NCF Nation: Quinton Coples

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- North Carolina linebacker Kevin Reddick has done his homework all summer, watching countless hours of the Southern Miss defense and the way it took to the unconventional 4-2-5 scheme the Tar Heels are now being asked to run.

Not only did he learn what coordinator Dan Disch likes his players to do. He also got a big helping of confidence, believing the style is the perfect fit for him and his teammates headed into his senior season.

[+] EnlargeKevin Reddick
Bob Donnan/US PresswireLinebacker Kevin Reddick has spent his offseason preparing for UNC's new defensive scheme.
"I haven’t seen anything like that in a while, everybody flying around, making plays," Reddick said at ACC media days. "I’m glad they bought their defense to us because I’m thinking the same thing. We need to be where they were. I think they have good athletes, but I feel we have a lot better athletes, so I feel like we should be able to do that."

Southern Miss was one of the best surprises of last season, especially after pulling a huge upset of Houston in the Conference USA championship game. A big reason for the success was the play of the defense, under Disch. Southern Miss set an FBS record with 11 interceptions returned for touchdowns and finished No. 29 in the nation in total defense -- 18 spots better than 2010.

It just so happened to be the first and only year Disch coached the Southern Miss defense. Now he and North Carolina coach Larry Fedora are in Chapel Hill, hoping for the same instant results they got from the Golden Eagles defense. Generally speaking, it takes at least a season for players to adapt to a radical scheme shift.

So hearing that Southern Miss did so well in Year 1 under Disch made Reddick even happier.

"That makes me smile more," Reddick said. "I can’t wait to play in it. I look back at that and I watch film now from practice and I see things opening up, blitzes or packages or whatever we do. I know it’s going to do wonders for us."

Last season, Reddick finished second on the team with 71 tackles playing in a more traditional 4-3 set. But after Fedora was hired and sanctions were handed down to the program, Reddick says he was contacted by coaches at other schools to see if he would be interested in transferring.

He declined, because he saw the opportunities Disch will give him in this new defensive scheme. Reddick will play inside, but he will also be used to blitz from the outside, something he has not been asked to do previously.

"There's going to be a lot of plays for me, I just have to make them," he said. "That’s why I stayed. I had an opportunity to go to other colleges but I stayed. I wanted to experience this. I like this defense, and I feel it was based a little around me."

Reddick also believes the new scheme will help mitigate the loss of leading tackler Zach Brown, first-round pick Quinton Couples and four other starters. Because other players will be put into positions to do different things, versatility will be emphasized more. As an example, Reddick mentioned defensive end Dion Guy can line up with his hand on the ground but also drop back into coverage as a third linebacker at times.

In order to really prepare for his new and expanded role, Reddick took to watching lots of game tape, while also studying plays on his computer. So why does he think North Carolina has an opportunity to make an impact with a scheme that is is not among the most popular?

"For us, being that other teams are used to seeing the pro-style defense from us and we’re going to bring this different defense to them, it’s going to be a shock to them," he said. "As far as guys seeing things coming from different places it’s going to be a shock to other teams in the league."

Video: Draft prospects recall high school

April, 26, 2012
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Michael Brockers, Quinton Coples, Stephon Gilmore, Stephen Hill, Luke Kuechly, Ryan Tannehill, Courtney Upshaw, Russell Wilson and Jerel Worthy talk about their playing days before NCAA football.
We’ve already taken a look at what the recruiting needs were for the Atlantic Division. Let’s shift our attention to the Coastal Division. Here’s a look at where each school’s biggest holes will be in 2012 or are anticipated to be in the near future:

DUKE


Offensive skill positions: After last year’s rare class that didn’t include either a quarterback or running back, both positions are needed in this group. Quarterback Thomas Sirk -- the MVP of the 57th annual Florida Athletic Coaches Association North-South All-Star Football Classic last December -- has already enrolled in school while Shaquille Powell -- a PARADE All-American running back from Las Vegas -- has committed to the program. In addition, with David Cutcliffe’s offense, wide receivers and tight ends also are a priority.

Kicker: Will Snyderwine, who earned first team All-America honors as a junior before struggling through a sub-par season in 2011, graduated, but Duke has a commitment from Ohio native Ross Martin, considered the No. 2 placekicking prospect in the country by ESPN.com.

Safety: With the transition to a 4-2-5 alignment that utilizes three safeties, this becomes an annual point of emphasis. The Blue Devils lose All-American Matt Daniels to graduation.

GEORGIA TECH


Defensive line: This is the most glaring need in the current class. The Yellow Jackets have to replace senior starters Logan Walls (DT) and Jason Peters (DE), but return Izaan Cross (DE) and solid backups T.J. Barnes (DT), Emmanuel Dieke (DE) and Euclid Cummings (DE). The Jackets are expected to sign about 18 players in this year’s class, and five of them should be defensive linemen.

Wide receiver:This is another glaring need after the departures of Stephen Hill, who decided to leave early for the NFL draft, and Tyler Melton. Darren Waller and Jeff Greene, who both played last season as true freshmen, have lots of potential, but the position still needs depth.


MIAMI

Defensive backs: There’s still a lot of depth with this group, and the return of Ray-Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque helps, but the Canes have to replace two starters in the secondary and have six commits in the current class to help do that.

Defensive line: The Canes have to replace Adewale Ojomo, Micanor Regis, Andrew Smith and Olivier Vernon from last year’s two-deep. The defensive end position was a particular focus in this class.

Receiver: This position lost a lot with the departures of Tommy Streeter, LaRon Byrd and Travis Benjamin. Allen Hurns is now the veteran of the group, along with redshirt senior Kendal Thompkins. There are five receivers currently committed in this class.

Quarterback: Beyond Stephen Morris, Miami has a lot of questions at the position and not a lot of experience. True freshmen Gray Crow and Preston Dewey are already on the roster, along with redshirt sophomore Ryan Williams.

NORTH CAROLINA

Defensive line: This is one of the biggest areas of concern after the departures of Quinton Coples and Tydreke Powell.

Receivers: Larry Fedora’s offense will make good use of this group, but he needs to replace standout Dwight Jones.

Linebackers: This group was thin to begin with in 2011, and now the Heels need to replace outgoing senior Zach Brown. Kevin Reddick is now the main man.

Safety: UNC will have to replace two starters in Matt Merletti, Charles Brown and Jonathan Smith, so this position will have to be rebuilt for the future.

VIRGINIA

Defensive back: This should be the main priority in this class. The Cavaliers will lose four DBs, including two starting safeties in Rodney McCleod and Corey Mosley, and standout cornerback Chase Minnifield. They’ll also miss Dom Joseph, who came in for the nickel packages. Demetrious Nicholson, who started as a true freshman last year, is suddenly the veteran of the group.

Offensive line: The Hoos will have to replace their starting center and left guard. Redshirt freshman center Cody Wallace could get a promotion, and sophomore right guard Luke Bowanko started in the bowl game. They’ve got some big bodies waiting in the wings, but they’ll have some questions to answer here this spring.

Kickers: This position needs to be rebuilt, as the Cavaliers lose Robert Randolph, who finished sixth all time in scoring at UVa, kickoff specialist Chris Hinkebein, and four-year punter Jimmy Howell. The position is wide open heading into the spring.

VIRGINIA TECH

Running back: This one is a no-brainer, as the Hokies have lost four players here in the past two years. David Wilson and his backup, Josh Oglesby, were the latest to depart, and Tony Gregory just had ACL surgery and is out for the spring. The staff likes Michael Holmes, who redshirted last year, and J.C. Coleman enrolled last week.

Receiver: The Hokies will miss Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin, and next year’s class has three seniors in Dyrell Roberts, D.J. Coles, and Marcus Davis. The future of the position is young, and the staff is still going after several uncommitted players pretty hard.

Defensive line: This year’s class already includes at least five committed defensive linemen, and the Hokies will be particularly thin at noseguard. They had some players graduate early who didn’t play a lot, but at least provided depth.

Linebacker:The Hokies have four committed, and are still chasing another just to build the depth. The staff missed on some recruits at this position last year and would like to make up for it in this class.

ACC's offseason to-do list

January, 20, 2012
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There is plenty of work to be done in the ACC this offseason, and the good news is that there’s ample time to get things done and get better. One thing that needs to happen in this conference is the resolution of any and all NCAA investigations, but that is out of the league’s hands. Not even North Carolina officials are sure when they’ll get some closure from the NCAA, and considering how long it took the Tar Heels to go through the process, it could be slow going at Miami. There are plenty of on-field priorities, though, that should be at the top of the ACC’s to-do list this year:

1. Make quick, smooth coaching transitions. Coaching turnover has been at the heart of the ACC’s problems, and while there was only one head-coaching change this offseason -- at North Carolina -- there were several hires at the coordinator level. Maryland replaced both its offensive and defensive coordinators, Clemson hired a new defensive coordinator, and Boston College hired a new offensive coordinator. Those programs will need to adjust and adapt quickly to new schemes, terminology and philosophies this offseason, and unfortunately for all of them, it won’t be the first time.

[+] EnlargeMike Glennon
Mark Dolejs/US PresswireMike Glennon is one among a number of ACC signal-callers who looks poised to break out in 2012.
2. Take another step forward at quarterback. This could be a breakout season for several ACC quarterback. Last year, the league was very young at the position, as at least half the league had first-year starters and Miami’s Jacory Harris was the lone senior in the group. This year, players like NC State’s Mike Glennon, Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and UNC’s Bryn Renner have a chance to separate themselves from the pack. As the ACC quarterbacks improve, so will the entire conference.

3. Find new stars. The ACC will miss its 2011 Offensive and Defensive Players of the Year in Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly. Who will be the 2012 version of NC State’s David Amerson? Miami must replace eight starters from last year’s roster, and North Carolina once again produced some of the league’s top NFL-bound talent on defense in Quinton Coples and Zach Brown. Heading into 2012, the league seems to lack an identity, a face who represents the league and is a national household name. The offseason is the foundation for that development.

4. Forget the past and ignore the hype. The ACC had a miserable bowl season. Everyone always talks about how you're remembered for your last game. Yeah, well, the ACC needs to try to forget it, forget that talk about momentum or lack thereof and focus on the future. Get the young players excited and ready to play, and concentrate on fundamentals and execution. Teams like Florida State and Virginia Tech -- and to an extent Clemson -- also need to ignore the hype and pay no attention to where they're picked in the preseason polls. If this past season taught us anything, it's that where you start has no bearing on where you finish. Clemson was unranked. Florida State seemed untouchable. Everyone needs to get better.

Instant analysis: Missouri 41, UNC 24

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
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A mid-level bowl game on a rainy day in a location few consider a vacation spot led to a small crowd. But Missouri looked like it wanted to be in Shreveport, La., on Monday afternoon, dominating this game, and earning a solid win in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl over North Carolina, 41-24.

How the game was won: Missouri was the aggressor from the start, pounding North Carolina with a relentless running game and hitting simple throws when necessary. The Tigers scored on all five of their first-half drives and raced to a 31-10 halftime lead. Missouri forced a pair of first-half turnovers after allowing a touchdown on the opening drive. The rout was on early.

Turning point: North Carolina turned the ball over on consecutive snaps and when it looked up, Missouri led, 31-7. Giovani Bernard fumbled near midfield and Missouri marched 40 yards for a touchdown. Bryn Renner threw a perfect pass to Dwight Jones, but a hit jostled loose the ball, which ended up rolling off Jones' back and into Missouri linebacker Zaviar Gooden's hands. Missouri used seven plays to go 59 yards for a score and a 31-7 lead.

Stat of the game: Missouri's running game really couldn't be stopped in the first half. The Tigers outrushed North Carolina, 192-13. Bernard, an All-ACC first-teamer, had just 12 yards on eight carries in the half. The Tigers finished with 337 rushing yards -- just the third time this season the Tigers topped 300 yards on the ground. They did it against UNC, who entered Monday's game with the nation's No. 14 rush defense, allowing just more than 106 yards rushing per game this season.

Player of the game: Franklin. Missouri's sophomore quarterback was at his best, utilizing his underrated arm and great legs, and helping the Tigers keep solid balance. He finished with 142 yards rushing and 132 yards passing, accounting for three touchdowns.

Worst omen: Truman the Tiger. Mizzou's mascot shattered the crystal Independence Bowl trophy just hours before the game, but bowl officials told media at the game they hustled to find a replacement trophy from a "local jeweler." Missouri isn't expected to be forced to foot the bill for the trophy, which cost a "couple thousand bucks, at least," but the omen didn't seem to bother the Tigers in the bowl win.

Stat of the game II: Truman the Tiger fumbles: 1. Missouri Tiger fumbles: 0.

Unsung hero of the game: Missouri's offensive line. North Carolina's defense is littered with NFL talent, highlighted by defensive end Quinton Coples. The Tigers O-line blew them off the ball from the start, clearing huge holes and giving Franklin tons of time to throw.

Best call: Missouri gave up a 22-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, but came back with a trick play you know it was itching to unleash. Facing a second-and-4 on the UNC 40, Franklin flicked a pass to his right, back to former high school quarterback and the team's leading receiver, T.J. Moe. He flung it downfield to a wide-open Wes Kemp for a 40-yard, game-tying touchdown. The trickery worked to perfection, and the execution was perfect, too.

What it means: Missouri will head to the SEC with some good momentum off a pretty average season. The day in Shreveport finished with an S-E-C chant from the Tigers fans who made the trip. The Tigers will face a huge challenge in a new conference next year, while North Carolina begins a brand-new era in the ACC. Interim coach Everett Withers is headed to Ohio State as a co-defensive coordinator, and former Southern Miss coach (and Oklahoma State offensive coordinator) Larry Fedora will now take over in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels have constantly underachieved under Butch Davis with lots of NFL talent, and Fedora will try to change that.

Record performance: North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner broke Chris Keldorf's school record, set in 1996, for touchdown passes with his 24th of the season on the opening drive. That ball was caught by Dwight Jones, his 12th of the season, which tied Hakeem Nicks' school record set back in 2008.

Record performance II: Missouri's 31 first-half points were a Mizzou bowl record, and also an Independence Bowl record. The Tigers made it look easy.

Independence Bowl: UNC vs. Missouri

December, 26, 2011
12/26/11
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North Carolina (7-5) will make its fourth straight bowl appearance and first in the AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl when it faces Missouri (7-5) in Shreveport, La. Here’s a quick preview of the game:

WHO TO WATCH: The 1,000-yard club. For the first time in school history, North Carolina has a 1,000-yard rusher (Giovani Bernard) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Dwight Jones) in the same season. UNC is also one of five FBS teams in the country with a rusher and receiver that have reached at least 1,100 yards. Missouri has played two of those five teams and lost to both Baylor and Oklahoma State. Bernard enters the game with 1,222 rushing yards and ranks first among all freshman runners in the country with 101.8 yards per game. He is the first 1,000- yard rusher at UNC since Jonathan Linton in 1997. Jones, only the second player in school history with 1,000 receiving yards, has 1,119 on a school-record 79 catches and 11 touchdowns, one shy of the single-season school record.

WHAT TO WATCH: UNC’s defense vs. dual-threat quarterback James Franklin. He is one of only three FBS players with 800 or more rushing yards and 2,000 or more passing yards in 2011. Missouri lost some of its offensive identity when running back Henry Josey suffered a serious knee injury. The Tigers go as Franklin goes, and UNC will have to contain him. Defensively, Carolina is 16th in the nation against the run and features a pair of first-team All-ACC selections in defensive end Quinton Coples and linebacker Zach Brown. Coples ranks fourth among active players with 24 career sacks. Brown led the Tar Heels with 91 tackles, including 11.5 for losses and 5.5 sacks. UNC’s passing defense, though, was statistically the worst in the ACC this season.

WHY TO WATCH: Farewell parties. This will be the final game for North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers, who took over after former coach Butch Davis was fired just days before summer camp began. It will also be the final game for Missouri in the Big 12 before the Tigers join the SEC.

PREDICTION: Missouri 31, North Carolina 28: The Tar Heels will get an inspired performance in Withers’ last game, but Missouri is a better team than its five losses indicate. North Carolina will make one or two costly turnovers, and the Tar Heels’ defense won’t be able to make enough stops in the red zone.

ESPN.com's ACC all-conference team

December, 9, 2011
12/09/11
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Editor’s Note: Tune into the “AT&T ESPN All America Team Show” on Saturday (ABC, 1:30 p.m. ET) to see who ESPN’s writers and experts selected.

ESPN.com is announcing its all-conference teams, and there was only one change here from the all-conference ACC team that the members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association voted on in late November. Offensively, the biggest toss-up was Wake Forest receiver Chris Givens versus UNC’s Dwight Jones, but Givens did more with fewer catches. Defensively, it was difficult. I can understand why Virginia Tech and Florida State coaches and players felt slighted, but in the end, there were better individual performances elsewhere. Here’s a look at ESPN.com’s All-ACC team:


AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl

December, 4, 2011
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Missouri Tigers (7-5) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (7-5)

Dec. 26, 5:00 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Missouri take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Missouri is headed to the SEC next season, and went out quietly in Big 12 play. The Tigers roll with dual-threat quarterback James Franklin, but are still trying to find their offense after losing Henry Josey, the Big 12's leading rusher at the time, to a serious knee injury. He started the season No. 3 on the depth chart. It's been up to Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore to pick up the slack.

The Tigers' defense had high hopes coming into the season, and it's been good after some early-season struggles, but perhaps not as good as expected. The defensive line hasn't dominated as most expected, but the Tigers played well enough to win four of their final five games to rescue a rough start against a brutal schedule. Mizzou may have the best five losses of any team in the country: Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Baylor, Oklahoma and Arizona State. Not a bad one in the bunch, and all four but Oklahoma State came on the road. Mizzou is better than its record suggests, and will get a chance to prove it in the postseason.


North Carolina take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: The entire season could have unraveled for UNC, considering former coach Butch Davis was fired just days before summer practices began, but interim coach Everett Withers kept the program on track for its fourth straight bowl appearance.

North Carolina has faced Missouri twice, losing both times, but has not played the Tigers since 1976. North Carolina started the season 5-1, but fizzled down the stretch against better competition. The Tar Heels lost four of their past six games, including a fifth-straight loss to rival NC State. Individually, though, it has been an impressive season for a few Tar Heels. Tailback Giovani Bernard rushed for a UNC freshman record 1,222 yards and became the first Tar Heel since 1997 to run for more than 1,000 yards.

Receiver Dwight Jones set a school record with 79 receptions and has 11 touchdown catches, which is just one shy of the single-season record. And quarterback Bryn Renner enters the bowl game tied for the school record with 23 touchdown passes. Defensively, Carolina is led by defensive end Quinton Coples and linebacker Zach Brown. Coples ranks fourth among active college players with 24 career sacks. Brown led the Tar Heels with 91 tackles, including 11.5 for losses and 5.5 sacks.

The burden of proof now belongs to Virginia.

Virginia Tech survived a fourth-quarter rally by North Carolina, winning 24-21, to further secure its position atop the Coastal Division standings. The win puts rival Virginia in a must-win situation on Saturday at Florida State. If the Cavaliers lose to the Noles, Virginia Tech will clinch its fifth Coastal Division crown.

Now it's the Hokies' turn to sit back and watch.

North Carolina had plenty of opportunities to leave Lane Stadium with a win on Thursday night, but the Tar Heels came up short one too many times, giving the Hokies their eighth straight season of at least 10 wins. Virginia Tech's defense -- save for one big bust in the secondary in the fourth quarter that led to North Carolina's final touchdown -- was consistently good. The passing game was on the money, they converted 9 of 16 third downs and the Hokies had the better collective effort on special teams. Virginia Tech's play calling was also a positive factor, as the Hokies' ability to work the ball to the receivers on the perimeter helped offset some struggles the running game was having inside. Bottom line: The Hokies won in all four phases of the game.

North Carolina, though, deserves a lot of credit. The defense was relentless for four quarters. Defensive end Quinton Coples was one of the few players who has been able to bring down quarterback Logan Thomas. Linebacker Zach Brown made a lot of plays, and they held the Hokies scoreless for two quarters. Two missed field goals, a botched onside kick and a costly fumble in the red zone were just a few of the mistakes that added up. It also didn't help that leading rusher Giovani Bernard left the game early with concussion-like symptoms.

This game lived up to the billing of one vital to the Coastal Division standings, and the final score illustrated just how closely contested the ACC race is.

And it's not over yet.

Big East what to watch

September, 8, 2011
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What you should be watching around the Big East in Week 2:

1. Undefeated again? The big story this week has been the way the league went 8-0 in Week 1. Can that be replicated in Week 2? There are some big challenges this week -- tough road games for Cincinnati, Rutgers and Connecticut. All three are underdogs, so the Big East is going to need some big-time upsets to remain perfect on the season.

2. Cincinnati pass D. One of the biggest problems for Cincinnati on defense last season was the way it played against the pass. Too many times the Bearcats allowed big plays and that ended up hurting them in a bunch of games. The Vols lost their top three receivers from a year ago, but had nice games from Justin Hunter and Da'Rick Rogers last week. Tyler Bray went 17-of-24 passing for 293 yards and three touchdowns against Montana. The Vols had problems establishing the run last week, so they could try to take advantage of an area of concern by hitting some plays in the pass game.

[+] EnlargeQuinton Coples
Bob Donnan/US PresswireOther questions aside, Quinton Coples knows how to get to the quarterback.
3. Rutgers' line play. The challenge up front will be formidable for Rutgers in its game against North Carolina. Coach Greg Schiano said the North Carolina defensive front had personnel similar to what he had when he coached at Miami in 1999 and 2000. One of the players who will present some problems is defensive end Quinton Coples, listed No. 2 on Mel Kiper's Big Board for the 2012 NFL draft. At 6-foot-6 and 290 pounds, he is a load to handle and will present challenges to an offensive line that had its share of struggles last season.

4. UConn's quarterback is ... Take your pick: Johnny McEntee, Scott McCummings or Michael Nebrich? If you said yes, then you are right! Coach Paul Pasqualoni says he will play all three until he sees a clear-cut starter. That might work against Fordham, but it will be interesting to see how well the plan works against FBS competition. Neither one of these players has ever played in a road game, so the challenge is on.

5. More offensive consistency. Plenty of teams struggled in this area in Week 1. West Virginia and Pitt have new offensive systems in place; USF and Syracuse clearly needed to shake off the rust; Louisville had four turnovers and shaky line play. The coaches from each team have said they want to see better execution from their units this week, so that certainly should be a priority.

6. Don't look ahead. Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse and West Virginia have tough games in Week 3, so each better beware of "look-ahead syndrome." Only Louisville plays an FBS opponent this week before playing Kentucky next week. Pitt goes to Iowa, Syracuse travels to USC and West Virginia goes on the road to Maryland on Sept. 17. So all three teams have got to use this week to get better and really focus before facing bigger tests.

7. Will Stein. The Louisville starting quarterback has a sprained ankle and was in a walking boot this week, but coach Charlie Strong says he is fine and will play. How effective will he be with the injured ankle? The Cardinals do plan on playing Teddy Bridgewater and Dominique Brown again and need to have much more consistent play out of this position this week.

8. USF letdown alert. It's only natural to have an emotional letdown in the week after a big win. The Bulls have to guard against that against Ball State, coming in with a big confidence lift after an upset victory over Indiana. Coach Skip Holtz knows his team has to build off its win against Notre Dame, and so do his players. They maintained a business-like approach after the game last week and have won big games before. But it's all about how you respond following those wins. No Big East team has ever lost to Ball State.

9. West Virginia offensive line. It appeared the Mountaineers had some struggles on the offensive line last week, failing to get the running game established and at times forcing Geno Smith out of the pocket. Coach Dana Holgorsen came to their defense last week, saying Marshall did a few things his team was not prepared to see. But you can bet they worked this week on trying to get more out of their line. The priority has to be keeping Smith out of harm's way.

10. Tino Sunseri. Will the Panthers try to get the passing game established early the way they did last week with some deep passes at the start of the game? They should, in order to help get a good rhythm going and help Sunseri get better.

Big East predictions: Week 2

September, 8, 2011
9/08/11
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I wish I could say I was as perfect as the Big East in Week 1. I called for a Notre Dame win, and USF proved me wrong. The Bulls had the biggest win on the slate, 23-20 over the Irish. What are the chances for another undefeated week for the Big East? I think it will be much tougher. But maybe I will be proven wrong again.

On to the picks.

FIU at Louisville, 7 p.m., Friday, ESPN. This is a danger game for the Cardinals, with the in-state rival Kentucky looming next week. FIU is not a patsy anymore and has a veteran team that has come close to pulling off some major upsets. But I think the Cardinals' defense will do just enough to slow down T.Y. Hilton and pull out a close one at home. Louisville 24, FIU 20.

Rutgers at North Carolina, 12:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3.The Scarlet Knights posted a 48-0 win in Week 1 against NC Central, but this is a vastly different team from North Carolina. The Tar Heels are going to give the Rutgers all they can handle up front. I am not sure the Scarlet Knights will have an answer for North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, who had two sacks in the opener. North Carolina 27, Rutgers 17.

Maine at Pitt, 1 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3. The Panthers had a much better performance in the second half than they did in the first last week. Coach Todd Graham is going to be looking for better execution for the entire game, specifically from quarterback Tino Sunseri. Pitt 45, Maine 6.

Norfolk State at West Virginia, 1 p.m., ESPN3. West Virginia is just hoping to play a full four quarters this week after a weather-shortened win over Marshall. This will be a good opportunity to get the running game better established after a dismal performance in the opener. West Virginia 55, Norfolk State 7.

Cincinnati at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m., ESPN2. This is a huge game for the Bearcats, who would love nothing more than to get more eyes on them after going 4-8 last season. Winning on the road in a hostile environment would do the trick. Tennessee showed a few weaknesses last week, most notably its run game. But the Vols are probably going to try to pass on a Bearcats defense that needs to prove it is vastly better in that area. Cincinnati has good balance with Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead, and its explosive offense should do just enough to get the upset win. Cincinnati 30, Tennessee 27.

Rhode Island at Syracuse, 4:30 p.m., Saturday, ESPN3. The Orange need to have more consistency out of their offense and defense after an uneven performance in Week 1. Playing an FCS opponent should help before they go on the road to play USC. Syracuse 40, Rhode Island 10.

Ball State at USF, 7 p.m., ESPN3.The Bulls have to beware of the let down factor, after getting a big win over Notre Dame and jumping into the AP Top 25. Ball State had an upset win over Indiana last week, and is now running more of an up-tempo spread offense, similar to what Notre Dame ran last week. But the Bulls are much more talented and should hold off the MAC challenge. USF 35, Ball State 14.

UConn at Vanderbilt, 7:30 p.m., ESPN3.This is a critical test for the three-headed quarterback system Connecticut plans to use. I have never been in favor of shifting quarterbacks in and out. Meanwhile, D.J. Shoemate is expected to return to the run game with Lyle McCombs. They could see lots of Chris Marve, one of the best tacklers in the SEC. Last year's game was a wild 40-21 win for UConn. I think this is going to be more low-scoring game, and Vanderbilt will do just enough to stop Connecticut on offense to win. Vanderbilt 20, Connecticut 17.

ACC in the afternoon

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
7:12
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The 3:30 p.m. games have officially wrapped up. Here's a quick analysis of each:

NORTH CAROLINA 42, JAMES MADISON 10

The Tar Heels couldn't have asked for much more in the debut of interim head coach Everett Withers and first-year starting quarterback Bryn Renner. Renner had a record-setting performance, and the Heels controlled the game from start to finish. They took care of business, won the game up front, and looked good in all four phases of the game. Renner completed 22 of 23 passes for 277 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He also ran for a touchdown and tied the school record with 14 straight completions. Receiver Dwight Jones had an outstanding day with nine catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns, and defensive end Quinton Coples was a beast. This is a talented team that got off to a great start, even if it was against FCS competition. Tar Heels should be confident heading into Rutgers game next week.

CLEMSON 43, TROY 19

The second half was an entirely different game, and Dabo Swinney can exhale because of it. Clemson was trailing at the half, 16-13, and was booed as it left the field, but the Tigers came out on a mission and were much better at executing on third downs. It's not going to be all fun and games watching the film, as there was plenty to learn from, but at the end of the day, Clemson avoided an embarrassing loss and pulled it together. True freshman Sammy Watkins was one of the more impressive athletes on the field, and Tajh Boyd, after a shaky start, completed a respectable 20 of 30 passes for 264 yard, three touchdowns and one interception. Whatever went wrong today, though, must be corrected quickly because there is only one more tune-up game -- next weekend against Wofford -- before the competition gets tough.

FLORIDA STATE 34, LOUISIANA-MONROE 0

Somehow I don't think we saw the same FSU team we'll see against Oklahoma in Week 3. This was a chance for Jimbo Fisher to get quarterback EJ Manuel some practice throws, and an opportunity to get some younger players meaningful snaps. FSU fans have been asking all season which true freshmen we'll see, and today was a good sneak preview of the talent overflowing on that roster. We saw Karlos Williams, Devonta Freeman, Nick O'Leary. The defense couldn't have been much better, holding ULM to 191 yards and 12 first downs. It wasn't a flawless game, and the Noles got off to a slow start, but overall, it was a solid performance to build on heading into next week's game against Charleston Southern.

Position of power in the ACC

August, 12, 2011
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Heading into the 2010 season, there was an abundance of talent at the running back position in the ACC, as five 1,000-yard rushers returned for the first time in league history. This season, the ACC is deep and talented at several positions, but not so much so that there is one overwhelming strength. Offensively, the receivers are probably the deepest, most proven group, and defensively, the defensive ends could be the most fearsome group.

Which one, though, will be the position of power in the ACC this fall?

Defensive ends:The ACC has earned a reputation as a defensive conference, and these players will do their best to uphold that tradition. Brandon Jenkins at Florida State and Quinton Coples at North Carolina should be two of the best in the country, but they’re hardly alone in their pass rushing abilities. Izaan Cross at Georgia Tech is a name ACC fans will know by the end of the season. He’s underrated and has a chance to finish the season with all-conference accolades. His teammate, Jason Peters, can do the same. Together they should help bring noticeable improvement to the Jackets’ defense this year.

North Carolina also has Donte Paige-Moss at the other end position, another player who has already caught the attention of NFL scouts. Adewale Ojomo and Olivier Vernon at Miami are two veteran standouts, and NC State’s Jeff Rieskamp and Virginia’s Cam Johnson are also among the best in the league. Andre Branch at Clemson should get more recognition this fall, especially with the early departure of Da’Quan Bowers, and Max Holloway at Boston College hasn’t reached his potential yet but began to make a name for himself last season.

There aren’t a lot of veteran quarterbacks in the ACC this year, but there are plenty of defensive ends ready to give the rookies a not-so-warm welcome.
ESPN.com is releasing its preseason all-conference teams today. You’ll notice this one has a few differences in it from what was voted on at ACC’s media days. Here are the ACC players who get my vote:

OFFENSE

WR Conner Vernon, Duke

WR Dwight Jones, North Carolina

TE George Bryan, NC State

T Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech

T Andrew Datko, Florida State

G Brandon Washington, Miami

G Omoregi Uzzie, Georgia Tech

C Dalton Freeman, Clemson

QB Danny O’Brien, Maryland

RB Montel Harris, Boston College

RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

DEFENSE

DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DT Tydreke Powell, North Carolina

DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB Sean Spence, Miami

LB Kenny Tate, Maryland

CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

S Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami

S Eddie Whitley, Virginia Tech

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK Will Snyderwine, Duke

P Shawn Powell, Florida State

SP Greg Reid, Florida State

UNC junior college DT impressing

July, 25, 2011
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PINEHURST, N. C. -- Despite the ongoing presence of an NCAA mushroom cloud over the North Carolina program, coach Butch Davis was still able to sign another quality recruiting class last winter.

The star of that class looks like junior-college defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, according to a couple of his teammates. The 6-foot-3, 320-pound Williams almost never made it this far, working a job making radiator parts for large trucks out of high school before giving football another try at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

After starring at Coffeyville, Williams enrolled at North Carolina in time for spring practice and made an immediate impression.

"I think he'll make a huge impact," said offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper. "He has moves after moves."

Fellow defensive lineman Tydreke Powell said Williams impressed him with more than just his on-field talent. He also likes his off-field dedication.

One February Saturday morning, Powell got a call from Williams at 8 a.m. Powell suspected trouble. Turns out, Williams wanted a workout partner.

"He said, 'Let's go work. We can't be the best D-tackles in the country if we're not working,' " Powell recalled.

The two are now roommates, and along with ends Quinton Coples (10 sacks last year) and Donte Paige-Moss (seven sacks) comprise one of the best defensive lines in the country. And unlike last year, when the Tar Heels played without a slew of suspended players who violated NCAA rules, they shouldn't be short-handed.

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