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ACC Spring College Football Practice Update

College football players started reporting for spring practices over the past few weeks, meaning it’s time to take a look at the programs and see what we can expect in the fall. Let’s start by taking a look at the teams in the ACC and then be sure to take a look at our 2010 NCAA football preview. See something you like or dislike in the ACC spring update? Be sure to discuss it on one of the many great ACC forums listed in our NCAA message board directory.

 

Boston College

  • While there were plenty of storylines to follow in Chestnut Hill this spring, the one which undoubtedly received the most attention was the return of star linebacker Mark Herzlich, who missed 2009 due to cancer treatment. Expect the inspirational senior to play a big role in the middle of BC’s defense next to freshman breakout star Luke Kuechly this fall.

  • While 26 year old quarterback Dave Shinskie played well enough in emergency duty in 2009 to propel the Eagles to a bowl game, he will have to earn the job once more this fall. Expect sophomore mike Marscovetra and true freshmen Chase Rettig and Josh Bordner to get a shot in fall camp.

  • After carrying the ball 308 times in 2009, the Eagles were hoping to find another tailback to split time with junior Montel Harris. However, top backup Rolandan Finch tore his ACL early in camp and no one emerged as a complimentary back. Needless to say, head coach Frank Spazziani doesn’t want have to rely on his star tailback to have over 300 carries for the 2 nd consecutive season so finding a backup is paramount.

Clemson

  • The biggest concern that Clemson fans had coming into spring was the status of starting quarterback Kyle Parker, whose baseball future might cost the Tigers his final two years. If Parker retains his early May ACC lead in home runs then Clemson might find themselves turning to redshirt freshman Tajh Boyd in the fall.

  • The Tigers also lost another pretty good player, a guy by the name of C.J. Spiller. Heard of him? The 1 st round draft pick was Mr. Everything on offense last fall, running, receiving and returning with great effectiveness. Tailback Andre Ellington is expected to succeed him running the ball but there is a major void in the offense that has yet to be filled.

  • A big concern this spring was replacing the production of graduated tight end Michael Palmer, who set school records last fall. That concern should be put to rest as sophomore Dwayne Allen capped off a strong spring with 83 receiving yards in the Spring Game and he should be a big contributor this fall.

Duke

  • Perhaps the biggest surprise of the spring was sophomore DE Kenny Anunike, who switched from tight end to record nine tackles in the Spring Game. Anunike could be a huge boost for a D-Line that is light on experience.

  • One major concern for Duke should be at quarterback, where multi-year starter Thaddeus Young has departed. Sophomore Sean Renfree is widely considered to be the team’s starter in 2010 but he is coming off of a torn ACL and didn’t participate in contact drills this spring. When a green signal caller doesn’t get his work in and there’s no other viable option, it is a major red flag.

  • The good news on offense is that the Blue Devils appear to have two strong options at tailback as returnee Desmond Scott is expected to pair with early enrollee Josh Snead in the backfield. Snead was explosive throughout the spring and might be Duke’s best offensive weapon as a true freshman.

 

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Florida State

  • The tone of practice was noticeably different this spring in Tallahassee as this was the first time in 35 years that Bobby Bowden didn’t run practice. New coach Jimbo Fischer took a much more businesslike approach to practice and also started some new traditions, highlighted with over 51,000 fans in attendance at the Spring Game.

  • Quarterback Christian Ponder, who fought through injuries throughout 2009, was back to full health all spring. Ponder spent the whole spring running the first team offense and could be one of the best QBs in the country this fall.

  • Florida State’s talented secondary had to learn a different scheme this spring as new DC Mark Stoops installed a lot more zone coverage. With athletes like Greg Reid, Ochuko Jenjie and Dionte Allen roaming the secondary, the Noles should be all right at corner. However, no real answers emerged at safety and that will be a concern in 2010, especially with a new defense.

Georgia Tech

  • Redshirt sophomore Tevin Washington scored four touchdowns, three of which came on the ground, in the Spring Game, capping off a spring that solidified his spot as Josh Nesbitt’s backup. Even more impressive was the fact that Tech’s Spring Game ended at half due to inclement weather.

  • Washington’s development was a very welcome sign as Nesbitt missed the spring due to injury and has had difficulty remaining healthy in his two seasons running Paul Johnson’s contact-heavy offense. Nesbitt needs to remain healthy if Tech expects to defend their conference crown.

  • The Techies will be sporting a fancy new 3-4 defense thanks to former Virginia Head Coach Al Groh’s arrival as defensive coordinator. The timing couldn’t be better as the Jackets have to replace a lot of D-Line talent, making this spring a perfect time to transition players to new positions.

Maryland

  • Quarterback was of the utmost importance for the Terps this spring and they emerged with a clear cut pecking order: Junior Jamarr Robinson was the top choice and Danny O’Brien emerged as his backup. Robinson has limited game experience but impressed the coaches with his decision making all spring. He will be the starter in the fall.

  • Defensive tackle Joe Vellano had a breakout spring after struggling with injuries throughout 2009. Vellano will pair with A.J. Francis to form Maryland’s new starting combo in the middle.

  • The Terps are thin in the secondary after losing three starters from 2009. While Kenny Tate impressed at safety, there is going to be a spirited competition in the fall for multiple starting spots that might even include some of Maryland’s newest recruits.

 



Miami (FL)

  • Starting Quarterback Jacory Harris was held out of the entirety of spring camp while he recovered from injury. The rising junior missed valuable development time with his young team, though he is expected to be fully healthy for the start of fall practice. That’s a good sign because Miami’s depth chart is heavy on youth and thin on experience.

  • With tailback Greg Cooper expected to miss the 2010 season due to a knee injury sustained at the hands of the Citrus Bowl’s atrocious turf, many fans expected Miami’s rushing game to suffer. However, four strong options emerged this spring: redshirt frosh Lamar Miller, early enrollee Storm Johnson, junior Damien Berry and sophomore Mike James. Berry is the favorite to start but all four could play a major role this fall for the Canes.

  • Miami struggled with injury issues on the offensive line; at one point they only had six healthy linemen! While the Canes will start over in the fall with full health, it seems like they fell behind on progressing with their O-Line this spring. One positive was that junior Tyler Horn appeared to emerge as the new starting center but Miami is a long way from claiming a strong O-Line.

North Carolina

  • There is officially a quarterback competition at North Carolina. Redshirt freshman Bryn Renner is hot on the heels of incumbent starter T.J. Yates, who has been rather decent but not really impressive in the last two years. Expect Renner, who went 15 of 21 for 185 yards and a TD in the Spring Game, to get a real shot at starting in fall camp.

  • UNC’s defense got a lot of press during the NFL draft when some experts suggested that as many as FIVE first round picks in 2011 draft could come out of Chapel Hill. Despite the wealth of talent assembled by Butch Davis, the Heels still have to replace two productive starters on the D-Line. One of those spots appeared to have been won by Tydreke Powell at tackle and UNC will be very tough with nine returning starters.

  • The UNC offense is equally experienced (10 returning starters!) but they were among the worst in the country last season. While a quarterback shakeup might help, so will the continued development of senior Greg Little into an all-around star. Little was really impressive all spring and has UNC fans dreaming of visions of 2010’s version of C.J. Spiller. If Little touches the ball more (he only averaged 7 touches per game in 2009) then he could be one of the country’s most dangerous players.

North Carolina State

  • Quarterback is going to be a polarizing position in Raleigh this year. Starter Russell Wilson missed spring to play baseball, leaving backup Mike Glennon to tear up the Spring Game to the tune of 425 passing yards and three touchdowns. While Wilson’s two solid years under center have earned him some leeway, you can bet that fans will be clamoring for Glennon if things go sour early.

  • Tailback will be an issue for both men this fall as it was a bad spring for running backs. Projected starter Brandon Barnes broke his leg, leaving sophomore James Washington to compete with redshirt frosh Curtis Underwood in the fall. There’s a lot to prove at running back this August for the Pack.

  • Linebacker Nate Irving, who missed the 2009 season due to injuries sustained in a severe car accident, returned to action this spring, playing a half in the Spring Game. While his spot in the starting lineup is far from assured, Irving could provide a major boost for the Wolfpack defense.

 

 

Virginia

  • Change was in the air under new coach Mike London, especially on defense, where the Cavs made the transition to a 3-4 defense. A ton of players changed positions to get more speed on the field and the most notable beneficiary was new DE Cam Johnson, who moved down from linebacker to become an impact player in the spring. Can Virginia learn the system and find the personnel to field a good defense in 2010?

  • Quarterback Marc Verica didn’t calm any fears about his turnover issues with a two interception showing in the Spring Game. While Verica is expected to start in the fall due to his massive experience edge as the only UVA QB to throw a pass in college, he will have to cut down on his turnovers for London’s first year to have a chance at success.

  • Believe it or not, one of the biggest issues that London will have in 2010 will be his kicking game. After having three different players finish last season covering field goals, PATs and kickoffs, London’s goal was to find a guy and stick with him. However, reality kicked in with a 2 for 6 showing in the Spring Game and an even worse showing at the team’s special teams scrimmage. What does it all mean, Basil? Cavs fans better hope that their games don’t come down to last-minute kicks in 2010, that’s for sure.

Virginia Tech

  • 2008’s breakout tailback star will team with 2009’s breakout tailback star in Blacksburg this fall. Damien Evans returned to practice this spring for the Hokies and he looked every bit the part of a former 1,000 yard rusher as he bulldozed defenders all spring. Expect him to team with Ryan Williams to produce one of the country’s best tailback tandems.

  • Antoine Exum was one of the breakout players in camp, earning a starting position at safety, one of six open spots that the Hokies have to fill on defense this fall. Exum was highly prominent in the Spring Game and should be a strong contributor this fall.

  • With so many open spots, there was a concern that the Hokie defense could take a step back. However, a number of players stepped up and played really well all spring, solidifying Tech as a top ten team entering the season. And let’s be honest, Virginia Tech has earned its place with the Ohio States and Alabamas of the world: They ALWAYS have a good defense, so this should be no surprise.

Wake Forest

  • This was a tough spring under center for the Demon Deacons, which should come as no surprise as four year starter Riley Skinner graduated in April. Wake will be trying to focus their offense more on the ground, which gives Skyler Jones the advantage to succeed Skinner but don’t be surprised if true freshman Tanner Price asserts himself in the race this fall.

  • Speaking of the running game, expect a lot of rushing this fall in Winston-Salem. Not only does Head Coach Jim Grobe have two solid tailbacks in Josh Adams and Brandon Pendergrass but he also has multiple receivers that could make an impact on reverses and trick plays. Devon Brown was used repeatedly in a hybrid role this spring and could be a major impact player in the fall.

  • The fly in the ointment with Grobe’s plan to run the ball more could be his offensive line. No one stepped up to claim a starting tackle position and starting center Russell Nenon missed the spring due to injury. It appears that Wake Forest didn’t have a chance to develop a cohesive line this spring and that’s a major cause for concern in 2010.

 

 

By Matt Baxendell
CollegeSports-fans.com Staff Writer

 

 


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