NCF Nation: D.J. Adams

Last week we looked at how the quarterbacks stacked up in the ACC. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the running backs. Again, the position rankings by team put heavy weight on the depth of the position -– hence the team ranking, not individual. Just because Virginia Tech has one of the best running backs in the ACC doesn’t mean that collectively, as a group, Virginia Tech is the best team in the league at the position. Florida State? Loaded. Wake Forest? Not. These are based on the best combination of talent, experience and depth.

Here’s a look at how each team ranks in the position:

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIChris Thompson averaged 6.4 yards per carry for the Seminoles last season.
1. Florida State: Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas combined for 1,862 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, and 17 touchdowns last year. Thompson had 1,000 yards combined from both rushing and receiving last year, and Thomas enters his senior season with 1,084 career yards -- the second most of any active ACC runner, behind only Montel Harris (3,600).

2. Boston College: Montel Harris could break a 33-year-old ACC rushing record this fall, and his backup, Andre Williams, is a bigger back who has proven more than capable of shouldering the load himself. Together they’re one of the best one-two combos in the league.

3. Miami: The transfer of Storm Johnson hurt, but Lamar Miller should be one of the best in the ACC, and Mike James was ahead of Johnson on the depth chart. The Canes also have Darion Hall, Maurice Hagens and incoming freshman Kevin Grooms.

4. Clemson: Andre Ellington will be the leader of the pack, but true freshman Mike Bellamy could also make an immediate impact, and the group runs deep with Roderick McDowell, D.J. Howard and Demont Buice.

5. Virginia Tech: Had Ryan Williams and Darren Evans returned, this would have been one of the premier groups of running backs in the country. Instead, it will be the David Wilson show (and Josh Oglesby). Not that the Hokies will have any problem with that.

6. Maryland: Davin Meggett and D.J. Adams are a talented duo, but depth should be a concern. Meggett posted a team-high 720 rushing yards in 2010, while Adams had a freshman school-record 11 rushing touchdowns.

7. NC State: The Wolfpack are in a much better position at running back than they were a year ago, when nobody with starting experience returned. Mustafa Greene, James Washington and Brandon Barnes should make NC State’s running game a bigger factor this fall.

8. Georgia Tech: Coach Paul Johnson isn’t concerned about his B-back position because it’s one of the deepest on the team. There isn’t one superstar like in recent years, but Richard Watson, Charles Perkins and Preston Lyons will work together to keep the Jackets one of the top rushing teams in the country.

9. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace three tailbacks who accounted for 96 percent of their rushing last year. Ryan Houston is back for his sixth season of eligibility, but he is the only one who has seen significant playing time. Giovani Bernard, Hunter Furr and Travis Riley help the depth.

10. Wake Forest: Josh Harris could crack the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy, and Brandon Pendergrass is a capable backup. There are three true freshmen at the position, and it’s one area coach Jim Grobe can’t afford any injuries.

11. Virginia: Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are talented, but the Cavaliers will miss the production of Keith Payne, who accounted for 14 of the team’s 17 rushing touchdowns. Jones started all but one game last year, but only scored one touchdown.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils’ running game is starting to show progress, but last year it still ranked 104th in the country. Depth isn’t a problem, as Desmond Scott, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson should help make it a more productive group this year.

Stay tuned for the top 10 ACC running backs for 2011 ...
It’s time to reload in the ACC. Here’s a look at the position needs for each team in the Atlantic Division for the 2011 signing class:


Offensive linemen: Six players on the final two-deep roster for 2010 were either juniors or seniors, and the Eagles will have to find replacements for Anthony Castonzo, Rich Lapham and Thomas Claiborne. There were two juniors at center in 2011, and the recruiting overall at this position hasn’t been as strong in recent years.

Defensive linemen: The Eagles have been thin at the position to begin with since the departures of Ron Brace and B.J. Raji. The interior line should be a priority, as tackle Damik Scafe will graduate, and Kaleb Ramsey will be a senior. Defensive end Brad Newman will also graduate.


[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesReplacing Da'Quan Bowers is a top priority for Clemson.
Defensive line: The early departure of defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and the loss of Jarvis Jenkins makes this group a priority. Seven of the eight players up front on the final two-deep roster were either juniors or seniors.

Quarterback: Prior to the early enrollees, Clemson only had one scholarship quarterback on the roster -- projected starter Tajh Boyd. The depth needs to be rebuilt after the loss of starter Kyle Parker and transfer of backup Willy Korn.

Running back: The early departure of Jamie Harper to the NFL left a hole in the Tigers’ lineup. It’s not completely empty, as Andre Ellington remains the best back on the roster and Roderick McDowell was a redshirt freshman backup to Harper.


Offensive lineman – The departures of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon will leave gaping holes up front, and A.J. Ganguzza and Antwane Greenlee aren’t expected to return. Overall, the staff is looking for bigger, better players. With the exception of right guard, this was a veteran group.

Running back: Despite the current depth, the coaching staff still wanted to sign about three more running backs in this class.

Wide receiver: This would be the third priority for the staff. Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling will both be seniors, but the team has lacked some dynamic playmakers at the position.

Linebacker: The Noles lost two starters from last year’s Atlantic Division championship team, and there are several young players on the rise like Jeff Luc and Telvin Smith, but the staff wants more numbers at the position.

Safety: The Noles need an upgrade at this position.

Defensive line: This is a matter of mostly building depth and size and continuing to get better.


Kicker/ Punter: Nick Ferrara has the ability to do both, but he also struggled at both in 2010. Travis Baltz was a four-year starter at punter who has to be replaced. The kicking game should be a top priority in this class, and a concern if Ferrara doesn’t become more consistent.

Wide receiver: The early departure of standout Torrey Smith to the NFL leaves quarterback Danny O'Brien without a favorite target. Seven of the nine receivers listed on the most current depth chart for 2010 were either juniors or seniors.

Running back: The Terps have to replace starter Da’Rel Scott, and Davin Meggett will be a senior. There is some talent behind Meggett in D.J. Adams, but the position could use more depth.

Secondary: Six of the top 10 players in the secondary were either juniors or seniors in 2010, including safety Antwine Perez, who will graduate. Kenny Tate and Cameron Chism will both be seniors, and the corner position is the biggest need.

Defensive end: Defensive coordinator Don Brown would like to bring in at least one player who can really bring some speed off the edge.


Kickers: The Wolfpack lost their starting punter and place-kicker, easily making kickers the biggest need in this recruiting class.

Defensive linemen: With the exception of sophomore Brian Slay, the entire 2010 line was comprised of juniors and seniors. The Pack have to replace two starters, and two returning starters, Jeff Rieskamp and J.R. Sweezy, will be seniors.

Linebackers: This was another veteran group for NC State, with five of the six players on the two-deep either juniors or seniors. Nate Irving’s graduation will be a big hit and Audie Cole will be a senior.

Quarterback: If Russell Wilson leaves early, the position will be even thinner, but backup Mike Glennon will be a junior, so the staff needs to build more depth.


Offensive linemen: The Deacs will have four redshirt juniors returning up front, and have to replace redshirt senior center Russell Nenon. The staff is looking to increase the depth and talent up front.

Linebackers: The position hasn’t been the same since the 2008 class (Aaron Curry and Stanley Arnoux). They were both drafted and two of the fastest players the program has ever seen. The staff needs to bring in more talent and speed here.
Here’s a quick recap of Maryland’s 51-20 win over East Carolina in the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman:

How the game was won: East Carolina did what it could to help the Terps with four turnovers and 15 penalties, but Maryland’s defense was a major factor in the game, and the Terps found their running game. ECU was averaging 38 points per game under the direction of quarterback Dominique Davis, but the Pirates couldn’t get into the end zone enough. Nor could they keep Maryland out of theirs.

Turning point: On East Carolina’s first possession of the third quarter, Davis threw an interception to David Mackall, who returned it 34 yards to the Pirates’ 1-yard line. D.J. Adams scored one play later to give Maryland a 23-3 lead and really distance the Terps.

Stat of the game: East Carolina finished with 15 penalties for 123 yards. The Pirates only had six more first downs than they did penalties.

Player of the game: Running back Da'Rel Scott. Maryland entered the game with the No. 94 rushing offense in the country, but Scott got it going against the Pirates. He finished with 201 yards and his 61-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter put the Terps ahead 37-13. He averaged 15.5 yards per carry and added a 91-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Unsung hero of the game: Defensive coordinator Don Brown. He had this team well-prepared for the nation’s No. 12 scoring offense. ECU was held to just 32 rushing yards and was successful on only 7 of 19 third downs.

What it means: The Ralph Friedgen era is officially over at Maryland, and it has ended on a positive note. Friedgen, the ACC’s Coach of the Year, will end his career at Maryland with a 9-4 record this season. It’s the 14th time in school history that Maryland has won that many games.

Record performance: Friedgen will leave as the school’s winningest coach in bowl games with a 5-2 record. Friedgen won a school-record three straight bowl games from 2003-06. Prior to Friedgen's arrival, Maryland made only one postseason appearance in the previous 15 years.


ACC power rankings: Week 12

November, 15, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

This might be a first. Has to be. I can’t remember another time that there wasn’t any movement in the power rankings. This is the exact same lineup from a week ago, and yet we still don’t know for sure who’s in the ACC championship game. Half of the equation appears to be solved with Virginia Tech’s hold over the Coastal Division standings, but it’s not over until the Hokies win one more game. Congrats to the Atlantic Division for redeeming itself from last week. Florida State, Maryland and NC State all took care of business and kept things interesting. In the Coastal Division, so did Miami. Georgia Tech? Not so much. Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up heading into Week 12:

1. Virginia Tech (8-2, 6-0 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Hokies further distanced themselves from the rest of the ACC with their 26-10 win against North Carolina. The Hokies need only to win one of their final two games to clinch the Coastal Division, but they’ve got a tough road trip at Miami looming. Virginia Tech will have to play better against the run more consistently in this game in order to win.

2. NC State (7-3, 4-2 ACC; LW: No. 2): Led by another impressive performance by quarterback Russell Wilson, the Wolfpack picked apart the Wake defense in a 38-3 win. NC State can win the division if it wins out, but first has to get past rival North Carolina in Chapel Hill this weekend. Tom O’Brien has won the past three games against Butch Davis, but this year, there’s more on the line.

3. Florida State (7-3, 5-2 ACC; LW: No. 3): After losing back-to-back heartbreakers in the previous two weeks, the Seminoles found a way to come out on top – kicker Dustin Hopkins. A week after missing the game-winning field goal in the loss to North Carolina, Hopkins redeemed himself with a 55-yard game-winner as time expired against Clemson. The Seminoles are back atop the Atlantic Division standings heading into Saturday’s game at Maryland.

4. Miami (7-3, 5-2; LW: No. 4): The Hurricanes kept their slim Coastal Division hopes alive by beating Georgia Tech for the second straight year, but the Hurricanes have to win out and hope the Hokies lose their next two games in order to win the division. Miami hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday and will need another strong performance from the running game.

5. Maryland (7-3, 4-2; LW: No. 5): Maryland’s offense is hitting its stride at just the right time, thanks in large part to quarterback Danny O’Brien. The Terps were able to snap Virginia’s three-game winning streak in the series, and they did it in Charlottesville, keeping their ACC title hopes alive. Maryland needs to win out in order to win the division, but the Terps close out their schedule with their top competition, starting Saturday against the Seminoles.

6. North Carolina (6-4, 3-3 ACC; LW: No. 6): Despite an impressive performance by backup running back Anthony Elzy, the Tar Heels were doomed by their season-high six turnovers in the loss to Virginia Tech. They’ll have to settle for a bowl game as a consolation prize this year, but even that is an accomplishment considering the off-field distractions the program has had to overcome. Of course, playing the role of spoiler for rival NC State this weekend would also be gratifying for the Heels.

7. Clemson (5-5, 3-4; LW: No. 7): The Tigers couldn’t make the stops when they had to (namely in the second half when FSU quarterback E.J. Manuel started running the option), and once again, there were problems in the kicking game. A missed field goal and a blocked field goal came back to haunt the Tigers in the fourth quarter. Their hopes at defending their division title were also blocked.

8. Georgia Tech (5-5, 3-4; LW: No. 8): The Yellow Jackets couldn’t stop Miami’s quartet of running backs, nor could they force rookie quarterback Stephen Morris into any critical mistakes. The Yellow Jackets are still searching for bowl eligibility and have now lost three straight games for the first time under coach Paul Johnson.

9. Boston College (5-5, 3-4; LW: No. 9): Frank Spaziani’s defense rose to the occasion again, as defensive end Max Holloway got his hand on Duke quarterback Sean Renfree’s fourth-down pass to preserve the Eagles’ win. They’re one win away from bowl eligibility now with Virginia and Syracuse – both beatable teams – still on the schedule.

10. Virginia (4-6, 1-5; LW: No. 10): The Cavaliers scored on a fake field goal, but that was the highlight of their offensive performance. The defense couldn’t keep D.J. Adams out of the end zone, or slow down quarterback Danny O’Brien. Virginia lost its chance at becoming bowl eligible in Mike London’s first season.

11. Duke (3-7, 1-5; LW: No. 11): The Blue Devils will have to wait another year for another chance at the postseason, as the loss to Boston College put them out of contention for bowl eligibility. Duke can still make a foundation to build upon by closing its season with wins against Georgia Tech and rival North Carolina.

12. Wake Forest (2-8, 1-6; LW: No. 12): The Deacs appeared to make a little bit of progress – at least defensively early when they were able to hold NC State in a 3-3 tie, but the game is four quarters, not one. They’ll catch Clemson when the Tigers are down this week, but it will be tough for Jim Grobe’s team to match that talent and speed.

ACC Helmet Stickers: Week 11

November, 13, 2010
Offense, defense and special teams all made the cut in the ACC's top five performers for Week 11:

FSU kicker Dustin Hopkins: He kicked the game-winning, 55-yard field goal for the 16-13 win over Clemson as time expired, and the Noles wouldn't have won without his two other field goals in the game. It was redemption for Hopkins, who last week missed the game-winner in a loss to UNC.

BC defensive end Max Holloway: BC's defense was the difference in the Eagles' 21-16 win over Duke, and Holloway got the final word. He batted down Duke quarterback Sean Renfree's pass on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line to preserve the win with 46 seconds left. He finished with 11 tackles, 4.5 for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble.

Virginia Tech's defense: The Hokies had six takeaways in their 26-10 win over North Carolina, including two interceptions from Jayron Hosley. UNC receiver Dwight Jones was held to just one catch, and the Hokies pitched a shutout in the second half after trailing 10-9 at the break. UNC quarterback T.J. Yates threw four interceptions, and the Hokies held UNC to just 19 total yards in the third quarter.

Miami running backs: The Canes took the pressure off of rookie quarterback Stephen Morris in the 35-10 win over Georgia Tech with their ability to run the ball. Miami had 145 yards on 21 carries in the first half. Miami finished the game with 277 yards on 46 carries, led by Lamar Miller with 85 yards on 11 rushes. Four different running backs -- Damien Berry, Graig Cooper, Lamar Miller and Mike James -- scored touchdowns.

Maryland's offense. Wide receiver Torrey Smith had had more than 100 yards receiving with 12 minutes left in second quarter of a 42-23 win against Virginia. He finished with a game-high 157 yards on seven receptions and 214 all-purpose yards. D.J. Adams ran for three touchdowns against Virginia, becoming the first Maryland player to do that since Lance Ball on Oct. 6, 2007 against Georgia Tech. And quarterback Danny O'Brien threw for two touchdowns and ran for another.