NCF Nation: Orion Martin
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
|Lee Coleman/Icon SMI|
|A healthy Jason Worilds should be a big boost to Virginia Tech's defensive line.|
Virginia Tech had goals last year, and a separated shoulder certainly wasn't going to get in the way of defensive end Jason Worilds. His gritty determination rubbed off on the entire team, but behind closed doors, Worilds was paying the price for each of his 18.5 tackles for loss.
He played the entire season with chronic dislocations in his left shoulder, and it popped out in three different games.
"He's like a brother to me," defensive tackle John Graves said. "We talked about it, and he told me that he was in pain. He's a warrior, though. No matter what anyone would say, he knew he had to do it for his team. He wanted to do it for his team. We just have the most respect for this guy to get hurt in the second game of the season and continue through the whole season with an injured shoulder."
"I just wanted to try to help my team," Worilds said. "We had goals. We came into the season, we wanted to win the ACC, go to the Orange Bowl again and avenge our loss from last year. I put so much into it that when the doctors told me I could still possibly play, I took that opportunity and ran with it."
Was it worth it?
"It was definitely worth it," he said.
Having Worilds back completely healthy when the Hokies are trying to make a run for the national title, though, could mean even more.
Worilds missed the spring because of his offseason shoulder surgery but said he was recently cleared and rehab is going well and his strength is coming back. Having Worilds at 100 percent will give the Hokies one of the ACC's most formidable defensive lines this fall, even with the graduation of defensive end Orion Martin.
"This summer I think we just need to pick up where we left off last year," Worilds said. "I think we left of at a great point as far as playing together, knowing our assignments, playing with great technique and just playing as intently as we have in the past. Going into the summer if we pick up on that and continue to improve, we have a chance to be one of the best d-lines in the country."
Worilds will be joines by Graves and Cordarrow Thompson, who both started every game last year. The Hokies have to find somebody to replace standout defensive end Orion Martin, but Nekos Brown is quietly taking care of that. Brown, the Defensive MVP of spring practices despite missing two workouts a week to attend classes, has been in the rotation at defensive end each of the past two seasons.
"Nekos is in the best shape of his life," said Graves, who worked out at the end spot this spring to help the coaches evaluate some of the younger tackles but starts the fall as the No. 1 nose tackle. "This man, you're talking about a work horse. When we get done with our lift, this man goes out and runs some extra. He's ready for the season. He's excited. That's a great combination right there."
So is the combination of Graves, Thompson and Worilds. Worilds was in on a tackle for loss in 11 straight games and finished with eight sacks even though he didn't play in the Orange Bowl. Even he admitted he was a little surprised - especially considering the pain he was in during most of the season. It kept him from working out and practicing like he wanted to, which is why he said even he has room for improvement this fall.
"Actually I went back and watched film and there were a lot of plays I didn't make," he said. "I was tired, I wasn't focused on that play. I just have to go back and fine-tune my game, really critique the little things and take it one day at a time in trying to get better at those little things."
That's the goal for the entire unit this summer.
"We have the potential to be great, but we have to do the things that are necessary to be great," Graves said. "That comes with working hard and doing the extra things, and I think our guys are doing a great job of it right now."
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Promoting your wide receivers coach to head coach is a little unusual -- so is Dabo Swinney's contract. The fact that Swinney is probably the lowest-paid coach in the ACC shows what everyone already knows about the young coach:
- Swinney still has to prove himself.
- His lower salary probably made it possible to lure in a top assistant like defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. (Notice the part where the article reads: "the school can deduct the amount of bonus money Swinney would receive if it gives raises to Clemson's assistants")
- He'll be properly rewarded if and when he wins the ACC championship.
While Swinney is trying to win a few games, Bobby Bowden is trying to keep the games he's already won.
Virginia Tech's Orion Martin will go to church as usual this weekend, but he'll have his phone with him -- just in case somebody from the NFL calls. While everyone else gets caught up in the frenzy of draft day, Macho Harris will return to the spot it all began for him.
North Carolina's Hakeem Nicks seems like he's ready for draft day to be over. No doubt he's come along way.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
One thing that doesn't really count for this list but that Boston College fans should be aware of is that former quarterback Matt Ryan will be on the sideline Saturday. The Falcons are off. Here's what to watch on the field this weekend:
1. Clemson interim head coach Dabo Swinney. He has already taken a different approach than his predecessor with Saturday's "Tiger Walk," but he'll also be calling the plays along with recruiting coordinator Billy Napier. How much different will Clemson's offense look without Rob Spence?
2. Clemson quarterback Willy Korn. The fans have been clamoring for Korn, and now they've got him. It doesn't matter if Brett Favre is back there, though, if the line can't protect him. We'll see if Korn's mobility can provide the spark the offense needs.
3. Wake Forest in the red zone. The Demon Deacons have been inside the 20-yard line 23 times and have scored just nine touchdowns. They have the worst red zone offense in the ACC, and have just one offensive touchdown in two league games.
4. Maryland wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Coaches throughout the league will tell you he's one of the most talented receivers in the ACC, but he has yet to reach his potential. He didn't have one catch against Clemson, and the Terps will need more from him in the second half of the season.
5. Turnovers in Charlottesville. North Carolina will pounce on opponents' mistakes, and Virginia can't afford to give away any freebies. UNC has scored three touchdowns off interceptions.
6. It's all about the Benjamins, baby. Miami true freshman Travis Benjamin leads the Hurricanes with 569 all-purpose yards, and is 18th nationally in punt return average with 14 yards. But Duke's punt coverage unit is one of the best in the nation, allowing just 3.86 yards per return.
7. Holes left by injured UNC receiver Brandon Tate. Brooks Foster has three starts at wide receiver this season, including against Virginia Tech, when the Heels went with a three-wide receiver set. Hakeem Nicks will handle the kickoff returns and Kendric Burney the punt returns.
8. Boston College's rushing defense. The Hokies have been hanging on with their running game and are averaging 174.7 yards on the ground, but the Eagles are holding opponents to just 99.8. Of the Hokies' 15 touchdowns this season, 13 have come on the ground.
9. Miami quarterback Robert Marve. He threw three interceptions in a shaky performance last week against Central Florida, but has completed 65 percent of his passes in two road games this season.
10. Boston College quarterback Chris Crane. The Hokies have a better pass defense (185 yards per game) than NC State (260.2), and Crane will have a tough time repeating his impressive peformance. Defensive end Orion Martin has had a sack in each of the past three games.