ACC: Willy Korn
Offensive linemen: Six players on the final two-deep roster for 2010 were either juniors or seniors, and the Eagles will have to find replacements for Anthony Castonzo, Rich Lapham and Thomas Claiborne. There were two juniors at center in 2011, and the recruiting overall at this position hasn’t been as strong in recent years.
Defensive linemen: The Eagles have been thin at the position to begin with since the departures of Ron Brace and B.J. Raji. The interior line should be a priority, as tackle Damik Scafe will graduate, and Kaleb Ramsey will be a senior. Defensive end Brad Newman will also graduate.
Quarterback: Prior to the early enrollees, Clemson only had one scholarship quarterback on the roster -- projected starter Tajh Boyd. The depth needs to be rebuilt after the loss of starter Kyle Parker and transfer of backup Willy Korn.
Running back: The early departure of Jamie Harper to the NFL left a hole in the Tigers’ lineup. It’s not completely empty, as Andre Ellington remains the best back on the roster and Roderick McDowell was a redshirt freshman backup to Harper.
Offensive lineman – The departures of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon will leave gaping holes up front, and A.J. Ganguzza and Antwane Greenlee aren’t expected to return. Overall, the staff is looking for bigger, better players. With the exception of right guard, this was a veteran group.
Running back: Despite the current depth, the coaching staff still wanted to sign about three more running backs in this class.
Wide receiver: This would be the third priority for the staff. Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling will both be seniors, but the team has lacked some dynamic playmakers at the position.
Linebacker: The Noles lost two starters from last year’s Atlantic Division championship team, and there are several young players on the rise like Jeff Luc and Telvin Smith, but the staff wants more numbers at the position.
Safety: The Noles need an upgrade at this position.
Defensive line: This is a matter of mostly building depth and size and continuing to get better.
Kicker/ Punter: Nick Ferrara has the ability to do both, but he also struggled at both in 2010. Travis Baltz was a four-year starter at punter who has to be replaced. The kicking game should be a top priority in this class, and a concern if Ferrara doesn’t become more consistent.
Wide receiver: The early departure of standout Torrey Smith to the NFL leaves quarterback Danny O'Brien without a favorite target. Seven of the nine receivers listed on the most current depth chart for 2010 were either juniors or seniors.
Running back: The Terps have to replace starter Da’Rel Scott, and Davin Meggett will be a senior. There is some talent behind Meggett in D.J. Adams, but the position could use more depth.
Secondary: Six of the top 10 players in the secondary were either juniors or seniors in 2010, including safety Antwine Perez, who will graduate. Kenny Tate and Cameron Chism will both be seniors, and the corner position is the biggest need.
Defensive end: Defensive coordinator Don Brown would like to bring in at least one player who can really bring some speed off the edge.
Kickers: The Wolfpack lost their starting punter and place-kicker, easily making kickers the biggest need in this recruiting class.
Defensive linemen: With the exception of sophomore Brian Slay, the entire 2010 line was comprised of juniors and seniors. The Pack have to replace two starters, and two returning starters, Jeff Rieskamp and J.R. Sweezy, will be seniors.
Linebackers: This was another veteran group for NC State, with five of the six players on the two-deep either juniors or seniors. Nate Irving’s graduation will be a big hit and Audie Cole will be a senior.
Quarterback: If Russell Wilson leaves early, the position will be even thinner, but backup Mike Glennon will be a junior, so the staff needs to build more depth.
Offensive linemen: The Deacs will have four redshirt juniors returning up front, and have to replace redshirt senior center Russell Nenon. The staff is looking to increase the depth and talent up front.
Linebackers: The position hasn’t been the same since the 2008 class (Aaron Curry and Stanley Arnoux). They were both drafted and two of the fastest players the program has ever seen. The staff needs to bring in more talent and speed here.
Athlon published a list of transfers who could have a significant impact this fall, and the ACC did its part in providing some of the talent, especially at the quarterback position.
Miami played a significant role in that, as you might remember Robert Marve, Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith. It's no wonder coach Randy Shannon has struggled with depth, as five transfers are listed from the Canes. Clemson's Willy Korn also made the list.
The only incoming quarterback listed is Maryland's Clay Belton. The Terps actually made out the best with the transfers, as they could get a nice surprise at tight end with the addition of former Notre Dame two-sport athlete Will Yeatman. Yeatman, also a lacrosse player, has talked extensively with offensive coordinator James Franklin about joining the football team.
A few more transfers worth watching this year include Florida State redshirt sophomores Anthony McCloud (DT), Debrale Smiley (RB), and Duke tight end Cooper Helfet. They are junior college transfers. NC State signed four junior college transfers, and the Pack could use the help up front from OT Mikel Overgaard and DE David Akinniyi.
Here's a reminder at how highly ranked several teams in the ACC have repeatedly finished since 2006, according to ESPN.com's Scouts Inc. rankings. You can click on the year to go to the full ranking. I mentioned a few of the top players in each class who were facing high expectations at the time, or players who weren't facing many expectations and have since proven otherwise (see: Virginia Tech).
No. 6 FSU (Myron Rolle)
No. 13 Clemson (C.J. Spiller, Jamie Cumbie, Ricky Sapp)
No. 17 Miami (Kylan Robinson)
No. 23 Maryland (Pha'Terrell Washington, Drew Gloster)
No. 24 Virginia Tech (Rashad Carmichael, Nekos Brown, Kam Chancellor)
No. 25 UNC (Aleric Mullins, Johnny White)
No. 9 Miami (Robert Marve, Allen Bailey)
No. 11 UNC (Quan Sturdivant, Marvin Austin)
No. 14 Georgia Tech (Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Josh Nesbitt)
No. 15 Virginia Tech (Tyrod Taylor, Blake DeChristopher, Barquell Rivers)
No. 18 Clemson (Willy Korn, Scotty Cooper, Marcus Gilchrist)
No. 25 Florida State (Brandon Paul, Markish Jones)
No. 1 Miami (Sean Spence, Jacory Harris, Aldarius Johnson)
No. 2 Clemson (DaQuan Bowers, Kyle Parker, Jamie Harper)
No. 12 FSU (Zebrie Sanders, E.J. Manuel, Nigel Carr)
No. 15 Virginia Tech (Ryan Williams)
No. 20 NC State (Mike Glennon, Brandon Barnes)
No. 7 Miami (Ray Ray Armstrong, Mike James)
No. 8 FSU (Greg Reid, Jacobbi McDaniel)
No. 13 UNC (Bryn Renner, Donavan Tate, Jheranie Boyd)
No. 18 Virginia Tech (Jayron Hosley, David Wilson, Logan Thomas)
No. 19 Clemson (Tajh Boyd, Bryce McNeal)
- Before you get too excited about the hype surrounding your favorite recruit this season, remember how much Clemson fans adored Willy Korn.
- FSU has lost a top prospect to South Florida, as defensive back Terrence Mitchell has decommitted.
- Duke's goal in this recruiting class is the same as last year -- to get faster and more athletic. It's a start.
- NC State coach Tom O'Brien has gotten the best of UNC coach Butch Davis on the field, but when it comes to in-state recruiting, they're about even.
- Quarterback recruit Mike Rocco switched gears from Louisville to Virginia, where his uncle, Danny, had coaching ties to Al Groh.
- New Virginia offensive coordinator Bill Lazor came highly recommended.
- Miami's former stars now in the NFL reunited in Sunday's Pro Bowl.
- Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker's father, Carl, told the Post and Courier that football has stunted his son's growth in baseball.
- Monday was a big day for the Heels, who added two more players to their class.
- Virginia also added two commitments, including one player who was set to play for Mike London at Richmond.
- Clemson backup quarterback Willy Korn is still searching for a place to transfer to.
- A last-second call from the Senior Bowl sent former Maryland fullback Cory Jackson packing for Mobile.
- There have been several reports that Georgia Tech recruiting coordinator Giff Smith is leaving for the Buffalo Bills, and while I expect it to happen, I haven't talked to Smith about it yet and he hasn't officially handed in his resignation. Once those two things happen, I'll post it.
- FSU junior college transfer Mike Harris knew from watching the Noles they could use a little help in the secondary, and the cornerback plans on lending a hand.
- Miami running back Graig Cooper might be back in time for the 2010 season after all.
- Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt has proved he can be efficient at throwing the ball, too, and it's added another dimension to the Jackets' offense.
- UNC's third-string defensive lineman, Donte Paige-Moss, has been suspended and will not play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Paige-Moss got into a little skirmish after the NC State game.
- Clemson backup quarterback Willy Korn is on the market and shopping for a new school.
- FSU fans weren't the only ones excited about the Noles' most recent commitments.
- Might Miami's former hoopster, Jimmy Graham, be the Canes' top draft pick?
- Maryland has had plenty of memorable moments over the past decade. Here are the top 10, according to Patrick Stevens of the Washington Times.
"I have truly enjoyed my experience at Clemson University,” Korn said in a prepared statement. “I was very blessed and fortunate to have had the opportunity to play football and go to school here.
“The relationships I have built with my teammates will last the rest of my life. Things didn't work out for me on the football field the way I had hoped. However, with two years of eligibility remaining, I really want to go where I can contribute as a starter. So, I plan to transfer to another school in hopes of earning the starting quarterback position.”
Korn will continue to practice with the team and be available to play in the Music City Bowl against Kentucky. He intends to stay at Clemson until May when he will earn his undergraduate degree in communications studies.
Considering how sparingly he played, and the fact that he expressed his frustration about it earlier in the season, this decision doesn't come as a huge surprise. Korn played in six games and completed 12-17 passes for 90 yards and a touchdown this year.
“We met near the end of the season and obviously he wants to transfer to a school where he can be the starter," coach Dabo Swinney said in a statement. "I understand his decision."
Clemson got a lot of its younger players some experience in a convincing 49-3 win over Coastal Carolina.
The Tigers racked up 400 yards of total offense, and they did it without an overwhelming amount of snaps for C.J. Spiller and Kyle Parker. Backup quarterback Willy Korn finally saw some extended playing time and finished with 55 yards and one touchdown on just six pass attempts. Backup running backs Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper led the ground game.
The fact that Spiller had just five carries shouldn't hurt his revived campaign for the Heisman, as most voters should realize the scenario here. That being said, Clemson needs to beat Florida State and stay in the lead for the Atlantic Division in order for Spiller to continue to get serious consideration. That and he has to continue to play like he did against Miami.
Now that the Tigers have left no doubt that their win over Wake Forest a few weeks ago wasn't a fluke, they take a three-game winning streak into next weekend's key game against the Noles.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
As a reporter, it’s not uncommon I have the same questions you do.
So I officially put myself in the shoes of a Clemson fan this afternoon on coach Dabo Swinney’s teleconference.
Here was my question to him:
You have veteran starters back on the offensive line. You have C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford, who are two of the fastest and most explosive players in the country, and yet the Clemson fans are hearing a lot of the same things. Why is it still an execution problem?
“We’re not doing a good enough job of coaching,” Swinney said. “That’s the bottom line. It’s really that simple. We have to do a better job. I hear you. Let me tell you, Heather, I’m a Clemson fan myself. I’m mad. I’m not happy. Nobody should be happy. Nobody is trying to make this a rosy day. I’m very, very disappointed in where we are, but I also understand that this is a football team that did a lot of things to put themselves in position to win.
“We’re a really tough holding call away and a tough third-down play by Georgia Tech, and we moved the ball against a really tough TCU defense, put ourselves in a position and we don’t win. We’re in a position to win at Maryland and we don’t win. We’ve got to learn to win. That’s coaching. That’s the bottom line. ... We’ve got to do a better job with attention to detail and focus on the execution of what we’re doing so we can teach these guys how to win. That’s our job. These kids are giving us good effort. We have to do a better job. That’s the only way to answer that.”
It’s the right answer, and it’s too early to go all Tommy Bowden on Dabo Swinney. It was one bad loss. Losing a close game to Georgia Tech in Atlanta is nothing to be ashamed about. Losing to No. 10 TCU is hardly devastating. And the Tigers are hardly the only team with early blemishes on their ACC record. Clemson can still win the Atlantic Division. Some Clemson fans, though, have run out of patience.
Swinney says he feels sorry for those fans.
“I think you’ve got a group of kids that are playing their butts off, playing hard,” he said. “Everybody has their right to do what they want to do with their money, but I’d say we’ve got a long season still to go. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my life, nothing’s easy. Ain’t nothing easy. Every time I’ve been in the valley -- and I’m in the valley right now -- it’s lonely down there. But every time I’ve been in the valley, I’ve always come out better because of it. That’s how I apply this. I’m not happy. Nobody should be happy. Everybody ought to be ticked off because we’re 2-3. But to take your ball and go home, that’s never been my attitude, it’s never been my mentality. This is in the idle of the season. ... Let’s play this season out. Let’s support these kids. Nobody has to support me. Nobody has to like the coaches or anything like that. That’s not what it’s all about.”
Swinney said there won’t be any changes to any coaching responsibilities during the bye week, he’s sticking with starting quarterback Kyle Parker.
Last year, in addition to the coaching staff, the offensive line took most of the heat. Swinney said that shouldn’t be the case this year.
“The offensive line is not dominant by any means, but we’re much better than we were last year,” Swinney said. “That’s reality. There may be a different perception, but that’s reality. There ain’t no doubt about it. We’re better.”
If the offensive line is better, and Ford and Spiller are better, and there’s no reason to bench Parker in favor of Willy Korn, then the only other explanation for the Tigers’ offensive struggles is the one Swinney gave -- coaching.
It’s up to this staff to reverse the direction this team is headed, and it has a bye week to do it.
“I’m going to keep working, keep swinging the axe,” Swinney said, “because I know the tree’s going to fall.”
If I'm a Clemson fan, I'd be willing to give him some more time to prove it.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
It’s a good thing for the ACC that backup quarterbacks weren’t needed in September the way they were needed throughout the rest of the country (SEE: Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Robert Griffin, just to name a few). Had Miami’s Jacory Harris or Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor gone down early against the ranked opponents each of those teams faced -- including each other -- the ACC would be in big trouble right now. (Remember the panic, Miami fans, when FSU’s Greg Reid whacked Harris’ funny bone in the opener?)
Here’s to a healthy season in the ACC, and here’s a look at which backup quarterbacks are ready to roll after one month of football:
READY TO ROLL
Sean Renfree, Duke: He’s Duke's quarterback of the future and has already been groomed as such. Renfree has appeared in 13 series, completing 29-of-43 pass attempts for 286 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.
Mike Glennon, NC State: He played in every game except last weekend against Pittsburgh, and has completed 10 of 13 passes for 85 yards. He’s a much more dependable option than the Pack had in the past.
Vic Hall, Virginia: He was actually the starting quarterback in the season opener, and is arguably the most athletic player the Cavaliers have, but injured his hip and hasn’t played since the William & Mary game. He’s a veteran leader who has already proven himself in a multitude of roles. Hall, Jameel Sewell and Marc Verica could all be backups any given Saturday, and they're all experienced and ready to roll. If Sewell is the starter, Hall can play just about anywhere else.
Jaybo Shaw, Georgia Tech: Shaw was finally cleared to play and could make his first appearance of the season this weekend at Mississippi State after breaking his collarbone this summer. He began throwing again on Sept. 7, and proved last year he’s a tough player who can run and pass well.
HAS THE HYPE
E.J. Manuel, Florida State: He’s definitely gotten more hype than he has playing time this fall, as Manuel played in two games and has completed just 1-of-2 passes for four yards. Manuel, recruited by Jimbo Fisher, was an ESPNU 150 prospect and the No. 6 ranked quarterback in the class of 2008.
Willy Korn, Clemson: Well, it’s more like he HAD the hype. It’s hard to believe Korn was the No. 12 quarterback in the class of 2007. Korn was relegated to the bench this summer in favor of Kyle Parker and has only played in two games. He’s also expressed his displeasure in the fact he’s only thrown two passes this year.
A.J. Highsmith, Miami: He earned a quick promotion after Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith both transferred, but all Highsmith has so far is hype and pedigree. He’s the son of former Miami and NFL running back Alonzo Highsmith, and was the No. 24-ranked quarterback in the class of 2009.
Ju-Ju Clayton, Virginia Tech – The former scout team quarterback was in on 23 snaps against Marshall, but threw three incompletions. Clayton won the job over Marcus Davis this past spring, who was moved to wide receiver. If Taylor is injured, uncertainty is the only thing behind him.
Jamarr Robinson, Maryland – The fact that Chris Turner has been sacked 14 times and hasn’t missed a snap makes you wonder about the confidence Ralph Friedgen has in his backup. Robinson, who was promoted after Josh Portis transferred, hasn’t seen the field yet.
Ryan McManus, Wake Forest – The redshirt senior is also a holder and backup longsnapper. He played against Elon and completed 1-of-4 passes, the only four plays he was in on as quarterback.
Justin Tuggle, Boston College – There wasn’t much separation between Tuggle and Dave Shinskie until the Wake Forest game, as both of them started with zero experience. Both have been used in every game, but it’s unclear where Tuggle’s future is headed. He has 229 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions so far.
Braden Hanson, North Carolina – He was given a shot ahead of Mike Paulus this year, and was 0-for-2 with one interception in his only chance against The Citadel, but they’re both listed as the backups this week. Neither has proven anything yet.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Clemson quarterback Willy Korn thought he had a guarantee from coach Dabo Swinney that he would play in every game. It's not hard to see why.
In August, when Kyle Parker was named the Tigers' starting quarterback, Swinney said:
"Willy Korn has shown great improvement since the spring and deserves to play. He will play against Middle Tennessee and it is my intent to get him into every game this year. I have the utmost confidence that both quarterbacks can lead us to victory."
Swinney told the Columbia State in August:
"My plan is to play him every game and allow him to compete."
You can see how Korn might have expected to play in every game this season, but as Swinney has learned, plans change. Korn didn't get into the games against ranked opponents Georgia Tech and TCU, and has since expressed his displeasure about it.
I asked Swinney about how he handled this situation on today's ACC teleconference.
"First of all, we play the best player here," he said. "The best quarterback is our starter. He's the guy that's earned the job on the field, and my intention is to play Willy every game. I really want to do that. He's played in every game but two. In one of those, we got down 24-0 after about two series. And the other one didn't have much opportunity in the first half, and then we're playing in a driving rain storm. It just wasn't a good opportunity to get him in there.
"I do feel like Willy brings some things to the table and hope to continue to play him, but you have to practice well, you have to perform well when you get your opportunity. There's no guarantees in anything. Willy Korn can help this football team for sure, and he'll get his opportunities to do that. I anticipate him getting in there Saturday, and hopefully he plays well."
Of course, as Swinney knows, there's no guarantee.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There's still lots of football left to be played ...
- Here's a quick rundown for Georgia Tech fans on this week's opponent, Mississippi State.
- BC coach Frank Spaziani looks past Florida State's inconsistencies and sees only its athleticism.
- The Noles aren't the only team that have looked different from one week to the next. UNC is still trying to figure out its identity after the loss to Georgia Tech.
- Clemson backup quarterback Willy Korn is like every other backup -- he just wants to play. He said he remains committed to Clemson this season, but next? Who knows.
- NC State's defense isn't getting wrapped up in its impressive stats this season. Those within the program say there's still room to improve.
- Virginia had a productive bye week and now that the conference play is starting, views it as a new season. Al Groh got time to watch other games across the country and said he saw a lot of teams and players being anointed way too early. It's also too soon to count Groh out.
- Oklahoma can score. Can Miami's defense stop the Sooners? Defensive coordinator John Lovett wanted to make darn sure they don't forget what happened against Virginia Tech.
- Sure, the NFL is nice, but Virginia Tech defensive tackle Demetrius Taylor has his heart set on these three letters -- FBI.
- There's one very good explanation for Maryland's troubles this season, and it's the recruiting on the offensive line.
- FSU freshman defensive tackle Jacobbi McDaniel could miss Saturday's game at BC.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Last week against Middle Tennessee, Clemson sophomore linebacker Brandon Maye switched his uniform number from 20 to 17 in honor of teammate Stanley Hunter, who was forced to give up football in August when his repeated battles with epilepsy were just too much to overcome to play at the FBS level. A different Clemson player will wear his number 17 throughout this season in his honor. This week that honor falls to sophomore quarterback Willy Korn. Hunter remains involved with the team as a student assistant coach.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
It was the heart of Clemson’s problems last year -- so much so that former offensive coordinator Rob Spence was fired, the offensive line took most of the heat, former quarterback Cullen Harper was benched in favor of Willy Korn, and a team loaded with speed and talent baffled anyone who watched with its ineptitude.
As the Tigers head into Thursday night’s game at Georgia Tech -- the ACC’s marquee matchup of the week -- they do so still having something to prove offensively under first-year coordinator Billy Napier and coach Dabo Swinney. First-year starting quarterback Kyle Parker, who showed his potential in Saturday’s 37-14 win over Middle Tennessee, will face one of the better secondaries in the conference, as the Jackets are led by safety Morgan Burnett, and a linebacking corps that is more experienced and healthier than it was a year ago.
“I think our secondary is pretty good, and our guys have to go against them in practice every day, so they’ve been matched up with good guys before,” Parker said. “They’re definitely going to have to play lights-out to be successful, but I think they’ve seen the caliber athletes we’ll be matched up against.”
Parker completed 9 of 20 passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns, but the Tigers left a lot of plays on the field in the process. There were several dropped balls, including two wide-open passes to top receiver Jacoby Ford. And while the receiving corps is no doubt talented, its consistency has been in question since summer camp. Injury-prone running back C.J. Spiller left the game early with a minor foot injury, leaving some to wonder if he really can carry the offensive load by himself. And, finally, just how much better is Clemson’s offensive line, which returns all five starters from a year ago?
“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Parker said. “We’re just going to go out and work on it. We kind of limited ourselves and we made a lot of mistakes, but I don’t think it’s anything too big to worry about. I think our guys will get better.”
The Tigers were 4-of-14 on third-down conversions, lost a fumble and threw an interception. And Parker said there were a few times he could’ve gone somewhere else with the ball, but he’s convinced he and his receivers will get better with time.
“I think the chemistry is pretty good. In the game Saturday they dropped some balls early on, but you could definitely tell they were getting better and they made some plays later on in the game,” Parker said. “I think they’ll get better every time they go out there and get experience.”
Thursday night’s game will reveal a lot about how far the Tigers have come under the new staff, and how much more experience is needed.
Duke coach David Cutcliffe warned his team not to take Mike London's Richmond team lightly. A 7-2 Richmond lead might have reinforced his message. The Blue Devils just got on the board with a safety.
The ACC is getting off to a rocky start, but the teams that were expected to easily handle their lesser opponents are taking care of business. It took UNC a while to get going, but the Tar Heels now lead The Citadel, 23-0, at halftime. Receivers Johnny White and Greg Little, the two receivers who returned with any experience, have each caught touchdown passes, which is a good sign for the passing game, especially since Dwight Jones is out.
At Virginia, Vic Hall and Jameel Sewell have both run for touchdowns, and the Cavaliers are barely keeping William & Mary at bay. Obviously UVA needs the athleticism of their quarterbacks just like Virginia Tech did with Tyrod Taylor last year. They've only got 65 passing yards, and somehow they're still leading despite four turnovers. That's something Wake Forest was unable to do.
Clemson is having its way with Middle Tennessee, but only because of its return game -- Jacoby Ford is ba-ack -- and the three field goals of Richard Jackson. Kyle Parker is having a respectable day, but Willy Korn's fumble led to Middle Tennessee's lone touchdown of the game and Clemson has a 30-7 lead.