlanta winters, and after the Twitterverse replied as the Twitterverse is wont to do.)

Best-case scenario for 2014: Hunt evolves as a passer and as a runner, orchestrating an offense that has made it known it would like to push the tempo in 2014. Unlike last year, the Orange enter the season knowing who their No. 1 quarterback is, and that proves beneficial as they race out to an early 3-0 start. The front seven steps up and Syracuse is able to steal a win during a tough three-game stretch against Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida State, emerging on the other end ready to tackle a final month that concludes with road contests at former Big East foes Pitt and BC. Syracuse improves in Shafer's second season, hitting his goal of at least eight wins, and the future looks bright for a program looking to emerge as a legitimate No. 3 team in a top-heavy Atlantic division behind FSU and Clemson.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: Hunt struggles to command the offense with more responsibility, the defense can't seem to make up for the loss of Bromley up front and the Orange get eaten alive by a tough schedule. A trip to Wake Forest provides a reprieve during a five-game stretch that features the aforementioned teams above plus Clemson on the other end. No matter, though, as a physically beaten team staggers into the final month with only NC State as a winnable game. Syracuse wins four games, its worst season since Doug Marrone's inaugural 2009 campaign.

They said it: "I was happy with the way we finished the season. I thought both Terrel [Hunt] and the wide receivers did a nice job finishing up with the victory over Minnesota in the Texas Bowl, but we need to take it to the next level to get to the next level. We're always going to really work hard to run the football. I believe in running the football, I believe in stopping the run. I think that's where it starts with our philosophy. But in this day and age, you've got to be able to open it up, and we put the onus on our passing game, our wide receivers, to take their game up." -- Shafer, on the passing game becoming more explosive

ACC mailblog

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
4:00
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We open the mailbag with a reply from Jon in Fort Lauderdale, who created quite the firestorm with his comments last week!

Jon writes: Hahah you're awesome!! Thanks for putting the question online. I reeeally didn't think that would make it. Thanks for being objective, but you know every Nole on here thinks otherwise. I just think whether ND does good, great or awful, it's a plus for the ACC. Last year the ACC was the bottom-feeders and now we have the defending champs, a good Clemson bowl win and a historic program like ND associated with the conference. I will certainly tone down the condescension on my next email and appreciate you using my comment. Keep up the good work even if fans like myself give you some razzing. I look forward to enjoying the column the upcoming season, thanks!!

Andrea Adelson writes: We can agree on one thing, Jon. I am pretty awesome. And if the mailbag is any indication, a lot of you Noles fans agree! Thanks for all the wonderful notes this week, Richard in St. Augustine, Florida, Roy in Lakeview, Arkansas, Scott in Satellite Beach, Florida, Bill in Destin, Florida and Scott in Charleston, South Carolina. I've had my Sally Field moment for the day.


Adam in Miami Beach, Florida, writes: Did you really post a comment calling University of Miami fans and alumni dumb and illiterate? I thought as a reporter you would not be so biased against a fan base. Please remind the FSU fans that The University of Miami ranks well above FSU (and Florida for that matter) in academic rankings and athletic APR.

Adelson writes: OK, I've had my Sally Field moment for ... a moment. The mailbag is a forum for readers to express their own opinions. These do not reflect my own. If they did, well, then we would not have much of a mailbag. So one fan base trash-talked another fan base -- doesn't that all come with the territory? We have had trash talk in this space before, and I am sure we will have more as the season goes on. You will find far, far worse elsewhere.


Chris in Pittsburgh writes: How do you see the development of first-year starter Chad Voytik going this season for Pitt? This is his first year under center, but it's his third in Paul Chryst's system, and Coach Chryst has a pretty good track record with QBs.

Adelson writes: One of the reasons I believe Pitt is a contender in the Coastal is because of Voytik. We got our first glimpse of what he could do in the offense in the bowl game, and I was impressed. Not only does he have a firm grasp of the offense, and not only is Chryst known as a QB whisperer, Voytik had some pretty talented players surrounding him. The running game and offensive line should be better, and Tyler Boyd already is a returning 1,000-yard receiver. I believe when the season ends, Voytik will be among the top half of QBs in the ACC.


Matthew in Alexandria, Virginia, writes: Let me preface this question -- I'm an alumnus, fan, and donor of Virginia Tech athletics (and big fan of Hokies football). With all of the new quarterbacks that need to prove themselves in the Coastal Division (Virginia Tech's included, and even Duke and North Carolina QBs have something to prove), I feel like this could be a year when an average offense and a tough-as-nails defense could win the ACC's Coastal Division. Virginia Tech's offense doesn't have to be great (although that would be nice). For example, it just has to be good enough (top 60-ish). Your thoughts?

Adelson: Could not agree more, Matthew. I think that is a big reason why there are many who believe Virginia Tech will win the Coastal despite a recent dip. Virginia Tech has followed this formula to win the Coastal in the past. We are not going to see offensive flash, but if the Hokies can first and foremost run the football, they will absolutely have a shot at this division. The schedule is in their favor, too. If Virginia Tech makes modest improvement offensively and is once again dominant on D, this team can win 10 games.


Drew in McLean, Virginia, writes: Hi, Andrea. On paper, FSU has a tougher schedule than last year. If they happen to roll Oklahoma State, ND, UF (assuming they are relatively good), will those teams all of a sudden become "overrated" like Clemson last year to discount their victories, or will they actually get a little respect for taking out quality opponents now that they've won a title?

Adelson writes: Clemson still finished ranked in the Top 10 with a win over Ohio State in the Discover Orange Bowl. Not sure how many people called the Tigers overrated then. I should hope wins in those three games prove how strong Florida State is, as opposed to cutting down the worthiness of the opponent.


BT in Miami writes: I think Denzel Perryman is slightly overrated in the ACC top 25, and Stacy Coley is supremely underrated. Coley had seven receiving TDs as a freshman, and he dropped two bunnies (nerves) in the end zone in his first game, which would have given him nine. He was Miami's best WR from his first day on campus. His other accolades are well known. The rankings would appear more genuine if you guys projected a bit, instead of giving some guys credit for above-average longevity (Nick O'Leary). Clearly FSU is loaded and deserves credit, but being the best tight end at FSU, historically speaking, doesn't say much. Tyler Boyd, Jamison Crowder, Coley > Rashad Greene.

Alex in Cusetown writes: How were Sean Hickey or Durell Eskridge not on your preseason top 25 players list?

Adelson: Coley just missed the cut. We have high hopes for him this season. People like to bag on Greene, but he is as reliable, consistent and good as they come. Last season, he had more touchdown catches than the three players you mentioned above, and a higher yards-per-catch average than Boyd and Crowder, too. As for the two Syracuse players, it is always tough for an offensive lineman to crack the Top 25. Hickey should be a first-team All-ACC selection, but he's not quite on the same level as Cameron Erving or Tre' Jackson, the only two offensive linemen to make the list. Eskridge is coming off a terrific season, but he's behind Jeremy Cash and Anthony Harris at safety and several other defensive backs at this point.
On the offensive side of the ball, this offseason has been all about tempo for the Syracuse Orange.

Last season, the Orange ran one play every 24.8 seconds of possession time (just a tick faster than the league’s midpoint) and averaged just 74 plays per game (11th in the ACC). The results weren’t awful, coach Scott Shafer said, but they could’ve been better, and so Syracuse is focused on finding ways to speed things up at the line of scrimmage. (Note: We wrote extensively about ACC offensive tempo last week.)

Offensive lineman Sean Hickey talked up the new procedures at ACC Kickoff this week, noting simplified verbiage for the line and a new process to get plays in from the sideline that will allow quarterback Terrel Hunt to focus on reading the opposing defense rather than relaying the play call to his teammates.

And to be sure, Hunt’s ability to thrive in a fast-paced offense will define how successful Syracuse’s tempo gameplan turns out to be.

When it comes to tempo, Hunt’s first season as starter figured to be a mixed bag. Going fast can put a defense on its heels -- but only if the offense knows what it’s doing. For Hunt, 2013 offered some good signs -- but moving faster didn’t seem to help his passing much.

Here are Hunt’s numbers in games against AQ-conference teams when Syracuse moved faster than its season-average tempo of one play every 25.3 seconds and when it didn’t.



Two of Syracuse’s top tempo games last season were against Wagner and Tulane, and those were Hunt’s best performances. But neither team offered much competition. Against AQ-conference adversaries, the numbers between up-tempo and a more methodical approach didn’t matter much. In either case, his decision-making was questionable and his downfield passing was virtually non-existent.

Of course, 2013 was about testing the waters for Hunt, Shafer and Syracuse offensive coordinator George McDonald -- all in their first year on the job. Now, the hope is that the process is more refined, and experience will benefit everyone. That’s certainly what Shafer saw this spring from his quarterback.

“I was impressed with Terrel’s ability to throw to open spots rather than to open men and anticipate making those throws quicker, an area that we challenged him to make improvement,” Shafer said.

Of the 19 quarterbacks with at least 100 attempts vs. AQ-conference teams last year, only Virginia’s David Watford averaged fewer yards-per-attempt than Hunt. Watford has since been passed on the depth chart by Greyson Lambert. Of that same group, the only QB to throw for fewer TDs than Hunt’s three was the man he passed on the depth chart in Week 3, Drew Allen.

In other words, there’s nowhere to go but up for Hunt in 2014, and there’s at least reason for optimism as Shafer looks at what he has to work with.

Hunt has talent, and he's clearly taken on a leadership role this spring. Simplifying his pre-snap decision-making process might be just what he needed to buy extra time to read the defense, with the added benefit of moving faster at the same time. Shafer praised an improved group of wideouts, too, and the Orange offensive line will be one of the more experienced groups in the conference.

Better QB play, depth at receiver and experience on the line are key ingredients in moving the offense with speed and precision, and Shafer believes the coaching staff has the rest of the recipe figured out, too.
The preseason All-ACC team was released Wednesday, and naturally quarterback Jameis Winston led the way with the most votes. There were not too many surprises, beginning with Florida State players littered throughout the list of 26 names.

Here is the 2014 preseason All-ACC team, as voted on by the media at the ACC Kickoff:

 
 
 

Thoughts: While the ACC had the second-most NFL draft picks in May, there is significant talent returning to the conference for the 2014 season. Of the 26 players, 21 were named to one of the three All-ACC teams at the end of last season. That doesn’t include Parker, who will play his first season in the ACC this coming season. Winston, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner and the leading vote getter (although not a unanimous one), and Beasley, who received the second-most votes, are two of the three returning consensus All-Americans from the 2013 season.

Few conferences would be able to rival that offense with Winston throwing to 1,000-yard receivers Crowder and Greene and a 6-foot-3 target in Parker. O’Leary is one of the best tight ends in the country. There was a seemingly close battle at running back behind Duke Johnson, Williams got the nod over Virginia running back Kevin Parks, who rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season.

Defensively, that is one talented line. Beasley received the second-most votes for the preseason player of the year, and Edwards was the No. 1 high school recruit in the 2012 class. Maddy and Jarrett are two of the best defensive tackles in the country.

Duke has the second-most players on the team, which speaks to the program David Cutcliffe is building in Durham. The Blue Devils were not picked to win the ACC Coastal despite winning it last season and returning quarterback Anthony Boone. There is a constituency out there that still doesn’t believe Duke is the real deal and is bound for a letdown, but the media believes there is talent throughout the roster; the Blue Devils have a player at receiver, offensive line, linebacker and the secondary. Miami, which was picked to win the division, has two players on the list.

Even as Duke had four players, the Seminoles still had nine, only further signifying the gap between Florida State and the rest of the conference, although the league is undoubtedly improving. That list does not include Ronald Darby or Jalen Ramsey, two players who will almost certainly be on an All-ACC team by the end of the season. It is no surprise Florida State was ranked as having the most talent on its 2014 roster two weeks ago in ESPN.com's future power rankings.

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 21, 2014
Jul 21
12:00
PM ET
Make sure to check out our live coverage of ACC media day starting at 1:30 p.m.! Follow @ESPN_ACC, @DavidHaleESPN, @Matt_Fortuna and @JShankerESPN for all our coverage.
Two more watch lists were released Thursday, and the ACC is well-represented. The Bronko Nagurski Trophy is awarded to the nation’s top defensive player by the Charlotte Touchdown Club. The Outland Trophy is given to the nation’s top interior lineman, offensive or defensive.

Here are the ACC and Notre Dame players to make the watch lists:

Bronko Nagurski Trophy

LB Stephone Anthony, Clemson: A third-team All-ACC selection last season, Anthony was brilliant in the Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State with 11 tackles and an interception. Anthony is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DE Vic Beasley, Clemson: Beasley is a disruptive force in opponents’ backfields and registered 13 sacks as a junior. He led the ACC in sacks in 2013. Beasley also is on the Bednarik Award watch list.

LB Kelby Brown, Duke: The Blue Devils under David Cutcliffe are most known for offense, but Brown is a stout defender and one of the conference’s best. He will make a run at 100 tackles for a second consecutive season this fall. Brown is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DB Jeremy Cash, Duke: Cash was an instant-impact player for the Blue Devils in 2013 following a transfer from Ohio State. With another year in the system, Cash is poised for a huge season. Cash is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DL Mario Edwards, Florida State: The former No. 1 recruit nationally was dominant in the national title game. Edwards is now the leader of the defensive line and has just as good a chance as any to win the Nagurski. Edwards is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DB Kendall Fuller, Virginia Tech: An impact performer as a freshman and a second-team All-ACC selection, Fuller is set to be the next great defensive back at Virginia Tech. Fuller is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DB Anthony Harris, Virginia: An All-ACC selection as a junior, Harris will be looked upon to lead the turnaround for the Cavs on defense. It is a talented unit, and Harris, a team captain this fall, might be the best. Harris is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DT Grady Jarrett, Clemson: With Beasley constantly seeing double-teams, this opens up the door for Jarrett to be an interior force for the Tigers’ defensive line, which is arguably the country’s best. Jarrett is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

DT Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech: He helped make a name for himself against Alabama at the beginning of the season, and his strong play continued throughout the season. Maddy is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

LB Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville: It will be interesting to see how he fares without defensive guru Charlie Strong, but he is as talented as they come. Mauldin is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

LB Denzel Perryman, Miami: One of the few bright spots on Miami’s defense last season, Perryman is the unquestioned leader of the Hurricanes defense. He could put up a huge number of tackles this fall. Perryman is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

CB KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame: He has started every game in his career and was a FWAA Freshman All-American in 2012. He starred in the Irish’s bowl game with an interception and three pass breakups. Russell is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

LB Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame: Poised to be one of the best linebackers of recent history for the Irish, Smith started all 13 games as a freshman. He had the third-most tackles for a Notre Dame freshman in school history in 2013. Smith is also on the Bednarik Award watch list.

CB P.J. Williams, Florida State: Williams was one of FSU’s best players this spring, and he might be the country’s best cornerback. His stiffest competition could come from the opposite side of the field in teammate Ronald Darby, who surprisingly did not make the list. Williams also is on the Bednarik Award watch list.

Outland Trophy

DL Sheldon Day, Notre Dame: An impact player since his freshman season, Day was second among Notre Dame defensive linemen in tackles last season.

OT Cameron Erving, Florida State: A potential first-round draft pick, Erving elected to stay in school for another run at a national championship. As Jameis Winston’s blindside protector, few linemen nationally hold as much responsibility.

OT Sean Hickey, Syracuse: A workout warrior and one of the strongest players in college football, Hickey is the linchpin to the Orange offensive line.

OG Shaquille Mason, Georgia Tech: A two-time ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week, Mason has started 26 of the last 28 games for the Yellow Jackets.

OG Josue Matias, Florida State: Another potential first-round candidate along Florida State’s offensive line, Matias is athletic enough to play offensive tackle, too. He experimented at left tackle this spring.

OC Jake Smith, Louisville: Smith could end up playing right guard, where he started earlier in his career, but he is coming off a junior season in which he started at center. Smith is also on the Rimington watch list.

OG Laken Tomlinson, Duke: A key along the offensive line for the Blue Devils, Tomlinson likely will be a preseason All-ACC team selection. He was a first-team All-ACC coaches selection in 2013 as the Blue Devils’ best lineman.

Clemson’s Grady Jarrett and Virginia Tech’s Luther Maddy were represented on both lists.

Player list for ACC media days

July, 10, 2014
Jul 10
2:24
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The 2014 college football season is inching ever so closer, with ACC media days set to take place in less than two weeks.

The league released its list of players who will be attending the July 20-21 event at The Grandover Resort in Greensboro, North Carolina. Here they are:

BOSTON COLLEGE
C Andy Gallik, R-Sr.
DB Dominique Williams, R-Sr.

CLEMSON
QB Cole Stoudt, Sr.
DE Vic Beasley, R-Sr.

DUKE
OG Laken Tomlinson, R-Sr.
LB Kelby Brown, R-Sr.

FLORIDA STATE
QB Jameis Winston, R-So.
CB P.J. Williams, Jr.

GEORGIA TECH
OG Shaquille Mason, Sr.
LB Quayshawn Nealy, R-Sr.

LOUISVILLE
WR DeVante Parker, Sr.
DE Lorenzo Mauldin, Sr.

MIAMI
RB Duke Johnson, Jr.
LB Denzel Perryman, Sr.

NORTH CAROLINA
QB Marquise Williams, Jr.
LB Norkeithus Otis, Sr.

NC STATE
RB Tony Creecy, R-Sr.
DE Art Norman, R-Sr.

PITT
WR Tyler Boyd, So.
DB Ray Vinopal, R-Sr.

SYRACUSE
OT Sean Hickey, Sr.
LB Cameron Lynch, Sr.

VIRGINIA
RB Kevin Parks, Sr.
SS Anthony Harris, Sr.

VIRGINIA TECH
WR Willie Byrn, R-Sr.
DT Luther Maddy, DT

WAKE FOREST
FB Jordan Garside, R-Sr.
CB Kevin Johnson, R-Sr.

ACC lunchtime links

July, 9, 2014
Jul 9
12:15
PM ET
The way athletes begin working out at such a young age and the advances in sports training and nutrition, football players each year seem to be more physically gifted and impressive than ever before.

Some like to call them physical “freaks,” in a positive way. They’re uniquely talented and possess an athleticism that is rare among their peers.

This week, Bruce Feldman of FoxSports.com has offered his list of college football’s freaks, and several ACC players made the cut. While the ACC is on the wrong end of a lot of jokes, the conference has produced a large number of NFL draft picks and regularly is behind only the SEC in picks annually. With the talent bases in ACC recruiting hotbeds Florida, Georgia and throughout the South, conference schools have some of the country’s most athletic players in their own backyard.

With the genesis of GPS training, which our David Hale reported on last month, programs such as Florida State are now taking those elite physical athletes and helping them reach the next level. It’s no longer about just lifting weights and running sprints; it is a science.

The ACC names to make Feldman’s list:

Louisville WR DeVante Parker: Potentially the No. 1 receiver among 2015 NFL draft boards, Parker stands 6-foot-3 and Feldman lists a wingspan of 80 inches, which means few cornerbacks can compete with him on jump balls. Parker might not be a national name just yet, but under the tutelage of Bobby Petrino, Parker could put up freakish numbers to go along with that athleticism.

Georgia Tech RB Broderick Snoddy: Snoddy has run the 100-meter dash in 10.28 seconds and is a prep sprint champion. The Yellow Jackets are going to need that speed to translate to the field, and that could happen this fall as Snoddy figures to see more carries and has the potential to break a long run any time he touches the ball with his elite set of wheels. His school bio states he is only “likely” the team’s fastest player, but it’s probably a safe bet to give him that full distinction.

Syracuse OT Sean Hickey: If you need any explanation as to why I will point you in the direction of Andrea’s piece on Hickey’s intense training.

Florida State CBs Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams: It’s funny because on Twitter recently I was asked about who is better between Darby and Williams. I didn’t answer then and I won’t answer now, other than to say those two are projected to be among the first two cornerbacks taken in next year’s draft. The two lock down receivers, and they locked down the freak distinction at cornerback.

Miami CB Artie Burns: He is an elite sprinter and is hoping to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. He holds several prep sprinting records. On the football field, Burns was a solid returner and cornerback as a freshman and was a top 10 cornerback coming out of high school.

Here are a few other links to help you through the day:
AthlonSports was the latest publication to release a preseason All-ACC team, joining Phil Steele from a week ago. We already broke down Steele's teams, but now that we have multiple forecasts to look at, it's worth checking out some trends and differences.

The one similarity that jumps out immediately is that North Carolina's Marquise Williams is Athlon's second-team quarterback, just like he was Steele's. As we said last week, this could very well turn out to be the case, but the fact that Williams remains engaged in a highly competitive quarterback race with Mitch Trubisky speaks to just how much uncertainty there is at the position throughout the ACC.

Duke's Anthony Boone is the third-team quarterback on both teams, while Athlon has Clemson's Cole Stoudt as its fourth-team quarterback. (Steele had Louisville's Will Gardner.)

Athlon does list Pitt's Tyler Boyd as a first-team receiver, along with Florida State's Rashad Greene. Boyd was a second-teamer on Steele's list, which featured Greene, Duke's Jamison Crowder and Louisville's DeVante Parker as first-teamers.

Athlon, however, listed just two receivers per team, and 26 total players per team (11 offense/11 defense/four special teams). Steele listed 28 total players per team (12/12/4).

Boston College's Andy Gallik gets the nod as Athlon's first-team center over Louisville's Jake Smith, who was a first-teamer on Steele's list. FSU's Bobby Hart gets the nod as one of Athlon's first-team tackles over Syracuse's Sean Hickey, who made Steele's first team.

Defensively, the biggest (and only real) difference comes at one of the safety spots, where Athlon has FSU's Jalen Ramsey as a first-teamer and Steele has him as a third-teamer. Duke safety Jeremy Cash made Steele's first team, as did teammate Kelby Brown at linebacker, where Steele had four players per team. (Athlon had three per team. Both Cash and Brown were second-teamers.)

Punter is the only difference on the first-team special teams squad, with Athlon picking Virginia Tech's A.J. Hughes and Steele taking UNC's Tommy Hibbard. Hibbard was on Athlon's second team, while Hughes was on Steele's third team.

Also of note: No Andrew Brown on Athlon's list. The five-star Virginia freshman was on Steele's fourth team at defensive tackle.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 13, 2014
May 13
12:00
PM ET
Twitter has debuted a “mute” function, which allows you to silence users without unfollowing them. By the way, you can follow, then mute me at @DavidHaleESPN.
  • The ACC is sticking with an eight-game schedule, but it wants teams to schedule big-name opponents outside the conference, too. BC Interruption has a great look at who’s on the docket for the 10 programs without annual SEC rivalry games.
  • Athlon is rolling out its preseason top 25 in reverse order, and the first ACC entrant is Clemson at No. 21.
  • The Roanoke Times takes a deeper look at the X-receiver position at Virginia Tech, where sophomore Joshua Stanford is atop the depth chart.
  • Sean Hickey figures to be Syracuse’s top prospect in the 2015 NFL draft, The Post-Standard writes.
  • Georgia Tech’s Jabari Hunt-Days, currently ineligible academically, could be pulled from school by his parents, writes the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
  • Former Clemson kicker Chandler Catanzaro is excited for a chance to earn a roster spot with the Arizona Cardinals, writes Tiger Net.
  • Charlie Strong can take credit for bolstering the NFL stock of Louisville’s roster, but he’s got a big job ahead at Texas, writes SB Nation.
  • Jimbo Fisher has an interesting idea on how to keep players healthy, writes the USA Today.
  • Jameis Winston’s dad says his son should have security 24/7 at Florida State to keep him out of trouble, writes Yahoo!.
  • Not specific to the ACC, but here’s a beautiful bit of math smarts from Tomahawk Nation that illustrates the fallacy employed by so many writers who think 2- and 3-star recruits are just as likely as 5-stars to be drafted in Round 1.
  • A local barbershop that has served Florida State's elite for years will remain in business, at least for now, writes the Tallahassee Democrat.
The strongest man on the Syracuse roster has spent the winter and spring getting, well, stronger.

He had to.

Left tackle Sean Hickey went through the NFL draft evaluation process, eventually opting to return to school for his senior season after being graded anywhere from a third-to-fifth round selection. One of the biggest reasons he came back was to develop the strength in his lower body, which he hopes improves his draft grade.

[+] EnlargeVic Beasley
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsSyracuse OT Sean Hickey, who returned for his senior season instead of leaving early for the NFL draft, has started strong -- literally -- after spending the offseason in the weight room.
During winter conditioning, Hickey worked his legs until he could barely walk with a combination of strength training and body building exercises. On Tuesdays, he concentrated on heavy squatting, then did an extra circuit of leg extensions, leg presses and leg curls. On Fridays, he would do more manual exercise like jumps and split squats to get blood flowing into his muscles. Then Saturdays, he would condition his legs to get ready for another grueling workout the following week.

He also has added five pounds and is up to 299, with the goal to play at 305 when the season begins. So far during spring practice, Hickey has felt a difference on the field.

“Definitely I can see it in my movement, it allows me to play lower,” Hickey says.

Syracuse will once again be relying on Hickey to anchor the offensive line. This is a group that has been in flux throughout the spring because of injuries and one suspension. About the only certainty is that Hickey will once again be the left tackle, where he has come into his own since replacing NFL draft pick Justin Pugh last season.

“He’s been great,” offensive coordinator George McDonald said of Hickey’s leadership on the line. “He’s been able to be the calming influence among the line that [center] Macky MacPherson was last year so he’s been able to get those guys, have private meetings, get them to understand what the standard is to be a Syracuse offensive lineman.”

For Hickey, an iron will brought him to this point. After suffering through knee injuries early in his career, Hickey developed a drive to succeed in the weight room, where he pushed himself beyond the pain. That conditioned him to play through pain at times throughout his career. Last season, for example, he was listed as doubtful for the Boston College game with a high ankle sprain but ended up playing.

“If you can physically play through it, if the body part is not going to fail on you, then it’s not a big issue,” Hickey said. “Yeah, it’s going to hurt but you just get through it.

“I learned that when I was hurt in the weight room. I went in every day with our strength coach, Will Hicks. It was me and him one on one every day, and it was mostly body building stuff, which is really high reps. That’s when your muscles burn the most. Going through that and pushing it so hard in that period, it taught me how to push my muscles further than I think they can go. It tells me how to train harder.”

Hickey says he feels stronger now than at any point in his career. Lifts that were once extremely challenging now go up a little bit easier. What helped was starting offseason training with heavier weights right off the bat. He can still bench press 525 pounds, a number he hit last summer. Coaches won’t let him go higher because they keep repeated over and over: he’s a football player, not a body builder.

His bench press reps of 225 pounds -- the weight they test with at the NFL combine -- remain at 41, though he wants to improve that number in the summer, when the strength training plan for his legs begins all over again.
Syracuse opens its second spring in the ACC this week, and head coach Scott Shafer thinks there’s plenty for the Orange to be excited about. We talked with Shafer about some of the key issues facing Syracuse as it gets back to the practice field.

Winning the final two games of the season the way you did, how much does that momentum and energy carry over into a new year?

A: Any time you can finish a season with a bowl win, it gives some momentum going into the offseason. I think it affects the offseason program more than anything. The way the kids approach the strength program, conditioning, early morning workouts -- there’s just a sense of excitement across the board and anticipation for the next guys in. We lost a lot of good football players that played a lot of football, and now the kids that have waited their turn are competing to see who’s going to win the next opportunity. It’s right out there for them and they get to jump into a situation where the momentum is coming off a high note.

[+] EnlargeScott Shafer
Brett Carlsen/Getty ImagesScott Shafer went 7-6, including a bowl win, in his first season in the ACC.
Terrel Hunt made such big strides down the stretch. With that experience under his belt, what can this spring mean to him?

A: The thing with Terrel that always is the starting point is his ability to adapt. He’s had to adapt in his real-life situation with a lot of tough situations, coming up with his parents passing away, that sort of thing. He’s always been an extremely resilient kid. Now adding the confidence level that he’s played well toward the end of the season, the kids see him as a leader, which is natural for him. I think his command can continue to really affect the team, not just the offense.

From an Xs and Os and technique point of view, it’s important that he continues to grow with Coach [Tim] Lester coaching him every day, and I know he’s excited to do that. I think he can have a really good spring that can catapult him into being extremely prepared for a great fall.

Offensive coordinator George McDonald has talked about upping the tempo this year as Hunt gets more comfortable. How much could that help you guys offensively?

A: I think we finished fourth in the ACC in snaps offensively [at 73.7 per game]. We were right up there. If we can get four or five more a game, I think that would be a good goal, a good objective to try to reach. Being a former defensive guy, the tempo teams always cause you a little extra preparation. At the end of the day, it’s still execution between the whistles, but if we can put four or five more plays per game to our offense, it’ll help us a bunch.

That and being able to open it up a little bit with some of the wide receivers and kids we got back. Adrian Flemming we were excited going into the season and he got injured. He’s back and ready to go. I’m excited about the progress some of the kids that haven’t played yet for us offensively. Everybody knows Brisly Estime had a good season for us, especially the last half. But we’ve got some guys -- Corey Winfield is a young guy who’s had a great offseason. Sean Avant, I’m excited to see what he can do. Corey Cooper is another kid. On the outside, Jarrod West coming back and leading the way, Alvin Cornelius did some good things for us later in the season. And, of course, we’re always excited to get the ball in Ashton Broyld's hands. So I think there’s a sense of excitement for those kids to compete and be alongside with developing Terrel. The passing game scenario, we definitely have to continue to improve upon. And we have to stay strong with running the football.

You lose a big impact player in Jay Bromley. Do you think filling that hole on the defensive line is your biggest question mark this spring?

A: Yeah, I do. Losing a guy like Jason Bromley, it’s always tough to replace a guy who has played that much football. Eric Crume has played a ton of football for us, and he had a great offseason. I’m excited to see Eric step up to the plate. Some new names: Marcus Coleman hasn’t played yet but we’re going to put him on the field. We have a kid that we’ve recruited for a couple years in Wayne Williams that started at the midyear. He’s a kid we’re really excited about and now he’s ready to go after he went junior college. And then Ryan Sloan will get a bunch of snaps this spring. It’ll be definitely difficult to replace Jason, but in the same breath, I know these kids are excited for the opportunity.

Injuries were a big problem in the secondary last year, particularly at corner. But can the added experience that some of the backups got in 2013 be a bonus for you this spring?

[+] EnlargeTerrel Hunt
AP Photo/David J. PhillipTerrel Hunt has another season in the Orange's offensive system after totaling 17 TDs last season.
A: That’s a great point. Julian Whigham was our third corner going into the season, but he was sitting behind two guys that had started for a few years each. When Keon [Lyn] went down and Julian started playing more, he and Brandon Reddish -- Brandon was the third, Julian was a three-and-a-half type of guy -- but Julian came in and had three interceptions. I’m excited about him. Brandon Reddish is a kid that’s played a lot of football and is now a senior. Wayne Morgan is a fast guy that we’ve moved around a little bit because we had depth at corner, but now we’re locking him back in at corner. Those guys, it was a little bit of a difficult situation at the time, but you move to the season after the injuries and those kids have played more than we anticipated, and you have more experienced depth, which is key.

Bromley, Jerome Smith, Macky MacPherson -- you lost some important leaders on your team. Who do you see stepping up to fill that void?

A: Only time can tell. You never want to try to force or anoint leadership. A guy like Cam Lynch on defense, he walks into a situation that’s natural for him. He’s well-versed in football and is an excellent student as well. He carries himself where he’s already been a natural leader as an underclassman. Dyshawn Davis is an excitable player who loves the game, and he’s got some qualities that are different than Cam. His sense of excitability has its own merit. We have a couple quiet leaders in Micah Robinson -- it’s not always the guy that stands up and says things. It’s a guy or a group of guys that establish themselves as guys that show the way, model the way, and other guys get on board. We have a lot of those guys. On the offensive side, Terrel is still an underclassman, but he’s a natural leader. Kids follow him. And then Sean Hickey decided to come back and we’re very happy and excited he’s back. He’s one of the best silent leaders you could have. He works every day. He’s a perfectionist, and when you have guys doing things right consistently, sometimes those are your best leaders.

Syracuse’s first ACC season was largely successful, but you’re in a division with the defending national champions in Florida State, the Orange Bowl champs at Clemson and a team in Louisville that has won 23 games the past two seasons. Is that something you remind your team about as motivation this time of year, or is it something that can be intimidating?

A: It’s just one of those things that’s reality. We don’t talk about it much. We talk about controlling the things we can control, and that’s where we start off every meeting almost. We talk about what we can do to get better. We understand the bar is high, especially on our side of the division, but that’s what we signed up for. As coaches, we wanted to play in those venues with the best teams in the country. As players, you always imagine yourself playing the best. Now we get to live it. That’s exciting. I can think about all my biggest victories in my career as a coach and say they wouldn’t be the biggest victories if we didn’t get a chance to knock down the giant. So we’ve got a couple giants on our side of the division, and now what we want to do is really focus in on the business at hand -- spring ball, a civil war, offense and defense getting after each other, focus on improving by trying to knock the guy down that’s across from me and then pick him up as a teammate. We’ll have our goals with winners and losers this spring and understand that you learn a lot when you win, you learn a lot when you lose and really embrace that mentality, and not focus on the other teams right now.

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Saturday, 12/27
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