NCF Nation: Josh Portis

Posted by's Heather Dinich

One of the major themes this fall in the ACC will be keeping starting quarterbacks healthy because of the lack of experience behind them. Virginia Tech, which saw both Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor get hurt against Florida State last year, knows this scenario all-too well. How will the Hokies fare this season if Taylor's ankle fails him again? Based in large part by experience and some on recruiting hype, here's a look at who's got the best backup situations in the ACC -- and who doesn't.

1. Virginia -- Say what you will about the Cavaliers' chances this fall, but no team has more experience at quarterback right now. Jameel Sewell, Marc Verica and Vic Hall have all started a game. That, in itself, is progress from last season. And they all have different strengths. Sewell is an elusive runner, Verica is more of a drop-back passer, and Hall, well, he was a cornerback with tremendous athletic ability.

2. Georgia Tech -- If need be, the Yellow Jackets can also go three deep, as starter Josh Nesbitt has experience behind him in Jaybo Shaw and a talented newcomer in redshirt freshman Tevin Washington. Shaw quarterbacked the Yellow Jackets almost exclusively in two games last season -- a 38-7 win over Mississippi State and a 27-0 victory over Duke. When Nesbitt hurt his hamstring eight snaps into the Mississippi State game, Shaw took over and promptly threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. By the final buzzer, Georgia Tech had accumulated 500 yards of total offense.

3. NC State -- The Wolfpack finally have a prized recruit to fall back on should Russell Wilson need some help. Mike Glennon, who is perfectly suited for Tom O'Brien's Matt Ryan-esque style, made significant progress this spring and could see some playing time even if Wilson is 100 percent. Glennon was rated the No. 3 quarterback in his class and No. 32 player overall in the ESPN 150.

4. Duke -- Sean Renfree earned himself some playing time behind Thaddeus Lewis this fall and will use this season to ease into the role of next year's starting quarterback. Renfree had originally committed to Georgia Tech, but was also recruited by Tennessee when David Cutcliffe was there. He's the real deal.

5. Florida State -- The Seminoles probably would have been moved up a notch or two on this list had E.J. Manuel actually made it through more than one spring practice without hurting himself. But FSU offensive coordinator/head coach in waiting Jimbo Fisher has high hopes for his first hand-picked quarterback.

6. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels have the Paulus who actually IS a quarterback, and he's even got some experience at it. The problem is, Mike Paulus was 4-for-13 for 33 yards with two interceptions in four games last year. Paulus entered the Virginia Tech game when T.J. Yates was injured and was 3-for-8 for 23 yards and two picks. There's a reason Cam Sexton took over last year, but Sexton has since transferred.

7. Clemson -- If by chance Kyle Parker wins the starting job, then Willy Korn will be like 1a. Korn played two games as a true freshman in 2007 then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He played in six games last year, including a start against Georgia Tech in Dabo Swinney's first game as a head coach. His career efficiency rating is 132.9 and he has completed 69.4 percent of his passes. Those are starter stats, but Parker had an impressive spring.

8. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons at least have depth. They had a competition between Ryan McManus, Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones this spring, and McManus came out on top heading into summer camp. McManus is a former walk-on who has seen most of his playing time as a holder and on special teams, Stachitas is dealing with a shoulder injury, and Jones finished his first spring working exclusively at quarterback.

9. Miami -- At least Randy Shannon made a decision and decided Taylor Cook earned the No. 2 spot at the end of the spring, but it's not a done deal. Cannon Smith will continue to push Cook this summer, but neither one of them have taken a collegiate snap yet. Cook, though, was a very highly touted recruit, ranked the No. 9 quarterback in his class and No. 108 in the ESPN 150.

10. Virginia Tech -- Joseph Ju-Ju Clayton won the backup job over Marcus Davis, but he's still a redshirt freshman who hasn't been tested when the lights come on. Clayton was projected by some to be a better defensive back in college. He wasn't as highly touted a recruit as Manuel, Cook, Glennon or Renfree, but the Hokies are known for finding talent and making the most of somewhat unheralded recruits.

11. Maryland -- The Terps' depth took a hit when Josh Portis decided to transfer, but sophomore Jamarr Robinson had an impressive spring. He completed 15 of 19 passes, including his final 12 attempts, for 253 yards and four touchdowns.

12. Boston College -- The Eagles don't know who their starting quarterback is, let alone their No. 2. Dominique Davis struggled in the ACC championship game and the bowl game -- both losses -- but he has the most experience among Justin Tuggle and Codi Boek.

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 22, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here are a few stories of note from around the ACC:

  • Miami is expected to hire an offensive coordinator soon, and quarterback Jacory Harris said he is confident coach Randy Shannon "will hire the perfect guy."
  • Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson is healthy, but he's not playing in the Senior Bowl. He's not the only one. Wake Forest outside linebacker Aaron Curry, Virginia offensive tackle Eugene Monroe have also decided not to play in Saturday's 6 p.m. game. Odd.
  • Florida State still has a few needs to fill with signing day just around the corner. UNC just added another defensive back.
  • Virginia Tech fans have reason to be excited. The preseason polls aren't out yet, but most believe the 2009 Hokies are a top 10 team.
  • My favorite part of this analysis of Maryland's 2008 quarterbacks is how much bang for the buck the Terps got on backup quarterback Josh Portis.

ACC internal affairs

September, 24, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Clemson -- The Tigers are expecting ACC leading rusher Da'Rel Scott to play, which will force defensive coordinator Vic Koenning to load more players at the line of scrimmage. That, of course, will open up the play-action passing game. Koenning is looking for some sacks to come from his ends in this game, as South Carolina State's tackles blocked them one-on-one last weekend and the sacks came from the interior linemen and the linebackers.

Maryland -- Backup quarterback Josh Portis is doing the best he can to put the team ahead of his frustration over a lack of significant playing time. Expect some wrinkles in the Terps' offense this week, but it's unclear if Portis will play more of a role in it. "I'm still waiting to help the team out a little more with my talents, but I'm a team guy and the bottom line is you got to win," he said. "Obviously I'm a little frustrated with what's going on, but I'm here for the team. ... I'm just rolling with the punches."

Duke -- Virginia's switch at quarterback from Peter Lalich to Marc Verica has caused a small tweak in the coaching staff's preparation. Not only isn't there a lot of film of Verica, who started his first game and saw his first significant playing time in this year's loss to UConn, but he's also a different quarterback than Lalich, which means the Cavaliers could switch up their offense. So David Cutcliffe and his staff have watched more 2007 film, thinking that Verica's mobility and athleticism is more similar to former starter Jameel Sewell.

Florida State -- Playmaker Preston Parker has been working more at receiver this week and less at tailback, and that's probably how he'll be used against Colorado. That could open an opportunity for freshman running back Jermaine Thomas, who played well in the first two games, but watched the Wake Forest game from the sidelines. The running game should also get a boost from the blocking of tight end Caz Piurowski, one of the formerly suspended players.

NC State -- Defensive coordinator Mike Archer is tasked with simplifying things for freshman Dwayne Maddox, who is taking over for injured starting weakside linebacker Nate Irving, while at the same time stopping South Florida quarterback Matt Grothe. Archer is familiar with the Bulls from his time at Kentucky and said this will be the best offensive line the Wolfpack will have faced. He also said there is a misconception Grothe just throws it, and that he is a tough quarterback who gets hit, gets back up and scrambles. The good news is that after watching practice film, NC State coach Tom O'Brien told Archer that Maddox is "practicing like a starter now."

ACC power rankings: Week 2

September, 8, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons are off to a 2-0 start and the ACC's lone representative in the AP top 25. They were able to beat a much-improved Ole Miss team despite not playing their best football.

Clemson -- The Tigers got what they needed from their game against the Citadel -- big plays on both sides of the ball and some rushing yards. While the loss to Alabama won't be forgotten, this was the first step in regrouping.

Georgia Tech -- The Yellow Jackets got their first conference win and are also off to a 2-0 start heading to Blacksburg on Saturday.

Miami -- If the Hurricanes play the way they did in the first half for four quarters all season, Miami has a legitimate shot at the Coastal Division title. This group is bound to improve over time, but there is still a learning curve for these baby Canes.

Florida State -- The Seminoles brushed aside Western Carolina even without almost a dozen suspended players, but we won't know how good this team really is until Wake Forest rolls into Tallahassee on Sept. 20.

Virginia Tech -- The Hokies didn't exactly dominate Furman (it was 3-0 at the half), and will have an even tougher challenge when Georgia Tech visits this weekend. And the whole quarterback situation is beginning to wear on Sean Glennon.

Boston College -- Georgia Tech fumbled the ball three times and the Eagles still lost. Quarterback Chris Crane was hit with the reality of just how tough it's going to be to replace Matt Ryan when he was sacked in the end zone for a safety.

UNC -- The Tar Heels were off this past weekend, but still seem to have more answers than Maryland offensively, especially considering the opening performance of Brandon Tate and the fact that T.J. Yates can hit his open guys in the numbers.

Maryland -- There's enough talent on this team that it should be 2-0 right now and fans have to be scratching their heads over the poor execution in the Middle Tennessee State game. Where is the Chris Turner we saw against Rutgers? And where is the "freakish athlete" named Josh Portis we heard so much about?

Duke -- The Blue Devils put up one heck of a fight against Northwestern, and still have back-to-back home games on their schedule to improve upon last year's one-win season.

NC State -- The Wolfpack finally scored some points, but guess what? So did William & Mary. It should help that Russell Wilson is expected to return against Clemson.

Virginia -- The Cavaliers did little, if anything, to redeem themselves from an embarrassing opening weekend route against USC. The defense is the one thing they could feel good about from the win over Richmond as they head to UConn.

ACC: Week 2 predictions

September, 4, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

With the exception of Miami and Wake Forest, who both face legitimate FBS opponents, this should be a relatively pain-free week for the ACC. Boston College and Georgia Tech are facing each other, so an ACC team has to win that one, and everyone else is playing what Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen likes to call "Sisters of the Poor." Himself included. So they had better win. Duke? That game could go either way.

Here's the guessing game for Week 2:

Boston College 24, Georgia Tech 21 -- This one is based on the fact that the Eagles played Navy two seasons ago and won 25-24 on a last-second field goal. BC's defense remembers that game and knows it can't afford to get into a shootout with Paul Johnson. Plus, it has seasoned defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani and home field advantage.

Virginia Tech 38, Furman 17 -- This game is in Lane Stadium against a team from the Southern Conference that doesn't have any players who have ever beaten a FBS team. The question here is how the two-quarterback system will be used, and how the offensive line will fare without Blake DeChristopher.

Maryland 21, Middle Tennessee State 14 -- With Chris Turner and Josh Portis leading the way, the Terps should score more points this weekend, but they're still settling into their offense and have a tendency to keep these nonconference games a little too interesting.

Wake Forest 35, Mississippi 28 -- Dexter McCluster, who works out of the shotgun the same way Darren McFadden played under Houston Nutt at Arkansas, is tough to defend and can change the pace of the game, so Wake's ability to adjust on defense will be key. Wake has the experience, though, to win this one.

Clemson 38, The Citadel 17 -- The Tigers have something to prove, and they're going to take it out on these guys. Well, they should. The Citadel is 1-13 in games played in Clemson and the No. 23-ranked team in the FCS Coaches Poll.

Virginia 21, Richmond 17 -- Upset watch? Richmond coach Mike London was Virginia's defensive coordinator a year ago, so look for DE Sherman Logan to smother Peter Lalich. London has 16 starters back for a team that won a school-record 11 games and the CAA title before falling to Appalachian State in the national semifinals.

Florida State 41, Western Carolina 17 -- The suspensions shouldn't matter for this game and Christian Ponder has already played in an ACC game, so this should be a warmup for him. WCU coach Dennis Wagner is in his first season and trying to snap the Catamounts' 13-game road losing streak that dates back to 2005.

NC State 28, William & Mary 17 -- Considering the fact that the Wolfpack hasn't scored in its past two games, there's no reason to anticipate a blowout against anyone. Then again, the Tribe has 19 starters back from a team that won just two games in the CAA last year.

Northwestern 28, Duke 21 -- Both teams are coming off wins (gasp), but the Wildcats are a better team than they were last season because of senior running back Tyrell Sutton and first-year defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Then again, Duke is also a better football team and beat Northwestern last year.

Florida 45, Miami 27 -- One is a national-title contender, the other coming off the program's worst season in 30 years. One has a Heisman Trophy quarterback, the other a rookie who has never thrown a pass in a collegiate game. The odds and the Gators are stacked against the Canes, but Miami might put up a better fight than expected.

North Carolina is off.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer have more in common than their neighboring lake houses in Georgia. After just one week, both of them are now second-guessing their original calls at quarterback.

Raise your hand if you saw this coming.

Me too, just not after one game.

At Maryland, Jordan Steffy's injured thumb is part of the problem. Friedgen passionately defended Steffy as if he were his own son on Tuesday, but at the same time wouldn't commit to him as a starter for this weekend against Middle Tennessee State.

At Virginia Tech, Beamer decided to revert back to last year's two-quarterback system and use Tyrod Taylor instead of redshirting him.

Did anyone see the UCLA-Tennessee game?

UCLA quarterback Kevin Craft threw four interceptions in the first half against Tennessee, and instead of leaving him in the locker room for the second half, Rick Neuheisel told his quarterback that he, too, threw four picks in his first start.

The only way for a quarterback to play with confidence is to know he has it from his head coach, and neither Beamer nor Friedgen are showing that right now. Yet both of them still expect Sean Glennon and Steffy to win games for them.

This will likely be an ongoing drama in College Park this season, as Chris Turner and Josh Portis have already played in the first game with Steffy. At Virginia Tech, how Glennon handles this decision will affect the entire team. But the Hokies appear to have more problems than just Taylor can solve.

While Hokies' quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain makes some valid points, the fact he said "I'm not sure we didn't feel this along" makes you wonder why the staff didn't go with its gut the first time around. They knew their personnel heading into the ECU game. It was the same team they had after it.

And Friedgen knows exactly what he has at quarterback. Three guys, three styles and three personalities.

None of whom can, apparently, do it all by himself.

ACC anticipation

August, 27, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

I thought this top 25 list was going to be difficult, but as it turns out, there are a gazillion things I can't wait to see in the ACC this season -- Chief Osceola and Renegade included. But this year, the quarterbacks top the list.

I can't wait to see ...

1. Miami quarterback Robert Marve in his first collegiate start against Florida. First there was the car accident. Then the suspension. Can we please get an official snap now?

2. Boston College quarterback Chris Crane. Finally. Let's watch what he can do and stop talking about the other guy.

3. Who will wind up as Florida State's most consistent starting quarterback. It was Drew Weatherford's job to lose this summer, but Christian Ponder and D'Vontrey Richardson both have Jimbo Fisher thinking too much.

4. Maryland third-string quarterback Josh Portis. So much hype, so little action. Not this season. After spending the past two years on the scout team, we finally get to see what this speedy transfer from Florida can do.

5. Which Miami freshman is going to have the most impact. There are so many to choose from, on both sides of the ball, including the two who are in the starting lineup for Thursday's season opener against Charleston Southern -- quarterback Jacory Harris and defensive end Marcus Robinson.

6. James Davis and C.J. Spiller try and get through B.J. Raji, Ron Brace, and the other guys in the Eagles' front seven. BC's defense should be even better than it was in 2007, and Thunder and Lightening only rushed for a total of 62 yards against them last year.

7. Macho Harris as a receiver. He switched to offense for a part of the spring, and the Hokies certainly could use him there, but will they?

8. Jacoby Ford used on a reverse in the same game he takes a kickoff or punt return all the way back. He's super fast, athletic and can be used just about anywhere on the field. Let's see it.

9. An upset -- I don't care who it is, and I don't care when it happens. That could mean Clemson shocking somebody in the postseason, or it could mean NC State shocking Clemson. Clemson losing to Wake? Not a shocker.

10. Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt throw it. It's bound to happen sooner or later, and don't think the receivers were standing around at practice this summer gossiping.

11. James Franklin calling the plays. Go deep, Hey-Bey. The offense should be more fun to watch as long as the staff doesn't get caught up in Jordan Steffy throwing five-yard passes.

12. Michael Johnson absolutely flatten somebody. He hasn't started a game yet, but the Yellow Jackets' new defensive scheme will free him up to rush from the edge.

13. Preston Parker take one home. Sure, he's suspended for two games, but this guy is a playmaker. I saw what he did at Maryland last year in his first shot at tailback and would love to see more.

14. The Wake Forest defense score 11 touchdowns. Hey, they scored 10 last year. OK, so the odds of this happening are slim to none, but this defense is still one of the most exciting to watch because of its playmaking potential.

15. Butch Davis' return to Coral Gables. Davis' coaching ties make for a good subplot, but so does the fact that the Tar Heels beat these guys last season.

16. Al Groh in a good mood. Too bad I'm heading to the season opener. Odds are Charlottesville is a happier place around Week 10. Then again, maybe not.

17. NC State get a break that doesn't involve a body part. These guys are due for one. It's not the third-string left tackle that gets hurt for these guys, either, it's their leading rushers and receivers. I want to see what the Pack can do at 100 percent.

18. Thaddeus Lewis after a summer of instruction from some former SEC coaches. He was the third best QB in the league before he started taking advice from a coach that tutored the Manning brothers.

19. The return of NC State tight end Anthony Hill. This guy is a veteran playmaker, and after missing last season with a torn ACL, he's ready to rock.

20. The Blue Devils win more than one game. These guys have put in way too much work this summer not to.

21. The Tar Heels defense under Everett Withers. The first-year defensive coordinator is the first to admit his Minnesota defense last year was "awful." What can he do with the talent on the Tar Heels' roster?

22. Frank Beamer's hip-hop dance. I missed it last year after the Hokies won the ACC title. Then again, they've got to win it again in order for another show.

23. The Euro kicker make his first field goal against USC. Yannick Reyering has never played a game of football in his life, and here he is starting against USC. Fun.

24. Jim Grobe explain his gameplan to the well-to-do fans in Deacon Tower an hour before kickoff against Clemson. If only I were a well-to-do sports reporter ...

25. The inside of the Esso. I've heard a lot about this place, but didn't get a chance to go there this summer. I was too busy running down some hill.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Based on impact and interest, here are the 10 best games to watch in the league this year:

1. Clemson vs. Alabama, Saturday, August 30, 8 p.m. (ABC): It's not the end of the season if the Tigers get off to a bad start, but it certainly won't help to fumble the first one away in front of a national audience.

2. Miami at Florida, Sept. 6, 8 p.m. (ESPN): This will be quarterback Robert Marve's debut after serving his one-game suspension, and if Hurricanes fans want to know how far the program has to go before entering any conversations about national titles, this would be a good gauge.

3. Wake Forest at Florida State, Sept. 20: FSU playmaker Preston Parker will return from his two-game suspension in time for the Demon Deacons, who will have had a bye week to prepare for this game. FSU will still have players missing for suspensions, but Wake will be on the road for the second time in three games.

4. Clemson at Wake Forest, Oct. 9, 7:30 p.m. (ESPN): This game has upset written all over it. The Demon Deacons have a veteran team with a defense that can score, plus they've got home field advantage. And Jim Grobe, who can X and O with the best of 'em.

5. Maryland at Clemson, Sept. 27: Ralph Friedgen loves playing in Death Valley, and the Terps have a team that could surprise a few people, the Tigers included. The addition of first-year offensive coordinator James Franklin, backup quarterback Josh Portis, and a veteran offensive line make Maryland a dark horse.

6. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 29: The Seminoles should be an entirely different team by this point in the season -- a much better one if they stay healthy. The offensive line will have had ample time to become cohesive.

7. Virginia at Virginia Tech, Nov. 29: The battle for the Commonwealth Cup is more interesting than a drubbing by USC, and this rivalry game gets picked over Florida State/Miami because odds are, the Hokies will be playing for something more than just bragging rights.

8. South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 29: It's not how you start, it's how you finish, right? Tommy Bowden vs. Steve Spurrier. Only one of them already has an ACC title. This game gets the nod over NC State/South Carolina because it's possible the Tigers will be jockeying for a spot in the BCS standings. Or just bragging rights.

9. Clemson at Florida State, Nov. 8: You can't forget about Bowden Bowl. The 'Noles will have the crowd behind them, and at this point, possibly Christian Ponder leading the way. And, of course, this could be another Tiger trap.

10. North Carolina at Miami, Sept. 27: Can Butch Davis do it again? The Tar Heels beat Miami 33-27 last season, but will have to do it on the road this time if they want to stay in the hunt for the Coastal Division. This is a key game in determining how far both programs have come over the past year.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Around 8 a.m. today, Maryland offensive coordinator James Franklin called a meeting among his quarterbacks and went through numerous statistics that backed Ralph Friedgen's decision to name Jordan Steffy the starting quarterback.

Yards after catch. Completion percentage. Yards per catch. Interceptions. Percentage of drives scoring. Good practice, bad practices.

"It's hard if one quarterback all through the spring and all through summer camp was statistically better in almost every single category, it's hard to rationalize not making him the starter," Franklin said. "Having all that documation to make sure -- because your gut feeling is one thing and statistics are another -- we've got to make sure we're being credible with information we're putting out. Jordan led by a pretty large amount in completion percentage, he led in the least interception percentage."

Steffy wins in just about every category except one: 2-0 against top 10 teams. That one belongs to Chris Turner.

"What made it hard is that Chris played well in the games," Friedgen said. "That's his M O. But based on not only fall practice, but I even went back to spring practices, and (Steffy) was by far and away ahead in all the statistics."

Friedgen knows there were will be a few fans who won't be happy with this decision.

"I know I'm going to be second-guessed on it," he said. "That's people's prerogative, but I would hope that they would get behind this kid and give him all the support they can like I am."

Turner is No. 2 on the depth chart, even though Josh Portis at this point is the only other signal caller guaranteed to play.

"He will play," Franklin said of Portis. "He will play. He's one of the most freakish athletes I've ever been around at any level."

(Like I said before, X factor).

The staff has rotated the quarterbacks equally for the past nine practices. They're going to have to continue to share reps because odds are all three of them are going to wind up playing. Strong odds.

Here are the Saturday stats:

Turner: Started eight games last year, and completed 153-of-241 attempts (63.5 percent) for 1,958 yards, seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Steffy: Started five of 14 games in his career, completed 82-of-141 pass attempts (58.2 percent) for 818 yards, two touchdowns and six interceptions.

Steffy is not looking over his shoulder, though. The competition is over.

"Coach Franklin said it this morning, the competition is over with and we're moving forward," Steffy said. "That's what he said we're going with. ... I'm not going out there playing worried or looking over my shoulder at all."

I understand Friedgen's logic here -- Steffy is the better practice player, he's been more consistent, and the staff has numbers out the wazoo to prove it. He wants to reward the guy who has been the best player and leader at practice.

"He played well in those games, but we lost some games, too, with him," Friedgen said of Turner. "There's a consistency there that has to work. I'm a believer that good practices make good games, too. Some guys can do that, some guys have a talent for that, and if you can do that, it's obviously better to play well in a game than in practice, and if we did that every game, it wouldn't be a concern. We didn't do it every game. We did it in some big games, and we had some support there, too. If I did that for every position, what would we do?"

It's a fair point, so now it's up to Steffy to prove he's the best option on Saturdays. Something Turner did last fall.