ACC: Thaddeus Lewis

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 29, 2014
Apr 29
What happened to you, Pacers?

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 29, 2013
It's May Madness, baseball fans!

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 8, 2013
Did I say Notre Dame? I meant Alabama ...

Opening camp: Duke

August, 9, 2010
Schedule: Practice starts at 6:15 p.m.

What’s new: Marion Hobby was promoted to assistant head coach/defensive coordinator and will be calling the plays for Mike MacIntyre, who is now head coach at San Jose State. Duke will still be a very multiple defense.

Sidelined: Freshman defensive back Quan Stevenson is out indefinitely with a leg injury.

Key battle: Running back. Jay Hollingsworth tops the preseason depth chart, but Desmond Scott, Patrick Kurunwune and true freshman Josh Snead will all be pushing for playing time. Hollingsworth started two games last year -- against Maryland and Virginia -- and Scott started four games and led the team in rushing as a true freshman with 262 yards.

New on the scene: Junior college transfer tight end Cooper Helfet. He is listed as a backup tight end, but he could emerge as a downfield threat in the passing game. He played wide receiver primarily at Santa Rosa Junior College and has two years of eligibility remaining.

Breaking out: Receiver Tyree Watkins. He will be a redshirt freshman after earning a medical hardship because he suffered a season-ending knee injury last year. He’s in a crowded, talented group that includes some of the ACC’s top receivers, but Watkins’ teammates have raved about him this offseason.

Don’t forget about: Safety Lee Butler. He played primarily at corner his first two seasons, but moved to safety this past spring. He had a good spring and recorded the team’s top vertical jump (40.5). He played in 11 games last year, started seven, and had 39 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups.

All eyes on: Sean Renfree. For the first time in four years, Duke will have a new quarterback. Renfree has big shoes to fill, as Thaddeus Lewis set or tied 56 school records. Renfree completed 34 of 50 passes for 330 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions as Lewis’ backup last year. He suffered a season-ending knee injury against Georgia Tech and had surgery to repair his torn right ACL on Nov. 23. He was limited this past spring.

Quotable: "I think we'll run the ball better this year. We're going to throw it. Everyone knows that. But we are going to run it better." -- Duke coach David Cutcliffe

More camps opening.

Tuesday mailblog

May, 25, 2010
Looks like last week's mailbag got something started between the Hokies n' the Hoos ...

Ben in Malmstrom AFB, MT writes: In response to the Hoakie's declaration of 2000 days with the Commonwealth Cup: Hoos have 16 NCAA Division 1 titles and counting. Hoakies empty trophy case. Maybe Tech can lease us some trophy space?

HD: Cavman rides again ...

Nick in Washington, D.C. writes: Other than what's being said across the blog hype-machine, is there any reason to believe that Ras-I Dowling will actually be a corner to be reckoned with? Are we sure this isn't just a case of a decent player on a horrible D?

HD: First, I don't think Virginia's D was the problem last year. The passing defense was actually fourth in the ACC. Second, I'd put some stock into what our guys, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay say. They break down film of these guys. Kiper has Dowling at No. 21 in his latest Big Board, and here's what McShay had to say on Dowling:
Dowling has flown under the radar but should garner some national attention in 2010, even on a rebuilding Cavs squad. He displays an excellent combination of size, upper-body strength and athleticism. He's a better overall talent than Chris Cook, whom the Vikings selected with the 34th overall pick in this year's draft.

Van Galloway in Hartsville, S.C., writes: Good morning Heather...I have just one question. Everyone wants to talk about UNC having one of the best defense's in the country this year & the best of the ACC...Being the FSU fan that I am, isn't that pretty much the same UNC defense that allowed 395 passing yards by Christian Ponder?

HD: And three touchdowns and no interceptions. About that Heisman Trophy thing ...

Nate in Raleigh, N.C. writes: Hey Heather! I want to know how in the hell the ACC didn't place Russell Wilson on any of the All-ACC teams?? There aren't 4 QB's in the ACC better than him. Without him, State probably would've won 2 games last year! I am obviously biased, but Russell is, arguably, THE best QB in the ACC. Ponder is up there, and Tyrod is a close 3rd. Jacory threw like 400 interceptions last year, and the only reason he made it before Wilson is because everybody is riding Miami this year. Help me understand this HD! Thanks.

HD: You're right in that nobody in the ACC threw more TDs than Wilson (31) and nobody threw more INTs than Harris (17). But you could make the argument that Ponder accounted for more yardage per game in fewer games, Tyrod Taylor and Riley Skinner both had better pass efficiency ratings, and Thaddeus Lewis had more passing yardage. Not to mention the fact that all of those schools -- including Duke -- won more conference games last year. As for total package, I'm not sure Wilson was it last year.

Vincent in Miami, Fla., writes: Hey Heather, I've been watching College football live and they were talking about the best receiving core in college football and they left out Miami!? Don't you believe that Miami has some of the best receivers in the nation? I do. Whats with that?

HD: I must've missed that episode, Vincent, but I can tell you this: Before Miami's receiving corps is deemed one of the best in the nation, it must first prove it's one of the best in the ACC. There's no question it is deep and talented, and it's a big reason why Miami had one of the top passing offenses in the country last year. But when you break it down on an individual basis, the receivers at Miami (Ohio) made a bigger splash in the national stats last year. And Miami's passing game, as good as it was, was fifth-best in the ACC last fall. And no, not all of those INTs were Harris' fault.

Eric in Blacksburg, Va., writes: Is it fair to say that this is Steinsprings last stand at VT if the offense can't produce? I mean if our offense does not produce with Tyrod, Crash and Burn, and our returning stable of WR's will Beamer have any other choice but to axe his old friend?

HD: No, it's probably not fair, Eric. What would make this year different from any other in which Beamer has stood behind Stinespring?

Have a question for Friday's mailblog? Drop it in my mailbag ...

Duke receivers confident in continued success

May, 17, 2010
It’s been a long 21 years since Duke has had a receiver reach the 1,000-yard mark in a single season.

Donovan Varner helped change that.

His 1,047 yards last year were the most since Clarkston Hines recorded a school-record 1,149 yards in 1989.

Tim Steadman/Icon SMIDuke wide receiver Donovan Varner's 1,047 yards in 2009 were the most for a Blue Devils receiver since 1989.
There are a lot of talented receivers returning throughout the ACC this fall, but none of them were able to match what Varner did for Duke last year. He led the conference in receptions per game (5.42), overall receptions (65), and yards per game (87.2), averaging 16.1 yards per catch. Of course, it helped that he had one of the program’s most productive quarterbacks throwing to him in Thaddeus Lewis, who has since graduated and moved on to the NFL. Although the Blue Devils will experience a change at quarterback this year, Donovan and the receivers aren’t expecting any drop-off in the passing game.

Sean Renfree, who is expected to be the starting quarterback this fall, missed spring drills to recover from a torn ACL. He has since resumed throwing during seven-on-seven drills.

“I don’t think it’s really going to be an issue,” Varner said. “We’re going to miss Thad, but Sean Renfree is a great quarterback and he’s going to be able to carry the team. We’re not really worried about it at all.”

Varner conceded this year will be more difficult because opposing defenses now know who he is.

“They know we’re capable of making plays now,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a lot tougher.”

Especially since Varner isn’t the only wideout on the roster with big-play capabilities.

Varner, Conner Vernon and Austin Kelly combined for 174 pass receptions last fall -- more than any other trio in the ACC. The next closest was Wake Forest’s Devon Brown, Marshall Williams and Chris Givens, along with Florida State’s Rod Owens, Bert Reed and Jarmon Fortson. Both of those groups combined for 166 catches.

“I think we’re definitely capable of making a bowl game," Varner said. "Our mentality is different. Our work ethic has risen a lot. I’m pretty confident in making a bowl this year. I see the younger guys stepping up, making big plays. The older guys, we have a lot more leaders this year. I just see a lot of confidence, more trash talking and more plays being made. I think that gives our team a lot of confidence.”

So does Varner and his surrounding cast of receivers.

Duke spring wrap

May, 7, 2010

2009 overall record: 5-7

2009 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 6, punter/kicker: 2

Top returners

WR Donovan Varner, WR Conner Vernon, WR Austin Kelly,T Kyle Hill, RB Desmond Scott, C Bryan Morgan, DE Patrick Egboh, P Kevin Jones, PK Will Snyderwine

Key losses

QB Thaddeus Lewis, DE Ayanga Okpokowuruk, DT Vince Oghobaase, LB Vincent Rey, CB Leon Wright, SS Catron Gainey

2009 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Scott* (262 yards)

Passing: Lewis (3,330 yards)

Receiving: Varner* (1,047 yards)

Tackles: Rey (98)

Sacks: Okpokowuruk (6)

Interceptions: Wright (5)

Spring answers

1. Depth at receiver. The Blue Devils found enough helping hands that they were able to move Johnny Williams, who caught 31 passes last year, to defensive back. Tyree Watkins, who didn’t lose last year’s eligibility despite an injury, had an impressive spring, as did Cory Gattis, who redshirted last year.

2. More multiple on defense. The defense will be a little different under Marion Hobby, who will take over the play-calling for Mike MacIntyre, now the head coach at San Jose State.

3. The need for Snead. The running game got a much needed boost from rookie Josh Snead, who graduated early and enrolled in January. He’s a compact, explosive player who came physically prepared to play. He had a handful of runs of 50 or more yards in scrimmages throughout the spring that showed he can be a contributor.

Fall questions

1. Renfree’s health. All indications are that quarterback Sean Renfree is healing from a torn ACL on schedule and will be the starter this fall, despite missing the contact portion of spring drills. He’s the only player who has taken a snap in a game, and the staff is encouraged by him, but he’s still a rookie who hasn’t been tested since his injury.

2. Defensive line concerns. Can the defensive line be productive and deep enough to have a positive impact? Overall it’s thin and inexperienced. Patrick Egboh and Wesley Oglesby, two fifth-year seniors, need to lead the way. It will be Charlie Hatcher’s first year seeing significant playing time after helping out on the interior last year. True freshmen could help immediately because of the low numbers.

3. Bowling, anyone? Coach David Cutcliffe made noticeable strides in the win column his first two seasons, but Duke is still searching for that bowl bid. How Duke will fare in its toss-up games against conference opponents will answer that. If the Blue Devils can get wins against Wake Forest, Maryland and Virginia, the postseason will be within reach.

Tuesday mailblog

May, 4, 2010
I guess you guys read the power rankings yesterday ...

Doug in Coral Gables, Fla., writes: Heather,Please explain to me all the hype surrounding Florida State. Miami beat them last year in THEIR building and we are bringing back more experience. I respect FSU and think that they could be slightly worse than UNC, but 2nd in the ACC? Everyone seems to forget this team lost 4 of its first five legitimate games and almost lost to 1AA Jacksonville State.

HD: I understand where you're coming from, Doug, really I do. But it's impossible to ignore Florida State's offense, starting up front. That should be one of the best offensive lines in the country, and to me, that's FSU's biggest reason for hope. That and the fact the Noles only lost one starter on offense. And the way I look at the defense -- well, it can't get much worse. There have been nothing but positive remarks coming out of Tallahassee on the direction the program is headed under Jimbo Fisher, convincing me that change is underway. Of course, they've got to prove it this fall. And who says I don't think Miami has a chance to win it all this year? ...

Jon in Blacksburg, Va., writes: Why is it that you seem to always feel Miami will beat us in a given season? Last year you thought they were going to win it all (and Pat Forde) and this year you pick them to upset us on Nov. 20th? I don't know if it's just me but I just don't think they are that great of a team.

HD: Well, I was in Miami two years ago when the Canes DID beat Virginia Tech, so I know it can happen. (I was also in Blacksburg last year when the Hokies won, so I've seen the flip-side, too). I just think that with Jacory Harris being a junior, and the entire offense now having a year under Mark Whipple, the Canes have what it takes to take the next step. There is a lot of skill and speed on that team, and there is also mounting pressure for Randy Shannon in his fourth season. Those things are bound to add up eventually. But hey, don't count out Georgia Tech in the Coastal Division ...

Matt in Atlanta, Ga., writes: Heather, You always seem to underestimate GT. But, I guess Paul Johnson will prove the media wrong once again this year. And what is with this hype about Clemson? They are not that good. Tech beat them twice with a absolutely sorry defense. Now, then don't even have CJ Spiller and Jacoby Ford. If they win the Atlantic, it's just because somebody has to take the Atlantic title.

HD: Maybe I do underestimate Georgia Tech, but don't forget I picked Tech to beat Iowa in the Orange Bowl. The Jackets have some legitimate reasons to doubt them this year, including the loss of two first-round draft picks, a new defensive coordinator and a new defensive scheme. As for the Clemson hype, I think people are underestimating the Tigers. Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington will ease the loss of Spiller. They do need to find some consistency at receiver, though. The defense will be the strength ... at least until it plays Georgia Tech in late October, right?

Tom in Portage, Ind., writes: Recently there was a suggestion that the SEC was considering going after Florida State as a new member. If the Big 10 does expand, how vulnerable is the ACC and how will the conference respond? Also, if other conferences go to as many as 16 teams, is this something the ACC will consider?

HD: From what I gather, the ACC is on the backburner in all of this expansion talk, and would be one of the last conferences to be affected if at all. It's an impossible question to answer until we see HOW the Big Ten expands. Personally, I don't see what the Big Ten would have to gain by adding a team like Rutgers. Notre Dame? Yeah, that would make a difference and make sense, and the trickle-down effect would probably be moot. I do know the ACC likes its current 12-team alignment just the way it is and would rather not see anything change. Speaking of Notre Dame ...

Drew in Boston writes: Why would you write a column about the ACC's out-of-conference schedules and write about ever single team in the ACC except Boston College? Granted, their OOC schedule isn't great, but it still has ND and deserves some sort of analysis. And the decided lack of BC coverage on this blog has not only been noticeable, but insulting. We may be up north, but we're in the ACC too, Heather.

HD: I KNEW I should've put a disclaimer at the top of that post. That wasn't an intentional slight on BC, it was a slight on the Eagles' schedule. They don't play any nonconference opponents we have ranked! Sorry, but Notre Dame doesn't cut it. Last I checked, the Irish lost to Navy last year. And Syracuse is still one of the worst teams in the Big East. The whole point of that post was to see how the top opponents stack up. Not yet, anyway. And I just wrote about BC yesterday afternoon.

Kevin in Tokyo, Japan, writes: Heather,Glad to see you back at work. Hope all's well with the munchkin. The perennial fall of Miami and FSU seems to have others viewing the ACC as a weak conference. Do you think putting them high in the preseason rankings on an annual basis hurts the conference reputation, especially when neither has proven anything?

HD: Thanks, Kevin! I never thought of it that way, but to answer your question, no. The rankings don't hurt the ACC's reputation, the results do. It's good for those programs to have high expectations -- they should. It's time, though, for both of them to meet those expectations.

Daniel in Durham writes: Heather, I love reading your blog, but how could you put Duke 11th in your ranking? I'm not arguing that Duke is a contender in the ACC by any stretch of the imagination, but you have them behind Maryland and NC State, two teams that they beat last year. They also got a good schedule against the Atlantic by not playing FSU or Clemson. What keeps you from putting them higher in your rankings?

HD: One main thing -- no Thaddeus Lewis, the quarterback who beat Maryland and NC State last year. The staff has a lot of faith in Sean Renfree, who is very talented, but he'll be in his first season as a full-time starter and missed the spring with a torn ACL. Also, Duke's running game has really struggled, and the defensive line still has holes to plug.

NC State, Duke players sign as free agents

April, 26, 2010
Former Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will get his shot at the NFL. Lewis, along with Vince Oghobaase, Ayanga Okpokowuruk, Vincent Rey and Leon Wright, signed as free agents this past weekend.

Lewis signed with the St. Louis Rams, Oghobaase with the Miami Dolphins and Rey with the Cincinnati Bengals. Okpokowuruk and Wright signed with the New York Giants.

NC State offensive tackle Jerraill McCuller signed a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. McCuller played in 34 career games for NC State, starting 29. The 6-foot-7, 335-pound Jamesville native was in for 1,952 career snaps.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 23, 2010
I present to you links that don't refer to Tim Tebow ...

  • The Meineke Car Care Bowl will be played on New Year's Eve this year and televised by ESPN. That's just a few weeks after the ACC championship game in Charlotte. Will UNC play in Charlotte for the third straight postseason?
  • Former Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is realistic about his draft prospects, but he's hoping his name is called on Saturday.
  • Finally, an ACC quarterback who has decided to concentrate on football, not baseball.
  • Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel breaks down how the Noles fared on offense this spring.
  • Here's one I missed from earlier this week: Injured Miami running back Graig Cooper might be able to play this fall.
  • Former Virginia Tech defensive end Jason Worilds has been a busy man, now it's time to sit and wait.
  • Duke, NC State and UNC have wrapped up spring practices with some answers and questions.
There has been no shortage of question marks this spring at Duke, and fans can get a glimpse of the team's progress Saturday as the Blue Devils hold their annual spring game.

The game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET at Wallace-Wade Stadium, and admission is free. The game will feature four 12-minute quarters.

Duke's running game will be front and center after it ranked last nationally in rushing average (63.5 ypg) in 2009. Head coach David Cutcliffe told The (Raleigh) News & Observer that fans will see "faster, fitter backs" in the spring game, and the coaches might unveil some new rushing schemes.

Sophomore Desmond Scott, who led Duke with 262 rushing yards last year, is competing for carries with Jay Hollingsworth, Patrick Kuruwune and freshman Josh Snead.

"I want to see our level of competing in front of a crowd,” Cutcliffe said, according to a news release. "I want to see how well our defense attacks taking the ball away, as opposed to how well our offense protects it -- that’s been a big emphasis this spring. So that’ll be a culmination of a lot of work in that regard. If the offense goes without a turnover, then it’s obvious we didn’t get as much done defensively as we needed to or vice versa."

Duke conducted a 45-snap situational scrimmage Wednesday, and both Scott and Hollingsworth scored touchdowns. Quarterbacks Brandon Connette and Sean Schroeder combined to complete 8 of 17 passes for 150 yards. Connette and Schroeder are competing for the starting job after the departure of four-year starter -- and Heather Dinich's favorite player -- Thaddeus Lewis.

"I like the personality of the team, but the fact is that we're young," Cutcliffe said. "Facts are that we've been consistently inconsistent. It doesn't surprise me. But we've also really shown flashes of excellence in a lot of areas, and we have a lot more athletes on the field -- that’s evident to anybody that’s watched us play this spring."

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 26, 2010
Good thing it's Friday. It's quiet out there ...
  • If anyone has the scouting report on Georgia Tech's fab four at this year's NFL combine, it's former Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey.
  • If you're going to be a running back at FSU, you "better have some crud in you."
  • Miami defensive end Adewale Ojomo is back after he suffered a broken jaw last year when a player punched him in the locker room. Hey, at least it happened in the locker room.
  • Former Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis came to the NFL combine to prove he's a quarterback.
  • Former Georgia Tech guard Cord Howard wasn't invited to the combine, but that doesn't mean he's given up on his dream.

QB uncertainty looms in the ACC

February, 15, 2010
At Duke, former scout team quarterback Sean Schroeder has been reciting the names of plays so he can spit them out a little easier in the huddle as the No. 1 signal-caller this spring. At Wake Forest, coach Jim Grobe would like nothing more than to say he feels good about his quarterbacks, but he hasn’t seen any of them play significant game time yet. And at NC State, backup Mike Glennon plans on working to unseat his friend and teammate Russell Wilson as the starter this spring.

[+] EnlargeMike Glennon
AP Photo/Gerry Broome Mike Glennon will get extra reps under center this spring while incumbent starter Russell Wilson plays baseball.
Bring on the competition in the ACC.

All across the conference, uncertainty looms at quarterback heading into spring practices. The biggest transitions will occur at Duke and Wake Forest, where two of the ACC’s most accomplished quarterbacks -- Thaddeus Lewis and Riley Skinner -- have graduated. Virginia is also starting from scratch to replace Jameel Sewell, and nobody on the roster but Marc Verica has experience. Maryland's Jamarr Robinson has two starts ahead of the competition. Some schools, like North Carolina and Boston College, have experienced starters returning, but have welcomed an audition from the backups. At NC State and Clemson, the position’s future depends on whether or not starters Kyle Parker and Wilson decide to pursue their baseball careers.

“My goal is to prepare to be the starter, regardless of what decision [Wilson] makes, whenever he has to make a decision,” Glennon said. “… Once spring comes around, I’ll be getting all of those extra reps I wouldn’t have been given if he was there. Every ball I throw is really an advantage to me.”

Florida State is the only school in the Atlantic Division without any questions about who the starter is, as Christian Ponder will return from a shoulder injury and has the potential to factor into the Heisman race. The Coastal Division is a little more secure, with Georgia Tech’s Josh Nesbitt, Miami’s Jacory Harris, and Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor all established and on the brink of their best seasons yet. Whether or not that gives them an edge in the conference race will depend upon how quickly the league’s rookies can catch up.

“It’s always difficult to replace a guy who had the ability [Lewis] had,” said Duke offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper. “He’s obviously very, very talented, and then the experience factor. You don’t have a four-year starter very often ever at many positions, especially at quarterback.”

Boston College is in a much better position than it was this time a year ago, as the staff had no idea who its quarterback would be until 25-year-old Dave Shinskie arrived on campus. Shinskie is the front-runner heading into the spring, but Mike Marscovetra and two true freshmen -- Chase Rettig and Josh Bordner -- are on campus and will be given a chance.

“I think there should always be competition,” said offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Gary Tranquill. “It’s Shinskie’s job, and if they can unseat him, then they can unseat him.”

Duke’s quarterback depth took a hit after Lewis graduated and his backup, Sean Renfree, tore his ACL. Renfree is expected to be the Blue Devils’ starter this fall, but he will miss all of spring drills while he recovers.

Next man up? Schroeder.

“I’m expecting to really get a hold of the offense,” he said. “I’ve got a year under my belt as a redshirt freshman. That helped a lot. I’m looking to grow from that and master the offense and different schemes we have.”

Wake Forest has to replace the winningest quarterback in school history in Skinner. Truth is, there really is no front-runner. Not when the most experienced player, Ted Stachitas, has one series against Elon to fall back on.

“It is legitimately wide open,” said quarterbacks coach Tom Elrod.

The contenders include Skylar Jones, who was moved to wide receiver last year; Stachitas, who has had two shoulder surgeries on his right shoulder but said he feels almost 100 percent; Brendan Cross; walk-on Turner Faulk; and true freshman Tanner Price.

“I can’t tell you that I’m very confident, just because we haven’t seen the guys in live fire,” Grobe said. “I don’t know that we’ll feel good about them until they get a real game under their belt. I like what we’ve got – I like the kids who are playing quarterback for us, but even in practice and the scrimmages, it’s just really hard to tell who the guys are until they get out in games that really mean something.”

The one thing Grobe can take some solace in? He’s hardly alone this spring in the ACC.

What to watch in the ACC this spring

February, 15, 2010
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:


Spring practice starts: March 18

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• How linebacker Mark Herzlich progresses. Herzlich, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer last May, has been going through winter conditioning with his teammates, and he plans on participating in spring drills. How quickly he regains his form will be worth watching, as he and sophomore Luke Kuechly could give the Eagles one of the most formidable linebacking corps.

• The quarterback battle. After one season, Dave Shinskie has the most experience on the roster, but he’ll get some competition from Josh Bordner and Chase Rettig, two early enrollees. There were times last season when Shinskie looked like the future of the position and there were others when he looked like any other freshman.

• Defensive linemen. For the second straight year, BC is looking for some stability up front. The Eagles have to replace left tackle Austin Giles and defensive end Jim Ramella. They return Kaleb Ramsey, Giles’ backup, and Brad Newman, Ramella’s reserve, but some young faces are likely to be seen in the rotation.


Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Life without C.J. Spiller officially begins. The backs behind him had a pretty good year, so there’s no need for full panic mode. Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington actually combined for a higher yards per carry average (6.1 to 5.6 yards). Clemson will also be looking to replace Spiller’s lost kickoff return yardage. The Tigers had a 13-yard advantage in average starting field position, as their start was their own 37-yard line compared to opponents’ 24-yard line. Ellington is a candidate in the return game.

• Kyle Parker’s batting average. No, really. How well Parker does this spring with the baseball team will help determine whether he remains Clemson’s quarterback or turns to the MLB draft. He didn’t have a great 2009 season, but he was still the fastest player to 25 home runs in school history. It remains to be seen this spring if he’ll become a high enough draft choice to give up college football.

• Secondary shuffling. It seems like eons ago since Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor weren’t the Tigers’ starting corners, as Butler started 40 straight games and Chancellor started 42. Butler finished his career second in school history in interception return yards. Now it’s time for a new duo. Will Marcus Gilchrist move to corner, which he’s capable of doing? Might Rashard Hall move to safety with DeAndre McDaniel?


Spring practice starts: Feb. 14

Spring game: March 27

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Somebody has to take over for the graduated Thaddeus Lewis, but his backup – Sean Renfree – will miss the spring with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Sean Schroeder should be heavily in the mix to be the starter, pending Renfree’s recovery.

• Defensive line makeover. It’s wide open. Charlie Hatcher is entrenched at nose guard, but it’s really anyone’s game. The staff might move redshirt senior Wesley Oglesby, who played the majority of his career at defensive end, inside. Other options are defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento, a redshirt freshman, and Curtis Hazelton, who played sparingly last season.

• Johnny Williams’ move from wide receiver to cornerback. He had 31 catches in 2009 – the fourth-best on the team. Now they need his help in the defensive backfield. Duke will lose starter Leon Wright and his 10 career interceptions, and the pass defense, which allowed 215.75 yards per game, could use a boost.


Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Christian Ponder’s return from shoulder surgery. Ponder is expected to practice this spring, though it could be on a limited basis, at least early. He’s ahead of schedule, but the coaches won’t subject him to any risks now. Yes, E.J. Manuel is talented and played well at the end of the season, but make no mistake – Ponder is FSU’s starter and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

• The defense under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. His secondary, in particular, will be interesting to watch, as will how quickly he can help the front seven generate a pass rush and plug the middle. Stoops has been a secondary coach, and the Noles lost three starters there. The fourth, Ochuko Jenije, could be pushed to retain his job.

• New faces, new opportunities. In addition to the fab freshmen who are coming in, FSU has a handful of unfamiliar players already on the roster who played sparingly or not at all. We'll see how they fit in this spring. RS-So DT Anthony McCloud and RS-So RB Debrale Smiley are both junior college transfers and former teammates. Physically, freshman linebacker Jeff Luc is already a man, but how quickly can he mature on the field? Two young wide receivers worth watching are Rodney Smith and Willie Haulstead.


Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The defensive transformation. The Jackets will switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under first-year coordinator Al Groh. In addition to learning the new scheme, the staff has to figure out who goes where. Linebackers might play defensive end and vice versa, safeties might play outside linebacker. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this team lines up in the spring.

• The replacements. From Georgia Tech’s coaching staff to the new faces who will be tasked with filling in for the Fab Four -- Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett and Demaryius Thomas -- the Jackets will need some “Hello My Name Is” tags this spring.

• The offensive line. Three offensive linemen redshirted who could start, and Georgia Tech might need them to, especially if guard Joseph Gilbert decides to transfer to pursue his MBA. The Jackets lose two starters on the offensive line, and Gilbert, who graduates this spring, would be a third if he leaves. Center Sean Bedford and tackle Austin Barrick return as seniors.


Spring practice starts: March 23

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. Chris Turner has graduated, leaving Jamarr Robinson the top option going into the spring, but he has limited experience. The staff liked what he did when Turner was injured, but Danny O’Brien, Miami (Ohio) transfer Clay Belton and C.J. Brown will all be given an opportunity. Look for O’Brien to start the spring at No. 2 on the depth chart.

• Cornerback: Cameron Chism is the only returning starter in the secondary, but right now the staff has fewer concerns about the safeties. Maryland will have to find some bodies at corner, and Dexter McDougle, who redshirted as a true freshman last year, is one option. Michael Carter and Trenton Hughes, who was the third corner last year, are also among a handful of candidates.

• The offensive line. Losing Bruce Campbell to the NFL hurt, but the Terps also lost starter Phil Costa. Justin Gilbert, a redshirt sophomore, could inherit Campbell’s job. And there’s always Mr. Versatility -- Paul Pinegar. He has helped the Terps at both tackle spots and left guard, and this spring he’ll likely be given a shot at center.


Spring practice starts: Feb. 23

Spring game: March 27 (tentative)

What to watch:

• Tight end/offensive line: Jimmy Graham is gone, and the Canes don’t return any tight ends with any experience other than Richard Gordon, who was injured the majority of last season. Miami signed four tight ends in this recruiting class, but none of them were early enrollees. Miami has to replace three starters up front, including both tackles and the center.

• How the two young quarterbacks perform: The health of Jacory Harris was precious last year, as he had nobody behind him with any experience after the transfers of Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith. The depth has improved a bit with A.J. Highsmith, who played sparingly last year, and Stephen Morris, one of the early enrollees.

• Upgrade on the d-line? Progress up front began with the hire of Rick Petri as defensive line coach, and it’s up to Petri to help the Canes become better pass rushers. Miami will depend upon its two mainstays -- Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes. The right end position was a group effort last year, and Miami has to replace Joe Joseph and Eric Moncur.


Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback T.J. Yates. It’s his job to lose, and the coaching staff still has confidence in him, but Bryn Renner is waiting in the wings, and Braden Hanson will also be given an opportunity. The staff is looking for the offense to improve its passing efficiency and cut down on turnovers.

• The offensive line. It was a patchwork effort in 2009, thanks to injuries and inexperience, and will be a major key in how much UNC improves offensively this year. The Heels have to replace two starters, and Jonathan Cooper is likely to move from guard to center, and right guard Alan Pelc will miss spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery.

• Defensive line tweaks. There aren’t many questions on a defense that should be one of the best in the country, but somebody has to replace Cam Thomas and defensive end E.J. Wilson. Tydreke Powell is the frontrunner to take over at defensive tackle and Quinton Coples at defensive end. Both were backups last year at their respective positions.


Spring practice starts: March 9

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• Backup quarterback Mike Glennon. Russell Wilson is the starter, but he’s going to be playing baseball all spring. Keep an eye on his backup to see if Glennon can make it any more of a competition in Wilson’s absence.

• Chris Ward at punter. No, it’s not usually, the highlight of the spring, but in this case, it’s necessary. Ward is it -- he’s their only option right now, and it’s a position the Pack struggled with last year. Ward was expected to be the starter last season, but he was inconsistent. He’s definitely got the talent to be the guy.

• The recovery of linebacker Nate Irving. After being severely injured in a one-car crash last summer, Irving is hopeful he can go through spring drills. He has been lifting with the team and running with the sports medicine staff, but it’s still uncertain how limited his contact will be.


Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Marc Verica is the only one with any experience, and first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor hasn’t been in Charlottesville long enough to evaluate any of the candidates. That’s what the spring is for, and true freshman Michael Strauss is the lone incoming quarterback on campus, so he’ll have a head start on the playbook. Of the four quarterbacks Virginia signed in this year’s class, Strauss is the only one listed as a true quarterback. The Cavs also have Ross Metheny, who redshirted last year, and Riko Smalls, who redshirted in ‘08 and was No. 2 on the depth chart when Verica was out with a concussion.

• Coaching transition. First-year coach Mike London has hired almost an entirely new staff, and they’ll bring changes in philosophy and scheme. London has said he wants to get the defense back to the traditional 4-3, and revert to the tradition of featuring the tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs.

• Running back. The Cavs will have the help up front, but they need to replace their four leading rushers in Mikell Simpson, Rashawn Jackson, Vic Hall and Jameel Sewell. The staff will look at true freshman Kevin Parks, but also have Torrey Mack and Dominique Wallace, who had just seemed to be coming on at Southern Miss when he was injured and missed the rest of the season.


Spring practice starts: March 31

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• Revamped defensive line. The Hokies have to replace three of four starters up front. The only defensive ends with significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. Redshirt freshmen will be given a chance – Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins – but they’ve never played. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other end who’s played and that was a skinny minute. At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the frontrunner to replace Cordarrow Thompson.

• Darren Evans’ comeback. Evans, the team’s leading rusher in 2008, is working his way back from a season-ending ACL injury, and one of the biggest questions in Blacksburg is how the staff will divide the carries in such a talented backfield that includes Ryan Williams. With two returning 1,000-yard rushers, will David Wilson decide to redshirt? The spring will help him in that decision.

• The evolution of Tyrod Taylor. He’s going to be a senior, and with so many questions on defense heading into the season, the offense will be leading the way. This should be a breakout year for Taylor, who by now should have mastered the offense and should consistently be a passing threat to compliment his running abilities.


Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. It’s the most glaring hole the Deacs have to fill this spring, as they’re tasked with replacing the winningest quarterback in school history, Riley Skinner, and his backup, Ryan McManus. Redshirt sophomores Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones, and sophomore Brendan Cross, will compete with rookie Tanner Price for the top spot.

• Offensive line. The Deacs will take a huge hit here, as seven players in the two-deep depth chart were redshirt seniors, including all four tackles. Three starters have to be replaced.

• The interior defensive line. Nose guard Boo Robinson and John Russell have graduated, and Russell’s backup, Michael Lockett, was also a redshirt senior. The Deacs are in good shape at the ends, but will need some help inside.

Boston College Eagles, Duke Blue Devils, Virginia Tech Hokies, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, North Carolina Tar Heels, Clemson Tigers, Florida State Seminoles, North Carolina State Wolfpack, Maryland Terrapins, Virginia Cavaliers, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Coastal Division, Atlantic Division, Miami Hurricanes, Wesley Oglesby, Alan Pelc, Russell Wilson, Darren Evans, Christian Ponder, Ochuko Jenije, Chris Drager, Cam Thomas, Demaryius THomas, Justin Gilbert, Isaiah Hamlette, Marc Verica, Rashawn Jackson, A.J. Highsmith, Boo Robinson, Torrey Mack, Trenton Hughes, Quinton Coples, Chris turner, Phil Costa, Cannon Smith, Jamarr Robinson, Al Groh, Mike Glennon, Tyrod Taylor, David Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Cameron Chism, Jamie Harper, CHris Chancellor, Michael Carter, Ryan McManus, Joseph Gilbert, Brad Newman, Antoine Hopkins, Sean Renfree, Dave Shinskie, Cordarrow Thompson, Richard Gordon, Mikell Simpson, Austin Barrick, Johnny Williams, Morgan Burnett, E.J. Wilson, Paul Pinegar, Tydreke Powell, Bryn Renner, Jacory Harris, Riley Skinner, Joe Joseph, Skylar Jones, Derrick Morgan, T.J. Yates, Braden Hanson, Sean Bedford, Jonathan Dwyer, C.J. Brown, John Russell, Jameel Sewell, Allen Bailey, Mike London, Nate Irving, Rodney Smith, Marcus Gilchrist, Mark Herzlich, Taylor Cook, Willie Haulstead, Andre Ellington, Josh Holmes, Thaddeus Lewis, E.J. Manuel, Leon Wright, Crezdon Butler, Ryan Williams, C.J. Spiller, Kaleb Ramsey, Vic Hall, James Gayle, Eric Moncur, Jonathan Cooper, Bruce Campbell, Ted Stachitas, Jim Ramella, Danny O'Brien, Luke Kuechly, Sean Schroeder, Tyrel Wilson, Dominique Wallace, Austin Giles, Jeff Luc, Mark Stoops, Brendan Cross, Stephen Morris, Rick Petri, Bill Lazor, Chase Rettig, Michael Strauss, Tanner Price, Anthony McCloud, Debrale Smiley, Josh Bordner, Kyle Paker, Rahsard Hall, DeAndrew McDaniel, Charlie Hatcher, Sydney Sarmiento, Chris Hazelton, Clay Belton, Dexter McDougle, Chris Ward, Ross Metheny, Roko Smalls, Kevin Parks, Duan Perez-Means, J.R. Collins, Michael Lockett

Duke's Roper: Lewis belongs in the NFL

February, 12, 2010
Former Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis is considered a "borderline draft prospect" by ESPN Recruiting, meaning that he is likely a late-round draft choice or an un-drafted free agent. He's a player a team might take a chance on because of character and/or potential.

Duke offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper is convinced Lewis deserves that chance.

"If you don't know Thad, he is a special, special young man," Roper said. "I keep telling everybody that there's not 90 quarterbacks in the world better than Thad Lewis. He can help somebody's team in the NFL. You look at 30 teams having three quarterbacks, Thad is a good football player and should end up playing in that league in some role."

Lewis played in the recent Texas vs. The Nation game (3-of-5 for 30 yards) and is preparing for Duke's Pro Day next month, along with the NFL combine, held Feb. 24-March 2 in Indianapolis.

Lewis finished his career at Duke with 48 school records, including career marks for total offensive yards (9,987), passing yards (10,065), pass completions (877), pass attempts (1,510), touchdown passes (67), 300-yard passing games (11) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (1.68:1).

In 2009, he completed 61 percent of his pass attempts for 3,330 yards with 20 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He's just one of two quarterbacks in ACC history to throw for over 10,000 yards in a career.

Had Lewis put up those numbers at just about any other FBS school besides Duke, odds are more people would be aware of his accomplishments. Scouts Inc. has him the No. 20 quarterback heading into the NFL draft.

"He's being invited to all the right things and evaluated by all the right people," Roper said. "Hopefully it works out for him. He's a talented young man."