NCF Nation: Nick Marshman

What to watch on New Year's Day

December, 31, 2008
12/31/08
3:48
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the ACC's New Year's Day bowls:

1. The Replacements. Junior Nekos Brown will fill in for defensive end Jason Worilds, redshirt freshman Barquell Rivers replaces linebacker Brett Warren, and Jaymes Brooks, who has played four career snaps, will fill in for starting right guard Nick Marshman, who is academically ineligible.

2. Clemson's secondary vs. Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz. Michael Hamlin and the rest of the Tigers' secondary will be without former assistant coach Vic Koenning for the first time, and how they respond will be important. Ganz is 13th nationally in total offense with 299 yards per game and 14th nationally in passing efficiency, but the Tigers are ninth in the nation in pass efficiency defense by holding opposing quarterbacks to a 100.03 rating.

3. Brian Kelly vs. Frank Beamer. This is a matchup between a veteran and a talented up-and-coming coach. Kelly is 22-5 in his second season at Cincinnati and has the Bearcats in their first BCS game. Beamer is 176-89-2 in his 22nd season at Virginia Tech, but is 0-2 in the Orange Bowl.

4. Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He has rushed for 100 yards or more three times this season, and will need his feet to escape a Cincinnati defense that thrives on pressuring quarterbacks.

5. Clemson's record-breakers. Running back James Davis needs just 112 rushing yards on Thursday (his birthday) to become Clemson's all-time leading rusher. He already has 49 career touchdowns, also second in school history and just one short of Travis Zachery's record. Clemson receiver Aaron Kelly needs just 23 receiving yards to become the school's career leader and he already has the ACC career record for touchdowns.

6. Virginia Tech's field position. In close games, field position is critical, and Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber gives the Bearcats the edge. Cincinnati is No. 1 in the country in net punting with 41.51 yards per game. Huber averages 44.89 yards per punt to rank seventh in the nation.

7. Clemson's new and improved offensive line. This had been the root of the Tigers' problems for three quarters of the regular season, but now that they're healthy and have found the right combination, it has freed the top playmakers to make plays. Clemson is 4-0 when it starts an offensive line composed of Thomas Austin and Mason Cloy at guard, Landon Walker and Chris Hairston at tackle, and Bobby Hutchinson at center. That is slated to be Clemson's starting lineup on the of¬fensive line in the Gator Bowl.

Final ACC bowl predictions

December, 31, 2008
12/31/08
3:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Well, here's the last round of bowl predictions for the ACC games. It's winding down, as the ACC will wrap things up on New Year's Day with the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl and the FedEx Orange Bowl. Here's the forecast:

GATOR: Clemson 31, Nebraska 28. With the coaching drama finally behind them, the Tigers can concentrate on football, and are out to prove they deserve their spot in this bowl game. Clemson leads the ACC in passing offense and scoring defense.

ORANGE: Cincinnati 17, Virginia Tech 14. The Hokies will struggle without starters Nick Marshman, Jason Worilds and Brett Warren, and quarterback Tyrod Taylor will face a Cincinnati defense that leads the Big East with 2.85 sacks per game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Virginia Tech must be doing something right. The Hokies are one of just three programs (Florida and Florida State are the others) who will be participating in a bowl game this year for the 16th straight season.

But when it comes to bowl results, Frank Beamer figured that Virginia Tech must be doing something wrong. The Hokies have lost their last two postseason games despite being favored over Kansas in the 2008 FedEx Orange Bowl and Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl two years ago. They've dropped four of their last five bowl contests and their last four BCS appearances.

"We've been to, I guess, 16 straight, and we've really kind of had the same procedure for a long, long time, and we've won some bowl games," Beamer said at Wednesday's coaches' news conference. "But in the last couple years we didn't win. So, after the game last year, we went back as a football staff and said, 'If we can get back to a bowl game, what do we need to do differently?'"

The Hokies (9-4) have changed things up in Miami this week. The players have had a midnight curfew every night, whereas in the past they've been allowed to stay out later in the days leading up to the game. For the first time during a bowl week, Beamer is moving his team out of the designated team hotel the night before the game. Virginia Tech left its cushy digs at the Westin Diplomat and headed away to a quieter, undisclosed location Wednesday night for more of a regular game feel.

Beamer said the team did more full-speed drill work and scrimmages in Blacksburg before coming to Miami, unlike in the past when he gave the upperclassmen some time off.

In the end, Beamer said, winning bowl games often comes down to the team being in the right mindset. Last year's squad may have relaxed a bit after beating Boston College in the ACC title game to get here, he said. This year, he senses more of a focus on beating Cincinnati.

"Hopefully our minds are right, and I do believe this is an important ballgame to this football team," he said.

Virginia Tech will have some challenges to overcome in this game. Two defensive starters -- end Jason Worilds, the team's sacks leader, and linebacker Brett Warren, the Hokies' second-leading tackler -- are out with injuries. Freshman Barquell Rivers will replace Worilds, while junior Nekos Browns will step in for Warren.

Of even bigger concern is the loss of starting offensive guard Nick Marshman to academics. Freshman Jaymes Brooks, who has played only four snaps all season, will take his place against an athletic and aggressive Cincinnati defensive front.

"He's done OK," Beamer said when asked how Brooks has practiced. "He's going to be a good, good player. He's very athletic, with good size, good pop. He just hasn't played very much."

This may or may not be the year the Hokies get back on the bowl winning track. But Beamer said that shouldn't take away from the accomplishment of reaching this stage yet again. He said he was thinking about that while watching past Orange Bowl highlights at Tuesday's luncheon for the teams. This is a young Virginia Tech squad that was 6-4 at one point this season and didn't expect to get here.

"When it's all said and done, it's important to this football program, to our players, to our coaches, to our fans that you're successful in that last ballgame, and it's not every day you get a chance to be successful in an Orange Bowl," Beamer said. "Sometimes I think we take these bowl games a little bit for granted, but I'll tell you, going through this year and not being sure that you could win enough to get to a bowl game, I don't think we ever need to take these things for granted. "

ACC's lunchtime links

December, 30, 2008
12/30/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

The 31-player senior class at Maryland still has one more opportunity to salvage an otherwise disappointing season and go out on a winning note. There are plenty of reasons for the Terps to be excited about playing Nevada, but trying to contain the Wolf Pack's offense without their defensive coordinator isn't one of them.

Virginia Tech is confident its freshmen are ready to step in for Nick Marshman and Brett Warren. They're really got no other choice.

Jacory Harris' father says his son wants Miami's next coordinator to "open it up a bit more," and that he "likes the spread." Funny, but former offensive coordinator Patrick Nix said he "wanted to be a little bit more wide open ... spread out, go for it," but coach Randy Shannon 'Nixed' that.

Clemson running back James Davis says you're gonna see him run like never before against Nebraska. After all, he's chasing a record in his final game.

If the doctor says you can't play, you can't play -- even if your name is Russell Wilson. He should be fine for baseball, though.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here's a look at what's going on around the ACC today:

  • Clearly, the ACC has hired some good football coaches. Duke coach David Cutcliffe received a two-year contract extension this weekend. Finally, the Blue Devils found a coach they want to keep. And no doubt Cutcliffe is the right man for the job. Unfortunately, because Duke is a private institution, we don't know if he's making Paul Johnson cash or not. Just curious.
  • If UNC's Ryan Houston takes care of the ball against West Virginia like he takes care of his tattoos, the Mountaineers will be toast. Houston moisturizes and shaves his arms so that all of his body paint can be seen.
  • Here's more on what Virginia Tech might be missing at the Orange Bowl, in case you missed it. (Still baffling is Nick Marshman's ineligibility.) Here's the best reason, though, for missing bowl practice: Getting hitched.
  • You know things have changed at Wake Forest when eight wins and a bowl win fall below expectations.
  • Florida State coach Bobby Bowden expects Wisconsin to "take the stinking ball and eat up the clock."

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Maryland linebacker Moise Fokou doesn't know them personally, but he rattles off the names of Virginia Tech's playmakers like they're on a first-name basis: Macho, Tyrod, Glennon, Holt.

"We like to familiarize ourselves with our opponents," Fokou said.

He just doesn't know who their starting quarterback will be.

It's remained a mystery to just about everyone except the Hokies this week, as starters Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon both suffered left ankle sprains during the Florida State game and spent most of their bye week wearing protective boots. They practiced in limited capacity this week, but Cory Holt, the Hokies' third-string quarterback-turned-receiver-turned quarterback again, was preparing as if he was the starter. They all bring a different dimension to the game, but neither team seems overly concerned about it, despite the weighty implications of the game in the conference race.

Virginia Tech, as expected, has done nothing but express confidence in Holt, a fifth-year senior who played admirably in a tough situation at Florida State. And the Terps have zeroed in on the Hokies' running game, regardless of who starts at quarterback.

"They're a running football team," said senior defensive tackle Jeremy Navarre. "Whoever they put back there, whoever starts, they're going to stick with what they do best and they're going to run the ball. They've got a big offensive line. All year long their main thing has been to run the ball. If you don't stop this team from running the ball, they're going to do it all game long."

Unless, of course, Glennon is playing quarterback. He's the one who can throw it. (Although tight end Greg Boone, who was moved to backup behind Holt when the starters went down, claims he'll throw it 80 yards every time if he gets in there. Seriously). Taylor is the one who brings a different dimension with his feet. He has had seven running plays of 20 yards or more this season and is the team's second leading rusher.

"I think Holt is kind of a blend between both of them," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said. "He's very mobile. I don't think he's as fast as Taylor, but I think he can do all the things that Taylor does. He's a big, tall, strong guy just like Glennon. He's in between. They can go either way with him. I thought he did a tremendous job last week having not gotten a lot of reps. He ran the option, he threw the ball ... they must have a lot of confidence in him he can do the things they ask him to do with very little reps."

They do.

(Read full post)

ACC's internal affairs

November, 5, 2008
11/05/08
12:35
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

CLEMSON
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said quarterback Cullen Harper's three interceptions at Boston College were "just poor decisions. Simple as that." It's somewhat of a concern for Swinney, considering Harper is a fifth-year senior. One of Harper's interceptions was a late throw, he didn't go through the progression properly on another, and he forced a throw into coverage on the third. While Harper made some key throws under pressure in that win, Swinney said his quarterback has to learn he doesn't have to win the game by himself. Swinney said he is frustrated by Clemson's inability to put opponents away when it has the chance.

NORTH CAROLINA
Sophomore do-it-all athlete Anthony Parker-Boyd has been tasked with playing the role of Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt this week. He's about Nesbitt's size and has a similar running style, so he's given the defense a good look, but the Tar Heels know they can't simulate the true speed of the triple option. That's why getting off to a fast start will be so important in this noon kickoff, something UNC has struggled with in its early games. From watching Georgia Tech's game film from last week, UNC noticed Florida State played a lot of man to man coverage against some new formations and it didn't always work.

BOSTON COLLEGE
The way coach Jeff Jagodzinski tells it, offensive coordinator Steve Logan appears to be caught in a catch-22. Jagodzinski said they didn't have an aggressive game plan against Clemson because they didn't want to turn it over. "You can't have it both ways," he said. "We can sling it, but I'm going to try to avoid a multiple turnover game. You don't even give yourself a chance that way. At some point you've got to go make a play." Jagodzinski said he still thinks Chris Crane is the best option at this point, despite his eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

MARYLAND
In order to help prepare for the hostile environment at Lane Stadium, the Terps have cranked the artificial crowd noise up during practices this week. (Not sure if "Enter Sandman" was on the playlist, though). Defensive coordinator Chris Cosh said turnovers will be a key to the game, and something he wants to see more of. The Terps have been practicing stripping the ball this week and picking them up. Cosh said he has reminded his players that Cory Holt is a quarterback, and a veteran who knows the system, so he is not to be overlooked if he is the starter.

VIRGINIA TECH
The Hokies are wary of Maryland quarterback Chris Turner, but their first priority, defensive end Orion Martin said, is to stop the run. They also plan to bring "four-man heat, like we always do," Martin said. While the defense has been concentrating on stopping ACC leading rusher Da'Rel Scott, who is listed as questionable on the injury report, Virginia Tech's offense has been focused on developing its own running game. Offensive guard Nick Marshman said the offensive coaches have stressed "running the ball with authority," something they haven't done since the Nebraska game. The Hokies had 206 rushing yards at Nebraska, a number that declined with each game since and hit a season-low of 82 at Florida State.

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