NCF Nation: Re'quan Boyette


Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich


Last week it was the Coastal Division that highlighted the conference play. This week it’s the Atlantic, with everyone in the division playing each other and no nonconference games to speak of. Two teams -- NC State and Maryland -- will be playing their first ACC games. While the Atlantic Division standings are worth watching this weekend, so are the following items:

1. Florida State in the trenches. FSU’s offensive line was humbled by South Florida last weekend, and that’s putting it kindly. The defensive line should get deeper with the expected return of two defensive tackles. Justin Mincey, who has missed the first four games with a knee injury, came back in full pads Tuesday and is expected to suit up Saturday. So is defensive tackle Moses McCray, who sat out the USF game with an elbow injury. They’ll face a veteran BC offensive line.

2. Dueling quarterbacks in Winston-Salem. NC State quarterback Russell Wilson proved against Pitt he hasn't lost a step, and he has yet to throw an interception, but Wake Forest quarterback Riley Skinner is a veteran who has continuously put his team in position to win this season. Wilson has thrown four touchdown passes in each of his last three games and accumulated 413 yards of total offense in Saturday’s win over Pitt. Skinner piled up a career-high 354 yards passing last Saturday in the overtime loss to Boston College.

3. Turnovers and penalties in College Park. They’re the two things that have hindered Maryland the most this month. The Terps had 10 penalties for 85 yards, two lost fumbles and three interceptions. Maryland has 13 turnovers this season which have contributed to 61 points. Coach Ralph Friedgen brought officials to practice this week to help with the penalties, and made the offense do 10 up-downs for each turnover.

4. UNC receiver Erik Highsmith. The Tar Heels have found a receiver. Now if only they could find the rest of their offense. The true freshman accounted for 107 of the Tar Heels’ 154 yards of total offense with six receptions and the lone touchdown in North Carolina’s 24-7 loss at Georgia Tech. Highsmith has posted 100-yard games in each of the last two outings and has 12 catches for 220 yards in the last two weeks. The rookie made catches of 40 and 30 yards to give him four of Carolina’s five pass receptions of at least 30 yards on the season.

5. Miami’s pass protection. The Canes’ offensive line had done so well in the first two games at keeping quarterback Jacory Harris on his feet, and then he was sacked three times by Virginia Tech. Right tackle Matt Pipho could use some help. Oklahoma’s defense might be the best the Canes will see all season. Pipho alone will be overmatched against defensive ends Auston English and Jeremy Beal, who have combined for 27.5 career sacks and four through three games this season.

6. Miami’s defense against Oklahoma running back DeMarco Murray. Regardless of who is starting at quarterback for the Sooners -- Sam Bradford or Landry Jones -- Murray will play an integral role. Jones, who could be making his first collegiate road start, won’t be asked to win the game by himself, and Murray is the best option on the Sooners’ offense. Murray is just 15 yards shy of reaching 2,000 for his career and has 32 carries for 219 yards and two touchdowns this year. One thing Miami’s defense couldn’t do last week was stop the run.

7. Virginia’s offense. The word “tweak” isn’t in Al Groh’s vocabulary because he thinks it’s “too cute,” so that’s not what he’s done to the offense. Let’s call it “altered,” for the sake of argument. The Cavaliers relinquished some aspects of the spread offense and it resulted in 390 yards of total offense and something positive to build on heading into the bye week, despite a loss to Southern Miss. UNC coach Butch Davis said it’s a “guessing game” as to what UVA will look like on Saturday.

8. Duke’s injured running backs. In order for the Blue Devils to look competitive against the Hokies, they’re going to have to get their running game going, and their top three backs have been injured, including budding freshman star Desmond Scott, who tweaked his hamstring. Re’quan Boyette (leg) and Jay Hollingsworth (ankle) played sparingly or not at all against NC Central. We won't know their status updates until the injury report comes out later today.

9. Georgia Tech’s defense against Mississippi State running back Anthony Dickson. Dickson ran for 106 yards and two touchdowns last weekend against LSU. The Yellow Jackets rank second in the ACC and 30th nationally in rushing defense (106.0). Last year, Dixon ran for 94 yards on 13 carries against the Yellow Jackets.

10. Virginia Tech’s secondary vs. Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. The Hokies have allowed just one touchdown pass this season -- one. Lewis has thrown five so far this season, and he completed 17-for-25 for 189 passing yards and two touchdowns last week against NC Central. It was his 15th career multi-touchdown game.

Bowl bound in the ACC?

August, 11, 2009
8/11/09
10:05
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's never too early to start making bowl predictions (or, in the ACC case it's never too late, as 11 teams were still bowl eligible in 2008 right up until the final week of the season). Today the bloggers are breaking down each team's chance to be bowl-bound, and the categories are "count on it," "possibly," and "forget about it." Will the ACC manage to get 10 teams bowl eligible again? Possibly. Take a look:

BOSTON COLLEGE
Bowl bound? Possibly.
Best case: Dave Shinskie looks like Chris Weinke, the entire team rallies around the absence and inspiration of linebacker Mark Herzlich, and once again the Eagles prove the doubters wrong.
Worst case: Dave Shinskie's fastball is better than his spiral, the defense fails to plug the holes at linebacker and up front, and the Eagles struggle to get more than four wins in a transition year.
Prediction: At-large bowl

CLEMSON
Bowl bound?
Count on it.
Best case: The offensive line paves the way for a 1,000-yard rusher and protects the new quarterback for a 1,000-yard receiver, and the Tigers shine when there are no expectations en route to the Atlantic Division title.
Worst case: Quarterbacks Kyle Parker and Willy Korn never quite get into a rhythm because they're sharing time, the offensive line isn't quite as good as people think it will be, and Dabo Swinney and offensive coordinator Billy Napier are outcoached en route to a mediocre season.
Prediction: Meineke Car Care Bowl

DUKE
Bowl bound? Forget about it.
Best case: Smart coaching plus the talent of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis and veteran tailback Re'quan Boyette earn the Blue Devils two conference upsets and they surprise Kansas on the road for a perfect nonconference slate.
Worst case: Duke's defense looks like it did against Georgia Tech last year, no receivers step up to replace Eron Riley, the offense line can't protect their little sisters, and the Blue Devils remain status quo from 2008.
Prediction: Christmas in Durham.

FLORIDA STATE
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: Florida State wins its appeal against the NCAA, the Noles find more talent at receiver than anyone knew they had, and the defense reloads as the program skyrockets back into the national picture with an ACC title.
Worst case: Florida State loses its appeal, and Bobby Bowden announces his retirement after a subpar season in which off-field distractions kept the Noles out of the hunt for the Atlantic Division.
Prediction: Chick-fil-A Bowl

GEORGIA TECH
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: Jonathan Dwyer wins the Heisman Trophy, the defensive line somehow finds a way to be even better than it was last year, and a home win over Georgia pales in comparison to an Orange Bowl win.
Worst case: The Jackets lose by a painful three points to Virginia Tech, lose in overtime to UNC, and Georgia studies the LSU film well enough to make it look like a regular-season rerun of the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Prediction: Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl

MARYLAND
Bowl bound? Possibly.
Best case: The offensive line lives up to last year's expectations, Chris Turner is as steady as a metronome, and Don Brown's defense has ACC opponents' heads spinning for a nine-win season.
Worst case: The offensive line looks like Clemson's did last year, Turner throws four picks against Middle Tennessee at home, and Maryland's front seven allows Darren Evans another career day.
Prediction: Eagle Bank Bowl

MIAMI
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: The Canes shock the country with a 4-0 start, Jacory Harris and Mark Whipple are hailed as the saviors of the offense, and Miami skyrockets into the top 10 ranking with an unforgettable upset of Oklahoma.
Worst case: Randy Shannon starts polishing his résumé after an 0-4 start.
Prediction: Champs Sports Bowl

NORTH CAROLINA
Bowl bound?
Count on it.
Best case: Quarterback T.J. Yates survives the entire season without so much as a scratch, the young receivers find a rhythm with him just in time for a road trip to Georgia Tech, and the Tar Heels knock off Miami and Virginia Tech to win the Coastal Division title.
Worst case: Yates goes down against Connecticut, and the Tar Heels are forced to muddle through six weeks without a proven backup.
Prediction: Emerald Bowl

NC STATE
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: The Pack starts off strong instead of making a desperate push at the end, the defense welcomes back linebacker Nate Irving, and quarterback Russell Wilson scurries his way to the Atlantic Division title.
Worst case: The Pack starts off 2-2 and the defense can't get the pieces together in the secondary or at linebacker, and NC State is forced to win its final five games to become bowl eligible.
Prediction: Konica Minolta Gator Bowl

VIRGINIA
Bowl bound? Forget about it.
Best case: Gregg Brandon's offense looks like Urban Meyer's, Mikell Simpson looks like he did in 2007, and the linebackers make a seamless transition en rout
e to helping Al Groh looking like a coaching genius in a year of serious transition.
Worst case: 2009 looks exactly like 2008, with embarrassing nonconference losses, three points against Duke, and a four-game losing streak to end a second straight bowless season.
Prediction: Home for the holidays.

VIRGINIA TECH
Bowl bound? Count on it.
Best case: The Hokies' offense comes alive under for the first time in four seasons, and Virginia Tech sets the tone for a national championship with a win over Alabama.
Worst case: For the fourth straight year, the Hokies are ranked 99th or worse in total offense, the Alabama game resembles last year's Clemson debacle, and Georgia Tech gets the nod in the Coastal Division race.
Prediction: FedEx Orange Bowl

WAKE FOREST
Bowl bound? Possibly
Best case: Behind an improved offensive line, quarterback Riley Skinner and a trio of talented running backs carry the team while the defense finds new playmakers, and the Demon Deacons knock off Florida State (again) for a surprise run at the Atlantic Division.
Worst case: The Demon Deacons bookend the season with losses to Baylor and Duke, and struggle to replace the NFL-caliber talent that departed on defense in between.
Prediction: GMAC Bowl

ACC power rankings

August, 10, 2009
8/10/09
10:40
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Summer camp has officially begun in the ACC, and there's a sense of urgency throughout the entire conference as the opening kickoffs are less than a month away. Things have changed since spring ball ended -- Nate Irving's status is questionable, Boston College found a quarterback, and FSU's receivers have been cleared by the law. Here's the latest ACC power ranking:

1. Virginia Tech -- Until somebody unseats them, the Hokies are the team to beat. Virginia Tech's opener against Alabama will determine whether or not it is a legitimate national title contender. There are no excuses for the offense not to improve, and the defense should again reload.

2. Georgia Tech -- Don't forget they were the co-Coastal Division champs a year ago, and return a league-high 19 starters from last year's nine-win season -- including nine on offense. The backfield is the deepest in the conference, and the offensive line should be better, but not even Paul Johnson knows what to expect from his defensive line.

3. Florida State -- One by one, the receivers have started to come back. Felony battery charges against Richard Goodman have been dismissed, Bert Reed should have completed his community service by the end of August, and Rod Owens' DUI case has been closed.

4. NC State -- The Pack is already better than it was a year ago because of its quarterback situation, but this year it needs to start strong instead of making a desperate push at the end. The absence of Irving and the transfer of safety Jimmaul Simmons leaves question marks for the defense.

5. North Carolina -- Until we see how the passing game unfolds with the new receivers, the Tar Heels will have to work their way up the ranking, especially with three positions on the offensive line still unsettled. The defense will be the strength of the team while the offense literally catches up.

6. Miami -- It's simply impossible to ignore the fact the Canes are under the direction of a third defensive coordinator in as many seasons, are learning a new offensive scheme, have a brutal schedule, and are still young. But Jacory Harris has matured as the team leader, and he's surrounded by speed and skill.

7. Clemson -- Yes, the offensive line will be better, but how much better remains to be seen. It's the same group that paved the way for a whopping four yards against Nebraska in the bowl game. The starting quarterback has yet to be named, and the defense will be depended upon to win some games.

8. Wake Forest -- This is my darkhorse candidate in the Atlantic Division (last year it was Maryland). The offense is in place. The defensive line is in place. It's the linebackers and secondary that remain a question mark. You can't go wrong with the winningest quarterback in school history, but replacing those defensive playmakers will take time.

9. Maryland -- They think they're better. They're confident. But if Maryland couldn't do it last year with a senior-laden team or in 2006 when it was one win away, why should anyone outside the program have confidence it can do it with such a young, typically inconsistent team?

10. Boston College -- They found a quarterback. The question is, can he throw? The reports from Chestnut Hill say yes, but Dave Shinskie hasn't done it in a college game yet. Is the 25-year-old minor league pitcher the answer? He's got the supporting cast.

11. Duke -- Coach David Cutcliffe said he won't be satisfied with anything less than a bowl game, and this man means business. He's got one of the best quarterbacks in the league to work with, a dynamic rusher in Re'quan Boyette, and some big-name players on D. But you don't turn around two decades of losing in just two years.

12. Virginia -- The linebackers are gone. The receivers are gone. The leading rusher is gone. The offensive coordinator is gone. This is going to be a big transition year, and a bowl game should be considered a good season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's going to happen this year -- somebody in the ACC (besides Virginia) is going to lose to Duke, and it's going to be a very humbling experience.

There have been some pretty impressive physical transformations since David Cutcliffe and strength and conditioning coach Noel Durfey arrived in Durham. Take, for example, linebacker Vincent Rey. He went from 255 pounds and 18 percent body fat to 245 pounds and 8 percent body fat. That's like trading a rumbling Ford pick-up for the muscle and speed of a Mustang.

Duke won four games last year and matched its win total of the previous four seasons combined. Congrats. The next step is to win more than one ACC game. With quarterback Thaddeus Lewis now a senior, and the return of Re'quan Boyette at running back, plus several standouts like Rey on defense, the pieces are in place for Duke to do that. Because the Blue Devils have two FCS teams on their schedule, they'll need seven wins to become bowl eligible. That's too much to expect in Year 2 under Cutcliffe, but more than one ACC win is not.

The question is, who will be the first to go down?

I'm going to rule out Miami and Virginia Tech. The Hokies will have far too much on the line and should want to redeem themselves from last year's embarrassing home performance. Duke will have to travel to Miami and that's a program that has a different caliber athlete on its roster, despite the progress Duke has made in the weight room and in its recent recruiting.

Here's where it gets interesting.

NC State, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest are all possible wins for Duke. The Blue Devils took Wake Forest to overtime last year before losing 33-30 in Winston-Salem. They lost to NC State by 10 points, and to UNC by eight, but both of those are "road" trips this year. Duke had won three of its first four games before being romped by Georgia Tech, 27-0. Odds are the Blue Devils learned a lesson there. And Duke beat a bad Virginia team 31-3. This year Duke has to go to Charlottesville where the Cavaliers will do everything they can to prevent that from happening again.

So ...

Here's the final order of teams, from the most to the least likely to fall to Duke this year:

Wake Forest

Maryland

Virginia (it's still possible)

North Carolina (crazy things happen in rivalry games)

NC State

Georgia Tech

ACC wins: 3

Season win total: 6

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There was some progress in the ACC this spring, and each team got a little bit of help at certain positions. Here's a look at who found some help this spring and where:

BOSTON COLLEGE: Marcellus Bowman and Wes Davis are two safeties who should help make the Eagles' secondary one of the best BC fans have seen in recent years. Four players return to the secondary with starting experience.

CLEMSON: It's amazing what a year of experience can do, and the Tigers' offensive line needed it. The only direction for this group to go is up, and it started to do that this spring. All five starters return.

DUKE: The return of running back Re'quan Boyette will give the Blue Devils' running game a more potent punch. He could be a difference maker on the field this fall, and Duke will need him to be.

FLORIDA STATE: Leading rusher Antone Smith is gone, but FSU fans can rest assured Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones can carry the load for the Noles. Both had several breakaway runs this spring.

GEORGIA TECH: On a defense that lost its leaders up front, defensive end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett established themselves as the new captains of the ship this spring, and they should be the Jackets' top two defenders.

MARYLAND: Phil Costa helped ease the transition of the graduation of longtime leader Edwin Williams at center. The Terps lost three starters up front and have four players in new positions, but Costa proved he can be the new leader of the group.

MIAMI: This "got help" award goes to new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. He had an immediate impact on the offense this spring and has Jacory Harris' full attention.

NORTH CAROLINA: Da'Norris Searcy and Melvin Williams gave the staff some confidence in life without Trimane Goddard. Searcy played well in the Meineke Car Care bowl as a fifth defensive back and played with confidence this spring.

NC STATE: Mike Glennon answered the distress signal at backup quarterback, a position that had been exposed far too many times in the past. Glennon completed 23 of 38 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown in the Kay Yow Spring Game.

VIRGINIA: The return of Jameel Sewell at quarterback and addition of Vic Hall no doubt helped the Cavaliers. At this point last year, they didn't have one quarterback who had any starting experience. Now they've got three.

VIRGINIA TECH: Confidence grew in the linebackers this spring, and that's because of the efforts of Barquell Rivers and Jake Johnson. Bruce Taylor and Quillie Odom are still learning, but there was progress at this position.

WAKE FOREST: Kenny Okoro and Josh Bush both proved to be dependable players at a position that just lost Alphonso Smith. Okoro in particular stood out, but both of them got a lot of reps with Brandon Ghee out with an injury.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Spring ball is over. Spring meetings are over. Some positions have been won, others are still up for grabs. Let's see how the past two months shook up the pre-spring power rankings:

 
  John David Mercer/US Presswire
  Virginia Tech's Tyrod Taylor (5) returns after throwing for 1,036 yards last season.

1. Virginia Tech -- The Hokies stayed at the top, as they improved up front and solved their backup quarterback question. Ryan Williams also made a name for himself this spring and proved more than capable of adding to an already talented backfield. Kicker might be the biggest question.

2. NC State -- The development of Mike Glennon gives the Wolfpack a dependable backup, and the defense has continued the progress it was making in the last half of the season. Tailback Toney Baker's return will give the offense another boost. NC State has answers in all three phases of the game heading into Tom O'Brien's third season.

3. Florida State -- The offensive line and the young, talented running backs are going to carry this team. Backup quarterback E.J. Manuel didn't practice, the suspension of Rod Owens was another hit to an already troubled receiving corps, and Corey Surrency was denied another year of eligibility.

4. Georgia Tech -- The Jackets still have too many questions up front on both sides of the ball, and injuries this spring on the offensive line didn't help matters. All of their skill players return, but legitimate concerns remain about how well they'll fare in the trenches.

5. Miami -- The Hurricanes made progress and Jacory Harris has become a true leader. They also picked up a new tight end in Jimmy Graham and named a backup quarterback in Taylor Cook (at least for now). It's still a young team, though, and Miami has two new coordinators, including its third defensive coordinator in as many seasons.

6. North Carolina -- The young receivers still remain a huge question, as does the durability of quarterback T.J. Yates. Jamal Womble, the third-string running back, will be a strong addition, and Greg Little stepped up at receiver, but the defense will be the strength of this team.

7. Clemson -- The roster is still loaded with talent, and the Tigers will be better up front, but they still don't know who their starting quarterback will be. They also need another receiver besides Jacoby Ford to step up. First-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele will have the already-stingy defense looking even better.

8. Maryland -- Those within College Park were very excited about Don Brown's new defensive scheme, and there were nine young wide receivers who each had their impressive moments. Can senior quarterback Chris Turner be more consistent, and how will the Terps fare in the equivalent of a 10 p.m. ET kickoff (at Cal)?

9. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons found a few answers on defense, but there's no substitute for game experience. This should be a breakout year for Riley Skinner, and several options emerged at wide receiver. They have to keep Skinner healthy, and the Deacs have an offensive line capable of it.

10. Duke -- The Blue Devils have one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, and Thaddeus Lewis became more confident in the young receivers he was throwing to as the spring progressed. The return of Re'quan Boyette will make the offense a little scarier. Linebacker Vincent Rey has made tremendous physical strides.

11. Boston College -- There's still no answer at quarterback, and the Eagles suffered the devastating news that ACC Defensive Player of the Year Mark Herzlich has cancer. BC still has an excellent supporting cast, but nobody to lead it.

12. Virginia -- The Cavaliers lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and are in the midst of a huge transition phase offensively. That's not to say there aren't any playmakers on the roster, and Gregg Brandon was an excellent hire as offensive coordinator, but progress this spring was slow.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Here are a few helmet sticker-worthy awards for the best of the best in the ACC this spring:

Best highlight-worthy play: Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams took off on an 80-yard touchdown run in the Hokies' first scrimmage of the spring. So much for waiting to make a statement.

Best hands: Maryland receiver Quintin McCree. He caught a game-high 163 receiving yards on four receptions, including touchdown catches of 58 and 75 yards in the Terps' spring game.

Best defensive performance: BC's Mark Herzlich had nine tackles, one tackle for loss and three pass breakups in the Eagle's spring game.

Best performance by a quarterback: Nobody can beat Kyle Parker's day at the park. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 171 yards and a score, and also ran for a touchdown in the spring game. Then he changed into his baseball uniform and went 3-for-7 with two home runs and five RBIs in a doubleheader against Miami.

Best comeback: The return of Re'quan Boyette at Duke. Sure, Toney Baker had a good spring, but while Tom O'Brien said his former leading rusher still wasn't 100 percent, Duke coach David Cutcliffe was calling his an "all-star."

Best position change: Miami receiver Sam Shields to defensive back. If any unit needs help in Coral Gables, it's the secondary, where the Canes picked off just four passes last season.

Best coaching decision: Butch Davis' decision to release cornerback Angelo Hadley from his letter of intent. Hadley was arrested twice in April.

Best quote: "I hope he competes for the job and tries to take it away from Russell [Wilson]," NC State coach Tom O'Brien said of backup quarterback Mike Glennon. "... Glennon has that potential tag, potential means you haven't done anything yet. He'll certainly have his opportunity, he's worked extremely hard out of season. He looked at a lot of tape. He's much better than he was a year ago.

"It became pretty obvious to us after the first couple of scrimmages [last year] our choice was going to be either Glennon or Wilson coming into the fall. Russell ended up winning that competition then. He's the incumbent and it's his job, but I think Michael Glennon wants to take it away from him."

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

There were all kinds of story lines this spring, from trouble in Tallahassee to ACC commissioner John Swofford representing the BCS in Congress. New coordinators were introduced, and new players stepped into the spotlight.

There was a particular buzz around the new offenses at Miami and Virginia, and Don Brown's defense earned rave reviews at Maryland as did Kevin Steele's at Clemson. Virginia Tech's Ryan Williams stole the show as far as newcomers go.

Only two players -- Florida State's E.J. Manuel and Wake Forest's Brandon Ghee -- were injured on the first day of practice and missed the whole spring. Other than that, there weren't any major injuries or catastrophes.

There were plenty of things we could take away from the spring in analyzing how the ACC will fare this fall.

Here's a look at a few things we learned in the ACC this spring:

1. This conference can run. Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, Maryland, NC State ... the list goes on. The question now is how these coaching staffs will split the carries. Some teams welcomed former leading rushers back from injuries, like NC State's Toney Baker and Duke's Re'quan Boyette. It seems like every team in the ACC has a legitimate difference maker at running back, and it should be a strength of the league this fall, especially considering ...

2. Veteran receivers are at a premium. UNC and Virginia got hit the hardest by graduation and the NFL, but Maryland also lost Darrius Heyward-Bey, Wake Forest lost D.J. Boldin, and Florida State should be holding open tryouts. Young receivers were scrambling to establish themselves all over the ACC this spring. There's talent at the position, it just hasn't been tested anywhere but Miami.

3. Offensive improvement up front. Boston College, Florida State, Clemson, Virginia and Wake Forest are among several teams with at least four starters returning on the offensive line. Virginia Tech's struggles on offense can be traced in part to a lack of athleticism up front, and that appears to have changed. Experience throughout the league should help ease the transition for some skill players and rookie backup quarterbacks.

4. There is improvement from the ground up. And it starts in the Coastal Division with Virginia and Duke. The Blue Devils had nowhere to go but up, and the pressure was on Al Groh to raise the bar after missing the postseason last year. NC State's progress should make the Atlantic Division race interesting. If you thought last year was a wild ride in the ACC, '09 should be even more unpredictable.

5. It's OK to follow your dreams. Former basketball player Greg Paulus was offered a tryout as a receiver with Duke's football team, and Miami forward Jimmy Graham was offered a tryout as a tight end with the Hurricanes, which he accepted. It will be interesting to see how both of their stories end, and whether or not switching sports in the final year of eligibility becomes a more popular trend.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Duke coach David Cutcliffe made a difference in his first season, winning four games in 2008. While that might sound like a disastrous season for many, the Blue Devils won as many games last season as they had in the four previous seasons combined. Still, it wasn't good enough for Cutcliffe, who thought they were capable of winning more. He discusses that and more in our interview this week:

 
  Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
  While his program showed signs of improvement in 2008, David Cutcliffe knows there is still work to be done.

Ok, let's go ahead and get this one out of the way. Can Greg Paulus really throw the football well enough to be a college quarterback?

David Cutcliffe: Greg can throw the ball. I haven't seen him throw it in person, but I saw him on high school tape, and he threw the ball a lot and effectively. My dealings with him, I kind of started that. I actually called Mike Krzyzewski first, just to say, 'Hey, I'm going to call Greg.' I wouldn't do it without telling Mike first. We had six practices left, and he could play a little receiver. It would be very difficult for him to start for us at quarterback. He just decided if it wasn't pure quarterback he wasn't interested in it, so we'll see what happens, but you don't bet against a competitor. Ever. He is definitely a fierce competitor.

Do you have a pretty good relationship over there with Coach K? Or do you guys not really see each other much?

DC: Absolutely, great. I'm one of his biggest fans. I have watched him practice, I love to hear him teach, I love conversations with him because he is the epitome of a coach. He's always teaching. I just think he's a master, I really do. I enjoy everything he does with his program.

About your program, what is the biggest change you've seen since you took over?

DC: People starting to believe we can win at Duke, most importantly our players, but not unimportantly our fans. Our fans, we're creating a little expectation. People say you're crazy, well I don't think so. I don't know if you'd call it revitalizing, because it basically had gone dead. Part of beginning a program is to make people believe we can win at Duke.

(Read full post)

Valentine's Day in the ACC

February, 13, 2009
2/13/09
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Ah, love is in the air. Tomorrow is Valentine's Day, so I figured today I'd give the ACC a little love. Forget helmet stickers. Today I've got a dozen roses -- one for each team in the conference. In this case, the rose is a reason -- one good reason why each team will have a shot at the 2009 ACC title.

 
  PRNewsFoto/Organic Bouquet, Inc.
  Our ACC blogger shares some Valentine's Day love.

Happy Valentine's Day, ACC
Love, your ACC blogger

BOSTON COLLEGE -- With four starters returning on the offensive line, and running backs Josh Haden and Montel Harris having one year of experience as true freshmen, the running game should better, and that, in turn, will help open things up for whoever wins the quarterback job.

CLEMSON -- Nine starters return to a defense that finished 13th in the country in scoring defense and 18th in total defense.

DUKE -- The return of Re'quan Boyette, the Blue Devils' 2007 leading rusher who missed all of last season with a knee injury, will lead a deeper corps of running backs and help compensate for the loss of receiver Eron Riley in the passing game.

FLORIDA STATE -- The Seminoles could have the best offensive line in the ACC in 2009.

GEORGIA TECH -- With ACC Player of the Year Jonathan Dwyer, a-back Roddy Jones, quarterback Josh Nesbitt and Louisville transfer Anthony Allen on the field, it could be one the most dangerous backfields in the ACC.

MARYLAND -- The Terps will have a veteran starter returning at quarterback in Chris Turner, and he should be more consistent in his second season in James Franklin's offense.

MIAMI -- The No. 1 recruiting class in the country a year ago will be even better as sophomores.

NORTH CAROLINA -- The Tar Heels will have a veteran defense with only two major holes to fill.

NC STATE -- The Wolfpack have arguably the best quarterback in the ACC in Russell Wilson, and should have a more dependable alternative behind him in Mike Glennon.

VIRGINIA -- A new offensive coordinator, four returning starting offensive linemen and the possible return of quarterback Jameel Sewell can only help the Cavaliers move up from their final No. 105 ranking in total offense.

VIRGINIA TECH -- The Hokies have 17 starters returning who have already won the ACC title and an Orange Bowl.

WAKE FOREST -- The return of Chris DeGeare to the offensive line, coupled with the pleasant surprise of Kevin Harris at running back, gives the Deacons reason to believe their offense won't struggle the way it did last season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

 
 Getty Images
 Duke's Re'quan Boyette and Maryland's Jordan Steffy were honred during the halftime of the Sugar Bowl for their community service.

NEW ORLEANS -- Greetings from the Allstate Sugar Bowl, where two ACC players will be honored at halftime for their commitment to community service.

Too often the off-field incidents reported are negative, and the "Good Works" of athletes like Duke running back Re'quan Boyette and Maryland quarterback Jordan Steffy go unnoticed.

Not in the ACC blogosphere. Here we take the good, the bad, and the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Seriously, though, players like Steffy and Boyette -- even though they didn't play this season -- deserve some recognition. There are plenty of other players who have taken on important leadership roles with their teams, too (FSU safety Myron Rolle and Georgia Tech defensive tackle Darryl Richard come to mind), but Boyette and Steffy were named to the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team, and they came to New Orleans to help with a rebuilding project here.

We're not talking about athletes who spent five minutes tutoring local middle schoolers here, either. We're talking about significant time sacrifices -- something college football players don't have a lot of to spare.

Earlier this morning, Boyette, Steffy and 20 other college football players participated in a clean-up initiative in the Oak Park neighborhood. At halftime, there will be an on-field ceremony and video tribute.

Boyette was a "Big Brother" to a student at Lakewood Elementary in the spring of 2006 and spent a couple of hours a week with him. They still keep in touch.

Boyette has also volunteered at the Erwin Gardens Rehabilitation Center and the Forest at Duke, a pair of Durham nursing homes. He visited once or twice a week and talked with residents. He also volunteered at YE Smith Elementary School once a week and helped kids with their homework projects or tutored them for their classes.

But wait, there's more ...

Boyette has also volunteered at the Ronald McDonald House and the Durham Rescue Mission. He visited residents and helped serve meals at the Ronald McDonald House. He has been to the Durham Rescue Mission twice and helped out with serving meals. As part of Duke's community service programs, he has also gone to local elementary schools for the Read With the Blue Devils program where Duke student-athletes read to kids and stress the importance of reading.

Steffy started his own non-profit organization, Children Deserve a Chance Foundation, which raised more than $50,000 in 2008 to aid young people in need, and he wants to expand his foundation in order to contribute even more.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

This is impressive. Clemson coach Tommy Bowden swallowed his pride and called Nick Saban for advice. And Mark Richt. And Frank Beamer. And his father. He said their feedback will help him help the team regroup after the loss to Alabama.

  • After that loss, Wake Forest was the only ACC team ranked in the AP poll. Personally, I think it's a little extreme to drop a previously top 10 team out of the rankings entirely after just one game.
  • Which is why The Citadel coach Kevin Higgins is expecting the Tigers' best.
  • Will Georgia Tech look as good against the Boston College defense? T.J. Barnes, a defensive tackle on the scout team, is doing his best to help them get ready. And the coaching staff is doing its best to try and limit Michael Johnson to under, say, 90 plays.
  • Of course, the opposite question also needs to be asked. How will the Eagles fare against Paul Johnson's triple-option offense? The last time these teams met, it took a last-second field goal for BC to win the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Now, a league game is at stake.
  • If not for the death of former Miami lineman Bryan Pata, Florida safety Major Wright would be lining up for the Hurricanes on Saturday.
  • Charlie "Choo Choo" Justice's record really is a thing of the past after UNC receiver Brandon Tate's record-setting performance last week.
  • Oh, and those guys who jumped out of the plane and landed on Duke's field? They hope to get another shot at Kenan Stadium some day. Hey, everybody makes mistakes. I jumped out of a plane once, and it's not like there's a steering wheel on those things.
  • Injured Duke running back Re'quan Boyette contributed in his own way this past weekend, but the Blue Devils also found a capable back in Boyette's good friend Clifford Harris.
  • Even with its suspensions for the first two games, FSU should start the season 2-0. But will they be mismatches compared to any of these?
  • The Seminoles' depth chart is complete with one exception -- quarterback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Sorry, snooze button ...

It looks like the Seminoles have finally woken-up, though.

Florida State coach-in-waiting Jimbo Fisher hasn't "had a fit in three days." Sounds like progress to me. Especially considering Drew Weatherford's quote in that story about getting "rid of some of the garbage" on the team. Yikes. It certainly helps when you replace problems with young talent.

Things are looking up in Miami for left tackle Antonio Dixon, who is back at practice after a scare with his breathing. The Hurricanes also got some good news in that injured projected starting defensive ends -- Eric Moncur and Allen Bailey, who haven't practiced yet this summer -- should be ready to go for the season opener.

Still, Randy Shannon is trying to get the team moving forward at practice, not backwards.

Congrats to NC State coach Tom O'Brien. He's got his quarterbacks narrowed down to three candidates. Unfortunately for them, Harrison Beck and Justin Burke aren't among the options.

Think learning Paul Johnson's offense is easy? Try doing it against Georgia Tech's defensive line every day. The learning curve is steep for this young offensive line.

Virginia coach Al Groh is pleased with the progress of cornerback Ras-I Dowling, and receivers coach Wayne Lineburg has more reasons to smile in his second season.

Virginia Tech is looking to replace its top four receivers, and while the offense has the potential to improve from a year ago, things were a little sloppy in the first scrimmage. Frank Beamer called it "ragged." And running backs coach Billy Hite was fuming.

At least he has options there, which is more than you can say for Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who is trying to find a replacement for injured leading rusher Re'quan Boyette.

One team that obviously has zero problems with the running back position is Clemson.

I can attest to the friendship between Clemson running backs James Davis and C.J. Spiller. I talked to them on Monday after they ate lunch together.

Still, how far Clemson goes this season might come down to Mark Buchholz's right foot. If so, he's going to have to be better than he was in 2007.

Check back later for more.

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