NCF Nation: Rod Owens
Here are the ACC's top five performers for this week:
FSU quarterback Christian Ponder: He threw for a career-high 395 yards and three touchdowns to help Florida State overcome an 18-point deficit and beat North Carolina 30-27 on Thursday night. Ponder's 98-yard touchdown pass to Rod Owens tied the school record for longest pass play in school history, and Florida State outscored UNC 24-3 over the game's final 22 minutes. Ponder completed his final 16 attempts of the game.
Georgia Tech A-back Anthony Allen: He finished with 103 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, and his 20-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the Jackets up 27-9 to put the game out of reach. On one play, he broke four tackles and proved his toughness on each run.
Duke quarterback Thaddeus Lewis: For the third straight game, Lewis racked up over 300 passing yards, and he led the Blue Devils to a 17-13 win over Maryland and their first back-to-back wins over conference opponents since 1994. He finished with 371 yards and two touchdowns.
Clemson running back C.J. Spiller: He finished with 81 yards rushing, 104 yards receiving, including a 56-yard touchdown, and a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. It was the third kickoff return for a touchdown this season for Spiller, an ACC single-season record. He finished with a school-record 310 all-purpose yards.
Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker: His 26-yard touchdown pass to Jacoby Ford in overtime led the Tigers to a 40-37 upset road win over No. 10 Miami. He completed 25 of 37 passes for 326 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
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 only June, but Florida State's wide receivers are working with a sense of urgency and purpose not usually detected until August. They're lifting in the mornings, running in the afternoons, and participating in individual seven-on-sevens. They're catching about 100 balls from the JUGS machine every day.
And most importantly, they're trying to stay on their best behavior.
"It seems like the receivers are trying to get into trouble, and it's not like that," said walk-on Louis Givens, who is expected to be a major contributor this fall. "All of us are good guys, but we get caught in the wrong situation at the wrong time."
Rod Owens was suspended earlier this spring for a DUI charge, and Preston Parker was kicked off the team in February for multiple incidents. Richard Goodman, Bert Reed and Cameron Wade are all facing charges for their involvement in an on-campus fight last season. And to top it all off, Corey Surrency was denied an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.
After making headlines for all the wrong reasons, this group is intent on cleaning up their image -- starting now.
"Our mentality is to set the right impression," said Reed, who added his priorities this offseason start with being accountable to his teammates and coaches. "That's what our main focus is right now. Coach wouldn't have recruited us if we weren't good guys. We're all good guys. We just made mistakes and we were making mistakes at the wrong time -- back to back to back.
"We're making too many mistakes and hurting our team, obviously. It's hurting us at the same time but it's building up so much it's starting to hurt our team. I really feel like it's got to be dealt with. The athletic department is dealing with things, and we're kind of putting them in a bind right now."
Both Reed and Givens insist, though, that the off-field incidents haven't put the Noles in a bind on it. They point to Jarmon Fortson, Avis Commack and freshman Josh Gehres as players who made significant progress this spring. Tight end Caz Piurowski should also have an increased role in the passing game, and it would help dramatically for FSU to get Taiwan Easterling back from a ruptured Achilles.
"I wouldn't say we really lost a step," said Givens. "All these guys who backed up the guys from last year are here now, and they could have played last year and not missed a step. The spring was really strong."
Plus, the Noles have Reed, whose 23 receptions last year leads all returning receivers, and Givens, who caught two passes for 33 yards against Wisconsin in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Reed has bulked up from 166 to 178 and has made the weight room a priority. He said part of the problem last year was that receivers weren't holding their blocks long enough to spring a big play.
"I've been working hard in the weight room," he said. "I want to block, I want to get in somebody's grill. That's been one of my main goals, if not my main goal, is just to put on some more weight, knowing you're going to take a little bit more pounding being in on every play, and playing outside receiver, I feel like guys can jam you, so I have to be prepared for that."
The receivers have also benefited from the steady progress of quarterback Christian Ponder, who is entering his second season as a starter.
"Ponder is putting it on the money," Reed said. "It doesn't really matter who the receiver is. That's what he's showing us -- it doesn't matter who it is out there running the route, he's going to put it in your chest. It's up to you to catch the ball, and all of us guys can catch the ball. We catch 100 balls a day from the JUGS. We have enough talent to play."
Their talent was never a question. Now they're out to prove discipline isn't one either.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Each team is going to need a little bit of help this fall (some more than others). Here's a look at where everyone in the ACC needs the most help heading into summer camp:
BOSTON COLLEGE -- Quarterback. It's easily the biggest question mark in Chestnut Hill, and it will also be one of Frank Spaziani's first major decisions as head coach. Regardless of whom he picks -- Dominique Davis, Codi Boek or Justin Tuggle -- experience will be at a minimum.
CLEMSON -- Wide receivers. Somebody needs to help Jacoby Ford, and Aaron Kelly and Tyler Grisham are no longer around to do it. Xavier Dye didn't quite have the consistency he'd hoped for this spring. Marquan Jones and Terrence Ashe could also be factors.
DUKE -- Offensive line. The Blue Devils lost three starters there and moved a fourth (Kyle Hill from left guard to left tackle), so it will have an entirely new look. The one player back in his original position is center Bryan Morgan.
FLORIDA STATE -- Receivers. FSU is waiting until the legal process unfolds to determine the length of Rod Owens' suspension, and it's uncertain how quickly Taiwan Easterling will be cleared to play after an injury to his Achilles. Bert Reed, Louis Givens and Jarmon Fortson will be heavily depended upon.
GEORGIA TECH -- Linemen. The Yellow Jackets have to replace three of four starters on the defensive line, and injuries to Cord Howard, Dan Voss and Nick Claytor slowed the progress on the offensive line this spring.
MARYLAND -- Offensive line. The Terps lost three starters and will have four players in new positions. Phil Costa should be the leader of an otherwise inexperienced group.
MIAMI -- Linebacker depth. There were a few position changes, and Colin McCarthy missed the spring. Sean Spence is proven, but depth remains a concern.
NORTH CAROLINA -- Receivers. This group had to be completely rebuilt, as UNC lost players who accounted for 17 of 21 receiving touchdowns last year. Greg Little had a good spring and should be the leader now, and freshman Joshua Adams benefitted from enrolling early.
NC STATE -- Safety. This is coach Tom O'Brien's biggest concern, and the Pack need Javon Walker, who tore his ACL and missed the spring, back and healthy. Clem Johnson played well last year despite being hindered by several injuries. O'Brien is looking for more from Jimmaul Simmons and Justin Byers.
VIRGINIA -- Linebackers. The backups to Antonio Appleby, Jon Copper and Clint Sintim rarely played, as Al Groh wanted to keep his best players on the field. Darren Childs, Steve Greer, Aaron Taliaferro, Cam Johnson, and Darnell Carter will have to grow up quickly.
VIRGINIA TECH -- Kicker. For the third straight year, Frank Beamer is in search of a new kicker, this time to replace Dustin Keys. Matt Waldron was the leading candidate out of the spring, but the competition is wide open.
WAKE FOREST -- Linebackers. Gone are Aaron Curry, Stanley Arnoux and Chantz McClinic. Introducing Gelo Orange. Yes, that's his name. Orange, along with Hunter Haynes, Jonathan Jones and a host of others have some big shoes to fill.
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
Happy Monday, ACC fans -- unless, of course, you're a fan of FSU receiver Rod Owens.
That was easily the biggest news of the weekend, as there wasn't a lot of love for the links today in ACC country ...
- Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor ditched the hitch in his throwing motion.
- Wolf, Husky, call it what you will, it's the second season for the hybrid safety/linebacker position suited for Georgia Tech's Cooper Taylor.
- Rivals Clemson and South Carolina are going after the same recruit.
- Former Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is going to need more than speed in the NFL.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Sorry for the delay, but Spanky's on Franklin Street was calling my name for dinner.
Here's what happened throughout the league today, per the latest available report from each team:
- The defense stole the show in the Eagles' second scrimmage, and that's not a surprise. But eight sacks and four interceptions?
- The offense had 64 net rushing yards. Yikes.
- Chris Crane completed 14-of-25 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.
- Junior Rich Gunnell led all receivers with three catches for 83 yards and a touchdown.
- Sophomore Billy Bennett connected on field goals of 26 and 38 yards while senior Steve Aponavicius nailed a 29-yarder.
- True freshman Ryan Quigley punted the ball three times for 104 yards (34.3 average) with a long of 36 yards while sophomore Billy Flutie punted once, a 33-yarder.
"The defense brought a whole lot of blitzes today," Crane said. "It's comforting to know this defense will be playing on our side of the ball this fall. It's a benefit to play against them every day."
- Rodney Gallon confirmed today that he is no longer a part of the Seminole football team. He told the FSU sports information office he will be enrolled in school this fall and is excited to complete the final nine hours toward his degree. Football is just not part of his future right now but completing his college degree is a priority.
- Preston Parker was held out of practice due to a cervical sprain. Tony Carter also suffered a cervical sprain and did not finish practice. Freshman Terrance Parks suffered a right knee contusion at the end of the session as well.
- One-on-one was run in the red zone and Corey Surrency caught four TD passes. Three came from E.J. Manuel and one from Drew Weatherford.
- Weatherford also had TD passes to Bert Reed, Avis Commack, Jarmon Fortson, Rod Owens and Chase Walker.
- Manuel not only had the three TDs to Surrency, but he also completed touchdown passes to Owens and Fortson. Christian Ponder, who was working mostly with the inside group, came over and completed a touchdown to Commack.
- In the 11-on-11 drill, Weatherford squeezed a pass between two defenders and it was deflected but Bo Reliford kept his concentration and hauled in the touchdown pass.
- Quarterback Josh Nesbitt didn't practice this afternoon with a shoulder injury and neither did Andrew Gardner, Sr., OT (also a shoulder). Both are day-to-day and neither is in jeopardy of missing the opener. Nesbitt got a "stinger" when a teammate fell on his shoulder.
- Practices will be closed beginning Monday. It was good while it lasted.
- The Yellow Jackets spent two periods this morning working on 3rd-and-5 situations. Back-up safety Troy Garside intercepted a Bryce Dykes passas.
- Senior quarterback Calvin Booker connected with sophomore Demaryius Thomas on a 35-yard touchdown completion.
- The Terps worked on clock management and ended with two-minute drills.
- There is still a battle at strongside linebacker where incumbent Moise Fokou is trying to hold off Adrian Moten for the starting nod. Regardless of who starts, both are likely to play extensively, including on special teams.
- During the full-team drill, wide receivers LaQuan Williams and Torrey Smith caught touchdown passes.
"We came out today and they were tired and sore," coach Ralph Friedgen said. "This was a character practice. We had a pretty good practice. I had to push them, but that's my job. I told them I'm going to get every ounce of energy and every ounce of talent out of them."
- The Hurricanes continued to stress special teams, and the defense focused on run blitzing drills with specific emphasis on red zone and run formations.
- After five practices in the past three days, coach Randy Shannon is giving his guys Thursday off.
- They'll scrimmage on Friday.
"The other day I didn't like the way we were practicing, but we came out this morning and this afternoon and finished up strong," Shannon said. "We had a lot of enthusiasm and we made a lot of plays on both sides of the football so we're excited about that. It was a big improvement from the other day."
- The Demon Deacons had their second two-a-day practice in preparation for tomorrow's scrimmage, which I will attend.
- In the first practice, during 7-on-7 drills, quarterback Riley Skinner hit running back Josh Adams on a long pass down the left sideline on the first play of the drill.
- Cornerbacks Chip Vaughn and Brandon Ghee each made a couple of nice pass breakups.
"I would like to see some improvement from the younger classes," said coach Jim Grobe. "We have older guys that are doing pretty much what we thought they would be doing at this point -- having good camps and making minimal mistakes. I think the key to a season is to have the younger guys step up. No matter how good your upperclassmen are, you are going to have to play young guys at some point, whether you are comfortable or not. So I would like to come back to the office after the scrimmage tomorrow and feel like our young guys made pretty good strides."