NCF Nation: Jahre Cheeseman
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
BLACKSBURG, Va., -- It was the first time -- but not the last -- that Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans would plop dejectedly into the chair in assistant coach Billy Hite's office for a heart-to-heart.
Hite can remember Evans sitting across from him as a freshman in 2007, "crying his eyes out," homesick for his newborn son, James, and frustrated with the transformation from high school hero to rookie redshirt lost on the scout team. Evans was ready to pack his bags and head back to Indianapolis.
|AP Photo/Don Petersen|
|Against Maryland last season, Darren Evans became the first Virginia Tech freshman to rush for more than 200 yards in a game.|
"I just told him your time is coming," Hite remembered. "I said, 'When you think about it Darren, you've got to get through September, October, November and December, and it's your turn.' And sure enough, it became his turn."
And last season, Evans made the most of it.
After battling his way back from fourth-string on the depth chart -- fourth string -- Evans rushed for 1,256 yards last year and broke the single-game rushing record against Maryland with 253 yards. This spring, he has been overshadowed again, this time by the hype surrounding redshirt freshman Ryan Williams. Evans, though, is the most productive of the group, a quiet leader who, like the entire program, is shouldering higher expectations this fall. The difference this spring, though, is that Evans hasn't gotten a lot of reps, and that's because the staff already knows what he can do.
"It's a lot different from last year," Evans said. "I was really learning a lot last year, now it's kind of a review. This year, I know the expectations are high, but I know that a lot of people are excited about Ryan Williams, so that kind of cools it off for me. He probably has the bigger expectations because he's so much of a hit around here."
There is no animosity between the tailbacks, but their different personalities are reflective of their styles. Williams bring that flash, the shake-and-bake coach Frank Beamer calls "do-dad," and he's got a contagious smile. Evans, 20, is straightforward, has learned to take everything in stride, and is more of a power runner.
"Last year, Darren was kind of in the same position I was," Williams said. "... He's a great player, you can't take nothing from him. He blocks well, runs well, catches well. I mean, he does everything you need a running back to do. He practices every day like it's a game. Even though we both have two totally different running styles, we complement each other on the field and can change the pace of the game at any time."
While those outside the program wonder how Hite is going to divvy up the carries this fall -- Josh Oglesby has also had an impressive spring, and Kenny Lewis is expected to return this fall -- Hite said the decision will be made just like it was a year ago. At the end of the spring, Hite will call his players together and let them know how the summer will play out.
"Everybody always asks me how do you make a decision who's going to play?" Hite said. "I don't make the decision. They do. Whoever is playing the best, that's who's going to be out there. That's what happened with [Evans]."
Not without a little push, though, from Hite.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Florida State isn't gonna look like the program it used to, dadgummit, and unless Bernie Kosar suddenly found an extra year of eligibility, either will Miami.
Doesn't matter -- at least not this year.
The spotlight is on Clemson, and deservedly so. The entire league can stake its reputation on the Tigers this year, but they must deliver with a win in the Orange Bowl if the ACC is going to start chipping away at its embarrassing 1-9 record in BCS games. If Clemson can win on the national stage, then Tommy Bowden should receive thank-you notes from 11 other coaches -- the first one coming priority mail from his "daddy" for diverting some of the attention off another mediocre 7-5 season in Tallahassee.
The realistic coaches in the league -- like NC State's Tom O'Brien -- know that until they start knocking off some storied non-conference programs, the ACC can't be considered among the best in the BCS.
"We haven't proven we can go on the national scene and win games, and until we do that, I don't think you have any leg to stand on to dispute that claim," said O'Brien, whose young team won't have it easy against South Carolina, East Carolina and South Florida before October. "You have to go out and you have to win those nonconference games if you're going to be considered as the top conference in the country."
That means Virginia Tech has to beat Nebraska, Clemson should beat Alabama, Miami needs to beat Florida, and Georgia Tech and Boston College better handle a new-and-improved Notre Dame. Wake Forest also has two SEC opponents on its schedule in Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. Only Miami, though, can help the league's 2-17 record against non-conference opponents ranked in the top 10 over the past four years. Unfortunately for the Hurricanes, they have to beat the team picked to win the SEC to do it. With a freshman quarterback.
Not going to happen.
Here are a few preseason predictions, though, that might:
* Somebody at Miami will win Rookie of the Year.
But ... somebody else will be ineligible or in trouble.
* Paul Johnson will call more passing plays than he did at Navy.
But ... Georgia Tech will fumble the ball better than anyone and practices quickly close to the
* North Carolina will live up to the hype of a legitimate contender for the ACC title.
* Maryland will be the conference darkhorse and the Atlantic Division will be a tighter race between Clemson, Wake Forest and the Terps than most people think.
* Clemson will lose to Wake Forest, win the Atlantic Division, and beat Virginia Tech for its first conference crown since 1991. And then proceed to blow it in the Orange Bowl.
* The rest of the ACC teams should win enough of their bowl games to improve upon last year's 2-6 record in the postseason. Especially since Ralph Friedgen hired an assistant right off of the Oregon State staff he lost to in the Emerald Bowl.
* There will be a better turnout for the ACC championship in Tampa than there was in Jacksonville because it's a smaller stadium with a broader alumni base.
Speaking of NFL venues, here are a few things that probably won't happen this season in the ACC:
* Miami fans won't like the move to Dolphin Stadium, save for the beer.
- Nobody's going to get fired, but the algrohmustgo web site makes a faster comeback than Florida State and Miami.
* Nine ACC teams won't be bowl eligible, which means the Congressional Bowl reps will have to settle for Navy (if the Midshipmen even qualify) and a MAC team.
* Cullen Harper won't win the Heisman.
* Chris Crane won't make you forget Matt Ryan, and Jeff Jagodzinski won't make Eagles fans forget Tom O'Brien.
* Tyrod Taylor won't redshirt, and Virginia Tech isn't going to miss Branden Ore -- or his lack of discipline -- now that Jahre Cheeseman and Kenny Lewis Jr. are healthy.
* Duke doesn't win more than three games. Hey, that's still triple last year's win total. Let's not push it.
Overall, just about every team in the conference should show improvement this year. The teams in the Triangle are taking the necessary steps to build their programs, and Wake Forest has the staff stability and player potential to build upon its most successful period in school history. What the conference is starving for, though, is a national contender, and right now, that burden falls on the Tigers.
And as Bobby Bowden so eloquently pointed out, his son Tommy, "ain't won nothin' yet."
This year, he's got no excuse not to win.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Since I had to get up early and have a long drive to Virginia Tech today, there wasn't enough time to read the papers. So I'm improvising, starting with a Hokie fan who is quite familiar with the depth chart:
Matt, in Charlotte, N.C. writes: regarding comment that Va Tech is ranked too high in preseason coaches poll - I totally disagree. I was pleasantly suprised with the ranking and agree with it immensly. I was afraid they would be ranked too low based on the projections I was reading and disagree with. Va Tech is a perenial top 20 program and doesn't rebuild, they reload. The players that step up for the Hokies this year are ready to be the next stars for Va Tech and will prove the nay sayers wrong. Players like Jason Worilds, Stephen Virgil, Dorian Porch, Blake DeChristopher, Purnell Sturdivant, Brett Warren, Cordarrow Thompson, John Graves, Dyrell Roberts, Marcus Davis, Darren Evans, and Ryan Williams will all be names the ACC comes to know well and fear. Anything less than 10 wins from this team (or any other Va Tech team) has to be viewed as a disappointment. They are BCS bowl contenders year in and year out and I fully expect then to challenge for the ACC title again. Now, if we can just figure out how to win our bowl once we get there...
Heather Dinich: Matt, I get where you're coming from, I really do. That's why I picked the Hokies to win the Coastal Division. I just think from a national perspective, there are teams out there with less questions who deserve to be above them. Will Virginia Tech work its way up the polls this season? I have no doubt they're still capable of winning 10 games.
Steve, in Roanoke, writes: Great job Heather! Blogging on a Saturday morn is impressive. Any news on VT's RB situation w/ all the injuries? Thanks!
Heather Dinich: Steve, thanks for noticing, man. The latest is that Jahre Cheeseman and Kenny Lewis Jr. will be ready to go Monday. That should lessen some of the concern at this position, but as Matt pointed out, the coaches are also excited to see what freshman Ryan Williams can do this summer.
Jeff, a Hokie in Denver, writes: Heather, I realize the losses the Hokies have had at the skill positions but am curious as to whether you think Brian Stinespring will be on the hotseat regardless if the offense fails to produce this season? Thanks for the awesome reporting - your blog is great! Jeff
Heather Dinich: I haven't heard any rumblings about that, but this isn't the first question I've received about Bryan Stinespring. I think he made some critical calls last year that played a HUGE role in the Hokies winning the ACC title, and that Frank Beamer prides himself on staff stability. I'd be surprised if anything happened to Stinespring. If the offense fails to produce, that might have something to do with the fact the Hokies lost all four receivers and their leading rusher.
This one comes from Naples, Italy: How about covering the Terps.
Heather Dinich: Been there, done that. Still do. Check back later today for three questions facing Maryland this season.
Speaking of the Terps (since this is their first day of practice, too), Alex in Ramsey, N.J. writes: Great writing Heather, Real quick will heyward-bey be seeing alot more passes this year considering the new system and ? at running back or will we be seeing another great receiver not getting the damn ball.
Heather Dinich: James Franklin would love to throw more deep balls this season. Why didn't they do it more last year? Well, in part because of the play calling and in part because Darrius Heward-Bey is still developing as a receiver. Remember, he was a track star first. No doubt the receiver position is Maryland's strength. Check back later this week for an interview I had with first-year receivers' coach Lee Hull.