ACC: Sedric Griffin

Georgia Tech spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
5/07/10
9:30
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GEORGIA TECH

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.

Coastal Division up for grabs in 2010

January, 11, 2010
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With Monday's news that Georgia Tech juniors Jonathan Dwyer, Morgan Burnett and Derrick Morgan have decided to leave school early to enter the NFL draft, consider the ACC's Coastal Division officially up for grabs.

The top two front-runners heading into 2010 --- defending ACC champ Georgia Tech and Coastal Division runner-up Virginia Tech -- have significant losses they'll have to replace. The Hokies will lose six starters on defense, and the Yellow Jackets -- in a span of four days -- have lost their leading rusher, leading receiver and top defender. Georgia Tech will have to replace seven starters from this year's impressive 11-3 season, including linebacker Sedric Griffin, guard Cord Howard, offensive tackle Brad Sellers and junior receiver Demaryius Thomas, who announced on Friday he would enter the NFL draft.

At Georgia Tech, Paul Johnson thrives on proving his doubters wrong. At Virginia Tech, defensive coordinator Bud Foster has built his reputation on consistently reloading and producing top-ranked defenses each year. But both coaches are facing significant challenges that can't be ignored heading into next season. Georgia Tech will also have a new defensive coordinator, and possibly a new defensive scheme.

Enter Miami and North Carolina.

It will be as good a time as any for either or both of these programs to reassert themselves in the standings. It will be the fourth season for both Butch Davis and Randy Shannon, and expectations should be higher for both programs. This season, UNC proved it could beat the Hokies. And Miami proved it could defend Georgia Tech. With the growing pains expected in both Blacksburg and Atlanta, 2010 would be the time for UNC and Miami to make wins like that add up to more than just a bowl appearance.

Georgia Tech's Johnson looking for better effort vs. Clemson

September, 8, 2009
9/08/09
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Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson likened his players’ efforts in Saturday’s 37-17 win against Jacksonville State to “punching a clock.”

He liked the effort he saw on the first play when the Jackets knocked four players straight to the ground and paved the way for Jonathan Dwyer's 74-yard touchdown run. Demaryius Thomas knocked one defender off his feet, Anthony Allen did the same to another, offensive lineman Joseph Gilbert cut one linebacker and Embry Peeples cut the backside safety.

And then?

“And all of a sudden, right through the first quarter it kind of disintegrated a little bit,” Johnson said. “Like I said in our team meeting, if they can’t get excited to play a conference game at home on Thursday night on national TV, then they probably don’t have a pulse.

“We’ve got to find a way to be motivated,” he said. “We have a -- for whatever reason -- a problem with that at times. ... There’s games where it’s just like punching a clock. We’re not a good enough team to punch a clock against anybody. Well, that’s not true, we were Saturday, but nobody in our league.”

And Clemson is up next.

Johnson will be expecting more effort in what will be the most intriguing matchup the ACC has to offer this week. The good news for Georgia Tech is that the starting lineup will get a spark from the return of A-back Roddy Jones, who has finally been cleared from a dislocated wrist. He had been wearing a noncontact jersey and going through the drills without hitting until a few weeks ago. Jones was the team's second-leading rusher with 690 yards on just 81 carries last year, and he was the third leading receiver with 155 yards on eight receptions.

Jones' 311 rushing yards over the last two games of the regular season got Georgia Tech fans excited about his potential, and he said he's ready to get back on the field.

“For the past couple weeks I’ve been out there throwing blocks and cutting and catching balls,” he said. “I’ve worked my way back into pretty good game shape and I feel good, feel good about playing on Thursday.”

Jones spent last Saturday watching from the sideline, and said he saw the same thing Johnson did.

“We came out on Saturday real hot, we scored on the first play, and it was just like it was drawn up,” Jones said. “ ... After that we went into a little lull, we were kind of flat. Guys kind of slacked off a little bit. We really didn’t play as well overall as we thought we should’ve. We’re going to come out and play the first down like we did every snap last week.”

Clemson’s defense has been the strength of its team, and could be one of the best in the league, but the Tigers will obviously have to give Georgia Tech’s run-based offense a different look than the six defensive backs and one linebacker it used against Middle Tennessee’s spread offense. Georgia Tech’s backfield is loaded, especially with the return of Jones.

“With this offense, the sky’s the limit,” Jones said. “If we’ve got everybody on the same page -- Josh is making good reads, Jon gets going running the ball well and we get blocks on the perimeter -- anyone is capable of having a big game. I think it’s more about how far we’ve come as an offense. We want to play better than we did last week.”

Linebacker Sedric Griffin, a South Carolina native who had his sights set on playing for the Tigers, said he’s very familiar with Clemson’s offense having grown up watching it.

“You can’t come out lackadaisical and going through the motions,” he said. “Clemson is a very talented team, and if you do things like that, you’re going to get beat. We have to come out with 100 percent intensity and play full speed ahead. “

ACC's super seniors

July, 24, 2009
7/24/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

College football fans always want to know who the next quarterback will be, who the next great recruit is, and often the attention is splashed on baby-faced players who haven't even taken a snap yet. The spotlight, though, should be on the proven veterans -- the leaders who make a difference on and off the field, in the locker room and in the classroom. Those are the players I want to highlight today -- the super seniors of each team.

Here's a look at the best of the best in this year's ACC senior class, players who are respected by their peers and are expected to lead by example and make an impact on the field, just as they've done their entire careers:

 
  Joel Auerbach/US Presswire
  Riley Skinner passed for 2,347 yards and 13 TDs as a junior.

WAKE FOREST: Quarterback Riley Skinner. He's already the school's winningest quarterback with 26 wins, and now he has a chance to go out with a record-setting season. He's got the supporting cast around him, and after the departure of so many playmakers on defense, he's the one the rest of the team will undoubtedly look to for leadership. Skinner owns the school records for passing efficiency and completion percentage in a career. Skinner will need to complete 27 passes, attempt 282, throw for 1,416 yards and throw 11 touchdown passes in order to set school records this fall.

VIRGINIA TECH: Cornerback Stephan Virgil. According to this year's media guide, Virgil has progressed further than any player under coach Torrian Gray's guidance. Virgil started all 14 games last year at field corner and tied for the team lead with six interceptions. Now, he'll continue the trend of replacing the top defensive back at the boundary corner, where he'll take over for Macho Harris. He's the most experienced player in the secondary, and he's also a member of four special-teams units. No doubt he'll be a leader on this defense.

VIRGINIA: Cornerback/quarterback Vic Hall. How many players are willing to help out in all three phases of the game? Hall spent most of this spring working at quarterback, where he finished 2008 in his first start against Virginia Tech. Hall made 59 tackles last season and is the team's leading returning tackler. He also picked off two passes, including one he returned for a touchdown. Last year, Hall was given the team's John Polzer Award for ability, sportsmanship and character. And here in the blogosphere, that counts.

NC STATE: Defensive end Willie Young. For as intimidating as he can be on the field, Young is the one who keeps everybody loose. He was a redshirt on the team that had three first-round draft picks on the defensive line (Mario Williams, Manny Lawson and John McCargo), so he certainly has a base of experience to work with. Now he's the most experienced player on the team, having seen action in 1,667 snaps. Young has 31.5 career tackles for loss and 12.5 career sacks.

NORTH CAROLINA: Ryan Taylor. Taylor was the co-MVP on special teams last year and the unit's captain. Sports information director Kevin Best tells me "He's fearless." Taylor also became the first Carolina player in "who knows how long" to play on special teams, offense (TE) and defense (LB) in the same game (vs. NC State). His main focus is special teams, but he will see some time at tight end this year as well. He's developed into a proven leader and is certainly one guy the special teamers admire and look up to.

MIAMI: Offensive tackle Jason Fox. He's a rock, he's dependable, and he's surrounded by young'uns. Fox is a well-spoken, thoughtful player who is one of three team captains. He started 12 of 13 games for the Hurricanes at left tackle, missing his first career game against Virginia Tech. Overall, Fox has started and played in 36 career games. He even scored a rushing touchdown on a tackle-throw-back play against Florida State from five yards out.

 
  Fernando Medina/US Presswire
  Dekota Watson should be a leader on a defense which lost six starters from a year ago.

MARYLAND: Center Phil Costa. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen has praised him from the end of last season through now. The veteran of the offensive line has embraced the leadership role, and taken a young group under his wing. Costa isn't a big cheerleader, but he's certainly someone the rest of the offensive line and offense respects. He also graded out as one of the Terps' top linemen last season, despite having five seniors. This is the one position on the offensive line the coaches aren't concerned about, and that's a huge compliment to Costa.

GEORGIA TECH: Linebacker Sedric Griffin. Last year Griffin entered the season buried on the depth chart, and he kind of got lost in the shuffle because he's a bit undersized. When his teammates were injured, Griffin came off the bench against Boston College and emerged as the Jackets' most consistent defensive player last season. He loves contact probably more than any player on the team. And, he's married.

FLORIDA STATE: Linebacker Dekoda Watson. Watson is a high-energy player who leads both by example and vocally. He's also one of the top defenders on the team and itching to get back on the field after missing this spring for shoulder surgery. The Noles lost six starters on defense, so they're looking for leaders who can tackle, too, and Watson fits the bill. He has three career defensive touchdowns and two blocked kicks.

DUKE: Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. He's a model student-athlete who is the heart and face of the program. Lewis never complains when asked by a Duke official or coach to do something, nor does he let the nation's dismissive attitude toward Duke football get to him. Instead, he's motivated by it. Lewis is the leading returning passer in the ACC after averaging 197.4 yards per game in 2008, and he leads all active ACC players in career passing yards and touchdown passes. He holds school records for most consecutive pass attempts without an interception (206). And he's determined to leave Duke knowing what it's like to go to a bowl game.

CLEMSON: Running back C.J. Spiller. His lengthy list of accomplishment could fill up a book, but his decision to return to the program instead of bolting for the NFL shows his commitment to Clemson and the man who recruited him, Dabo Swinney. With James Davis gone, all eyes will be on Spiller, and the offense will revolve around him. Spiller already owns 10 school records, but equally as impre
ssive is the fact that last fall, Spiller earned a 3.5 GPA and became the first running back in school history to make first-team All-ACC and the Dean's List in the same semester.

BOSTON COLLEGE: Linebacker Mike McLaughlin. He was voted a defensive captain by his teammates last year, but is now struggling to get back on the field because of a torn Achilles. There's no doubt this group sorely needs him, not just for his playmaking abilities, but also for his leadership. McLaughlin finished 2008 second on the team with 89 tackles, 53 solo stops, and four sacks, and he was third on the team with 12 tackles for loss.

Georgia Tech linebackers struggle to stay healthy

July, 23, 2009
7/23/09
2:00
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

When Georgia Tech's starting linebackers began working out together again this summer, Brad Jefferson compared it to "reuniting with an old friend."

After all, the trio hadn't been on the field together in a game situation since the season opener against Jacksonville State last year because they were all hurt at different times. (And because four times Georgia Tech started in a nickel package, with two linebackers.)

The three starters who opened the 2008 season together -- Jefferson, Kyle Jackson, and Anthony Barnes -- never started together again as a unit. Jefferson and Barnes were both hurt in the opener against Jacksonville State, and Sedric Griffin was so good he never came out. Because of the numerous injuries last year, the Jackets played one true freshman, Steven Sylvester, and nearly played another in B.J. Machen.

"When people talk about our linebackers, they've never really seen us play yet," Jefferson said. "That's why they're kind of talking down, like our linebacking corps didn't really show up last year. That was kind of the reason why. Folks don't know that."

Now they might have to wait even longer for a true evaluation of the Jackets' starters after the recent news that Jackson could be out for the summer with a foot injury. Jackson, a versatile player who can play inside our out, is meeting with a specialist today, but so far, doctors haven't been able to determine exactly what's wrong with his foot. He's been in a walking boot for months now, and the staff hopes to learn more about the injury by next week.

It's still a deep group, as there are about eight athletic players to work with. In addition to Jefferson, who is likely to start at inside linebacker, the Jackets can also count on Griffin and Barnes. Their responsibilities were going to increase anyway because of the inexperience in front of them on the defensive line.

"The linebackers, we're going to have to contribute a lot," said Jefferson, who missed four games in 2008 with a dislocated wrist. "Last year we had a good D-line, and I think we have a good upcoming D-line, but they haven't had as many reps. I've gotta pick up all the slack; that's how I feel as a player. I've got to take that responsibility."

And he's got to stay healthy in the process.

ACC's lunchtime links

July, 23, 2009
7/23/09
12:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Only two and a half more days until I officially consider us to be "in-season." The ACC Football Kickoff is Sunday. Until then ...

  • One player creating a lot of buzz in Tallahassee this summer is tight end Caz Piurowski. The last time I spoke to Jimbo Fisher, he was particularly excited about Piurowski because the offensive line will be better and Piurowski won't have to help out there as much. By dieting and slimming down, he's ready to be more involved in the passing game, and FSU could certainly use another set of hands there. Then again, they might get Richard Goodman back sooner rather than later.
  • Clemson running back C.J. Spiller knows how to strike a Heisman pose -- he's just got to teach his coach how to do it. 
  • Miami coach Randy Shannon intends to be stingy about the wide receivers' playing time, and LaRon Byrd intends to be one of the players who sees the field. Odds are he will.
  • Virginia Tech got a commitment from a wide receiver, and the Hokies were his only offer. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • Maryland beat writer Patrick Stevens says to "step away from the panic button," that the Terps' linebackers are going to be just fine.
  • Boston College is heading to Yankee Stadium in 2014. And no, Dave Shinskie will not be eligible then.
  • Doug Roberson of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution posted a Q&A with Sedric Griffin, and he talked about the differences in Year 2 of Dave Wommack's defense.

Ranking the ACC units: Linebackers

July, 22, 2009
7/22/09
5:03
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This would be an entirely different list if the top two linebackers in the league -- Mark Herzlich and Nate Irving -- weren't sidelined right now. There are still a lot of standout linebackers in the conference, but this season just won't be the same without those two guys, not that Irving's return has been completely ruled out yet. Having spoken with NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer Wednesday, though, it's simply a miracle that Irving is even alive. In looking at the rest of the conference, it's tough to find teams that are deep at this position. It's a question mark for a lot of teams, and there's a lot of inexperience.

Here's a shot at ranking the best linebacking corps in the ACC:

1. Miami -- Sean Spence was one of the hardest hitters in the conference as a true freshman and will only be better this year, but the key to this group will probably be the return of a healthy Colin McCarthy, who injured his shoulder in the first half of the season last year. Darryl Sharpton, Arthur Brown and Jordan Futch still have something to prove.

2. North Carolina -- Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter started every game last year, and there are high expectations for sophomore Zach Brown. Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles last year and ranked third in the ACC in total tackles per game. This is one of the deepest groups the Tar Heels have had recently, but they are lacking some experience.

3. Virginia Tech -- Cam Martin and Cody Grimm combined to play all but nine plays at the whip linebacker spot, but they've got to replace Purnell Sturdivant and Brett Warren. Barquell Rivers proved he's up to the task when he filled in in the Orange Bowl, and Jake Johnson will have an increased role, too. There's a lot of potential in this group.

4. Clemson -- The Tigers return two starters plus a third player with starting experience. Kavell Connor started all 13 games last year and was the team's top tackler with 125. Brandon Maye had an impressive season as a redshirt freshman, and finished with 87 tackles. Scotty Cooper was a part-time starter at strongside linebacker.

5. Georgia Tech -- Even with Kyle Jackson possibly out for the whole summer with an injured right foot, the Yellow Jackets till have plenty of depth with Sedric Griffin, Brad Jefferson, Anthony Barnes and Steven Sylvester. Barnes and Jefferson are both finally healthy after injury-plagued seasons and there should be good competition for starting jobs. This group can't afford anymore injuries though.

6. Florida State -- With the graduation of Derek Nicholson and Toddrick Verdell, the Noles lose their top two tacklers. Dekoda Watson will be back from elbow surgery this spring, but it's a young group counting on sophomores like Nigel Bradham and Nigel Carr. Junior Kendall Smith is the only other upperclassman on the two-deep roster.

7. Maryland -- Alex Wujciak could be a star at this position for the Terps, and he'll definitely need to be a leader there this fall. Maryland lost four linebackers who combined to play 144 games and 54 starts. Adrian Moten is one of the few experienced faces in the group, and he earned his first start last year in the Humanitarian Bowl.

8. Duke -- The Blue Devils have to replace the ACC's leading tackler in Michael Tauiliili, but they've still got Vincent Rey, who made 109 tackles last year. The problem is, Rey is the only experienced linebacker they've got. Competition remains among Damian Thornton, Abraham Kromah, and Adam Banks.

9. NC State -- It's not clear when Nate Irving will return, but for as long as he's out, the Wolfpack will be missing their best player on both sides of the ball. The Pack still have senior Ray Michel, who is a returning starter in the middle, and Dwayne Maddox started in place of Irving when he was out last year. But this is an entirely different group -- and defense -- without Irving.

10. Boston College -- The Eagles' linebacking corps took a huge hit when Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, and they still don't know when Mike McLaughlin will be cleared to play from a torn Achilles. BC has a reputation for its defense, so odds are this group will be OK, but there are too many unknowns right now.

11. Wake Forest -- All three starters from last year are gone, and the Demon Deacons have big shoes to fill after the departure of Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry. It's going to have to be a group effort, but there's still some athleticism and depth to work with. Matt Woodlief and Hunter Haynes are the most experienced players retuning.

12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers graduated the veteran group of Jon Copper, Clint Sintim and Antonio Appleby, and because they were so good, their backups didn't see much playing time. This group is the feature in Al Groh's 3-4 defense, and it's going to have a whole new look. There were good reports about Steve Greer this spring, and Groh said Greer tried to mimic his game after Copper, which is reason for hope.

Q&A with Georgia Tech DC Dave Wommack

July, 10, 2009
7/10/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Much of the attention Georgia Tech has received this preseason has been focused on Jonathan Dwyer and the Jackets' stable of running backs. If they're going to contend for the Coastal Division title, though, the defense will have to hold its weight, too, and the Jackets have to replace three of four starters up front. I caught up with defensive coordinator Dave Wommack to check in on the defense heading into summer camp.

 
  Todd Kirkland/Icon SMI
  Entering 2009, Dave Wommack has some holes to fill on his defensive line.

Are you changing anything? I've heard some rumblings about maybe a different scheme this year.

DW: We may change up some things a little bit, but I think it may be based [more] on personnel than it will anything else. We'll see when we get into two-a-days, but there's not going to be any drastic changes.

Are there things you saw in the spring on the defensive line that give you concerns that are forcing you to tinker with it?

DW: [He laughed]. Just inexperience. When you lose three guys to the draft, it's just a matter of inexperience. I think we've got some good, young guys that are coming up. They just haven't played very much. That's the biggest thing, but no, that's not why we're changing. It's really our experience is more in the secondary, maybe get more five DBs on the field more than anything else.

Yeah, tell me about that group a little bit. You have a lot of guys coming back, especially with Morgan Burnett.

DW: It kind of flips. Now your most-experienced players are guys that have played one year. I'm looking forward to the secondary. I think it will be a strength for us with Morgan leading the way.

What more can he do? What are you expecting from him this year?

DW: Really that's the thing that concerns me as much as anything, because Morgan wants to make every play. It's really, Morgan, stay within the framework of your defense. Don't let your eyes get you in trouble. The play is going to come your way. You're a featured stop for us on defense, so don't try to do more than what you need to do because the defense will break down. So I don't think it's so much asking him to do more, just really do what you've done. Don't try to do too much.

(Read full post)

3Q update: Georgia Tech 41, Miami 10

November, 20, 2008
11/20/08
10:15
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

ATLANTA -- Miami defensive coordinator Bill Young passed me in the press box on his way to the bathroom at halftime. He might as well have stayed in there. Miami's defense is getting embarrassed.

And there's an entire quarter left to play.

The Canes aren't defending the option with any discipline or consistency, and they're not accounting for the fullback, quarterback and slot back. That's what's allowing Georgia Tech its big plays. Over and over again. So much for quarterback Josh Nesbitt playing timid on that ankle.

Georgia Tech's defense, on the other hand, looks like the running of the bulls on every play. And they're doing it without two starters -- safety Dominique Reese and linebacker Sedric Griffin -- who were both knocked out of the game with left knee injuries in the first half.

Miami hasn't quit -- Robert Marve hit Dedrick Epps who was wide open in the end zone for the Canes' only touchdown so far -- but it's like it didn't even matter here.

All Paul Johnson has to do now is keep the ball on the ground and run the clock. You know, what he's been doing all game.

Injury update

November, 20, 2008
11/20/08
8:32
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

ATLANTA -- Georgia Tech linebacker Sedric Griffin is out for the rest of the game with a left knee injury.

The ACC's bedazzling backups

September, 25, 2008
9/25/08
4:59
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Listening to Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson praise backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw this week, and in talking to NC State coach Tom O'Brien about the success of his third string tight end, it got me thinking.

There have been a lot of backups making differences in the ACC this season. Some, like Virginia Tech's Darren Evans, have simply stolen the spotlight from the starter. Others, like the Hokies' Tyrod Taylor, have stolen the starting job. And many have gotten their opportunity at the unfortunate expense of an injured -- or suspended -- teammate.

Here's a look at the ACC's best backups through the first four weeks:

Boston College: True freshman running back Montel Harris wasn't even on the two-deep when the season started, but after filling in for injured starter Josh Haden (ankle), Harris is the Eagles' leading rusher with 133 yards in two games.

Clemson: Freshman defensive tackle Brandon Thompson was supposed to redshirt, but couldn't after the news Rashaad Jackson would be out for 10 weeks and Jamie Cumbie was lost for the season after the first game. Thompson leads Clemson in tackles for loss with four, and his playing time will only increase.

Duke: Running back Clifford Harris assumed the starting role after a preseason knee injury to Re'quan Boyette. He has rushed 49 times for 203 yards (4.1 YPC) and three touchdowns. He leads Duke and is sixth in the ACC with 67.7 yards per game.

FSU: Linebacker Kenny Ingram filled in for Dekoda Watson while he was suspended and recorded seven tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack, three pass break-ups and had a forced fumble and recovered one. He also batted down a Riley Skinner pass on fourth and one from the FSU 10 which was one of two Skinner passes he batted down in last week's game.

Georgia Tech: In the absence of starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt, Jaybo Shaw has completed 6 of 10 passes for no interceptions, 91 yards and a touchdown in the two games he played in. He also rushed 18 times for 112 yards and two touchdowns.

  • Tyler Melton, a true freshman wide receiver, stepped in for injured Correy Earls (hamstring) before the season opener and is the Yellow Jackets' second-leading receiver (five catches, 53 yards), and primary punt returner.
  • Sedric Griffin, a junior linebacker, made his first career start at Boston College after two starting linebackers (Brad Jefferson, Anthony Barnes) went down in the season opener. Paul Johnson recently called Griffin their "most consistent linebacker" and he is the third leading tackler with 25 tackles and one tackle for loss.

Maryland: Running back Morgan Green took over for the ACC's injured leading rusher, Da'Rel Scott, and scored two touchdowns last weekend against Eastern Michigan.

  • Quarterback Chris Turner started the season as second string behind Jordan Steffy, but inherited the offense after Steffy injured his thumb. Since throwing three interceptions in a loss to Middle Tennessee, Turner has completed 71.4 percent of his passes for 368 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Miami: Senior running back Derron Thomas. He's filled in the role that Graig Cooper had when Cooper was 1b to Javarris James. Thomas has 19 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown, and a 34-yard run against Texas A&M. He's got 121 all-purpose yards in three games.

UNC -- Robert Quinn, a true freshman, started the past two weeks after defensive end Darrius Massenburg went down with a knee injury. Quinn has six tackles, three tackles for losses, one sack and two pressures.

NCSU -- Tight end George Bryan. He was the only option after injuries to Anthony Hill and Matt Kushner. Now he leads the team in catches (13), is third in yards (127) and tied for first with two touchdowns.

Virginia Tech: Darren Evans, the Hokies' No. 2 tailback, leads the team with 264 yards and four touchdowns.

  • Tyrod Taylor -- He's a work in progress, as he hasn't thrown a touchdown yet, but there's no question his playmaking abilities have helped the offense. He's second on the team in rushing with 221 yards and leads with 73.7 yards per game.

UNSUNG HERO

Wake Forest: Ryan McManus, a fourth-year walk-on and the holder for PATs and field goals gets the unsung hero award so far. He saw the play clock running down as the Demon Deacons were lining up for the game-winning field goal against Ole Miss and very alertly called time out. The third-string quarterback does whatever he can to get on the field, including helping out on the punt and punt-return teams. His father was a starting quarterback at Wake Forest in the 1970s and is now an assistant coach at Kent State.

NEXT MAN UP

Here are the three most notable opportunities for players to join the list:

UVA: Quarterback Marc Verica. He was a respectable 22 for 30 (1 INT) for 158 yards in the loss to UConn, but now it's officially his offense. Let's see what he can do now that he's had time to prepare as the starter.

UNC: Quarterbacks Cam Sexton and Mike Paulus. Both are expected to play at Miami this weekend, and will have to carry the offense in the absence of T.J. Yates, who is out for six weeks.

NCSU: Freshman Dwayne Maddox is taking over at weakside linebacker for Nate Irving, the Wolfpack's top playma
ker on defense.

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