Why do Chan Gailey's assistants have even more incentive to beat in-state rival Georgia this season? Who will replace ACC Player of the Year Chris Barclay at Wake Forest? Why is it important for FSU to give the ball to Lorenzo Booker? Our ACC notebook addresses those questions and much more.
The Eagles are arguably deeper at tailback than anyone else in the ACC
with L.V. Whitworth and Andre Callender. Whitworth, a junior, started every game
and finished fifth among conference runners with an average of 68 rushing
yards per game. Callender, also a junior, was ninth with 59.2 ypg and rung up
three 100-yard games. They combined to rush for 1,515 yards. Add to that mix the
return of A.J. Brooks, who redshirted last season after rushing for 319 yards
as a freshman two years ago. Josh Beekman, who may be the best returning offensive lineman in the ACC,
may be moved from guard to center, according to BC coach Tom O'Brien. Beekman, a
senior, was a second-team All-ACC selection in 2005. "We don't intend to do
that at the start of spring practice, but that's something that's still on the
table," O'Brien said. "If the scenario of another starting center doesn't work
out, the thought of moving Josh might happen."
Jacoby Ford, a talented freshman wide receiver, has made a big impression
during the early days of spring practice. A signee out of Fork Union (Va.)
Military Academy, Ford caught a 53-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback
Cullen Harper on the opening play of the Tigers' first scrimmage. Ford, who was
reportedly clocked at 4.126 seconds in the 40-yard dash before enrolling at
Clemson, finished with four catches for 103 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"When he gets to the second level, there is no catching him from behind, at
least not on this team," said coach Tommy Bowden. The 5-foot-9, 175-pound Ford, younger
brother to former Florida State running back Davy Ford, may also help out
the Tigers on special teams. He returned seven kicks (four punts, three
kickoffs) for touchdowns last season. Clemson lost four key players on defense, but that number could have been
higher if either defensive lineman Gaines Adams or middle linebacker Anthony
Waters had chosen to skip their senior seasons and enter the NFL draft. Both
players dabbled with the idea before returning to school. "I don't think
there's any doubt they made the correct decision by staying," Bowden said.
Defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase, considered Duke's top recruit in 2005,
is back after missing all of last season due to a knee injury sustained in
spring practice. The 6-6, 325-pound Oghobasse should compete for a starting
job this spring along with senior Casey Camero and sophomore Clifford Respress.
Camero is a returning starter. Coach Ted Roof completed his staff by hiring former UCLA defensive
coordinator Larry Kerr as special teams coordinator and inside linebackers coach.
Kerr spent the past three seasons heading UCLA's defense after serving as
defensive coordinator at Colorado State for 10 years. Roof also announced that Brad
Sherrod, the Blue Devils' linebackers coach for nine seasons, will work with
the team's tight ends and assist Kerr on special teams. Also, co-defensive
coordinator Jerry Azzinaro will coach Duke's inside linebackers.
FSU's offensive coaches would be wise to get the ball in the hands of
tailback Lorenzo Booker more often. In 2004, Booker accounted for an average of
5.3 yards the 197 times (173 rushes, 24 receptions) he handled the ball. Last
season, Booker averaged 5.6 yards but saw his touches reduced to 157
opportunities (119 rushes, 38 receptions). Booker was the only FSU runner to gain 100
yards in a game in 2005. The Seminoles averaged an ACC-worst 94 rushing yards last
season and Booker was concerned enough about the state of the running game that
he considered skipping his senior season to enter the NFL.
The early departure of strong-side linebacker Ernie Sims may not be noticed
if junior Lawrence Timmons performs in 2006 like he did during the ACC
championship game against Virginia Tech. Timmons recorded two sacks and forced a
fumble during the Seminoles' 27-22 victory.
Freshman safety Myron Rolle made a big impression in his first scrimmage.
Rolle picked off a pass, recovered a fumble and snuffed out a reverse for
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, coach Chan Gailey's new
five-year contract includes a $5,000 bonus for each assistant coach for
every victory they earn against in-state rival Georgia. Gailey is said to have picked
up the idea from LSU coach Les Miles. "That's becoming very commonplace,"
Gailey told the Journal-Constitution. "I wanted to keep us on the same plane with
other people and what they're doing. That's the in-state rival, and it's a big
game." Gailey's contract, which pays him $1 million per season, has several
incentive clauses, but none for beating Georgia.
Cornerback Kenny Scott is the only returning starter in the Yellow
Jackets' secondary. Jahi Word-Daniels and Pat Clark -- a converted receiver -- are
expected to battle for the other cornerback job. Joe Gaston and Djay Jones are
the favorites to start at safety.
For the past five seasons, the Terrapins have had no worries at middle
linebacker. Between them, E.J. Henderson and D'Qwell Jackson won three ACC
Defensive Player of the Year trophies for Maryland. With Jackson gone, junior
Wesley Jefferson gets a chance to continue the legacy in 2006. Jefferson finished
sixth on the team in tackles last season with 57. "I think we'll get two real
good years out of him," Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen said.
Junior Lance Ball, a second-team All-ACC selection after finishing third
in rushing in 2005, is Maryland's unquestioned starter at tailback. But Ball
could get some help with the return of speedy senior Josh Allen, who redshirted
last season while recovering from a severe knee injury. Allen dislocated his
left knee and tore two ligaments in the season finale against Wake Forest in
2004. In his first three seasons, Allen rushed for 1,860 yards, including 922
yards as a sophomore in 2003. Allen has been cleared to take part in spring
practice when it begins on April 1. "It will be great to see Josh back out there
because we have missed having that true breakaway threat," Friedgen said.
Spring practice began on March 21 with new offensive line coach Mario
Cristobal in charge of finding four new starters. That may not be as daunting as
it would appear considering the Hurricanes' line finished next-to-last in the
ACC in sacks allowed last season and was only average at run blocking. Sophomore Reggie
Youngblood heads into spring as the starter at left tackle,
replacing Eric Winston. Senior center Anthony Wollschlager is the only returning
starter. Junior Glenn Sharpe is listed as the starter at left cornerback after
missing most of the past two seasons with knee injuries. Sharpe sustained a torn
left ACL in November 2003. He played two games in 2004 but was forced to stop
playing to rehabilitate his left knee further. Sharpe tore his right ACL
during summer workouts last year and missed the 2005 season. Bad luck has touched
Sharpe beyond his injuries. It was Sharpe who was flagged for a controversial
penalty on what would have been the last play of the 2002 Fiesta Bowl,
allowing Ohio State to score in overtime and win the national championship. Sharpe
has been granted two medical redshirts by the NCAA, meaning he'll have six
seasons to complete his eligibility.
James Bryant has moved back to linebacker after serving as a backup
fullback last season. Bryant will compete with Glenn Cook and Darryl Sharpton for
the starting middle linebacker job. Romeo Davis, who started nine games in
2005, has been moved from the middle to the weak side. "I haven't been overly
pleased with that position since we lost Jon Vilma," coach Larry Coker said.
The Tar Heels' top two running backs return in 2006, although senior
Ronnie McGill is the starter if he stays healthy. McGill missed the first four
games of last season after tearing a pectoral muscle while lifting weights. He
provided Carolina's anemic running game with some punch by rushing for 530 yards on
130 carries (4.1 average), including two 100-yard performances in victories
against Duke and Virginia. McGill enjoyed a strong freshman season in 2003,
rushing for a career-high 654 yards and seven TDs. However, an ankle injury that cost him
five games as a sophomore and last season's chest injury have kept the Clover,
S.C., native from matching his freshman numbers. Also back is junior Barrington
Edwards, the former LSU transfer who started Carolina's first five games and
finished with 397 yards.
Sophomore James "Cooter" Arnold, the Tar Heels' third-leading rusher last season
with 187 yards, has been moved to safety this spring. Arnold started the 2005
opener and became the second freshman to start the first game of the season
since Charlie Justice in 1946. Arnold is listed on the spring depth chart as a
backup at free safety to Kareen Taylor.
The Wolfpack are deep at tailback, beginning with Andre Brown, who led the
team in rushing as a freshman last season with 721 yards. Toney Baker, also a
freshman in 2005, ran for 546 yards. With Brown and Baker around, junior
Darrell Blackman has been moved from tailback to receiver. Blackman, who also
served as NC State's kickoff and punt returner, ran for 203 yards last season.
The Wolfpack will need plenty of production from the running backs while
the team's receivers gain experience. The top three pass catchers from last
season -- Brian Clark, T.J. Williams and Tramain Hall -- must be replaced.
The first order of business when the Cavaliers start spring practice March 29 is to find a new starting quarterback following the departure of two-year
starter Marques Hagans. The two front-runners for the position are senior
Christian Olsen and redshirt freshman Jameel Sewell. Olsen, the older brother of
Miami tight end Greg Olsen, has the edge in experience having backed up Hagans the
last two seasons. A transfer from Notre Dame, Olsen has thrown 22 passes in
seven games the past two seasons. Sewell is a left-handed thrower from
Branden Ore, expected to be the starter at tailback, is not enrolled in
school for the spring semester and will not participate in spring practice. Ore
is opting to rehabilitate his surgically repaired right shoulder at home in
Chesapeake, Va. Ore underwent surgery on Jan. 3 to repair a torn labrum. He is
expected to be ready to take part in summer workouts and fall practice. Last
season, Ore finished second on the Hokies with 647 yards on 109 carries. With
Ore out of the mix, most of the carries in spring practice will go to George
Bell, Elan Lewis and Kenny Lewis Jr. Cornerbacks Macho Harris and Jahre
Cheeseman will also get auditions at tailback.
Among Bell, Elan Lewis and Kenny Lewis Jr., the only one with any playing
experience is Bell, who gained 198 yards in 2005 as a redshirt freshman. Kenny
Lewis Jr. was a member of Virginia Tech's 2003 recruiting class but chose to play
baseball for three years after being drafted in the fourth round by the
Cincinnati Reds. Lewis' father, Kenny Sr., was a Virginia Tech running back in the
1970s and held the school single-game rushing record with 223 yards against
Virginia Military Institute in 1978 until the mark was broken by Kevin Jones in
Starting center Danny McGrath will miss spring practice while he recovers from shoulder surgery.
The Demon Deacons sustained a major loss with the departure of tailback
Chris Barclay, the 2005 ACC Player of the Year. Despite Barclay's absence, the
running game should be in good hands with junior running back Micah Andrews,
the son of former Atlanta Falcons standout runner William Andrews. Last
season, Andrews finished seventh in the ACC with an average of 62.1 rushing yards
per game. He rushed for 254 yards against Vanderbilt, the second-best
performance in school history and had 142 yards in another start against East
Carolina. Andrews' per-carry average of 5.65 yards was the third-highest in Wake's
Defensive lineman Jyles Tucker, receiver Kevin Marion, guard Eric
Gaskins and running back Travo Woods are all participating in spring practice after
they were suspended at the end of last season for violation of unspecified team
rules. "From the start of January when they got back, it was back to work,
business as usual," Wake coach Jim Grobe told the Winston-Salem Journal.
Spring practice started on Wednesday without a trio of defensive linemen.
Matt Robinson (kneecap), Jeremy Thompson (ACL tear) and Zach Stukes (shoulder)
are all recovering from injuries but are expected back in the fall. Offensive
lineman Louis Frazier is also out this spring while rehabbing from knee
Jorge Milian covers the ACC for The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post.