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NCF Nation: Sean Spence

When a football coaching staff signs one of the top few recruits at any position, it's cause for celebration. Therefore, grabbing two of the top three prospects at that position might warrant an Animal House-style party.

Between 2006, when ESPN began assembling recruit rankings, and 2013, individual programs managed to sign at least two of the top three players at a position 16 times. In many cases, one -- and sometimes both -- of those players became instant stars as true freshmen. Think Taylor Mays and Joe McKnight at USC, De'Anthony Thomas at Oregon, Laremy Tunsil at Ole Miss and Sean Spence at Miami.

This was a relatively unique occurrence up until 2014, when it happened five times -- with four of the five instances occurring in the SEC: twice at Alabama, which signed the top two players at both center (No. 1 Josh Casher and No. 2 J.C. Hassenauer) and outside linebacker (No. 1 Christian Miller and No. 2 Rashaan Evans), plus at LSU (with No. 1 and 3 wide receivers Malachi Dupre and Trey Quinn) and Florida (with No. 2 and 3 defensive tackles Gerald Willis and Thomas Holley).

Clemson was the other school to accomplish the feat in 2014, signing No. 2 and 3 receiving tight ends Milan Richard and Cannon Smith.

In some of these cases -- particularly at LSU, which lost the vast majority of its receiving production from 2013 -- expectations are high that the star signees can immediately become valuable contributors as true freshmen. The Tigers have multiple alternatives at receiver, including Travin Dural and John Diarse, but Dupre and Quinn might rank among the leading contenders for playing time.

Judging by the long list of Freshman All-America and freshman all-conference honors won by those who previously signed as part of such a dynamic duo, perhaps it's not such a long shot that at least one of the newcomers will make a similar instant impact.

2006

Safety | USC
No. 2 Taylor Mays, No. 3 Antwine Perez

Mays appeared in all 13 games -- starting the last 12 at free safety after Josh Pinkard suffered a season-ending injury in the opener -- in 2006 and led the Trojans with three interceptions. Mays was fifth on the team with 62 tackles and tied for second with six passes defended, ending the season as Pac-10 Co-Freshman of the Year and as a member of multiple Freshman All-America teams. Perez played in seven games and recorded three tackles.

2007

Center | Auburn
No. 1 Ryan Pugh, No. 3 Chaz Ramsey

Pugh started six of Auburn's final nine games at left tackle and appeared in eight games overall. He also backed up Jason Bosley at center and earned Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team honors after the season. Like Pugh, Ramsey appeared for the first time in Week 4 and went on to start nine of the Tigers' last 10 games at right guard. He also made the Coaches' All-SEC Freshman team.

Running back | USC
No. 1 Joe McKnight, No. 2 Marc Tyler

McKnight played in all 13 games in 2007, ranked third on the team with 540 rushing yards and scored three touchdowns. He also caught 23 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown and served as the Trojans' primary punt returner, with his 8.4 yards per return helping him earn a All-Pac-10 honorable mention nod. Tyler redshirted in 2007 while recuperating from a high school leg injury.

2008

Inside linebacker | Ohio State
No. 1 Etienne Sabino, No. 2 Andrew Sweat

Sabino played in all 13 games and notched six tackles. He notched the only touchdown in the Buckeyes' 16-3 win against Purdue by returning a blocked punt 20 yards for a score. Sweat appeared in the last nine games and recorded five tackles, also contributing mostly on special teams.

Outside linebacker | Miami
No. 1 Arthur Brown, No. 2 Sean Spence, No. 3 Ramon Buchanan

Not only did Miami sign ESPN's top three outside linebacker prospects in 2008, it also signed No. 5 Jordan Futch. That's an outstanding haul for one year. At any rate, Spence emerged as the key member of this group from the get-go, ranking third on the team with 65 tackles and leading the Hurricanes with 9.5 tackles for a loss in 2008. He was ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and made multiple Freshman All-America teams. Brown (who later transferred to Kansas State) played in 11 games as a freshman, notching four tackles and shifting from outside to inside linebacker. Buchanan had six tackles in nine games, playing mostly on special teams and also contributing at safety and linebacker.

Offensive tackle | Ohio State
No. 2 Michael Brewster, No. 3 J.B. Shugarts

Brewster played in 12 of the Buckeyes' 13 games in 2008 and started the last 10 at center, earning Freshman All-America honors in the process. Shugarts appeared in seven games at offensive tackle and missed six other games with a shoulder surgery that required offseason surgery.

Safety | Florida
No. 1 Will Hill, No. 2 Dee Finley

Hill played in 13 games and ranked sixth on the team with 48 tackles. He also picked off two passes and notched 1.5 sacks. He made the SEC All-Freshman team and led the Gators with 22 tackles on special teams. Finley did not qualify academically and spent the 2008 season at Milford Academy prep school. He eventually enrolled at Florida and shifted from safety to linebacker, but transferred away from Gainesville in 2011.

2009

Safety | South Carolina
No. 2 Stephon Gilmore, No. 3 DeVonte Holloman

Early enrollee Gilmore started all 13 games at cornerback, ranking fifth on the team with 56 tackles. He tied for the team lead with nine passes defended and ranked second with eight pass breakups, adding six tackles for a loss, three sacks, two fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles and an interception. The Freshman All-SEC and Freshman All-America honoree also averaged 10.1 yards per return as a punt return man. Another early enrollee, Hollomon also played in every game, notching 30 tackles, an interception (which he returned 54 yards against rival Clemson) and a tackle for a loss.

2010

Athlete | Florida
No. 1 Ronald Powell, No. 2 Matt Elam

Powell played in 13 games at strongside linebacker and recorded 25 tackles, three tackles for a loss and a sack en route to winning Freshman All-SEC honors. Elam also played in all 13 games, mostly on special teams and at defensive back, and notched 22 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack.

Defensive tackle | Florida
No. 1 Dominique Easley, No. 3 Sharrif Floyd

Easley recorded four tackles in six games. Floyd played in all 13 games, earning Coaches' Freshman All-SEC honors by making 23 tackles and 6.5 tackles for a loss.

Wide receiver | Texas
No. 2 Mike Davis, No. 3 Darius White

Davis ranked second on the team with 478 receiving yards and 47 receptions (a record for a Texas freshman). He became one of only three receivers in Longhorns history to post multiple 100-yard games as a freshman. White appeared in 10 games in 2010, but caught just one pass for 5 yards and eventually transferred to Missouri after two seasons, citing a need for a fresh start.

2011

Athlete | Oregon
No. 1 De'Anthony Thomas, No. 2 Devon Blackmon

The speedy Thomas earned Pac-12 Co-Offensive Freshman of the Year honors and was named an All-Pac-12 kick returner and a Freshman All-American. He was the only player in the nation to post at least 400 yards rushing, receiving and kick returning in 2011, ranking as the Ducks' second-leading receiver (595 yards on 46 catches) and third-leading rusher (608 yards and seven touchdowns). His 983 kickoff return yards ranked second in school history. Blackmon redshirted in 2011 and appeared in two games in 2012 before announcing his plan to transfer. He played at Riverside City College before signing with BYU as a juco transfer in 2014.

2012

Defensive end | Florida State
No. 1 Mario Edwards, No. 3 Chris Casher

Edwards became the only freshman to start all season for a loaded FSU defense when he replaced the injured Tank Carradine in the ACC Championship Game. He also started in the Orange Bowl win over Northern Illinois. In all, Edwards finished the season with 17 tackles, 2.5 tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks. Casher played in two early games before suffering a season-ending injury and taking a redshirt in 2012.

2013

Offensive guard | Michigan
No. 2 David Dawson, No. 3 Patrick Kugler

Dawson and Kugler both redshirted in 2013. Dawson practiced during the spring at left guard and left tackle, while Kugler is among the candidates to start at center this fall.

Offensive tackle | Ole Miss
No. 1 Laremy Tunsil, No. 3 Austin Golson

Tunsil immediately became one of the better offensive tackles in the SEC, earning second-team All-SEC and Freshman All-America honors in 2013. He played in 12 games and started nine at left tackle, making him one of only two true full-time freshman starters at the position in the FBS. Tunsil allowed just one sack all season. Golson played in 12 games, mostly at guard, before missing the Rebels' bowl game because of shoulder surgery. He transferred to Auburn this summer, citing a family illness as the reason he wanted to move closer to his Alabama home.

Safety | USC
No. 1 Su'a Cravens, No. 3 Leon McQuay III

A 2013 early enrollee, Cravens started 13 games at strong safety, ranked eighth on the team with 52 tackles and tied for second with four interceptions. He made multiple Freshman All-America teams and earned an All-Pac-12 honorable mention nod after the season. McQuay played in all 14 games, picked off one pass and recorded 19 tackles.

ESPN.com's ACC all-conference team

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

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


ACC superlatives watch: Week 12

November, 16, 2011
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In case you haven’t noticed, there’s starting to be a pattern here. The biggest problem is going to be choosing one of these guys at the end. Here are your weekly front-runners for the ACC’s top awards:

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd: He certainly didn’t play his best game against Wake Forest, throwing two picks and having about five more that could have been intercepted. He was a major factor, though, in getting the Tigers back into the game. Boyd still leads the ACC in passing average per game and total offense. He has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 3,017 yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins: He is the ACC’s top receiver and leads the league in receptions per game and receiving yards per game. He is also second in kick return average and leads the league in all-purpose yards with 187.2 per game. He has 68 catches for 1,034 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Virginia Tech running back David Wilson: He has now had seven straight games with 100 rushing yards, and leads the ACC with 136.1 yards per game. He has 116 broken tackles and 821 yards after contact this year -- that’s 226 more than Alabama’s Trent Richardson. He also has 24 plays this year over 20 yards.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Miami linebacker Sean Spence: He has been the anchor of the defense all season and has 83 total tackles (15th nationally), 11.5 tackles for loss (tied for 10th nationally) for 37 yards, three sacks for 23 yards and a forced fumble. No other player at a BCS school has won defensive player of the week honors for their conference three times this season.

Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly: He had 18 tackles against NC State last weekend, nine of which came in the final 13 minutes. He also has 10 or more stops in 32 consecutive games. He is one of only four players with 500 or more career tackles since the NCAA began tracking the statistic in 2000.

Duke safety Matt Daniels: Daniels is tied for second nationally in passes defended and tied for third nationally among all defensive backs in tackles per game. Daniels enters this week having made 300 career tackles, including 102 this season, a 10.2tackles per game average which ranks him second among all defenders in the ACC and 15th nationally.

COACH OF THE YEAR:

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: He has led the Tigers to their second Atlantic Division title in three years and an undefeated 7-0 record at home this year. It was a remarkable, unexpected turnaround for a team that was 6-7 last year and entered this season with an entirely new offensive system, new coordinator and new starting quarterback.

Virginia coach Mike London: Expectations were low for the Hoos in London’s second season, but he already exceeded them by getting the team to bowl eligibility. Now only two wins stand between Virginia and the Coastal Division title.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe: Had the Deacs defeated Clemson on the road last weekend, Grobe would have topped the list. He must still be considered at this point, considering how well Wake Forest played against the Tigers, and what a turnaround this season has been for a team that finished 3-9 a year ago. The next step is bowl eligibility.

ACC superlative tracker: Week 11

November, 9, 2011
11/09/11
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We’ve got a new name this week. It’s time to give Duke safety Matt Daniels the credit he deserves. Welcome to The List, No. 40.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd: The No. 9 Tigers can clinch the Atlantic Division on Saturday with a win over Wake Forest, and Boyd is a big reason. Boyd leads the ACC in passing average per game with 297.1 yards and is fourth in passing efficiency (154.8). He has 25 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins: He’s been invaluable this year, and Watkins is only a true freshman. He leads the ACC in all-purpose yards with 186.1 yards per game, leads with seven receptions per game, is second in receiving yards per game, is second in the league in kick return average and is tied for fifth in scoring. There’s no question he’s one of the best players in the country.

Virginia Tech running back David Wilson: He’s on track for a record-setting season and leads the ACC in rushing yards per game with 131.8, and has seven touchdowns. He has surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark eight times in nine games this season. His 1,185 yards are the most of any running back in the FBS.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly: He ranks sixth on the NCAA’s FBS career list for tackles with 491. (The NCAA’s list only dates back to 2000.) Kuechly has an NCAA-leading streak of 31 straight games with 10 or more tackles. He also has 8.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions. He leads the nation with 150 tackles and 16.67 per game.

Miami linebacker Sean Spence: He is the ACC’s active career leader in tackles for loss with 44, and ranks 15th nationally in tackles with 10.38 per game. He also has three sacks and leads the ACC in tackles for loss per game with 1.5.

Duke safety Matt Daniels: He ranks tied for second in the nation in passes defended (15) and passes broken up (13). He is tied for second nationally in tackles among defensive backs with 93, and leads all ACC defensive backs in tackles. He had one of his best games against a nationally ranked Virginia Tech team, with 13 tackles, two interceptions and two pass breakups.

COACH OF THE YEAR:

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: The Tigers are 8-1, the ACC’s highest-ranked team in the BCS standings at No. 9, and can clinch the Atlantic Division on Saturday with a home win over Wake Forest. It’s a surprise turnaround after last year’s 6-7 finish.

Virginia coach Mike London: The Hoos are bowl eligible for the first time since 2007, and can win the Coastal Division by winning the final three games of the regular season. There’s no question this team has overachieved in London’s second season.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe: The Deacs were 3-9 a year ago, and now they’re playing Clemson for the lead in the Atlantic Division standings. One more win, and Wake Forest will be bowl eligible.

ACC superlative tracker

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
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There is a new name on this list, and you’ll find it in the Coach of the Year section. Welcome to the show, Mike London.

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd: Despite his underwhelming performance last weekend at Georgia Tech, Boyd is a major reason the Tigers are leading the Atlantic Division. His accomplishments as a first-year starter grasping a new offense have been critical. Boyd leads the ACC in passing average per game with 297.1 yards and is fourth in passing efficiency (154.8). He has 25 touchdowns and five interceptions.

Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins: He’s had a phenomenal first season, and leads the ACC with 7.1 receptions per game and is second with 108.7 yards per game. He’s also tied for second in the ACC in touchdowns scored with 11, is second in the league in kick return average, and first in all-purpose yards.

Virginia Tech running back David Wilson: He leads the ACC in rushing yards per game with 131.8, and has seven touchdowns. He has surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark eight times in nine games this season. His 1,185 yards are the most of any running back in the FBS.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:

Miami linebacker Sean Spence: He is the ACC’s active career leader in tackles for loss, and ranks 12th nationally in tackles with 10.71 per game. He also has three sacks and is second in the ACC with 1.43 tackles for loss.

Clemson defensive end Andre Branch: He leads the ACC with 8.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss. He also has one pass breakup, a forced fumble, and 12 quarterback pressures.

Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly: He has had 30 straight games of at least 10 tackles, the longest current streak in the FBS. He also has two interceptions, a team-best 8.5 tackles for loss, one pass breakup and two quarterback hurries.

COACH OF THE YEAR:

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney: The Tigers are 8-1, the ACC’s highest-ranked team in the BCS standings, and the leader in the Atlantic Division standings.

Virginia coach Mike London: The Hoos are one win away from bowl eligibility, in contention to win the Coastal Division, and look ahead of schedule in just the second season under London.

Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe: It’s hard to believe this team was 3-9 a year ago, as Grobe has the Deacs in a position to win the Atlantic Division.

ACC awards tracker: Week 10

November, 1, 2011
11/01/11
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It's tough to keep up with all of college football's major awards, so I wait until a bunch of them have been released and then compile a one-stop shopping post for you. There are still lots to come this month, so I'll update it again. Based on how many times you'll see Luke Kuechly's name mentioned, you'd think he brings home some kind of award this season. He definitely deserves it. Here's a look at your ACC semifinalists so far:

BEDNARIK AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive player by the Maxwell Football Club.
  • Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
  • Sean Spence, LB, Miami
BUTKUS AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding linebacker by the Butkus Foundation.
  • Zach Brown, North Carolina
  • Audie Cole, NC State
  • Luke Kuechly, Boston College
  • Sean Spence, Miami
LOU GROZA AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding kicker by the Palm Beach Sports Commission.
  • Chandler Catanzaro, Clemson
  • Dustin Hopkins, Florida State
  • Jimmy Newman, Wake Forest
  • Jake Wieclaw, Miami
ROTARY LOMBARDI AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding down lineman by the Rotary Club of Houston.
  • Luke Kuechly, Boston College
MAXWELL AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding player by the Maxwell Football Club. DAVEY O’BRIEN AWARD. Presented to the nation's best quarterback by the Davey O'Brien Foundation.
  • Tajh Boyd, Clemson
JIM THORPE AWARD. Presented to the nation's most outstanding defensive back by the Jim Thorpe Association.
  • David Amerson, CB, NC State
  • Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
  • Chase Minnifield, CB, Virginia
Luke Fickell & Al GoldenUS Presswire, Icon SMIOhio State's Luke Fickell, left, and Miami's Al Golden have had challenging starts to their new jobs.
As college football suffered through an offseason of scandal, two programs found themselves squarely in the crosshairs.

Ohio State made headlines for the wrong reasons throughout much of the spring and summer, especially during an eight-day stretch when coach Jim Tressel resigned and starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor left the program. The notoriety then shifted to Miami after a Yahoo! Sports investigation revealed damaging allegations by former booster Nevin Shapiro.

It brings us to Saturday night, when the Buckeyes and Hurricanes will meet on the field.

Some folks are calling it the Ineligi-Bowl.

Both teams are short-handed -- Ohio State more than Miami -- and both are dealing with change and intense scrutiny. Both are facing potential NCAA penalties and uncertain futures, but first-year coaches Luke Fickell and Al Golden are trying to keep the focus on the field.

Bloggers Heather Dinich (ACC) and Adam Rittenberg (Big Ten) break down a unique matchup at Sun Life Stadium.

Adam Rittenberg: HD, hope you had a better summer than the Canes or Buckeyes. Both programs have dealt with a lot of recent distractions. Miami dropped its opener to Maryland but regains the services of quarterback Jacory Harris and others from suspension. Ohio State still will be without three offensive starters and looked very shaky Saturday against Toledo. Before getting between the lines, let's look between the ears. How do you think these teams are approaching this game from a mental standpoint? Does one squad have an edge?

Heather Dinich: The only edge I see, Ritt, is the fact that Miami had a bye week to move on from its loss to Maryland, while that scare from Toledo is pretty fresh in the Buckeyes’ heads. Then again, it could have been just the wake-up call Ohio State needed. Plus, Miami has to be recharged a bit and excited about getting several of its players back from the opening-game suspension. Miami was without eight players against the Terps, and now five of those players return, including Harris. Most notably, the defense should get a boost up front from the return of linebacker Sean Spence, defensive end Adewale Ojomo, and defensive tackle Marcus Forston. The Canes were beat up front by Maryland, but the return of those guys should give them some more confidence heading into the Ohio State game. What about the Buckeyes? Two wins over teams they should beat. Are they ready for their first real test of the season?

AR: Ohio State's first real test actually came Saturday against Toledo, although few thought the Rockets would challenge the Buckeyes. Toledo found gaps in Ohio State's secondary and held the Buckeyes to just six points in the second half. Ohio State will have to play better in all three phases against Miami, especially in the kicking game, after the Canes recorded two returns for touchdowns last year in Columbus. The first road game always presents challenges, especially for an Ohio State team dealing with significant personnel losses on both sides of the ball. Line play is an area the Buckeyes must lean on Saturday night, as Ohio State has proven veterans on both sides like center Mike Brewster and defensive lineman John Simon. But with so many key players out, the Buckeyes will be challenged.

Speaking of getting key players back, what's your take on the short suspensions for Harris and the others? Ohio State fans are livid that the Tat-4 remains out, while Shapiro's pals are back on the field this week.

HD: Well, fortunately for the sport, there really is no precedent for this, so it seems like the only thing you can really compare in these two cases is the monetary value of their infractions. In Miami's cases, the harshest punishments (six games and four games), were reserved for violations that occurred when Olivier Vernon and Ray-Ray Armstrong were still recruits. Vernon has to repay more than $1,200; Armstrong (four games) and Dyron Dye (four games) were both less than $800. The one-game suspensions correlate to players whose violations all amounted to less than $500. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the Buckeyes are working on repaying between $1,000-2,500. I think it's safe to say the Buckeyes' violations were more costly in more ways than one, as they should be.

All that aside, though, there's only one thing that will matter Saturday, and that's who wins. Miami hasn't started out 0-2 since 1978. Who, in your opinion, needs this win more?

AR: Yeah, I think the folks in Columbus are more upset that three players who took money at a charity function -- running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey Brown -- are serving longer suspensions than those who took benefits from Shapiro. But whatever. Both teams really need this win, but I'll make the case for Ohio State. Unlike Golden, who shouldn't have to worry about his job security (whether he wants to stay at Miami is another question), Fickell and his staff have no guarantees beyond this season. While coaches need the players to perform well in the Big Ten no matter what, this is the type of game that can build confidence or reduce it. Any road win boosts a team's morale, but beating Miami without so many key pieces would increase the Buckeyes' belief that they can continue to achieve their top goals despite all the turmoil. I certainly see the urgency for Miami, too.

Let's talk about Jacory Harris. I'll be kind and say he was very bad last year at The Shoe. If not for his interceptions, Miami could have made things very interesting. How do you think Harris fares against an Ohio State defense with a bunch of new starters, particularly in the secondary?

HD: Four turnovers was the reason Miami lost this game last year. I would be surprised if Jacory doesn't play better. I spent some time down at Miami this summer and could sense some genuine confidence in Harris from first-year offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch and from Golden. They backed that up when they named him the starter after the loss to Maryland. I know Stephen Morris is the fan favorite, but Jacory's experience alone will help alleviate some of the mistakes and confusion that came in the loss to the Terps. This is Jacory's last season to go out a winner and redeem himself. I believe he is truly a more confident player, but how that translates in his first start since a dreadful performance in the Sun Bowl last year remains to be seen. He still has a lot to prove. Of the four ACC teams lining up against ranked opponents this weekend, though, I give the Canes the best chance to win. I'll save the score for Thursday's picks, but I'm sticking with the ACC in this one. I'll give you the last word, though, since I know you'll need it to defend the Buckeyes.

AR: Thank you, ma'am. Defending Ohio State after last week's performance isn't easy, but Toledo looks like a pretty solid team, and coach Tim Beckman definitely had the Rockets ready to play. Given the players missing on offense, Ohio State will have to win this game by playing TresselBall -- ironically without Tressel. It'll be all about defense, the run game, controlling field position on special teams and limiting mistakes. The Buckeyes need a much sharper defensive performance and I think they'll get one, especially against Harris, whom I don't trust at all to limit mistakes. The kick and punt coverage teams have to be sharper than they were last year and against Toledo. It will be tough for Fickell's crew, but there are enough leaders on that team who know how to win tough games. I'll also wait to reveal my score Thursday, but I'm going with the Scarlet and Gray.

Miami can still be a contender

August, 30, 2011
8/30/11
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Miami can finally move on.

The biggest question of the offseason in the ACC -- who will play for the Hurricanes and who will not when Miami lines up against Maryland on Labor Day -- has been answered.

The NCAA has mandated that defensive lineman Olivier Vernon will sit out six games, while Ray-Ray Armstrong and tight end Dyron Dye will miss four games apiece. Quarterback Jacory Harris, Sean Spence, Travis Benjamin, Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo all must sit out one game.

Cornerbacks Brandon McGee and JoJo Nicolas, defensive tackle Micanor Regis, safety Vaughn Telemaque and linebacker Marcus Robinson have been cleared by the NCAA to play.

There are your 13 players whose eligibility was in question.

Now, not only can Miami prepare for Maryland this week confident in its starting lineup, it can also move forward knowing the majority of its roster will be intact for the most critical games of the season. This could have been a lot worse for the Canes, but they’ve got a capable starting quarterback in Stephen Morris, and the majority of top players will miss no more than the season opener. Maryland is Miami’s lone conference opponent in the first four weeks, so the Canes will almost be at full strength when they need to be the most -- for the Oct. 8 game at Virginia Tech.

Miami is still very much in the Coastal Division race.

The Canes’ season could have been over before it started, but this is a very manageable punishment for a team loaded with talent. It's not over yet -- the Hurricanes could still face more sanctions as the NCAA continues to investigate. There's no reason to believe this will be fully resolved faster than any of the other NCAA investigations, but as far as the impact will have on the field this season, Labor Day will be the worst of it.

The biggest hits will obviously come against the Terps, but mainly on the defensive side, as the offense will only be missing two starters. Defensively, Andrew Smith steps in for Vernon. It’s not NFL talent, but Smith is experienced and more than capable of handling the job. He played in 11 games last season and had three sacks. Marcus Robinson, a senior who played in 10 games last season, is another veteran who fills in at the other end spot. Nicolas moved from corner to safety to take over for Armstrong, but Nicolas has played safety the majority of his career anyway -- including 10 starts at the position last season.

The biggest drop off will be at linebacker, where Jordan Futch replaces Spence, but we’re only talking about one game.

No, this is not an ideal way for Al Golden to start his career at Miami, but so far, these suspensions don’t look like they’ll stand in the way of him making a case to finish his first season strong.
ESPN.com is releasing its preseason all-conference teams today. You’ll notice this one has a few differences in it from what was voted on at ACC’s media days. Here are the ACC players who get my vote:

OFFENSE

WR Conner Vernon, Duke

WR Dwight Jones, North Carolina

TE George Bryan, NC State

T Blake DeChristopher, Virginia Tech

T Andrew Datko, Florida State

G Brandon Washington, Miami

G Omoregi Uzzie, Georgia Tech

C Dalton Freeman, Clemson

QB Danny O’Brien, Maryland

RB Montel Harris, Boston College

RB David Wilson, Virginia Tech

DEFENSE

DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina

DE Brandon Jenkins, Florida State

DT Tydreke Powell, North Carolina

DT Brandon Thompson, Clemson

LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College

LB Sean Spence, Miami

LB Kenny Tate, Maryland

CB Chase Minnifield, Virginia

CB Jayron Hosley, Virginia Tech

S Ray-Ray Armstrong, Miami

S Eddie Whitley, Virginia Tech

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK Will Snyderwine, Duke

P Shawn Powell, Florida State

SP Greg Reid, Florida State
You are going to argue about this. How do I know? Because I'm still arguing with myself over it ...

[+] EnlargeLuke Kuechly
Michael Tureski/Icon SMILuke Kuechly leads a deep group of Boston College linebackers.
1. Boston College: Luke Kuechly is one of the best in the country, but he’s not alone. The Eagles also have Kevin Pierre-Louis, who ranked second nationally among all freshmen in tackles per game last season with 7.15 -- ninth in the ACC. It won’t be easy to replace Mark Herzlich, on or off the field, but Steele Divitto played in 11 games last season, and Nick Clancy and Will Thompson both saw time on the second team.

2. Florida State: The Noles had to replace two starters, including Kendall Smith, the team’s second-leading tackler, last season, and Mister Alexander, but the upcoming talent could be even better. Nigel Bradham led the team with 98 tackles and five pass breakups last season, and Christian Jones, Jeff Luc, Telvin Smith and Vince Williams will also be competing for playing time.

3. Miami: Sean Spence, who has 30 career starts, should be one of the best in the country, and Ramon Buchanon, another senior, also returns. The Canes have five other linebackers with experience in Kelvin Cain, who started seven games, Jordan Futch, who had a great spring and will see the field, Tyrone Cornelius, Shayon Green and C.J. Holton.

4. North Carolina: Kevin Reddick, who led the Tar Heels with 74 tackles last season, returns for his third season as starter. Zach Brown is also a returning starter with game-changing capabilities, and there is plenty of depth with Dion Guy, Darius Lipford, Ebele Okakpu and Herman Davidson. Junior college transfer Fabby Desir could also have an impact.

5. NC State: Audie Cole and Terrell Manning have combined for 39 career starts, and Cole fared well this spring moving to the middle to replace Nate Irving. With the return of Sterling Lucas, Dwayne Maddox and Colby Jackson, there is plenty of experience, but not quite as much depth as some other programs.

6. Georgia Tech: The Jackets return both starters in Steven Sylvester and Julian Burnett. There is no shortage of depth with Jeremy Attaochu, Quayshawn Nealey, Brandon Watts, Albert Rocker, Malcolm Munroe and Daniel Drummond.

7. Clemson: This group has a lot of potential, especially if true freshmen Tony Steward and Stephone Anthony make an immediate impact. There’s no question they’ll be given a chance, but the Tigers already have a good group with Corico Hawkins, Quandon Christian and Jonathan Willard.

8. Virginia Tech: It seems like this rotation has been in flux for a while now. The Hokies’ leading tackler returns in Bruce Taylor, Barquell Rivers had 96 tackles as a starter in 2009 but was injured last season, and there are several young players adding to the competition. Chase Williams, Tariq Edwards, Telvion Clark and Jack Tyler are only a few. Whip linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow will have to earn his spot back over Alonzo Tweedy, Dominique Patterson and Nick Dew.

9. Maryland: The Terps were hit hard here with the losses of Alex Wujciak (381 career tackles) and Adrian Moten (14.5 career sacks). Demetrius Hartsfield returns with 20 career starts, and there are four lettermen returning including Darin Drakeford, Isaiah Ross, David Mackall and Bradley Johnson.

10. Wake Forest: Kyle Wilber’s move to outside linebacker will give this position a boost, as he led the Deacs with 14.5 tackles for loss and six sacks last season. His backup is Gelo Orange (22 tackles). The Deacs also have Tristan Dorty, Joey Ehrmann, Mike Olsen, Scott Betros, Riley Haynes and Justin Jackson.

11. Virginia: Starters LaRoy Reynolds and Ausar Walcott both return, but neither has started more than 11 career games. Junior Steve Greer has prior starting experience but played mainly as a reserve last season. Adam Taliaferro, Conner McCartin, Tucker Windle and LoVante Battle are also in the mix for playing time.

12. Duke: Kelby Brown is the lone returning starter, but he’s a promising young player who led the nation last season as a freshman in fumbles recovered. He missed spring ball while recovering from a knee injury, but is expected to start with Tyree Glover or Kevin Rojas.
Tags:

ACC, Boston College Eagles, Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Clemson Tigers, Duke Blue Devils, Florida State Seminoles, Maryland Terrapins, Miami Hurricanes, North Carolina State Wolfpack, North Carolina Tar Heels, Virginia Cavaliers, Virginia Tech Hokies, Wake Forest Demon Deacons, Demetrius Hartsfield, Jordan Futch, Adrian Moten, Kendall Smith, Zach Brown, Gelo Orange, Nate Irving, Steve Greer, Alex Wujciak, Steven Sylvester, Barquell Rivers, Tariq Edwards, Sean Spence, Malcolm Munroe, Nigel Bradham, Bruce Taylor, Dwayne Maddox, Mark Herzlich, C.J. Holton, Will Thompson, Tristan Dorty, Luke Kuechly, Kevin Reddick, Christian Jones, Ausar Walcott, Audie Cole, Chase Williams, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, Joey Ehrmann, Julian Burnett, David Mackall, Jack Tyler, Terrell Manning, Kelby Brown, Tyree Glover, Mister Alexander, Herman Davidson, Telvin Smith, Quandon Christian, Tony Steward, Kevin Rojas, Corico Hawkins, Darin Drakeford, Dominique Patterson, Daniel Drummond, Riley Haynes, Kevin Pierre-Louis, 2011 ACC position rankings, 2011 ACC summer position rankings, Justin Jackson, Adam Taliaferro, Albert Rocker, Alonzo Tweedy, Bradley Johnson, Brandon Watts, Colby Jackson, Conner McCartin, Darius Lipford, Ebele Okakpu, Fabby Desir, Isiah Ross, Jeremy Attaochu, Jonathan Willard, Kelvin Cain, Kyle Wisber, LaRoy Reynolds, LoVante Battle, Mike Olsen, Nick Clancy, Quayshawn Nealey, Ramon Buchanon, Scott Betros, Shayon Green, Steele Divitto, Stephone Anthony, Sterling Lucas, Telvion Clark, Tucker Windle, Tyrone Cornelius, Vince Williams

Miami's running game was a strength on Saturday, and ACC fans should expect to see more of the same this fall as the Canes have one of the most talented and deepest groups of running backs in the ACC. Look for more short passes to the running backs this fall. About 3,000 fans were in attendance at Spanish River High School in Boca Raton, Fla., to watch the two-hour session under first-year coach Al Golden:

Offensive highlights:
  • Five backs -- Mike James, Lamar Miller, Storm Johnson, Maurice Hagens and John Calhoun -- combined for 226 yards on 41 carries (5.5 yard per rush). James led all players with 124 total yards of offense (89 on the ground and 35 through the air) while Johnson and Miller finished with 94 and 67 total yards respectively.
  • Jacory Harris completed 14 of 21 passes for 120 yards and one touchdown.
  • Stephen Morris completed 7 of 13 passes for 93 yards and one touchdown.
  • Travis Benjamin had four catches for 49 yards and two carries for 26 yards.
Defensive highlights:
  • Senior linebacker Jordan Futch led the defense with nine total tackles and two sacks.
  • Sean Spence had eight tackles, three tackles for loss and two sacks.
  • Junior defensive end Adewale Ojomo had the best day of any of the linemen with six tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks.
  • In the secondary, Vaughn Telemaque led the way with seven tackles and a pass deflection.
  • Travis Williams had seven tackles, two for loss, and one sack.
Quotable: "We have talent there; we have to find ways to get them the ball," Golden said of his running backs. "We have [offensive coordinator] Jedd [Fisch], who is really coaching the heck out of them and using them, and having the quarterbacks see them and know that they're part of the progression because it's easy yards. Obviously it's our job as coaches to put our best players in position to make plays and I think they did that today. ... Michael James is a really good football player ... I'm excited about him."
Sophomore defensive tackle Marcus Forston and junior linebacker Sean Spence announced that they will not enter the NFL Draft and will return to the Hurricanes for the 2011 season.

“We have unfinished business at Miami,” Forston said in a prepared statement. “Coach (Al) Golden has a plan, and we want to give the fans the season they’ve been waiting for.”

Forston had 12 tackles for loss, three sacks and an interception at defensive tackle for the Hurricanes during the 2010 season. Spence led the Canes with 111 tackles and 17 tackles for loss. He was the emotional leader of a defense that ranked No. 21 in total defense and No. 3 in pass defense.

Miami finally shows emotion

October, 26, 2010
10/26/10
10:18
AM ET
It's about time.

It's about time somebody called a players-only meeting.

[+] EnlargeRandy Shannon
AP Photo/Miami Herald, Al DiazCoach Randy Shannon showed some excitement against the Tar Heels.
It's about time one of those players challenged his teammates on the sidelines.

And it's about time Miami coach Randy Shannon let his guard down and pumped his fist in the air.

Miami has the talent to win, but it was lacking the leadership that sparks the desire to win. It starts at the top, with the usually stoic Shannon, who was finally able to let loose and have some fun in the Canes' win over North Carolina. Shannon, cornered by criticism heading into that game, remembered how to chest bump. Even former players like middle linebacker Dan Morgan have said that Shannon needs to show more emotion -- heck, a smile would be nice -- because the players feed off of that.

"You know what happened?" Shannon said in a telephone interview this morning. "Those guys let me have fun. That's basically what it was. We weren't doing the things we needed to do in practice, and like anything, you've got to stay on top of the guys until you can see they're starting to make that change. We weren't being consistent. When we played Duke we had a good week of practice, I thought we were being consistent, I jumped around a little at Duke and had some fun with the players because I'd seen it at practice. Against North Carolina I saw the same type of tempo in practice. I told those guys, let me have fun. Let me enjoy myself, just by the way you practice and prepare."

Vaughn Telemaque told me after the loss to Florida State that the Hurricanes were still looking for a leader. Days later, he became one.

It makes perfect sense on this team that the leader comes from the defense, because that's the strong side this year, the group that, if Miami is going to win the ACC title, will win it for them. Telemaque, Brandon Harris and Sean Spence were the players who called the meeting.

"I thought it was great," Shannon said. "I can't force it on them. To have a players-only meeting, they have to call it. Those guys become your leaders and believe in what we're doing. I thought it was great for the football team."

Telemaque and offensive coordinator Mark Whipple had a brief exchange on the sideline during the Carolina game. It doesn't even matter what was said.

All that matters is that somebody finally cared enough to say it.

CLEMSON, S.C. -- Jacory Harris isn't the only quarterback completing passes to the other team today. Miami linebacker Sean Spence tipped the ball and Marcus Forston intercepted Kyle Parker. The play led to an immediate 18-yard touchdown pass giving Miami the 20-14 lead.

As expected, turnovers will continue to be key in this game. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes will win. It seems as if both of these offenses are operating in all-or-nothing mode today. They're either hitting home-run plays, or three strikes and out.

One more thought -- Harris deserves credit for shaking off that interception and coming right back and throwing a touchdown pass. The kid has ice in his veins. That's why offensive coordinator Mark Whipple isn't afraid to gamble with him. His greatest strength, though, is also his biggest weakness.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 4

September, 25, 2010
9/25/10
7:56
PM ET
Tough call this week, but there are only five of these to give away. Had to take into consideration the competition (sorry, Virginia) and impressive performances by a rookie (sorry Christian Ponder). Here's a look at this week's top performers:

Virginia Tech’s defense: Lunch pails for everyone! After having to replace seven starters, Bud Foster’s group finally came together and they did it when it counted most -- on the road against an ACC opponent in a 19-0 win over BC. The Hokies earned their first shutout since 2006, and it was the first time the Eagles had been held scoreless at home since 1998. In the second half, BC only had 39 yards of total offense and didn’t cross midfield.

NC State: It’s impossible to single out one player or coach, as it was a group effort in a 45-28 win over Georgia Tech. NC State linebacker Nate Irving had a career-high 16 tackles, quarterback Russell Wilson threw for a career-high 368 yards and NC State is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 2002.

Miami linebacker Sean Spence: He had seven tackles in the first half of a 31-3 win against Pitt and finished with nine tackles for the game. He also had 2.5 tackles for loss including 1.5 sacks. Spence entered the game tied for ninth averaging 2.0 tackles for loss per game.

UNC’s defense: Even though the defense was short-handed in a 17-13 win at Rutgers, UNC couldn’t have won this game without the players it did have on the field. Matt Merletti intercepted Tom Savage’s pass at the Tar Heels’ 6-yard line with less than three minutes remaining, and linebacker Bruce Carter set up 10 points with an interception and a blocked punt.

Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien. It was his first career start, and O’Brien led the Terps to a 42-28 win over FIU. He threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns and no interceptions. His performance should give coach Ralph Friedgen a second thought about who his starter will be even when Jamarr Robinson is healthy. O’Brien, who was the first freshman quarterback to start for Maryland since Latrez Harrison1999, and just the fifth in school history, threw touchdown passes of 9 and 68 yards. O’Brien led the Terps on four scoring drives and had an efficiency rating of 168.89, the sixth-highest mark by a freshman in the FBS this season (not including other games today).

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