NCF Nation: Javarris James

Five newcomers to watch

February, 8, 2010
It would be easy -- and accurate -- to name five ESPNU 150 players Florida State just signed as the newcomers to watch in the ACC this year, but let’s spread the wealth a little bit. There will be plenty of opportunities and position battles throughout the conference worth watching this spring and summer, but here are five players who should have a chance to make an immediate contribution:

FSU freshman linebacker Jeff Luc: The Seminoles need an upgrade on defense, and they didn’t bring an influx of talent in to sit and watch. Luc is a five-star player and the No. 1 overall rated inside linebacker by’s Scouts Inc. He’s the No. 11 overall player in the ESPNU 150 class. Anyone who is that good should be tough to keep off the field.

Wake Forest redshirt freshman quarterback Brendan Cross: The competition is open to replace Riley Skinner, and Cross should be considered a front-runner heading into spring ball. Cross finished his career at Chattahoochee High School in Georgia with 3,540 passing yards and 36 touchdown passes.

NC State freshman offensive tackle Robert Crisp: The Wolfpack are looking for some help up front, and Crisp will be given a chance to give some. He is a four-star, 300-pound tackle whose size will help him work his way in early. NC State lost three starters up front.

Miami redshirt freshman running back Lamar Miller: He didn’t play last year because of the talent in front of him, but with Javarris James graduated and Graig Cooper recovering from a knee injury, the chances are good that Miller will work his way into the rotation. He was a member of the ESPNU 150 and was ranked the No. 12 running back in his class by

Boston College freshman quarterback Chase Rettig: The fact that he’s already on campus and will go through spring drills means that Dave Shinskie will have some competition. The California native is a four-star player and the No. 10 quarterback in his class, according to’s Scouts Inc.

Recruiting rewind: Miami

February, 4, 2010
There wasn’t quite the buzz around the Hurricanes’ No. 13 class that there has been in recent years -- unless, of course, you’re talking to coach Randy Shannon. Miami finally has some staff stability, save for the departure of former defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt. It's finally reached the point where the numbers and depth have improved, making it easier to target a wider variety of positions.

“I think most of the players you see across the country, they’re starting to see what Miami is about,” Shannon said. “Instead of this coach or that coach they’re going for the program. That’s the one thing I see from the young men that’s part of this university. They see the program. They see where we’ve been and where we’re going. They see the improvement every year, the family-type atmosphere with the players. Coming on a visit is not just lip service. They see the opportunity and that every year I’ve been here freshmen in some form or fashion play.”

What they don’t have? A lot of ESPNU 150 players. The Canes added three -- the fewest they've seen under Shannon -- and missed out on several top uncommitted players who went elsewhere on signing day. But that doesn’t mean this class isn’t loaded with future talent and speed, and most importantly, the Canes met several position needs.

“Our needs are getting our numbers right,” Shannon said. “On the offensive line, we had a depth situation that was going to be tough, and now we have a couple of guys on the team who in the long term can help us establish where we need to be instead of a quick fix. The more depth you have on your football team, the better your football team will be.

“It’s not like in my second year, where you have to go out and get eight receivers,” Shannon said. “Now we’re almost at the point where we can say we need two at this position, two at that position instead of trying to recruit 25 and 30 guys. Now it’s about 15 and you know your program is going in the right direction.”

That approach has made it easier not only to recruit, but to make it through an entire season. The staff went aggressively after tight ends and linebackers. It also added depth to the running back position where Javarris James graduated, Graig Cooper is coming off a knee injury and Damien Berry will be a senior. Four-star running backs Storm Johnson and Eduardo Clements should help there. As for who might see playing time first?

“Your best shot is to look at the seven guys who came in in January,” Shannon said. “They always play for some reason.”

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

You know the drill. Keep an eye on …

1. Interceptions in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor showed significant progress in the passing game last weekend against Duke, and didn't throw any interceptions in the process, but the Eagles have picked off five passes this year. Both teams have a knack for interceptions. Virginia Tech, in fact, has registered more interceptions (182) since the start of the 2000 season than any program in the country. Oklahoma (174) is second, and BC (173) is third during that time span.

2. Miami running back Javarris James moving up the charts. He’s coming off a career-best 150 yards rushing against Oklahoma and needs just 13 yards to pass Frank Gore for seventh place all-time on Miami’s rushing list and 37 more yards to become just the seventh player in school history to amass 2,000 career rushing yards. With 19 more carries, James (456 career attempts) will pass his cousin Edgerrin (474) to move into sole possession of third place on the school’s all-time rushing attempts list.

3. Maryland’s offensive line. It will make a significant difference if left tackle Bruce Campbell is able to play against Wake Forest’s sturdy defensive line after injuring his MCL against Clemson last week. Campbell has missed practice time this week, but hasn’t been declared “out” for this game. Paul Pinegar has been taking the reps at left tackle, though.

4. Upset alerts. It’s an odd weekend in the ACC, where even the most heavily favored teams -- like, say, No. 5-ranked Virginia Tech -- could lose and it wouldn’t exactly be a shock. So far the home teams have had the advantages, and that works in Florida State’s favor against No. 22 Georgia Tech. Can NC State hold off a feisty Duke team, though, that just played four quarters of competitive football against the Hokies?

5. Another record-setting weekend for Skinner. Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner needs just 81 passing yards to become the school's all-time leader. Skinner has thrown for 1,004 yards over his past three games and has thrown at least one touchdown pass in six straight games, dating back to last season.

6. Virginia’s passing defense against Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell. He threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns against Ohio State last weekend, and the Hoosiers are averaging 233.2 passing yards per game. The Cavaliers pass defense, though, is No. 8 in the country, holding opponents to 156.5 yards per game.

7. Running quarterbacks who are starting to throw. Tyrod Taylor earned his first-ever 300-yard passing game last weekend at Duke, the first time a Hokie quarterback has met that mark since Sean Glennon in 2006. Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt is coming off a career-high 266 passing yards against Mississippi State. Was it just a passing fancy, or can they keep it up?

8. NC State’s new secondary lineup. Tom O’Brien said this week he’s swapping potential for experience at both safety positions, as senior Clem Johnson will replace freshman Brandan Bishop, and senior Bobby Floyd will take over for redshirt freshman Earl Wolff. That’s a smart move against accomplished Duke passer Thaddeus Lewis.

9. Carolina’s quarterback of the future. UNC coach Butch Davis told the Raleigh News & Observer he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of playing true freshman Bryn Renner, who was expected to redshirt this season. Renner hasn’t taken a snap yet, but if he’s going to burn his redshirt, Georgia Southern would probably be a good time to do it.

10. Florida State’s will to win. If the Seminoles are going to turn this season around, now is the time. A win at home would stop a two-game losing skid and give them some positive momentum heading into the bye week. Georgia Tech will require their full attention and focus, though, and that’s something that might have been tough to gather amidst the controversy surrounding the program this week.

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

There’s no shortage of confidence from Miami running back Javarris James.

“I go in every game thinking it’s going to be a big one,” he said.
 Gary Rothstein/Icon SMI
 Javarris James set the tone for the Canes in their win over Oklahoma on Saturday.

In 2007, though, when Miami lost to Oklahoma, 51-13, nobody really had a good game for the Canes, including James, who had a momentum-changing fumble that Reggie Smith returned 61 yards for a touchdown. It was the third-longest fumble return in Sooners’ history.

On Saturday, in Miami’s 21-20 win over Oklahoma, James redeemed himself. His career-high 150 rushing yards were the most a Miami player ever racked up against Oklahoma, and the running game was key in the Canes’ upset of the No. 8-ranked Sooners.

“I come into this game, I knew it was going to be a big game for myself to show people what I’ve got,” James said. “I still feel like I’ve got it.”

After an unimpressive 2007 season and an injury in 2008, James proved on Saturday against one of the top programs in the country that he does indeed still have “it.” His 50-yard carry in the second quarter set up a touchdown by tight end Jimmy Graham and was James’ longest run since a 62-yard run against North Carolina in 2006. That year, James was a standout freshman who caught the nation’s attention as Miami’s leading rusher, but he’s only had five 100-yard games in his career -- including Saturday’s.

“Oh, man, Javarris gave us a big lift [Saturday],” quarterback Jacory Harris said. “We knew that we’d need to have that running game. When he came through and made some late runs during some clutch situations, it really showed us that we could feed off him.”

James missed four games last year with a high-ankle sprain, and Graig Cooper stole the show. Even with their combined talents, though, Miami’s running game has been one of its problems as the program has been under reconstruction. Last year, the Canes averaged just 129.2 rushing yards per game. They haven’t finished better than 65th in the country in rushing offense in the past five seasons. And in their loss to Virginia Tech this year, the Canes were held to just 59 yards rushing.

Behind a much improved effort from the offensive line against Oklahoma, the door was open.

“Our success as an offense starts with the run,” said Miami coach Randy Shannon. “Coming in after halftime, I knew what we had to do to get going was to get the running game going. If we get good runs, it will open up the pass game, it will get the safeties coming up and we can get big plays. That’s our offense -- we make you stop the run. If you can’t stop the run, then we are going to just keep pounding and pounding.”

That’s exactly what James did. He said the offensive line “blocked their tails off,” and he still thinks he should’ve scored on that 50-yard run.

“That’s the only way we were going to win that game, keep getting first downs, keep running the ball. The offensive line, they did an excellent job. Everybody was talking about Oklahoma’s D-line, and they’ve got some great players, but I feel like our offensive line, they were ready for the challenge and they put up a big fight. They learned from their mistakes last week. They made it real easy for me and Coop and Mike [James].”

And they made it look easy.

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

MIAMI -- There were some outside the program who thought Miami might start the season 0-4. Considering the unforgiving schedule which many had memorized since it was released in February -- at Florida State, against Georgia Tech, at Virginia Tech and home against Oklahoma -- it wasn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

It was, however, out of the question for Miami.
  AP Photo/Ben Margot
  Miami running back Javarris James came up big for the Hurricanes against Oklahoma.
In fact, instead of celebrating their 21-20 win over No. 8 Oklahoma on Saturday night, the Canes were kicking themselves for not being 4-0.

“We’re pleased,” said Miami quarterback Jacory Harris, “but at the same time we wish we could have that one back.”

“That one” being last weekend’s loss to Virginia Tech, but even with that one blemish on their record, the Hurricanes have started the season a surprising 3-1, with wins over three ranked opponents including last year’s runner up for the national title. It was the kind of win that should push Miami back into the top 10 and separate the Canes from the rest of an average league. Saturday’s win over the Sooners was the biggest win under coach Randy Shannon, though the most emotion he would show in his postgame press conference was a smile and a few laughs.

For the usually stoic Shannon, though, that brief hint of happiness was the equivalent of a pep rally and parade all rolled into one.

Miami got what it needed from everyone tonight. Javarris James had 15 carries for a career-high 150 yards -- the most rushing yards ever by a Hurricane against the Sooners. Harris completed passes to a season-high 11 different players. The tight ends, running backs and receivers were all involved. The offensive line paved the way and played better than it did last week against Virginia Tech, this time against a better defense. Miami’s defense recorded a season-high three sacks, and linebacker Sean Spence had a game and career-high 10 tackles.

“It shows the type of talent, the type of coaching staff and what this program is all about,” said offensive tackle Jason Fox. “You don’t want to look backwards, but man we wish we could have that V-Tech game back. As you all saw tonight, that wasn’t us up there. When we want to play, we can play. Now we’ve got the first four games over with, now we just have to take it one game at a time.”

Based on the postgame conversation in the locker room, Miami fans shouldn’t have to worry about the Canes’ egos swelling the size of Land Shark Stadium.

Miami is changing the channel on the Hurricanes’ hype.

As Shannon walked out of the locker room last night, the last thing he heard was Harris telling the team the only thing they’re allowed to watch is SpongeBob.

Miami recently had new TVs installed in its locker room, and the majority of the time, ESPN is on. No more. Shannon said Harris declared only SpongeBob will tell the Canes how good they are.

“Sometimes (it’s) too much,” Harris said. “You don’t want to walk into the locker room and hear ‘Oh, the swagger is back at the University of Miami.’ You’re gonna stop and watch it. So now we’re just going to change the channel, watch 48 hours, some SpongeBob, things of that nature.”

If Miami stays grounded and consistent, their toughest games will remain behind them. There are no opponents remaining on the schedule the caliber of Oklahoma or Virginia Tech (which almost lost to Duke on Saturday). Though the strength of schedule makes it feel like Miami already played a full season, Shannon said it’s too early to declare “Miami is back.”

“We are going in the direction we need to be headed,” said Shannon, who is in his third season. “Our athletic department and trainers give us the full support on where we need to be, but we are not where we want to be. You know, this is not the 13th or 14th game of the season, so that’s why you can’t say Miami is back. After the 14th game of the season, then you make the decision on where we are and where we need to be.”

A 3-1 start shows the Canes are the closest they’ve been in a long time.

“We’re not done,” Spence said. “We’re far from done.”

Posted by's Tim Griffin

Here are 10 things to watch for in Big 12 games this weekend:

1. Will Sam Bradford play or not? Oklahoma didn’t look like it needed Bradford in back-to-back victories over Idaho State and Tulsa. A trip to Land Shark Stadium Saturday night against Miami might be different. The Sooners offense hummed when Landry Jones threw for a school-record six touchdown passes against Tulsa. It might be in for a more challenging game against Miami, which will be looking to bounce back after the its struggles last week at Virginia Tech.

2. Oklahoma’s defensive dominance: The Sooners enter the game with a scoreless streak of 123 minutes, 3 seconds after posting back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1987. The unit is still haunted by the late touchdown it allowed in the opener against BYU that ended up being the difference in that loss. Since then, the Sooners have forced nearly as many punts (19) as first downs allowed (22), and allowed opponents a scant 2.39 yards per snap. Miami, however, will be a different challenge with Jacory Harris, Graig Cooper, Javarris James and Leonard Hankerson all ready.

3. Texas A&M’s first big test: The Aggies have emerged as one of the nation’s biggest statistical surprises as they rank among the top seven teams nationally in rushing, passing, total yards and scoring and lead the nation in sacks. Those feats have all been accomplished against a tissue-soft schedule that hasn’t provided a true test yet. That will all change Saturday night at Cowboys Stadium as Arkansas and massive quarterback Ryan Mallett will challenge A&M in ways it hasn't seen yet this season.

4. Jerrod Johnson: The Aggies’ junior quarterback has shown vast growth since last season as he ranks third in the nation in total offense and is coming off a record game where he accounted for six touchdowns against UAB. Johnson has rushed for four touchdowns, passed for nine touchdowns and yet to be intercepted in 111 attempts this season. Arkansas will be his first BCS conference opponent of the season, but the Razorbacks have struggled against the pass. It could be more of the same for them against Johnson, too.

5. Alexander Robinson’s amazing recent rushing streak: Robinson’s cutback running has been a key to Iowa State’s 3-1 start as he’s rushed for 100 yards in his last three games -- the first Iowa State player to accomplish that feat since Ennis Haywood rushed for at least 100 yards in his first four games of the 2000 season. Robinson has provided some nice balance to what was expected to be a pass-heavy attack. His production will be pivotal as the Cyclones attempt to take a big step toward getting closer to bowl eligibility against Kansas State on Saturday.

6. Paul Rhoads vs. Bill Snyder: The conference’s two new coaches this season have a wide difference in coaching game experience as Kansas State’s Bill Snyder will be directing the Wildcats in his 209th career game and Paul Rhoads will be coaching Iowa State in his fourth. There’s some history between these two as Snyder used to recruit the high schools where Rhoads’ father, Cecil, worked during Rhoads' Hall of Fame career as a high school coach in Iowa. It will be interesting to see if Snyder’s experience provides him an edge in this matchup.

7. “The Dysfunctional Bowl:” Which coach has faced more off-the-field headlines this weekend? Is it Mike Leach’s Texas Tech team that dropped a disappointing loss at Houston, soon followed by the indefinite suspension of team captain Brandon Carter and Leach's banning of his team’s tweeting privileges after several uncomplimentary remarks became widely known. Or is it New Mexico’s Mike Locksley, who has received verbal and written reprimands from his superiors at New Mexico after splitting the upper lip of receivers coach J.B. Gerald after an altercation where a police report was filed. And that’s on top of an 0-4 start for the Lobos. It’s obvious that playing the game will be a relief for both coaches.

8. Texas Tech’s emerging running game: The Red Raiders appeared to have taken control of the game against Houston behind a bruising running game, keyed by a career night by Baron Batch, who rushed for a career-best 114 yards last week. Tech inexplicably got away from running the ball late in the Houston game and that switch might have cost them the game after the Red Raiders appeared to have dictated tempo during the middle of the game. They will have another chance Saturday against New Mexico, which ranks 111th in rushing defense and allowed 245 rushing yards to Texas A&M and 298 to Air Force earlier this season. The Red Raiders won’t run for that much, but they should be able to control the trenches against the Lobos, leading to a big game rushing if they want it.

9. Can Colorado build on its first 2009 victory? The Buffaloes are coming off a bye week after their triumph over Wyoming that turned some of Dan Hawkins’ self-described “conflama” that had dogged his program after two losses to start the season. His team will be facing a tough Thursday night challenge against West Virginia, which blew a fourth-quarter lead in the turnover-marred loss at Auburn. Colorado is a huge underdog in this game and will need a big effort to keep the game from getting away like earlier nationally televised losses to Colorado State and Toledo.

10. Baylor’s injury-plagued quarterbacks: Robert Griffin sustained a season-ending knee injury last week against Northwestern State. His backup, Blake Szymanski, bruised his shoulder later in the game and is listed as day to day. Szymanski will try to keep Baylor’s momentum going against Kent State, if he’s healthy. But if he can’t play, freshman Nick Florence will make the first start of his career against the Golden Flashes. Baylor’s bowl hopes -- so bright after their upset victory over Wake Forest to start the season -- have never looked more evanescent since Griffin’s injury.

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

Virginia Tech will be facing its second ranked opponent in as many weeks on Saturday, and defensive coordinator Bud Foster said Miami’s offense has more overall speed than Alabama and Nebraska.
Lee Coleman/Icon SMI
Bud Foster's defense has finished nationally in the top seven in total defense each of the last five years.

That much he knows.

What Foster doesn’t necessarily know is what to expect on Saturday from offensive coordinator Mark Whipple’s playbook.

“That’s the hard part right now,” said Foster. “We’ve seen just two games, and he’s been out of the college game now for going on probably four years. It’s hard. You might go back and try to track down some old Massachusetts film, but all we can go on is what we’ve seen the first two games. There’s a consistency there in the first two games. I don’t foresee him to come out and change his whole offense for our game. That sends a different message to your kids.

“But I can see them continuing to build on their playbook they have already at Miami. We’re going to see another wrinkle added to a running play or in the passing game. That’s something we have to be prepared for. Obviously we haven’t seen his whole playbook, but hopefully we’ve built enough foundation ourselves that we can adjust and adapt to things they may throw at us.”

Miami currently leads the ACC in pass efficiency, passing offense and total offense. In wins against two ranked ACC opponents -- Florida State and Georgia Tech -- Miami quarterback Jacory Harris has worked his way into the Heisman conversations. It’s a high-flying offense that will challenge a Virginia Tech defense that ranks 77th in the nation in total defense and is tied for 107th in rushing defense. Those aren’t the numbers the Hokies are used to, as Virginia Tech has finished nationally in the top seven in total defense in each of the last five years. What Virginia Tech’s defense is used to, though, is winning football games even when the offense comes up short.

“On defense here we’re expected to play at a high level every time, no matter what happens on offense or special teams,” linebacker Jake Johnson said. “We have to hold up our end of the deal every play, 100 percent, every down. We’re expected to play like that every single snap, every single game.”

The difference this year is that they’ve been giving up too many big plays -- distances like 31, 39, 61, 60 and 48 yards. Nebraska’s Roy Helu Jr. became the third running back this season to rush for over 100 yards on the Hokies. Virginia Tech hasn’t allowed that to happen since 2002. There’s a good possibility it can happen again this weekend, as Miami running back Graig Cooper is averaging 62 yards per game, and he’s got plenty of help from Javarris James. They’re just a fraction, though, of the Canes’ options.

“They’ve created a lot of big plays against people in these first couple of ball games, and that’s kind of been our nemesis here, and luckily we’ve won a couple of them,” Foster said. “That’s one thing that really concerns me going into this game, is because of their speed, because of their ability to protect and what they do, they can create big plays.”

Last week the Hokies were plagued by missed tackles and missed assignments -- things they review as a defense every Monday morning. Johnson said the key to defending the Canes is to limit those errors.

“We have so much potential right now to be a great defense,” Johnson said. “… As long as we bring our A-game and don’t have any mental errors or things like that, we’ll be fine.”

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

When Miami coach Randy Shannon took over the program three seasons ago, there were only about three or four scholarship receivers on the roster -- far below the usual eight to 10 most schools carry. So this offseason, when receivers coach Aubrey Hill faced the popular question, ‘You’ve got so many receivers, wouldn’t you rather just have one guy?’ his response was logical:

“I said, ‘If you’re at Christmas, would you rather have one toy, or as many toys as you can?”
 AP Photo/J. Pat Carter, File
 Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple has plenty of options.

Now, after building depth with recruiting classes that included some of the elite talent in the country, and players who could contribute immediately, the Hurricanes’ toy box overfloweth.

Twelve different players have caught at least one pass for the No. 9-ranked Hurricanes heading into Saturday’s showdown at No. 11 Virginia Tech. And six of them have at least five catches. Seven different players have scored touchdowns in wins over two ranked ACC opponents. Three different receivers have run a reverse. Miami returns nine of its top 10 leaders in all-purpose yards from 2008. Running backs Graig Cooper and Javarris James have helped the Canes to a 7-2 record when they combine for at least 25 carries. And, of course, they’ve finally got a quarterback to lead them all in Jacory Harris.

“This Miami team we’re getting ready to play,” said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, “Wow.”

Receivers Travis Benjamin, Thearon Collier, Davon Johnson and Kendal Thompkins bring straight speed, quickness, elusiveness and big-play capabilities. Leonard Hankerson and Aldarius Johnson are talented possession players with great hands who move the chains. LaRon Byrd and Tommy Streeter can stretch the field deep with their speed and height. Cooper is elusive, while James is the power back, and Lee Chambers and Mike James provide dependable depth at the position. Tight ends Jimmy Graham and Dedrick Epps have both given the offense a boost, while the offensive line makes it all possible.

 Steve Mitchell/US Presswire
 Graig Cooper has averaged 5.2 yards per carry so far.
“The opposing team can’t just focus on one player,” said Byrd. “You look at a lot of teams in the country, like Oklahoma State. They have Dez Bryant, so you have the defense lock on Dez Bryant and the offense is going to have a tough time. You look at Alabama, Julio Jones. They lock down on him and Alabama is going to have a tough time. You look at us, we have so many weapons you can’t just lock on one player. If you double up on Travis Benjamin, then Aldarius Johnson is going to have a big game. If you double up on him, then Hankerson is going to have a big game, and so forth and so forth.”

Miami’s versatility is not only in its athletes, but also in its playbook. The addition of offensive coordinator Mark Whipple, coupled with the wide array of abilities, size and speed on the roster, has made Miami’s offense the total package and extremely difficult to defend.

“He’s just so creative, bringing so many different offenses and making it Miami’s offense,” Hill said. “He’s been one of the most creative offensive coordinators I’ve been around and knowing how to set-up plays, run and pass. That’s been really good for the whole coaching staff and also the players because they’re really, really excited to come into the meeting room to see what the mad scientist is creating next.”

In fact, some of the Canes have gotten into it so much some have tried to write their own plays on the board.

“Some have had consideration,” Hill said with a chuckle, “and some haven’t.”

Almost all of the players, though, have had their moments in the spotlight.

“We spread the wealth around to each guy,” Shannon said. “They know that they have to run their routes and everything full speed because they don’t ever know when Jacory is going to throw the football to them. That’s the difference in this team.

“The best thing about it is the competition in practice. You don’t have to worry about a guy getting too extreme as far as thinking he’s the guy who makes the offense run, or he’s the guy who makes the defense run. We’ve got depth at those positions to say, ‘You know what? You don’t want to work hard? OK, fine. We love you, and you’re part of this program, but we’re going to go with somebody else.’ That’s a big help.”

And it’s a nightmare for opposing defenses -- even ones as renowned as Virginia Tech's.

“I’ve got a lot of respect for them,” said Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster. “They’re just right now, really a complete football team.”

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 11, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Tournament? What tournament? It's always college football season here ... 

  • Here are five questions facing the ACC, beginning with, does the ACC have an elite team?
  • If Florida State coach Bobby Bowden has to vacate more than a dozen wins, the odds of him catching Penn State coach Joe Paterno are slim to none. So, should he stay? Or should he go?
  • With all of the drama going on at FSU off the field, don't forget they've got some work to do on it this spring, especially in the secondary.
  • From 5:30 a.m. until about 10 p.m., there is no rest for Clemson's two-sport star, Kyle Parker.
  • The "P-word" appears to be scaring off at least one Florida State recruit from the state of Georgia.
  • Miami running back Javarris James thought he'd only be in Coral Gables for three seasons, but injuries prevented him from making the jump to the NFL that quickly. He's hoping this season is his best.

Dec. 27, 8 p.m., (ESPN)

Miami take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: Miami is back in the postseason after missing it last year, a small but important step in getting the program back to where it needs to be. The Hurricanes have depended on young playmakers all season, and the defense has struggled in the Canes' past two losses against Georgia Tech and NC State. They'll have to improve their running defense to stop talented sophomore Jahvid Best, who has 1,394 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns this season.

Maryland was able to hold Best to just 25 yards on Sept. 13 in a 35-27 win, but this time, Cal won't have to travel across the country. Miami has the No. 2 scoring offense in the ACC, but has been inconsistent behind the play of quarterbacks Robert Marve and Jacory Harris. The young receivers have also had a few drops this season. Miami has 19 interceptions and 20 touchdowns, and will face the Pac-10's leader in interceptions (21) and the No. 2 scoring defense. The Canes have been at their best when Graig Cooper and Javarris James get the ground game going. Cal finished its seasons with back-to-back wins, while the Hurricanes lost their final two. The Canes lead the series 2-1.

Cal take by Pac-10 blogger Ted Miller: Miami, one of the nation's youngest -- and most talented teams -- appeared to hit a wall in losing its final two games, giving up an eye-popping 691 yards rushing in losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina State.

That likely will catch Cal coach Jeff Tedford's and running back Jahvid Best's eyes. But Miami's youth also includes speed and ability, and true freshmen defensive linemen Marcus Robinson, an end, and Marcus Forston, a tackle, look like budding stars who will give the Bears' injury-riddled offensive line trouble.

The Hurricanes used two quarterbacks, Robert Marve and Jacory Harris, and both have been inconsistent this season. With youth comes turnovers, and Miami ranks 101st in the nation in turnover margin, while Cal is seventh. A lot of that is due to a huge disparity in interceptions. Miami ranks last in the nation with just four picks. The Bears are third with 23.

Moreover, it may be a challenge for a young team to travel 3,000 miles away from its comfort-zone, seeing that Miami and the Bay Area couldn't be more different. On the other hand, Cal's players already expressed disappointment they were stuck staying at home instead of traveling for a bowl game -- they finished fourth in the Pac-10 and should be playing in the Las Vegas Bowl but a business deal was made to benefit the Emerald Bowl -- so maybe it will be the Bears who show up flat.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The last time I was here, Virginia Tech was here. And the last time Virginia Tech was here, it lost.

(Pure coincidence, promise.)

No doubt the Hokies are going to do everything they can to avoid the same outcome, and their odds got marginally better with the news that left tackle Jason Fox is definitely out. His backup, Reggie Youngblood, is a player coach Randy Shannon once thought would miss the rest of the season with various injuries.

But ... it's senior night. Miami can't afford to lose. And there is an excitement buzzing around this stadium that indicates Miami is finally in a game that means something. Oh, it's a high-stakes game for the Hokies, too, but the ACC title has fit them like an old comfy sweatshirt since they joined the league.

Miami is still shopping for that title.

Here are three things the Canes need to do tonight to get one step closer to Tampa:

Stop the Hokies' running game. If you make Virginia Tech one-dimensional, you win.

Get "Coop and JJ" at least 25 combined carries (and then block for them). During their careers at Miami, when Javarris James and Graig Cooper combine for at least 25 carries in a game, the Canes are 6-2. When they don't, Miami is 2-6. That has only happened once this season -- at Virginia.

Protect the quarterbacks. Robert Marve can't get rattled in this one. Miami can't afford to turn the ball over against this talented, much-improved defense. If they do, they turn over their chances at the title, too.

The scout count tonight is 10, and there are bowl reps here from the Gator Bowl, Chick-fil-A Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl.

ACC internal affairs

October, 15, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

GEORGIA TECH: Both quarterbacks Jaybo Shaw and Josh Nesbitt have been cleared to play on Saturday against Clemson, and the Yellow Jackets are eager to gain some respect back after their all-too-interesting 10-7 win over Gardner-Webb last weekend. In order to do that, they'll need a better performance from the offensive line, which coach Paul Johnson said "took a bigger hit than they deserved" last week. "They weren't very good but neither was anybody else, so it wasn't like it was all them," he said. Johnson said that aside from the freshmen, there are only about three upperclassmen who were actually recruited to play on the offensive line.

VIRGINIA TECH: Coach Frank Beamer said he is preparing for the Boston College quarterback he saw on film against NC State, not the Chris Crane who threw the ball just four times against Rhode Island. "He made some great throws in that NC State game," Beamer said, "some throws down the field, right on the money, hit guys in dead stride, had zip on the ball. ... When he runs the option he's not going to be a blazer, but he kind of falls forward. You wouldn't think a big guy like that would. He presents some problems for you." Still, the Hokies' staff won't forget about backup Dominique Davis, who has also seen significant playing time.

MARYLAND: Coach Ralph Friedgen called the 31-0 loss to Virginia "one of the toughest losses" he ever experienced. He said there was a players-only meeting during the bye week and he was pleased with the two practices they had during that time. "What impressed me in our practices was not that we did everything right, that I saw a sincere desire to try to do things right." Now he's wondering if the Terps can sustain that desire on Saturday against Wake Forest. Friedgen also told reporters at his weekly news conference that sophomore left tackle Bruce Campbell will see more playing time.

MIAMI: Running back Javarris James is expected to play on Saturday at Duke after missing four games with a left ankle sprain. The addition of James and offensive lineman Reggie Youngblood could help the Hurricanes' struggling offense. "It really hurt us tremendously in that aspect because of the one-two punch that you have with Javarris and [Graig] Cooper," coach Randy Shannon said. "We can't ask Cooper to go in the game and play 20, 30 snaps and carry the football another 15 to 20 snaps and take another running routes. He's not there yet, he's a sophomore." Cooper has gained about 10 pounds since last season, but the staff noticed he wore down at the end of last season and they don't want it to happen again. The Hurricanes' ground game took another hit against UCF last week when Lee Chambers got "turf toe."

WAKE FOREST: Coach Jim Grobe told reporters on Tuesday he's not interested in the Clemson job, saying, "I'm a Wake Forest guy." Grobe said Clemson hasn't contacted him yet anyway, and he's hoping it's not a distraction for his players heading into the Maryland game. This has become an annual trend for Grobe, but it has also forced athletic director Ron Wellman to keep it lucrative enough for Grobe to stay. One thing is for sure: If Grobe is going to consider another job, it's got to be one where he can bring all of his assistants with him. In other Wake news, punter/placekicker Sam Swank is still listed as questionable with a strained right quad.

Posted by's Heather Dinich


It's time to see Jacory Harris.

For more than, say, three passes.

The Knights' secondary is good -- it entered this game tied with North Carolina for first in the nation in interceptions with 12 -- but Miami quarterback Robert Marve is also struggling.

He's lucky at this point he's only thrown three interceptions, because it could easily have been four by now.

The Knights' defense has kept them in this game, and UCF is giving Miami a headache it doesn't need right now, especially at home. UCF is bringing pressure, but two of Marve's interceptions were poor decisions. The second, which resulted in a touchdown, was thrown right into coverage.

Central Florida's offensive line is doing a great job of blocking up front, but Miami has done a much better job of making stops on third-down conversions. Seven possessions for the Knights, seven punts.

Graig Cooper is playing well with Javarris James still out -- he's averaging 5.1 yards per carry -- but both teams can't get anything going offensively. All the more reason to see what Harris can do now.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 21, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

It's a lot harder to give these out when the league goes 6-0 against its nonconference opponents. The whole conference should get a sticker this week, but here are the ones who made it happen:

NC State -- The entire team is deserving of a sticker after sticking it to No. 15-ranked ECU, 30-24, in overtime. Quarterback Russell Wilson asserted himself as the leader of the offense, and the defense was able to adjust despite losing its top playmaker, linebacker Nate Irving.

Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer -- He set a school record with his 88-yard touchdown run and led the most potent rushing attack (438 yards) the program has seen since 1978. Dwyer finished with 141 yards on nine carries in a 38-7 romp over Mississippi State.

Maryland's offense -- The Terps proved they can be consistently good -- at least for two straight weeks -- and scored on nine of their 13 possessions in a 51-24 thrashing of Eastern Michigan. And they did it without injured leading rusher Da'Rel Scott.

Wake Forest's defense -- The Demon Deacons forced Florida State into seven turnovers and held the Seminoles to just three points in a 12-3 win. The Deacs snagged three turnovers on the final three series of the game.

Miami's offense -- The baby Canes finally put it together and beat Texas A&M 41-23, its worst nonconference home loss since 1988. Quarterback Robert Marve threw two touchdown passes and running back Graig Cooper, who was counted on more heavily in the absence of injured teammate Javarris James, came through with a career-high 128 yards and two touchdowns.

Miami looking good

September, 20, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

The Hurricanes are doing just fine without injured running back Javarris James. Graig Cooper is carrying the load as he scored two touchdowns and Miami is up 24-10 over the Aggies heading into the fourth quarter.

If there was any lingering doubt after the Florida loss that Miami is an improved football team capable of making some noise in the Coastal Division, a win in Texas should help erase it. This young offense is moving the ball effectively and will only get better. In looking at the North Carolina-Virginia Tech game, it's setting up for a good show in Coral Gables next week.