NCF Nation: Tracy Howard

Big 12 media days live: Day 2

July, 22, 2014
Jul 22
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The Big 12 media days continue on Tuesday in Dallas, as Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and new Texas coach Charlie Strong each take the stage. Keep this page open throughout the day's proceedings as we bring you the latest from our reporters, who will cover all 10 teams at the event.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 13

November, 24, 2013
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On a week in which Florida State and North Carolina scored 80, Duke tied its all-time record with nine wins, and Pitt and the Tar Heels gave the conference 10 bowl-eligible teams, there's plenty of love to go around. Here are our helmet stickers for Week 13.

Duke QB Anthony Boone: After falling behind 14-0 to Wake Forest, the Blue Devils stormed back with Boone running the show. He completed 24-of-29 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns with another seven carries for 57 yards on the ground. Two of Boone's TD passes landed in the hands of Jamison Crowder, who caught 10 passes for 121 yards in the game. It was win No. 9 for Duke, assuring the Blue Devils at least a share of the Coastal Division title. Another win next Saturday against UNC gives them a berth in the conference championship game.

North Carolina's offense: My how things have changed for the Tar Heels. Granted, Old Dominion didn't present much of an obstacle, but North Carolina sure looks to be clicking on all cylinders with its fifth straight win. Marquise Williams threw for 409 yards and five touchdowns and ran for another 60, continuing to shine following Bryn Renner's season-ending injury. T.J. Logan ran for 137 yards and three TDs, and Quinshad Davis and Ryan Switzer combined for 242 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

Boston College RB Andre Williams: Ho-hum, another 200-yard game for the nation's leading rusher. Williams' spot in the helmet stickers has become a weekly occurrence, and he was dominant once again in helping the Eagles to their seventh win. Williams rushed 32 times for 263 yards and two touchdowns, including a 72-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter that helped spark a late comeback. Williams also eclipsed 2,000 yards for the season -- the first FBS player to do so since UConn's Donald Brown in 2008.

Pitt DT Aaron Donald: A front-runner for the ACC's defensive player of the year award, Donald was the catalyst in getting Pitt bowl eligible with a 17-16 win over Syracuse. Donald had nine tackles -- eight solo -- including 3.5 for a loss. He had two quarterback hurries, and his blocked PAT proved the difference in the game. For the season, he has a national-best 26 tackles for loss.

Miami's defense: For the fourth straight game, the Hurricanes didn't look sharp offensively, but they managed a fairly easy win over Virginia thanks to a stellar defensive performance. Tracy Howard returned a pick for a score, David Gilbert rumbled 72 yards for a touchdown following a fumble recovery, and Miami's D finished with four takeaways in a 45-26 win.

Miami needs another comeback to win

October, 26, 2013
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- For the first time in three years, No. 7 Miami took the field Saturday without an NCAA investigation lording over the program.

Yet even still, Al Golden worried, given all the emotion spent throughout the week. “I was hoping we would have enough in the tank,” the Hurricanes' coach said. “Just because of how emotional it was to have that ordeal over.”

Miami did have enough in the end Saturday, rallying to beat Wake Forest 24-21 behind another terrific performance from Duke Johnson. But what happened Saturday cannot be blamed on the distractions presented during the week, nor the distractions that loom in the week ahead.

Especially since the NCAA investigation was never mentioned internally after athletic director Blake James broke the news to the team at 9:05 a.m. Tuesday.

Especially since Miami canceled all media availability, intending to keep players focused only on Wake Forest.

[+] EnlargeDuke Johnson
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesDuke Johnson scored twice in the fourth quarter to spark Miami's latest comeback.
Especially since Golden said afterward he spent every moment over the previous 72 hours keeping his players on Wake Forest. Given all that, how could Miami be thinking about anything else once the game kicked off?

One reason.

What we saw out of Miami on Saturday is what we have seen out of Miami the past three weeks. Slow starts that have severely handicapped the Hurricanes, forcing a mad scramble to pull out a come-from-behind win. Essentially, Miami has been placed on #upsetalert at some point throughout each of its last three games.

Most recently, it happened last week on the road against a one-win North Carolina team. It happened again this week, against an improved Wake Forest team that held the lead until the very end. “They played their butts off,” defensive end Anthony Chickillo said. “We kind of got punched in the face and we had to respond.”

Miami gave up 14 quick points, but the offense could not find a rhythm until late. After Miami took a 17-14 lead in the fourth quarter, Wake Forest scored on its ensuing drive when Tanner Price threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Dominique Gibson to take back a 21-17 lead.

All Wake Forest needed was a defensive stop to win. Instead, Johnson ended up scoring the game-winning touchdown with 53 seconds remaining -- his second TD of the quarter.

The relief was palpable. Indeed, relief should be the word of the week in Coral Gables. The Hurricanes remain unbeaten at 7-0, but provided more fodder for critics who believe their record is a mirage. Miami has not played like a top-10 team over the past two weeks, rising up the rankings at the expense of other teams that have lost.

None of that is Miami’s fault. And Miami does deserve credit for finding ways to win these games. Two years ago, the Hurricanes would have lost. Golden and players readily admit that. No doubt there are signs of growth.

[+] EnlargeMiami Celebrate
Doug Murray/Icon SMIMiami had reason to celebrate after surviving another scare, but will the Canes be as happy next week?
But here is the bottom line: Miami cannot afford to play from behind against No. 2 Florida State next week in Tallahassee. Not the way the Noles are playing. While Johnson gave his postgame remarks in an interview room in Sun Life Stadium, Florida State led NC State 28-0.

In the first quarter.

Last week, Clemson fell behind Florida State early and could never recover, losing 51-14. Pulling out games in the fourth quarter is all well and good, but Miami cannot play mismatched halves. Not against the No. 2 team in the nation.

The slow starts should be a concern moving forward.

“It’s all a concern,” Golden said. “Every game is its own chessboard and you have to make adjustments. We all know what this week is about coming up. We’ll regroup here tonight, tomorrow get healed up and get ready to go. I don’t think there will be any carry-over.”

There has been carry-over, though. We are not talking about a one-game sample size. Three games in a row, Miami has sleepwalked through the first half. Against North Carolina and Wake Forest, the sleepwalking continued until the third quarter. Yes, coaches have made adjustments at the half, but at this point, the biggest adjustment that needs to be made is the way Miami comes out of the gate.

“It’s like we get going in the second half and start figuring opponents out,” cornerback Tracy Howard said. “We have to do a better job with that. We’ll get it fixed.”

Miami faces its two toughest tests in consecutive weeks. After Florida State, the Hurricanes host Virginia Tech in a game that could determine the Coastal winner. Everybody in Miami agrees improvement must be made.

“We found a way to scratch and claw and win our seventh,” Golden said. “You can’t take any of the previous wins with you to Tallahassee next week. That’s over. We have to get better at the things we need to get better at, and we need some kids to step up.”

Or it could be a long night.

ACC enjoys big wins to start season

September, 7, 2013
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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- The statement was made, and well, Miami simply could not contain its raw emotions, perhaps because this was all so new.

Al Golden sprinted across the field with 4.4 40 speed to shake Will Muschamp’s hand. His players gathered en mass in one corner of the end zone to celebrate with fans then sprinted across the field to the end zone on the other end of the field to celebrate some more.

In between it all, an inflatable alligator float lay deflating on the field, its snout taped shut.

“We’ve been through so much,” Golden said after his team’s 21-16 win over No. 12 Florida on Saturday afternoon. “It was almost cathartic, to be honest with you. It was just 26 months unleashed there.”

Miami, trying to take baby steps back to the top, had not been able to win a big game like this under Golden. The spotlight shined on the Canes last season in games against nationally ranked Kansas State, then unbeaten Notre Dame, then eventual ACC champ Florida State. Each time, Miami wilted or failed to show up, its defense exposed as a major liability, its toughness questioned.

Everybody inside the program knew it needed this win. But the Hurricanes were not the only ones who needed it badly. So did the ACC.

The league made a statement in Week 1 with Clemson beating Georgia, vaulting the Tigers to No. 4 in the rankings. Another win against a marquee team would send ACC officials dancing from press box tables. Especially a win from Miami -- a program that has underwhelmed despite the expectation it would enhance the league’s reputation when it joined in 2004.

The Gators went in favored and seemingly had the edge up front. Miami players heard all the talk and got more motivated, developing the proverbial and cliché chip on their shoulders. They didn’t need coaches preaching all week that they needed to be the more physical team. They knew.

They also knew this game meant more than suiting up against Florida Atlantic.

As linebacker Tyriq McCord said afterward, he came to Miami to play against a team like the Gators, to have the national stage, the national spotlight, a chance to begin Miami on its road back to a championship.

With a fired-up crowd filling Sun Life Stadium, the two rivals battled gamely in the final scheduled regular-season matchup between them.

Miami matched Florida hit for hit. For once, this team could believe in its defense. Florida racked up yards and first downs and owned time of possession but could not put points on the board. Because Miami was there to make the crucial play, time and again.

Florida turned the ball over four times inside Miami territory -- three times inside the red zone. The Canes had a crucial stand on fourth-and-inches from the Miami 16 in the second quarter. Florida kept driving, and Miami kept caving just a little bit. But the Canes refused to be broken.

Meanwhile, the Miami offense struggled for most of the game against the ferocious Florida front, a group quarterback Stephen Morris called “the best defensive line I’ve ever seen.”

[+] EnlargeMiami coach Al Golden and the Hurricanes beat Florida 21-16 on Saturday in their final scheduled regular-season matchup.
Charles Trainor Jr./Miami Herald via Getty ImagesMiami coach Al Golden and the Hurricanes beat Florida 21-16 on Saturday in their final scheduled regular-season matchup.
Morris and running back Duke Johnson are the two best players on the Miami roster. But improbably, it was the much maligned Miami defense that won the game for the Hurricanes.

“Without trust, you don’t have anything,” Miami cornerback Tracy Howard said. “If you make plays, you can talk. Trust is a big thing. The offense trusts the defense. The defense trusts the offense.”

Perhaps as improbably, the ACC went 2-2 against the SEC to open the season. North Carolina and Virginia Tech, the two teams that lost to SEC competition last week, rebounded with wins Saturday the way everybody expected against far inferior competition. Virginia did not have the same success against No. 2 Oregon on Saturday.

But the focus for the first two weeks was on the big headliners against the SEC, a conference that has owned the ACC on the field and the recruiting trail. Every single ACC team went in as the underdog, including the Tigers and Canes at home.

Many believed Clemson and Miami had the best shot at pulling the upsets. In the end, what stood out in both victories was the way they won -- with an aggressiveness and physicality that most folks associate with the SEC.

The ACC essentially out-SEC’d its conference rival in both wins. Some 755 miles to the north in Clemson, coach Dabo Swinney noticed. He ended his postgame comments after Clemson’s 52-13 win over South Carolina State by saying, “How about that ACC? Spunky little old league."

He flashed "The U" sign and walked out of the room.

Swinney has reason to brag. The ACC won only two games over ranked nonconference teams in each of the past three seasons. In just two weeks, the ACC has matched that win total. Miami linebacker Denzel Perryman put it bluntly when asked what the league’s 2-2 mark over the SEC meant:

“We ain’t no cupcake league,” Perryman said.

Two big wins in two weeks does not completely change perception, but it’s a start. The ACC should have three teams ranked in the Top 25 come Sunday. Miami has a shot to start 4-0 before a tough ACC game against Georgia Tech on Oct. 5. Florida State and Clemson also have a shot at being undefeated when they play each other Oct. 19.

As much as Golden wanted to sound a word of caution, saying this was only one game and only one win, a giddy McCord could not hold back.

“We’re back,” McCord said. "That’s all I can say. We’re back."

It appears the ACC is too.

True freshmen to watch in ACC

August, 23, 2012
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Now that we are closing in on the start of the season, we have a much better idea of how many true freshmen could make an impact in the ACC this season based on preseason practice time and early depth charts.

Maryland could end up playing the most, and having players who make the biggest impact. You have quarterback Perry Hills starting in place of the injured C.J. Brown. Highly touted athlete Stefon Diggs has had an outstanding preseason camp. Don't forget about running backs Albert Reid and Wes Brown, who also have looked really good.

Here are a few young players to keep an eye on at each school.

Boston College: Justin Simmons, DB. Defensive back is an area where Boston College needs help, especially after the loss of Al Louis-Jean, who's out six to eight weeks with a foot injury. Simmons already has made his presence felt. In a scrimmage last weekend, he had two interceptions. Also watch for defensive back Bryce Jones and linebacker Steven Daniels.

[+] EnlargeTravis Blanks
John Albright / Icon SMI The versatile Travis Blanks may line up at a number of positions on defense for the Tigers.
Clemson: Travis Blanks, DB. One of the top defensive backs in the country out of high school, Blanks enrolled early and had an impressive spring showing. He has followed that up with a great preseason, and will line up in a variety of positions -- nickelback, cornerback and some linebacker as well. On offense, watch for Germone Hopper, who has had some pretty explosive plays this fall.

Duke: Jela Duncan and Shaquille Powell, RBs; Ross Martin, PK. Duncan and Powell have turned heads during the preseason, and coach David Cutcliffe said he would feel comfortable using both players in the opener against FIU. Martin is sure to get plenty of game experience as the starting kicker this year. Others to watch: receiver Max McCaffrey, tight end Erich Schneider and safety Dwayne Norman, who had an interception return for a touchdown in one scrimmage.

Florida State: Ronald Darby, CB. Do not be surprised if Darby ends up starting in the spot vacated by Greg Reid. Darby and Nick Waisome are competing for the starting job. Coaches like both players, but there is something special about Darby. Said coach Jimbo Fisher: Darby is "going to be a very, very good one." Also watch for defensive tackle Eddie Goldman and tight end Christo Kourtzidis.

Georgia Tech: Anthony Autry and Micheal Summers, WR. Georgia Tech only has four other scholarship wide receivers, so that increases the chances for Autry and Summers to play this season. Autry seems to have a slight edge over Summers. Others to watch: defensive back D.J. White.

Maryland: In addition to Hills, Diggs, Brown and Reid, several others could make an impact this year. Punter Brad Craddock is competing for the starting position with redshirt freshman Nathan Renfro; and cornerback Sean Davis could be starting on opening day because he has done well, and there are some injuries on defense.

Miami: Ereck Flowers, OL. Flowers is listed as a starter right now at right tackle, helped in part because of Seantrel Henderson's absence. Offensive line coach Art Kehoe has been extremely impressed. Others to watch: defensive back Tracy Howard and running back Duke Johnson. Howard is listed on the two-deep behind Ladarius Gunter but has drawn raves so far and so has Johnson, who should also return kickoffs this year. Deon Bush is in the mix for a starting safety spot.

North Carolina: Quinshad Davis, WR. Davis missed some early practice time because of a medical issue but has returned in the last week and has a big chance to make some noise. The Tar Heels are lacking depth at this position, and the way Larry Fedora likes to spread the ball around, he will take as many good receivers as he can.

NC State: Charlie Hegedus, WR. Receiver is a position of need for the Wolfpack, and Hegedus has seen more reps during fall camp with the injury to Bryan Underwood. One player NC State hopes you do not see this year is backup quarterback Manny Stocker, a true freshman behind veteran Mike Glennon.

Virginia: Maurice Canady, CB. Coaches are extremely high on Canady, who is in the mix to earn a starting spot in a secondary that has to be rebuilt this year. He has been working with the first team recently. Others to watch: Michael Moore at outside linebacker, and Eli Harold at defensive end.

Virginia Tech: J.C. Coleman, RB; Donaldven Manning, DB. Both players enrolled in January and are virtual locks to play this season. Coleman has separated himself from another true freshman, Trey Edmunds, despite a hand injury. He has had an outstanding fall camp. Manning has had to deal with a hamstring injury, but his early enrollment works in his favor.

Wake Forest: The Deacs rarely play true freshmen. But if there is one player who has a shot this year, it is defensive end Tylor Harris, who has stood out this fall for his pass-rushing ability -- something Wake Forest needs help improving this year.

ACC's top newcomers

April, 3, 2012
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The ACC hauled in three of the nation's top-10 recruiting classes for the Class of 2012, and several teams could benefit immediately for their efforts. Here, we look at the top newcomers in the conference for the upcoming fall.

Florida State DE Mario Edwards (Denton, Texas/Billy Ryan). The Seminoles' 2012 class was ranked second nationally, and Edwards, the nation's top overall player, is a big reason for that. The 6-foot-4, 197-pounder has the size and agility to contribute immediately to a defense that finished fourth overall in 2011.

Florida State DT tackle Eddie Goldman (Washington, D.C./Collegiate Academy). Another big reason for the nation's No. 2 class? How about the nation's top defensive tackle, too. A senior season that featured 38 tackles, 15 sacks and five forced fumbles makes the 6-4, 310-pound Goldman hard to ignore.

Miami CB Tracy Howard (Miramar, Fla./Miramar). Hampered by an uncertain future, Al Golden and the rest of the Hurricanes' staff hauled in the No. 8 class, one that is quarterback-heavy (with three). But Howard, the nation's top corner, is the biggest get of the group. At 5-11 and 185, the nation's No. 18 overall player has the instincts and physicality to get on the field early, especially with Miami returning only two experienced corners.

Clemson S Travis Blanks (Tallahassee, Fla./North Florida Christian). A defense that gave up 70 points in its 2011 finale can use all the help it can get, meaning Blanks, the nation's No. 2 safety, could be in position to get on the field soon. Enrolling early, the 6-1, 195-pound Blanks has already earned public praise from coach Dabo Swinney, who brought in the nation's No. 10 recruiting class to the defending conference champs.

2012 recruiting team wrap-ups

February, 2, 2012
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While the star systems help evaluate each recruit and grade each class Insider, the most important aspect of signing day is whether or not each program filled its specific needs at each position. Here’s a quick look at each school in the ACC and the biggest need it filled on signing day:

BOSTON COLLEGE: The Eagles wanted to continue to build the depth on both lines, and did that with three offensive linemen and a defensive end. BC might have gotten a future star in four-star guard Frank Taylor, who is rated No. 14 in the country at his position.

CLEMSON: One look at the 2011 depth chart and it’s easy to see where Clemson’s biggest need was, as three starters on the offensive line and three starters on the defensive line have to be replaced from the ACC title team. Mission accomplished in this class with 10 linemen, including six on offense.

DUKE: The Blue Devils got what they were looking for in offensive skill positions with a quarterback, two running backs and three wide receivers in the 20-player class. Jela Duncan, rated the No. 39 running back in the country by ESPN.com, could give Duke’s running game a much-needed boost.

FLORIDA STATE: An already deep defensive line got even deeper and faster. The Noles lured in five defensive linemen, including the No. 1 defensive end and the No. 1 defensive tackle in the country in Mario Edwards and Eddie Goldman, respectively.

GEORGIA TECH: The defensive line was the most pressing need for the Jackets, as they have to replace two senior starters up front. The staff got it done with five defensive linemen in this class, including three tackles.

MARYLAND: Randy Edsall and his staff put a heavy emphasis on linebackers in this class, with three outside linebackers and three inside linebackers. Abner Logan Jr., who is rated No. 28 in the country at his position, highlights the group.

MIAMI: Defensive backs were a big priority, and Miami took care of it with five cornerbacks and two safeties. The prize of the class was Tracy Howard, rated the No. 1 cornerback in the country by RecruitingNation.

NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels' depth at linebacker needed some help, especially with having to replace outgoing senior Zach Brown. First-year coach Larry Fedora added some talent with four linebackers in this class, including four-star commit Shakeel Rashad.

NC STATE: Tom O’Brien bolstered his defensive line in this class with six newcomers, and he said he now has a “whole different breed” of pass-rushers. The Pack lured in defensive end Kenderius Whitehead, the No. 31 end in the country.

VIRGINIA: Offensive line was a concern, as the Hoos will have to replace their starting center and left guard in 2012. Mike London brought in three guards and two tackles to help build the depth up front.

VIRGINIA TECH: It’s no secret the Hokies needed to load up on running backs after back-to-back seasons in which three stars decided to leave early and one backup graduated. Virginia Tech got it done in this class with four running backs, including Drew Harris, ranked No. 19 at his position by RecruitingNation.

WAKE FOREST: The Deacs have to replace four starters on the offensive line, and while it’s unlikely a true freshman will earn a starting job, it’s certainly a place on the depth chart where an outstanding rookie has a chance to make an impact. Wake brought in two tackles and a guard to help their cause.

No. 1 CB picks Miami over Florida

February, 1, 2012
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Florida's national signing day isn't exactly starting the way the coaches would have liked.

After missing out on No. 1 outside linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes), who committed to Georgia, the Gators' coaching staff missed on top cornerback prospect Tracy Howard (Miramar, Fla.), who picked Miami.

Florida was considered the overwhelming favorite to get Howard until he took his official visit to Miami over the weekend. The chatter since then led many to believe that Howard had put the Hurricanes ahead of the Gators. Howard made that a reality when he committed live on ESPNU Wednesday morning.

While Florida does have depth at cornerback and should sign current commit Brian Poole (Bradenton, Fla./Southeast), who is the No. 7 corner prospect, losing Howard had to be a crushing blow for the staff. The Gators' coaches worked extremely hard to get Howard and spent a lot of time recruiting him, but to lose him to a rival at the last minute had to hurt.

Social media and recruiting

January, 30, 2012
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National signing day is two days away. Social media has become an increasingly important tool for coaches and recruits in recent years, especially in light of the Yuri Wright episode earlier this month.

ESPN RecruitingNation attacked this issue the past few days, looking at just how big of a factor social media has become in recruiting.

Our Jake Trotter takes a big-picture look at how Facebook and Twitter are changing recruiting, writing:
The NCAA limits how many phone calls coaches can make to recruits. Text messaging is banned altogether. Social media, meanwhile, is far less regulated.

Coaches can't write on a recruit's Facebook wall or instant message him, but are free to send private messages during contact periods. On Twitter, coaches can't publicly mention recruits, but they are allowed to send direct messages.

As a result, social media messaging has become the en-vogue method of communication between coaches and the players they recruit. Often, recruits even have Facebook and Twitter messages sent directly to their smartphones in the form of a text, one reason why there's an ongoing push to relax the rules on text messaging.

Texas' football program, meanwhile, has partnered with UDiligence, a company whose software provides automated monitoring of the social networking of student-athletes, HornsNation's Max Olson writes.

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