NCF Nation: Robert Quinn

ACC and the NFL combine

February, 4, 2011
The official list for the NFL combine has been released. A total of 48 players from the ACC have been invited to audition for the NFL from February 23 – March 1. When categorized by school, it's somewhat of a reality check to see how many of the best players in the conference are moving on, and which programs will take the biggest hit. It's impossible not to wonder how good North Carolina could have been had all of the following players remained eligible. The Tar Heels will send the most players to the combine with 11.

Here are the players who will represent the ACC:

  • Anthony Castonzo
  • Rich Lapham
  • Mark Herzlich
  • Da'Quan Bowers
  • Marcus Gilchrist
  • Chris Hairston
  • Jamie Harper
  • Jarvis Jenkins
  • Byron Maxwell
  • DeAndre McDaniel
  • Danny Aiken
  • Ras-I Dowling

Back and forth in the ACC: Weeks 6/7

October, 11, 2010
Here’s a look back at Week 6 and a look ahead at Week 7

The good: Florida State’s offensive line. The Seminoles won the battle up front and paved the way for another impressive day running with 298 yards and four rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Christian Ponder wasn’t sacked once, as the Noles were able to fend off the nation’s No. 4-ranked team in sacks.

The bad: Miami. The Hurricanes came out flat. They were outplayed and outcoached in all three phases of the game. There were missed tackles, dropped passes and the linebackers were rendered ineffective. Instead of taking an important step forward on their home field, Miami looked like it took a step back.

The ugly: You can’t spell North Carolina without NCAA (no, really, you can’t). The careers of Marvin Austin, Greg Little< and Robert Quinn are over, but the investigation is not. And the more that is revealed -- this time that the aforementioned players weren’t truthful with the NCAA during the course of the investigation -- the uglier things look in Chapel Hill.

Top three games of Week 7:

1. Maryland at Clemson: The Terps have had something on Clemson in recent years, as Maryland was able to beat the Atlantic Division champs last year for its lone league win of the season. The Terps beat Clemson 13-12 in 2006, 20-17 in 2008, and 24-21 last year. Maryland is 4-1 and has something to play for this year, and they're catching the Tigers when they're down.

2. North Carolina at Virginia: Virginia has won four straight and UNC hasn't won in Charlottesville since 1981, losing 14 straight times. North Carolina holds a 56-54-4 advantage in the all-time series that dates back to 1892 but the two schools differ on the series record. Why? Because of the game in 1956 that North Carolina forfeited for using an ineligible player. You know what they say, history repeats itself.

3. NC State at East Carolina: The Pirates should just join the ACC. Seriously. The Hokies have played them, North Carolina has played them. Now it’s the Pack’s turn. The Wolfpack should win this one with some style points, since ECU’s defense has been abysmal, but it’s on the road, and any game against an in-state opponent has the potential to be a trap game.

More bad news for UNC

October, 11, 2010
North Carolina has lost defensive tackle Marvin Austin, wide receiver Greg Little and defensive end Robert Quinn to college football's player agent scandal.

Austin has been dismissed from the team and Little and Quinn have been ruled permanently ineligible. It's a miserable way to end a season for three players that had so much potential entering it. All three were expected to be stars on a team capable of contending for the ACC title, and Austin and Quinn were easily two of the best defenders in the country, let alone the ACC.

For six weeks, though, UNC has learned to live without them and will continue to do so for the second half of the season.

North Carolina and its fans have been waiting for some closure to the ongoing NCAA investigation, and now they know for sure at least who won't be with the team this year. The news followed an earlier press release announcing that linebacker Shane Mularkey had his left shoulder repaired and will miss the remainder of the season, and defensive tackle Greg Elleby had his left knee reconstructed and will miss the remainder of the season after tearing two ligaments (ACL and MCL) Oct. 2 in Carolina’s 42-17 win against East Carolina.
North Carolina lost before it even stepped on the plane this morning.

A total of 15 players have either been declared ineligible or remain in limbo for Saturday's season opener against LSU for violations of school and/or NCAA rules, according to a release this morning from the university.

Starters Marvin Austin, Charles Brown, Kendric Burney, Greg Little and Robert Quinn have all been declared ineligible, along with backup defensive end Michael McAdoo. Six others, including the 1-2 punch running back combo of Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, starting safety Da'Norris Searcy, and backups Linwan Euwell, safety Brian Gupton and safety Jonathan Smith will all be held out of the game while the investigations continue.

The total number of games those 12 players are expected to miss has not been determined, as the NCAA's investigation into possible improper contact with agents and academic misconduct continues.

UNC is also working with the NCAA today to determine the eligibility status of three other players who will not travel to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A kickoff. The Tar Heels left on Friday morning.

This is a huge punch in the gut, not only for North Carolina's chances at beating LSU (game over), but also for the Tar Heels' hopes for the entire season. This is bigger than Butch Davis and any one player within the program. This is the kind of devastating news that could impact the entire season.

T.J. Yates' interceptions? They're the least of UNC's worries.

The Tar Heels will be missing their leading receiver, the top three rushers (Little was third), the top two punt returners, two of the top three interception leaders, and two of the top four tacklers. The two-deep on the preseason depth chart at running back, strong safety and right defensive end will now start with the third-string player, or others will have to be moved around.

“As I have said, there is no single game more important than the character and integrity of this university,” Davis said in the release. “We are disappointed the players’ choices have denied them the opportunity to compete alongside their teammates and represent the University of North Carolina. Our coaches and players have a tremendous challenge this weekend, and despite these circumstances, our team will be excited to face LSU.”

Too bad UNC's fans won't be excited to watch it.
The ACC released the 2010 preseason all-conference team, as voted on by 52 members of the media at the conference media days in Greensboro, N.C. UNC led all schools with five players selected, followed by Boston College with four players.

Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel got the most votes, being named on 48 of the 52 ballots, while North Carolina defensive end Robert Quinn (47 votes) and Virginia Tech tailback Ryan Williams (45) were the next highest. Virginia and Wake Forest were the only two schools not represented here.


WR Donovan Varner, Duke

WR Torrey Smith, Maryland

TE George Bryan, NC State

T Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

T Chris Hairston, Clemson

G Rodney Hudson, Florida State

G Thomas Claiborne, Boston College

C Sean Bedford, Georgia Tech

QB Christian Ponder, Florida State

RB Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech

RB Montel Harris, Boston College


DE Robert Quinn, North Carolina

DE Allen Bailey, Miami

DT Marvin Austin, North Carolina

DT Jarvis Jenkins, Clemson

LB Alex Wujciak, Maryland

LB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

CB Kendric Burney, North Carolina

CB Brandon Harris, Miami

S DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

S Deunta Williams, North Carolina


PK Matt Bosher, Miami

P Matt Bosher, Miami

SP Torrey Smith, Maryland
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The votes are in. Virginia Tech was picked by the media to beat Florida State and win its fourth ACC title in seven seasons. FSU finished second with 26 votes, followed by Miami (10), Georgia Tech (8), Boston College (2) and North Carolina (2).

FSU quarterback Christian Ponder was voted the preseason ACC Player of the Year with 45 votes compared to 16 for Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams.

A record 98 media members voted. The Hokies received 62 first-place votes for the Coastal Division title, and Miami had 20. Florida State was the runaway favorite for the Atlantic Division with 78 first-place votes compared to Clemson's 16.

The Hokies were also chosen by the media to win it all in 2007 and 2009.

Here are the official results:

ACC Championship votes:

1. Virginia Tech (50)
2. Florida State (26)
3. Miami (10)
4. Georgia Tech (8)
5. (tie) Boston College and UNC (2)

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State (78)
2. Clemson (16)
3. Boston College (4)
4. NC State
5. Wake Forest
6. Maryland

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech (62)
2. Miami (20)
3. Georgia Tech (11)
4. North Carolina (5)
5. Duke
6. Virginia

ACC Player of the Year

1. Christian Ponder (45)
2. Ryan Williams (16)
3. Tyrod Taylor (11)
4. Russell Wilson (6)
Robert Quinn (6)
6. Joshua Nesbitt (4)
7. Kyle Parker (3)
8. Mark Herzlich, Jacory Harris (2)
10. Montel Harris, Darren Evans, Bruce Carter (1)
Each school brings two players to the annual ACC media days, which will be held July 25-26 in Greensboro, N.C., and the conference today announced the attendees.

Boston College:
Anthony Castonzo, offensive tackle, senior, Hawthorn Woods, Ill.
Mark Herzlich, linebacker, senior, Wayne, Pa.

Chris Hairston, offensive tackle, Senior, Winston-Salem, N.C.
DeAndre McDaniel, safety, senior, Tallahassee, Fla.


Bryan Morgan, center, senior, Hoover, Ala.
Chris Rwabukamba, cornerback, senior, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Florida State:

Christian Ponder, quarterback, senior, Colleyville, Tex.
Everett Dawkins, defensive tackle, sophomore, Spartanburg, S.C.

Georgia Tech:

Roddy Jones, A-Back, junior, Stone Mountain, Ga.
Jason Peters, defensive end, junior, Baton Rouge, La.


Torrey Smith, wide receiver-kickoff returner, junior, Colonial Beach, Va.
Alex Wujciak, linebacker, senior, West Caldwell, N.J.


Matt Bosher, place-kicker/punter, senior, Jupiter, Fla.
Allen Bailey, defensive tackle/end, senior, Sapelo, Ga.

North Carolina:

T. J. Yates, quarterback, senior, Marietta, Ga.
Robert Quinn, defensive end, junior, Ladson, S.C. .

NC State:

Owen Spencer, wide receiver, senior, Leland, N.C.
Nate Irving, linebacker, senior, Wallace, N.C.


Marc Verica, quarterback, senior, Lansdowne, Pa.
Ras-I Dowling, cornerback, senior, Chesapeake, Va.

Virginia Tech:

Tyrod Taylor, quarterback, senior, Hampton, Va.
John Graves, defensive tackle, senior, Richmond, Va.

Wake Forest:

Josh Adams, running back, senior, Cary, N.C.
Russell Nenon, center, senior, Memphis, Tenn.

A few observations:
  • It will be nice to have BC linebacker Mark Herzlich and NC State linebacker Nate Irving back and talking about football again. Get ready for a lot of injured-linebackers-return stories.
  • Nine of the players are linemen, as over half of the conference has some studs up front. Hopefully a lot of folks will take some time to talk to Duke center Bryan Morgan, an unheralded guy who is super-smart, much improved and downright interesting.
  • No Nesbitt? No problem. I like the guy, really I do, but he's one of the quietest players in the league. I've asked him dozens of questions every which way and every time it seems like the last thing in the world he wants to do is an interview. Jones and Peters will represent the Jackets well and say all the right things.
  • No Clemson quarterback? No kidding.
  • Who doesn't want to talk to Miami's kicker?
  • Oh c'mon, leave Yates alone. I feel like his big sister. Yeesh.
  • Best interview not on the list: Georgia Tech's Anthony Allen.
  • Speaking of ... Man, is Bobby Bowden gonna be missed at this thing. Prime time entertainment at that table.

ACC's irreplaceable players

June, 8, 2010
This week, ESPN’s “College Football Live” is revealing the most irreplaceable players heading into the 2010 season. These are the guys who are not only invaluable to their team, but have a question mark behind them. As good as NC State quarterback Russell Wilson is, he’s got a capable backup behind him in Mike Glennon, who took all of the first-team reps this spring while Wilson was playing baseball. Same can be said at Florida State, where E.J. Manuel was the MVP of the Gator Bowl in Christian Ponder’s absence. So who would they miss most?

Here’s a look at who the most irreplaceable players are on each roster:

BOSTON COLLEGE: Montel Harris, RB -- His health is of the utmost importance, as Harris IS the Eagles’ running game. Rolandan Finch, who had mononucleosis last year, tore his ACL in mid-April. Freshman Sterlin Phifer is an option, but it was hard to tell how much he might be able to help from spring scrimmages because there wasn’t a lot of rushing with the hopes of keeping everyone healthy. Phifer had 15 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown in the first two scrimmages.

CLEMSON: DeAndre McDaniel, CB -- Quick: name his backup. Exactly. Why would you take an All-American off the field if you didn’t have to? McDaniel is the star of a defense that lost two veterans in the secondary. If McDaniel goes down, sophomore Jonathan Meeks is the next man up. He had 54 snaps last year and played on special teams.

DUKE: Sean Renfree, QB -- Even though Renfree is only entering his first season as a full-time starter for the Blue Devils, there is even less experience behind him. Renfree has at least taken a snap in a game. Freshman quarterback Brandon Connette enrolled in January and Sean Schroeder was running the scout team offense a year ago.

FLORIDA STATE: Rodney Hudson, OG -- He didn’t allow a sack or quarterback pressure all season. Now there’s a guy Ponder won’t want to be missing this fall. Hudson only missed four assignments all season and had a team-high average grade of 88 over 11 starts. He missed the last two regular-season games with a knee sprain.

GEORGIA TECH: Joshua Nesbitt, QB -- The Jackets settled on Tevin Washington as their backup quarterback this spring, but there is still a significant gap between he and Nesbitt. Nesbitt has mastered the spread-option offense and the timing needed to perfect it. Washington has six carries and one pass attempt.

MARYLAND: Torrey Smith, WR -- He’s unmatched on the roster when it comes to all-around contributions. He’s a kick returner, a receiver and a team leader. He’s also the most explosive player the Terps have.

MIAMI: Jacory Harris, QB -- Coach Randy Shannon has said he can win a national title with Harris as his quarterback, but in order to have any chance at doing that, the Canes obviously have to keep him healthy. A.J. Highsmith played in three games last year, but road trips to Pitt and Ohio State are no places for introductions.

NORTH CAROLINA: Robert Quinn, DT -- It’s not easy to replace a guy who has 11 sacks and 19 tackles for losses. The players behind him are good -- Quinton Coples and Michael McAdoo -- but they have yet to start a college game and prove dependable for the number of plays the staff asks of Quinn.

NC STATE: Nate Irving, LB -- The Wolfpack saw how devastating it was to lose Irving a year ago, when he missed the whole season after injuries he sustained in a summer car accident. Some within the program say he is the best player on the roster, and the defense definitely wasn’t the same without him last year.

VIRGINIA: Marc Verica, QB -- There’s no shortage of quarterbacks for Mike London to choose from in his first year as head coach, but Verica is the only one who has attempted a collegiate pass. Ross Metheny and Michael Strauss were the only other quarterbacks available this past spring, and they were competing for the No. 2 spot.

VIRGINIA TECH: Tyrod Taylor, QB -- The Hokies will need their veteran healthy to keep their championship hopes alive this fall. The No. 2 job has yet to be solidified, but Logan Thomas made the strongest case this spring over Ju-Ju Clayton.

WAKE FOREST: Russell Nenon, C -- He has started 25 games, including the past 19, at center. Nenon is one of just two starters returning to an offensive line in need of some help. The Deacs were shorthanded up front this spring, as Nenon was injured.


Meineke Car Care Bowl preview

December, 24, 2009
North Carolina coach Butch Davis and Pittsburgh head coach Dave Wannstedt have been on the same Jimmy Johnson coaching staff for 11 seasons, including four at Oklahoma State, three at Miami and four with the Dallas Cowboys. There will be some familiarity on the opposing sidelines Saturday, but Davis and Wannstedt never met as opposing coaches in the NFL. UNC leads this series 4-2, but four of the six games have been decided by 10 points or less. Expect another close one.

Here’s a quick scouting report on the Meineke Car Care Bowl:

WHAT TO WATCH: The battle up front. If UNC’s defensive line can hold up, it should help linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter to pursue the Panthers’ standout running back, Dion Lewis. Robert Quinn is one of the best defensive ends in the country, and he enters the game with 19.0 tackles for losses of 120 yards and 11.0 sacks for 94 yards. He also has forced six fumbles and has 15 quarterback hurries. Sturdivant and Lewis should get to know each other pretty well in this game.

WHO TO WATCH: UNC quarterback T.J. Yates. He’s had an inconsistent season, but some of that can be attributed to his young receivers and average-at-best pass protection. He enters the bowl game needing 224 yards to reach the 6,000-yard career passing mark. For the season, Yates is 195-of-323 for 1,953 yards, 12 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He’ll need to limit the mistakes in this game and help UNC win the turnover battle, but his supporting cast will have to help him out more, too.

WHY TO WATCH: For the first time in more than a decade, UNC is making an appearance in back-to-back bowls. Carolina’s 16 wins over the last two years are the most by a Tar Heel team since posting 21 victories in 1996 and 1997. The program is changing under Davis, but can it take the next step and gain a postseason win? UNC has proven it’s capable of the upset this season, as it earned wins against No. 14 Virginia Tech and No. 12 Miami. A win over Pittsburgh would give Carolina nine wins for just the 15th time in school history and the first time since 1997.

PREDICTION: Pitt has a tendency to find a way to lose (See: Big East title on the line versus Cincinnati and regular-season game against NC State). The Tar Heels will have the edge with Davis on the sidelines, Yates will redeem himself from an inconsistent season, and UNC’s defense will once again be the difference. They’ll pressure Bill Stull into mistakes and come out on top of a defensive game. UNC wins, 21-17.'s All-ACC team

December, 8, 2009
There were a lot of outstanding players in the ACC this year, but the following players rose above the rest and made’s All-ACC team:


QB -- Christian Ponder, Florida State

RB -- Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech

RB -- Ryan Williams, Virginia Tech

WR -- Demaryius Thomas, Georgia Tech

WR -- Donovan Varner, Duke

TE -- George Bryan, NC State

TE -- Michael Palmer, Clemson

OL -- Jason Fox, Miami

OL -- Anthony Castonzo, Boston College

OL -- Rodney Hudson, Florida State

OL – Sergio Render, Virginia Tech

OL -- Cord Howard, Georgia Tech

K -- Matt Bosher, Miami

Spc -- C.J. Spiller, Clemson


DL -- Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech

DL -- Robert Quinn, North Carolina

DL -- Nate Collins, Virginia

DL -- Ricky Sapp, Clemson

LB -- Cody Grimm, Virginia Tech

LB -- Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB -- Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina

LB -- Alex Wujciak, Maryland

CB -- Kendric Burney, North Carolina

CB -- Brandon Harris, Miami

S -- DeAndre McDaniel, Clemson

S -- Deunta Williams, North Carolina

P -- Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech
Congrats to Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, who was named the ACC's Player of the Year. Spiller received 29 votes to beat Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt, who had eight.

Spiller was named the ACC's offensive player of the year, while Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan was named the ACC's defensive player of the year. I can't argue with either of those choices. Here is how the voting shook out:


C.J. Spiller, RB-SPC, Clemson (29)

Josh Nesbitt, QB, Georgia Tech (8)

Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech (2)

Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (1)


C.J. Spiller, RB-SPC, Clemson (24)

Josh Nesbitt, QB, Georgia Tech (10)

Ryan Williams, RB, Virginia Tech (4)

Jonathan Dwyer, RB, Georgia Tech (1)

Christian Ponder, QB, Florida State (1)


Derrick Morgan, DE, Georgia Tech (21)

Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina (7)

DeAndre McDaniel, S, Clemson (7)

Nate Collins, DT, Virginia (1)

Quan Sturdivant, LB, North Carolina (1)
Posted by’s Heather Dinich

Live and learn ...

1. Clemson has gotten over the hump. Admit it, Clemson fans, you were waiting for it -- the self-destruction following the win over Wake Forest. There were hints against Miami, and plenty of missed opportunities against Florida State, but the Tigers have been able to overcome their mistakes this year and put themselves in prime position to win the Atlantic Division and play for the ACC championship. Their toughest opponents are behind them -- and so is their one "Clemson flop." It came against Maryland. You can stop waiting for it now.

2. Even the best quarterbacks can’t do it alone. Riley Skinner. Thaddeus Lewis. Christian Ponder. Three of the ACC’s most productive, efficient passers and leaders all lost this past weekend. It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort. Skinner couldn’t shake Georgia Tech defensive end Derrick Morgan. Lewis got tied up with UNC defensive end Robert Quinn. And Ponder threw as many interceptions (four) as he had all season. All three of them are still searching for bowl eligibility, but for seniors Skinner and Lewis, it’s their last chance at the postseason.

3. C.J. Spiller is a Heisman Trophy candidate. For the second time in three weeks, Spiller had more than 300 all-purpose yards. He surpassed the 3,000-yard mark with 3,074 career rushing yards. Against Florida State, he earned his first two-point conversion of his career. He breaks a record literally almost every week. Against FSU he became just the second player in school history to go over 3,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving. He moved ahead of Reggie Bush on the all-time NCAA all-purpose list with 6,702 yards. He rushed for a career-high 165 yards, and had his 20th career touchdown of 50 yards more, his eighth this season. Spiller is one of the best players in college football. Period.

4. Bowl fates still murky in the Atlantic Division. Clemson is eligible. BC is eligible. NC State, Florida State and Wake Forest are still livin’ on a prayer. Maryland, however, is not. The Terps needed to win out and not only did they lose the game to NC State, their starting quarterback, Chris Turner, suffered a knee injury in the process. It’s time for Maryland to start playing for the future, while half the Atlantic Division is still trying to become bowl eligible. With its overtime loss at Georgia Tech, the Deacs now have to win out in order to become bowl eligible, as does NC State. The Seminoles only need two more wins, but their season finale is against Florida, who, like Clemson, has a defense. The twist? FSU and Wake play each other on Saturday. Somebody’s gotta lose.

5. Paul Johnson is fearless. We always knew he was a fourth-down kind of guy, and you don’t need to talk to him long to sense his confidence that often tilts the scale toward arrogance. But those traits are the keys to his success. His players pick up on it, and that’s why, on fourth down, when it’s on the line, he wins.

ACC's helmet stickers

November, 8, 2009
Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here are the ACC's top five performers for Week 10:

Clemson running back C.J. Spiller: It was only two weeks ago that Spiller torched the Miami defense for a school-record 310 all-purpose yards. Well, he outdid himself and broke his own record with 312 all-purpose yards in the Tigers' 40-24 win over Florida State on Saturday. He fessed up to striking a "mini" Heisman pose at the end of his 5-yard touchdown run the fourth quarter, but after the way he's played in recent weeks, Spiller has earned his way back into contention for college football's most prestigious award. He rushed for 165 yards and one touchdown, plus added three catches for 67 yards and a touchdown.

Miami running back Graig Cooper: With a career-high 152 rushing yards, Cooper moved into eighth place in career rushing yards with 2,001. It was his first 100-yard rushing game of the season, and he also added a touchdown in the Canes' 52-17 romp of Virginia. Cooper's 70-yard run was the longest since Frank Gore had a 77-yard run against Syracuse on Nov. 17, 2001, and his 152 yards is the second most by a Hurricane against the Cavaliers. Gore ran for 195 yards against Virginia in 2004.

UNC defensive end Robert Quinn: He was a major reason the Tar Heels held Thaddeus Lewis, Duke's prolific passer, to just 113 yards and one interception, and limited the Blue Devils to just 2 of 13 third-down conversions. Lewis was under constant pressure -- a lot of it from Quinn -- and the Blue Devils never reached the end zone. Quinn had three sacks, 4.5 for a loss of 34 yards (including one on Lewis in the backfield), a forced fumble, he deflected a pass on fourth down, and he had six quarterback pressures.

Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams: He redeemed himself from the costly fourth-quarter fumble the previous week against North Carolina with a career-high 179 yards in the win over East Carolina. He became just the second player to rush for 100 yards against ECU this year. Not only do the Hokies have some confidence back, they've got another 1,000-yard rushing back.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson: It was the gutsiest call many of us watching have probably ever seen. With his team trailing on fourth-and-1 from the 5-yard line in overtime -- after missing all four previous fourth-down attempts that day -- Johnson put the Coastal Division crown on the line and decided to go for it. He initially tried to draw the Deacs offside, but they didn't bite. Instead of sending Scott Blair out for a chip-shot field goal to extend the game, Johnson decided to go for the win right there. Because it worked, it was a great call.

ACC midseason report

October, 20, 2009
Posted by’s Heather Dinich

For the second straight year, the ACC started with a thud but managed to pull itself back to respectability in the following weeks. Losses to FCS schools William & Mary and Richmond, coupled with Maryland's home loss to Middle Tennessee, raised eyebrows in September for all the wrong reasons. As we look at the conference now at the halfway point of the season, though, it has showed its fare share of redeemable qualities, most notably the push the Coastal Division has made on the national level. To have three teams ranked among the top 15 in the first BCS standings shows some separation is starting to occur in the conference. ACC fans and officials can take pride in the resurgence of Miami, the continued strength of Virginia Tech, and quick rise of Georgia Tech under coach Paul Johnson.
 Tim Steadman/Icon SMI
 North Carolina’s Robert Quinn has spent plenty of time in opposing teams’ backfields this season.

Of course, there is always room for improvement, and it starts with a 2-2 record against the Colonial Athletic Association. Overall, the ACC is 8-9 against opponents from the BCS conferences and the Mountain West. There was no shame in Virginia Tech’s loss to Alabama, but the Hokies didn’t show up when it counted most -- in the second half at Georgia Tech. Florida State and NC State are weighing the disappointing Atlantic Division down, and Duke is making a case for the best team in North Carolina right now. Teams that were expected to be better -- namely Florida State, NC State and North Carolina -- have instead looked like they’ve regressed. The biggest storylines were not the Hokies’ No. 4 ranking in the Associated Press poll, it was the behind-the-scenes coup in Tallahassee calling for the early retirement of coach Bobby Bowden, and the overwhelming support throughout the league for BC linebacker Mark Herzlich.

Now that every team in the conference has played at least six games, it’s time for a look back at the first half of the season. Here are the conference awards:

Offensive MVP: Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams. His five 100-yard rushing performances eclipsed Darren Evans’ mark for the most by a Hokie freshman tailback in a season. He’s been named rookie of the week five times by the ACC, and even when he was sick and receiving IV fluids and missed practice time, Williams still rushed for 100 yards at Georgia Tech. He’s eighth in the country with 119.14 rushing yards per game.

Defensive MVP: UNC defensive end Robert Quinn. The sophomore has quickly made a name for himself as one of the best defensive ends in the ACC. He leads the conference and is seventh in the country with 11 tackles for a loss of 69 yards, and is tied for first with three forced fumbles and also has four quarterback hurries. He’s second in the ACC and seventh in the nation with seven sacks for 58 yards. Quinn had a career-high 10 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, at Georgia Tech. He’s a big reason why UNC has one of the top two defenses in the conference.

Biggest surprise: Boston College. Anyone who thought the Eagles would have won five games and been undefeated at home right now is either lying or the most star-crossed season-ticket holder out there. The Eagles lost their top two linebackers, their top two defensive tackles, their quarterback, their head coach and their offensive coordinator -- just to name a few. And yet here they are again -- in position to make a third straight trip to the ACC title game. Wow.

Biggest disappointment: The entire Atlantic Division. NC State, Maryland and Florida State are a combined 1-8 in conference play. If you saw that coming, leave for Vegas. Now. The Pack should have been better in Tom O’Brien’s third season, but even he said the team “regressed” the past two weeks. Maryland looks hapless and FSU has as many problems off the field as it has on it. Clemson played against Wake Forest like it should have been playing the past two or three years, but is still a three-loss team. And Wake Forest’s new goal is getting to a bowl game. No wonder the Eagles are soaring again.

Best game: Miami 38, Florida State 34. This was when the Seminoles still had hope, when FSU was still expected to win the Atlantic Division, and when one play might have changed their season. Trailing 34-31 with an ailing arm, Miami quarterback Jacory Harris threw a 40-yard pass over double coverage to Travis Benjamin that set up the game-winning touchdown with 1:53 remaining. With five seconds ticking off the clock, Christian Ponder threw to Jarmon Fortson in the end zone, and it was a controversial incomplete call that ended the game with the Canes on top.

Best coach: Frank Spaziani. His first smart move as head coach was to bring in 25-year-old quarterback Dave Shinskie, who has been on more than he has been off for the Eagles. His top linebacker, Herzlich, was diagnosed with cancer in May, and the only quarterback he had with any starting experience, Dominique Davis, decided to transfer. Spaziani inherited more problems than he did answers and yet he has the Eagles in contention to win the Atlantic Division for a third straight season.

What we learned in the ACC

September, 20, 2009

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

Week 3 was a little more revealing. Here’s a look at what we learned:

1. Florida State and Miami are to be taken seriously this year. Which is wonderful news, because that’s exactly what the ACC needs, especially when the championship game is in Tampa. FSU came out with a statement win at No. 7 BYU and Miami humbled Georgia Tech on Thursday night. They’ve both had convincing wins against legitimate opponents, reminiscent of how these programs used to play. They’ve both had consistently strong quarterback play, which has been lacking. Miami has the early lead in the return to prominence because of the season-opening win over the Noles, but that being said …

2. The Coastal Division is still up for grabs. Miami exposed weaknesses in Georgia Tech and will win the tiebreaker over the Jackets if it comes to it, but don’t forget about Virginia Tech and North Carolina. The Tar Heels found a freshman phenom -- at least for one game -- in Erik Highsmith who led UNC to a 31-17 win over ECU. The offense came together, despite missing a few key injured players. Yes, Virginia Tech played almost a full game with barely anything to show for it offensively, but this is what the Hokies do -- they find ways to win and leave you wondering how they pulled it off. The Hokies have Miami at home on Saturday, and it’s anybody’s game.

3. Maryland and Virginia have problems that run deeper than their embarrassing losses. And it starts up top. We’re talking big picture here. Recruiting. Coaching. Staff continuity. The whole bit. And it’s unraveling right before Ralph Friedgen’s and Al Groh’s eyes. The Cavaliers are off to an 0-3 start heading into their bye week, and Maryland lost to Middle Tennessee for the second straight year. It’s going to be a long season for these programs.

4. C.J. Spiller has the early lead in the unofficial race between he and Jonathan Dwyer. Both of them have been nicked up -- Dwyer with a shoulder injury against Miami and Spiller with a foot injury against BC. But Spiller’s versatility and explosiveness gives him the edge. Spiller's punt return for a touchdown at 11:33 in the first quarter against BC was the fifth different way he has scored a touchdown in his career. As for their Heisman campaigns? Looks like Jacory Harris has bumped 'em both off the radar.

5. North Carolina's offense can take some hits and keep on moving. The Tar Heels accomplished something important on Saturday -- their first 3-0 start since Mack Brown led UNC to an 8-0 start in 1997. UNC has been looking for receivers and it found an answer against ECU in Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd, both freshmen. The defense played another outstanding game -- recovered a fumble, blocked a field goal and got two sacks from Robert Quinn. The difference this time, though, was that the offense kept up with it.