NCF Nation: Darryl Richard

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 8, 2009
4/08/09
12:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Nothing like a few links for a mid-week pick-me-up ...

  • So what if Ben Anderson has short legs? He benches 460 pounds, the most of any player at Georgia Tech. And he's aiming to take over for Darryl Richard.
  • Apparently everyone but B.J. Raji has been told the former Eagles' defensive tackle failed a drug test from the NFL combine.
  • Andrew Carter of the Orlando Sentinel has been breaking down the Noles by position, and today he looks at the receivers. The Noles end practice Wednesday.
  • NC State picked up a commitment right out of Butch Davis' backyard.
  • With spring ball halfway over, the Terps are tinkering with their depth chart.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

At 6-foot-7, 325 pounds, and from the football-rich state of Alabama, massive Georgia Tech redshirt freshman T.J. Barnes wowed a lot of college coaches during his recruiting process as a potential offensive tackle or guard -- two positions he had absolutely no interest in playing anymore. Alabama and Louisville were among his suitors, as was Auburn, where his father, Terry Jones, was a defensive lineman and his cousins, Fred Baxter and Randy Hart both played.

"All my offers were for offense," Barnes said. "Nobody really believed I could play defense except for Auburn and Georgia Tech."

Georgia Tech had no doubt he'd have a future as a defensive tackle.

"That's all I wanted to do," Barnes said, "play defense."

That and make a name for himself somewhere other than Auburn, where expectations to continue the family legacy would be high.

This spring, Barnes will get his chance to do both.

Georgia Tech only lost six starters from last year's nine-win team that tied with Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division title, but three of them were on the defensive line and had combined for 87 career starts. That leaves the door wide open for Barnes -- and several other young players -- to win starting jobs this spring and summer. The unit lacks both depth and experience, and is easily the Yellow Jackets' biggest question mark heading into the fall, as junior defensive end Derrick Morgan is the only player returning with any starting experience.

"Coach (Giff) Smith instills in us we have to be the best group on the team," said Morgan, who cracked the starting lineup as a true freshman in 2007. "That's what we strive for. I know we're losing four seniors, but we're not looking at it as a lack of talent. We have talent. We don't want to lower our expectations coming into next year just because we're losing four seniors. We're setting the bar high."

Morgan has set the standard high for himself. He was second on the team and eighth in the ACC with seven sacks last year. He had 9.5 tackles for loss and was tied for second nationally in fumble recoveries with four. He led all of Tech's linemen with 51 tackles, but soaked up his teammates' knowledge on a daily basis.

Former starters Vance Walker, Michael Johnson and Darryl Richard often shared different pass rush techniques and how to see blocks. Morgan said he's still learning from the trio as they audition for NFL scouts, and give him advice on going through the NFL combine and handling his post-collegiate career. They've also added to the growing list of voices telling him he has to be a leader this season.

"I'll probably have a bigger leadership role amongst my teammates," said Morgan, a junior who recently turned 20 years old. "I'm ready for that. A couple of coaches have said I have to step up and become one of the leaders of our team, and I have no problem doing that."

He'll be anchoring a group that includes defensive end Robert Hall and defensive tackle Ben Anderson, both who played significant snaps last year. Defensive end Jason Peters returns, along with defensive end Anthony Egbuniwe, who played sparingly last season after transferring from Tulsa. Defensive end Emmanuel Dieke (D-A-K) enrolled early and has impressed the staff, and defensive end Antonio Wilson is a redshirt freshman who didn't start playing football until his junior year in high school. There's no shortage of bodies at end, but experience and the interior line is another matter.

"Anytime you lose guys that have played as much football as they have, there's an adjustment," Smith said, "but I think we've done a good job of keeping talent coming in. Although it will be a little bit inexperienced, I think it's a great challenge. It's like I told them last year, all the eyes were on us for one reason, now all the eyes are on us again for a different reason. I think they're excited about the challenge and I think people will be surprised when they see the caliber of players we have at Georgia Tech."

Morgan said he's heard all off-season about what the Yellow Jackets don't have coming back on the defensive line.

"I kind of expected that," Morgan said. "We're just going to take that with a grain of salt, work hard, and use it as motivation, which is kind of an advantage. Teams are going to probably underestimate our d-line and not take as much time to game-plan for us like they did last year. We're going to have to go out there and prove ourselves, which is no problem for us."

Like Barnes, Morgan, too, has something to prove. He said he wants to silence come critics who don't think he can be as effective as he was last year without the veteran lineup beside him.

"God-willing that's what I'm aiming for, that's what I'm working for," he said of a breakout season. "I know there are going to be skeptics who say, well, can he do the same thing he did last year without the three veterans? I want to go out there and prove I can do everything I did last year and more."

There's no doubt the Yellow Jackets will need him to.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Just in time for the holiday, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney gave some good advice in this article, advice I vow to follow:

"If you're stressed, Swinney said, you turn it around with sweets, because 'stressed' spelled backward is 'desserts.'"

Makes sense to me. Somebody get the offensive coordinators in this league a few boxes of truffles, starting with Patrick Nix. Coach Randy Shannon had to defend his offense and his coordinator this week. Then again, is it really Nix's fault the Hurricanes haven't had any playmakers on a consistent basis? Some of the numbers Jorge Milan of the Palm Beach Post points out are surprising.

Offense does matter in college football. Unless, of course, you're talking about Virginia Tech. Want proof? Check out this little factoid from Hokies beat writer Kyle Tucker:

"Tech has a chance to become just the second BCS conference team in the last three years to win its league championship with an offense ranked 100th or worse. The only other team to do that? The 2007 Hokies."

The Georgia-Georgia Tech game is "going to be won in the trenches," where Yellow Jackets defensive tackle Darryl Richard and his teammates have the edge in experience.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

ATLANTA -- The only thing left for Georgia Tech to beat in the ACC is the odds.

Stranger things have happened, and defensive tackle Darryl Richard knows it. After all, he plays in this league.

 
 Paul Abell/US Presswire
 Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets piled up 472 yards rushing Thursday night.

"Who knows, in this conference, I'm telling you, the way they play hot potato with the trophy, don't be surprised if somebody gives it up on Saturday and we get to sit there and watch them do it," Richard said, grinning after his team's 41-23 throttling of Miami. "It's great to just sit back and watch. That's what we're going to do, sit back and watch."

And Richard knows exactly what needs to happen this weekend for the Yellow Jackets (8-3, 5-3 ACC) to sneak into the ACC Championship Game despite its 2-3 record against Coastal Division opponents.

"We need NC State to handle North Carolina, if Clemson wants to play in a bowl game this year they're going to take care of Virginia, and hopefully Virginia gets something done in Blacksburg," he said without taking a breath, knowing there arecurrently five teams in the Coastal Division with three losses.

He laughed. Everyone laughed.

"I don't think it's all that hard," he said.

Considering what Georgia Tech has pulled off in Paul Johnson's first season -- eight wins despite a new offense, a new defense and a young, injury-laden roster -- watching the chaos should be much easier. Georgia Tech was picked to finish fourth in the Coastal Division behind Miami. Instead, they're sitting atop the division standings.

"Everybody pretty much laughed at us when we were killing ourselves in the offseason," Richard said. "Look at me now. Who has the last laugh?"

There's no question King Richard was holding court after his senior night win, one in which the defense played its best in recent weeks. Asked if Johnson should be named coach of the year, Richard didn't hesitate, and made several good points.

ACC Coastal Division Standings
TEAMCONF. W-LOVERALL W-L
Georgia Tech 5-3 8-3
Miami (FL) 4-3 7-4
North Carolina 3-3 7-3
Virginia Tech 3-3 6-4
Virginia 3-3 5-5
Duke 1-5 4-6

"How many people thought he was going to get it done?" Richard asked. "I mean, not only are we bowl eligible, but now we really have a chance to play in the championship game by a guy who came in and changed the offense from a pro style to an option-based spread. Let's be honest, if you can show me a better candidate, I would like to hear it, and I would definitely refute a lot of the facts people might put up, but he's done a hell of a job here."

It's hard to argue against the 6-foot-4, 290-pound grad student.

Johnson is just happy with the position his team put itself in.

"It's like I told our guys, when we wake up in the morning, we'll be in first place, because we finished our games," he said. "We're 5-3 and the best anybody else can do is 5-3. Who knows how it's going to work out with all the tiebreakers and with everything involved.

"But I know this: At the end of the year, we'll at least be co-champs, tri-champs, quad-champs, we'll be something. Nobody's going to have a better record. We might lose the tiebreaker, but we'll have a piece of the championship in our division."

Miami coach Randy Shannon, whose Hurricanes -- at least for a few days -- had sole possession of first place agreed this game was yet further evidence of how crazy and unpredictable the ACC can be.

"That's why I made the statement earlier in the season that in this conference, you never know who's going to win," he said. "Each week somebody may knock somebody off. Somebody may gain ground, lose ground. Every week you have to show up. This week, we didn't do a good job of showing up."

Next week, you can bet Richard will sit back and watch to see if they do it again.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
 Dale Zanine/US Presswire
 Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson talks to tackle Nick Claytor (75) as he comes off the field during Saturday's 31-28 win over Florida State.

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson trudged into the interview room after his team's dramatic, last-minute 31-28 win over Florida State with a scowl on his face. All 6-foot-7of him looked miserable.

"We gave up 28 points," he mumbled.

The standards at Georgia Tech have changed under first-year coach Paul Johnson.

Yes, with its seven wins Georgia Tech has officially surpassed preseason expectations so low you could trip over them. And yes, the Yellow Jackets became bowl eligible on Saturday for the 12th straight season.

But c'mon, going to bowl games?

"That's old news, going to a bowl," Michael Johnson said. "We're trying to compete for championships around here now."

With a little help from Miami this weekend, they're still able to. And they're looking way ahead of schedule in the process.

Georgia Tech fell a step behind in the Coastal Division standings with its loss to Virginia last weekend, but as soon as the Hurricanes defeated Virginia 24-17 in overtime, Georgia Tech shot back up to the top of the division standings. The score in Charlottesville was one of the first things Paul Johnson told his team in the locker room after their game.

In order for it to matter, though, Georgia Tech had to take care of its own business first.

"It was a big win for us," Johnson said. "I think that everybody when the season started wrote us off, said we were going to win three games, four games. Then when we started out pretty good, then everybody jumped on the bandwagon. And then when we lost last week, they couldn't get off fast enough. And so it was good for the guys to win. I don't know if we'll win another game, but I know this: I know we've won seven, and that's more than anybody thought we'd win, so I'm proud of it."

The doubts came in large part because of Johnson's old-school triple-option offense (which has really blown the whole three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust stereotype right out of Bobby Dodd Stadium), not to mention an entirely new defense, too. But those within the program -- and coaches throughout the league who have failed to stop the Jackets' offense -- are true believers.

(Read full post)

ACC lunchtime links

October, 29, 2008
10/29/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

  • He's a leader on and off the field, so much so that even those on Georgia Tech's Board of Regents recognize defensive tackle Darryl Richard's ability to influence his classmates and teammates. Between his work in the community and earning his MBA, King Richard has so many other responsibilities this week that Florida State is last on the list.
  • The month of November has never been kind to the Duke football team, as the Blue Devils are 4-34 during the month since their last bowl game in 1994. Coach David Cutcliffe knew coming into the year, though, that November would define his first Duke team.
  • You know Virginia coach Al Groh has done a good job when somebody at rival Virginia Tech is giving him credit for it. And yes, I was one of those jokers.
  • Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson is driving his offense straight toward a bowl game, and FSU defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has spent this week figuring out how to stop it.
  • Clemson coach Dabo Swinney used the bye week to watch all of the Tigers' games this season and discover what we already knew -- Clemson has all of the talent it needs to be a good football team. Said Swinney:

"We're not a broken team. We're not an old jalopy hooptie car that we've put a paint job on and some new rims. We've got everything on this car."

They just need to find somebody to drive it.

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