ACC: Steve Aponavicius
Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner: As far as performances go, Skinner couldn't have done much more in his final collegiate game. He passed for a career-high 372 yards and a school-record five touchdowns to help Wake Forest defeat Duke 45-34 on Saturday. He completed 28 of 38 passes without an interception.
NC State quarterback Russell Wilson: In what was the equivalent of their bowl game, Wilson completed 20 of 27 passes for 259 yards and four touchdowns. Those numbers are par for the course for Wilson, but this time, they paid off in a 28-27 win against rival North Carolina.
Miami coach Randy Shannon:With the 31-10 win over South Florida on Saturday, Shannon led the program to a 9-3 record, its best finish since the 2005 season. It could have easily been a trap game for the Canes, but they got what they needed in every phase of the game and avoided the threat of a comeback by the Bulls.
Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams: Just when you thought he couldn't top himself, Williams rushed for a career-high 182 yards and four touchdowns on 23 carries. He led the Hokies to a 42-13 win over rival Virginia in what began as a closer game than the final score indicated.
BC kicker Steve Aponavicius: OK, so he missed one. But it was just one. All season. And the Eagles would not have defeated Maryland 19-17 had it not been for the four field goals of Aponavicius. In fact, his 42-yard field goal with 3:59 left were the Eagles only points of the second half.
OFFICIALS MAKE GREAT CALL
- The ACC Football Officials Association only has about 75 members, but the group came together to raise $3,000 for cancer research in support of BC linebacker Mark Herzlich, who was diagnized with Ewing’s Sarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in May. The check was presented to Herzlich prior to the Boston College-North Carolina football game last weekend and the official who made the presentation was Mike Owens, a head linesman from Clinton, S.C., who is also a cancer survivor. More than $135,000 has been raised for cancer research from the ACC community in Herzlich’s name.
- Boston College senior place-kicker Steve Aponavicius is the only kicker in college football’s FBS to be perfect in both field goals and extra points this year. Aponavicius is 9-for-9 in fi eld goals this season and 36-for-36 in extra points. Aponavicius has hit 15 straight field goals and 81 straight extra points. Marshall’s Craig Ratanamorn was perfect until last weekend, when he missed a field goal.
- Clemson running back C.J. Spiller needs just 26 all-purpose yards to become the fifth player in NCAA history to reach 7,000 for his career. He will attempt to go over that number against a team he has had success against in his career. Spiller has 498 all-purpose running yards against South Carolina in three games, including 331 in 42 rushes, a 7.9 average.
- Florida State once again leads the ACC in penalties, but in Saturday’s 29-26 victory over Maryland, the Seminoles pulled off something they haven’t accomplished since Bobby Bowden’s first season in Tallahassee. FSU played a penalty-free game against the Terrapins. The last time that happened was Sept. 18, 1976 against Miami when the ‘Noles were neither penalized nor – as was the case against Maryland – have any accepted penalties in a game.
- Georgia Tech juniors Jonathan Dwyer, who has 1,203 rushing yards, and Josh Nesbitt, who has rushed for 847 yards this year, have a chance at becoming the first duo from one ACC team to each rush for 1,000 yards in one season since 1993 when North Carolina’s Curtis Johnson (1,093 yards) and Leon Johnson (1,012) accomplished it. Nesbitt, who has led Tech to a conference-record 41 rushing touchdowns this year, also is tied for the lead in the ACC in scoring, averaging 8.7 points per game. Nesbitt could become the first quarterback in 30 years to lead the conference scoring since NC State’s Scott Smith tied for the title in 1979.
- Last week at Virginia Tech, the Wolfpack’s defensive front pressured Tyrod Taylor 20 times, according to the coaches’ film grades. Two weeks ago against Maryland, 24 of NC State’s 25 credited pressures came from the defensive line. In seven games against ACC teams this season, the entire defense has been credited with 91 quarterback pressures or hurries. Eighty-three of those have been from defensive linemen. Alan Michael-Cash and Willie Young lead the way with 14 each.That large number of pressures hasn't always turned into sacks, though. The defensive line tallied six sacks in the conference opener against Wake Forest, but has made only five in the six games since.
Did Virginia Tech really lose at home last night to a UNC team that was ranked 114th in the country in total offense? I think it did. Wow.
- North Carolina, though, got redemption, and so did quarterback T.J. Yates.
- It could be the kind of win that gives the Tar Heels the jump-start they need to reach the postseason.
That game will resonante for a while. But we must move on for the sake of the links ...
- Here's a new concept -- receivers who block. And you thought Georgia Tech's guys were out there playing cards.
- Despite the Terps' struggles and two wins, coach Ralph Friedgen doesn't sound too convincing when talking about getting the younger players some experience.
- BC's kicker, former walk-on Steve Aponavicius, is three points away from becoming the Eagles' all-time leading scorer.
- If you haven't already, start paying attention to Clemson's DeAndre McDaniel. What appears to be amazing instincts is also the result of a lot of study time.
- Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has been up and down performance-wise, but his emotions have stayed the same. That's good news for the Canes.
- FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher says the Noles' ground game isn't struggling.
- Wake Forest has a knack for finding guys who can play who weren't highly recruited, but Lee Malchow? He wasn't offered a scholarship by anyone.
- Things have changed, and when Duke and Virginia meet on Saturday, the two programs will look a lot more similar than they have in the past.
Just because the Hokies aren’t playing doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to keep an eye on in the ACC …
1. Georgia Tech on third-downs. The Yellow Jackets have the best third-down conversion percentage in the ACC (52.6), but Virginia has the best defense on third downs in the ACC, holding opponents to 29.3 percent. The Cavaliers’ defense hasn’t been the problem this year, but it will face a different challenge in the triple-option offense.
2. Virginia inside the red zone. The Cavaliers have been successful inside the 20-yard line on 17 of 20 chances, but Georgia Tech’s defense is second in the ACC in red zone defense at 75 percent. The Jackets played much better defensively against Virginia Tech last weekend, but will have to continue to clamp down when it counts against quarterback Jameel Sewell, who has shown improvement the past few weeks.
3. Kevin Steele vs. Mark Whipple. The two first-year coordinators will likely get into a chess match in Miami, as both of them have made immediate impacts for their teams. Under Steele, Clemson has the No. 17 scoring defense in the country, holding opponents to just 15.33 points per game. Under Whipple, Miami is averaging 29 points per game and 16 different players have caught a pass this season.
4. Clemson left tackle Chris Hairston. He suffered a knee injury late in the win over Boston College and missed the TCU game and played just nine snaps at Maryland. Clemson lost both of those games and averaged just 99 yards rushing and 15.5 points in the two contests. With Hairston back in the lineup, Clemson had 195 yards rushing against Wake Forest -- the second best by the Tiger this year. Clemson is 3-1 this year when Hairston is in the lineup and 0-2 when he is not.
5. FSU’s passing offense vs. UNC’s pass defense. Quarterback Christian Ponder has the Noles ranked 13th in the country in passing offense with 297.5 yards per game, but UNC’s stingy pass defense is No. 1 in the country with 125.17 yards per game. Most teams have shied away from veteran cornerback Kendric Burney this season, giving him few opportunities for pass breakups and interceptions, but that could change tonight.
6. Ponder’s first-down success. Of his 26 pass completions against Georgia Tech, 16 went for first downs. That was even better than his performance at Boston College,when 16 of his career-high 29 completions moved the chains. Ponder’s pass completions have accounted for better than 60 percent of the Seminoles’ first downs in each of the last three games.
7. Boston College senior kicker Steve Aponavicius. The former walk-on kicker, nicknamed “Sid Vicious,” is five points away from setting BC’s career scoring mark. He has accumulated 258 points in his three-plus seasons, hitting 40 field goals and 138 extra points. Aponavicius is the ACC active leader in both field goals (40) and PATs (134).
8. The Eagles’ streak. Boston College has won six straight against Notre Dame, including the last three on the road. If the Eagles win, the senior class will graduate having gone undefeated against the Irish. But this is an improved team under Charlie Weis, as quarterback Jimmy Clausen leads the nation’s No. 7 passing offense.
9. The scoreboard in Durham. No, seriously, aside from the fact Duke might win its second conference game, the winner in this series has scored at least 41 points in six of the last 11 games. Considering Duke is averaging 31.83 points per game, and Maryland is allowing about 33, it’s not out of the question for Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis to continue that trend -- especially considering the Blue Devils just put up 49 against NC State.
10. Turnovers in Annapolis. In Wake Forest’s loss to Navy last year, the Deacs committed an uncharacteristic season-high six turnovers. This year, Wake Forest trails its opponents in turnover margin with 10 takeaways and 13 turnovers.
NC State started things off, albeit rather poorly, but now it's time for the main course. Here's a quick trip around the ACC heading into the first full weekend of the season:
- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has no intention of losing to Jacksonville State, but he hasn't exactly forgotten the Jackets play Clemson five days later, either. Speaking of Clemson ...
- Quarterback Kyle Parker will be making his debut against Middle Tennessee on Saturday, and while nobody around the program has questioned Parker's athleticism and skill, how he handles the pressure when the lights come on is an unknown. Coach Dabo Swinney pointed to Parker's comeback during the baseball season as evidence he'll be all right.
- J.P. Giglio tells us what we learned from NC State's 7-3 loss to South Carolina. Among them, quarterback Russell Wilson was a little off. (And was it just me, or did he also look a step slower than usual?)
- Wake's offensive linemen have been having fun at practice putting on their little shows, but are they ready for the big one?
- How's this for taking your leadership role seriously? Place your hand on the Bible and take oaths affirming your commitment. That's exactly what Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen had his captains do this year in search of some dependable leaders.
- BC kicker Steve Aponavicius has one year of eligibility remaining, and since nobody kicked him out of practice when he kept showing up this summer, the job remains his until proven otherwise.
- UNC's young receivers haven't even hit the field yet and they've got a setback. Sophomore Dwight Jones will miss the opener after surgery today on his right knee.
- Miami had to play 18 freshmen in its season opener last year, but this year will be different. Canes fans will see four or five max, and that's a good thing.
- Virginia Tech left guard Sergio Render is about as country as it gets. On the field? He's "plumb mean."
- Virginia running back Keith Payne, who had slipped to fourth on the depth chart, has left the program, the Daily Progress reports.
- Duke will use two kickers for Saturday's season opener, and it's a decision that could continue this fall.
- Florida State isn't quite sure what to expect from Miami's two new coordinators, other than the situation is "clear as mud."
n said. "He kind of looked like he had solidified the job and then he opens it up again." Defensive back Eric Franklin, a true freshman, made a scrimmage-best eight tackles and picked off Turner on the sixth possession. MIAMI The Canes wrapped up their final two-a-day of fall camp on Sunday, and coach Randy Shannon said everything -- that's right, everything -- is still up for grabs. Jorge Milian of the Palm Beach Post had a couple of notes for you off Sunday's practice. Morning Practice Highlights -- (pads) Joe Joseph and Marcus Robinson each had a sack in 11-on-11 drills. Randy Phillips (INT, pass break-up) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (two pass break-ups) stood out in the secondary. Lee Chambers and Damien Berry each broke off a couple runs of 15+ yards. Javarris James caught several passes in both 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 sessions Afternoon Practice Highlights -- (shells) Sam Shields (red zone), Chavez Grant (7-on-7) and C.J. Holton (11-on-11) all recorded interceptions. Grant returned his for a touchdown while Holton caught his off a tipped pass. A.J. Highsmith connected with Tommy Streeter (11-on-11) and LaRon Byrd (7-on-7) for significant yardage. Damien Berry took a short pass in the flat from Taylor Cook for a long gain. Other highlights include a near interception by Randy Phillips, a pass break-up by Ramon Buchanan and a sack by Micanor Regis. Red zone touchdowns included Jacory Harris to Richard Gordon and Taylor Cook to Jimmy Graham. VIRGINIA TECH So ... add Ryan Williams to the list of VT running backs who are banged up. Williams sprained his ankle, and Josh Oglesby has "the worst infection" coach Billy Hite has ever seen on a foot. Also, the coaches want to redshirt Logan Thomas, and Kenny Lewis Jr.'s recovery has been delayed. Not a lot of happy news coming out of Blacksburg these days. To read Virginia Tech's entire scrimmage report, click here. Tyrod Taylor completed 8 of 11 passes for 78 yards. Xavier Boyce led all receivers with two catches for 47 yards. Freshman running back Tony Gregory rushed 18 times for 48 yards and two touchdowns. Williams rushed just five times for 22 yards before spraining his ankle and sitting out the rest of the scrimmage. He did score on a 4-yard run and he returned several punts. Matt Waldron was 4-for-4 on his field goal attempts. (31, 32, 43, 30) Defensive tackle Cordarrow Thompson led the defense with seven tackles, four for a loss, and one sack.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Special teams are critical, especially in Blacksburg, and it's one of the Hokies' few weaknesses this year. They're in need of a kicker for the third time in three seasons, but Virginia Tech is hardly the only team in the ACC with big holes to fill. Here's how the ACC's special teams units ranked:
1. Miami -- Matt Bosher has already gotten plenty of ink in the blogosphere, but he's only one reason the Canes are No. 1 here. Bosher converted 18 of 20 field goal attempts and averaged 40.3 yards per punt. It's possible Jake Wieclaw could give Bosher some relief on kickoffs. If Travis Benjamin stays healthy, the return game will be in great shape. Benjamin led the team and the ACC in punt return yardage (173) and was ninth in the ACC in kick return yardage (477). Thearon Collier is also another return threat.
2. NC State -- The combination of kicker Josh Czajkowski and speedy return specialist T.J. Graham make the Wolfpack one of the best in the ACC. If they find a punter this summer, the unit will be complete. In his first season as starter, Czajkowski made 84.2 percent of his field goals (16 of 19), and he made 33 of 34 PATs to finish with 81 points and seventh place in the ACC in scoring. Graham's 1,028 yards in kickoff returns set the school record for a single season and already ranks fifth on the Wolfpack career list. They have to replace punter Bradley Pierson, though. Jeff Ruiz and Carl Ojala are both options.
3. Maryland -- The Terps have to replace kicker Obi Egekeze, but they've still got the ACC's top punter in Travis Baltz. He pinned Maryland opponents inside their own 20-yard line 24 times last year. Wide receiver Torrey Smith had a record-setting season as a kickoff returner, as he set the ACC single-season record for kickoff return yards with 1,089. There are high expectations for Nick Ferrara, who will be a true freshman, to replace Egekeze, but the job is wide open.
4. Virginia Tech -- Not only did the Hokies lose placekicker Dustin Keys, but they also lost punt returner Victor "Macho" Harris. The good news is that punter Brent Bowden returns, as does kickoff man Justin Myer, and snapper Collin Carroll. Matt Waldron and Myer enter summer camp as the favorites for the placekicking and kickoff duties, respectively. Incoming freshman Cody Journell might give them both a run for their money, though. Ryan Williams came out of spring practice as the starting punt returner, but Dyrell Roberts and Danny Coale are also options.
5. Clemson -- The Tigers have to replace veteran starters Mark Buchholz and Jimmy Manners at the two kicking positions. Spencer Benton, a redshirt freshman, is the frontrunner to take over the placekicking duties, but he'll get some competition from Richard Jackson. Dawson Zimmerman, who started two games and punted in three last year, should be the starting punter. Zimmerman averaged 38.5 yards for his 12 punts last season. The return game is in good hands -- C.J. Spiller's. Jacoby Ford is also experienced as a return man, and has a punt return and a kickoff return of more than 90 yards for scores.
6. Georgia Tech -- This is the area where coach Paul Johnson wants to see the most improvement, and with good reason: The Yellow Jackets ranked 11th in the ACC in net punting, 10th in kickoff returns and ninth in punt returns last year. Junior Scott Blair did a respectable job last year, as he was the first Yellow Jacket to handle both kicking and punting duties in 25 years. He'll get some competition, though, at one or both positions from sophomore Chandler Anderson, the holder last season. Anderson, who missed spring practice after a bout with appendicitis, punted six times in '08 for an average of 41.7.
7. Boston College -- Steve Aponavicius returns for his senior year. He went 14-for-21 on field goals last season. Newcomer Nate Freese, who kicked a school-record 52-yard field goal in Ohio, will challenge Aponavicius. Ryan Quigley and Billy Flutie both return to their punting duties. Quigley serves as the main punter and averaged 39.6 yards per kick with nine pinned inside the 20-yard-line. Flutie was used in short situations and pinned opponents inside the 20 seven times. Unheralded veteran long-snapper Jack Geiser also returns.
8. Duke -- The Blue Devils return placekicker Nick Maggio and punter Kevin Jones. Jones punted 71 times last fall and 27 of those kicks pinned Duke's opponents inside their own 20-yard line, the most by any punter. He finished second in the ACC in punting, with 40.8 yards per kick as a sophomore. Maggio made 11 of 14 field goal attempts.
9. North Carolina -- This might be the Tar Heels' biggest concern, as they have to replace punter Terrence Brown, and placekicker Jay Wooten decided to transfer. Connor Barth was UNC's primary field goal kicker in 2008 and Wooten was used as the kickoff man. Reid Phillips is a walk-on who is now in the mix, and walk-on Grant Shallock, who handled the punting duties this spring, is another option. The staff is eager for the arrival of prized recruit C.J. Feagles. Another concern is the return game, which survived without Brandon Tate last year with the help of walk-on Trase Jones. He finished the season with five returns for 36 yards.
10. Florida State -- The Noles took a huge hit here with the graduation of Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano. The good news? FSU returns its long-snapper, Zack Aronson, and holder, Shawn Powell. James Esco and Nathan O'Jibway handled the kicking duties this spring, but neither have attempted a field goal in a game during their careers. There are high hopes for freshman Dustin Hopkins. Powell, who started the first seven games of 2008 as punter, will replace Gano there.
11. Wake Forest -- Veteran Sam Swank only started seven games last year before being injured, and that allowed Shane Popham to get his feet wet. Popham said he's much more confident heading into this season and gained valuable experience last year. He could handle both duties a
gain like he did last year. Popham made 7 of 12 field goal attempts and averaged 39.2 yards on 54 punts, pinning opponents inside the 20 on 19 occasions.
12. Virginia -- After three season as head coach at Kansas State, Ron Prince returns to Charlottesville to coach special teams, and it won't be an easy gig. Senior Yannick Reyering's injury-marred career is over, so sophomore Chris Hinkebein, who handled the kickoff duties for five games while Reyering was slowed with an injury, is expected to contend for some of the placekicking responsibilities. Robert Randolph shared some time with Reyering last year and made 3 of 4 attempts. Junior Danny Aiken is a proven long-snapper, and sophomore Jimmy Howell was one of five true freshmen to see time last year. He averaged 39.0 yards on 64 punts.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Considering how evenly matched the ACC is expected to be yet again, there should be a significant amount of close games -- as in, the kind of games won with a swift kick and good field position, not just a strong arm. The problem is, even the best teams in the league are in search of dependable kickers and punters. Florida State took a huge hit with the graduation of Lou Groza Award winner Graham Gano. Miami and NC State seem to have the edge with Matt Bosher and Josh Czajkowski, respectively.
Here's a rundown of who's in good shape and who's not when it comes to the kicking game:
IN GOOD SHAPE
Boston College: Finally, a plus for the Eagles -- kind of. BC returns both placekicker Steve Aponavicius, who has 36 career starts, and Ryan Quigley, who has 14 career starts. The problem has been consistency. Aponavicius, who received an extra year of eligibility, needs to improve upon last year's 14 of 21 field goals made. Challenging him for the job will be newcomer Nate Freese, from Ohio. Quigley serves as the main punter and had a strong freshman season, averaging 39.6 yards a kick and had nine inside the 20-yard line and five over 50 yards. Billy Flutie was used in short situations and pinned opponents inside the 20 seven times.
Duke: The Blue Devils return placekicker Nick Maggio and punter Kevin Jones. Jones punted 71 times last fall and 27 of those kicks pinned Duke's opponents inside their own 20-yard line, the most of any punter. He finished second in the ACC in punting, with 40.8 yards per kick as a sophomore. Maggio made 11 of 14 field goal attempts.
Miami: Matt Bosher is a legitimate candidate to win the Lou Groza Award this fall, and he doubles as kicker and punter. Bosher made 90 percent of his field goal attempts last year, his first season of double duty (18 of 20 attempts). As a punter, he averaged 40.3 yards per kick with 19 punts inside the 20-yard line.
NC State: In his first season as starter, Czajkowski made 84.2 percent of his field goals (16 of 19), and he made 33 of 34 PATs to finish with 81 points and seventh place in the ACC in scoring. They have to replace punter Bradley Pierson, though. Jeff Ruiz and Carl Ojala are both options.
OUT: The Tigers lose placekicker Mark Buchholz, who was 15 of 21 in field goals last year, and punter Jimmy Maners, who ranked fourth in the ACC in putting average (40.5). Buchholz made 15 of 21 field goals last year and was perfect on 40 extra points in leading the team in scoring with 85 points. He established a Clemson record for consecutive extra points with a perfect 88-88 performance over his two years on the team.
IN: Spencer Benton, a redshirt freshman, looks to take over the placekicking duties, but will be pressured by Richard Jackson. Dawson Zimmerman, who started two games and punted in three last year, should be the starting punter. Zimmerman had a 38.5 average for his 12 punts last year.
• Florida State
OUT: Graham Gano. This will be a huge loss, as Gano led the nation in field goals (2.18 per game), and finished fourth in scoring, despite missing two games. He doubled as both kicker and punter.
IN: James Esco and Nathan O'Jibway handled the kicking duties this past spring. Neither has attempted a field goal in a game during their careers. Dustin Hopkins, a highly touted recruit, should add to the competition there this summer. Shawn Powell, who started the first seven games last year as the team's punter, will return to that job.
• Georgia Tech
IN: Scott Blair is back as both the kicker and punter, and he did a solid job last year, but special teams has been an area of concern and point of emphasis for Paul Johnson since he arrived in Atlanta. Blair will get some competition. Chandler Anderson, the holder last year, had appendicitis and missed all of spring. Kevin Crosby will also challenge at punter and Chris Tanner will compete at kicker, along with Andy Elakman.
OUT: Placekicker Obi Egekeze, who had 26 career starts and made 15 of 24 field goals last fall. The Terps can take solace in the fact punter Travis Baltz returns. He pinned Maryland opponents inside their own 20-yard line 24 times last year.
IN: There are high expectations for Nick Ferrara, who will be a true freshman. But while he wasn't on campus yet, Mike Barbour and Nick Wallace were battling it out. The job is wide open.
• North Carolina
OUT: Punter Terrence Brown, who had 25 career starts, has to be replaced. Walk-on Grant Schallock handled the punting duties this spring. The staff is eager for the arrival of prized recruit C.J. Feagles.
IN: Sophomore Casey Barth returns with 10 games of placekicking experience, but it's not a given that he's the guy. Walk-on Reid Phillips is also in the mix, as is Jay Wooten, who was used as the kickoff man last year.
OUT: Yannick Reyering's injury-marred career is over. The former soccer star had a strong leg, but made just 6 of 11 field goal attempts.
IN: Robert Randolph shared some time with Reyering last year and made 3 of 4 attempts. Chris Hinkebein, who handled the kickoff duties for five games while Reyering was slowed with an injury, is also expected to contend for some of the placekicking responsibilities this season. The good news is they return Jimmy Howell at punter, but he only has 12 starts. He was one of five true freshmen to see time last year and averaged 39.0 yards on 64 punts.
• Virginia Tech
OUT: Dustin Keys. For the third time in three seasons, Frank Beamer needs to find a new kicker. Keys finished eighth nationally in field goals per game, and made 23 of 29.
IN: Matt Waldron appears to be the leading candidate to replace Keys, but Justin Myer, Tim Pisano and Chris Hazley are also in the mix. They'll compete with incoming recruit Cody Journell for the job in August. The good news is punter Brent Bowden is back, and he averaged 40.4 yards per kick and had 24 kicks inside the 20-yard line last year. The coaches would like him to be a little more consistent, but he is entering his third season as a starter.
• Wake Forest
OUT: Sam Swank and his 45 career starts. Swank only started seven games last year before being injured, and that allowed Shane Popham to get his feet wet.
IN: Popham. He could handle double duties again like he did last year, and should be more confident after being thrown into the fire in 2008. Popham made 7 of 12 field goal attempts and averaged 39.2 yards on 54 punts, pinning opponents inside the 20 on 19 occasions.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Plenty to chew on today ...
- Frank Beamer will start to find out this week whether the Hokies really are good enough to contend for a national title.
- Wake Forest defensive coordinator Brad Lambert has his work cut out for him this year, as seven starters are gone from 2008.
- There was so much offense coming out of Monday's scrimmage in Tallahassee, that even FSU coach Bobby Bowden was surprised:
"I've never seen as many long runs in my life," Bowden told the [Tallahassee] Democrat. "I'm talking 60 yards, 70 yards. In the end, the defense kind of tightened it up a bit. I don't know what happened."
- Ha ... this is so true ... Travis Sawchik of the Post and Courier called Clemson's hire of Dan Brooks one of the "worst kept secrets on campus." Good hire by Dabo Swinney nonetheless.
- Georgia Tech will be deeper at receiver this year, and part of that stems from the return of Tyler Melton.
- Here's one I missed -- the details of FSU offensive line coach Rick Trickett's new contract. And another about BC kicker Steve Aponavicius' good fortunes from one coaching staff to the next.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
If you don't score, it's hard to win, which is why it's worth taking a look at how much scoring returns for each team this spring. Expectations are high for Florida State in the Atlantic Division, but the Seminoles took the biggest hit, as they lost the ACC's top two overall scorers in kicker Graham Gano and running back Antone Smith. FSU had the best scoring offense in the ACC last year with an average of 33.4 points per game. Note the past tense.
These percentages don't mean teams won't find playmakers to compensate for the scoring production they lost, but it's an indicator of how much work needs to be done this spring and summer.
Here's a look the percentage of points coming back in the ACC this spring, with a quick note on each:
Georgia Tech -- 93.7 percent
• Jonathan Dwyer was second in the ACC last year with 13 touchdowns and an average of 6.2 points.
Miami -- 91.5 percent
• Eighteen different players scored last year for Miami, and 13 of them return. Matt Bosher made 18 of 20 fields goals last year and accounted for 7.2 points per game. Running back Graig Cooper scored a team-high six touchdowns.
Boston College -- 73.1 percent
• The Eagles return three of their top four scorers from last year's Atlantic Division championship team, including Steve Aponavicius, who made 14 of 21 field goals, and running back Montel Harris, who scored six touchdowns.
North Carolina -- 65.6 percent
• Former receiver Hakeem Nicks accounted for 13 touchdowns last year, including 12 touchdown receptions. Kicker Casey Barth and tailback Ryan Houston, who combined for 111 points, return.
Wake Forest -- 57.9 percent
• The Demon Deacons will sorely miss kicker Sam Swank, but they learned to live without him when Swank was injured last year. Running back Brandon Pendergrass returns, and there will be plenty of competition this spring at running back and wide receiver.
Virginia Tech -- 57.6 percent
• Darren Evans scored 11 rushing touchdowns last year, and the Hokies have plenty of playmakers, including quarterback Tyrod Taylor, returning. Four defenders scored last year, and only one -- Stephan Virgil -- returns.
Duke -- 52.7 percent
• They'll miss Eron Riley and his eight touchdowns, and running back Clifford Harris and his six touchdowns, but the return of previously injured running back Re'quan Boyette should help.
Maryland -- 47.3 percent
• The Terps will have to replace kicker Obi Egekeze, but quarterback Chris Turner and running back Da'Rel Scott return, along with running backs Morgan Green and Davin Meggett.
Clemson -- 40.4 percent
• C.J. Spiller scored 11 touchdowns last year (seven rush, three pass, one return), and averaged 5.5 points per game).
Florida State -- 29 percent
• Carlton Jones or Jermaine Thomas will have to compensate for the loss of Smith, but both are talented enough to do that, and they'll be behind one of the best offensive lines in the league.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Don't worry, Hokies, I'm playing nice today ...
Eric in Blacksburg writes: Is it just me, or does Virginia Tech (not Va Tech, we really hate that) have one of the most brutal schedules for any NCAA team in recent memory. I mean starting out against a probable top 5 ranked team in Alabama, which may as well be a road game. Follow that up with games against much improved Nebraska and Miami teams, then a showdown in Atlanta with a great Georgia Tech team. Add to the fact the this years ACC will probably be its best ever, we have no FCS teams scheduled, and have a road game against the Pinkney Pirates. Does it get much tougher than that? If we get through this season with one loss, we should be in the National Championship game (claim dependent on a win against Alabama and less then two undefeated teams)
Heather Dinich: You are absolutely right, and in retrospect, I probably should have ranked the Hokies' schedule as more difficult than Georgia Tech's. One of the reasons I didn't, though, is because the Jackets have to face two ACC opponents in the first three weeks, including a trip to Miami. The Hokies will at least have home-field advantage for that one. But no doubt, it's one of the most difficult lineups in the ACC.
Ed in Chesterfield, Va., writes: Hey Heather how are you? I'm a VT grad but have a question about Georgia Tech. Do you think that it's been overlooked, by yourself and others who expect GT to contend next year, that ACC teams were new to facing Johnson's offense last year but will now atleast be aquainted with it and find weaknesses? I agree the Jackets have a lot of talent in the backfield but LSU showed what can happen when you have time to prepare. Thanks
Heather Dinich: Definitely not, and the reason I say that is because this isn't the NFL -- there are constantly new players rotating into the programs who will be facing the Jackets for the first time. And remember, even veterans only see this once a year -- unless you're Wake Forest and make a habit of playing Navy. So regardless of how good a coach is against Georgia Tech's offense, he still has to teach it to his players, usually within a week. Also, I expect the offense to run even smoother this season.
Mike writes: I noticed BC has a kicker in their class of incoming freshman. Does this mean that Billy Bennett is not on the team any more? Between his back problems in 2007, and being suspended for most of last season, I don't know how much they can count on him if he is back in the fall.
Heather Dinich: They won't have to count on him because Steve Aponavicius returns. To answer your question, though, Bennett is not on the team right now. Whether he comes back or not remains to be seen.
Brock in Winston-Salem writes: Heather, I am glad to see UNC and NC State are finally playing on the last Saturday of the season. As this is the state's best football rivalry, do you think this is overdue?
Heather Dinich: Well, I'll let the North Carolina natives argue whether or not that's the best rivalry, but don't forget that whole Duke/UNC element. I know, I know, it's November, not March, but in the last four games in the football series, UNC won by a whopping 3, 1, 6 and 8 points. As for the way the schedule worked out, some of that probably had to do with the fact that Wake Forest didn't end the season with Vanderbilt and needed a conference opponent. Another reason for the switch is the Duke-UNC game needs the students from both schools involved, and that wasn't happening with the game falling on Thanksgiving weekend. So, is UNC-NC State overdue for the final weekend? No, but it should be a good game.
Somebody in Blacksburg, Va., writes: Heather, What is the status of Jason Worilds and whether or not he'll be playing this fall after his shoulder surgery? Some of the experts say his speed and smaller size as a DE give him an advantage over the guys he's usually matched up against. Do you see him being an impact player on defense next year? He had an unassisted sack in each of his last six games! Thanks.
Heather Dinich: Worilds had surgery on Jan. 6 and will miss spring ball, but he'll be back and fully cleared to participate in summer and preseason workouts. The Hokies will need him to be an impact player on defense, especially with the graduation of Orion Martin at the other end spot. He was a difference-maker last year, so there's no reason to think he won't be again.
Anthony writes: Heather: What do you think made Shannon choose to play Oklahoma so early in the season..or at all?
Heather Dinich: From what I understand, Oklahoma was on the schedule prior to Randy Shannon becoming head coach. Miami always tries to have at least one marquis home game per year. Virginia Tech and FSU, which are historically marquis games, are both on the road.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
This is a neat award because it recognizes unheralded athletes with amazing stories. It's only the second season for this award, and yes, it's named after Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger (one of my favorite sports movies). While some of you might already be familiar with these stories, others might not and I thought they were worth sharing. There were 53 nominations, and three finalists and the overall winner will be named on January 12.
Here are the ACC's nominations for this year's Rudy Award:
UNC defensive end Robert Quinn
Quinn, this year's recipient of the Brian Piccolo award, was diagnosed with a brain tumor after collapsing in his family bathroom during his senior year of high school. A CT scan revealed a benign tumor that was blocking his spinal cavity. It took a five-hour emergency surgery that included having a shunt placed in his brain to relieve fluid buildup.
He entered UNC this fall as a true freshman and started 11 of 12 games at defensive end. He has made 32 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for losses, two quarterback sacks and three hurries. He has forced two fumbles and has one pass breakup.
FSU's Louis Givens
Givens came to FSU from tiny Mars Hill College, and was told by many doubters he would never play at Florida State. He worked as a bill collector before walking on in the spring. Givens was invited back for the fall, and worked his way onto special teams where he made two touchdown-saving tackles on Miami's Travis Benjamin. He then got his shot on offense when he rushed for a 27-yard gain in a win over Clemson. Given's also lost his girlfriend, who was killed in Philadelphia in January of this year.
Clemson wide receiver Tyler Grisham
Grisham is slight of build at 5-11, 180 pounds and was named special teams captain for 2008 for his effectiveness covering kicks this year and in previous years. He has seven tackles on kickoff return coverage this year. As a receiver, Grisham now ranks 11th in school history with 131 catches.
BC kicker Steve Aponavicius
In the first game of the 2006 season, Aponavicius painted his body and cheered for the Eagles from the student section. The next week, he borrowed a football and a tee and was kicking for fun in Alumni Stadium. A graduate assistant saw him, and asked him to try out. The next week, he was starting in a nationally televised game against Virginia Tech, the first time the former soccer player had ever played in a football game. He has been the Eagles' starting place-kicker since.
Georgia Tech A-back Troy Garside
Garside came to Georgia Tech as a walk-on kicker. Buried on the depth chart behind 2007 All-ACC kicker Travis Bell, Garside asked then-head coach Chan Gailey for a chance to play on special teams. In 2006, Garside worked his way onto special teams and blocked a punt at Virginia Tech that led to a touchdown. Still wanting to see more action, he asked the coaches what he could do to contribute more, so they let him play defensive back.
In August, Paul Johnson was so impressed with Garside's work ethic on the scout team, he moved him to offense, at A-back, where over the last month of the season he was a regular part of the A-back rotation. This past summer, Johnson awarded Garside with a scholarship.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Boston College placekicker Steve Aponavicius has made 1 of 5 field goals in the past two games.
When asked Sunday if he's going to continue the competition at placekicker, coach Jeff Jagodzinski deadpanned: "Don't you think we should?"
Aponavicius has struggled this season, making 8 of 15 field goal attempts, and his past four misses have all been 37 yards or less. The one he made against Notre Dame was a 27-yard attempt.
Ryan Quigley punted and kicked off extremely well against Notre Dame, and has been getting his kickoffs inside the 5-yard line.
"He just hasn't had a lot of work at them," Jagodzinski said, "but there will be a competition this week and whoever does best will go ahead and kick."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Sorry for the delay, but Spanky's on Franklin Street was calling my name for dinner.
Here's what happened throughout the league today, per the latest available report from each team:
- The defense stole the show in the Eagles' second scrimmage, and that's not a surprise. But eight sacks and four interceptions?
- The offense had 64 net rushing yards. Yikes.
- Chris Crane completed 14-of-25 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.
- Junior Rich Gunnell led all receivers with three catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
- Sophomore Billy Bennett connected on field goals of 26 and 38 yards while senior Steve Aponavicius nailed a 29-yarder.
- True freshman Ryan Quigley punted the ball three times for 104 yards (34.3 average) with a long of 36 yards while sophomore Billy Flutie punted once, a 33-yarder.
"The defense brought a whole lot of blitzes today," Crane said. "It's comforting to know this defense will be playing on our side of the ball this fall. It's a benefit to play against them every day."
- Rodney Gallon confirmed today that he is no longer a part of the Seminole football team. He told the FSU sports information office he will be enrolled in school this fall and is excited to complete the final nine hours toward his degree. Football is just not part of his future right now but completing his college degree is a priority.
- Preston Parker was held out of practice due to a cervical sprain. Tony Carter also suffered a cervical sprain and did not finish practice. Freshman Terrance Parks suffered a right knee contusion at the end of the session as well.
- One-on-one was run in the red zone and Corey Surrency caught four TD passes. Three came from E.J. Manuel and one from Drew Weatherford.
- Weatherford also had TD passes to Bert Reed, Avis Commack, Jarmon Fortson, Rod Owens and Chase Walker.
- Manuel not only had the three TDs to Surrency, but he also completed touchdown passes to Owens and Fortson. Christian Ponder, who was working mostly with the inside group, came over and completed a touchdown to Commack.
- In the 11-on-11 drill, Weatherford squeezed a pass between two defenders and it was deflected but Bo Reliford kept his concentration and hauled in the touchdown pass.
- Quarterback Josh Nesbitt didn't practice this afternoon with a shoulder injury and neither did Andrew Gardner, Sr., OT (also a shoulder). Both are day-to-day and neither is in jeopardy of missing the opener. Nesbitt got a "stinger" when a teammate fell on his shoulder.
- Practices will be closed beginning Monday. It was good while it lasted.
- The Yellow Jackets spent two periods this morning working on 3rd-and-5 situations. Back-up safety Troy Garside intercepted a Bryce Dykes passas.
- Senior quarterback Calvin Booker connected with sophomore Demaryius Thomas on a 35-yard touchdown completion.
- The Terps worked on clock management and ended with two-minute drills.
- There is still a battle at strongside linebacker where incumbent Moise Fokou is trying to hold off Adrian Moten for the starting nod. Regardless of who starts, both are likely to play extensively, including on special teams.
- During the full-team drill, wide receivers LaQuan Williams and Torrey Smith caught touchdown passes.
"We came out today and they were tired and sore," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "This was a character practice. We had a pretty good practice. I had to push them, but that's my job. I told them I'm going to get every ounce of energy and every ounce of talent out of them."
- The Hurricanes continued to stress special teams, and the defense focused on run blitzing drills with specific emphasis on red zone and run formations.
- After five practices in the past three days, coach Randy Shannon is giving his guys Thursday off.
- They'll scrimmage on Friday.
"The other day I didn't like the way we were practicing, but we came out this morning and this afternoon and finished up strong," Shannon said. "We had a lot of enthusiasm and we made a lot of plays on both sides of the football so we're excited about that. It was a big improvement from the other day."
- The Demon Deacons had their second two-a-day practice in preparation for tomorrow's scrimmage, which I will attend.
- In the first practice, during 7-on-7 drills, quarterback Riley Skinner hit running back Josh Adams on a long pass down the left sideline on the first play of the drill.
- Cornerbacks Chip Vaughn and Brandon Ghee each made a couple of nice pass breakups.
"I would like to see some improvement from the younger classes," said coach Jim Grobe. "We have older guys that are doing pretty much what we thought they would be doing at this point -- having good camps and making minimal mistakes. I think the key to a season is to have the younger guys step up. No matter how good your upperclassmen are, you are going to have to play young guys at some point, whether you are comfortable or not. So I would like to come back to the office after the scrimmage tomorrow and feel like our young guys made pretty good strides."