NCF Nation: Dorian Johnson

ACC all-bowl team

January, 9, 2014
Jan 9
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Bowl season was kind to the ACC in a few games (Florida State and Clemson won BCS games), not-so-kind in a few others (Miami, Virginia Tech, we're looking at you) and at least one was a little of both (can we get Texas A&M and Duke every year?). But now that it's all over, we're honoring the best individual performances in the ACC with our all-bowl team.

OFFENSE

QB: Tajh Boyd, Clemson: The big stage hadn't been kind to Boyd through most of 2013, but on the first day of 2014, he was exceptional. Boyd accounted for 505 yards and six touchdowns in a Discover Orange Bowl win over Ohio State, giving the ACC two BCS bowl game victors.

RB: James Conner, Pittsburgh: The freshman tailback carried 26 times against Bowling Green, blowing past Tony Dorsett for the Pitt bowl game record with 229 yards on the ground. For good measure, Conner chipped in on the defensive line for a few snaps, too.

RB: Devonta Freeman, Florida State: It wasn't the most spectacular performance of bowl season -- Freeman wasn't even the best running back on the field in the BCS title game -- but his hard running early kept FSU from falling too far behind, and his final tally -- 11 carries for 73 yards and a TD -- helped Freeman become the first FSU running back since Warrick Dunn to top 1,000 yards on the season.

[+] EnlargeSammy Watkins
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesOhio State wasn't able to catch Sammy Watkins, as the Clemson WR set multiple Orange Bowl receiving records.
WR: Sammy Watkins, Clemson: Watkins made his last game in a Clemson uniform one to remember, catching an Orange Bowl record 16 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns despite battling an injury for half the game.

WR: Jamison Crowder, Duke: Ho-hum, another 12 catches for 163 yards and a touchdown for Crowder, who turned in one last stellar performance to cap an exceptional season for the Blue Devils.

WR: Rashad Greene, Florida State: The Seminoles' dramatic comeback against Auburn in the BCS championship game wouldn't have been possible without Greene's big day. He was the only FSU receiver with positive yardage in the first half of the game, and his 49-yard reception -- he dodged two tacklers and picked up most of that yardage after the catch -- was the key play on FSU's dramatic last-minute, game-winning drive.

TE: Braxton Deaver, Duke: The junior had six catches for 116 yards, including three grabs that went for 25 yards or more and five that went for first downs.

OL: Dorian Johnson, Pitt: The Panthers simply overwhelmed Bowling Green's defensive front in the Little Caesars Bowl, racking up 487 yards of offense, including 255 on the ground. (Ed. note: We mistakenly included Matt Rotherham here in an initial post. Johnson slid from tackle to guard for the game, replacing Rotherham, and the Pitt line didn't miss a beat. We apologize for the error.)

OL: Jon Heck, North Carolina: Cincinnati entered the Belk Bowl second in the AAC in sacks with 35, but the Bearcats couldn't get to UNC QB Marquise Williams, as the Tar Heels' offense racked up 39 points -- the second-most Cincinnati gave up all season.

OL: Laken Tomlinson, Duke: The Blue Devils racked up 661 yards of total offense and 29 first downs against Texas A&M, with the offensive line -- led by Tomlinson -- paving the way for a 300-yard passer and a 100-yard rusher.

OL: Tre' Jackson, Florida State: Yes, the Seminoles' line allowed four sacks in the game, but Jackson and Co. also helped FSU run for more yards per carry (4.8) than the vaunted Auburn ground game and provided Jameis Winston with plenty of time to throw on a dramatic game-winning drive in the final minute.

C: Macky MacPherson, Syracuse: The Orange rushed for 208 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:14 left, to knock off Minnesota in the Texas Bowl. The physically dominant performance on the line was a fitting conclusion to MacPherson's Syracuse career.

DEFENSE

DE: Mario Edwards Jr., FSU: Edwards had one sack and three tackles for loss among his six total tackles for a Seminoles front that turned it up a notch in the second half, allowing the offense to catch up and ultimately escape with the win.

DT: Andre Monroe, Maryland: The Terrapins' finale as an ACC member ended on a sour note with a 31-20 loss to Marshall in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. Monroe tied for a game-high with 10 total tackles, three of which went for a loss, one of which was a sack. Monroe added a quarterback hurry as well.

DT: Aaron Donald, Pitt: With one more game to go in a historic season, Donald did not disappoint. The senior closed out his career with two tackles for loss, including one sack, to go with a pass break-up in the Panthers' 30-27 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl win over Bowling Green. Donald's sack came on second down of the Falcons' final drive, all but sealing the win.

DE: Vic Beasley, Clemson: Beasley was part of a Tigers front that made life extremely difficult for Braxton Miller and the rest of the Ohio State backfield. Beasley recorded four tackles for loss and a sack among his five total tackles, and in the end Clemson's defense proved to be the difference in a shootout win.

LB: Norkeithus Otis, UNC: The Tar Heels capped their strong second half with a bang, routing Cincinnati 39-17 in the Belk Bowl to make them 6-1 over their last seven games. Otis tallied seven total tackles -- two for loss and one sack among them -- to go with two quarterback hurries.

LB: Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech: UCLA proved to be too much for the Hokies in a 42-12 win in the Hyundai Sun Bowl, but Tyler played well, totaling seven tackles, including half of a sack, to go with one pass break-up and one quarterback hurry.

[+] EnlargeP.J. Williams
AP Photo/Gregory BullP.J. Williams' interception was the big break Florida State needed to create in its come-from-behind victory over Auburn in the BCS title game.
LB: Cameron Lynch, Syracuse: The Orange finished a successful first season in the ACC by topping Minnesota 21-17 in the Texas Bowl. Lynch, a junior, tied for a team-high with eight stops, with most of his big plays coming behind the line of scrimmage. He had two tackles for loss, one sack and a forced fumble to help Syracuse go 7-4 after an 0-2 start in coach Scott Shafer's first year.

DB: P.J. Williams, FSU: The defensive MVP from the Vizio BCS National Championship came up huge when it mattered most, picking off Auburn's Nick Marshall early in the fourth quarter to set up a touchdown that cut the Tigers' lead to one. Williams finished with seven total tackles and 0.5 tackles for loss.

DB: Jemea Thomas, Georgia Tech: Thomas ended his college career with a bang, totaling a game-high 15 tackles. Three of those stops were behind the line of scrimmage, including one sack.

DB: D.J. White, GT: The Yellow Jackets get two more years of White, a future that looked all the brighter in the 25-17 loss to Ole Miss in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. White finished with 13 total tackles, two forced fumbles, one interception and three pass break-ups.

DB: Bryce Jones, Boston College: The Eagles' turnaround campaign under Steve Addazio ended on a down note, falling to Arizona 42-19 in the AdvoCare V100 Bowl, but Jones was a bright spot, with the sophomore notching a team-high 12 tackles, including one for loss.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Chris Blewitt, Pitt: Blewitt went 3-for-4 for the Panthers in Detroit, connecting from 25, 28 and, most important, 39 yards with the game-winning kick with 1:17 left in Pitt's 30-27 win.

P: Tommy Hibbard, UNC: Hibbard was phenomenal for the Tar Heels, punting four times for an average of 44.2 yards per boot. He pinned Cincinnati inside its own 20 three different times, and he had a long of 59 yards in the win.

KR: Levonte Whitfield, FSU: At the time, Whitfield's 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown seemed as if it would go down as one of the greatest returns in BCS championship game history. The touchdown gave Florida State a 27-24 lead with 4:31 to play -- but the lead would change twice more before it was over. Whitfield finished the game with 172 return yards.

PR: Ryan Switzer, UNC: The Tar Heels had a huge day on special teams in a Belk Bowl win over Cincinnati, with Switzer -- an All-American -- leading the way, returning his fifth punt of the season for a touchdown.

ACC recruiting primer

February, 6, 2013
2/06/13
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ESPN RecruitingNation has signing day covered. Follow ESPNU’s coverage, chat with analysts and get breaking news on our Signing Day Live page beginning at 7:30 a.m. ET through 7 p.m. ET. For more on what to expect on signing day, check out the ACC conference breakdown Insider.

Bold prediction: Virginia Tech will climb back toward the top of the conference after signing a strong 2013 class.

Boston College
Biggest need: Playmakers at running back.
Biggest recruit: Three-star athlete Myles Willis will make the transition from high school option quarterback to running back for Steve Addazio’s spread offense.

Clemson
Biggest need: Playmakers on defense.
Biggest recruit: While the Tigers’ chances at four-star prospect Montravius Adams are slipping, there are some quality recruits on board, including ESPN 150 defensive end Ebenezer Ogundeko.

Duke
Biggest need: Defensive backs for the 4-2-5 package.
Biggest recruit: Three-star cornerback Evrett Edwards should be able to come in and play early.

Florida State
Biggest need: Offensive linemen and front-seven depth.
Biggest recruit: Florida State lost ESPN 150 offensive lineman Austin Golson a week ago and has been frantically trying to get him to recommit.

Georgia Tech
Biggest need: Team speed.
Biggest recruit: Several options here, but three-star wide receiver Ricky Jeune should find a spot on the field quickly.

Maryland
Biggest need: Playmakers and depth.
Biggest recruit: Junior college wide receiver Deon Long should be able to line up across from Stefon Diggs and give the Terps another major vertical threat.

Miami
Biggest need: Run-stopping defenders.
Biggest recruit: Five-star prospect Matthew Thomas is the most coveted prospect in the eyes of Hurricanes fans, but four-star defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick fits an even bigger need.

North Carolina
Biggest need: Playmakers on defense.
Biggest recruit: At the top of the class are two ESPN 150 prospects in cornerback Brian Walker and defensive tackle Greg Webb. Both will get early looks.

North Carolina State
Biggest need: Athletes for spread offense.
Biggest recruit: Three-star wide receiver Johnathan Alston leads a very good class of skill players.

Pittsburgh
Biggest need: Speed on offense.
Biggest recruit: Four-star offensive lineman Dorian Johnson is one of the best in the nation.

Syracuse
Biggest need: Quality depth on defense.
Biggest recruit: Junior college linebacker Luke Arciniega has the potential to be a big-time contributor in the fall.

Virginia
Biggest need: Defensive backs.
Biggest recruit: ESPN 150 running back Taquan Mizzell and four-star defensive back Tim Harris are two players to watch early.

Virginia Tech
Biggest need: Team speed on defense.
Biggest recruit: ESPN 150 prospect Kendall Fuller leads one of Frank Beamer’s best classes.

Wake Forest
Biggest need: Playmakers on defense.
Biggest recruit: Four-star linebacker Lance Virgile is the sort of physical presence Wake Forest’s defense will need in the future.
Michigan's 2013 recruiting class is rated No. 1 nationally by several scouting services, including ESPN Recruiting. Urban Meyer is piecing together another high-quality class at Ohio State.

But the most surprising recruiting story in the Big Ten right now? Penn State, hands down.

Given all the transition and turmoil in State College, Bill O'Brien and his staff really have it going on the recruiting trail. Penn State landed its big prize in February when quarterback Christian Hackenberg gave his pledge to O'Brien. ESPN Recruiting rates Hackenberg as the nation's No. 1 quarterback and No. 10 overall player. He's the highest-rated recruit in the Big Ten right now.

But Hackenberg is just one of several high-profile commits in Penn State's class, which places No. 13 nationally in the latest national rankings, a jump of two spots from No. 15. These rankings came out before Penn State landed its latest recruit, linebacker Zayd Issah, who gave his pledge on Friday. Issah is a three-star prospect from Harrisburg, Pa.

Penn State is up to 14 commits for 2013, including four ESPN 150 prospects, the third-highest total in the Big Ten behind Michigan (11) and Ohio State (6). The Lions have landed six commits in June, a month that saw the Jerry Sandusky trial come and go, and cast the university in a negative light. Dorian Johnson, the nation's No. 2 offensive lineman, committed on Sunday.

O'Brien and his staff have focused their recruiting on Pennsylvania and the surrounding states -- Ohio, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. All but one commit hails from those states, although Penn State also plucked safety Neiko Robinson from Florida.

Although Penn State landed some heralded classes during the latter part of Joe Paterno's tenure -- 2010 and 2005 come to mind -- there was a sense the team could take a step back during the transition. O'Brien's early efforts will fuel the belief that Penn State had been underachieving on the recruiting trail under the previous staff.

While part of O'Brien's recruiting success can be attributed to him being the new face of the program -- a face coming straight from the NFL -- the fact that he continues to pile up recruits at a time when Penn State remains in the news for negative reasons has to encourage Nittany Nation.

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