NCF Nation: Greg Little

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
2/04/11
9:00
AM ET
The official list for the NFL combine has been released. A total of 48 players from the ACC have been invited to audition for the NFL from February 23 – March 1. When categorized by school, it's somewhat of a reality check to see how many of the best players in the conference are moving on, and which programs will take the biggest hit. It's impossible not to wonder how good North Carolina could have been had all of the following players remained eligible. The Tar Heels will send the most players to the combine with 11.

Here are the players who will represent the ACC:

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

Injury ends season of UNC tight end

October, 19, 2010
10/19/10
6:36
AM ET
UNC senior tight end Zack Pianalto fractured his right fibula at the ankle joint in Saturday’s 44-10 victory at Virginia and will miss the remainder of the regular season. He will undergo additional evaluation this week to determine if surgery is required. Pianalto currently leads the Tar Heels with 30 receptions for 311 yards and one touchdown. Last season, Pianalto set the school record for most receptions by a tight end with 33. He also holds the school record for most career receptions by a tight end with 94.

This is so unfortunate for Pianalto, who just could not stay healthy during his career at UNC. Last year he suffered a subtalar dislocation of his right foot at Connecticut and missed five straight games. Not before he had a career-high seven catches and 87 yards that day, though. And in 2008, he missed the Virginia and Boston College games with a right ankle injury.

You wonder why T.J. Yates suddenly looks so much better? It helps when the players around him are healthy. Pianalto is a complete tight end who helped the Tar Heels in both the running and passing games. He's a good blocker and should get a shot at the next level if his durability isn't an issue (which it obviously is).

The Tar Heels will now turn to senior Ed Barham and backup Nelson Hurst. Barham started six games last year and finished with six catches for 57 yards. Hurst transferred from Mississippi State, where he started 10 games as a freshman, prior to the start of the 2009 season and sat out under NCAA transfer rules. His younger brother, James, is an offensive lineman for the Heels.

The bottom line is that neither of them have the experience or production of Pianalto.

North Carolina lost its leading receiver, Greg Little, to the NCAA investigation before the season ever started. Now they lost their leading pass-catcher again. So far, UNC has been able to overcome almost every blow it's been dealt, but this one should leave a noticeable bruise on Carolina's offense.

Back and forth in the ACC: Weeks 6/7

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
2:06
PM ET
Here’s a look back at Week 6 and a look ahead at Week 7

The good: Florida State’s offensive line. The Seminoles won the battle up front and paved the way for another impressive day running with 298 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Christian Ponder wasn’t sacked once, as the Noles were able to fend off the nation’s No. 4-ranked team in sacks.

The bad: Miami. The Hurricanes came out flat. They were outplayed and outcoached in all three phases of the game. There were missed tackles, dropped passes and the linebackers were rendered ineffective. Instead of taking an important step forward on their home field, Miami looked like it took a step back.

The ugly: You can’t spell North Carolina without NCAA (no, really, you can’t). The careers of Marvin Austin, Greg Little< and Robert Quinn are over, but the investigation is not. And the more that is revealed -- this time that the aforementioned players weren’t truthful with the NCAA during the course of the investigation -- the uglier things look in Chapel Hill.

Top three games of Week 7:

1. Maryland at Clemson: The Terps have had something on Clemson in recent years, as Maryland was able to beat the Atlantic Division champs last year for its lone league win of the season. The Terps beat Clemson 13-12 in 2006, 20-17 in 2008, and 24-21 last year. Maryland is 4-1 and has something to play for this year, and they're catching the Tigers when they're down.

2. North Carolina at Virginia: Virginia has won four straight and UNC hasn't won in Charlottesville since 1981, losing 14 straight times. North Carolina holds a 56-54-4 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to 1892 but the two schools differ on the series record. Why? Because of the game in 1956 that North Carolina forfeited for using an ineligible player. You know what they say, history repeats itself.

3. NC State at East Carolina: The Pirates should just join the ACC. Seriously. The Hokies have played them, North Carolina has played them. Now it’s the Pack’s turn. The Wolfpack should win this one with some style points, since ECU’s defense has been abysmal, but it’s on the road, and any game against an in-state opponent has the potential to be a trap game.

More bad news for UNC

October, 11, 2010
10/11/10
11:39
AM ET
North Carolina has lost defensive tackle Marvin Austin, wide receiver Greg Little and defensive end Robert Quinn to college football's player agent scandal.

Austin has been dismissed from the team and Little and Quinn have been ruled permanently ineligible. It's a miserable way to end a season for three players that had so much potential entering it. All three were expected to be stars on a team capable of contending for the ACC title, and Austin and Quinn were easily two of the best defenders in the country, let alone the ACC.

For six weeks, though, UNC has learned to live without them and will continue to do so for the second half of the season.

North Carolina and its fans have been waiting for some closure to the ongoing NCAA investigation, and now they know for sure at least who won't be with the team this year. The news followed an earlier press release announcing that linebacker Shane Mularkey had his left shoulder repaired and will miss the remainder of the season, and defensive tackle Greg Elleby had his left knee reconstructed and will miss the remainder of the season after tearing two ligaments (ACL and MCL) Oct. 2 in Carolina’s 42-17 win against East Carolina.

Patrick Peterson's returns save LSU

September, 5, 2010
9/05/10
2:46
AM ET
ATLANTA -- Patrick Peterson kept his promise, and it’s a good thing.

If not, who knows where this LSU football team would be right now? And for that matter, could you imagine the reception his head coach would be getting back on the Bayou?

When told that he would indeed be returning kickoffs and punts this season, Peterson assured LSU coach Les Miles that he was making the right call.

[+] EnlargePatrick Peterson
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswirePatrick Peterson had an LSU record 257 return yards, including an 87-yard punt return for a touchdown against North Carolina.
“Once I saw the depth for the first time, I said, ‘Oh yeah, coach, I’m definitely going to make something happen,’ ” said Peterson, the Tigers’ star cornerback.

He didn’t just make something happen Saturday night in the Georgia Dome. He saved LSU’s bacon in a 30-24 win over a depleted North Carolina team in a Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game that went down to the final seconds with the Tar Heels throwing into the end zone from the 6-yard line.

As fate would have it, Peterson wasn’t on the field for those final two plays. He had to leave the game with cramps, a problem for him since his Pee Wee football days.

He’d done his damage earlier in the game with a record-setting performance in the return game.

His 257 combined return yards were an LSU record, and he had 244 of those by halftime. His 87-yard punt return for a touchdown looked like he was catapulted by a slingshot.

“It was like the Red Sea out there, it was so open,” Peterson said.

That gem was sandwiched between a 47-yard kickoff return to set up Russell Shepard’s 50-yard touchdown romp and a 37-yard punt return that led to Rueben Randle’s 51-yard touchdown catch.

Without any one of those plays, LSU would have been toast, and Miles would be trying to explain how he lost a game to the Tar Heels’ “B” team when the Tigers had a 30-10 lead entering the fourth quarter.

“We’ve just got to finish games,” Peterson said. “It killed us last year, and it almost got us tonight. I don’t know what it is, but something’s got to change.”

One thing that won’t change is Peterson drifting back deep on kicks. He said it’s the first time he’d returned a kick since the fourth game of his senior year in high school.

“And they stopped kicking it to me then, too,” joked Peterson, who didn’t get much of a chance to return kicks in the second half.

Shepard, who scored a pair of touchdowns himself, knew what kind of impact Peterson would make in the return game. He’s seen it too many times on the practice field.

“I think he’s the best player in the country -- period,” Shepard said. “There isn’t anything he can’t do.”

The Tigers, who struggled to put teams away last season, shifted into cruise control way too early against the Tar Heels, who never quit scrapping.

[+] EnlargeLes Miles
Dale Zanine/US PresswireLSU coach Les Miles will have some things to work on with his Tigers this week after they nearly blew a 30-10 fourth quarter lead.
In fact, Peterson was out of the game on the 97-yard touchdown pass by T.J. Yates to Jheranie Boyd because he said LSU defensive backs coach Ron Cooper wanted to get some of the younger guys in the game.

“I guess he thought we had a comfortable lead,” Peterson said.

Senior middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard said it shouldn’t have mattered who was on the field. He said the Tigers simply got sloppy, which is hard to argue when you consider Yates passed for a career-high 412 yards and didn’t have his best receiver on the field (Greg Little).

“We won the game and don’t let anybody kid you,” Sheppard said. “But there’s definitely a feeling of, ‘Man, what happened in the second half?’ I mean, it’s obvious. Guys weren’t where they’re supposed to be. Giving up a (97-yard) touchdown pass is unacceptable. I don’t care where you’re playing at. We just can’t do that.

“Again, we did win the game, so you can’t just put it in the drain. But it’s upsetting that we emphasized finishing games so much, and while we never point fingers here and I make sure of that, for guys to have their eyes in the wrong place is disappointing.”

The offense certainly contributed to the near collapse.

Running back Stevan Ridley fumbled the football with a 1:08 to play, giving the Tar Heels one last chance to drive the field.

And they did.

But the Tigers also quit going to Shepard and Randle, who are clearly the top two game-breakers on this offense.

Shepard’s a guy who needs to touch it 12 to 15 times a game at the very least. He had three touches after halftime Saturday.

“There are a lot of things we need to clean up if we want to be back here in a couple of months playing for the SEC championship,” Shepard said. “The good thing is that we have the talent do it.”

Jheranie Boyd stepping up for Heels

September, 4, 2010
9/04/10
11:32
PM ET
ATLANTA -- North Carolina is still in this game, thanks in large part to a big night from receiver Jheranie Boyd, who has reached the 200-yard mark on five catches. With standout starter Greg Little held out of the game, somebody else had to step up and Boyd answered the call. The Tar Heels have given a gritty effort tonight and are driving on LSU as I type. This game's not over yet.
ATLANTA -- The Georgia Dome is a mammoth bubble that gives the vibe of a big-time college football atmosphere.

It's the kind of place where true freshmen dream of playing, and then throw up in the locker room once they get here and realize they have to.

The young players on North Carolina's revamped depth chart will undergo a rookie hazing today in the season opener against LSU. The disparity in starting experience is glaring. According to the North Carolina depth chart that was released in the press box, UNC's starting defensive linemen will have a combined five starts (and that's thanks in large part to four from defensive tackle Tydreke Powell). None of the four new starters in the secondary have ever started a game. At left defensive end, freshman Kareem Martin is backed up by another freshman, Tim Jackson.

The Tar Heels are still solid at linebacker, where Kevin Reddick, Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter are veterans. That trio will have to anchor the entire defense.

The offense will sorely miss its three leading rushers in Shaun Draughn, Ryan Houston and Greg Little, but Johnny White has eight career starts and can take advantage of this opportunity.

It's possible that the loss of 13 players -- including seven starters on defense -- could only bring this team closer together in an us-against-the-word mentality. But emotion can only overcome experience for so long.
North Carolina lost before it even stepped on the plane this morning.

A total of 15 players have either been declared ineligible or remain in limbo for Saturday's season opener against LSU for violations of school and/or NCAA rules, according to a release this morning from the university.

Starters Marvin Austin, Charles Brown, Kendric Burney, Greg Little and Robert Quinn have all been declared ineligible, along with backup defensive end Michael McAdoo. Six others, including the 1-2 punch running back combo of Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, starting safety Da'Norris Searcy, and backups Linwan Euwell, safety Brian Gupton and safety Jonathan Smith will all be held out of the game while the investigations continue.

The total number of games those 12 players are expected to miss has not been determined, as the NCAA's investigation into possible improper contact with agents and academic misconduct continues.

UNC is also working with the NCAA today to determine the eligibility status of three other players who will not travel to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A kickoff. The Tar Heels left on Friday morning.

This is a huge punch in the gut, not only for North Carolina's chances at beating LSU (game over), but also for the Tar Heels' hopes for the entire season. This is bigger than Butch Davis and any one player within the program. This is the kind of devastating news that could impact the entire season.

T.J. Yates' interceptions? They're the least of UNC's worries.

The Tar Heels will be missing their leading receiver, the top three rushers (Little was third), the top two punt returners, two of the top three interception leaders, and two of the top four tacklers. The two-deep on the preseason depth chart at running back, strong safety and right defensive end will now start with the third-string player, or others will have to be moved around.

“As I have said, there is no single game more important than the character and integrity of this university,” Davis said in the release. “We are disappointed the players’ choices have denied them the opportunity to compete alongside their teammates and represent the University of North Carolina. Our coaches and players have a tremendous challenge this weekend, and despite these circumstances, our team will be excited to face LSU.”

Too bad UNC's fans won't be excited to watch it.

Troubles mount for North Carolina

August, 26, 2010
8/26/10
9:04
PM ET
North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp looked like he was sitting on a tack.

This has turned into quite an uncomfortable, embarrassing situation for the university’s academic and athletic officials.

On Thursday evening, Thorp announced that UNC is looking into “possible academic misconduct involving a former undergraduate tutor and student-athletes on the football team.” That’s in addition to the current NCAA investigation into improper conduct with agents.

[+] EnlargeButch Davis
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeNorth Carolina coach Butch Davis must prepare for LSU without knowing which players will be available to him.
Buried on the depth chart is the fact that the Tar Heels play No. 21-ranked LSU in nine days.

While university officials are knee-deep in a public relations nightmare, coach Butch Davis is tasked with preparing his team without knowing which players might not be available. This can only go in two directions: A) The team rallies together in an effort to prove that none of this has detracted from their focus, or B) UNC implodes, and it starts in Atlanta against the Tigers.

From the outside looking in, the latter appears to be more likely.

Athletic director Dick Baddour said final decisions haven’t been made yet about which -- if any -- players might be ruled ineligible for the season opener. He said he doesn’t expect the NCAA’s investigation to conclude before the opening kickoff.

"We're working as hard as we can with the NCAA to bring those things into resolution,” Baddour said. "It's a difficult situation for Coach and the players to prepare. We're proceeding with this as fast as we know how. Coach has got to make some assumptions about how he prepares for the game. Because we get to a certain point next week and we don't have a declaration on a player, we're not backing off. We're going after that full force."

Baddour cautioned the media in the room -- twice -- about making assumptions if student-athletes don’t play against LSU. He wouldn't say how many players are being investigated for possible academic misconduct because university officials are still in the early stages of the investigation and there could be more.

The only two athletes connected with the investigation into agents so far have been receiver Greg Little and defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Those two alone could potentially change the outcome of a game. Both of them are three-year starters, but they have spent the summer working with the second team.

“Before the start of training camp, because of the speculation on some of these issues, I made the statement at press conferences that there would come a point in time in preparation for this first game that we would have to prepare with the players we assumed fully would be able to compete and play in this game, and that's what we've done,” Davis said. “We started that process on Monday."

Instead of gaining more clarity in the weeks since the NCAA’s investigation was announced, North Carolina’s situation -- and its depth chart -- has only gotten murkier.
NFL draft guru Mel Kiper has an updated NFL draft prospects list for 2011. This time, he is listing the Top 5 seniors at each position.

Several non-AQ players are featured.

- Idaho QB Nathan Enderle is listed at No. 3 behind Jake Locker at Washington and Christian Ponder at FSU.

- Tulsa FB Charles Clay is ranked No. 3 at his position and Troy WR Greg Little ranked No. 4 among receivers.

- Nevada OLB Dontay Moch is ranked No. 3 at his position and is one of several defensive players featured.

Check out the entire list here.
North Carolina senior tight end Zack Pianalto knows where coach Butch Davis is coming from -- literally.

They share family roots in Springdale, Ark., where Davis’ parents still live. In fact, Pianalto said his parents live within a 10-minute jog to the Davis house, and that connection was one of the factors that swayed Pianalto in his decision to decommit from Texas during his recruiting process.

[+] EnlargeZack Pianalto
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIZack Pianalto caught 33 passes for 334 yards last season.
Of course, Davis’ history of producing some of the nation’s top tight ends at Miami didn’t hurt either. This year, Pianalto has the chance to join that group. When he’s healthy -- and he should finally be 100 percent this season for the first time since his freshman year -- Pianalto can add more than just blocking to the Tar Heels’ scheme. In an offense that’s dependent upon the quick growth of young receivers, Pianalto has an opportunity to become a key part of the passing game along with receiver Greg Little. If Pianalto can double his production this season, expect to see UNC’s offense take a much needed leap.

“I think it’s pretty important,” Pianalto said of his pass-catching abilities. “I think me, Greg and T.J. [Yates] all have a great rapport together. T.J. can throw to me or Greg and feel very comfortable doing it. I had 33 catches last year through roughly seven full games. … If you look at that, it’s pretty plausible to think I could go out and get possibly get 50 catches this year, and Greg had 60-some, so if that number stays consistent, I think the offense will improve and get better with the two of us in there.

“But we do have great talent around Greg and me. The young receivers need to come along and they did last year. You’d like to see significant growth in their second year. Experience is one of the key things in winning in college football.”

Pianalto had a career-best 334 yards and a touchdown last year, but dislocated his foot against Connecticut, and in his first game back against Florida State, he suffered a mild concussion before returning the following week against Virginia Tech. He also broke his left leg during his sophomore season while scoring a touchdown against Georgia Tech.

When he plays, though, the Tar Heels tend to win. UNC is 13-5 over the past two seasons when Pianalto is on the field. He has become a favorite target for Yates on third down, and last year he set the school single-season record for receptions by a tight end (33) despite missing nearly four games with his foot injury.

In order for UNC to make a push for the Coastal Division crown, Pianalto will have to maintain his success, but it’s not the only part of the equation.

“It’s pretty simple,” Pianalto said. “We’re going to be as good as we take care of the ball. Turnovers is the biggest issue in winning any football game. If we go in there and have less turnovers than the other team, we’re pretty confident our defense will create some turnovers and we’ll win a lot of games and we’ll be productive.”

All-ACC bowl team

January, 12, 2010
1/12/10
11:37
AM ET
Bowl season deserves more than just helmet stickers. It deserves its own team. Regardless of whether they won or lost, these ACC players had an impact this postseason. Here is your 2009 All-ACC bowl team:

[+] EnlargeRyan Williams
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIRyan Williams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Offense and Special Teams

QB: E.J. Manuel, Florida State: The Gator Bowl MVP completed 17 of 24 passes for 189 yards, had 73 rushing yards on 14 carries and one touchdown with zero turnovers. He led the Noles to 415 total yards in their 33-21 win over No. 18 West Virginia.

RB: Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech: Williams ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns in the Chick-fil-A Bowl win over Tennessee. He finished the season with 1,655 rushing yards and broke Kevin Jones' single-season school record (1,647).

RB: Jermaine Thomas, Florida State: He had 121 yards rushing on 25 carries and two touchdowns. He also had one catch for nine yards and posted his fourth 100-yard game of the season. He led FSU back from a 14-3 first quarter deficit against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.

WR: Rich Gunnell, Boston College: Gunnell finished with six catches for 130 yards, breaking Pete Mitchell's school record for yards receiving with 2,659 in his career. His 61-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter closed the gap to 14-13 against USC in the Emerald Bowl.

WR: Greg Little, UNC: He finished with seven catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Pitt in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

WR: Jarrett Boykin, Virginia Tech: His 64-yard reception to the Tennessee 3 in the final seconds of the first half was a major turning point in the game. The Vols had already begun to head to the locker room, but officials determined there were still two seconds left on the clock. The play led to Matt Waldron’s 21-yard field goal and a 17-14 halftime lead. Boykin finished with four catches for 120 yards.

TE: Jimmy Graham, Miami: He had three catches for 30 receiving yards against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl and became the seventh Hurricane to record at least 200 receiving yards this season. Graham closed out his only season with the Canes with 15 catches for 213 yards and five touchdowns.

OL: Ed Wang, Virginia Tech: In his final performance, Wang paved the way for a career-day for Williams, and helped the Hokies rack up 438 total yards of offense.

OL: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech: Like Wang, Render was impressive in his final performance as a Hokie, and helped Virginia Tech use a balanced offense and gave quarterback Tyrod Taylor the time he needed to make plays.

OL: Rodney Hudson, Florida State: The All-American returned to the lineup after missing two games with knee sprain and helped FSU rack up 415 total yards, 37 minutes time of possession and he did not allow a sack.

OL: Andrew Datko, Florida State: He teamed with Hudson on the left side (where two of three rushing touchdowns came) and kept a WVU team averaging 2.6 sacks per game without one.

OL: Dalton Freeman, Clemson: He graded out at 80 percent with seven knockdowns. Freeman was key to Clemson averaging 5.5 yards per rush and a Clemson bowl record 6.8 yards per play against Kentucky in the Music City Bowl.

K: Dustin Hopkins, Florida State: He tied a school bowl record converting 4 of 5 field goal attempts and scoring a season-high 15 points on a windy day. His 42-yarder at the end of the first half pulled FSU within 14-13.

P: Chandler Anderson, Georgia Tech: He had a career-high seven punts with an average of 49.1 yards and a long of 59 yards. Three of his punts were downed inside the 20 and only one was returned.

Spc: C.J. Spiller, Clemson: Spiller finished his career with 172 all-purpose yards (68 rushing, 57 receiving), giving him an ACC record 2,670 for the season and 7,588 for his career. He finished his career in second place in FBS history in all-purpose yards.

(Read full post)

Here's a quick overview of the Meineke Car Care Bowl:

[+] EnlargeGreg Little
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images Greg Little scored both of North Carolina's touchdowns and was the Tar Heels' top offensive option.
How the game was won: Pitt’s Dion Lewis was unstoppable for most of the game, but it was the Panthers’ defense that won it late in the fourth quarter. UNC quarterback T.J. Yates’ pass to tight end Zack Pianalto was high and incomplete on fourth-and-10 with seconds to go, and Pitt kept the Tar Heels out of field goal range. Pitt’s final drive, which started at the 5-yard line, ended with the game-winning 33-yard field goal. While the Panthers found a way to respond every time they needed to, UNC hurt itself with penalties and turnovers and its inability to run the ball. Yates' bowl game was a microcosm of his whole season -- inconsistent with a few questionable decisions.

Turning point: UNC’s defense, which had kept the Tar Heels in so many games this year, was called for being offside with 1:55 left in the game, as three Tar Heels jumped early. Instead of forcing Pitt to make a long field goal, it gave Pitt a first down at the 25 yard line and extended what would be the game-winning scoring drive.

Stat of the game: UNC’s defense, which was holding opponents to just 92.83 rushing yards per game, allowed Lewis 101 yards in the first half.

Player of the game: Pitt’s Dion Lewis redeemed himself from a fumble on the 1-yard line in the first half and just kept going. He finished with 159 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries, and averaged 5.7 yards per carries. His ability to keep his feet moving and his sheer strength and will was too much for the Tar Heels to stop.

Unsung hero of the game – UNC receiver Greg Little. He had seven catches for 87 yards and two touchdowns, and one run for 31 yards. He was the top offensive option for a team that has struggled all year to find consistency.

What it means: Instead of taking the next step under coach Butch Davis, North Carolina finished the season the same way it did a year ago -- with a close, heartbreaking loss to a Big East team in the Meineke Car Care Bowl and eight wins. UNC finished the season with back-to-back losses and showed minimal offensive improvement, if any, heading into 2010 with the same cast of characters.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Did you know that UNC backup quarterback Bryn Renner’s father, Bill, was a punter at Virginia Tech (1979-82) before playing in the NFL with the Green Bay Packers? Yep. He led the Hokies in punting average in 1981 and 1982.

There’s nothing like kicking off the weekend with a Thursday night game in Lane Stadium, so let’s start there …

1. UNC’s rushing receivers. The Tar Heels have been looking for yards from everyone, and against Florida State last week, receivers accounted for 109 rushing yards. Greg Little had 48, Johnny White added 40 and Jheranie Boyd chipped in 21. The Tar Heels also got a spark in their running game last week from tailback Shaun Draughn, who ran for a season-high 126 yards, and the Hokies’ rushing defense has struggled this year compared to seasons past and is ranked 76th in the country.

2. UNC’s front seven vs. Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Williams. The Tar Heels had 22 sacks all of last year, and they already have 17 sacks this year. They’re also piling up the tackles for loss, and while FSU quarterback Christian Ponder had his way with what was the No. 1 ranked pass defense in the country, UNC held FSU to just 43 yards rushing last week. They’ve held five of their seven opponents to under 100 rushing yards, and the Hokies have the No. 17 ranked rushing offense in the country.

3. Miami’s linebackers without Sean Spence. The Canes will have a different look at Wake Forest this week without Spence, who will miss the game with a knee injury. Taking his place will be Ramon Buchanan, who filled in for Spence when he was hurt during the Clemson game. Most of Buchanan’s experience has been on special teams this year. Meanwhile, running back Kevin Harris is expected to return for the Deacs after missing the past five games with a groin injury.

4. Shootout in Raleigh. This game could look like a 2008 Big 12 matchup -- all offense. NC State quarterback Russell Wilson and FSU quarterback Christian Ponder have both done enough to win this season, but haven’t gotten the support from their defenses. If that’s the case again on Saturday, it could be a very high-scoring game, as both teams are averaging about 30 points per game.

5. Field position in Vanderbilt Stadium. Vanderbilt running back Warren Norman leads the SEC and ranks 13th nationally in all-purpose yards per game (157.5 ypg) and 16th nationally in kickoff returns (29.04 ypa). Georgia Tech sophomore Jerrard Tarrant leads the ACC in punt return average (19.9 ypa). Both teams have a plus-five turnover margin, and statistically, Vandy has fared well stopping the run. The Jackets will obviously present a different challenge, but Norman can help compensate by giving the offense a good starting point.

6. C.J. Spiller’s backups. One week after the biggest performance of his life, Spiller is likely to have a limited role Saturday against Coastal Carolina. There’s no need to risk getting him hurt against an FCS team the Tigers should be able to beat without him. It’s a great opportunity to rest Spiller for the FSU game and give Andre Ellington and Jamie Harper some more experience.

7. Duke’s receivers. Quarterback Thaddeus Lewis has been getting all the pub, and deservedly so, but he couldn’t do it without somebody on the receiving end. For the first time in school history, Duke has four wide receivers with 25 or more pass receptions in a single season. Austin Kelly, Conner Vernon, Johnny Williams and Donovan Varner have made it a much deeper group.

8. Virginia’s defensive adjustments. In a week’s span, the Cavaliers have had to study two completely different offensive schemes in Georgia Tech’s run based triple option and Duke’s high-flying passing attack that leads the ACC in passing offense with 322.57 yards per game. This is what UVA excels at, though, as the Cavs have the ACC’s top passing defense. Virginia ranks fifth nationally, allowing just 151.29 yards per game. They haven’t allowed more than 190 passing yards in a game this season.

9. A new interception streak. At the beginning of the season, it was NC State’s Russell Wilson. Now it’s Virginia quarterback Jameel Sewell who is on a roll without an interception. Sewell has not been intercepted in his last 141 pass attempts, dating to the Southern Miss game. The school record for consecutive passes without an interception is 231.

10. Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. If you haven’t seen him play yet, it’s time, as he’s already drawn comparisons to Mark Herzlich and is currently the leading freshman tackler in the nation with 10.38 tackles per game. Kuechly leads BC with 51 solo tackles, 58 assisted. He had a game-high and career-tying 14 tackles against the Irish and had one pass breakup, and he’ll face another top quarterback this week in Central Michigan's Dan LeFevour.

SOS in the ACC

May, 26, 2009
5/26/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Each team is going to need a little bit of help this fall (some more than others). Here's a look at where everyone in the ACC needs the most help heading into summer camp:

BOSTON COLLEGE -- Quarterback. It's easily the biggest question mark in Chestnut Hill, and it will also be one of Frank Spaziani's first major decisions as head coach. Regardless of whom he picks -- Dominique Davis, Codi Boek or Justin Tuggle -- experience will be at a minimum.

CLEMSON -- Wide receivers. Somebody needs to help Jacoby Ford, and Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham are no longer around to do it. Xavier Dye didn't quite have the consistency he'd hoped for this spring. Marquan Jones and Terrence Ashe could also be factors.

DUKE -- Offensive line. The Blue Devils lost three starters there and moved a fourth (Kyle Hill from left guard to left tackle), so it will have an entirely new look. The one player back in his original position is center Bryan Morgan.

FLORIDA STATE -- Receivers. FSU is waiting until the legal process unfolds to determine the length of Rod Owens' suspension, and it's uncertain how quickly Taiwan Easterling will be cleared to play after an injury to his Achilles. Bert Reed, Louis Givens and Jarmon Fortson will be heavily depended upon.

GEORGIA TECH -- Linemen. The Yellow Jackets have to replace three of four starters on the defensive line, and injuries to Cord Howard, Dan Voss and Nick Claytor slowed the progress on the offensive line this spring.

MARYLAND -- Offensive line. The Terps lost three starters and will have four players in new positions. Phil Costa should be the leader of an otherwise inexperienced group.

MIAMI -- Linebacker depth. There were a few position changes, and Colin McCarthy missed the spring. Sean Spence is proven, but depth remains a concern.

NORTH CAROLINA -- Receivers. This group had to be completely rebuilt, as UNC lost players who accounted for 17 of 21 receiving touchdowns last year. Greg Little had a good spring and should be the leader now, and freshman Joshua Adams benefitted from enrolling early.

NC STATE -- Safety. This is coach Tom O'Brien's biggest concern, and the Pack need Javon Walker, who tore his ACL and missed the spring, back and healthy. Clem Johnson played well last year despite being hindered by several injuries. O'Brien is looking for more from Jimmaul Simmons and Justin Byers.

VIRGINIA -- Linebackers. The backups to Antonio Appleby, Jon Copper and Clint Sintim rarely played, as Al Groh wanted to keep his best players on the field. Darren Childs, Steve Greer, Aaron Taliaferro, Cam Johnson, and Darnell Carter will have to grow up quickly.

VIRGINIA TECH -- Kicker. For the third straight year, Frank Beamer is in search of a new kicker, this time to replace Dustin Keys. Matt Waldron was the leading candidate out of the spring, but the competition is wide open.

WAKE FOREST -- Linebackers. Gone are Aaron Curry, Stanley Arnoux and Chantz McClinic. Introducing Gelo Orange. Yes, that's his name. Orange, along with Hunter Haynes, Jonathan Jones and a host of others have some big shoes to fill.

SPONSORED HEADLINES