NCF Nation: Jake Vermiglio

Ranking offensive linemen is not easy. But hey, either is being an offensive lineman. Here are your best "big uglies."

1. North Carolina: Three starters and one part-time starter return from last year’s team, and this line could be the biggest and best since Butch Davis was hired. Guard Jonathan Cooper (22 starts), center Cam Holland (20) and tackle James Hurst (12) have combined for 54 career starts. Travis Bond has four starts and is the leading candidate to take over at the other guard position.

2. Miami: The Canes return nine of their top 10 offensive linemen including four starters from last year, and Joel Figueroa was granted a sixth season of eligibility. Even with the coaching change, the Canes should be strong up front. Center Tyler Horn is a veteran, Brandon Washington is a difference-maker, and there’s enough competition that Seantrel Henderson spent most of the spring as a backup.

3. Clemson: First-year offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell has four returning starters to work with in Landon Walker, Antoine McClain, Dalton Freeman and David Smith. They also have top reserve Mason Cloy, who has 19 career starts and has played in 38 games. There is plenty of depth for a dependable rotation.

4. Virginia Tech: All four returnees started every game last year, and there is enough depth that the Hokies should be able to rotate the most players up front they ever have. It’s a veteran group led by Blake DeChristopher, Andrew Lanier, Jaymes Brooks and Greg Nosal.

5. Florida State: Despite the losses of Rodney Hudson and Ryan McMahon, there’s experience up front. This fall, the starting lineup will consist of tackle Andrew Datko, left guard Bryan Stork or David Spurlock, center Jacob Fahrenkrug, right guard Spurlock or Stork, right tackle Zebrie Sanders. Just how good they’ll be remains to be seen as the majority of them were out with injuries this past spring.

6. NC State: The Pack lost Jake Vermiglio and will be without injured left guard Andrew Wallace for about half of the season, but Zach Allen, Camden Wentz and R.J. Mattes are returning starters. There’s also a lot of talent waiting to emerge with young players like Duran Christophe, Rob Crisp, Tyson Chandler, Torian Box and Andy Jomantas.

7. Virginia: Four players return with a combined 64 career starts in Anthony Mihota, Austin Pasztor, Oday Aboushi and Morgan Moses, who started the final seven games of the season as a true freshman. Pasztor is in his fourth season as a starter and has 32 career starts.

8. Boston College: Despite the losses of Anthony Castonzo, Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham, the Eagles are almost settled up front, it’s the experience behind the starters that’s reason for concern. The No. 2 offensive line is comprised entirely of redshirt freshmen. Mark Spinney returns at center, the projected starting guards are Nathan Richman and Ian White, who started three games as a freshman, and the tackles are Emmett Cleary and John Wetzel.

9. Maryland: It’s been an injury-prone group the past two seasons and that didn’t change this past spring. Left tackle Justin Gilbert, one of the top linemen on the team, reinjured the same knee he had ACL surgery on and will be out until October. R.J. Dill was also injured this spring, though he played in the spring game, and Justin Lewis was rehabbing from offseason surgery. Pete White also missed practices, so the group needs to solidify the two-deep roster.

10. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return three starters in guard Omoregie Uzzi, guard Will Jackson and tackle Phil Smith. Sophomore Jay Finch played extensively last season and Ray Beno and Nick McRae were key reserves. Redshirt freshmen Catlin Alford and Morgan Bailey could also work their way into the rotation. Uzzi will be the leader of the line, but they were outplayed by the defense this spring.

11. Wake Forest: Four starters are back, but the Deacs will sorely miss the experience and leadership of former center Russell Nenon. Garrick Williams started the final three games of 2010 -- two at guard and one at center, but he struggled with the snaps towards the end of spring and isn’t where the staff needs him to be yet.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils should take another step forward this season under offensive line coach Matt Luke, and they need to -- Duke’s running game was last in the ACC last year and 104th in the country. Brian Moore replaces a three-year starter at center, but given his experience at right guard the past two seasons, it should be a smooth transition. That will leave a hole, though, at the right guard position, where Laken Tomlinson and John Coleman are the top candidates.

2010 ACC All-Bowl team

January, 14, 2011
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Disclaimer: With only four winning teams, this team wasn't easy, but there were plenty of players who had noteworthy performances in their respective bowls. Here is your 2010-11 ACC All-bowl team:

OFFENSE

QB Russell Wilson, NC State: He threw for 275 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in what might have been his final collegiate game. He also ran for 41 yards and earned the Champs Sports Bowl’s MVP award.

RB Da'Rel Scott, Maryland: The MVP of the Military Bowl, Scott rushed for a school bowl-game record 200 yards on 13 carries. His 91-yard TD run in the fourth quarter was the longest in Maryland bowl-game history. It was also the longest Maryland touchdown in seven years and only the eighth 90-plus yard run in ACC history. He also set the school record for yards per carry in the game with 15.4.

RB Chris Thompson, Florida State: He was the Chick-fil-A Bowl's Offensive MVP after he racked up 147 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown run against the SEC's then-top-ranked rushing defense.

WR Jarvis Williams, NC State: His 3-yard touchdown reception with 3:44 remaining sealed the win over West Virginia. He finished with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown.

[+] EnlargeNC State's Russell Wilson
Scott A. Miller/US PRESSWIRERussell Wilson passed for 275 yards and two touchdowns on his way to earning MVP honors at the Champs Sports Bowl.
WR Leonard Hankerson, Miami: Despite the loss to Notre Dame, Hankerson set the school record for receiving yards in a single season (1,155) after totaling 70 yards against the Irish to pass Eddie Brown's mark of 1,114 yards set in 1984.

TE Brandon Ford, Clemson: Despite the loss to South Florida, Ford had four catches for 45 yards, including two touchdown receptions. He became the first player in Clemson history with two touchdown catches in a bowl game.

OL Jake Vermiglio, NC State: He helped the Pack score more points against West Virginia than any other opponent had all year. NC State controlled the clock and had 378 total yards.

OL Paul Pinegar, Maryland: He had three big blocks for the Terps, who rolled up season highs in rushing yards (297) and rushing touchdowns (6), including runs of 61 and 91 yards by Da’Rel Scott. The Terps also did not allow a sack to the Pirates, the 11th time the squad surrendered two or fewer on the season.

OL Rodney Hudson, FSU: He graded out at 86 percent against South Carolina and didn’t have any penalties or missed assignments. He also had two knockdowns.

OL Zebrie Sanders, FSU: He graded out at 88 percent in final game and didn’t have any penalties or missed assignments. He helped neutralize South Carolina’s pass rush.

OL Mike Ingersoll, UNC: He graded out as the team's top offensive lineman and was named one of the offensive players of the game by the coaching staff. Carolina had 180 positive rushing yards against Tennessee.

DEFENSE

DE Brandon Jenkins, FSU: Despite the fact he missed a series-and-a-half, he finished with a team-leading eight tackles, including two TFLs and a sack.

DE Andre Branch, Clemson: On an off-day for Da’Quan Bowers, Branch stepped up and had two sacks. He finished with six tackles.

DT Quinton Coples, UNC: He finished with six tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced a fumble and had two quarterback hurries in the Heels’ win over Tennessee.

DT Donte Paige-Moss, UNC: He had six tackles, 1.5 sacks, forced a fumble and blocked an extra point attempt. The extra point block was key, as Carolina later kicked a field goal to send the game into overtime.

LB Nate Irving, NC State: He had four solo tackles against West Virginia and finished with one 7-yard sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and quarterback pressure and a pass breakup.

LB Quan Sturdivant, UNC: He had a season-high 12 tackles, including two tackles for losses, and made a key interception in overtime against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl. Sturdivant picked off a Tyler Bray pass in the second overtime and Carolina scored on its next possession to win the game.

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College: He no doubt looked the part of an All-America. Kuechly was the defensive MVP of the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl with 12 tackles (8 solos), and one interception he returned 31 yards.

DB Greg Reid, FSU: He was named the defensive MVP of the Chick-fil-A Bowl and was an obvious choice. He finished with five tackles, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles (one that came with his hit that ended Marcus Lattimore’s night on the first series), and he had two punt returns for 53 yards leading to scores.

DB Antwine Perez, Maryland: He made eight tackles, including a game-high seven solo stops and two tackles for loss, as the Terps clamped down on the seventh-ranked passing offense in the nation. Perez had seven or more tackles in each of the last five games of the season.

DB Kendric Burney, UNC: He finished with six tackles and an 11-yard return on an interception.

DB Brandon Bishop, NC State: His fourth interception of the season was a diving interception at the West Virginia 10 in the fourth quarter. He snagged the pass intended for Jock Sanders, and prevented the Mountaineers from cutting the lead to 16-14 with plenty of time left.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Dustin Hopkins, FSU: He nailed all four field-goal attempts against South Carolina (29 yards, 48, 35, 45), and he had four touchbacks.

P Shawn Powell, FSU: He had three punts for an average of 51 yards, and gave the Noles winning field position.

KR Greg Reid, FSU: He had one kick return for 18 yards and two punt returns for the Noles. His two punt returns led to scores.

True freshman OTs learning quickly

October, 20, 2010
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When Virginia offensive lineman Morgan Moses lined up at right tackle against North Carolina this past weekend, he became just the third true freshman in school history to start at an offensive tackle position.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Brad Butler both did it in 2002.

There’s a simple reason Moses is in select company -- it’s hard. Very hard.

“It’s very difficult to come in and play as a freshman on the offensive line,” said NC State coach Tom O’Brien, who spent the first 16 years of his coaching career with offensive linemen at Navy and Virginia. “Not a lot of people are able to do it or can do it. In most of the cases it’s by necessity. There are a lot of very good prospects or good talented kids coming in, but it’s something that you don’t want to be in the situation to have happen if you’re coaching a football team.”

[+] EnlargeMorgan Moses
Lee Coleman / Icon SMIMorgan Moses was just the third true freshman in Cavaliers history to start at offensive tackle.
That’s why it’s even more impressive that of the eight true freshmen to have started at offensive tackle in the country this year, four are in the ACC: UNC’s James Hurst, NC State’s Robert Crisp, Miami’s Seantrel Henderson and Virginia’s Moses.

Moses wound up playing every snap against North Carolina.

“The speed of the game, things like that, he had to adjust to,” London said. “… I would say Morgan had a couple of mental errors, which is probably the case for any true freshman that took close to 60 snaps. But I think overall his play was very good in terms of knowing assignments, getting on the defender he had to block. But like anything else, the more reps, the more opportunities he has to play, I think he’ll develop into being a really, really good player here.”

The question is whether it will be at tackle or guard. Moses had moved to tackle because of an injury to Landon Bradley.

Henderson has helped Miami’s depth and stability at the position. He played the entire game against Duke.

“Anytime you play as a freshman it’s always difficult,” Miami coach Randy Shannon said. “He’s big, he’s athletic, and he’s got a lot of things that are positive. Like anything he has to still learn and keep going because of so many different defenses you see and different ways they try to attack you. I’ve got to expect North Carolina will do those things to confuse him, to have some hesitation.”

Crisp has since taken the backseat to veteran starter Jake Vermiglio. O’Brien said pass protection is the most difficult part of the playbook to digest from the left tackle position, and all of the intricacies that go with each different protection as they relate to the defense the player sees.

“He’s somewhat of a special young guy,” O’Brien said of Crisp. “He’s very mature for his age and has very good physical talent. He did a nice job for us. He’s learning each and every week for us and getting better. He’s in a backup role now, so he’s about where he should be.”

After all, that's where most true freshman offensive linemen in the country usually are.

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