NCF Nation: Sam Shields

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

Virginia Tech hasn't even started spring practices yet (Wednesday is the Hokies' first) and Miami has already wrapped things up. What's next in Coral Gables? The Canes will get back in the weight room for six more weeks, but coach Randy Shannon said the staff won't push them too hard physically. They'll meet for 45 minutes twice a week to help the players retain everything they learned from their new coordinators. The staff will now use the mornings to watch practice tape and the afternoons to watch recruiting tape.

Shannon said both coordinators, Mark Whipple and John Lovett, brought a lot of excitement, enthusiasm and confidence with them, and the staff is on the same page. They kept some of the same terminology. The two areas they'd like to see more improvement in summer camp are building the depth on the offensive line and at linebacker. Colin McCarthy will be back in the fall, but Shannon is looking for four or five linebackers that are interchangeable.

As expected, there were a few bumps in the road, but overall the players picked things up quickly.

"Are we better than we were last spring? Definitely," Shannon said. "Are we better than we were at the end of the season last year? Definitely."

Here were a few highlights from spring ball at Miami:

• Taylor Cook finished the spring with a bit of an edge over Cannon Smith at backup quarterback.

• C.J. Holton's move from safety to linebacker should give him a better chance to get on the field and was a step in helping the depth. Sean Spence and Arthur Brown played well this spring and Shannon said Jordan Futch came around the last two weeks.

• Brandon Washington became an offensive lineman the staff can depend on. They've got seven guys they're comfortable with up front, but Shannon said he is still looking for the eighth guy. That could be Ben Jones, Jermaine Johnson or Tyler Horn.

• Tight end Richard Gordon did a great job while all of the other scholarship tight ends were out with injuries. Shannon said the staff put a lot of pressure on him, and he got a lot of reps. "He should be in great shape," Shannon said. "He responded. When those guys come back, there will be a great competition to see which guy is going to step to the forefront and be that guy."

• Shannon said the media is making too much of Miami's lack of interceptions last year (they had four, the fewest of all 119 FBS schools). Shannon said their priority is to stop the run first, which they got better at this spring as a result of depth and maturity. He also said the Canes had about eight to 10 interceptions minimum this spring. He was particularly impressed with the "unbelievable" transition Sam Shields made from wide receiver to the secondary and considers him a starter who can "step in and play right away."

• The players who made a big impression on Shannon this spring were: Shields, Brown, Washington, Mike James, and Olivier Vernon. He said Vaughn Telemaque and Kendal Thompkins "put their stamp on where they want to be." Also, running back Damien Berry did a "tremendous job."

"Those guys have really taken that next step," Shannon said. "That's the biggest improvement, when you see guys who didn't play last year, see if they can really take that next step and be a guy we can say wow, he's going to be a guy we can depend on. That group of guys has really taken that next step of doing what we want them to do."

ACC's lunchtime links

November, 11, 2008
11/11/08
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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

Uh oh. (Ryan) Houston, we have a problem. The top three headlines in today's Raleigh News & Observer were all about Duke and Carolina basketball. Let's focus, people, focus. We've got some football left to play here.

Besides, UNC football has enough distractions this week. Like, say, Tennessee.   

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson knows his team is going to get whistled for a chop block, he just doesn't know when. In the process of airing out a few grievances about this with ACC coordinator of officials Doug Rhoads, Johnson earned himself an invitation to tell ACC officials all about chop blocks.

Miami's progress might not be as fast as some fans would like, but the Canes are a heck of a lot better off than they were last year. Don't watch their game against Virginia Tech, though, without a little Wild Turkey.

Miami receiver Sam Shields says he's gotten his "mojo back." This guy never really lost it.

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