NCF Nation: Cord Howard

ESPN.com's All-ACC team

December, 8, 2009
12/08/09
3:18
PM ET
There were a lot of outstanding players in the ACC this year, but the following players rose above the rest and made ESPN.com’s All-ACC team:

Offense

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

Defense

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

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It was a downright miserable 20th birthday for Georgia Tech offensive tackle Nick Claytor, who spent April 1 in an Ohio hospital where he underwent surgery for a ruptured disc in his back. It was still better, though, than going through another season with the scary pain and numbness on his left side.

Claytor was in the hospital for about four days, and he wasn't the only starting offensive lineman at Georgia Tech who spent more time this offseason recovering than he did playing football. Center Dan Voss, who fell awkwardly on his shoulder against Mississippi State last year and said "it just popped out," was also held out of spring drills, along with senior guard Cord Howard, who missed most of the practices.

Even though Georgia Tech featured the No. 4 rushing offense in the country last year, there was still room for improvement up front, and the offensive line remains a concern heading into summer camp. Some of the progress was slowed by the absences caused by injuries, but those within the program say it gave the backups some valuable reps that will in turn make the unit better and deeper in 2009.

"Last year we didn't play nearly as well as we needed to and had a lot of room for improvement," Voss said. "It was almost like there was nowhere to go but up for us. In the spring we really built a lot of depth, and although Nick and Cord and I were out for a lot of it, we were getting better in the film room, just by watching plays and taking a different point of view. And the guys who did play definitely got better with the reps. I think overall it will be a lot better offensive line next year."

The last thing Claytor is worried about is healing.

"I really, really, really want a championship," he said. "Getting healthy and getting back in shape, that's not even a goal -- that's going to happen. The goal is to win games."

Because Claytor's injury kept him sidelined for so long, though, he said he might be a little tentative until he gets hit for the first time this summer.

"When it's time to start hitting again, it will probably take a day, or one good shot from a linebacker or one of our ridiculous D-linemen," said Claytor, who has been lifting again, but isn't back to a full sprint yet. "Our D-linemen are so good. It will probably take one good shot from one of them to get me angry and back into it."

Voss wasn't allowed to do any lifting with his left arm, and spent most of the spring wearing a red jersey running on the practice field sideline affectionately known as "muscle beach." He said he expects to shake off the rust within the first two weeks of summer camp, and that he benefited from his time as a "player-coach" this offseason.

"With coach [Paul] Johnson, you're going to get better, especially during the spring," Voss said. "The O-line improved a lot. There were some people who didn't play much last year that got a lot of reps this spring. You could see a difference in how people move and how people react. It was bad for us to get hurt; it's never fun to get injured like that and get surgery, but the fact the rest of the line got better, it's good for everybody."

It's not like Georgia Tech's offensive line couldn't execute at all last year -- the Jackets averaged 273 rushing yards. But the front five didn't always give quarterback Josh Nesbitt enough time to throw, wasn't consistent about protecting him well or cutting down the linebackers and opening up lanes for the talented backfield.

Jonathan Dwyer can make defenders miss, but if the line makes its blocks, he can be that much better. Voss said there's no ceiling for the Yellow Jackets this fall, as long as everyone executes their assignments, starting up front.

"As an offensive line, the team will go as we do," he said. "If the offensive line plays well, we could have one of the great seasons at Georgia Tech. And if we don't do well, it could be a huge disappointment. We understand that."

SOS in the ACC

May, 26, 2009
5/26/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Each team is going to need a little bit of help this fall (some more than others). Here's a look at where everyone in the ACC needs the most help heading into summer camp:

BOSTON COLLEGE -- Quarterback. It's easily the biggest question mark in Chestnut Hill, and it will also be one of Frank Spaziani's first major decisions as head coach. Regardless of whom he picks -- Dominique Davis, Codi Boek or Justin Tuggle -- experience will be at a minimum.

CLEMSON -- Wide receivers. Somebody needs to help Jacoby Ford, and Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham are no longer around to do it. Xavier Dye didn't quite have the consistency he'd hoped for this spring. Marquan Jones and Terrence Ashe could also be factors.

DUKE -- Offensive line. The Blue Devils lost three starters there and moved a fourth (Kyle Hill from left guard to left tackle), so it will have an entirely new look. The one player back in his original position is center Bryan Morgan.

FLORIDA STATE -- Receivers. FSU is waiting until the legal process unfolds to determine the length of Rod Owens' suspension, and it's uncertain how quickly Taiwan Easterling will be cleared to play after an injury to his Achilles. Bert Reed, Louis Givens and Jarmon Fortson will be heavily depended upon.

GEORGIA TECH -- Linemen. The Yellow Jackets have to replace three of four starters on the defensive line, and injuries to Cord Howard, Dan Voss and Nick Claytor slowed the progress on the offensive line this spring.

MARYLAND -- Offensive line. The Terps lost three starters and will have four players in new positions. Phil Costa should be the leader of an otherwise inexperienced group.

MIAMI -- Linebacker depth. There were a few position changes, and Colin McCarthy missed the spring. Sean Spence is proven, but depth remains a concern.

NORTH CAROLINA -- Receivers. This group had to be completely rebuilt, as UNC lost players who accounted for 17 of 21 receiving touchdowns last year. Greg Little had a good spring and should be the leader now, and freshman Joshua Adams benefitted from enrolling early.

NC STATE -- Safety. This is coach Tom O'Brien's biggest concern, and the Pack need Javon Walker, who tore his ACL and missed the spring, back and healthy. Clem Johnson played well last year despite being hindered by several injuries. O'Brien is looking for more from Jimmaul Simmons and Justin Byers.

VIRGINIA -- Linebackers. The backups to Antonio Appleby, Jon Copper and Clint Sintim rarely played, as Al Groh wanted to keep his best players on the field. Darren Childs, Steve Greer, Aaron Taliaferro, Cam Johnson, and Darnell Carter will have to grow up quickly.

VIRGINIA TECH -- Kicker. For the third straight year, Frank Beamer is in search of a new kicker, this time to replace Dustin Keys. Matt Waldron was the leading candidate out of the spring, but the competition is wide open.

WAKE FOREST -- Linebackers. Gone are Aaron Curry, Stanley Arnoux and Chantz McClinic. Introducing Gelo Orange. Yes, that's his name. Orange, along with Hunter Haynes, Jonathan Jones and a host of others have some big shoes to fill.

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