NCF Nation: DaQuan Bowers

The "spring shoes to fill" series looked at the most difficult player to replace in each program. Five of them were quarterbacks, four linemen, two receivers and one linebacker.

Boston College: Anthony Castonzo
Clemson: Da'Quan Bowers
Duke: Abraham Kromah
Florida State: Rodney Hudson
Georgia Tech: Joshua Nesbitt
Maryland: Torrey Smith
Miami: Leonard Hankerson
North Carolina: T.J. Yates
NC State: Russell Wilson
Virginia: Marc Verica
Virginia Tech: Tyrod Taylor
Wake Forest: Russell Nenon

Hudson was the most decorated offensive lineman in ACC history. Taylor was the winningest quarterback in school history. Nesbitt was the most prolific rushing quarterback in league history. Bowers was honored as the nation's top defensive player. Almost all of them were record-setters. The ACC lost some tremendous talent from 2010 rosters.

Of these 12 players, I took the liberty of narrowing the list down to five choices for the most difficult player to replace in the ACC.
Three of the most talked-about players in Kansas State's spring camp have never suited up in a Wildcats uniform.

Expectations from fans and media are high for all three, but for now, coach Bill Snyder isn't ready to tell anyone just what to expect.

[+] EnlargeKansas State's Bryce Brown
AP Photo/Wade PayneBryce Brown, now a Kansas State Wildcat, rushed 101 times for 460 yards as a member of the Tennessee Volunteers in 2009.
"These are quality young people, wonderful youngsters and very, very fine players," he said during the Big 12's conference call on Tuesday. "But I wouldn’t go beyond that at this point in time, because they haven’t, in either case, had the opportunity to step up and prove themselves."

Bryce and Arthur Brown are brothers and Wichita, Kan., natives. Bryce, a running back, originally signed with Tennessee before transferring back to Kansas State to be closer to home. Arthur, a linebacker, did the same after signing with Miami originally.

Both were five-star recruits, among the best in their class at their positions. In Arthur Brown's class, ESPN pegged only five players better than him, and four (A.J. Green, Julio Jones, Terrelle Pryor, Da'Quan Bowers) became household names over the course of their careers.

Alabama's Trent Richardson was the only running back ESPN ranked above Bryce Brown.

Neither stuck at their respective program.

Quarterback Justin Tuggle, meanwhile, started briefly at Boston College after leaving high school as the nation's No. 38 player. Last year, he spent the season filling Heisman winner Cam Newton's shoes at Blinn College in Texas.

Snyder has built a reputation on turning transfers from junior colleges and other Division I programs into stars, and the Wildcats hope that will be the case with their new trio, who will finally get their chance this fall.

"Are they going to step on the field and be instant successes to an extremely high degree? I can’t guarantee that," Snyder said. "I’d like for it to happen, they’d like for it to happen, our players would like for it to happen, and our coaches, but I wouldn’t instill that kind of pressure on either one of them."

The Brown Brothers have been in the program for a year, and Arthur has already drawn rave reviews for his work on the scout team last year. Tuggle, a dual-threat quarterback, arrived this semester and is working on learning the Wildcats offense while competing with Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur to win the starting job.

"I’d hate to put a ceiling on anybody’s capabilities, whether it’s a transfer student or young people who have been in our program for a period of time. It would be hard to say this is what their limitations are. We try to stress not placing limitations on their abilities to perform successfully," Snyder said. "They weren’t in a position where they were on the field, the kind of repetition that is quality or signifies quick improvement, but they are now and each and all of them are making headway. Where does that take them? That’s certainly up to them."

Exiting the spring: Clemson

April, 8, 2011
Spring game: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday,

Questions answered: The Tigers have bought into first-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris' up-tempo offense and they like it. Clemson installed about 60 percent of the offense this spring, and has embraced first-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd as its new leader.

Questions unanswered: How the Tigers will replace some big names on defense remains a question. Malliciah Goodman is next in line to replace Da'Quan Bowers, but both he and the coaches have said he can still reach another level. The Tigers are young but talented in the secondary, where stars Marcus Gilchrist and DeAndre McDaniel have graduated. And there will be plenty of more options this summer when a top-10 recruiting class arrives on campus.

Spring stars: Bashaud Breeland, a redshirt freshman defensive back, looks to move into the role of all-purpose defensive back formerly held by Gilchrist.

Of note: Entering the spring game, kicker Chandler Catanzaro has finished the spring strong by making seven of his last eight field goals in scrimmages. While he made 14 of 22 field goals last year (including just 3-of-7 from the 30-39 range), he did make six of his last seven kicks last year and appears to have picked up where he left off.

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
The official list for the NFL combine has been released. A total of 48 players from the ACC have been invited to audition for the NFL from February 23 – March 1. When categorized by school, it's somewhat of a reality check to see how many of the best players in the conference are moving on, and which programs will take the biggest hit. It's impossible not to wonder how good North Carolina could have been had all of the following players remained eligible. The Tar Heels will send the most players to the combine with 11.

Here are the players who will represent the ACC:

  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Rich Lapham
  • Mark Herzlich
  • Da'Quan Bowers
  • Marcus Gilchrist
  • Chris Hairston
  • Jamie Harper
  • Jarvis Jenkins
  • Byron Maxwell
  • DeAndre McDaniel
  • Danny Aiken
  • Ras-I Dowling

Clemson recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011

The class

Recruits: 29

Top prospects: Inside linebacker Tony Steward and outside linebacker Stephone Anthony are both ESPNU 150 players and the top-ranked recruits at their respective positions. Five-star receiver Charone Peake is the No. 2 receiver in the country and No. 14 player overall in the ESPNU 150.

Needs met: The Tigers added three quarterbacks to a roster that previously had one scholarship quarterback in projected starter Tajh Boyd. The early departure of running back Jamie Harper to the NFL left a void at the position, but Mike Bellamy will play immediately. The defensive line also had big holes to fill with loss of Jarvis Jenkins and Da’Quan Bowers, but there are five defensive linemen in this class. The transfer of linebacker Brandon Maye from an already-thin position didn't help, but the addition of the top two linebackers in the country did.

Analysis: This was one of the most impressive classes and recruiting efforts in the country, considering the Tigers were coming off a 6-7 season that ended with back-to-back losses to South Carolina and South Florida. Coach Dabo Swinney and his staff exceeded expectations.

ESPN recruiting grade: B+
The loss of Clemson starting linebacker Brandon Maye will hurt the depth of a position that was already limited in its numbers, but the Tigers have enough talent behind him to compensate for his departure. They'll also give the position a boost with this year's signing class -- especially if Stephone Anthony and Tony Steward choose Clemson.

Maye's backup, Jonathan Willard, is expected to be the front-runner to take over the starting job on the weak side heading into the spring, and Quandon Christian, who played a lot in the Tigers' nickel packages over the past seven or eight games of the season, should continue to build upon his 2010 experience as the starting strongside linebacker. Christian actually has better speed than Maye did.

This has been an offseason of change for Clemson, which hired a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive line coach, and lost standout defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and running back Jamie Harper early to the NFL draft. Still, the combination of good hires and incoming talent are reasons for optimism heading into 2011. This year's team can -- and should -- be better than 2010.

Recruiting rewind

January, 28, 2011
There’s only one way to truly grade recruits -- look at their performances on the field after they sign. Some, like Clemson offensive lineman Chris Hairston, exceed their ranking expectations. Others, like Duke kicker Will Snyderwine, make names for themselves as walk-ons. And some, like Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, lend merit to the ranking system.

Using’s recruiting database, I took a look back at my 2010 all-conference team to see how each player fared in his respective recruiting class. Some players have flourished at other positions. Only five of the players were ranked among the ESPNU 150, and five were either unranked or joined the team as a walk-on.

Here’s a look back at the recruiting rankings for the ACC’s top players in 2010:


QB: Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech:No. 16 player in ESPNU 150, No. 3 overall quarterback in the 2007 class

RB: Montel Harris, Boston College: No. 143 running back in the 2008 class

RB: Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech: No. 73 running back in Louisville’s class of 2007

WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami: No. 61 wide receiver in 2007 class

WR Torrey Smith, Maryland: No. 54 wide receiver in 2007 class

TE George Bryan, NC State: No. 16 tight end, class of 2007

C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech: Joined the team as a walk-on in 2006

OL Rodney Hudson, Florida State: No. 16 offensive guard in the 2007 class

OL Anthony Castonzo, Boston College: Not ranked in the 2007 class

OL Chris Hairston, Clemson: Not ranked in the class of 2006

OL Brandon Washington, Miami: No. 11 offensive guard in 2008 class


DL Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson:No. 1 overall player in ESPNU 150 Class of 2008, No. 1 overall defensive end

DL Brandon Jenkins, Florida State: No. 18 defensive end in the 2009 class

DL Quinton Coples, North Carolina: No. 34 defensive end, class of 2008

DL Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson: No. 36 defensive tackle in the 2007 class

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College: No. 19 outside linebacker

LB Nate Irving, NC State: Not ranked, class of 2006

LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland: No. 18 inside linebacker class of 2006

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech: No. 22 cornerback in 2009 class

CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia: No. 69 cornerback, class of 2007

S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson: No. 105 in ESPNU 150 Class of 2006, No. 12 safety

S Kenny Tate, Maryland: No. 134 in ESPNU 150 Class of 2008, No. 19 wide receiver


P: Matt Bosher, Miami: No. 4 kicker in 2006 class

K: Will Snyderwine, Duke: Joined the team as a walk-on in 2007 after an open tryout

PR: Tony Logan, Maryland: No. 21 quarterback in 2007 class

KR: David Wilson, Virginia Tech: No. 40 in ESPNU 150 Class of 2009, No. 5 running back
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.

Da'Quan Bowers now tops Big Board

January, 7, 2011
The decision of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck to stick around gave former Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers a boost in Mel Kiper's latest Big Board. Bowers was No. 2 in the last list, so it shouldn't come as a big surprise, but it would be good for the ACC to have this year's top pick.

Meineke Car Care Bowl: 3 keys

December, 30, 2010
Here are three keys for Clemson heading into the Meineke Car Care Bowl against South Florida:

1. Smart quarterback play. Not only from Kyle Parker and Tajh Boyd, but from the coaching staff. There has to be good communication between everyone, regardless of who is on the bench or why. Parker will be starting it off, and it’s up to him to make good decisions. In the past six games, he has completed 108-173 passes (62.4 percent). He has passed for 1,107 yards (184.5 per game) during that stretch, but it’s the interception against South Carolina that many remember.

2. Win the battle up front. Defensively, Clemson should have the edge against South Florida’s offensive line with defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, but the Bulls’ front seven could present some challenges for the Clemson’s interior offensive line. Jamie Harper is going to have to work for his yards, but the Tigers should be able to get to B.J. Daniels if he returns from a bruised quad.

3. Win the one-on-one matchups in the secondary. South Florida’s secondary has been underrated but effective. The Bulls are No. 21 in the country in pass defense, and Clemson is No. 84 in passing offense. The receivers will have to get open and help Parker out.
Here’s a quick preview of Clemson’s game against South Florida:

WHO TO WATCH: Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker. This will be his last game for Clemson before joining the Colorado Rockies as a first-round Major League draft pick, and he wants to go out on a winning note. He and coach Dabo Swinney have been at odds during times this season, but Parker came back because he didn’t want to be perceived as a quitter and because he didn’t want his last collegiate pass to be an interception in a loss to rival South Carolina. Parker has been pushed by backup Tajh Boyd this season, and it’s possible that competition could remain through the bowl game.

WHAT TO WATCH: Clemson’s receivers against South Florida’s secondary. DeAndre Hopkins, Jaron Brown and tight end Dwayne Allen have each developed into more dependable options in the passing game, but the Bulls have the No. 21 pass defense in the country, allowing 187.83 points per game. South Florida will use a lot of man coverage, so it will up to the Tigers to win those battles and help Parker out. Hopkins needs one touchdown reception to set the Clemson single-season freshman record.

WHY WATCH: This game features two of the nation's stingiest defenses, and considering the Bulls beat Miami, nothing is a given. A win would give Clemson an 11th consecutive winning season, and the Tigers are trying to avoid their first losing season since 1999, when the Tigers were 6-6 in Tommy Bowden’s first year as head coach. A win would also give Clemson a bowl victory in consecutive seasons for the first time since the 1986-90 era, when Clemson won a bowl game in five straight seasons.

PREDICTION: Clemson 17, South Florida 10: Clemson’s defense will be the difference, especially up front, where the defensive line, led by Da’Quan Bowers, will have the edge. Bowers needs one sack to become Clemson’s single-season record holder.'s All-America team

December, 27, 2010
Three ACC players were featured on's 2010 All-America team:
  • Florida State guard Rodney Hudson
  • Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers
  • Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly

There's no question these three were among the best players in the country this year, and Boston College fans should be particularly excited because Kuechly is only a sophomore.

These three players were unanimous All-America selections, only the second time in ACC history the league has had that many players selected for first-team All-America by the Associated Press, the American Coaches Football Association (AFCA), the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), the Sporting News and the Walter Camp Foundation. The three unanimous All-America selections ties the ACC’s all-time high of unanimous All-Americas set in 2004 when Virginia’s Heath Miller, Florida State’s Alex Barron and Antrel Rolle of Miami all earned unanimous All-America honors.

Now they can add another All-America selection to their list.

Newton leads AP All-America team

December, 14, 2010
Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and Auburn teammate Nick Fairley headline the AP All-America team, announced Tuesday. Auburn is one of five players on the first team. Here is the complete list of first-teamers:

QB -- Cam Newton, Auburn
RB -- LaMichael James, Oregon
RB -- Kendall Hunter, Oklahoma State
WR -- Ryan Broyles, Oklahoma
WR -- Justin Blackmon, Oklahoma State
OL -- Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
OL -- John Moffit, Wisconsin
OL -- Rodney Hudson, Florida State
OL -- Nate Solder, Colorado
OL -- Chase Beeler, Stanford
TE -- Michael Egnew, Missouri

DL -- Nick Fairley, Auburn
DL -- Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
DL -- Stephen Paea, Oregon State
DL -- Da'Quan Bowers, Clemson
LB -- Greg Jones, Michigan State
LB -- Luke Kuechley, Boston College
LB -- Von Miller, Texas A&M
DB -- Patrick Peterson, LSU
DB -- Tejay Johnson, TCU
DB -- Quinton Carter, Oklahoma
DB -- Prince Amukamara, Nebraska

Special teams
P -- Chas Henry, Florida
PK -- Alex Henery, Nebraska
AP -- Randall Cobb, Kentucky 2010 All-ACC team

December, 8, 2010
This is usually one of the most difficult posts of the season, but for some reason, this year there seemed to be more separation between the good players and the great ones in the ACC.

Honestly, the biggest internal debate was over the kicker, a battle between Virginia Tech’s Chris Hazley and Duke’s Will Snyderwine. The coaches voted Snyderwine an All-America selection, and that was hard to ignore, as was the fact that he is the master of the onside kick, and hit four that Duke retained. Duke isn’t the most athletic team, but because of Snyderwine’s ability to put the ball in a 3-yard square, the Blue Devils were right there with everyone else in kickoff coverage (No. 3 behind division champs Florida State and Virginia Tech). The frustrating part of compiling this team is that there is always a deserving player left off -- always. There’s no question, though, that everyone on this year’s All-ACC team deserves it.

Here’s a look at your all-conference team for 2010:


QB: Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech

RB: Montel Harris, Boston College

RB: Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech

WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami

WR Torrey Smith, Maryland

TE George Bryan, NC State

C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech

OL Rodney Hudson, Florida State

OL Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

OL Chris Hairston, Clemson

OL Brandon Washington, Miami


DL Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson

DL Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DL Quinton Coples, North Carolina

DL Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB Nate Irving, NC State

LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia

S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

S Kenny Tate, Maryland


P: Matt Bosher, Miami

K: Will Snyderwine, Duke

PR: Tony Logan, Maryland

KR: David Wilson, Virginia Tech

ACC conference overview

December, 8, 2010
The entire season seemed to center around Virginia Tech -- first its failure, and ultimately, its success. The ACC once again placed its national championship hopes in the hands of the Hokies, but that faded fast with the season-opening loss to Boise State. Five days and an inexplicable loss later, Virginia Tech seemed doomed. The Hokies were the joke of the ACC after their loss to James Madison, but nobody in the program was laughing. Instead, they were planning their turnaround. Virginia Tech hasn’t lost since, and will represent the ACC against Stanford in the Discover Orange Bowl.

With the exception of its 0-2 start, Virginia Tech was the most consistent team in the ACC and the clear-cut favorite to win the Coastal Division. Georgia Tech simply wasn’t as good as it was when it won the title in 2009, Miami failed to take another step forward in the fourth season under Randy Shannon, and North Carolina beat itself with NCAA investigations that ultimately derailed the careers of 14 players. The Tar Heels made the headlines for all of the wrong reasons in the first half of the season, but much like Virginia Tech fought back after an 0-2 start to become bowl-eligible. Instead of getting better as the season progressed, Miami seemed to take a step back, losing to Virginia and, in the season finale, to South Florida. Shannon was fired hours later and offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland was named interim head coach and tasked with picking up the pieces.

The Atlantic Division race turned out to be the more entertaining, as NC State and Maryland were surprise contenders in late November. Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen earned the ACC’s Coach of the Year for the second-best turnaround in the FBS, transforming his 2-10 2009 season to an eight-win team that was bowl eligible before November. The Terps rebounded from their loss to Florida State and played the spoiler role against NC State in the season finale. Good seasons could have been great ones for both Maryland and NC State, but neither took advantage of the opportunity and Florida State snuck into the title game in Jimbo Fisher’s first year.

It was a signature season for Fisher, who managed to put his stamp on the program just one year after replacing legendary coach Bobby Bowden. Not only did the Seminoles finish 6-2, they were able to beat rival Florida for the first time since 2003, a span of six games. Florida State ended the season as the only team in the state ranked in the BCS standings, beating both Miami and Florida in convincing fashion.

It was a much-needed win against the SEC, as the ACC once again struggled in its nonconference games. With five teams ranked in the preseason polls and only two -- Florida State and Virginia Tech -- still standing in the final BCS standings, the ACC didn’t underachieve it was overrated.

Tyrod Taylor
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireTyrod Taylor finished the season with 2,521 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and a passer rating of 159.04.
Offensive MVP: Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. With three touchdowns against FSU in the title game, Taylor set the school single-season record for touchdown passes with 23. He was the game’s MVP for the second time in his career, and will leave as the winningest quarterback in school history.

Defensive MVP: Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. The Bronko Nagurski winner is a big-play pass rusher who led the nation in quarterback sacks with 15.5 (1.29 a game). He was second in the country in tackles for loss with 24.5 (151 yards). He had nine tackles, one quarterback sack, two tackles for loss and a pass interception in the Tigers' 16-13 loss to Florida State.

Newcomer of the year: Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien: He has thrown 21 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. His touchdown total ranks second in school history, while his interception percentage of 1.90 (six picks in 315 attempts) leads all FBS freshmen quarterbacks.

Coach of the Year: Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer: This might have been the best coaching job of Beamer’s career. He rallied his team from an 0-2 start and guided them on an 11-game winning streak, the best turnaround in FBS history. The Hokies became the first team to go undefeated in league play since Florida State in 2000.

Biggest surprise: Maryland. The Terps were picked to finish last in the Atlantic Division and coach Ralph Friedgen’s job was on the line, but Maryland completed the second-best turnaround in the FBS behind Miami (Ohio) and won eight games after a 2-10 season in 2009.

Biggest disappointment: Miami. North Carolina rivaled the Canes for this spot, but considering the way Miami finished the season -– with a loss to South Florida and the firing of Randy Shannon -– it was well below expectations for a team with a veteran quarterback and coach.

Game of the year: Virginia Tech 41, NC State 30. It was one of the most impressive comebacks in school history, as the Hokies rallied from a 17-point deficit and to beat No. 23 NC State on the road. It was a game that put Virginia Tech in the driver’s seat for the Coastal Division race and prevented NC State from doing the same.