NCF Nation: Cooper Taylor
According to school spokesman Annabelle Myers, Russell and his brother spoke at the funeral and told countless stories about their dad waking them to throw baseballs to them, and how the three of them would go out and one would play quarterback, one would play wide receiver, and one would play running back.
These are the moments and memories our dads deserve a big thanks for this weekend. In honor of Father’s Day, here’s a look at some of the ACC’s ‘Famous Fathers,’ and the players who share their legacies. Thanks to the sports information directors in the league and Mike Finn in the Greensboro office for making this post possible:
- Redshirt freshman defensive end Max Holloway’s father (Brian) played 10 seasons in the NFL (with Patriots and Raiders). His maternal grandfather, Johnny McKenzie, played 19 seasons in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins.
- Junior wide receiver Chris Fox’s father (Tim) was an All-American at Ohio State under Woody Hayes and played 10 years in the NFL (with the Patriots, Chargers and Rams).
- Redshirt freshman wide receiver Hampton Hughes’ father played for six years for the Dallas Cowboys.
- Junior linebacker Mike Morrissey’s father (Jim) played nine seasons in the NFL for Chicago and Green Bay.
- QB Mike Wade, LB Chris Richardson and Landon Walker: Their fathers, Mike Wade Sr., Chuckie Richardson and Gary Walker, played on the national championship team in 1981.
- Kicker Paul Asack’s father Phil Asack was a 1971 Duke graduate who lettered for three seasons before joining the San Diego Chargers.
- Redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Conor Irwin’s father Tim Irwin played football at the University of Tennessee and in the NFL from 1981-94 with the Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins. As an aside, his uncle, King Irwin, played football at Georgia Tech.
- Wide receiver Matt Pridemore’s father Tom Pridemore played at West Virginia and for the Atlanta Falcons.
- Receiver Brandon Braxton’s father David Braxton played for the Minnesota Vikings, Phoenix Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals.
- QB Christian Ponder's father, David, was a defensive lineman at FSU from 1980-83.
- Redshirt freshman defensive end Dan Hicks’ father is former FSU standout and NFL veteran Dan Footman.
- Incoming freshman linebacker Christian Jones’ father, Willie Jones Sr., was a standout defensive end for the Seminoles (1975-78) and a second-round draft choice of the Oakland Raiders in 1980 and returned to FSU as a graduate assistant football coach in 1988.
- Quarterback Clint Trickett, who enrolled as a freshman in January and took part in spring practice, is the son of FSU assistant head coach/offensive line coach Rick Trickett. Travis Trickett, another son who has been a videographer in the FSU football program, will be the graduate assistant on offense this season.
- Junior safety Cooper Taylor’s father, JimBob Taylor, played quarterback at Tech.
- Senior wide receiver Kevin Cone’s dad, Ronnie, played running back at Tech.
- Senior running back Lucas Cox’s brother, Michael, was a three-year starter at fullback for Tech and now plays for the Kansas City Chiefs.
- Defensive lineman Joe Vellano’s father, Paul, played for Maryland (1971-73). He was an All-American defensive lineman in 1972 and All-ACC in 1972-73.
- Defensive back Austin Walker and defensive lineman Alex Walker are the sons of Doc Walker, who starred at UCLA from 1974-77 before being drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. He also started at tight end from 1980-85 for the Washington Redskins, playing for the 1982 Super Bowl championship team. Their father is currently a local sports-talk radio host for Sportstalk 980 and also covers ACC football for Raycom television.
- Running back Davin Meggett’s father, Dave, played in the NFL for three different teams -- the New York Giants (1989-1994), the New England Patriots (1995-1997) and the New York Jets (1998).
- Backup quarterback A.J. Highsmith’s father, Alonzo Highsmith, and running back Damien Berry’s father, Kenny Berry, played for Miami. Highsmith played at Miami from 1983-86 and in the NFL for seven years. Berry was at Miami from 1987-89.
- Backup quarterback Spencer Whipple is the son of assistant head coach and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple.
- Punter C.J. Feagles’s father, Jeff, is currently the New York Giants punter and has played 21 seasons in the NFL.
- Backup quarterback Bryn Renner’s father, Bill, was a punter at Virginia Tech and for the Green Bay Packers.
- Offensive tackle Brennan Williams’ father, Brent, played in the NFL from 1986-93 with the Patriots, Seahawks and Jets.
- Linebacker Shane Mularkey’s father, Mike, is the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons.
- R.J. Mattes' father, Ron, played at Virginia, where as a senior in 1984 he was an all-ACC defensive tackle for George Welsh. He also played offensive tackle in the NFL for the Seahawks, the Bears and the Colts. He is now coaching at Virginia as offensive line coach.
- Wide receiver Jared Green is the son of Darrell Green, who was a standout cornerback for the Washington Redskins and a 2008 inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Jared gave his father’s induction speech at the ceremony.
- Cornerback Chase Minnifield is the son of Frank Minnifield, a Pro Bowl cornerback for the Cleveland Browns, playing from 1984-92.
- Zac Evans is the son of George Evans, who was a starter on the Hokies’ offensive line and lettered from 1979-82.
- Kenny Lewis, Jr., is the son of Kenny Lewis, Sr., a standout running back for the Hokies who is enshrined in the Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
- Beau Warren’s father, Donnie Warren, played 14 years in the NFL for the Washington Redskins.
- Freshman linebacker Chase Williams, who entered school in January, is the son of Gregg Williams, the defensive coordinator of the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints.
- Linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow is the son of Kurt Gouveia, who was also a starter for the Redskins.
- Wiley Brown’s father, Chuck Brown was deemed the Godfather of GoGo music.
- Quarterback Brendan Cross is the son of former 49ers center Randy Cross.
- Linebacker Joey Ehrmann is the son of Joe Ehrmann, who played for the Colts and Lions.
- Center Chance Raines’ father, Mike, was an All-American at Alabama under Bear Bryant.
- Quarterback Ted Stachitas’ father, Len, is vice president of the National Football Foundation and the executive director of the NFF’s Play It Smart Program, a highly successful youth development program.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has tried just about everything. He’s moved players around. He’s switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 scheme because he was running out of healthy defensive ends. Now, with the injury situation having limited his options, he’s given his players one more task -- have fun.
|AP Photo/Gregory Smith|
|Safety Morgan Burnett knows the defense needs to pick things up.|
Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett said the message this week was not to become preoccupied with making mistakes or worrying about past errors made against Florida State. Instead, it was to let loose and have some fun on Saturday against the Hokies.
There’s no question, though, that the Yellow Jackets’ pride has taken a hit in the past two weeks. Despite winning both games, Georgia Tech allowed Florida State 539 yards of total offense and Mississippi State racked up 487. Both teams averaged 37.5 points against Georgia Tech, and with the way Virginia Tech’s offense has been clicking lately, the better defense should win on Saturday in what could be a season-defining Coastal Division game.
“You take that real personal because football is a competitive sport, so no matter what you do, you want to be the best,” Burnett said. “You want to be the best unit and you want to try to stop the offense. When a team puts up that many points, it’s very frustrating, and it gets you really upset. But you can’t get frustrated. We have to move on to Virginia Tech. We can’t sit back and worry about what happened at Florida State. The only thing we can do is fix it and get better.”
Georgia Tech’s defense was the Jackets’ lone question mark entering this year, as it lost three of four starting defensive linemen who are now in the NFL. With the exception of Burnett and defensive end Derrick Morgan, this defense lacks the superstar lineup it had a year ago, and injuries have compounded the problem.
Linebacker Kyle Jackson suffered a season-ending foot injury, and two defensive ends -- Anthony Egbuniwe and Robert Hall -- have both missed time. Hall could return from a knee injury in November, and Egbuniwe missed one game with an illness. Two star safeties -- Cooper Taylor and Dominique Reese -- have missed a combined four games. Taylor has missed the past three games with a heart problem, but began to practice lightly on Monday. Reese has a shoulder injury and missed one full game and played only a snap at MSU. Combined, those players have missed 13 games.
“You hate to sit there and say that because it sounds like you’re making excuses,” Wommack said, “but I think that’s it as much as anything, I really do.”
It’s caused a lack of continuity, and the Jackets have gotten away from the experienced reps they had during spring and two-a-days. Wommack said he doesn’t expect to get anyone healthy this week. Instead, he’s had to move a corner who’s never played safety to free safety in Rashaad Reid, and that’s part of the reason he’s been tweaking his defensive philosophy midseason, which is usually unheard of.
“It’s the worst thing you can do, to keep changing this and that,” Wommack said. “We’ve got new players playing different positions and so forth, but it’s somewhat been out of necessity, too.”
Georgia Tech is ranked 108th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. Its rushing defense is allowing 135.5 yards per game. The number that counts, though, is how many points they’re allowing, and that’s 26.5 points per game. None of those statistics match up well against the No. 4 ranked Hokies, who are scoring 34 points per game, and rushing for 208.5 yards per game. Virginia Tech is ranked among the top 20 in the country in both categories.
“You just fight through it, that’s what you’ve gotta do,” Wommack said. “You try to point out the mistakes to the kids when you review the film and why, where the breakdowns were, and all of a sudden you start getting better. It doesn’t happen overnight. It really doesn’t happen overnight.”
It’s got to happen by Saturday, though, or the Jackets will be behind the Hokies in the Coastal Division standings -- again.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
There are some teams in the ACC that are stacked at a particular position or positions -- meaning there's not just depth there, but depth and legitimate all-conference talent. Here's a quick look at who in the conference is simply loaded:
UNC front seven: All four starters return on the defensive line, and there is outstanding depth both there and in the secondary. On the line, tackle Cam Thompson is coming off his best season at UNC, tackle Marvin Austin and end E.J. Wilson both started the majority of games last season, and Robert Quinn had 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.
Linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant both started every game last season, and the position is the deepest it's been in recent years. Carter led the team with 11 tackles for loss and Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles.
Georgia Tech secondary: Morgan Burnett, Rashaad Reid, Mario Butler, Dominique Reese, and Cooper Taylor all have experience, and the group also welcomes back Jerrard Tarrant from a suspension.
Boston College secondary: The Eagles return DeLeon Gause, Wes Davis and Roderick Rollins, who have combined for 32 career starts. This should be the best group BC has had in a while.
Clemson defensive line: The Tigers return three starters across the front, and coach Dabo Swinney has said this unit could be the strength of the entire team. Ricky Sapp is the leader, senior Kevin Alexander is a returning starter, and there are really three starters returning for the two defensive end positions, including DaQuan Bowers, who started six games last year and finished with 47 tackles, the most among the linemen.
Miami wide receivers: Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier, LaRon Byrd, Kendal Thompkins, Tommy Streeter ... the Hurricanes could field a team that consists entirely of receivers.
Florida State offensive line: The Noles are oozing with talent here. Tackle Andrew Datko, guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon combined to start all but one game last season. What was the youngest offensive line in the FBS last season could be one of the best this year. For the first time since 2004, all five starters return.
Wake Forest offensive line: The Demon Deacons return eight offensive linemen with a total of 118 career starts among them. Jeff Griffin and Joe Birdsong are Wake's returning starters at tackle while Barrett McMillin and Joe Looney each started at guard in 2008. Russell Nenon, who started the season at guard, moved to center at midseason following an injury to Trey Bailey. Bailey returns after fully healing from a broken ankle. The Deacons also welcome back Chris DeGeare who missed the 2008 season while getting his academics in order.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Happy Monday, ACC fans -- unless, of course, you're a fan of FSU receiver Rod Owens.
That was easily the biggest news of the weekend, as there wasn't a lot of love for the links today in ACC country ...
- Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor ditched the hitch in his throwing motion.
- Wolf, Husky, call it what you will, it's the second season for the hybrid safety/linebacker position suited for Georgia Tech's Cooper Taylor.
- Rivals Clemson and South Carolina are going after the same recruit.
- Former Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is going to need more than speed in the NFL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith -- He intercepted Thaddeus Lewis twice in the game, including the game-ending pick in overtime, and he also blocked a punt for a safety. He now has 19 career interceptions and a team-best five this season.
Miami quarterback Jacory Harris -- For the second time this season, Harris came off the bench and led the team to a win. He threw the game-tying touchdown in the final minute and then another one in overtime to give the Hurricanes the 24-17 win over Virginia. He completed 12 of 21 passes for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
Miami's defense -- Not only did it keep Virginia's standout running back Cedric Peerman in check, but Lavon Ponder stripped Peerman of the ball on Virginia's first play of overtime. Miami held Virginia to just 3 of 14 third-down conversions and 71 total rushing yards. This was the game that changed the face of the Coastal Division standings and it snapped Virginia's four-game winning streak.
Clemson running back C.J. Spiller -- Nobody was going to stop this guy from playing, not even the team trainers. His performance helped the Tigers beat BC for the first time in six tries since 1958. He caught six passes for 105 yards -- the most by a Clemson running back -- and had eight carries for 55 yards.
Georgia Tech safety Cooper Taylor -- The true freshman will likely always remember his first collegiate start. He changed the game when he knocked the ball out of Marcus Sims' hands, forcing a fumble in the end zone that prevented FSU's game-winning touchdown. He also set up a touchdown with his second-quarter interception and led Georgia Tech with 10 tackles.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Hello from Bobby Dodd Stadium, where it is a perfect, sunny day and the Florida State fans are out in full force. A crowd nearing the capacity 55,000 is expected today. Florida State is planning on starting Preston Parker at wide receiver, unless he doesn't warm up well. He's got a deep thigh bruise and hasn't practiced the past two days.
A few changes in Georgia Tech's lineup ... Cooper Taylor will make his first career start at free safety (Dominique Reese is injured and won't play), and Nick Claytor will start in place of injured right tackle David Brown.
Here are a few keys to today's game:
Florida State's young offensive line against Tech's veteran defensive linemen: This will be the biggest matchup of the afternoon. The Seminoles will probably need tight end Caz Piurowski to help with the blocking. Georgia Tech's defense, though, is coming off a performance in which it missed 30 tackles.
Georgia Tech's rushing offense against Florida State's rushing defense: The Yellow Jackets are ninth nationally in rushing offense, averaging 236.6 yards, while the Seminoles rank seventh nationally in rushing defense, limiting opponents to 79.9 yards per game.
Turnovers: Georgia Tech needs to hold onto the ball while at the same time continue its knack of grabbing interceptions. Tech has only thrown three interceptions all season, but it's had a case of fumbleitis. On the flip side, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder hasn't thrown an interception in the past two games.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
WAKE FOREST -- The Demon Deacons have been working on trying to beat man coverage, which Florida State will play a lot of. Offensive coordinator Steve Lobotzke is less concerned about how that will affect their passing game than it will their ability to run the ball. FSU's formation allows for an extra blocker to stop the run, and Lobotzke has been scheming to figure out, by formation, how to beat the extra guy in the box.
FLORIDA STATE -- Yes, playmaker Preston Parker is back from his two-game suspension, but the staff is still figuring how to use him most effectively. With freshman running back Ty Jones out with a right ankle injury, don't be surprised to see Parker back in the running game. Jermaine Thomas and Antone Smith have both run well, but the staff is looking for a different dimension, a back who is faster and shiftier. That would be Parker.
NORTH CAROLINA -- Defensive coordinator Everett Withers is scheming to make Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor throw the ball, something he did just 14 times last weekend against Georgia Tech. It's no wonder that's the game plan: Withers' secondary intercepted four passes in UNC's win over Rutgers and the Tar Heels are fourth in the conference in pass defense efficiency (106.8). Said Withers: "Our whole objective in this thing is to try to make him beat us with his arm."
GEORGIA TECH -- Safety Dominique Reese has started the first three games, but as the season has progressed, true freshman Cooper Taylor's playing time has increased. Taylor is now getting between 50-75 percent of the snaps. The Yellow Jackets might get injured starting linebacker Anthony Barnes and starting wide receiver Demaryius Thomas back in time for the Mississippi State game. While coach Paul Johnson downplayed the absence of Thomas in the loss to Virginia Tech, Thomas could help with blocking.
MIAMI -- In addition to scheming for two quarterbacks, Randy Shannon will be watching to see if Texas A&M uses a four-man front or a three-man front and will have to adjust quickly to the Aggies' defense on Saturday in the first half. The Hurricanes have spent the bye week working on forcing turnovers because the defense hasn't had one in the first two games. The coverage teams for punt and kickoff returns also got extra work.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson wasn't shy about his feelings on the helmet-to-helmet call with the game tied at 17 in the fourth quarter, one of two costly 15-yard penalties for the Yellow Jackets. Virginia Tech beat Georgia Tech 20-17.
"We pushed the quarterback out of bounds and got a helmet-to-helmet call," Johnson said. "Wow. Wow. 17-17 game. Wow."
Safety Cooper Taylor was charged with the call when Virginia Tech had the ball on its own 23-yard line.
Johnson said Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor went down, so he's not sure how that call could've happened, and that if that's the case, "I bet you there's a helmet to helmet on every play in football." He said the same thing about holding.
Taylor said he thought it was just a late hit.
"I felt the guy from the back that was grabbing me out of bounds," he said. "I thought it was a late hit. I thought I was already out of bounds. That's what I thought the flag was, but he did hit me head to head."
One play later, Michael Johnson was called for a face mask, and Georgia Tech penalized another 15 yards. That set the Hokies up on the Yellow Jackets' 21-yard line and changed the game.
"That," Johnson said, "was a facemask."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
1. Clemson: Quarterback Cullen Harper said Tuesday he's dealing with a sprained AC joint in his throwing shoulder, an injury he suffered in the season opener against Alabama. Clemson's injuries and inexperience on the offensive line are obviously part of the problem, but a bit of tension between Harper and coach Tommy Bowden won't help things. Bowden said Harper needs to play better after going 14-of-18 passing for 192 yards and a touchdown against the Citadel. Harper said "come to me and say it."
2. Florida State: Finding the right combination on the offensive line is the main priority right now before heading into ACC play against Wake Forest. Offensive line coach Rick Trickett publicly called out left tackle Zebrie Sanders, saying "I didn't think he played very well." Trickett was impressed with Andrew Datko and right guard David Spurlock, "but the other guys, those two freshmen, we've got a little ways to go there." Trickett still hasn't made much use of junior college transfer Joe Tonga at right tackle.
3. Georgia Tech: Most of the focus has been on the offense, but the Yellow Jackets' secondary has quietly picked off four passes in two games. It's quite an improvement considering they only had five interceptions all of 2007. Part of that is a result of the tremendous pressure Georgia Tech is bringing up front, but it's also showed a fearlessness from younger players. True freshman safety Cooper Taylor had six tackles against Boston College and cornerback Rashaad Reid made his first career interception.
4. NC State: The Wolfpack is looking for offensive playmakers to replace injured starters, as they're down to their third-string tight end, leading rusher Jamelle Eugene is out and top wide receiver Donald Bowens is out. Keep an eye on T.J. Graham, a blazing wide receiver and kickoff man who is the league's top freshman in all-purpose yards. And tight end George Bryan made the most of his promotion, as he had five catches for 41 yards and a touchdown last week. Quarterback Russell Wilson, who was out last week with a severe concussion, will make his comeback in Death Valley.
5. Virginia Tech: Despite quarterback Sean Glennon being outspoken about the staff's decision to use Tyrod Taylor last weekend, coach Frank Beamer said that wasn't the reason he put a muzzle on the quarterbacks this week. "I just think we spend all our time talking about quarterbacks and I want to talk about Georgia Tech." Beamer is looking for his team to block better and more consistently and wants his offensive line to continue to improve. The most progress came in the kicking game, and the tackling improved from Week 1 to Week 2.