NCF Nation: Jason Worilds
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
I took a hit last week, guys. A big hit. I only got 50 percent of my picks right, with Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, South Florida and Boston College all proving me wrong. My season total dropped to 71.7 percent (28 of 39 games). I’m trying to redeem myself this week, and it’s just getting tougher. This week, though, I’m counting on the Seminoles to show up, and I’ve got an upset brewing in Chapel Hill:
Florida State 24, Boston College 21 -- Those within the program seem convinced they’re better than they have played this season, and it’s not a question of talent or speed. It’s a matter of immaturity and costly mistakes. If the Noles have any pride, Bobby Bowden said this week, they’ll be ready for this one.
Clemson 31, Maryland 14 -- Until the Terps stop giving away points and moving backward with penalties, they don’t even give themselves a chance. There’s no question Clemson has more experience and talent on its roster, and these days, even home-field advantage isn’t so great for Maryland.
NC State 28, Wake Forest 24 -- Russell Wilson won’t be the difference in this game. The Pack’s defense will. Both Wilson and Riley Skinner will have their moments and put their team in position to win, but NC State’s defense is the best in the nation right now and it's ready to prove it against a conference opponent.
Virginia Tech 28, Duke 17 -- Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis will keep the Blue Devils in this game, and it will be closer than some will expect early on, but eventually, the Hokies will pull away. Virginia Tech was reminded how close this game was last year, and the Hokies aren’t going to let Duke ruin their chances at the national title.
Georgia Tech 31, Mississippi State 28 -- The Bulldogs are playing well, but it’s not a stretch to say LSU is overrated, and they didn’t beat the Tigers anyway. Georgia Tech’s offense turned the corner against North Carolina and is finally reaching its stride now.
Oklahoma 17, Miami 14 -- It doesn’t matter who is playing quarterback for the Sooners, because their defense will be too good for Jacory Harris and Mark Whipple to overcome. Miami’s offensive line will struggle against the Sooners’ defensive ends, just like it did against Jason Worilds last weekend.
Virginia 14, UNC 13 -- It’s time. The Cavaliers are due, and they’ve had more than a week to prepare. UNC is coming off a tough loss to Georgia Tech and won’t know what to expect from Al Groh and his offensive staff this week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The ACC has released its preseason all-conference team last month, now ESPN.com is releasing ours. Here's the final version with minimal tweaks from the original ballot:
QB Riley Skinner, Wake Forest
RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
WR Jacoby Ford, Clemson
WR LaRon Byrd, Miami
TE Greg Boone, Virginia Tech
OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
OT Jason Fox, Miami
OG Thomas Austin, Clemson
OG Rodney Hudson, Florida State
C Ryan McMahon, Florida State
PK Matt Bosher, Miami
DE Willie Young, NC State
DE Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech
DT Vince Oghobaase, Duke
DT John Russell, Wake Forest
LB Sean Spence, Miami
LB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
LB Dekoda Watson, Florida State
CB Stephan Virgil, Virginia Tech
CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State
S Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech
S Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech
P Travis Baltz, Maryland
SP C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
|Lee Coleman/Icon SMI|
|A healthy Jason Worilds should be a big boost to Virginia Tech's defensive line.|
Virginia Tech had goals last year, and a separated shoulder certainly wasn't going to get in the way of defensive end Jason Worilds. His gritty determination rubbed off on the entire team, but behind closed doors, Worilds was paying the price for each of his 18.5 tackles for loss.
He played the entire season with chronic dislocations in his left shoulder, and it popped out in three different games.
"He's like a brother to me," defensive tackle John Graves said. "We talked about it, and he told me that he was in pain. He's a warrior, though. No matter what anyone would say, he knew he had to do it for his team. He wanted to do it for his team. We just have the most respect for this guy to get hurt in the second game of the season and continue through the whole season with an injured shoulder."
"I just wanted to try to help my team," Worilds said. "We had goals. We came into the season, we wanted to win the ACC, go to the Orange Bowl again and avenge our loss from last year. I put so much into it that when the doctors told me I could still possibly play, I took that opportunity and ran with it."
Was it worth it?
"It was definitely worth it," he said.
Having Worilds back completely healthy when the Hokies are trying to make a run for the national title, though, could mean even more.
Worilds missed the spring because of his offseason shoulder surgery but said he was recently cleared and rehab is going well and his strength is coming back. Having Worilds at 100 percent will give the Hokies one of the ACC's most formidable defensive lines this fall, even with the graduation of defensive end Orion Martin.
"This summer I think we just need to pick up where we left off last year," Worilds said. "I think we left of at a great point as far as playing together, knowing our assignments, playing with great technique and just playing as intently as we have in the past. Going into the summer if we pick up on that and continue to improve, we have a chance to be one of the best d-lines in the country."
Worilds will be joines by Graves and Cordarrow Thompson, who both started every game last year. The Hokies have to find somebody to replace standout defensive end Orion Martin, but Nekos Brown is quietly taking care of that. Brown, the Defensive MVP of spring practices despite missing two workouts a week to attend classes, has been in the rotation at defensive end each of the past two seasons.
"Nekos is in the best shape of his life," said Graves, who worked out at the end spot this spring to help the coaches evaluate some of the younger tackles but starts the fall as the No. 1 nose tackle. "This man, you're talking about a work horse. When we get done with our lift, this man goes out and runs some extra. He's ready for the season. He's excited. That's a great combination right there."
So is the combination of Graves, Thompson and Worilds. Worilds was in on a tackle for loss in 11 straight games and finished with eight sacks even though he didn't play in the Orange Bowl. Even he admitted he was a little surprised - especially considering the pain he was in during most of the season. It kept him from working out and practicing like he wanted to, which is why he said even he has room for improvement this fall.
"Actually I went back and watched film and there were a lot of plays I didn't make," he said. "I was tired, I wasn't focused on that play. I just have to go back and fine-tune my game, really critique the little things and take it one day at a time in trying to get better at those little things."
That's the goal for the entire unit this summer.
"We have the potential to be great, but we have to do the things that are necessary to be great," Graves said. "That comes with working hard and doing the extra things, and I think our guys are doing a great job of it right now."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Regardless of whether it was for injuries, suspensions, academics -- whatever -- not everyone was present and accounted for this spring. There were a few players who were missing who will be desperately needed to make a comeback this fall. Each team had at least one:
Boston College: Linebacker Mike McLaughlin -- He is still very questionable for the fall, but his return from an Achilles injury would be a huge boost to a position that lacks depth. Wide receiver Clarence Megwa broke his leg in the Clemson game last year and missed the rest of the year and spring, but could be a key returnee.
Clemson: Bandit end Ricky Sapp -- He missed the Gator Bowl and sat out the spring getting over a torn ACL he suffered in the first half against Virginia. He will be a prime pass-rusher for the Tigers and is Clemson's best player when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback.
Duke: Defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase -- The Blue Devils' leader on the defensive line missed the spring with an injury, but ranks second among active ACC players in both career tackles for loss (29.0) and quarterback sacks (11.5), trailing only N.C. State's Willie Young (32.0 and 12.5). Oghobaase has started all 36 games over the past three years, compiling 128 tackles.
Florida State: Linebacker Dekoda Watson -- He missed the spring after offseason elbow surgery, but should be one of the Noles' top defenders. He ranked fourth on the team with 46 tackles last year.
Georgia Tech: Center Dan Voss -- He was the starter last year, and if his labrum isn't fully recovered (which it should be), aerospace engineer major Sean Bedford moves to the top of the depth chart. Not that there's anything wrong with a super smart center.
Maryland: DT Dion Armstrong -- The Terps had a host of key players miss the spring, but Armstrong, who was out for academic reasons, is at a position in need of some help. It's unclear, though, if Armstrong's academic situation will extend into the summer. Also at defensive tackle for Maryland is Travis Ivey. The coaches raved about his improved play and leadership during the spring, and the offensive line was having a tough time containing him. But he got a concussion in the fourth week and missed the rest of the spring. He also had a scheduled shoulder surgery at the end of the spring.
Miami: LB Colin McCarthy -- Miami needs depth at linebacker and McCarthy was playing well last season before a shoulder injury caused him to miss the remainder of the season, starting with the FSU game. He had shoulder surgery.
North Carolina: Free safety Deunta Williams -- He had wrist surgery in January and missed the spring, but should be ready for the fall. He started all 13 games in 2008 and ranked fifth on the team with 65 tackles (55 solo).
NC State: Strong safety Javon Walker -- He's actually missed the last TWO springs and last season with a knee injury, but will be cleared by the fall and is being counted on very heavily in the secondary.
Virginia: Right guard B.J. Cabbell -- He missed spring ball due to knee surgery, but started 12 games last year. The junior is expected back in August.
Virginia Tech: DE Jason Worilds -- Worilds missed the spring after shoulder surgery for an injury that kept him out of the Orange Bowl. End is one of the few positions the Hokies have that lacks depth. Worilds started in 12 of 14 games last year and had eight sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. The Hokies will also need the return of guard Sergio Render, who missed the spring following shoulder surgery.
Wake Forest: CB Brandon Ghee -- Ghee suffered a sprained knee on the very first day of spring and missed the remainder of practice. The Deacs will need Ghee healthy this fall as he is the only returning starter in the secondary. Starting nose tackle Boo Robinson has also been bothered by a bad back and didn't play this spring.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the ACC's New Year's Day bowls:
1. The Replacements. Junior Nekos Brown will fill in for defensive end Jason Worilds, redshirt freshman Barquell Rivers replaces linebacker Brett Warren, and Jaymes Brooks, who has played four career snaps, will fill in for starting right guard Nick Marshman, who is academically ineligible.
2. Clemson's secondary vs. Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz. Michael Hamlin and the rest of the Tigers' secondary will be without former assistant coach Vic Koenning for the first time, and how they respond will be important. Ganz is 13th nationally in total offense with 299 yards per game and 14th nationally in passing efficiency, but the Tigers are ninth in the nation in pass efficiency defense by holding opposing quarterbacks to a 100.03 rating.
3. Brian Kelly vs. Frank Beamer. This is a matchup between a veteran and a talented up-and-coming coach. Kelly is 22-5 in his second season at Cincinnati and has the Bearcats in their first BCS game. Beamer is 176-89-2 in his 22nd season at Virginia Tech, but is 0-2 in the Orange Bowl.
4. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He has rushed for 100 yards or more three times this season, and will need his feet to escape a Cincinnati defense that thrives on pressuring quarterbacks.
5. Clemson's record-breakers. Running back James Davis needs just 112 rushing yards on Thursday (his birthday) to become Clemson's all-time leading rusher. He already has 49 career touchdowns, also second in school history and just one short of Travis Zachery's record. Clemson receiver Aaron Kelly needs just 23 receiving yards to become the school's career leader and he already has the ACC career record for touchdowns.
6. Virginia Tech's field position. In close games, field position is critical, and Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber gives the Bearcats the edge. Cincinnati is No. 1 in the country in net punting with 41.51 yards per game. Huber averages 44.89 yards per punt to rank seventh in the nation.
7. Clemson's new and improved offensive line. This had been the root of the Tigers' problems for three quarters of the regular season, but now that they're healthy and have found the right combination, it has freed the top playmakers to make plays. Clemson is 4-0 when it starts an offensive line composed of Thomas Austin and Mason Cloy at guard, Landon Walker and Chris Hairston at tackle, and Bobby Hutchinson at center. That is slated to be Clemson's starting lineup on the of¬fensive line in the Gator Bowl.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Well, here's the last round of bowl predictions for the ACC games. It's winding down, as the ACC will wrap things up on New Year's Day with the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl and the FedEx Orange Bowl. Here's the forecast:
GATOR: Clemson 31, Nebraska 28. With the coaching drama finally behind them, the Tigers can concentrate on football, and are out to prove they deserve their spot in this bowl game. Clemson leads the ACC in passing offense and scoring defense.
ORANGE: Cincinnati 17, Virginia Tech 14. The Hokies will struggle without starters Nick Marshman, Jason Worilds and Brett Warren, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor will face a Cincinnati defense that leads the Big East with 2.85 sacks per game.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Virginia Tech must be doing something right. The Hokies are one of just three programs (Florida and Florida State are the others) who will be participating in a bowl game this year for the 16th straight season.
But when it comes to bowl results, Frank Beamer figured that Virginia Tech must be doing something wrong. The Hokies have lost their last two postseason games despite being favored over Kansas in the 2008 FedEx Orange Bowl and Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl two years ago. They've dropped four of their last five bowl contests and their last four BCS appearances.
"We've been to, I guess, 16 straight, and we've really kind of had the same procedure for a long, long time, and we've won some bowl games," Beamer said at Wednesday's coaches' news conference. "But in the last couple years we didn't win. So, after the game last year, we went back as a football staff and said, 'If we can get back to a bowl game, what do we need to do differently?'"
The Hokies (9-4) have changed things up in Miami this week. The players have had a midnight curfew every night, whereas in the past they've been allowed to stay out later in the days leading up to the game. For the first time during a bowl week, Beamer is moving his team out of the designated team hotel the night before the game. Virginia Tech left its cushy digs at the Westin Diplomat and headed away to a quieter, undisclosed location Wednesday night for more of a regular game feel.
Beamer said the team did more full-speed drill work and scrimmages in Blacksburg before coming to Miami, unlike in the past when he gave the upperclassmen some time off.
In the end, Beamer said, winning bowl games often comes down to the team being in the right mindset. Last year's squad may have relaxed a bit after beating Boston College in the ACC title game to get here, he said. This year, he senses more of a focus on beating Cincinnati.
"Hopefully our minds are right, and I do believe this is an important ballgame to this football team," he said.
Virginia Tech will have some challenges to overcome in this game. Two defensive starters -- end Jason Worilds, the team's sacks leader, and linebacker Brett Warren, the Hokies' second-leading tackler -- are out with injuries. Freshman Barquell Rivers will replace Worilds, while junior Nekos Browns will step in for Warren.
Of even bigger concern is the loss of starting offensive guard Nick Marshman to academics. Freshman Jaymes Brooks, who has played only four snaps all season, will take his place against an athletic and aggressive Cincinnati defensive front.
"He's done OK," Beamer said when asked how Brooks has practiced. "He's going to be a good, good player. He's very athletic, with good size, good pop. He just hasn't played very much."
This may or may not be the year the Hokies get back on the bowl winning track. But Beamer said that shouldn't take away from the accomplishment of reaching this stage yet again. He said he was thinking about that while watching past Orange Bowl highlights at Tuesday's luncheon for the teams. This is a young Virginia Tech squad that was 6-4 at one point this season and didn't expect to get here.
"When it's all said and done, it's important to this football program, to our players, to our coaches, to our fans that you're successful in that last ballgame, and it's not every day you get a chance to be successful in an Orange Bowl," Beamer said. "Sometimes I think we take these bowl games a little bit for granted, but I'll tell you, going through this year and not being sure that you could win enough to get to a bowl game, I don't think we ever need to take these things for granted. "
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster was impossible to miss.
Following a key sack last Saturday that helped Virginia Tech beat rival Virginia and advance to the ACC championship game, Foster sprinted down the sideline, almost knocking over wide-eyed running backs coach Billy Hite along the way.
"That's definitely coach Foster," defensive end Jason Worilds said. "He wears his emotions on his sleeves and he's not going to hide how he feels. And what you saw was exactly how he felt."
Foster's defense reflects his passion, and Saturday's ACC championship game will reflect the strength of the entire league this season -- defense. Both Virginia Tech and Boston College boast two of the nation's top 10 defenses, while their offenses rank no better than 94th out of 119 FBS teams.
They will meet for the second straight season in the title game in large part because of their defenses' big-play capabilities. In a game that features two teams with relatively anonymous offensive playmakers, two names that have gotten a lot of attention this season are the defensive coordinators.
Foster and Boston College defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani are two of the best in the ACC, and both have had to overcome obstacles to get to Tampa. The Eagles lost starting defensive end Alex Albright and linebacker Brian Toal to season-ending injuries, and the Hokies had to replace seven starters on defense. Yet both of their units have been relied upon to win games for them this season and will be again on Saturday.
"Defensively, they haven't changed much over the years," said Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski. "They're very solid. I mentioned this when we played them the last time, that Bud Foster is one of the best defensive coordinators in the country. His defenses are always in the top 10, regardless of who he's got playing. He does a great job with their scheme."
This is the fourth time in two seasons these teams have met. Virginia Tech beat the Matt Ryan-led Eagles 30-16 to win the ACC title. Spaziani said it's at the point where they're too familiar with the Hokies. They've got too much game film to study.
"I'd rather just play them once," Spaziani said. "When we play them once a year and we're fortunate enough to beat them, we're happy. Playing them twice is like double jeapordy."
Especially since the Eagles have already won once. Boston College won this year's regular-season game 28-23 on Oct. 18.
"We know what to expect," said Boston College receiver Brandon Robinson, who caught four passes for 97 yards in that game. "They're going to play a lot of man, a lot of switch, and their defense thrives on turnovers. That's one thing we've got to keep to a minimum."
That's one thing they didn't do in October. The Eagles were able to overcome five turnovers, four of which came from former starting quarterback Chris Crane. Backup quarterback Dominique Davis will start his second game of his career on Saturday in place of Crane, who broke his collarbone against Wake Forest.
"He's going to come to play," said Worilds. "He's a big-time athlete. For him to come in there and start after Chris Crane went down and lead his team to a W is very impressive."
Offensively, Virginia Tech has been dependent upon the running game this season because of so many inexperienced wide receivers. The Hokies are expecting a long day against a rushing defense that has held each of its past five opponents to under 100 yards rushing. That's attributed in large part -- literally -- to BC's two 300-plus pound tackles, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace.
"They are hard to move out of there," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "You just better plan to work all day against those guys, because it's not easy."
Boston College has won both regular-season games against the Hokies, but is still searching for the program's first outright league championship.
"There's huge motivation," said safety Paul Anderson. "We definitely don't want t lose to them again, especially in a game like this. We want that ring this year."