BC's Herzlich Turns His Attention To Field
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Boston College linebacker Mark Herzlich knows he has already overcome tremendous odds in his fight against cancer.
When doctors diagnosed Herzlich in May 2009 with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, they told him he would never be able to run again. He underwent months of chemotherapy and radiation, and doctors inserted a titanium rod into his left leg to stabilize it.
All the while, Herzlich, the 2008 ACC Defensive Player of the Year, was convinced he would beat cancer. And Herzlich never doubted that he would eventually return to the football field as one of the country's most feared linebackers.
"I knew it was going to be tough," Herzlich said. "I knew it was going to be hard. I knew it was going to be long. I knew I had to go at it with everything I had. There were days that were tough."
These days are much better for Herzlich. He returned to Boston College's football team for spring practice and did everything but participate in contact drills. Initially, he was bothered by the titanium rod in his leg, which limited his flexibility and lateral movement.
But after participating in offseason workouts this summer, Herzlich said his left leg is stronger than ever. Doctors were surprised by its density in recent X-rays, and Herzlich has been medically cleared to participate in contact drills when the Eagles open preseason camp on Aug. 9.
"Hitting is the best part of what I do," Herzlich said. "A lot of it is mental, but a linebacker has to be angry and hit people hard all the time."
During his junior season in 2008, Herzlich hit people and created havoc better than anyone else. He finished with 110 tackles, six interceptions, eight pass breakups, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
"I think everybody is going to compare what I do this year to what I did in 2008," Herzlich said. "I'm going to compare what I do this year to what I did in 2008. I'm not settling for anything less or expecting anything less."
Herzlich said doctors have told him that his left leg isn't more susceptible to injury than his right one. But if Herzlich were to break his left leg, its chances of healing properly would be diminished because of the effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
"I can't play overly cautious," Herzlich said. "Whether a freak accident happens to me on the field or in a car accident, I can't let it bother me. I have to make my leg as strong as possible. If some freak accident happens, it happens."
Senior left tackle Anthony Castonzo says the Eagles will be a better team with their emotional leader back on the field.
"He's kept such an optimistic outlook through the entire thing," Castonzo said. "He never thought he wasn't going to play football again. It is something he loves and he's not going to let it be taken away from him."
Cloud Of Uncertainty Hanging Over Tar Heels
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- North Carolina football coach Butch Davis arrived at ACC Football Kickoff on Sunday wearing a straw hat and carrying a golf bag.
If any coach in the country needs a break from the events of the last few weeks, it is Davis, whose Tar Heels program is under scrutiny by NCAA investigators, who have questioned at least two UNC players -- senior defensive tackle Marvin Austin and senior receiver Greg Little -- about their possible dealings with sports agents and a trip to Miami to attend an agent's party.
"It's a little frustrating because it's obviously distracting to our football team," quarterback T.J. Yates said. "But we're going to get past it and get over it. It will be forgotten in the heart of the season."
Yates can only hope the Tar Heels are able to put the investigation behind them before they open the season against LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta's Georgia Dome on Sept. 4.
"We're not allowed to talk about it," Yates said. "A lot of guys on the team, we don't really know what's going on. Nobody really knows what's going on. It's going to be a thing that whatever happens we've got to take it and run with it. We'll get better from it no matter what."
Tar Heels defensive end Robert Quinn said he expects Austin to be with the Tar Heels when they open the season.
"Right now, he's going to be there," Quinn said. "That's how I look at it."
Yellow Jackets Adding New Wrinkle To Attack?
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Georgia Tech needs to pass the ball if the Jackets are going to be a national title contender, A-back Roddy Jones said. That's something they weren't able to do in the Orange Bowl against Iowa last season, and after going back and watching film, Jones said they learned from it and worked on their passing game this past spring.
Jones said Georgia Tech "definitely" will be making more use of Joshua Nesbitt's arm this fall.
"It's something we've been trying to do for the past couple of years, actually," Jones said. "We're trying to get more involved in the passing game, especially with Bay-Bay [Demaryius Thomas] being gone, somebody is going to have to step up and fill that void. I think you're going to see a lot of A-backs catching passes out of the backfield and taking a bigger role in the passing game."
Jones said this year's playbook should be a little more creative and will keep defenses guessing because there will be more options than Thomas.
"I think it's going to be more of a receiver by committee this year," Jones said. "You don't replace all of the receiving yards Bay-Bay had with just one person. Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton are going to do great jobs out there. Stephen is a heck of a talent you may not have seen as much and Tyler is poised for a big year. We're guys who are very capable of catching the ball and I think you'll see a lot more of it this year."
Tigers' Parker Puts MLB Riches On Hold
GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Clemson offensive lineman Chris Hairston's job just got tougher. He's not only protecting the Tigers' record-setting quarterback -- he's potentially protecting a future millionaire.
"Oh yeah, man, I'm going to have to talk to the [Colorado] Rockies about a little incentive plan to keep that man out of injury, out of harm's way," Hairston said.
Kyle Parker's decision to return to the football team instead of joining the Rockies as a first-round draft pick has given his teammates increased confidence in defending their Atlantic Division title.
"It just gives us an experienced quarterback," said safety DeAndre McDaniel. "We can have a more balanced offense. With Tajh [Boyd] being there we would've had a few more mistakes because he's a freshman, but with Kyle coming back the offense will cut down on some of the mistakes and do more play-action with that big run game we're supposed to have this year."
Boston College: Mark Herzlich
One Good Thing
Boston College: Eagles senior left tackle Anthony Castonzo will be ready for the start of preseason camp after missing spring practice with a broken right foot. Sometime during the 2010 season, Castonzo also will go through the interview process for receiving a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship. Castonzo was nominated for the honor this spring. He has a 3.5 GPA in biochemistry and hopes to one day conduct cancer research.
Clemson: Safety DeAndre McDaniel said he and quarterback Christian Ponder have been chatting since they arrived at the ACC football kickoff and there are no hard feelings after last year's hit that knocked Ponder out for the rest of the season with a shoulder injury. "As soon as I found out he was injured I hit him up on Facebook the next day and made sure everything was OK with him," McDaniel said.
Duke: Center Bryan Morgan is a Birmingham, Ala., native. It's impossible for him not to think about the upcoming game against defending national champ Alabama. Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe has told his team it can beat his alma mater, but Morgan said the Blue Devils are approaching it step-by-step and plan to "treat it like a regular game." And when Morgan runs out of the tunnel at Wallace Wade Stadium, he expects the crowd to be "pretty close to even."
Florida State: Quarterback Christian Ponder said it was kind of strange to attend ACC Kickoff and not see former coach Bobby Bowden there. For the first time since 1976, Bowden won't be coaching the Seminoles this coming season after being replaced by offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher in January. "It is different," Ponder said. "Coach Bowden was probably the biggest reason I came to Florida State. It was definitely tough to see him go. We're going to miss him a lot. It's time like these that you really enjoyed being around him."
Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech's new 3-4 defense has been a challenge for the Jackets' offense to go against, said A-back Roddy Jones. One newcomer to watch for is safety Isaiah Johnson, who enrolled in January. "He was a guy who had a great spring," Jones said. "He was a guy who showed his athleticism, flew around, and he'll come up and hit you."
Maryland: Terps linebacker Alex Wujciak said embattled coach Ralph Friedgen is trying to ensure that his future won't be a distraction for his team this season. After winning 10 games or more in each of his first three seasons at Maryland, Friedgen's teams have suffered losing seasons in four of the last six campaigns, including a woeful 2-10 mark in '09. "I think he's just ready to get back out there," Wujciak said. "He doesn't like being 2-10. He's a competitor."
Miami: Hurricanes defensive tackle Allen Bailey has become a cult hero because of his eye-popping accomplishments in the weight room. Bailey, who led the Canes with seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 2009, recently broke many of his school's weightlifting records. Bailey's latest stats: 585-pound squat, 420-pound bench press, 405-pound power clean and 39½-inch vertical leap.
North Carolina: UNC quarterback T.J. Yates said there will be a greater sense of urgency during summer camp because the season opener against LSU will set the tone for the rest of the season. "If we get a win in Atlanta that could leapfrog us into the season we definitely want to have," Yates said. "It's extremely important to get a win."
NC State: Senior linebacker Nate Irving said the worst part of missing all of the 2009 season was watching the Wolfpack's defense struggle so mightily. Irving suffered a broken leg and collapsed lung in a June 2009 car accident. Without him, NC State's defense ranked among the country's worst, finishing No. 106 in pass-efficiency defense (143.8 rating) and No. 99 in scoring (31.1 points per game). "It was hard," Irving said. "I felt for the seniors and felt like I let them down. I couldn't watch."
Virginia: Quarterback Marc Verica said the Cavaliers are moving to a "more traditional pro-style offense" than the spread offense the previous staff tried to install. "I think it will be easier for us to establish our identity this year," Verica said. "Last year we were a little ambiguous as to what we were doing, and shifting to different things throughout the season. I think there will be more of a consistency and clearer identity this year."
Virginia Tech: Quarterback Tyrod Taylor said the ACC offers a lot of talent at quarterback this year and that he can "compete with the best of any of them." Taylor got some extra motivation, though, when a reporter told him the Hokies haven't averaged more than 200 yards passing since 1995. "That does surprise me. Hopefully we can get those numbers higher this year."
Wake Forest: Running back Josh Adams said the Deacs "gave up" in some areas last year and mental toughness was their biggest problem -- a problem that had coach Jim Grobe "bug-eyed" after the Maryland game. He said he saw more frustration from the staff than in past seasons and "hopefully we can keep that to a minimum this year."
ACC's Swofford on agents
Best Of Day 1
Best Quote: "Oh definitely not. Who's going to favor a team that was 2-10?" -- Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith on whether the Terps will be favored in their opener against Navy.
Best Prediction: UNC defensive end Robert Quinn said he's expecting "27 sacks and the Heisman" from himself this year.
Best Anticipated Matchup: NC State receiver Owen Spencer said he can't wait to face UNC corner Kendric Burney in their rivalry game because the two have a prior relationship from their high school days.
Best Response: FSU quarterback Christian Ponder said he thinks FSU has the best offensive line in the country as it returns five starters. Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo's response? "That's a joke."