NCF Nation: David Amerson

The first round of the NFL draft is just a week away, so it is time to provide you an update with the latest predictions, mock drafts and rankings from ESPN experts.

First, let us start with Mel Kiper Jr., who plays general manager for every single team and predicts the first three rounds of the draft Insider. It is Insider content, but here is a look at where he has placed players from ACC schools. Oh, and be sure to read his ground rules to have a better understanding of his thought process.

First round
Second round
Third round

As Kiper Jr. states, that piece is not a mock draft. It's his preference for each team at that spot. His mock draft features Cooper, Williams and Rhodes. Disagree with his first-round picks? Well you can make your own mock draft Insider. Two thumbs up on that tool.

Kiper also has updated his Big Board Insider, ranking the Top 25 prospects. Only Cooper and Williams make that list.

Meanwhile, ESPN draft expert Todd McShay has revealed the Scouts Inc. tier rankings Insider, which list prospects by their ratings. There are seven tiers and 109 players rated, with 17 from ACC schools (counting incoming members Pittsburgh and Syracuse).

McShay also has named his All-Satellite team Insider, comprised of the best prospects when playing in space. North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard checks in at No. 5. McShay writes, "He has super-quick feet, good initial burst and outstanding lateral agility. Bernard can stop and start on a dime, strings together multiple moves and is a slippery runner between the tackles."

Want more? Kiper also has updated his top 5 prospects by position Insider.

ACC at the combine

February, 27, 2013
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The poking, prodding, interviews and drills have wrapped up at the NFL combine in Indianapolis. Now let's take a quick look at who stood out from the ACC during the all-important event.

  • The defensive backs were the last group to go, wrapping up Tuesday. And there were some pretty good performances. Miami cornerback Brandon McGee posted one of the fastest 40 times at the combine, running a 4.40 to rank him No. 13 among all participants. He also was a top performer in the bench press and 20-yard shuttle run. Those numbers will not do anything but help his draft stock.
  • [+] EnlargeDavid Amerson
    AP Photo/Dave MartinNC State cornerback David Amerson showed off his speed at the NFL combine, clocking a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash.
  • NC State cornerback David Amerson was out to prove himself at the combine after an up-and-down 2012 season. He definitely opened eyes with his performance, which NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock described as "excellent." Amerson ran a 4.44 in the 40 and was also a top performer in the vertical jump.
  • Those two guys were not the only fast defensive backs at the combine. Of the players with the top 15 times at the position, six have ACC ties. Rod Sweeting of Georgia Tech (4.42), Shamarko Thomas of Syracuse (4.42), Xavier Rhodes of Florida State (4.43) and Earl Wolff of NC State (4.44) were among the fastest.
  • Speaking of Rhodes, his vertical leap was incredibly impressive, at 40.5 inches to tie for first among all defensive backs and rank No. 3 overall. He also was a top performer in the broad jump, and certainly helped himself with his day. So did Thomas, one of the most underrated players in college football last year. Though Thomas made some headlines after he fell at the end of his 40, he had a huge day. He also leaped 40.5 inches and was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle and broad jump.
  • The ACC had several top performers in the bench press as well. Wake Forest fullback Tommy Bohanon tied for No. 4 overall with 36 reps and was also a top performer in the vertical jump and 60-yard shuttle. Also in the top 15 overall for bench: North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper (35), NC State guard Zach Allen (32) and Virginia Tech offensive tackle Vinston Painter (32). Speaking of Cooper, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said the lineman "had one of the more impressive workouts."
  • Florida State quarterback EJ Manuel had a nice combine himself, though he was inconsistent with his throws. Manuel was a top performer in the broad jump, ranking No. 3 among all quarterbacks after jumping 9 feet, 10 inches. He also was a top performer in the 40 (4.65), vertical jump (34), 3-cone drill (7.08) and 20-yard shuttle (4.21) to rank among the top 5 in each category.
  • The folks at Scouts Inc. had this to say about Clemson receiver DeAndre Hopkins, a top performer at his position in the bench press and vertical jump (36): "His 4.57 in the 40 is about what we expected. His game is more about being physical, though, and Hopkins showed good ball skills. He is was one of the most natural pass-catchers on the field, with good focus in the gauntlet drill and the ability to extend fully for balls." He's got a second-round grade.
  • Virginia Tech receiver Marcus Davis put up some good numbers as well, topping his position with a vertical jump of 39.5 inches, while also posting good numbers in the 40 (4.56) and bench press (19 reps). It's never been about physical talent for Davis, so the numbers aren't much of a surprise. He has to put it all together on the field.
  • Now for running back: North Carolina's Giovani Bernard was a top performer in various categories. He ran a 4.53 in the 40; and was a top performer in the 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle. Miami running back Mike James also put up some good numbers.

ACC's spring position battles

February, 21, 2013
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There are going to be position battles this spring at every school in the ACC, but some will be in the spotlight more than others. If you’re just tuning in to ACC football, here are some of the biggest competitions in the conference this spring:

OFFENSE

1. Florida State quarterback: This is arguably the most intriguing competition in the entire conference, as the Seminoles have to replace veteran EJ Manuel. Clint Trickett enters the spring at the top of the depth chart, but consider this job open. Sophomore Jacob Coker is the total package, but redshirt freshman Jameis Winston was the nation’s No. 1 quarterback and could be the answer, too.

2. North Carolina running back: The Tar Heels have to find a way to replace leading rusher Giovani Bernard, who left early for the NFL draft. Not only will his loss be felt in the running game, but probably even moreso in the return game, as Bernard was one of the nation’s top punt returners. UNC returns A.J. Blue and Romar Morris, who combined for 819 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns last season.

3. Syracuse quarterback: The Orange enter the ACC with a new coach and in need of a new quarterback. Record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib is gone, leaving behind a wide-open competition. Backup Charley Loeb, junior John Kinder, and dual-threat Terrel Hunt are the top candidates. Ashton Broyld, who moved to running back in 2012, could be in the mix as well.

DEFENSE

1. Florida State defensive ends: The cream of the crop is gone, as Tank Carradine, Bjoern Werner and Brandon Jenkins all have to be replaced. Enter Mario Edwards Jr., who has a leg-up on the competition because he played in 11 games as a true freshman, and started the final two games of the year in place of the injured Carradine. Don’t forget about Giorgio Newberry, though, and Chris Casher, who is now healthy after a knee injury. Casher will start spring ball on the two-deep depth chart. Dan Hicks, who was Jenkins’ backup two years ago, had a knee injury and missed all of last season. He had moved to tight end, but was in the rotation at defensive end earlier in his career and could come back.

2. NC State secondary: This group will have an entirely new look this spring, as three starters have to be replaced, including Earl Wolff, Brandan Bishop and David Amerson, the school’s career interception leader. Cornerback Dontae Johnson returns, along with Juston Burris, who played in the nickel package. There are also several redshirts and younger players who will compete.

3. Virginia Tech cornerback: Virginia Tech’s defensive backfield lost its star last month when cornerback Antone Exum tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game. Several young players will compete for his reps this spring, including Donovan Riley, Donaldven Manning and Davion Tookes. Highly touted cornerback Kendall Fuller will join the team in the summer.
1. Nothing against Luke Joeckel or Zach Ertz or David Amerson or any of the players who have decided to enter the NFL draft before they use all of their college eligibility. But it seems as if players are more clear-eyed and less starry-eyed about the decision than they used to be. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd stayed to get better and to help the Tigers achieve more. Arizona State defensive end Will Sutton stayed because he likes college football. That may be the biggest difference: College football is fun. The NFL is a job.

2. Scott Shafer left Stanford after the 2007 season as Jim Harbaugh’s defensive coordinator to return to his native Midwest and make more money and, in 2008, proceeded to run a Michigan defense that gave up the most points in Wolverines history. Shafer found a new home at Syracuse, helped Doug Marrone turn around the Orange and now has replaced him as head coach. Two thoughts: 1) Did nothing Rich Rodriguez do at Michigan work? 2) What a crazy business coaching is.

3. The Big East is meeting in Dallas on Friday to continue to figure out what the league will be in 2013. Even though Boise State pulled out, league executives believe San Diego State will maintain its commitment. With the seven Catholic schools breaking off and possibly keeping the Big East name, it’s only a matter of time before the league office leaves Providence for a more central, more football-oriented location.

2012 ACC midseason report

October, 15, 2012
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The ACC has done it again.

From hope to heartache in a matter of weeks, ACC fans and their teams have run the gamut of emotions in the first half of the season.

The conference started out strong with a nationally televised showdown between top-10 teams Florida State and Clemson. It was prime-time entertainment with ESPN’s "College GameDay" crew in Tallahassee, Fla., and both teams lived up to the billing and looked worthy of their preseason hype and rankings. The conference puffed out its chest even more with the news that Notre Dame would commit to playing five games against the ACC annually, a solid steppingstone to the Irish possibly joining the conference full-time one day.

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Rob Kinnan/US PresswireFlorida State's stunning loss at NC State not only hurt Seminoles receiver Kelvin Benjamin, it resonated throughout the ACC, depriving the league of its best hope for a national champion.
For six weeks, the ACC had its national title contender in unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Florida State. It had its Heisman hopeful in FSU quarterback EJ Manuel. And it had enhanced its stability and reputation for the future with its partnership with Notre Dame.

And then came the crash.

What was pure bliss for NC State in Week 6 was devastating to the ACC. In stunning, dramatic fashion, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon completed three fourth-down passes in the final drive of the fourth quarter, leading the Pack to a 17-16 upset of Florida State. Instantaneously, the league faded back into irrelevance in the national picture. No longer could the ACC mask an otherwise abysmal season with its top-five team.

Suddenly, the rest of the ACC’s warts seemed uglier.

Georgia Tech fired its defensive coordinator, Al Groh. After coming up short in losses to two Big East teams, Bud Foster’s Virginia Tech defense allowed North Carolina to score more points -- 48 -- than any other ACC team has ever scored against the Hokies. Boston College lost to a previously winless Army team, further indicating this could be Frank Spaziani’s last season as head coach. Wake Forest suspended six players for its game at Maryland and two more the following week. Two of the league’s brightest stars -- NC State cornerback David Amerson and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins -- have yet to shine like they did a year ago, but two rookies -- Maryland’s Stefon Diggs and Miami’s Duke Johnson -- emerged as household names in ACC country.

With Duke and Miami briefly leading the Coastal Division standings, and Maryland atop the Atlantic Division standings, the ACC was officially turned upside down in the first half of the season. Preseason Coastal favorite Virginia Tech was out of the Top 25 by Week 3 and Georgia Tech sank into a four-loss crater, leaving the door wide open. The Blue Devils knocked it down with a 5-1 start, and the wildly unpredictable Cardiac Canes elbowed their way to the top of the division standings. Miami overcame its youth, and Duke found a way to overcome numerous injuries -- including ones to several key starters on defense and also to starting quarterback Sean Renfree -- for its best start since 1994. Duke entered Week 7 with the best record in the state of North Carolina, but couldn't hold onto the magic and was shut out for the final three quarters of a 41-20 loss at Virginia Tech. Meanwhile, the postseason-ineligible Tar Heels looked like the most complete team in the division.

Four teams in the Coastal Division have one league loss. Maryland is the only ACC team still undefeated in conference play. About the only predictable thing in this conference is its unpredictability -- and its failure to maintain a national title contender through November.

Offensive MVP: Clemson WR DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins needed only the season opener to set the Clemson single-game record for receptions with 13 against Auburn. Hopkins has been near the ACC lead in receiving yards per game all season, and has a 129.5 average entering the game with Virginia Tech. He has 370 receiving yards on 18 catches in the past two games and was leading the nation in total receiving yards entering games of Oct. 13.

Defensive MVP: FSU DE Bjoern Werner: Werner has looked like a pro this season. Nobody had more sacks in the opening weekend of FBS college football, and he has been relentless in pursuit of opposing quarterbacks. Of Werner’s 21 tackles on the season, 10 are tackles for loss, including 6.5 sacks.

Biggest surprise: Duke. The Blue Devils’ 5-1 start was their best since 1994, also the last time the program went to a bowl game. Duke started out 2-0 in ACC play with wins against Wake Forest and Virginia. That the team was able to overcome so many injuries to key players and leap Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division standings was evidence the recruiting and depth have improved significantly.

Biggest disappointment: Virginia Tech. The Hokies were ranked No. 16 in The Associated Press Top 25 preseason poll, but fell out entirely after an embarrassing road loss to Pitt in Week 3. Instead of that being an anomaly, Virginia Tech went 0-2 against the Big East and lost back-to-back games against Cincinnati and North Carolina. With eight starters having to be replaced on offense, struggles were expected, but the defense fell far below expectations.

Best game: Florida State at NC State. This one changed the entire season, and it couldn’t have come in more thrilling fashion. On fourth down with 16 seconds left, Mike Glennon threw what would be the game-winning 2-yard touchdown pass to Bryan Underwood for the 17-16 win. It was the highest-ranked opponent NC State has defeated since beating No. 2 Florida State 24-7 in 1998, and it opened up the Atlantic Division race.

Newcomer of the year: Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs. He became the only Maryland freshman to record back-to-back 100-yard receiving games since at least 1985, and one of those performances came against West Virginia. Diggs is the only player in the ACC, and one of two nationally, with 350 receiving yards, 150 punt return yards and 150 kickoff return yards (joining Bernard Reedy of Toledo). Diggs leads the ACC and ranks third nationally with 21.5 yards per catch.

Best coach: David Cutcliffe, Duke: He kept his players believing, and the program turned the corner in his fifth season. It is only the third Duke start of 5-1 or better in the past 30 years (5-1 in 2012; 6-0 in 1994; 5-1 in 1988). With home wins against FIU, N.C. Central, Memphis and Virginia this season, the Blue Devils also have opened the year with four consecutive home wins for the first time since 1994.

Q&A with NCSU S Earl Wolff

October, 5, 2012
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NC State’s secondary entered this season as a veteran group. It’s still a veteran group, but it hasn’t performed up to its potential yet this season. That will have to change on Saturday if the Wolfpack is going to have a chance to upset No. 3-ranked Florida State. I spoke with senior safety Earl Wolff earlier this week to get his take on the season so far. Here are the highlights of our conversation.

What’s happened to you guys? What’s going on?

Earl Wolff: We had a lot of breakdowns in our pass coverage that usually doesn’t happen. Things like that went wrong our freshmen year. We didn’t expect it to happen against Miami and it did. We watched film and we handled everything we needed to handle. We made adjustments and I feel like we’re ready to go this Saturday.

[+] EnlargeEarl Wolff
J Pat Carter/AP PhotoNC State's Earl Wolff tracks down Miami quarterback Stephen Morris in the two teams' Week 5 game.
Do you feel like you guys have fallen below your own expectations, considering what a veteran group the secondary is?

EW: Absolutely. 565 yards, that really hurt. Deep balls over our heads, things that don’t usually happen. We feel like we can be the best secondary in the nation, athletically and mentally. When it comes to experience, we’re one of the more experienced groups in the ACC, also. That 565 yards, it hurt us. I don’t want to say we needed it, but we’ll build off of that and try to be better this week. As a matter of fact I can promise you that won’t happen again.

I read you called a team meeting. How important was it for you guys to do that?

EW: Honestly it was very important. I feel like we should’ve done that last week, before the Miami game. Everybody’s heads weren’t where they needed to be. People had different things on their minds. I don’t know the exact number of penalties, but especially with coach O’Brien, we’re not used to that many penalties in a game. I just feel like guys, I don’t know if the heat was getting to them, I don’t know exactly what it was, but that team meeting we had, we didn’t name any individuals, we just talked about what we need to work on as a team. We talked about what we need to do to get better at our weaknesses. Mostly everything that happened was mentally. The staff was in there for part of the meeting and then they left. We just went in there and a couple of guys stood up and said what they had to say. I feel like it was a much-needed meeting and we’ll build off of that and get ready for this great game Saturday.

The No. 3 team in the country is coming to your house. How do you get better quickly enough to be ready for this game?

EW: Just preparation. I feel like a lot of people didn’t prepare the way they should have last week. As a matter of fact, we usually call meetings individually on Thursday, we call it ourselves, the players, and honestly, a lot of guys didn’t show up. I felt like in the game it showed. When we talked to everybody we said if you’re not all in then you can leave right now. A lot of guys have buckled down and they’re going to be all in. That’s exactly what we need this week. We’re going to play one of the best teams in the nation. Luckily we get to play them at home in front of our crowd. We’re going to get all this energy from our crowd. We’re going to need all the energy we have. We have to go all out to beat Florida State.

What do you feel like the attitude is right now? Do you feel like you guys can truly beat them?

EW: Honestly we do. A lot of people outside of here even some fans probably think we can’t. But I feel like as long as the coaches believe in us and we believe in ourselves, that’s really all that matters. For example, last year we played Clemson. A lot of people thought we were going to lose. They were ranked. We came in, we beat them, and it was our crowd. Our crowd gives us energy that we need. Luckily we played them at home. We get to feed off our crowd. We’re going to put up a fight for all four quarters.

Have you had to console David Amerson at all?

EW: Honestly, I did that during the game. Dave doesn’t talk a whole lot. He’s never been one who does a whole lot of talking. But sometimes you can just look at him and see there’s something wrong. At the game I could tell, I don’t know what’s going on, but this is not like him. I said something to him during the game and then basically afterwards, I was like, ‘Man, Dave, it’s not just you, brother, we all played bad. We can’t point the finger at you. If our pass coverage skills are on point, they don’t throw the ball like that. It’s not just you. Just stay up.' Dave said thank you. He’s a competitor. He’ll continue to compete, regardless of what happens. It won’t happen again.

It sounds like that meeting helped. Maybe it will be a turning point for you guys.

EW: Oh yeah, I feel like that meeting really was what we needed. We’ll probably call another one before the game on Saturday, just to make sure. We’ll probably call one Thursday, honestly. Make sure everybody gets their rest and just prepares right.

Where is the leadership coming from this year besides yourself?

EW: I don’t really do a whole lot of talking, but I feel like a lot of people aren’t talking. So, sometimes I have to speak up and say what I’ve got to say. In the secondary, it’s me, Brandan Bishop, C.J. Wilson throws his input in sometimes. He doesn’t say too much, either. Linebackers it’s really just Sterling [Lucas]. On the d-line, Darryl Cato-Bishop. He holds everyone on that d-line accountable. I really like that guy. Just leading. Offensively I would say it’s Mike Glennon. Mario Carter sometimes. But I feel like we still have to do a better job when it comes to that. Everybody’s still just not on board yet. We have a lot of young guys, and I feel like sometimes they’re in the mindset of, ‘Shoot, I have two more years, three more years, so if we don’t do it this year, than maybe next year.’ We’re trying to instill in their minds that it has to happen now. We need it now. Imagine if it was your senior year, how would you feel about it? That’s how I felt when I was playing. At first I was like, I have this year, and this year. Even though I always gave it my all. I remember Nate [Irving], Audie [Cole], all them boys, saying, it’s our senior year. We want to win this. We want you to help us win this. I’m just trying to instill that in their minds and help everybody buy in.”

What to watch in the ACC: Week 6

October, 4, 2012
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What should you be watching in the ACC in Week 6? Glad you asked.

1. Can Miami deliver a marquee victory? Just think about how great it would be for the ACC if both Florida State and Miami were Top 25 teams again, the way they used to be. Miami has a major opportunity Saturday against No. 9 Notre Dame. A win in this game would give the Hurricanes their first victory over a top-10 team since defeating No. 8 Oklahoma in 2009. They will be facing the best defense they have seen so far, but Miami has some pretty dynamic offensive players that could give the Irish fits. Stephen Morris is playing lights out right now, better than any quarterback the Irish have faced this season. Morris versus the Notre Dame D will be a great matchup to watch.

2. David Amerson vs. Florida State receivers. It is plain to see that Amerson is not the player he was a year ago. His coach, Tom O'Brien, put it more bluntly when he said, "The film doesn't lie." Amerson gave up two long touchdown passes against Tennessee in the opener, and two long touchdown passes last week to Miami, including the game winner. Florida State presents another tough challenge given the playmakers on the outside, from Kelvin Benjamin to Kenny Shaw to Rashad Greene to Rodney Smith. Amerson can't whiff this week against the Noles.

3. Hello, Phillip Sims. Coach Mike London says Sims will most likely be the starter against Duke in a critical Coastal Division game. Sims would be making his first career start, after transferring in from Alabama during the summer. The No. 1 thing the Hoos will need from him is to protect the football. Michael Rocco had too many costly interceptions and just didn't do enough in Virginia's three-game losing streak.

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Melina Vastola/US PresswireTajh Boyd could become Clemson's all-time leader in passing touchdowns on Saturday.
4. Clemson record watch. Considering what the Georgia Tech defense has looked like the past few weeks, it is a near certainty that Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd will become the school's all-time touchdown leader Saturday. Boyd needs one touchdown pass to become the school’s career leader. He has 49 going into the game, tied with Charlie Whitehurst, who set the mark from 2002 to '05. Also, receiver DeAndre Hopkins needs two catches to pass Derrick Hamilton for second place on the career receptions list. Hopkins has 166 headed into the game. Aaron Kelly set the school mark of 232 from 2005 to 2008.

5. Can Virginia Tech snap out of its funk? Though the Hokies beat Georgia Tech in the season opener, there were warning signs that this season may not go smoothly. Indeed, Virginia Tech has struggled in every phase on offense (Logan Thomas, run game, offensive line), while the defense has had breakdowns at critical moments. Can they get all that fixed at North Carolina on Saturday? Let's not forget the Hokies are 1-0 in ACC play and have won 23 straight road conference openers.

6. Can Duke keep it up? The Blue Devils are not throwing a bowl party just yet, but they are off to their best start since 1994 and have had recent success against their opponent this week, Virginia. Duke has won three of the past four meetings between the two teams. The Blue Devils need two more wins to become bowl eligible, and the way the rest of the schedule sets up, Duke has got to win this game. If they don't, it will be difficult to find two wins in their final six games (at Virginia Tech, North Carolina, at Florida State, Clemson, at Georgia Tech, Miami). Keep an eye on the status of quarterback Sean Renfree, who has an elbow injury.

7. Maryland opens conference play. Maryland, the last ACC team to play a conference game, hosts Wake Forest following a bye week. Wake Forest has really struggled defensively this year with injuries to some key starters and is going to have its hands full with Stefon Diggs, who's having a breakout freshman season. Maryland has shown signs of improvement each week and is favored to win.

8. Who can break their losing streak? Maryland, Boston College and Georgia Tech go into the weekend on two-game losing streaks; Virginia has lost three straight. Will anybody break their losing skid? Georgia Tech has had only one three-game losing streak in the past five years (in 2010 against Clemson, Virginia Tech and Miami).

9. Do we know any more about North Carolina? The last time we saw the Tar Heels in conference play, they lost to Wake Forest. They have looked good in their past two wins, but they came against overmatched opponents East Carolina and Idaho. Has the defense improved? Is the offense more in sync? Though Virginia Tech has looked shaky, Saturday's game will tell us just where the Heels stand.

10. Hitting the road. After playing three of its first four games at home, Boston College hits the road to play Army. The Black Knights run a style of offense similar to Georgia Tech's, but they have had some problems on defense -- much bigger than that of the Eagles. This is the start of a three-game road trip for BC, with games following at Florida State and Georgia Tech.

Duke, NC State come out on top

September, 22, 2012
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Recapping the early-evening games ...

NC State 52, Citadel 14: True freshman Shadrach Thornton stole the show for NC State in its victory over the Citadel.

Thornton not only played in his first collegiate game, but he got his first collegiate start and he made the most of it, running for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Thornton started in place of the injured James Washington and Tony Creecy and the suspended Mustafa Greene and gave this running game a huge jolt.

Do I need to remind you that Creecy went into the game as the team's leading rusher with 130 yards? Thornton was the only healthy running back to practice all week, and became the first NC State freshman to go over 100 yards rushing in his first game since Joe McIntosh did it against Richmond in 1981. NC State finished with 282 rushing yards, its highest team total since 297 against Southern Mississippi in 2005.

Meanwhile, Mike Glennon went 19-of-24 for 233 yards with a touchdown, and Quintin Payton had five catches for 100 yards.

David Amerson recorded an interception in his third consecutive game and now is in a tie for the school record with 16 for his career.

Duke 38, Memphis 14: It was not the prettiest game for the Blue Devils, who struggled to put away one of the worst teams in college football. But they absolutely dominated the second half and are now 3-1 headed into their game at Wake Forest last week.

Turnovers and missed opportunities plagued this team -- there were fumbles at the Memphis 14 and at the goal line, and a muffed punt, too. Duke finished at minus-four in turnover margin (four turnovers to zero for Memphis) and found itself trailing 14-7 midway through the second quarter. But Sean Renfree found his groove, and so did the defense -- which ended up holding Memphis to nine first downs and 1-of-11 on third down for the night.

Renfree ended up going 26-of-37 for 314 yards with four touchdown passes and one interception. Conner Vernon had eight catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns for the 11th 100-yard game of his career.

Duke now opens the season with three consecutive home wins for the first time since 1994.

David Amerson gets redemption chance

September, 6, 2012
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There is no denying it: NC State cornerback David Amerson had a bad opening night against Tennessee.

He was not even close to resembling the player we saw a year ago, when he set an ACC record with 13 interceptions. First, there was the 41-yard touchdown pass to Cordarrelle Patterson. Then there was the 72-yard touchdown pass to Zach Rogers. Tennessee ended up passing for 333 yards, and questions about Amerson started popping up.

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AP Photo/John AmisStar NC State CB David Amerson is looking to bounce back after giving up several big plays against Tennessee.
To his credit, Amerson took full responsibility for his performance, telling local reporters, "It’s not acceptable,” he said. “I don’t think I did enough to help my team win."

Coach Tom O'Brien was asked this week how much Amerson was to blame for the long scores.

"Well, I don't know if it was an Amerson problem or the fact that Tennessee's pretty dang good. Their skill level is high," O'Brien said on the ACC coaches call.

Amerson gets his chance for redemption this Saturday against UConn in what is shaping up to be another tough nonconference challenge. But there is a little bit of good news if you are a Wolfpack fan. UConn simply does not have the talent Tennessee does at the skill positions.

The Huskies have a junior college transfer at quarterback in Chandler Whitmer, who made his first career start for UConn last week in a win over UMass. He had good moments, and bad moments but he is not in the same category as Tyler Bray. Secondly, UConn has a pretty unproven set of receivers who do not have nearly the same size as the guys at Tennessee. Patterson is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds; Justin Hunter is 6-4, 200 pounds and Marlin Lane is 6-feet, 205.

For UConn, its top four options at receiver had a combined 17 catches a season ago. The Huskies feature Geremy Davis (6-1, 214), who had a nice game last week with five receptions for 79 yards; Nick Williams (5-10, 184); Michael Smith (6-feet, 201); and Shakim Phillips (6-1, 200). A bigger concern for NC State could be tight end, where UConn has two excellent options in Ryan Griffin and John Delahunt.

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni had high praise for Amerson on the Big East coaches call, saying the cornerback has the "best plant and drive that I’ve seen in quite a while. He can really drive on the ball, gets his hands on the ball. He’s an outstanding player. Tennessee has some speed and outstanding receivers but we have a lot of respect for him."

Now Amerson gets his chance to prove last week was merely a fluke, because UConn may very well test him early.

"One of the great things about it is if you are a great player, especially as a quarterback or if you are as a corner, you're going to get beat," O'Brien said. "But you have to have amnesia and forget about it and come back and play from that point on. So it's a good lesson for him to learn, and we'll see how he reacts Saturday."

ACC predictions: Week 2

September, 6, 2012
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It was a respectable Week 1, as I only missed two games -- Duke and NC State -- for an 8-2 record. I’m kicking myself for not going with my gut on the Blue Devils, and I will freely admit I had been drinking the Tom O’Brien Kool-Aid all summer. Much like the ACC on opening week, I’ve got room for improvement. Here’s to a better Week 2:

Boston College 31, Maine 20: If the Eagles don’t win this game, they might not win any. I don’t think that’s the case, though. BC had 542 yards of total offense against Miami and took a 14-0 lead. Saturday’s game will be the season opener for Maine, which returns 15 starters from last season’s 9-4 team.

Clemson 34, Ball State 21. After a strong performance against Auburn, Clemson is due for a little bit of a letdown game. Remember the Wofford game last year? Clemson fell behind 21-13? Yeah, kind of like that. Ball State is very well-coached. Clemson will win this game, but it might not wake up until the fourth quarter.

Florida State 59, Savannah State o: This will be a good opportunity for the defensive linemen to adjust to life without injured starting defensive end Brandon Jenkins. Tank Carradine will move into Jenkins’ spot, and it could get ugly for Savannah State, which could start four freshmen on the offensive line. This will be the final tune-up before conference play begins next week against Atlantic Division opponent Wake Forest.

Temple 17, Maryland 7: The Owls, now in the Big East, are a physical, tough-minded football team that was able to beat the Terps in College Park last year. Maryland is just so young offensively that the Terps are going to have trouble executing. The defense will keep them in this game, but the offense won’t be enough to win it.

ANDREA ADELSON’S BIG EAST TAKE: The Terrapins appear to be in worse shape now than they were when Temple won this meeting last season 38-7. The Terps are starting a true freshman at quarterback in Perry Hills, and have had to deal with injuries to key players on both offense and defense. They barely squeaked out a 7-6 win over William & Mary and had only 236 yards of total offense. Temple was outstanding running the football last week against Villanova and now has to start working on its pass game, which struggled in Week 1. Defensively, Temple had four sacks and forced two turnovers. Simply put, the Owls are the better team. Temple 35, Maryland 14.

NC State 27, Connecticut 24: This has the feel of a last-play-of-the-game type of matchup, but the Wolfpack will be able to shake off the loss to Tennessee and win this one in the fourth quarter. The Pack got its wake-up call already. It should have the advantage in the matchup against the Huskies’ receivers -- no, really.

AA’S TAKE: There are two ACC/Big East matchups Saturday afternoon, and two perfect opportunities for the league. The Huskies are going to present a huge challenge for the Wolfpack, who looked out of sorts in their opening loss to Tennessee. UConn does not have the speed Tennessee does at the skill positions, but the Huskies have what appears to be a good-looking defense and will keep them in the game. UConn's offense was just so-so last week, but NC State gave up many big plays on defense and All-American cornerback David Amerson was beatable. If the Huskies can hit a couple of big plays and get Lyle McCombs going, they will be in good shape. Overall, I think UConn has the better defense, and that is why I am picking the Huskies in my upset special! UConn 21, NC State 20.

North Carolina 35, Wake Forest 24: The Tar Heels are a talented team, particularly on offense, and they will be difficult for the Deacs to defend. No, North Carolina’s rout of Elon wasn’t a good indicator of what to expect all season from the Tar Heels, but it was a more convincing performance than what we saw from Wake Forest against Liberty in Week 1.

Stanford 41, Duke 38: Defense? What defense? Stanford didn’t look good in its win against San Jose State last week, but the Cardinal will have home-field advantage, while Duke has to travel across the country for a 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff. Expect another big day for quarterback Sean Renfree and Conner Vernon, but the defense will come up short on the road.

Georgia Tech 55, Presbyterian 7: The Yellow Jackets looked better defensively against Virginia Tech than they were a year ago, and this will be a good chance for them to correct the mistakes they saw on the game film. It’s the first of four straight home games.

K-State 31, Miami 24: K-State will control the clock and drive Al Golden nuts. Miami will be in this game, but Kansas State will be too much for the Canes’ defense, which allowed BC 542 total yards last week. K-State had 324 yards rushing in last week’s 51-9 win over Missouri State.

Virginia 24, Penn State 14: The Hoos are a well-coached team with home-field advantage against a team that is riding an emotional roller coaster. Virginia is focused, and those within the program say they are not distracted by the ongoing story that is Penn State.

Virginia Tech 45, Austin Peay 6: The Hokies have some work to do offensively, despite their 21-17 overtime win against Georgia Tech on Monday night. They shouldn’t have a problem reaching the end zone against an overmatched Austin Peay team.

ACC power rankings: Week 2

September, 4, 2012
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There weren’t any huge changes in the power rankings, especially among the top three, but a few teams did sink a little bit lower (here’s looking at you, Jackets and Wolfpack). Here are your latest power rankings heading into Week 2:

1. Florida State (Last week: No. 1) -- The news that defensive end Brandon Jenkins is out for the season was devastating, but it’s hardly the end of the season or the talent pool on the defensive line. Mario Edwards Jr. will get his chance there. Let’s see how the defense and the team adjusts before making any judgments.

2. Clemson (LW: No. 2) -- The Tigers looked impressive on offense in their win over Auburn, even without star receiver Sammy Watkins, and the defense looked improved under first-year coordinator Brent Venables. The defending ACC champs had arguably the best performance of the weekend, and it came against the best competition.

3. Virginia Tech (LW: No. 3) -- The Hokies are still the team to beat in the Coastal Division after their 20-17 overtime win against Georgia Tech, but it wasn’t pretty. The offense was stagnant, but the defense was as good as advertised.

4. North Carolina (LW: No. 6) -- It was an offensive clinic for the Tar Heels in Larry Fedora’s debut, a record-setting performance. It was against Elon. We’ll learn more about UNC this weekend when the Tar Heels face Wake Forest.

5. Georgia Tech (LW: No. 5) -- Paul Johnson dropped to 1-4 against Virginia Tech and remains winless in Blacksburg. The Jackets were held to 3.5 yards per carry.

6. NC State (LW: No. 4) -- The Wolfpack wasn’t as fast or as talented as Tennessee, it’s that simple. Cornerback David Amerson was burned twice for a touchdown and quarterback Mike Glennon made poor decisions in the loss.

7. Wake Forest (LW: No. 7) -- The Deacs struggled to beat Liberty, 20-17. It’s only going to get more difficult this weekend against North Carolina.

8. Virginia (LW: No. 8) -- The Hoos beat up on an overmatched Richmond team, 43-19, but the defense still faces questions and allowed the Spiders some lengthy scoring drives and five plays over 20 yards. They’ll face an emotional Penn State team playing its first road game under coach Bill O’Brien.

9. Miami (LW: No. 9) -- The young Hurricanes made a statement with a league road win at Boston College, but the competition will get tougher this weekend on the road against a ranked K-State team.

10. Duke (LW: No. 10) -- The Blue Devils looked impressive and confident in their 46-26 win over FIU. It was only the season opener, but every win is vital to Duke’s chances of making it to the postseason. Considering the way Stanford struggled last week, don’t be surprised to see Duke take a lead on the Cardinal for a second straight season.

11. Boston College (LW: No. 11) -- It wasn’t for lack of effort, but the Eagles couldn’t match the speed of Miami and squandered a 14-point lead at home. The pressure is on coach Frank Spaziani to climb out of an early hole in conference play.

12. Maryland (LW: No. 12) -- In what was easily the ugliest game of the weekend, Maryland beat William & Mary 7-6, and did it with four turnovers. A road trip to Temple -- yes Temple -- will be daunting. So will finding more than two wins.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 1

September, 3, 2012
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Here’s a look back at Week 1 in the ACC:

The good: Clemson’s offense against Auburn. The Tigers were able to win without suspended superstar Sammy Watkins, as the trio of quarterback Tajh Boyd, running back Andre Ellington and receiver DeAndre Hopkins all made highlight reel-worthy plays against a decent Auburn defense. More importantly, though, the once-suspect offensive line paved the way for them to do it.

[+] EnlargeAndre Ellington
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireClemson running back Andre Ellington opened up the 2012 season with 231 yards on the ground against Auburn.
The bad: David Amerson’s performance against Tennessee. The All-American record setter got burned twice -- both for touchdowns.

The ugly: Maryland’s 7-6 win against William & Mary. The Terps couldn’t score until the fourth quarter against the FCS program, and finished with four turnovers and 91 rushing yards.

The surprise: Miami true freshman Duke Johnson. Johnson scored his first career touchdown on a 54-yard run in the second quarter and added a 56-yard score in the third quarter. He totaled 135 yards for the game, the most by a UM true freshman since Javarris James racked up 148 yards against Houston (Sept. 30, 2006).

The stat: Andre Ellington ran for 231 yards in Clemson's win against Auburn. According to ESPN’s Stats & Info department, Ellington is only the third ACC player since 2004 with multiple 200-yard rushing games. Seven ACC teams don't even have multiple 200-yard rushing games by an individual in that period.

The record I: UNC set a school and ACC record for single-game punt return yards with 260 on nine returns. The previous UNC mark of 225 yards was set against VMI in 1935. The previous ACC mark was 227 by Clemson against Georgia Tech in 1987.

The record II: Duke receiver Conner Vernon caught 10 passes for 180 yards and one touchdown in the win over FIU, becoming Duke’s all-time leader in pass receptions (208) with a 3-yard catch midway through the fourth quarter. He moved into fourth place on the ACC’s all-time chart for pass receptions (208).

The overmatched: Poor Murray State. The Seminoles totaled 606 yards while holding the Racers to 156 yards. In Charlottesville, Virginia outgained Richmond 523-201 in the first three quarters.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 1

September, 2, 2012
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Here’s a look at the lessons learned in the ACC in Week 1:

1. NC State isn’t ready for the big stage. Yes, it’s only the first week, and NC State typically looks like a different team in the second half of the season, but the ACC couldn’t wait until November for the Pack to make a statement. NC State had a chance to represent the ACC with a victory over Tennessee on Friday night, and it missed it. It wasn’t just that NC State lost, it was HOW it lost. Cornerback David Amerson, who is supposed to be one of the best players in the country, was exposed for his lack of speed and burned twice for touchdowns. Quarterback Mike Glennon threw four interceptions.

2. Clemson is more than Sammy Watkins. The Tigers’ offense ran just fine without its suspended star receiver. Andre Ellington ran for 231 yards, receiver DeAndre Hopkins had 13 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown, and quarterback Tajh Boyd threw for 208 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Overall, the Tigers racked up 528 total yards of offense. Boyd, who has slimmed down a bit since last season, was noticeably more mobile, and that helped get Clemson out of a few jams.

[+] EnlargeGiovani Bernard
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesGiovani Bernard scored rushing, receiving and punt-return TDs in North Carolina's opener.
3. The Atlantic Division looks top-heavy. While Florida State and Clemson took care of business, NC State, Maryland, Wake Forest and Boston College all struggled. The difference in recruiting is starting to show in that division. SEC speed was a factor for NC State against Tennessee, but not Clemson. Maryland, with true freshman quarterback Perry Hills taking over, barely escaped William & Mary, and Wake Forest had an equally troublesome time with Liberty, also an FCS program. BC squandered a 14-point lead against Miami. FSU and Clemson were getting all of the hype this preseason, and while we didn’t learn much from FSU’s romp over Murray State, the Noles and Tigers at least looked like the two best teams in the division on Saturday.

4. Larry Fedora’s offense fits Giovani Bernard. We’ll know more about North Carolina after the competition gets tougher, but one thing is for sure: Bernard can flourish in the Fed Spread. First-year coach Fedora said all summer that his offense is not just about the receivers, that he wants balance, and Bernard will get his carries. Well, he got his carries and his receptions and his punt return yardage, too. He scored three different ways and didn’t even play in the second half. If that’s a hint of what’s to come, Wake Forest could be in trouble this week.

5. Miami got the start it needed while Frank Spaziani’s seat got hotter. Both teams needed a victory to set the tone for the season after troubling offseasons, but the Eagles couldn’t hold onto their 14-point lead, and they couldn’t match Miami’s speed. It was an important win for Al Golden’s young team, and proved that the rookies can win a league game on the road. They should gain some confidence in that heading to Kansas State. It was a spectacular debut for true freshman Duke Johnson. Meanwhile, Spaziani starts the conference race in a hole again.

Tennessee finds toughness and depth

September, 1, 2012
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ATLANTA -- By the time the first quarter finally came to an end Friday night, Derek Dooley thought it was halftime.

The quarter, which lasted more than an hour and a half, was that long and that exhausting for Tennessee’s coach.

That type of fatigue from a coach usually means his team is just as tired, or worse. But not Friday.

For a team that could barely make it through a full game in 2011, Tennessee pushed through like Dooley had never seen, and the Vols cruised to a 35-21 victory over NC State in Game 1 of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff inside the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

A first quarter such as Friday’s would have sent last season’s Vols into rollover mode, but this team was different. After jumping ahead 22-7 in the first quarter, Tennessee was able to hold on to and build on its lead in front of the announced crowd of 55,529.

Even when the mistakes came and NC State cut Tennessee’s lead to eight before halftime, the Vols rallied to control the second half, thanks to some grit and some much-needed depth.

“That was a good step for our team,” Dooley said. “I said this at the beginning of the year: We’re going to have to learn how to grit through four quarters of football. We’re going to be in a lot of games this year, and that was a good start. I was proud of them.”

The first quarter was full of explosive plays from the Vols and featured a stretch in which they scored 16 points in 38 seconds. But the second was sloppy. NC State rushed back with a 67-yard touchdown drive, while Tennessee punted twice and saw its final drive end with quarterback Tyler Bray fumbling at the goal line on a quarterback sneak.

You could feel the momentum shift as both teams went into the locker rooms, but Tennessee adjusted, physically and mentally.

The staff rotated bodies all night to keep guys fresh, and it showed in the second half. The offensive line saw seven to maybe eight players get in. Three running backs played, with third-teamer Marlin Lane leading all ball carriers with 75 yards, including a long of 42, on nine attempts.

Tennessee threw as many defenders as it could out on the field, not just to keep guys fresh but because it had the bodies and talent to do it. For once in Dooley’s Tennessee life, depth wasn’t an issue, and it powered the Vols in the second half.

[+] EnlargeMarlin Lane
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMarlin Lane had nine carries for 75 yards in Tennessee's win over NC State.
Wide receiver Justin Hunter, who played in his first game since tearing his anterior cruciate ligament early last season, said he hadn’t seen a Tennessee team play like the Vols did in the second half.

“Playing for 60 minutes was a problem that we used to have in the past,” said Hunter, who caught a game-high nine passes and had 73 receiving yards. “For us to come out here in a big environment and play for 60 minutes like this, I think we did great.”

Just look at third downs. Tennessee was 3-of-9 on them in the first half but was 6-of-10 in the second. That’s how you win games and that’s how you tire out opponents.

“Rotating running backs, linemen and receivers is going to keep fresh legs,” Lane said. “With this fast-paced offense, we’re going to keep wearing defenses down. With fresh legs on the field and a tired defense, it’s going to be [some] pretty great offensive drives that we can sustain.”

It also helps when you have a thoroughbred alongside Hunter at receiver. Junior-college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson more than made up for the loss of Da’Rick Rogers by having a true breakout game. He absolutely burned All-American corner David Amerson on a bump-and-go for his first touchdown -- a 41-yarder -- and shook/sprinted past the entire Wolfpack defense on a 67-yard touchdown run.

He finished the night with 165 total yards and two touchdowns on eight touches. Quite the opening night for someone Dooley didn’t think totally grasped the playbook.

“I’m not sure he ran the right route,” Dooley said. “That’s the beauty of Bray: He don’t care; he’s gonna let it fly. That pretty much summed it up. Run the wrong route, Bray rewards him, touchdown.”

But somehow he found a way, just like the rest of Dooley’s football team Friday. And when Patterson was shut down in the second half, the Vols tried to grind it out or Bray found other targets. There always seemed to be options.

The defense did its job by abusing the Wolfpack up front, with its revamped -- and much more intimidating -- image. As the Vols pressed, NC State quarterback Mike Glennon flinched and threw his way to three second-half interceptions.

It seemed like every other play, someone else -- starter or not -- was making a big play on defense for the Vols.

Tennessee wasn’t perfect but it was solid. Now, it’s time to build off Friday’s transformation.

“It’s one game,” Dooley said. “All that matters is we’re 1-0. We have to go clean up a ton of mistakes and go on to the next week and get focused on the next week. It really doesn’t mean anything other than we won the first game.”

Welcome to the Georgia Dome

August, 31, 2012
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ATLANTA -- And we’re off in one of the country’s best college football cities and one of the sport’s best venues.

We’re just about ready to get things started here at the first game of this weekend’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff, with Tennessee taking on NC State inside the Georgia Dome.

TGIF, indeed!

This should be one of the more exciting games of the first weekend, especially with the matchup between Tennessee’s passing game and the Wolfpack’s secondary. The interesting storyline is that both groups are down solid players.

Da’Rick Rogers has made his exit from Tennessee’s football team, while NC State cornerback C.J. Wilson, who has started 29 games in his career, is dealing with an NCAA eligibility issue.

The good news for the Wolfpack is that junior cornerback Dontae Johnson had already beaten out Wilson before he was ruled out of Friday night's game.

Oh, and cornerback David Amerson, who led the ACC in interceptions last year, is still around for NC State, and he might be a future first-round pick.

It’s not like the Vols are down and out at wide receiver without Rogers, who led the SEC in receptions (67) last year and was second in receiving yards (1,040). Justin Hunter is back after his ACL injury that he suffered early last season. At 100 percent, he might be the SEC’s top deep threat. Helping him will be junior college transfer Cordarrelle Patterson, who received a boatload of hype heading into fall camp.

Highlight reels show that Tennessee should be fine in the passing game, especially with quarterback Tyler Bray slinging the ball, but coach Derek Dooley’s still a little worried. He expects Hunter to be a bit rusty in his return and isn’t sure if Patterson will have the breakout performance fans are banking on against NC State’s talented secondary.

“I’m very concerned because we have very little experience and they’ve got a lot of experience,” Dooley said earlier this week. “What those guys do best is they make you pay for any mistakes, whether it’s a poor route, whether it’s an inaccurate football, a bobbled ball. Whatever it is, they’re going to make you pay.”

Bray’s natural ability will play a big part in helping limit the mistakes. He’s got all the skill to make his guys look good, but he’s had issues with the mental part of the game in the past.

Both teams are trying to prove that they can compete in their respective conferences. Tonight we’ll get a glimpse of things to come for both squads.

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