NCF Nation: Marvin Austin

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
The official list for the NFL combine has been released. A total of 48 players from the ACC have been invited to audition for the NFL from February 23 – March 1. When categorized by school, it's somewhat of a reality check to see how many of the best players in the conference are moving on, and which programs will take the biggest hit. It's impossible not to wonder how good North Carolina could have been had all of the following players remained eligible. The Tar Heels will send the most players to the combine with 11.

Here are the players who will represent the ACC:

  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Rich Lapham
  • Mark Herzlich
  • Da'Quan Bowers
  • Marcus Gilchrist
  • Chris Hairston
  • Jamie Harper
  • Jarvis Jenkins
  • Byron Maxwell
  • DeAndre McDaniel
  • Danny Aiken
  • Ras-I Dowling

Marvin 'all-star' Austin?

January, 19, 2011
North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin was dismissed from the team last year and didn't play a snap because he was a central figure in the NCAA's investigation into improper contact between athletes and agents, but he's expected to wear No. 99 -- and a North Carolina helmet -- in the East-West Shrine game this weekend.

Austin told the Raleigh News & Observer that he's "not ready to talk about the past" yet, but he's happy to be on the field hitting again. He can take a shot under his facemask, but apparently can't handle a question about why he missed an entire season.

No, I don't think Austin should be rewarded with a spot in this game when there are other deserving players out there who followed the rules. (Watch the video). Yes, he paid his dues by sitting out a season, and he deserves his shot at the NFL and will get it, but these games are supposed to also be a reward for the players who just went through the grind of an entire season and have earned their spot in a showcase game.

A player like Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Taylor is working out with the quarterbacks and you can catch up on what he did in Todd McShay's blog. Todd McShay, Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl of Scouts Inc. are tracking all of the action leading up to the Shrine Game and Insiders can follow it here.

There are several ACC players to follow, but Austin will be one of the most-watched players at these practices and with good reason. Despite his past transgressions, it's impossible not to follow along to see how he fares after sitting out the year. To get into these practices and win one-on-one battles against guys who have been training with their teammates all season is impressive. He's a bit rusty, but there's no question he's a phenomenal player.

Some might even call him an all-star.

Back and forth in the ACC: Weeks 6/7

October, 11, 2010
Here’s a look back at Week 6 and a look ahead at Week 7

The good: Florida State’s offensive line. The Seminoles won the battle up front and paved the way for another impressive day running with 298 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Christian Ponder wasn’t sacked once, as the Noles were able to fend off the nation’s No. 4-ranked team in sacks.

The bad: Miami. The Hurricanes came out flat. They were outplayed and outcoached in all three phases of the game. There were missed tackles, dropped passes and the linebackers were rendered ineffective. Instead of taking an important step forward on their home field, Miami looked like it took a step back.

The ugly: You can’t spell North Carolina without NCAA (no, really, you can’t). The careers of Marvin Austin, Greg Little< and Robert Quinn are over, but the investigation is not. And the more that is revealed -- this time that the aforementioned players weren’t truthful with the NCAA during the course of the investigation -- the uglier things look in Chapel Hill.

Top three games of Week 7:

1. Maryland at Clemson: The Terps have had something on Clemson in recent years, as Maryland was able to beat the Atlantic Division champs last year for its lone league win of the season. The Terps beat Clemson 13-12 in 2006, 20-17 in 2008, and 24-21 last year. Maryland is 4-1 and has something to play for this year, and they're catching the Tigers when they're down.

2. North Carolina at Virginia: Virginia has won four straight and UNC hasn't won in Charlottesville since 1981, losing 14 straight times. North Carolina holds a 56-54-4 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to 1892 but the two schools differ on the series record. Why? Because of the game in 1956 that North Carolina forfeited for using an ineligible player. You know what they say, history repeats itself.

3. NC State at East Carolina: The Pirates should just join the ACC. Seriously. The Hokies have played them, North Carolina has played them. Now it’s the Pack’s turn. The Wolfpack should win this one with some style points, since ECU’s defense has been abysmal, but it’s on the road, and any game against an in-state opponent has the potential to be a trap game.

More bad news for UNC

October, 11, 2010
North Carolina has lost defensive tackle Marvin Austin, wide receiver Greg Little and defensive end Robert Quinn to college football's player agent scandal.

Austin has been dismissed from the team and Little and Quinn have been ruled permanently ineligible. It's a miserable way to end a season for three players that had so much potential entering it. All three were expected to be stars on a team capable of contending for the ACC title, and Austin and Quinn were easily two of the best defenders in the country, let alone the ACC.

For six weeks, though, UNC has learned to live without them and will continue to do so for the second half of the season.

North Carolina and its fans have been waiting for some closure to the ongoing NCAA investigation, and now they know for sure at least who won't be with the team this year. The news followed an earlier press release announcing that linebacker Shane Mularkey had his left shoulder repaired and will miss the remainder of the season, and defensive tackle Greg Elleby had his left knee reconstructed and will miss the remainder of the season after tearing two ligaments (ACL and MCL) Oct. 2 in Carolina’s 42-17 win against East Carolina.

UNC players in stands: Bad idea

September, 4, 2010
ATLANTA -- Suspended defensive tackle Marvin Austin is in the stands here at the Georgia Dome. He's not the only one.

The Raleigh News & Observer has reported that most of the 13 players who were held out of this game are in attendance.

UNC officials can't be happy with this decision. It only raises more questions: How did they get here? How did they get tickets? Who paid for their flights? The tickets? Hotel? Many of the same questions that brought some of these players under scrutiny to begin with.

Instead of laying low, these players opted to show their faces at the very game they weren't allowed to travel to with their teammates. Sure, it could be painted as a show of support for their teammates, but the best way to do that would have been not to put them in this position in the first place.

Halftime: LSU 30, UNC 10

September, 4, 2010
Turning point: LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown with about four minutes remaining in the second half. He was untouchable as he sprinted down the sideline in a play that swung the momentum in the Tigers’ favor as they pulled ahead 23-10.

Stat of the half: All three of LSU’s touchdowns in the second quarter were scored on plays of 50 yards or more and took less than 30 seconds total. The Tigers scored on a 50-yard run, a 51-yard pass, and Peterson’s 87-yard return. North Carolina is obviously missing its seven starters on defense in giving up those big plays, but one of those ineligible players -- defensive tackle Marvin Austin -- has a prime seat in the stands.

Best player in the half: Patrick Peterson. He has been electric as a kick returner and his speed is phenomenal. He had three punt returns for 144 yards and one touchdown to go with one kick return for 11 yards. It's hard not to wonder what he'd do on offense.
North Carolina lost before it even stepped on the plane this morning.

A total of 15 players have either been declared ineligible or remain in limbo for Saturday's season opener against LSU for violations of school and/or NCAA rules, according to a release this morning from the university.

Starters Marvin Austin, Charles Brown, Kendric Burney, Greg Little and Robert Quinn have all been declared ineligible, along with backup defensive end Michael McAdoo. Six others, including the 1-2 punch running back combo of Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, starting safety Da'Norris Searcy, and backups Linwan Euwell, safety Brian Gupton and safety Jonathan Smith will all be held out of the game while the investigations continue.

The total number of games those 12 players are expected to miss has not been determined, as the NCAA's investigation into possible improper contact with agents and academic misconduct continues.

UNC is also working with the NCAA today to determine the eligibility status of three other players who will not travel to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A kickoff. The Tar Heels left on Friday morning.

This is a huge punch in the gut, not only for North Carolina's chances at beating LSU (game over), but also for the Tar Heels' hopes for the entire season. This is bigger than Butch Davis and any one player within the program. This is the kind of devastating news that could impact the entire season.

T.J. Yates' interceptions? They're the least of UNC's worries.

The Tar Heels will be missing their leading receiver, the top three rushers (Little was third), the top two punt returners, two of the top three interception leaders, and two of the top four tacklers. The two-deep on the preseason depth chart at running back, strong safety and right defensive end will now start with the third-string player, or others will have to be moved around.

“As I have said, there is no single game more important than the character and integrity of this university,” Davis said in the release. “We are disappointed the players’ choices have denied them the opportunity to compete alongside their teammates and represent the University of North Carolina. Our coaches and players have a tremendous challenge this weekend, and despite these circumstances, our team will be excited to face LSU.”

Too bad UNC's fans won't be excited to watch it.

ACC predictions: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
Thank you, Wake Forest and Miami, for ushering in the season early. The ACC begins the 2010 season tonight and the action continues through Monday with two games on Labor Day. Here are your first official predictions of the season (and yes, there’s a bit of competition, not to mention anyone’s Chris Low name.) Here's to a season of winning predictions:

Wake Forest 41, Presbyterian 6: New quarterback or not, this isn’t a win the Deacs should fumble away. Presbyterian was 0-11 last year. This should be a good initiation and confidence builder for Ted Stachitas.

Miami 38, Florida A&M 3: The Canes racked up 303 total yards in the first half alone last year in a 48-16 win against the Rattlers, and Damien Berry rushed for 162 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown run. The defense had 11 sacks. A similar outcome is likely.

Florida State 56, Samford 6: Expect Jimbo Fisher to win convincingly and leave no doubt about the tone he plans to set for the season. Samford returns 15 starters from last year’s 5-6 team, including the school’s all-time leading rusher in Chris Evans (3,469).

Boston College 31, Weber State 14: It might not be pretty, but it will help BC figure out just how much trouble they’re in on the defensive line and at wide receiver. It’s one of four straight home games to open the season for the Eagles.

Georgia Tech 51, South Carolina State 10: Yes, the Bulldogs are two-time MEAC champs, but they’re not going to be able to stop Paul Johnson’s offense. S.C. State has a quarterback to be respected in Malcolm Long, who set several school records last year, but he won’t be able to match the production of Joshua Nesbitt and Co.

Clemson 52, North Texas 10: The Tigers are defending Atlantic Division champs, and they should look like it against the Mean Green. Still, North Texas has amassed more than 4,000 yards of total offense in back-to-back years.

NC State 38, Western Carolina 17: As Tom O’Brien said, any opponent with “Carolina” in it should be taken seriously by his team, but the Wolfpack should come out on top as Western Carolina finished 2-9 last year.

Virginia 28, Richmond 24: Mike London is almost too familiar with his alma mater and former team, and that should keep things interesting. The first step in changing the program will be to avoid a repeat of last year’s loss to an FCS team.

Duke 31, Elon 20: Elon has a fifth-year senior at quarterback while the Blue Devils will play their first game with Sean Renfree as the new starter, so a blowout shouldn’t be expected. Quarterback Scott Riddle threw for 3,345 yards and 23 touchdowns last season and had only seven passes intercepted in 439 attempts. Elon will keep it close throughout before Duke takes charge later in the second half.

LSU 38, North Carolina 14: The suspension of Marvin Austin and the uncertainty with the depth chart in the weeks preceding the game will be too much to overcome. And that’s only on the Tar Heels’ sideline. They also have to worry about cornerback Patrick Peterson, who could make it a long day for T.J. Yates.

Navy 21, Maryland 20: The Terps are desperate to win this one, their tight ends are injured, and Navy returns five of its top six rushers from last year’s 10-4 team. It will take more than just linebacker Alex Wujciak to stop Ricky Dobbs and the triple option.

Virginia Tech 28, Boise State 17: It wouldn’t surprise me if the Hokies ran the ball 60 times, and there won’t be any aerial circus against Bud Foster’s defense. Expect a typical Virginia Tech performance that includes something like a blocked punt for a touchdown.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 1

September, 2, 2010
There’s plenty on tap this weekend in the ACC, starting Thursday night with Miami and Wake Forest. Here are 10 things worth keeping an eye on in Week 1:

1. North Carolina’s revamped starting lineup: So far, we know standout defensive tackle Marvin Austin has been suspended, and more announcements are expected by the time the team boards the bus at 9:30 a.m. on Friday. Every time UNC makes a statement, the Tar Heels situation only seems to get worse.

2. Comeback kids: NC State linebacker Nate Irving is listed as the starter at middle linebacker against Western Carolina after sustaining serious season-ending injuries last summer. Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich is likely to play against Weber State after recovering from Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer and then suffering a broken foot this summer, and Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans is back to full speed after missing 2008 with a torn ACL. Maryland running back Da’Rel Scott, another 1,000-yard rusher, is also healthy after missing six games with injuries last year.

3. First-year coaches: It’s starting to become a trend in the ACC. This year, the Jimbo Fisher era has begun at Florida State and Mike London is looking to turn around a struggling Virginia program. Both coaches will be facing programs they once coached and attended.

4. First-year quarterbacks: At Duke, Sean Renfree takes over for one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in school history, and Ted Stachitas is going through the same thing at Wake Forest, where he will replace the winningest quarterback in school history. Jamarr Robinson enters his first full season as a starter at Maryland, and Marc Verica takes over at Virginia.

5. Boise State’s rushing defense vs. Virginia Tech’s dynamic duo. The Broncos were ranked No. 28 in the country last year in rushing defense (120.36 yards per game), but struggled against some of the country’s better runners. Darren Evans and Ryan Williams have each had 1,000-yard seasons, and David Wilson could give Boise State additional concerns.

6. Miami’s running back rotation. The Canes have Damien Berry and Mike James listed as No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, but Lamar Miller also had an impressive camp, and if the conditions are right, coach Randy Shannon said he’d like to get Graig Cooper in the game.

7. NC State running back Dean Haynes. He has only recently switched to offense, and now he’s listed as the starter for the Western Carolina game. Tom O’Brien wouldn’t have promoted him to the top of the depth chart had Haynes not impressed him, but not even O’Brien knows what to expect.

8. Georgia Tech’s new 3-4 defense: The Yellow Jackets have been working on first-year coordinator Al Groh’s scheme all summer, and this will be the only chance for players to get comfortable in it before back-to-back road trips at Kansas and Coastal Division opponent UNC.

9. Virginia Tech linebacker Bruce Taylor. He’s expected to fill in for injured starter Barquell Rivers, and while there has been a lot of praise heaped upon Taylor this summer, ESPN’s Scouts Inc. says Rivers is “by far the unit’s best returning starter,” and that having Rivers sidelined will be “a major blow” to the defense.

10. UNC’s offensive line vs. LSU’s defensive line. The Tar Heels return more experience up front, and both of the Tigers’ defensive ends are first-year starters. T.J. Yates, who threw 15 interceptions a year ago, will need time and protection in order to avoid being pressured into mistakes against LSU’s fast, talented secondary.

Troubles mount for North Carolina

August, 26, 2010
North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp looked like he was sitting on a tack.

This has turned into quite an uncomfortable, embarrassing situation for the university’s academic and athletic officials.

On Thursday evening, Thorp announced that UNC is looking into “possible academic misconduct involving a former undergraduate tutor and student-athletes on the football team.” That’s in addition to the current NCAA investigation into improper conduct with agents.

[+] EnlargeButch Davis
AP Photo/Gerry BroomeNorth Carolina coach Butch Davis must prepare for LSU without knowing which players will be available to him.
Buried on the depth chart is the fact that the Tar Heels play No. 21-ranked LSU in nine days.

While university officials are knee-deep in a public relations nightmare, coach Butch Davis is tasked with preparing his team without knowing which players might not be available. This can only go in two directions: A) The team rallies together in an effort to prove that none of this has detracted from their focus, or B) UNC implodes, and it starts in Atlanta against the Tigers.

From the outside looking in, the latter appears to be more likely.

Athletic director Dick Baddour said final decisions haven’t been made yet about which -- if any -- players might be ruled ineligible for the season opener. He said he doesn’t expect the NCAA’s investigation to conclude before the opening kickoff.

"We're working as hard as we can with the NCAA to bring those things into resolution,” Baddour said. "It's a difficult situation for Coach and the players to prepare. We're proceeding with this as fast as we know how. Coach has got to make some assumptions about how he prepares for the game. Because we get to a certain point next week and we don't have a declaration on a player, we're not backing off. We're going after that full force."

Baddour cautioned the media in the room -- twice -- about making assumptions if student-athletes don’t play against LSU. He wouldn't say how many players are being investigated for possible academic misconduct because university officials are still in the early stages of the investigation and there could be more.

The only two athletes connected with the investigation into agents so far have been receiver Greg Little and defensive tackle Marvin Austin. Those two alone could potentially change the outcome of a game. Both of them are three-year starters, but they have spent the summer working with the second team.

“Before the start of training camp, because of the speculation on some of these issues, I made the statement at press conferences that there would come a point in time in preparation for this first game that we would have to prepare with the players we assumed fully would be able to compete and play in this game, and that's what we've done,” Davis said. “We started that process on Monday."

Instead of gaining more clarity in the weeks since the NCAA’s investigation was announced, North Carolina’s situation -- and its depth chart -- has only gotten murkier.
The ACC released the 2010 preseason all-conference team, as voted on by 52 members of the media at the conference media days in Greensboro, N.C. UNC led all schools with five players selected, followed by Boston College with four players.

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel got the most votes, being named on 48 of the 52 ballots, while North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn (47 votes) and Virginia Tech tailback Ryan Williams (45) were the next highest. Virginia and Wake Forest were the only two schools not represented here.


WR Donovan Varner, Duke

WR Torrey Smith, Maryland

TE George Bryan, NC State

T Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

T Chris Hairston, Clemson

G Rodney Hudson, Florida State

G Thomas Claiborne, Boston College

C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech

QB Christian Ponder, Florida State

RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech

RB Montel Harris, Boston College


DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

DE Allen Bailey, Miami

DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina

DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland

LB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

CB Kendric Burney, North Carolina

CB Brandon Harris, Miami

S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

S Deunta Williams, North Carolina


PK Matt Bosher, Miami

P Matt Bosher, Miami

SP Torrey Smith, Maryland
1. I’ve heard of college kids living to regret posting Facebook photos of themselves looking a little too happy while holding a red plastic cup at a party. Prospective employers don’t like that. Now that North Carolina defensive lineman Marvin Austin has helped the NCAA to build its investigation of him by tweeting about his (agent-financed?) trip to Miami, expect college coaches to clamp down even more on the use of social media. It can turn on you in a heartbeat.

2. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is not bringing junior quarterback Terrelle Pryor to Big Ten media day, which is in keeping with his policy of bringing captains and/or seniors to the Chicago event. That’s all well and good, but former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden had a better take on it by opening his locker room for all but the last few years of his tenure. Bowden figured he could help his players mature and grow if they learned to deal with the media. So he let them.

3. When Timmy Chang of Hawaii smashed the NCAA career passing record in 2006 by finishing his career with 17,072 yards, I thought he had set a 56-game-hitting-streak kind of record. But Houston quarterback Case Keenum needs only 4,123 yards to surpass Chang. I write “only” because Keenum has surpassed 5,000 yards in each of the last two seasons. If Keenum stays healthy, he could have the record by Halloween.

ACC recruiting rewind

February, 2, 2010
You would think that with how well the ACC has fared in recruiting the past four years, it would have eventually made a bigger push on the national landscape during the season. Miami has had three top-10 classes, and Florida State has had two. Overall, the trend in the ACC has been that Florida State, Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech and North Carolina have led the conference on the recruiting front. Three of those teams have appeared in's final Top 25 ranking in each of the past four years (UNC has been there three of the past four.) Only the Hokies, though, have had it translate into postseason success -- so far. There was a common thread, though, amongst the other programs -- a coaching change or, in Florida State's case, coaching questions.

[+] EnlargeJohnson
Paul Abell/US PresswireAldarius Johnson was one of 12 ESPNU 150 players in Miami's No. 1-rated 2008 class.
It was impossible to predict, though, that players like former Miami quarterback Robert Marve would transfer, or that former FSU linebacker Marcus Ball would have off-field troubles and ask for his release.

Here's a reminder at how highly ranked several teams in the ACC have repeatedly finished since 2006, according to's Scouts Inc. rankings. You can click on the year to go to the full ranking. I mentioned a few of the top players in each class who were facing high expectations at the time, or players who weren't facing many expectations and have since proved otherwise (see: Virginia Tech).


No. 6 FSU (Myron Rolle)
No. 13 Clemson (C.J. Spiller, Jamie Cumbie, Ricky Sapp)
No. 17 Miami (Kylan Robinson)
No. 23 Maryland (Pha'Terrell Washington, Drew Gloster)
No. 24 Virginia Tech (Rashad Carmichael, Nekos Brown, Kam Chancellor)
No. 25 UNC (Aleric Mullins, Johnny White)


No. 9 Miami (Robert Marve, Allen Bailey)
No. 11 UNC (Quan Sturdivant, Marvin Austin)
No. 14 Georgia Tech (Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Josh Nesbitt)
No. 15 Virginia Tech (Tyrod Taylor, Blake DeChristopher, Barquell Rivers)
No. 18 Clemson (Willy Korn, Scotty Cooper, Marcus Gilchrist)
No. 25 Florida State (Brandon Paul, Markish Jones)


No. 1 Miami (Sean Spence, Jacory Harris, Aldarius Johnson)
No. 2 Clemson (DaQuan Bowers, Kyle Parker, Jamie Harper)
No. 12 FSU (Zebrie Sanders, E.J. Manuel, Nigel Carr)
No. 15 Virginia Tech (Ryan Williams)
No. 20 NC State (Mike Glennon, Brandon Barnes)


No. 7 Miami (Ray Ray Armstrong, Mike James)
No. 8 FSU (Greg Reid, Jacobbi McDaniel)
No. 13 UNC (Bryn Renner, Donavan Tate, Jheranie Boyd)
No. 18 Virginia Tech (Jayron Hosley, David Wilson, Logan Thomas)
No. 19 Clemson (Tajh Boyd, Bryce McNeal)

ACC's top recruiting closers

September, 8, 2009

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

Not a lot of these guys have national reputations, but somebody has to lure in the players to win these games. Here’s a quick look at the top closers in the ACC:

1. Randy Shannon, Miami: His resume speaks for itself when it comes to recruiting, as the Canes have brought in some of the country’s top talent under his direction, and he doesn’t have to leave his area code to get it. He does have to beat the likes of Florida, Florida State and dozens of other top programs who raid the state to get it, though.

2. Jimbo Fisher/Bobby Bowden, FSU: The head-coach-in waiting has an advantage over everyone else in that he’s essentially a head coach who can recruit when others can’t. He’s done a great job of building for the future and has become more proactive. Bowden is one of the few coaches in the ACC who have developed a national reputation as a closer. He's made a name for himself for getting those top-notch players at the last minute.

3. Billy Napier, offensive coordinator, Clemson: Napier used to be the recruiting coordinator before he assumed the play-calling duties, but he’s a major reason the Tigers have lured in the kind of talent capable of contending for the ACC title.

4. Butch Davis/John Blake, UNC: They're a tandem when it comes to recruiting, and they've already made a difference since arriving in Chapel Hill. In 2009 they brought in the No. 13-ranked class by, and within a week after he was hired, Davis brought in a player named Quan Sturdivant, and Marvin Austin committed on signing day.

TIE: 5. Jim Grobe, Wake Forest/Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech: The Deacs have started a pipeline into the talent-rich state of Florida, and hit the heart of it in Pahokee. Recruiting coordinator Ray McCartney and the staff have done a great job of finding smart players with good character who can still win. Beamer and his staff evaluate the same way Tommy Tuberville did at Auburn. Some are great players, but most are good players whom they develop into great players.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

There are some teams in the ACC that are stacked at a particular position or positions -- meaning there's not just depth there, but depth and legitimate all-conference talent. Here's a quick look at who in the conference is simply loaded:

UNC front seven: All four starters return on the defensive line, and there is outstanding depth both there and in the secondary. On the line, tackle Cam Thompson is coming off his best season at UNC, tackle Marvin Austin and end E.J. Wilson both started the majority of games last season, and Robert Quinn had 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

Linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant both started every game last season, and the position is the deepest it's been in recent years. Carter led the team with 11 tackles for loss and Sturdivant led the nation with 87 solo tackles.

Georgia Tech running backs: Jonathan Dwyer, Roddy Jones, Anthony Allen, Marcus Wright -- so many players, only one football.

Georgia Tech secondary: Morgan Burnett, Rashaad Reid, Mario Butler, Dominique Reese, and Cooper Taylor all have experience, and the group also welcomes back Jerrard Tarrant from a suspension.

Virginia Tech running backs: Darren Evans and Ryan Williams are all the Hokies will need, but they've also got Josh Oglesby and Kenny Lewis Jr. as players they can count on.

Boston College secondary: The Eagles return DeLeon Gause, Wes Davis and Roderick Rollins, who have combined for 32 career starts. This should be the best group BC has had in a while.

Clemson defensive line: The Tigers return three starters across the front, and coach Dabo Swinney has said this unit could be the strength of the entire team. Ricky Sapp is the leader, senior Kevin Alexander is a returning starter, and there are really three starters returning for the two defensive end positions, including DaQuan Bowers, who started six games last year and finished with 47 tackles, the most among the linemen.

Miami wide receivers: Travis Benjamin, Aldarius Johnson, Thearon Collier, LaRon Byrd, Kendal Thompkins, Tommy Streeter ... the Hurricanes could field a team that consists entirely of receivers.

Florida State offensive line: The Noles are oozing with talent here. Tackle Andrew Datko, guard Rodney Hudson and center Ryan McMahon combined to start all but one game last season. What was the youngest offensive line in the FBS last season could be one of the best this year. For the first time since 2004, all five starters return.

Wake Forest offensive line: The Demon Deacons return eight offensive linemen with a total of 118 career starts among them. Jeff Griffin and Joe Birdsong are Wake's returning starters at tackle while Barrett McMillin and Joe Looney each started at guard in 2008. Russell Nenon, who started the season at guard, moved to center at midseason following an injury to Trey Bailey. Bailey returns after fully healing from a broken ankle. The Deacons also welcome back Chris DeGeare who missed the 2008 season while getting his academics in order.