NCF Nation: James Washington

Big 12 helmet stickers: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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Below is a look at the best performances from the Big 12 in Week 5:

DE James McFarland, TCU: McFarland led the nine-sack TCU barrage against SMU with three himself, as the Horned Frogs rolled 56-0. It was a career-high for McFarland, and the most sacks for TCU in a game since 2002. McFarland also had two forced fumbles, and his pass breakup on a fourth-and-1 at the TCU 1-yard line in the second quarter helped preserve the 11th shutout of the Gary Patterson era.

WR Corey Coleman, Baylor: Coleman had a monster outing in his first appearance of the season, hauling in 12 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown in the Bears 49-28 win at Iowa State. Coleman had missed the first three games of the season with a hamstring injury. He showed no signs of being slowed down in Ames.

CB Duke Thomas, Texas: After getting burned for the game-deciding touchdown against UCLA, Thomas bounced back with a monster performance in a 23-0 win over Kansas. Thomas grabbed two of Texas’ four interception, and could have had a third had it not been for penalty. Thomas also broke up a fade attempt on fourth-and-goal in the third quarter. The Jayhawks never came close to scoring a touchdown again.

LB Ben Heeney, Kansas: Don't blame Heeney or the Kansas defense for the Jayhawks' loss to Texas. Heeney had 10 tackles, two tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery at the Kansas 2-yard line that thwarted a Texas scoring opportunity. It was actually the All-Big 12 performer's first career fumble recovery. Behind Heeney, the Jayhawks also limited Texas to just 111 yards rushing.

RB Charles Jones, Kansas State: Jones scored three of the Wildcats’ first five touchdowns, as K-State demolished UTEP, 58-28. Jones finished with 76 yards on just 12 carries, as K-State held a 45-point lead over the Miners heading into the fourth quarter.

WR Tyler Lockett, Kansas State: In another tantalizing performance, Lockett put up 143 punt return yards, the second-most in school history and 29 yards short of tying the school record of 172 set by David Allen in 1998. Lockett also hauled in four passes for 84 yards.

WR James Washington, Oklahoma State: The Cowboys’ true freshman wideout torched Texas Tech in Oklahoma State’s 45-35 win Thursday. Washington reeled in a 33-yard touchdown in the first quarter, then a 39-yard score in the second. Three of Washington’s five catches this season have resulted in touchdowns.

What we learned in the Big 12: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
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Here’s what we learned about the Big 12 in Week 5:

[+] EnlargeAntwan Goodley
David Purdy/Getty ImagesAntwan Goodley made a triumphant return for Baylor after missing the previous two games due to injury.
1. Petty's toys are back in business: No video-game-crazy numbers for Baylor's offense in a 49-28 victory at Iowa State, just the usual display that makes it tough for Big 12 defensive coordinators to sleep at night. Bryce Petty sure had some catching up to do with his favorite injured wideouts, and Corey Coleman (12 catches, 154 yards, 1 TD) and Antwan Goodley (6 catches, 114 yards) both made it count. The Bears weren't up to their optimal speed -- there were five three-and-outs, a Petty interception and a failed fourth-down conversion -- but Shock Linwood (three TDs) makes them so difficult to stop when they hit the red zone, and the starters got to sit out the final quarter. Business as usual for Baylor.

2. Pokes can beat you deep: Oklahoma State won the Big 12's first primetime fight because it wasn't afraid to take big shots. Daxx Garman connected on eight passes of 20-plus yards, and even better, they were hauled in by six different receivers over the course of the 45-35 victory on Thursday. It's time to stop underestimating Marcell Ateman and James Washington after the underclassmen combined for 217 yards and two TDs, and OSU put something plenty scary on tape when Tyreek Hill beat his defender by a good 7 yards for a 50-yard scoring bomb. It wasn't easy, and it sure wasn't pretty -- 287 combined penalty yards on 26 flags -- but OSU found out Garman can handle the bright lights just fine.

3. K-State defense rallies in big way: Kansas State was missing two starters on defense but had no trouble taking out its Auburn-inspired anger on UTEP, a team that proved against Texas Tech it's no pushover. In the 58-28 win, KSU held the nation's No. 2 rusher, Aaron Jones, to nine yards in the first half and 47 on the day. The Miners couldn't get anything going for the three quarters KSU's starters played -- it was 52-7 when Bill Snyder sent in the backups -- and UTEP ended the first half down 31 points with just 23 total yards and one first down. KSU got right back on track and still looks like a legit contender for the Big 12 crown.

4. TCU's Air Raid keeps making it look ... too easy? The Horned Frogs are 3-0 with wins over Samford, Minnesota and now SMU, a team that’s been outscored 202-12 through four games. If there's an FBS team playing worse football than the Mustangs, I would not like to see it. So it’s tough to confidently make conclusions about TCU after this 56-0 victory. But Trevone Boykin (six total TDs) still looks incalculably more polished than a year ago. He has a diverse array of receivers and backs at his disposal, and the Frogs' 614 total yards were their most since 2011. To TCU's credit, Minnesota was solid in a 30-14 win against the dumpster fire in Ann Arbor. The Horned Frogs' offense couldn't have asked for a better start to 2014. It's time to find out what they're made of against the Sooners.

5. Texas still has issues: If Texas plays against Baylor next Saturday the way it did in Lawrence, Kansas, it probably doesn't stand much of a chance. Charlie Strong won't get too mad about a 23-0 victory that snaps a two-game slide, but he won't spend much time celebrating it, either. Texas never had to sweat too much, thanks to Montell Cozart's four interceptions, but its patchwork offensive line remains a work in progress (Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Gray combined for 73 rushing yards), and scoring points is still a struggle. Still, Texas did at least do what it needed to and gave Strong his first Big 12 win. KU showed some nice things in the run game and has a better defense than you think, but its offensive execution in many trips into Texas territory was fruitless.

Duke, NC State come out on top

September, 22, 2012
9/22/12
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Recapping the early-evening games ...

NC State 52, Citadel 14: True freshman Shadrach Thornton stole the show for NC State in its victory over the Citadel.

Thornton not only played in his first collegiate game, but he got his first collegiate start and he made the most of it, running for 145 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Thornton started in place of the injured James Washington and Tony Creecy and the suspended Mustafa Greene and gave this running game a huge jolt.

Do I need to remind you that Creecy went into the game as the team's leading rusher with 130 yards? Thornton was the only healthy running back to practice all week, and became the first NC State freshman to go over 100 yards rushing in his first game since Joe McIntosh did it against Richmond in 1981. NC State finished with 282 rushing yards, its highest team total since 297 against Southern Mississippi in 2005.

Meanwhile, Mike Glennon went 19-of-24 for 233 yards with a touchdown, and Quintin Payton had five catches for 100 yards.

David Amerson recorded an interception in his third consecutive game and now is in a tie for the school record with 16 for his career.

Duke 38, Memphis 14: It was not the prettiest game for the Blue Devils, who struggled to put away one of the worst teams in college football. But they absolutely dominated the second half and are now 3-1 headed into their game at Wake Forest last week.

Turnovers and missed opportunities plagued this team -- there were fumbles at the Memphis 14 and at the goal line, and a muffed punt, too. Duke finished at minus-four in turnover margin (four turnovers to zero for Memphis) and found itself trailing 14-7 midway through the second quarter. But Sean Renfree found his groove, and so did the defense -- which ended up holding Memphis to nine first downs and 1-of-11 on third down for the night.

Renfree ended up going 26-of-37 for 314 yards with four touchdown passes and one interception. Conner Vernon had eight catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns for the 11th 100-yard game of his career.

Duke now opens the season with three consecutive home wins for the first time since 1994.

NC State a team on the rise

August, 28, 2012
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The talk is growing louder again about NC State. Given all the talent returning, given how close it has come to winning an ACC title before, could this be the season the Wolfpack finally puts it all together?

Some folks say yes.

[+] EnlargeNC State's Tom O'Brien
Jeremy Brevard/US PRESSWIRENC State coach Tom O'Brien's Wolfpack are a sleeper pick in the ACC this season.
So the dark horse label has been firmly affixed onto this team as it gets ready for a huge opener against Tennessee on Friday night in the Georgia Dome.

"We’ve always been a sleeper team," receiver Tobais Palmer said in a recent phone interview."I feel as though there's certain teams in the ACC that get respect, like Clemson, Florida State, those type of guys. Nobody gives us the respect we deserve, but that's OK. We use it as motivation and it helps us out. Going into the first game, I’m excited to see what this season brings."

Just look at what the Wolfpack have going into the season. The best cornerback in the nation in David Amerson, who set an ACC record with 13 interceptions last season. A veteran leader in Mike Glennon, one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC. Major depth at running back -- so much so that coach Tom O'Brien may deviate from his normal two-back rotation and play starter Tony Creecy, James Washington and Mustafa Greene against the Volunteers.

And one of the most experienced offensive lines in all of college football, with four starters who each logged over 700 snaps last season. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley said Tuesday on a media call for the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game that this is the best team NC State has had in a while, though O'Brien was a little more reserved when asked what he thinks of the team he has for 2012.

"Right now you get to the end of camp and you look forward to playing the opening game because after practicing against yourself, you're not sure what you have," O'Brien said. "A lot of the questions we might have about ourselves, when you go against an SEC powerhouse like Tennessee will be answered."

There are some question marks to be sure. The entire starting linebacker unit is new. Depth has to be developed at receiver, where projected starter Bryan Underwood is out with an injury. And starting cornerback C.J. Wilson has been held out of practice because of an NCAA eligibility issue and is not listed on the depth chart for the game. Junior Dontae Johnson is expected to start in his place.

NC State also plays in the tough Atlantic Division, featuring preseason favorite No. 7 Florida State and reigning ACC champ No. 14 Clemson, the two highest ranked teams in the ACC. For NC State to truly have a shot at the ACC title, the Wolfpack are going to have to beat both teams, something they have not done in the same season since 2002.

They have split against them the last two seasons. Last year, NC State lost to Florida State 34-0, the first time since 2008 the Wolfpack had been shutout. But after a devastating loss to Boston College, the Wolfpack went into their home game against No. 7 Clemson without anybody giving them much of a shot, mostly because they were fighting for bowl eligibility. But they pulled off the major shocker, winning 37-13.

Go back to 2010. NC State beat Florida State but lost to Clemson 14-13 after blowing a fourth-quarter lead. Still, the Wolfpack had a shot at winning the ACC heading into their season finale against Maryland. But they lost 38-31, blowing their chances. They had to watch Florida State get to the ACC championship game instead.

"For the past two years, we've had a shot at it," Palmer said. "The year before, we gave the game away losing to Maryland. Last year, we gave the league away. We've always been so close every year. We feel this year is the year everyone is going to dial in. We’ve been getting after each other. We're holding each other accountable. As long as we keep doing that, we should be a hard team to stop."
1. The response to my story posted Thursday about how the SEC wins championships because of the depth of its best teams reminded me that non-SEC fans believe the league thrives on oversigning. They blame oversigning for everything short of global warming. Oversigning supposedly violates the intent of the NCAA Manual. Intent? Please. Coaches read rules to learn what they can do without stepping over the line. The SEC redrew the line; oversigning is done. But it never was the answer. Alabama oversigned and won, but Ole Miss oversigned and cratered.

2. BYU quarterback Riley Nelson transferred to BYU in 2009 after one year at Utah State and two years on an LDS mission to Barcelona, Spain. He may not be a father figure, but as a seventh-year senior, he’s an older brother figure to his freshman teammates. He remembers what it’s like to adjust to the rules that govern BYU, run by the LDS. He tells “the young guys” as he calls them, “With the off-field stuff, you agreed to come to somewhere different. You knew what you were getting into, so just be smart.”

3. ACC blogger Heather Dinich wrote Wednesday that Florida State hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Warrick Dunn in 1996; NC State, not since T.A. McClendon in 2002. The Seminoles are so deep at tailback that they may not have a 1,000-yarder this year. The carries may get spread. But the Wolfpack? It’s time. Head coach Tom O’Brien has the nation’s most experienced offensive line and a senior tailback, James Washington, who rushed for 897 yards in 2011. He’ll break the drought.
1. Most quarterbacks come off the field, get on the phone to their coaches upstairs, and then sit with teammates. Florida State senior EJ Manuel refuses to rest. He stands on the sideline watching the game, both to support his defense and to look for tips to give them about the opposing offense. Manuel’s whereabouts can annoy head coach Jimbo Fisher. “Jimbo will make me sit down because he likes (to know where) I’m going to be so he can come talk to me,” Manuel said. Nothing like an elusive quarterback, right?

2. North Carolina State will challenge the Seminoles in the ACC Atlantic. The Wolfpack grew up over the course of last season. After losing its first three games against FBS opponents, NC State won six of its last eight. Coach Tom O’Brien has 16 returning starters, including senior quarterback Mike Glennon, senior tailback James Washington and four offensive linemen with a total of 90 career starts. NC State could be 4-0 when it goes to Miami on Sept. 29. Florida State comes to Raleigh the following week.

3. One thing the BCS did right is create a distinctive trophy for the national champion. The crystal football has separated itself from the generic-looking NCAA championship hardware. It is, like the Stanley Cup or the Claret Jug, instantly recognizable. Unlike them, however, a silversmith can’t repair any damage. Alabama football staff members were still finding pieces of glass Monday, two days after a crystal football on display got knocked off a table in the Mal Moore Athletic Center. Some dropped balls can’t be recovered, which makes this trophy all the more special.
Last week we looked at how the quarterbacks stacked up in the ACC. This week, we’ll take a closer look at the running backs. Again, the position rankings by team put heavy weight on the depth of the position -– hence the team ranking, not individual. Just because Virginia Tech has one of the best running backs in the ACC doesn’t mean that collectively, as a group, Virginia Tech is the best team in the league at the position. Florida State? Loaded. Wake Forest? Not. These are based on the best combination of talent, experience and depth.

Here’s a look at how each team ranks in the position:

[+] EnlargeChris Thompson
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIChris Thompson averaged 6.4 yards per carry for the Seminoles last season.
1. Florida State: Chris Thompson, Ty Jones and Jermaine Thomas combined for 1,862 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, and 17 touchdowns last year. Thompson had 1,000 yards combined from both rushing and receiving last year, and Thomas enters his senior season with 1,084 career yards -- the second most of any active ACC runner, behind only Montel Harris (3,600).

2. Boston College: Montel Harris could break a 33-year-old ACC rushing record this fall, and his backup, Andre Williams, is a bigger back who has proven more than capable of shouldering the load himself. Together they’re one of the best one-two combos in the league.

3. Miami: The transfer of Storm Johnson hurt, but Lamar Miller should be one of the best in the ACC, and Mike James was ahead of Johnson on the depth chart. The Canes also have Darion Hall, Maurice Hagens and incoming freshman Kevin Grooms.

4. Clemson: Andre Ellington will be the leader of the pack, but true freshman Mike Bellamy could also make an immediate impact, and the group runs deep with Roderick McDowell, D.J. Howard and Demont Buice.

5. Virginia Tech: Had Ryan Williams and Darren Evans returned, this would have been one of the premier groups of running backs in the country. Instead, it will be the David Wilson show (and Josh Oglesby). Not that the Hokies will have any problem with that.

6. Maryland: Davin Meggett and D.J. Adams are a talented duo, but depth should be a concern. Meggett posted a team-high 720 rushing yards in 2010, while Adams had a freshman school-record 11 rushing touchdowns.

7. NC State: The Wolfpack are in a much better position at running back than they were a year ago, when nobody with starting experience returned. Mustafa Greene, James Washington and Brandon Barnes should make NC State’s running game a bigger factor this fall.

8. Georgia Tech: Coach Paul Johnson isn’t concerned about his B-back position because it’s one of the deepest on the team. There isn’t one superstar like in recent years, but Richard Watson, Charles Perkins and Preston Lyons will work together to keep the Jackets one of the top rushing teams in the country.

9. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have to replace three tailbacks who accounted for 96 percent of their rushing last year. Ryan Houston is back for his sixth season of eligibility, but he is the only one who has seen significant playing time. Giovani Bernard, Hunter Furr and Travis Riley help the depth.

10. Wake Forest: Josh Harris could crack the 1,000-yard mark if he stays healthy, and Brandon Pendergrass is a capable backup. There are three true freshmen at the position, and it’s one area coach Jim Grobe can’t afford any injuries.

11. Virginia: Perry Jones and Kevin Parks are talented, but the Cavaliers will miss the production of Keith Payne, who accounted for 14 of the team’s 17 rushing touchdowns. Jones started all but one game last year, but only scored one touchdown.

12. Duke: The Blue Devils’ running game is starting to show progress, but last year it still ranked 104th in the country. Depth isn’t a problem, as Desmond Scott, Josh Snead and Juwan Thompson should help make it a more productive group this year.

Stay tuned for the top 10 ACC running backs for 2011 ...

Catching up with Tom O'Brien

April, 13, 2011
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This spring is the first time coach Tom O'Brien's NC State team has had all its scholarship players to work with in the two-deep depth chart. That alone has made it a more enjoyable spring. The biggest question facing NC State heading into the fall will be the wide receivers, but O'Brien can deal with that. "In the past we've had two or three question mark positions," he said. "Now we're down to one."

I caught up with O'Brien on Friday to see how the Pack was doing this spring. Here are some highlights:

[+] EnlargeO'Brien
Brian Utesch/US PresswireNC State coach Tom O'Brien has confidence in quarterback Mike Glennon.
First, the bad news: NC State running back and 2010 leading rusher Mustafa Greene will have foot surgery and miss the rest of the spring, according to The Raleigh News & Observer. Greene had really made strides with his pass protection since last year and O'Brien told me on Friday Greene had "grown up a lot."

The good news: Greene is expected to be back by the fall, and the Wolfpack is in a much better situation than it was this time a year ago, when it didn't have any running backs on the roster with starting experience. Brandon Barnes and James Washington give the position depth.

The move to the middle: Audie Cole's move to middle linebacker has been a successful one this spring. He has taken over the spot vacated by Nate Irving, and O'Brien has been pleased. "I think it’s showing that the move was a good one for us," O'Brien said. "Audie Cole is really a good linebacker, he’s a smart kid. Jon (Tenuta) likes to put his best player at linebacker. Audie has taken the challenge, he’s getting everybody lined up, he understands everything about the defense."

The Mike Glennon era begins: O'Brien has no lack of confidence in Glennon, who has plenty of spring experience running with the first team. "He's much more comfortable doing things. He has the ability to make any throw that has to be made on the football field. It's just a question of getting in and doing it in game experience and gaining the confidence to do it under pressure time in and time out."

The Russell Wilson era ends:What if he comes back? "It really doesn't matter if he does or not," O'Brien said. "We're committed to Michael Glennon, and we're going forward from there. What we've discussed with Russell and Michael, understand where we are and what we have to do. We're all about team building. It's all about continuity. Nobody can say Russell is coming back. You can't count on it."

Improved o-line: This is the first time O'Brien has five players to work with who have game experience. It's been a much better starting point for the Pack this spring.

The lingering question: NC State graduated its top receivers and needs some playmakers to emerge. O'Brien said he's not going to know how many of the young players will fare until they're in a game situation. "I don’t think it’s an area we’re comfortable with yet," O'Brien said. "It’s an area that’s certainly a work in progress and you can certainly tell that T.J. Graham and Jay Smith are ahead of the rest of the pack because they have the most experience. Steve Howard and Quintin Payton had played a little bit last year. They have showed progress. The kids that are intriguing to us right now are Tobais Palmer and Bryan Underwood. They are the guys we redshirted a year ago. They’re doing a little more thinking right now than they are playing. That’s all part of figuring everything out right now. They certainly are talented young guys. Once they get it figured out they’ll be much more in tune with what we have to do to play much faster."

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.

NC State defense sets the tone

October, 28, 2010
10/28/10
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RALEIGH, N.C. -- The hype has gone to Florida State's defense, and deservedly so, but it was NC State's defense that set the tone here in the first quarter and gave the Pack a short field to work with.

The result was a 7-0 lead. Quarterback Russell Wilson looks remarkably calm and composed. He's making use of his tight end, George Bryan, and running back James Washington. NC State's ability to run the ball early has opened some things up in the passing game. It was a nearly flawless opening drive for NC State.

Ryan Williams out for Saturday's game

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
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Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams will miss Saturday's game at NC State with a hamstring injury, according to the team's injury report released on Thursday. The Hokies will obviously need all of the help they can get to match NC State's offense, but if there's one team that can afford to miss a starting running back, it's Virginia Tech. With Darren Evans and David Wilson, the Hokies were able to beat Boston College 19-0. It doesn't matter who is running the ball, though, if they don't get the blocks and into the end zone. Here's the full report, along with NC State's injury report:

VIRGINIA TECH

Out

Kwamaine Battle (knee)
Eric Martin (knee)
Barquell Rivers (quad)
Lorenzo Williams (foot)
Ryan Williams (hamstring)

Probable

Josh Oglesby (ankle)
Eddie Whitley (stinger)

NC STATE

PROBABLE
James Washington, HB - hamstring
Markus Kuhn, DT - knee

QUESTIONABLE - None listed

DOUBTFUL - None listed

OUT
Brandon Barnes, RB - ankle
Jarvis Byrd, CB - knee
Sylvester Crawford, DE - knee
Mikel Overgaard, OT - elbow
*Jesse Riley, DB - knee
*Rashard Smith, DB - knee
* - out for the season

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