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Tag:Spring Practice Primers
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.

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Posted on: March 16, 2011 1:01 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2011 1:07 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Wake Forest

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 Wake Forest, who starts spring practice Thursday
.

How will Wake Forest's recent coordinator shuffle effect the productivity of spring practice? Will they be able to take advantage of the 17 returning starters?

Wake Forest knew they had a lot to improve on from 2010. There were all sorts of issues on the field that were going to require attention during the offseason. But plans to improve were thrown off momentarily with the surprise departure of Brad Lambert to UNC-Charlotte. The former defensive coordinator had been in Winston-Salem as long as head coach Jim Grobe, and been a crucial piece to the program. He was linebackers coach of the 2006 ACC Championship team, and helped develop Butkus Award winner Aaron Curry, now with the Seattle Seahawks.

So Grobe was forced to act quickly and unexpectedly to even get spring practice off on time. Grobe began by promoting from within, calling on Brian Knorr (wide receivers) and Tim Billings (outside linebackers) to be co-defensive coordinators. Knorr, who served as a linebackers coach under Grobe at Ohio University, will split both the coordinating and linebacker coach duties with Billings. The move promotes two seasoned assistants with head coaching experience, while also returning Knorr back to the defensive side of the ball.

But in filling Knorr's old role as wide receivers coach, Grobe got a chance to enhance his staff. West Virginia receivers coach Lonnie Galloway was officially announced on Tuesday as the latest hire in Wake Forest's coaching shuffle. Galloway was a four year letterman at quarterback for Western Carolina University. He graduated in 1994 second on the school's career passing list with 5,545 yards. Galloway should also help with recruiting, serving on staffs at Elon, East Carolina, and Appalachian State before West Virginia.

So now that the coaching staff is finally in line, the Demon Deacons can turn their attention towards 2011. Which is good news for Wake Forest fans, who have been looking forward to forgetting the 2010 season for some time. After the exhibition season-opener against Presbyterian and and a 54-48 footrace victory against the lowly Duke Blue Devils, Wake Forest dropped nine straight games. Thankfully, they were able to finish the season with a 34-13 victory over Vanderbilt, but it was a frustrating 1-7 ACC campaign for the Demon Deacons. They were consistently overmatched, being outscored in conference play on average 38.5-16.875.

Granted, it was a rough initiation for true freshman quarterback Tanner Price (pictured). Price, who has shown potential at times, was thrown into the mix early in the season and finished with nine starts under his belt. As expected, the consistency was lacking in the freshman's efforts. But with 1,349 yards passing and a year of experience with offensive coordinator Steed Lebotzke (one of the only coaches still in his 2010 role), Wake Forest fans are hoping that Price's growth will help improve the entire offense.

But Price's learning curve is no explanation for the poor defense. In 2010, the Demon Deacons were last in the conference in scoring defense, and only ranked higher than Duke in total defense; giving up 429.6 yards per game. Grobe sang Lambert's praises as he departed for UNC-Charlotte, but where was the proof on the field?

The difference between 2010 and Grobe teams of old came down to experience. Wake Forest finished the season staring 8 underclassmen on defense, including 3 freshmen in the secondary. The defenses during the postseason run from 2006-2008 were led by a core group of juniors and seniors. Grobe and his staff are known for their ability to develop talent, but unfortunately most of the Demon Deacons had to go through on-the-job training.

Which interestingly enough is one of the greatest strengths Wake Forest has moving towards 2011. With 17 returning starters, the Demon Deacons are the second most experienced team in the ACC. The players should enter spring practice with little/no learning curve. While the coaches might be shifting, the players are all back.

Regardless of the assistant coach jumble, Jim Grobe is still the head football coach at Wake Forest. He will have the same message and same expectations as always, and there should be no misunderstandings on the rosters with this large crop of returning players. Grobe has proven he can win with experience before, but Wake Forest fans are hoping to see that on the field sooner rather than later.

Wake Forest begins Spring Practice Thursday March 17

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Posted on: March 15, 2011 2:22 pm
Edited on: March 16, 2011 2:02 pm
 

Spring Practice Primer: Boston College

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 Boston College , who starts spring practice Friday.


Can a new coordinator and another year of experience help Chase Rettig develop into the leader Boston College needs.

Since Matt Ryan's departure in 2008, things have been pretty shaky at the quarterback position for Boston College.

The situation may have hit a low in the 2010 season, with head coach Frank Spaziani trying out two different quarterbacks before finally settling on true freshman Chase Rettig. Once settled, Rettig helped the Eagles win their last five games of the regular season to earn a spot playing Nevada in the Kraft Hunger Bowl. It is easy to try and put most of the blame and responsibility on the quarterback and offense, but when the defense is playing as well as they did in 2010 the Hunger Bowl seems like a bit of a disappointment.

Last season the Boston College defense finished first in the ACC in rushing defense and total defense, while finishing second in scoring defense allowing just 19.5 points per game. In fact, most of the scoring done by Boston College's opponents early in the season was set up by offensive mistakes. In the first five games of the season, returning starter Dave Shinskie and Mike Marscovetra combined for nine interceptions. It does not matter who is lining up on defense, those kind of numbers will make life difficult for anyone.

That defensive unit returns seven starters in 2011. While the linebacking corps will look a little different without Mark Herzlich, but the most important piece from last year's unit will be back. Luke Kuechly (pictured) exploded on the scene in 2010, picking up All-American, all-ACC first team, and a runner-up for the Butkus Award. Kuechly is the only Boston College player in history to record 300 tackles in his first two seasons. There is little reason to think there will be much drop-off on the defensive end, which is why so much of the focus this spring will be on the new offense.

When Gary Tranquill retired after the season, Spaziani knew that he needed to bring in a coordinator that could help them with their struggles at quarterback in the post-Ryan era. Eagles fans are hoping that Kevin Rogers will be able develop Rettig into the type of quarterback that can make Boston College competitive again in the Atlantic Division. Rogers' track record would suggests he is up for the task. Rogers has been coaching for 36 years, with 28 of them coming at the college level. From coaching Bryan Randall during his 2004 ACC Player of the Year campaign at Virginia Tech, to coaching Donovan McNabb in his days at Syracuse, Rogers is a proven coach who will be asked to work his magic once again.

“I’m a quarterback guy and this place is as good as any with its history of developing quarterbacks,’’ Rogers told the Boston Globe. “And Spaz’s willingness to work with me in a number of areas, and with the tradition of offensive linemen that BC always brings in, and running an NFL offense . . . it was just a good fit.’’

As offensive coordinator, one of the tools that Rogers will rely on will be running back Montel Harris. Harris returns for his senior season with an opportunity to become the school's all-time leading rusher. Harris ran for 1,242 yards in 2010, good for second in the conference. Making his numbers even more impressive, Harris missed the final two games of the season after suffering a knee injury that required arthroscopic surgery. However Andre Williams broke out in Harris' stead, rushing for 185 yards against Syracuse and then 70 against Nevada in the bowl game. The hope is that between the two running backs, there will be plenty of talent to take attention away from Rettig as he gets comfortable in Rogers' new system.

The more obvious responsibility for taking pressure off Rettig falls on the offensive line. (Duh) Unfortunately, the most important piece of that unit is one position that needs filling this spring. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo will likely be a first or second round NFL draft pick, and with Thomas Claiborne and Rich Lapham also gone Spaziani and Rogers will be looking for leaders to emerge in the next month.  Whether it is a backup like John Wetzel, or a position change for right tackle Emmett Cleary; the Eagles will need a soilid line to utilize their talented backs.

With so many pieces returning from last year's defense, expectations will be for a return to the postseason. If the new system under Kevin Rogers can bring the offense up to par, fans in Chestnut Hill might get to see Boston College competitive in the Atlantic Division once again.

Boston College begins Spring Practice March 18

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com