NCF Nation: Cris Hill

Can the Hokies stop Watkins again?

December, 1, 2011
12/01/11
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One of the bright spots for the Hokies in their 23-3 loss to Clemson this season was the standout defensive effort against true freshman receiver Sammy Watkins, who was held to three catches for 38 yards in that game. Redshirt senior cornerback Cris Hill was tasked with defending Watkins for most of the game, and the veteran obviously had the edge.

"It wasn't like we had to pay a little more attention to him," safety Eddie Whitley said of Watkins. "We knew he was a dynamic player and he was going to make his plays when possible.

"It didn't matter who was on him," he said. "We just had to trust our technique and our coaches to put us in the right position to make plays."

The Hokies held Watkins to his lowest receiving total of the season in Week 5, as he entered that game averaging 108.3 yards and 92.3 yards after the catch per game. What the Hokies excelled at was minimizing Watkins' gains after the catch.

The question now is, can Virginia Tech do it again?

"Virginia Tech in particular, they have a unique style of defense with what they play, and they mix it up well with kind of conventional defense and their Robber coverage that they play, and I thought they did a good job of taking away some of the short-game stuff to Sammy, but he still made a couple of big plays, made a big play down the middle against them," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "But he's one of those guys where you just have to keep giving him at-bats, and sooner or later he's going to put the bat on it."

ESPN's Stats & Info department took a closer look at Watkins' production against Virginia Tech compared with how he fared during the rest of the season:



Despite his lack of production against Virginia Tech, Watkins has proven to be dangerous after the catch all season long. According to ESPN's Stats & Info, amongst AQ receivers in the BCS Top 25, only Tavon Austin of West Virginia has gained more receiving yards after the catch than Watkins. He enters Saturday's Dr Pepper ACC championship game with 666 yards after the catch on 72 receptions, and 61.7 percent of his 1,073 yards have come after the catch.

Pregame lineup notes: UVa vs. VT

November, 26, 2011
11/26/11
3:16
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- A few quick notes on the depth charts for you:

Virginia Tech center Andrew Miller is going to try to play today, according to a school spokesman, despite nagging hip and ankle injuries, but the staff is going to determine it from how he's warming up here and pretty much leave the decision up to him. If Miller can't go, Michael Via will take his place, and he has played sparingly at center. Defensively, outside linebacker Alonzo Tweedy is available, despite a high ankle sprain, and his role will likely be limited to special teams and designated situations on defense. He hasn't practiced a lot recently. Kyle Fuller is expected to start at cornerback instead of Cris Hill.

There are no lineup changes for Virginia.
As advertised ...

1. Florida State: The Noles have one of the best cornerback duos in the country in Greg Reid and Xavier Rhodes. They combined for 33 passes defended last season, the most of any pair of cornerbacks in the nation. Mike Harris had 41 tackles and four picks as a reserve.

[+] EnlargeGreg Reid
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireFlorida State cornerback Greg Reid is also one of the ACC's top return men.
2. Virginia Tech: Jayron Hosley is one of the top boundary corners in the country, and the Hokies also have Kyle Fuller, who had six deflections last season, and Cris Hill (two deflections) at field corner.

3. Maryland: The Terps return both starters in Cameron Chism and Trenton Hughes, who combined for 36 career starts. Chism is a strong cover corner who had 70 tackles and eight deflections last season. Hughes had nine pass deflections.

4. NC State: Both starters return in C.J. Wilson and David Amerson. Wilson had 46 tackles, two interceptions and six pass breakups, and Amerson had 57 tackles. Justin Byers and Gary Grant also have experience.

5. North Carolina: The Tar Heels lost some remarkable talent in their secondary, including cornerback Kendric Burney, but there is a lot of depth at the position. Jabari Price started four games last season, Charles Brown has 22 career starts but sat out last season, and Mywan Jackson and Tre Boston both have at least four starts each.

6. Boston College: The Eagles will miss DeLeon Gause, but Donnie Fletcher has 17 career starts, 56 tackles last season, and led the team with five picks. C.J. Jones played in 12 games as a backup last season with 16 tackles. Dominique Williams also saw some time and had four tackles, and true freshman Al Louis-Jean, who was the No. 9 cornerback in the nation as ranked by ESPN Recruiting, enrolled early.

7. Clemson: It’s a young group, as the Tigers had to replace Marcus Gilchrist and Byron Maxwell. Xavier Brewer had 10 starts with 50 tackles and two interceptions last season, Coty Sensabaugh had 31 tackles in three starts, and senior Mansa Joseph will also be competing for playing time with sophomore Martin Jenkins.

8. Virginia: The Cavaliers return both starters in Chase Minnifield and Devin Wallace, but Wallace was suspended and missed spring ball and is still suspended. Wallace had 38 tackles and six breakups last season. Chris Broadnax, Rijo Walker, Drequan Hoskey and Pablo Alvarez will all compete for playing time.

9. Miami: The Hurricanes have to replace both starters in Brandon Harris and Ryan Hill. Jo-Jo Nicholas moved to corner and Brandon McGee, who was the nickel back last season, will compete along with Lee Chambers, Keion Payne, Nathan Gholston and true freshman Thomas Finnie, who had a great spring.

10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets had to replace their entire secondary, including cornerbacks Mario Butler and Dominique Reese. They’ve still got several cornerbacks with experience in Rashaad Reid, who started 14 games in 2008 and 2009, Rod Sweeting (38 tackles, seven pass breakups, one interception), Louis Young (10 tackles), and Michael Peterson (six tackles, one pass breakup).

11. Wake Forest: The Deacs have a deep enough secondary that they can live without the experience of cornerback Kevin Johnson, who started five games last season but will sit out this season while academically ineligible. Josh Bush had 33 tackles and four pass breakups last season, Kenny Okoro is a rising star, A.J. Marshall has three starts and Dominique Tate returns after missing last season while on academic suspension.

12. Duke: Ross Cockrell is a returning starter and finished last season with 60 tackles and 10 passes defended. He was only a freshman but he tied for eighth in the ACC with passes defended with 10 in 12 games. Johnny Williams had four pass breakups last season.

Weekend rewind: Scrimmages

August, 23, 2010
8/23/10
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Here's a quick look back at the weekend scrimmages, thanks to reports from the schools' sports information offices:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Sophomore quarterback Mike Marscovetra was perfect, going 12-for-12 for 90 yards and a touchdown. Dave Shinskie went 14-for-19 for 116 yards, but threw an interception. True freshman Chase Rettig was 2-for-4 for 13 yards.

Sophomore Clyde Lee and true freshman Bobby Swigert led the receivers with five catches each. Lee had a game-high 43 yards, and Swigert went for 29 yards and a touchdown.

Redshirt freshman kicker Nate Freese made a 51-yard attempt that hit the crossbar and went through, and he made another from 39 yards. He missed a 47-yarder that hit high off the left upright.

Sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly led the defense with six tackles, and junior safety Dominick LeGrande recorded five tackles and an interception.

FLORIDA STATE

The Seminoles went through what amounted to a full-scale dress rehearsal, as they did their pre-game routine, returned to the locker room, then returned to the field for a three-hour scrimmage. Offensive coordinator James Coley and quarterbacks coach Dameyune Craig were in the press box, along with defensive ends coach D.J. Eliot and a graduate assistant. They helped call the plays on headphones, and there weren't any personnel or clock-management issues.

Junior college transfer Mike Harris earned some high praise from coach Jimbo Fisher:

“Mike’s a good player; he’s a real good player,” said Fisher. “He breaks on the ball. He’s almost like a quiet assassin. You never hear him out there, but he’s always in the right place."


Statistics weren't included in the team's scrimmage report, but sophomore Willie Haulstead played well, and Fisher used a tailback-by-committee approach with Jermaine Thomas, Ty Jones and Chris Thompson. Defensively, former cornerback Ochuko Jenije started at safety.

VIRGINIA TECH

First, the injury report: Backup receiver Xavier Boyce sprained his left MCL and will have an MRI, backup linebacker Lorenzo Williams sprained his right foot and will have an MRI, and punter Brian Saunders bruised his right ankle. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, linebacker Barquell Rivers will not play against Boise State, and Bruce Taylor will start in his place. Starting field corner Jayron Hosley is still out with a hamstring injury.

Offensively, Tyrod Taylor completed 7 of 9 passes for 95 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Ryan Williams was the leading rusher with 46 yards on nine carries, including a 2-yard touchdown run. David Wilson added 38 yards on six carries and scored on a 12-yard run. Defensively, Eddie Whitley led the way with seven tackles and a pass break-up. Kicker Chris Hazley made field goals of 43 and 47 yards, but missed his first field goal in a preseason scrimmage when he was wide left on a 48-yard attempt. Cris Hill blocked two punts.

You can find more on the Hokies' scrimmage here.

Scouting Virginia Tech's defense

February, 11, 2010
2/11/10
9:20
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The Hokies' defense will be one of the biggest questions in the ACC this preseason, as Virginia Tech has to replace six starters. Still, expectations are high heading into 2010 that Virginia Tech will be one of the best teams in the country. Much of that confidence comes from defensive coordinator Bud Foster's proven ability to reload.

Can he do it again?

Bud Foster
AP Photo/Steve HelberBud Foster will have some new pieces to work with this season.
Here's a closer look at exactly what Virginia Tech's situation is on defense heading into spring practice, and how much work the Hokies have to do:

  • 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.
It's a lot to ask for a team that faces Boise State's offense on Labor Day, but the Hokies wouldn't be so highly ranked this preseason if people didn't think they could do it.

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