NCF Nation: Montell Harris

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

Hey, watch this ...

1. Backup quarterbacks. E.J. Manuel will get his first career start in place of injured Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder at Wake Forest, and Maryland backup Jamarr Robinson could start in place of injured starter Chris Turner against Virginia Tech. For Manuel, a bowl bid is still at stake. Florida State has won 14 of its last 15 games with a first-time starter under center. Wake quarterback Riley Skinner, though, has led the Deacs to three straight wins over the Seminoles.

2. Three scoreboards. If Georgia Tech and Clemson win, and Boston College loses at Virginia, we will know who is playing in the ACC championship game this week, as Clemson and Georgia Tech can both clinch their divisions. If Clemson and Georgia Tech lose, though, it opens the door for Boston College in the Atlantic Division and several teams in the Coastal.

3. The infielder vs. the outfielder. This will be the first time Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker and NC State quarterback Russell Wilson are on the same football field, but it’s not like they haven’t competed against each other before. Parker, a starting outfielder or designated hitter for the Tigers, and Wilson, a starting second baseman, have played baseball against each other the past two years and will be juniors in baseball this spring. Parker has already set a Clemson record for wins by a starting freshman quarterback and threw four touchdowns in the win over Florida State last week. Wilson is second in the ACC in passing efficiency and leads the ACC in touchdown passes with 24.

4. UNC tailback Ryan Houston. He’ll be the main man in the Tar Heels’ running game now that Shaun Draughn is out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, and they’ll need him to continue UNC’s recent progress in the running game against Miami. The Tar Heels are averaging 163.5 rushing yards in their six wins and just 98.0 in their three losses. Houston gained a career high 164 yards on 37 carries in Carolina’s 19-6 win over Duke.

5. Maryland kickoff returner Torrey Smith. Now he’s breaking his own records. Last weekend at NC State, Smith returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, the third of his career and second of the season. Smith also broke his own ACC single-season kickoff return yards record (1,089 in 2008) and now has 1,113 this season. With 1,806 all-purpose yards this season, Smith is also within striking distance of the ACC single-season mark (2,054 by Virginia’s Thomas Jones in 1999). Virginia Tech is second in the ACC in kickoff coverage.

6. Virginia’s defense vs. BC running back Montel Harris. The Cavaliers have one of the better passing defenses in the conference, but they've struggled to stop the run. Harris ranks second in the conference in rushing yards per game with 103.3. Harris has now gained 930 yards on 183 carries and has 13 touchdowns. Virginia is 10th in the ACC, allowing 166.7 rushing yards per game.

7. Receivers in Durham. Sure, Georgia Tech is going to run the ball, but the ACC’s top receivers will be on the field Saturday when Duke hosts Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech’s Demaryius Thomas (86.1 ypg) leads the league in receiving yards per game. Duke freshman Conner Vernon leads the ACC in receptions per game (5.12) and Donovan Varner (74.9) ranks second behind Thomas in receiving yards per game.

8. Uniforms in College Park. While Virginia Tech will unveil its spiffy new Nike uniforms, Maryland will be dressed for a cause – the Under Amrour / Wounded Warrior Project. The Terps will be wearing customized black and desert camouflage jerseys and cleats featuring the Wounded Warrior Project logo. In addition, warrior core value embellishments such as Duty, Honor and Courage will replace the athletes’ last names on each jersey. Former U.S. Army Captains Ferris Butler and Ryan Kules, as well as retired U.S. Army Specialist Adam Mattis are all from the state of Maryland and have been selected as honorary captains. Two of the three Iraq veterans, Kules and Mattis, attended Monday’s practice and will participate in the ceremonial coin toss at the beginning of the game on Saturday in honor of the U.S. Armed Services.

9. UNC defensive end Robert Quinn vs. Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. Quinn was able to get to Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and sack him three times last weekend. He also had six quarterback pressures. There have been times this season -- like when he was sacked six times by Central Florida -- that Harris hasn’t gotten the protection he needed. He’ll need it against this defense. Miami has allowed 26 sacks this season. Only Virginia has allowed more.

10. Florida State’s running game. With Manuel making his first career start, odds are the Seminoles bank on their experience, and that’s in the running game. Sophomore running back Jermaine Thomas enters Saturday’s game against Wake Forest with 979 career yards and needs only 21 yards to reach 1,000 for his career. Thomas has been on a roll with 305 total rushing yards in the past two games.

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Boston College quarterback Dave Shinskie didn’t watch Thursday night’s game between Clemson and Georgia Tech, even though the Eagles will travel to Death Valley to face the Tigers in their first ACC game of the season on Saturday.

It’s hardly as if Shinskie was the only one on the team who ignored the prime-time game, and coach Frank Spaziani was hardly surprised to hear it.
 
 AP Photo/Lisa Poole
 Frank Spaziani’s Eagles have outscored their first two opponents 88-7.


“Well, I asked him not to watch it,” Spaziani said. “It doesn’t surprise me that they listened to their coach. It’s a distraction. We have had everybody, ever since the summer, talking about the third game of the year before we played our first two. We hadn’t played No. 2 yet, and there was still a lot of talk about Game No. 3. We usually like to watch the Thursday night game, it was just bad timing that it was Clemson.”

Now, after outscoring their first two opponents 88-7, Clemson is all they’re watching. Granted, Boston College’s first two wins against Northeastern and Kent State were somewhat expected, considering the first was an FCS program and the second a 4-8 team in the MAC a year ago. But the Eagles, which were predicted by the media this summer to finish last in the Atlantic Division after winning it the past two seasons, have looked more promising despite the many questions the team faced heading into September.

Remember, this is a team that entered the season without a quarterback with any collegiate experience. There was a staff overhaul that included promoting Spaziani from defensive coordinator to head coach, and hiring Gary Tranquill as offensive coordinator. Two NFL draft pick defensive tackles had to be replaced, as did the entire linebacking corps after standout Mark Herzlich was diagnosed with cancer, and leader Mike McLaughlin has been sidelined with an Achilles injury. It seemed as if they couldn’t catch a break this offseason.

And yet the Eagles enter this week 2-0.

Asked if he has any sense of what this team is capable of this year after its commanding start, Spaziani didn’t hesitate when he said, “no.”

“Nope,” he said. “This is a real, real young squad in a lot of ways, with a new staff and a new system. I’m not sure. It’s going to take four or five more weeks before we know really what kind of football team we have. We’ve got good kids, I’ll tell you that. We’ve got good kids who know how to work.”
 
 Michael Tureski/Icon SMI
 Dave Shinskie has thrown one TD pass in each of BC's first two games.


Led by a veteran offensive line, Boston College’s offense has steamrolled its opponents, despite not knowing who its starting quarterback will be this season. The running game, led by Montel Harris, has flourished, and both quarterbacks, Justin Tuggle and Shinskie, have had their moments. There has only been one turnover so far -- an interception by Shinskie against Kent State. Spaziani said Sunday they’re still evaluating the position and that “there’s not a great deal of separation.”

“Me and Justin, we’re going at it at practice every day and in the games, and we’ve both been successful,” Shinskie said. “It’s been fun so far. We back each other up every week, we back each other up every series. When Coach Spaz makes a decision and gives the nod to one of us, I’ll be happy for him, he’ll be happy for me. Whatever works out.”

While they might not yet know where their place is in the Atlantic Division, or who their quarterback will be on Saturday, or how the young defense will fare against the veteran talent and speed of Clemson, the Eagles have definitely learned a few things about themselves in the first two weeks.

“We’ve learned that we can overcome adversity, in losing some guys on defense and having no quarterback,” Shinskie said. “By working hard we’ve overcome all the stuff people have said about us in the beginning of the year. I mean, they expected us to win these first two games, but we’re going to work hard this next week and the week after. We’re looking one game at a time and this Clemson game is the biggest game of the year so far.

“We might have to work a little harder than we did the past two weeks,” he said, “but that’s what BC football is all about -- overcoming adversity and working hard.”

And in that respect, the Eagles are also 2-0.

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