NCF Nation: Trey Edmunds

Duke has become one of the favorites to repeat as Coastal Division champions for several reasons.

Here is one of the biggest: Duke is the only team in the ACC to return its leading passer, rusher and receiver from a year ago. The Blue Devils return their top two leading tacklers, too.

[+] EnlargeJamison Crowder
Ellen Ozier/USA TODAY SportsDuke returns 72 percent of its offense, including leading receiver Jamison Crowder.
In all, Duke returns 72 percent of its offense. Only Virginia returns more in the ACC, though the Hoos are changing quarterbacks and only produced two wins with virtually the same players a season ago. Plus, their offense took a hit in the offseason when leading receiver Jake McGee decided to transfer.

What should give Duke an edge is the veteran experience and leadership it will have with returning quarterback Anthony Boone, receiver Jamison Crowder and rusher Josh Snead -- all seniors. Crowder is the headliner of the group, after catching an ACC-record 108 passes a year ago for 1,360 yards. He needs just 1,153 yards to set the school and ACC career receiving yards record.

Snead will once again split carries in the backfield -- the way Duke has done in recent history -- though some depth does have to be developed at the position. Boone will share some of the load at quarterback as well, but there will be much more placed on his shoulders with the departure of Brandon Connette.

That is where the Blue Devils lose the largest percentage of their offense -- 25 percent out of the 28 percent that is gone. Losing Connette means losing 14 of the team's 28 rushing touchdowns from a year ago, along with 1,212 passing yards and perhaps the most reliable backup quarterback in America. Thomas Sirk is expected to contribute, but it is too early to say what exactly his role will be once the season begins.

Still, Duke is the only team in the league with its offensive nucleus intact, an offense that -- by the way -- ranked No. 3 in the ACC. Florida State nearly does with Jameis Winston and Rashad Greene back. Though the Seminoles lose leading rusher Devonta Freeman, they believe Karlos Williams will be able to step right in and fill those shoes. Several other teams return two among their top passers, rushers or receivers: Pitt (RB James Conner, WR Tyler Boyd), Syracuse (QB Terrel Hunt, WR Ashton Broyld), Virginia Tech (RB Trey Edmunds, WR Willie Byrn) and Louisville (RB Dominique Brown, WR DeVante Parker).

Of these teams, only Syracuse returns 70 percent or more of its offense. Still not quite as much as Duke.

Hyundai Sun Bowl preview

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
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No. 17 UCLA (9-3) and Virginia Tech (8-4) meet on Tuesday in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. Here are a few keys:

Who to watch: Start with UCLA’s dynamic duo at linebacker, senior Anthony Barr and freshman Myles Jack. Barr benefited from turning down a chance at the NFL a year ago, developing into one of the nation’s best at his position. Jack needed no such time. He also played running back for the final four games of the year, rushing for four touchdowns as he earned the Pac-12’s offensive and defensive rookie of the year honors. For Virginia Tech, the best chance to move the football comes through the air, but talented quarterback Logan Thomas must avoid interceptions. He threw 13 this season in 12 games.

What to watch: Virginia Tech is shorthanded without its leading rusher, Trey Edmunds, who suffered a broken leg in the season finale, a 16-6 win over Virginia. The Hokies struggled to run the ball with Edmunds, so what happens without him? On defense, top cornerback Kyle Fuller is likely out with a groin injury for Tech. Fellow corner Antone Exum will sit with an ankle injury. Against a pair of freshmen in coverage, UCLA quarterback Brett Hundley could have a big day throwing to Shaquelle Evans and Devin Fuller.

Why to watch: It’s two name-brand programs in El Paso, but in what direction are these programs headed? The Bruins, under second-year coach Jim Mora, are trending up regardless of the outcome on Tuesday as they seek a 10-win season for the first time since 2005. The Hokies lost three of their final five games this season after struggling to a 7-6 finish a year ago under 27th-year coach Frank Beamer.

Prediction: UCLA 28, Virginia Tech 14. The Hokies don’t have enough firepower to get into a scoring duel with UCLA, so look for the bowl-savvy Beamer to search for a few nontraditional ways to even this matchup. But expect the Bruins and Hundley to shake free in the second half.
The ACC has a record 11 teams playing in bowl games this season, and that means plenty of showcase opportunities for the league’s stars. But dig into the matchups and five players have the most on the line as the ACC looks to build its résumé during bowl season.

Terrel Hunt, QB, Syracuse
Texas Bowl (Dec. 27 vs. Minnesota)

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
AP Photo/John BazemoreVirginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas has thrown 16 touchdown passes and been intercepted 13 times this season. Can he finish his career with a bowl win?
With a new quarterback and a new coach, it was clear this would be a year of transition for Syracuse, but the Orange weathered the storm of an 0-2 start to reach a bowl game for the third time in four years. The turning point came in Week 3 when Hunt took over for a struggling Drew Allen at quarterback. Hunt accounted for eight TDs against Wagner and Tulane, but the rigors of the ACC proved more difficult. In conference games, Hunt completed just 57 percent of his throws, with just three touchdowns to go with eight interceptions. But his last two games (a one-point loss to Pitt and a 34-31 win over BC) were his best (66 percent completion, 3 TDs, 1 INT), and the Orange hope that growth will continue into the bowl game against Minnesota. Hunt is a dangerous runner, but as Syracuse looks to finish strong and build momentum toward 2014, his progress as a passer offers ample reason for optimism.

Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
AdvoCare V100 Bowl (Dec. 31 vs. Arizona)

Williams will get another chance to leave a final impression. The senior left the Eagles' regular-season finale at Syracuse, a game they ended up losing, with a shoulder injury, but he is expected to be fine by the time his team takes the field in Shreveport, La. The early exit -- nine carries for 29 yards -- likely cost him whatever extra votes he could have picked up in the Heisman Trophy race, but now he'll have a chance to further improve his draft stock. Williams has been all over the place in the past few weeks -- from a media tour in Bristol, Conn., to awards shows in Orlando, Fla., and New York. And he might meet his match when facing the Wildcats. Their star running back, Ka'Deem Carey, is the only player in the nation who averages more carries per game (29.27 to 27.42).

Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech
Hyundai Sun Bowl (Dec. 31 vs. No. 17 UCLA)

The Hokies need to score more than usual if they are to upset the Bruins, who rank 23rd nationally in points per game (36.5). The defense has been the backbone of Virginia Tech, ranking fourth in total defense and eighth in scoring D, but it will need help. Enter Thomas, the talented senior who has failed to meet many outside expectations the past two seasons. The victim of shoddy receiver play earlier this fall, Thomas delivered his best performance in what was arguably his team's most important ACC game, completing 25 of 31 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns last month at Miami. He will need better protection up front in his collegiate finale -- sacked 11 times in the last two games -- and will probably shoulder a bigger burden with his legs, as leading rusher Trey Edmunds suffered a broken right tibia in the regular-season finale.

Tajh Boyd, QB, Clemson
Discover Orange Bowl (Jan. 3 vs. No. 7 Ohio State)

This is it for the Tigers' signal-caller, who has rewritten a large portion of the ACC record book but, as the narrative goes, has failed to deliver in the big games. Boyd's two worst showings this season came in Clemson's two losses: versus Florida State and at South Carolina. He is just 1-5 against those schools as a starter, despite owning a remarkable 127 total career touchdowns to his name. And he returns to the Orange Bowl, where he fared OK two years ago (282 total yards, 2 TDs, 3 TOs) but was completely upstaged by West Virginia's offensive explosion. Now he gets one more shot to deliver a strong performance against a big-time opponent in the Buckeyes, whom he passed on in favor of Clemson while coming out of high school.

Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
VIZIO BCS National Championship (Jan. 6 vs. No. 2 Auburn)

If Jameis Winston has been the face of Florida State’s team all season, Smith has been its heart. The senior linebacker is the Seminoles' emotional leader, the biggest talker on the practice field and on game day. While teammates laud his off-the-field exploits, Smith's role on the field against Auburn will be far more significant. The Tigers will want to run the ball early and often, and Smith will be at the forefront of FSU’s effort to slow them down. For two years, Smith platooned at middle linebacker because he was far more effective against the pass than the run, but he has blossomed this season, leading Florida State with 75 tackles, including 9.5 for a loss. With Timmy Jernigan creating havoc up front, Smith has snuffed out runners routinely, and Florida State’s first-team defense hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season. Of course, Auburn has more rushing touchdowns than any team in the country, so the challenge for Smith and the Seminoles defense will be far bigger in Pasadena than anything they’ve seen so far.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
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The moment is finally here. The season kicks off tonight, as two ACC teams take the gridiron and mark the return of college football. Here is what to keep an eye on this entire weekend as all 14 teams get back in action.

1. Battle in the trenches in Columbia, S.C. North Carolina will have three new starters on its offensive line Thursday night against No. 6 South Carolina, including two redshirt freshmen. And the Tar Heels will be going up against preseason Heisman contender Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks' lethal defensive line. Don't overlook fellow end Chaz Sutton, either.

2. Conference debuts. Pitt and Syracuse play their first games as ACC schools after exiting the former Big East, which the Orange won a four-way share of in 2012. Both schools have the chance to make big opening statements, as the Panthers host defending conference champion Florida State on Labor Day and Syracuse faces a Penn State squad looking to build off Bill O'Brien's successful first year with the program.

[+] EnlargeSteve Addazio
John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe/Getty ImagesBoston College's Steve Addazio is one of the conference's new coaches this season.
3. Trio of first-year coaches. New BC coach Steve Addazio hosts Villanova, a familiar opponent from his Temple days. Dave Doeren and NC State host Louisiana Tech, which breaks in a new coach of its own in Skip Holtz after Sonny Dykes left for Cal following a 9-3 season. And Syracuse coach Scott Shafer debuts against Penn State in East Rutherford, N.J.

4. QB choices in Jersey and Raleigh. Two of those new coaches also will be unveiling their starting quarterback choices for the first time, as Shafer sends out either Terrel Hunt or Drew Allen and Doeren picks Pete Thomas or Brandon Mitchell. The Orange will be facing a Penn State team that carries the same surprise in its quarterback race between Christian Hackenberg and Tyler Ferguson.

5. ... Speaking of new starting QBs. Virginia's David Watford will make his first career start against BYU, Duke's Anthony Boone takes over the job from Sean Renfree against NC Central, and Florida State and Pitt will both start new signal-callers when they square off on Labor Day, with Jameis Winston running the Seminoles' offense and Tom Savage handling duties for the Panthers.

6. Pitt's running backs. Ray Graham is gone. Rushel Shell transferred to West Virginia. And Isaac Bennett and James Conner have dealt with injuries in camp. Coach Paul Chryst isn't sure how things will shake out Monday, but we likely will see Rachid Ibrahim and Malcolm Crockett get at least some action given the backfield situation.

7. FSU's defensive backs. Are too many bodies a good thing? Nick Waisome and Terrence Brooks started all 14 games last season for the nation's No. 1 pass defense. The crowd also includes preseason All-American Lamarcus Joyner, reigning ACC defensive rookie of the year Ronald Darby, former five-star prospect Karlos Williams and several other strong athletes. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has his work cut out for him, although probably not as much as new Pitt quarterback Tom Savage does.

8. Virginia Tech's backfield. Coach Frank Beamer wasn't kidding when he said the Hokies went from having too many running backs to not enough. Michael Holmes was kicked off the team in July, Joel Caleb was suspended this month for the opener against Alabama, Tony Gregory suffered a career-ending ACL tear and J.C. Coleman's status for Saturday is up in the air because of two ankle sprains. Redshirt freshmen Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus are the Hokies' next options after Coleman.

9. "Smoke." Taquan Mizzell has earned that nickname despite having never taken the college field. ESPN's No. 9 running back prospect from the class of 2013 has drawn plenty of buzz in Virginia's camp, and he will get a stiff first test against BYU's defense.

10. ACC vs. SEC. What, you really thought we'd forget this one? Three ACC teams face off against squads from the big, bad SEC, perhaps none with as steep a challenge as Virginia Tech's against Alabama. UNC kicks things off Thursday at South Carolina, and No. 8 Clemson hosts No. 5 Georgia on Saturday night in the headliner of Week 1. The ACC went 1-1 against the SEC in last year's weekend openers, with NC State falling to Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff the night before Clemson topped Auburn in the Georgia Dome.

Virginia Tech’s running game has taken yet another hit, as J.C. Coleman, one of the top two running backs on the team, has sprained both ankles, and Tony Gregory has suffered a career-ending torn ACL, the school announced on Thursday. In early July, running back Michael Holmes was kicked off the team for an off-field incident, and Joel Caleb was suspended earlier this month for the season opener against Alabama for a violation of team rules.

Coleman’s injury could leave redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds as the lead candidate to carry the load against Alabama.

“J.C. has a left high ankle sprain and a right regular ankle sprain,” Virginia Tech head athletic trainer Mike Goforth said in a prepared statement. “We’re hoping to get him back in less than two weeks, but that’s very optimistic. We think he’ll be ready and back in time for the Alabama game. He’s working hard to get back as soon as he can.”

Gregory, a redshirt senior, was the veteran of the group, but had a career plagued by injuries, including the first time he tore his left ACL, in 2010. He also missed the majority of spring practices because of a rib injury.

“He will evaluate his options over the next couple of days,” Goforth said, “but his career at Virginia Tech is effectively over.”

Heading into summer camp, the staff felt like Coleman and Edmunds were their top two options at running back. Edmunds was close to playing last fall, but the coaches chose to redshirt him. Coleman ended last season as the Hokies’ starting tailback, and impressed the staff as a blocker. His 21 receptions were the fourth-highest on the team. He started six games last year and was second on the team in carries (109) and rushing yards (492), and he scored two touchdowns.

“J.C. has continued to improve, Trey looks smoother and more natural than he did at tailback in the spring,” running backs coach Shane Beamer told ESPN.com in a recent interview. “He’s a bigger back. He’s 218 pounds, and he can run. He’s explosive. I’m excited about him. The key is finding that third guy.”

It could be Caleb, who moved from wide receiver this past spring to help the depth at the position.

“I think we’ve found a spot for him,” Beamer said. “He’ll miss the first game, but we’re high on him. He’s a bigger back, similar to Trey, and he was a high school back. He’s good with the ball in his hands. He was slow coming around at receiver, but I think he’ll have a chance to help us at tailback.”

Additional injury updates from Goforth:
Offensive lineman Mark Shuman: “Mark Shuman has a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. We are looking to do surgery on him early next week. We’ll be talking to his parents tonight and getting a plan together. It’s the same knee he’s had scoped before. He’s actually torn the meniscus before in a different location. It’s a 4-to-6 week recovery period and we expect him back full.”

Outside linebacker Ronny Vandyke: “Ronny needs surgery on his right shoulder. We are waiting to talk to his mom to get a surgical plan, but it will keep him out 6-to8 months, so he will miss the remainder of the season and will be probable for spring ball.”

Offensive lineman Augie Conte: “Augie has an ankle sprain in his left ankle. It shouldn’t take long at all. I don’t know if he’ll scrimmage Saturday, but if he doesn’t scrimmage Saturday, there’s no reason he can’t be back full on Monday.”
Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said there are “definitely two sides to the story” regarding the recent arrest of running back Michael Holmes.

Holmes has had no contact with the coaches or the football team following his suspension after he was charged with a felony for his alleged involvement in a fight. Holmes tweeted on Wednesday that he would "never do some things said."

“You certainly don’t get yourself put in those situations, but I think we need to let it play out,” Beamer said. “There’s definitely two sides to the story on this one.”

Should he return to the team, Holmes finished the spring as the No. 2 running back on the roster, Beamer said.

Trey Edmunds has a chance to be right in the mix," Beamer said. "I think he is. There’s no question he’s in the mix. We’ll see where Michael Holmes’ situation goes. I think there are two sides to that. That’s to be decided where that is.

“[Chris] Mangus and [J.C.] Coleman in certain packages and Tony Gregory, when he gets back, in certain roles. But right now, certainly the top three as far as tailbacks are Edmunds, Holmes and Coleman.”

Checking in with Shane Beamer

March, 28, 2013
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Virginia Tech began spring practices on Wednesday, and one of the team’s biggest priorities will be improving the run game. Virginia Tech, usually one of the most consistent rushing teams in the ACC, ranked No. 79 in the country in rushing offense at 145.85 yards per game. That’s the worst finish in their ground game since the Hokies ranked No. 82 in the country in 2007.

I spoke with running backs coach Shane Beamer recently to get his take on the group heading into spring ball, and the changes that were made this offseason. Here are the highlights of our conversation:

How much better do you think you guys can be offensively, specifically in the running game?

[+] EnlargeShane Beamer
Lee Coleman/Icon SMIVirginia Tech assistant Shane Beamer likes the depth the Hokies have at running back this season.
Shane Beamer: I hope we can be a lot better. We invested a lot of time in it. With three new coaches coming in, there’s new ways of doing things, and new ideas, and it’s been good. It’s been good for my dad as well, not so much offensive ideas, but philosophical ideas -- things that Stanford did that Aaron has been able to talk to us about. Things that Auburn and Florida and all of the different places Scot and Jeff have been, so that part has been really good. We always invest a lot of time in the run game, and we certainly will this spring. We’ll be a year older on our offensive line. We had a lot of new parts in there last year and couldn’t stay healthy. It’s a group that’s got some experience coming back, and all of those running backs are a year older, and we’re adding some new guys to the mix as well. It’s certainly a point of emphasis for us and something we take pride in.

I don’t feel like I did a good job of coaching the running backs last year. I take that personally, the way we performed. I know the tradition of running back play here at Virginia Tech. To not be able to run the ball as well as we wanted to last year was extremely disappointing. We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.

How hard was it last year as a staff? You guys are so used to 10-win seasons.

SB: It was hard. I think it was a good wake-up call for a lot of people that, No. 1, to win 10 games or more eight years in a row is just insane. You see how hard it is to win A game, period, but to be consistent and do it eight years in a row, 10 or more is just amazing. It puts that in perspective. I know it does for me, because you find out last year how hard winning is with the parity there is in college football now. We as coaches, our players -- some programs you go there to compete for bowl games and things like that. When you come to Virginia Tech, you come to compete for championships, period. To not be in that mix last year was really disappointing and hard for all of us, but at the same time, to be sitting there at 4-6 and losing at halftime up at Boston College, to come back and win that game and beat your rival for the ninth year in a row and win your bowl game, we took a lot of pride in that, and the kids we have in our program and the way we finished.

Tell me more about the running back position. What are you looking at going into spring?

SB: No. 1, we never could settle on one last year, and I blame myself for not saying these are our guys and going for it. It’s hard. I knew during the season and going into the season it’s hard to play four. I’m realizing more now, but we really never felt like anyone separated themselves, and really did feel like different guys could bring something different to the table with different packages. A lot of the stuff we did last year was good, getting guys on the field at different times or at the same time, but in football you’ve got to be able to get your two main guys and have some packages for a couple other guys. That’s what I hope we’re able to do going forward. I’m hopeful two or three guys will separate themselves and it will be obvious that these are the guys. We need to stay healthy. We were banged up a bit last year. Tony Gregory was a guy I thought was getting ready to turn the corner and maybe be that guy, and then he got hurt going into the Cincinnati game and missed a few weeks. Just to be more consistent, be able to stay healthy, and get back to running the football and being what Virginia Tech’s about. The thing I like is we have great competition. Last year I felt like we had four guys we could win football games with. I think we have even more than that this year, I really do. Just watching the way they’ve worked in the offseason and their attitudes right now. They’re motivated, they’re hungry. It’s a group of four or five guys this year when you add Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus to the mix, you’re going to have great competition.

What’s your depth chart look like heading into spring ball?

SB: Good question. Right now we kind of based it on the way the season finished last year, so J.C. Coleman is listed as the starter right now, and he’s up there with Michael Holmes and Tony Gregory just because they’re the ones who finished the season last year. And then Trey Edmunds and Chris Mangus are after them because they redshirted last year and haven’t played, but we’re going to compete every day and the depth chart at this point is certainly just for organizational purposes, and who’s out there with which group, but all of those guys are going to get opportunities to show what they can do. The thing we’ve stressed to them is it’s not going to be a lot of opportunities because we’ve got quite a few guys we’re repping during spring practices. You’ve got 15 practices to really show what you can do, show what you’re about, and we’re going to really nail this thing down after spring practice. But based on the way they’ve worked in the weight room with coach Gentry the last couple of months, and watching them the last couple of mornings in our 6 a.m. workouts, they’re motivated. There’s going to be great competition.

What specifically do they need to get better at?

SB: To be honest, they all have ability. They just need experience. I know it sounds simple, but that’s really the case. Tony hasn’t played a lot because he hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Michael, last year was his first year of playing. J.C. was a true freshman last year. At the running back position, I don’t think I was fair to Michael Holmes. Last year the most he carried the ball in one game was 12 times or something like that. Michael needs to carry the ball 15 or 25 times to really get into the flow. I didn’t [give] Michael and all those guys a great opportunity to do that last year because of the way we rotated them. I think if they get more reps and have more carries, the game will slow down for them and they’ll be better. I saw that a little bit with J.C. as the year went on. That’s what I want to see, just be more consistent and have an attitude.
Maybe this will be the year Virginia Tech finds somebody to replace 2012 first-round NFL draft pick David Wilson at running back.

Last year, the Hokies tried to compensate for the loss of their 2011 leading rusher, but the by-committee approach wasn’t productive enough, and none of the young backs truly separated themselves. Virginia Tech, usually one of the most consistent rushing teams in the ACC, ranked No. 79 in the country in rushing offense at 145.85 yards per game. That’s the worst finish in their ground game since the Hokies ranked No. 82 in the country in 2007.

[+] EnlargeVirginia Tech's J.C. Coleman
Peter Casey/US PRESSWIREJ.C. Coleman (4) was the second-leading rusher on the team last season, behind quarterback Logan Thomas.
It didn’t help that the offensive line was a weak link, but there will be a focus on the running backs this spring as the Hokies try to get their running game back to where it used to be during the days of Wilson, Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.

"If we run the ball better, I think it makes your throws easier," coach Frank Beamer said, "and that's the main focus here."

The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from, but Beamer will be looking for one or two to emerge as the go-to players, starting this spring.

“A couple of guys are going to get the majority of carries and then you have another guy you feel comfortable with,” Beamer said. “I think getting that list down and looking if there’s a need somewhere else, and a guy is not going to figure in at tailback, maybe we make some moves in that regards. Those are things that, as we get into spring practice, we’ll see. But all of the running backs we’ve got there, we sure want to give them an opportunity and see who comes out on top.”

Here’s a look at the position heading into the spring:

FRONT-RUNNERS

J.C. Coleman: He played in every game last season and had six starts. He was second on the team in carries (109) and rushing yards (492) and scored two touchdowns. He also caught 21 passes for 132 yards and a touchdown.

Michael Holmes: He started five games and played in 11 last season. He carried the ball 70 times for 309 yards and four touchdowns.

Tony Gregory: The redshirt senior is the veteran of the group, but he only started two games last season. He had 64 carries for 311 yards and a touchdown in 2012.

CAN MAKE THEIR MARK

Trey Edmunds: He’s a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a collegiate snap. As a recruit, Edmunds was ranked the No. 68 “athlete” in the country, the No. 83 player in his region and the No. 17 player in the state by ESPN's RecruitingNation.

Chris Mangus: He also redshirted last season and has no collegiate game experience. As a high school senior in Raleigh, N.C., Mangus rushed for 1,658 yards and 28 touchdowns, and he averaged 150.7 rushing yards a game.

Weekend rewind: Scrimmage reports

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
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Not every school in the ACC gives scrimmage reports, but for those that do, we will gladly post the highlights. Here's a look back at what happened in the ACC this weekend, according to each school's report:

Boston College

Offensive highlights: Junior receiver Alex Amidon had seven catches for 84 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception, in the situational scrimmage Sunday. The scrimmage featured six end-of-half/fourth-quarter situations with limited time on the clock and a limited number of timeouts. Chase Rettig went 18-of-32 for 168 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

Defensive highlights: Justin Simmons had two interceptions off second-team quarterback Josh Bordner. Manuel Asprilla intercepted Rettig at the goal line, and linebacker Nick Clancy intercepted a Rettig pass that was deflected by Mehdi Abdesmad a few plays later.

Special teams: Gerald Levano punted four times and averaged nearly 48 yards per punt. His first punt landed at the 2-yard line, while his second attempt went 60 yards. Kicker Nate Freese made his only field goal attempt, from 40 yards, and is now 6-for-6 on field goal attempts in the preseason.

Quotable: “We got a lot of nice young guys on this football team, and if they come through and play well, good things can happen, and Justin [Simmons] is one of them,” coach Frank Spaziani said. “He’s as advertised. We did our homework and everything that you do on kids. He’s a good prospect.”

Clemson

Offensive highlights: Tajh Boyd threw for 218 yards and three touchdowns Saturday, while Martavis Bryant had four catches for 97 yards and had two touchdowns. Boyd was 13-of-22 for 218 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. Backup Cole Stoudt went 4-of-9 for 61 yards and led a touchdown drive on his first possession. Andre Ellington had an 8-yard touchdown run, while Roderick McDowell led all running backs for a second straight scrimmage with 65 yards on four carries.

Defensive highlights: Coach Dabo Swinney praised the defensive line, where Josh Watson, Grady Jarrett and DeShawn Williams made plays. Xavier Brewer made a brilliant breakup of a long pass and added five tackles. Jonathan Meeks added an interception. Tony Steward made a big play with a 25-yard interception return.

Special teams: Williams had a blocked a field goal. Backup kicker Spence Benton made a 53-yard kick that could have been good from 63 yards.

Quotable: “We have two weeks to get dialed in,” Swinney said. “We are going to turn the page on Monday after our last two-a-day (practices) and start getting ready for Auburn. We will have our guys penciled in on where they need to be.”

Duke

Offensive highlights: Quarterback Brandon Connette caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Sean Renfree and ran for another in a 95-snap, controlled scrimmage Friday night at Wallace Wade Stadium. Renfree went 14-of-21 for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Freshman Shaquille Powell had eight carries for 30 yards, while Jela Duncan had 28 yards on nine attempts. Garrett Patterson, who moved from defensive back to receiver this week during practice, had five receptions for 80 yards.

Defensive highlights: Cornerbacks Lee Butler and Tony Foster each had interceptions while linebacker Deion Williams recovered one fumble. Freshman defensive end Michael Mann had one sack and one forced fumble.

Special teams highlights: Freshman kicker Ross Martin made field goals of 43 and 48 yards and converted his only extra-point attempt.

Georgia Tech

Offensive highlights: Broderick Snoddy had a 70-yard touchdown run on the second series, while quarterback Vad Lee threw two touchdowns to A-back B.J. Bostic. Lee later added a touchdown run as he continues to work at quarterback and A-back. Synjyn Days and freshman Justin Thomas also took snaps at quarterback, and each led scoring drives.

Defensive highlights: Nick Menocal had an interception he nearly returned for a touchdown. Jimmie Kitchen recovered a fumble, while defensive lineman Anthony Williams had two sacks.

Special teams highlights: Justin Moore had a 29-yard field goal, while David Scully made a 31-yard field goal and all five of his extra-point attempts. There was no punting on Saturday.

Quotable: “The guys are ready to play someone else,” quarterback Tevin Washington said. “We’ve been hitting each other for two weeks and all summer doing drills against each other. Guys are just ready to go and get some new faces in front of us.”

Maryland

Freshman Stefon Diggs continued to impress, as he had three first-half touchdowns -- a 68-yard punt return, a 98-yard kickoff return and an 11-yard reception. Quarterback Perry Hills ran the first-team offense and led Maryland to scores on three of his five drives.

On the opening drive, Hills took the Terps on an 18-play, 76-yard touchdown drive, He went 5-of-6 for 27 yards on the drive and also rushed for 36 yards, including a 16-yard touchdown run.

"I thought Perry [Hills] had a good day," coach Randy Edsall said. "I thought he did some good things. Of course there's going to be plenty of things that he could learn from, and get better, but I think that we didn't have any issues with delay of game, really didn't have any false starts. When you talk about the mechanics and the operation of the offense I thought he handled it really well."

Miami

The Hurricanes' scrimmage Saturday was cut short in the middle of the second quarter because of lightning in the area. Among the highlights in the abbreviated scrimmage: Mike James and Duke Johnson each had touchdown runs, and Kelvin Cain recorded a sack in the end zone for a safety.

Virginia Tech

Offensive highlights: Logan Thomas went 8-of-15 for 112 yards and a score, while backup Mark Leal went 6-of-16 for 111 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. Kevin Asante led all receivers with four catches for 79 yards, while Corey Fuller caught three passes for 68 yards. The Hokies also rushed for 174 yards. J.C. Coleman played with a broken hand and had 54 yards -- 52 coming on one run -- and Trey Edmunds added 45. Tony Gregory rushed for 36 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown run. Projected starter Michael Holmes had three carries for 21 yards.

Defensive highlights: The projected first-team defense allowed a little more than 120 yards in four series (24 plays) and gave up just two field goals. Walk-on Zach Snell had six tackles, while Ronny Vandyke had five. Desmond Frye and Antone Exum each recorded four. The defense had five total sacks and Bruce Taylor had an interception.

Special teams highlights: Cody Journell made two field goals and missed one, while Brooks Abbott made one and had a 37-yarder blocked by Kyle Fuller.

Quotable: “I thought it was one of the more productive offensive first scrimmages we’ve had around here,” coach Frank Beamer said. “I think we did some good things, and I think we’ll see some things we can improve. Overall, I think the effort was good. I always say this, but it’s hard to come out pleased because if the offense makes plays, you’re worried about your defense. If the defense makes plays, you’re worried about your offense. Overall, I thought it was a good first scrimmage.”
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- There was a point in mid-September last year when Georgia Tech -- yes, that offense -- was leading the country in passing efficiency.

It turned out to be a fleeting moment.

[+] EnlargePaul Johnson
Kevin Liles/US PresswirePaul Johnson still hasn't settled on who will replace receiver Stephen Hill, who bolted early for the NFL.
Quarterback Tevin Washington was much more efficient in the first half of the 2011 season than he was in the second, and that’s something coach Paul Johnson is looking to improve upon this fall. He’ll have to do it, though, without leading receiver Stephen Hill, who left early for the NFL draft.

The Jackets are in good company.

As Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech prepare to face each other on Labor Day in their respective season openers, both do so having to fill big shoes on offense from a player who left early for the NFL. In Atlanta, Johnson is still unsure who will start at receiver. In Blacksburg, coach Frank Beamer is looking for two or three running backs to help compensate for the loss of 2011 ACC Player of the Year David Wilson. Both coaches said this week that a handful of young and talented players are waiting in the wings, but their lack of game experience is a concern.

“To me, we’ve got to get in there and kind of narrow it down how many we’re going to work with,” Beamer said. “But the way I feel about the position, we’ve got a lot of talent, it just hasn’t played very much. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but the other side of it is, the further you get away from the football, the more you can use your talent and get in there and play quickly. At tailback, wide receiver, it’s easier than, say, an offensive lineman. But there are just question marks there.”

Beamer singled out redshirt freshman Michael Holmes as the most likely answer at this point, and he also mentioned Trey Edmunds, true freshman J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory (who sat out this spring with a knee injury), and true freshman Chris Mangus.

“Michael Holmes is kind of like Logan Thomas last year,” Beamer said. “He hasn’t done it, but you think he’s going to be OK. That’s the way I feel with Michael Holmes. I think he has a chance to be very good. Guys have done it in high school and are used to carrying it and used to scoring. Usually that carries over.”

Johnson is hoping the same applies to his wide receivers. Hill was Georgia Tech’s big-play threat with 28 catches for 820 yards and five touchdowns. He led the nation with 29.3 yards per catch. Johnson mentioned sophomores Jeff Green and Darren Waller, who both played last year as true freshmen. Neither had a catch, but both contributed on special teams. Chris Jackson, a former Alabama transfer, will enter fall camp as the likely starter, but junior Jeremy Moore is also an option after missing all of 2010 with an injury and playing sparingly last year.

If the Jackets are going to be a better team in 2012, they must be more effective the few times they do decide to throw it.

“I think we just have to be more consistent and keep people healthy,” Johnson said. “At one point Tevin lost a little confidence. Hopefully being a senior that won’t happen, and quite honestly, the competition got better. We’ve got to be able to finish and maintain that, no matter who you play.”

This year, it starts with Virginia Tech in what will be one of the most important games of the season for both teams.

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