NCF Nation: Vic Hall

What to watch in the ACC this spring

February, 15, 2010
Here's a breakdown of three issues facing each program heading into the spring:


Spring practice starts: March 18

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• How linebacker Mark Herzlich progresses. Herzlich, who was diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma cancer last May, has been going through winter conditioning with his teammates, and he plans on participating in spring drills. How quickly he regains his form will be worth watching, as he and sophomore Luke Kuechly could give the Eagles one of the most formidable linebacking corps.

• The quarterback battle. After one season, Dave Shinskie has the most experience on the roster, but he’ll get some competition from Josh Bordner and Chase Rettig, two early enrollees. There were times last season when Shinskie looked like the future of the position and there were others when he looked like any other freshman.

• Defensive linemen. For the second straight year, BC is looking for some stability up front. The Eagles have to replace left tackle Austin Giles and defensive end Jim Ramella. They return Kaleb Ramsey, Giles’ backup, and Brad Newman, Ramella’s reserve, but some young faces are likely to be seen in the rotation.


Spring practice starts: March 7

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Life without C.J. Spiller officially begins. The backs behind him had a pretty good year, so there’s no need for full panic mode. Jamie Harper and Andre Ellington actually combined for a higher yards per carry average (6.1 to 5.6 yards). Clemson will also be looking to replace Spiller’s lost kickoff return yardage. The Tigers had a 13-yard advantage in average starting field position, as their start was their own 37-yard line compared to opponents’ 24-yard line. Ellington is a candidate in the return game.

• Kyle Parker’s batting average. No, really. How well Parker does this spring with the baseball team will help determine whether he remains Clemson’s quarterback or turns to the MLB draft. He didn’t have a great 2009 season, but he was still the fastest player to 25 home runs in school history. It remains to be seen this spring if he’ll become a high enough draft choice to give up college football.

• Secondary shuffling. It seems like eons ago since Crezdon Butler and Chris Chancellor weren’t the Tigers’ starting corners, as Butler started 40 straight games and Chancellor started 42. Butler finished his career second in school history in interception return yards. Now it’s time for a new duo. Will Marcus Gilchrist move to corner, which he’s capable of doing? Might Rashard Hall move to safety with DeAndre McDaniel?


Spring practice starts: Feb. 14

Spring game: March 27

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Somebody has to take over for the graduated Thaddeus Lewis, but his backup – Sean Renfree – will miss the spring with a torn ACL. Redshirt freshman Sean Schroeder should be heavily in the mix to be the starter, pending Renfree’s recovery.

• Defensive line makeover. It’s wide open. Charlie Hatcher is entrenched at nose guard, but it’s really anyone’s game. The staff might move redshirt senior Wesley Oglesby, who played the majority of his career at defensive end, inside. Other options are defensive tackle Sydney Sarmiento, a redshirt freshman, and Curtis Hazelton, who played sparingly last season.

• Johnny Williams’ move from wide receiver to cornerback. He had 31 catches in 2009 – the fourth-best on the team. Now they need his help in the defensive backfield. Duke will lose starter Leon Wright and his 10 career interceptions, and the pass defense, which allowed 215.75 yards per game, could use a boost.


Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Christian Ponder’s return from shoulder surgery. Ponder is expected to practice this spring, though it could be on a limited basis, at least early. He’s ahead of schedule, but the coaches won’t subject him to any risks now. Yes, E.J. Manuel is talented and played well at the end of the season, but make no mistake – Ponder is FSU’s starter and a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

• The defense under first-year coordinator Mark Stoops. His secondary, in particular, will be interesting to watch, as will how quickly he can help the front seven generate a pass rush and plug the middle. Stoops has been a secondary coach, and the Noles lost three starters there. The fourth, Ochuko Jenije, could be pushed to retain his job.

• New faces, new opportunities. In addition to the fab freshmen who are coming in, FSU has a handful of unfamiliar players already on the roster who played sparingly or not at all. We'll see how they fit in this spring. RS-So DT Anthony McCloud and RS-So RB Debrale Smiley are both junior college transfers and former teammates. Physically, freshman linebacker Jeff Luc is already a man, but how quickly can he mature on the field? Two young wide receivers worth watching are Rodney Smith and Willie Haulstead.


Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The defensive transformation. The Jackets will switch from the 4-3 to the 3-4 under first-year coordinator Al Groh. In addition to learning the new scheme, the staff has to figure out who goes where. Linebackers might play defensive end and vice versa, safeties might play outside linebacker. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this team lines up in the spring.

• The replacements. From Georgia Tech’s coaching staff to the new faces who will be tasked with filling in for the Fab Four -- Jonathan Dwyer, Derrick Morgan, Morgan Burnett and Demaryius Thomas -- the Jackets will need some “Hello My Name Is” tags this spring.

• The offensive line. Three offensive linemen redshirted who could start, and Georgia Tech might need them to, especially if guard Joseph Gilbert decides to transfer to pursue his MBA. The Jackets lose two starters on the offensive line, and Gilbert, who graduates this spring, would be a third if he leaves. Center Sean Bedford and tackle Austin Barrick return as seniors.


Spring practice starts: March 23

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. Chris Turner has graduated, leaving Jamarr Robinson the top option going into the spring, but he has limited experience. The staff liked what he did when Turner was injured, but Danny O’Brien, Miami (Ohio) transfer Clay Belton and C.J. Brown will all be given an opportunity. Look for O’Brien to start the spring at No. 2 on the depth chart.

• Cornerback: Cameron Chism is the only returning starter in the secondary, but right now the staff has fewer concerns about the safeties. Maryland will have to find some bodies at corner, and Dexter McDougle, who redshirted as a true freshman last year, is one option. Michael Carter and Trenton Hughes, who was the third corner last year, are also among a handful of candidates.

• The offensive line. Losing Bruce Campbell to the NFL hurt, but the Terps also lost starter Phil Costa. Justin Gilbert, a redshirt sophomore, could inherit Campbell’s job. And there’s always Mr. Versatility -- Paul Pinegar. He has helped the Terps at both tackle spots and left guard, and this spring he’ll likely be given a shot at center.


Spring practice starts: Feb. 23

Spring game: March 27 (tentative)

What to watch:

• Tight end/offensive line: Jimmy Graham is gone, and the Canes don’t return any tight ends with any experience other than Richard Gordon, who was injured the majority of last season. Miami signed four tight ends in this recruiting class, but none of them were early enrollees. Miami has to replace three starters up front, including both tackles and the center.

• How the two young quarterbacks perform: The health of Jacory Harris was precious last year, as he had nobody behind him with any experience after the transfers of Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith. The depth has improved a bit with A.J. Highsmith, who played sparingly last year, and Stephen Morris, one of the early enrollees.

• Upgrade on the d-line? Progress up front began with the hire of Rick Petri as defensive line coach, and it’s up to Petri to help the Canes become better pass rushers. Miami will depend upon its two mainstays -- Allen Bailey and Josh Holmes. The right end position was a group effort last year, and Miami has to replace Joe Joseph and Eric Moncur.


Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback T.J. Yates. It’s his job to lose, and the coaching staff still has confidence in him, but Bryn Renner is waiting in the wings, and Braden Hanson will also be given an opportunity. The staff is looking for the offense to improve its passing efficiency and cut down on turnovers.

• The offensive line. It was a patchwork effort in 2009, thanks to injuries and inexperience, and will be a major key in how much UNC improves offensively this year. The Heels have to replace two starters, and Jonathan Cooper is likely to move from guard to center, and right guard Alan Pelc will miss spring drills while recovering from shoulder surgery.

• Defensive line tweaks. There aren’t many questions on a defense that should be one of the best in the country, but somebody has to replace Cam Thomas and defensive end E.J. Wilson. Tydreke Powell is the frontrunner to take over at defensive tackle and Quinton Coples at defensive end. Both were backups last year at their respective positions.


Spring practice starts: March 9

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• Backup quarterback Mike Glennon. Russell Wilson is the starter, but he’s going to be playing baseball all spring. Keep an eye on his backup to see if Glennon can make it any more of a competition in Wilson’s absence.

• Chris Ward at punter. No, it’s not usually, the highlight of the spring, but in this case, it’s necessary. Ward is it -- he’s their only option right now, and it’s a position the Pack struggled with last year. Ward was expected to be the starter last season, but he was inconsistent. He’s definitely got the talent to be the guy.

• The recovery of linebacker Nate Irving. After being severely injured in a one-car crash last summer, Irving is hopeful he can go through spring drills. He has been lifting with the team and running with the sports medicine staff, but it’s still uncertain how limited his contact will be.


Spring practice starts: March 15

Spring game: April 10

What to watch:

• Quarterback competition. Marc Verica is the only one with any experience, and first-year offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor hasn’t been in Charlottesville long enough to evaluate any of the candidates. That’s what the spring is for, and true freshman Michael Strauss is the lone incoming quarterback on campus, so he’ll have a head start on the playbook. Of the four quarterbacks Virginia signed in this year’s class, Strauss is the only one listed as a true quarterback. The Cavs also have Ross Metheny, who redshirted last year, and Riko Smalls, who redshirted in ‘08 and was No. 2 on the depth chart when Verica was out with a concussion.

• Coaching transition. First-year coach Mike London has hired almost an entirely new staff, and they’ll bring changes in philosophy and scheme. London has said he wants to get the defense back to the traditional 4-3, and revert to the tradition of featuring the tight ends, offensive linemen and running backs.

• Running back. The Cavs will have the help up front, but they need to replace their four leading rushers in Mikell Simpson, Rashawn Jackson, Vic Hall and Jameel Sewell. The staff will look at true freshman Kevin Parks, but also have Torrey Mack and Dominique Wallace, who had just seemed to be coming on at Southern Miss when he was injured and missed the rest of the season.


Spring practice starts: March 31

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:

• Revamped defensive line. The Hokies have to replace three of four starters up front. The only defensive ends with significant playing time are Chris Drager, who the staff wanted to move back to tight end, and Steven Friday. Redshirt freshmen will be given a chance – Duan Perez-Means, Tyrel Wilson, James Gayle and J.R. Collins – but they’ve never played. Isaiah Hamlette is the only other end who’s played and that was a skinny minute. At defensive tackle, Antoine Hopkins will be the frontrunner to replace Cordarrow Thompson.

• Darren Evans’ comeback. Evans, the team’s leading rusher in 2008, is working his way back from a season-ending ACL injury, and one of the biggest questions in Blacksburg is how the staff will divide the carries in such a talented backfield that includes Ryan Williams. With two returning 1,000-yard rushers, will David Wilson decide to redshirt? The spring will help him in that decision.

• The evolution of Tyrod Taylor. He’s going to be a senior, and with so many questions on defense heading into the season, the offense will be leading the way. This should be a breakout year for Taylor, who by now should have mastered the offense and should consistently be a passing threat to compliment his running abilities.


Spring practice starts: March 16

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:

• The quarterback competition. It’s the most glaring hole the Deacs have to fill this spring, as they’re tasked with replacing the winningest quarterback in school history, Riley Skinner, and his backup, Ryan McManus. Redshirt sophomores Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones, and sophomore Brendan Cross, will compete with rookie Tanner Price for the top spot.

• Offensive line. The Deacs will take a huge hit here, as seven players in the two-deep depth chart were redshirt seniors, including all four tackles. Three starters have to be replaced.

• The interior defensive line. Nose guard Boo Robinson and John Russell have graduated, and Russell’s backup, Michael Lockett, was also a redshirt senior. The Deacs are in good shape at the ends, but will need some help inside.

ACC, Russell Wilson, Darren Evans, Marc Verica, Boo Robinson, Phil Costa, Jamarr Robinson, Mike Glennon, David Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Jamie Harper, Michael Carter, Sean Renfree, Mikell Simpson, Austin Barrick, E.J. Wilson, Jacory Harris, Joe Joseph, Skylar Jones, T.J. Yates, Sean Bedford, Jonathan Dwyer, John Russell, Nate Irving, Thaddeus Lewis, E.J. Manuel, Ryan Williams, C.J. Spiller, Eric Moncur, Bruce Campbell, Demaryius Thomas, Rashawn Jackson, Cannon Smith, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan McManus, Chris Turner, Dave Shinskie, Cordarrow Thompson, Richard Gordon, Christian Ponder, Johnny Williams, Morgan Burnett, Riley Skinner, Derrick Morgan, Jameel Sewell, Allen Bailey, Mike London, Mark Herzlich, Taylor Cook, Leon Wright, Ted Stachitas, Jim Ramella, Jonathan Cooper, Mark Stoops, Cameron Chism, A.J. Highsmith, Braden Hanson, Bryn Renner, Paul Pinegar, Austin Giles, Kaleb Ramsey, CHris Chancellor, Andre Ellington, Luke Kuechly, Cam Thomas, Marcus Gilchrist, Chase Rettig, Michael Strauss, Tanner Price, Anthony McCloud, Debrale Smiley, Brendan Cross, Antoine Hopkins, Bill Lazor, Brad Newman, C.J. Brown, Charlie Hatcher, Chris Drager, Chris Hazelton, Chris Ward, Clay Belton, Crezdon Butler, Danny O\'Brien, DeAndrew McDaniel, Dexter McDougle, Dominique Wallace, Duan Perez-Means, Isaiah Hamlette, J.R. Collins, James Gayle, Joseph Gilbert, Josh Bordner, Josh Holmes, Justin Gilbert, Kevin Parks, Kyle Paker, Michael Lockett, Ochuko Jenije, Quinton Coples, Rahsard Hall, Rick Petri, Rodney Smith, Roko Smalls, Ross Metheny, Sean Schroeder, Stephen Morris, Sydney Sarmiento, Torrey Mack, Trenton Hughes, Tydreke Powell, Tyrel Wilson, Wesley Oglesby, Willie Haulstead

Posted by’s Heather Dinich

It’s a good thing for the ACC that backup quarterbacks weren’t needed in September the way they were needed throughout the rest of the country (SEE: Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford, Robert Griffin, just to name a few). Had Miami’s Jacory Harris or Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor gone down early against the ranked opponents each of those teams faced -- including each other -- the ACC would be in big trouble right now. (Remember the panic, Miami fans, when FSU’s Greg Reid whacked Harris’ funny bone in the opener?)

Here’s to a healthy season in the ACC, and here’s a look at which backup quarterbacks are ready to roll after one month of football:


Sean Renfree, Duke: He’s Duke's quarterback of the future and has already been groomed as such. Renfree has appeared in 13 series, completing 29-of-43 pass attempts for 286 yards, four touchdowns and one interception.

Mike Glennon, NC State: He played in every game except last weekend against Pittsburgh, and has completed 10 of 13 passes for 85 yards. He’s a much more dependable option than the Pack had in the past.

Vic Hall, Virginia: He was actually the starting quarterback in the season opener, and is arguably the most athletic player the Cavaliers have, but injured his hip and hasn’t played since the William & Mary game. He’s a veteran leader who has already proven himself in a multitude of roles. Hall, Jameel Sewell and Marc Verica could all be backups any given Saturday, and they're all experienced and ready to roll. If Sewell is the starter, Hall can play just about anywhere else.

Jaybo Shaw, Georgia Tech: Shaw was finally cleared to play and could make his first appearance of the season this weekend at Mississippi State after breaking his collarbone this summer. He began throwing again on Sept. 7, and proved last year he’s a tough player who can run and pass well.


E.J. Manuel, Florida State: He’s definitely gotten more hype than he has playing time this fall, as Manuel played in two games and has completed just 1-of-2 passes for four yards. Manuel, recruited by Jimbo Fisher, was an ESPNU 150 prospect and the No. 6 ranked quarterback in the class of 2008.

Willy Korn, Clemson: Well, it’s more like he HAD the hype. It’s hard to believe Korn was the No. 12 quarterback in the class of 2007. Korn was relegated to the bench this summer in favor of Kyle Parker and has only played in two games. He’s also expressed his displeasure in the fact he’s only thrown two passes this year.

A.J. Highsmith, Miami: He earned a quick promotion after Taylor Cook and Cannon Smith both transferred, but all Highsmith has so far is hype and pedigree. He’s the son of former Miami and NFL running back Alonzo Highsmith, and was the No. 24-ranked quarterback in the class of 2009.


Ju-Ju Clayton, Virginia Tech – The former scout team quarterback was in on 23 snaps against Marshall, but threw three incompletions. Clayton won the job over Marcus Davis this past spring, who was moved to wide receiver. If Taylor is injured, uncertainty is the only thing behind him.

Jamarr Robinson, Maryland – The fact that Chris Turner has been sacked 14 times and hasn’t missed a snap makes you wonder about the confidence Ralph Friedgen has in his backup. Robinson, who was promoted after Josh Portis transferred, hasn’t seen the field yet.

Ryan McManus, Wake Forest – The redshirt senior is also a holder and backup longsnapper. He played against Elon and completed 1-of-4 passes, the only four plays he was in on as quarterback.

Justin Tuggle, Boston College – There wasn’t much separation between Tuggle and Dave Shinskie until the Wake Forest game, as both of them started with zero experience. Both have been used in every game, but it’s unclear where Tuggle’s future is headed. He has 229 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions so far.

Braden Hanson, North Carolina – He was given a shot ahead of Mike Paulus this year, and was 0-for-2 with one interception in his only chance against The Citadel, but they’re both listed as the backups this week. Neither has proven anything yet.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

At 6-foot-7, 320 pounds Virginia offensive tackle Will Barker looms large. He's not the only one. Left tackle Landon Bradley is also 6-foot-7. So is left guard Austin Pasztor. Right guard B.J. Cabbell is 6-foot-6. Center Jack Shields is the shortest at 6-foot-5.

  Bob Donnan/US Presswire
  Vic Hall isn't concerned his height will limit his effectiveness at quarterback.

And the central figure of their offense, the one lining up behind them every snap when practices begin on Friday, will be 5-foot-9 quarterback Vic Hall.

Nobody is questioning Hall's athleticism -- he's played cornerback, quarterback, returned punts, covered kickoffs and was even the holder on place kicks.

It's his height that's under scrutiny.

"Honestly it didn't seem to affect him at all during the spring," Barker said. "Me and Landon being tall ... tall defensive linemen, he seemed to handle it pretty well. He's a nimble enough guy that if he can't throw over somebody maybe he can move around them and then throw it. I think that works for him. I can't speak for him, but I don't think it's an issue."

Neither does Hall.

"This spring we didn't have a lot of problems with that," Hall said. "Obviously I can't see everything, with them being as tall as they are, but with more and more reps and knowing the plays, you know where guys on the team are going to be."

Hall started 11 games at cornerback last year and started at quarterback against Virginia Tech in the season finale. He only attempted one pass, though, against the Hokies. Hall worked exclusively at quarterback this spring and heads into summer camp as the first-string quarterback.

"If you're not 6-6 or 6-5, people are always going to question what you can do," Hall said. "They say, 'He's 5-9 but ... I try to have a lot of 'buts' [like] he's fast or he's strong or he can do this."

Hall has also drawn some inspiration from former Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans, who is listed at 5-foot-10 for the Washington Redskins, and, like Hall, had to help out the Cavaliers at other positions before he was given a shot at starting quarterback in 2004.

"He was the same height as me," Hall said. "That let me know that you don't have to be 6-5 or 6-4 to play quarterback."

Posted by's Heather Dinich

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- The results are in, and Virginia Tech was predicted to win the ACC championship -- again. Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer was picked as the 2009 Preseason ACC Player of the Year. There were 87 total votes.

Here's how the voting broke down:


  1. Florida State (56)
  2. Clemson (14)
  3. NC State (10)
  4. Wake Forest (7)
  5. Maryland
  6. Boston College


  1. Virginia Tech (78)
  2. Georgia Tech (9)
  3. North Carolina
  4. Miami
  5. Virginia
  6. Duke


  1. Virginia Tech (69)
  2. Florida State (7), Georgia Tech (7)
  3. Clemson (2), NC State (2)


  1. Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (39, and Happy Belated Birthday to Dwyer, who turned 20 on Sunday)
  2. C.J. Spiller, Clemson, (28)
  3. Russell Wilson, NC State (16)
  4. Christian Ponder, FSU; Vic Hall, Virginia; Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech; Riley Skinner, Wake Forest (1)

Posted by's Heather Dinich

One of the major themes this fall in the ACC will be keeping starting quarterbacks healthy because of the lack of experience behind them. Virginia Tech, which saw both Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor get hurt against Florida State last year, knows this scenario all-too well. How will the Hokies fare this season if Taylor's ankle fails him again? Based in large part by experience and some on recruiting hype, here's a look at who's got the best backup situations in the ACC -- and who doesn't.

1. Virginia -- Say what you will about the Cavaliers' chances this fall, but no team has more experience at quarterback right now. Jameel Sewell, Marc Verica and Vic Hall have all started a game. That, in itself, is progress from last season. And they all have different strengths. Sewell is an elusive runner, Verica is more of a drop-back passer, and Hall, well, he was a cornerback with tremendous athletic ability.

2. Georgia Tech -- If need be, the Yellow Jackets can also go three deep, as starter Josh Nesbitt has experience behind him in Jaybo Shaw and a talented newcomer in redshirt freshman Tevin Washington. Shaw quarterbacked the Yellow Jackets almost exclusively in two games last season -- a 38-7 win over Mississippi State and a 27-0 victory over Duke. When Nesbitt hurt his hamstring eight snaps into the Mississippi State game, Shaw took over and promptly threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. By the final buzzer, Georgia Tech had accumulated 500 yards of total offense.

3. NC State -- The Wolfpack finally have a prized recruit to fall back on should Russell Wilson need some help. Mike Glennon, who is perfectly suited for Tom O'Brien's Matt Ryan-esque style, made significant progress this spring and could see some playing time even if Wilson is 100 percent. Glennon was rated the No. 3 quarterback in his class and No. 32 player overall in the ESPN 150.

4. Duke -- Sean Renfree earned himself some playing time behind Thaddeus Lewis this fall and will use this season to ease into the role of next year's starting quarterback. Renfree had originally committed to Georgia Tech, but was also recruited by Tennessee when David Cutcliffe was there. He's the real deal.

5. Florida State -- The Seminoles probably would have been moved up a notch or two on this list had E.J. Manuel actually made it through more than one spring practice without hurting himself. But FSU offensive coordinator/head coach in waiting Jimbo Fisher has high hopes for his first hand-picked quarterback.

6. North Carolina -- The Tar Heels have the Paulus who actually IS a quarterback, and he's even got some experience at it. The problem is, Mike Paulus was 4-for-13 for 33 yards with two interceptions in four games last year. Paulus entered the Virginia Tech game when T.J. Yates was injured and was 3-for-8 for 23 yards and two picks. There's a reason Cam Sexton took over last year, but Sexton has since transferred.

7. Clemson -- If by chance Kyle Parker wins the starting job, then Willy Korn will be like 1a. Korn played two games as a true freshman in 2007 then suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. He played in six games last year, including a start against Georgia Tech in Dabo Swinney's first game as a head coach. His career efficiency rating is 132.9 and he has completed 69.4 percent of his passes. Those are starter stats, but Parker had an impressive spring.

8. Wake Forest -- The Demon Deacons at least have depth. They had a competition between Ryan McManus, Ted Stachitas and Skylar Jones this spring, and McManus came out on top heading into summer camp. McManus is a former walk-on who has seen most of his playing time as a holder and on special teams, Stachitas is dealing with a shoulder injury, and Jones finished his first spring working exclusively at quarterback.

9. Miami -- At least Randy Shannon made a decision and decided Taylor Cook earned the No. 2 spot at the end of the spring, but it's not a done deal. Cannon Smith will continue to push Cook this summer, but neither one of them have taken a collegiate snap yet. Cook, though, was a very highly touted recruit, ranked the No. 9 quarterback in his class and No. 108 in the ESPN 150.

10. Virginia Tech -- Joseph Ju-Ju Clayton won the backup job over Marcus Davis, but he's still a redshirt freshman who hasn't been tested when the lights come on. Clayton was projected by some to be a better defensive back in college. He wasn't as highly touted a recruit as Manuel, Cook, Glennon or Renfree, but the Hokies are known for finding talent and making the most of somewhat unheralded recruits.

11. Maryland -- The Terps' depth took a hit when Josh Portis decided to transfer, but sophomore Jamarr Robinson had an impressive spring. He completed 15 of 19 passes, including his final 12 attempts, for 253 yards and four touchdowns.

12. Boston College -- The Eagles don't know who their starting quarterback is, let alone their No. 2. Dominique Davis struggled in the ACC championship game and the bowl game -- both losses -- but he has the most experience among Justin Tuggle and Codi Boek.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

There was some progress in the ACC this spring, and each team got a little bit of help at certain positions. Here's a look at who found some help this spring and where:

BOSTON COLLEGE: Marcellus Bowman and Wes Davis are two safeties who should help make the Eagles' secondary one of the best BC fans have seen in recent years. Four players return to the secondary with starting experience.

CLEMSON: It's amazing what a year of experience can do, and the Tigers' offensive line needed it. The only direction for this group to go is up, and it started to do that this spring. All five starters return.

DUKE: The return of running back Re'quan Boyette will give the Blue Devils' running game a more potent punch. He could be a difference maker on the field this fall, and Duke will need him to be.

FLORIDA STATE: Leading rusher Antone Smith is gone, but FSU fans can rest assured Jermaine Thomas and Ty Jones can carry the load for the Noles. Both had several breakaway runs this spring.

GEORGIA TECH: On a defense that lost its leaders up front, defensive end Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett established themselves as the new captains of the ship this spring, and they should be the Jackets' top two defenders.

MARYLAND: Phil Costa helped ease the transition of the graduation of longtime leader Edwin Williams at center. The Terps lost three starters up front and have four players in new positions, but Costa proved he can be the new leader of the group.

MIAMI: This "got help" award goes to new offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. He had an immediate impact on the offense this spring and has Jacory Harris' full attention.

NORTH CAROLINA: Da'Norris Searcy and Melvin Williams gave the staff some confidence in life without Trimane Goddard. Searcy played well in the Meineke Car Care bowl as a fifth defensive back and played with confidence this spring.

NC STATE: Mike Glennon answered the distress signal at backup quarterback, a position that had been exposed far too many times in the past. Glennon completed 23 of 38 passes for 272 yards and one touchdown in the Kay Yow Spring Game.

VIRGINIA: The return of Jameel Sewell at quarterback and addition of Vic Hall no doubt helped the Cavaliers. At this point last year, they didn't have one quarterback who had any starting experience. Now they've got three.

VIRGINIA TECH: Confidence grew in the linebackers this spring, and that's because of the efforts of Barquell Rivers and Jake Johnson. Bruce Taylor and Quillie Odom are still learning, but there was progress at this position.

WAKE FOREST: Kenny Okoro and Josh Bush both proved to be dependable players at a position that just lost Alphonso Smith. Okoro in particular stood out, but both of them got a lot of reps with Brandon Ghee out with an injury.

ACC's lunchtime links

May, 5, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Around the ACC we go ...

Around the ACC

April, 18, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Happy spring Saturday, ACC fans. We'll look closer at each school after spring ball is over, but a few reports have come in Saturday from spring games around the league. Here's a quick update, per each school's sports information director:

(Usually I go in alphabetical order, but I'm starting with NC State because of the large turnout in support of the late Kay Yow).


A crowd of 21,075 fans attended the Wolfpack's spring game, which was named in honor of the late Kay Yow. Each fan was asked to donate a dollar, and the day, according to Tim Peeler's report on, was as much a celebration of Yow's life as it was a spring football game.

Of course, there was also plenty of interest in how the quarterbacks, starter Russell Wilson and backup Mike Glennon, fared. Glennon was 23-of-38 for 272 yards and one touchdown, and competed for both teams. Wilson, who had to leave early for a baseball game, completed 10 of 14 passes for 195 yards, including a 65-yard touchdown pass to Owen Spencer. NC State's entire report can be found here.


Redshirt freshman quarterback Sean Renfree threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns to lead the White squad to a 24-17 victory over the Blue team in front of 4,162 fans at the annual spring game held Saturday afternoon at Wallace Wade Stadium.

"The game was crisp with few penalties," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "No one was sloppy with the football and I thought the game was intense. I told the players before the game that we are a good football team. I thought they played like one today. We had really good execution for the most part throughout the game."

Renfree completed 15-of-24 throws with touchdowns of 17 yards to wide receiver Matt Pridemore and 17 yards to tight end Danny Parker. Pridemore led the White team with five receptions for 67 yards while running back Patrick Kurunwune led all rushers with 66 yards on 13 attempts while hauling in four passes for an additional 67 yards. Running back Tony Jackson added a touchdown run and finished with 34 yards on six carries.

For the Blue unit, quarterback Thaddeus Lewis hit on 17 of 23 passes for 257 yards while rushing for a pair of one-yard touchdowns. His favorite target was wide receiver Donovan Varner who had six grabs for 116 yards.

"We went out there and executed," Lewis said. "We had some big plays today. The coaches put us in good situations. We can go to the tight ends over the middle and to our shifty guys who can get yards after the catch. If they leave our running backs open we can get the ball to those guys with space and let them do what they do best."

Duke's entire report can be found here.


A crowd of about 8,500 saw Jaybo Shaw and redshirt freshman quarterback Tevin Washington combine for five touchdowns.

Washington ran for two touchdowns, threw for another and the Gold team held off a late rally by the White team for a 31-28 victory in Georgia Tech's spring game. With junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt sidelined with a minor shoulder injury, Shaw scored three touchdowns and produced 263 yards of total offense for the White team, which scored two touchdowns in the final 3:30 to make things interesting down the stretch.

Washington finished with 43 yards rushing and was 7-of-10 passing for 167 yards.

"The best news is that no one got hurt," coach Paul Johnson said. "We put the ball on the ground today, but we are way ahead of where we were at this time last year."

The two teams combined for eight fumbles. Both teams also produced more than 400 yards of total offense. For the school's entire report, click here.


The Cavaliers unveiled their no-huddle offense for the first time this spring, and threw the ball 53 times while mixing in 57 running plays. The offense only scored two times though. Marc Verica, the starting quarterback for the nine games in 2008, completed 14 of 19 throws for 148 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown to Raynard Horne.

The only other score by the offense came on a 48-yard run by tailback Mikell Simpson. He led all rushers with 64 yards.

Vic Hall, who started at quarterback in the 2008 finale at Virginia Tech, was the first signal-caller on the field with the offense. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 98 yards. Jameel Sewell, who did not play last year while not enrolled at the university, managed 61 yards while completing seven of 11 throws.

The Cavs entire report can be found here.

Check back for more on Monday.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

In order to get home from the McCue Center, where the Virginia football team practices, quarterback Jameel Sewell must pass Scott Stadium -- a place he hasn't played in since 2007.

"I can look right down into the stadium every time I pass it and I get a chill," he said.

For three Virginia quarterbacks, this spring has been all about second chances.

Sewell, the Cavaliers' 2007 starter who learned a hard lesson from last year's academic suspension, has been given another chance to reassert himself as the leader of the offense. Marc Verica, who was thrust into the role in mid-September after Peter Lalich was dismissed from the team, is looking to redeem himself from a poor finish down the stretch. And senior Vic Hall, who was a standout high school quarterback but spent the spent the past two seasons as a starting corner and is the Cavs' leading returning tackler, has been given the opportunity to play the position he originally thought he would.

All three quarterbacks began the spring on an even playing field in first-year offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon's new scheme, and at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the spring game, they'll showcase their progress to the public for the first time.

  Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
  Quarterback Jameel Sewell is happy to be competing for the Cavaliers' starting job after missing the 2008 season.

"Marc Verica did a pretty decent job last year," Sewell said. "He needed some help, he couldn't do everything by himself. He's out here competing like he should, and he's done a great job so far. And you've got Vic Hall, who's got all the state records as a quarterback in high school and it seems like coming back to offense hasn't missed a beat. And me, I'm just trying to keep up. I've been gone for a while, but I'm not at a disadvantage at all. This is a new offense, and things are different now."

That's the hope at least in Charlottesville for a program that finished last season 5-7 overall and won just three games in the ACC. The Cavaliers ended 2008 with four straight losses, resulting in a major staff overhaul that included coach Al Groh firing his son, Mike Groh, as offensive coordinator.

In the years that Groh has been successful, though, he tends to have a dependable, experienced quarterback.

"It's picked up some momentum here in the last few practices as we anticipated might be the case, given it was going to take a while for the quarterbacks to get some continuity in what they were going," Groh said. "... Given that two of the three primary candidates were not full-time quarterbacks last year -- Jameel and Vic -- it's really been a case of those guys getting back in rhythm as quarterbacks per say, plus a new system. Marc obviously had playing time last year, but (is in) a new system. So it's taken a little while, but Monday showed some real signs of it picking up."

Sewell started all 13 games in 2007 and led Virginia to a 9-4 record and an appearance in New Year's Day bowl game. He's a shifty runner who passed for 2,176 yards and ran for 279 more that year. Verica is more of a drop back passer who made his first start last fall in the third game against Connecticut. He went on to start nine of the final 10 games and threw for 2,037 yards while completing 63.8 percent of his attempts. He threw eight touchdown passes, though, and 16 interceptions.

Verica attributed a lot of that to the fact it was the first season he had played, and said this offense requires a lot from the quarterback. It is designed to create space, spread the defense out, and creates better angles for linemen to block, and more space for running backs and wide receivers to operate.

"It's a dynamic offense, so we can attack a defense with the quarterback running the ball, we can attack the defenses with short passes, long passes, screens," he said. "There's a number of things, but I really think he's just looking for a leader to manage the team out there. ... Jameel and Vic are obviously more talented athletes and runners than I am. I am able to do some of that, too. I really think the offense plays to all our strengths."

Sewell said he's more responsible now, and he's learned from his mistakes. He helped coach at Charlottesville High school last season, but kept a close watch on the Cavaliers, some of whom he remained roommates with. When Sewell walked back on the field at Virginia for the first time this spring, he said he was overwhelmed, and didn't want to leave -- not practice, not film sessions, not the weight room.

"I just didn't want it to end, even though I knew it was going to happen again the next day," he said.

Hall, who was a record-setting quarterback at Gretna Senior High School, said he spent this spring readjusting to the technique and fundamentals, and he's had to build the strength in his throwing arm. In his surprise appearance at quarterback against Virginia Tech last year, Hall rushed for 109 yards and had scoring runs of 40 and 16 yards. He only threw one pass, though, and is a bit undersized at 5-foot-9.

Hall said he was told in mid-January that he'd move to quarterback full time for the spring - the position he thought he had originally come to Charlottesville to play. Instead, he developed into a successful corner over the past two seasons. His five forced fumbles last year tied the school record and he had 59 tackles.

"The main thing that I wanted to prove coming to college is that I can work hard and help my team in anyway," Hall said. "It wasn't about proving to people I could do this or that, because whatever you do on the field as far as helping your team and making a contribution, I feel like that's proof in itself. But yeah, I do look at this as a second chance to be what I aspired to be when I came to Virginia -- a quarterback."

Hall's not the only one.

"I've always tried to move on to the next play and forget," Verica said. "When you hang onto those things in your mind, it just wears on you. You're not going to play as well. You have to have a very short memory if you want to play this position. There's going to be some adverse times, and you have to put those behind you and rise above. The challenge for me is to that behind me and move forward."

This spring, all three quarterbacks got a second chance to do that.

ACC's lunchtime links

April, 13, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here's catching up on a few things from the weekend:

Uh oh. Miami fans beware. Other schools are finally starting to make an impact on the recruits in South Florida, writes Manny Navarro. 

Virginia coach Al Groh, who earned the nickname "the chairman" for his heavy involvement in everything Virginia football, has finally distanced himself a bit from the offense. He's still "more than intrigued," though, by the thought of Vic Hall at quarterback.

If Ryan Williams and Virginia Tech's offensive line played as well as they did in Friday's scrimmage, look out for the Hokies.

Clemson's coaches insist their quarterback competition will play out through August, but the play of Kyle Parker seems to indicate the choice is clear -- at least this spring.

Injuries are run of the mill for Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt, which is why his backup, Jaybo Shaw, looked quite comfortable running the offense on Saturday. As for Nesbitt's shoulder? It doesn't sound like there's much reason to panic.

Wake Forest just picked up a recruit -- too bad for the Deacs his name is Duke.

ACC's lunchtime links

March, 24, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

ACROSS THE HALL FROM JIM GROBE'S OFFICE -- Hello, ACC fans, from Winston-Salem, where Grobe's assistant, Bonnie, was nice enough to find a room for me to set up shop for the daily links. Welcome to my mobile office, complete with a flat-screen TV, NFL helmets and pictures of all of the Deacs who have gone pro.

Speaking of which, former Wake linebacker Aaron Curry stole the spotlight on Monday at Wake's NFL pro day -- and he hardly did a thing. Why should he? The Butkus Award winner has already proven himself as a top pick.

In addition to Wake Forest, Maryland also starts spring practice today. Here are five things to watch in College Park this spring.

Newsday questioned the quarterbacks in the ACC and ranked them. I'll have to respectfully agree to disagree with the list, as Russell Wilson and Tyrod Taylor give defenses the most trouble, and Brett Hodges is no longer on Wake's team.

It appears Dan Brooks is on the verge of being hired at Clemson.

Here's a shocker (seriously) -- Virginia cornerback Vic Hall is starting the spring exclusively as the Cavaliers' No. 1 quarterback.

There was plenty of news that came out of Georgia Tech on its first day of spring practice. The good news? Josh Nesbitt looked sharp.

Posted by's Heather Dinich

As we head into spring football, there will be plenty of starting jobs up for grabs. It's no secret UNC needs to find dependable receivers, and Georgia Tech needs to replace three of four starters on its defensive line. Will FSU quarterback Christian Ponder keep his job, or will E.J. Manuel win it from him? Despite several quarterbacks returning with starting experience, spring could bring change throughout the ACC. Here's a look at five key position battles to keep an eye on:

Clemson quarterback -- Will Kyle Parker assert himself as the Tigers' quarterback of the future this spring, or will Willy Korn lock up the starting job? Korn played in six games last year and started one, but he has been plagued by a nagging shoulder injury. Michael Wade and Jon Richt (Georgia coach Mark Richt's son) will also compete to take over as Cullen Harper's successor.

Boston College quarterback -- Considering how Dominique Davis struggled in losses in the ACC championship game and the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl (he combined to throw three touchdowns, four interceptions and complete 40.5 percent of his passes), nothing is guaranteed. The previous coaching staff had high hopes for Justin Tuggle, and this spring is a chance for him to show Frank Spaziani and Co. why.

Virginia quarterback -- With cornerback Vic Hall working out at quarterback this spring, and two players returning with starting experience in Marc Verica and Jameel Sewell, this spot appears to be wide open. Hall was the Cavaliers' fifth-leading tackler last year (the top four have to be replaced), and made 24 straight starts at cornerback before his surprise appearance at quarterback in the season finale at Virginia Tech. Hall only threw the ball once against the Hokies but scored on 40 and 16-yard runs.

Virginia Tech linebackers -- The Hokies will have to replace Brett Warren and Purnell Sturdivant. Barquell Rivers, who started for the injured Warren in the Orange Bowl, should be a frontrunner, but Cam Martin and Cody Grimm are also experienced returners at outside linebacker. It's also possible some players in the secondary could get a look.

Duke cornerback -- Returning starter Leon Wright missed the last six games due to injury, and while he was out, Chris Rwabukamba played well in the 10-7 win over Vanderbilt, grabbing an interception at the Duke one-yard line. He started two games. Lee Butler saw playing time as a freshman last year, and Zach Greene enrolled in January and will participate in spring practice so he'll get an opportunity, too.

ACC's lunchtime links

February, 23, 2009

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Here's your daily dose of ACC news:

  • NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said former Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson is "wasting" his talent, and that there is "way too much bad game tape" of Johnson. To that Johnson replied, "God bless him."
  • Here is an interesting article on the usually hidden salaries of private school coaches, including former BC coach Tom O'Brien.
  • Here are five questions (and answers) about Miami football as the Canes prepare to start spring practices on Tuesday.
  • Former Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith will try to repeat his success at the next level.
  • One weekend leftover -- Virginia will have some competition at quarterback this spring, where cornerback Vic Hall will pick up where he left off.

ACC power rankings: Week 15

December, 1, 2008

Posted by's Heather Dinich

Considering all but two teams finished either 5-3 or 4-4 in the ACC, there really is very little difference between them, but one team separated itself from the rest this weekend. There was no change at the top from last week, which means one team has finally proven itself to consistently be good. Here are the final regular-season power rankings:

1. Georgia Tech (9-3, 5-3 ACC) -- The Yellow Jackets beat a ranked SEC rival on the road. Any questions? The only other team in the ACC to finish the regular season with nine wins was ...

2. Boston College (9-3, 5-3) -- There was never any question about the Eagles' defense, but backup quarterback Dominique Davis proved effective in his first game as starter.

3. Florida State (8-4, 5-3) -- Oh come on. What did you THINK was going to happen against Florida? That loss can't take away from the fact the Seminoles are one of the best teams in the league.

4. NC State (6-6, 4-4) -- Sorry, Hokie fans, but the Wolfpack is hot right now, finishing the season with four straight wins, including a win over Miami -- something Virginia Tech didn't do.

5. Virginia Tech (8-4, 5-3) -- The Hokies deserve credit for beating rival Virginia and winning the Coastal Division. They played hard and never quit.

6. Clemson (7-5, 4-4) -- This team, you might remember, was 1-3 in the ACC last month. The Tigers won their way to a bowl game, and they won Dabo Swinney the head coaching job. All with a win over rival South Carolina. Not bad for a day's work.

7. North Carolina (8-4, 4-4) -- The Tar Heels move up this week after a near flawless performance from quarterback T.J. Yates, which is exactly what they needed heading into bowl selection time.

8. Miami (7-5, 4-4) -- The Hurricanes had a chance to redeem themselves from their embarrassing loss to Georgia Tech, but couldn't stop Russell Wilson and NC State. Still, it was a much better season than a year ago.

9. Wake Forest (7-5, 4-4) -- The Demon Deacons will go out on a respectable note, notching a win over SEC opponent Vanderbilt and stating their case to earn one of the ACC's nine guaranteed bowl berths.

10. Maryland (7-5, 4-4) -- After back-to-back losses to end the season, it's hard to believe the Terps held the Atlantic Division in their hands a few weeks ago. Boise, anyone?

11. Virginia (5-7, 3-5) -- The Cavaliers tried everything -- including Vic Hall at quarterback -- and still failed to go to a bowl game twice in the past three years. They beat themselves again with turnovers.

12. Duke (4-8, 1-7) -- The progress is there, you just can't see it in the league standings or the power rankings. David Cutcliffe did an admirable job in his first season and Duke fans should be excited about next year.