NCF Nation: Myron Rolle

You can find all of the NFL combine tests results here, but I thought I'd point out a few highlights -- and some lowlights -- for some of the former ACC players who participated the past few days.

[+] EnlargeFord
AP Photo/Michael ConroyJacoby Ford had the fastest time in the 40-yard dash of any player at the combine.
C.J. Spiller and Jacoby Ford showcased their blazing speed, as Ford posted the fasted 40-yard dash time (4.28) and Spiller was second among running backs (4.37). Kam Chancellor had a ball bounce off his hands and Crezdon Butler appeared "stiff in space" according to our Scouts Inc. report. Former Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan didn't do anything to jeopardize his spot as a high first-round pick, but safety Morgan Burnett missed the 40-yard dash with a hamstring injury.

• Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. on Virginia CB Chris Cook:
Virginia CB Chris Cook turned some heads at the Senior Bowl, and he's doing the same in Indianapolis. At 6-2 and 212 pounds Cook posted an unofficial 4.43 seconds. That's an excellent size-speed combination for a safety and rare to see in a corner. Cook also recorded a jaw-dropping 11-0 broad jump.

• Muench on former Virginia Tech linebacker Cody Grimm:
Virginia Tech's Cody Grimm is an interesting prospect. Grimm appears instinctive and relentless on film, but he played outside linebacker in college and is just not big enough to line up there in the NFL. He measured just 5-10^ and 203 pounds and would be a better fit at safety, where he would have the potential to develop into an adequate reserve and special-teams contributor. Grimm's 4.54 time in the 40 is encouraging because the average time for safeties last year was 4.63 seconds and in 2008 was 4.55 seconds.

• What to make of Jonathan Dwyer? He was listed as one of the 10 most polarizing players in the combine by Bruce Feldman:
There were a bunch of fast backs in Indy; Dwyer was not one of them. His size is good (228 pounds) and he looks dynamic on film, but some skeptics will wonder if much of that is due to the frenetic nature of the triple option scheme he played in at Tech. He didn't test as a particularly explosive guy, and he looked shaky in the position drills and didn't seem comfortable as a receiver.

• Here's an excerpt from Todd McShay on former FSU safety Myron Rolle:
Purely from a football standpoint, Rolle has the tools of a potential third-round pick who could be developed into an adequate starter two or three years down the road. However, while NFL teams love the Rhodes scholar's intelligence and work ethic, there is a growing concern regarding his long-term dedication to football. Rolle is in a truly unique situation and has a lot of convincing to do between now and the draft.

• The Sporting News listed Miami's Jimmy Graham, Maryland's Bruce Campbell and Clemson's Jacoby Ford among its offensive combine winners. Russ Lande of TSN listed Derrick Morgan and Virginia Tech's Jason Worilds among the defensive winners, but it doesn't sound good for Duke's Vince Oghobaase.

• Campbell really turned some heads with his 40 time. Chad Reuter of NFLDraftScout.com wrote:
Campbell also has 36.5-inch arms and bench-pressed 225 pounds 34 times. Said one scout said, "He has the best body of anyone I've ever seen."

• Of course, the question is whether he can block. Said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock, "If there's a star so far in the combine, it's him. What he's going to have to overcome is the tape."

• Reuter on Miami's Graham:
Miami (Fla.) tight end Jimmy Graham ran a 4.56, according to NFL.com. Graham played only one season of football for the Hurricanes, but his basketball background intrigues scouts and his blistering 40 time could lift Graham as high as the second round.
Everyone seems to have their own idea of who former Florida State safety Myron Rolle is and what he should be doing.

What I can't understand is how everyone can fawn over how smart Rolle is, boast about what a good role model he is as if he were their own son, and yet not trust in him to make decisions for himself.

[+] EnlargeRolle
AP Photo/Dave MartinMyron Rolle is pursuing his dream of playing in the NFL after taking a year off from football.
No, he did not abandon his team.

And no, he will not and should not give up on his dream of playing in the NFL.

According to Jason Cole, at Yahoo! sports, Rolle's commitment to his team was questioned by the Tampa Bay Bucs:
During a 45-minute interview before the Senior Bowl in January with seven members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers staff, including head coach Raheem Morris and general manager Mark Dominik, one member of the staff asked Rolle what it felt like to desert his team this season.

“I hadn’t heard that one before,” said Rolle, who pauses ever so slightly before answering to consider his thoughts. “My initial reaction was a bit of confusion. It never was anger, but I was more bothered by the question because if anyone knew my involvement with my teammates, how much they care about me and how much I care about them.”

The only thing Rolle abandoned was the notion that you can't be an elite athlete and an elite student. The only thing he's not committed to is being pigeonholed as one or the other.

Clark Judge at CBSSports.com says that Rolle should use his head to be a doctor instead of clashing helmets with opponents. That he should "get on with your life." Football, though, is a part of his life, part of who he is, and it's what makes Rolle so unique.

Judge wrote:
I understand that playing football is a life-long passion for Rolle, and, yes, I heard him Sunday when he said playing in the NFL is a life-long dream. That's great. But sometimes you have to listen to your head, not your heart, and Myron Rolle should start paying attention. Why? Basically because he can make more of a difference as a doctor than he can as an NFL player. Myron Rolle is an extraordinary student. He is not an extraordinary safety. So use that head, Myron, and connect the dots.

It's no secret that Rolle isn't a top NFL draft pick. He knows it. He's smart, he's not delusional. But Rolle wouldn't be where he's at if he hadn't pushed himself every day along the way. He's put himself in a position to do both -- play in the NFL and become a neurosurgeon. Why now should he have to choose between the two when he's proved all along that he can do both? Why should that goal be discouraged when almost every FBS college football player is aspiring to do the same -- graduate and play in the NFL? Should everyone who's not a first-round draft pick just forget it?

Tell that to Boston College offensive lineman Anthony Castonzo, who is a biochem major and wants to cure cancer, but is hoping to earn some money in the NFL first to pay for the research. Tell it to Duke center Bryan Morgan, who hopes to compose his own music someday, or Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder, who is finishing up his MBA.

This is Rolle's story. It's his dream, and it should be an inspiration to athletes everywhere. The fact that Rolle is even at the combine, even being considered by NFL teams is remarkable considering how few players actually make it to the next level and are given that opportunity.

Instead of questioning Rolle or telling him what he should do, we should all just listen to him. Odds are we'd be all be smarter for it.

ACC recruiting rewind

February, 2, 2010
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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 ESPN.com'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 ESPN.com'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).

2006

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)

2007

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)

2008

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)

2009

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)
video
Former FSU player and current Rhodes Scholar Myron Rolle talks about his football future.

What's next for Rolle?

January, 25, 2010
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Former FSU safety and Rhodes scholar Myron Rolle has been an intriguing story both on and off the field, but it's been a while since he's actually played. How Rolle looks in the upcoming Senior Bowl will be one of the top storylines worth watching. Here is the take from Scouts Inc.:

The public is enamored with Rolle's story. He took a year off of football to study at Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship and is jumping back in with both feet after only a month to prepare for his Senior Bowl audition. Scouts, however, come in with all sorts of questions about his readiness and his overall football instincts. Rolle was never a top-tier prospect to begin with, but with a solid overall performance he has a chance to show teams he is worth a mid-round pick based on his developmental potential. We're interested to see whether he presses early on or comes in loose, because he obviously has so many other things going for him outside of football.

Todd McShay gave his scouting report today on Rolle. Insiders get a more detailed account, but here's a free sneak peek at what McShay had to say:

The 223-pounder has never been great in man-to-man coverage and his ball skills are in question, so we will be studying him closely in both areas. Finally, teams want to know if Rolle is serious about playing football for the long term. The grilling will begin at the Senior Bowl and intensify at next month's scouting combine.

That's the good news about Rolle: He's smart enough that he doesn't have to rely on football in his future, but it's a part of him and it would be encouraging for other younger athletes to see that, yes, you can literally be among the best on and off the field. Having followed Rolle's story, it's impossible not to wish him the best in his next endeavor. Rolle has already given so much back to his community, it would be nice to see him rewarded for his hard work and efforts with a chance at the next level.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

If you check the front of our college football page, you'll notice ESPN.com has done a series of social networking stories this week. I caught up with former FSU safety Myron Rolle for the last story, and he's in Orlando training for the 2010 NFL draft. He said he's leaving Sept. 26 for England.

Guess how I caught up with him? Through Facebook, of course.

On the subject of social networking, Rolle told me that somebody had set up fake MySpace pages for former quarterback Drew Weatherford and former cornerback Tony Carter.

"Honestly it wasn't Tony or Drew, and it wasn't coming from them and it was hurting them a little bit," Rolle said. "People would come up to them in person and say, 'Hey, I saw your message on MySpace,' and Drew would say, 'I don't even have a MySpace.' That right there was a little weird, but Florida State would help us with that."

That's one of the issues I didn't get to address in the story, but it's another major concern of athletic departments. Sportsin140.com is a Web site that is working to validate public profiles on Twitter. Generally speaking, the ACC -- like every other BCS conference -- doesn't have a conference-wide policy for athletes' use of these sites. Mostly, it's up to the individual coaches, compliance offices, student services and sports information directors to warn the athletes about the potential dangers of the sites.

"We don't have a particular policy in place, but we've tried to inform our student athletes to be very aware of what they're doing and to try to understand they need to represent themselves and their families and their universities in the appropriate fashion," said Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver. "There are always things that come up that you have to adapt to and be aware of and try to make sure your young people are cognizant of."

Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo deals with this subject at the first coaches' meeting of the year and at several more throughout the course of the year. BC does have a policy that prohibits student-athletes from posting photos that are racy, or depict them in BC uniform in any setting other than in athletics competition or would put them in a compromising position (such as drinking alcohol, partying, etc.).

Clemson sports information director Tim Bourret had a meeting with the football team and gave them a basic rule about their posts back in April:

"If your mother would be embarrassed to read this post as a headline in USA Today, then don't post it it. That goes for Facebook writing and picture posting."

Not enough schools in the ACC are embracing it, though. The ACC as a conference has a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter, but Georgia Tech is one of the few member schools that understands the publicity angle.

The sports information office has encouraged the head coaches to Twitter and provides links to those Twitter pages on their Web site. Georgia Tech "markets" its official GTAthletics Twitter page. Sports information director Dean Buchan tells me that some of the Jackets Twitter, but they are more into Facebook. However, Jonathan Dwyer will launch his Twitter page as soon as Friday.

Me? I'm still trying to figure out why people care so much when somebody else sneezes. If I were to honestly update my Twitter page, it would say little other than "blogging. Still blogging. Running. Eating. Blogging."

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The progress Florida State's defense has made this spring could be measured statistically in Saturday's Garnet and Gold game -- five fumble recoveries and two interceptions.

Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews called it the "best job all spring" for turnovers.

"We started slow -- couldn't get a turnover," Andrews said of the defense this spring. "Then we started getting a couple of them. We started getting a few fumbles. We got one interception in the last scrimmage and we got two this scrimmage. Not that that's enough, but it's twice as many as we had in the previous scrimmage. Turnovers, when you get the offense the ball in a short field, you've got a great chance. ... We just have to get better fundamentally and learn how to step it up a notch."

Florida State ranked 62nd nationally in turnover margin last year and 85th with only nine passes intercepted.

Tasked with replacing Myron Rolle and Tony Carter, who combined for 85 career starts, Florida State's secondary was one of the Noles' biggest questions marks this spring. Patrick Robinson and Jamie Robinson, two seniors, have been the veteran leaders of the group. Outside of Patrick Robinson, who has seven career interceptions -- six of which came in 2007, the secondary has combined for one career interception (Jamie Robinson).

Jamie Robinson, who is in his second season at safety and said he feels more comfortable out there, proved it on Saturday with two interceptions.

"We have been lacking in interceptions for the past couple of years," Robinson said. "Generally, whenever a defense doesn't have a lot of interceptions, that falls on the secondary. So, as a secondary, we've been taking that personally and really embraced that challenge and tried to step up to the plate and answer that call of making more interceptions and causing more turnovers.

"It's real important for somebody to step up and take control and take on that leadership role, be able to give the guys some enthusiasm and inspiration to look to, something to feed off of out there on the field. It was real good to embrace that role and be there for the guys and make sure they're playing up to their potential every play."

The Noles appear to have taken steps in solidifying their starting lineup in the secondary this spring, with both Robinsons, Korey Mangum, who moved to rover, and Ochuko Jenije at field field corner. (Andrews, though, said Jenije is a "sometimes player" who has to learn to play every play. "Too many times he lets the receiver or the running back win the battle," Andrews said. "He's making progress.")

Former cornerback Terrance Parks has practiced at both rover and safety this spring, but sat out two days with a medical problem. Star recruit Dionte Allen has also been in the mix.

"We've got the four best players out there," Andrews said. "We don't have many two's that are challenging them. That's not good, because we like to play a lot of players. If we play Miami right now, we could play with four people. The other guys have got to decide they're going to get to the point where we could trust them enough to put them in the ball game. Right now, we couldn't trust 'em. It's not over, we've still got four days, the entire summer, so hopefully we can find them before we have to play Miami."

Overall, Andrews said he's confident with the first-team defense. It's the depth that remains a concern heading into summer camp.

"The first group is getting closer to having a chance to become a good defense," Andrews said. "We don't have enough guys on second team right now that you can put in a football game and say 'sic 'em.' They had to learn the terminology around here. They got 'sic 'em' and 'watch 'em' mixed up. A lot of them are freshmen and they've got to quit acting like freshmen. You've got to grow up sometime. But we've got three more days to see if we can't get a little better and hopefully we can get the progress we've got to have there."

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 16, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Sorry folks, but it was another quiet day in ACC land ... 

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 14, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here's a quick look at what's going on around the conference:

  • I spoke to a few coaches throughout the league on Tuesday and all of them were pleased to hear Frank Spaziani got the nod as BC's next coach. Those within the program were pleased with the choice, too.
  • Sure, "Spaz" is a nice guy, but don't forget he's also a "damn good football coach," writes Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald.
  • Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe said he doesn't think a review of the USA Today Coaches' Poll, or its place in the BCS will lead to any changes in the system.
  • Clemson's new defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele, is expected to retain many of the Tigers' defensive personnel principles.
  • In case you missed it, FSU safety Myron Rolle is headed to England, not the NFL. Smart move. Then again, Rhodes Scholars are usually smart people.

ACC: So long, 2008

January, 14, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It was a great season to cover ACC football, with plenty of memorable moments, games, plays, coaches, players and issues -- some good, some not so good. Here are a few things I won't forget from 2008, in no particular order:

The jumbled, exciting race for the ACC title -- It was arguably the most competitive season in ACC football history, as the race to Tampa came down to the final weeks in November, and four teams finished with 5-3 conference records and six teams finished at 4-4.

Tommy Bowden resigns midseason -- On Oct. 13, 2008, Clemson announced that Bowden would no longer be head coach, and wide receivers coach Dabo Swinney took over the program and made immediate, sweeping changes, including the firing of offensive coordinator Rob Spence.

Miami's quarterback controversy -- It all began when starter Robert Marve was suspended for the season opener, and ended with him being suspended for the Emerald Bowl. Jacory Harris or Marve? Following Marve's transfer, there's only one choice.

Myron Rolle wins a Rhodes Scholarship -- There might not have been a more positive story in ACC football this season, as Rolle interviewed for one of the prestigious scholarships on the same day Florida State played a critical Atlantic Division game at Maryland. Rolle won the award, and flew to Maryland in time to contribute to the 37-3 win.

Virginia Tech wins the FedEx Orange Bowl -- The Hokies did the most with the least this season, as Frank Beamer did arguably the best coaching job of his career and led Virginia Tech to its fifth straight 10-win season. The 20-7 win over Cincinnati gave the ACC its first BCS bowl win since 1999.

Jeff Jagodzinski gets fired -- After only his second season and back-to-back appearances in the ACC title game, Jagodzinski decided to interview with the New York Jets, knowing it would cost him his job. A private matter of trust between Jagodzinski and athletic director Gene DeFilippo became public.

Bye-bye coordinators -- Virginia coach Al Groh fired his son, offensive coordinator Mike Groh, Miami coach Randy Shannon fired offensive coordinator Patrick Nix, Clemson coach Swinney fired offensive coordinator Spence, and both Maryland and Clemson's defensive coordinators both bolted for K-State. BC will need a new defensive coordinator now that Frank Spaziani is the new head coach.

Georgia Tech's 45-42 win over Georgia -- The Yellow Jackets earned their first win in the series since 2000, and they did it on the road and in Paul Johnson's first season. Georgia Tech broke a seven-game losing streak to the Dawgs and rushed for 409 yards in the process. It was arguably the ACC's best nonconference win of the season, though the Hokies' win over Cincinnati had a bigger impact.

The poor attendance at the ACC title game in Tampa -- Having seen it first-hand, it will be tough to forget. According to the St. Pete Times, the turnstile count for the game at Raymond James Stadium was 27,360, about half the tickets that were sold and distributed (53,927).

NCAA-record 10 bowl eligible teams -- Heading into the season, it didn't seem as if the ACC would be strong enough to have even a ninth team qualify to play in the inaugural EagleBank Bowl, but the conference became the first to send 10 teams to bowl games in a single season.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 13

November, 23, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

FSU defense -- Let's see, safety Myron Rolle interviewed for a Rhodes Scholarship, won it, caught a plane to Maryland and helped the FSU defense in the second half of a 37-3 win over the Terps. Defensive end Everette Brown accounted for 3.5 of his team's six sacks and led an aggressive pass rush that kept quarterback Chris Turner off-balance all night. It was a group effort.

NC State -- Quarterback Russell Wilson led the charge, but it wasn't a one-man show in this 41-10 romp of rival UNC. The Pack finally got an equally impressive effort from its defense, which held UNC to 55 rushing yards and forced the Tar Heels into six turnovers.

Georgia Tech B-Back Jonathan Dwyer -- He led the Jackets with 128 rushing yards and two touchdowns -- and he only played the first half. His 58-yard touchdown run summed up the whole evening, as the triple-option left Miami dazed and confused in a 41-23 win.

Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich -- He intercepted Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner twice in the Eagles' 24-21 win over the Demon Deacons. He returned one of them 34 yards for a touchdown and the other set up a field goal.

Clemson's defense -- Unable to generate anything on offense, the Tigers kept themselves in contention for bowl eligibility by holding Virginia to just three points in their own stadium, while the defense used two interceptions and a fumble recovery to beat the Cavaliers.

Halftime: FSU 21, Maryland 0

November, 22, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- There hasn't been much of a home field advantage this weekend in the ACC (Virginia lost at home, as did Wake Forest and UNC), and Byrd Stadium is keeping with the trend. Maryland's offense has been nonexistent in the first half, as the Terps weren't able to get anything going on the ground (1 yard rushing), and the FSU defense is smothering quarterback Chris Turner.

FSU defensive end Everette Brown is one of Turner's biggest problems. Brown has sacked him two and a half times already, and pressured him into one of his two interceptions. Brown is by far one of the best defensive ends in the ACC, and is proving it again tonight. Turnovers have also been a factor, as FSU scored off a fumble.

The difference has been up front, where Florida State is controlling the line of scrimmage. While the Noles have had an aggressive pass rush most of the season, this is also a subpar performance for Maryland's veteran offensive line, which has three seniors playing their last game in Byrd Stadium.

After winning a Rhodes Scholarship, FSU safety Myron Rolle arrived with just under 11 minutes in the second quarter, and actually jogged onto the sideline with 6:23 still left in the half. He waved his arms in the air and elicited a loud cheer from Seminoles fans, the majority of which are seated near the visitors' locker room. He entered the game with about 1:30 left.

With the way things are looking, Rolle should be 2-for-2 today.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 13

November, 21, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Heading into this weekend, nine teams still remain in contention to play in the ACC championship game and everyone, I repeat everyone, can still become bowl eligible if they're not already. No other conference can say that.

1. The scenarios. Miami's loss to Georgia Tech opened things up for almost everyone in the Coastal. Everyone but Duke has three losses in that division. The Terps can clinch a berth in the ACC championship game if they beat FSU and Wake Forest beats Boston College.

2. Florida State's changes in the secondary. The Noles will definitely be without starting safety Darius McClure (torn cartilage in his left knee), and could be without starting safety Myron Rolle, who could be late-arriving because of his interview in Alabama for the Rhodes Scholarship. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews hasn't revealed much during the week about his rotation.

3. Maryland's second half defensive adjustments. The Terps have been at their best late in the game, giving up an average of 140 yards and 23 total points in the final 30 minutes of their six ACC games. Last week, the Terps halted six second-half UNC drives. Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said he has relied heavily this season on his veteran players contributing to the sideline discussions about what works and what doesn't.

4. The quarterbacks in the I-40 rivalry. Will Butch Davis go with Cam Sexton or his original starter, T.J. Yates? Will either one of them be able to outperform the Pack's Russell Wilson, who has thrown 12 touchdowns and no interceptions in his past six starts? NC State has lost 11 of its past 15 games to UNC, but five of the past six losses have been by eight points or less.

5. The battle of the backs in Charlottesville. Since recovering from his Oct. 9 pulled hamstring, Clemson running back C.J. Spiller has 589 all-purpose yards over the past three weeks, an average of 196.3 yards per game. Virginia tailback Cedric Peerman hasn't quite been himself since he fumbled against Miami, but the Cavaliers are 11-1 when he gets 15 or more rushing attempts. The lone loss? Miami.

6. Wake Forest kicker Sam Swank. The Demon Deacons' top scorer is expected to return for the first time since injuring his quadriceps in early October. Is he still up to game-winner form?

7. Clemson quarterback Cullen Harper. It's time to pay attention to this guy again. Since having surgery on his left (non-throwing) shoulder on Oct. 19, Harper has thrown for at least 240 yards in each game. His improvement over the past three weeks boosted him from fifth to first in the ACC in passing efficiency.

8. Maryland quarterback Chris Turner. He has quietly developed into one of the league's better quarterbacks this season. Turner has just one interception in his last 188 pass attempts, dating back to the fourth quarter of the Sept. 20 win over Eastern Michigan. Will the offensive line protect him from FSU's aggressive pass rush?

9. The defensive struggle in Winston-Salem. Boston College leads the nation in interceptions with 21, and the defense or special teams has scored a touchdown in six games this season, including five straight. Wake Forest, though, is No. 4 in the nation in turnover margin, having gained 29 and lost 15.

10. Virginia Tech kicker Dustin Keys. Odds are he won't be kicking any game-winners against Duke, but Keys is just four field goals away from setting the school season record. Another note on the Hokies: If you're wondering about the stickers on their helmets this weekend, they say "JD" and are in remembrance of Joseph "JD" Burroughs, a student manager for the football team who was killed in a car accident this past summer.

Timing is right for FSU's Rolle

November, 19, 2008
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Smack in the middle of Florida State's game against Boston College last week, a play had ended near the BC sideline and coach Jeff Jagodzinski seized the opportunity to wish FSU safety Myron Rolle good luck on his interview for the Rhodes Scholarship.

 
  Fernando Medina-US PRESSWIRE
 FSU safety Myron Rolle, seen here making a tackle in the Seminoles game against Colorado earlier this season, is a Rhodes Scholar candidate.

"Being a Rhodes scholar is pretty important," Jagodzinski said. "I don't believe I've ever met one. ... I don't know, he was sitting there on the sideline -- there was a play over on our sideline -- I just grabbed him, I said, 'Good luck. I hope you get it.' I really do wish him the best."

Lately, timing has been everything for Rolle.

It's possible that Rolle, one of seven finalists in District 7 for a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, will be able to interview with the selection committee in Birmingham, Ala., on Saturday and still make it to College Park, Md., in time for a 7:45 p.m. kickoff and a game that will have major implications on the Atlantic Division standings. The selection committee will make its announcement no later than 5 p.m. CST, and it could come well before that.

Or, Rolle's streak of 32 straight starts might come to an end.

"Saturday will be an example of how my life has been, balancing academics and athletics on such a big stage," said Rolle, a junior who graduated in a little over two years and is studying to become a doctor. "Obviously it's never happened like this before, but it's just another example of how academics and athletics have been married in my life and how I've been able to have some success and have some joy out of doing both."

While the rest of his teammates are on their way to Maryland on Friday, Rolle will be in a car driving 302 miles to Birmingham with Jamie Purcell, of FSU's office of national fellowships, and Bill Shults, of academic support. They'll continue to pepper him with questions, but Rolle has already gone through seven mock interviews in preparation for his 20-minute audition. He'll find out on Friday what time he interviews, and candidates can be called back at 2:15 p.m. for follow-up questions.

Right now, he is simply exhausted, and it's evident it in his voice.

"It has been pretty tough," he said. "I had a mock interview today and one on Monday. My friend, Garrett Johnson, who won the Rhodes scholarship in 2006, said, 'Get some rest, man, relax.' This is getting me a little tired. He said, 'When you go into Saturday, you want to be full of life, full of energy, so the best thing to do is relax.'"

The interview, though, is only the start of his day.

Following the announcement of the winners, Rolle will take a small charter plane to the Baltimore-Washington International airport. FSU is paying for the plane, not the NCAA, although the NCAA approved it. It would normally be a violation of NCAA rules.

Despite their loss to Boston College last weekend, FSU (7-3, 4-3 ACC) still can't be counted out of the race to win the Atlantic Division, although the Terps (7-3, 4-2) and BC (7-3, 3-3) have better chances. There's no question the Seminoles will benefit, though, from Rolle's return on Saturday.

Rolle is second on the team with 48 tackles and has five pass breakups this season. He is arguably having his best season since arriving in Tallahassee as a much heralded recruit in 2006. There's no question he has NFL potential, but a Rhodes Scholarship would mean an all-expense paid detour to study at Oxford for two years, maybe three. It's a choice Rolle doesn't want to think about -- let alone discuss -- until he has to.

If Rolle is one of the 32 recipients of a scholarship, he will become the third Seminole to win a Rhodes Scholarship in the past four years, joining Garrett Johnson and Joe O'Shea. Neither of them, though, represented the football team. Rolle would be the program's first to win the award.

"It means a lot to us, and it means a whole lot to me," coach Bobby Bowden said. "We've had Heisman Trophy winners, we've had Thorpe winners, Butkus winners, Unitas winners, and I really don't know of anything higher than to have a player that would be a recipient of a Rhodes Scholarship. That'd just be a great thrill to me. I know it'd be to him, but it would be a thrill to me."

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Well, last week's predictions weren't very good (2-2), but who could have foreseen two of four games going into overtime? That's why I'm coming prepared this week and picking one overtime game.

I enter Week 11 with a 50-21 record (70.4 percent) on the picks. Oh, and I'm 8-0 with my Florida State picks this season, but the Noles lost both times I've seen them play. Even Myron Rolle agreed I'm bad luck, so don't worry FSU fans, I'm staying outta Tally this weekend.

Here's the ACC forecast for Week 11:

Maryland 21, Virginia Tech 17 -- Yes, Lane Stadium and intangibles are all against the Terps. Virginia Tech hasn't lost three in a row since 2002. But Maryland has the veteran team, and a quarterback who is at his best against the best.

North Carolina 23, Georgia Tech 20 (OT) -- They are such similar teams that odds are it's going to come down to turnovers. On paper, the Yellow Jackets have the edge in total offense and scoring defense, but that was when they had injured offensive tackle Andrew Gardner in the lineup.

Florida State 28, Clemson 24 -- The Atlantic Division titles is now on the line with every game the Seminoles play, and while Clemson can't be ruled out quite yet, there seems to be a greater sense of urgency for FSU.

Wake Forest 21, Virginia 17 -- The Demon Deacons made progress on offense, but everyone in Winston-Salem knows they're not quite there yet. They'll need some more help from an opportunistic defense, but even this veteran defensive line will be tested by the Cavs' offensive line, led by Eugene Monroe.

Duke 28, NC State 21 -- The Blue Devils have the home-field advantage in this renewed rivalry (as long as there aren't more red-clad fans who actually show up), and will face the ACC's worst defense. Duke is still playing for bowl eligibility.

Notre Dame 24, Boston College 17 -- The Irish have something to prove, as they have come close but not quite in one too many games this season, and haven't beaten the Eagles in their past five tries. BC has been too limited on offense this season.

OFF: Miami

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