NCF Nation: Demetrius Hartsfield
1. Can Florida State play well on the road? There is a huge game in Blacksburg Thursday night, even though the Hokies have fallen off the map this season. For one, nobody on the current Florida State roster has ever played at Lane Stadium, where the Hokies have won seven straight -- including a perfect 4-0 mark this season. For another, Florida State has not exactly torn up their opponents while on the road. Consider, FSU has beaten its FBS opposition by an average score of 50-13 in Tallahassee. On the road? That average score moves down to 26-18.
3. Focus, Miami. The Hurricanes have a great chance to make it to their first ACC title game, but first they have to get past a Virginia team that looked vastly different from the group we had seen the majority of the season. Virginia has won four of the past six meetings between the schools and found its running game last week against NC State. If the Hoos can continue to run well against one of the worst rushing defenses in the nation while taking care of the football, they've got a chance. And that would be "so ACC," throwing the Coastal Division into disarray once again.
4. Paging NC State. Will the Wolfpack show up to play Wake Forest on Saturday? For the second straight week, NC State has bowl eligibility on the line against an opponent it is favored to beat. Things did not go as expected last week in a disappointing 33-6 loss to Virginia, a team that entered the contest on a six-game losing streak. NC State simply cannot go through the motions against a scrappy Wake Forest team with bowl eligibility on the line in this game as well.
5. Home cookin.' We mentioned Virginia Tech's home winning streak earlier. North Carolina and Clemson have played very well at home, too. The Tar Heels come off their bye and host Georgia Tech with a shot to finish the season unbeaten at home. North Carolina has gone undefeated and untied at home just seven times since 1927. Only once in school history -- 1980 -- have the Tar Heels gone 7-0 at home. The last time Carolina was undefeated at home was 1996 (5-0). Clemson, meanwhile, has a chance to set a school record with its 12th straight home win if it beats Maryland.
6. Diggs vs. Watkins. The matchup between Clemson and Maryland features last year's rookie of the year -- Sammy Watkins -- against the potential rookie of the year this year -- Stefon Diggs. Diggs is currently averaging 174.9 all-purpose yards per game to rank second in the ACC and seventh nationally. If it stands until the end of the year, it would be the best ever by an ACC freshman -- just ahead of Watkins’ 171.4 a year ago. Diggs was in a walking boot this week, and we will know more about his status later today.
7. Can BC keep it close? The Eagles are a heavy underdog against No. 4 Notre Dame, but they nearly pulled the upset on the Irish last season, losing 16-14. Chase Rettig threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Swigert with 1:57 remaining, but Notre Dame recovered the onside kick and held on for the win. Coach Frank Spaziani said staying close last year has no bearing on the matchup this year. The Eagles have no running game to speak of, so they are going to have to take their chances through the air.
8. Slowing down Giovani. Georgia Tech is the next team that gets to figure out how to slow Giovani Bernard, who had 304 all-purpose yards the last time out against NC State. Bernard had a terrific game against the Jackets last season, with 202 all-purpose yards (155 yards rushing, 47 yards receiving) but that was before he added returns to his resume. Georgia Tech has won three straight in the series.
9. Can Clemson keep rolling? The Tigers face the No. 11 total defense in the nation this week in Maryland, so will that slow their roll? Clemson ranks No. 9 in the nation in total offense, and has racked up 1,252 yards and 98 points in their past two wins. The Terps will be without one of their best defensive players in linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, so his absence could impact how much Maryland can slow down Tajh Boyd and company.
10. Camp vs. NC State secondary. The big matchup to watch between Wake Forest and NC State will be Michael Campanaro against an secondary that ranks No. 106 in the nation in pass defense. Nobody expected to see that large number next to NC State when the season began. Campanaro leads the ACC in receptions per game (8.6) and tied an ACC single-game record with 16 catches last week against Boston College.
Virginia 28, Miami 24: The Hoos have confidence and home-field advantage, a recipe for success against a Miami team looking to become bowl-eligible this week. The Cavaliers’ young defense is coming off its best performance of the year, with five takeaways and six sacks in a 33-6 win at NC State last week. The Cavs also had their best rushing performance of the season and will build upon that this weekend against a struggling Miami rushing defense.
Notre Dame 28, Boston College 14: The Eagles won't get blown away in this game. The Irish aren’t known for their offense this year, and BC always gives a great, blue-collar effort, especially at home and in this rivalry game. A lack of a running game, though, will put too much pressure on quarterback Chase Rettig, and the Eagles won’t be able to get enough points against Manti Te’o & Co.
Clemson 48, Maryland 10: It should be yet another record-setting day for offensive coordinator Chad Morris’ offense. Maryland will be without its leading tackler, linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, who tore his ACL last week against Georgia Tech, and fifth-string quarterback Shawn Petty will make just his second career start. This one has disaster written all over it, but not for a lack of effort from Maryland.
Florida State 31, Virginia Tech 17: Quarterback Logan Thomas isn’t playing at a high enough level right now to pull off the upset, and too much pressure has been put on Bud Foster’s defense. It should start out as a close game because it’s a nationally televised Thursday night game in Blacksburg, but the Noles will eventually pull away behind a strong performance by quarterback EJ Manuel and the Noles’ stifling defense.
North Carolina 31, Georgia Tech 17: This is what happens when teams have extra time to prepare for Paul Johnson’s spread option offense. The Tar Heels are coming off a bye week, and they’ve got one thing the Jackets have been missing -- a go-to playmaker. Georgia Tech will struggle to slow down running back Giovani Bernard, and the Tar Heels will snap their three-game losing streak in this series.
NC State 24, Wake Forest 21: The Wolfpack will bounce back from last week’s 33-6 loss to Virginia and become bowl-eligible behind an impressive performance by quarterback Mike Glennon. His receivers will rise to the occasion, the Pack will win the turnover battle, and Wake Forest will need more than an all-star performance by receiver Michael Campanaro in this one.
The school announced on Monday that Hartsfield will miss the rest of the season. Quarterbacks C.J. Brown, Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe also tore their ACLs this year.
“This is another tough loss for the program,” coach Randy Edsall said in a prepared statement. “Demetrius is a captain and has been a leader of this defense both on and off the field. I feel terrible for him because I know how much the game means to him. To have his senior year cut short is just disheartening. We will be here to support him through the rehab process and help him with his transition towards the next stage of his career.”
Hartsfield leads the team with 78 tackles this season. He has also totaled seven tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception and two fumble recoveries. His 338 career stops rank 10th nationally among active players and 15th in school history.
Hartsfield leads the team with 51 tackles, with three sacks and two fumble recoveries. Coach Randy Edsall has praised his senior leadership in particular as a huge key for the defense.
I had a chance to catch up with Hartsfield this week to ask about his play, and the performance of the entire defense headed into their big game against NC State on Saturday. This is a little of what he had to say.
What has been working so well for you in particular so far this season?
Demetrius Hartsfield: I’ve played in the ACC a couple of years now, so that helps, and I think one of the things is I’ve been playing with more confidence and just knowing I’ve got to step up for the defense.
Did you put that on yourself, to step up?
You are almost there, No. 2 behind Florida State. Why have you been so successful?
DH: It starts with our coordinator. Coach [Brian] Stewart has done a good job implementing the new defense. He’s done a great job also getting us as players in the right positions and just motivating us every week to play to higher standards. As players, we’ve done a great job at just playing consistently, going out and playing a full 60 minutes.
So what is the biggest difference between this year and last year, aside from the scheme and coordinator change?
DH: We’re playing with a lot more confidence, and having a lot more fun out there. I think it’s evident when people see us playing that we’re playing with a lot more fun, a lot more swag and just going out and believing in the system and playing an aggressive style of defense.
How fun has it been to be more aggressive?
DH: I love it. There’s nothing better than knowing at any point you can get a sack or a big TFL to change the game.
Where can the defense be better?
DH: I think one of the things we have to improve is getting more turnovers. That’s the No. 1 thing we’ve got to improve on. With having such a young offense, we have to get them the ball as much as possible.
Your team is alone in first place in the Atlantic Division. A lot of people are surprised; did you guys think you’d be in that spot?
DH: Of course. That’s one of our goals. I feel like if you’re playing college football and you’re expecting to lose, then there’s no point in playing. Everybody has the same aspirations of going to the ACC championship and that was one of our goals. Right now, what we’ve got to do is take it one game at a time and make sure that each and every one of us gives it our all and does whatever we can to help out our team.
You are facing a good quarterback in Mike Glennon this week. What will it take to slow him down?
DH: I think Mike Glennon is a pretty good quarterback. We’ve faced Geno Smith at West Virginia, so I think one thing we did with him is put a lot of pressure on him. We have to do the same with Mike because a quarterback like him, you can’t give him all day to sit in the pocket or he’ll eat you up all day. Our crowd is going to help us. We have to play with a lot of confidence also. That will help. If we do those things, we’ll be fine.
NC State quarterback Mike Glennon: What a gutsy, thrilling performance by the Wolfpack. One week after committing six turnovers and 14 penalties in a road loss to Miami, the Wolfpack came home and knocked off the No. 3 team in the country with a 17-16 win over FSU. Glennon played like a pro in the waning minutes, and he kept his poise and was right on target with most of his throws. He completed two fourth-down passes inside the 15-yard line, including the game winner to Bryan Underwood with 16 seconds left.
UNC running back Giovani Bernard: He rushed for a career-high 262 yards on 23 carries and a touchdown in the 48-34 win over Virginia Tech. He became the first Tar Heel to rush for 200-plus yards in a game since Ronnie McGill rushed for 244 yards against Wake Forest in 2003. The 262-yard mark is the fifth-highest in UNC single-game history and the most ever gained against Virginia Tech in any game. The 11.4 yards per carry for Bernard was the most in school history, surpassing Kelvin Bryant’s mark of 11.1 in 1981 vs. East Carolina. In the first quarter, Bernard had three rushes for minus-3 yards; over the last three quarters, he had 20 carries for 265.
Maryland's defense: Wake Forest was held to just 45 yards in the second half of Maryland's 19-14 Atlantic Division win. Linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield had 10 tackles, and the Deacs had just 2 yards in the fourth quarter. The secondary, which had 11 pass breakups, helped hold Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price to a 34.2 completion percentage. The Terps also held the opponent under 100 yards rushing for the third time this year as Wake finished with 71 rushing yards.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd: He became Clemson’s all-time career leader in touchdown passes with 50 career touchdown passes. Boyd passed for a career-high 397 yards, good for second in school history in passing yards behind Charlie Whitehurst’s 420 passing yards against Duke in 2002. Boyd also rushed for a career-high 63 yards in the 47-31 win over Georgia Tech. His 460 yards of total offense was the second-most by an individual player in school history.
Duke quarterback Anthony Boone: With starter Sean Renfree sidelined by a lingering elbow injury, Boone didn't miss a beat in the 42-17 win over Virginia. In his first career start at quarterback, Boone completed 18 of 31 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 41 yards on seven attempts. He tied the school record for touchdown passes by a quarterback in his first career start (Dave Brown vs. Wake Forest, 1989). It was a critical win in the Coastal Division and for Duke's bowl chances.
The good: Florida State remained in national championship contention after its come-from-behind 49-37 victory over No. 10 Clemson. The Seminoles went on a tear in the second half, erasing a 14-point deficit with 35 points -- including 28 straight. The last time FSU won after trailing by 14 or more points was at North Carolina on Oct. 22, 2009. In that game, the Seminoles trailed 24-6 before winning 30-27. In the win over Clemson, EJ Manuel got his Heisman campaign going and led Florida State to 667 yards of total offense -- its highest total since racking up 771 yards against Clemson in 2000. For those inquiring minds, West Virginia had only 595 total yards in the Orange Bowl against Clemson.
The bad: Clemson was not the only team that blew a double-digit second-half lead on Saturday. Georgia Tech lost a 17-point lead to Miami, blowing its biggest lead in a loss since the 2007 Toyota Gator Bowl, when Tech led 35-17 and lost to West Virginia. Georgia Tech has now lost two overtime games on the young season. The last time Tech played two overtime games in a season was 2001, when the Jackets lost to Clemson and Maryland. But if you want to know how bad it was on defense for Georgia Tech, let's move on to the next category.
The ugly II: Virginia had its second straight disappointing performance, and in back-to-back losses, the Hoos have six turnovers and 650 yards of total offense. That is fewer than Florida State had on Clemson, by the way. In the loss to TCU, Virginia just hurt itself with all the mistakes, not to mention going 3-of-16 on third-down conversions.
The surprise: Miami pulled the biggest surprise of the weekend, winning its fourth straight on the Yellow Jackets behind inspired performances from Stephen Morris and Mike James. I would be remiss if I did not mention Anthony Chickillo, who was terrific up front for Miami. Chickillo recorded career highs with seven solo tackles and three tackles for loss. More on Miami below.
The surprise II: Maryland lost 31-21 to No. 8 West Virginia, but the Terps continued to show signs that they may be all right this year. First area of note: The defense held West Virginia to 1 yard per carry. The Mountaineers had averaged 226 rushing yards per game but against the Terps had only 25 yards on 25 carries. Demetrius Hartsfield, Joe Vellano and A.J. Francis got after Geno Smith, as the Terps totaled nine tackles for loss and two sacks on the day. Meanwhile, freshman quarterback Perry Hills had the best game of his career, going 20-of-29 for 305 yards and three touchdowns, all career highs. His lone interception came on a fourth-down desperation heave late in the fourth quarter. Fellow true freshman Stefon Diggs had his second straight game with 200-plus all-purpose yards. He had a team-high 113 receiving yards and two touchdowns on three receptions. Diggs also had 25 punt return yards and 63 kickoff return yards.
The stat: Miami is 4-0 in road overtime games since becoming a part of the ACC in 2004. In Miami, though, the Canes are just 1-4 for an overall 5-4 overtime record.
The stat II: Morris had a career-high 436 yards passing against Georgia Tech -- the second-highest total in the ACC this year. It was also the most yards by a Miami quarterback since Gino Torretta threw for a school-record 485 yards against San Diego State in 1991.
The stat III: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was unable to evade Florida State’s pass rush, completing 20 percent of his passes while throwing under duress. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Boyd completed 1 of 6 passes for minus-5 yards and an interception while facing pressure in the second half.
The record: North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner threw for 321 yards in a win over East Carolina, and set a school record for most passing yards in consecutive games. Renner threw for a career-high 363 yards a week ago at Louisville, giving him 684 yards passing in two straight games. The previous record was 683, shared by T.J. Yates (2007, against East Carolina and Virginia) and Darian Durant (2002, against Arizona State and NC State). Renner also set the total yardage mark in back-to-back games with a total of 713 yards. The previous record was 712 by Ronald Curry against Marshall and Georgia Tech in 2000.
The runners: As noted Sunday, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, NC State and Duke all had season highs in rushing on Saturday. The Deacs had Josh Harris and Deandre Martin go over 100 yards, while the Wolfpack relied on true freshman Shadrach Thornton, Duke got a season-high 88 yards from freshman Jela Duncan and Virginia Tech went for more than 200 yards rushing for the first time this season. Last year, the Hokies hit 200 yards six times, and won all six games.
The overmatched: The Citadel looked pretty strong headed into its game against NC State. But this team was no match for the Wolfpack, trailing 42-7 before losing 52-14. The Bulldogs had 12 first downs and 226 yards of total offense. The Citadel’s first third-down conversion came early in the third quarter. Dating back to the end of the Connecticut game, the Pack has kept opponents from converting on 16 straight third-down attempts.
Stewart inherited the nation’s No. 102 scoring defense (34.25 points per game), No. 111 rushing defense (219.75 yards per game), and No. 108 total defense (457.17 ypg).
“I never look at rankings,” Stewart said. “If you get caught up in the rankings, you can get discouraged, or you can start patting yourself on the back. First of all you have to believe in your system, you look at the people who are going to play in your system, and you look at the guys who are going to teach your system. If you can get those three things to jive, then you’ve got a chance to be successful, and that’s how I look at it.”
Based on what he’s seen this offseason, Stewart said he already has two thirds of the equation solved, as coach Randy Edsall and the other assistants are all on board with switching to a 3-4 scheme. Only when the Terps start spring practices on Saturday, though, will Stewart learn if the players are also buying in. The first few practices will be filled with a lot of installation, and will be pivotal in revealing how quickly the players can learn the scheme and how it’s being taught.
“Once people believe,” Stewart said, “they make it work.”
The good news? The only way for Maryland to go is up.
Stewart will introduce a pressure defense -- not just blitzing on every play and every down, but pressure meaning when the receivers are trying to catch the ball, the defensive backs are in a place where they can contest every catch, and the opposing coordinator and quarterback can’t tell who’s coming and who’s not from the seven players at the line of scrimmage.
Stewart said he has tried to evaluate the skill sets of the players he has inherited as opposed to the previous system they were playing in. Stewart said he was specifically interested in how his defenders fared against Florida State, Clemson, Georgia Tech and West Virginia.
“I look at it every day,” he said, “over and over.”
On Saturday, he’ll finally get his first live look.
Eleven of Maryland’s top 13 tacklers from 2011 return, including linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield, who had a team-high 108 tackles, and safety Eric Franklin, who was second with 106. Six of the top seven sack producers from 2011 also return, including Andre Monroe, who had five, the second most by a Maryland freshman in the past nine years. Maryland also welcomes back Joe Vellano, who led the FBS last season in tackles by a defensive lineman with 7.8 per game. A total of 16 defenders have starting experience. It was a young, injury-laden group in 2011 that now faces a much-needed overhaul.
“We just had a defensive meeting [Tuesday] morning and just the way [Stewart] is really upbeat is really good,” Vellano said. “We are really working on getting this defense down and getting that work in off the field as well. We have a lot of new guys in positions to make plays and I think it really just fits us personnel-wise."
2. Florida State: The Noles had to replace two starters, including Kendall Smith, the team’s second-leading tackler, last season, and Mister Alexander, but the upcoming talent could be even better. Nigel Bradham led the team with 98 tackles and five pass breakups last season, and Christian Jones, Jeff Luc, Telvin Smith and Vince Williams will also be competing for playing time.
3. Miami: Sean Spence, who has 30 career starts, should be one of the best in the country, and Ramon Buchanon, another senior, also returns. The Canes have five other linebackers with experience in Kelvin Cain, who started seven games, Jordan Futch, who had a great spring and will see the field, Tyrone Cornelius, Shayon Green and C.J. Holton.
4. North Carolina: Kevin Reddick, who led the Tar Heels with 74 tackles last season, returns for his third season as starter. Zach Brown is also a returning starter with game-changing capabilities, and there is plenty of depth with Dion Guy, Darius Lipford, Ebele Okakpu and Herman Davidson. Junior college transfer Fabby Desir could also have an impact.
5. NC State: Audie Cole and Terrell Manning have combined for 39 career starts, and Cole fared well this spring moving to the middle to replace Nate Irving. With the return of Sterling Lucas, Dwayne Maddox and Colby Jackson, there is plenty of experience, but not quite as much depth as some other programs.
6. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return both starters in Steven Sylvester and Julian Burnett. There is no shortage of depth with Jeremy Attaochu, Quayshawn Nealey, Brandon Watts, Albert Rocker, Malcolm Munroe and Daniel Drummond.
7. Clemson: This group has a lot of potential, especially if true freshmen Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony make an immediate impact. There’s no question they’ll be given a chance, but the Tigers already have a good group with Corico Hawkins, Quandon Christian and Jonathan Willard.
8. Virginia Tech: It seems like this rotation has been in flux for a while now. The Hokies’ leading tackler returns in Bruce Taylor, Barquell Rivers had 96 tackles as a starter in 2009 but was injured last season, and there are several young players adding to the competition. Chase Williams, Tariq Edwards, Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler are only a few. Whip linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow will have to earn his spot back over Alonzo Tweedy, Dominique Patterson and Nick Dew.
9. Maryland: The Terps were hit hard here with the losses of Alex Wujciak (381 career tackles) and Adrian Moten (14.5 career sacks). Demetrius Hartsfield returns with 20 career starts, and there are four lettermen returning including Darin Drakeford, Isaiah Ross, David Mackall and Bradley Johnson.
10. Wake Forest: Kyle Wilber’s move to outside linebacker will give this position a boost, as he led the Deacs with 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks last season. His backup is Gelo Orange (22 tackles). The Deacs also have Tristan Dorty, Joey Ehrmann, Mike Olsen, Scott Betros, Riley Haynes and Justin Jackson.
11. Virginia: Starters LaRoy Reynolds and Ausar Walcott both return, but neither has started more than 11 career games. Junior Steve Greer has prior starting experience but played mainly as a reserve last season. Adam Taliaferro, Conner McCartin, Tucker Windle and LoVante Battle are also in the mix for playing time.
12. Duke: Kelby Brown is the lone returning starter, but he’s a promising young player who led the nation last season as a freshman in fumbles recovered. He missed spring ball while recovering from a knee injury, but is expected to start with Tyree Glover or Kevin Rojas.
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- The progression of quarterback Chase Rettig. As a true freshman, Rettig replaced Dave Shinskie as starter against Notre Dame on Oct. 2. He’ll only get better with more experience, and there’s room for improvement, as he threw nine interceptions and six touchdowns. He completed 51.3 percent of his passes for 137.6 yards per game. Two of those picks came in the 20-13 loss to Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger bowl, but he’s expected to take an important step forward this offseason and will need to if BC is going to graduate from the nation’s 109th best offense.
- The offense under a new coordinator. Kevin Rogers replaced Gary Tranquill, who retired after the bowl game, and the Eagles will have to adjust to a new scheme and system, starting this spring. Rogers said he'll adapt his system to the personnel he has to work with, but considering he was hired on Monday, there hasn't been much time for him to evaluate film.
- The revamped offensive line. BC has to replace three starters up front, including left tackle Anthony Castonzo, right guard Thomas Claiborne and right tackle Rich Lapham. Emmett Cleary and center Mark Spinney are returning starters, and left guard Ian White started a few games at the end of the year. Bryan Davis, Claiborne’s backup at right guard, and John Wetzel, Castonzo’s backup, are frontrunners to earn starts.
Spring practice starts: March 7
Spring game: April 9
What to watch:
- Quarterback Tajh Boyd. Prior to the arrival of two early enrollees, Boyd was the only scholarship quarterback on the roster, and his experience alone -- albeit limited -- makes it his job to lose. The staff wants him to become a little more accurate and consistent this spring. His education was accelerated at this time a year ago when former quarterback Kyle Parker spent the spring playing baseball, but that was under former offensive coordinator Billy Napier. He’s got a new coordinator -- and a new offense to learn.
- The new offensive scheme. First-year offensive coordinator Chad Morris brings an up-tempo style similar to that of Auburn’s, and the Tigers will have to learn it as quickly as he’ll want them to execute it. Morris has said Boyd is suited just right to lead it. Morris will want to stretch the field in every direction, depend on a strong running game and include long pass plays. He’s tasked with improving an offense that ranked No. 10 in the ACC in both scoring offense and total offense.
- Defense up the middle. It starts up front, where the Tigers have to replace defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins. Linebacker Brandon Maye, who played in the middle a lot, decided to transfer, and safety DeAndre McDaniel, who controlled the middle of the field in the secondary, has also graduated. The Tigers have the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 1 outside linebacker in the country in this year’s recruiting class, but they won’t arrive until the summer. For now, Corico Hawkins returns as a starting middle linebacker, while Quandon Christian is likely to stay on the outside. Rennie Moore will replace Jenkins, but McDaniel’s spot is up for grabs.
Spring practice starts: March 21
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Big holes on the offensive line. There’s depth, experience and incoming talent, but there are also big shoes to fill with the graduation of left guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon. Right guard David Spurlock has been seen snapping on the sidelines at practices, indicating he could move to center, while recovering from concussions and going through rehab. McMahon’s backup was Jacob Stanley. Henry Orelus, Bryan Stork and Rhonne Sanderson all started at right guard for Spurlock when he was out. Junior college transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug, the No. 4 overall junior college prospect, could have an immediate impact at left guard.
- Backup quarterback battle. With EJ Manuel a lock as the starter, the attention turns to the No. 2 spot. Clint Trickett, a redshirt freshman and son of offensive line coach Rick Trickett, and Will Secord, a redshirt sophomore, are the top two candidates. Secord was named the most improved quarterback of the spring at this time a year ago. Neither of them have thrown a collegiate pass.
- Linebackers. The Seminoles will have to replace two starters in Kendall Smith and Mister Alexander. Nigel Bradham is the only returning starter. This spring will feature competition among Christian Jones, Telvin Smith, Vince Williams and Jeff Luc. It’s a more talented crop waiting in the wings, but inexperience is a factor. It’s a chance for Luc and Jones -- two of FSU’s top recruits in the 2010 class -- to remind everyone why they were rated the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 2 outside linebacker, respectively, in the country.
Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 30
What to watch:
- New staff, new schemes. First-year coach Randy Edsall wants to be multiple, get vertical and take advantage of quarterback Danny O’Brien’s strengths. The departure of former defensive coordinator Don Brown to Connecticut was a surprise and a blow to the defense, which will now have to make a transition under a new coordinator who has yet to be hired.
- Competition at linebacker. Two starters have to be replaced in Alex Wujciak and Adrian Moten, who were also both leaders of the defense. Demetrius Hartsfield returns as a starter, but the new staff will have to figure out who else fits into what slots. Ben Pooler has had knee trouble, but he is expected to compete with Darin Drakeford and Ryan Donohue, who were both No. 2 at their respective positions in 2010.
- Special teams. Not only did the Terps lose a four-year starter in punter/placekicker Travis Baltz, they also have to replace their top kick returner and conference leader in all-purpose yards in receiver Torrey Smith, who left early for the NFL. Nick Ferrara handled kickoffs last year and was No. 2 behind Baltz at both kicker and punter, but he’s a placekicker first, and has to get back on track with consistency. He’ll be the only scholarship kicker on the roster until incoming freshman Nathaniel Renfro joins the team this summer. Dexter McDougle has returned kickoffs in the past, and Trenton Hughes is another option, but with a new staff, it could be a clean slate.
Spring practice starts: March 17
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Mike Glennon. The team is moving forward as if starter Russell Wilson won’t return, promoting Glennon to No. 1 on the depth chart. The offense will have a new look, as the plays will be suited to Glennon’s strengths. At 6-foot-7, he’s much taller than Wilson, a more prototypical drop-back passer with a strong arm. While the plays might look different to the fans, they’re the same ones Glennon has been practicing since the day he arrived on campus. He’s a smart, unflappable player scheduled to graduate this May, but we haven’t seen enough of him to know just how good he is.
- A new crop of receivers. NC State will have to replace three seniors in Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and Darrell Davis. Spencer and Williams led the Pack in receiving last year, combining for nine touchdowns and over 1,600 yards. NC State will turn to Jay Smith, who had 10 catches in 12 games, Steven Howard, Quintin Payton, and T.J. Graham, who had four touchdowns and played in all 13 games. Payton played a little more toward the end of the year, and he’s a tall, big target (about 6-foot-4) and comparable to Williams. Bryan Underwood, who redshirted last year, could also contribute.
- Running back competition. James Washington had taken over the starting job at the end of 2010, but he’ll be pushed this spring by Dean Haynes and Mustafa Greene, who led the team in rushing in 2010 as a true freshman. They’ll also be under the direction of a new assistant coach, as Jason Swepson is now the head coach at Elon. It will be the first time Greene has been in a spring practice, and Washington, who was hurt last year, is finally healthy.
Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16
What to watch:
- Progress of quarterback Tanner Price. The maturation of Price, who started nine games as a true freshman last year, will be crucial to the Deacs’ hopes of returning to the postseason. Price was forced to play earlier than expected and finished with seven touchdowns and eight interceptions. He completed 56.8 percent of his passes for 1,349 yards.
- A defense in transition. Coach Jim Grobe has said the staff is committed to making the transition to a 3-4 defense. The Deacons used that scheme to defend the triple option against Georgia Tech and Navy, and continued to experiment with it as the season progressed. This linebackers in this year’s recruiting class were brought in specifically with the 3-4 defense in mind.
- Redshirt offensive linemen. There were three true freshmen who redshirted last year who are expected to give four returning starters some legitimate competition -- Colin Summers, Dylan Heartsill and Daniel Blitch. The Deacs will also have to replace starting center Russell Nenon. Chance Raines was his backup last year.
Here are this week's top performers in the ACC:
Wake Forest safety Alex Frye: He had two interceptions, a forced fumble and four tackles in Wake Forest’s 54-48 win over Duke on Saturday. Frye’s first interception led to a Wake Forest touchdown which put the Deacons ahead 21-14 in the second quarter. His second interception, also in the second quarter, was returned 28 yards to the Duke 16 and the Demon Deacons scored two players later for a 35-21 lead. Frye has now intercepted a pass in each of his last three games dating back to last season. He has five career interceptions and three this season.
BC's defense. The Eagles held Kent State to 4 rushing yards and forced five turnovers in a 26-13 win. Kent State had two fumbles and three interceptions. Alex Albright had his first career interception, and Wes Davis also picked off a pass for the Eagles.
Virginia coach Mike London. He has already proven himself as an FBS coach. London took his team across the country -- a team picked to finish last in the ACC -- and put it in position to beat No. 16 USC. He flew the Cavaliers out there on Thursday, took them to the Coliseum on Friday to help ease their nerves, and almost beat the Trojans on Saturday. There were one too many mistakes and penalties, but it was a gritty effort to be commended.
Maryland's defense.The Terps held Morgan State to just 85 total yards and forced three turnovers in a 62-3 rout. It was the fewest yards allowed under coach Ralph Friedgen. Freshmen Matt Robinson and David Mackall were Maryland's leading tacklers with seven each. Demetrius Hartsfield's pick-six in the second quarter was Maryland's first since Alex Wujciak scored on a 70-yard interception return on Nov. 14, 2009 at NC State.
NC State linebacker Audi Cole. He led the team with 12 tackles, including 3.5 for loss (19 yards), one sack (10 yards) and an interception in the Pack's 28-21 win over UCF.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
You got to know some of them better than others this spring, but all of the following newcomers (in no particular order) established themselves as players' whose names you should remember come fall:
Virginia Tech TB Ryan Williams -- He quickly earned the spotlight with an 80-yard run on the first carry of his first spring scrimmage. In the spring game he had 10 carries for 85 yards, and two receptions for 66 yards, including a 56-yard touchdown on a middle screen.
Boston College TE Chris Pantale -- The 6-foot-5, 238-pound redshirt freshman from Wayne, N.J., had five catches for 45 yards - including a long of 17 yards in the spring game.
Florida State DE Brandon Jenkins -- He made plays every day, and probably had the most sacks of any of the Noles this spring. He also was constantly in the backfield. He probably won't start but may help replace some of the sacks Everette Brown took with him.
Maryland LB Demetrius Hartsfield -- The redshirt freshman is expected to be the starting Will linebacker in 2009. He's quick, athletic, and big enough (230 pounds) to be effective in the run game and yet fast enough to cover receivers coming out of the backfield. He was in the two-deep the second half of last season and nearly played, but held his redshirt. He ended a solid spring with seven tackles for the White team in the spring game.
UNC TB Jamal Womble -- He's a powerful runner built low to the ground who earned the No. 3 spot behind Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston. He was the leading rusher in the spring game with 50 yards on seven carries and caught three passes for 12 yards. He proved this spring he could give the starters a breather.
UNC LB Zach Brown -- He reportedly ran a 4.26 with the strength and conditioning staff last week. He will be the starter at outside linebacker now that Quan Sturdivant has moved inside to middle.
Duke QB Sean Renfree -- He earned the confidence of coach David Cutcliffe and some playing time this fall with his strong performance this spring behind starter Thaddeus Lewis. Renfree threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.
Virginia WR Kris Burd and DB Rodney McLeod -- They're two players who showed the potential for breakout seasons. Burd saw action in all 12 games last year but caught only seven passes. With Kevin Ogletree gone, odds are that number increases.
McLeod was a true freshman last year and played almost exclusively in the nickel/dime packages from scrimmage. This year he's likely to be a starter at safety. He has great athleticism to complement h his football instincts.
Georgia Tech RB/SB Anthony Allen -- The junior transfer from Louisville is almost certain to figure into the crowded backfield this fall. He and Embry Peeples led all rushers in the spring game with 69 yards each.
Georgia Tech DL T.J. Barnes -- With three starters gone from last year's nine-win season, Barnes proved this spring he could become a dependable replacement. He had eight tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a forced fumble in the spring game.
Clemson QB Kyle Parker -- The dual sport athlete juggled his baseball responsibilities while competing with Willy Korn for the starting job, and wowed Tigers fans with his performance in the spring game. He completed 13-21 passes for 171 yards and a score, and also ran for a score.
NC State QB Mike Glennon -- He showed significant improvement this season and took advantage of the fact that starter Russell Wilson dedicated half of his spring to baseball. Glennon was 28-46 for 338 yards and three touchdowns with one interception in the spring game.
Wake Forest corner Kenny Okoro -- He's a long, tall athlete with the potential to replace Alphonso Smith. He made play after play this spring, tackles well and handles calls well. He'll continue to battle with Josh Bush this summer, but at the minimum will be used as a nickle back.
Miami WR Kendal Thompkins -- He's a smaller, speedy deep threat who caught two passes for 45 yards and has the potential to truly separate himself from the crowded group of receivers.