NCF Nation: Tanner Price

ACC Power Rankings: Week 11

November, 11, 2013
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1. Florida State (9-0, 7-0; Last week: No. 1): The Seminoles reinforced their standing as one of the top two teams in the nation with a 59-3 win over Wake Forest, yet another game in which the starters were pulled in the second half. The offense did not have its best rhythm but defense and special teams earn A-pluses for their respective performances. Perhaps most impressive was the way Florida State took care of business without one hint of distraction.

2. Clemson (8-1, 6-1; LW: No. 2): Look who is sitting pretty for an at-large berth in the BCS? The Tigers were off Saturday, preparing for a Thursday night contest against Georgia Tech, a team that has given them trouble over the years. But if Clemson can beat the Jackets, FCS The Citdael and then South Carolina in the regular-season finale, another Orange Bowl appearance could very well be in order.

3. Miami (7-2, 3-2; LW: No. 3): We know. It does not seem logical to have the Canes remain at No. 3 after two straight losses. But they are the only other ACC team in the BCS standings (at No. 23). So they stay. For now. But their hold on this spot is precarious to say the least. The preseason favorites to win the Coastal are no longer in control of their destiny after a disheartening loss to Virginia Tech. Two weeks ago, Miami sat unbeaten and ranked No. 7. Now the Hurricanes need help. Big time.

4. Duke (7-2, 3-2; LW: No. 5): Just when things looked incredibly bleak against NC State, the Blue Devils reeled off 21 straight fourth-quarter points to win decisively. DeVon Edwards, with a kickoff return and two interception returns for scores, was honored as the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week. Duke has won five straight, the second-longest streak in the ACC behind FSU. A win over Miami this Saturday would vault them to No. 3 in the standings.

5. Virginia Tech (7-3, 4-2; LW: No. 7): It was gut-check time Saturday in Miami, and the Hokies showed they are not going down without a fight. After ugly offensive performances in its past two losses, Virginia Tech had its best showing in years, essentially doing whatever it wanted in a 42-24 win. The Hokies had a season-high 549 yards and Logan Thomas posted his second straight 300-yard game. The last time Tech beat a top-15 team on the road when not ranked was in 1989, a 12-10 at No. 9 West Virginia. We realize the Hokies beat Miami, but they did lose to Duke and BC -- a team not as good as Florida State, the only other blemish on Miami's record.

6. Georgia Tech (6-3, 5-2; LW: No. 4): Trying to rank the Jackets, Virginia Tech, Duke and Miami could almost be considered an exercise in futility. Georgia Tech lost to the Hokies and Hurricanes, so it makes sense to rank those teams ahead. But they beat Duke early in the season and that should count, too. Georgia Tech has won three straight but has fewer wins than the three teams above. Ultimately, we will know much more about this group after its trip to Clemson on Thursday night.

7. Pitt (5-4, 2-3; LW: No. 8): Paul Chryst and the Panthers' program picked up a huge win over No. 23 Notre Dame on Saturday, right when they needed it. After a disappointing performance in a loss to Georgia Tech the week before, Pitt was firmly on the bowl bubble. But now, Pitt should have the confidence and momentum to win at least one more and keep its postseason streak alive.

8. Boston College (5-4, 2-3; LW: No. 6): The Eagles had a harder time than some expected on the road against New Mexico State, but they found a way to win the fourth quarter thanks to the incredible Andre Williams. The senior back scored the game-winning 80-yard touchdown and added another for good measure to finish with a single-game school record 295 yards rushing. It was Boston College's first road win this season and continued an exceptional turnaround under first-year coach Steve Addazio.

9. Syracuse (5-4, 3-2; LW: No. 10): The Orange are also on a winning streak after a 20-3 win over Maryland, inching ever closer to bowl eligibility. Syracuse is now 3-1 against Atlantic Division competition and above .500 for the first time this season. Jerome Smith had his third 100-yard game on the year as the Orange gained more than 200 yards rushing for the fifth time this season. Syracuse is 4-1 in those games.

10. North Carolina (4-5, 3-3; LW: No. 9): Watch out for the Tar Heels, who have won three straight after a 1-5 start and are making a serious push to make a bowl game. Marquise Williams impressed in his first start since Bryn Renner was lost for the season, and the defense has seemed to turn a corner, giving up an average of 14.3 points per game during this winning streak. Granted, two of those wins have come against the two worst teams in the ACC but you can see progress.

11. Wake Forest (4-6, 2-5; LW: No. 11): The outcome against Florida State was perhaps worse than some had expected, if only because senior starting quarterback Tanner Price was benched after throwing three interceptions. Backup Tyler Cameron was not much better, throwing three interceptions of his own. The Deacons have now scored three total points since Michael Campanaro was lost for the season. They might not win another game this year, with contests against Duke and Vanderbilt remaining.

12. Maryland (5-4, 1-4; LW: No. 12): Hard to believe the Terps began the year 4-0 with a Top 25 ranking. The wheels have come off since a 63-0 drubbing in Tallahassee, thanks in part to injuries at key spots on offense and defense. In a 20-3 loss to Syracuse, the offense was abysmal, with 292 total yards and four turnovers. The Terps still have bowl hopes, but given the way they have played in the past three losses, they could just as easily lose out.

13. NC State (3-6, 0-6; LW: No. 13): We thought there was a chance the Wolfpack would struggle this year with a new head coach, new scheme and a young team. But it is safe to say nobody anticipated they would be 0-6 in ACC play, pulling an oh-fer against in-state teams Wake Forest, North Carolina and Duke. The latest came in a 38-20 loss to Duke, in which NC State could not hang on to a fourth-quarter lead or take advantage of Duke's clearly struggling offense. The Blue Devils had four turnovers. But so did the Wolfpack.

14. Virginia (2-8, 0-6; LW: No. 14): What else is left to say about the Hoos? They have not even been competitive in their past two losses, falling to Clemson and North Carolina by a combined 104-24. David Watford was benched in the loss to the Tar Heels after throwing two interceptions, but it seems a little too late for that now.

What we learned in the ACC: Week 8

October, 20, 2013
10/20/13
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We learned plenty about the ACC in Week 8:

1. Florida State looks like a national championship contender. If you watched the Noles' complete and utter dismantling of No. 3 Clemson on Saturday night, you probably had flashbacks of the swashbuckling, swaggering days of old. This group has the markings of some of the best teams that helped Florida State establish its rep as one of the most feared programs in the nation. What we saw in Death Valley was merely a continuation of what we have seen to this point in the season -- an outstanding quarterback in the thick of the Heisman race, talent and incredible depth at the skill positions, a dominant offensive line and a suffocating defense. But to see it on the road, in a stadium where the Noles had not won since 2001, cemented this Florida State team as a contender. Now the challenge is playing this way for the remainder of the season. No slip-ups against NC State or Wake Forest. Beating rivals Miami and Florida. This team is completely capable of running the table and winning every game by double digits. Time for these guys to shed their underachiever label and get the job done.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Scott Clarke/ESPN ImagesFlorida State signal-caller Jameis Winston was 22-of-34 passing vs. Clemson with 444 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
2. Clemson does not. Clemson fumbled on the first play of the game, and it just went downhill from there. But here is the thing: Clemson is not a bad team. Florida State made Clemson look like a bad team; Florida State made Clemson look like Maryland. That is more a testament to Florida State than anything. Having said that, quarterback Tajh Boyd had perhaps the most disappointing game of his career. He has played poorly before and lost rival games before. But there was more on the line in this game than in any previous contest he started. Simply put, he did not rise to the occasion. Boyd and his teammates let the big moment swallow them up, and they let the mistakes they made early in the game rattle them. They were out of this game mentally by halftime. Boyd finished 17-of-37 for 156 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, along with a lost fumble and a Total QBR of 34.7. His counterpart, redshirt freshman QB Jameis Winston, was the one who remained calm, confident and poised.

3. Miami has work to do. After the Canes struggled to beat North Carolina on Thursday night, just about everybody started to question whether they were a top-10 team. That win looks a lot different today after the chaos that unfolded Saturday. Miami is fortunate to have escaped Week 8 with a victory, and that will keep the unbeaten Canes in the top 10. Still, there are some issues to address. Two stand out: turnovers and QB Stephen Morris. To reiterate, Miami has 12 turnovers in its past three games. If the Canes keep giving the ball away at this clip, they will not stay unbeaten. Morris has been inconsistent all season, but he played his worst game Thursday against the Tar Heels, throwing four interceptions, zero touchdown passes and compiling an adjusted Total QBR of 46.1. All of a sudden, Virginia Tech looks like it has as much of a chance of winning the Coastal as Miami.

4. Wake, Duke, Georgia Tech bolstered bowl hopes. Believe it or not, Duke and Wake Forest are the class of North Carolina football to this point, the only two ACC programs in the state with winning records. The Blue Devils need just one more win to become bowl-eligible for a second straight season; Wake Forest needs two more after completely handling Maryland 34-10 in a game that featured quarterback Tanner Price scoring three different ways (passing, rushing and receiving). Meanwhile, the Jackets ended a three-game losing skid with a 56-0 win over Syracuse in the type of offensive performance coach Paul Johnson had been waiting on. The rushing game worked to near perfection (394 yards, 14 different rushers), and perhaps best of all, the Jackets had zero penalties.

5. Mike London watch. There is little doubt that Virginia coach Mike London is firmly on the hot seat after his team blew a 22-0 lead at home to Duke, giving up 35 unanswered points and losing 35-22. After building the lead, Virginia had five consecutive three-and-outs. Duke finally found a rhythm with both Anthony Boone and Brandon Connette after struggling early in the game. Virginia has now lost four straight, dropping to 0-3 in the ACC. The remainder of the schedule is brutal, too. Of the five games left, only one team -- North Carolina -- has a losing record. The Hoos might have blown their best shot at a victory the rest of the way. London is 6-13 since the start of last season, leaving you to wonder how much time he has left in Charlottesville.

ACC weekend rewind: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
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There were plenty of fireworks across the ACC this past weekend. There is now one fewer undefeated team, too. Here's a look back at the weekend that was in the conference as some teams reach the halfway point of their seasons.

[+] EnlargeJameis Winston
Melina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsJameis Winston was unstoppable yet again, as the redshirt freshman is moving up Heisman watch lists.
The good: Jameis Winston and Tajh Boyd further solidified their standings among early-season Heisman Trophy contenders, and their teams now look destined for a collision course Oct. 19. Winston completed 23 of 32 passes for career-bests of 393 yards and five touchdowns, respectively. He also added 24 rushing yards in Florida State's 63-0 rout of Maryland. Meanwhile, Boyd completed 20 of 27 passes for 455 yards with touchdowns and two interceptions. The national spotlight will be on Death Valley once again in two weeks, as the game between the Seminoles and Tigers will have large implications in both the awards race and the national title race.

The bad: Virginia accounted for the ACC's lone nonconference loss Saturday, falling 48-27 to Ball State at home and again making its Week 1 win over BYU look more and more like a mirage. The Cavaliers were outscored 24-3 in the game's final 16 minutes as they fell below .500. Their normally stout defense surrendered 506 total yards of offense, a far cry from its stingy performance a week earlier in a 14-3 loss at Pitt. The Cavaliers remain just 0-1 in ACC play, but need answers fast if they hope to finish the season at .500 and go bowling.

The ugly: For as much credit as FSU deserves for its 63-0 rout of Maryland ... this game said plenty about the Terrapins, too. For one, they were ranked No. 25 coming in, and were 4-0. Secondly, they made all kinds of bad history. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Maryland was on the losing end of what is now tied for the largest margin of victory over a ranked team since the AP poll began in 1936. (UCLA beat No. 11 Texas 66-3 in 1997.) This was also the largest margin of defeat for any team in an ACC game in league play. Maryland entered the game No. 6 nationally in total defense and No. 3 in scoring defense. The Terps dropped to 22nd and 33rd, respectively.

The resurgence: Logan Thomas is beginning to look more and more like the Logan Thomas everyone expected from the Virginia Tech quarterback two years ago. And, more important, he has the Hokies looking like a viable Coastal Division contender. Thomas completed 19 of 28 throws for 293 yards against North Carolina, matching a career high with three touchdown passes in a 27-17 win to get to 2-0 in conference play. Thomas, who had miserable start to the season (48.5 percent completion rate, four touchdowns, six interceptions), has now churned out consecutive strong performances to open conference play, as he was coming off a win at Georgia Tech in which he started the game 9-for-9 and finished 19 of 25 for 221 yards and a touchdown.

The workhorse (again): Andre Williams just keeps going and going, and going some more. The senior helped Boston College eclipse last season's win total, as a 48-27 win over Army got the Eagles to 3-2 under first-year coach Steve Addazio. Williams carried the ball 30 times for career-bests of 263 yards and five touchdowns. The five scores tied Montel Harris' single-game school record. The 263 yards were one shy of Harris' single-game BC record, although Williams actually held the record for a very brief moment before losing a yard on his final carry of the game. Williams has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of five games this season, and he now leads the nation in rushing yards per game (153.6) and total carries (133) while ranking third in rushing yards (768).

The in-state stand: Few would have argued entering Saturday that Wake Forest was the worst team in the ACC. But the Demon Deacons reversed course against NC State, getting a huge lift from Tanner Price and Michael Campanaro to pull off the 28-13 upset. Surprisingly enough, it was Wake's sixth straight home win against the Wolfpack, who have not won in Winston-Salem, N.C., since 2001, when Philip Rivers was their quarterback. NC State looked to have a favorable road ahead of it after a 3-1 start (and close loss to Clemson), but the Pack now find themselves in an 0-2 hole in conference play. The imminent return of quarterback Brandon Mitchell should provide a boost.

The slide …: When will it end for North Carolina? The Tar Heels have now lost three in a row, and their next game is next Thursday at undefeated Miami. Marquise Williams got the surprise start at quarterback in place of Bryn Renner (foot) and was stellar, but he and the Tar Heels offense turned it over to Virginia Tech three times while generating zero takeaways, erasing what was the best offensive output against the Hokies this season (376 total yards). A block-in-the-back penalty on what would have been an 82-yard Ryan Switzer punt return marked the third straight week UNC had a touchdown revoked because of a penalty.

… and the surge: Miami is up to No. 13 in the country after improving to 5-0 with a 45-30 win over Georgia Tech, placing themselves in the driver's seat, along with Virginia Tech, of the Coastal Division. What was impressive this time around was the way the Hurricanes recovered when down 17-7, as they went on a 38-6 run over a 37-minute stretch -- against a very good Yellow Jackets defense -- to seize control of the game and win their conference opener. The win was big for the Sunshine State too, as Saturday marked the first time all seven of Florida's FBS teams won in the same day.

Welcome to the ACC: Syracuse surrendered a touchdown 38 seconds into its first-ever ACC game and never really could keep pace with Clemson in its 49-14 home loss, the Orange's first home loss since the start of last season after six straight wins. Hopes of pulling off another big home upset (Louisville in 2012, West Virginia in 2011) were washed away fairly early. Terrel Hunt struggled against good competition, going just 8-of-24 for 52 yards with three picks, while Scott Shafer lost his cool on the sideline when Dabo Swinney went for it on fourth down up 28 in the second quarter, though Shafer apologized after.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
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There were a few tweaks to the lineup this week. And congrats to Wake Forest, you got a promotion:

1. Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Tigers had no trouble playing in the Dome at Syracuse, as quarterback Tajh Boyd had another Heisman-worthy performance, throwing for 455 yards and five touchdowns in just three quarters of a 49-14 win at Syracuse. Clemson faces a relentless Boston College team at home this week before the Oct. 19 showdown against Florida State.

2. Florida State (5-0, 3-0; LW: No. 2): The Seminoles’ defense was called into question this past week and it answered with a resounding 63-0 shutout of the Terps. It was a dominating performance in all facets of the game, and just what the Noles needed heading into their bye week as they begin preparing for Clemson.

3. Miami (5-0, 1-0; LW: No. 3): The Canes continue to find a way to win, and have established themselves as the team to beat in the Coastal Division. Miami’s 45-30 win over Georgia Tech sets the stage for a season-defining game against Virginia Tech on Nov. 9, but a Thursday night game against the struggling Tar Heels looms first. The Canes are on a bye this week.

4. Virginia Tech (5-1, 2-0; LW: No. 5): The Hokies have now had two straight games in which quarterback Logan Thomas looked much-improved from a season ago, and it has made a difference. Virginia Tech's 27-17 win over North Carolina put the program back in the top 25 as it prepares to host Pitt his weekend.

5. Pitt (3-1, 2-1; LW: No. 6): The Panthers are coming off a bye week, but they’ve won three straight, including back-to-back conference games against Duke and Virginia. This will be their first road trip against a top-25 opponent, and while they’ve won the past four games in the series against Virginia Tech, they’re the ones with something to prove in Blacksburg.

6. Maryland (4-1, 0-1; LW: No. 4): The Terps came crashing back to reality with their humbling loss in Tallahassee, and they lost starting quarterback C.J. Brown to a concussion in the process. Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Maryland, but the schedule is conducive to a rebound if Maryland doesn’t let the Noles beat them twice. The Terps will face Virginia at home this weekend.

7. Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-2; LW: No. 7): The Yellow Jackets started the season strong, but back-to-back Coastal Division losses to Virginia Tech and Miami have them on the outside looking in at the Coastal Division race. It’s not going to get any easier with a road trip to BYU this week, and starting quarterback Vad Lee has been inconsistent and turnover-prone.

8. NC State (3-2, 0-2; LW: No. 8): The Pack just can’t seem to shake the curse of Winston-Salem, as NC State lost to Wake Forest for the sixth straight time on the road. It has been 12 years since NC State won at Wake Forest, and two turnovers contributed to it this season. The Pack returns home to host Syracuse this weekend.

9. Boston College (3-2, 1-1; LW: No. 9): Running back Andre Williams ran for 263 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-27 win over Army. The Eagles just don’t quit, and their ability to continuously run the ball through Williams has been their identity. They’re going to need more than that, though, to pull off the upset of No. 3-ranked Clemson this weekend in Death Valley.

10. Duke (3-2, 0-2; LW: No. 11): The Blue Devils had a bye this week and are trying to string together back-to-back wins with another against Navy on Saturday. Having played Georgia Tech about a month ago should help the defense, considering they run similar option offenses.

11. Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2; LW: No. 14): The Deacs finally got their offense going in a 28-13 win over NC State, thanks to quarterback Tanner Price and standout receiver Michael Campanaro. A little home-field advantage over the Pack never hurts, either. It was a big win that helped keep the Deacs’ bowl hopes alive. They’ve got a bye week to continue to get better before hosting Maryland.

12. Syracuse (2-3, 0-1; LW: No. 10): The Orange had no answer for Tajh Boyd & Co., and they missed out on their own opportunities with mistakes like dropped passes, four turnovers and an inability to convert on third down. It wasn’t the introduction to the ACC Syracuse was hoping for, but the Orange has a chance to rebound this weekend at NC State.

13. North Carolina (1-4, 0-2; LW: No. 13): The Tar Heels have fallen far and fast, but we’d still pick ‘em to beat the Hoos right now, in spite of the fact they have the worst record in the ACC. The difference against the Hokies was three turnovers, and while backup quarterback Marquise Williams played a respectable game in place of injured starter Bryn Renner, it was his final pick in the fourth quarter that sealed it for Virginia Tech.

14. Virginia (2-3, 0-1; LW: No. 12): Virginia’s defense had been a highlight, until it allowed Ball State 506 yards. It lost 48-27 on Saturday to a MAC team -- at home. Virginia coach Mike London insisted this offseason that he’s not concerned about his job security, but it’s hard not to wonder if that sentiment has since changed.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 6

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
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Here are your top five performers in the ACC for Week 6:

Florida State’s defense: Yes, Jameis Winston had another fantabulous game and further validated himself as a Heisman hopeful, but it was the defense that was the story in the 63-0 win over the Terps. FSU’s defense entered the Maryland game facing questions after a poor performance at Boston College but answered its critics in what was the most lopsided win against a Top 25 team in school history, and first shutout of a Top 25 opponent in 16 years. Six different players recorded a pass breakup for a season high, the Noles forced 11 punts and held Maryland to just 33 yards rushing.

Boston College running back Andre Williams: He was the difference in a gritty 48-27 win over Army. Williams tied the school record with five rushing touchdowns and came within a yard of the single-game mark, amassing a career-high 263 rushing yards on the afternoon. His 37-yard touchdown run in the second quarter marked the longest run for the Eagles this season. Three of his five touchdown runs were over 30 yards each.

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd: The Heisman hopeful did it again, winning his 26th game as a starting quarterback. He threw for 455 yards and five touchdowns in just three quarters, as Clemson beat Syracuse 49-14. Boyd matched his school record in touchdown passes and broke his own school record for passing yards in a game. He also surpassed 10,000 yards of total offense in his career. He had 450 yards of total offense. His 60- and 42-yard touchdown passes to Adam Humphries set the tone for the game in the first quarter.

Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price: The Deacs’ offense finally found its groove as Price threw three touchdown passes and ran for another to help Wake Forest beat NC State 28-13. Price threw for 268 yards and ran for a career-high 82 more. It was Wake’s sixth straight win against the Pack in Winston-Salem and it helped keep the Deacs’ bowl hopes alive.

Miami running back Duke Johnson: He finished with 325 all-purpose yards in a key 45-30 win over Georgia Tech. He has now finished with at least 100 all-purpose yards in eight of his last nine games and has reached that mark in six straight games. It was his second 300+ all-purpose yard performance in his career. Johnson now has 460 all-purpose yards in his two games against Georgia Tech. Johnson ran for 184 yards against Georgia Tech and 8.4 yards per carry.
Three games into the season, Wake Forest is searching for an offensive identity.

Right now, it looks like a 1-2 mess.

Coach Jim Grobe knows exactly what he has to work with: decent players, good kids, not enough depth and zero margin for error in the ACC.

And apparently against Louisiana-Monroe. And Army.

[+] EnlargeJim Grobe
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsAt 1-2, Jim Grobe's team is facing a must-win at Army on Saturday.
“I don’t think it’s a program thing, it’s just the way Wake Forest is always going to be,” Grobe told ESPN.com on Monday. “We’re going to be a team that’s got some talented kids, we’re not overly talented, we don’t have a lot of depth. We can’t afford too many injuries like what happened to us last year. But more than anything else, we’re just a team that’s capable, but we’ve really got to play good every week. Some teams are talented enough that they can have four or five down weeks a year and still play good enough to win, but Wake is not that way. We’ll never be that way in this league, or even with the teams we play nonconference. We’re a team that has to play good every Saturday, and any time we don’t play pretty good, we’re not going to win.”

Hence the past two weeks and the 1-2 start, with the lone win over an FCS team and last week’s 21-19 loss to Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference.

Of everything that has happened in the ACC this month, the ineptitude of Wake Forest's offense might be the biggest surprise. After a 5-7 finish in 2012 and just one bowl appearance in the past four seasons, the shine of the 2006 ACC title has started to rust. Wake Forest is not going to win the Atlantic Division every year, but fans should expect to be bowl eligible under Grobe on a more consistent basis. Right now, just four weeks into the season, that’s already in jeopardy.

The Deacs’ offense has been downright ugly. The defense has been on the field too long. While much of the attention has been on the lack of a running game (70 rushing yards total in the past two games) and whether or not the staff should continue to run the option, the bigger problem has been the fact that Wake was unable to win with its passing game when defenses have shut down the run.

The bulk of the problems start up front, with an offensive line that is fragmented and continues to battle injuries -- a carryover of last year's problems. Pass protecting, run blocking -- it's all an issue, but it wasn't that long ago that the staff showed what it could do with a capable line. In 2011, when the Deacs had four veteran linemen, they broke the school record for pass offense and went to a bowl game.

"We thought we really had it down," said offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke. "We beat Florida State again that year, and we thought, 'Ok, we've got it figured out. We have our offensive identity.' Last year we tried to come in with that same stuff, but the breakdown was offensive line issues. ... A lot of stuff has happened to our O-line and I think we're still struggling to find out what our offense is with this offensive line ever since that round of guys graduated in 2011. Tanner [Price] hasn't changed. Tanner was a sophomore and we broke the school record for pass offense. I thought, 'Wow, the best is yet to come.'

"We've experimented with a lot of different running plays and running styles the last two seasons now," he said. "... I think we're still trying to nail that down, and we hope we're honing in on this."

The Deacs only ran the ball 15 times against ULM last week, but they only completed 28 of 48 pass attempts. In the past two losses, they’ve converted just 9-of-29 third downs. Against BC, they had three turnovers. Instead of watching receiver Michael Campanaro catch the ball 16 times, Grobe said he’d rather see three receivers catch it five or six times each.

The Deacs like to throw the ball on running plays and use bubble screens. Their top receiver, Campanaro, catches a lot of balls behind the line of scrimmage. If opponents load up the box to try to stop the run, the staff has no problem opening up the passing game.

"We're not hard-headed about running the ball like some people are," Lobotzke said. "If you're not going to defend the run, we're going to run the ball. If you're going to load up on the run, we're going to try to find other avenues. We want to run the ball, but a lot of our running plays result in good passing yardage for us."

Against ULM, the Deacs were 9-for-9 on running plays throwing the ball. But they didn't win.

"The one stat we do care about is winning," Lobotzke said. "We've got to score more and we've got to win more games. At the end of the day, rushing stats be damned, passing stats be damned, we need to score some points, and we haven't. I don't know that there's an answer yet, but we are working our butts off to find it."

They've got about three days.

The Deacs have to travel to Army this Saturday, a game they very well could lose considering how poorly the offense has played. A loss at West Point could trigger a slick downward spiral, starting with a road trip to Clemson on Sept. 28.

“We’ve got to win Saturday,” Grobe said. “I don’t think there’s any question about it. It’s going to be tough if we don’t win Saturday and then heading to Clemson the next week is not going to be good.

Seven straight conference opponents await following the Army game, and the regular season will once again be punctuated with Vanderbilt. Grobe, who is in his 13th season as head coach of the Deacs, is just three wins away from reaching the top of Wake Forest's all-time wins chart. At this rate, though, he might not get it, especially if they can’t win on Saturday.

Not that they’re not trying.

At 6:30 a.m. on Monday, Wake Forest was back in the weight room, working to lift its focus from the disappointing loss to moving on to this weekend’s game at Army. Grobe was his usual pleasant self on Monday afternoon, not sounding discouraged or frustrated. Instead, he was matter-of-fact about what needs to happen moving forward: get healthy, stay healthy and play better.

“We’ve got to keep working at it,” Grobe said. “Our job is to teach the kids better. It’s not just the kids. We’re Wake Forest. We’re an academic school playing in a big-time league. We don’t have great depth, and we have good players, but we’re not better than everybody on our schedule. We’ve got to play to win. I understand that. When we don’t play well enough to win, I’m not going to tolerate it. We’re going out there this afternoon and work harder than we’ve been working. The coaches are going to work harder, and the players are going to work harder. I know Saturday we can go up to West Point and win, but we’ve got to play good.”

The staff had much higher hopes for the option game heading into the season, and "it just hasn't materialized," Lobotzke said. There’s been a bevy of problems, including injuries to offensive linemen and receivers, youth and an inability to pass protect. Even worse, though, was the apathy on the sideline during the ULM game.

“My biggest problem Saturday was I never felt like our offense had a sense of urgency about them,” Grobe said. “That’s unusual because our kids practice hard. We’ve got good kids. But get to Saturday and each time we had a bad series and we come off ... there just wasn’t a sense of, ‘We’ve gotta get this done.’

“We’ve got to somehow drill into our players that every possession is pretty special, and you’ve got to take advantage of it because you’re not always going to have a chance to take those last-minute drives to win games.”

The clock is ticking for Wake Forest to turn things around.

ACC predictions: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
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The most anticipated post of Week 1 has finally arrived: Prediction time! Heather and I both got out our crystal balls and looked into the future. Here is what each of us sees for opening week in the ACC:

Thursday

North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPN. #UNCvsSC. The headliner in this game is Jadeveon Clowney, for obvious reasons. If North Carolina still had its offensive line from a year ago, I would like its chances in this game more. But with two redshirt freshmen starting on the offensive line and a new starting running back, the Tar Heels have major questions at the two strongest positions on the team in 2012. Defensively, North Carolina is thin at linebacker, so that is a concern, along with replacing Sylvester Williams up front. Bryn Renner will be able to keep North Carolina in the game, but South Carolina will ultimately win because it is stronger on the offensive and defensive lines.

AA picks: South Carolina 34, North Carolina 21

HD picks: South Carolina 24, North Carolina 21

Presbyterian at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m., ESPN3. #PREvsWAKE. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe goes into the season needing four victories to become the all-time winningest coach in school history. After this game, that number should shrink to three. Presbyterian won only two games last season, so I am not sure how much of a challenge a bad FCS team will present. Still, a few things to keep an eye on: the Wake Forest running game -- both Josh Harris and the offensive line. How much more will Tanner Price be used in running situations? Wake has a big game in Week 2 against BC, so Grobe is going to want to see what he can build on.

AA picks: Wake Forest 50, Presbyterian 3

HD picks: Wake Forest 45, Presbyterian 10

Friday

FAU at Miami, 8 p.m., ESPNU. #FAUvsMIA. The Hurricanes open the season without a resolution from the NCAA. Shocking, right? But that should not be a distraction. The bigger distraction could be the "look-ahead factor," with Miami playing rival Florida the following week. FAU has a long way to go if it wants to compete with Miami. Simply put, this won't be much of a test for the Hurricanes. The talent gap is too wide. Coach Al Golden just has to make sure his team remains focused on FAU.

AA picks: Miami 45, FAU 10

HD picks: Miami 42, FAU 17

Saturday

Elon at Georgia Tech, noon, ESPN3. #ELONvsGT. This is the schools' first meeting in football. It is not much of a matchup, either. Elon only won three games last year, so the Jackets should not have many problems in this game. They do have some injuries at a few spots, but with a bye the following week, Georgia Tech should be much healthier for its Sept. 14 game at Duke. It will be good to see how Vad Lee plays, what type of backs rotation Paul Johnson uses and how Ted Roof's new defense looks.

AA picks: Georgia Tech 55, Elon 3

HD picks: Georgia Tech 55, Elon 0

Villanova at Boston College, noon, ESPNews. #VILLvsBC. Coach Steve Addazio is pretty familiar with Villanova. When he was head coach at Temple in 2011 and 2012, the Owls opened the season against Villanova and won both games easily. This will be a good early test for the Eagles with Addazio in charge. First priority is to see how much better the offensive line and running game do. Second priority is to see more physicality from both sides of the ball. Both will be important, with the league opener against Wake Forest the following week.

AA picks: Boston College 35, Villanova 13

HD picks: Boston College 35, Villanova 17

FIU at Maryland (12:30 p.m., GamePlan/ESPN3. #FIUvsMD. Maryland has a very favorable nonconference schedule to open the season and kicks things off against an FIU team that took a big step back in 2012. The Panthers have a new head coach and only eight returning starters, to boot. Maryland, meanwhile, has a healthy C.J. Brown ready to open the season and the best player on the field in Stefon Diggs. Three keys to watch for the Terps: 1. How does the retooled offensive line hold up? 2. Will the running game be better? 3. How does the retooled defense with six new starters fare?

AA picks: Maryland 33, FIU 10

HD picks: Maryland 38, FIU 21

Louisiana Tech at NC State, 12:30 p.m., GamePlan/ESPN3. #LATECHvsNCST. The Dave Doeren era begins against one of the better teams from outside the power conferences a year ago. Louisiana Tech has a new coach in Skip Holtz and a first-year starting quarterback, but it also returns 1,000-yard rusher Kenneth Dixon and defensive end IK Enemkpali, a first-team WAC selection a year ago. NC State has not named a starting quarterback yet, and running back Shadrach Thornton is suspended for this one. Plus, the Wolfpack will have new offensive and defensive schemes and return only 11 starters. I expect for it to take some time to work out the kinks. Louisiana Tech upset Virginia a year ago, so this is not a team to overlook. This will be a good first test for Doeren.

AA picks: NC State 35, Louisiana Tech 24

HD picks: NC State 42, Louisiana Tech 7

Syracuse vs. Penn State, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2. #CUSEvsPSU. Neither team plans on naming a starting quarterback going into this one, so the big unknown is who will be under center when the game kicks off. What is known is that Syracuse should have a powerful running game going into the season with 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith returning, along with Prince-Tyson Gulley. There are definite questions for the Orange not only at quarterback, but at receiver, offensive tackle and along the defensive line. But I like what coach Scott Shafer has preached so far. His team is going to be hard-nosed and physical, and I believe it will be able to eke out a very close win.

AA picks: Syracuse 24, Penn State 21

HD picks: Penn State 31, Syracuse 21

BYU at Virginia, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #BYUvsUVA. There is no doubt the Cougars go into the game with a stout defense, led by outstanding linebacker Kyle Van Noy. But I am going with the Hoos in this game for a few reasons. First, they are at home and should have an advantage with BYU traveling from the Mountain time zone. Second, I think they will be a much more sound team on offense and defense. David Watford's mobility should help against the Cougars' D. Third, BYU has not been as good on offense in recently. If the Hoos can establish the run the way they did in 2011 and be more aggressive on D, they win. One more note: In his career as a head coach, Mike London has won all five of his openers. This will be his first as UVa coach against an FBS team.

AA picks: Virginia 21, BYU 20

HD picks: BYU 28, Virginia 21

NC Central at Duke, 4 p.m., ESPN3. #NCCUvsDUKE. The Blue Devils should have a relatively easy time against NC Central, the way they did last season. What they want to see is how Anthony Boone plays in his first game as starting quarterback and what types of strides the defense has made since last season. Both are going to be big keys for Duke if it wants to get back to a bowl game.

AA picks: Duke 48, NC Central 13

HD picks: Duke 48, NC Central 10

No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., ESPN. #BAMAvsVT. A few months ago, I thought the Hokies might have a fighting chance in this game. But I just don't think they have the personnel to do so now that game week has arrived. Given the uncertainty on the offensive line, at running back and in the secondary, it is going to be tough sledding for Virginia Tech to score more than two touchdowns against one of the best defenses in America. If Virginia Tech finds a way to win, it will be because it was able to establish the run, control the clock and pressure AJ McCarron into mistakes. Not out of the question. But it appears improbable at this point.

AA picks: Alabama 31, Virginia Tech 13

HD picks: Alabama 45, Virginia Tech 20

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m., ABC. #UGAvsCLEM. The game of the year, or at least the game of the week, has finally arrived after months and months of buildup. We finally get to see whether the Tigers can continue the momentum they established in the bowl win over LSU last season. Georgia has a veteran quarterback and the best rushing duo in the country. How Clemson handles Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall is the biggest key for an improving defense. But this is why Clemson wins the game: Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and a veteran offensive line have the upper hand over a defense that only returns three starters, including just one up front.

AA picks: Clemson 35, Georgia 31

HD picks: Clemson 38, Georgia 35

Monday

No. 11 Florida State at Pitt, 8 p.m., ESPN. #FSUvsPITT. A big opening week concludes with a huge game for both teams. Pitt begins its first season in the ACC with a marquee opponent at home, while Florida State begins its quest for another ACC title with a freshman starting at quarterback. Heather put Florida State on preseason upset watch last month, but it's hard for me to see the Panthers pulling the upset for two reasons: 1. They are banged-up at running back and have no depth at the position. 2. Florida State has a big-time advantage on the offensive and defensive lines. Pitt will give Florida State all it can handle, but the talent disparity is too wide for the Panthers to overcome in the opener.

AA picks: Florida State 27, Pitt 17

HD picks: Florida State 31, Pitt 21

ACC media days primer

July, 12, 2013
7/12/13
10:09
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Andrea Adelson and I are gearing up for the 2013 ACC Football Kickoff, two days of interviews with players and coaches from every school in the conference. For us (and most members of the media), we consider this the unofficial start of the season. Vacations are over and the previews begin. Here’s a quick look at what you need to know:

When: July 21-22

Where: The Grandover Resort, Greensboro, N.C.

Who will be there: Two players and the head coach from every school, and ACC commissioner John Swofford. Highlights from this year’s player attendees include: Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd; North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner; Georgia Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu; Miami quarterback Stephen Morris; Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro; Florida State DB Lamarcus Joyner; Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses; and Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald.

Who won’t be there: 2012 ACC Rookie of the Year Duke Johnson; Clemson wide receiver Sammy Watkins; FSU quarterback Jameis Winston (and understandably so, because he hasn’t played yet); Wake Forest DL Nikita Whitlock (he was there last year, along with quarterback Tanner Price); Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs and half the quarterbacks in the league (most of whom will be first-time starters).

Five storylines/things to watch:

1. The Clemson spotlight. Bring your shades. Not that FSU coach Jimbo Fisher won’t have a crowd at his table -- he will -- but expectations are even higher for Clemson. Many predict the Tigers will be chosen the preseason favorite to win the conference. Boyd could be a Heisman contender again, and the Tigers will be playing in the league’s marquee matchup of the nonconference season when they open the season at home against Georgia.

2. The addition of Pittsburgh and Syracuse in the room. This will be the first football kickoff that includes the entire conference with its two newest members, Pittsburgh and Syracuse, which officially joined July 1. It will be the first chance for those four players to interact with their new opponents, and for coaches Paul Chryst and Scott Shafer to talk to reporters about their expectations for Season 1 in the ACC.

3. The media circle around Virginia Tech. Quarterback Logan Thomas and coach Frank Beamer are sure to be a big story after such a disappointing 2012 season. Once a projected first-round draft pick, Thomas struggled last year to do it all, but he didn’t have the supporting cast or the accuracy to make another run at the Coastal Division title. Whether the Hokies can rebound this fall after Beamer made sweeping changes to his staff is sure to be a hot topic.

4. Miami’s questions. Many expect the Hurricanes to be very good this season, but nobody knows if they’ll even be eligible to win a title. The NCAA still hasn’t ruled on their highly publicized case, but those within the program keep plodding on. Coach Al Golden appears to have put this year’s roster in contention to win the division, but defensive improvement is a must -- and so is closure from the NCAA.

5. Three new head coaches. Shafer was promoted at Syracuse after spending the past four seasons as defensive coordinator, and this also will be the first ACC Football Kickoff for first-year NC State coach Dave Doeren and Boston College coach Steve Addazio. The three have inherited different challenges, and all are in the Atlantic Division with league heavyweights Clemson and Florida State. What are their plans for keeping their programs relevant in the ACC race?

Vote: ACC's sleeper pick

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
5:00
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Sleeper picks have been a hot topic in the blog this week, as Andrea Adelson and I debated the issue Wednesday, and KC Joyner recently released his pick for the ACC Insider. Surprise: none of us can seem to agree. Joyner says Canes. Andrea likes the Hokies. Me? I’m sticking with the Deacs.

Your vote counts, too.

Florida State and Clemson are again the favorites to win the ACC this year, but you know how this league goes -- anything can happen, and it usually does. So who’s got the best chance to dethrone them? Your sleeper pick, of course.

We’ve narrowed it down to five choices for you, including ours (sorry, UNC, we think you're too close to contender to be categorized as a sleeper):

SportsNation

Which team is your ACC sleeper pick this fall?

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    14%
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    41%
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    10%
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    31%
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    4%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,751)

1. Miami: Nobody returns more starters in the ACC than the Canes, with 19. Andrea and I agree that we don’t count the Canes in the “true sleeper” category. They’ve got a veteran quarterback in Stephen Morris and the league’s 2012 ACC Rookie of the Year in Duke Johnson. Every starter returns on both the offensive and defensive lines. If Miami isn’t a contender for the ACC title this year, the Canes have underachieved.

2. Virginia Tech: Expectations have been tempered outside the program after what was the worst season in the past 20 years, but those within it are encouraged by the progress the offense made this spring. First-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said that the spring game wasn’t a true indication of how the rest of the spring went (much better), but that the performance gave his players an even greater sense of urgency this summer.

3. Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have a veteran quarterback returning in Tanner Price, but the offensive line remains the team’s biggest concern. The Deacs are expected to run the ball more this year, and will turn Price loose, but they’ll also be depending heavily upon their defense, which returns nine starters.

4. Pitt: Coach Paul Chryst has started to change the culture, and expectations within the program have been raised. Don’t forget that the Panthers beat the Hokies last year and took Notre Dame to triple overtime before losing. Searching for that kind of effort on a consistent basis will be the priority this fall, as Pitt lost four games by a total of 21 points last year. The Panthers need to find a dependable quarterback, but return nine starters on defense.

5. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets aren’t getting a lot of ink this preseason, but they’re right in the muddled mix with everyone else in the Coastal Division. The defense should be better under first-year coordinator Ted Roof, they’ve got one of the best linebackers in the conference in Jeremiah Attaochu, and the offense is in good hands -- Paul Johnson’s. You know they're going to run the ball effectively. Vad Lee could be an upgrade at quarterback, but wide receiver is a concern.
Earlier this week, ESPN Insider KC Joyner unveiled his choice for ACC sleeper pick this season .

Your ACC bloggers disagree. So who are our sleeper picks? Glad you asked!

Andrea Adelson says: Never count out Virginia Tech.

Let's get real, people. Miami is not a sleeper pick to win the ACC. Not when the Canes have become the popular choice to win the Coastal Division because they have basically every starter returning from a season ago.

[+] EnlargeBud Foster
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIBud Foster's defense should be one of the best in the ACC this season.
I got a sleeper right here for ya -- Virginia Tech.

The Hokies? you ask. As in, the team that has won more ACC championship crowns than anybody?

Uh-huh.

Funny what one down season does to a program.

Virginia Tech was decidedly un-Virginia Tech in 2012, there is no disputing that. The Hokies had their string of consecutive 10-win seasons snapped at eight; they struggled to seven wins; they were not a major factor in the Coastal race despite being selected as the preseason favorites. Friends, that vote was not even close -- Virginia Tech collected 83 of a possible 95 votes.

But now, the perennial preseason favorite is being viewed with raised eyebrows. People scratched their heads when Phil Steele had Virginia Tech higher than Clemson in his preseason rankings. Understandably, the results of last season have made folks skeptical.

But the Coastal is way more winnable than the Atlantic, which appears to be a two-team division at this point.

So why not Virginia Tech this year?

Frank Beamer has not forgotten how to coach. Virginia Tech has not forgotten how to win. And the Hokies return what should be one of the best defenses in the ACC. Yes, the offense has question marks all over the field and that is the biggest reason for trepidation when projecting how the Hokies will do this year.

But how many times have we seen Virginia Tech win with defense? More often than not.

I checked the NCAA stats to see where Virginia Tech ranked in total offense/total defense and scoring offense/scoring defense in the five years it made the ACC title game.

Four out of five times, Virginia Tech had a higher ranked defense. In fact, all four times Virginia Tech ranked in the Top 10 in total D and scoring D. Twice -- in 2007 and 2008 -- Virginia Tech ranked No. 100 or lower in total offense. That happens to be WORSE than the Hokies did last year (No. 81 total offense).

Oh, and Virginia Tech beat Boston College for the ACC crown those two seasons.

They say defense wins championships, right? Virginia Tech has the defense to win a championship. That is more than Miami can say at this point.

Heather Dinich says: Watch out for Wake.

A sleeper pick is a team that’s going to take you by surprise, one that you’re overlooking and quite frankly not giving much of a chance at all.

A sleeper pick is a team that is quietly brewing with potential.

[+] EnlargeTanner Price
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Tanner Price threw for 2,300 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
Wake Forest is a sleeper pick.

Andrea is smart -- she picked Virginia Tech, which is coming off its worst season in 20 years but is in a crowded division that has as much separation as row homes. Duke was in that race last year. It’s anyone’s game. Me? I’m going out on a limb, and saying there IS a team in the Atlantic Division capable of shocking heavyweights Florida State or Clemson. I’m picking the Deacs because of the way they’ve recruited over the past two seasons, because of the interviews I’ve had with the players and the coaches that indicate a rekindled determination within the program, and because of the discipline the coaching staff instills, and the experience it has.

(Shh. Wake Forest doesn’t want you to hear this. They want you to keep overlooking them.)

Jim Grobe is a veteran who, despite public perception of being one of the friendliest coaches in the ACC, has more of an edge to him this summer. Over the past two years, he and his staff have brought in smart players who love the game and are willing to work to win -- and are good enough to win. No, they’re not Aaron Curry or Alphonso Smith, and this isn’t 2006, but don’t expect the Deacs to be a pushover this fall. All it takes is for Wake Forest to win the turnover battle (which it can), have fewer penalties than Florida State or Clemson (which it can), and for Grobe to win the battle on the sideline (which he has before).

Those are just the intangibles. Don’t forget the Deacs have one of the ACC’s best receivers in Michael Campanaro. They have a veteran quarterback in Tanner Price. They have 18 starters returning (only Miami has more in the ACC). And they have a defense that returns nine starters and should be the strength of the team once again -- and has been working on creating those turnovers all offseason.

In order for me to not look like a complete fool with this pick, though, the Deacs have to do their part on the offensive line. It remains a major concern, but if they can keep the starting lineup healthy, there’s no reason Wake Forest can’t have a chance to hold its own in the Atlantic Division race.

Don’t think so? That’s why it’s called a sleeper pick.
The ACC’s leading active career rusher does not play for heavyweights Florida State or Clemson.

Surprise: That distinction belongs to Wake Forest, which had one of the worst running games in the country last year.

[+] EnlargeJosh Harris
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsCoach Jim Grobe said Wake Forest will be relying heavily on Josh Harris and the run game in 2013.
Senior Josh Harris enters this fall as the league’s leading active career rusher with 1,760 career rushing yards and a 4.8 per-carry average. Needless to say, the Deacs are still looking for more this fall from both Harris and the entire running game. Wake Forest ranked No. 113 in the country last season in rushing offense.

While Harris has been a highlight for the Deacs’ offense, his success has been fleeting and his durability questioned, thanks in part to a nagging hamstring injury. This spring, emphasizing the run was a priority in the playbook, and offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke said three running backs the staff thinks it can count on have emerged.

Heading into fall camp, Harris is leading the depth chart as expected, followed by Deandre Martin and Josh Wilhite, who redshirted last year. Lobotzke compared Wilhite to former Deac and all-time leading rusher Chris Barclay in that he’s quick, shifty, and can stop and start. The staff is also willing to give Dez Wortham from Texas a shot at playing time.

"Last year we were just abysmal at running the ball, from start to finish," Lobotzke said. "We really couldn’t get much going. We dedicated most of the spring to trying to run the ball better in different ways to get them between the tackles, get them in space, one-back sets, two-back sets, gun, pistol, everything, just trying different things and studying every good running team that’s out there in college football, trying to steal stuff from people."

They’ve also asked quarterback Tanner Price to get more involved in the running game.

“We've really got to get back to running the football,” coach Jim Grobe said. "The key to that is having him run the football. We did that as a freshman, then we got him knocked out at Florida State running the football. It panicked us a little bit. Then we went back to being more of a pocket football team and making him throw the football all the time. You know, you really need a good offensive line and a great group of receivers to do that.

"But this past year when we weren't as strong at receiver and had all those issues with injuries and whatnot on the offensive line, we just put too much on Tanner to throw the football," he said. "So we've got to get back to where we know Tanner can throw the football, but we've got to get back to where we don't live and die with the throw game. I think asking him to run the football more is going to be the thing that our offense needs.”
Here is one trend to keep an eye on this spring in the ACC.

The potential rise of dual-threat quarterbacks.

Last season, four teams had true dual-threat signal-callers starting -- EJ Manuel at Florida State, Tajh Boyd at Clemson, Logan Thomas at Virginia Tech, and Tevin Washington at Georgia Tech. Depending on how some of the open quarterback competitions go, the ACC could see as many as nine dual-threat starters at the position.

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesDual-threat quarterbacks like Clemson's Tajh Boyd are becoming the norm in the ACC.
We already know that Duke is trying to install some option principles with Anthony Boone taking over for pro-style Sean Renfree. Wake Forest has said it wants starter Tanner Price to run more out of designed plays. NC State coach Dave Doeren has succeeded the past two years at Northern Illinois with a dual-threat quarterback. Syracuse and Virginia also have dual-threat quarterbacks competing for the starting job.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe explained his decision to shift philosophy in an interview earlier this month with fellow blogger Heather Dinich.

Cutcliffe said of Boone, "He is the new era of quarterback. Anthony is going to change our run game a good bit. He can prolong plays better. Just watch football, I don’t care what level -- it’s not just the zone read. Ben Roethlisberger is not that kind of guy, but he prolongs plays really well for the Steelers through the years. That’s how a lot of big plays occur. That wasn’t Sean’s strength. It is Anthony’s. Anthony is always dangerous back there. I think that adds a little bit of life to your offense."

Here is a look at the type of quarterback each team has across the ACC.

Boston College: Pro-style with Chase Rettig. The Eagles are sure to feature a running quarterback in the future as coach Steve Addazio prefers dual threats to run his spread offense.

Clemson: Dual threat. Boyd is one of the best in the nation.

Duke: Dual threat with Boone. Changed from pro-style.

Florida State: Dual-threat Jameis Winston will compete for the starting job against pro-style QBs Clint Trickett and Jacob Coker.

Georgia Tech: Triple-option, with Vad Lee taking over.

Maryland: Pro-style, C.J. Brown.

Miami: Pro-style, Stephen Morris.

North Carolina: Pro-style Bryn Renner.

NC State: Dual-threat Manny Stocker competing against pro-style Pete Thomas. Dual-threat Jacoby Brissett also transferred from Florida but has to sit out a year.

Pittsburgh: The only school with an open competition featuring two pro-style quarterbacks: Tom Savage and Chad Voytik.

Syracuse: Pro-style Charley Loeb is competing with dual-threat quarterbacks John Kinder and Terrel Hunt.

Virginia: Pro-style Phillip Sims is competing with dual-threat David Watford and pro-style Greyson Lambert this spring.

Virginia Tech: Dual-threat with Thomas.

Wake Forest: Working toward making Price more dual threat.
Wake Forest wants to go retro on offense this season, all the way back to the days when it featured a dual-threat quarterback able to mix the run with the pass.

The Deacs shied away from that philosophy over the past several seasons, but not anymore. Thanks to better depth behind starter Tanner Price, they are going to try to expand what he can do when spring practice opens next week.

[+] EnlargeTBD
Bob DeChiara/US PresswireQuarterback Tanner Price hopes some designed running plays will help him in the passing game.
"We got this way with Riley Skinner, and we did a lot of things to try and protect him," coach Jim Grobe said in a recent phone interview. "We just got too cautious with Tanner, trying not to put him in a position where he might get dinged. We’ve got to be a little more aggressive with him. One of the things we liked about him out of high school was that he was a dual-threat quarterback. We haven't really used him in that capacity, but in watching some of the breakdowns the last few weeks, one of the things we noticed was his ability to scramble out of the pocket. We will put Tanner in some situations where he has to run. We can’t just hang our hats on throwing the football."

Wake Forest did have those dual-threat guys in Ben Mauk and Cory Randolph, but Skinner was a guy who was a much stronger passer and not exactly adept at running the ball. When Price played as a freshman, he did run but offensive coordinator Steed Lobotzke recalls, "We overdid it." Price ended up getting hurt in 2010. A lack of depth behind him made Wake Forest even more cautious.

But as Grobe said, toward the end of last season the Deacs had some success with designed quarterback draws. Now, Lobotzke is interested in integrating standard spread-option runs, zone reads and quarterback draws.

"We're not going to do what Georgia Tech does," he said. "But we are looking for ways to expand what Tanner can do. He's a decent runner. At least now if he does get hurt, we have a stable of guys behind him."

Though Wake Forest does return leading rusher Josh Harris, the ground game hasn't exactly been the envy of the ACC. Coaches hope getting Price more involved will give a boost to the ground game as well. Of course, how much Wake can do and how successful it can be depends on the guys up front. This spring, Wake Forest will not have its full complement of linemen.

But at least the Deacs will get a bigger glimpse at what Price can do with the ball tucked under his arm.

"I want to be more of a threat running the football," Price said. "I’ve been working on my speed a little bit, try to put on weight to be more of a threat and that will, in turn, set up the passing game."
Wake Forest stood one win away from bowl eligibility last November but turned in a nightmare finish, losing three straight to end the year.

The truth is, the season began unraveling well before then. Injuries cost the Deacs heavily, and multiple suspensions embarrassed coach Jim Grobe, who publicly apologized for the incidents.

Thrown into the mix were negative attitudes that permeated the program, a toxic mix that ended up spilling over once the year ended. Players vented their frustrations to the media. Some former players questioned whether Grobe was the right man for the job.

[+] EnlargeTanner Price
Jeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsQuarterback Tanner Price threw for 2,300 yards and 12 touchdowns last season.
But the page has turned to a new year, and with that has come new attitudes and new expectations. Wake Forest returns 16 starters and just about all of its key contributors from a year ago. The question now is whether so many returning starters off a dysfunctional team can find a way to function together.

"The biggest lesson I probably learned from last year is just the importance of staying positive and making sure there’s not any negativity within the team," Wake Forest quarterback Tanner Price said, "because as soon as that negativity creeps in, it’s like a cancer and it’s easy for everybody to become negative. It hurts the team and affects the outcome on Saturdays."

Did that happen last season?

"At times we struggled with that," Price said.

How did he feel about players venting publicly about Grobe and the final outcome of the season?

"At the end of the day, guys were just frustrated with the outcome of the season for a number of reasons," Price said. "What we had was coaches blaming players and players blaming coaches, and at the end of the day, we’re all at fault. What happened requires us to all come together to do some self-evaluation. That’s what we’re doing right now in the offseason.

"I’m excited about where we’re headed. I think this is a close group of guys, and we’ve built a solid relationship with the coaching staff. I really do believe it will be a much different season, and I’m really excited to see how turns out."

Price returns his No. 1 target, Michael Campanaro, one of the top receivers in the ACC. The young offensive line, decimated by injuries last season, will be better and much more experienced. Leading rusher Josh Harris is back, and so are leading tackler Justin Jackson, noseguard Nikita Whitlock and cornerback Merrill "Bud" Noel, just to name a few.

With so many experienced returning starters, expectations will grow. Price, for one, is embracing them.

"I’m very optimistic about this upcoming season," Price said. "We have an unbelievable amount of talent on offense and defense. I really do believe this team will be back in a bowl next year and I think we can have seven-plus wins. I’m excited and I think this is going to be a fun offseason to get working with these guys and start building momentum to carry into the season."

The senior class, Price says, "Since we got here as freshmen, we’ve been talking about how this senior season is going to be our year to make an impression and leave our legacy here so we’ve come together as a group of seniors and said, 'Let’s take advantage of this opportunity we have in front of us.'"

So far, he has noticed results.

"There already is a different energy within the team and the entire program," Price said. "It’s for the better. Everybody is really committed and really ready to create some change and leave an impact."
The ACC’s crop of 2013 quarterbacks will be an interesting blend of old and new. Veterans Logan Thomas and Tajh Boyd both decided to return for their senior seasons instead of leaving early for the NFL draft, but several big names -- like EJ Manuel and Mike Glennon -- will be missing. Here’s a quick rundown of the position heading into the 2013 season:

IN GREAT SHAPE

CLEMSON: Boyd returns. The record-setter should be a Heisman candidate, considering he led the ACC in passing efficiency, was second in passing average/game, and threw for 36 touchdowns with just 13 interceptions.

MIAMI: Stephen Morris returns. Morris should be one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, and he might have the best offensive line in the conference to work with. Last season, Morris started all 12 games and threw for a career-best 3,345 yards and 21 touchdowns, completing 58.2 percent of passes. He set the school single-season total offense record with 3,415 yards.

NORTH CAROLINA: Bryn Renner returns. He was No. 3 in the ACC last season in passing average per game (279.7), and he was No. 3 in passing efficiency. He finished with 3,356 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

VIRGINIA TECH: Thomas returns. This was a huge boost to the Hokies’ offense. Thomas has started the past 27 games for the Hokies, passing for 6,096 yards and 37 touchdowns, and running for 1,015 yards and 20 scores.

WAKE FOREST: Tanner Price returns. He threw for 12 touchdowns and seven interceptions last season, and he’ll be helped by the fact that standout receiver Michael Campanaro returns. Price completed 55.6 percent of his passes for 2,300 yards.

IN GOOD SHAPE

VIRGINIA: Phillip Sims returns, but Michael Rocco transferred. Sims is the most likely starter, but how much playing time will David Watford see? While sharing time with Rocco last season, Sims finished with nine touchdowns and four interceptions. He completed 56.2 percent of his passes for 1,263 yards.

MARYLAND: C.J. Brown, who tore his ACL before the start of the 2012 season, is the most likely starter. This position can only get better for Maryland in 2013, as the Terps were down to their fifth-string quarterback last season. He started five games in 2011, but this would be his first full season as starter.

BOSTON COLLEGE: Senior Chase Rettig returns. He started all 12 games last season, completed 54.2 percent of his passes, threw for 3,065 yards, 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. The reason BC isn’t in the “great shape” category is because Rettig will have his 103rd offensive coordinator. The good news is that Ryan Day is a former BC offensive assistant, so it’s not like they just met.

DUKE: Veteran Sean Renfree has to be replaced. Anthony Boone isn't a rookie, but this will be his first season as a full-time starter. Boone has had the strongest arm of any of the quarterbacks on the roster, including Renfree. Boone played in 11 games in 2012, completed 51.6 percent of his passes (49 of 95) for 531 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

COMPETITION IS ON

FLORIDA STATE: Manuel must be replaced. Clint Trickett is the leading candidate heading into the spring, and he has the edge in experience, but he will compete with Jacob Coker and Jameis Winston. Trickett started two games in 2011, filling in for the injured Manuel, but this past season he only threw the ball 34 times. Coker played in four games and threw it five times.

GEORGIA TECH: Tevin Washington must be replaced. Vad Lee is the front-runner heading into the spring, but Justin Thomas will give him plenty of competition. Lee didn’t start any games in 2012, but he got plenty of meaningful snaps and ran for 544 yards and nine touchdowns, and threw for 596 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.

NC STATE: Glennon must be replaced. This position is a huge question mark for the Pack, especially considering the program has gone through a staff change, with Dave Doeren taking over. Manny Stocker and Pete Thomas are the front-runners heading into spring ball. Stocker threw the ball just twice in 2012 as a true freshman, and Thomas has two years of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2012 season per NCAA rules because he transferred from Colorado State.

PITT: Panthers fans rejoined when the final seconds ticked off the clock in the BBVA Compass Bowl because they won't have to watch Tino Sunseri play another down. Sunseri did start for three seasons, but this program is looking for a major upgrade at the position. Competition in the spring should focus on transfer Tom Savage, a former Freshman All-American, and redshirt freshman Chad Voytik, a four-star recruit from the class of 2012.

SYRACUSE: The Orange have to replace record-setting quarterback Ryan Nassib, who just had the best single-season passing year in school history. They thought they had an incoming stud in Zach Allen, but the Texas recruit de-committed after coach Doug Marrone left for Buffalo, and Allen pledged to TCU. That leaves the job wide open in the spring between backup Charley Loeb, junior John Kinder, and dual-threat Terrel Hunt. Ashton Broyld, who moved to running back in 2012, could be in the mix as well.

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