NCF Nation: Dave Shinskie

It was a busy weekend in the ACC. Here's a look back at the highlights from the scrimmages, according to the sports information departments of the teams that provided reports:


Coach Frank Spaziani told reporters after the 70-minute scrimmage that there were some good things, but "it's like a jigsaw puzzle with all the pieces in the box; they're not connected yet."

Offensive highlights:
  • Quarterback Chase Rettig completed 12 of 19 passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. “I think Chase showed the progress he's been making,” Spaziani said. “The obvious things were fine; there were some subtle things he needs to work on.”
  • Rettig connected on passes of 10 yards six times, including a 30-yard pass to Colin Larmond, Jr., a 24-yard touchdown pass down the middle of the field to receiver Bobby Swigert and a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior captain Ifeanyi Momah.
  • Larmond (3 receptions for 53 yards), Swigert (3-for-33), junior receiver Donte Elliott (3-for-37) and redshirt freshman tight end Jarrett Darmstatter (3-for-16) led a total of 12 receivers that registered at least one reception each.
  • Rettig and fellow quarterbacks Mike Marscovetra and Dave Shinskie combined for four touchdowns as Marscovetra went 6-for-9 for 30 yards and a touchdown pass of five yards to junior receiver Hampton Hughes and Shinskie connected on 4-of-5 passes for 38 yards and a touchdown to sophomore tight end Mike Naples.
  • Tailback Rolandan Finch carried the ball 10 times for a total of 30 yards to lead all running backs while sophomore Andre Williams broke free for a 20-yard touchdown run during red zone drills. Williams finished with five attempts for 21 yards and redshirt freshman Tahj Kimble accounted for 20 yards on five carries.
Defensive highlights:
  • Linebacker Nick Clancy and defensive back Sean Sylvia led the team with four tackles each.
  • Sophomore linebacker Jake Sinkovec had one interception and one fumble recovery.

Quarterback Tajh Boyd had an impressive performance, as he completed 10 of 12 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown to highlight the new offense in Clemson’s 75-play scrimmage in Memorial Stadium on Saturday morning.

Offensive highlights:
  • Boyd completed each of his final eight passes to six different receivers. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to receiver DeAndre Hopkins, then connected on a 3-yard score to Dwayne Allen in a goal-line situation.
  • Allen had three receptions for 66 yards, including a diving catch over the middle for 14 yards and a first down. Brandon Ford had three receptions for 37 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown pass from Cole Stoudt.
  • Stoudt was 4-of-14 passing, but threw for 71 yards and two touchdowns, one to Ford and one to Bryce McNeal (23 yards).
  • Rod McDowell was the leading rusher with four carries for 68 yards, including a 39-yarder on his first carry of the day. Andre Ellington had five rushes for 41 yards and added two receptions, while freshman Mike Bellamy had five carries for 40 yards.
Defensive highlights:
  • The first-team defense did not allow a scoring drive.
  • Martin Jenkins led the team with seven tackles, including a tackle for loss.
  • Corico Hawkins had five tackles and a fumble recovery, while freshman defensive end Corey Crawford had five stops, including a sack.
Special teams highlights:
  • Clemson’s three kickers, Chandler Catanzaro, Ammon Lakip and Brian Symmes were a combined 16-of-16 on the day in field goal attempts and extra points against a live rush.
  • Three Tigers missed the scrimmage because they were going through graduation exercises across the street from Memorial Stadium in Littlejohn Coliseum. Starting offensive tackle Landon Walker, starting safety Rashard Hall and reserve defensive end Kourtnei Brown all graduated from Clemson on Saturday. It was especially noteworthy for Hall, who has been at Clemson just three years. He joins Nick Eason (now in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals) as the only scholarship football players to graduate with two years of athletic eligibility remaining.
  • Four players missed the scrimmage due to injury. Those players were defensive back Xavier Brewer (sprained foot), defensive back Garry Peters (bruised calf), Andre Branch (head injury), DeShawn Williams (sprained ankle).

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson had mixed reviews after the Yellow Jackets' first scrimmage, which ran 90 minutes inside Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday morning.

"It was like a lot of first scrimmages, there were way too many balls on the ground and way too many penalties," Johnson said. "But we hit some big plays. When you play against each other there's positives and negatives on both sides. It's a starting place and we'll look at it and try to make some improvements."

Offensive highlights:
  • While no official statistics were kept, quarterback Tevin Washington passed for well over 100 yards, including a 63-yarder to senior A-back Roddy Jones. Redshirt freshman quarterback Synjyn Days threw the only touchdown of the day, to true freshman Jeff Greene.
  • Greene ran with the first unit Saturday as most of the veterans -- junior Stephen Hill, senior Tyler Melton, sophomore Jeremy Moore and junior Daniel McKayhan -- all sat out with injuries.
  • Washington scored the only other touchdown Saturday on a 1-yard QB keeper.
Defensive highlights:
  • Defensive end Emmanuel Dieke had a sack, true freshman Jamal Golden intercepted a Vad Lee pass, and Steven Sylvester and Isaiah Johnson both recovered fumbles.
Special teams highlights:
  • Sophomore Justin Moore booted a 45-yard field goal on his only attempt.
  • David Scully's 52-yard attempt was long enough, but just wide left.

The most important news out of Miami's first scrimmage was that quarterbacks Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris combined for five touchdown passes and only one interception. That sounds like improvement. Miami's quarterbacks combined for 407 passing yards on 38-of-52 passing for six touchdowns and only one interception.

Offensive highlights:
  • Receiver Tommy Streeter had the best offensive day for the Canes, catching five passes for 71 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came from Harris.
  • Lamar Miller had runs of 16 and 31 yards on the opening drive.
Defensive highlights:
  • Senior defensive back JoJo Nicolas led all defenders with eight tackles (six solo), with two tackles for loss.
  • Ramon Buchanan and freshman Gionni Paul and each had six total tackles, with Paul also recording a tackle for loss.
  • The defense totaled eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage for a total loss of 29 yards

The Hokies' offense was the highlight, but what does that mean for the defense? Coach Frank Beamer pointed out that there were some long plays allowed, as the offense racked up 398 yards of total offense in the 78-play scrimmage at Lane Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The touchdowns came against Tech's second- or third-team defense, though, so the jury is still out.

"I thought it was a good first scrimmage -- better than most," Beamer said, according to the team's scrimmage report. "You take into consideration that you're trying to get everyone some work, people who don't know quite what they're doing, and that makes things a little ragged. I thought overall, though, it was a sharp scrimmage. The quarterbacks made some nice plays and Wilson got a couple of long plays against the defense, and we need to see what's going on there. Overall, the effort was good and the play was good."

Offensive highlights:
  • Backup quarterback Mark Leal led the quarterbacks with 116 yards passing, completing 6 of 13. He also threw an interception. Beamer said Leal is No. 2 on the depth chart behind Logan Thomas. Ju-Ju Clayton, who has dropped to No. 3 on the depth chart, completed 6 of 10 for 51 yards, while starter Thomas completed 4 of 8 for 79 yards, with an interception, in limited action.
  • Tailback David Wilson scored against the Hokies' second-team defense on a 22-yard run. Wilson led all rushers with 57 yards on five carries. Freshman Michael Holmes added 54 yards rushing on a game-high 11 carries.
Defensive highlights:
  • Freshman tackle Luther Maddy led the team with eight tackles, including two for a loss, and a sack. Freshman Michael Cole added six tackles, while Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler each finished with four.
  • Barquell Rivers had three tackles and an interception.
  • Jayron Hosley and freshman Ronny Vandyke also had interceptions. Hosley intercepted a Logan Thomas pass, while Vandyke intercepted a Trey Gresh attempt.
Special teams highlights:
  • The kickers connected on 5-of-6 attempts. Cody Journell hit from 35, 22 and 35 yards, while Justin Myer drilled a 52-yarder and a 28-yarder. "Cody's kicking extremely well," Beamer said. "Myer has a load of potential, and he needs to win some of the kicking contests during the week. That shows consistency, and that's where he is right now. Cody is usually winning it or right in the running at the end."
We’ve already taken a look at the ACC’s Dream Team, which was comprised of the top position groups across the league. Now it’s time to go a little bit deeper and rank every position group for each team. We’ll start with the most difficult position -- the quarterbacks. More than half of the teams in the conference will usher in quarterbacks who are in their first season as a full-time starter, and many of the teams in the ACC are struggling with depth and experience at the position. This is not solely a ranking of the best quarterbacks in the ACC (stay tuned for that, it will look different), so backups are an important part of the equation.

Bottom line: Who's got the depth and talent to make it through a full season -- and win -- if more than one quarterback is needed?

Here’s a look at who’s stocked and who’s not at quarterback this year:

1. Miami: The Hurricanes have a proven albeit embattled option in Jacory Harris, and Stephen Morris also has significant starting experience. Whoever doesn’t win the job will be a more than capable backup. The Canes still need to add depth to the position, but they landed transfer Ryan Williams from Memphis.

2. Boston College: Starter Chase Rettig should be better in his second season as starter, but he’s not the only one on the roster with playing experience. Dave Shinskie has started 13 games, and Mike Marscovetra should be a familiar name to BC fans by now.

3. Duke: It’s possible coach David Cutcliffe could use three quarterbacks this year. He’s got one of the best in the league in starter Sean Renfree, backup Brandon Connette has seen significant playing time, and the emergence of redshirt freshman Anthony Boone this offseason could give the offense yet another option.

4. Wake Forest: Tanner Price is the undisputed starter, but Ted Stachitas had a better spring than coach Jim Grobe had anticipated, and Brendan Cross has always been in the mix to earn some playing time.

5. Florida State: The Seminoles haven’t settled yet on a backup to EJ Manuel, but depth isn’t a problem with both Clint Trickett and Will Secord competing for the No. 2 spot. It’s not like it was last year, though, when there was a Gator Bowl MVP sitting on the bench.

6. North Carolina: Not only is Bryn Renner unproven, so are his backups. Renner clearly distanced himself from the rest of the competition this spring. True freshman Marquise Williams will continue to compete with Braden Hanson and A.J. Blue, who was injured two years ago and redshirted last season, for the No. 2 spot.

7. Virginia Tech: Logan Thomas had an impressive spring and drew rave reviews from those within the program, but the backup situation remains a question. Redshirt freshman Mark Leal really pushed Ju-Ju Clayton for the No. 2 job and that competition will continue this summer.

8. Georgia Tech: It’s Tevin Washington’s job to lose, but Synjyn Days had the better spring game and made the competition a bit more interesting heading into fall camp. True freshmen Vad Lee and Demontevious Smith would have to have stellar performances in camp to make a move, but there’s definitely talent in the wings.

9. Clemson: Tajh Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback even on the roster until the early enrollees, Cole Stoudt and Tony McNeal, joined the team. The good news for Clemson fans is that Cole Stoudt, the son of former NFL quarterback Cliff Stoudt, had a productive spring and earned the No. 2 job.

10. Virginia: If there’s one problem the Hoos don’t have, it’s depth at the quarterback position. Mike London has yet to name a starter, and all of them lack significant game experience. Ross Metheny, Michael Rocco, Michael Strauss and David Watford all have a shot. Since they’re all preparing as starters now, they should all have a good grasp of the offense if needed.

11. Maryland: First-year coach Randy Edsall had five quarterbacks to work with when he was hired, and now he’s down to two. He’s got one of the best quarterbacks in the league to work with in Danny O'Brien, but he’s got to keep him healthy. C.J. Brown and walk-on Troy Jones are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.

12. NC State: If Mike Glennon gets hurt, the Wolfpack is in trouble. Redshirt freshman Tyler Brosius has a strong arm but no experience, and he’s not ready for prime time yet. The departure of Russell Wilson might not affect the win-loss record, but it definitely hurt the depth.
Boston College quarterback Chase Rettig threw two touchdown passes on Saturday in the Eagles' first scrimmage of the spring. It was also the debut for first-year offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers.

Offensive highlights:
  • Rettig completed 11 of 16 passes for 171 yards.
  • Dave Shinskie, who lost the starting job to Rettig last year, completed 8 of 10 passes for 97 yards and three touchdowns.
  • Junior Mike Marscovetra (11-13, 86 yards) and redshirt freshman Josh Bordner (5-13, 32 yards) were also in the quarterback rotation.
  • Sophomore Alex Amidon led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.
  • Senior Ifeanyi Momah had four catches for 74 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive highlights:
  • Linebacker Luke Kuechly led the defense with eight tackles.
  • Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis had seven tackles and a pass breakup.

Spring preview: Atlantic Division

February, 15, 2011
It's that time of year, ACC fans. Duke kicks off the ACC's spring football schedule with practice tomorrow, so it's time to take a look at three storylines to watch for each program. We'll start with the Atlantic Division:


Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • The progression of quarterback Chase Rettig. As a true freshman, Rettig replaced Dave Shinskie as starter against Notre Dame on Oct. 2. He’ll only get better with more experience, and there’s room for improvement, as he threw nine interceptions and six touchdowns. He completed 51.3 percent of his passes for 137.6 yards per game. Two of those picks came in the 20-13 loss to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl, but he’s expected to take an important step forward this offseason and will need to if BC is going to graduate from the nation’s 109th best offense.
  • The offense under a new coordinator. Kevin Rogers replaced Gary Tranquill, who retired after the bowl game, and the Eagles will have to adjust to a new scheme and system, starting this spring. Rogers said he'll adapt his system to the personnel he has to work with, but considering he was hired on Monday, there hasn't been much time for him to evaluate film.
  • The revamped offensive line. BC has to replace three starters up front, including left tackle Anthony Castonzo, right guard Thomas Claiborne and right tackle Rich Lapham. Emmett Cleary and center Mark Spinney are returning starters, and left guard Ian White started a few games at the end of the year. Bryan Davis, Claiborne’s backup at right guard, and John Wetzel, Castonzo’s backup, are frontrunners to earn starts.

Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 9

What to watch:
  • Quarterback Tajh Boyd. Prior to the arrival of two early enrollees, Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, and his experience alone -- albeit limited -- makes it his job to lose. The staff wants him to become a little more accurate and consistent this spring. His education was accelerated at this time a year ago when former quarterback Kyle Parker spent the spring playing baseball, but that was under former offensive coordinator Billy Napier. He’s got a new coordinator -- and a new offense to learn.
  • The new offensive scheme. First-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris brings an up-tempo style similar to that of Auburn’s, and the Tigers will have to learn it as quickly as he’ll want them to execute it. Morris has said Boyd is suited just right to lead it. Morris will want to stretch the field in every direction, depend on a strong running game and include long pass plays. He’s tasked with improving an offense that ranked No. 10 in the ACC in both scoring offense and total offense.
  • Defense up the middle. It starts up front, where the Tigers have to replace defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins. Linebacker Brandon Maye, who played in the middle a lot, decided to transfer, and safety DeAndre McDaniel, who controlled the middle of the field in the secondary, has also graduated. The Tigers have the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 1 outside linebacker in the country in this year’s recruiting class, but they won’t arrive until the summer. For now, Corico Hawkins returns as a starting middle linebacker, while Quandon Christian is likely to stay on the outside. Rennie Moore will replace Jenkins, but McDaniel’s spot is up for grabs.

Spring practice starts: March 21

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Big holes on the offensive line. There’s depth, experience and incoming talent, but there are also big shoes to fill with the graduation of left guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon. Right guard David Spurlock has been seen snapping on the sidelines at practices, indicating he could move to center, while recovering from concussions and going through rehab. McMahon’s backup was Jacob Stanley. Henry Orelus, Bryan Stork and Rhonne Sanderson all started at right guard for Spurlock when he was out. Junior college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug, the No. 4 overall junior college prospect, could have an immediate impact at left guard.
  • Backup quarterback battle. With EJ Manuel a lock as the starter, the attention turns to the No. 2 spot. Clint Trickett, a redshirt freshman and son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, and Will Secord, a redshirt sophomore, are the top two candidates. Secord was named the most improved quarterback of the spring at this time a year ago. Neither of them have thrown a collegiate pass.
  • Linebackers. The Seminoles will have to replace two starters in Kendall Smith and Mister Alexander. Nigel Bradham is the only returning starter. This spring will feature competition among Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and Jeff Luc. It’s a more talented crop waiting in the wings, but inexperience is a factor. It’s a chance for Luc and Jones -- two of FSU’s top recruits in the 2010 class -- to remind everyone why they were rated the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 2 outside linebacker, respectively, in the country.

Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • New staff, new schemes. First-year coach Randy Edsall wants to be multiple, get vertical and take advantage of quarterback Danny O’Brien’s strengths. The departure of former defensive coordinator Don Brown to Connecticut was a surprise and a blow to the defense, which will now have to make a transition under a new coordinator who has yet to be hired.
  • Competition at linebacker. Two starters have to be replaced in Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten, who were also both leaders of the defense. Demetrius Hartsfield returns as a starter, but the new staff will have to figure out who else fits into what slots. Ben Pooler has had knee trouble, but he is expected to compete with Darin Drakeford and Ryan Donohue, who were both No. 2 at their respective positions in 2010.
  • Special teams. Not only did the Terps lose a four-year starter in punter/placekicker Travis Baltz, they also have to replace their top kick returner and conference leader in all-purpose yards in receiver Torrey Smith, who left early for the NFL. Nick Ferrara handled kickoffs last year and was No. 2 behind Baltz at both kicker and punter, but he’s a placekicker first, and has to get back on track with consistency. He’ll be the only scholarship kicker on the roster until incoming freshman Nathaniel Renfro joins the team this summer. Dexter McDougle has returned kickoffs in the past, and Trenton Hughes is another option, but with a new staff, it could be a clean slate.

Spring practice starts: March 17

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Mike Glennon. The team is moving forward as if starter Russell Wilson won’t return, promoting Glennon to No. 1 on the depth chart. The offense will have a new look, as the plays will be suited to Glennon’s strengths. At 6-foot-7, he’s much taller than Wilson, a more prototypical drop-back passer with a strong arm. While the plays might look different to the fans, they’re the same ones Glennon has been practicing since the day he arrived on campus. He’s a smart, unflappable player scheduled to graduate this May, but we haven’t seen enough of him to know just how good he is.
  • A new crop of receivers. NC State will have to replace three seniors in Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis. Spencer and Williams led the Pack in receiving last year, combining for nine touchdowns and over 1,600 yards. NC State will turn to Jay Smith, who had 10 catches in 12 games, Steven Howard, Quintin Payton, and T.J. Graham, who had four touchdowns and played in all 13 games. Payton played a little more toward the end of the year, and he’s a tall, big target (about 6-foot-4) and comparable to Williams. Bryan Underwood, who redshirted last year, could also contribute.
  • Running back competition. James Washington had taken over the starting job at the end of 2010, but he’ll be pushed this spring by Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene, who led the team in rushing in 2010 as a true freshman. They’ll also be under the direction of a new assistant coach, as Jason Swepson is now the head coach at Elon. It will be the first time Greene has been in a spring practice, and Washington, who was hurt last year, is finally healthy.

Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Progress of quarterback Tanner Price. The maturation of Price, who started nine games as a true freshman last year, will be crucial to the Deacs’ hopes of returning to the postseason. Price was forced to play earlier than expected and finished with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,349 yards.
  • A defense in transition. Coach Jim Grobe has said the staff is committed to making the transition to a 3-4 defense. The Deacons used that scheme to defend the triple option against Georgia Tech and Navy, and continued to experiment with it as the season progressed. This linebackers in this year’s recruiting class were brought in specifically with the 3-4 defense in mind.
  • Redshirt offensive linemen. There were three true freshmen who redshirted last year who are expected to give four returning starters some legitimate competition -- Colin Summers, Dylan Heartsill and Daniel Blitch. The Deacs will also have to replace starting center Russell Nenon. Chance Raines was his backup last year.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 7

October, 11, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

For the first time since the initial preseason ranking, there has been a change at the top. Florida State left no doubt it was the better team in a convincing 45-17 win over Miami in Sun Life Stadium. And earlier on Saturday, NC State picked apart Boston College, 44-17. The two best scoring offenses are in the Atlantic Division right now, and it’s possible the two best teams in the ACC are, too. There’s only one problem: NC State blew a 17-0 lead to Virginia Tech, which is undefeated in league play. Head-to-head play counts in the final ACC standings. It counts in my Top 25 for (which is why I have South Carolina over Alabama and behind Auburn). And it means something here.

Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up heading into Week 7:

1. Florida State (5-1, 3-0 ACC; LW: No. 2): The Seminoles ran all over Miami, and quarterback Christian Ponder beat the Canes with a short passing game. Florida State is back atop the Atlantic Division standings just six games into Jimbo Fisher’s head coaching career, and much of that can be attributed to a dramatic improvement on defense since the loss at Oklahoma.

2. Virginia Tech (4-2, 2-0 ACC; LW: No. 3): The Hokies have now won four straight heading into Saturday’s home game against Wake Forest. Their inability to convert a single third down against Central Michigan was nullified by 38 unanswered points after the Chippewas’ opening scoring drive, but it’s an issue Virginia Tech will need to fix against its Coastal counterparts.

3. NC State (5-1, 2-1 ACC; LW: No. 4): The Wolfpack rebounded from their loss to Virginia Tech and took it out on Tom O’Brien’s former team, Boston College. NC State’s defense has shown measurable improvement and has had surprising success in the running game with two rookies leading the way in Mustafa Greene and Dean Haynes.

4. Miami (3-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Hurricanes were outplayed by Florida State in all three phases of the game. Quarterback Jacory Harris struggled against the blitz and the Seminoles’ defense took away his deep passes. Instead of taking a step forward in the fourth season under coach Randy Shannon, the Hurricanes remain stuck in neutral.

5. Georgia Tech (4-2, 3-1 ACC; LW: No. 5): The Jackets finally got what they needed from B-back Anthony Allen, who scored three touchdowns as Georgia Tech ran for 477 yards against Virginia. Coach Paul Johnson will always find something his team can improve upon, but the Jackets remain in contention to defend their ACC title.

6. Maryland (4-1, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 6): The Terps remain status quo after their bye week, and should have some confidence heading into Death Valley. Clemson was the one ACC team Maryland was able to beat last year, and they’re catching the Tigers when they’re down. With Danny O'Brien at quarterback, the Terps stand a chance.

7. North Carolina (3-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 8): Somehow, this undermanned team continues to find ways to win. The Tar Heels were missing a total of 15 players against Clemson, but took advantage of the Tigers’ inconsistent defense to earn their first ACC win. UNC’s three-game winning streak speaks volumes about the talent and depth the staff has built on this roster.

8. Clemson (2-3, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 7): In its overtime loss at Auburn, Clemson looked like a team capable of defending its Atlantic Division title. Now it looks befuddled. The Tigers couldn’t stop UNC running back Johnny White and couldn’t make key fourth-down stops.

9. Wake Forest (2-4, 1-2 ACC; LW: No. 9): For the second straight week, the Demon Deacons lost a heartbreaker in the final minute of the game to a triple-option team. They didn’t learn from their mistakes against Georgia Tech, though, and could pay for it dearly with bowl eligibility. Wake needs to find four more wins in six of its remaining games, and it won’t get any easier on Saturday at Virginia Tech.

10. Virginia (2-3, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 11): First-year coach Mike London isn’t into moral victories, but he and his staff deserve credit for putting the Cavaliers in position to win some games this year. The defense just couldn’t stop Johnson’s spread-option offense and the Cavs’ offense couldn’t convert on enough third downs against Al Groh’s 3-4 defense.

11. Boston College (2-3, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 10): The Eagles have problems on offense that are too deep to fix in the second half of the season. The duo of Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra struggled against NC State, and once again BC’s running game was limited. The one thing they can count on is a stingy defense that can get them the ball back.

12. Duke (1-4, 0-2 ACC; LW: No. 12): The Blue Devils had a much-needed bye week to recover from their loss to Maryland, but it won’t get any easier this weekend against Miami. Coach David Cutcliffe said his team wasn’t going to get any major overhaul during the break.

Dave Shinskie benched again

October, 9, 2010
Enter Mike Marscovetra.

After Dave Shinskie's last pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, it was Shinskie's final pass. This is getting to be routine for the Eagles' offense, as BC trails 34-10 to NC State in the third quarter.

With the way Boston College has been playing offensively, this is too much of a deficit to overcome. Marscovetra isn't the answer. The answer is on the bench, sidelined with an ankle injury.

In the limited time he has played, Chase Rettig has proved to be the best option of the three. The true freshman was able to manage the ball without turning it over against Notre Dame before he was injured.

NC State jumps ahead 10-0

October, 9, 2010
With all due respect to Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie, BC doesn't have a quarterback capable of getting into a shootout with NC State.

Thanks to a blocked punt for a touchdown, NC State leads 10-0, but that's hardly going to be the end of the scoring for the team that leads the ACC with 36.2 points per game. At best, the Eagles should hope Shinskie manages the offense without turning it over, but when you're playing from behind, you tend to force things -- especially when the running game hasn't been successful. Shinskie will have to make good decisions and play smart and hope his defense helps him out today.

What to watch: Week 5 in the ACC

September, 30, 2010
Here’s a look at what to watch this week in the ACC:
Jacory Harris
Aaron Josefczyk/Icon SMIThe Hurricanes need Jacory Harris to cut back on his interceptions.

  • Turnovers in Death Valley and College Park. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has thrown six in the past two games. Clemson is No. 7 in the country in turnover margin, gaining seven and losing two. Duke had five turnovers this past weekend against Army and Maryland is tied for No. 10 in the country in turnover margin with 10 gained and four lost.
  • Clemson’s offensive line vs. Miami’s defensive line. One particular matchup will be right tackle Landon Walker against Miami defensive end Allen Bailey, but it needs to be a group effort. Protecting quarterback Kyle Parker and giving him time will be key, but it won’t be easy. Miami is second in the nation in sacks, averaging 4.67 per game, and leads the nation in tackles for loss with 11.33. Bailey also played 12 snaps at tackle against Pitt.
  • Boston College’s quarterback. The Boston Globe has reported that freshman Chase Rettig will start against Notre Dame, but coach Frank Spaziani hasn’t confirmed it. All we know for sure is that it won’t be Dave Shinskie. Regardless, it could be the difference in the game.
  • FSU’s revamped offensive line. Left tackle Andrew Datko has missed the past two games with a shoulder injury and is listed as day-to-day. Henry Orelus and Garrett Faircloth are both expected to play. Zebrie Sanders could move from right to left tackle.
  • Georgia Tech’s energy. That’s right, it’s that simple, and it’s been missing. Paul Johnson said this week he wants his team to “play like their hair’s on fire” and with a sense of urgency.
  • Atlantic vs. Coastal. All five ACC games this weekend are interdivisional matchups, the first time that has happened since the ACC split into the Atlantic and Coastal divisions in 2005. The Atlantic Division has home-field advantage in four of the five matchups.
  • The record books. NC State quarterback Russell Wilson needs one more touchdown throw to move into sole possession of second place in NC State history in that category behind ACC record-holder Philip Rivers. With 59 touchdown passes for his career, one more will also move him into seventh place in the ACC record books.
  • Virginia Tech in the red zone. The Hokies have been inside the 20-yard line 18 times and scored nine touchdowns. They kicked four field goals last week against Boston College, but will need to have more success against the No. 19 offense in the country or make more even stops on defense.
  • Virginia’s defense vs. Florida State’s offense. Virginia boasts the ACC’s top scoring defense, allowing just 12.3 points per game. Florida State’s offense is third in the conference in scoring (35.2/game) and ranks first in total offense (434.5 yards/game). Virginia has allowed 280.3 yards per game, which ranks second in the league to Miami.
  • North Carolina’s revamped secondary against ECU quarterback Dominique Davis. The Tar Heels’ secondary was one of the positions hit hardest by the suspensions, but those players have held their own. They’ll get another challenge against the No. 9 scoring offense in the country and a passing game averaging just shy of 300 yards per game.
Catholic schools Boston College and Notre Dame renew their rivalry this weekend, and both teams are praying for a victory. ACC blogger Heather Dinich and Notre Dame blogger Brian Bennett take a look at the issues surrounding this matchup:

[+] EnlargeBrian Kelly
Andrew Weber/US PresswireAfter getting off to a 1-3 start, coach Brian Kelly needs a win badly against Boston College.
Brian Bennett: Heather, you can throw the records out when these two play. And Brian Kelly would really, really like you to throw the records out. Kelly is off to just a 1-3 start in his first season as Irish head coach, and now he's returning to his roots in Boston desperately needing a win to keep this season afloat -- and to keep the wolves at bay.

Notre Dame got manhandled last week against Stanford, but it was just a play away from beating Michigan and Michigan State before that. So we know this team is capable of playing with good opponents. What do we know about BC, which faced two weak teams before getting shut out by Virginia Tech at home last week?

Heather Dinich: We know that quarterback Dave Shinskie has been benched. Yes, Virginia Tech’s defense finally looked like what Hokies fans are used to under Bud Foster, but still … after two interceptions and a fumble, the competition is up for grabs this week between Mike Marscovetra and freshman Chase Rettig. The staff had wanted to redshirt Rettig -- he is supposed to be the quarterback of the future. But the Eagles might not have the luxury of waiting. Will it even matter, though? It looks like Notre Dame’s defense has been pretty friendly the past month, although it has faced some ranked competition. It seems to me running back Montel Harris might have a good day against the Irish.

BB: You're talking about the 93rd-best rushing attack in America having a big day? Look, the Notre Dame defense is what we thought it would be. The Irish give up some big plays and points, but honestly, I think their defense has been good enough to win so far this year. The offense has, surprisingly, had some trouble. If Dayne Crist doesn't miss most of the first half against Michigan that's probably a victory. Against Stanford last week, the offense didn't produce a touchdown until late in the fourth quarter. The passing game has been inconsistent, the running game hasn't been reliable on short-yardage downs and the Irish have hurt themselves with turnovers.

[+] EnlargeDave Shinskie
AP Photo/Michael DwyerBC quarterback Dave Shinskie was benched in the second half against the Hokies.
I look at both teams' issues and see a fairly low-scoring game on Saturday. What do you think?

HD: “Issues.” So polite. You could say BC has a few of those after being shut out at home last week for the first time since 1998. BC’s defense deserves credit, though, despite the 19-0 loss to Virginia Tech. It’s a typical Frank Spaziani-coached team: blue collar, hard-nosed tacklers holding opponents to about 17 points per game. They’re coming off a performance that held Virginia Tech to four field goals, and once again, sophomore linebacker Luke Kuechly is among the nation’s leaders in tackles. There’s no time for BC to dwell on that loss, though. They know this game means a lot on campus, to alumni and to the community. Plus, it’s not going to get any easier with back-to-back Atlantic Division road trips looming to NC State and Florida State. BC needs this win badly, but I think Brian Kelly needs it more.

BB: Not just Kelly, but the Irish as a whole. A 1-4 start really puts them in a bind, even with the schedule easing up soon. Remember they've still got to play Pitt, Utah and USC, as well as always-tricky Navy, so they may struggle to get to a bowl game if they lose this week.

I can't see a Kelly offense struggling for two straight weeks. I think Notre Dame will score at least 21 points. BC has a good defense, but let's not confuse Virginia Tech with an explosive attack. Crist will be crisper this week and he won't be getting hit every down like he was against Stanford. With a new quarterback, I think the Eagles will be one-dimensional enough that the Irish defense can handle them. How do you see it?

HD: This is supposed to be a debate, right? It pains me to agree with you, but let me point out that BC has won six of the past seven in this series. Besides, which Crist will show up? The one against Michigan State, or the one that was clobbered by Stanford? I think BC’s defense will make it a little tougher than Kelly would like to see -- most likely a score similar to last year’s 20-16 Notre Dame win.

Back and forth in the ACC: Weeks 4/5

September, 27, 2010
Here’s your weekly look back -- and forward -- in the ACC.

The good: Defenses. Virginia Tech’s defense handed Boston College its first shutout in Chestnut Hill since 1998. The Eagles turned it over three times and didn’t get past midfield in the second half. NC State’s defense made enough plays that the Wolfpack were able to control the clock -- an amazing feat against Paul Johnson’s run-based offense. Miami’s D held Pitt to just 11 first downs, 232 yards and three turnovers. UNC’s depleted D, led by linebacker Bruce Carter, was the difference in the win at Rutgers. And Florida State earned its first ACC shutout since 2006.

The relentless: North Carolina. The Tar Heels trailed Rutgers 10-0 and could have easily folded, allowing an 0-3 start to snowball into a dreadful season, but behind the leadership of Carter and quarterback T.J. Yates, UNC proved it’s not over yet.

The unhappy: Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie. Johnson was particularly peeved about a blocked punt for a touchdown, and Shinskie was benched after two interceptions and a fumble.

The ugly: Duke and Wake Forest offenses. The two teams combined to convert on just 4-of-22 third downs. Duke turned it over five times and had the ball for only 20 minutes.

Top three games of Week 5:

1. Miami at Clemson: It’s a statement game between two of the top teams in the ACC, and the Hurricanes are No. 11 in the country in scoring defense right now at 13 points per game. Clemson has had a bye week to prepare, though, and the Tigers’ defense will be looking to pressure turnover-prone quarterback Jacory Harris into more mistakes.

2. Virginia Tech at NC State: If the Hokies don’t pick it up on offense, they’ll never be able to hang with Russell Wilson & Co. NC State is No. 19 in the country right now in both scoring offense (37.75 points per game) and passing offense (289.25). The rebuilt Hokies D is coming off a shutout at Boston College, and has allowed 20.25 points per game.

3. Notre Dame at Boston College: Both programs need a win, and the Eagles need a quarterback, but it’s a storied, traditional rivalry nonetheless. Notre Dame has had problems running the ball and stopping the run. It could be a good day for Montel Harris.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 27, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

A win is a win, but a lot of the teams in the ACC just aren’t earning many style points these days. Virginia Tech’s D finally came through, but four field goals? And Miami’s D looked spectacular, but two more interceptions? NC State played one of the more complete games but still missed two field goals and had two turnovers. Florida State has rebounded, but against whom? All of that adds up to a lot of status quo in the league, and there was no movement in the top four spots.

Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up heading into Week 5:

1. Miami (2-1, LW: No. 1) -- The Hurricanes rebounded from their loss at No. 2 Ohio State with a win at Pittsburgh, and while the defense looked capable of winning an ACC title, the offense was again overshadowed by Jacory Harris’ interceptions. The Hurricanes will face an even tougher road test on Saturday at …

2. Clemson (2-1, LW: No. 2) -- The Tigers had the bye week to rest and heal from a physical loss at Auburn. Auburn’s win over South Carolina this past weekend further validated Clemson’s performance on the road. The Tigers weren’t penalized this week for not playing, despite the impressive performance of …

3. NC State (4-0, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 3) -- The Wolfpack is the hottest team in the ACC right now and will have home field advantage this weekend against Virginia Tech. NC State is off to its first 4-0 start since 2002 and should have a lot of confidence after knocking off the defending ACC champs on Georgia Tech’s home field.

4. Florida State (3-1, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 4) -- The Seminoles have won back-to-back games after losing at Oklahoma, and the defense has shown significant improvement in both of them. Quarterback Christian Ponder looked more like his old self against Wake Forest after suffering a bruised triceps against BYU.

5. Virginia Tech (2-2, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 7) -- The Hokies’ offense still looks average at best. The 19-0 win at Boston College was a coming out party for Bud Foster’s defense. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s offense struggled in the red zone and had to rely on four field goals. That won’t suffice against Russell Wilson & Co. this weekend.

6. Virginia (2-1; LW: No. 9) -- Marc Verica looked like the quarterback Virginia fans have been waiting for in a romp of VMI, but can he keep it up against Florida State’s defense? The Seminoles haven’t allowed a touchdown in six quarters. Virginia still has something to prove, as its two wins are both over FCS opponents, but if it plays the way it did at USC, it will have a chance to win.

7. Maryland (3-1; LW: No. 11) -- The Terps might have found a new quarterback in freshman Danny O’Brien, but coach Ralph Friedgen isn’t ready to say yet who will start against Duke. Maryland has finished its nonconference schedule as well as expected and is catching Duke at the right time.

8. Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 5) -- The Jackets didn’t look like the defending ACC champs, as there were two lost fumbles, a blocked punt for a touchdown, and the defense allowed 527 yards. They should be able to rebound this weekend against …

9. Wake Forest (2-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 8) -- The Deacs played better on defense, but this time the offense couldn’t get anything going. FSU’s defense deserves a lot of credit for that, but Wake lost starting quarterback Tanner Price to a possible concussion.

10. North Carolina (1-2, 0-1 ACC; LW: No. 10) -- The Tar Heels started to climb out of their hole with a win at Rutgers and will have home field advantage against East Carolina on Saturday. Nothing is a given for this team, though, and UNC can’t afford to continue to turn the ball over, especially when it’s undermanned.

11. Boston College (2-1, 0-1 ACC; LW: No. 6) -- The Eagles’ offensive struggles were exposed in their first ACC game, and quarterback Dave Shinskie was benched as a result of it. Mike Marscovetra and Chase Rettig will compete for the starting job against Notre Dame this week. BC was shut out for the first time in 12 years.

12. Duke (1-3, 0-1 ACC; LW: No. 12) -- Not only did the Blue Devils’ defense struggle against Army, but so did quarterback Sean Renfree, throwing an uncharacteristic three interceptions. Duke had five total turnovers and seemed to have taken a step back from last year’s progress.
1. Boston College coach Frank Spaziani said Sunday that he will replace starting sophomore quarterback Dave Shinskie this week against Notre Dame. Spaziani must decide whether to start sophomore Mike Marscovetra or commit to the offense’s real future, freshman Chase Rettig. Shinskie, the 26-year-old former minor leaguer, has been a disappointment. But don’t forget -- not only did he bail out a team that had no talent at quarterback last year, he led the Eagles to an 8-5 record. That’s worth something.

2. Let’s hear it for the state of New York! Army and Syracuse are both 3-1, the first season that both teams have started that well since 1993. You may say that the Orange has beaten two FCS teams, and that the Black Knights have beaten three teams that went a combined 7-29 last season -- and are 2-10 this season. And you would have a good point. But October isn’t even here yet. Let them throw their parades.

3. Let’s hear it for Washington State! The Cougars led USC, 7-0. OK, so it was the first quarter, and the Trojans needed exactly 15 seconds to erase the deficit. Still, that’s the first time the Cougars have led the Trojans by at least a touchdown in eight years. Wazzu has lost 19 consecutive conference games, which is no surprise. It is a surprise that USC is 4-0 and ranked only 18th. The Trojans no longer own the benefit of the pollsters’ doubt.

ACC: What we learned in Week 4

September, 26, 2010
Not a bad week in the ACC, not at all. Here’s a look at what we learned in Week 4:

The ACC is better than the Big East. If there was any doubt after the league’s 1-1 start with a win over Cincinnati and loss to West Virginia, the ACC erased it this week with wins at Pitt and at Rutgers. Both North Carolina and Miami made enough mistakes that could have cost them the game, but Rutgers and Pitt weren’t able to do anything about it.

[+] EnlargeIrving
Brian Utesch/US PresswireNC State is 13-5 when linebacker Nate Irving is in the starting lineup.
NC State is one of the best teams in the ACC. The Wolfpack proved it by knocking off defending ACC champ Georgia Tech on its home field. NC State is the only undefeated team remaining in the ACC and should be ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. There are only two other teams pushing the Pack for the top spot in the conference, and that’s Miami and Clemson. Florida State has also turned the corner since its loss at Oklahoma, but the other teams have played better on the road against better competition.

North Carolina’s not done yet. A loss at Rutgers would have put a serious dent in the Tar Heels’ bowl hopes, and could have snowballed into a disastrous season, but this team has never quit. Instead, it has been on the verge of breaking through in losses to LSU and Georgia Tech. This time, the team overcame injuries to Johnny White and linebacker Quan Sturdivant. There might be a lack of playmakers on defense, but there’s no shortage of leadership, and quarterback T.J. Yates and linebacker Bruce Carter made sure losing wasn’t an option this past weekend.

BC’s offense is still in need of a quarterback. In two games against Virginia Tech, Dave Shinskie has completed 12 of 37 passes for 134 yards, no touchdowns, four INTs, and one lost fumble. He was benched on Saturday in favor of Mike Marscovetra. The Eagles had three turnovers and were held to just 39 yards of total offense in the second half and couldn’t cross midfield. Yes, a lot of credit goes to Virginia Tech’s defense, but the Eagles won’t be a contender in the Atlantic Division unless there’s improvement at quarterback.

Georgia Tech doesn’t look like defending ACC champs. Not with that defense. It’s not Al Groh’s fault. It doesn’t matter if the Jackets are running a 3-4, a 4-3 or how you line up in your backyard. Georgia Tech is missing Derrick Morgan and is need of a big-time playmaker. The Jackets got beat one-on-one and allowed 45 points and 527 yards. It’s the first time since 2007 that Georgia Tech has lost two September games. Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt is one of the most talented players in the ACC, but he can’t do it by himself.

BC's defense deserves credit

September, 25, 2010
Virginia Tech's offense hasn't been as explosive as many of us thought it would be this summer, but the Hokies are still very good. That's why it's a testament to BC's defense that the Eagles are only trailing 13-0 in the third quarter despite two turnovers. Virginia Tech defensive end Chris Drager sacked quarterback Dave Shinskie, forced the fumble and recovered it, but BC held the Hokies to a field goal. Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster gets a lot of praise for being able to reload on D -- and deservedly so -- but coach Frank Spaziani has built and maintained the standard on defense in Chestnut Hill.

Around the ACC

September, 25, 2010
A few halftime thoughts from the early games:

Virgnia Tech 7, Boston College 0: The clock ran out on Boston College. Literally. Quarterback Dave Shinskie was stopped inches short of the goal line but didn't get out of bounds and the clock expired before the Eagles could snap the ball. Virginia Tech leads 7-0, but this is anybody's game. There was also a questionable penalty called on Virginia Tech's defense on that last drive, a late hit, but even the official didn't hear the whistle so it's possible the Hokies' defender didn't either. It cost Virginia Tech 15 yards, but because of the way the half ended, it didn't cost the Hokies any points. Shinskie's interception led to Virginia Tech's lead, though, and he can't afford any turnovers in the second half. Very odd ending to the first half.

NC State 17, Georgia Tech 7: This could be a statement win for the Pack if NC State hangs onto its lead. It was an uncharacteristic scoreless first quarter for Georgia Tech, and the Yellow Jackets were hurt by two lost fumbles. NC State should have an even bigger lead, but there were two missed field goals. NC State's defense is answering the call, and has held Georgia Tech to just 2-of-8 third-down conversions. Georgia Tech has no passing yards. Russell Wilson has already thrown for 219 yards, but Georgia Tech's defense has done a good job of flushing him out of the pocket. The better performance, though, has come from NC State's defense.

Maryland 21, FIU 14: Danny O'Brien got the start at quarterback, as Jamarr Robinson's throwing shoulder is still sore, but O'Brien is making a case to be the full-time starter. The Terps haven't turned it over yet, and O'Brien has completed 12 of 17 passes for 149 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Torrey Smith is having a great game, and it's about time the Terps made use of that deep, talented group of receivers. Da'Rel Scott's 56-yard touchdown run helped bail the Terps' running game out as they have just 54 rushing yards at the half. Maryland got just enough things to go right in that half to avoid the early upset scare.