Tag:Ryan Houston
Posted on: September 4, 2011 2:50 am
Edited on: September 5, 2011 4:41 pm
 

What I learned from the ACC (Sept. 3)

Posted by Chip Patterson

1) Unproven UNC QB Bryn Renner answered doubters with a record setting day. Renner only attempted two passes during his freshman year, one of them fell incomplete. In his first career start on Saturday against James Madison, the sophomore quarterback once again only missed his receiver once. Unfortunately it was intercepted, but it was the only miscue in Renner's 22-for-23 performance against the Dukes. Renner's 95.7% completion rate set a new ACC record and was a big reason the Tar Heels were able to give Everett Withers his first head coaching victory.

Renner's opposition will get much more difficult as the season goes on and teams get to prepare for the first-year starter, but that's where he will be aided by a two-headed rushing attack that also looked sharp on Saturday. Redshirt senior Ryan Houston and redshirt freshman Giovani Bernard both returned from injuries just in time to combine for 125 yards and three touchdowns on 25 carries. Combine their success with the reliable Dwight Jones receiving, and the quarterback position no longer looks like a question mark in Chapel Hill.

2) The ACC at least has the capability to put up big points - Of the ten ACC teams with a game under their belt, eight teams scored at least 29 points with the entire conference averaging AVERAGE points on the weekend thus far. Granted, only Wake Forest and Boston College played teams from an AQ conference (both lost) and six of the conference's opponents were FCS teams, but for a conference that has been criticized at times for a lack of offensive talent it was a nice change to see some points. For Clemson it took awhile before Chad Morris' signature offense got clicking, but the 31 second half points were testament that it is capable of wearing down a defense. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech's 60+ point performances can be attributed to a combination of their opposition (Appalachian State and Western Carolina) and some explosive playmakers. North Carolina and North Carolina State both piled on late TD's against their FCS opponents, and Florida State's defense contributed as much as their offense in the Seminoles' 34-0 shutout of Louisiana-Monroe.

3) FSU's greatest offense might be their defense. Speaking of Louisiana-Monroe, the Seminoles had a matchup advantage over the Warhawks as soon as the teams hit the field. But that fact should not take anything away from the impressive performance from the Florida State defense. ULM's offense was held to just 191 yards of offense and despite 39 rushing attempts, the Warhawks could not collect more than 99 yards. Brandon Jenkins and Tank Carradine were physical in the trenches while the Seminoles' back seven, led by safety Lamarcus Joyner, swarmed to the ball to stuff Warhawk receivers when quarterback Kolton Browning tried to utilize under routes on third downs. In fact, Florida State's ten third-down stops were a key in keeping ULM's running game from gathering any kind of momentum. The coaching staff will be focusing on Charleston Southern, but I'll say it: that kind of defensive performance will be needed if the Seminoles want to knock off No. 1 Oklahoma on Sept. 17 in Tallahassee.

4) Georgia Tech's offense shows explosion, and more of the same bad habits. Paul Johnson's first two seasons as Georgia Tech's head coach had 9+ wins both seasons and an ACC title. So there was no surprise that Yellow Jacket fans were concerned with 2010's 6-7 finish that included dropping five of their final six games. One of the reasons Georgia Tech struggled down the stretch was trouble holding onto the ball. No FBS team lost more fumbles than Georgia Tech (20) in 2010, and they ranked last in the ACC in turnover margin. So while there was plenty to celebrate with the offensive performance in the season opener, there are also plenty of red flags.

The Yellow Jackets totaled 662 yards of offense, the most for any Georgia Tech team since 2000. Tevin Washington had more passing yards in the first quarter (148) than any quarterback had in an entire game during the 2010 season. Stephen Hill's four catches for 181 yards provided support to claims that he was set to be the next great Georgia Tech receiver in the line of Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. But Georgia Tech still fumbled the ball six times, luckily only losing the ball twice. Thursday's season opener showed Georgia Tech fans that this offense is dangerous. They can be dangerously good, but also dangerously destructive if they can't fix their turnover issues.

5.) Maryland - Miami - The opening weekend in the ACC wraps up on Monday night when Miami visits College Park with a shortened roster to kick off the conference schedule. It will be the first game for new head coaches Al Golden and Randy Edsall, and I'm positive we will have plenty to learn about both squads. Keep it here at the Eye on College Football for all your ACC coverage.
Posted on: August 3, 2011 5:52 pm
 

Backup UNC RB Hunter Furr seeking transfer

Posted by Chip Patterson

When Butch Davis was dismissed as head coach of the North Carolina football program, many Tar Heel fans feared that potentially upset players may seek playing opportunities elsewhere. On Wednesday, interim head coach Everett Withers announced that backup running back Hunter Furr plans to leave the program.

"Hunter came to me this week and asked for his release," Withers said. "He is seeking an opportunity for more playing time and I respect his wishes. We've enjoyed having Hunter in the program and I wish him nothing but the best as he continues his college career."

Furr, who had five carries for 30 yards in the 2010 season, appears to be leaving for reasons completely unrelated to Davis' dismissal.

"I would like to thank the entire Carolina coaching staff for their support and guidance over the last two years," said Furr. "I''ve enjoyed being a part of this program and I've developed several great relationships with teammates and coaches. I feel it's in the best interest of my football career to transfer and compete for playing time at another institution. I have nothing but respect for Caoch Withers and I believe he will do an outstanding job building the program."

Furr was listed as the second string running back on the final spring depth chart behind Ryan Houston, but it is possible that with the new availability of redshirt freshman running back Gio Bernard he was beginning to see his window closing. The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Bernard was ranked as a top 15 running back nationally by most scouting services and is expected to serve as a compliment to Houston's more physical running style.

Withers also announced on Wednesday the completion of the coaching staff for the 2011 season with the promotion of Steve Sisa to safeties coach. Sisa worked in player development last season, and will step into the role left vacant when Withers was promoted.

"With practice beginning in just a few days, we wanted to move quickly to complete our staff," Withers said. "I felt it was most important to add someone who knew the players and was a good fit with our other coaches. Steve has developed outstanding relationships with our players and is excited to begin."

The Tar Heels open fall camp on Friday in Chapel Hill.
Posted on: July 24, 2011 6:40 pm
Edited on: July 26, 2011 11:32 am
 

Sylvester Williams making an impression at UNC

Posted by Chip Patterson

Sunday was dedicated to the players at the ACC Football Kickoff. Two representatives from each of the 12 schools made their rounds with the media. This was my takeaway from North Carolina

Questions regarding the ongoing NCAA case were impossible to avoid at the ACC Football Kickoff for North Carolina, but since we're here to talk about the 2011 season it was nice to get some actual football talk from Butch Davis' two representatives here at Pinehurst. Jonathan Cooper has been a pivotal part of the offensive line since he arrived at Chapel Hill, and with more health and experience than ever he thinks this could be their best unit yet. One of the first tasks for the group is opening holes for running back Ryan Houston. Houston redshirted last season after initially sitting out because of the NCAA investigation. The return of the big back has Cooper and his teammates excited for the rushing attack in 2011.

"It's very, very exciting, Cooper explained. "I definitely look forward to running the ball on 3rd and 2. I don't want to run play-action and I don't want to drop back and pass. I want to pound the ball, I think that's the sign of a good offensive line: when you can impose your will. With a good, big back, it'll help a lot to do that."

Earlier this week, Butch Davis identified the offensive and defensive line as the team's strengths heading into camp. One fresh face to the defensive line is transfer defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. Williams is rooming with defensive tackle Tydreke Powell in Chapel Hill. Powell opened up and shared an interesting story about his new roommate and teammate.

"[Williams] is going to be one of the top D-tackles in the country," Powell boasted about his roomy. "When he first got here, we weren't rooming together. I was staying at my fiance then. He called me on Saturday at 8 o'clock [in the morning] and I asked him 'What's up' - I thought something was wrong. He was like 'Come on man, let's go work. We can't get better and we can't be the best d-tackles in the country if we're not working on Saturdays cause everybody else is resting.'

"I knew right then when he called and told me that I knew he was going to be a big force for us. That work ethic is something serious."

Williams and Powell will anchor the middle of North Carolina's defensive line along with Jordan Nix. Powell also shared that the greatest inspiration for him on the field has not been any of the top ranked NFL talent that has come before him, but his two children.
Posted on: April 26, 2011 3:00 pm
Edited on: April 26, 2011 3:04 pm
 

What I learned this spring: ACC Coastal

Posted by Chip Patterson

With all six spring games completed, we wrap up spring practice in the ACC Coastal Division.

DUKE: Head coach David Cutcliffe exits his fourth spring practice with the Blue Devils with as much optimism as ever, but knows that the 2011 Blue Devils have some work to do before kicking off the season against Richmond on Sept. 3.

"A successful day," Cutcliffe said after the spring game. "But I told them this is just the beginning. In college football now, [you have] the remainder of the spring term to work on weights and conditioning. And a summer that's going to very important to a young team."

Almost two-thirds of the Blue Devils roster is made up of freshman and sophomores. While youth can easily breed optimism, there is also a realistic expectation that this group needs to put in more work on the fundamentals this summer. Duke does have the benefit of returning both pieces of their quarterback rotation from 2010. Junior Sean Renfree will remain the starting quarterback, coming off a pleasantly surprising 3,131 yard, 14 touchdown season. Sophomore Brandon Connette will continue in his role as a run-first quarterback in rotation with Renfree, but the spring has shown some improvement in Connette's passing game. Defensively, we didn't learn much about Duke this spring due to widespread injuries across the unit. If anything the injuries made a talented Blue Devils offense look spectacular at times. Duke will likely not be able to escape a similar bowl-less fate in 2011, but at least now they have the athletes on the roster to remain competitive.

GEORGIA TECH: Georgia Tech set out to improve defensively this spring and try to focus on special teams. The good news is that the Yellow Jackets defense finished spring practice looking much better than the offense. Which might actually reveal more issues with the offense than it does compliment the defensive improvement. At different times this spring, both Tevin Washington and Synjyn Days have struggled in scrimmage situations against the first-team defense. Both quarterbacks have struggled to find a rhythm, and as head coach Paul Johnson said, they have been "running for their lives" on the field.

The defense was highlighted this spring by players like defensive end Jason Peters and inside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy, who entered spring practice as a backup. Nealy, a redshirt freshman, has seen time with the first-string this spring due to injuries to Julian Burnett and Daniel Drummond. He has made the most of the opportunity, capping off his spring by leading the Yellow Jackets in tackles during their annual T-Day game. Paul Johnson also wanted to increase the mistakes in the special teams after last season. Unfortunately that is not completely solved as Georgia Tech's kickers combined for misses from 28, 47, and 49 yards in the T-Day game.

MIAMI: Miami's spring has been much publicized due to the arrival of new head coach Al Golden . Therefore it should come as no surprise that we learned just as much (if not more) about Golden's vision for the Miami football program this spring than we did about the actual players on the roster. In following the Hurricanes this spring one word stands out to describe Golden's brief time at Miami: demand.

Golden demands that Miami play, practice, and think at a fast pace. He demanded that the Hurricanes get in better shape, and instituted a rigorous winter conditioning program. He demanded that players need to earn starting positions, and that is obvious with the unusually fluid final spring depth chart.

But will all these demands and the implementation of a new attitude around Miami catch on in time for the 2011 season? There are still plenty of question marks on the field, most notably the ongoing quarterback battle between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. The Hurricanes have a stable of running backs and a solid offensive line that should provide stability to the offense, and take some pressure of whichever signal-caller ends up as the starter. If nothing else, Golden has brought hype back to "The U." More than 300 former players showed up for the Hurricanes' spring game in Ft. Lauderdale, a who's who of active and retired NFL players.

Something else I learned from Miami this spring? I really need to get a Michael Irvin alarm clock.



NORTH CAROLINA: - While several former North Carolina defenders are preparing to hear their name called this weekend in the NFL draft, many of the stars from 2010's defense are still in Chapel Hill preparing for next fall. If anything, the spring showed us that the heart of of the Tar Heels' defense will be on the defensive line. The Tar Heels will be able to rotate 8-9 defensive lineman, highlighted by Quinton Coples, Jared MacAdoo, and Donte Paige-Moss. Much of the depth and added experience on the defensive line is due to the suspensions of Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn forcing players into positions unexpectedly before the season started. One of the things that makes North Carolina's line especially dangerous is the ability of several players to play multiple positions. Both Coples and MacAdoo are able to play inside or out, and that versatility can benefit a team when injuries hit during the long season. One of the biggest surprises on the already deep defensive line has been the play of junior college transfer Sylvester Williams. Williams has been building buzz since he arrived in Chapel Hill, and could end up challenging Jordan Nix for a starting defensive tackle job by next fall. North Carolina's secondary is a concern once again, making it even more important for the defensive line to put pressure on the quarterback to prevent opposing wide receivers from getting space down the field.

Offensively much of the focus will be on quarterback Bryn Renner, who is taking over for four-year starter T.J. Yates. Renner showed promise at times this spring, but he is still getting accustomed to his new role as leader of the offense. Thankfully he'll have Dwight Jones and Erik Highsmith to throw to, and an experienced offensive line to give him time to operate. Ryan Houston was a touchdown machine in 2009, but after redshirting last season and undergoing shoulder blade surgery this summer the depth at running back will be a concern heading into the fall.

VIRGINIA: Earlier this year, head coach Mike London made headlines by pulling in yet another unexpectedly strong class on National Signing Day. Unfortunately, these small victories will take some time before they translate into more marks in the "W" column for the Cavaliers. This spring did not answer many of the questions that existed near the end of last year's four-win season. Defensively, the Cavaliers return seven starters from a unit that finished only better than Duke and Wake Forest in both scoring and total defense. Improvement from those numbers will be necessary considering the lack of offensive firepower.

Virginia rotated through four different quarterbacks during their spring game (Michael Rocco, Ross Metheny, Michael Strauss, and David Watford), but no candidate stood out among the group. The offensive line has been porous, and the Cavaliers still lack an answer at running back as well. What did I learn about Virginia? Greener pastures may lie in their future, but unless someone steps up to make the Cavaliers a threat on offense they will have a difficult time keeping up with opponents in 2011.

VIRGINIA TECH: Not to drone on about new quarterbacks, but when a sophomore takes over for the ACC Player of the Year it is going to turn some heads. Logan Thomas has looked impressive this spring, grabbing most of the positive notes out of Blacksburg across the last several weeks. He finished spring practice as the star of the spring game, throwing for 131 yards and two touchdowns while also leading the Hokies in rushing with 46 yards on just five carries. However, Thomas' impressive performance did showcase some depth issues for the Hokies on offense. With starting running back David Wilson away with the track team, backup running backs Daniel Dyer, Josh Oglesby, and James Hopper struggled against the Hokies' defense in the spring game. Last season head coach Frank Beamer had the benefit of three NFL-caliber running backs to choose from, right now it looks like Wilson is the only competent option. The backup quarterbacks did not fair well either, with second-string Ju-Ju Clayton completing just three of his ten passes, and tossing two interceptions.

Defensively, Virginia Tech's returning talent seems charged up by the 40-12 lashing they took from Andrew Luck and Stanford in the Orange Bowl. The competition on the field has been aggressive, and defensive coordinator Bud Foster has not backed down from calling his team's performance in that game "unacceptable." Players to keep an eye on heading into the fall include linebacker Tariq Edwards and defensive end James Gayle, who was voted the spring defensive MVP. For those still curious, wide receiver Danny Coale did punt in the spring game and is still considered in the running for the job come fall.
Posted on: April 13, 2011 10:20 am
Edited on: April 15, 2011 8:26 am
 

UNC RB Ryan Houston out 4 months after surgery

Posted by Chip Patterson

UPDATE: The school announced Thursday night that Ryan Houston had undergone successful surgery to repair the broken right scapula (shoulder blade) that he injured during the Spring Game.  Houston is expected to be out for approximately four months, bringing him back to the field a few weeks before the Tar Heels kick off the 2011 season.  Backup running back Hunter Furr saw brief action in 2010, but outside of Houston the Tar Heels lack experience at that position.  Gionvanni Bernard, a 5-10 redshirt freshman, is listed behind Furr on the spring depth chart but is expected to have an impact once he finds his way in the rotation.  

--------------------------------

North Carolina
starting running back Ryan Houston has been waiting a long time to make his return to the football field for the Tar Heels.  Houston was redshirted last season after missing five games while school officials worked with the NCAA to determine his eligibility.  By the time Houston was cleared to play, head coach Butch Davis announced that Houston would redshirt the season to save his final year of eligibility for 2011.  Preparing for his final year as the starting running back, Houston encountered yet another unseen obstacle.

School officials confirmed to InsideCarolina.com, North Carolina's Scout affiliate, that Houston broke his shoulder blade during Saturday's spring game and will have surgery on Thursday .  There has been no word on how much time Houston will miss, the school plans to make an announcement following the procedure.

Keep it here at the Eye on College Football for more on this story as it develops 
Posted on: March 21, 2011 4:37 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2011 4:39 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: North Carolina

Posted by Chip Patterson

College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football  will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at North Carolina , who started spring practice last Wednesday
.

Is it possible that the suspensions of 2010 better prepared the Tar Heels for 2011?

With how publicized the program has been in the last 12 months, it is easy to forget that North Carolina head coach Butch Davis is only entering his fifth year in Chapel Hill. Davis had plans of bringing top notch talent to North Carolina, and the records show that it has worked. After going 4-8 in year one, Davis has rattled off three straight 8-5 seasons and in 2010 delivered the first bowl win for North Carolina since 2001.

But the dark cloud has not completely been lifted off the North Carolina football program. After finishing with that Music Bowl victory, too many Tar Heel fans were left saying "what if?" What if North Carolina had all of their suspended players for the whole season? Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com wrote that if all of North Carolina's suspended players had played the Tar Heels might have contended for a national championship. Obviously this claim is a little far-fetched, but with 12 Tar Heels showing their stuff in the NFL combine, it is easy to see why fans are asking the "what ifs'."

With all that talent at the NFL combine, you would think that there would be a drop-off for North Carolina coming into 2011. But the players, and those close to the program do not expect a drop-off at all. When you have a recruiter like Butch Davis you don't need to rebuild, you just reload.

With all of those players missing action early in the season (and some for the entire year), a crop of young talent got to see the field much earlier than expected. Those players are back for 2011, and are ready to form their own impressive combine group. At least 12 backups saw much more action than they ever expected in last year's season opener against LSU. The game, played in the Georgia Dome, was a real taste of big-time southern football for those players. They will take those experiences on the field, and enter spring practice hungry.

On the defensive side of the ball the Tar Heels only return six starters, but many of the reserves saw significant action on the field due to suspension and/or injury. The playmaking ability of Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant will be missed, but look this spring for significant changes in the attitudes of Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick. It will be their duty to carry on the torch from the previous two star linebackers. The line is back with even more depth, and most of the secondary got to see the field during the suspensions of Deuntae Williams (4 games) and Kendrick Burney (6 games).

Things are less certain for the offense. Most important for the Tar Heels offense will be seeing how Bryn Renner does stepping into the starting role. In his four years on the field, Yates set the school records for career and single-season passing yards, as well as single season total offense. Now he passes the torch to Renner, who has been taking notes for the last two years.

"I learned everything I knew to be a college quarterback from him," Renner said after his first practice as the starting signal-caller. "Just the way he handled himself on and off the field, and the way he conducted himself on the field, so I learned a lot from him."

Renner enters spring practice as the starter, but he will be pushed for the job. With A.J. Blue healthy, there will be an open competition for the backup spot with Braden Hanson and the highly sought-after Marquise Williams, who enrolled early. The hope being that the competition will only improve all of the quarterbacks, giving offensive coordinator John Shoop some comfortable depth at the quarterback position.

One thing that Renner does have going for him from the beginning is a talented crop of returning wide receivers. Dwight Jones, Erik Highsmith, and Jheranie Boyd are all familiar with Renner from practice in previous years and should waste no time getting their timing back. Ryan Houston, who led the Tar Heels in rushing TD's in 2009, is back after redshirting a year ago and should help take the pressure off the first-time starter.

"We are really excited to get Ryan back, that was a big help," Renner explained. "I'm really excited to see Giovanni [Bernard], I think he's going to be a great player and has great upside. I'm really looking forward to handing the ball off to those two guys."

Despite the optimism and excitement from the players, there still is an unresolved NCAA investigation. While the athletic department remains optimistic that no major sanctions will be placed on the program, there is the possibility that a punishment will be handed down from the NCAA that could hurt the Tar Heels' chances of continuing the postseason streak that Davis has established.

But until then, the expectations are the same in Chapel Hill, and the campaign to return to a bowl in 2011 has already begun.

Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com