NCF Nation: DeAndre McDaniel

Exiting the spring: Clemson

April, 8, 2011
4/08/11
12:51
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Spring game: 4 p.m. ET on Saturday, ESPN3.com.

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

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

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

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

Spring preview: Atlantic Division

February, 15, 2011
2/15/11
9:00
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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:

BOSTON COLLEGE

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.
CLEMSON

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.
FLORIDA STATE

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.
MARYLAND

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.
NC STATE

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.
WAKE FOREST

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 and the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
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The official list for the NFL combine has been released. A total of 48 players from the ACC have been invited to audition for the NFL from February 23 – March 1. When categorized by school, it's somewhat of a reality check to see how many of the best players in the conference are moving on, and which programs will take the biggest hit. It's impossible not to wonder how good North Carolina could have been had all of the following players remained eligible. The Tar Heels will send the most players to the combine with 11.

Here are the players who will represent the ACC:

BOSTON COLLEGE (3)
  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Rich Lapham
  • Mark Herzlich
CLEMSON (7)
  • Da'Quan Bowers
  • Marcus Gilchrist
  • Chris Hairston
  • Jamie Harper
  • Jarvis Jenkins
  • Byron Maxwell
  • DeAndre McDaniel
FLORIDA STATE (3)
GEORGIA TECH (3)
MARYLAND (3)
MIAMI (9)
NORTH CAROLINA (11)
NC STATE (2)
VIRGINIA (2)
  • Danny Aiken
  • Ras-I Dowling
VIRGINIA TECH (5)

Recruiting rewind

January, 28, 2011
1/28/11
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There’s only one way to truly grade recruits -- look at their performances on the field after they sign. Some, like Clemson offensive lineman Chris Hairston, exceed their ranking expectations. Others, like Duke kicker Will Snyderwine, make names for themselves as walk-ons. And some, like Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor, lend merit to the ranking system.

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

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

OFFENSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DEFENSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPECIALISTS

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

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

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

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

ESPN.com 2010 All-ACC team

December, 8, 2010
12/08/10
10:30
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This is usually one of the most difficult posts of the season, but for some reason, this year there seemed to be more separation between the good players and the great ones in the ACC.

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

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

OFFENSE

QB: Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech

RB: Montel Harris, Boston College

RB: Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech

WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami

WR Torrey Smith, Maryland

TE George Bryan, NC State

C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech

OL Rodney Hudson, Florida State

OL Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

OL Chris Hairston, Clemson

OL Brandon Washington, Miami

DEFENSE

DL Da’Quan Bowers, Clemson

DL Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DL Quinton Coples, North Carolina

DL Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB Nate Irving, NC State

LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia

S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

S Kenny Tate, Maryland

SPECIALISTS

P: Matt Bosher, Miami

K: Will Snyderwine, Duke

PR: Tony Logan, Maryland

KR: David Wilson, Virginia Tech

ACC's Super Seniors for 2010

November, 26, 2010
11/26/10
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As the regular season comes to a close this week, I thought it would be a good time to honor the ACC’s Super Seniors, players who have made key contributions to the program on and off the field. There's more than one at every school, and all of them will be missed, but say farewell, ACC fans, to this year’s class of Super Seniors:

[+] EnlargeMark Herzlich
Greg M. Cooper/US PresswireMark Herzlich rejoined his teammates in 2010 after missing the '09 season because he had a rare form of cancer.
Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich. He beat Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer and is now the third-leading tackler on the team with 54. He also has four pass breakups, one quarterback hurry and three interceptions, and 3.5 tackles for loss. It has to be the most remarkable comeback story in college football.

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel. His 15 career interceptions rank him second in Clemson history and third among active FBS players. He’s the top tackler on Clemson’s defense with 47 and has six pass breakups and 4.5 tackles for loss.

Duke center Bryan Morgan. He’s been a role model on and off the field, and was one of 22 players selected to the All State AFCA Good Works team for his community service. He’s a third-year starter at center for the Blue Devils, is an amazing musician and has dedicated his time to helping hospital patients with serious illnesses and promoting reading and education to elementary school students.

Florida State guard Rodney Hudson. Some might call him the “big ugly” version of Christian Ponder. Hudson, a four-year starter, 2010 Outland Finalist and likely consensus All-American, was offensive line coach Rick Trickett’s first signee and has been a mainstay in the lineup since his arrival. It’s likely he’ll be a four-time All-ACC selection, only the second lineman in league history to earn that distinction. He’s been a calming force and mentor in the locker room and is a relentless blocker on the field.

Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. It was unfortunate to see an injury prematurely end Nesbitt’s career, but he still went out as a record-setter. With 2,806 career rushing yards, Nesbitt has rushed for more yards than any quarterback in ACC history and over 1,000 yards more than any quarterback in Tech history. He has rushed for 35 career touchdowns -- six more than any quarterback in the history of the ACC and 16 more touchdowns than any quarterback in Yellow Jacket history.

Maryland linebacker Alex Wujciak. He has started a team-best 36 straight games. He is one of 11 active linebackers in the FBS with two career interceptions returned for a touchdown. UNC's Bruce Carter is the only other ACC player. He had 10 tackles against Florida State, giving him 105 on the season. The senior has at least 100 tackles in three straight seasons and is just the sixth player in school history to accomplish that feat.

[+] EnlargeLeonard Hankerson
Andrew Weber/US PresswireLeonard Hankerson is just 42 yards away from breaking 1,000 yards for the season.
Miami receiver Leonard Hankerson. Hankerson’s 9-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter against Virginia Tech was his 12th of the season, breaking the single-season record held by Michael Irvin (11) in 1986. Hankerson became just the fourth Miami receiver to record 900 yards in one season, joining Eddie Brown (‘84), Andre Johnson (‘02), and Wesley Carroll (‘90). Only Brown and Johnson have recorded 1,000 yards in a season and Hankerson needs just 42 yards to join that club. Hankerson has scored a touchdown in six straight games and nine of Miami’s 11 games this season.

North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates. He’ll finish his career as Carolina’s all-time leader in passing yards, completions and attempts. He also holds the single-season mark for passing yards. Yates has 231 completions this year and needs four to break Darian Durant’s single-season record of 234 set in 2003.

NC State linebacker Nate Irving. Against Wake Forest, in the last home game of his career, he had a school-record eight tackles for loss. That mark broke the previous mark of six held by Mario Williams, the No. 1 pick in the 2006 NFL draft. Irving now ranks third nationally in tackles for loss for 2010. This year he has 89 tackles and 18.5 tackles for loss. That single-season tackles-for-loss currently ranks sixth in school history. He has tallied 37.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage for his career, the eighth-best mark ever by a Wolfpack defender.

Virginia running back Keith Payne. After a year away from the team, Payne has done everything coach Mike London has asked of him and then some. He leads the ACC and is tied for 16th nationally with 15 touchdowns. Payne has a team-high 741 rushing yards this season, an average of 4.8 yards per carry. He needs just four yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark for his career.

Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He has started 39 games and has won 32 of them, the most wins for a starting quarterback in school history. He needs 153 passing yards to surpass Bryan Randall (6,508) as the all-time passing leader at Virginia Tech.

Wake Forest center Russell Nenon. The three-year starter started at guard in 2008, then moved to center where he has been a fixture since (though he did start two games at guard this fall due to injuries). His 36 career starts are currently the most on the team.

Slow start to second half

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
2:44
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CLEMSON, S.C. -- The second half has been defined so far by more penalties than scoring. There was an interference call on Miami when DeAndre McDaniel called for a fair catch, and an intentional grounding call on Jacory Harris on third down. Both of these teams have had trouble moving the ball forward in the third quarter.

Miami getting away from what worked

October, 2, 2010
10/02/10
12:54
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CLEMSON, S.C. -- Running the ball is what has worked best for Miami so far. Yet on the Canes' last drive, there was quarterback Jacory Harris, throwing into double coverage. Again. It's only a matter of time before one of those throws lands in the broken hand of safety DeAndre McDaniel. Clemson's secondary is good. The front four are good. The linebackers are average. If Miami is going to win, it's going to have to run. Harris has only completed one pass so far.
There has been no shortage of drama between Miami and Clemson, as the past three games have been decided in overtime and won by the visiting team.

Enjoy Saturday’s game in Death Valley while it lasts, because it will be the last time the cross-divisional programs meet again until 2014 -- and this one is going to mean something.

The winner of this game will be in an extremely favorable position to make a run at the ACC championship game, as both one-loss teams are among the best in the conference this year. Miami has already begun to separate itself from the rest of the Coastal Division, and Clemson proved a formidable opponent for No. 10-ranked Auburn in a 27-24 overtime loss on the road. Miami’s only loss has come at No. 2 Ohio State. There’s no shame in either nonconference loss, but this will be the first ACC game for both teams and mark the beginning of nine straight weeks without a break.

[+] EnlargeJacoby Ford
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyJacoby Ford scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime against Miami last season.
“It’s a big game, very big,” said Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel. “It’s an ACC game first, and I know a lot of people want to see what Clemson is made of.”

The same can be said for Miami.

“We’re kind of excited about it to see where we are at in a conference game and against Clemson,” coach Randy Shannon said. “Last three games we have played Clemson went into overtime … thrillers at the end. This is also another opportunity to be on national television which is really good for the University of Miami, our program, and our football players to go out and perform out at a high level.”

The season is far from over, but a win on Saturday will separate both teams in their respective divisions. Florida State is one of the toughest opponents remaining for both teams, and Clemson still has to face an NC State team that is currently undefeated.

“This is the opportunity for us to work toward our next goal and defend our Atlantic Division title,” coach Dabo Swinney said. “This is a huge game for both teams in that regard. We’ve played three games and I like our personnel.”

Both teams have had weaknesses revealed against better competition. Miami’s biggest problem in September was turnovers. For Clemson, it was a lack of consistency on defense. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has thrown six interceptions in the past two games, and Auburn outgained Clemson 258-46 in the third quarter.

Clemson will be without injured starting left guard David Smith, and the Tigers will need to play a nearly flawless game up front to keep the pressure off of quarterback Kyle Parker. Miami is leading the nation in tackles for loss, second in sacks, eighth in total defense and No. 11 in scoring defense, allowing just 13 points per game.

“It’s a big challenge for us and we’re going to have to execute at a high level,” Swinney said. “They’re second in the nation in sacks and we’re not giving up many sacks. That will be a battle between their defensive line and our offensive line. Plays have to be made. There are big plays there that need to be made and this is the game to make them.”
Auburn survived its first test on the road two Thursdays ago in a 17-14 win at Mississippi State.

Clemson has whipped through two glorified scrimmages.

They meet up on the Plains this Saturday night in a game that should be revealing for both teams. SEC blogger Chris Low and ACC blogger Heather Dinich take a closer look at this battle of Tigers.

Gus Malzahn
John Reed/US PresswireGus Malzahn's spread offense should keep Clemson's defense guessing.
Chris Low: Heather, I say we dub Saturday’s Auburn-Clemson matchup the Lewis Grizzard Bowl. He’s the late Southern humorist and Atlanta newspaper columnist who once said Clemson was “Auburn with a lake.” He nailed it, because the number of similarities between the schools is uncanny. It’s only fitting that they resume a series that was played fairly regularly when Ralph “Shug” Jordan was coaching at Auburn and Frank Howard at Clemson. As I look at this game, right off the bat I wonder if Clemson is ready for the pace of game Auburn wants to play. There’s no such thing as playing too fast for Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, who wants to run as many plays as he possibly can.

Heather Dinich: C-Low you’re not the only one wondering that. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney knows his team hasn’t been tested yet like it will on Saturday. Wins over North Texas and Presbyterian aren’t exactly bowling over any Top 25 voters. One of the biggest keys to this game for Clemson will be stopping the run, and that’s something the Tigers struggled with last year -- just ask Georgia Tech, who rushed for over 300 yards twice last season in wins over Clemson. Of course, Clemson will also have to keep Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in check. We know Newton can run deceptively well for his size, but how good of a passer is he? Will he be able to win the matchup against All-America safety DeAndre McDaniel?

CL: Newton hasn’t had to beat anybody yet throwing the football, and while he has an incredibly strong arm, it’s fair to say that we’ve yet to see how accurate he is when it comes to throwing the ball down the field. Malzahn will take whatever the defense is giving him, and having a 250-pound quarterback like Newton who can run makes Malzahn’s spread offense that much more effective. He’ll run a reverse pass on one play, a bubble screen on the next and then try to hit you deep. In other words, Malzahn is going to make you defend everything, but he’s never going to stray too far away from the run. Even though Newton is leading the Tigers in rushing through two games with 241 yards, running backs Onterio McCalebb and Mike Dyer are both averaging more than 6 yards per carry. If I were Clemson, Heather, I’d get ready for a heavier dose of Dyer, the Tigers’ prized freshman.

[+] EnlargeDeAndre McDaniel
Jeremy Brevard/Icon SMIAll-America safety DeAndre McDaniel could be lined up all over the field.
HD: No doubt, C-Low, and I talked to coach Dabo Swinney on Wednesday about how the Tigers plan to counter all of the misdirection, play fakes and talented runners. He said they’re preparing for the tempo you mentioned, which he compared to a 2-minute drill the whole game. The Tigers have to do a great job with their rush lanes, stay disciplined with their alignments, tackle well, and do a good job of disrupting that flow by winning first downs and getting them out of their comfort zone. Expect McDaniel to be lined up all over the field. Clemson might even have the edge up front with its defensive line now that defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins is back.

But hey, it’s not like Clemson doesn’t have some talented runners of its own. Haven’t you heard about “the New Storm”? Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper helped Clemson average 9.8 yards per rush against North Texas. I know Auburn’s run D is good, but has it really been tested?

CL: No, Auburn’s run defense hasn’t been tested. Arkansas State picked Auburn apart with short passes in the opener, and then Ted Roof’s defense bounced back against Mississippi State and was outstanding in the second half when the offense started to sputter. Mississippi State’s running game, though, is not one of the better ones in the SEC, at least not with Anthony Dixon no longer around. The best news for Auburn in the Mississippi State game was junior defensive tackle Nick Fairley stepping to the plate and playing the game of his life. He was a dominant force in the middle with 2.5 tackles for loss, an interception and fumble recovery. The Tigers aren’t going to get that kind of production from him every game, but they’re so much better against the run if he’ll come to play like that every game. A major concern remains depth at linebacker. Josh Bynes played every snap against Mississippi State. He’s a good one, but you know that has to catch up with you at some point in the fourth quarter.

HD: Indeed it does. It sounds like we’ll find out a lot more about both of these teams on Saturday. Of course, there’s another record on the line Saturday as well -- my picks. I know you were puffing your chest up a bit last year after boosting your prediction percentage with all of those Florida and Alabama picks, but it’s time to even the score this year. I’m playing it smart on Saturday, and sticking with the home team, Auburn. I think Auburn will get pressure on Kyle Parker and win the battle up front. Then again, Clemson seems to be at its best when the least is expected -- and right now, not much is expected from anyone in the ACC.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 3

September, 16, 2010
9/16/10
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Here’s a look at what to keep an eye on in Week 3:

1. Upset alert. No, not the ACC being upset (there aren’t enough teams ranked anymore for the ACC to be upset this weekend), the other way around. But there are plenty of opportunities for the ACC to knock off a ranked opponent. Maryland at West Virginia, No. 1 Alabama at Duke, Clemson at Auburn and Wake Forest at Stanford. Can the ACC save face with any of these opportunities?

2. Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel vs. Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. McDaniel is going to have to help in the run support, and he’s also got to be wary of Newton’s arm. Newton is the team’s leading rusher, and at 250 pounds, he’s not easy to wrap up. Expect McDaniel to line up all over the field to help contain.

3. The “New Storm.” Clemson’s running back duo of Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper have been on cruise control, but they’ll run into a defense that has allowed just 80 rushing yards per game so far.

4. North Carolina’s running game. After just one game, North Carolina is averaging 24 yards of rushing offense -- the worst in the country. The addition of running back Shaun Draughn should help, but Johnny White and Anthony Elzy are both ahead of him on the depth chart, and both White and Elzy injured their ankles against LSU.

5. Georgia Tech’s receivers. Coach Paul Johnson said there were five dropped balls against Kansas, contributing to Joshua Nesbitt’s 5-of-15 completions, but that Nesbitt also could have thrown it better at times.

[+] EnlargeTanner Price
Brian A. Westerholt/Getty ImagesWake Forest's Tanner Price will become just the third true freshman quarterback starter this Saturday against Stanford.
6. Freshman quarterback Tanner Price. It will be the first time a true freshman quarterback has started for Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe. When Price makes his debut against Stanford, he will become just the third true starting freshman quarterback in the country this year, joining, Penn State’s Rob Bolden, and Colorado State’s Pete Thomas.

7. Virginia Tech’s offensive line. East Carolina’s defense has been very generous, allowing almost 500 yards per game. If there was ever a time for the Hokies to gain some confidence up front and pave the way for Ryan Williams, this would be it. Maybe the starters are simply gassed. No backup has played a snap yet on the offensive line. Nick Becton (turf toe) is expected to return.

8. Turnovers in Raleigh. NC State’s defense forced a total of five turnovers in last Saturday’s win over UCF, including three interceptions. It was the most the Pack had forced since six against North Carolina in 2008. NC State enters tonight’s game with a plus-six turnover margin, the best in the ACC.

9. Maryland backup quarterback Danny O’Brien. He’ll definitely play, though coach Ralph Friedgen said this week he’s “not disappointed” in starter Jamarr Robinson. O’Brien threw three touchdown passes in the win over Morgan State, but West Virginia is holding opponents to just 10.5 points per game.

10. Florida State’s defense. The Seminoles should look much better this weekend against BYU, especially considering BYU is 101st in the country in scoring offense with just 18.5 points per game. The Seminoles had trouble lining up in the new zone scheme against Oklahoma’s no-huddle offense and Jimbo Fisher is looking for better tackling in open space.

ACC season predictions

August, 30, 2010
8/30/10
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The wait is over. Week 1 of the 2010 season is officially here, and so are the conference predictions. Here’s a look at how this season might unfold for the ACC:

Coastal Division winner: Miami

The Canes have all of the pieces in place to win their first division title since joining the ACC. They’ve got experience and depth in all of the right places, and have finally been under the direction of the same coordinators for two years.

Atlantic Division winner: Florida State

Jimbo Fisher has the advantage of starting his career in the weaker of the two divisions, and offensively, nobody else compares in the Atlantic Division. The Noles have a veteran offensive line and one of the league’s top quarterbacks. Defensively, FSU can only get better.

ACC champion: Loser of the regular-season matchup

Revenge is sweet, and the loser of the Oct. 9 rivalry game in Miami will get it. Final word? FSU redeems itself from last year’s loss to the Canes during the regular season, but Miami wins it all in December.

Offensive MVP: Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder

He could be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, and he’s got plenty of surrounding talent to work with.
Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams is also a legitimate candidate here, but he won’t get enough carries with Darren Evans joining him in the backfield this season.

Defensive MVP: Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel

He had eight interceptions for 128 yards and 102 tackles. The interception total was tied for third in the nation and he was the only player in college football last season with at least eight interceptions and at least 100 tackles. He was the first player in Clemson history to do both in the same season. He also had two sacks and a total of five tackles for loss.


Surprise team: Maryland

The Terps have enough talent to rebound from their abysmal 2-10 season – particularly at running back and wide receiver, but they’ll have to improve up front on both sides and will be under the direction of first-year starting quarterback Jamarr Robinson.

Team most likely to disappoint: North Carolina

(If it hasn’t already.) After back-to-back eight-win seasons that ended with losses to Big East teams in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, expectations have risen for Butch Davis in his fourth season. He has one of the best defenses in the country, a Top 25 team, and experience on offense. But the program has also been clouded by an NCAA investigation into possible improper contact with agents, and the university is investigating possible academic misconduct.

Surprise player: Wake Forest quarterback Ted Stachitas

He’s tasked with replacing the winningest quarterback in school history, but he was recruited for this offense and will find a way to move the chains.

Newcomer of the Year: Miami junior college transfer Chase Ford

He has already drawn comparisons to Jeremy Shockey, and is expected to contribute immediately. He led the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with 32 receptions and 545 receiving yards. He was the league's MVP at Kilgore Junior College.

Freshman of the Year: FSU cornerback Lamarcus Joyner

The USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year is a bigger version of Greg Reid and might contribute as a kickoff returner as well. ESPN Recruiting services ranked him the No. 1 cornerback in his class and the No. 6 prospect overall. He could also see some snaps on offense.

Coach of the Year: Duke coach David Cutcliffe

Last season’s 5-7 record was the best the program has seen since 1994. If Cutcliffe is able to take the next step and win six games, it will be the Blue Devils’ first bowl appearance since 1994. Cutcliffe has already made a case for his award.

Can’t-miss game: Virginia Tech at Miami, Nov. 20

These are the ACC’s two highest-ranked teams heading into the season, and it’s likely this matchup could determine the Coastal Division winner. The series is even the past two years.
The ACC released the 2010 preseason all-conference team, as voted on by 52 members of the media at the conference media days in Greensboro, N.C. UNC led all schools with five players selected, followed by Boston College with four players.

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel got the most votes, being named on 48 of the 52 ballots, while North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn (47 votes) and Virginia Tech tailback Ryan Williams (45) were the next highest. Virginia and Wake Forest were the only two schools not represented here.

Offense

WR Donovan Varner, Duke

WR Torrey Smith, Maryland

TE George Bryan, NC State

T Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

T Chris Hairston, Clemson

G Rodney Hudson, Florida State

G Thomas Claiborne, Boston College

C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech

QB Christian Ponder, Florida State

RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech

RB Montel Harris, Boston College

Defense

DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

DE Allen Bailey, Miami

DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina

DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland

LB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

CB Kendric Burney, North Carolina

CB Brandon Harris, Miami

S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

S Deunta Williams, North Carolina

Specialists

PK Matt Bosher, Miami

P Matt Bosher, Miami

SP Torrey Smith, Maryland

ACC's irreplaceable players

June, 8, 2010
6/08/10
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This week, ESPN’s “College Football Live” is revealing the most irreplaceable players heading into the 2010 season. These are the guys who are not only invaluable to their team, but have a question mark behind them. As good as NC State quarterback Russell Wilson is, he’s got a capable backup behind him in Mike Glennon, who took all of the first-team reps this spring while Wilson was playing baseball. Same can be said at Florida State, where E.J. Manuel was the MVP of the Gator Bowl in Christian Ponder’s absence. So who would they miss most?

Here’s a look at who the most irreplaceable players are on each roster:

BOSTON COLLEGE: Montel Harris, RB -- His health is of the utmost importance, as Harris IS the Eagles’ running game. Rolandan Finch, who had mononucleosis last year, tore his ACL in mid-April. Freshman Sterlin Phifer is an option, but it was hard to tell how much he might be able to help from spring scrimmages because there wasn’t a lot of rushing with the hopes of keeping everyone healthy. Phifer had 15 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown in the first two scrimmages.

CLEMSON: DeAndre McDaniel, CB -- Quick: name his backup. Exactly. Why would you take an All-American off the field if you didn’t have to? McDaniel is the star of a defense that lost two veterans in the secondary. If McDaniel goes down, sophomore Jonathan Meeks is the next man up. He had 54 snaps last year and played on special teams.

DUKE: Sean Renfree, QB -- Even though Renfree is only entering his first season as a full-time starter for the Blue Devils, there is even less experience behind him. Renfree has at least taken a snap in a game. Freshman quarterback Brandon Connette enrolled in January and Sean Schroeder was running the scout team offense a year ago.

FLORIDA STATE: Rodney Hudson, OG -- He didn’t allow a sack or quarterback pressure all season. Now there’s a guy Ponder won’t want to be missing this fall. Hudson only missed four assignments all season and had a team-high average grade of 88 over 11 starts. He missed the last two regular-season games with a knee sprain.

GEORGIA TECH: Joshua Nesbitt, QB -- The Jackets settled on Tevin Washington as their backup quarterback this spring, but there is still a significant gap between he and Nesbitt. Nesbitt has mastered the spread-option offense and the timing needed to perfect it. Washington has six carries and one pass attempt.

MARYLAND: Torrey Smith, WR -- He’s unmatched on the roster when it comes to all-around contributions. He’s a kick returner, a receiver and a team leader. He’s also the most explosive player the Terps have.

MIAMI: Jacory Harris, QB -- Coach Randy Shannon has said he can win a national title with Harris as his quarterback, but in order to have any chance at doing that, the Canes obviously have to keep him healthy. A.J. Highsmith played in three games last year, but road trips to Pitt and Ohio State are no places for introductions.

NORTH CAROLINA: Robert Quinn, DT -- It’s not easy to replace a guy who has 11 sacks and 19 tackles for losses. The players behind him are good -- Quinton Coples and Michael McAdoo -- but they have yet to start a college game and prove dependable for the number of plays the staff asks of Quinn.

NC STATE: Nate Irving, LB -- The Wolfpack saw how devastating it was to lose Irving a year ago, when he missed the whole season after injuries he sustained in a summer car accident. Some within the program say he is the best player on the roster, and the defense definitely wasn’t the same without him last year.

VIRGINIA: Marc Verica, QB -- There’s no shortage of quarterbacks for Mike London to choose from in his first year as head coach, but Verica is the only one who has attempted a collegiate pass. Ross Metheny and Michael Strauss were the only other quarterbacks available this past spring, and they were competing for the No. 2 spot.

VIRGINIA TECH: Tyrod Taylor, QB -- The Hokies will need their veteran healthy to keep their championship hopes alive this fall. The No. 2 job has yet to be solidified, but Logan Thomas made the strongest case this spring over Ju-Ju Clayton.

WAKE FOREST: Russell Nenon, C -- He has started 25 games, including the past 19, at center. Nenon is one of just two starters returning to an offensive line in need of some help. The Deacs were shorthanded up front this spring, as Nenon was injured.

video

ACC's top 10 moments of 2009

January, 13, 2010
1/13/10
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There were some moments we'd like to forget -- like NC State linebacker Nate Irving's season-ending car crash, Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans' season-ending knee injury last summer, and Duke's widespread case of the swine flu. There were others we'll treasure for many years to come, like Bobby Bowden's final farewell in the Gator Bowl, and the overwhelming support from the ACC schools during Mark Herzlich's battle with cancer. And who could forget Cavman falling off his horse? For better or for worse, they were moments that defined the 2009 ACC season. There were many to choose from, but I've come up with a list of the top 10 moments of 2009.

[+] EnlargeBobby Bowden
Douglas Jones/US PresswireBobby Bowden spiked one last bowl win for the Seminoles.
I have a terrible memory, so if you have something from the 2009 season that you don't see here and you'd like to share, drop it in my mailbag, and I'll post them in Friday's mailblog. The toughest call was deciding between Georgia Tech's marathon win over FSU, or FSU's Thursday night comeback over UNC. Decisions, decisions ...

Here are the top 10 moments that won't be forgotten from 2009:

10. Thaddeus Lewis vs. NC State. The senior quarterback completed an astounding 40 of 50 pass attempts for 459 yards and five touchdowns in the 49-28 win over the Pack. He also added one rushing touchdown as the Blue Devils snapped a 20-game road losing streak in ACC play. It was the most points Duke had scored in a conference game since 1994 and started a three-game winning streak in ACC play.

9. C.J. Spiller's kickoff return for a touchdown at Miami. It came with just 46 seconds left in the half and gave Clemson a 14-10 halftime lead. Miami had all the momentum at that point, but a questionable decision to kick to Spiller with under a minute remaining changed that. There were 12 lead changes and two ties in the game, but Clemson earned its first road win over a top-10 team in more than eight years.

8. Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder tackles a safety. Revenge is sweet, unless it costs you the rest of your season. After throwing his fourth interception of the game, Ponder charged head-on at DeAndre McDaniel and separated his right shoulder in the hit. It was a collision that had many thinking the Noles' bowl hopes ended there.

7. Ryan Williams' fumble against North Carolina. He was at his own 24-yard line with 2:02 left in the game when he fumbled. It helped lead to UNC's nationally televised upset of then-No. 14 Virginia Tech in Lane Stadium. Williams was so distraught by it that he didn't go to class the following day.

6. Tyrod Taylor's nine-second scramble in the final minute against Nebraska. The play kept alive an 80-yard completion to Danny Coale, which was followed by Taylor's 11-yard touchdown pass to Dyrell Roberts three plays later with 21 seconds remaining. The impressive finish gave the Hokies a 16-15 win over No. 19 Nebraska.

5. Georgia Tech fans storming the field after beating Virginia Tech at home, 28-23. It was the Jackets' first home win against a top-five ranked team in more than 40 years.

4. The Tallahassee marathon. Georgia Tech and FSU combined for 1,071 total yards of offense and a total elapsed game time of 4:44 that ended in a 49-44 win for Georgia Tech. That game featured one of the more memorable plays of the season, as Josh Nesbitt ripped an apparent fumble recovery away from Florida State's Nigel Carr to preserve the win.

3. Paul Johnson's fourth-down call in overtime against Wake Forest. The Jackets had a fourth-and-1 from the 5-yard line and had been 0-for-4 that night on their previous fourth-down conversion attempts. The Coastal Division title was on the line. Didn't matter. One play later Josh Nesbitt was in the end zone.

2. Florida State coach Bobby Bowden throwing down the spear in the final game of his career. You saw it. ‘Nuff said.

1. Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich announces on ESPN's "College GameDay" that he is cancer free. On Oct. 3, Herzlich was an inspiration to his team yet again, and the Eagles went on to defeat FSU, 28-21. The win gave BC back-to-back Atlantic Division wins and put them in contention to win the division, but more importantly, the ACC's best defender from 2008 said he'll be back in 2010.

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