NCF Nation: Marc Verica

The "spring shoes to fill" series looked at the most difficult player to replace in each program. Five of them were quarterbacks, four linemen, two receivers and one linebacker.

Boston College: Anthony Castonzo
Clemson: Da'Quan Bowers
Duke: Abraham Kromah
Florida State: Rodney Hudson
Georgia Tech: Joshua Nesbitt
Maryland: Torrey Smith
Miami: Leonard Hankerson
North Carolina: T.J. Yates
NC State: Russell Wilson
Virginia: Marc Verica
Virginia Tech: Tyrod Taylor
Wake Forest: Russell Nenon

Hudson was the most decorated offensive lineman in ACC history. Taylor was the winningest quarterback in school history. Nesbitt was the most prolific rushing quarterback in league history. Bowers was honored as the nation's top defensive player. Almost all of them were record-setters. The ACC lost some tremendous talent from 2010 rosters.

Of these 12 players, I took the liberty of narrowing the list down to five choices for the most difficult player to replace in the ACC.

Spring preview: Coastal Division

February, 15, 2011
We've already looked at who and what to watch in the Atlantic Division this spring. Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program in the Coastal Division:


Spring practice starts: Feb. 16

Spring game: March 26

What to watch:
  • Jim Knowles taking over as defensive coordinator. After coaching the safeties last season, Knowles was promoted in late January following the departure of Marion Hobby to coach Clemson’s defensive line. It’s not a complete overhaul on defense, but for the third time in as many seasons, a different person will be calling the plays. Knowles has also assumed the lead role with Duke’s practice scheduling and weekly preparation.
  • New faces at linebacker. Duke graduated its leading tackler from 2010, Abraham Kromah, and freshman All-American Kelby Brown is out while recovering from knee surgery. Those two slots will be wide open this spring and the competition will be among Austin Gamble, C.J. France, Tyree Glover and Kevin Rojas.
  • Offensive line shuffling. The Blue Devils return four starters up front, but they’ll be missing the glue of the line in Bryan Morgan, who graduated. Brian Moore, who has started the past two seasons at right guard, will make the transition to center. John Coleman and Laken Tomlinson are expected to compete for the right guard spot.

Spring practice starts: March 28 (tentative)

Spring game: April 23

What to watch:
  • Starting quarterback competition. Tevin Washington enters the spring at No. 1 on the depth chart, and it's his job to lose, as he has the most experience after taking over for injured starter Joshua Nesbitt in 2010. Synjyn Days will give him legitimate competition this spring, though, and it will increase this summer with the addition of standout recruit Vad Lee to the roster. For now, though, it’s between Washington and Days, as David Sims is expected to move to B-back.
  • Offensive line reshuffling. Georgia Tech will have to replace three starters in all-conference center Sean Bedford, right tackle Austin Barrick and left tackle Nick Claytor, who decided to leave early for the NFL draft. Phil Smith, Barrick’s backup last year, is the only one with any experience at tackle. The staff will likely have to move a player or two from guard to tackle, and only it knows who those candidates might be right now.
  • Revamped secondary. Jerrard Tarrant's decision to leave school early and enter the NFL draft left the Jackets without any returning starters in the secondary. Junior cornerback Rod Sweeting, sophomore cornerback Louis Young, redshirt freshman cornerback Ryan Ayers and sophomore safety Fred Holton are front-runners, but they all have a lot to prove this spring. Holton and Young played sparingly as true freshmen and combined for 21 tackles. Sweeting played in all 13 games and had one fumble recovery and eight passes defended, including one interception. Senior cornerback Michael Peterson may help, and safety Jemea Thomas played as a true freshman in 2009 but redshirted last year. There’s some talent, but the inexperience makes it a question mark.

Spring practice starts: March 5

Spring game: April 9 or 16

What to watch:
  • New staff, new schemes. Defensively, first-year coordinator Mark D’Onofrio will work with two other assistants who were with him and first-year coach Al Golden at Temple, so there is familiarity there. Linebackers coach Michael Barrow has to learn D’Onofrio’s system, but the players tend to pick it up faster if the majority of the staff is already acclimated to it. Offensively, everyone will be working together for the first time. Jedd Fisch wants to run a pure pro-style offense based on matchups, and the good news is that several of the assistants, because of their respective backgrounds, are already schooled in at least a version of it.
  • Quarterback battle. Golden has said he would like to name a starter by the end of the spring, making these practices critical auditions for both Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. Harris has both flourished and flopped as a starter for the Canes, and his injury last year gave Morris the opportunity he needed to win the people’s choice award. Has a new era of quarterback begun, or will Harris finally have the breakout season Miami fans have waited for in his final year as a Cane?
  • Corner competition. Following the departures of Ryan Hill, DeMarcus Van Dyke and Brandon Harris, Brandon McGee is the only corner remaining on the roster with any significant experience. He played in 11 games, started one, and had 15 tackles. Redshirt freshman Devont’a Davis, sophomore Kacey Rodgers, and redshirt sophomore Jamal Reid will also compete for playing time. There are also several incoming freshmen who could be immediate contributors.

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 9

What to watch:
  • The rookie quarterbacks. There’s no guarantee that Bryn Renner will be the Tar Heels’ starter in 2011, but he enters the spring slightly ahead of the race, as he was No. 2 on the depth chart last season and was pushing T.J. Yates for the starting job at this time a year ago. The staff would also like to see what true freshman Marquise Williams, who enrolled in January, has to offer. Braden Hanson and A.J. Blue will also compete for playing time. Blue was injured two years ago and redshirted last season.
  • Running backs race. The Tar Heels graduated three key players from 2010: Johnny White, Anthony Elzy and Shaun Draughn. Ryan Houston is back for his fifth year after redshirting last year and is the most experienced of the returnees. Giovani Bernard was a true freshman last year and had been expected to get some playing time, but he tore his ACL on the third day of training camp. It’s not clear yet how much he’ll be able to participate this spring. Hunter Furr played sparingly last year and true freshman Travis Riley, who enrolled in January, are also in the mix.
  • Another strong defensive line. If Quinton Coples was an all-conference selection as a defensive tackle, he could be scary good at his natural position, defensive end. Coples played there as a freshman and sophomore, but switched to tackle out of necessity last season. The defensive line should once again be the strength of the team, but it will be reconfigured again, as Coples’ move will leave a defensive tackle spot up for grabs. Junior college transfer Sylvester Williams, who enrolled in January, could fill that role.

Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 2

What to watch:
  • The search for a new starting quarterback. With Marc Verica graduated, the lead contenders to replace him are the ones who saw the field last year -- Michael Rocco and Ross Metheny. Neither of them started, but Rocco played in six games and Metheny five. Nobody has thrown the ball more than Rocco’s 25 times. The staff will also look at Michael Strauss, who redshirted last year, Miles Gooch, and David Watford, who enrolled in January.
  • Competition at running back. With leading rusher Keith Payne graduated, the question becomes what can Kevin Parks do after redshirting last year? There’s a lot of depth at the running back position, but Parks, the No. 56 running back in his class by and national prep record-setter out of the state of North Carolina, came to Charlottesville facing high expectations. With Payne gone, this could open the door for him to meet them, but returning starter Perry Jones will also be competing for carries.
  • Development of the receivers. In January, Jared Green Tweeted that he had decided to transfer after finishing his degree in Charlottesville this spring, according to a school spokesman. His departure, coupled with the graduation of Dontrelle Inman, leaves the Cavaliers without two of their top wideouts from 2010. With Tim Smith coming off an injury, the development of other receivers will be critical -- especially with a new starting quarterback.

Spring practice starts: March 30

Spring game: April 23

What to watch:
  • Quarterback Logan Thomas. The Tyrod Taylor era is over, and Thomas is the front-runner to succeed the winningest quarterback in school history. Ju-Ju Clayton is the only other quarterback on the roster who’s ever taken a snap, and he’ll push Thomas this spring. It’s Thomas’ job to lose, but the staff is looking for him to improve his accuracy. He played quarterback in only his final two high school seasons and was projected as a tight end. He’s still raw and learning the position, but physically, he’s a clone of Cam Newton. If he develops some poise in the pocket, look out.
  • Competition on the defensive line. The Hokies have to replace starters John Graves (defensive tackle) and Steven Friday (defensive end), who both graduated. They’ve got Antoine Hopkins and Chris Drager back, but it’s possible Drager could move back to tight end after starting 10 games at defensive end last year. Tackle Kwamaine Battle, who started the first two games before he tore his ACL and Hopkins took over, is another front-runner. Hopkins’ younger brother, Derrick, will also be in the mix, along with James Gayle and J.R. Collins. Redshirt freshman defensive end Zack McCray, the cousin of Logan Thomas, has also impressed the staff so far.
  • Tight end auditions. The graduation of Andre Smith leaves the Hokies with only one returning tight end who’s caught a pass in a game, Randall Dunn (one). Redshirt freshman Eric Martin was the second tight end when the Hokies used two-tight end sets, but he missed three games mid-season with an injury.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 9

October, 30, 2010
Here are the ACC’s top five performers for Week 9:

Boston College running back Montel Harris: He was named the team’s MVP of the game after rushing 36 times for 142 yards in the 16-10 win over Clemson. He also caught a 36-yard touchdown pass that put BC up 13-10. It was his 18th game with at least 100 yards rushing.

Virginia: The entire team -- starting with coach Mike London -- deserves a sticker for its 24-19 upset of No. 22 Miami. London earned his first career ACC win, and has now led the team to back-to-back wins. Virginia’s secondary, which had five interceptions the entire season, doubled that in one afternoon. Chase Minnifield and Corey Mosley each had two of those takeaways, and quarterback Marc Verica completed 19-of-27 for 176 yards 1 touchdown and 1 interception. He converted two big third downs to help run clock out and secure the win.

NC State quarterback Russell Wilson: He threw the game-winning touchdown pass to tight end George Bryan with 2:40 left in a 28-24 upset of Florida State on Thursday. Wilson threw for 178 yards and a touchdown, and he ran for three more touchdowns.

Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien: He threw a career-high four touchdown passes in the Terps’ 62-14 romp of Wake Forest. O'Brien completed 13 of 20 passes for 168 yards before taking a seat in the third quarter. He has seven touchdown passes in his past two games, leading the Terps to bowl eligibility.

Duke quarterback Sean Renfree: He completed 28 of 30 pass attempts for 314 yards and a touchdown, and ran for two more scores in the Blue Devils’ 34-31 win over Navy. It was a school record for single game completion percentage, and he equaled a school record with 16 straight completions.

Virginia takes lead on Canes

October, 30, 2010
Nothing is going as planned for Miami, which now trails Virginia, 7-0.

Miami quarterback Jacory Harris was sidelined with an injury (still waiting for official word), and the Canes then fell behind when Marc Verica completed a 16-yard touchdown pass to Colter Phillips for the lead. Virginia, which is seeking its first conference win of the season, refuses to quit under first-year coach Mike London. The Cavaliers are playing to win, and winning the turnover battle. It should be an encouraging sign for Virginia fans.

ACC predictions: Week 9

October, 28, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Well, I finally picked a Clemson-Georgia Tech game right, but it didn’t help my winning percentage much. I struck out on the Terps’ win at BC and Miami’s win over the Heels. That added up to a 3-2 week and a grand total of 48-15 (76.1 percent). It’s not getting any easier, starting tonight with a tough pick in the ACC’s game of the week:

NC State 31, Florida State 28 (OT) -- This is the biggest game the Wolfpack have played in years, and it’s an upset in the making. The Carter-Finely crowd will make for a great atmosphere, and quarterback Russell Wilson will be the difference. Linebackers Audie Cole and Nate Irving will help slow down the running game, and FSU quarterback Christian Ponder will be forced into a costly turnover.

Navy 38, Duke 14 -- The Blue Devils won’t be able to get Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs off the field, and therefore won’t get enough possessions to get into a shootout with him. The Middies are coming off a big win over Notre Dame and have the momentum.

Clemson 28, Boston College 14 -- The Eagles’ defense won’t be the same without its best pass-rusher, defensive end Alex Albright, and the offense has been anemic all season. Andre Ellington will have another big running day and DeAndre Hopkins will continue to blossom as a receiver.

Maryland 24, Wake Forest 17 -- The Deacs have had a week to rest and prepare, but still have what is statistically one of the worst defenses in the country. Wake has won three of the past four meetings, but the difference this time around will be Maryland’s defense, especially against the run.

Miami 31, Virginia 17 -- The talent, speed and depth of the Canes will be too much for Virginia to overcome. The difference, though, is in the turnover margin, where Miami’s defense up front will force quarterback Marc Verica into another interception or two and create a short field for Jacory Harris.

North Carolina 31, William & Mary 24 -- The Tar Heels will overlook the Tribe, and it will be a closer game than necessary, but UNC will pull away in the second half thanks to a strong running game and some big plays by the defense.

Back and forth in the ACC: Weeks 8/9

October, 25, 2010
It’s time to look back on Week 8 one last time and fast-forward to Week 9:

[+] EnlargeO'Brien
AP Photo/Stephan SavoiaMaryland's Danny O'Brien threw three TD passes in a 24-21 win against Boston College.
The good: Quarterback redemption. One week after throwing three interceptions apiece, Virginia quarterback Marc Verica and Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien guided their respective teams to victories without one interception. Even Duke quarterback Sean Renfree, who threw five picks in the loss to Miami, cut it down to only one interception against Virginia Tech. And Miami quarterback Jacory Harris only threw one interception while UNC’s T.J. Yates, who had only thrown one all season, threw two against the Canes.

The bad: Injuries. None was worse than the motor scooter accident at Maryland, which left starting offensive lineman Pete DeSouza in intensive care with two broken bones in both legs. But Boston College also lost a leader for the season when starting defensive end Alex Albright – the Eagles’ top pass rusher and a team captain – broke his fibula and will miss the rest of the season. Starting safety Wes Davis, another team captain, suffered a neck injury but has full mobility and has been released from the hospital.

The ugly: Virginia’s attendance. The Cavaliers finally got an FBS win, but Hoo cares if nobody was there to see it? The announced crowd was 36,600 – the fewest in Scott Stadium since UVA played Duke in 1997.

The broken: Streaks. Miami coach Randy Shannon was awarded the game ball after snapping his three-game losing streak to North Carolina coach Butch Davis, and Clemson coach Dabo Swinney snapped his three-game losing streak to Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson.

The unbelievable: Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt, who was just 44 yards shy of becoming the ACC’s most prolific rushing quarterback, was held to two rushing yards against Clemson.

The front-runners: Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers continued to make cases in the races for offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively. Taylor threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns, and Bowers had his 10th sack of the season and finished with 2.5 tackles for loss.

The Atlantic Division takes center stage in this week’s top three games:

Florida State at NC State: It’s lost some of its luster since NC State lost to East Carolina and wasn’t able to hold onto its spot in the Associated Press Top 25 for more than a week, but it should still be a great game that holds championship implications. The winner of this game should be considered the favorite to win the Atlantic Division.

Wake Forest at Maryland: The Terps can become bowl eligible with a home win on Saturday, but the Deacs have had a week off to rest and prepare and could play the role of spoiler.

Clemson at Boston College: It’s a chance for the Tigers to continue their momentum, and they’re catching the Eagles at one of their lowest points in years. BC never quits, though, especially at home, and considering its poor start, Clemson can’t afford to overlook anyone.

Virginia wraps up Eastern Michigan

October, 23, 2010
That's more like it.

After getting a scare from Eastern Michigan, Virginia pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 48-21 win. The Cavaliers outscored Eastern Michigan 31-7 in the second half.

Virginia quarterback Marc Verica redeemed himself from three interceptions a week ago, throwing for 203 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Keith Payne added two rushing touchdowns, and Virginia snapped a three-game losing streak with its first FBS win of the season. It was a small step, but an important one for Mike London and his team in this rebuilding year. The next step? Getting the first conference win of the season. With Miami looming next, the best shot is likely Nov. 6 at Duke.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
In no particular order, here are 10 things to watch this week in five ACC games:

Bowl eligibility: Both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech can become bowl eligible this weekend if they win. So far, Florida State is the only ACC team to have reached the six-win mark. NC State is also one win away, but the Pack have a bye week.

Turnovers in Miami. They’ve been the Hurricanes’ downfall in three straight losses to UNC, as Miami has 10 turnovers to UNC’s one during that span. But UNC isn’t the only team that can force mistakes. If UNC quarterback T.J. Yates is finally going to slip up again, there’s a good chance it happens on Saturday against a defensive line that helped Miami lead the nation in tackles for loss and rank fourth in the country in sacks.

The red zone in Miami. North Carolina leads the ACC in red zone offense having converted on 22 of 24 trips inside the 20-yard line. The Tar Heels have scored 16 touchdowns and made 6-of-7 field goal attempts. UNC is the only team in the ACC that hasn’t turned it over in the red zone this season. Miami hasn’t been as fortunate. The Canes have lost possession six times inside the 20, including three turnovers. Miami has scored 15 touchdowns in 26 trips in the red zone, but UNC and Miami have the No. 2 and No. 3 red zone defenses in the ACC, respectively.

[+] EnlargeTorrey Smith
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireTorrey Smith is Maryland's best player on offense but is fighting an ankle injury.
Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith. He’s their best player on offense. They need him. But his ankle isn’t 100 percent and he’s having trouble cutting on it. If BC is going to take away the Terps’ running game -- which it is expected to do -- Danny O’Brien is going to need some help in the passing game. Smith is also 49 yards shy of setting an ACC career record for kickoff returns.

BC running back Montel Harris. He needs just 65 more yards to reach 3,000 in his career and only three BC players before him have ever reached that number. Derrick Knight, BC’s all-time leading rusher, was the last to do it in 2003. Harris will be the first player in school history to reach it as a junior. The milestone could be an early birthday gift, as he turns 21 on Oct. 30, the day the Eagles host Clemson at Alumni Stadium. He ran for 142 yards in last year’s 19-17 win over the Terps, and he ran for 191 yards in the loss at Florida State last weekend while averaging 7.3 yards per carry. FSU was able to keep him out of the end zone, though, and the Terps will be challenged to do the same.

Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt. He needs 44 more rushing yards to break the ACC career record of rushing yards by a quarterback. After rushing for 106 yards against Middle Tennessee, Nesbitt has 2,718 yards. The record is held by former Clemson standout Woodrow Dantzler (2,761, 1998-2001). How long can the Tigers’ D protect their record books?

Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers. Georgia Tech’s offensive line will have its hands full with this guy. He’s leading the nation in sacks and tackles for loss.

Quarterbacks in the Commonwealth. Duke quarterback Sean Renfree can’t afford five interceptions against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and Virginia quarterback Marc Verica is looking to shake off the three picks he threw last week against UNC and rebound against Eastern Michigan. And Tyrod Taylor? Well, he can move into fourth place in career passing yards at Virginia Tech with 144 more yards.

Virginia Tech’s secondary against Duke’s receivers. The Hokies’ pass defense hasn’t exactly been stellar this year, and it’s no secret that Duke is going to throw the ball. The Blue Devils have three of the ACC’s top receivers in Conner Vernon, Donovan Varner and Austin Kelly. The Hokies’ Jayron Hosley leads the ACC with four interceptions.

Virginia’s running game. The Cavaliers’ rushing defense hasn’t been very good, but Eastern Michigan’s is worse. Expect Keith Payne and Perry Jones to boost their stats. Eastern Michigan is allowing 228 rushing yards per game.

ACC predictions: Week 8

October, 21, 2010
Predictions: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

Welcome to the coachspeak picks.

Had it not been for the Pack’s loss to ECU, I would have gone undefeated last week. But I’m like Virginia coach Mike London after the loss to USC -- I don’t settle for moral victories. After seven weeks, my record stands at 45-13 (77.5 percent). But I don’t pay attention to the numbers. Sure, it would be nice to be ranked ahead of Chris Low, but where you finish the season is more important. Besides, these things go in cycles.

With only five games this week, my margin for error is slim. I can’t afford to beat myself with silly mistakes and mental errors. What’s that? Georgia Tech fans are tired of me picking Clemson? I don’t know, I don’t read the comments. The only things I can worry about are the things I can control, and that’s trying to get some W’s this week:

Boston College 14, Maryland 10: The Eagles’ offense is inept, but Maryland will continue to struggle to run the ball against the No. 10 rushing defense in the country.

Clemson 28, Georgia Tech 24: Georgia Tech’s defense won’t be able to stop Andre Ellington, and Kyle Parker will get some more help in the passing game. Clemson has so many freaks on defense the Tigers will force the Jackets into some mistakes. Georgia Tech is a completely different team than the one that won the ACC title -- that team was better.

Virginia Tech 45, Duke 17: Even if the Blue Devils completely eliminate their turnovers, they won’t be able to stop this offense. Tyrod Taylor and his supporting cast are clicking on all cylinders now.

North Carolina 24, Miami 21 (OT): In a game that’s been decided by turnovers for the past three years, it would be foolish to ignore Miami quarterback Jacory Harris’ penchant for turnovers. Until proven otherwise, the benefit of the doubt goes to the team that has made fewer mistakes this season.

Virginia 38, Eastern Michigan 14: Virginia is banged up and still trying to find its identity, but is still talented enough to get its third win of the season. Quarterback Marc Verica will make fewer mistakes and the Cavaliers’ offense will suddenly look dramatically better against one of the nation’s worst defenses.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 7

October, 17, 2010
Here's a look at the lessons learned in Week 7:

Turnovers rule. It was a rough weekend for ACC quarterbacks. FSU’s Christian Ponder accounted for all four of his team’s turnovers on three interceptions and one fumble. Duke’s Sean Renfree had six of the team’s seven turnovers on five interceptions and one fumble. There were eight total turnovers in Georgia Tech’s game, with Middle Tennessee accounting for six of them. Virginia’s Marc Verica had three interceptions, Maryland’s Danny O’Brien had three, and NC State had four turnovers, including three picks by Russell Wilson. It wasn’t pretty.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
AP Photo Virginia Tech has looked impressive in ACC play so far. The Hokies and Florida State are the only league unbeatens remaining.
Florida State and Virginia Tech are the ACC’s lone unbeaten teams in conference play. That doesn’t mean, however, that they’ve got this thing locked up. The Seminoles should be thankful they escaped with a win against BC despite four turnovers. And Virginia Tech still has to play Georgia Tech, UNC and Miami -- three teams which are all still in the hunt for the Coastal Division title. FSU is the ACC’s first bowl-eligible team.

Maryland wasn’t as good as its 4-1 record indicated. Make that 4-2. The Terps weren’t able to get much going offensively in their 31-7 loss to Clemson, and so far they’ve struggled against decent competition. Clemson held Maryland to just 44 rushing yards and was able to neutralize top receiver Torrey Smith. They also had 10 penalties for 93 yards. It was only Maryland’s first ACC loss of the season, but it came against an Atlantic Division opponent, which could come back to haunt them.

NC State is not the best team in the state. North Carolina was able to beat East Carolina. The Wolfpack? Not so much. Wilson’s interception in overtime ruined any chance at a comeback, but it wouldn’t have gone into overtime if NC State’s defense had been able to make some stops and slow down Pirates quarterback Dominique Davis. Granted, UNC and NC State don’t play each other until Nov. 20, but the Tar Heels don’t have an ECU loss on their resume. Virginia Tech can claim a North Carolina state championship with a win over Duke this Saturday. The Hokies have wins over Wake Forest, ECU and NC State already.

Duke, Virginia, Boston College and Wake Forest are on the outside looking in. With three conference losses each, the best these programs should hope for this season is to play the role of spoiler. All of them have had significant problems that aren’t likely to be corrected in the second half of the season. It has to be particularly frustrating for BC, as the Eagles’ defense has been playing well enough to win.

ACC Helmet Stickers: Week 7

October, 16, 2010
Here are the ACC’s top five performers for Week 7:

Clemson defensive end Da’Quan Bowers: He had a career-high three sacks and four tackles for loss in the Tigers’ 31-7 win over Maryland. He now has a total of nine sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss on the season. Bowers sack total is already the most by a Clemson player since 2006 when Gaines Adams had 12.5. Bowers has recorded a sack and at least two tackles for loss in all of Clemson’s games this season except Presbyterian, a contest in which he played just 21 plays. Bowers became the first Clemson player to record three sacks in a game since 2001 when Bryant McNeal had three against Duke on Dec. 1. Gaines Adams, who also wore number-93, never had more than 2.5 in a game.

Miami’s defense: The Hurricanes responded to their lackluster performance against Florida State by forcing Duke into seven turnovers, including five interceptions in a 28-13 victory. Vaughn Telemaque picked off two passes, and defensive tackle Micanor Regis returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown.

Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring. This is the kind of explosive offensive display Hokies fans have been desperately seeking, and Stinespring finally delivered, making great use of his cast of characters during a 52-21 win. Virginia Tech racked up 605 yards and scored on seven of its eight first-half possessions. Darren Evans scored a career-high three touchdowns and Tyrod Taylor threw for 292 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another. By halftime, Virginia Tech had scored 49 points. Stinespring takes the brunt of the heat when the offense isn’t working. He should get some credit when it is.

Wake Forest tailback Josh Harris. He rushed for a career-high 241 yards on 19 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 33 and 87 yards in the 52-21 loss. He accounted for 241 of Wake's 346 yards total offense. The 87-yard touchdown run was the longest given up by Virginia Tech since 1987, Frank Beamer’s first game as head coach of the Hokies. Harris’ 241 yards are the most yards Virginia Tech has ever allowed on the ground by an individual. The previous high was 239 by Paul Palmer of Temple in 1986.

North Carolina. The Tar Heels won in Charlottesville for the first time since 1981, and scored the most points in Scott Stadium since 1946. The 44-10 victory was a complete effort, as receiver Dwight Jones had a career-high 198 yards and two touchdowns on seven catches, T.J. Yates threw for 325 yards and three touchdowns, and the defense intercepted Marc Verica three times and held the Cavaliers to just 2-of-6 red zone chances.

ACC Helmet Stickers: Week 5

October, 3, 2010
Here's a look at the ACC's top-five performers for Week 5:

FSU defensive coordinator Mark Stoops: He knew when he took the job what a project it would be transforming one of the worst defenses in the country into a respectable group. He has made significant progress in five games and Saturday's 34-14 win was further proof. FSU held Virginia to just 42 yards in the first half, and sacked quarterback Marc Verica three times before the break. FSU entered the game leading the nation with 19 sacks and got six more. They also had two interceptions.

Virginia Tech: It's too hard to single out one player, as Jayron Hosley accounted for all three interceptions, Tyrod Taylor tied for a career-high three touchdowns and ran for 100 yards, and Darren Evans ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns as the Hokies dug out of a 17-0 hole to beat No. 23 NC State on the road.

Georgia Tech quarterback Joshua Nesbitt: His nine-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds remaining was the game-winner in a 24-20 comeback win over Wake Forest. He threw for 130 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 72 more yards.

UNC tailback Shaun Draughn: He scored three second-half touchdowns and finished with 137 yards on 27 carries in the Tar Heels' 42-17 win over East Carolina. He scored on a 13-yard run in the final minute, capping a drive in which he carried the ball on every play. He came up a yard short of his career high.

Miami: After losing on the road to No. 2 Ohio State, the Canes have now won back-to-back road games, including their first ACC game. Quarterback Jacory Harris threw four touchdown passes, receiver Leonard Hankerson had seven catches for 147 yards and three touchdowns, and cornerback Brandon Harris made the play of the game with a fourth-and-one stop from him own 20-yard line. The defense forced six turnovers.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 27, 2010
Power Rankings: ACC | Big 12 | Big East | Big Ten | Pac-10 | SEC | Non-AQ

A win is a win, but a lot of the teams in the ACC just aren’t earning many style points these days. Virginia Tech’s D finally came through, but four field goals? And Miami’s D looked spectacular, but two more interceptions? NC State played one of the more complete games but still missed two field goals and had two turnovers. Florida State has rebounded, but against whom? All of that adds up to a lot of status quo in the league, and there was no movement in the top four spots.

Here’s a look at how the ACC stacks up heading into Week 5:

1. Miami (2-1, LW: No. 1) -- The Hurricanes rebounded from their loss at No. 2 Ohio State with a win at Pittsburgh, and while the defense looked capable of winning an ACC title, the offense was again overshadowed by Jacory Harris’ interceptions. The Hurricanes will face an even tougher road test on Saturday at …

2. Clemson (2-1, LW: No. 2) -- The Tigers had the bye week to rest and heal from a physical loss at Auburn. Auburn’s win over South Carolina this past weekend further validated Clemson’s performance on the road. The Tigers weren’t penalized this week for not playing, despite the impressive performance of …

3. NC State (4-0, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 3) -- The Wolfpack is the hottest team in the ACC right now and will have home field advantage this weekend against Virginia Tech. NC State is off to its first 4-0 start since 2002 and should have a lot of confidence after knocking off the defending ACC champs on Georgia Tech’s home field.

4. Florida State (3-1, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 4) -- The Seminoles have won back-to-back games after losing at Oklahoma, and the defense has shown significant improvement in both of them. Quarterback Christian Ponder looked more like his old self against Wake Forest after suffering a bruised triceps against BYU.

5. Virginia Tech (2-2, 1-0 ACC; LW: No. 7) -- The Hokies’ offense still looks average at best. The 19-0 win at Boston College was a coming out party for Bud Foster’s defense. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s offense struggled in the red zone and had to rely on four field goals. That won’t suffice against Russell Wilson & Co. this weekend.

6. Virginia (2-1; LW: No. 9) -- Marc Verica looked like the quarterback Virginia fans have been waiting for in a romp of VMI, but can he keep it up against Florida State’s defense? The Seminoles haven’t allowed a touchdown in six quarters. Virginia still has something to prove, as its two wins are both over FCS opponents, but if it plays the way it did at USC, it will have a chance to win.

7. Maryland (3-1; LW: No. 11) -- The Terps might have found a new quarterback in freshman Danny O’Brien, but coach Ralph Friedgen isn’t ready to say yet who will start against Duke. Maryland has finished its nonconference schedule as well as expected and is catching Duke at the right time.

8. Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 5) -- The Jackets didn’t look like the defending ACC champs, as there were two lost fumbles, a blocked punt for a touchdown, and the defense allowed 527 yards. They should be able to rebound this weekend against …

9. Wake Forest (2-2, 1-1 ACC; LW: No. 8) -- The Deacs played better on defense, but this time the offense couldn’t get anything going. FSU’s defense deserves a lot of credit for that, but Wake lost starting quarterback Tanner Price to a possible concussion.

10. North Carolina (1-2, 0-1 ACC; LW: No. 10) -- The Tar Heels started to climb out of their hole with a win at Rutgers and will have home field advantage against East Carolina on Saturday. Nothing is a given for this team, though, and UNC can’t afford to continue to turn the ball over, especially when it’s undermanned.

11. Boston College (2-1, 0-1 ACC; LW: No. 6) -- The Eagles’ offensive struggles were exposed in their first ACC game, and quarterback Dave Shinskie was benched as a result of it. Mike Marscovetra and Chase Rettig will compete for the starting job against Notre Dame this week. BC was shut out for the first time in 12 years.

12. Duke (1-3, 0-1 ACC; LW: No. 12) -- Not only did the Blue Devils’ defense struggle against Army, but so did quarterback Sean Renfree, throwing an uncharacteristic three interceptions. Duke had five total turnovers and seemed to have taken a step back from last year’s progress.

Virginia cruising against VMI

September, 25, 2010
No surprises in Charlottesville, where Virginia holds a 31-7 lead against VMI at the half. It hasn't been a flawless performance, though, as the Cavaliers have lost a fumble and allowed VMI to control the clock. Quarterback Marc Verica is having a great day, though, as he's thrown for 185 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. This is the last chance for the Cavaliers to fix any problems they might have, as they're staring at a three-game conference schedule coming up, starting next weekend against Florida State.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 2

September, 9, 2010
It’s a big week for the ACC, so there’s plenty to keep an eye on. As the title indicated, here’s what to watch in Week 2:

1. Florida State and Miami’s rise -- or fall. This is it. The weekend that determines which one -- if either -- of the two former powers are ready to make a statement on the national level. The Seminoles have a chance at Oklahoma and Miami takes on No. 2 Ohio State. Both are road trips. If either or both of these teams lose, the buzz around the ACC will disappear faster than Greg Reid on a punt return.

[+] EnlargeGreg Reid
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireGreg Reid returned a punt 74 yards for a TD against Samford.
2. Florida State cornerback Greg Reid. Samford did its best not to punt to Reid (smart move), but couldn’t avoid him the entire game. He fielded one punt, and that’s all he needed to score. With 8:17 remaining in the second quarter, Reid took a punt back for a 74-yard touchdown.

3. Georgia Tech’s pass defense. Much has been made of the transition up front to a 3-4 defense, but the Jackets’ secondary will be tested. Eight different Kansas receivers caught passes against North Dakota State, including Johnathan Wilson, who had six receptions.

4. How good is Tajh Boyd? FCS school Presbyterian has lost 15 consecutive games, so Kyle Parker could spend the second half of this game across the street in Kingsmore Stadium taking batting practice in preparation for his Colorado Rockies assignment next spring. Boyd should get plenty of playing time in this one.

5. Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie. He threw two interceptions last weekend against Weber State and his job is in question heading into Kent State. Can he perform well enough to keep it, or will Frank Spaziani give Mike Marscovetra the reins?

6. Virginia’s offense vs. USC’s defense. Nine different UVA receivers caught passes against Richmond, Marc Verica threw for a career-high 283 yards, and the Cavaliers rushed for another 205. UVA rushed for over 100 yards just four times last year. Meanwhile, USC’s defense allowed almost 600 total yards to Hawaii.

7. Defenses in Winston-Salem. Both Duke and Wake Forest were successful in Week 1 under first-year starting quarterbacks, which indicates their offenses are in good hands. Whoever makes the stops in the first conference game will come out on top.

8. Virginia Tech receiver Jarrett Boykin. He’s had over 100 yards receiving in four of his last five games and needs 81 more to climb into eighth place in career receiving yards at Virginia Tech.

9. NC State receiver T.J. Graham. Heading into the season, Graham had just one touchdown reception for his career. After one quarter last weekend, he had three. Graham scored on 26- and 25-yard passes from Russell Wilson, gaining a career-high 96 yards on a career-high six receptions. He also had a 50-yard kickoff return.

10. Maryland’s passing game. The Terps threw the ball just five times against Navy, and coach Ralph Friedgen said it’s possible all three of his quarterbacks could play against Morgan State. Maryland has a deep, fast, talented group of wide receivers -- too good to be ignored.