ACC: Vic Koenning

ACC morning links

December, 19, 2014
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Boston College took the proper steps to wrapping up Steve Addazio on Thursday, signing the second-year coach to an extension through the 2020 season. The deal should, at the very least, provide some security for a program that has done nothing but overachieve in Addazio's first two years on the job, making consecutive bowl games despite massive personnel losses.

Addazio's name has been floated around plenty during silly season, but Eagles fans can at least rest a little bit easier knowing that his rebuilding plan is still on schedule. But clarity throughout ACC regimes remains difficult to find after Wednesday.

Pittsburgh still needs a new athletic director, in addition to a new head coach, and it is unclear which will come first, or the effect one will have on the other. As colleague Andrea Adelson wrote this week, you cannot blame the Panthers for third-year coach Paul Chryst leaving for his dream job, as he went home to Wisconsin. But it is clear now more than ever that the program needs some stability, something Chryst was able to bring to the program after so much turnover.

The Panthers have plenty of young weapons on offense and are in a much better position now than they were when Chryst took over, but the cumulative effect of a fourth coaching search -- and an AD search -- since 2010 cannot be overstated.

Here are the rest of your ACC links:

ACC morning links

December, 17, 2014
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The public and awkward tango Paul Chryst, Wisconsin and Pittsburgh have been dancing -- made all the more uncomfortable after the music stopped playing last week and left them in the middle of the circle -- looks to be over.

Chryst appears set to be named as the Badgers’ next coach, according to Benjamin Worgull of BadgerNation.com.

The Madison, Wisconsin, native and former Badgers player and assistant was the focus of Badgers athletic director Barry Alvarez’s search and was identified as the likely successor to Gary Andersen a week ago. However, Wisconsin state law prevents Alvarez from making a hire until Wednesday, which left Chryst and Pittsburgh in limbo for the last few days.

Considering how the situation has played out, Chryst leaving for Wisconsin is best for all parties. His desire was to go to Wisconsin, and, with all of his ties to the university, it’s hard to blame Chryst for wanting to return. Chryst seemed to handle the situation with class, fulfilling his duties as Pitt’s coach as best he could, conducting bowl practices and recruiting visits. Reports suggest Chryst was upfront with administration and his players over the last few days about his interest in the Wisconsin job.

Pitt was in a tough situation, too, knowing it needed a resolution but also aware it would be unwise to unload Chryst financially. There is no concrete figure being reported, but it is likely Chryst has a buyout that will be owed to Pitt now that it’s only a matter of some red tape before becoming Wisconsin coach.

The Panthers were 19-19 under Chryst and underachieved in 2014, but he laid a foundation during his three years. Offensively, the new staff will inherit running back James Conner and receiver Tyler Boyd, who are two of the best players at their position in the country. Both were named to the ESPN.com All-ACC team last week. The offensive line will also return three starters that average 6-foot-5 and 313 pounds.

Colleague Travis Haney offered up a few names that Pitt AD Steve Pedersen could call upon for an interview, and Pedersen has been proactive despite Chryst still not officially being named Wisconsin’s coach. Sam Werner of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports Pitt has contacted former Rutgers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano.

Hopefully, the new Pitt coach can hit the ground running and bring some stability to a program that has had a revolving door at coach since the end of the 2010 season. With the right hire, Pitt can possibly make a run at the Coastal Division crown in 2015 as the schedule is far from daunting. The Panthers avoid Florida State and Clemson, instead getting Syracuse and Virginia (and Louisville) from the Atlantic. Syracuse and Virginia failed to reach bowl eligibility this fall.

Here’s a few more links for your Wednesday.

ACC morning links

November, 6, 2014
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Tim Lester has held his new duties for barely a month, but the Syracuse offensive coordinator will return to the position next season, head coach Scott Shafer said this week.

Lester was promoted from quarterbacks coach after George McDonald was demoted from offensive coordinator/assistant head coach to wide receivers coach.

"For me, it's midstream so he's fighting to work with the initial part of the offense," Shafer said when asked to assess Lester's performance through four games, according to Syracuse.com's Stephen Bailey. "When we get to the offseason, his opportunity to rebuild the offense the way we see fit will be key."

Lester was not thrown into the most ideal of situations, as the Orange offense has suffered several key injuries and is currently starting true freshman AJ Long.

Syracuse has its hands full this week as it readies to host 7-1 Duke, as the Orange need to win out to go to a bowl game for the second straight year under Shafer.

Here are the rest of your ACC links:
North Carolina safety Tim Scott is well aware of the surging expectations surrounding his offensive teammates this spring -- further motivation for the Tar Heels’ defense to catch up this fall.

“We feel as if we’re not talked about or we’re not even respected,” Scott said. “Everyone talks about our offense and how explosive they are, but we also have an explosive, physical, fast defense, and that’s really what our main point is to prove this year.”

They’ve got some work to do.

While North Carolina is considered by many to be a team on the rise in the ACC’s Coastal Division, much of that confidence is rooted in the Tar Heels’ offensive potential. North Carolina gave up 55 points in an embarrassing loss to East Carolina last year -- at home -- before improving in the second half of the season. UNC ranked 64th in the country last year in total defense and Scott said the biggest problem was miscommunication, a result of transitioning to a 4-2-5 defense.

“When coach Vic [Koenning] and coach [Larry] Fedora came in with the new 4-2-5, everyone knew their part, but in the 4-2-5 defense, you have to know what everyone is doing,” said Scott, now a leader in UNC’s secondary. “Everyone has to speak to everybody. That’s really what we didn’t get down and that’s what we’re taking the time to do this spring.

“It’s improved a lot,” he said. “Everyone can play at this level, but once you get the mental part down -- which we didn’t have down, of course, for the first six games of the season, when we went 1-5 -- we took the time after that Miami game, and we really wanted to improve in that and make sure we can show the world that the defense we’re playing is the defense that can be successful. That’s what we proved the last couple games of the season going into the bowl game and now the defense is really transitioning to keeping that up during the spring.”

UNC’s defense made significant strides in the second half of the season. Through the first six games, UNC allowed 456 yards per game, including 203.3 on the ground, and allowed 30.7 points per game. Through the final seven games (a 5-2 record), UNC allowed 357.9 yards per game, including 164.6 on the ground, and 19.1 points per game. Five of the final seven opponents were held to 20 points or fewer.

Scott said the best is yet to come -- for the defense and the offense.

“I think honestly we can be better than what we’ve been since I’ve been here,” he said. “… I know last year wasn’t the year we wanted. We had a chance to have a three-way go for the Coastal. This year our objective is to win it outright and prove to everyone that we don’t just have draft picks. We have people who can come together as a team and win games.”

UNC D looks for redemption against GT

September, 18, 2013
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Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson called it “just a little change-up.”

No doubt he’s thrown the UNC defense more of a curveball this week.

[+] EnlargeVad Lee
Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesNorth Carolina's defense knows it must contain Georgia Tech's Vad Lee on Saturday.
In an offense that hasn’t changed much in decades, any new wrinkle is worth some attention from opposing defenses. The diamond formation, in which the quarterback is flanked closely by the A-backs and B-backs, is the latest tweak in Georgia Tech’s spread option offense -- and the latest challenge for the North Carolina defense.

“It’s out of the gun ... and this year we’ve just got ‘em all in the backfield,” Johnson said on Wednesday. “For lack of anything better to call it, we called it a diamond formation. We can run most of the same plays we run from under center out of it. In the game Saturday we only ran a couple of plays. How much we’ll use it, who knows? We’ll see. If we feel like we need it, it’s there, available for a change of pace. We may line up in it for the whole game; we may line up and run none.”

Let the chess match begin.

“It’s a totally different style of offense,” said UNC coach Larry Fedora. “You have to prepare for the triple option, and you spend your time preparing for the triple option. Then they get into the gun and a three-back set back there, and that’s kind of en vogue right now in college football. It makes it difficult. It’s two different styles of offense, and they’re able to that because of Vad Lee. Vad’s a very talented young man who can beat you with his legs or his arm, and what they’ve done is put together pieces of both of those offenses to be very successful, and it makes it really hard on your defense.”

North Carolina’s defense, which allowed 406 total yards in the season-opening loss at South Carolina, doesn’t need things to get any more difficult -- nor does it need a reminder about what happened last season against the Yellow Jackets in a 68-50 loss, the highest-scoring game in ACC history. Georgia Tech ran for 380 yards against the Heels, and it was a breakout game for Lee, who last week threw four touchdown passes in the win over Duke.

Remember: North Carolina had a bye week to prepare for the Jackets last fall, too.

While Georgia Tech is in the midst of a grueling four-game lineup against Coastal Division opponents, the onus is on the Tar Heels’ defense to try and slow down the Jackets.

And, apparently, not throw in the towel in the process.

UNC defensive coordinator Vic Koenning said there were about five or six starters who “raised the white flag” in the first half last year.

“We don’t need that to happen again to us,” he said.

Koenning said some players have already been griping about sore hamstrings and groins this week, and questioned whether some of his players are “tough enough and man enough to play.” UNC safety Tre Boston said “Coach Vic is a firey guy” who likes to motivate them, but he need look no further than last season's score.

“I definitely think we’re up for the challenge,” Boston said. “As a team we know what happened last year. We know we don’t want that to ever happen again. It’s one of those things we take to heart and we remember what happened and we want redemption. That’s pretty much how it is on this defense. I think coach is trying to make sure we’re ready for this game, and as one of the captains on the team, our defense is definitely ready for the game and we’re ready for the hype.”

The question is if they’re ready for Lee, who is averaging 62.5 rushing yards, 157 passing yards and is responsible for eight of Tech’s 14 offensive touchdowns this season. Koenning said the keys will be eliminating big plays and not allowing Georgia Tech to sustain six or seven drives of 10 plays or more.

“We either have to create takeaways, or we have to get them off the field,” Koenning said.

Boston said the defense is ready to play a fundamentally sound, disciplined game, and they’ll have to if they want to leapfrog Georgia Tech in the Coastal Division standings.

“I think this year will be the year that we do it,” Boston said. “With the new schemes we’ve put in and the stuff we’re running, it’s pretty good. Guys have to stay disciplined and stay to their techniques because this offense is dynamic.”

No change-up in that regard.

UNC over ... Oregon State?

June, 27, 2013
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Earlier this week, Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller was outraged -- and it was all the Tar Heels’ fault.

No way, he wrote, should North Carolina be considered a top 25 team of the next three years – not when Oregon State was left out entirely.

“With all due respect to North Carolina,” Miller wrote, “the Tar Heels at No. 21 makes no sense whatsoever.”

He’s right. They probably should have been higher -- ahead of Virginia Tech and TCU.

[+] EnlargeLarry Fedora
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsLarry Fedora's Tar Heels would have played in the ACC title game last season if it weren't for the postseason ban.
We’re talking about the future here, the next three years -- not Oregon State’s No. 4 ranking in 2000, or the Tar Heels’ five losing seasons since then. We’re talking about what Larry Fedora is building there, not what collapsed before he was hired. Want to know how highly Oregon State is thought of in Pac-12 country right now, with no clear answer at quarterback?

The Pac-12 bloggers had Oregon State at No. 6 in their post-spring power rankings, while we had North Carolina at No. 4, behind Clemson, Florida State and Miami -- all teams in the college football future power ranking. Not bad company. And don’t forget that last year, in just Fedora’s first season, North Carolina would have been playing in the ACC title game if it weren’t for that pesky postseason ban. You don’t think they wouldn’t already be in the top 25?

Here are three more good reasons why North Carolina deserved that spot in the future power rankings, and why the Tar Heels will keep it over the next three years:

1. Fedora’s offense has worked everywhere he's been. Southern Miss and Oklahoma State both saw their numbers improve under his guidance. Last year, UNC set school records for total points (487) and points per game (40.6). They should be even better this fall with starting quarterback Bryn Renner returning, and an underrated offensive line.

2. If he can recruit good players in the wake of NCAA sanctions, imagine what Fedora could do once they start winning consistently. Right now, they’ve got the No. 22 recruiting class in the country. North Carolina’s roster will always have talented offensive players, and the program has built a strong offensive line tradition lately.

3. Defense will be the ultimate question under Fedora, but Vic Koenning has a proven track record. I remember Koenning from his days at Clemson, where each of his four defenses finished in the top 25 in scoring, total, and pass efficiency defense. He also helped the Illinois defense improve dramatically (from 91st in the country in 2009 to 38th in 2010 and seventh in 2011.) If given the time, Koenning can build Carolina’s defense into a consistent strength.

It also can’t be ignored that the Tar Heels genuinely like playing for Fedora. He’s as up-tempo as his offense and the guys actually have fun at practice. (Who wouldn’t want to play for a guy willing to prank his own quarterback?)

If this were called the past power rankings, Oregon State would have more of an argument. Tomorrow? I’d pick UNC to win that game. Anything else would have to be called an upset.

UNC hires Ron West, tweaks staff

February, 14, 2013
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North Carolina coach Larry Fedora has hired Ron West as co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, the school announced on Thursday. West, who coached previously with Fedora at Baylor and with defensive coaches Vic Koenning and Dan Disch at Illinois, comes to Chapel Hill after a year at Arizona State where he served as the Sun Devils’ co-defensive coordinator.

“Ron is familiar with our staff and he brings a great deal of success and experience from his previous coaching stops,” Fedora said in a prepared statement. “He’s an excellent teacher of defensive fundamentals who gets the most out of his players. His knowledge of the ACC and ability to recruit in this area of the country will help our program.”

Fedora also named Randy Jordan as the special teams coordinator and changed responsibilities among Carolina’s defensive assistants.

Koenning, who also worked with West at Clemson (2005-08), will continue in his role as UNC’s associate head coach for defense, but will now coach the safeties. Disch continues as the defensive coordinator and will coach cornerbacks. Keith Gilmore was hired last week as the defensive line coach. All four defensive coaches have worked together at some point in their careers.

A 1979 Clemson graduate, West was an assistant coach for 10 seasons (1999-2008) with the Tigers where he worked with Koenning from 2005-08. Clemson won 76 games and played in nine bowl games during his tenure.

To see the full release, click here.

UNC hires defensive line coach

February, 5, 2013
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Keith Gilmore, who spent the past four seasons at Illinois, has been hired as North Carolina’s defensive line coach, the school announced Tuesday.

Gilmore has ties with current UNC defensive coaches Vic Koenning and Dan Disch. Gilmore and Koenning worked together during Koenning’s two seasons as the Illini defensive coordinator in 2010-11. Gilmore and Disch were on the Illinois defensive staff in 2009 and 2010.

“Keith is a knowledgeable defensive line coach who brings a wealth of experience at the collegiate level to Chapel Hill,” coach Larry Fedora said in a prepared statement. “He has previous experience with our defensive coaches and I believe he is a great fit for us. He does an exceptional job of building relationships and getting the most out of his players.”

You can read the full release here.

Week 1 in the ACC

August, 28, 2012
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Here’s a quick look at what’s on tap in the ACC in Week 1:

FRIDAY

Tennessee vs. NC State (in Atlanta), 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU: The Wolfpack will be without starting cornerback C.J. Wilson, but Tennessee will be missing all-SEC receiver Da’Rick Rogers, who transferred to Tennessee Tech. These teams haven't played each other in 73 years.

SATURDAY

Elon at North Carolina, 12:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network: First-year coach Larry Fedora will unveil his up-tempo spread offense with quarterback Bryn Renner, and the defense will also have a new look under assistants Vic Koenning and Dan Disch. It’s one of five games against in-state opponents for UNC.

William & Mary at Maryland, 3 p.m. ET, ESPN 3: Maryland will have an entirely new look with two new coordinators following a 2-10 season, but the spotlight will be on true freshman quarterback Perry Hills, who will start in place of injured starter C.J. Brown.

Richmond at Virginia, 3 p.m. ET, RSN: Quarterback Michael Rocco held onto the starting job despite competition from Alabama transfer Phillip Sims this summer. There is plenty of familiarity between these programs, as UVa coach Mike London is a Richmond grad and former head coach. He had a 24-5 record in two seasons with the Spiders (2008 and 2009), including the FCS National Title in 2008. Richmond coach Danny Rocco, in his first season with the Spiders, is the uncle of the Hoos’ quarterback.

Miami at Boston College, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2: Both programs desperately need to start the season with a win. Boston College has won the last two meetings, including a 24-17 win at Miami in last season’s regular-season finale. BC’s offense will have a new look under first-year coordinator Doug Martin, and Miami quarterback Stephen Morris will take over the offense in his first season as full-time starter.

Murray State at No. 7 Florida State, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN3: ACC fans are waiting to turn the page, but this will give the Noles’ new-look offensive line a tune-up. This should be a glorified practice run for Florida State, as this year’s team has combined to start 420 collegiate games.

Liberty at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN3: The Deacs get four of their first five games at home and have to take advantage of that. They’ve got 13 starters back from last year’s team, which came within a field goal of winning the Atlantic Division.

FIU at Duke, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN3: The Blue Devils managed to beat FIU on the road last year, but this is going to be a tough game again. FIU was the preseason favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference this year, and it received points in the USA Today Coaches preseason poll for the first time in school history. FIU is coming off back-to-back bowl games.

Auburn vs. No. 14 Clemson (in Atlanta), 7 p.m. ET, ESPN: The defending ACC champs could help further distance themselves from that disappointing showing in the Orange Bowl with a win over an SEC team. They’ll have to do it without suspended receiver Sammy Watkins, who will miss the first two games.

MONDAY

Georgia Tech at No. 16 Virginia Tech, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN: The winner of this game has gone on to win the Coastal Division in each of the past seven seasons. The Hokies’ defense will be their strength while a young backfield and offensive line is introduced. Georgia Tech quarterback Tevin Washington ran for three touchdowns against the Hokies last year.

One good reason: North Carolina

July, 12, 2012
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NORTH CAROLINA

This series gives one good reason why each school in the ACC will win this year, and, just to make sure we cover both sides of the story, one good reason why it won’t. For most schools, the focus is on winning the ACC title. For the programs that missed out on the postseason entirely last year, the focus is on getting back to a bowl game (at least it is here in the blogosphere). In North Carolina’s case, the goal is to survive a transition year that includes an NCAA bowl ban. We’re going in alphabetical order, and the Tar Heels are up next.

The series continues today with one good reason why …

North Carolina will play the role of spoiler. There is plenty of talent to work with offensively. First-year coach Larry Fedora has it made. He inherited one of the ACC’s best offensive lines, he has one of the country’s leading returning rushers in Giovani Bernard and he has an experienced starting quarterback in Bryn Renner. As long as the players can comprehend and execute Fedora’s up-tempo, spread offense, North Carolina will put up enough points this year. Four starters return on the offensive line, but how they adjust to the increased pace remains a question. They’ll pave the way for Bernard, who accounted for 1,615 yards rushing and receiving last fall, the second-best total by a freshman in ACC history. The offense is in good hands with Renner, an underrated player who played some spread offense in high school and has a chance to flourish in this system.

Why it won’t: More changes than motivation. No bowl game to play for. No division or league title on the line. And they’re starting from scratch. Again. The Tar Heels have been through a lot in the past three seasons, as Fedora is their third head coach during that span. Butch Davis was fired just days before the start of fall camp last year, and interim coach Everett Withers was not retained. The players have spent the offseason learning Fedora’s fast-paced spread system, led by first-year offensive coordinator Blake Anderson. UNC will be looking for balance in the pass and run games. Defensively, North Carolina also made changes under first-year coordinator Dan Disch and assistant head coach for defense Vic Koenning. UNC is transitioning to a 4-2-5 scheme. It has talent at wide receiver, but is there enough depth to make it work? The same can be said for the defensive backs, a group that has to replace three starters and will need the most work on defense this summer.

More in this series

Proving ground: Coastal Division

May, 15, 2012
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Earlier this morning we looked at who in the Atlantic Division has the most to prove. The Coastal Division is up next:

1. Duke coach David Cutcliffe. It’s time for Cutcliffe to prove his program is still heading in the right direction, and the most obvious way for him to do that is to lead the Blue Devils to a bowl game. Cutcliffe will be entering his fifth season in Durham, and while he’s been painfully close to a breakthrough winning season -- losing eight games over the past two years by seven or fewer points -- he will ultimately be judged by the win column.

2. North Carolina. The Tar Heels have to prove they can run Larry Fedora’s new offense. They have to prove they can run defensive coordinator Vic Koenning’s new 4-2-5 scheme. But most of all, they have to prove that once again, they can overcome change and the NCAA. There is no bowl game to play for this year. They’ll have to prove they can find their own motivation.

3. Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh. It will be the third season in Groh’s 3-4 scheme, and Georgia Tech fans are looking for more improvement from the group. That could be tough to come by, considering the Jackets have to replace two starters up front.

4. Miami quarterback Stephen Morris. We learned this spring that Memphis transfer Ryan Williams can and will challenge Morris. With Morris sidelined this spring with a back injury, Williams had his chance to shine -- much like Morris has had his opportunities at the expense of former starter Jacory Harris. It’s up to Morris to reassert himself as the leader of the offense.

5. Virginia Tech’s offensive line. Yes, all of the hype is around who will be the next great running back after the early departure of David Wilson, but they’ll all be going nowhere fast if the guys up front don’t get it together. The good news for the Hokies is that this group had a good spring. The key now is to build upon that in summer camp.

6. Virginia’s secondary. This group has to replace three starters from a year ago and more than 90 combined career starts. The Hoos will depend on young players this year, and Demetrious Nicholson, who has 13 starts, is now the veteran of the group.

UNC announces new staff

January, 3, 2012
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North Carolina announced the hiring of eight assistant coaches Tuesday, including six who worked with first-year coach Larry Fedora at Southern Miss., one who was a former defensive coordinator in the ACC, and another who is returning for a second coaching stop in Chapel Hill.

From Southern Miss, Fedora hired defensive coordinator Dan Disch, defensive assistant and special teams coordinator David Duggan, defensive line coach Deke Adams, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Blake Anderson, tight ends coach Walt Bell and offensive line coach Chris Kapilovic.

Gunter Brewer, who coached five years at Carolina from 2000-2004 and was most recently the offensive coordinator at Mississippi for two seasons, returns to Chapel Hill to coach wide receivers and serve as UNC’s passing game coordinator. Brewer has coached several outstanding wide receivers in stops at Marshall, Oklahoma State, UNC and Mississippi, including three Biletnikoff Award finalists.

Vic Koenning will serve as Carolina’s associate head coach for defense. He recently led Illinois to a 20-14 win over UCLA in the Kraft FightHunger Bowl as the interim head coach. Koenning is a 24-year college coaching veteran who served three years as Clemson’s defensive coordinator from 2005-08. Each of his four Tiger defenses finished in the top 25 in scoring, total, and pass efficiency defense. He also was head coach at Wyoming in the early 2000s.

Fedora will retain strength and conditioning coach Tom Myslinski, who recently completed his first year in Chapel Hill.

Carolina has hired eight of its nine on-field assistant coaches. Fedora plans to hire a running backs coach in the near future.

Clemson spring wrap-up

May, 7, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Clemson Tigers
2008 overall record: 7-6

2008 conference record: 4-4

Returning starters

Offense: Offense: 7, defense: 8, punter/kicker: 0

Top returners

WR Jacoby Ford, RB C.J. Spiller, OG Thomas Austin, CB Crezdon Butler, CB Chris Chancellor, DE Ricky Sapp, LB Kavell Conner

Key losses

WR Aaron Kelly, QB Cullen Harper, RB James Davis, WR Tyler Grisham, S Michael Hamlin, S Chris Clemons, PK Mark Buchholz, P Jimmy Maners, NG Darell Scott

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: James Davis (791 yards)
Passing: Cullen Harper (2,601 yards)
Receiving: Aaron Kelly (722 yards)
Tackles: LB Kavell Conner* (125)
Sacks: LB Brandon Maye*, DT Jarvis Jenkins*, DE Ricky Sapp* and DT Rashaad Jackson (2 each)
Interceptions: Michael Hamlin (6)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sept. 5 Middle Tennessee
Sept. 10 at Georgia Tech
Sept. 19 Boston College
Sept. 26 Central Michigan
Oct. 3 at Maryland
Oct. 10 OPEN
Oct. 17 Wake Forest
Oct. 24 at Miami
Oct. 31 Coastal Carolina
Nov. 7 Florida State
Nov. 14 at NC State
Nov. 21 Virginia
Nov. 28 at South Carolina

1. Starting QB: Kyle Parker has proved to be a remarkable athlete in his first spring competing for the starting quarterback job. He's proved capable of leading both the Tigers' offense on the football field and the baseball field. He was the better of the two quarterbacks. That doesn't mean he'll be the starter, but it does give Dabo Swinney confidence in the option.

2. A new 'D': First-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele was a great hire, and Clemson's defense will be more aggressive. It hasn't been broken the last four years under Vic Koenning, but Steele will look to sack the quarterback more, and play more man coverage in the secondary, which Butler and Chancellor like.

3. A better O-line: The offensive line will be much better. Clemson ran the ball well this spring without Spiller, who, along with Jacoby Ford was also running track and not allowed to be tackled this spring for fear of getting them hurt. Thomas Austin is a leader and former center who will play guard and Mason Cloy seems comfortable now at center.

Fall questions

1. No. 2 receiver: There's no clear-cut receiver for the No. 2 spot behind Ford, who wasn't around much this spring because of track. There were numerous dropped balls early in the spring, but there was also some improvement. Xavier Dye has the potential to step in and was Korn's teammate for half a year. Redshirt freshmen Brandon Ford and Jaron Brown are also candidates.

2. Parker vs. Korn: Swinney is not being coy when he says Kyle Parker and Willy Korn are "co-No. 1s" going into August camp. The one thing that can't be accurately evaluated in the spring is how well the quarterbacks can run, which is something they'll have to do more in this system. But the quarterbacks can't be tackled in the scrimmages. Korn is the better runner, but Parker was the better quarterback this spring.

3. Safety: The Tigers are still looking to name two starting safeties. DeAndre McDaniel was moved from linebacker to safety, and hasn't played it before. Sadat Chambers, who had 21 tackles on second-string last year, will continue to compete with Carlton Lewis and Rashard Hall this summer.

Clemson's Steele makes transition easy for strong secondary

May, 6, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Over the past three seasons, Clemson cornerback Chris Chancellor had earned the nickname "little Vic" because of his close relationship with former defensive coordinator Vic Koenning.

Koenning had become like a father figure to Chancellor, so when Koenning left for Kansas State because he wasn't guaranteed a spot on Clemson's new staff, it hit Chancellor hard.

Kevin Steele helped make the transition easier.

Steele, Clemson's new defensive coordinator, brought an aggressive scheme with him to Death Valley, but he was also a familiar face. He's known Chancellor since Chancellor was a sophomore at Miami Edison Senior High School and Steele, then a member of Florida State's staff, was recruiting him.

"Me and him go way back," Chancellor said. "When they said they were thinking about getting Kevin Steele I was like, 'what?' Me and coach Steele, we real cool, we connect. When he came, we sat down and talked a little bit, he told me about everything."

Steele inherited an already talented defense and he is working to make even better. Last year, Clemson's defense ranked in the top 20 in the nation in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense. The secondary has been a strength for the Tigers, and it might be the strength of the entire team in 2009. Although it lost its leaders in safeties Michael Hamlin and Chris Clemons, the Tigers return veteran cornerbacks Crezdon Butler and Chancellor.

"We pretty much learned the defense this spring and so far we're liking it," Butler said. "We can be more aggressive at the corner positions. We're looking forward to this year. It's going to be exciting. Last year we were more of zone, and we had the principle of don't get beat deep, so we couldn't play as aggressive. This year it's going to be exciting. It's going to be a different type of defense."

And Butler and Chancellor will be leading it. The two of them have started together in the secondary for each of the past 26 straight games. Butler has 10 career interceptions for 196 yards, tied for the most interceptions and the most return yards among active ACC players. Both of them had four interceptions each last season.

Although their coordinator has changed, their motto has not.

"Me and Butler, we've got a motto: Every time the ball is in the air, if it's not a pick, it's a PBU," Chancellor said. "That's our motto. Every time we hit the field we say that and go out there and give it our all and try to lock people down."

ACC's most overrated of 2008

January, 19, 2009
1/19/09
12:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here is a look at the ACC's most overrated of 2008:

MOST OVERRATED PLAYER: Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper. He was picked as the preseason Player of the Year and the first-team quarterback. He was benched, won his job back, and finished as the ACC's leading passer, but was too inconsistent, didn't always make smart decisions and didn't earn first OR second team all-conference honors.

MOST OVERRATED COACH: In all fairness, I don't think there WAS an overrated coach or coordinator in the ACC. In fact, I think the coaches in the ACC did some of their best jobs this season. You could argue that former Clemson coach Tommy Bowden was overrated this season, but so was his team. And the coordinators who are no longer in the league certainly weren't overrated, but I would argue Clemson defensive coordinator Vic Koenning falls into the underrated category.

(SECOND) MOST OVERRATED TEAM: North Carolina. The Tar Heels were picked to finish second in the Coastal Division and came close at third, but never lived up to the preseason hype or the regular-season ranking. UNC popped and out of the top 25 and finished the season out. Granted, there were numerous injuries and it was a heck of an improvement from a year ago, but it wasn't the championship-caliber season some might have envisioned.

MOST OVERRATED LOSS: Alabama 34, Clemson 10. It seemed as if the world -- and the ACC -- was caving in, but clearly, the Crimson Tide were better than everyone thought. So was the ACC.

MOST OVERRATED UNIT: This is a toss-up. Is it Maryland's veteran offensive line? Virginia Tech's, which had two juniors and two seniors? Or Georgia Tech's defensive line? Well, the best defensive line in the ACC turned out to be at Boston College, and the best offensive line was either at Florida State or Boston College. I'm going to go with Maryland's offensive line, which had three seniors and a junior and allowed 28 sacks this season.

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