NCF Nation: Willie Young
Since it’s a good day to be green, here’s a look at the ACC’s youngest and most inexperienced groups throughout the conference:
1. NC State’s defensive line: The Pack have to replace all four starters up front, including two of the top five tacklers from a year ago, Willie Young and Alan Michael Cash.
2. NC State’s running backs: For the first time since 2005, the Pack don’t have any tailbacks with starting experience.
3. FSU’s secondary: Aside from Ochuko Jenije, none of the defensive backs have played more than one season.
4. Miami tight ends: There are only two participating in spring practice, and one is a redshirt freshman. The Canes signed four in this recruiting class, but none were early enrollees.
5. Wake Forest quarterbacks: The Deacs will replace the winningest quarterback in school history with somebody who has never had any starting experience. Ted Stachitas is the veteran of the group, with one series against Elon.
NC State defensive coordinator Mike Archer hasn’t exactly been sleeping too well these days, and he knows he’s not winning the People’s Choice award right now in Raleigh. But he’s working tirelessly nonetheless to improve NC State’s defense. He’s certain the problem isn’t effort. Long story short, it’s a combination of injuries, inexperience and, at this point, a lack of confidence.
NC State’s defense has given up an average of 482 yards of total defense in its four ACC games, the worst mark in the league by almost 30 yards. In conference games, the Wolfpack ranks last in the league in total defense, scoring defense, passing defense and ranks 11th in rushing defense. The only position on defense that has started the same unit in every game is the defensive line.
|Tim Steadman/Icon SMI|
|Willie Young has been one of the mainstays on the NC State defense this season.|
Here are the highlights of our recent conversation:
Man, another tough year for the D.
Mike Archer: It is what it is. You and I talked this summer, we got off to a rough start with what happened to Nate [Irving]. And then Dominique [Ellis] left the team and Jimmaul Simmons left the team, and Javon Walker, who started five games for us in 2007, and got injured in the Miami game, we were very hopeful he would be back for this year. We were counting on him being one of the safeties and he’s done with football.
You take those four guys, and three of them played on one side of the field, it’s been tough. But it’s part of the game. No one feels sorry for us. Everybody has injuries. It’s been frustrating and it’s been hard. The way we started, the South Carolina game, we played very well and held them to seven points, but realistically they weren’t quite sure of what we were going to do. We played with a true freshman corner and a redshirt freshman corner in that game, and we played a lot of Cover 2. But as the year goes on and that film goes out, people find them. When we were in Tallahassee, I look out there Saturday and we have a true freshman corner, a true freshman safety, a redshirt freshman safety and a junior corner on the field with two freshman linebackers.
It is what it is. You’re not going to be just stoning people when you’re playing young kids. We have to understand that and continue to move forward and keep improving. That’s our job as players and as coaches.
I remember last year when the defense was struggling, you challenged them. Remember that? It was a pretty public thing. Have you guys had a talk like that, or is this not the case for it?
MA: I’ve thought about that and we’ve talked. During the open date after the BC game, we sat down and looked everything we’ve done and it really comes down to execution. We’ve got a good system in place when our guys execute it. When we have the right guys out there, we’re pretty good. We have to execute. That’s what’s been frustrating.
It started in the second half of the Wake Forest game. We were not very good on third downs against Riley Skinner and it ended up costing us the game. The following week at Duke, third downs just killed us. They were 13-of-19 and could not get off the field on third down and picked us apart. Those two quarterbacks are awfully good. They were smart. They went after our freshman corners and our freshman safety. That’s their job as coaches. They get paid, too. They’re on scholarship. But third down has not been what it was early in the season. We were good in the South Carolina game, we were pretty good in the third down against Pitt. But we’ve lost our execution edge and the biggest thing in my opinion, we’ve lost confidence, obviously. It’s become mental.
On the bright side, I would think Willie Young has been one of the guys who has played consistently.
MA: Our front four kids, the four seniors, Alan- Michael Cash, Willie, Shea McKeen and Leroy Burgess have really done a good job all year. All year. When you look at us on defense, there are four seniors and everyone else is freshmen and sophomores. There’s a big age gap there. They’ve done a good job of being positive leaders and keeping everyone’s chins up. Nobody feels sorry for us and we don’t want anybody to feel sorry for us. It is what it is. It’s part of sports. It’s like [head coach] Tom O'Brien] said, we’ve lost 11 guys this year for the year. We thought we had it bad last year. It’s worse this year.
Why? Why does that happen to you guys?
MA: If I knew, I wouldn’t be coaching. I’d be a doctor or a sports psychologist. I’d have your job. ... Everyone says it’s a curse. It’s the way it is. I wish I knew so we could prevent it, but like Todd Rice says, if we knew, we’d prevent it.
Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
Four Virginia Tech jerseys disappeared before the Georgia Tech game in 2007. Only three were recovered. This week, the Hokies will wear maroon jerseys for the first time in a true road game since playing at LSU in 2007. And we all know how well that turned out. There’s always something worth watching when these Coastal Division teams meet, even if it is a Hokie in a Jackets’ jersey …
1. Track meet in Atlanta. Saturday’s game between Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech will feature the ACC’s top three rushing leaders in Ryan Williams, Jonathan Dwyer and Josh Nesbitt, respectively. Georgia Tech (1st) and Virginia Tech (2nd) are the ACC’s top two rushing teams. The Yellow Jackets (277.0 ypg) and the Hokies (208.5) are the only teams in the league averaging more than 140 yards per game.
2. Virginia Tech’s red zone defense. Georgia Tech is going to move the ball. It always does. But the Hokies have been at their best inside the red zone. Opponents have scored just six touchdowns on 22 trips inside the 20-yard line this season. The Yellow Jackets are coming off a 49-44 win at Florida State, the most points they’ve ever scored in an ACC road game. Can the Hokies continue their red zone success against this offense?
3. The “old guys” in Chestnut Hill. BC quarterback Dave Shinskie is 25. NC State defensive end Willie Young just turned 24 a few weeks ago, and he’ll be gunning for his elder opponent. Young is tied for eighth nationally and tied for the ACC lead in sacks with seven for the season. He had a career-high three in the loss at Wake Forest, and if he got to Riley Skinner, he should be able to get to Shinskie.
4. Frank Spaziani vs. Dana Bible. This is a matchup of two former staff members who knew each other well as coordinators at BC. Spaziani, formerly BC's defensive coordinator, used to go against NC State offensive coordinator Dana Bible every day at practice, but Bible has since tweaked some things in his playbook to accommodate quarterback Russell Wilson. Will Spaziani's familiarity pay off, or have things changed too much?
5. Virginia’s turnover turnaround. A major reason behind the Cavaliers’ newfound success has been their ability to take care of the ball. Virginia hasn't had a turnover in its last two games and its last 35 possessions, dating to an interception in the second quarter of the Southern Miss game. After being minus-6 in turnover margin the first two games, Virginia is plus-6 the last three games, including plus-5 in the two victories. Quarterback Jameel Sewell has not been intercepted in his last 86 pass attempts, dating to the Southern Miss game.
6. Maryland’s pass protection. The possible return of left tackle Bruce Campbell could help tremendously, but quarterback Chris Turner will need time to think against the No. 3 pass defense in the ACC. He’s already been sacked 22 times. The Cavaliers are No. 15 in the country holding opponents to just 163.2 yards per game.
7. Miami sophomore cornerback Brandon Harris. After defending just three passes in 13 games as a true freshman last year, Harris now leads the nation in passes broken up (10) and passes defended (11).
8. Clemson running back C.J. Spiller. He’s worth watching not only because he needs just 55 yards to become the first player in ACC history with 6,000 all-purpose yards, but also because Wake Forest held Clemson to just 21 rushing yards last year.
9. Wake Forest wide receiver Chris Givens. Quarterback Riley Skinner can’t rack up these numbers by himself. In last week’s win over Maryland, Givens caught five passes for 116 yards and two touchdowns. It was his first multiple touchdown game, and his second straight 100-yard receiving performance. Givens will face a better secondary in Death Valley this weekend.
10. BCS Standings. This is when it counts, and this is your reminder than on Sunday, between 4 and 4: 30 p.m. ET, the first official BCS Standings will be announced on FOX Sports, after the early NFL game. It will be interesting to see how the outcome of Saturday’s game in Atlanta affects both teams, particularly the Hokies, who are ranked No. 4 in the country this week.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
The ACC has released its preseason all-conference team last month, now ESPN.com is releasing ours. Here's the final version with minimal tweaks from the original ballot:
QB Riley Skinner, Wake Forest
RB C.J. Spiller, Clemson
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
WR Jacoby Ford, Clemson
WR LaRon Byrd, Miami
TE Greg Boone, Virginia Tech
OT Anthony Castonzo, Boston College
OT Jason Fox, Miami
OG Thomas Austin, Clemson
OG Rodney Hudson, Florida State
C Ryan McMahon, Florida State
PK Matt Bosher, Miami
DE Willie Young, NC State
DE Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech
DT Vince Oghobaase, Duke
DT John Russell, Wake Forest
LB Sean Spence, Miami
LB Quan Sturdivant, North Carolina
LB Dekoda Watson, Florida State
CB Stephan Virgil, Virginia Tech
CB Patrick Robinson, Florida State
S Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech
S Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech
P Travis Baltz, Maryland
SP C.J. Spiller, Clemson
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Regardless of whether it was for injuries, suspensions, academics -- whatever -- not everyone was present and accounted for this spring. There were a few players who were missing who will be desperately needed to make a comeback this fall. Each team had at least one:
Boston College: Linebacker Mike McLaughlin -- He is still very questionable for the fall, but his return from an Achilles injury would be a huge boost to a position that lacks depth. Wide receiver Clarence Megwa broke his leg in the Clemson game last year and missed the rest of the year and spring, but could be a key returnee.
Clemson: Bandit end Ricky Sapp -- He missed the Gator Bowl and sat out the spring getting over a torn ACL he suffered in the first half against Virginia. He will be a prime pass-rusher for the Tigers and is Clemson's best player when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback.
Duke: Defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase -- The Blue Devils' leader on the defensive line missed the spring with an injury, but ranks second among active ACC players in both career tackles for loss (29.0) and quarterback sacks (11.5), trailing only N.C. State's Willie Young (32.0 and 12.5). Oghobaase has started all 36 games over the past three years, compiling 128 tackles.
Florida State: Linebacker Dekoda Watson -- He missed the spring after offseason elbow surgery, but should be one of the Noles' top defenders. He ranked fourth on the team with 46 tackles last year.
Georgia Tech: Center Dan Voss -- He was the starter last year, and if his labrum isn't fully recovered (which it should be), aerospace engineer major Sean Bedford moves to the top of the depth chart. Not that there's anything wrong with a super smart center.
Maryland: DT Dion Armstrong -- The Terps had a host of key players miss the spring, but Armstrong, who was out for academic reasons, is at a position in need of some help. It's unclear, though, if Armstrong's academic situation will extend into the summer. Also at defensive tackle for Maryland is Travis Ivey. The coaches raved about his improved play and leadership during the spring, and the offensive line was having a tough time containing him. But he got a concussion in the fourth week and missed the rest of the spring. He also had a scheduled shoulder surgery at the end of the spring.
Miami: LB Colin McCarthy -- Miami needs depth at linebacker and McCarthy was playing well last season before a shoulder injury caused him to miss the remainder of the season, starting with the FSU game. He had shoulder surgery.
North Carolina: Free safety Deunta Williams -- He had wrist surgery in January and missed the spring, but should be ready for the fall. He started all 13 games in 2008 and ranked fifth on the team with 65 tackles (55 solo).
NC State: Strong safety Javon Walker -- He's actually missed the last TWO springs and last season with a knee injury, but will be cleared by the fall and is being counted on very heavily in the secondary.
Virginia: Right guard B.J. Cabbell -- He missed spring ball due to knee surgery, but started 12 games last year. The junior is expected back in August.
Virginia Tech: DE Jason Worilds -- Worilds missed the spring after shoulder surgery for an injury that kept him out of the Orange Bowl. End is one of the few positions the Hokies have that lacks depth. Worilds started in 12 of 14 games last year and had eight sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. The Hokies will also need the return of guard Sergio Render, who missed the spring following shoulder surgery.
Wake Forest: CB Brandon Ghee -- Ghee suffered a sprained knee on the very first day of spring and missed the remainder of practice. The Deacs will need Ghee healthy this fall as he is the only returning starter in the secondary. Starting nose tackle Boo Robinson has also been bothered by a bad back and didn't play this spring.
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
It looks like Georgia Tech is nearing a new deal for the ACC Coach of the Year. The original seven years and an annual $1.6 million apparently didn't cut it after a win over Georgia. It's not like Paul Johnson is thinking about bolting, though. The Yellow Jackets' gain is Auburn's loss.
At the end of this story, you'll see that Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich is expected back for his senior season, and defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani would like to see him return.
NC State juniors Willie Young and Jamelle Eugene want to know their status and are submitting their names to the NFL draft advisory board.
When I sat in Tommy Bowden's office in August and asked him about his young quarterbacks, he gave the impression that Kyle Parker was the one fans should be excited about. It looks like he might have been right, as Parker is expected to give Willy Korn some competition. That is, if baseball doesn't get in the way. Hey, if Russell Wilson can do it ...
Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
MARYLAND -- The Terps made an adjustment last week on the offensive line that worked -- starting Bruce Campbell at left tackle. Maryland's line has done a better job with its pass protection in recent weeks, but the staff knows NC State likes to pressure the quarterback and create turnovers. They're particularly wary of defensive end Willie Young. Against Wake Forest, Maryland was able to do something it hadn't in a long time, and that's depend on the passing game to set up the run. The goal this week is to get better at run blocking.
FLORIDA STATE -- The Seminoles' No. 1 priority at practice this week has been preparing to stop shifty Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor. As defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews pointed out, some of Florida State's most skilled defenders had trouble tackling Taylor last year. Andrews has emphasized not creating vertical or lateral seams in their rush lanes and preventing Taylor from getting out in space. Defensive tackle Kendrick Stewart said the "tackles have to push and get pressure and push him out to the ends so we can contain him."
NORTH CAROLINA -- Butch Davis is still looking for some help in alleviating some of the sting of losing injured starting receiver Brandon Tate. He moved running back Greg Little back to his original position of receiver last week before the Virginia game, but Little only had about two-and-a-half days of the transition, and Davis said "we were pushing him and pushing him, how much can you learn, how much can you get back into that role?" The Tar Heels also lost running back Anthony Elzy, who fractured his scapula at Virginia, and will be out for six weeks. UNC will need all of the offensive production it can get, as Davis said Boston College's front seven "look like the Chicago Bears."
MIAMI -- This is exactly why Randy Shannon needs to name the best young quarterback his starter, and could be the reason he is wavering on doing it. Maybe, just maybe, he's afraid to lose one of them. But Jacory Harris' father is right. Eventually, either his son or Robert Marve is going to grow tired of competing for the job every year when they could be the starter at another program. Both have said the right things publicly, but it's no secret Harris would like to start, too, and Marve said he wouldn't mind a shot at the no-huddle offense Harris got at Duke.
GEORGIA TECH -- The Yellow Jackets are "back to normal" with their two quarterbacks, Josh Nesbitt and Jaybo Shaw, who haven't been quite themselves lately because of injuries. Nesbitt, who suffered a pulled hamstring against Mississippi State on Sept. 20, looked rusty last week at Clemson and coach Paul Johnson agreed, but said it wasn't too bad for someone who hasn't played in four weeks. "I think Josh would be the first guy to tell you that he could have played better," Johnson said. "For a guy that has only played in three games and been out for four weeks, it was a little bit like starting over. The thing about Josh Nesbitt is that he is such a competitor. He does not want to lose. Did he get every read right? No, but he finds a way to make plays. He has a calm confidence about his ability and doesn't get rattled. The more he plays, the better he will get."