NCF Nation: Matt Pipho
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Last week it was the Coastal Division that highlighted the conference play. This week it’s the Atlantic, with everyone in the division playing each other and no nonconference games to speak of. Two teams -- NC State and Maryland -- will be playing their first ACC games. While the Atlantic Division standings are worth watching this weekend, so are the following items:
1. Florida State in the trenches. FSU’s offensive line was humbled by South Florida last weekend, and that’s putting it kindly. The defensive line should get deeper with the expected return of two defensive tackles. Justin Mincey, who has missed the first four games with a knee injury, came back in full pads Tuesday and is expected to suit up Saturday. So is defensive tackle Moses McCray, who sat out the USF game with an elbow injury. They’ll face a veteran BC offensive line.
2. Dueling quarterbacks in Winston-Salem. NC State quarterback Russell Wilson proved against Pitt he hasn't lost a step, and he has yet to throw an interception, but Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner is a veteran who has continuously put his team in position to win this season. Wilson has thrown four touchdown passes in each of his last three games and accumulated 413 yards of total offense in Saturday’s win over Pitt. Skinner piled up a career-high 354 yards passing last Saturday in the overtime loss to Boston College.
3. Turnovers and penalties in College Park. They’re the two things that have hindered Maryland the most this month. The Terps had 10 penalties for 85 yards, two lost fumbles and three interceptions. Maryland has 13 turnovers this season which have contributed to 61 points. Coach Ralph Friedgen brought officials to practice this week to help with the penalties, and made the offense do 10 up-downs for each turnover.
4. UNC receiver Erik Highsmith. The Tar Heels have found a receiver. Now if only they could find the rest of their offense. The true freshman accounted for 107 of the Tar Heels’ 154 yards of total offense with six receptions and the lone touchdown in North Carolina’s 24-7 loss at Georgia Tech. Highsmith has posted 100-yard games in each of the last two outings and has 12 catches for 220 yards in the last two weeks. The rookie made catches of 40 and 30 yards to give him four of Carolina’s five pass receptions of at least 30 yards on the season.
5. Miami’s pass protection. The Canes’ offensive line had done so well in the first two games at keeping quarterback Jacory Harris on his feet, and then he was sacked three times by Virginia Tech. Right tackle Matt Pipho could use some help. Oklahoma’s defense might be the best the Canes will see all season. Pipho alone will be overmatched against defensive ends Auston English and Jeremy Beal, who have combined for 27.5 career sacks and four through three games this season.
6. Miami’s defense against Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray. Regardless of who is starting at quarterback for the Sooners -- Sam Bradford or Landry Jones -- Murray will play an integral role. Jones, who could be making his first collegiate road start, won’t be asked to win the game by himself, and Murray is the best option on the Sooners’ offense. Murray is just 15 yards shy of reaching 2,000 for his career and has 32 carries for 219 yards and two touchdowns this year. One thing Miami’s defense couldn’t do last week was stop the run.
7. Virginia’s offense. The word “tweak” isn’t in Al Groh’s vocabulary because he thinks it’s “too cute,” so that’s not what he’s done to the offense. Let’s call it “altered,” for the sake of argument. The Cavaliers relinquished some aspects of the spread offense and it resulted in 390 yards of total offense and something positive to build on heading into the bye week, despite a loss to Southern Miss. UNC coach Butch Davis said it’s a “guessing game” as to what UVA will look like on Saturday.
8. Duke’s injured running backs. In order for the Blue Devils to look competitive against the Hokies, they’re going to have to get their running game going, and their top three backs have been injured, including budding freshman star Desmond Scott, who tweaked his hamstring. Re’quan Boyette (leg) and Jay Hollingsworth (ankle) played sparingly or not at all against NC Central. We won't know their status updates until the injury report comes out later today.
9. Georgia Tech’s defense against Mississippi State running back Anthony Dickson. Dickson ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns last weekend against LSU. The Yellow Jackets rank second in the ACC and 30th nationally in rushing defense (106.0). Last year, Dixon ran for 94 yards on 13 carries against the Yellow Jackets.
10. Virginia Tech’s secondary vs. Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. The Hokies have allowed just one touchdown pass this season -- one. Lewis has thrown five so far this season, and he completed 17-for-25 for 189 passing yards and two touchdowns last week against NC Central. It was his 15th career multi-touchdown game.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
It should be a close game, and both Georgia Tech and Miami have reasons to be confident. Here’s a look at the top three things each team has going for it heading into tonight’s game.
THREE REASONS MIAMI WILL WIN
1. Jacory Harris. Against Florida State, Harris was excellent throwing the ball downfield. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Harris completed 9 of 13 passes greater than 10 yards and averaged 20 yards per attempt. He threw two touchdowns and one interception. He’s so poised and calm in clutch situations, and he’s got plenty of talented players to distribute the ball to.
2. Intangibles. Miami is 13-2 on Thursday night games and 9-0 at home. They’re not looking ahead to the Virginia Tech game (at least they say they’re not), but a win tonight would go a long way in giving them confidence heading into Blacksburg next week. If the Canes win, it will give them their second win over a ranked opponent this season, boost them to 2-0 in league play, and give Randy Shannon his third straight victory in a home opener.
3. Improved run defense. Considering Florida State’s running game has struggled in its first two games, it’s hard to judge just how much better it really is, but let’s give the Canes credit for what they’ve done so far. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information (don’t you love those guys?) on 14 first-down rushes, Miami's defense allowed only four carries of over four yards against FSU. That means on 71.4 percent of first-down carries, FSU gained three yards or less. Miami's defense is tied for 13th in the nation for percent of first-down carries under four yards. If they can stop Tech's option attack on first down, it could go a long way, as Josh Nesbitt is 1-for-7 on second downs this season.
THREE REASONS GEORGIA TECH WILL WIN
1. Too many options. Anthony Allen, Jonathan Dwyer, Roddy Jones and more all have big-play capabilities, and it only takes a few to change a game. Miami’s defense can slow these guys, but it’s certainly not going to stop them. The Jackets will do what they do best -- run the ball and control the clock.
2. Coaching. There shouldn’t be any trick plays involving fake field goals, but Paul Johnson has a few decades on Randy Shannon. It made a difference last week against Clemson, particularly in the first half, and odds are it will make a difference tonight, too. Mark Whipple might meet his match, as Johnson calls the plays for Tech.
3. Derrick Morgan. If there is one player all season that Miami’s offensive line needs to shield Harris from, Morgan is it, and right tackle Matt Pipho will probably need some help with that. Morgan had four tackles for loss, three sacks and a team best 10 tackles in Georgia Tech's 30-27 win over Clemson. The pressure he helped bring forced Clemson into two interceptions last week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
And around the ACC we go ...
For those of you wondering why there's not a lot of news coming out of Virginia Tech, don't hold your breath for a lot of links in 2009. Frank Beamer is tightening access, which is unfortunate. In the past, they've been one of the most accommodating staffs to work with.
Louisville transfer Anthony Allen is just one of the many reasons Georgia Tech has for optimism in 2009.
Miami safety Vaughn Telemaque is trying to rebound from an injury-hampered season, and he's got roommate LaRon Byrd to lean on in the process. Receiver Leonard Hankerson, meanwhile, is trying to get rid of the "drops." Miami's offensive line appears to be a strength now that Matt Pipho has had a solid spring at right tackle.
Former Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey isn't just putting his best foot forward for NFL scouts, he's also putting his personality on display.
Many Clemson fans are watching the quarterback competition this spring, but who they're throwing it to is also important.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The Miami Hurricanes were one of the first teams in the country to start spring practice on Tuesday. I spoke with coach Randy Shannon Tuesday morning about his expectations for the program heading into his third season. Here are the highlights of our conversation:
To start, what are some of your top priorities this spring?
|Gary Rothstein/Icon SMI|
|Miami coach Randy Shannon is putting a positive spin on his team's difficult 2009 schedule.|
RS: Building depth on the offensive line. The two positions we've got to get some depth at are offensive line and linebacker. We have your so-called first units, but you don't want to get caught in a situation without depth at those positions and that's the one thing we have to develop. We've got a lot of guys back -- (Jason) Fox was a starter, (Joel) Figueroa played a lot, Orlando (Franklin) played a lot, (A.J.) Trump played a lot, (Matt) Pipho played -- but that next batch, we need to develop that sixth, seventh guy.
How many early enrollees do you have?
RS: Six. The last two years we've had seven or eight.
How much will it help you to have those guys for the spring?
RS: It helped us a lot last year because we played so many of those young guys. Of the eight guys that came in, seven helped us last year. These guys come in and they may have an opportunity to help us also. They get ahead.
Do you think the fact that last year's class did that and played so much helped you guys recruit this year because people saw they do have a chance to play as true freshmen at Miami?
RS: I think it did. People understand we're not afraid to play young guys coming in, and that if they're better than the guys we have on the football team they'll definitely get an opportunity to play.
With that said, how big of a step does this sophomore class now have to take and grow up a little bit more?
RS: They have to grow up a lot. Those guys played a lot last year and we have to now move forward. The seniors we do have, they're going to be very key to being leaders now. These guys have played two or three years under the new staff and we look for big things from them.
How did you wind up with such a brutal schedule?
RS: It is what it is, Heather. We have to look at it from the standpoint of, after the first four games you have an opportunity to be in the top 10 in the country. That's how you've gotta look at it. You can't look at it like the world is coming to an end, how are we going to get through this? You can't.
How far back did you schedule Oklahoma?
RS: That was before I was the coach. That was some years ago.