Tag:Bryn Renner
Posted on: September 5, 2011 12:33 pm
Edited on: September 5, 2011 12:39 pm
 

Surveying the Field: Reviewing Week 1

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Yes, it's back.

234 days after Auburn defeated Oregon in Glendale, college football has returned. And did it ever.

At some point during Russell Wilson's return at Wisconsin, Baylor and TCU's shootout, Auburn's furious comeback or Texas A&M's blowout of SMU, one just had to take a deep breath, take in everything that was going on around the country and say, yes, the sport is back.

As Washington beat writer Bob Condotta summed up, "College football spent 9 months trying to drive everyone away and in about 18 hours has brought everyone back."

Three straight days worth of games (and one more tonight) couldn't have come at a better time either after, as Condotta alluded to, a rough offseason. Realignment and infractions were in most writers' computer clipboards just from all that went on. Ohio State, Oregon, USC, Miami, etc., were the schools being talked about in lieu of directional schools being beat up by state schools.

The newest addition to the great CBSSports.com crew, senior columnist Bruce Feldman, broke down The Big Picture from opening weekend and now it's time to dive into the details.

Stat of the week

Admission: I'm a passionate baseball fan. I write, live and breath college football for a living but to me, there's nothing like the intricacies of a baseball game. There's Vin Scully in the booth, phenom call-ups, the DH debate and John Sterling going as over the top as you can get on a home run call. The sport isn't for everyone though, and the biggest reason most point to is the pace of the games.

Turns out, the baseball players have come around to that point too. I've watched a ton of Red Sox-Yankees games over the years and still enjoy every pitch despite them routinely taking around four hours to play.

"It's brutal. I can't stand playing a nine-inning game in four hours. It's not baseball," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "I don't even know how to describe it. If I was a fan, why would I want to come watch people sitting around and talking back and forth, going to the mound, 2-0 sliders in the dirt? Four-hour games can't be fun for a fan, either?"

On Thursday, the opening day of college football, the Yankees and Red Sox played nine innings in four hours and 21 minutes. 4:21. Not one football game all week took longer than four hours during week one that wasn't extended due to weather. Heck, out of 1,526 games during the 2010 season, the average length of a game was 3:12.

Stats like this make me glad I cover football and am just a fan of baseball. The excessive TV timeouts in the college game might make some angry but do keep things in perspective: at least it's not baseball.

Other stats of note

- SEC teams scored 63 touchdowns, 22 through the air, five on defense and five through returns.

- Florida running back Jeff Demps broke the 2,000 yard rushing mark for his career while his teammate Chris Rainey (left) scored a touchdown receiving, rushing and via a punt return. He was the first Gator to ever score in those three ways in one game.

- Arkansas's Joe Adams managed to return two punt returns for touchdowns against Missouri State.

- The 53 pass attempts from by Oregon's Darron Thomas were the most by a Ducks quarterback since Kellen Clemons on October 9, 2004.

- North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner had a great debut for the Tar Heels, going 22-23 for a 95.7% completion percentage. That's an ACC record and is the second best mark in NCAA history behind Tennessee's Tee Martin at 95.8%.

- USC's Robert Woods caught a school-record 17 passes and Matt Barkley threw a school-record 34 completions.

- Kellen Moore has 102 career touchdown passes against just 20 interceptions after his game in the Georgia Dome. According to Tony Barnhart, 10 of those interceptions came in his first year.

- UCLA hadn't lost in the state of Texas in 34 years (to Houston) before falling to the Cougars on Saturday. They also hadn't lost to a team from Texas since Houston beat them at the Rose Bowl in 1979. More than the record books though, Rick Neuheisel badly needed a win for this year's record.

- Oregon State true freshman Malcolm Agnew is the nation's leading rusher after a 223 yard performance... but his team still lost to an average FCS team this weekend.

- No surprise to see FIU's T.Y. Hilton turn in another great all-around performance, racking up a nation's-best 283 all-purpose yards against North Texas.

- Amazingly, Oregon-LSU was only the seventh time two ranked Pac-12 and SEC teams met on the field in the last 10 years. The SEC has a 4-3 edge after the Tigers took care of business in Arlington.

The NCAA is following Miami

The NCAA taking a road trip to see Miami tonight…. NCAA.com that is.

The site is wrapping up a five game, five state, five day road trip to kick off the season and is taking a behind the scenes look at several programs along the way. They were in Charlotte, N.C. to check in on student-athlete Stephen Garcia leading South Carolina to a win over ECU. The were soaked after rain storms shortened West Virginia's victory over Marshall. Tonight they'll be in College Park to see Maryland and Miami play.

While the trip is noble, there's a tinge of irony that the NCAA is taking their talents to see the team from South Beach play. Either way, check it out here.

I'm not sure which of the 16 different uniform combinations Maryland is using Monday night either but maybe they can figure out a way to wear the all white ones despite it being a home game. After all, seems like this would be their only chance since you certainly can't wear (all) white after Labor Day.

Don't forget about these guys

- Notre Dame was as sloppy as the field they played on and there's not much else to say beyond that. Yes it was rainy, yes it was the first game of the year but all that shouldn't matter for the Irish - looking to finally live up to expectations and be a top 10 team this year. There's still plenty of time for them to get it together but their lack of fundamentals and now very real quarterback controversy will be something Brian Kelly will have to figure out quickly. On the bright side, Michael Floyd (right) had 12 catches, 154 yards and two touchdowns.

- Auburn is a young team and they're going to take some lumps given their difficult schedule. Let's get that statement out of the way. They can - and should - be better than what everybody is saying they'll be but still, it was a bit shocking to see the Tigers on the brink of a loss at Jordan Hare Stadium to Utah State. It will take some time for this young team to gel and get caught up to the pace of the game. Auburn got a very real wake up call that Cam Newton wasn't taking the snap, now it's time to see how they'll respond.

"We are a long way off from being able to win very many games right now," head coach Gene Chizik said.

Aggies true freshman Chuckie Keeton was the star of the show if you look beyond the box score (21-30, 213 yards) thanks to the tremendous poise he had in his first game ever at the collegiate level. He'll be one to keep an eye on in the future.

- If you were a Michigan fan who managed to stay dry at the Big House, you had to be somewhat encouraged at the progress your defense made. Yes there's nowhere to go but up from last year but Greg Mattison looked like he had the team being much more aggressive. The players still aren't the caliber they once were but there are some bright spots, such as linebacker Brandon Herron.

- It's hard to read too much into Alabama's game against Kent State other than that their defense is nasty (90 total yards allowed) and they have an unfair advantage with Eddie Lacy and Trent Richardson in the backfield. It appears AJ McCarron has the edge at quarterback but both him and Phillip Sims tossed two interceptions. The real test comes when both go into a hostile Happy Valley to take on Penn State. That's when Nick Saban will truly find out which is his "guy."

- Memo to Bob Stoops: walk-on transfer Dominique Whaley needs a scholarship. It's the least Oklahoma's head coach can do after Whaley ran for 131 yards and four touchdowns in the Sooners opener against Tulsa. It's the Sooners bye week, perhaps Stoops can find the cash lying around for a full-ride.

- A so-so debut for Missouri quarterback James Franklin on Saturday. There were positives and negatives for Blaine Gabbert's replacement as he seemed about a half-step behind where he should have been in the passing game, failing to hit open receivers at times. Third down conversions (3 of 13) is one area that has to be concerning but certainly his skills running the ball have to be somewhat exciting to Tigers fans but there will have to be a bit of polishing going on before they take on the big boys like Oklahoma and Texas A&M.

- No surprise to see LSU corner Tyrann Mathieu named as SEC player of the week. He was all over Cowboys Stadium for the Tigers and made one of the biggest plays of the game when he recovered/forced a muff punt and scooped and scored.

More on College Football
Analysis
Dennis Dodd Dennis Dodd
LSU's Tigers sink teeth into Ducks, show they could be in running for No. 1 ranking. Read >>
Brett McMurphy Brett McMurphy
A changed Garcia makes all the difference for Gamecocks. Read >>
Tony Barnhart Tony Barnhart
Boise State's dominant win over Georgia proves they're ready to run the table. Read >>
Related links
Video
Pulling Rank

The AP and coaches polls don't come out until Tuesday with a game being played on Monday. Here's Dennis Dodd's latest power poll top 10 however.

1. Oklahoma, 2. LSU, 3. Boise State, 4. Alabama, 5. Wisconsin, 6. Virginia Tech, 7. Florida State, 8. Stanford, 9. Texas A&M, 10. Nebraska.

Not a big disagreement with that group, but perhaps the Cardinal is a bit undervalued at number eight.

Links for later

- With plenty of time to talk about conference realignment before the games begin again, be sure to check out Dallas Mavericks owner - and Indiana alum - Mark Cuban's thoughts on what Big 12 schools should do. Namely, just say no.

- The video of the week comes out of Lubbock, as Texas Tech's head coach Tommy Tuberville gets the Red Raider fans fired up in this pre-game intro. It didn't work as well as the second half intro, as Tech pulled away 50-10.

- A precision attack from Kellen Moore and his receivers picked apart Georgia's defense. Here's how they did it.
 
- Good column from Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde, who gets Al Golden to open up and share his view of the scandal that has engulfed his program.

- Is The Longhorn Network the sticking point for Texas going to the Pac-16? Yes, but it appears they can get out of it if they want.

Where We'll Be This Week

Looking ahead, Dennis Dodd will be on-hand to see Joe Paterno can try and pull of a massive upset as Alabama travels to Penn State. Tony Barnhart will be seeing if Georgia can bounce back and save Mark Richt's job as the Bulldogs take on South Carolina while Brett McMurphy travels to Ann Arbor for the big night game between Michigan and Notre Dame. Gregg Doyel is going to see one independent take on a possible future independent as BYU travels to play Texas. Finally, myself and Bruce Feldman will carpool to the Coliseum and witness the first ever Pac-12 conference game between Utah and USC.

Across the goal line

Finally, let's not forget how the first day of Oh-thank-goodness-college-football-
is back ended for most of us. I'm really not sure why a game between two commonwealth schools would be played in the state of Tennessee in the first place, but it was. I understand wins in the state are hard to come by, but just how bad was the Kentucky-Western Kentucky game?

The highlight of the night was pretty much Hilltoppers linebacker (and first-team All-Namer) Andrew Jackson telling the nation, "They supposed to be in the SEC?" Of course his team was down at the time but you understood why he chose to make the remarks.

Wildcats' punter Ryan Tydlacka said afterwards, "I'm kind of exhausted." If your punter says he's exhausted after a game, it better be because he ran more than two fake punts, not because he averaged 47 yards on seven punts.

But it was football. The game we love so, so much has returned.

And good, bad, ugly or Kentucky, we'll take it.


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 15, 2011 7:55 am
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-ACC Team

Posted by Chip Patterson

As part of CBSSports.com's season preview, we offer this blogger's selections for the Preseason All-ACC Team.

Offense


QUARTERBACK

EJ Manuel, Jr., Florida State - Manuel has been handed the keys to arguably one of the best Seminole teams in nearly a decade, and the first-year starter has already had several opportunities to grow comfortable with the 57 returning letterman. Manuel was impressive filling in for the injured Christian Ponder in the ACC Championship Game (44-33 loss to Virginia Tech) and the Chick Fil-A Bowl (26-17 victory over South Carolina), and completed 67.3 percent of his passes as a two-year reserve. Manuel also has the ability to burn defenses with his feet, making him especially dangerous in the red zone.

Also watch for: Expect another big year from Maryland quarterback Danny O'Brien, though it will be hard to replicate last year's numbers without Torrey Smith. Also the competition between Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris at Miami could elevate the game of the to-be-named starter.

RUNNING BACK

Montel Harris, Sr., Boston College - Harris was the ACC's leading rusher in 2010 (1,243 yards) despite missing the final two and half games of the season. If Harris can stay healthy, he should have a chance to chase down the ACC career rushing record. Currently, Harris sits 15th and needs just 1,003 yards (approx. 80-85 yards/game) to become the conference's all-time leading rusher.

Lamar Miller, Soph., Miami - Storm Johnson's departure has left the Hurricanes rushing attack primarily in the hands of Miller and junior Mike James. There have been nothing but good reports on the duo, with Miller in particular drawing praise from teammate Sean Spence. "Lamar is one of the fastest backs in the ACC and the nation," Spence said. Miller's ranking nationally is debatable, but he should be one of the most impressive backs in the conference.

Also watch for: Florida State's trio of Chris Thompson, Jermaine Thomas, and Ty Jones combined for 1,862 yards and 17 TDs in 2010 and all return. Clemson will likely be giving Andre Ellington (5.8 ypc in 2010) more touches in Chad Morris' up-tempo system, and Roddy Jones will try to be the sixth straight Yellow Jacket to rush for 1,300 yards or more in a season.

WIDE RECEIVER

Conner Vernon, Sr., Duke - In 2010 Vernon led the ACC in receptions per game, and should see similar production this season with Sean Renfree much more comfortable under center. Despite a rocky start, the Blue Devils passing game began clicking in the second half of the season. Along with teammate Donovan Varner, Vernon is a big reason optimism is on the rise in Durham.

Dwight Jones, Sr., North Carolina - An All-ACC Honorable Mention selection in 2010, the 6-foot-4 Jones will quickly be a go-to target for new starting quarterback Bryn Renner. Jones is a threat as a possession receiver, but also has shown the ability to make a big play after the catch. Against Virginia in Charlottesville, Jones turned a short slant into an 81 yard touchdown on his way to a 198 yard outing. Jones is looking to continue the momentum from the second half of last season into his final year with the Tar Heels.

Also watch for:Questions with new quarterbacks makes selecting wide receivers difficult, but there is no reason believe that Virginia Tech wide receiver Jarrett Boykin and Clemson's DeAndre Hopkins won't be able to shine with a new signal caller. Virginia's Kris Burd is another sleeper to watch at this position.

OFFENSIVE LINE

C Tyler Horn, Sr., Miami - Horn has taken on a leadership role with this unit and this team since Al Golden's arrival. The redshirt senior was one of the many players selected by Golden and the staff to spend practices as coaches, and has become a mentor to to touted DL Anthony Chickillo. Golden has complimented his efforts, and it looks like he will hold off redshirt freshman Shane McDermott after a fierce battle for the starting spot.

OG Brandon Washington, Jr., Miami - A 1st Team All-ACC pick in 2010, Washington is arguably the most talented piece of the Hurricanes front line. Washington has been moved around because of injuries, but has never failed to deliver regardless of position. Whoever wins the Jacory Harris/Stephen Morris battle will be happy to be playing behind Washington.

OG Jonathan Cooper, Jr., North Carolina - Cooper believes that this offensive line unit is the best North Carolina has had since he arrived in Chapel Hill. What the junior guard did not mention is that he is probably one of the critical pieces in their success. Cooper can play either guard or center, and will be looked to as one of the leaders in the trenches.

OT Blake DeChristopher, Sr., Virginia Tech - Missing training camp because of a strained left pectoral shouldn't slow down DeChristopher too much this fall. He has been a three-year starter and All-ACC pick in 2010. A crucial piece to protecting new quarterback Logan Thomas.

OT Andrew Datko, Sr., Florida State - The 6-foot-6, 321 pound tackle is determined to make his senior year count, playing his last season alongside David Spurlock and Zebrie Sanders. Datko is considered the most talented of the group, and will be needed to be productive and keep EJ Manuel on his feet and healthy.

Also watch for:You could argue that Clemson center Dalton Freeman and Georgia Tech guard Omoregie Uzzi both belong on this list, and a strong case could be made for Virginia Tech guard Jaymes Brookes. One to watch this season is JUCO transfer Jacob Fahrenkrug at Florida State. If the 307-pound guard lives up to expectations it could make an already talented Seminole offense even better.

TIGHT END

George Bryan, Sr., N.C. State - Bryan earned 1st Team All-ACC honors after pulling in 35 catches for 369 yards and 3 touchdowns in 2010. The big target could see a lot of action this fall, as the most experienced receiver for new starting quarterback Mike Glennon. When Glennon sees pressure from opposing defenses, you can bet he'll be looking for No. 84 underneath.

Also watch for:The conference is a little thin at tight end, but Clemson's Dwayne Allen and Virginia's Colter Phillips are two players to keep an eye on. Virginia Tech tight end Chris Drager is making the move back to offense after playing DE in 2010, though his primary task may be focused more on run/pass blocking.

Defense


DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Brandon Jenkins, Jr., Florida State - Jenkins is a relentless pass rusher who leads a talented unit in Tallahassee that made of habit of bringing down quarterbacks in 2010. Jenkins finished sixth in the nation with 13.5 sacks, and the return of eight defensive starters should help him follow up 2010 with another impressive campaign this fall.

DE Quinton Coples, Sr., North Carolina - After causing havoc at DT last season (10.0 sacks ranked him third in the conference behind Da'Quan Bowers and Brandon Jenkins), Coples will move to defensive end in 2011. Teams won't be surprised by Coples this year, but North Carolina's depth and talent on the defensive line will make it difficult to scheme specifically against the All-ACC senior.

DT Tydreke Powell, Sr., North Carolina - Expectations are high for Powell, who was one of the few defenders to start all 13 games in 2010. Powell has the body of a run stopper, but said in the offseason he has focused on moving faster and becoming more of a pass rusher. If he adds that aspect to his game it will make that talented unit a nightmare for opposing offensive lines.

DT Marcus Forston, Jr., Miami - Forston has returned from a knee injury ahead of schedule, and could end up having a big impact on the field for the Hurricanes this season. Golden has been high on Forston since camp started, and if he can stay healthy the standout defensive lineman could finally deliver the type of season many have waited for from the top-ranked recruit.

Also watch for: Clemson will once again will have a strong defensive line with Andre Branch and Brandon Thompson, and Maryland's Joe Vellano was a 2nd Team All-ACC selection a year ago.

LINEBACKERS

Luke Kuechly, Jr., Boston College - Kuechly might not only be the best linebacker in the ACC, but possibly the best in the nation. The unanimous All-American selection in 2010 is currently the NCAA active leader in tackles per game, averaging 13.1 tackles across his 26 career starts. There is no reason to think that "Boy Wonder," as they call him, will do anything other continue dominating on the defensive side of the ball.

Sean Spence, Sr., Miami - After a 2nd Team All-ACC selection in 2010, Spence has returned as the "clear-cut leader" on defense. Fellow linebacker Jimmy Gaines went so far as to call Spence "Mr. Miami." He is one three Hurricanes on the Nagurski Award Watch List, given to the nation's top defensive player. From making plays in coverage to getting stops behind the line of scrimmage (16.0 tackles for loss in 2010), Spence can have an impact all over the field for Miami.

Kenny Tate, Sr., Maryland - Maryland finished fourth nationally in turnover margin last season, with some of the credit going to Tate - who led the ACC in forced fumbles. Tate makes the move from free safety to linebacker this season, and can be found on most individual award watch lists for defenders.

Also watch for: Florida State weakside linebacker Nigel Bradham is expected to have a big season, and Virginia Tech's Bruce Taylor was a second team All-ACC pick in 2010.

DEFENSIVE BACKS

CB Jayron Hosley, Jr., Virginia Tech - All-ACC and All-American in 2010, Hosley is arguably the most talented secondary player in the league. Hosley might not see as much action now that he's not playing opposite Rock Carmichael, but his impact will still be felt.

CB Xavier Rhodes, Soph., Florida State - Rhodes broke out a season ago, combining with teammate Greg Reid for 33 defended passes. His efforts earned him a Freshman All-American nod and 2nd Team All-ACC. The Seminoles' secondary is a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks, and Rhodes is a big reason why.

S Ray-Ray Armstrong, Jr., Miami - There is a lot of hype around Armstrong, who is coming off a 2nd Team All-ACC season in 2010. He picked off three passes and is the second-leading returning tackler for the Hurrcanes, trailing only Sean Spence. Armstrong is also on the watch list for the Nagurski Award.

S Eddie Whitley, Sr., Virginia Tech - Whitley is the second-leading tackler back for the Hokies, and will be an important part of trying to turn around a defense that statistically did not live up to Bud Foster's recent standards. The Hokies have depth problems in the secondary, and Whitley should get plenty of chances to make plays as the only senior slated to start.

Also watch for: Virginia cornerback Chase Minnifield could be set to have a big year, as could N.C. State's Earl Wolff. Sleeper pick for a big season is Duke's Matt Daniels..

SPECIAL TEAMS

K Dustin Hopkins, Jr., Florida State

P Dawson Zimmerman, Sr., Cemsoni

KR/PR David Wilson, Jr., Virginia Tech

Also watch for: Duke placekicker Will Snyderwine was the media's selection for Preseason All-ACC, and Greg Reid has a chance to cause some damage returning kicks for Florida State.

As always, let us know what you the think about the selections in the comment section below. Also be sure to click on over to the Conference Preview for more coverage on the ACC
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.
 
 
 
 
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