NCF Nation: Cody Grimm
After losing six starters from last year’s 10-3 team, there are plenty of young players on the roster this year who will be expected to uphold that tradition this fall.
“We make sure right up front, we want them to know we’ve got a tradition here, an expectation here, and those expectations aren’t going to change,” Foster said. “They’ve got to come up to our level, and the thing about us here, defense is king. As good as we’ve been, we also went through a stretch there where we won 10 or 11 games with 100th-ranked offense. I want them to know we’ve won games around here just by playing great defense, and that’s not going to change. It’s their responsibility to carry the torch, so to speak.”
“We know what it takes,” Foster said. “We’ve been doing it a long time and we’ve had a lot of success. We’ve got the formula for success here, at least I think we’ve got it cornered a little bit. It’s just getting the kids to understand that’s what our expectations are, and you’ve got a certain responsibility to live up to those expectations, and understand this is what it’s going to take for you to be successful, for you to be on the field, your work ethic and how we want you to do certain things a certain way.”
The older players on the team, like boundary corner Rashad Carmichael, take seriously their role in ushering the younger players along.
“It goes back to recruiting and us guys on that defense trying to build a brotherhood more than anything,” Carmichael said. “That’s the kind of player I am. If you put it on the line for your brother, then the game will go a little bit easier. It just feels great when you can look to the left and the right and see guys who are ready. A lot of teams on this level don’t have that chemistry. It’s more of a family here. I’m confident.”
The defensive line, particularly the defensive tackles, is the biggest question mark. Virginia Tech has to replace three of four starters and talented backup tackle Demetrius Taylor. Veteran tackle John Graves returns as the lone starter, and he is expected to be the leader of the entire defense, not just the line. Antoine Hopkins should be the starter opposite Graves, but the staff needs to find quality depth on the interior.
Despite the loss of Cody Grimm, Foster said he is confident in his linebackers, a group that progressed as the year went along, but there will be some competition in the secondary, particularly at safety where Kam Chancellor was the anchor. Free safety is the position that does most of the communication and checks, so he’ll need a leader there. Foster will look at junior Eddie Whitley, and sophomore Antone Exum, a highly recruited player, among others.
Foster doesn’t have much time to prepare the younger players for their Labor Day matchup against Boise State, which will again have one of the most productive offenses in the country. Then again, it’s not like Foster hasn’t had to reload before.
“We’re inexperienced, we’re going to be very inexperienced on the defensive side of the ball,” Foster said. “But at the same time, that’s not a bad thing. I think we’re going to have a good mix of guys who have played. We’ve got a good mix of guys who are leaders, and at the same time we have some young, hungry guys. Sometimes that can really be even better for you than maybe having a bunch of guys come back who think they’re going to be pretty good. I kind of like that challenge a little bit more sometimes. We’ve had some of our best years when people thought we weren’t going to be as good.”
Usually in their best years, though, defense was king.
• Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. on Virginia CB Chris Cook:
Virginia CB Chris Cook turned some heads at the Senior Bowl, and he's doing the same in Indianapolis. At 6-2 and 212 pounds Cook posted an unofficial 4.43 seconds. That's an excellent size-speed combination for a safety and rare to see in a corner. Cook also recorded a jaw-dropping 11-0 broad jump.
• Muench on former Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm:
Virginia Tech's Cody Grimm is an interesting prospect. Grimm appears instinctive and relentless on film, but he played outside linebacker in college and is just not big enough to line up there in the NFL. He measured just 5-10^ and 203 pounds and would be a better fit at safety, where he would have the potential to develop into an adequate reserve and special-teams contributor. Grimm's 4.54 time in the 40 is encouraging because the average time for safeties last year was 4.63 seconds and in 2008 was 4.55 seconds.
• What to make of Jonathan Dwyer? He was listed as one of the 10 most polarizing players in the combine by Bruce Feldman:
There were a bunch of fast backs in Indy; Dwyer was not one of them. His size is good (228 pounds) and he looks dynamic on film, but some skeptics will wonder if much of that is due to the frenetic nature of the triple option scheme he played in at Tech. He didn't test as a particularly explosive guy, and he looked shaky in the position drills and didn't seem comfortable as a receiver.
• Here's an excerpt from Todd McShay on former FSU safety Myron Rolle:
Purely from a football standpoint, Rolle has the tools of a potential third-round pick who could be developed into an adequate starter two or three years down the road. However, while NFL teams love the Rhodes scholar's intelligence and work ethic, there is a growing concern regarding his long-term dedication to football. Rolle is in a truly unique situation and has a lot of convincing to do between now and the draft.
• The Sporting News listed Miami's Jimmy Graham, Maryland's Bruce Campbell and Clemson's Jacoby Ford among its offensive combine winners. Russ Lande of TSN listed Derrick Morgan and Virginia Tech's Jason Worilds among the defensive winners, but it doesn't sound good for Duke's Vince Oghobaase.
• Campbell really turned some heads with his 40 time. Chad Reuter of NFLDraftScout.com wrote:
Campbell also has 36.5-inch arms and bench-pressed 225 pounds 34 times. Said one scout said, "He has the best body of anyone I've ever seen."
• Of course, the question is whether he can block. Said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, "If there's a star so far in the combine, it's him. What he's going to have to overcome is the tape."
• Reuter on Miami's Graham:
Miami (Fla.) tight end Jimmy Graham ran a 4.56, according to NFL.com. Graham played only one season of football for the Hurricanes, but his basketball background intrigues scouts and his blistering 40 time could lift Graham as high as the second round.
Can he do it again?
- Overall, Virginia Tech needs to replace three of four starters up front, outside linebacker, cornerback and free safety.
- The only defensive ends with any significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. There are a few redshirt freshmen you might get to know: Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins. Of course, the only problem with redshirt freshmen is that they haven't played yet. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other defensive end who has played, but that was extremely sparingly. It's possible the staff could move tackle John Graves back to end, where he practiced last spring, or possibly look at moving other players.
- At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the front-runner to replace Cordarrow Thompson, and he has experience so that shouldn't be too much of a concern.
- At outside linebacker, Cody Grimm and Cam Martin have to be replaced, leaving a wide open competition.
- At cornerback, Jayron Hosley or Cris Hill will likely take over for Stephan Virgil. No worries there.
- At free safety, Eddie Whitley was Kam Chancellor’s backup, and the staff is confident in him. Antone Exum will also be given an opportunity.
- The good news? Virginia Tech returns cornerback Rashad Carmichael, rover Davon Morgan, Graves at defensive tackle, and Lyndell Gibson at inside linebacker.
QB: E.J. Manuel, Florida State: The Gator Bowl MVP completed 17 of 24 passes for 189 yards, had 73 rushing yards on 14 carries and one touchdown with zero turnovers. He led the Noles to 415 total yards in their 33-21 win over No. 18 West Virginia.
RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech: Williams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Tennessee. He finished the season with 1,655 rushing yards and broke Kevin Jones' single-season school record (1,647).
RB: Jermaine Thomas, Florida State: He had 121 yards rushing on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He also had one catch for nine yards and posted his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He led FSU back from a 14-3 first quarter deficit against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.
WR: Rich Gunnell, Boston College: Gunnell finished with six catches for 130 yards, breaking Pete Mitchell's school record for yards receiving with 2,659 in his career. His 61-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter closed the gap to 14-13 against USC in the Emerald Bowl.
WR: Greg Little, UNC: He finished with seven catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Pitt in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
WR: Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech: His 64-yard reception to the Tennessee 3 in the final seconds of the first half was a major turning point in the game. The Vols had already begun to head to the locker room, but officials determined there were still two seconds left on the clock. The play led to Matt Waldron’s 21-yard field goal and a 17-14 halftime lead. Boykin finished with four catches for 120 yards.
TE: Jimmy Graham, Miami: He had three catches for 30 receiving yards against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl and became the seventh Hurricane to record at least 200 receiving yards this season. Graham closed out his only season with the Canes with 15 catches for 213 yards and five touchdowns.
OL: Ed Wang, Virginia Tech: In his final performance, Wang paved the way for a career-day for Williams, and helped the Hokies rack up 438 total yards of offense.
OL: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech: Like Wang, Render was impressive in his final performance as a Hokie, and helped Virginia Tech use a balanced offense and gave quarterback Tyrod Taylor the time he needed to make plays.
OL: Rodney Hudson, Florida State: The All-American returned to the lineup after missing two games with knee sprain and helped FSU rack up 415 total yards, 37 minutes time of possession and he did not allow a sack.
OL: Andrew Datko, Florida State: He teamed with Hudson on the left side (where two of three rushing touchdowns came) and kept a WVU team averaging 2.6 sacks per game without one.
OL: Dalton Freeman, Clemson: He graded out at 80 percent with seven knockdowns. Freeman was key to Clemson averaging 5.5 yards per rush and a Clemson bowl record 6.8 yards per play against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.
K: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State: He tied a school bowl record converting 4 of 5 field goal attempts and scoring a season-high 15 points on a windy day. His 42-yarder at the end of the first half pulled FSU within 14-13.
P: Chandler Anderson, Georgia Tech: He had a career-high seven punts with an average of 49.1 yards and a long of 59 yards. Three of his punts were downed inside the 20 and only one was returned.
Spc: C.J. Spiller, Clemson: Spiller finished his career with 172 all-purpose yards (68 rushing, 57 receiving), giving him an ACC record 2,670 for the season and 7,588 for his career. He finished his career in second place in FBS history in all-purpose yards.
QB -- Christian Ponder, Florida State
RB -- Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
RB -- Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech
WR -- Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech
WR -- Donovan Varner, Duke
TE -- George Bryan, NC State
TE -- Michael Palmer, Clemson
OL -- Jason Fox, Miami
OL -- Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
OL -- Rodney Hudson, Florida State
OL – Sergio Render, Virginia Tech
OL -- Cord Howard, Georgia Tech
K -- Matt Bosher, Miami
Spc -- C.J. Spiller, Clemson
DL -- Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech
DL -- Robert Quinn, North Carolina
DL -- Nate Collins, Virginia
DL -- Ricky Sapp, Clemson
LB -- Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech
LB -- Luke Kuechly, Boston College
LB -- Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
LB -- Alex Wujciak, Maryland
CB -- Kendric Burney, North Carolina
CB -- Brandon Harris, Miami
S -- DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson
S -- Deunta Williams, North Carolina
P -- Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech fans can rest assured Ryan Williams' fourth-quarter fumble against North Carolina has become ancient history in the young star's mind. Williams ran for 179 yards in the Hokies' 16-3 win over East Carolina on Thursday night, helping Virginia Tech to move on and forget its devastating back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina.
Even though Williams didn't get into the end zone, his ability to run the ball and the Hokies' ability to control the line of scrimmage was the difference in the game. Williams showed why he was a midseason favorite to win the ACC's Player of the Year award, as much of his yardage came by breaking tackles, lowering his shoulder and keeping his feet moving. Virginia Tech also got the most complete effort from its defense it has seen in the past two games, and Cody Grimm seemed to be in on almost every play.
That being said, ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney made some erroneous throws and helped the Hokies out with his inaccuracy. The Pirates also hurt themselves on numerous occasions with three turnovers, eight penalties, dropped passes and missed tackles. Overall, it was a sloppy game for both teams, as Virginia Tech was only able to score one touchdown. But in the end that was all the Hokies needed to avoid a second straight nationally televised upset.
This was exactly the kind of game the Hokies needed to get some of their confidence back and finish the season strong. There's no reason Virginia Tech shouldn't earn another 10-win season. With only Maryland, NC State and Virginia remaining -- teams that have combined for just three conference wins -- the Hokies' toughest days should be behind team.
And for Williams, his best days are yet to come.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Virginia Tech linebacker Cam Martin thought he jammed his right middle finger on his first play Saturday against Marshall. He went to the sideline after the series ended, and his glove was “full of blood.”
The training staff took out a Band-Aid to stop the bleeding, wrapped it up in some tape, and he went back in the game. Every time Martin came off the field, his finger needed more attention. It wasn’t until halftime, when he had to get stitches, when Martin realized the bone had poked through his skin.
|Scott Cunningham/Getty Images|
|Virginia Tech linebacker Cam Martin has gotten used to playing through pain.|
“To me, I was like, if I come out of the game for a jammed finger, that’s pretty wimpy,” said Martin, who finished second on the team with six tackles, including one tackle for loss in the Hokies’ 52-10 romp of Marshall. “It feels pretty terrible this week.”
Pain is par for the course for Martin, a fifth-year senior who seems to have had as many injuries as he has career tackles for loss (14.5).
He missed all of this past spring with a right knee injury, but the knee injury that has limited him the most occurred in the 2007 ACC title game. He’s still dealing with the lingering effects of a microfracture on the inside of his knee cap that’s caused him to become noticeably slower and still causes some pain when he plants.
He’s also partially torn his labrum. He’s had a shoulder sprain. He had a foot injury that kept him out a few games. Since his senior year in high school, Martin has undergone four surgeries. He has had so many injuries he couldn’t even name them all. He’s had two hernias, one on each side that required surgery. His elbow has been “all jacked up” since high school and doesn’t fully extend anymore.
Heck, he even had an ingrown toenail.
“I know how limited my plays are right now,” he said. “I know when I’m in there I need to make the best of them. … I don’t think a hurt finger is a reason to come out of the game.”
Martin said he’ll wear a small molded cast on his finger this Saturday against Nebraska so it won’t bother him. Considering his medical history, odds are it won’t.
"A guy that goes through as much pain to play this game as he does, you just want things to work out good for him," said coach Frank Beamer. "I think he's probably more appreciative than ever of the time to get out there and make some plays, and help this football team. What a solid guy, what a good guy, what a good football player."
Martin, who splits time with redshirt senior Cody Grimm at whip linebacker, isn’t na´ve. He knows Grimm is faster. This year, Martin really doesn’t know when he’ll get in the game. That’s why he takes every opportunity he’s given to get on the field -- injured or not.
“Some of the older guys ask me about being on the kickoff team,” Martin said. “Like, why don’t I tell coach Beamer to take me off, I’m a senior. I’m like, why? You come to Virginia Tech to play football. If he asks me to go out there on kickoff, right I’m going to go out there on kickoff. If I play five snaps, if I play 50 snaps, I’m going to give them all like I’m playing my last game. With all these injuries, you don’t know when it’s going to be your last game.”
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
When Virginia Tech senior cornerback Stephan Virgil was at Rocky Mount High in North Carolina considering his college options, he almost wound up committing to UNC. It was one of his final two choices, along with the Hokies.
|Bob Donnan/US Presswire|
|Stephan Virgil is excited about his move to the boundary corner position.|
"[UNC] had a pretty good football team, but there wasn't a lot of stability there with the coaches," Virgil said. "Coach [John] Bunting, he was on the hot seat for a couple of years in a row, and I just didn't feel safe and comfortable there, and being so close to home, I know I could've gotten in a lot of trouble. I wouldn't have been totally focused on what I needed to focus on.
"Virginia Tech, they had stability here with Coach [Frank] Beamer -- he wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. The tradition here was great. The football tradition here is amazing. I wanted to be a part of that tradition, and the environment here was great, and it was far enough away from home where I could distance myself from the trouble back home."
As the Hokies begin practice today, not only has Virgil distanced himself from any trouble (he was in class this spring instead of practice), he also is now at the center of the defensive tradition. Virginia Tech has made a habit in recent years out of moving its best corner from the field position to the boundary position, and this year, Virgil is next in line to take over the spot vacated by Victor "Macho" Harris.
"Coming from Jimmy Williams, to Brandon Flowers, Macho and now me, it's an honor to be a boundary corner for Virginia Tech," Virgil said. "That's where the best corner is on the field. So it's an honor to be in that position."
Virgil's teammates have confidence he's the right player for the job.
"Obviously we have a history at the boundary corner," said linebacker Cody Grimm. "We always call on our best cover guy to go there. Coach [Torrian] Gray puts a lot of responsibility on the boundary corner, a lot of man-to-man coverage. It's a privilege to get the call to boundary corner, but at the same time, he understands what he needs to do. He's been working hard."
Virgil enters summer camp as the Hokies' most-experienced cornerback, and he's a proven game-changer. Last year, he started all 14 games at field corner where he was a true difference-maker. He returned a fumble for a touchdown against East Carolina, made a game-clinching interception at UNC, blocked a punt for a safety at Nebraska and grabbed an interception in the ACC title game.
"He had some big, big plays for our football team last year," Beamer said, "and he's a kid that makes plays."
Virgil tied Harris last year for the team lead with six interceptions. He isn't much of a numbers guy, and said he is more focused on team results and getting the most he can out of film sessions and team meetings. There were things Virgil learned from watching Harris last year, like how to read receivers' body language, read offenses and come out of breaks. But he's been studying the Hokies' boundary corners for a few years now, and understands what he has to do to fulfill the expectations for the position.
"I have to be a more physical guy than I was last year," he said. "I have to be smarter. I have to do everything better. I have to be on my keys, and be a leader out there on the field. The boundary corner is a leader on the field. I just have to step my whole game up."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
As we head into spring football, there will be plenty of starting jobs up for grabs. It's no secret UNC needs to find dependable receivers, and Georgia Tech needs to replace three of four starters on its defensive line. Will FSU quarterback Christian Ponder keep his job, or will E.J. Manuel win it from him? Despite several quarterbacks returning with starting experience, spring could bring change throughout the ACC. Here's a look at five key position battles to keep an eye on:
Clemson quarterback -- Will Kyle Parker assert himself as the Tigers' quarterback of the future this spring, or will Willy Korn lock up the starting job? Korn played in six games last year and started one, but he has been plagued by a nagging shoulder injury. Michael Wade and Jon Richt (Georgia coach Mark Richt's son) will also compete to take over as Cullen Harper's successor.
Boston College quarterback -- Considering how Dominique Davis struggled in losses in the ACC championship game and the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (he combined to throw three touchdowns, four interceptions and complete 40.5 percent of his passes), nothing is guaranteed. The previous coaching staff had high hopes for Justin Tuggle, and this spring is a chance for him to show Frank Spaziani and Co. why.
Virginia quarterback -- With cornerback Vic Hall working out at quarterback this spring, and two players returning with starting experience in Marc Verica and Jameel Sewell, this spot appears to be wide open. Hall was the Cavaliers' fifth-leading tackler last year (the top four have to be replaced), and made 24 straight starts at cornerback before his surprise appearance at quarterback in the season finale at Virginia Tech. Hall only threw the ball once against the Hokies but scored on 40 and 16-yard runs.
Virginia Tech linebackers -- The Hokies will have to replace Brett Warren and Purnell Sturdivant. Barquell Rivers, who started for the injured Warren in the Orange Bowl, should be a frontrunner, but Cam Martin and Cody Grimm are also experienced returners at outside linebacker. It's also possible some players in the secondary could get a look.
Duke cornerback -- Returning starter Leon Wright missed the last six games due to injury, and while he was out, Chris Rwabukamba played well in the 10-7 win over Vanderbilt, grabbing an interception at the Duke one-yard line. He started two games. Lee Butler saw playing time as a freshman last year, and Zach Greene enrolled in January and will participate in spring practice so he'll get an opportunity, too.