ACC: Tony Gregory

What to watch in the ACC: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
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The moment is finally here. The season kicks off tonight, as two ACC teams take the gridiron and mark the return of college football. Here is what to keep an eye on this entire weekend as all 14 teams get back in action.

1. Battle in the trenches in Columbia, S.C. North Carolina will have three new starters on its offensive line Thursday night against No. 6 South Carolina, including two redshirt freshmen. And the Tar Heels will be going up against preseason Heisman contender Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks' lethal defensive line. Don't overlook fellow end Chaz Sutton, either.

2. Conference debuts. Pitt and Syracuse play their first games as ACC schools after exiting the former Big East, which the Orange won a four-way share of in 2012. Both schools have the chance to make big opening statements, as the Panthers host defending conference champion Florida State on Labor Day and Syracuse faces a Penn State squad looking to build off Bill O'Brien's successful first year with the program.

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesBoston College's Steve Addazio is one of the conference's new coaches this season.
3. Trio of first-year coaches. New BC coach Steve Addazio hosts Villanova, a familiar opponent from his Temple days. Dave Doeren and NC State host Louisiana Tech, which breaks in a new coach of its own in Skip Holtz after Sonny Dykes left for Cal following a 9-3 season. And Syracuse coach Scott Shafer debuts against Penn State in East Rutherford, N.J.

4. QB choices in Jersey and Raleigh. Two of those new coaches also will be unveiling their starting quarterback choices for the first time, as Shafer sends out either Terrel Hunt or Drew Allen and Doeren picks Pete Thomas or Brandon Mitchell. The Orange will be facing a Penn State team that carries the same surprise in its quarterback race between Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson.

5. ... Speaking of new starting QBs. Virginia's David Watford will make his first career start against BYU, Duke's Anthony Boone takes over the job from Sean Renfree against NC Central, and Florida State and Pitt will both start new signal-callers when they square off on Labor Day, with Jameis Winston running the Seminoles' offense and Tom Savage handling duties for the Panthers.

6. Pitt's running backs. Ray Graham is gone. Rushel Shell transferred to West Virginia. And Isaac Bennett and James Conner have dealt with injuries in camp. Coach Paul Chryst isn't sure how things will shake out Monday, but we likely will see Rachid Ibrahim and Malcolm Crockett get at least some action given the backfield situation.

7. FSU's defensive backs. Are too many bodies a good thing? Nick Waisome and Terrence Brooks started all 14 games last season for the nation's No. 1 pass defense. The crowd also includes preseason All-American Lamarcus Joyner, reigning ACC defensive rookie of the year Ronald Darby, former five-star prospect Karlos Williams and several other strong athletes. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has his work cut out for him, although probably not as much as new Pitt quarterback Tom Savage does.

8. Virginia Tech's backfield. Coach Frank Beamer wasn't kidding when he said the Hokies went from having too many running backs to not enough. Michael Holmes was kicked off the team in July, Joel Caleb was suspended this month for the opener against Alabama, Tony Gregory suffered a career-ending ACL tear and J.C. Coleman's status for Saturday is up in the air because of two ankle sprains. Redshirt freshmen Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus are the Hokies' next options after Coleman.

9. "Smoke." Taquan Mizzell has earned that nickname despite having never taken the college field. ESPN's No. 9 running back prospect from the class of 2013 has drawn plenty of buzz in Virginia's camp, and he will get a stiff first test against BYU's defense.

10. ACC vs. SEC. What, you really thought we'd forget this one? Three ACC teams face off against squads from the big, bad SEC, perhaps none with as steep a challenge as Virginia Tech's against Alabama. UNC kicks things off Thursday at South Carolina, and No. 8 Clemson hosts No. 5 Georgia on Saturday night in the headliner of Week 1. The ACC went 1-1 against the SEC in last year's weekend openers, with NC State falling to Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff the night before Clemson topped Auburn in the Georgia Dome.
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said there are “definitely two sides to the story” regarding the recent arrest of running back Michael Holmes.

Holmes has had no contact with the coaches or the football team following his suspension after he was charged with a felony for his alleged involvement in a fight. Holmes tweeted on Wednesday that he would "never do some things said."

“You certainly don’t get yourself put in those situations, but I think we need to let it play out,” Beamer said. “There’s definitely two sides to the story on this one.”

Should he return to the team, Holmes finished the spring as the No. 2 running back on the roster, Beamer said.

Trey Edmunds has a chance to be right in the mix," Beamer said. "I think he is. There’s no question he’s in the mix. We’ll see where Michael Holmes’ situation goes. I think there are two sides to that. That’s to be decided where that is.

“[Chris] Mangus and [J.C.] Coleman in certain packages and Tony Gregory, when he gets back, in certain roles. But right now, certainly the top three as far as tailbacks are Edmunds, Holmes and Coleman.”

Checking in with Shane Beamer

March, 28, 2013
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Virginia Tech began spring practices on Wednesday, and one of the team’s biggest priorities will be improving the run game. Virginia Tech, usually one of the most consistent rushing teams in the ACC, ranked No. 79 in the country in rushing offense at 145.85 yards per game. That’s the worst finish in their ground game since the Hokies ranked No. 82 in the country in 2007.

I spoke with running backs coach Shane Beamer recently to get his take on the group heading into spring ball, and the changes that were made this offseason. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

How much better do you think you guys can be offensively, specifically in the running game?

[+] EnlargeShane Beamer
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIVirginia Tech assistant Shane Beamer likes the depth the Hokies have at running back this season.
Shane Beamer: I hope we can be a lot better. We invested a lot of time in it. With three new coaches coming in, there’s new ways of doing things, and new ideas, and it’s been good. It’s been good for my dad as well, not so much offensive ideas, but philosophical ideas -- things that Stanford did that Aaron has been able to talk to us about. Things that Auburn and Florida and all of the different places Scot and Jeff have been, so that part has been really good. We always invest a lot of time in the run game, and we certainly will this spring. We’ll be a year older on our offensive line. We had a lot of new parts in there last year and couldn’t stay healthy. It’s a group that’s got some experience coming back, and all of those running backs are a year older, and we’re adding some new guys to the mix as well. It’s certainly a point of emphasis for us and something we take pride in.

I don’t feel like I did a good job of coaching the running backs last year. I take that personally, the way we performed. I know the tradition of running back play here at Virginia Tech. To not be able to run the ball as well as we wanted to last year was extremely disappointing. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

How hard was it last year as a staff? You guys are so used to 10-win seasons.

SB: It was hard. I think it was a good wake-up call for a lot of people that, No. 1, to win 10 games or more eight years in a row is just insane. You see how hard it is to win A game, period, but to be consistent and do it eight years in a row, 10 or more is just amazing. It puts that in perspective. I know it does for me, because you find out last year how hard winning is with the parity there is in college football now. We as coaches, our players -- some programs you go there to compete for bowl games and things like that. When you come to Virginia Tech, you come to compete for championships, period. To not be in that mix last year was really disappointing and hard for all of us, but at the same time, to be sitting there at 4-6 and losing at halftime up at Boston College, to come back and win that game and beat your rival for the ninth year in a row and win your bowl game, we took a lot of pride in that, and the kids we have in our program and the way we finished.

Tell me more about the running back position. What are you looking at going into spring?

SB: No. 1, we never could settle on one last year, and I blame myself for not saying these are our guys and going for it. It’s hard. I knew during the season and going into the season it’s hard to play four. I’m realizing more now, but we really never felt like anyone separated themselves, and really did feel like different guys could bring something different to the table with different packages. A lot of the stuff we did last year was good, getting guys on the field at different times or at the same time, but in football you’ve got to be able to get your two main guys and have some packages for a couple other guys. That’s what I hope we’re able to do going forward. I’m hopeful two or three guys will separate themselves and it will be obvious that these are the guys. We need to stay healthy. We were banged up a bit last year. Tony Gregory was a guy I thought was getting ready to turn the corner and maybe be that guy, and then he got hurt going into the Cincinnati game and missed a few weeks. Just to be more consistent, be able to stay healthy, and get back to running the football and being what Virginia Tech’s about. The thing I like is we have great competition. Last year I felt like we had four guys we could win football games with. I think we have even more than that this year, I really do. Just watching the way they’ve worked in the offseason and their attitudes right now. They’re motivated, they’re hungry. It’s a group of four or five guys this year when you add Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus to the mix, you’re going to have great competition.

What’s your depth chart look like heading into spring ball?

SB: Good question. Right now we kind of based it on the way the season finished last year, so J.C. Coleman is listed as the starter right now, and he’s up there with Michael Holmes and Tony Gregory just because they’re the ones who finished the season last year. And then Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus are after them because they redshirted last year and haven’t played, but we’re going to compete every day and the depth chart at this point is certainly just for organizational purposes, and who’s out there with which group, but all of those guys are going to get opportunities to show what they can do. The thing we’ve stressed to them is it’s not going to be a lot of opportunities because we’ve got quite a few guys we’re repping during spring practices. You’ve got 15 practices to really show what you can do, show what you’re about, and we’re going to really nail this thing down after spring practice. But based on the way they’ve worked in the weight room with coach Gentry the last couple of months, and watching them the last couple of mornings in our 6 a.m. workouts, they’re motivated. There’s going to be great competition.

What specifically do they need to get better at?

SB: To be honest, they all have ability. They just need experience. I know it sounds simple, but that’s really the case. Tony hasn’t played a lot because he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Michael, last year was his first year of playing. J.C. was a true freshman last year. At the running back position, I don’t think I was fair to Michael Holmes. Last year the most he carried the ball in one game was 12 times or something like that. Michael needs to carry the ball 15 or 25 times to really get into the flow. I didn’t [give] Michael and all those guys a great opportunity to do that last year because of the way we rotated them. I think if they get more reps and have more carries, the game will slow down for them and they’ll be better. I saw that a little bit with J.C. as the year went on. That’s what I want to see, just be more consistent and have an attitude.
Maybe this will be the year Virginia Tech finds somebody to replace 2012 first-round NFL draft pick David Wilson at running back.

Last year, the Hokies tried to compensate for the loss of their 2011 leading rusher, but the by-committee approach wasn’t productive enough, and none of the young backs truly separated themselves. Virginia Tech, usually one of the most consistent rushing teams in the ACC, ranked No. 79 in the country in rushing offense at 145.85 yards per game. That’s the worst finish in their ground game since the Hokies ranked No. 82 in the country in 2007.

[+] EnlargeVirginia Tech's J.C. Coleman
Peter Casey/US PRESSWIREJ.C. Coleman (4) was the second-leading rusher on the team last season, behind quarterback Logan Thomas.
It didn’t help that the offensive line was a weak link, but there will be a focus on the running backs this spring as the Hokies try to get their running game back to where it used to be during the days of Wilson, Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.

"If we run the ball better, I think it makes your throws easier," coach Frank Beamer said, "and that's the main focus here."

The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from, but Beamer will be looking for one or two to emerge as the go-to players, starting this spring.

“A couple of guys are going to get the majority of carries and then you have another guy you feel comfortable with,” Beamer said. “I think getting that list down and looking if there’s a need somewhere else, and a guy is not going to figure in at tailback, maybe we make some moves in that regards. Those are things that, as we get into spring practice, we’ll see. But all of the running backs we’ve got there, we sure want to give them an opportunity and see who comes out on top.”

Here’s a look at the position heading into the spring:

FRONT-RUNNERS

J.C. Coleman: He played in every game last season and had six starts. He was second on the team in carries (109) and rushing yards (492) and scored two touchdowns. He also caught 21 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

Michael Holmes: He started five games and played in 11 last season. He carried the ball 70 times for 309 yards and four touchdowns.

Tony Gregory: The redshirt senior is the veteran of the group, but he only started two games last season. He had 64 carries for 311 yards and a touchdown in 2012.

CAN MAKE THEIR MARK

Trey Edmunds: He’s a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a collegiate snap. As a recruit, Edmunds was ranked the No. 68 “athlete” in the country, the No. 83 player in his region and the No. 17 player in the state by ESPN's RecruitingNation.

Chris Mangus: He also redshirted last season and has no collegiate game experience. As a high school senior in Raleigh, N.C., Mangus rushed for 1,658 yards and 28 touchdowns, and he averaged 150.7 rushing yards a game.
Five days have passed since the season ended for Virginia Tech, and no word just yet on if there will be a major offensive staff shake-up.

Most everybody expects something to happen. But what will happen, and to whom? Those are the major questions that remain now that the Hokies avoided disaster with a come-from-behind win over Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl that featured just enough offense to win.

Not great offense. Just enough offense. A season-low 196 yards is not exactly enough to encourage anybody that the status quo should remain.

[+] EnlargeFrank Beamer
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireVirginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has some decisions to make regarding his offense.
As if Hokies fans needed any such reminder, Virginia Tech just completed its worst offensive season since 2008, ranking No. 82 in scoring offense (25.1 ppg) and No. 82 in total offense (376.6). The key difference between this year and 2008, though, was rushing offense. This year, the Hokies averaged 145.9 yards on the ground with a revolving door of backs -- 41 yards fewer than a year ago with David Wilson.

Virginia Tech was better in that category in 2008, averaging 174.3 yards per game to rank No. 35 in the nation, a big reason why it was able to get to the Orange Bowl. The last time the Hokies averaged fewer yards rushing was in 2007, with 133.64 ypg to rank No. 82. Yet even then, they were able to make the Orange Bowl. Both teams in 2007 and 2008 featured stout defenses (No. 4 in 2007; No. 7 in 2008), enough to bail out any offensive shortcomings.

The defense was too inconsistent to be the headliner this year, though it did bail out those shortcomings against Rutgers. Still, it has been apparent for weeks that coach Frank Beamer has some decisions to make. There already is one report that receivers coach Kevin Sherman is going to Purdue.

Less certain is the future of offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who declined to address his future after the game.

Whatever staff changes are made, Virginia Tech has three major questions to answer:

1. If Logan Thomas does return, the Hokies need to find a way to take the load entirely off his shoulders, and to get him to work on his accuracy as a passer. This stat sums up just how badly he struggled this year: His completion percentage dropped from 59.8 percent in 2011 to 51.3 percent in 2012. While it is true he had less talent and consistency at receiver, it is also true he was not consistent enough in the delivery of his passes.

2. Who is the running back? The revolving door did not work this year. Does that mean Virginia Tech does not have a back capable of being a reliable workhorse, or the coaches had itchy fingers and just wanted to try out a whole bunch of players to see what worked? Three different backs started this year -- J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory and Michael Holmes. None ran for more than 500 yards. That question must be resolved.

3. Consistency on the offensive line. The play up front was not as good as it has been in several years. You understand that early on, as the line had to break in four new starters. But they should have been better at the end of the year. If you want every part of your offense to work in concert, you need a competent offensive line.

Running game a priority for Hokies

December, 6, 2012
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- While public perception might seem otherwise, it’s no big mystery why Virginia Tech failed to contend for the Coastal Division title this year and mucked its way through the program’s most disappointing season in 20 years.

The Hokies’ scoring offense was No. 78 in the country this year, averaging 26.08 points per game. Virginia Tech struggled to run the ball, averaging just 157.75 yards per game.

[+] EnlargeVirginia Tech's J.C. Coleman
Peter Casey/US PRESSWIREThe Hokies would like J.C. Coleman rush for more TDs against Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
As the program prepares to face Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl, it does so knowing exactly where it needs to improve. The question is whether the Hokies can make those adjustments in time to finish the season on a winning note and avoid the program’s first losing season since 1992. Coach Frank Beamer would not say if he planned to make any staff changes, but he did say the team will focus on improving the running game during its bowl practices.

“I think we know the direction we want to go,” Beamer said. “It’s hard to pinpoint exactly this or that. Logan [Thomas] didn’t have as good a year as he wanted to have, but he didn’t have two receivers that are all-time leading receivers at Virginia Tech. And a running back that’s playing for the Giants now. And four offensive linemen that started a bunch of ball games. It all kind of ties in with each other. Your success kind of goes as an offensive team and as a team, and I think we understand where we need to get better.”

The Hokies’ rushing offense was No. 5 in the ACC, a significant drop from the David Wilson era in which Virginia Tech was No. 2 in the ACC in 2011 with 350.91 rushing yards per game. A tailback-by-committee approach was the only option, as J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory, Martin Scales, and Michael Holmes all had at least 40 carries this year. The team’s leading rusher, though, was its quarterback, as Thomas finished with 528 yards and nine touchdowns. The last time a Virginia Tech quarterback led the team in rushing was 1965, when Bobby Owens led the team with 526 yards.

Beamer said Coleman (486 yards) and Scales (173 yards) caught the coaches’ attention later in the season.

“Those two kind of stepped it up a bit,” Beamer said. “All of them are going to be good backs, it’s just that for so long, no one separated. One guy would be good one day, and the next guy would be good the next game, or the next quarter. We really all along wanted to get it down to about two backs, and work them in there, and let them get most of the reps in practice and be better in a game, and I think we’re closer to that now.”

They’ll face a tough test from Rutgers, which is No. 11 in the country in rushing defense at 105 yards per game.

“There’s no question we’d like to run the football better,” Beamer said. “We’re going to continue to work in that area.”
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer was asked about his running back rotation several different times in several different ways on Monday’s weekly teleconference, but Beamer didn’t offer any specifics about how the group has been working during the bye week, or how they might be used on Thursday night against Miami.

“We’re working on it,” he said. “We’re practicing with an idea and working that in and hopefully it will be the right combination here.”

Did all four backs split the reps this week?

“We’re working on it,” Beamer said. “We’ll see how it works out Thursday night.”

It should work out pretty good, considering Miami’s rushing defense is No. 119 in the country, allowing 249.25 yards per game. The question is how the Hokies plan on taking advantage of that.

The "other" Beamer gave a few more clues.

Running backs coach Shane Beamer told beat writer Andy Bitter of the Virginian-Pilot that J.C. Coleman and Tony Gregory have taken about 85 percent of the snaps in the past two games, with Michael Holmes and Martin Scales getting about five snaps apiece.

“We’ve looked at our running back situation a lot, and the thing that’s tough is all of them deserve to play,” Frank Beamer said. “You look at the Cincinnati game and Holmes looked like the guy, he made a couple of terrific runs. After Bowling Green, Gregory looked like the guy. He got out there in space. And after Duke, Coleman looked like the guy. That’s the tough part. All of them have had their moments. We’d like to find, week after week, this is what we’re going to get. That’s what we’re trying to get into.”

Odds are all four continue to see playing time against the Hurricanes on Thursday night, with Coleman and Gregory leading the way.

ACC's lunchtime links

October, 5, 2012
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Will the Coastal Division crash again this weekend?

Week 6 injury reports

October, 5, 2012
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Here are the ACC injury reports from the schools that emailed them:

CLEMSON

WILL PLAY

WR Sammy Watkins (virus)

C Dalton Freeman (thumb)

PROBABLE

OG Kalon Davis (hamstring)

OUT

WR Martavis Bryant (groin)

RB D.J. Howard (shoulder)

OUT FOR SEASON

DB Martin Jenkins (hernia)

CB Tony McNeal (torn ACL)

LB Justin Parker (groin)

DUKE

PROBABLE

LB David Helton (leg)

QUESTIONABLE

CB Lee Butler (lower body)

QB Sean Renfree (arm)

DT Jamal Wallace (lower body)

OUT

CB Jared Boyd (leg)

S Brandon Braxton (upper body)

LB Kelby Brown (leg)

NG Jamal Bruce (foot)

TE Braxton Deaver (leg)

DE Justin Foxx (hand)

S Chris Tavarez (leg)

OUT FOR SEASON

TE Jack Farrell (leg)

WR Blair Holliday

DE Allen Jackson (shoulder)

S Corbin McCarthy (shoulder)

S Taylor Sowell (leg)

FLORIDA STATE

OUT

DB Justin Bright (head)

LB Ukeme Eligwe (hand)

OL Garrett Faircloth (hip)

OL Daniel Foose (back)

DT Moses McCray (head)

DT Derrick Mitchell (back)

OL Trey Pettis (head)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

DB Colin Blake (shoulder)

DE Chris Casher (knee)

TE Dan Hicks (knee)

DE Brandon Jenkins (foot)

DT Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)

RB Mario Pender (sports hernia)

MARYLAND

PROBABLE

WR Kerry Boykins (hamstring)

LB Kenneth Tate (knee)

DL Joe Vellano (foot)

QUESTIONABLE

DB Matt Robinson (groin)

OUT

PK/P Nick Ferrara (hip)

OUT FOR SEASON

QB C.J. Brown (knee)

DL Andre Monroe (knee)

MIAMI

OUT

DL Curtis Porter (upper extremity)

DB Rayshawn Jenkins (upper extremity)

DL Olsen Pierre (upper extremity)

OL Ben Jones (lower extremity)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

WR Malcolm Lewis (lower extremity)

LB Ramon Buchanan (lower extremity)

LS Sean McNally (lower extremity)

NORTH CAROLINA

OUT

RB Connor Gonet

OL T.J. Leifheit

LB Darius Lipford

RB Travis Riley

PK Miller Snyder

WR T.J. Thorpe

NC STATE

OUT

OT Rob Crisp (lower back)

OG Andrew Wallace (foot)

RB James Washington (ankle)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

OG Zach Allen (foot)

DT Jacob Kahut (knee)

LB Michael Peek (knee)

VIRGINIA

PROBABLE

OT Oday Aboushi (upper extremity)

DT Will Hill (medical)

S Brandon Phelps (upper extremity)

DOUBTFUL

WR Tim Smith (lower extremity)

OUT

DE Billy Schautz (lower extremity)

DT Buddy Ruff (medical)

S Darius Lee (lower extremity)

OUT FOR THE SEASON

S Pablo Alvarez

LB Adam Caplinger

DT Marco Jones

S David Marrs

WR Mario Nixon

VIRGINIA TECH

PROBABLE

DT Luther Maddy (ankle)

WR Christian Reeves (hamstring)

G David Wang (ankle)

DOUBTFUL

RB Tony Gregory (knee)

OUT

WR Joshua Stanford (knee)

OUT FOR SEASON

OT Nick Acree (knee)

WR D.J. Coles (knee)

Week 5 injury reports

September, 28, 2012
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Here are the ACC injury reports from the schools that emailed them:

DUKE

PROBABLE

CB Lee Butler (leg)

OG Lucas Patrick (ankle)

QUESTIONABLE

QB Brandon Connette (leg)

TE Erich Schneider (lower body)

OUT

CB Jared Boyd (leg)

LB Kelby Brown (leg)

NG Jamal Bruce (foot)

TE Braxton Deaver (leg)

DE Justin Foxx (hand)

S Chris Tavarez (leg)

OUT FOR SEASON

TE Jack Farrell (leg)

WR Blair Holliday

DE Allen Jackson (shoulder)

S Corbin McCarthy (shoulder)

S Taylor Sowell (leg)

FLORIDA STATE

OUT

S Justin Bright (head)

DE Chris Casher (knee)

LB Ukeme Eligwe (hand)

OL Garrett Faircloth (hip)

OL Daniel Foose (back)

DT Moses McCray (head)

DT Jacobbi McDaniel (ankle)

DR Derrick Mitchell (back)

OUT FOR SEASON

DB Colin Blake (shoulder)

TE Dan Hicks (knee)

DE Brandon Jenkins (foot)

RB Mario Pender (sports hernia)

MIAMI

PROBABLE

Raphael Kirby-Lower extremity

OUT

Denzel Perryman-Lower Extremity

SURGERY/OUT FOR SEASON

Ramon Buchanan-Lower Extremity

Malcolm Lewis-Lower Extremity

Sean McNally-Lower Extremity

NC STATE

OUT FOR SEASON

Jacob Kahut, DT - knee

Michael Peek, LB - knee

OUT FOR GAME

Rob Crisp, OT - lower back

Andrew Wallace, OT - foot

James Washington, HB - ankle

VIRGINIA TECH

OUT FOR SEASON

Nick Acree (knee)

D.J. Coles (knee)

OUT

Tony Gregory (knee)

Joshua Stanford (knee)

PROBABLE

David Wang (ankle)
It hardly mattered that Virginia Tech got off to a slow start against Bowling Green on Saturday.

Logan Thomas and his teammates found their groove in plenty of time to win 37-0, their first shutout of a nonconference opponent since 2006, and a nice bounce-back victory after their loss last week to Pitt.

The statistics might not be all that gaudy, but Thomas did have a pretty good day. The second quarter was his finest of the season, as he went 7-of-10 for 102 yards and threw two touchdown passes. He also ran for another late in the quarter, a play that resulted in a minor injury to the thumb on his throwing hand. Thomas had his nail bent back, and ended up playing with a wrap the rest of the game.

That hardly mattered after Virginia Tech took a 21-0 lead into halftime.

Thomas helped the running game get on track, as he finished with 65 yards rushing. He finished 11-of-26 for 144 yards passing, and also had an interception. Tony Gregory led the team with 68 yards on the ground. Four different players had 40 or more yards on the ground as the Hokies finished with 246 yards rushing, their best performance all season -- and the first time this season they went over 100 yards against an FBS opponent.

Michael Holmes ended up with a career-long 40-yard run, the longest run on the season for the Hokies. J.C. Coleman added 45 yards rushing and had one touchdown reception.

The defense played much better, particularly up front, forced three turnovers and held Bowling Green to 266 total yards, including 4-of-16 on third-down conversions.
When talking about Georgia Tech’s B-backs recently, Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster needed to pull out his glasses and look over the Jackets’ depth chart to remember who’s who.

For the second straight season, Georgia Tech is missing a headliner.

Strange thing is, so is Virginia Tech this year.

As the Hokies and Jackets prepare to face each other tonight in Blacksburg in a nationally televised game (8 ET, ESPN) that will give the winner the edge in the Coastal Division standings, both have unproven players in their backfield who will be thrust into starting roles. It’s an unusual position for both programs, considering how successful their running games have been in recent years. Both teams will start the season with a committee approach, as last year was the first in coach Paul Johnson’s offense that a B-back didn’t rush for 1,000 yards and earn all-conference honors. At Virginia Tech, the Hokies have to replace four offensive linemen and first-round draft pick David Wilson. Fans of both teams could see as many as four running backs tonight for each team -- and they've all got something to prove.

“Every once in a while I’ll read them an article or a quote from someone in the media about the question marks surrounding the running back position, and they’re playing with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder,” Virginia Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer said. “They can’t wait to get out there Monday night and show what they can do.”

Hokies fans are just as eager to find out.

Three of Virginia Tech’s top running backs – redshirt freshman Michael Holmes, true freshman J.C. Coleman and redshirt senior Martin Scales -- have never had a collegiate carry. Tony Gregory, who was third on the depth chart last year behind Wilson and Josh Oglesby, is the most experienced of the group with 39 career carries. Beamer said Holmes is likely to be the starter against Georgia Tech, but all four will probably play.

Holmes is a fast, strong, well-rounded player who catches the ball well. Coleman is a smaller player who worked hard this summer to gain weight and get stronger. He’s good in space and tough to bring down. Scales is a former fullback whose biggest contributions have been on special teams, but his heart is at tailback, where he can be a 225-pound bruiser with deceptive speed and strong pass protection skills. Gregory is a combination of all of them, and is also good in the open field and in pass protection.

At Georgia Tech, the Jackets are going to get their yards regardless of who’s running the ball. Johnson’s spread option offense was No. 2 in the country last year in rushing. Foster said the key defensively will be to limit the explosive plays, but he’s not quite sure what he’s going to get from some of the younger players.

“The Sims kid is a dynamic player,” Foster said of David Sims, who had 698 yards and seven touchdowns last year. “I don’t know much about their backup kids. They’ve got No. 21, and No. 37, I don’t know much about them, we’ll find out. I don’t know if those guys are home run hitters or not. I know with [Jonathan] Dwyer, he was a home run hitter. You miss a tackle up front, he can take it to the house.”

Can anyone else?

No. 21 for Georgia Tech is Charles Perkins, an athletic sophomore who had 28 carries last year as a backup. No. 37 is Zach Laskey, a true sophomore who moved from defensive back to his natural position of running back this past spring and has been pushing Sims for the starting job. Redshirt freshman Broderick Snoddy might be the fastest player on the team, but Laskey said he’s ready to be “the guy.”

“I’ve always known that I could do it, I just knew I needed opportunities to show myself,” Laskey said. “I wasn’t highly recruited, so I knew I had to play with a chip on my shoulder.”

That seems to be the theme tonight for both teams.

It was only a few years ago that the Hokies were loaded with Wilson, Oglesby, Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.

“It was a stacked backfield,” Scales said. “Going from that backfield in ’10, honestly I don’t see it as being that much different. Both backfields are talented. The biggest difference is those guys, their names were known more.”

That will change tonight -- for both teams.

Weekend rewind: Scrimmage reports

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
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Not every school in the ACC gives scrimmage reports, but for those that do, we will gladly post the highlights. Here's a look back at what happened in the ACC this weekend, according to each school's report:

Boston College

Offensive highlights: Junior receiver Alex Amidon had seven catches for 84 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception, in the situational scrimmage Sunday. The scrimmage featured six end-of-half/fourth-quarter situations with limited time on the clock and a limited number of timeouts. Chase Rettig went 18-of-32 for 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Defensive highlights: Justin Simmons had two interceptions off second-team quarterback Josh Bordner. Manuel Asprilla intercepted Rettig at the goal line, and linebacker Nick Clancy intercepted a Rettig pass that was deflected by Mehdi Abdesmad a few plays later.

Special teams: Gerald Levano punted four times and averaged nearly 48 yards per punt. His first punt landed at the 2-yard line, while his second attempt went 60 yards. Kicker Nate Freese made his only field goal attempt, from 40 yards, and is now 6-for-6 on field goal attempts in the preseason.

Quotable: “We got a lot of nice young guys on this football team, and if they come through and play well, good things can happen, and Justin [Simmons] is one of them,” coach Frank Spaziani said. “He’s as advertised. We did our homework and everything that you do on kids. He’s a good prospect.”

Clemson

Offensive highlights: Tajh Boyd threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, while Martavis Bryant had four catches for 97 yards and had two touchdowns. Boyd was 13-of-22 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Backup Cole Stoudt went 4-of-9 for 61 yards and led a touchdown drive on his first possession. Andre Ellington had an 8-yard touchdown run, while Roderick McDowell led all running backs for a second straight scrimmage with 65 yards on four carries.

Defensive highlights: Coach Dabo Swinney praised the defensive line, where Josh Watson, Grady Jarrett and DeShawn Williams made plays. Xavier Brewer made a brilliant breakup of a long pass and added five tackles. Jonathan Meeks added an interception. Tony Steward made a big play with a 25-yard interception return.

Special teams: Williams had a blocked a field goal. Backup kicker Spence Benton made a 53-yard kick that could have been good from 63 yards.

Quotable: “We have two weeks to get dialed in,” Swinney said. “We are going to turn the page on Monday after our last two-a-day (practices) and start getting ready for Auburn. We will have our guys penciled in on where they need to be.”

Duke

Offensive highlights: Quarterback Brandon Connette caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sean Renfree and ran for another in a 95-snap, controlled scrimmage Friday night at Wallace Wade Stadium. Renfree went 14-of-21 for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Freshman Shaquille Powell had eight carries for 30 yards, while Jela Duncan had 28 yards on nine attempts. Garrett Patterson, who moved from defensive back to receiver this week during practice, had five receptions for 80 yards.

Defensive highlights: Cornerbacks Lee Butler and Tony Foster each had interceptions while linebacker Deion Williams recovered one fumble. Freshman defensive end Michael Mann had one sack and one forced fumble.

Special teams highlights: Freshman kicker Ross Martin made field goals of 43 and 48 yards and converted his only extra-point attempt.

Georgia Tech

Offensive highlights: Broderick Snoddy had a 70-yard touchdown run on the second series, while quarterback Vad Lee threw two touchdowns to A-back B.J. Bostic. Lee later added a touchdown run as he continues to work at quarterback and A-back. Synjyn Days and freshman Justin Thomas also took snaps at quarterback, and each led scoring drives.

Defensive highlights: Nick Menocal had an interception he nearly returned for a touchdown. Jimmie Kitchen recovered a fumble, while defensive lineman Anthony Williams had two sacks.

Special teams highlights: Justin Moore had a 29-yard field goal, while David Scully made a 31-yard field goal and all five of his extra-point attempts. There was no punting on Saturday.

Quotable: “The guys are ready to play someone else,” quarterback Tevin Washington said. “We’ve been hitting each other for two weeks and all summer doing drills against each other. Guys are just ready to go and get some new faces in front of us.”

Maryland

Freshman Stefon Diggs continued to impress, as he had three first-half touchdowns -- a 68-yard punt return, a 98-yard kickoff return and an 11-yard reception. Quarterback Perry Hills ran the first-team offense and led Maryland to scores on three of his five drives.

On the opening drive, Hills took the Terps on an 18-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, He went 5-of-6 for 27 yards on the drive and also rushed for 36 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run.

"I thought Perry [Hills] had a good day," coach Randy Edsall said. "I thought he did some good things. Of course there's going to be plenty of things that he could learn from, and get better, but I think that we didn't have any issues with delay of game, really didn't have any false starts. When you talk about the mechanics and the operation of the offense I thought he handled it really well."

Miami

The Hurricanes' scrimmage Saturday was cut short in the middle of the second quarter because of lightning in the area. Among the highlights in the abbreviated scrimmage: Mike James and Duke Johnson each had touchdown runs, and Kelvin Cain recorded a sack in the end zone for a safety.

Virginia Tech

Offensive highlights: Logan Thomas went 8-of-15 for 112 yards and a score, while backup Mark Leal went 6-of-16 for 111 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Kevin Asante led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards, while Corey Fuller caught three passes for 68 yards. The Hokies also rushed for 174 yards. J.C. Coleman played with a broken hand and had 54 yards -- 52 coming on one run -- and Trey Edmunds added 45. Tony Gregory rushed for 36 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run. Projected starter Michael Holmes had three carries for 21 yards.

Defensive highlights: The projected first-team defense allowed a little more than 120 yards in four series (24 plays) and gave up just two field goals. Walk-on Zach Snell had six tackles, while Ronny Vandyke had five. Desmond Frye and Antone Exum each recorded four. The defense had five total sacks and Bruce Taylor had an interception.

Special teams highlights: Cody Journell made two field goals and missed one, while Brooks Abbott made one and had a 37-yarder blocked by Kyle Fuller.

Quotable: “I thought it was one of the more productive offensive first scrimmages we’ve had around here,” coach Frank Beamer said. “I think we did some good things, and I think we’ll see some things we can improve. Overall, I think the effort was good. I always say this, but it’s hard to come out pleased because if the offense makes plays, you’re worried about your defense. If the defense makes plays, you’re worried about your offense. Overall, I thought it was a good first scrimmage.”

Opening camp: Virginia Tech

August, 7, 2012
8/07/12
10:00
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As ACC teams begin to start practicing again, Heather and I will have a quick preview of each team to get you caught up on the basics. Next up to open camp ...

School: Virginia Tech.

Start date: Today.

Predicted finish at media days: First, Coastal.

Biggest storyline: Do the Hokies have what it takes to keep up their Coastal dominance? Last season ended with such a heartbreaker for the Hokies, the last-second overtime loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl was still talked about at ACC media days. But the players and coaches have put that game aside and the focus is once again on winning yet another ACC title. The media selected Virginia Tech to win the Coastal Divison once again, despite some heavy losses on offense. But the good news is the return of quarterback Logan Thomas mitigates much of that concern, along with nine starters back on defense. You thought this group was good last year? Cornerback Kyle Fuller says it can be even better in 2012. For all the success the Hokies have had, BCS victories have eluded them. So the quest is to once again get back to the BCS, and win it this time.

Biggest position battle: Running back. ACC Offensive Player of the Year David Wilson is gone, and along with him go 1,709 yards and nine touchdowns, along with the team's most consistent playmaker. Does Virginia Tech have anybody like him on the roster? That has been the question posed since Wilson declared for the NFL draft. At ACC media days, coach Frank Beamer said he may go with a running back by committee approach, at least initially. Beamer said redshirt freshman Michael Holmes could eventually emerge as the workhorse back, but there should be plenty of competition from Trey Edmunds, true freshman J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory and true freshman Chris Mangus.

Who needs to step up: Marcus Davis, D.J. Coles, Dyrell Roberts. Virginia Tech is losing its top two playmakers at receiver in Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, who combined for 121 catches, 1,665 yards and eight touchdowns last season. Davis, Coles and Roberts are the top three returning receivers from a year ago, so they have a huge opportunity to step in and fill some pretty big shoes, while also gaining the confidence of Thomas. There is no question Thomas is a terrific quarterback. But he is going to need players to step up around him, most especially at receiver.
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There was a point in mid-September last year when Georgia Tech -- yes, that offense -- was leading the country in passing efficiency.

It turned out to be a fleeting moment.

[+] EnlargePaul Johnson
Kevin Liles/US PresswirePaul Johnson still hasn't settled on who will replace receiver Stephen Hill, who bolted early for the NFL.
Quarterback Tevin Washington was much more efficient in the first half of the 2011 season than he was in the second, and that’s something coach Paul Johnson is looking to improve upon this fall. He’ll have to do it, though, without leading receiver Stephen Hill, who left early for the NFL draft.

The Jackets are in good company.

As Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech prepare to face each other on Labor Day in their respective season openers, both do so having to fill big shoes on offense from a player who left early for the NFL. In Atlanta, Johnson is still unsure who will start at receiver. In Blacksburg, coach Frank Beamer is looking for two or three running backs to help compensate for the loss of 2011 ACC Player of the Year David Wilson. Both coaches said this week that a handful of young and talented players are waiting in the wings, but their lack of game experience is a concern.

“To me, we’ve got to get in there and kind of narrow it down how many we’re going to work with,” Beamer said. “But the way I feel about the position, we’ve got a lot of talent, it just hasn’t played very much. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but the other side of it is, the further you get away from the football, the more you can use your talent and get in there and play quickly. At tailback, wide receiver, it’s easier than, say, an offensive lineman. But there are just question marks there.”

Beamer singled out redshirt freshman Michael Holmes as the most likely answer at this point, and he also mentioned Trey Edmunds, true freshman J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory (who sat out this spring with a knee injury), and true freshman Chris Mangus.

“Michael Holmes is kind of like Logan Thomas last year,” Beamer said. “He hasn’t done it, but you think he’s going to be OK. That’s the way I feel with Michael Holmes. I think he has a chance to be very good. Guys have done it in high school and are used to carrying it and used to scoring. Usually that carries over.”

Johnson is hoping the same applies to his wide receivers. Hill was Georgia Tech’s big-play threat with 28 catches for 820 yards and five touchdowns. He led the nation with 29.3 yards per catch. Johnson mentioned sophomores Jeff Green and Darren Waller, who both played last year as true freshmen. Neither had a catch, but both contributed on special teams. Chris Jackson, a former Alabama transfer, will enter fall camp as the likely starter, but junior Jeremy Moore is also an option after missing all of 2010 with an injury and playing sparingly last year.

If the Jackets are going to be a better team in 2012, they must be more effective the few times they do decide to throw it.

“I think we just have to be more consistent and keep people healthy,” Johnson said. “At one point Tevin lost a little confidence. Hopefully being a senior that won’t happen, and quite honestly, the competition got better. We’ve got to be able to finish and maintain that, no matter who you play.”

This year, it starts with Virginia Tech in what will be one of the most important games of the season for both teams.

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