ACC: Travin Henry

Breaking down the spring in the ACC Coastal division:


Spring practice over

What we learned:
  • Momentum rolls on. It's hard to believe the Blue Devils are already done with spring ball, but coach David Cutcliffe opted to open practice in February to capitalize on the momentum that was created last season. After the spring game ended Saturday, he praised the way his players handled the practices. There was a great deal of retention and not a lot of re-teaching, so coaches were able to get much more out of their players this spring.
  • Max McCaffrey emerges. Jamison Crowder had a spectacular 2013 season, but it was essentially him and then everybody else in the receiver group. That may not be the case this season. McCaffrey earned praise from coaches and teammates for the way he improved during the spring. Offensive coordinator Scottie Montgomery said McCaffrey made as many plays as anybody else on the offense this spring.
  • Stepping up on the line. The Blue Devils lost three starters on their defensive line -- both ends in Kenny Anunike and Justin Foxx, and defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento. But it appears as if the players behind them are ready to step up and make a seamless transition. Defensive ends Jordan DeWalt-Ondijo and Dezmond Johnson each had two sacks in the spring game. Kyler Brown also made the switch from linebacker to defensive end and had a sack in the spring game as well.
Georgia Tech

Spring start: March 24

Spring game: April 18

What to watch:
  • Justin Thomas takes over. After Vad Lee announced his transfer from Georgia Tech, the quarterback reigns fell to Thomas, who played in 10 games this season. The Jackets had their share of highs and lows under Lee, but what the staff is going to be looking for first and foremost is Thomas’ ability to hold on to the football. Georgia Tech had 24 giveaways and ranked No. 12 in the ACC in turnover margin.
  • Defensive line questions. The Jackets lose three starters on the defensive line, including All-ACC defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu -- who had 22.5 sacks over the last two seasons. Who will step up and fill that type of production? The most experienced backups returning are sophomores Tyler Stargel and Patrick Gamble. Also, Travin Henry will get a look at defensive end after playing wide receiver last season.
  • Offensive line questions. Georgia Tech also loses three starters on the offensive line -- tackles Ray Beno and Will Jackson and center Jay Finch. The trio combined to start 117 games in their careers, so there is no doubt this is going to be a much less experienced unit in 2014. The good news is All-ACC guard Shaq Mason returns to help anchor the new-look line.

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • Quarterback derby. Stephen Morris is gone, but the Canes do have at least one experienced quarterback on the roster in Ryan Williams, a Memphis transfer who has served as Morris’ backup the last two seasons. As a true freshman with the Tigers, Williams started 10 games -- all the way back in 2010. Challenging Williams is redshirt freshman Kevin Olsen, who had a bit of a rocky first year in Miami, along with Gray Crow.
  • Defensive improvements. Perhaps more than what happens at quarterback, Miami must see improvements out of its defense this season. Embattled defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio kept his job but the status quo cannot persist. Every single area of the defense must be upgraded. Ranking No. 13 in the ACC in total defense just can’t happen again.
  • Defensive improvements, Part II. To try and help the secondary, Miami already moved Dallas Crawford over to safety, where the Canes could use the help. But Miami must be stronger on the defensive front. The Canes only had 12 sacks in eight conference games. By comparison, BC led the way with 25 sacks in conference games. This is a big opportunity for guys like Al-Quadin Muhammad, Tyriq McCord and Ufomba Kamalu to really step up.
North Carolina

Spring start: Started March 5

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Marquise Williams took over as the starter when Bryn Renner was gone for the season and ended up helping the Tar Heels make a bowl game after a 1-5 start. But coach Larry Fedora said the competition is open this spring. Look for Mitch Trubisky and Kanler Coker to give Williams a major push.
  • Defensive line questions. Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson are both gone, leaving big holes in the North Carolina front. Martin ended up notching 21.5 tackles for loss to rank No. 3 in the ACC. So who are the next guys up? At end, Junior Gnonkonde and Jessie Rogers are the top two contenders, while Shawn Underwood, Devonte Brown and Justin Thomason will compete for one of the tackle spots.
  • Replacing Ebron. Eric Ebron was dynamic at tight end for the Tar Heels last season, leading the team with 62 receptions for 973 yards, while adding three touchdowns. Will the Tar Heels be able to replace that type of production with just one player? Jack Tabb would be next in line among the tight ends, but this is a huge opportunity for the North Carolina receiving group as well. We saw plenty of promise out of young guys like Bug Howard, T.J. Thorpe and Ryan Switzer.

Spring start: March 16

Spring game: No spring game. Last day of practice April 13

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. Chad Voytik played really well in relief of an injured Tom Savage in the bowl game, but coach Paul Chryst said the competition to win the starting job is open headed into the spring. At this point, Voytik and Trey Anderson are the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. So you can bet the biggest goal of all is to keep them both healthy.
  • Replacing Aaron Donald. One of the biggest surprises in all of college football this past season was the emergence and utter dominance of Donald at defensive tackle. Donald swept every major defensive award after notching 28.5 tackles for loss, 11 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles. Darryl Render is the next man up.
  • Complementary receiver. Devin Street is gone, leaving Tyler Boyd as the only standout receiver on the roster. Not only do the Panthers have to develop a consistent No. 2 receiver, they also have to develop some depth. Watch for Manasseh Garner, a former H-back who moved to receiver late last season when Street got hurt. He is more physical than Boyd, and has some extended playing experience.

Spring start: Started March 1

Spring game: April 12

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks. David Watford is not guaranteed to win his starting job back after last season, when he threw eight touchdown passes to 15 interceptions. Greyson Lambert and Matt Johns are also in the mix and reps with the first team will be split. In fact, Lambert got the first-team reps when the Hoos opened spring ball last weekend.
  • Andrew Brown. The highly-touted freshman will have every opportunity to win a starting job at defensive tackle, and it all starts in spring ball. The No. 3-ranked player in the ESPN 300 comes in with tons of hype; now can he translate that into on-field success? He, Donte Wilkins and Chris Brathwaite will be competing to start next to David Dean.
  • Mr. McGee. Jake McGee was the best player the Hoos had among the group of tight ends and receivers a year ago, leading the team with 43 catches for 395 yards. This spring, McGee has now moved over to receiver so the Hoos can take advantage of his athletic ability. Plus, Virginia is lacking playmakers at the position, so we’ll see how much this move benefits both McGee and the offense.
Virginia Tech

Spring start: March 27

Spring game: April 26

What to watch:
  • Quarterback. Mark Leal heads into the spring with a leg up in the quarterback competition but make no mistake, there is no set starter. He will get competition from freshmen Andrew Ford and Brenden Motley in the spring, with freshman Chris Durkin and Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer arriving in summer. This competition will likely drag on into the fall.
  • Front seven. The Hokies are losing five terrific players up front, including ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, and linebacker Jack Tyler, who racked up 100 tackles in back-to-back seasons. There is no doubt a major priority this spring is finding their replacements and building depth along the line and at linebacker. Who will step up as the leader of this group with Tyler gone?
  • Skill players. This has been an ongoing theme over the last two seasons and will continue to be a theme until the Hokies have consistently good players at running back and receiver. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is excited about the return of tight end Ryan Malleck, and his entire tight end group for that matter. A healthy Malleck and improvement from Kalvin Cline means the Hokies could simultaneously improve their run and pass game.

ACC lunchtime links

August, 27, 2013
T-minus two days.
Georgia Tech’s group of wide receivers was thin to begin with this spring, but the recent news that projected starter Anthony Autry has reinjured his knee -- the same knee he suffered a torn ACL in last fall -- has depleted the group even further.

Those within the program aren’t panicking because they are confident in the talent they’ve recruited, but this injury pretty much guarantees at least one true freshman receiver is going to see playing time for the Jackets this fall. Autry and Darren Waller were the only two receivers on the roster who had ever recorded a collegiate catch. A school spokesman said it hasn’t been determined how long Autry will be out, but he will definitely miss the beginning of the season.

Autry missed spring practices to recover from the torn ACL, and he was on his way to class at the end of the semester when he hurt his knee again taking a casual jump out of one of campus shuttle busses. It was extremely unfortunate, considering Autry was almost fully recovered from the original injury.

Corey Dennis, who began his career as a true freshman defensive back in 2011, is next up on the depth chart. He moved to wide receiver last fall and played mostly on special teams. Coach Paul Johnson has also said he expects to see improvement from Travin Henry, who also missed this spring with an injury, and Micheal Summers, who redshirted last year.

Keep an eye out, though, for true freshmen Ricky Jeune and Antonio Messick, as both will have an opportunity to contribute immediately. Georgia Tech also likes to use its A-backs like slot receivers, so there are plenty of options for pass catchers in the Jackets’ run-based offense. The key now is finding the most dependable -- and durable -- one.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

2012 record: 7-7

2012 conference record: 5-3, Coastal

Returning starters: Offense: 7; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Vad Lee, BB David Sims, DE Jeremiah Attaochu, LB Quayshawn Nealy

Key losses

QB Tevin Washington, AB Orwin Smith, CB Rod Sweeting, DE Izaan Cross

2012 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Zach Laskey* (697 yards, 1 TD)

Passing: Washington (75-of-133 for 1,222 yards, 8 TDs, 4 INTs)

Receiving: Smith (288 yards, 1 TD)

Tackles: Isaiah Johnson* (87)

Sacks: Attaochu* (10)

Interceptions: Jemea Thomas* (4)

Spring answers

1. Attaochu at end. The Jackets had linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu play defensive end toward the end of last season. He was so effective, they moved him to the spot permanently to take advantage of his ability to rush off the end in the new 4-3 scheme Ted Roof brought with him. Attaochu had 10 sacks last year. He has a chance to be even more productive this season.

2. Quarterbacks coming along. Johnson wanted to spend the spring getting both Lee and Justin Thomas an adequate amount of reps, and he did that, saying he feels comfortable with either player behind center. Lee has the edge to start, but do not count out Thomas. “They both athletically are as good as we’ve had here,” Johnson said.

3. Defense adjusts. One of the biggest spring storylines focused on how the defense would adjust with Roof in charge and a scheme change. By all accounts, players have embraced the changes and are buying into the system. The front seven has an opportunity to be really good this year, given some of the talent returning.

Fall questions

1. Backs rotation. The Jackets seem to have a plethora of players to play the A-back and B-back positions. But who will emerge to become a playmaker at A-back to replace Smith? Who will emerge to provide consistency and playmaking ability at both spots?

2. Receiver. This is one area where the Jackets are thin, and it didn’t help matters that several players got hurt during the spring. Darren Waller is a player Johnson believes can be a difference maker. But Johnson also is going to need young guys like Anthony Autry, Micheal Summers and Travin Henry to step up.

3. Getting healthy. This team was banged up during the spring, missing several starters on the offensive line, at receiver and at linebacker as well. They should all be back in time for fall practice, but all the guys who missed time are going to have to get up to speed quickly to begin preparations for the season.
College football fans who have been following Paul Johnson through the years and watching his spread-option offense haven’t seen it change much.

“I mean, the core principles of it are pretty much intact,” Johnson said. “You have some wrinkles here and there. We've added some things. If you watched us play in 1985, it's probably not a lot different now, truthfully.”

Still looks the same -- the Jackets threw the ball 194 times last year and ran it 808. That doesn’t mean, though, that Johnson is opposed to change. In fact, if Georgia Tech has a receiver emerge this summer, Johnson said he would be willing to call more pass plays this fall with first-year quarterbacks Vad Lee and Justin Thomas.

“I could see possibly throwing the ball a little more with these guys,” Johnson said. “I think they're a little better at it than what we've been playing at, if we can get the protection and the guys that can catch it. It's not just one guy, it all intertwines together.”

With Lee penciled in as the starter at quarterback and an underrated passer in Thomas, the Jackets could have the pieces in place to get more out of their passing game. The spring wasn’t a good gauge of the position, as injuries depleted the group, but only two receivers who caught a pass in 2012 will return this fall. Darren Waller had eight catches last season for 162 yards and is the leading returning receiver. Anthony Autry (three catches for 117 yards and a touchdown) missed the spring with an injury, along with Travin Henry, a talented redshirt freshman.

“Darren Waller is a guy who has all the tools to be a really good player,” Johnson said. “He's 6-6, 230 pounds. There's been days in practice that he looks unstoppable, then there's days that he's not. He's got to become consistent.

“Anthony Autry is a freshman, started some last year, hurt his knee about seven or eight games in. Micheal Summers is a redshirt freshman. Travin Henry got hurt last year. He'll be a redshirt freshman. I think any of those four guys probably could step up.”

Jackets put on the pads

April, 1, 2013
Georgia Tech had its first day in full pads on Saturday, and it was a chance for new defensive coordinator Ted Roof to get a better look at the defense.

"We've got a long way to go," he said.

The standards have been raised, and that's a good thing -- Georgia Tech struggled defensively in the first half of 2012, and former coordinator Al Groh was fired midseason. The Jackets showed significant improvement, though, in their Sun Bowl win over USC, and there have been positive reviews following the hire of Roof.

The challenge now is to get some positive reviews out of Roof.

"There were some good things, some mistakes, obviously," he said. "Things we've got to clean up. We’ve just got to be a lot more consistent, a lot more consistent from angles of pursuit, to finishing tackles, to finishing plays. We’ve got a lot of work to do in that area, but that's something we can correct."

A few other notes from Georgia Tech, according to the team's practice reports:
  • Injuries have created some opportunities for backups, especially at wide receiver, where Anthony Autry and Travin Henry are sitting out all spring, and returning starter Darren Waller was in red on Saturday. That leaves redshirt freshman Micheal Summers, who has impressed the staff, and junior Correy Dennis.
  • The A-back competition is heating up, as a number of players are working to take Orwin Smith’s starting job. Among those competing this spring: Deon Hill, Synjyn Days, B.J. Bostic, redshirt freshman Dennis Andrews and others. Tony Zenon will also be in the mix when he returns in August.
  • Sophomore Ryan Rodwell is the only experienced, healthy punter in camp, as senior Sean Poole is recovering from shoulder surgery. Poole initially injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle against Miami last September, but held off on surgery until the offseason. Poole and Rodwell, who had identical 39.7-yard averages in 2012, should compete deep into August for the starting job.

Georgia Tech needs WRs to step up

March, 27, 2013
Every spring, Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson talks about wanting to improve the efficiency of his passing game.

That statement has taken on a bigger sense of urgency this year, as the Yellow Jackets have some major questions at the receiver position. Only two wide receivers who caught a pass in 2012 return this year -- Darren Waller (eight catches for 162 yards) and Anthony Autry (three catches for 117 yards). Autry is out for the spring. So is Travin Henry, a talented redshirt freshman.

So finding and developing depth is a major priority.

"You’d like to hope that Darren Waller will be a go-to guy," Johnson said in a recent phone interview. "He played some last year. He’s got all the tools physically. He’s about 6-6 and 225, 230 pounds, can really run. We’ve got a couple guys that we redshirted. Micheal Summers, whom we held out, he’s got a chance. Corey Dennis played a little bit last year on special teams so we have some guys there. It’s just a question of them getting more game experience and producing on the field."

How did the Jackets get to this point? Jeff Greene, the team's leading wide receiver, parted ways with the team before the bowl game. Chris Jackson and Jeremy Moore were both seniors. Waller started 10 games last season; Autry started three. Otherwise, there are no receivers left on the roster with a start.

Though the Jackets are a team known for their run, they do rely on receivers to make big plays. That, in turn, helps the efficiency of the passing offense. Incoming starter Vad Lee got his opportunities last season and showed flashes, though he only completed 48.2 percent of his passes with four touchdowns to three interceptions.

"Some of it is inexperience and some of it is situational," Johnson said. "If you’re throwing the ball way down the field, he’s not going to complete as many as you were if you were checking down and doing those kinds of things. I think he’ll be fine. You constantly work on mechanics and you constantly work on him reading defenses. But he’s got a strong arm so he should be able to throw the ball."

The question remains -- who will he throw it to?