ACC: Tyler Melton

Georgia Tech has receivers, the Jackets just don’t have any career receptions among them this year. Problem? Depends who you ask. Receiver Jeff Greene seems to think they’ll be just fine without Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton. Greene played in 12 games last year as the Jackets’ top backup. I caught up with him recently to get his take on the position.

Here are the highlights of our conversation:

[+] EnlargeJeff Greene
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireJeff Greene was a backup last season, but this year he'll play a more prominent role as a starting receiver for Georgia Tech.
A lot of fans have been wondering how the receivers will fare without Stephen Hill this year, but expectations are pretty high for you. How do you see your role changing?

Jeff Greene: It’s pretty much just getting an opportunity to go out there and start at the receiver position. Everyone is saying how we haven’t had a catch yet from our receiving corps, and just going out there with the right mindset and trying to make that first play.

How much do you think you guys have improved this summer?

JG: We’ve improved a lot in the weight room and out there on the practice field this summer working with the quarterbacks on our routes and timing. As a whole we’ve improved a lot.

What’s it like being a receiver in such a run-based offense?

JG: Everybody says you won’t get the ball and everything, but really in our offense you can be in one-on-one coverage basically every game, and usually we’re bigger than the cornerbacks so it’s a good matchup between the receivers and DBs every game.

How excited are you to make a name for yourself this year?

JG: Right now I’m very excited to just run out there and make plays and do what I can to make the team better.

What do you think you guys are capable of as a group this year?

JG: Right now our goal is to win every game, go out there, give it our all, give good effort, and hopefully be in that ACC championship at the end of the year.

You guys have a pretty good secondary returning. What’s it been like going against those guys every day?

JG: Oh it’s always a challenge going out there against the DBs. We’re going at it back and forth, but we’re helping each other get better.

How tough has the competition been between the receivers this summer?

JG: Oh it’s always been a tough competition. No one is thinking we already have that No. 1 spot locked up, so we’re trying to make plays and come out on top at the end.

Coach Johnson has talked repeatedly about how it’s going to be important for you guys to pass the ball more efficiently. What do you see that makes you think you guys are capable of doing that this year?

JG: This year we go out there with the mindset that when the ball is in the air, it’s yours, and being able to go up and get the ball no matter where the quarterback throws it, you have to make them look good, so keeping our focus on the ball.

What do you think about Virginia Tech’s defense?

JG: We watched film on them, they’re a good defense and we just have to be on our Ps and Qs against them, don’t take anybody lightly and go 100 percent.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 7, 2012
5/07/12
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Big sports weekend, eh?
We’ve already taken a look at what the recruiting needs were for the Atlantic Division. Let’s shift our attention to the Coastal Division. Here’s a look at where each school’s biggest holes will be in 2012 or are anticipated to be in the near future:

DUKE


Offensive skill positions: After last year’s rare class that didn’t include either a quarterback or running back, both positions are needed in this group. Quarterback Thomas Sirk -- the MVP of the 57th annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Football Classic last December -- has already enrolled in school while Shaquille Powell -- a PARADE All-American running back from Las Vegas -- has committed to the program. In addition, with David Cutcliffe’s offense, wide receivers and tight ends also are a priority.

Kicker: Will Snyderwine, who earned first team All-America honors as a junior before struggling through a sub-par season in 2011, graduated, but Duke has a commitment from Ohio native Ross Martin, considered the No. 2 placekicking prospect in the country by ESPN.com.

Safety: With the transition to a 4-2-5 alignment that utilizes three safeties, this becomes an annual point of emphasis. The Blue Devils lose All-American Matt Daniels to graduation.

GEORGIA TECH


Defensive line: This is the most glaring need in the current class. The Yellow Jackets have to replace senior starters Logan Walls (DT) and Jason Peters (DE), but return Izaan Cross (DE) and solid backups T.J. Barnes (DT), Emmanuel Dieke (DE) and Euclid Cummings (DE). The Jackets are expected to sign about 18 players in this year’s class, and five of them should be defensive linemen.

Wide receiver:This is another glaring need after the departures of Stephen Hill, who decided to leave early for the NFL draft, and Tyler Melton. Darren Waller and Jeff Greene, who both played last season as true freshmen, have lots of potential, but the position still needs depth.


MIAMI

Defensive backs: There’s still a lot of depth with this group, and the return of Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque helps, but the Canes have to replace two starters in the secondary and have six commits in the current class to help do that.

Defensive line: The Canes have to replace Adewale Ojomo, Micanor Regis, Andrew Smith and Olivier Vernon from last year’s two-deep. The defensive end position was a particular focus in this class.

Receiver: This position lost a lot with the departures of Tommy Streeter, LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin. Allen Hurns is now the veteran of the group, along with redshirt senior Kendal Thompkins. There are five receivers currently committed in this class.

Quarterback: Beyond Stephen Morris, Miami has a lot of questions at the position and not a lot of experience. True freshmen Gray Crow and Preston Dewey are already on the roster, along with redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams.

NORTH CAROLINA

Defensive line: This is one of the biggest areas of concern after the departures of Quinton Coples and Tydreke Powell.

Receivers: Larry Fedora’s offense will make good use of this group, but he needs to replace standout Dwight Jones.

Linebackers: This group was thin to begin with in 2011, and now the Heels need to replace outgoing senior Zach Brown. Kevin Reddick is now the main man.

Safety: UNC will have to replace two starters in Matt Merletti, Charles Brown and Jonathan Smith, so this position will have to be rebuilt for the future.

VIRGINIA

Defensive back: This should be the main priority in this class. The Cavaliers will lose four DBs, including two starting safeties in Rodney McCleod and Corey Mosley, and standout cornerback Chase Minnifield. They’ll also miss Dom Joseph, who came in for the nickel packages. Demetrious Nicholson, who started as a true freshman last year, is suddenly the veteran of the group.

Offensive line: The Hoos will have to replace their starting center and left guard. Redshirt freshman center Cody Wallace could get a promotion, and sophomore right guard Luke Bowanko started in the bowl game. They’ve got some big bodies waiting in the wings, but they’ll have some questions to answer here this spring.

Kickers: This position needs to be rebuilt, as the Cavaliers lose Robert Randolph, who finished sixth all time in scoring at UVa, kickoff specialist Chris Hinkebein, and four-year punter Jimmy Howell. The position is wide open heading into the spring.

VIRGINIA TECH

Running back: This one is a no-brainer, as the Hokies have lost four players here in the past two years. David Wilson and his backup, Josh Oglesby, were the latest to depart, and Tony Gregory just had ACL surgery and is out for the spring. The staff likes Michael Holmes, who redshirted last year, and J.C. Coleman enrolled last week.

Receiver: The Hokies will miss Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, and next year’s class has three seniors in Dyrell Roberts, D.J. Coles, and Marcus Davis. The future of the position is young, and the staff is still going after several uncommitted players pretty hard.

Defensive line: This year’s class already includes at least five committed defensive linemen, and the Hokies will be particularly thin at noseguard. They had some players graduate early who didn’t play a lot, but at least provided depth.

Linebacker:The Hokies have four committed, and are still chasing another just to build the depth. The staff missed on some recruits at this position last year and would like to make up for it in this class.

Summer summary: Georgia Tech

August, 24, 2011
8/24/11
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Consider this series your “while-you-were-out” catch-up on the highlights of summer camp for each school in the ACC. Next up, Georgia Tech:

  • Coach Paul Johnson has squashed any notion of a quarterback competition, as Tevin Washington has earned the right to start. But … Synjyn Days and Vad Lee have been right behind him all month and all three could play. It will be interesting to see how Johnson handles their snaps during the season.
  • The B-Back position -- which produced 1,300-yard rushers in 2008, 2009 and 2010 -- remains up for grabs. It looked like senior Preston Lyons could be the starter, but former quarterback David Sims has also made a case, and most within the program think redshirt freshman Charles Perkins is the most talented. It’s another good position battle that should continue to play out into the season.
  • While senior Tyler Melton and junior Daniel McKayhan have been out with nagging injuries, true freshman Jeff Greene looks like he may actually get the starting nod at wide receiver.
  • Defensively, the jury is still out. The offense had its way with the defense in practice the past week. Julian Burnett, Jeremiah Attaoachu, Louis Young and Izaan Cross are all young, very talented players, but whether Georgia Tech gets a pass rush this year remains to be seen.
Most notable injuries: Safety Fred Holton's torn Achilles will likely sideline him for the year. He was competing for a starting job, but more likely the first DB off the bench. Backup guard J.C. Lanier has a stress fracture and is out four to five more weeks. A-back B.J. Bostic has an undisclosed arm injury that will keep him out four weeks.
It was a busy weekend in the ACC. Here's a look back at the highlights from the scrimmages, according to the sports information departments of the teams that provided reports:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Coach Frank Spaziani told reporters after the 70-minute scrimmage that there were some good things, but "it's like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces in the box; they're not connected yet."

Offensive highlights:
  • Quarterback Chase Rettig completed 12 of 19 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. “I think Chase showed the progress he's been making,” Spaziani said. “The obvious things were fine; there were some subtle things he needs to work on.”
  • Rettig connected on passes of 10 yards six times, including a 30-yard pass to Colin Larmond, Jr., a 24-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field to receiver Bobby Swigert and a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior captain Ifeanyi Momah.
  • Larmond (3 receptions for 53 yards), Swigert (3-for-33), junior receiver Donte Elliott (3-for-37) and redshirt freshman tight end Jarrett Darmstatter (3-for-16) led a total of 12 receivers that registered at least one reception each.
  • Rettig and fellow quarterbacks Mike Marscovetra and Dave Shinskie combined for four touchdowns as Marscovetra went 6-for-9 for 30 yards and a touchdown pass of five yards to junior receiver Hampton Hughes and Shinskie connected on 4-of-5 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown to sophomore tight end Mike Naples.
  • Tailback Rolandan Finch carried the ball 10 times for a total of 30 yards to lead all running backs while sophomore Andre Williams broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run during red zone drills. Williams finished with five attempts for 21 yards and redshirt freshman Tahj Kimble accounted for 20 yards on five carries.
Defensive highlights:
  • Linebacker Nick Clancy and defensive back Sean Sylvia led the team with four tackles each.
  • Sophomore linebacker Jake Sinkovec had one interception and one fumble recovery.
CLEMSON

Quarterback Tajh Boyd had an impressive performance, as he completed 10 of 12 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown to highlight the new offense in Clemson’s 75-play scrimmage in Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning.

Offensive highlights:
  • Boyd completed each of his final eight passes to six different receivers. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to receiver DeAndre Hopkins, then connected on a 3-yard score to Dwayne Allen in a goal-line situation.
  • Allen had three receptions for 66 yards, including a diving catch over the middle for 14 yards and a first down. Brandon Ford had three receptions for 37 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cole Stoudt.
  • Stoudt was 4-of-14 passing, but threw for 71 yards and two touchdowns, one to Ford and one to Bryce McNeal (23 yards).
  • Rod McDowell was the leading rusher with four carries for 68 yards, including a 39-yarder on his first carry of the day. Andre Ellington had five rushes for 41 yards and added two receptions, while freshman Mike Bellamy had five carries for 40 yards.
Defensive highlights:
  • The first-team defense did not allow a scoring drive.
  • Martin Jenkins led the team with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss.
  • Corico Hawkins had five tackles and a fumble recovery, while freshman defensive end Corey Crawford had five stops, including a sack.
Special teams highlights:
  • Clemson’s three kickers, Chandler Catanzaro, Ammon Lakip and Brian Symmes were a combined 16-of-16 on the day in field goal attempts and extra points against a live rush.
Notable:
  • Three Tigers missed the scrimmage because they were going through graduation exercises across the street from Memorial Stadium in Littlejohn Coliseum. Starting offensive tackle Landon Walker, starting safety Rashard Hall and reserve defensive end Kourtnei Brown all graduated from Clemson on Saturday. It was especially noteworthy for Hall, who has been at Clemson just three years. He joins Nick Eason (now in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals) as the only scholarship football players to graduate with two years of athletic eligibility remaining.
  • Four players missed the scrimmage due to injury. Those players were defensive back Xavier Brewer (sprained foot), defensive back Garry Peters (bruised calf), Andre Branch (head injury), DeShawn Williams (sprained ankle).
GEORGIA TECH

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson had mixed reviews after the Yellow Jackets' first scrimmage, which ran 90 minutes inside Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday morning.

"It was like a lot of first scrimmages, there were way too many balls on the ground and way too many penalties," Johnson said. "But we hit some big plays. When you play against each other there's positives and negatives on both sides. It's a starting place and we'll look at it and try to make some improvements."

Offensive highlights:
  • While no official statistics were kept, quarterback Tevin Washington passed for well over 100 yards, including a 63-yarder to senior A-back Roddy Jones. Redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days threw the only touchdown of the day, to true freshman Jeff Greene.
  • Greene ran with the first unit Saturday as most of the veterans -- junior Stephen Hill, senior Tyler Melton, sophomore Jeremy Moore and junior Daniel McKayhan -- all sat out with injuries.
  • Washington scored the only other touchdown Saturday on a 1-yard QB keeper.
Defensive highlights:
  • Defensive end Emmanuel Dieke had a sack, true freshman Jamal Golden intercepted a Vad Lee pass, and Steven Sylvester and Isaiah Johnson both recovered fumbles.
Special teams highlights:
  • Sophomore Justin Moore booted a 45-yard field goal on his only attempt.
  • David Scully's 52-yard attempt was long enough, but just wide left.
MIAMI

The most important news out of Miami's first scrimmage was that quarterbacks Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris combined for five touchdown passes and only one interception. That sounds like improvement. Miami's quarterbacks combined for 407 passing yards on 38-of-52 passing for six touchdowns and only one interception.

Offensive highlights:
  • Receiver Tommy Streeter had the best offensive day for the Canes, catching five passes for 71 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came from Harris.
  • Lamar Miller had runs of 16 and 31 yards on the opening drive.
Defensive highlights:
  • Senior defensive back JoJo Nicolas led all defenders with eight tackles (six solo), with two tackles for loss.
  • Ramon Buchanan and freshman Gionni Paul and each had six total tackles, with Paul also recording a tackle for loss.
  • The defense totaled eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total loss of 29 yards
VIRGINIA TECH

The Hokies' offense was the highlight, but what does that mean for the defense? Coach Frank Beamer pointed out that there were some long plays allowed, as the offense racked up 398 yards of total offense in the 78-play scrimmage at Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The touchdowns came against Tech's second- or third-team defense, though, so the jury is still out.

"I thought it was a good first scrimmage -- better than most," Beamer said, according to the team's scrimmage report. "You take into consideration that you're trying to get everyone some work, people who don't know quite what they're doing, and that makes things a little ragged. I thought overall, though, it was a sharp scrimmage. The quarterbacks made some nice plays and Wilson got a couple of long plays against the defense, and we need to see what's going on there. Overall, the effort was good and the play was good."

Offensive highlights:
  • Backup quarterback Mark Leal led the quarterbacks with 116 yards passing, completing 6 of 13. He also threw an interception. Beamer said Leal is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Logan Thomas. Ju-Ju Clayton, who has dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart, completed 6 of 10 for 51 yards, while starter Thomas completed 4 of 8 for 79 yards, with an interception, in limited action.
  • Tailback David Wilson scored against the Hokies' second-team defense on a 22-yard run. Wilson led all rushers with 57 yards on five carries. Freshman Michael Holmes added 54 yards rushing on a game-high 11 carries.
Defensive highlights:
  • Freshman tackle Luther Maddy led the team with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. Freshman Michael Cole added six tackles, while Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler each finished with four.
  • Barquell Rivers had three tackles and an interception.
  • Jayron Hosley and freshman Ronny Vandyke also had interceptions. Hosley intercepted a Logan Thomas pass, while Vandyke intercepted a Trey Gresh attempt.
Special teams highlights:
  • The kickers connected on 5-of-6 attempts. Cody Journell hit from 35, 22 and 35 yards, while Justin Myer drilled a 52-yarder and a 28-yarder. "Cody's kicking extremely well," Beamer said. "Myer has a load of potential, and he needs to win some of the kicking contests during the week. That shows consistency, and that's where he is right now. Cody is usually winning it or right in the running at the end."

ACC's lunchtime links

August, 2, 2011
8/02/11
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We talkin' bout practice. Not a game, not a game, not a game. We talkin' bout practice.
For some reason, there always seems to be a great interview on Georgia Tech’s roster. Roddy Jones is fun to talk to, and Anthony Allen and I went back and forth a few times last year. Now it’s time to meet receiver Tyler Melton. I’ll let him take it away:

[+] EnlargeTyler Melton
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesGeorgia Tech's Tyler Melton says the team is eager to move on from last season's 6-7 finish.
I’m one of the people who is probably making Georgia Tech players mad because I just don’t know about you guys this year, man, I’ll be honest. Convince me. Make me a believer.

Tyler Melton: Oh, man, I gotta tell you, I respect your honesty, but you’re honestly wrong.

I love it.

TM: We’re definitely coming into this season with a chip on our shoulder. Being 6-7 was despicable, horrible, any bad word you can think of to put in that place. No one around here is used to losing, even throughout high school. With that said, we’ve attacked this season with a chip on our shoulders in that we refuse to go back to mediocrity and we’re going to be a great team again. This spring and this summer has been extremely competitive. I believe everyone individually has come leaps and bounds to be better as a player and it will contribute to us being a better team. There’s a lot of competition out there. Our secondary is looking great this year. Louis Young, he’s going to be a great player out there. He’s energetic, he’s a spark, and he’s a playmaker - point blank. Our D-line is looking great, we have a lot of great individual players out there.

As for the offense, I feel like we have a bigger chip on our shoulders than the defense, because the defense, you can attribute it to it was the first year under Al Groh as defensive coordinator. For us, we’re coming in, especially my position group, the wide receivers, we took a lot of heat from you, yourself, and others. With that said, we’ve put a lot of hard work in to make sure that doesn’t happen again. We’ve been with the quarterback, Tevin Washington, and he’s becoming a great leader. He’s going to be a great player. We’re stepping it up and we’re doing the little things to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I feel like we’ve learned from our mistakes. Now we’re at the point where we’re getting beyond our mistakes and starting to learn new things.

All good things. And I know for a fact I’m not picking you guys to lose that Kansas game this year. It’s not going to happen. You guys start out 3-0, and then there’s the Carolina game. I haven’t gotten that far yet.

TM: You haven’t gotten that far yet? You contact me immediately when you figure out what’s going on. I’ll help you make that decision.

(Laughing). I know, I know. The other thing I wanted to ask you was about your position group. Since Demaryius Thomas left it hasn’t been the same, and there was way too much pressure on Stephen Hill last year. Does there need to be an elite receiver at Georgia Tech? Can there be? Are you the guy?

TM: I feel like we just don’t need all the titles. Titles are what you put in the newspaper: Elite receiver, blah blah blah. We all know that the ball doesn’t get thrown a lot here. With that said, we capitalize on our moments as receivers. I feel like the people we have on the field are more than capable of getting the job done. When people put the label on it, elite receiver, that’s just not necessary. Those that we have on the field definitely can get the job done.

From the outside looking in, there are some questions surrounding the quarterback position because of the way Tevin played in the spring game and the way Synjyn played. From the players’ perspective, I know Tevin is No. 1 going into summer camp, but is there any concern on your part that you guys are going to have a dependable quarterback?

TM: Not at all. There’s no concern at all over here. I feel like Tevin is a great quarterback and we’ll have a great quarterback to start the season. The competition has helped everyone get better. I’ve always felt competition is a great thing. No one is complacent, and everyone is striving to be the best player they can be.

How did you wind up there? Aren’t you from Texas?

TM: I came from a spread offense.

That’s a little different.

TM: Yeah. I was all-everything in Texas. My junior year I think I had 1,000 yards, 15 touchdowns, and like 70+ catches. I tore my ACL probably second-to-last game of the season. I had already committed to Georgia Tech under Chan Gailey. I grayshirted. I was supposed to be here with Derrick Morgan, Jonathan Dwyer, Morgan Burnett, that class. When the time came around and I heard about the new coach, I honored my commitment and came to Georgia Tech. I’ve enjoyed my stint here. I have my degree and I don’t regret coming here at all.

That’s awesome. Good for you. That’s quite a change, though, compared to what you signed up for.

TM: Quite a change, quite a change. But that’s just life. You’re tossed curve balls and you face adversity, but it’s how you respond and how react to that adversity that defines who you are.

I’m not sure how Georgia Tech will fare this fall, but Tyler Melton made me a believer in at least one of the Jackets’ wide receivers.
You asked, I answered. Readers (particularly @AsylumGodfather) were calling for more position rankings, so the receivers are up next. This could be the strongest position group in the conference, and one of the more difficult to rank, so I looked back on a few stats to help me separate them, including how some of these guys did against their best competition (i.e. Danny Coale versus FSU, wow). Here’s the final verdict of which teams in the ACC have the best combination of depth and talent:

1. Virginia Tech: With Jarrett Boykin and Coale returning, the Hokies’ passing game has a chance to flourish this fall. Boykin, Coale and Dyrell Roberts were the team’s top three receivers last year for the second straight season, combining for 113 catches, 1,882 yards and 11 touchdowns. Add to that Marcus Davis, D.J. Coles, E.L. Smiling -- it’s a bottomless cup of depth and talent.

2. Duke: Conner Vernon has 128 catches in his first two collegiate seasons and Donovan Varner ranked fourth in the ACC in pass receptions (60) and seventh in yardage (736). Their combined 274 receptions are the most of any active duo in the ACC. They are the top two returning leaders in catches per game, and Vernon is the ACC’s returning leader in receiving yards per game. The Blue Devils also have sophomore Brandon Braxton (14 catches), who could make a name for himself as the third option this year.

3. Florida State: Every Seminole who caught a pass last season returns. Bert Reed, Taiwan Easterling and Rodney Smith return with a combined 50 career starts. Reed ranks second among all returning ACC receivers with 141 career receptions. Willie Haulstead had 38 catches last season, Smith had 31, and there’s plenty of rising talent like Christian Green.

4. North Carolina: Like Florida State, North Carolina returns all of its receivers, including two who redshirted last season. Dwight Jones, who had 946 yards and 62 receptions, leads the group, but Erik Highsmith (25 catches, 348 yards and three touchdowns) must be accounted for as well. Defenses also can’t forget about Jheranie Boyd, who is a deep threat.

5. Miami: The Canes will miss the production of Leonard Hankerson, but they don’t have to if one or two of the other players show more consistency. Travis Benjamin has big-play capabilities and averaged 17.3 yards on his 43 catches last season. There is no shortage of other options with LaRon Byrd, Aldarius Johnson, Tommy Streeter, Allen Hurns and Kendal Thompkins. Which one will rise to the occasion?

6. Clemson: It was the DeAndre Hopkins show last season, and he should again highlight the Tigers’ passing game. As a true freshman, Hopkins had 52 catches, the most by a first-year player in school history. Jaron Brown returns with 10 career starts, and the Tigers also have Marquan Jones (21 catches) and Bryce McNeal (19).

7. Maryland: The Terps have to replace their top two receivers from a year ago in Torrey Smith and Adrian Cannon, and no clear frontrunners emerged this spring. Quintin McCree leads all returners with 16 catches, followed by Kevin Dorsey (15), Ronnie Tyler (13), Kerry Boykins (10), and Tony Logan.

8. Boston College: True freshman Bobby Swigert led the Eagles last year with 39 catches and four touchdowns in five starts. The Eagles are hoping to get a significant boost from the return of Colin Larmond Jr., who missed all of last season with a knee injury, but the young group should be better regardless because of the experience gained last season.

9. Virginia: The Cavaliers will miss Dontrelle Inman, who averaged 16 yards per catch on 51 receptions, but returning starter Kris Burd finished fifth in the ACC last season in pass receptions (58). The group will also get a boost from the return of Tim Smith, who missed almost all of last season with an injury, and Matt Snyder (30 catches) and Ray Keys (three catches).

10. NC State: NC State has to replace its top two receivers from a year ago, and T.J. Graham is the team’s leading returning receiver with 25 catches. Steven Howard, Jay Smith and Quintin Payton all have experience, and redshirt freshman Bryan Underwood, Tobias Palmer and Everett Proctor have also been competing for playing time.

11. Wake Forest: Chris Givens (35 catches, 13.7 average), Michael Campanaro (10 catches) and Danny Dembry are the lead candidates to start, but the Deacs are missing a spark like Kenny Moore (2007) and D.J. Boldin (2008) provided. There were too many dropped passes in the spring game, so this group has some work to do in summer camp.

12. Georgia Tech: Yes, Georgia Tech throws the ball, just not often enough or efficiently enough to be anywhere but last place on this list. Stephen Hill led the Jackets last year with 15 catches for 291 yards and three touchdowns. He should show progress this fall now that there’s no pressure on him to be the next Demaryius Thomas. If he doesn’t show more consistency, the Jackets could turn to Daniel McKayhan, Tyler Melton or Jeremy Moore.

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October, 1, 2010
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TGIOctober ...

ACC's lunchtime links

September, 28, 2010
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Get ready for Week 5 ...

It's not over 'til it's over

September, 25, 2010
9/25/10
2:41
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IN ATLANTA ... Meet Georgia Tech's quick-strike offense. Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Melton to close the gap to 31-21. Georgia Tech moved the ball 90 yards in -- gasp -- three plays and one minute. That's exactly what Georgia Tech needs in its playbook if the Yellow Jackets are going to be a successful come-from-behind team. The Jackets also got what they needed on an interception return for a touchdown. Huge swing in the momentum in Atlanta as Georgia Tech trails 31-28.

Halftime: Georgia Tech 17, Kansas 14

September, 11, 2010
9/11/10
1:50
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It wouldn't be entirely fair to look at Joshua Nesbitt's halftime stat line -- 2-of-7 passing for 25 yards -- and criticize. Tyler Melton missed a catch on third down, and Stephen Hill wasn't able to hang onto the ball in the end zone on one-on-one coverage. If he's going to be the next Demaryius Thomas, as many Jackets' fans are hoping, he's got to make that play. Georgia Tech had to settle for a field goal and the 17-14 lead. The effort in the passing game is there, but the experience is not. That's to be expected when you only throw the ball nine times a game.

The Jackets do what they do very well. They've controlled the clock and outrushed the Jayhawks in typical Georgia Tech fashion. But they're playing a program that lost its past seven games a year ago and started the 2010 season right where it left off -- a 6-3 loss to North Dakota State. Odds are Georgia Tech makes some second-half adjustments, as Paul Johnson is one of the best at that.

Georgia Tech receivers have to help

September, 11, 2010
9/11/10
12:37
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The evolution of Georgia Tech's passing game doesn't rely entirely on quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. His receivers have to help him out. Nesbitt threw a catchable ball on third-and-long against Kansas, and Tyler Melton couldn't hang onto it. Those are the kinds of plays that can transform the Yellow Jackets from a good team into a great team. The more they do it in a game situation, though, the more comfortable the players become with it.
Georgia Tech freshman safety Isaiah Johnson had to earn his jersey number -- No. 1. It was previously worn by Morgan Burnett, who left early to begin his NFL career. As a freshman at Sandy Creek High in Tyrone, Ga., Johnson used to watch Burnett play at nearby North Clayton High School as a senior.

“I always looked up to him,” Johnson said. “I’m trying to follow his path.”

He’s literally off to a good start.

As the Jackets prepare to open the season Saturday against South Carolina State, Johnson is not only still wearing the jersey, he’s also expected to start it in. The coaches let him keep it after they saw his effort and improvement throughout the summer. He is listed as No. 1 on the depth chart at safety, and could be the first true freshman to start a season opener since Tyler Melton in 2008. Prior to Melton, the last true freshman to start the first game of the season was wide receiver Calvin Johnson in 2004 and quarterback Reggie Ball in 2003.

Because he knew Burnett was leaving early for the NFL, Johnson chose to enroll early.

“I knew my chances of playing would be greater,” he said. “It’s always been my goal. That’s what I’ve been working towards.”

Johnson is one of five true freshmen listed on Georgia Tech’s depth chart, along with A-back B.J. Bostic, OLB Jeremiah Attaochu, CB Louis Young and DT Shawn Green.

The most difficult part of adapting to the college game, Johnson said, has been taking on blocks from his own offensive teammates.

“Georgia Tech is different,” he said. “Going against our offense, they throw a whole lot of chop blocks. Taking on the blocks has been a challenge for me, and trying to make a play off the blocks. At first I was running up wild, full speed. You have to learn how to slow it down, make sure I was doing my right assignment, not just running wild. It’s good to play fast, but it’s better to play fast and smart.”

It’s a good way to stay No. 1.

ACC's triple threats

July, 1, 2010
7/01/10
4:00
PM ET
Last month, Rivals.com took a look at the top “triplets” in college football -- the teams with the best combination of quarterback, running back and wide receiver. ESPN.com’s bloggers have since been taking a closer look at the three-headed monsters in each of our respective conferences. Virginia Tech ranked No. 2 in the Rivals.com ranking and was the only ACC school that made the cut.

After looking into it a little closer, I could see why.

By doing this little experiment, I realized that there are only a few teams in the ACC that are truly threats in all three parts of this equation. While North Carolina has starting experience at all three positions, the Tar Heels didn’t make the cut for their lack of offensive success. Same with Virginia. Several teams came up just short -- like NC State, which doesn’t have starting experience at running back but has a standout quarterback and wide receiver, and Maryland, which is breaking in a new starter at quarterback but also has excellent depth at running back and receiver.

So, upon further review, here’s what I came up with:

Note: I’m only considering teams with players who have at least one year of ACC starting experience and weren’t significantly lacking at one of the positions:

1. Virginia Tech

QB: Tyrod Taylor

RB: Ryan Williams

WR: Jarrett Boykin

Rationale: The Hokies have the ACC’s returning leading rusher in Williams, another 1,000-yard rusher in Darren Evans, the league’s No. 1-ranked quarterback in passing efficiency, and the No. 8 receiver in receiving yards per game. No other team in the conference has three players rated higher.

2. Miami

QB: Jacory Harris

RB: Graig Cooper

WR: Leonard Hankerson

Rationale: Cooper is still rehabbing his knee, but with him in the lineup, the Canes have the No. 5 returning rusher in the league, the No. 4 quarterback in passing efficiency, and the No. 9 receiver in receiving yards per game. Even without Cooper healthy, the Canes have enough depth at both running back and receiver that as long as Harris stays healthy, Miami will remain a triple threat.

3. Florida State

QB: Christian Ponder

RB: Jermaine Thomas

WR: Taiwan Easterling

Rationale: Easterling has the most returning starting experience, but Bert Reed is the team’s leader in returning yardage. Jarmon Fortson is also a returning starter, while Ponder led the ACC in total offense despite missing four games with a shoulder injury. Thomas is the fourth-leading returning rusher in the conference, but there is enough depth that he’ll be pushed for playing time.

4. Georgia Tech

QB: Joshua Nesbitt

RB: Anthony Allen

WR: Tyler Melton

Rationale: This is where it starts to get interesting. Nesbitt is the team’s leading returning rusher, and he doesn’t show up in the ACC passing stats. Nor does Georgia Tech have a receiver ranked among the ACC’s returning leaders. However, it does have a 1,000-yard rusher in Nesbitt, two running backs with starting experience, and Melton started 10 games last year. By the end of the season, the Jackets should have a little more substance in two thirds of this equation.

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