NCF Nation: Barry Humphries

ACC Power Rankings: Week 10

October, 27, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

1. Florida State (6-1, 3-1 ACC) -- Welcome to the top, Noles. FSU is the only team remaining in the league with one overall loss, and they have won four straight since the Sept. 20 loss to Wake Forest.

2. Virginia (5-3, 3-1) -- Convinced yet? They've won four straight, including Saturday's road win at Georgia Tech. Quarterback Marc Verica is improving every week, and even the Yellow Jackets couldn't stop tailback Cedric Peerman.

3. Maryland (6-2, 3-1) -- The Terps' win over NC State proved they're taking every opponent seriously now. They're in a tie with FSU for first place in the Atlantic Division, but unlike the Seminoles haven't lost to anyone in their division yet.

4. North Carolina (6-2, 2-2) -- They're ba-ack. And this time they're bowl eligible. If the Tar Heels finish the season the way they finished off the Eagles, they could cause even more chaos in the Coastal.

5. Boston College (5-2, 2-2) -- The turnovers were bound to catch up with them some time, and North Carolina took advantage of it. Four of their five remaining games are against Atlantic Division opponents, though, so opportunities are still there.

6. Georgia Tech (6-2, 3-2) -- The loss to Virginia was a big blow to their chances of winning the Coastal Division, and the Jackets still need one more win to become bowl-eligible for the first time under Paul Johnson.

7. Miami (5-3, 2-2) -- The Hurricanes have won three straight and have a chance this weekend to crash Virginia's party. If they manage the road win, they'll help themselves and half the Coastal Division.

8. Wake Forest (4-3, 2-2) -- First they tried to spread it out. Then they tried to run, run, run. And run some more. Neither has worked. And yet they're holding that win over FSU like an old grudge.

9. Virginia Tech (5-3, 2-2) -- Things don't look so good for the Hokies. Their top two quarterbacks are wearing protective boots this week and their third-string quarterback, Cory Holt, had not taken a significant snap in his five-year career until he had to on Saturday.

10. Duke (4-3, 1-2) -- The Blue Devils got a road win against an SEC team, but need to play the same way against their conference opponents. A win over Wake this week looks possible.

11. Clemson (3-4, 1-3) -- Even during their bye week the Tigers got hurt, losing starting guard Barry Humphries. If Clemson is going to have any shot at a bowl game, it has to start winning now.

12. NC State (2-6, 0-4) -- As long as this team doesn't sulk, it will remain competitive. The Pack has lost three of its past four games by less than 10 points.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here are 10 things worth keeping an eye on this weekend:

1. Reputation: Can the ACC improve upon its 2-4 start against FBS teams? The wins were over Baylor and Kent State and the losses were by an average of 27 points. The spotlight is on Miami and Wake Forest to restore some pride.

2. Robert Marve: All eyes will be on the Hurricanes' redshirt freshman as he makes his collegiate debut against the No. 5-ranked Gators. The number of big passing plays have dropped significantly in the past three seasons. Can two rookies reverse that trend?

3. The other quarterbacks: Daniel Evans is taking over at NC State. Chris Turner at Maryland. Christian Ponder at Florida State. And Tyrod Taylor is back in the mix at Virginia Tech. How will these changes affect each team?

4. Clemson's rebound: Yes, this game is against The Citadel, but Tigers' egos and players have been noticeably bruised. Clemson will be without three key defensive linemen and starting offensive guard Barry Humphries.

5. Virginia Tech's tackling: The Hokies missed open field tackles against East Carolina and safety Kam Chancellor told the Virginia Pilot he missed six of 12. It's something Bud Foster has stressed this week in practice, but this game is the final tune-up before the run-happy Yellow Jackets come to town.

6. Dexter McCluster for Ole Miss: Ole Miss was 0-8 in the SEC last season, but this game is going to be more interesting than people might think, and McCluster is a main reason why. He had 125 all-purpose yards in the season opener. Wake needs this win because it needs to go to Tallahassee 2-0.

7. The X's and O's in Chestnut Hill: It's the debut of Paul Johnson's offense against an ACC opponent, but it's nothing the Eagles haven't seen before, as they beat Navy two years ago in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. What wrinkles will we see from Johnson he didn't reveal in the season opener against Jacksonville State?

8. Wake forcing turnovers: The Demon Deacons have earned a reputation for winning with defense and forcing turnovers, and they made Baylor give the ball back four times. Wake turned three of those miscues into touchdowns. Can they do it again?

9. Richmond coach Mike London: Virginia didn't just lose its best player on defense last season, it also lost its defensive coordinator. Now London has 16 starters back from a CAA championship team that reached the national semifinals of the FCS. Can London pull an upset against his former team?

10. Duke: Can the Blue Devils start 2-0 for the first time since 1998, when they beat Northwestern 44-10 in the second game? They've got home-field advantage and a bit of confidence after winning their season opener, but Northwestern has a score to settle and a talented running back in Tyrell Sutton.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

When Clemson left guard Jamarcus Grant began watching film of Alabama on his own time this summer, he said one overriding thought crept into his head: "Not be a failure."

On an offensive line that has to replace four starters, Grant is the biggest question mark because he has the least experience, but those within the program have said he's had one of the most productive camps.

"I think I'm ready now," said Grant, a redshirt junior who played less than 100 snaps last year. "I'm mature. I've been here three years. I guess three years ago I really didn't feel like things depended on me. Now I feel like I'm being depended on."

There's no question he is.

How Clemson's offensive line fares this season will have much to do with how far the Tigers can go. It's not like Tommy Bowden is filling the holes with players who don't have any experience. Center Thomas Austin is the leader of the group and started 12 of 13 games last season. Right guard Barry Humphries started seven games, including five at center and two at right guard. Left tackle Chris Hairston started in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Auburn at right tackle. Right Tackle Cory Lambert has just one start.

"I'm the only one up there with the least amount of experience," Grant said, "but just playing with those guys, we've been playing together for four years now, so I feel like I'm right there with them."

He's going to have to be. Coach Tommy Bowden has said the offensive line is his No. 1 concern heading into the season opener. This summer, though, has helped answer some questions on the line -- Grant being one of them.

"We're a unit," Grant said. "The players stand behind each other, they push each other. The coaches are letting us know that if you mess up, it's OK. We're going to go watch tape. We're going to get it right. We're going to come back, and we're going to practice, we're going to practice, we're going to practice."

Posted by's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Everywhere Clemson associate head coach and offensive line coach Brad Scott goes around this small town, he's asked about his offensive line. Church. Restaurants. The grocery store.

"I hear it everywhere I go," he said with a laugh. "My wife asks the same question. I said that's not fair, don't you dare ask me that question."

He knows, though, that his group is the biggest question mark the Tigers have heading into a season bursting with expectations.

"We've got the bull's-eye on our backs," Scott said.

There's something about this group, though, he likes. They're friends. They live together, eat together. What they're lacking right now is continuity and starting experience. Scott is trying to make decisions as quickly as he can so he can keep five guys together for the remainder of camp and they develop that trust factor.

So far, here's what he's looking at:

  • Center Thomas Austin is the lone returning starter. He's mature. He's married. And he's making sure the younger players keep their focus.
  • Right guard Barry Humphries started seven games, including five at center and two at right guard. ("But he's got 700 snaps" Scott said, "so I would call him a veteran player.")
  • Left tackle Chris Hairston started in the Chick-fil-A Bowl game against Auburn at right tackle, and logged about 250 snaps in 2007.
  • Right Tackle Cory Lambert played about 150 snaps last season and 26 straight games over the past two seasons, but has just one start.
  • Left guard Jamarcus Grant has played less than 100 snaps.

"He's been the biggest question coming in, but has had one of our best camps," Scott said. "These guys understand they've got to produce. They're working extremely hard. There's a nice chemistry to this group. We are a little unproven but I love their work ethic. If that has anything to do with them having success, then I think we're going to be OK, but it's like a bag of tea. You don't know what you're going to get until you put it in hot water."

There's no doubt the temperature will rise in the season opener against Alabama. Nick Saban is bound to throw multiple defenses at this young group, and while the Tigers have film to study, the question is what Saban is working on this summer that isn't on film, and how quickly Clemson's younger players can adjust to things they haven't seen.

"You've got guys like Barry Humphries and Jamarcus Grant and Cory and Chris who have been in the program for several years and know the terminology," Austin said. "Watching it and practicing it is completely different from doing it full-speed live. Taking that head knowledge and applying it is what we're working on, and building that cohesion that is so vital for an offensive line."

The coaches have done preliminary work on Alabama, but the players are still working on installing offenses and fundamentals. The last 10 practices will be used to game plan for the season opener in the Georgia Dome.

"I don't think it's a group that's going to go out there and lay an egg," Scott said.

Especially with all of the playmakers around them.

"These backs are capable of making some guys miss," Scott said. "Certainly this is the best scenario to have, no doubt about it."

All they need, running back C.J. Spiller said, is a split second.

"That's all we ask of those guys," he said. "A split second I think will get it done."

This will be the second year in a row Clemson will have to replace four starters on the offensive line. The difference was last year, there were fifth-year seniors taking over. Now there is an infusion of youth.

"They're coming along very good," Spiller said. "They're doing way better than what people expect them to do. They're going up against a great defensive line, and that will only make them better every day. And I like the chemistry that they have up there.

"They believe in each other, they make the right calls. They're not letting the outside pressure get to them. With Thomas Austin anchoring the o-line, he's making sure those guys stay focused and don't worry about what people say about them. They'll be ready by the time games start."