NCF Nation: Blake DeChristopher
ESPN.com is announcing its all-conference teams, and there was only one change here from the all-conference ACC team that the members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association voted on in late November. Offensively, the biggest toss-up was Wake Forest receiver Chris Givens versus UNC’s Dwight Jones, but Givens did more with fewer catches. Defensively, it was difficult. I can understand why Virginia Tech and Florida State coaches and players felt slighted, but in the end, there were better individual performances elsewhere. Here’s a look at ESPN.com’s All-ACC team:
WR Conner Vernon, Duke
WR Dwight Jones, North Carolina
TE George Bryan, NC State
T Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech
T Andrew Datko, Florida State
G Brandon Washington, Miami
G Omoregi Uzzie, Georgia Tech
C Dalton Freeman, Clemson
QB Danny O’Brien, Maryland
RB Montel Harris, Boston College
RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech
DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State
DT Tydreke Powell, North Carolina
DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson
LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
LB Sean Spence, Miami
LB Kenny Tate, Maryland
CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia
CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech
S Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami
S Eddie Whitley, Virginia Tech
PK Will Snyderwine, Duke
P Shawn Powell, Florida State
SP Greg Reid, Florida State
We won't know how Virginia Tech handles this as far as the lineup goes until the depth chart is released on Thursday for practice, but Vinston Painter and Michael Via are the leading candidates to replace DeChristopher, according to a school spokesman. Via started three games at center as a redshirt freshman in 2009 and played well, but he has played mostly tackle since. He was expected to concentrate on the center spot this fall.
Of course it's reason for concern, especially with a first-year starting quarterback taking over. Virginia Tech wants the best protection it can have for Logan Thomas, but there are two reasons for optimism here:
1. Virginia Tech's schedule. The Hokies aren't exactly lining up against Boise State without DeChristopher. They open against Appalachian State and a road trip to East Carolina.
2. Depth. The fact that Virginia Tech even has options as to what to do without DeChristopher is a sign that the depth up front is better than it has been in recent years.
2. Andrew Datko, Florida State: He has played his entire career at left tackle, where he has protected the quarterbacks' blind side extremely well. He allowed just one sack in 11 games (all starts) last year, stifling heralded pass-rushers from Oklahoma, Miami, Clemson, Florida and Virginia Tech. He was penalized just three times and had only five missed assignments in 691 snaps. Datko's season average grade of 87 was second on the team only to Rodney Hudson.
3. Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech: He’s the veteran on the offensive line, with 37 career starts. He was a second-team All-ACC selection at tackle last fall when he graded out at 83 percent with a team-leading 59 knockdown blocks.
4. Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina: He is the veteran on the line with 22 career starts. He started all 13 games last year and played a team-high 875 snaps. He led the Tar Heels in knockdown blocks for the second straight year with 55. He graded out at 83 percent, tied with James Hurst for the best on the team.
5. Jaymes Brooks, Virginia Tech: He’s entering his third season as starting right guard, and is powerful and explosive. He had a season-high nine knockdowns against Florida State in the ACC championship game, and eight in the opener against Boise State.
6. Dalton Freeman, Clemson: He has started each of the past 22 games at center and finished second on the team with 58 knockdown blocks. He allowed just two sacks and was third on the team with a grade of 80.6 percent. He led the team in knockdown blocks in six games and four of the last seven.
7. James Hurst, North Carolina: He was one of the top freshmen in the country last year, and made an immediate impact with 12 starts at left tackle. He was third on the team with 33 knockdown blocks and tied with Cooper for a team-high grade of 83 percent.
8. Omoregie Uzzi, Georgia Tech: He was a second-team all-conference guard last year and started all 12 games he played in. He’s strong, has good lateral quickness, and has become more fundamentally sound. He should be the leader of the line this year.
9. Zebrie Sanders, Florida State: He started all 14 games last year and was the only Seminole lineman credited with at least one knockdown block in 13 of 14 games. He finished second on the team with 37 knockdown blocks, and had a season average grade of 81 percent, which was the best of his career. He ranks third among all FSU linemen with 37 career starts, including 23 consecutive.
10. Landon Walker, Clemson: He has played in 39 games (35 starts). Last year he had 30 knockdowns, at least one in every game, and had five and a team-high 87 percent grade against Auburn.
1. North Carolina: Three starters and one part-time starter return from last year’s team, and this line could be the biggest and best since Butch Davis was hired. Guard Jonathan Cooper (22 starts), center Cam Holland (20) and tackle James Hurst (12) have combined for 54 career starts. Travis Bond has four starts and is the leading candidate to take over at the other guard position.
2. Miami: The Canes return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen including four starters from last year, and Joel Figueroa was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Even with the coaching change, the Canes should be strong up front. Center Tyler Horn is a veteran, Brandon Washington is a difference-maker, and there’s enough competition that Seantrel Henderson spent most of the spring as a backup.
3. Clemson: First-year offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has four returning starters to work with in Landon Walker, Antoine McClain, Dalton Freeman and David Smith. They also have top reserve Mason Cloy, who has 19 career starts and has played in 38 games. There is plenty of depth for a dependable rotation.
4. Virginia Tech: All four returnees started every game last year, and there is enough depth that the Hokies should be able to rotate the most players up front they ever have. It’s a veteran group led by Blake DeChristopher, Andrew Lanier, Jaymes Brooks and Greg Nosal.
5. Florida State: Despite the losses of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon, there’s experience up front. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of tackle Andrew Datko, left guard Bryan Stork or David Spurlock, center Jacob Fahrenkrug, right guard Spurlock or Stork, right tackle Zebrie Sanders. Just how good they’ll be remains to be seen as the majority of them were out with injuries this past spring.
6. NC State: The Pack lost Jake Vermiglio and will be without injured left guard Andrew Wallace for about half of the season, but Zach Allen, Camden Wentz and R.J. Mattes are returning starters. There’s also a lot of talent waiting to emerge with young players like Duran Christophe, Rob Crisp, Tyson Chandler, Torian Box and Andy Jomantas.
7. Virginia: Four players return with a combined 64 career starts in Anthony Mihota, Austin Pasztor, Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, who started the final seven games of the season as a true freshman. Pasztor is in his fourth season as a starter and has 32 career starts.
8. Boston College: Despite the losses of Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham, the Eagles are almost settled up front, it’s the experience behind the starters that’s reason for concern. The No. 2 offensive line is comprised entirely of redshirt freshmen. Mark Spinney returns at center, the projected starting guards are Nathan Richman and Ian White, who started three games as a freshman, and the tackles are Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel.
9. Maryland: It’s been an injury-prone group the past two seasons and that didn’t change this past spring. Left tackle Justin Gilbert, one of the top linemen on the team, reinjured the same knee he had ACL surgery on and will be out until October. R.J. Dill was also injured this spring, though he played in the spring game, and Justin Lewis was rehabbing from offseason surgery. Pete White also missed practices, so the group needs to solidify the two-deep roster.
10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return three starters in guard Omoregie Uzzi, guard Will Jackson and tackle Phil Smith. Sophomore Jay Finch played extensively last season and Ray Beno and Nick McRae were key reserves. Redshirt freshmen Catlin Alford and Morgan Bailey could also work their way into the rotation. Uzzi will be the leader of the line, but they were outplayed by the defense this spring.
11. Wake Forest: Four starters are back, but the Deacs will sorely miss the experience and leadership of former center Russell Nenon. Garrick Williams started the final three games of 2010 -- two at guard and one at center, but he struggled with the snaps towards the end of spring and isn’t where the staff needs him to be yet.
12. Duke: The Blue Devils should take another step forward this season under offensive line coach Matt Luke, and they need to -- Duke’s running game was last in the ACC last year and 104th in the country. Brian Moore replaces a three-year starter at center, but given his experience at right guard the past two seasons, it should be a smooth transition. That will leave a hole, though, at the right guard position, where Laken Tomlinson and John Coleman are the top candidates.
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).
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)
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
With the exception of Miami and Wake Forest, who both face legitimate FBS opponents, this should be a relatively pain-free week for the ACC. Boston College and Georgia Tech are facing each other, so an ACC team has to win that one, and everyone else is playing what Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen likes to call "Sisters of the Poor." Himself included. So they had better win. Duke? That game could go either way.
Here's the guessing game for Week 2:
Boston College 24, Georgia Tech 21 -- This one is based on the fact that the Eagles played Navy two seasons ago and won 25-24 on a last-second field goal. BC's defense remembers that game and knows it can't afford to get into a shootout with Paul Johnson. Plus, it has seasoned defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani and home field advantage.
Virginia Tech 38, Furman 17 -- This game is in Lane Stadium against a team from the Southern Conference that doesn't have any players who have ever beaten a FBS team. The question here is how the two-quarterback system will be used, and how the offensive line will fare without Blake DeChristopher.
Maryland 21, Middle Tennessee State 14 -- With Chris Turner and Josh Portis leading the way, the Terps should score more points this weekend, but they're still settling into their offense and have a tendency to keep these nonconference games a little too interesting.
Wake Forest 35, Mississippi 28 -- Dexter McCluster, who works out of the shotgun the same way Darren McFadden played under Houston Nutt at Arkansas, is tough to defend and can change the pace of the game, so Wake's ability to adjust on defense will be key. Wake has the experience, though, to win this one.
Clemson 38, The Citadel 17 -- The Tigers have something to prove, and they're going to take it out on these guys. Well, they should. The Citadel is 1-13 in games played in Clemson and the No. 23-ranked team in the FCS Coaches Poll.
Virginia 21, Richmond 17 -- Upset watch? Richmond coach Mike London was Virginia's defensive coordinator a year ago, so look for DE Sherman Logan to smother Peter Lalich. London has 16 starters back for a team that won a school-record 11 games and the CAA title before falling to Appalachian State in the national semifinals.
Florida State 41, Western Carolina 17 -- The suspensions shouldn't matter for this game and Christian Ponder has already played in an ACC game, so this should be a warmup for him. WCU coach Dennis Wagner is in his first season and trying to snap the Catamounts' 13-game road losing streak that dates back to 2005.
NC State 28, William & Mary 17 -- Considering the fact that the Wolfpack hasn't scored in its past two games, there's no reason to anticipate a blowout against anyone. Then again, the Tribe has 19 starters back from a team that won just two games in the CAA last year.
Northwestern 28, Duke 21 -- Both teams are coming off wins (gasp), but the Wildcats are a better team than they were last season because of senior running back Tyrell Sutton and first-year defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Then again, Duke is also a better football team and beat Northwestern last year.
Florida 45, Miami 27 -- One is a national-title contender, the other coming off the program's worst season in 30 years. One has a Heisman Trophy quarterback, the other a rookie who has never thrown a pass in a collegiate game. The odds and the Gators are stacked against the Canes, but Miami might put up a better fight than expected.
North Carolina is off.