ACC: Shane McDermott

Two more preseason award watch lists were released Tuesday, which means we are still moving toward the college football season at what seems like a snail’s pace.

The Rimington Trophy, presented annually to the nation’s top center, already had a spring watch list but altered the original to include a few more names (because there were not enough already). Also released was the watch list for the John Mackey Award, which is given to the nation’s top tight end.

The lists will be pared down during the season before winners are announced in December.

The watch lists for the Maxwell Award and Bednarik Award were released Monday.

Below are the ACC and Notre Dame players to make the Mackey and Rimington watch lists and a little information on each.

[+] EnlargeNick O'Leary
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesFlorida State's Nick O'Leary could be a frontrunner for the Mackey Award as the nation's best tight end.
John Mackey Award

Gerald Christian, Louisville: The Florida transfer was one of the Cardinals’ more productive pass catchers last season, and he figures to drastically improve on his 28 receptions from a season ago now that Bobby Petrino is orchestrating the Cards’ offense. (The ACC blog caught up with Christian for a Q&A on Monday.)

Braxton Deaver, Duke: One of the conference’s best tight ends in 2013, Deaver was one of the many bright spots for the Blue Devils’ offense. He caught 46 passes for 600 yards and four touchdowns.

Ben Koyack, Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have produced several elite tight ends, and the hope is Koyack will be the next in line. He was not utilized much early on in 2013 but will be counted on more this fall with Troy Niklas off to the NFL.

Nick O'Leary, Florida State: One of the country’s best tight ends, O'Leary should be one of Jameis Winston's favorite targets this fall. O'Leary had the opportunity to leave school after last season, and he could be rewarded with a second national championship and a Mackey Award this fall.

Clive Walford, Miami: Much like Notre Dame, the Hurricanes have a fine tradition at tight end, and Walford is coming off a very solid season. He will need to be a security blanket for the Canes’ quarterback, whoever that may be.

Reaction: The ACC is not loaded at tight end, but there are certainly more than a few players who could push for a spot on an All-America team by season’s end. O’Leary is likely the best of the bunch and had an outside opportunity of being a first-round pick if he had entered the NFL draft. If he can stay on the field -- he’s escaped serious injury twice now from motorcycle accidents -- he is poised for a standout senior campaign. Winston lost top targets Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw to the NFL, and O’Leary figures to be Winston’s security blanket on third downs and in the red zone. Keep an eye on Deaver as a player who could continue making the cut as the list is pared down throughout the season.

[+] EnlargeAndy Gallik
Michael Tureski/Icon SMIVeteran Boston College center Andy Gallik is key to the Eagles being able to play their style.
Rimington Trophy

Andy Gallik, Boston College: A three-year starter, Gallik is the glue to a team predicated on playing smash-mouth football under former offensive line coach Steve Addazio. Gallik has started 25 straight games for the Eagles.

Artie Rowell, Pittsburgh: Rowell started all 13 games for the Panthers last season and was recognized for his performance in the bowl game against Bowling Green. James Conner set a Pitt record for rushing yards in a bowl game that night, due largely to Rowell.

Austin Barron, Florida State: Barron has starting experience, but he spent most of last season as a reserve to 2013 Rimington winner Bryan Stork. Barron has four experienced starters surrounding him on the offensive line, which should allow him to shine in his first year as the full-time starter.

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.

Matt Skura, Duke: He played nearly every snap at center for the Blue Devils last season and was the linchpin of an offensive line that allowed just 17 sacks in 14 games.

Nick Martin, Notre Dame: The starter last year until a late-season knee injury cost him the final few games, Martin is poised for a solid senior season. The Irish were second in the country in 2013 in sacks allowed. Martin is the younger brother of Zack Martin, a first-round pick in this year's NFL draft.

Ryan Norton, Clemson: A starter in all 13 games for Clemson a season ago, Norton was the ACC Co-Offensive Lineman of the Week in his first start against Georgia in last year’s opener.

Shane McDermott, Miami: A third-team All-ACC selection in 2013, McDermott has played in all but four games since his redshirt freshman season at Miami.

Reaction: While more than half the centers in FBS are on this list, the ACC representatives all deserve to be on here for the most part. All have starting experience and in several cases have been commanding the offensive line for multiple seasons. Martin was hurt late in the season, but Irish coach Brian Kelly expects him to be ready for the season opener after missing spring practices. Barron has the least amount of starting experience and probably does not make the list if it were a little more exclusive, but he played admirably in Stork’s stead last season and could be recognized in the same manner as Stork by the end of the season.
The John Mackey Award is presented annually to the most outstanding tight end in FBS college football, and the ACC has several candidates on this year's watch list:
One more tight end worth watching in the ACC this year: Duke's Braxton Deaver. Those within the program say he is a complete tight end. J.P. Holtz at Pitt is another tight end who should have a bigger role this fall.

The Rimington Trophy watch list was also announced today. This trophy is presented to the nation’s premier center by the Boomer Esiason Foundation. Here are your ACC representatives:
There will be more watch lists announced this week and next week. As usual, once more come out I'll compile them for you in a one-stop shopping post so you can see all of your ACC candidates.
Duke and Miami have the most returning experience on the offensive line in the ACC this year, according to the conference. The Blue Devils return four starters in tackles Perry Simmons and Tacoby Cofield, and guards Laken Tomlinson and Dave Harding, who have combined for a total of 100 starts.

Miami returns all five starters from last year’s team: tackles Seantrel Henderson and Malcolm Bunche, guards Jon Feliciano and Brandon Linder, and center Shane McDermott. They have combined for 97 starts. (Um, yeah, Duke Johnson is set for another great year).

Here's a look at what the rest of the league has returning up front, according to the ACC:


Ouch, Virginia Tech. The Hokies are trying to rejuvenate their offense under first-year coordinator Scot Loeffler, and they've got to do it with one of the least experienced offensive lines in the conference. There are plenty of veteran linemen in the Coastal Division, but few in Blacksburg.

The league's top veteran is actually at Duke, where Simmons is a three-year starter at tackle and leads all returning offensive linemen with 36 career starts.

Here's a look at the returning offensive linemen in the ACC with the most career starts:

1. Perry Simmons, Duke, Sr., Tackle: 36
2. James Hurst, North Carolina, Sr., Tackle: 35
3. Brandon Linder, G, Sr., Miami: 31
3. Morgan Moses, Virginia, Sr., Tackle: 31
5. Brian Stork, Florida State, Sr., Center: 28
6. Dave Harding, Duke, Sr., Guard: 26
7. Macky MacPherson, Syracuse, Sr., Center: 25
7. Luke Bowanko, Virginia, Sr., Center: 25
9. Laken Tomlinson, Duke, Jr., Guard: 24
9. Ray Beno, Georgia Tech, Sr., Center: 24
11. Ian White, Boston College, Sr., Guard: 23
12. Jon Feliciano, Miami, Jr., Guard: 22
The Rimington Trophy, which is awarded to the nation's top center, released its watch list and the ACC was well-represented:
Two of the five players include a pair of repeaters from the 2012 Watch List in Finch and MacPherson.

From the ACC's release:

Finch led a Georgia Tech offense which finished 4th nationally in rushing yardage in 2012 and has rushed for more yards in the past three years than any other school in the nation. MacPherson, is the hub of a Syracuse offensive line that set school records in 2012 for total offense, passing yards and touchdown passes. He is the grandson of Syracuse Hall of Fame head coach Dick MacPherson.

Stork keyed a 10th-ranked Florida State team which finished ranked 10th nationally in scoring offense and 19th nationally in total offense. McDermott blocked for a Miami team which averaged 31.4 points per game and 440 yards of total offense per game. Bodine helped lead a UNC offense which set school records in total points (487) and points per game (40.8), as the Tar Heels finished 8th nationally in scoring offense.

The ACC was one of three conferences with five nominees, including the Pac-12 Conference and the Mountain West Conference. Only the Southeastern Conference (9) had more selected to the 2013 Spring Watch List.

The winner of the Rimington Trophy will be selected by determining the consensus All-American center pick from four existing All-America Teams: American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), Walter Camp Foundation (WCF), Sporting News (SN), and Football Writers Association of America (FWAA).

Miami will open spring practice Saturday without eight players -- including five projected starters -- the school announced Friday.

Starters Thurston Armbrister, Malcolm Lewis, Shane McDermott and Gabe Terry will be held out, along with running back Eduardo Clements, receiver Robert Lockhart Jr. and defensive lineman Dave Perry. Linebacker Eddie Johnson remains suspended indefinitely.

Among the most notable items on the preseason depth chart:
  • Freshman Alex Figueroa is listed as the No. 1 strongside linebacker with Armbrister and Johnson out.
  • Sophomore Raphael Kirby is listed as the No. 1 middle linebacker ahead of Jimmy Gaines.
  • Sophomore Matt Goudis is listed at both kicker and punter as the Canes have to replace punter Dalton Botts and kicker Jake Wieclaw.
  • Tracy Howard is listed No. 1 at cornerback in the spot departed by senior Brandon McGee played last season.
Buried beneath pounds of paperwork from the NCAA is the fact that Miami’s depth chart should be good enough to win the Coastal Division in 2013. With so much attention focused on the NCAA investigation, Nevin Shapiro has gotten more ink (unfortunately) than quarterback Stephen Morris. And Morris is going to be very, very good.

As Miami begins spring practices on Saturday, the Canes do so underneath a cloud for the third straight preseason under coach Al Golden. If those within the program, though, can focus on their on-field goals and avoid the distractions once again, Miami should pick up right where it left off in 2012 -- at the top of the division standings. Miami returns 10 starters on offense and defense. Golden and his staff brought in the No. 15 recruiting class in the country, coupled with the experience of 21 freshmen who played in 2012.

[+] EnlargeAl Golden
Kevin Liles/US PresswireAl Golden and the Hurricanes enter the spring with experience on the offensive and defensive lines.
This Coastal Division race is going to be tight. Expect every team in the division to be better. Trying to predict the division winner right now is like trying to predict when the NCAA will hand down its verdict. On anything. Miami fans, though, have reason to believe that if the program is eligible to play in the postseason, the pieces are in place to get them to Charlotte.

Here are three reasons why Miami is my way-too-early pick to win the Coastal Division:

1. QB Stephen Morris and running back Duke Johnson: This dynamic duo is going to be a highlight in the ACC. As a true freshman, Johnson had arguably the greatest freshman season in the program’s history. He was named the ACC’s Overall and Offensive Rookie of the Year after racking up 2,060 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns in 12 games. And Morris can be good enough to push Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd as the ACC’s best quarterback in 2013. Morris finished 2012 on a hot streak, as he threw for 1,131 yards and 11 TDs – with zero interceptions -- in his final four games. Morris finished the season with a program-record 3,415 yards of total offense, eclipsing the previous mark of 3,412 held by Bernie Kosar.

2. Experience up front: Miami returns all five starters on the offensive line (Malcolm Bunche, started 12 games at left tackle; Jon Feliciano, started 12 at left guard; Shane McDermott started 12 at center; Brandon Linder started 12 at right guard; Seantrel Henderson started seven at right tackle and Ereck Flowers started four at right tackle). Miami also returns all four starters on the defensive line (Anthony Chickillo 12 at defensive end, Curtis Porter the last three at defensive tackle, Olsen Pierre 11 at defensive tackle, and Shayon Green at defensive end). How many schools in the country can say they return every starter on both their offensive and defensive lines? Granted, the defensive line is Miami’s unit most in need of improvement this offseason, but considering the group only had 13 sacks a year ago, it should only be better.

3. A favorable schedule: Miami has an entire month to prepare for league play, as its first ACC game isn’t until Oct. 5 against Georgia Tech. It doesn’t even have to leave the state until Oct. 17, when it travels to North Carolina, and even then the Canes have a bye week to prepare for the Thursday night game against the Tar Heels. Yes, they have to play rival FSU on the road, but they do get Virginia Tech at home. Winning at Pitt on a Friday in November won’t be easy, but getting Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech at home helps compensate for it.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 8, 2011
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Spring games, anyone? ...

Miami spring wrap

May, 7, 2010
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MIAMI

2009 overall record: 9-4

2009 conference record: 5-3

Returning starters

Offense: 6, defense: 8, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

QB Jacory Harris, T Orlando Franklin, WR Leonard Hankerson, WR LaRon Byrd, DE Allen Bailey, LB Sean Spence, LB Colin McCarthy, P/PK Matt Bosher, CB Brandon Harris, RB Graig Cooper (injured)

Key losses

OT Jason Fox, C A.J. Trump, TE Dedrick Epps, RB Javarris James, S Randy Phillips, CB Sam Shields, LB Darryl Sharpton, DT Joe Joseph

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Cooper* (695 yards)

Passing: Harris* (3,352 yds)

Receiving: Hankerson* (801 yds)

Tackles: Sharpton (106)

Sacks: Bailey* (7)

Interceptions: Harris, Phillips, Micanor Regis* (2)

Spring answers

1. Depth at running back. The running backs had arguably the best spring of any position group and proved they’re still deep, despite the loss of James and not having Cooper, who is recovering from a torn ACL. Lamar Miller, a redshirt freshman, was tough to bring down in the open field, and had good speed. Storm Johnson, a true freshman who enrolled early, picked up the offense quickly and ran hard. Damien Berry showed the same form he had at the end of the season when he finished strong, and Mike James returned to running back from fullback.

2. Deeper at QB. What a difference a year can make. After both backup quarterbacks transferred a year ago, this position has the best depth it’s seen under coach Randy Shannon. A.J. Highsmith, Spencer Whipple and Stephen Morris all moved the ball this spring. Highsmith seemed to be the front-runner for the No. 2 job behind Jacory Harris, as he took most of the first-team reps with Harris out.

3. Defensive line shines. First-year defensive line coach Rick Petri’s group was one of the Canes’ bright spots this spring. The defensive ends go about three deep on each side. Adewale Ojomo, who missed all of last season with a broken jaw, is back, and the tackles were solid.

Fall questions

1. Wanted: tight ends. Miami only had two tight ends this spring, but the Canes will add four in the fall, including Chase Ford, a junior college transfer. Richard Gordon and Billy Sanders will finally get some competition. Gordon has the most experience and he’s a senior, but he only played in one game last year. He was granted an extra year of eligibility and should have a bigger role this season. Sanders, a redshirt freshman, was on the scout team.

2. Transition at center. Tyler Horn isn’t a rookie, but it's unclear how he'll adjust to his new role in taking over for A.J. Trump. Horn was the top option at center this spring with true freshman Shane McDermott, an early enrollee, behind him. Horn has been there for three years, and it’s his job to lose.

3. Stuck in the middle. Who will take over at middle linebacker? Miami is still working out its depth issue here. Kylan Robinson started to emerge there in the spring, and Shayon Green was another option. At the end of spring, Colin McCarthy was still at strong side and Sean Spence was at weak side, but Shannon could make some moves to get the best group of linebackers in there. That could mean McCarthy moves to the middle. In the past two years, Shannon liked to put an older player there (Glenn Cook, Darryl Sharpton), but McCarthy played the majority of the spring at his usual spot. The return of Spence and Jordan Futch from injuries should help Shannon figure out the right combination.

Questions loom for Miami's offensive line

March, 2, 2010
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It wasn’t intended to be a trick question, but it was one that Miami senior left tackle Orlando Franklin struggled to answer: Who is the leader of this year’s offensive line?

“I don’t know,” Franklin said. “I guess you could say it’s me.”

[+] EnlargeOrlando Franklin
Richard C. Lewis/Icon SMISenior left tackle Orlando Franklin will likely assume more a leadership role in 2010.
He might not have much of a choice.

After two years in a starting role, Franklin said he’s ready to take on more responsibility, and with new faces in new places, the offensive line could use a veteran to depend upon. The Canes have to replace three starters up front, including both tackles and center A.J. Trump. Franklin said he watched graduated veteran Jason Fox anchor the group the past two years, and learned what it takes to be a leader.

“I’m ready for that role, and I’m ready to get it done,” Franklin said. “You’re going to always have challenges going into spring, but I’m not really worried about it. I’m confident in these guys coming in. … We’ve got guys who have played already or haven’t played but have been around and know a lot of football. It’s exciting to see what they’re going to do.”

Coach Randy Shannon is equally as interested, especially in the center position, where Tyler Horn is expected to take over. Horn has been taking snaps at center for the past three years, but he lacks game experience.

“We’ve got some guys who are big, athletic, and we feel really good about who can keep us going on the offensive line,” Shannon said. “But like anything, you’re always worried about the quarterback and the guy who snaps the ball to the quarterback. Those are the two most key positions probably on the football team. It will be interesting to see. They’re going to be tough, physical practices this spring.”

Shannon said that part of the problem last year was depth, and that freshmen were the backups at every position. This year, Miami should have 15 offensive linemen on its roster by summer camp. The Canes can turn to Franklin, Harland Gunn, Brandon Washington and Joel Figueroa, who is out this spring while recovering from shoulder surgery, for some experience. Shane McDermott is a true freshman who enrolled in January and is competing with Horn for the starting job at center.

Franklin said the offensive line takes a lot of pride in keeping quarterback Jacory Harris healthy, but as a team, they failed to do that consistently last year. Miami ranked No. 100 in the country, allowing 2.69 sacks per game, but Franklin pointed out that the linemen aren’t the only ones doing the blocking, and the entire offense has to be clicking in order for everything to work.

“When that kid’s healthy and he has time,” Franklin said of Harris, “we sure did see the results.”

“A lot of things did go wrong at times because we didn’t do as good as we should’ve done. With pass plays, if a receiver runs a wrong route, too far or too short, or Jacory takes the wrong step, or a running back misses a block, it’s a sack. We all have to be on the same page, or it’s going to be a bad situation.”

Communication shouldn’t be a problem up front.

For years, the offensive linemen have always met on Thursdays to eat together, changing places each week. This past season the starters added Wednesday meals to their routine. Recently, Horn sent Franklin a text message about “pool day” at his house. They planned to “throw some food on the grill.”

They’ve gotten to know each other pretty well as they waited in the wings for their turn in the spotlight, which is now.

“We have a lot of guys who have been in the system for a couple of years now,” Franklin said. “They’ve been waiting to get in. I’m quite confident they’re going to do a good job.”

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