NCF Nation: Chris Hairston

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)

Recruiting rewind

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
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There’s only one way to truly grade recruits -- look at their performances on the field after they sign. Some, like Clemson offensive lineman Chris Hairston, exceed their ranking expectations. Others, like Duke kicker Will Snyderwine, make names for themselves as walk-ons. And some, like Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, lend merit to the ranking system.

Using ESPN.com’s recruiting database, I took a look back at my 2010 all-conference team to see how each player fared in his respective recruiting class. Some players have flourished at other positions. Only five of the players were ranked among the ESPNU 150, and five were either unranked or joined the team as a walk-on.

Here’s a look back at the recruiting rankings for the ACC’s top players in 2010:

OFFENSE

QB: Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech:No. 16 player in ESPNU 150, No. 3 overall quarterback in the 2007 class

RB: Montel Harris, Boston College: No. 143 running back in the 2008 class

RB: Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech: No. 73 running back in Louisville’s class of 2007

WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami: No. 61 wide receiver in 2007 class

WR Torrey Smith, Maryland: No. 54 wide receiver in 2007 class

TE George Bryan, NC State: No. 16 tight end, class of 2007

C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech: Joined the team as a walk-on in 2006

OL Rodney Hudson, Florida State: No. 16 offensive guard in the 2007 class

OL Anthony Castonzo, Boston College: Not ranked in the 2007 class

OL Chris Hairston, Clemson: Not ranked in the class of 2006

OL Brandon Washington, Miami: No. 11 offensive guard in 2008 class

DEFENSE

DL Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson:No. 1 overall player in ESPNU 150 Class of 2008, No. 1 overall defensive end

DL Brandon Jenkins, Florida State: No. 18 defensive end in the 2009 class

DL Quinton Coples, North Carolina: No. 34 defensive end, class of 2008

DL Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson: No. 36 defensive tackle in the 2007 class

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College: No. 19 outside linebacker

LB Nate Irving, NC State: Not ranked, class of 2006

LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland: No. 18 inside linebacker class of 2006

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech: No. 22 cornerback in 2009 class

CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia: No. 69 cornerback, class of 2007

S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson: No. 105 in ESPNU 150 Class of 2006, No. 12 safety

S Kenny Tate, Maryland: No. 134 in ESPNU 150 Class of 2008, No. 19 wide receiver

SPECIALISTS

P: Matt Bosher, Miami: No. 4 kicker in 2006 class

K: Will Snyderwine, Duke: Joined the team as a walk-on in 2007 after an open tryout

PR: Tony Logan, Maryland: No. 21 quarterback in 2007 class

KR: David Wilson, Virginia Tech: No. 40 in ESPNU 150 Class of 2009, No. 5 running back

ESPN.com 2010 All-ACC team

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
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This is usually one of the most difficult posts of the season, but for some reason, this year there seemed to be more separation between the good players and the great ones in the ACC.

Honestly, the biggest internal debate was over the kicker, a battle between Virginia Tech’s Chris Hazley and Duke’s Will Snyderwine. The coaches voted Snyderwine an All-America selection, and that was hard to ignore, as was the fact that he is the master of the onside kick, and hit four that Duke retained. Duke isn’t the most athletic team, but because of Snyderwine’s ability to put the ball in a 3-yard square, the Blue Devils were right there with everyone else in kickoff coverage (No. 3 behind division champs Florida State and Virginia Tech). The frustrating part of compiling this team is that there is always a deserving player left off -- always. There’s no question, though, that everyone on this year’s ESPN.com All-ACC team deserves it.

Here’s a look at your ESPN.com all-conference team for 2010:

OFFENSE

QB: Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech

RB: Montel Harris, Boston College

RB: Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech

WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami

WR Torrey Smith, Maryland

TE George Bryan, NC State

C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech

OL Rodney Hudson, Florida State

OL Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

OL Chris Hairston, Clemson

OL Brandon Washington, Miami

DEFENSE

DL Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson

DL Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DL Quinton Coples, North Carolina

DL Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB Nate Irving, NC State

LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia

S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

S Kenny Tate, Maryland

SPECIALISTS

P: Matt Bosher, Miami

K: Will Snyderwine, Duke

PR: Tony Logan, Maryland

KR: David Wilson, Virginia Tech
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.
Clemson offensive line coach Brad Scott isn’t quite ready to say his group is “there yet,” but he saw definite signs this past spring that the Tigers’ front should be better than it was a year ago.

It’s going to have to be.

[+] EnlargeChris Hairston
Cliff Welch/Icon SMILeft tackle Chris Hairston has evolved into the leader of Clemson's veteran offensive line.
The roles have reversed at Clemson, where the superstar skill players have graduated, and the offensive linemen are now among the most experienced players on the field. With four starters returning, they’ll be depended upon heavily this fall to usher in a new duo of running backs while the offense could possibly also be under the direction of a rookie quarterback, should Kyle Parker decide to pursue his baseball career.

“We’re the veteran bunch now,” Scott said. “We lost Jacoby [Ford] out there at receiver, we lost C.J. [Spiller] at running back. ... We need to be able to load the team up on our shoulders. We don’t need to be the weak link. I think that our guys understand that. Even though we’re young at running back, we’re talented there still. They know that both of those backs have gotten some experience last year and are good players. This spring there was evidence these guys are going to do what they need to do to accept that role and that responsibility.”

It starts with left tackle Chris Hairston, who will be in his third season as a starter and has become the leader of the group. Hairston has started 23 of the past 27 games and was missed when he was out of the lineup. Clemson was 9-3 last year when he started and 0-2 when he was out with an injury. His performance in the Tigers’ 40-37 overtime win against Miami was key, as Hairston graded out at 85 percent and had seven knockdown blocks.

Landon Walker is also a returning two-year starter at tackle. He started 12 games last year and had 33 knockdown blocks, including five against TCU when he held All-American Jerry Hughes without a sack and just two tackles.

Dalton Freeman is the returning starter at center, a position he took over for the final nine games of 2009. His first start came against Wake Forest, the school his father played for. The Tigers also have Mason Cloy, who started five games last year at center but suffered a broken leg in the ACC title game.

Junior Antoine McClain started all 14 games last year and was second on the team with 68 knockdown blocks. He had 12.5 against Georgia Tech in the regular season and 10 more in the ACC title game.

Scott said the most progress has been seen in run blocking, but the overall communication has been better, as is their ability to know the calls and techniques that need to be executed in a split second against ever-changing defenses. Both Hairston and Walker’s pass protection also continues to improve. That will be vital if rookie Tajh Boyd will be taking over at quarterback.

“Certainly we think we’ll be a solid group again,” Scott said. “They made great strides last year and by the end of the year were playing pretty doggone good. The kids have matured, they’re more confident, certainly understand the system, and had a pretty good spring. The depth is always the issue, developing the young players, but I think we’re gaining from the experience most of these young men have had over the last two years.”
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Just because the Hokies aren’t playing doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to keep an eye on in the ACC …

1. Georgia Tech on third-downs. The Yellow Jackets have the best third-down conversion percentage in the ACC (52.6), but Virginia has the best defense on third downs in the ACC, holding opponents to 29.3 percent. The Cavaliers’ defense hasn’t been the problem this year, but it will face a different challenge in the triple-option offense.

2. Virginia inside the red zone. The Cavaliers have been successful inside the 20-yard line on 17 of 20 chances, but Georgia Tech’s defense is second in the ACC in red zone defense at 75 percent. The Jackets played much better defensively against Virginia Tech last weekend, but will have to continue to clamp down when it counts against quarterback Jameel Sewell, who has shown improvement the past few weeks.

3. Kevin Steele vs. Mark Whipple. The two first-year coordinators will likely get into a chess match in Miami, as both of them have made immediate impacts for their teams. Under Steele, Clemson has the No. 17 scoring defense in the country, holding opponents to just 15.33 points per game. Under Whipple, Miami is averaging 29 points per game and 16 different players have caught a pass this season.

4. Clemson left tackle Chris Hairston. He suffered a knee injury late in the win over Boston College and missed the TCU game and played just nine snaps at Maryland. Clemson lost both of those games and averaged just 99 yards rushing and 15.5 points in the two contests. With Hairston back in the lineup, Clemson had 195 yards rushing against Wake Forest -- the second best by the Tiger this year. Clemson is 3-1 this year when Hairston is in the lineup and 0-2 when he is not.

5. FSU’s passing offense vs. UNC’s pass defense. Quarterback Christian Ponder has the Noles ranked 13th in the country in passing offense with 297.5 yards per game, but UNC’s stingy pass defense is No. 1 in the country with 125.17 yards per game. Most teams have shied away from veteran cornerback Kendric Burney this season, giving him few opportunities for pass breakups and interceptions, but that could change tonight.

6. Ponder’s first-down success. Of his 26 pass completions against Georgia Tech, 16 went for first downs. That was even better than his performance at Boston College,when 16 of his career-high 29 completions moved the chains. Ponder’s pass completions have accounted for better than 60 percent of the Seminoles’ first downs in each of the last three games.

7. Boston College senior kicker Steve Aponavicius. The former walk-on kicker, nicknamed “Sid Vicious,” is five points away from setting BC’s career scoring mark. He has accumulated 258 points in his three-plus seasons, hitting 40 field goals and 138 extra points. Aponavicius is the ACC active leader in both field goals (40) and PATs (134).

8. The Eagles’ streak. Boston College has won six straight against Notre Dame, including the last three on the road. If the Eagles win, the senior class will graduate having gone undefeated against the Irish. But this is an improved team under Charlie Weis, as quarterback Jimmy Clausen leads the nation’s No. 7 passing offense.

9. The scoreboard in Durham. No, seriously, aside from the fact Duke might win its second conference game, the winner in this series has scored at least 41 points in six of the last 11 games. Considering Duke is averaging 31.83 points per game, and Maryland is allowing about 33, it’s not out of the question for Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis to continue that trend -- especially considering the Blue Devils just put up 49 against NC State.

10. Turnovers in Annapolis. In Wake Forest’s loss to Navy last year, the Deacs committed an uncharacteristic season-high six turnovers. This year, Wake Forest trails its opponents in turnover margin with 10 takeaways and 13 turnovers.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Saturday's game between Clemson and Wake Forest has been overshadowed this week by the potential BCS implications surrounding the Coastal Division matchup between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, but what happens in Death Valley on Saturday will also be important to the ACC standings.

 
 AP Photo/Nell Redmond
 Led by quarterback Riley Skinner, Wake Forest is averaging 426 yards per game.
The Demon Deacons hold a slight lead in the Atlantic Division, a half game ahead of Boston College and Maryland. Clemson, despite its 2-3 start, can still win the division but will need some help after an embarrassing road loss to Maryland.

It boils down to this: Clemson has the better athletes and Wake Forest has the experienced coaches.

So who wins?

Usually the team with the veteran quarterback, but Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe has never won in Death Valley.

While Clemson’s offense has struggled, Wake Forest senior quarterback Riley Skinner has been setting records almost every week. Clemson’s defense hasn’t been the problem -- the Tigers are No. 27 in the country in scoring defense, holding opponents to 17.8 points per game. They’ve done a good job of pressuring quarterbacks and pushing players back for lost yardage. But Skinner is No. 5 in the country in passing efficiency and Wake Forest’s offense is on target to break the school record for total offense in a season. Through the first six games of the year, the Deacons are averaging 426 yards per game and have had 400 or more yards of total offense in four of six games.

“They’re the best offense we’ve played, for sure,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. “They’re very balanced, running it about 38 times a game and throwing it about 32. The biggest thing is affecting the quarterback. … This guy has 37 starts and is a very savvy player. He’s a winner and understands exactly what he’s doing on the field. The No. 1 thing for us is we have to be able to affect their quarterback, do a great job with our eyes and play great technique from a coverage standpoint.”

On the flip side, with eight new defenders this year, Wake Forest’s defense hasn’t been able to make adjustments as quickly as it would with veteran players, and the speed of players like C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford will be difficult to contain.

“We don’t see anybody that has more talent than Clemson,” said Grobe. “They've got a good coaching staff and they've played a brutal schedule. Georgia Tech and TCU are two of the top teams in the country. They've played both of them.”

The only teams they’ve beaten, though, are Middle Tennessee and Boston College.

Swinney said his Tigers had a “real productive open date,” and should be as healthy as they’ve been since this summer. He expects to get left tackle Chris Hairston back, and Spiller has finally had time to heal his turf toe. Clemson fans shouldn’t expect many visible personnel or scheme changes on Saturday, despite the fact the Tigers are 102nd in the nation right now in total offense and 112th in passing efficiency. Clemson has scored 11 touchdowns this year, and four of them have been nonoffensive.

Instead, the bye week was spent focusing on fundamentals and getting back to the basics like footwork and proper tackling techniques as opposed to reps of different plays.

“Where we’ve had some troubles has been a lack of execution consistently,” Swinney said. “We’ve gone back this week and really tried to coach the details, and fundamentals of play on either side of the ball. … We may not do much, but we’re going to try to do it right. Hopefully we’ll play like we’ve practiced, because we’ve had good practices the past week and a half.”

Meanwhile, though, Wake Forest has had good games.

What to watch on New Year's Day

December, 31, 2008
12/31/08
3:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the ACC's New Year's Day bowls:

1. The Replacements. Junior Nekos Brown will fill in for defensive end Jason Worilds, redshirt freshman Barquell Rivers replaces linebacker Brett Warren, and Jaymes Brooks, who has played four career snaps, will fill in for starting right guard Nick Marshman, who is academically ineligible.

2. Clemson's secondary vs. Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz. Michael Hamlin and the rest of the Tigers' secondary will be without former assistant coach Vic Koenning for the first time, and how they respond will be important. Ganz is 13th nationally in total offense with 299 yards per game and 14th nationally in passing efficiency, but the Tigers are ninth in the nation in pass efficiency defense by holding opposing quarterbacks to a 100.03 rating.

3. Brian Kelly vs. Frank Beamer. This is a matchup between a veteran and a talented up-and-coming coach. Kelly is 22-5 in his second season at Cincinnati and has the Bearcats in their first BCS game. Beamer is 176-89-2 in his 22nd season at Virginia Tech, but is 0-2 in the Orange Bowl.

4. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He has rushed for 100 yards or more three times this season, and will need his feet to escape a Cincinnati defense that thrives on pressuring quarterbacks.

5. Clemson's record-breakers. Running back James Davis needs just 112 rushing yards on Thursday (his birthday) to become Clemson's all-time leading rusher. He already has 49 career touchdowns, also second in school history and just one short of Travis Zachery's record. Clemson receiver Aaron Kelly needs just 23 receiving yards to become the school's career leader and he already has the ACC career record for touchdowns.

6. Virginia Tech's field position. In close games, field position is critical, and Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber gives the Bearcats the edge. Cincinnati is No. 1 in the country in net punting with 41.51 yards per game. Huber averages 44.89 yards per punt to rank seventh in the nation.

7. Clemson's new and improved offensive line. This had been the root of the Tigers' problems for three quarters of the regular season, but now that they're healthy and have found the right combination, it has freed the top playmakers to make plays. Clemson is 4-0 when it starts an offensive line composed of Thomas Austin and Mason Cloy at guard, Landon Walker and Chris Hairston at tackle, and Bobby Hutchinson at center. That is slated to be Clemson's starting lineup on the of¬fensive line in the Gator Bowl.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- James Davis has stepped up in the absence of C.J. Spiller, who is out with a leg injury, and Clemson has gotten a bit more production out of its passing game. That's a direct benefit of Chris Hairston returning to the offensive line.

They were finally able to do something Wake Forest was not -- convert in the red zone.

Neither of these teams is looking too impressive tonight, and both have made foolish penalties.

ACC internal affairs

October, 8, 2008
10/08/08
11:47
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON -- Clemson's usually mild-mannered offensive coordinator, Rob Spence, has been getting in the players' faces this week and getting creative with the playbook. The Tigers are known for their dink-and-dunk passes, but Spence also has a chapter of trick plays he rarely uses. That might change on Thursday. This time, he might want to get James Davis and C.J. Spiller more involved in the offense, and the running game should be given a boost by the return of left tackle Chris Hairston. He played just one series against Maryland after his scooter accident, but is much closer to his old form. It's also possible Hairston could help the pass protection and give the Tigers more time for more downfield passes.

WAKE FOREST -- The Demon Deacons have been pleased with their practices this week, and have put an emphasis on two things: Bringing the pass rush on Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper, and establishing their own running game. There is an 80 percent chance of rain for Thursday's game, and that usually favors the better running team, which has been Clemson. Wake Forest is 11th in the ACC with just 84.8 rushing yards per game, despite boasting the 2007 ACC Rookie of the Year in Josh Adams. The offensive line got some work during the bye week, particularly Joe Birdsong, who was ejected in the first half against Navy. Coach Jim Grobe made sure Birdsong got some extra conditioning.

NORTH CAROLINA -- Notre Dame coach Charlie Weiss has toned down his sentiments regarding UNC running back Greg Little's decision to decommit. "Any time you're involved in recruiting, any time you're involved in recruiting, the toughest thing to do is to get a guy to leave his home state," Weiss said at his weekly press conference. "We're a national recruiting school. And at the end of the day he felt more comfortable staying home. And, hey, do I like that happening? No, but at the end of the day the kid wanted to stay home. Who can really shun a guy who wants to stay home." Little had committed to the Irish after former UNC coach John Bunting was fired mid-season, but was heavily recruited by Butch Davis and changed his mind on the final day.

VIRGINIA -- Those within the program don't want to be the ACC's version of a one-hit wonder, and are confident about their chances of beating East Carolina this weekend. They're still trying to put the win over Maryland into perspective, but know that a loss to the Pirates would negate that progress. Coach Al Groh said he is looking for consistency, but added that as good as the Cavaliers played last weekend, it still won't be good enough to beat some of the teams remaining on their schedule.

GEORGIA TECH -- Starting quarterback Josh Nesbitt returned to practice with limited contact on Tuesday after straining his hamstring in the second series against Mississippi State, but that doesn't mean there's a quarterback controversy in Atlanta. At least those within the program are downplaying it. Backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw, who played an outstanding game against Duke last week, was listed at the top of the depth chart as of Monday afternoon, but acknowledged that if Nesbitt returns, it's his job. Coach Paul Johnson said he hopes Nesbitt will be 100 percent by Saturday and would like for him to get a little bit of playing time before the Clemson game. Shaw was held out of contact drills for a precautionary reason -- Johnson said Shaw was "dinged" on his head against Duke. Basically, Gardner-Webb will provide an opportunity for everyone who can play to get reps, Nesbitt included.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

One day. I oversleep one day, and I see this from loyal reader VTballer: "yo Heather wake up! its about time for ACC in the morning."

So it is, my friend.

Here's a look at what's going on around the league:

- This one's for you, VTballer -- RB coach Billy Hite told Josh Oglesby he's playing three backs, but Oglesby says, "I've only seen two."

- It's Georgia Tech's turn to carry the ACC banner, as the Yellow Jackets will try to represent the league against SEC opponent Mississippi State. Oh, and don't question Paul Johnson on his fourth-down decisions, otherwise you're a moron.

- FSU DT Budd Thacker's back -- "wide-eyed, scratching and clawing."

- Miami second-year assistant coach Wesley McGriff is making the Hurricanes' secondary "Army tough."

- ECU coach Skip Holtz isn't taking NC State lightly. He remembers what happened last year. History is unlikely to repeat itself, though, especially with the latest injury to hit the lineup -- Alan-Michael Cash is out indefinitely. Huge loss. ECU is down a man, too.

- UNC is preparing for Tyrod Taylor and his happy feet. Coach Butch Davis says, "Don't bite the cheese."

- Speaking of cheese, the Terps are trying to avoid another trap against Eastern Michigan.

- People were asking for my pick on the Wake Forest-FSU game on Monday's chat. You should ask Christian Ponder, who says the Noles are "not going to lose." It's not like they're taking the Demon Deacons lightly, though. Derek Nicholson deemed it their "ACC championship game."

- Clemson offensive tackle Chris Hairston answers questions about his motor scooter accident.

Today is mailblog day, so check back later. I'm awake now.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

In the week leading up to his game against Florida, Miami coach Randy Shannon downplayed the effect the game might have on recruiting, but even in the loss, he had young players calling him, telling him they're excited to come to Miami. While Shannon didn't come right out at say it, he hinted that Urban Meyer's decision to kick a late field goal and run up the score in the fourth quarter might have helped his cause:

''I'll just say this one statement," Shannon told reporters. "Sometimes when you do things, and people see what type of person you really are, you turn a lot of people off. Now, whatever you want to get out of that, I won't say it again. But it helped us. It helped us more than you'll ever know."

Miami wasn't the only program that saw impressive performances from freshmen on Saturday.

The Seminoles could certainly use some help with their depth at running back, and freshman Jermaine Thomas wanted the staff to know "they could count on a freshman."

Bobby Bowden, though, wants his freshmen to realize they were just chompin' on baby food in the season opener, and they "ain't ready for steak," yet.

He was pleased with the quarterbacks, though, and Christian Ponder should start his second straight game this Saturday against Chattanooga. Drew Weatherford will be "sitting there as a fireman just in case."

Boston College quarterback Chris Crane didn't exactly shine in his ACC debut against Georgia Tech, and the sack in the end zone didn't help his cause much. Still aboard the "Crane Train?"

NC State will be able to count on quarterback Russell Wilson this weekend against Clemson as he returns from a concussion just in time for the Pack's league opener.

The Tigers, however, might be without starting left tackle Chris Hairston, who was injured in a moped accident.

Virginia Tech's "Macho" Harris still isn't 100 percent, but that didn't stop him from leveling a Furman receiver. Hey, somebody had to pay for his misery last week.

Even with Cedric Peerman and Mikell Simpson, Virginia averaged 2.4 yards on 38 carries against Richmond. Much of that can be attributed to the offensive line still being a work in progress.

The defense, though, had a few things to brag about -- six sacks included.

Just how rare was Wake Forest's game-winning field goal against Ole Miss? Believe it or not, it was the first of its kind in 35 years.

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen wasn't thrilled with his team's performance against Middle Tennessee State and might make a few changes as a result. He had to "marinate" over it, Sunday night.

The Terps looked like they regressed last weekend, and it's only going to get tougher with Cal coming to town.

Posted by ESPN.com'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 ESPN.com'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."

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