NCF Nation: Allen Bailey

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
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The official list for the NFL combine has been released. A total of 48 players from the ACC have been invited to audition for the NFL from February 23 – March 1. When categorized by school, it's somewhat of a reality check to see how many of the best players in the conference are moving on, and which programs will take the biggest hit. It's impossible not to wonder how good North Carolina could have been had all of the following players remained eligible. The Tar Heels will send the most players to the combine with 11.

Here are the players who will represent the ACC:

BOSTON COLLEGE (3)
  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Rich Lapham
  • Mark Herzlich
CLEMSON (7)
  • Da'Quan Bowers
  • Marcus Gilchrist
  • Chris Hairston
  • Jamie Harper
  • Jarvis Jenkins
  • Byron Maxwell
  • DeAndre McDaniel
FLORIDA STATE (3)
GEORGIA TECH (3)
MARYLAND (3)
MIAMI (9)
NORTH CAROLINA (11)
NC STATE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
  • Danny Aiken
  • Ras-I Dowling
VIRGINIA TECH (5)

ACC helmet stickers: Week 8

October, 23, 2010
10/23/10
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Here are the top five performers in the ACC for Week 8:

Clemson. The Tigers snapped a four-game losing streak to Georgia Tech with a 27-13 win. It was a total team effort, as the offensive line paved the way for running back Andre Ellington, and the defense held Georgia Tech’s running game to about 100 yards fewer than its average. Clemson preserved its own record for most rushing yards by a quarterback, holding Joshua Nesbitt to just 2 yards on 15 carries. Ellington rushed for a career-high 166 yards and two touchdowns.

Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He threw for 280 yards and tied a career-high with three touchdowns, and finished with 327 yards of total offense in a 44-7 romp of Duke. Said Duke coach David Cutcliffe: “I don’t see a college quarterback playing any better in the country. Period.”

Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien. A week after throwing three interceptions, O’Brien redeemed himself with three touchdowns and no interceptions, leading the Terps to a 24-21 win over Boston College. It was Maryland’s first road win since September, 2008. O’Brien completed 26 of 39 passes for 179 yards.

Miami defensive end Allen Bailey. He had 3.5 of Miami’s five sacks in the Hurricanes’ 33-10 win over UNC. He was double-teamed, but his strength was too much for the Tar Heels to hold back.

Miami's receivers. Coming into the game, Miami's receivers, running backs and tight ends had combined for over 30 drops. Against UNC's inexperienced secondary, three different receivers caught touchdown passes and helped quarterback Jacory Harris out. Six different players had at least two catches.

Miami takes advantage of depleted UNC

October, 23, 2010
10/23/10
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North Carolina had plenty of excuses, from injuries to suspensions, but the biggest reason the Tar Heels lost to Miami 33-10 on Saturday night was because the Canes finally woke up and decided they wanted to contend for the Coastal Division title.

It was a decision that came not a moment too soon.

This was exactly the kind of win Miami needed and it came when the Canes needed it most -- at home against their former coach with little to no margin for error in the Coastal Division standings. Miami snapped a three-game losing streak to Butch Davis and kept its ACC title hopes alive.

Defensive end Allen Bailey was a monster -- 3.5 sacks -- and the defense forced three turnovers. Quarterback Jacory Harris made good use of his running backs and receivers in the passing game and only had one interception.

North Carolina now has two conference losses, which has the Tar Heels looking up at Virginia Tech and Miami in the conference standings. Their game on Nov. 20 could determine the division winner if Miami continues to play like it did Saturday night.

Another thriller in the making?

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
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CLEMSON, S.C. -- It's still early, but this game has the makings so far of another down-to-the wire game. Thanks to a 71-yard touchdown run by Andre Ellington -- the longest run of his career -- the game is now tied at 7. That was the longest run by a Clemson player since C.J. Spiller in the Chick-fil-A Bowl during the 2007 season. Both teams have scored thanks to their running games, have made key stops defensively and have struggled in the passing game. Miami freshman lineman Seantrel Henderson has been holding his own every other series, and Allen Bailey has again lined up at both end and tackle.

What to watch: Week 5 in the ACC

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
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Here’s a look at what to watch this week in the ACC:
Jacory Harris
Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMIThe Hurricanes need Jacory Harris to cut back on his interceptions.

  • Turnovers in Death Valley and College Park. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has thrown six in the past two games. Clemson is No. 7 in the country in turnover margin, gaining seven and losing two. Duke had five turnovers this past weekend against Army and Maryland is tied for No. 10 in the country in turnover margin with 10 gained and four lost.
  • Clemson’s offensive line vs. Miami’s defensive line. One particular matchup will be right tackle Landon Walker against Miami defensive end Allen Bailey, but it needs to be a group effort. Protecting quarterback Kyle Parker and giving him time will be key, but it won’t be easy. Miami is second in the nation in sacks, averaging 4.67 per game, and leads the nation in tackles for loss with 11.33. Bailey also played 12 snaps at tackle against Pitt.
  • Boston College’s quarterback. The Boston Globe has reported that freshman Chase Rettig will start against Notre Dame, but coach Frank Spaziani hasn’t confirmed it. All we know for sure is that it won’t be Dave Shinskie. Regardless, it could be the difference in the game.
  • FSU’s revamped offensive line. Left tackle Andrew Datko has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury and is listed as day-to-day. Henry Orelus and Garrett Faircloth are both expected to play. Zebrie Sanders could move from right to left tackle.
  • Georgia Tech’s energy. That’s right, it’s that simple, and it’s been missing. Paul Johnson said this week he wants his team to “play like their hair’s on fire” and with a sense of urgency.
  • Atlantic vs. Coastal. All five ACC games this weekend are interdivisional matchups, the first time that has happened since the ACC split into the Atlantic and Coastal divisions in 2005. The Atlantic Division has home-field advantage in four of the five matchups.
  • The record books. NC State quarterback Russell Wilson needs one more touchdown throw to move into sole possession of second place in NC State history in that category behind ACC record-holder Philip Rivers. With 59 touchdown passes for his career, one more will also move him into seventh place in the ACC record books.
  • Virginia Tech in the red zone. The Hokies have been inside the 20-yard line 18 times and scored nine touchdowns. They kicked four field goals last week against Boston College, but will need to have more success against the No. 19 offense in the country or make more even stops on defense.
  • Virginia’s defense vs. Florida State’s offense. Virginia boasts the ACC’s top scoring defense, allowing just 12.3 points per game. Florida State’s offense is third in the conference in scoring (35.2/game) and ranks first in total offense (434.5 yards/game). Virginia has allowed 280.3 yards per game, which ranks second in the league to Miami.
  • North Carolina’s revamped secondary against ECU quarterback Dominique Davis. The Tar Heels’ secondary was one of the positions hit hardest by the suspensions, but those players have held their own. They’ll get another challenge against the No. 9 scoring offense in the country and a passing game averaging just shy of 300 yards per game.
Anytime Miami coach Randy Shannon needs to remind his players about the importance of consistency, he points to last season.

The Hurricanes had a similarly unforgiving start to September -- facing rival Florida State, Coastal Division foe Georgia Tech, and then a road trip to Virginia Tech. Miami had played surprisingly well in a 2-0 start and had once again captured the nation’s attention.

[+] EnlargeShannon
Fernando Medina/US PresswireRandy Shannon has worked on keeping his team focused on the next obstacle ahead.
And then it poured in Blacksburg, and Miami’s name was mud in a 31-7 loss to the Hokies.

Shannon said his team is mature enough this year to avoid similar mental pitfalls, including overlooking his first opponent, Florida A&M. The Canes can’t afford a letdown in what should be little more than a dress rehearsal as they travel to Ohio State in Week 2. The Hurricanes defeated the Rattlers 48-16 last season and have combined to outscore FAMU 355 to 49, dating back to 1980.

“From a lot of things we learned last season, I always refer back to last season,” Shannon said. “Our first three games I think we were very, very focused as a football team last season. Going and playing Virginia Tech, we kind of got away from where we needed to be at. I reminded the guys of that situation happening, that the more you are staying focused on what's ahead of you, don't look down the future, then you'll be OK.”

Shannon said the team has had “an unbelievable practice” in August, and he intentionally put the players in adverse situations to make sure he had their focus each day. He didn’t want them looking ahead to scrimmages or time off.

Receiver Travis Benjamin and other team leaders -- particularly offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, quarterback Jacory Harris, cornerback Brandon Harris and defensive end Allen Bailey -- have helped everyone take a one-game-at-a-time approach.

“If you don’t get past this game with a win, the next game won’t really be that important,” Brandon Harris said. “It won’t be nationally publicized and it won’t help your football team if you have a letdown and lose a game like this, so that’s big motivation. This team (Florida A&M) hung in there and gave it all they had for the first half of the football game (last year). They feel like they have a lot to prove. They feel like they should be wearing the uniform we’re wearing. They obviously want to go out and show everybody they’re just as capable of playing college football as we are.”

The question this year is whether or not Miami is capable of playing at a high level through the entire season.
When Miami coach Randy Shannon talks about the program’s throwback defensive lines -- comprised of former players like defensive tackles Russell Maryland, Cortez Kennedy, Jerome Brown and Warren Sapp -- he points out one common trait: None of them were freshmen when they were at their best.

“People don’t realize it took Russell Maryland three years to be Russell Maryland,” Shannon said. “Cortez didn’t play ‘til his senior year. Jerome Brown played a little bit as a freshman. The third year he blossomed. It always takes a defensive lineman until his third or his fourth year really to come out. Sapp was the same way. Whenever you get somebody in his third or fourth year, they should be ready to take that next step.”

Consider Miami’s defensive line ready.

[+] EnlargeAllen Bailey
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireSenior Allen Bailey (57) led Miami with seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss last season.
This year’s projected starting lineup includes two seniors -- Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes -- and two juniors -- Andrew Smith and Micanor Regis -- but there’s so much depth that the competition continues and nothing is set in stone. Even with the dismissal of Steven Wesley, Miami still has 14 defensive linemen to choose from. If all of them play to their potential, it could be reminiscent of some of the program’s best defensive lines of the past.

“I really wouldn’t want to be on another team that plays against us,” Miami quarterback Jacory Harris said. “Our defensive line is pretty good this year and I’m sure they’re going to open a lot of guys’ eyes.”

“They’re all fast guys, and they also have size on them,” Harris said. “That’s what makes it worse.”

Expectations are highest for Bailey, who at 6-foot-4, 288 pounds led all Miami defensive linemen last year with 34 tackles. He led the team with seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss and should be one of the best players in the conference this fall. Still, he’ll draw a lot of attention from opponents, forcing those around him to raise their level of play.

Bailey said that won’t be a problem.

“We have the talent, we have the athleticism, we have the numbers,” Bailey said. “It’s a real good D-line this year. We could be real good. It’s not only me. We have 16 or 17 d-linemen. There’s like four at each position. It’s improved a lot. It raises the competition for playing time. You’ve got to compete every day, every practice.”

Bailey is roommates with defensive backs DeMarcus Van Dyke and JoJo Nicolas, and lineman Adewale Ojomo. To them, he’s known as the “house chef.”

“He knows how to cook everything -- shrimp pasta, chicken pasta, everything,” Van Dyke said. “Man, he can cook.”

He can also hit.

“I tell him I feed off him,” Van Dyke said. “If he gets three sacks, I get three interceptions. If I get three picks, he’ll get three sacks. That’s how it goes. It’s me and Allen’s last year, so we’re trying to go out with a bang and make it special.”

Miami linebacker Sean Spence said Bailey is “worth every penny” of the preseason hype, but Bailey isn’t the only one capable of making plays.

“We’ve got a lot of depth down there,” Spence said. “You could interchange them easily. All of them could play. I’m expecting good things from those guys this year.”

So is Shannon.

“Over the years these guys should be ready to take that step now,” he said. “ … Those guys are mature now. It should be the time for them to take the next step.”
The ACC released the 2010 preseason all-conference team, as voted on by 52 members of the media at the conference media days in Greensboro, N.C. UNC led all schools with five players selected, followed by Boston College with four players.

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel got the most votes, being named on 48 of the 52 ballots, while North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn (47 votes) and Virginia Tech tailback Ryan Williams (45) were the next highest. Virginia and Wake Forest were the only two schools not represented here.

Offense

WR Donovan Varner, Duke

WR Torrey Smith, Maryland

TE George Bryan, NC State

T Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

T Chris Hairston, Clemson

G Rodney Hudson, Florida State

G Thomas Claiborne, Boston College

C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech

QB Christian Ponder, Florida State

RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech

RB Montel Harris, Boston College

Defense

DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

DE Allen Bailey, Miami

DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina

DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland

LB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

CB Kendric Burney, North Carolina

CB Brandon Harris, Miami

S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

S Deunta Williams, North Carolina

Specialists

PK Matt Bosher, Miami

P Matt Bosher, Miami

SP Torrey Smith, Maryland
Each school brings two players to the annual ACC media days, which will be held July 25-26 in Greensboro, N.C., and the conference today announced the attendees.

Boston College:
Anthony Castonzo, offensive tackle, senior, Hawthorn Woods, Ill.
Mark Herzlich, linebacker, senior, Wayne, Pa.

Clemson:
Chris Hairston, offensive tackle, Senior, Winston-Salem, N.C.
DeAndre McDaniel, safety, senior, Tallahassee, Fla.

Duke:

Bryan Morgan, center, senior, Hoover, Ala.
Chris Rwabukamba, cornerback, senior, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Florida State:

Christian Ponder, quarterback, senior, Colleyville, Tex.
Everett Dawkins, defensive tackle, sophomore, Spartanburg, S.C.

Georgia Tech:

Roddy Jones, A-Back, junior, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Jason Peters, defensive end, junior, Baton Rouge, La.

Maryland:

Torrey Smith, wide receiver-kickoff returner, junior, Colonial Beach, Va.
Alex Wujciak, linebacker, senior, West Caldwell, N.J.

Miami:

Matt Bosher, place-kicker/punter, senior, Jupiter, Fla.
Allen Bailey, defensive tackle/end, senior, Sapelo, Ga.

North Carolina:

T. J. Yates, quarterback, senior, Marietta, Ga.
Robert Quinn, defensive end, junior, Ladson, S.C. .

NC State:

Owen Spencer, wide receiver, senior, Leland, N.C.
Nate Irving, linebacker, senior, Wallace, N.C.

Virginia:

Marc Verica, quarterback, senior, Lansdowne, Pa.
Ras-I Dowling, cornerback, senior, Chesapeake, Va.

Virginia Tech:

Tyrod Taylor, quarterback, senior, Hampton, Va.
John Graves, defensive tackle, senior, Richmond, Va.

Wake Forest:

Josh Adams, running back, senior, Cary, N.C.
Russell Nenon, center, senior, Memphis, Tenn.

A few observations:
  • It will be nice to have BC linebacker Mark Herzlich and NC State linebacker Nate Irving back and talking about football again. Get ready for a lot of injured-linebackers-return stories.
  • Nine of the players are linemen, as over half of the conference has some studs up front. Hopefully a lot of folks will take some time to talk to Duke center Bryan Morgan, an unheralded guy who is super-smart, much improved and downright interesting.
  • No Nesbitt? No problem. I like the guy, really I do, but he's one of the quietest players in the league. I've asked him dozens of questions every which way and every time it seems like the last thing in the world he wants to do is an interview. Jones and Peters will represent the Jackets well and say all the right things.
  • No Clemson quarterback? No kidding.
  • Who doesn't want to talk to Miami's kicker?
  • Oh c'mon, leave Yates alone. I feel like his big sister. Yeesh.
  • Best interview not on the list: Georgia Tech's Anthony Allen.
  • Speaking of ... Man, is Bobby Bowden gonna be missed at this thing. Prime time entertainment at that table.

What to watch in the ACC this spring

February, 15, 2010
2/15/10
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Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Spring practice starts: March 18

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• How linebacker Mark Herzlich progresses. Herzlich, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer last May, has been going through winter conditioning with his teammates, and he plans on participating in spring drills. How quickly he regains his form will be worth watching, as he and sophomore Luke Kuechly could give the Eagles one of the most formidable linebacking corps.

• The quarterback battle. After one season, Dave Shinskie has the most experience on the roster, but he’ll get some competition from Josh Bordner and Chase Rettig, two early enrollees. There were times last season when Shinskie looked like the future of the position and there were others when he looked like any other freshman.

• Defensive linemen. For the second straight year, BC is looking for some stability up front. The Eagles have to replace left tackle Austin Giles and defensive end Jim Ramella. They return Kaleb Ramsey, Giles’ backup, and Brad Newman, Ramella’s reserve, but some young faces are likely to be seen in the rotation.

CLEMSON

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Life without C.J. Spiller officially begins. The backs behind him had a pretty good year, so there’s no need for full panic mode. Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington actually combined for a higher yards per carry average (6.1 to 5.6 yards). Clemson will also be looking to replace Spiller’s lost kickoff return yardage. The Tigers had a 13-yard advantage in average starting field position, as their start was their own 37-yard line compared to opponents’ 24-yard line. Ellington is a candidate in the return game.

• Kyle Parker’s batting average. No, really. How well Parker does this spring with the baseball team will help determine whether he remains Clemson’s quarterback or turns to the MLB draft. He didn’t have a great 2009 season, but he was still the fastest player to 25 home runs in school history. It remains to be seen this spring if he’ll become a high enough draft choice to give up college football.

• Secondary shuffling. It seems like eons ago since Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor weren’t the Tigers’ starting corners, as Butler started 40 straight games and Chancellor started 42. Butler finished his career second in school history in interception return yards. Now it’s time for a new duo. Will Marcus Gilchrist move to corner, which he’s capable of doing? Might Rashard Hall move to safety with DeAndre McDaniel?

DUKE

Spring practice starts: Feb. 14

Spring game: March 27

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Somebody has to take over for the graduated Thaddeus Lewis, but his backup – Sean Renfree – will miss the spring with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Sean Schroeder should be heavily in the mix to be the starter, pending Renfree’s recovery.

• Defensive line makeover. It’s wide open. Charlie Hatcher is entrenched at nose guard, but it’s really anyone’s game. The staff might move redshirt senior Wesley Oglesby, who played the majority of his career at defensive end, inside. Other options are defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento, a redshirt freshman, and Curtis Hazelton, who played sparingly last season.

• Johnny Williams’ move from wide receiver to cornerback. He had 31 catches in 2009 – the fourth-best on the team. Now they need his help in the defensive backfield. Duke will lose starter Leon Wright and his 10 career interceptions, and the pass defense, which allowed 215.75 yards per game, could use a boost.

FLORIDA STATE

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Christian Ponder’s return from shoulder surgery. Ponder is expected to practice this spring, though it could be on a limited basis, at least early. He’s ahead of schedule, but the coaches won’t subject him to any risks now. Yes, E.J. Manuel is talented and played well at the end of the season, but make no mistake – Ponder is FSU’s starter and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

• The defense under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. His secondary, in particular, will be interesting to watch, as will how quickly he can help the front seven generate a pass rush and plug the middle. Stoops has been a secondary coach, and the Noles lost three starters there. The fourth, Ochuko Jenije, could be pushed to retain his job.

• New faces, new opportunities. In addition to the fab freshmen who are coming in, FSU has a handful of unfamiliar players already on the roster who played sparingly or not at all. We'll see how they fit in this spring. RS-So DT Anthony McCloud and RS-So RB Debrale Smiley are both junior college transfers and former teammates. Physically, freshman linebacker Jeff Luc is already a man, but how quickly can he mature on the field? Two young wide receivers worth watching are Rodney Smith and Willie Haulstead.

GEORGIA TECH

Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The defensive transformation. The Jackets will switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under first-year coordinator Al Groh. In addition to learning the new scheme, the staff has to figure out who goes where. Linebackers might play defensive end and vice versa, safeties might play outside linebacker. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this team lines up in the spring.

• The replacements. From Georgia Tech’s coaching staff to the new faces who will be tasked with filling in for the Fab Four -- Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett and Demaryius Thomas -- the Jackets will need some “Hello My Name Is” tags this spring.

• The offensive line. Three offensive linemen redshirted who could start, and Georgia Tech might need them to, especially if guard Joseph Gilbert decides to transfer to pursue his MBA. The Jackets lose two starters on the offensive line, and Gilbert, who graduates this spring, would be a third if he leaves. Center Sean Bedford and tackle Austin Barrick return as seniors.

MARYLAND

Spring practice starts: March 23

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. Chris Turner has graduated, leaving Jamarr Robinson the top option going into the spring, but he has limited experience. The staff liked what he did when Turner was injured, but Danny O’Brien, Miami (Ohio) transfer Clay Belton and C.J. Brown will all be given an opportunity. Look for O’Brien to start the spring at No. 2 on the depth chart.

• Cornerback: Cameron Chism is the only returning starter in the secondary, but right now the staff has fewer concerns about the safeties. Maryland will have to find some bodies at corner, and Dexter McDougle, who redshirted as a true freshman last year, is one option. Michael Carter and Trenton Hughes, who was the third corner last year, are also among a handful of candidates.

• The offensive line. Losing Bruce Campbell to the NFL hurt, but the Terps also lost starter Phil Costa. Justin Gilbert, a redshirt sophomore, could inherit Campbell’s job. And there’s always Mr. Versatility -- Paul Pinegar. He has helped the Terps at both tackle spots and left guard, and this spring he’ll likely be given a shot at center.

MIAMI

Spring practice starts: Feb. 23

Spring game: March 27 (tentative)

What to watch:

• Tight end/offensive line: Jimmy Graham is gone, and the Canes don’t return any tight ends with any experience other than Richard Gordon, who was injured the majority of last season. Miami signed four tight ends in this recruiting class, but none of them were early enrollees. Miami has to replace three starters up front, including both tackles and the center.

• How the two young quarterbacks perform: The health of Jacory Harris was precious last year, as he had nobody behind him with any experience after the transfers of Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith. The depth has improved a bit with A.J. Highsmith, who played sparingly last year, and Stephen Morris, one of the early enrollees.

• Upgrade on the d-line? Progress up front began with the hire of Rick Petri as defensive line coach, and it’s up to Petri to help the Canes become better pass rushers. Miami will depend upon its two mainstays -- Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes. The right end position was a group effort last year, and Miami has to replace Joe Joseph and Eric Moncur.

NORTH CAROLINA

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback T.J. Yates. It’s his job to lose, and the coaching staff still has confidence in him, but Bryn Renner is waiting in the wings, and Braden Hanson will also be given an opportunity. The staff is looking for the offense to improve its passing efficiency and cut down on turnovers.

• The offensive line. It was a patchwork effort in 2009, thanks to injuries and inexperience, and will be a major key in how much UNC improves offensively this year. The Heels have to replace two starters, and Jonathan Cooper is likely to move from guard to center, and right guard Alan Pelc will miss spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery.

• Defensive line tweaks. There aren’t many questions on a defense that should be one of the best in the country, but somebody has to replace Cam Thomas and defensive end E.J. Wilson. Tydreke Powell is the frontrunner to take over at defensive tackle and Quinton Coples at defensive end. Both were backups last year at their respective positions.

NC STATE

Spring practice starts: March 9

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• Backup quarterback Mike Glennon. Russell Wilson is the starter, but he’s going to be playing baseball all spring. Keep an eye on his backup to see if Glennon can make it any more of a competition in Wilson’s absence.

• Chris Ward at punter. No, it’s not usually, the highlight of the spring, but in this case, it’s necessary. Ward is it -- he’s their only option right now, and it’s a position the Pack struggled with last year. Ward was expected to be the starter last season, but he was inconsistent. He’s definitely got the talent to be the guy.

• The recovery of linebacker Nate Irving. After being severely injured in a one-car crash last summer, Irving is hopeful he can go through spring drills. He has been lifting with the team and running with the sports medicine staff, but it’s still uncertain how limited his contact will be.

VIRGINIA

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Marc Verica is the only one with any experience, and first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor hasn’t been in Charlottesville long enough to evaluate any of the candidates. That’s what the spring is for, and true freshman Michael Strauss is the lone incoming quarterback on campus, so he’ll have a head start on the playbook. Of the four quarterbacks Virginia signed in this year’s class, Strauss is the only one listed as a true quarterback. The Cavs also have Ross Metheny, who redshirted last year, and Riko Smalls, who redshirted in ‘08 and was No. 2 on the depth chart when Verica was out with a concussion.

• Coaching transition. First-year coach Mike London has hired almost an entirely new staff, and they’ll bring changes in philosophy and scheme. London has said he wants to get the defense back to the traditional 4-3, and revert to the tradition of featuring the tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs.

• Running back. The Cavs will have the help up front, but they need to replace their four leading rushers in Mikell Simpson, Rashawn Jackson, Vic Hall and Jameel Sewell. The staff will look at true freshman Kevin Parks, but also have Torrey Mack and Dominique Wallace, who had just seemed to be coming on at Southern Miss when he was injured and missed the rest of the season.

VIRGINIA TECH

Spring practice starts: March 31

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• Revamped defensive line. The Hokies have to replace three of four starters up front. The only defensive ends with significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. Redshirt freshmen will be given a chance – Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins – but they’ve never played. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other end who’s played and that was a skinny minute. At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the frontrunner to replace Cordarrow Thompson.

• Darren Evans’ comeback. Evans, the team’s leading rusher in 2008, is working his way back from a season-ending ACL injury, and one of the biggest questions in Blacksburg is how the staff will divide the carries in such a talented backfield that includes Ryan Williams. With two returning 1,000-yard rushers, will David Wilson decide to redshirt? The spring will help him in that decision.

• The evolution of Tyrod Taylor. He’s going to be a senior, and with so many questions on defense heading into the season, the offense will be leading the way. This should be a breakout year for Taylor, who by now should have mastered the offense and should consistently be a passing threat to compliment his running abilities.

WAKE FOREST

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. It’s the most glaring hole the Deacs have to fill this spring, as they’re tasked with replacing the winningest quarterback in school history, Riley Skinner, and his backup, Ryan McManus. Redshirt sophomores Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones, and sophomore Brendan Cross, will compete with rookie Tanner Price for the top spot.

• Offensive line. The Deacs will take a huge hit here, as seven players in the two-deep depth chart were redshirt seniors, including all four tackles. Three starters have to be replaced.

• The interior defensive line. Nose guard Boo Robinson and John Russell have graduated, and Russell’s backup, Michael Lockett, was also a redshirt senior. The Deacs are in good shape at the ends, but will need some help inside.
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ACC recruiting rewind

February, 2, 2010
2/02/10
3:30
PM ET
You would think that with how well the ACC has fared in recruiting the past four years, it would have eventually made a bigger push on the national landscape during the season. Miami has had three top-10 classes, and Florida State has had two. Overall, the trend in the ACC has been that Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina have led the conference on the recruiting front. Three of those teams have appeared in ESPN.com's final Top 25 ranking in each of the past four years (UNC has been there three of the past four.) Only the Hokies, though, have had it translate into postseason success -- so far. There was a common thread, though, amongst the other programs -- a coaching change or, in Florida State's case, coaching questions.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Paul Abell/US PresswireAldarius Johnson was one of 12 ESPNU 150 players in Miami's No. 1-rated 2008 class.
It was impossible to predict, though, that players like former Miami quarterback Robert Marve would transfer, or that former FSU linebacker Marcus Ball would have off-field troubles and ask for his release.

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 proved otherwise (see: Virginia Tech).

2006

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)

2007

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)

2008

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)

2009

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)

ACC helmet stickers: Week 12

November, 16, 2008
11/16/08
2:52
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here are the top performers for Week 12:

Miami's defensive line. The Hurricanes had a season-high seven sacks in the Canes' 16-14 win against Virginia Tech. Defensive end Marcus Robinson had three, right tackle Marcus Forston and left tackle Joe Joseph each got one, and defensive end Allen Bailey made one on a critical fourth-down stop of Tyrod Taylor with two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Maryland's offensive line. The Terps showed dramatic improvement since their loss to Virginia Tech, and it opened things up in both the running and passing game for a 17-15 win over UNC. They paved the way for a 195-yard rushing performance one week after finishing with minus-12 against the Hokies.

Boston College defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani. It's time to give this man some credit. He figured out a way to stop Florida State's running game, which was averaging 205.2 yards, and held them to 73 yards on the ground in the Eagles' 27-17 win over FSU. BC leads the nation with 21 interceptions, including 10 in the past three games. And the defense or special teams has scored in five straight games. The Eagles forced FSU quarterback Christian Ponder into one of his worst performances of the season.

NC State quarterback Russell Wilson. He accounted for all three of the Pack's touchdowns in a 21-17 upset of Wake Forest and also rushed for a team-high 69 yards. He threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns. In his past six games, Wilson has 12 passing touchdowns and no interceptions.

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. He had 10 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown, and seven catches for 108 yards and a touchdown in the Tigers' 31-7 win over Duke. Spiller's 83-yard touchdown catch and 24-yard scoring run put the Tigers one win closer to a bowl game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Miami quarterback Robert Marve wasn't bothered by the quick three-and-out with about three minutes left against Virginia Tech and a precarious 16-14 lead.

Instead, Marve said he felt rather "comfortable" about it.

 
 Joel Auerbach/US Presswire
 The Miami defense spent much of Thursday's game in the Virginia Tech backfield.

Credit the defense for calming his nerves. Virginia Tech wasn't going anywhere.

"I felt like they had that one drive, they scored a touchdown, but besides that, I think they went more backwards than they did forwards," Marve said.

Indeed, on fourth-and-3, the Hokies' final shot on offense, defensive end Allen Bailey surged into their backfield, wrapped up quarterback Tyrod Taylor and threw him down for a loss of seven yards with 1:56 remaining. The play was just one of a season-high six sacks and punctuated a dominant night for Miami's defensive line, as they were able to control one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league.

"We worked on it this off-week," said Miami coach Randy Shannon. "We did some things in practice we needed to work on, just getting the defensive linemen to understand about run-pass. We were always good on third down -- we could get up the field and do those things -- but recognizing run-pass situations, we worked on that for two weeks and I think it really helped us out this week."

(Read full post)

ACC power rankings

September, 2, 2008
9/02/08
9:55
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Maybe we should rename this the ACC Powerless ranking this week.

The combination of the top-ranked teams losing plus young, inexperienced teams handing out drubbings to programs they should beat made it tough to get a true read on who's really good in this league.

It's pretty easy, though, to tell who's not.

This week's power ranking is based almost entirely on who took care of business in Week 1. Almost.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons had to travel across the country and face a new coaching staff with new personnel, and they still looked like the best team in the league this past weekend. They've got all of the components in place for a second ACC title in three seasons.

Clemson: If the Tigers would have at least looked good losing (see: Michigan State vs. Cal) the loss might have been more acceptable. But this is still a good football team, and one still capable of winning its first ACC title since 1991. In order for that to happen, though, the Tigers need to stay healthy and young players need to grow up quickly -- of the 18 offensive and defensive linemen in the two-deep, Dorell Scott is the lone senior.

Georgia Tech: Yes, it was against Jacksonville State, but Paul Johnson's offense looked good, and the defense made former LSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux look average. (Then again, so did Perrilloux and some of his teammates). If Georgia Tech can improve its kicking game, the Yellow Jackets might surprise some people. Their ACC season begins this weekend in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Miami: Another team that did what it was supposed to. We'll find out just how good the Hurricanes really are when they face Florida. Without Allen Bailey and Eric Moncur healthy, let alone its starting quarterback, Miami didn't have all of its pieces in place for the season opener and still trounced Charleston Southern. Still, nothing worth bragging about yet. We know what Jacory Harris can do (win), now it's Robert Marve's turn.

Maryland: The Terps dropped dramatically because they barely beat Delaware and don't know what's going on at quarterback. The running game, which was a question coming in, seems to have found an answer in Da'Rel Scott, and the defense played well, but until they find somebody who can consistently run the offense, it doesn't matter who is calling the plays.

Florida State: It's too early to give the Noles too much credit when they haven't played a game yet, they lost critical depth at running back, and still don't know who their starting quarterback will be. Only when Wake Forest visits Tallahassee will we be able to get a good read on what FSU is capable of this season.

Boston College: Chris Crane's numbers were rather pedestrian, but he did what he had to do to win -- manage the offense with minimal mistakes. We'll know more about the Eagles (and Georgia Tech for that matter) this weekend. It still looks like the defense will be the most dependable part of this program early on.

Virginia Tech: Sorry, Hokies, but there were too many weaknesses exposed in that game. Poor tackling, a lack of depth on the offensive line, and no Macho Harris all contributed. Sean Glennon said he played well "90 percent" of the time, but this team will need his effort for 110 percent of it if it's going to overcome the youth and inexperience on the roster.

UNC: When you have to exhale after beating McNeese State, you've got some room for improvement. Unfortunately for the Heels, they're not going to be able to depend upon 397 all-purpose yards from Brandon Tate every weekend. If these guys have any hopes of crashing the Coastal, the rest of the offense needs to wake up.

Duke: Surprise. But guess what? They won, and the two teams below them didn't. Not to mention the fact the Blue Devils have the best quarterback of the bunch and three more home games lined up.

Virginia: Not only did the Cavaliers get clobbered, but they looked bad in the process. Yes, it was against a national championship-caliber team with a quarterback who put on a performance worthy of Heisman Trophy consideration. But things like four fumbles and a missed PAT will get you beat against almost anyone.

NC State: This team has major problems and no quarterback. Period. Did you realize that the Pack has now been blanked 71-0 in its last two games? Forget NC State's depth issues. This team has starter issues.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Until he wins an ACC title, Clemson coach Tommy Bowden knows he's going to be answering questions about whether or not he actually can.

It's not like he doesn't have the talent to do it. Just look at how many veterans are being pushed by talented rookies in this program.

Bowden said he planned on using a significant amount of freshmen this season, but a few prominent newcomers have been relegated to the redshirt ranks.

Maryland should surprise some people in the Atlantic Division this year, and the Terps' veteran offensive line is a major reason why.

On the Coastal side, even Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has had to temper his expectations because he had so many questions to answer this summer. Could a defensive tackle nicknamed Taco be one of those answers? Possibly, now that he's slimmed down a bit.

With Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey battling injuries all summer, the freshmen on defense have had to turn it up a notch. Marcus Robinson has been impressive enough to earn consideration to start in the season opener. We don't know who the starting quarterback is at Miami yet, but we know what his backups are doing.

Georgia Tech had a game-style scrimmage Thursday night to prepare for its season opener against Jacksonville State, and it wasn't exactly pretty.

Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner isn't Matt Ryan, but he's tried to be. Now he's ready to be himself -- unflappable

Boston College walk-on cornerback Mark Maglio has never gotten paid for doing his impersonations before -- unless a scholarship counts. Corner DeLeon Gause already has a scholarship, and there's no question he's going to earn it this season, as teams are likely to pick on BC's inexperienced secondary.

The same can be said at UNC, but as Kendric Burney points out, it's not like they're going against no-name receivers in practice every day.

With punter/placekicker Graham Gano out, who will step up?

Speaking of kickers ... can UNC's Casey Barth break his brother Connor's records? First he has to win the job.

And Virginia coach Al Groh isn't ready to name a starting quarterback, but he declared Yannick Reyering his new kicker.

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