NCF Nation: Don Brown

UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni announced Monday that defensive line coach Hank Hughes will also serve as defensive coordinator, a move that makes sense for a variety of reasons.

Let's be honest. Nothing needs to be radically changed or altered given the performance of the defense over the past several seasons. Don Brown may be gone, but Hughes is going into his 13th season at UConn and worked with Brown the past two seasons, so I can't imagine the Huskies will all of a sudden radically change their scheme or philosophy.

Secondly, Hughes served as defensive coordinator previously at UConn, under then-coach Randy Edsall from 2002-05. Then from 2005-10, he was assistant coach for defense. All the while, he coached the defensive line -- a unit that continually produced special players including Kendall Reyes, Trevardo Williams, Cody Brown, Rhema Fuller and Deon McPhee. In 2011, UConn ranked No. 4 in the nation in rushing defense.

Finally, his defenses have gotten results. Under Hughes, UConn led the Big East in total defense in 2004, 2005 and 2008. The Huskies were No. 1 again in 2012. Having Hughes assume coordinator duties again allows the Huskies to carry on with what they know, without having to undergo a major staff shakeup on the strongest part of the team.

The Huskies formally announced one other coaching move: receivers coach Matt Cersosimo moves to cornerbacks coach.

Here is the new-look staff:
  • George DeLeone, associate head coach, offensive line
  • T.J. Weist, offensive coordinator, receivers
  • Hank Hughes, defensive coordinator, defensive line
  • Kermit Buggs, special teams coordinator, running backs
  • Matt Cersosimo, cornerbacks, recruiting coordinator
  • Shane Day, quarterbacks
  • Mike Foley, tight ends
  • Darrell Perkins, Safeties
  • Jon Wholley, linebackers

Q&A: UConn LB Sio Moore

October, 7, 2011
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I had a chance to catch up with UConn linebacker Sio Moore earlier this week as the Huskies prepare to take on West Virginia on Saturday. Moore had 3.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss this season, and also has been all over the field for the Huskies. Here is a little of what he had to say.

You guys have had a tough time late in games. How do you go about stressing “finishing”?

Sio Moore: It all starts with preparation. (Tuesday) was one of our best days of practice all year for every player. Whether everything was right or wrong, everybody was getting after it, that right there lets you know we all are committed to getting things fixed. Everybody is frustrated, and it kinda looks like the same situation as last year. We don’t want it to be similar, we don’t want to be in that situation again. How you practice sets the tempo for the game. Practice is supposed to be hard so when you get to the game, it’s supposed to be easy.

You have two new linebackers starting next to you, Jory Johnson and Yawin Smallwood. How have they done?

[+] EnlargeSio Moore
David Butler II/US PresswireSio Moore has racked up 28 tackles and 3.5 sacks so far this season.
SM: Jory and Yawin are doing great. Jory is a smart player. He’s always around the ball, one of the smarter linebackers. He knows how to get things done. Yawin is working his tail off, making things happen. It’s good playing next to those guys.

What has it been like gaining a chemistry with them?

SM: We’re definitely getting closer. Part of playing defense with a unit of guys is learning and knowing how each different set of guy plays, from the defensive line to linebackers to the secondary. It’s been a building process. We just have to keep working, keep working and building with each other. As long as we do that we’ll be fine.

Last week you had some breakdowns in pass defense. How do you correct those before playing another good passing team in West Virginia?

SM: Making sure you’re completely fundamental in all your techniques, paying attention to the details and routes receivers run. Half the battle is being able to line up and the other half is executing. This week has been about the little things, play recognition and playing fast.

One thing you have done well on defense is stopping the run, ranking No. 2 in the Big East. What has been the biggest key there?

SM: Stopping the run is about passion. How bad do you really want it? It’s a gross feeling to have somebody run all over the defense. Stopping the pass is one thing, but when you have somebody legit running the ball on your defense, that’s a pride thing and we’re not going to let that happen.

What has the adjustment been like under new coordinator Don Brown?

SM: We’re a defense where coaches told us from day one to solve your problems with aggression. We live and die by that motto. We want to get to the quarterback, run to the ball and cause chaos. It’s a style that really fits us. We like to get after it, we like to cause turnovers and make big plays. We have to make sure we execute on all levels.

It’s been a disappointing start, but now you can focus on conference play. Is this sort of like a fresh start for you guys?

SM: Everybody’s taking it one game at a time and making sure we do everything day by day and play by play to get better. We can’t worry about the big picture. We have to worry about all the little tools in the toolbox to make the machine works. If we do that, we’ll be all set. This game is a game where you can’t dwell on anything. We have to learn from our mistakes and get ready for this game. We know they’ve got a chip on their shoulder from last year. We have to make sure we go out and handle our business.

How about for you? Your start to the season has been great. Where can you get better?

SM: I just know that there’s more and more things I have to get better at. In the position I’m at, I do a lot of things. I have to make sure I’m a technician at everything I do. I’m not big on grading my performance because I know there’s so much that needs to be done. I’m my own biggest critic. I know I can work on fundamentals and techniques, being able to play the run, using my hands. Playing linebacker, you can never not work any part of your game. You have to work on every part to get better each day.
It is the big question for UConn this week: If the Huskies had a hard time slowing down the Western Michigan passing game last week, how will they slow down West Virginia this week?

In their 38-31 loss, UConn gave up 479 yards passing and allowed three receivers to hit 100 yards. West Virginia has the No. 6 pass offense in the country behind Geno Smith, who has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards already this season.

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesGeno Smith poses a huge threat to the UConn defense.
"We didn't play well enough pass defense last week," UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said. "So we will try as best we can to tighten up coverage this week, and hopefully do a better job rushing the passer and putting a little more pressure. Alex [Carder] got the ball off very quick, Geno is an exceptional passer, his receivers are excellent. They have a heck of a crew of receivers with vertical speed and athleticism. We're going to have to vary the coverages we play and be able to change the look and hopefully be able to get some pressure on the quarterback."

UConn was able to get three sacks and eight tackles for loss against the Broncos, but the Huskies collapsed in the fourth quarter. After taking a 24-17 lead, they allowed Western Michigan to go on a nine-play, 80-yard drive to tie the score. Western Michigan followed that up with a seven-play, 62-yard drive to take the lead. Then the Broncos hit a 41-yard touchdown pass with 1:35 to go to win it.

Carder went 13-of-15 with three touchdown passes in the fourth quarter.

The biggest problem for UConn was playing without cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson, a team captain and one of the best players on the defense. Wreh-Wilson is out with a knee injury. His replacement, Gary Wilburn, was on the coverage on several of the touchdown passes. But the Huskies were not making any excuses.

"He's one of our captains for a reason," defensive tackle Kendall Reyes said. "He's obviously an impact player we have on our defense, but we all made mistakes, so we all have to clean it up. This is a team game. We all just have to get ready for our next opponent."

West Virginia has had three players go over 100 yards in a game once this season as well, against Maryland. In Smith, the Huskies find a player who is progressing well in the new offense. "He definitely seems a lot more comfortable back there," Reyes said.

Trying to make him uncomfortable is a huge key to this game. UConn defensive coordinator Don Brown runs an aggressive defense -- his team has 16 sacks already -- and the strength of the group is up front. Reyes has picked up where he left off last season and that front needs to help the back end out.

But in all three losses, UConn has had defensive breakdowns in the fourth quarter. Is it because they have had to prop up an offense that has struggled until last week? Or because players simply have been in the wrong positions?

"With each game we’re so close," linebacker Sio Moore said. "Each game we’ve lost, there’s been one drive where it’s been due to one ball not being batted down, one tackle not being made, one call not being executed right. It’s those little things we see that make us frustrated and lets us know we need to finish. If we finish, the outcomes will be highly different. These three losses -- we could be sitting here 5-0. It’s about finishing, making sure we do that this week."
Sio Moore remembers looking around Connecticut's final Fiesta Bowl practice and realizing it was the end of an era.

Linebackers Scott Lutrus, Lawrence Wilson and Greg Lloyd were wrapping up their long and highly productive careers, leaving Moore as the keeper of the flame at the position.

"I thought, 'These guys are actually leaving,'" Moore said. "I'd always kind of been in the back, and those are the guys I emulated and looked up to. What they did to help me and mold me into the player I am becoming today, now I've got to do the same for these young guys."

[+] EnlargeConnecticut's Sio Moore
Cliff Welch/Icon SMI Connecticut's Sio Moore (46) was second on the team last season with 110 tackles.
UConn's linebacker spots have been in great hands the past four years, and Moore looks likes the next in a successful line. He actually supplanted Lloyd in the starting lineup early last season as a sophomore and ended up second on the team with 110 tackles, including 11.5 for loss. He was named Big East defensive player of the week twice, first for his 16-tackle effort against Buffalo and later in a tour de force against West Virginia that included 17 stops and two forced fumbles. He was the named the national defensive player of the week by two outlets following that performance.

You could say the 6-foot-1, 232-pounder experienced his breakout year in 2010. But Moore disagrees.

"I want to make my name a staple," he says. "I want to be a great linebacker in this conference and in this country. That's my goal. So my breakout year is yet to come."

He had good teachers to get to this point, especially in Lutrus and Wilson, who combined to make 91 starts. Moore said he learned something different from all three departed seniors, which he sums up thusly:

Lloyd: "How to play downhill and get your face into things, and when you get to the ball carrier, punish him. If they put $10,000 on the goal line on fourth-and-1, I'd put my money on Greg Lloyd."

Lutrus: "How to learn the game. How to be savvy and know what's coming, to be able to use my mind more than my athleticism. Scott was a very smart guy who always knew the schemes, tactics and other teams' formations and what their tendencies were."

Wilson: "How to be comfortable playing with instincts and using my athleticism to the best of my ability. Me and 'Bama' are kind of small guys compared to G-Lloyd and Scott, who were like 240 and 250 pounds. He definitely taught me how to use my hands and athleticism to cover guys, get around tackles and get sacks."

Moore is now becoming a mentor to the inexperienced linebackers surrounding him. He says he has a big-brother relationship with Yawin Smallwood that is similar to the one he had with Wilson. And he can't wait to apply his quickness in new defensive coordinator Don Brown's scheme.

"He's always telling us to solve the problem with aggression," Moore said. "We've got guys pinning their ears back and running like their hair's on fire to the quarterback. We're not sitting back; we're going to go after it. We blitzed and everything last year, but this year is different. We're definitely going to be more aggressive."

Moore spent his first year of high school in West Haven, Conn., before moving to North Carolina. He came up to visit his mother, who still lives in West Haven, after his junior year and attended Randy Edsall's camp. The Huskies offered him a scholarship then, and he committed on the spot.

"Now when I go back home to North Carolina, I can get me a nice slab of barbecue, and when I'm here, I can get a homecooked meal from my mom," he said. "I've got the best of both worlds."

The Huskies hope Moore has taken the best of each of his mentors and will use that to become the next great UConn linebacker.
As spring practice kicks into high gear around the Big East, here's your handy-dandy guide to all of the offseason coaching moves around the league. Clip and save: (Oh, wait. This is a blog. Do not clip your computer screen.)

Cincinnati

No changes

Connecticut

Out:

Randy Edsall, head coach (to Maryland)
Todd Orlando, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers (to Florida International)
Lyndon Johnson, outside linebackers/special teams coordinator (to Maryland)
Terry Richardson, running backs (to Miami)

In:

Paul Pasqualoni, head coach
George DeLeone, offensive coordinator
Don Brown, defensive coordinator
Clayton White, special team coordinator/running backs

Internal moves:

Former offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead is now quarterbacks coach

Quick take:

Pasqualoni, the Connecticut native, comes aboard with two new coordinators (three if you count special teams). But the rest of the staff stayed intact. Edsall took only one assistant with him to Maryland, which is strange. There should be more continuity in this coaching change than most. The trick will be getting the old and the new styles to mesh.

Louisville

Out:

Mike Groh, quarterbacks (to Alabama)

In:

Shawn Watson, quarterbacks

Quick take:

Charlie Strong scored a victory by keeping his staff almost fully together after a successful first year. Watson, the former Nebraska offensive coordinator, looks like a great addition to coach a position in flux.

Pittsburgh

Out:

Dave Wannstedt, head coach (forced resignation)
All of Wannstedt's assistants

In:

Todd Graham, head coach
Paul Randolph, executive associate head coach/co-defensive coordinator/defensive line
Calvin Magee, assistant head coach/co-offensive coordinator/running backs
Mike Norvell, co-offensive coordinator/wide receivers/director of recruiting
Keith Patterson, defensive coordinator/linebackers
Tony Dews, tight ends
Todd Dodge, quarterbacks
Tony Gibson, cornerbacks,/recruiting coordinator
Spencer Leftwich, offensive line
Randall McCray, safeties/special teams coordinator

Quick take:

It's certainly a sea change at Pitt, with an new staff and a whole new philosophy. The presence of several West Virginia assistants lends a little more spice to the Backyard Brawl, as well. Graham has done a good job of building some excitement after the whole Wannstedt/Mike Haywood mess.

Rutgers

Out:

Kyle Ciarrocca, co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks (not retained)
Randy Melvin, defensive line (not retained)
Ed Pinkham, co-defensive coordinator/defensive backs (to Elon)

In:

Frank Cignetti Jr., offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Brian Angelichio, tight ends
Jeff Hafley, defensive backs

Internal moves:

Phil Galiano moves from tight ends to defensive line
Robb Smith will coach linebackers as well as special teams

Quick take:

After a 4-8 season, Rutgers needed to make some major changes. Head coach Greg Schiano took advantage of the Pitt staff turnover to hire three former Panthers assistants. Hafley's ties in New Jersey already helped in recruiting. Cignetti will be charged with fixing a stale offense.

South Florida

No changes

Syracuse

Out:

Bob Casullo, assistant head coach/special teams (parted ways)

In:

Tim Daoust, defensive end

Internal moves:

Nathanial Hackett was promoted to offensive coordinator
John Anselmo becomes assistant head coach and will work with linebackers
Dan Conley will concentrate on inside linebackers
Defensive coordinator Scott Shafer will work with defensive backs
Jimmy Brumbaugh will coach defensive tackles
Special teams will be divided among the staff

Quick take:

Casullo left before last season ended, so Syracuse had already moved on. The changes in responsibilities reflect the areas of concentration for the Orange this summer, as they have many young players who need tutoring.

West Virginia

Out:

Jeff Mullen, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks (not retained)
Lonnie Galloway, receivers (to Wake Forest)
Dave Johnson, offensive line (not retained)
Chris Beatty, running backs/slot receivers (not retained)
Dave McMichael, tight ends/special teams (not retained)

In:

Dana Holgorsen, offensive coordinator/head coach in waiting
Shannon Dawson, receivers
Bill Bedenbaugh, offensive line
Robert Gillespie, running backs

Quick take:

The entire offensive staff was let go except for Galloway, who left for Wake Forest a couple of weeks ago. West Virginia hasn't named a replacement for Galloway yet, but Dawson and Holgorsen will likely coach the receivers, with someone coming on board for special teams. The defensive staff remains intact, and Bill Stewart will coach his final year before handing the reins to Holgorsen. It will be a fascinating chemistry test.

Big East spring preview

February, 23, 2011
2/23/11
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Spring practice is just around the corner -- South Florida will be on its new practice fields next week, while other Big East teams will follow suit shortly after.

So here's a look at what to expect from each league team this spring.

Cincinnati

Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Fixing the defense: There's little doubt that improving the defense is the first order of business in Clifton. The Bearcats ranked last in the Big East last season while giving up 28 points per game. The good news is that all 11 starters on that side of the ball are back. The bad news is those are the same guys who couldn't get it done a season ago. An extra year of maturity should help, and Butch Jones expects more depth and competition on defense, including the arrival of junior-college import Malcolm Murray at safety.
  • Restocking the Binns: Cincinnati should still be strong on offense with the return of senior quarterback Zach Collaros and senior Isaiah Pead, the leading returning rusher in the Big East. Yet the loss of the league's most productive receiver in 2010, Armon Binns, means the Bearcats need to find a few more guys to make plays at receiver. D.J. Woods is an obvious choice as the new go-to guy, but he'll have to solve his fumble problems. Transfer Kenbrell Thompkins, who couldn't get eligible last season, will look to step forward. Another sidelined receiver, freshman Dyjuan Lewis, won't be cleared to join in team activities until the summer.
  • Looking for leaders: One of the problems during the 2010 4-8 season, as voiced by departing senior Jason Kelce and implied by Jones, was a lack of leadership on the team. Hey, it happens sometimes when your program has been to back-to-back BCS games and young players feel an undeserved sense of entitlement. Jones has been trying to change that, and we should be able to tell during the spring whether some new leaders have emerged.
Connecticut

Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Back to the future: For the first time since the end of 1990s, and for the first time ever as an FBS-level program, the Huskies will have someone other than Randy Edsall leading them through practice in March. Former longtime Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni took over when Edsall left for Maryland, and Pasqualoni hired new coordinators (George DeLeone on offense and Don Brown on defense) to mix in with the holdovers from Edsall's staff. UConn has been doing things the same way for a long time, and with pretty strong results. How will the team react to Pasqualoni's new-look, old-school ways?
  • Backfield in motion: Quarterback Zach Frazer is gone. Star tailback Jordan Todman left early for the NFL. Fullback Anthony Sherman graduated. Everything behind center is new. The quarterback position looks pretty wide open, with sophomore Michael Box perhaps having the edge after making one (very unsuccessful) start in 2010. Early enrollee Michael Nebrich is one to watch. How will the Huskies replace Todman? Good question. Robbie Frey decided to concentrate on graduate school, leaving USC transfer D.J. Shoemate as the only experienced ballcarrier. Freshman Lyle McCombs' status is unclear for spring after his offseason arrest, and the two running backs in the signing class won't arrive until summer. Right now, it's anybody's guess as to who might carry on the UConn running back tradition.
  • Reloading at linebacker: The Connecticut defense brings a lot back, but one position that needs refilling is linebacker. Lawrence Wilson, who led the Big East in tackles the past two seasons, and Scott Lutrus, a four-year starter and solid leader, both exhausted their eligibility. Sio Moore looks like a rising star and had some huge games in 2010, but the other two positions have large shoes to fill.
Louisville

Spring practice starts: March 23
Spring game: April 15

What to watch:
  • Smooth sailing for Bridegwater?: The Cardinals' most pressing issue is at quarterback, where senior co-starters Justin Burke and Adam Froman are gone. Highly-touted recruit Teddy Bridgewater will participate in the spring, and how quickly he picks up the college game and coordinator Mike Sanford's system could go a long way to determining what happens this fall. If he needs more time, senior Will Stein will happily take the reins.
  • Rebuilding the O-line: The key to Louisville's offensive success was its senior-laden line, which proved to be the best in the Big East a year ago. But now four new starters must be found to go along with center Mario Benavides. The new guys must get up to speed and develop chemistry quickly for the running game and presumed new starter Jeremy Wright to duplicate last season's progress.
  • Last line of defense: Louisville's defense was most vulnerable at its back end at times last season, and now the Cardinals must replace both starting cornerbacks (including All-Big East first team performer Johnny Patrick), no to mention two senior linebackers. An obvious candidate to take over some leadership is safety Hakeem Smith, who was the Big East rookie of the year. The plus side is that Charlie Strong and coordinator Vance Bedford will have more young talent to work with.
Pittsburgh

Spring practice starts: March 15
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Golden Graham?: There will be no more drastic change in the Big East this spring than the offense at Pittsburgh, which will go from a run-based pro-style attack to Graham's no-huddle, wide-open, points-per-minute machine. Can the Panthers get this new offense up and running this spring? Does Graham have the players to make it work? And how will his offense, so successful in Conference USA, translate into the more rugged Big East? All those questions will be fascinating to follow.
  • Quarterback competition: Junior Tino Sunseri started every game in his first year at the controls in 2010, and he played well at times. But a new style and new coaching staff means that he might have an edge, but not necessarily an insurmountable one, in this spring's competition. Redshirt freshman Mark Myers is multi-talented and will be given a look, along with classmate Anthony Gonzalez and Kolby Gray. The current staff has no loyalty to Sunseri, so he'll need to perform at a high level this spring to keep his job.
  • Shoring up the 'D': It's no secret that Pitt struggled in defending the pass last season. Graham's offense may be more explosive, but he doesn't want to have to get into shootouts all the time. He and defensive coordinator Keith Patterson have experience running 3-3-5 and 4-2-5 formations and may go to more of those kinds of looks to counter the increasing spread offenses throughout the league. First Pitt will have to get better play from its secondary and linebackers in pass coverage, and that starts this spring.
Rutgers

Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 30

What to watch:
  • Line change: The first thing to focus on this spring for the Scarlet Knights is the front five on offense. The offensive line has been a mess for the past two years and was an utter disaster a year ago. Head coach Greg Schiano is counting on junior-college center Dallas Hendrickson to provide some immediate help, and that another year will lead to better things for the returnees. Rutgers needs answers at right tackle, especially, and if the line can't block its own defense in spring practice, you'll know there's trouble.
  • A Frank re-assessment: Former Pitt offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti takes over the Scarlet Knights' playcalling duties this spring, and his pro-style background seems like a perfect match for what Schiano likes to do. Look for Cignetti to try to establish a stronger running game this spring (while waiting for mega-recruit Savon Huggins to arrive this summer) and abandon the Wildcat formation and other gimmicks that Rutgers desperately turned to the past two years. His work with sophomore starter Chas Dodd will also be critical, since there are no other experienced quarterbacks on campus.
  • Recharging the defense: You always expect a Schiano-led defense to be rock solid, but that defense wore down last season and ended up allowing more points in conference play than anybody. Three of the starting four defensive linemen are gone, as well as the team's leading tackler -- linebacker Antonio Lowery -- and safety Joe Lefeged. Schiano has recruited well and has lots of young players ready to step into bigger roles. Spring will be the time we start to learn who's ready to handle increased responsibilities.
South Florida

Spring practice starts: March 3
Spring game: April 2

What to watch:
  • Transfers accepted: Running backs Darrell Scott and Dontae Aycock have strong credentials; Scott was one of the more sought-after recruits in the country before disappointing at Colorado, while Aycock was set to play for Auburn. Both become eligible this year and will show their stuff this spring. The two big-bodied ballcarriers could add some power and explosiveness to the Bulls offense. Notre Dame transfer Spencer Boyd should bring depth, at the very least, to the secondary.
  • B.J. still the main Bull?: Junior B.J. Daniels seemed to reassert himself as the starter with a big performance in the Meineke Car Care Bowl win over Clemson. But before that, there were serious questions about whether sophomore Bobby Eveld might unseat him. Daniels goes into the spring with an obvious edge, but he'll be pushed by Eveld and redshirt freshman Jamius Gunsby. He'll need to perform at a consistent level to stiff-arm questions about his job security.
  • Receiver reconstitution: No doubt, receiver was the position that needed the largest upgrade a year ago. The bad news is, the Bulls lost leading pass-catcher Dontavia Bogan, who was nearly a one-man show at wideout in 2010. On the flip side, A.J. Love and Sterling Griffin return from injury. And Skip Holtz hopes getting thrown into the fire last season sped the development of guys like Evan Landi, Joel Miller and Lindsey Lamar. At the very least, the position has a lot more experience and depth than it did a year ago at this time.
Syracuse

Spring practice starts: March 8
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • Displacing Delone: Senior Delone Carter brought the thunder to the Syracuse running game the last two years, and he may have been the least favorite ballcarrier for opposing tacklers to bring down. With him gone, it remains to be seen whether the smaller Antwon Bailey can be an every-down back, or if youngsters like Prince-Tyson Gulley and Jerome Smith are ready for an increased role in the offense.
  • Linebacker makeover: It would be hard for any team to lose a more productive linebacker tandem than the Orange did with seniors Doug Hogue and Derrell Smith. They were both crucial to what defensive coordinator Scott Shafer liked to do. The lone returning starter is Marquis Spruill, who played as a true freshman last year. Could a newcomer like junior-college transfer Siriki Diabate be ready to help immediately?
  • Wideout wonders: Marcus Sales helped rescue an ailing passing game with his breakout performance in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Is Sales ready to play like that all the time now, or was he a one-game wonder? Will Van Chew continue the improvement he showed last season before getting injured? Can the Orange get more out of Alec Lemon? What new faces might help at receiver? The answers to these questions will be key to the attack under Nathaniel Hackett, who was promoted to offensive coordinator this offseason.
West Virginia

Spring practice starts: March 28
Spring game: April 29

What to watch:
  • Dana days: Mountaineer Nation is salivating at the thought of what Dana Holgorsen will do to revive the offense. Holgorsen has had an immediate and incredible impact at the last two places where he called plays, and some solid work in the spring is required to do the same in Morgantown. A couple of things are for sure: the Mountaineers will be throwing it around a whole bunch during practice, and fans will breathlessly gobble up every small detail. Another thing to watch will be the chemistry between Holgorsen's hand-picked offensive staff and Bill Stewart, the man he'll replace at the end of the season. That relationship will also be dissected relentlessly.
  • Defense reload or rebuild?: Most people assume West Virginia will continue to field an excellent defense because of coordinator Jeff Casteel. That may be true, but no team lost more defensive talent than the Mountaineers, who must replace frontline players like tackle Chris Neild, linebacker J.T. Thomas, safety Robert Sands and cornerback Brandon Hogan, among others. There's still a lot to like here, including ends Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin and corner Keith Tandy, but for Casteel must find new contributors to keep his 3-3-5 humming along.
  • Who's in the backfield?: It's not yet know just how much quarterback Geno Smith will be able to do during spring practice after his offseason foot surgery. Obviously, the more reps he can take, the better he'll be able to get Holgorsen's system down. And there's no experience behind him. West Virginia will be cautious with Smith, though, because the fall is way more important. With Noel Devine gone and Tavon Austin seemingly making his move to receiver permanent, there will be competition for the starting running back spot. Shawne Alston and Ryan Clarke are bulldozers who could add an interesting wrinkle to Holgorsen's spread if they get the job done.
Al Golden and Randy EdsallGetty ImagesAl Golden and Randy Edsall are the latest head coaches to take over ACC programs.
First-year Miami offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch introduced himself to the players the best way he knew how -- he recruited them. He brought them into his office one by one and asked them about their families, their hometowns, and their high school situations.

“I never got to recruit any of these players,” he said in an interview on signing day. “It will be different in the future. I’ll know the players. I’ll know their families and their situations. Here, I really don’t know anything. So I asked our players to really introduce themselves to me, more than me introducing myself to them. It’s been really nice to talk to these guys, find out about their backgrounds, what made them choose the U. I didn’t know any of those answers.”

Nor did he know the personnel.

It wasn’t until after signing day that Miami’s staff finally had a chance to look at 15-20 clips of each player on the roster and evaluate them. The Hurricanes aren’t the only program in transition this spring, as five teams will have either a new head coach, new coordinator, or both. Al Golden replaced Randy Shannon at Miami, Maryland hired Randy Edsall, Clemson and Boston College both hired new offensive coordinators, and Duke will have its third defensive coordinator in as many years. Two hires -- Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown, who was retained by Edsall, and North Carolina defensive line coach Brian Baker -- didn’t even last a month before they left for other jobs.

The biggest changes, though, will be at Maryland and Miami. With the hires of Golden and Edsall, the ACC has now had head-coaching changes at 10 of the 12 schools in the past five years. Wake Forest and Virginia Tech are the exceptions, as Jim Grobe and Frank Beamer, who are entering their 11th and 24th seasons, respectively, are easily the most tenured in the league. Four coaches will either be in their first or second seasons this year.

“You look at Butch Davis and Tom O’Brien, and their tenure is beginning to look long in our league,” said ACC commissioner John Swofford. “There’s a lot of freshness, a lot of new coaches who are still early in their tenures. Hopefully with longevity and stability, those programs will grow and develop.”

The instability in the coaching ranks hasn’t helped the ACC gain any solid footing in the national college football landscape. Just when it seemed as if former Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen had the Terps heading in the right direction -- a nine-win season led by the league’s coach of the year and rookie of the year -- the change was made.

Maryland AD Kevin Anderson said the expectations for Friedgen’s successor would be consistent appearances in the Top 25 -- exactly where the Terps left off in the final Associated Press poll of 2010.

“I’ll put more pressure on myself than what anybody can put on me,” Edsall said. “I know Ralph, I’ve worked with Ralph. Those things are unfortunate, but I’m here to do a job and get Maryland to the highest level we can. My whole goal and approach is to win the ACC championship. That’s what I want to do, and that’s what we’ve been striving to do since I got here.”

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
AP Photo/Patrick CollardClemson will likely have growing pains next season with a new offensive coordinator and a first-year QB in Tajh Boyd.
With rapidly-improving Florida State in the same division, it won’t be easy. Clemson will have some catching up to do, too. First-year Clemson coordinator Chad Morris is not only tasked with installing a new offense and terminology, he’s also got to do it with a first-year starting quarterback in Tajh Boyd.

“It’s based on a very fast paced style of play,” Morris said. “It’s based basically on being a run, play-action oriented offense.”

Miami will have a pro-style offense, but the staff has yet to determine whether Jacory Harris or Stephen Morris will execute it. That decision could be made as early as the end of spring practices.

“We’re going to be multiple,” Fisch said. “We’re going to use a lot of personnel groupings and formations to our advantage. We’re going to be balanced in ways of trying to get the ball into all of our playmakers' hands. I’m not worried as much about run-pass ratio as I’m worried about are all of our players getting enough touches. Am I making sure I’m getting the ball in the hands of our guys who are dynamic? Our balance will come from the distribution of the football rather than the play call itself.”

Miami fans are less concerned with how the Canes win as they are how fast they can win. It takes time, though, to get acclimated to new philosophies, personalities and terminology. Both Edsall and Golden are also in new recruiting territories, and had to scramble to put their 2011 classes together. Golden came in at somewhat of an “awkward” time, as the program was still preparing for its bowl game under an interim head coach.

“It’s not like taking over something that was a smooth transition,” Golden said. “It was difficult.”

Apparently, staying in the ACC can be as difficult as joining.

Spring preview: Atlantic Division

February, 15, 2011
2/15/11
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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's top heartbreakers for 2011

February, 14, 2011
2/14/11
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Valentine's Day isn't for everyone. Some have been scorned. Hearts have been broken. Facebook status' changed. Here's a look at the top five heartbreakers responsible for a few breakups in the the ACC this year:

1. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett. He broke the Canes' hearts with a commitment to rival Florida, leaving Al Golden without a quarterback in the 2011 class. The transfer of former Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier helped Miami fans rebound.

2. Don Brown. Maryland’s former defensive coordinator made a lateral move to Randy Edsall’s old school, leaving the Terps' defense in the dark.

3. Ryan Williams. The Virginia Tech running back didn’t even call to say goodbye before he bolted for the NFL. With two years of eligibility remaining, Williams didn't hold a news conference to announce his decision.

4. NC State quarterback Russell Wilson. His love affair with baseball continues this spring, but coach Tom O'Brien is still willing to welcome his No. 1 back with open arms.

5. Four-star defensive end Stephon Tuitt. He flirted with Georgia Tech, only to break up with Paul Johnson and embrace Notre Dame as his home.
Maybe Maryland owed Connecticut something after taking Randy Edsall as head coach.

Don Brown, who spent the past two seasons as the Terrapins' defensive coordinator, is coming to UConn to serve that same role under Paul Pasqualoni, the school announced Friday. Brown, a Spencer, Mass. native, has also been the head coach at Massachusetts (2004-08), Northeastern (2000-03) and Plymouth State (1993-95). He led UMass to the 2006 NCAA Football Championship Subdivision finals and has a career record of 95-45 as a collegiate head coach.

“I am happy to have the opportunity to be coaching back in New England at the highest level at the University of Connecticut,” Brown said in a statement. “My family is in New England and I am looking forward to being there. I am excited in working with Coach Pasqualoni, and his tremendous defensive experience will only help me learn and grow as a coach.

“We will have a defense that is aggressive, fast and physical. I believe in big pressure and penetration, and that is what I am going to give the UConn defense. I am excited to get to the campus and work hard to get better every day.”

In Maryland finished 2010 ranked No. 38 nationally in scoring defense (22.2 points per game), No. 39 in total defense (352.3 yards per game), No. 21 in rushing defense (124.5 yards per game), ninth in pass efficiency defense (107.6 rating) and tied for 18th in turnovers gained (29).

In a statement, Pasqualoni called Brown "a man of great character."

“He is a teacher, a coach and has been involved in the highest levels of academics and athletics," Pasqualoni said. "Don is a great addition to our staff in terms of the approach we will take with our student-athletes in the University of Connecticut football program.”

Brown led UMass to its best five-year span in program history, as the Minutemen finished with 43 wins in his tenure. His winning percentage (.694/43-19) is tops in UMass history. Brown led UMass to the 2006 national championship game. He was 27-20 at Northeastern after inheriting a team that went 2-9 the year before he arrived.
It’s time to reload in the ACC. Here’s a look at the position needs for each team in the Atlantic Division for the 2011 signing class:

BOSTON COLLEGE

Offensive linemen: Six players on the final two-deep roster for 2010 were either juniors or seniors, and the Eagles will have to find replacements for Anthony Castonzo, Rich Lapham and Thomas Claiborne. There were two juniors at center in 2011, and the recruiting overall at this position hasn’t been as strong in recent years.

Defensive linemen: The Eagles have been thin at the position to begin with since the departures of Ron Brace and B.J. Raji. The interior line should be a priority, as tackle Damik Scafe will graduate, and Kaleb Ramsey will be a senior. Defensive end Brad Newman will also graduate.

CLEMSON

[+] EnlargeDa'Quan Bowers
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesReplacing Da'Quan Bowers is a top priority for Clemson.
Defensive line: The early departure of defensive end Da’Quan Bowers and the loss of Jarvis Jenkins makes this group a priority. Seven of the eight players up front on the final two-deep roster were either juniors or seniors.

Quarterback: Prior to the early enrollees, Clemson only had one scholarship quarterback on the roster -- projected starter Tajh Boyd. The depth needs to be rebuilt after the loss of starter Kyle Parker and transfer of backup Willy Korn.

Running back: The early departure of Jamie Harper to the NFL left a hole in the Tigers’ lineup. It’s not completely empty, as Andre Ellington remains the best back on the roster and Roderick McDowell was a redshirt freshman backup to Harper.

FLORIDA STATE

Offensive lineman – The departures of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon will leave gaping holes up front, and A.J. Ganguzza and Antwane Greenlee aren’t expected to return. Overall, the staff is looking for bigger, better players. With the exception of right guard, this was a veteran group.

Running back: Despite the current depth, the coaching staff still wanted to sign about three more running backs in this class.

Wide receiver: This would be the third priority for the staff. Bert Reed and Taiwan Easterling will both be seniors, but the team has lacked some dynamic playmakers at the position.

Linebacker: The Noles lost two starters from last year’s Atlantic Division championship team, and there are several young players on the rise like Jeff Luc and Telvin Smith, but the staff wants more numbers at the position.

Safety: The Noles need an upgrade at this position.

Defensive line: This is a matter of mostly building depth and size and continuing to get better.

MARYLAND

Kicker/ Punter: Nick Ferrara has the ability to do both, but he also struggled at both in 2010. Travis Baltz was a four-year starter at punter who has to be replaced. The kicking game should be a top priority in this class, and a concern if Ferrara doesn’t become more consistent.

Wide receiver: The early departure of standout Torrey Smith to the NFL leaves quarterback Danny O'Brien without a favorite target. Seven of the nine receivers listed on the most current depth chart for 2010 were either juniors or seniors.

Running back: The Terps have to replace starter Da’Rel Scott, and Davin Meggett will be a senior. There is some talent behind Meggett in D.J. Adams, but the position could use more depth.

Secondary: Six of the top 10 players in the secondary were either juniors or seniors in 2010, including safety Antwine Perez, who will graduate. Kenny Tate and Cameron Chism will both be seniors, and the corner position is the biggest need.

Defensive end: Defensive coordinator Don Brown would like to bring in at least one player who can really bring some speed off the edge.

NC STATE

Kickers: The Wolfpack lost their starting punter and place-kicker, easily making kickers the biggest need in this recruiting class.

Defensive linemen: With the exception of sophomore Brian Slay, the entire 2010 line was comprised of juniors and seniors. The Pack have to replace two starters, and two returning starters, Jeff Rieskamp and J.R. Sweezy, will be seniors.

Linebackers: This was another veteran group for NC State, with five of the six players on the two-deep either juniors or seniors. Nate Irving’s graduation will be a big hit and Audie Cole will be a senior.

Quarterback: If Russell Wilson leaves early, the position will be even thinner, but backup Mike Glennon will be a junior, so the staff needs to build more depth.

WAKE FOREST

Offensive linemen: The Deacs will have four redshirt juniors returning up front, and have to replace redshirt senior center Russell Nenon. The staff is looking to increase the depth and talent up front.

Linebackers: The position hasn’t been the same since the 2008 class (Aaron Curry and Stanley Arnoux). They were both drafted and two of the fastest players the program has ever seen. The staff needs to bring in more talent and speed here.

2011 Power Rankings

January, 11, 2011
1/11/11
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Earlier this morning, we looked at how the ACC stacked up after the 2010 season. Now it’s time to look ahead, and there’s a new leader in the league. And as of right now, the No. 1 spot is about the only one that seemed clear-cut. Every other one is debatable. This year should bring a wide-open race, and this list will fluctuate many times before the season’s end.

Here are the first ACC Power Rankings for 2011:

1. Florida State: This spot was a no-brainer for the Noles, as they finished the 2010 season with a win over the SEC East champs, and they did it with their backup quarterback. Jimbo Fisher led FSU to an appearance in the ACC title game in his first season, so expectations should be even higher in his second.

2. Virginia Tech: It’s a rebuilding year for the Hokies, who will have a new starting quarterback and are down to one proven running back after Ryan Williams and Darren Evans decided to leave for the NFL draft. That one running back, though, might be the best in the league, and until proven otherwise, the Hokies are still the team to beat in the Coastal Division.

3. NC State: Quarterback Russell Wilson hasn't announced he's going anywhere yet, so this is where the Pack land as long as he's on the roster. NC State also gets the nod over UNC because, well, the Heels haven't been able to beat NC State under Tom O'Brien.

4. North Carolina: The Tar Heels' roster is loaded with talent, and aside from the resignation of John Blake, there haven't been any major staff changes, despite the NCAA investigation. UNC will have a new quarterback, but expectations are high for Bryn Renner.

5. Miami: Despite the staff transition, Al Golden at least has enough talent to start with. He needs to name his starting quarterback and offensive coordinator, but Golden will rejuvinate the program and win in his first season.

6. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have to improve in all three phases of the game, but at least quarterback Tevin Washington got some experience, albeit at the expense of injured starter Joshua Nesbitt. The defense should also take a step forward in the second season under coordinator Al Groh.

7. Boston College: The Eagles have a Heisman-caliber player in linebacker Luke Kuechly, but it’s not the defense that needs an overhaul. BC’s offense, which could be under the direction of a new offensive coordinator, looked like it regressed against Nevada in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Still, with Kuechly, running back Montel Harris and quarterback Chase Rettig returning, the Eagles have enough returning for another winning season.

8. Maryland: First-year coach Randy Edsall inherits a talented team led by ACC Rookie of the Year Danny O’Brien. The defense will stay the same under coordinator Don Brown, whom Edsall brought with him to Maryland, but Maryland's best win last year was over NC State. What separates Maryland from Clemson right now is its quarterback situation.

9. Clemson: The Tigers have a new offensive coordinator, a new defensive line coach, and a new quarterback, not to mention they lost their top player, defensive end Da’Quan Bowers, to the NFL draft. The pressure is on coach Dabo Swinney to avoid a second losing season and three straight losses to rival South Carolina.

10. Wake Forest: The Deacs should improve now that quarterback Tanner Price has had a year of experience, but they’ve still got something to prove. The linebackers will lose two starters, and center Russell Nenon and receiver Marshall Williams will be missed, but an extremely young roster in 2010 could pay off in 2011.

11. Duke: The Blue Devils will have to overcome the revolving door at defensive coordinator, as they’ve had three in three years, but they’re leaving because they’re good. In order for Duke to become bowl eligible, the Blue Devils have to develop a running game and take a big step forward defensively.

12. Virginia: Mike London has had instant success on the recruiting trail, but it’s going to take some time before it translates into a bowl appearance. He has to name a new starting quarterback and find the best spots for the new talent.
Here’s a quick recap of Maryland’s 51-20 win over East Carolina in the Military Bowl Presented By Northrop Grumman:

How the game was won: East Carolina did what it could to help the Terps with four turnovers and 15 penalties, but Maryland’s defense was a major factor in the game, and the Terps found their running game. ECU was averaging 38 points per game under the direction of quarterback Dominique Davis, but the Pirates couldn’t get into the end zone enough. Nor could they keep Maryland out of theirs.

Turning point: On East Carolina’s first possession of the third quarter, Davis threw an interception to David Mackall, who returned it 34 yards to the Pirates’ 1-yard line. D.J. Adams scored one play later to give Maryland a 23-3 lead and really distance the Terps.

Stat of the game: East Carolina finished with 15 penalties for 123 yards. The Pirates only had six more first downs than they did penalties.

Player of the game: Running back Da'Rel Scott. Maryland entered the game with the No. 94 rushing offense in the country, but Scott got it going against the Pirates. He finished with 201 yards and his 61-yard touchdown run at the end of the third quarter put the Terps ahead 37-13. He averaged 15.5 yards per carry and added a 91-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Unsung hero of the game: Defensive coordinator Don Brown. He had this team well-prepared for the nation’s No. 12 scoring offense. ECU was held to just 32 rushing yards and was successful on only 7 of 19 third downs.

What it means: The Ralph Friedgen era is officially over at Maryland, and it has ended on a positive note. Friedgen, the ACC’s Coach of the Year, will end his career at Maryland with a 9-4 record this season. It’s the 14th time in school history that Maryland has won that many games.

Record performance: Friedgen will leave as the school’s winningest coach in bowl games with a 5-2 record. Friedgen won a school-record three straight bowl games from 2003-06. Prior to Friedgen's arrival, Maryland made only one postseason appearance in the previous 15 years.

video

ACC predictions: Week 10

November, 4, 2010
11/04/10
9:01
AM ET
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Here, watch, see this? It’s me flipping a coin this week. Heads, I lose in the ever-unpredictable ACC. That’s right, I’m blaming last week’s 3-3 record on Clemson, Miami and, well, Navy, for not winning the games they were supposed to win. Kudos to Virginia, Boston College and Duke for proving me wrong. Shame on you, North Carolina, for giving your fans a mild coronary for three quarters. And thanks, Tom O’Brien, for making me look smart. Just not smart enough. The grand total is a 51-18 record (73.9 percent) heading into Week 10.

Nobody has a bye week this week, so there are even more opportunities for surprises. Will Georgia Tech be the first to turn the tables on the Hokies? Doubt it:

Virginia Tech 45, Georgia Tech 24: The Hokies are on a roll -- one of the best teams in college football right now -- and Georgia Tech’s defense won’t be able to stop them. Tyrod Taylor and the boys will go up and down the field enough times to make Al Groh dizzy.

Boston College 21, Wake Forest 7: If Clemson couldn’t score on the Eagles, Wake is going to have a heck of a time. Montel Harris will run the ball for another 100 yards, and BC’s defense will win the game for them.

NC State 21, Clemson 17: Russell Wilson will make just enough plays to put the Pack over the top, and Clemson’s offense will struggle even more without injured running back Andre Ellington. Clemson is a very one-dimensional team without C.J. Spiller or Jacoby Ford to stretch the field.

Florida State 35, North Carolina 14: It’s going to be a coming out party for FSU. It’s a bounce-back game, as the Seminoles know they’re still in the hunt and it will likely come down to them or NC State. Especially since …

Miami 21, Maryland 20: The staff will put Stephen Morris in position to succeed, and the Canes will rise up and win it without Jacory Harris. Maryland is sound. The quarterback is underrated. Danny O’Brien facilitates their playmakers, plays smart and is well-coached. Terps defensive coordinator Don Brown has done one of the best jobs in the league this year, but Miami gets the win at home.

Duke 31, Virginia 21: Duke got some confidence in its road win over Navy, particularly at the quarterback position, where it needed it the most. Yes, Virginia was able to knock off a ranked Miami team last week, but it’s not easy to win on the road anywhere in the ACC. In a battle of the Coastal Division’s two cellar-dwellers, the home team wins.
If ever there was a time for Maryland to beat Miami -- on the road, no less -- this would be it.

The Terps are hot, Miami is not.

Maryland has turned around its 2-10 2009 season and became bowl eligible with its 62-14 win over Wake Forest this past weekend. The Terps enter Saturday’s game in a tie with NC State for second place in the Atlantic Division. The Hurricanes not only lost to Virginia on the road last weekend, they also likely lost their starting quarterback, Jacory Harris, who suffered a concussion. The Canes will turn to a true freshman who was on the path to redshirting, Stephen Morris, while Maryland has a quarterback who is making his case for rookie of the year in Danny O'Brien.

[+] EnlargeDanny O'Brien
AP Photo/Nick WassDanny O'Brien has thrown seven touchdown passes in the past two games.
The Terps are still expecting the best from Miami.

"They are coming off a difficult loss, so we know that they are going to come into the game fired up,” linebacker Alex Wujciak told reporters at the team’s weekly news conference. “They have great athletes on offense from wide receiver to tight end and three good running backs. Whichever quarterback plays is going to be good and we saw that with their freshman coming in and playing well against Virginia. We have to be prepared no matter what quarterback plays."

Right now, it’s likely to be Morris, who shook off some butterflies in his first collegiate appearance against Virginia and accounted for three fourth-quarter touchdowns in the 24-19 loss. Morris had gone from fourth-string quarterback to first in a matter of minutes. Backup A.J. Highsmith was injured, and third-string quarterback Spencer Whipple threw two interceptions in six pass attempts.

“That shows a lot of promise on what we’ve done with [Morris], and how recruiting him shows what we see in him,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “He’s a guy that everybody thinks is a quiet guy, but around his teammates he’s happy-go-lucky, a get-after-it kind of guy. On the football field, his presence is unbelievable.”

It’s going to have to be if Miami is going to stay in the ACC race. The Hurricanes can’t afford another conference loss, even if it does come to an Atlantic Division opponent, and they still need one more win to become bowl eligible. A win would give Maryland a 7-2 record and a 4-1 start in ACC play for the first time since 2006.

Maryland and Miami have played each other just once since 1987 -- a 14-13 Maryland home win in 2006. There is more recent familiarity, though, as Maryland defensive coordinator Don Brown worked with Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple at UMass.

“It’s going to be interesting,” Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. “I’m sure that there is a lot of familiarity, and that may be a good thing or it could be detrimental. I know that knowing someone so well, you can over-plan at times. But I know that they are very good friends; I think they talk with one another once a week, throughout the year, not just during football season.”

Brown’s defense has shown a lot of improvement in his second season. Maryland held Wake Forest, which was averaging 206.6 rushing yards per game, to minus-3 yards on the ground (the lowest total by an opponent in 11 years). The Terps have held each of their past four opponents under 100 rushing yards. Miami, meanwhile, has been racking up the yards but not the points. Miami is coming off its lowest scoring output of the season.

“We had 177 yards rushing, but we need points,” Shannon said. “Let’s face it: We’re running the ball well, but we need points. Like I said earlier, if we’re doing all the discipline things off the field and in the classroom, we need to take it on the field. That’s the thing that’s disappointing me -- we’re not transitioning that onto the field. Those penalties have been hurting us, hurting the drives. We get a 26-yard run, bring it back, or we get down to the 5-yard line, and bring it back. Those are things that really get you in bad situations that you don’t want to be in.”

Situations like having to beat Maryland in order to stay in the ACC race.

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